The Choice

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anyway and that is really the only point that should matter in the upcoming referendum on whether the Eighth should be repealed or not.

Continue reading

Advertisements

James Connolly’s execution

On this day, 99 years ago, James Connolly was executed by the English for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916 and his death caused anger to explode all over Ireland. This is not to say that the death of Sean MacDiarmada who was executed on this day as well for the same reasons, was any lesser of a sore point to be mad or upset about, or that any executions before them were either.  In fact, the decision to kill the leaders after secret trials still haunts the British to this day. It is only the fact that James Connolly was driven to his death in Kalmainham Gaol by ambulance and shot after being tied to a chair that makes his execution any different from the other leaders.

Continue reading

On this day in 1916…

99 years ago today Patrick Pearse stood on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin to recite the following Proclamation. It was a masterpiece and the only declaration of  its time to include women equally. By then he probably had it memorized but as he read it, there were about 1,000 copies being passed out to the passersby and the curious. It was the first notion many had about the chaotic uprising that was about to take over Dublin for the next few days. It read:

Poblacht Na H Eireann

The Provisional Government

of the

Irish Republic

To the People of Ireland

Irishmen and Irishwomen, In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag, and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood, through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and  the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever  be extinguished, except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the last three hundred years they have asserted it to arms.Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of a whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National, representative of the whole people of Ireland, and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity or rapine. In this supreme hour, the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government,

Thomas J. Clarke,

Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas Mac Donagh,

P.H. Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt,

James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett

Within a week, the rising was over and all the signatories were awaiting their executions. Nine more men would join them in their deaths and countless men and women languished in prisons all over the region. But on this day in 1916, the reading of the Proclamation signaled a beginning – an idealistic and hopeful moment – before reality and half of Dublin rained down upon them in the days to come.

(Interesting little aside: Patrick Pearse was not the first to read the Proclamation aloud on the streets. It is said that Constance Markievicz beat him to the punch when she started excitedly reading it to her friends and waving it around a few minutes after it had finished printing.)

Tom Clarke

On this day in 1857 Thomas James Clarke was born to Irish parents at Hurst Castle in Hampshire, England. It’s more than a little ironic that one of the biggest strategists behind Ireland’s future revolution was born on English soil. In fact, his father was in the British Army and the family did not return to Ireland until Tom was seven years old. They settled in Dungannon, a Fenian stronghold that had suffered terribly during An Gorta Mor – Ireland’s Great Famine. The scars of that disaster were still all around him and from his earliest years, Tom hated the English establishment. He was determined to fight against it however he could.

Continue reading

Margaret Pearse, mother of Ireland

It must be agonizing for a parent to outlive their child. It goes against the natural order of the universe and has to be absolutely devastating. For many, it usually involves anger and hopelessness. Margaret Pearse knew that suffering better than most, for she didn’t lose one son, but two—at once—both executed at the hands of the British for their roles in the Easter Rising of 1916. Despite this, she steadfastly refused to give in to despair and she spent the rest of her life fighting for the free Ireland that her sons had died for.
Continue reading

Jennie Wyse Power

It’s rare that a woman can juggle an immense amount of political power, a restaurant of her own and a family of four children. But Jennie Wyse Power did all this and more, at a time when most women weren’t even getting an education. She was an Irish superwoman and an unapologetic suffragist who passed away on this day in 1941.

Continue reading

2016 take 3

now here’s a proper ad for the 2016 centenary. At least this one has the actual thing that is supposed to be celebrated in it.