Tag Archives: Ireland

Making invisible the victims of child abuse

Cardinal Sean Brady In June 2012, Cardinal Brady – who in 1975 had let a child abuser loose to prey on further victimspublicly if not very personally apologised:

Cardinal Sean Brady has said it is “a matter of deep shame” that the Catholic Church did not always respond properly to victims of child abuse.

The Catholic primate of all Ireland was delivering a homily at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

He said he wanted to ask for the forgiveness of abuse victims.

He said the church had “first betrayed their trust and then failed to respond adequately to their pain”.

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Why do I still call them prolife?

In Ireland, as everybody knows, if you need an abortion you have to go overseas to get it. (The Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast can only perform simple abortions and legally, in Northern Ireland, only when the life of the woman is at risk.)

In the Republic of Ireland, abortions for molar and ectopic pregnancies are routinely performed – but the hospitals and the government carefully don’t refer to them as abortions. (See: When is an abortion not an abortion.)

The antichoice brigade call themselves “prolife”, because they are against ending foetal lives safely and legally. They tell themselves stories about how women don’t need abortions: they use phrases like the “abortion industry”, assuring themselves that women who say they did need abortions and they are happier and healthier for having had abortion are deluded, or lying. A recent study demonstrated that women who are denied an abortion and end up being forced to have the baby experience worse outcomes than women who are able to obtain an abortion.

(Or just unheard: Cora Sherlock, a Irish prolife campaigner, repeatedly refuses to discuss on what basis she disregards the testimony of the majority of women who leave Ireland to have abortions, when she claims that all women are traumatised by abortion. (Since the majority of those who identify feeling traumatised – most don’t – say that their trauma was caused by Ireland’s outsourcing of abortion so that they had to travel, as if having an abortion was something to be ashamed of. The Irish prolife movement is explicitly not interested in hearing that.)
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Is this a right-wing conspiracy?

Ireland has an abortion rate normal for its population in Europe – it’s just that all legal abortions that Irish women have are outsourced, mostly to the UK. Irish women who have illegal abortions buy abortifacients online, which is more dangerous than a legal abortion but, once accomplished, the woman can (and hopefully, does) go to a hospital to be treated for the aftereffects of a miscarriage. (This is probably the safest method of illegal abortion, if carried out early and if the woman does seek medical help (and get it) promptly afterwards. And of course it’s much cheaper than a trip to England.)


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When is an abortion not an abortion?

Twenty years ago the Irish government, in the person of Attorney General Harry Whelehan, sought to take custody of a child made pregnant by rape, because she needed to have an abortion and the Irish government thought it entitled to prevent that: their intention was to force the child to have the rapist’s baby.

This became the “X” case, and on appeal, the Supreme Court of Ireland ruled that the Irish government did not have the right to force a woman through pregnancy/childbirth at the risk of her life – and that risk to her life included her suicide. (Note: edited substantially. I’d misremembered the chronology quite seriously. My apologies.)

Nothing has been done in the twenty years since: the Irish government claims there are no lawful abortions in Ireland, prolifers claim this proves abortion is never medically necessary, and women silently vote with their feet.

The ECHR has ruled:

  • first, anyone may leave their prolife country to have an abortion if they wish and the prolife government is not allowed to prevent them; and,
  • second, that the Irish government must take steps to be sure that a pregnant girl or woman whose life is in danger can have an abortion in Ireland.

The first part the Irish government couldn’t stop, but the second – this the Irish government still refuse to do. Action on X is a campaigning group trying to bring about a change in the law in Ireland. Cardinal Sean Brady, who cares so much for children, is against it.

(There is an agreement that Northern Ireland, while part of the UK, will not pass legislation that would put it significantly out of step with the Republic of Ireland. As I understand it, it’s this agreement that makes it improbable that Northern Ireland will make abortion legal so that women living in NI can have abortions where they live, on the NHS, as they would if they lived in any other part of the UK. Put simply, if abortion was legal in Northern Ireland, women in the Republic of Ireland who needed an abortion would head north to the Six Counties, much cheaper and much less inconvenient for them than going over to London or Liverpool – but also very openly, Northern Ireland would be doing for the women of all Ireland what the Irish Republic will not do for their own citizens – though many think they should.)

how not to be a ‘legitimate’ rape victim:

When I was in eighth grade, a classmate – let’s call her Anna — said that she’d been raped. She told me during lunch at our desks, tipping her chair until it seemed she might fall over. It happened on a rocky lakeshore. The man came off a boat that was anchored nearby and she could hear voices yelling to him in the darkness. She was freezing. When it was over, he threw her jeans in the water and said, “I hope you get pregnant.”

Abortion has been legal in Ireland only on the most tightly-defined grounds, but where it is legal, it is obtainable. Only when an Irish hospital can be absolutely certain that the woman will not survive unless the abortion is performed and the fetus will never be viable.
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This strange thing happens to my city every year

My parents never used to throw anything away. Sometime in 1982 I found an Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme from 1964, tucked into a box with a lot of other theatre trivia, and what startled me wasn’t finding a thing like that from before I was born: it was the size. Obviously meant to double as a wall-planner, the programme had been folded out of an A3 glossy sheet of paper: it was a calendar for the three weeks of the Fringe, which then ran concurrently with the Festival, and every show and venue was listed on it. I mean the whole thing fitted on to one side of A3 paper. Twenty years later, supposing that anyone had wanted to print such a thing, you could not have fitted one day on to a side of A3.

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for most of my life, and so for most of my childhood it did not occur to me that there was anything strange about how, every August for three weeks, the city blossomed with theatrical performances. That was just what people did in August, it seemed to me: either stage a show or go to see one.

In the 1970s and 1980s, tickets were cheap, concessions were half-price, and some venues that couldn’t get fire insurance or proper seating dealt with this by offering free shows, entry by donation.

Lavender Menace, Scotland’s first queer bookshop, did some magnificently silly readings of lesbian and gay romances to the tiny audiences that could fit into its basement home on Forth Street; when it moved to a larger venue on Dundas Street, that was where I first heard David Benson “do” Kenneth Williams, and heard Armistead Maupin read from Tales of the City before he was famous.
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Beatrix Potter and the National Trust: for science

Beatrix Potter wrote fantasy stories for children that were grounded in her scientific understanding of real animals and plants. The National Trust, her chief heir, is now promoting stories to children that are intended to give them a warped understanding of the geological history of the Earth. Does this make sense to you? It’s confusing me.

Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and and Mr Jeremy Fisher, Mr Tod and Tom Kitten, the Flopsy Bunnies and the Tailor of Gloucester: the people of the floppy ears and bushy tails, the hedgehog who takes in washing, the frog who fishes with a rod and line, the rabbit with a nice new blue jacket, and the cat who hid the cherry-coloured twist. There never was a rabbit in a blue jacket or a hedgehog that took in washing, but they are real beasts in the pictures she drew.

The books and toys – written, illustrated, designed, licenced by Beatrix Potter from the age of 36, bought her freedom from the duties of being, as the unmarried daughter, her parents’ unpaid housekeeper. But before she became a writer of fantasy stories for children, an illustrator and a toy designer, she was a scientist:

At the age of 26, Potter began corresponding with a rural postman and enthusiastic naturalist named Charles McIntosh, who was interested in fungi. He promised to send Potter samples of new species he discovered by mail, so she could draw them. Throughout their long partnership, Potter drew detailed, accurate pictures of 350 fungi, mosses and spores, mailing one copy to McIntosh, and keeping one for her own records.

With drawings she made from her observations of lichen, Potter believed she had evidence that the organism consisted of a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, algae. Continue reading

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