The North of Ireland is a complicated place – especially in July. Every year makeshift towers of debris, old tires, and wooden pallets reach higher and higher into the sky. They are decorated with sectarian slogans, political effigies, Irish flags (or Ivory Coast ones, since some can’t tell the difference between the two), and serious threats against Catholics, opposing politicians, Irish men and women, minorities, and the gay community. These dangerous displays are what they call culture this time of year and they are a horrifying example of the division that continues to exist in the North.
Margaret Skinnider described the Easter Rising like this. “Every shot we fired was a declaration to the world that Ireland, a small country but large in our hearts, was demanding her independence.” Her words might not have had the same certainty and grand bravado if she had been writing while the bullets were flying…but then again, I am quoting Margaret Skinnider so maybe they would have. That utter devotion to Ireland nearly did her in, 101 years ago today.
Last year on International Women’s Day I was in Derry, exploring the murals that were off the beaten path. I found many honoring the women of the area – including one that was painted in honor of International Women’s day itself. I find that looking through my pictures of them now is just as inspiring as it was then, and I think sharing my favorites on both sides of the puddle is especially powerful on today of all days.
I apologize dear reader, for being missing in action of late. The shitshow we are facing in my unfortunate place of birth is keeping me preoccupied and so depressed that I can barely function, let alone write. I can only deal with the news or any sort of political anything for about five minutes at a time and usually after those precious minutes I am a mess and looking up visa options all over the world.
I know that our country is in trouble and that many of you are exhausted and super angry about how things are going down. I know how many problems we have and that everything from jobs to race relations have stalled in the last few years. It leaves many of us divided, frustrated, and looking for new possibilities and directions. I know our system is broken and skewed, and I know that if you have made up your mind, I won’t change it by anything I write, do, or say. That is not the point of this post. This one is for those who are willing to read with empathy and reason. Those who understand that I’m not another voice telling you what to do, but one that is begging you to listen….to everyone.
Ireland has always had more than its fair share of feisty women. By 1908 there were already numerous Suffragist groups in Ireland, full of women who wanted equality, the ability to vote, and more freedoms. Many of these groups focused on petitions, publicity, and spreading their message through polite channels and discourse, and they attracted many prominent socialites who used their influence to further the cause. This was not good enough for Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, her husband Francis, and their radical friends. 108 years ago today, they founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League, a group dedicated to equal rights that used agitation and action to spread their message.
Women have been fighting for equality and recognition for centuries. In Irish history, women have always been seen as supporting cast members, fundraisers, nurses, etc. and safely put in the appropriate roles for their gender, whether they could do more or not. This has been the case for years and years and only now is that idea starting to be debunked by historians…but the historians devoting themselves to elevating the roles of women are mostly female. Myself included. Continue reading