On May 25th, 2018, Ireland will have the chance to repeal the Eighth Amendment of its constitution in a referendum. This amendment was adopted in 1983 and it asserted that a fetus had the same rights as the woman who carried it. It’s no surprise that this law came into existance, since Ireland was still pretty synonymous with the Catholic faith when the Amendment was passed and while it allowed for pregnancy termination if the life of the mother was shown to be at risk, it made proving that exception more difficult. It also didn’t allow for the mental health of the mother – only the physical. The Eighth strengthened penalties for seeking an abortion both in Ireland and abroad and it ensured that community groups and organizations could not legally help women who wished to explore those options. It took decades of hard work to rectify the latter circumstances but abortion in Ireland was and is still illegal.
This is not to say that women (and girls) don’t get abortions. Recent statistics estimate that more than 150,000 Irish women have had abortions since the eighties. About a dozen have them every day – either by traveling to the U.K. where abortion is legal, by using the outlawed Plan B pill, or getting an illegal (and sometimes unsafe) abortion in Ireland itself. These women risk a prison sentence of up to fourteen years if they are caught having an abortion on the island, but they do it anyway and that is really the only point that should matter in the upcoming referendum on whether the Eighth should be repealed or not.
It was the tear heard around the world. In one split (ahem) second Sinead O’Connor defiantly threw her figurative middle fingers in the air, lost a record amount of fans, and got banned from Saturday Night Live with her protest of the Catholic church. Many of the flock still haven’t forgiven her even now, twenty-five years later.
Ireland’s Easter Rising took place over 100 years ago, so one could be forgiven for assuming that all those who lived through it are now long gone. Interestingly enough that assumption is wrong. Father Joseph Mallin was only two when his father was executed by the English for being one of the leaders of the insurrection. Today he is 104, and as of this writing he is not only still alive, but he is also still fighting to set the records straight about his father.
In 1918 it was nearly impossible to get the Catholic church, politicians, working class citizens, labor unions, suffragettes, Unionists, and Irish Nationalists to join together for anything. Ireland was still reeling and recovering from the Easter Rising of 1916, which most of these groups were still arguing over (as they are still doing today), but there was one proposal that unified them all – the Home Rule/Conscription law. Continue reading →
Dame Alice Kyteler was a very powerful woman in Kilkenny, Ireland, but that power came at a hefty price. She had many friends, but she also had many bitter enemies. She disappeared around this time in 1324, after being on the wrong end of the first witch trial in Ireland. Continue reading →
I usually stay away from religious holidays in general, but today is too good to pass up. Today is the feast day of St. Disbode – a 7th century Irish missionary. He was a bit of a hermit when he was not spreading his faith, but he traveled on a mission to Germany to convert the population. Legend has it that while in Germany, wine suddenly began flowing from his pilgrim’s staff and this convinced the Germans not necessarily to convert, but to create a thriving wine industry.
That’s a better reason than many for turning someone into a saint. Eat, drink, and be merry today – especially if you can find yourself some German wine…and if you’re a fan of Hildegard Von Bingen, throw some of her music in there too. She wrote a vita in his honor.
St. Patrick’s Day. Every year people celebrate this day by punishing their livers and making poor wardrobe choices, with stereotypical and sometimes truly awful T-Shirts. The fake accents yelling out over loud music get worse and worse as the pints keep coming and if you’re lucky, you may get a little Irish parade or traditional music in there somewhere too. It is not the solemn celebration one would associate with a Saint, but rather one that is decidedly sacrilegious in the eyes of the church. And you know what? I absolutely support it, (with the exception of the racist and stereotypical garb and the fake accents,) because anything that removes the original intent of this holiday is just fine by me. After all, this is not a celebration that has anything at all to do with snakes, but rather it is one that celebrates the defeat of free thinkers and ancient traditions. St. Patrick (who was NOT Irish, by the way) has the dubious claim to fame of driving all the snakes out of Ireland…but science has confirmed that there were no snakes at the time. Of course, Christianity uses the metaphor of snakes to talk about evil temptations and the devil himself….and following that metaphor, Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland means he drove out what he considered to be the wickedness – he conquered Pagan Ireland.