Thursday, 13 December 2012

Zoltan Zinn Collis

I was saddened to hear of the death of Holocaust survivor Zoltan Zinn Collis on Monday last. Zoltan was one of the last surviving Holocaust survivors and he settled in my home town of Athy. Zoltan Zinn was born in Slovakia in 1940, son of a Jewish labourer and a Hungarian Protestant woman. His father was suspected to have died in Ravensbruck in 1945. He had two sisters and one brother. His youngest sister died at age one and a half years old in transit to Bergen-Belsen. At a talk in our youth club, Zoltan recalled that a Nazi soldier, realising that the infant was dead, took her from her mothers arms and threw her out of the carriage. Zoltan's brother Aladar developed TB and died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945. On April 15th 1945 Zoltan's mother died, this was the same day that the Red Cross had come to save them.
The head of the Red Cross at this time was an Irish doctor called Bob Collis. Dr. Collis was accompanied by a Dutch nurse Han Hogerzeil (who was later to become his second wife) and called Dr. Collis to look at "the most enchanting scrap of humanity" she had found. It was Zoltan, who, upon meeting Dr Collis promptly informed him in German "My father is dead, you are now my father". Dr Collis kept his word to Zoltan and took him, his sister Edit and three other children back to Ireland without travel documents. Homes were found for the three other children and according to Zoltan, two of these children became the first legal Irish adoptees. Zoltan and Edit stayed with Doctor Collis. 

Zoltan began talking about his experiences in 1995 when the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust was marked. He spoke in schools, universities, youth clubs etc. all around the country hoping to ensure that we "never forget". I remember when Zoltan visited our youth club in Athy a number of years ago. It was something else to see our normally boisterous members transfixed and so silent that one might have heard a pin drop. Just silence and the quiet tones of Zoltan, this man who most of us had seen around our small,sleepy town telling his extraordinary story.
As one of the last handful of Holocaust survivors in Ireland he said he felt a strong obligation to speak to people about the 12 million that died. He was very eager that he didn't want to sound like "a saint or something" but determined to get these stories out there for other people who weren't so lucky. He was very conscious that when he mentioned it that people might think 'Oh not the bloody holocaust again'. He was also very conscious of the events going on in  Darfur or Sri Lanka, the Bosnian conflicts, Lebanon, Palestine and that precious little had changed in the world today and that something was very wrong in the world when someone like George Clooney had to plead with the UN  to do something in Darfur.
That night in the youth club, no one was thinking 'not the bloody Holocaust again', that night was emotional, extraordinary and alongside the horrific subject matter was interspersed Zoltan's wit, particularly when talking about himself. This wonderful man, small in stature and physically transformed by TB, stood in front of us and told us his story.

Zoltan wrote the book Final Witness: My Journey from the Holocaust to Ireland, and I would highly recommend picking up a copy.

Zoltan Zinn Collis died on Monday 10th December 2012 aged 72, survived by his wife Joan, sister Edit , brother Robbie, his daughters Siobhán, Caroline, Nichola and Emma, grandchildren Tony, Adam, Molly and Cillian, great-grandchildren Chloe, Tori and C.J. relatives and friends.
He will be sorely missed in our little town.

Finally, definitely, at last
Zoltan Zinn Collis

Friday, 7 December 2012

Targeting the most vulnerable

I'll get back to writing about SPUC next week, but in light of Ireland's Budget, I feel the need to focus on some of the points that will hit people, particularly the most vulnerable, hardest.

The targeting of people who have a disability hits particularly close to home for me.
The Respite Care Grant is paid to those caring for someone with a disability, this grant is paid to more than 77,000 families in the country, 20,000 of whom receive no other support from the state for providing full-time care for a family member. It is used by carers to buy home care or pay for residential respite care, in order to give them a break from their caring role. Mostly during the recession it has been used to pay bills or buy other necessities for people. The annual grant has been cut by €325 to €1,375. Many carers work 24/7, 365 days of year. Carers reduce the cost of caring for the government. They free up beds in hospitals and nursing homes and they reduce the costs of medical personnel. They assist with the medical needs and psychological needs of loved ones. They provide  900,000 hours of care daily, carers save the state €4 billion every year. They are often praised, and rightly so, as unsung heroes. Unfortunately praise and rhetoric don't pay the bills! The government talk out of both sides of their mouth on this, they sing the praises of carers on one day and then cut their meagre incomes the next. It is sickening that Pat Rabbitte refers to this €325 decrease as a "modest" cut, but then I assume €325 would be a modest cut on his salary.

Along with the Respite Grant cut, a number of weeks before the budget, the HSE cut the gluten free product allowance for Coeliacs. Gluten Free breads, pastas and cereals are more expensive and those on low incomes could avail of them by medical card or through the Drugs Payment scheme. It is worth mentioning that people with certain disabilities are more prone to Coeliac Disease. During this run of cuts, other medications were also targeted. Two medications prominently used by older people were taken from the scheme. Glucosamine,which deals with wear and tear of the joints in osteoarthritis patients and Omega 3 triglycerides ,which are beneficial in conjunction with cholesterol-lowering drugs, and are often prescribed by cardiac doctors. In my own family, both my sister and my mother have Coeliac Disease, my mother is also my sister's carer. Gluten free food costs, on average, four times more than their ordinary counterparts. That €325 cut is starting to appear less and less "modest".
As well as taking foods off the medical cards and Drug Refund schemes, to add insult to injury, for those (un)fortunate to still retain their medical card the prescription charge has been trebled. James Reilly,who once said he wanted to abolish the prescription charge, raised the charge from €0.50 to €1.50. This may not sound like much to most people but to put it in perspective, a person covered by a medical card, who previously paid no more than €10 a month, will now be liable for up to €19.50 per month. It was also revealed that the nursing homes support scheme — a Fair Deal that began providing financial support for people assessed as needing long-term nursing home care is also being changed. Currently, the loan is paid after death with a levy of up to 15% on the person’s estate over three years. The levy is now being increased to 22.5% over the same period.

I know there was some good natured cribbing about the price of wine etc. on Budget Day but please remember all those who have been hit so hard that wine and beer are the least of their worries.
Unlike the government, don't forget that this government promised :"to ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities was enhanced and that resources would be allocated reach the people who need them".
I challenge any government minister to walk a mile in their shoes!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

What SPUC thinks? Part one

I wrote about the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) last week, detailing their involvement in Ireland and highlighting that (like almost all other 'pro-life' groups) that the majority of  their followers are US based, thanks to Geoff's Shorts. While doing my research on SPUC I couldn't help but note that they have some strange ideas about many issues so I felt they deserved another post or two.

SPUC's attitude to equal marriage rights
SPUC are unsurprisingly anti-same sex marriage, citing the various platitudes that we've come to know and hate during their campaign. They strive to create a difference between 'real' marriage and 'gay' marriage. Most reasonable people know there is no difference. However, SPUC maintain that they have to protect 'real' marriage in order to protect the unborn, citing that their statistics show that unborn children are "four or five times more likely to be aborted outside of real marriage". Now aside from the slur that same-sex marriage isn't 'real' marriage according to SPUC, could someone also enlighten me as to how same-sex marriage could lead to more abortions? If two men get married then, by virtue of their biology, neither of them could get pregnant, accidentally or otherwise, and therefore are highly unlikely to procure an abortion. Likewise,unless in the case of a tragic incident, if two women marry they would only find themselves with child after a long and carefully considered process, making it highly unlikely that they would seek an abortion; far less likely than a heterosexual woman in a traditional marriage who had gotten pregnant by accident.
I'm inclined to go with George Carlin on this one "Leave these f**kin people alone for chrissake!"
SPUC's campaign against marriage rights can be read here, although personally I would much prefer if you read Jason Wakefield's piece on The 31 arguments against gay marriage (and why theyre all wrong)

SPUC and contraception
Most people agree that abortion and contraception are fairly obviously linked. Most reasonable people agree that access to contraception and access to adequate sex education are vital in decreasing abortion rates. This is where the majority of pro-life groups divert. Religious pro-life groups like SPUC are vehemently opposed to contraception and what they refer to as 'explicit' sex education. 
Is this what they mean by explicit sex education?
Now to a certain extent I can accept if someone believes that contraception is wrong. However I loathe the false information regarding contraception that gets spewed from pro-life groups such as SPUC. SPUC have launched a "Safe at School" campaign, which sounds nice and all - I mean everyone wants children to be safe at school,right? However rather than being a campaign against bullying or how to be careful when crossing the road SPUC seem to view the teachers as the main danger. According to SPUC children as young as five are being "primed to become sexually active". Now in the past I have been involved with teaching sex education to secondary school students and let me tell you it's about as awkward for the teacher as it is for the students. I take the approach of giving clear facts,open and frank discussion but I certainly have never 'primed' any student to become sexually active. This is where SPUC start diverting again. Teenagers are curious about sex and the majority will have lost their virginity at or before the age of seventeen. Most parents and educators agree that the best thing we can do for them is to equip them with the facts and knowledge that will keep them safe.
SPUC are obviously against teaching students about contraception and alongside their opposition they begin to lie. According to SPUC many contraceptives, such as the contraceptive pill and the IUD coil, are abortifacients which is blatantly untrue. Education for Choice rightly ask "Is a young person ‘safe at school’ if they are deterred from using contraception for fear they may be causing abortion? Is a young woman who is told using contraception won’t be necessary following abortion ‘safe at school’?"

Since I haven't blogged this week, and since researching SPUC is quite head wrecking, I'm running this as a part one and will continue on with some more on SPUC soon.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The anger and the shame of being Irish

To say I am angry this morning would be a gross understatement. I am LIVID! I am furious with my so-called representatives that they have the gall to think that women and pregnant women should "wait". I am furious that they are asking us the wait after we have waited more than twenty years already. I am even more annoyed that they were not present for the debating in the Dáil last night and sauntered in at the end to vote. These are politicians who worry about the apathy of the electorate when it comes to voting and then give us last night's performance!

What I saw in the Dáil last night was an exercise in block voting and political points scoring. Labour and Fine Gael are talking about legislating on the Expert Group recommendations AFTER CHRISTMAS. Clare Daly's Bill would have allowed for the basis of legislation to be set in motion now. The objections from April were ironed out and they still voted against it! Passing the Bill wouldn't have made it come into effect straight away but at least it would have gone on to Committee stage. Fine Gael are stalling for time so they can pretend to their conservative members that they tried their hardest to stop whatever legislation they end up introducing. Labour want to try to take the kudos in the new year because they just see this as playing politics. So now we have to 'wait'. Now we have to wait and watch while they play politics with the life of women.

Those one hundred and one politicians that voted to gamble with women's lives should be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Get the SPUC out of my country!

The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child are an interesting lot. They're a UK based group who have taken a keen interest in Ireland's laws and referendums over the past 30 years. When the country voted on the 8th Amendment SPUC were there - this was the attempt to ensure that Ireland remained abortion free forever more. They were also joined by groups with quaint names such as The Responsible Society (another British based organisation), The Council of Social Concern, The Irish Family League and a host of others all sounding as if they had just walked out of the 19th century along with the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which, I might add, is still causing problems over a century and a half later. SPUC alongside supporting the Pro-Life amendment were also responsible for showing videos depicting abortion in hundreds of schools around the country. Throughout the 1980s, SPUC used the constitutional amendment in the courts to close down women’s counselling centres on the basis that providing information on abortion breached the rights of the unborn. In 1989 SPUC brought The Union of Students Ireland including Ivana Bacik, to court and threatened imprisonment for giving information to young women with crisis pregnancies.

At every Referendum in this country SPUC has been waiting in the wings. When the X-Case occurred in 1992 SPUC maintained that decision of the Supreme Court was perverse and that the Supreme Court, contrary to all reasonable expectations, allowed abortions in the case of threatened suicide. SPUC have been involved in campaigning against both of Ireland's divorce referenda. They called for Irish Catholics to vote 'No' in the Lisbon and Nice referenda. They even weighed in on our Presidential Election last year calling on the Irish people to vote for Dana, with John Smeaton, their director, stating in his blog "I pray that all Irish citizens who care about Ireland's historic defence of the sanctity of human life, and that all Irish citizens who care about defending their constitution, will get behind Dana's bid for the presidency." After Michael D. Higgins was elected President, Smeaton ran a full blog post on him asking 'Our Lady of Knock' and St. Patrick to pray for the Irish people as we would soon see the mistake we made in not voting for the good Catholic Dana. SPUC even decided that a 'No' vote was needed in our recent Children's Referendum saying that "(the) amendment, if passed, could potentially be a disaster for Irish families" and called upon Ireland's Catholic bishops "to do all they can to persuade the Irish people that such a constitutional change is not in the best interests of Irish families ".(Ah yes the Bishops, having already done so much for the best interests of Irish families as far as children are concerned)
It even hurts Michael D's head to think about this
We have a British based group that takes a somewhat unhealthy interest in the dealing of their neighbour, but who exactly are they? And who follows them? 
Enter Geoff @geoffsshorts who has the skill and patience to follow these things up and collate data. Now Geoff has previously run up the stats on Irish pro-life groups who *feigns surprise* all turned out to have a predominantly US based following. 
So what would we expect of a UK based pro-life group? That they would have a predominately UK based following - wrong. Pro-life groups this side of the water are yet again made up of predominantly US followers *sigh*

While there is a significant number of unknowns I think it is safe to say that not all of the unknowns will be from the UK. 
It is also interesting to note that despite SPUC's keen interest in Ireland the feeling is obviously not mutual, with only thirty six Irish followers. Looking at Geoff's spreadsheets of followers of SPUC, I found that about half of these thirty-six are pro-life/religious groups as opposed to individual people and a number of the others appear to be spammers. Flattering and all as it is that these groups are taking an interest in us, don't you ever wish sometimes that they'd just leave us the SPUC alone?

Thanks again to Geoff @Geoffsshorts for offering up the data on SPUC :)


Thursday, 22 November 2012

How the lack of legislation makes me more likely to have an abortion

I put this up already and deleted it because of the personal nature, then I decided feck it - we need these stories out there.

Hopefully this will be a brief post.

This is going to be a very personal post but it's something that has been playing on my mind since hearing of the death of Savita Halappanavar and hearing the stories from other women filter through the media.

When I was fourteen I had extremely horrendous periods. My mother eventually got fed up of the doctor saying it was a viral infection (that just happened to coincide with my periods every single month) so she demanded a second opinion. I was referred to a Dublin hospital whose answer was to put me on the pill.
Fast forward more than a decade and I changed doctors to a more female friendly clinic. Having explained my past history the doctor sends me for further tests in light of the fact that I was due to be married the following year.

I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of what was diagnosed but it boiled down to this : if I did become pregnant, I have an extremely high risk of having miscarriages and if I don't miscarry I have a high risk of having a baby with a disability. The first is heartbreaking, the second wouldn't phase me.

Talking over with himself the other night I came the conclusion that if we had different laws here and I did accidentally become pregnant (and believe me we have taken strong measures to ensure it doesn't happen but y'know nothing is ever 100%), I'd probably have a wait and see what happened attitude, maybe I wouldn't miscarry, maybe we'd become wonderful parents.
Since I am living in a country where there is a huge grey area regarding women's reproduction, I'm afraid I'll have to be on the plane to England. Since I do have a high risk of miscarriage I won't be waiting for a hospital to dither over whether or not my life is in danger while they wait to do something. I won't risk leaving my husband without his wife, my parents without their daughter and my sister without me. Ireland the bastion of life makes me more likely to have an abortion.

Thanks for reading - I'm not sure how long I will leave this post up for

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Give the government the Red Card for disability!

Do you remember the Special Olympics World Games 2003 that were held here in Ireland? Do you remember the hype and the hope and the pride? Do you remember when this country galvanised and volunteered and gave up their time and their houses (those who were hosting)? Do you remember what a wonderful time it was? Do you remember that we gave people with disabilities the opportunity to showcase their talents? To show their worth? To give them the opportunity to show us all the heroes they are?

The Fianna Fáil/PD government of that year promised us that a Mental Capacity Bill that would bring us in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities was imminent. It's now 2012 and there is sadly still no sign of this Bill. The Fine Gael/Labour government promised this Bill before the Summer recess, but nothing happened, they've promised it would happen before the Christmas recess but as of yet no movement. The lack of legislation in this area has dire consequences for people with disabilities and their families. I know this  because I have seen this first hand - because my sister is a wonderful lady of twenty three who just happens to have Down Syndrome. Tomorrow I get to spend the afternoon with her as my parents attend their first protest ever. Tomorrow I collect her from her day centre who have suffered the cuts of this government but who are still staffed by great men and women who go above and beyond the call of duty. For them I am thankful.

The government has promised to close unsuitable psychiatric institutions moving patients to more appropriate community-based facilities and to develop specific strategies for elderly patients and those with intellectual disabilities who remain under the care of mental health services.
The Government promised to ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities was enhanced and that resources would be allocated reach the people who need them. They promised  to reform the delivery of public services to bring about back office savings to will protect front line services.

These and many more are just a small number of examples of broken promises. People with disabilities account for 13% of our population, yet they are largely ignored and expected the bear the brunt of government cuts.

Tomorrow we say "NO MORE". Tomorrow, Wednesday 21st November at 2pm at the Central Bank, the Disability Rights Coalition are handing the government the Red Card. Everyone who supports the rights of people with disabilities should attend! This includes grandparents, cousins, neighbours, work colleagues, team mates etc etc. This is about demanding equal rights and if you believe in this, then please support this March to Dáil Eireann.

This week charities are looking for your Acts of Kindness - if you are free tomorrow please consider giving your time to protest as your act of kindness

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Savita Halappanavar

I am not normally an over-emotional person, in fact I am often good naturedly accused of being somewhat emotionally stunted. I lack the understanding of what makes someone grieve about someone they don't know, celebrity deaths barely get a blink from me. However yesterday I couldn't update this blog. Yesterday I was shaking with rage and unable to type, yesterday I was on the verge of tears for a woman I never met and yesterday I was NEVER so ashamed to be Irish.
Yesterday I found out that a 31 year old woman, Savita Halappanavar, had died because of my country's archaic laws. The laws that should have been signed into legislation over twenty years ago.

The pro-life response was predictable as usual. Accusations of the pro-choice side "exploiting the tragedy" and using Savita's death as a "political football". While we're on that there was no mention of the horrific images used by the likes of Youth Defence and their ilk. There was no mention of their using images of miscarriages and parading them as pictures of abortion. There was no mention of the vigils for the baby in the X-case (despite that baby being miscarried and not aborted), no mention of the Youth Defence member who 'wistfully sighed' "He could have been my husband". Well here's some news Savita WAS somebody's wife, no 'could have' about it, she WAS Paveen's wife, she WAS somebody's daughter, she WAS a living, breathing human being with a myriad of interests and hopes and dreams. She was a Hindu living in Ireland who was told that "we are a Catholic country". We ARE NOT a Catholic country, countries don't have a religion - people do. Ireland is, or at least is supposed to be, a republic. A republic that is supposed to serve the needs of all it's people regardless of their creed, colour, sexual orientation or anything else. A republic whose hospital service should give the optimum care to everybody regardless. Alas it appears we are a republic in name only, Ireland does not serve or care about the health of its women. Ireland is a country that prioritises an already miscarrying foetus over the life of its mother. Savita and her family have paid the price for this.

Many times we have been told that there is no such thing as a life-saving abortion. Many times people have stood up and protested and said there was and is a clear need to legislate. Many times people protested that the lack of legislation could cost women their lives and still that old lie was the governments response. Last April the Medical Treatment Bill 2012 was tabled before the Dáil. A Bill that may have gone some of the way of preventing a death like this. ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN TDs voted against this Bill, including the three from my own constituency. In my constituency Labour TD Jack Wall, Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon and Fianna Fáil TD Sean O' Fearghail voted against that Bill. One of those TDs consistently received my number 1 vote in every election but NEVER AGAIN. Never again in my lifetime will any of those TDs ever get my vote. Through the National Women's Council of Ireland I contacted those TDs a short while ago asking them to prioritise legislating to protect women’s lives in line with the judgement of the Supreme Court in the X case and the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case.

Then the news broke the night before last. The news broke of the needless death of a young woman. A death caused by the political cowardice of the TDs in my constituency and their national counterparts.

The time has come for change. The time has come for this government to stand up and do their job after more than twenty long years. The time has come for the so called democratic government of the so called republic of Ireland to do their duty and legislate for what the people voted for in several referenda. The time has come for no more shame and no more deaths. If the government can't do their job then they need to leave - NOW.

There was a protest vigil for Savita outside Dáil Eireann last night and there will be another vigil this Saturday 17th November at 4pm beginning in the Garden of Remembrance and going to the Dáil again.

We need to ensure that this never happens again.

Rest in Peace Savita Halappanavar
The whole world is watching us.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Think before you speak.

Retard, Handicap, Spa, Spastic
They're just words, or so I'm told. If you say you're offended by their use then you're too thin skinned or too PC.

So why the visceral reaction?
I have a sister who has an intellectual disability, she is the light of my world, she has made me and makes me want to be a better person. Call me a bitch and I don't care, call her a retard and chances are I will skin you alive. The reason? I can stand up for myself, I can take in your insult, I can decide you're not worth the time of day and I can get the hell out of dodge. Insult my sister for her disability and you're pretty much the type of coward who only picks on the vulnerable.

As bad as directly insulting someone with a disability, is using their disability as an insult against other people.
Last night Ann Coulter tweeted "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard". Coulter intended on insulting President Obama by calling him a retard - frankly like the letter writer below I also did wonder if she had considered other words but was worried about the backlash. I was livid and finding it hard to verbalise my anger at this happening. So I'm going to ask you to follow this link to the Special Olympics, where John Franklin Stephens, a global ambassador for the Special Olympics articulates his feelings on it far better than I ever could. By the way John has Down Syndrome.

'Retard' and words like it have evolved from being medical defining terms into mainstream as insults, believe it or not I've even heard the term 'Down Syndrome' flung around as an insult. We are told time and time again: 'they're just words', 'we're only havin' a laugh'. We are told that only assholes use the term 'retard'. I don't believe that's the case judging by some of the people I've heard use it. Regardless of who said it or how they meant it, the words are doing far greater damage than people think. The use of such words exclude people with disabilities as a different group, they tell them 'you're different, you are not like us, you're strange, in fact you're so strange we're going to use the term that we think describes you to insult someone else'. Such words tell people with disabilities that they are of so little worth that we only use them to insult others. The use of such words leads to further societal marginalisation of an already marginalised group.

I'll end by quoting the above John Franklin Stephens as once again he puts it far more succinctly than I can:
"I get the joke - the irony - that only dumb and shallow people are using a term that means dumb and shallow. The problem is, it is only funny if you think a "retard" is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things, but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.

That is why using "retard" is a big deal to people like me."

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Gender divides in the abortion debate

Last week in the course of one day alone I heard/read five different people use variants of the phrase "women/girls/sluts should keep their legs closed" in terms of the abortion debate. The phrase on its own makes my skin crawl in terms of its misogynism. It's reminiscent of the Madonna/whore complex. It implies that like the Biblical Eve before us we are solely responsible for the morals (or lack thereof) in the world, that men are unable to resist such temptresses and for abortion to end we just need to accept the child or not wanting a child to simply "keep our legs closed". Interestingly not once in the abortion debate have I ever heard someone suggest á la Twink that men should "zip up their mickeys". The other thing that use of such phrases indicates to me that the people who use them are not just anti-abortion they are also anti-sex for any reason other than procreation but that's a post for another day.

It stoked my curiosity though. Three out of the five people on that day were women and it got me to wondering about the gender of people who support either side of the debate and why. Discussing it with himself over a bottle of wine one night he says "it's a pity that we have no way of knowing". The great thing about being involved in different groups is that I now have an arsenal of people who have very particular sets of skills; skills they have acquired over a very long careers, skills that make them...(ahem, sorry got a bit carried away there). One such skilful person is Geoff @geoffsshorts, Geoff, over the course of knowing him vaguely on the net, has always impressed me with his ability to pull up stats on most things possible so I politely tweeted and asked could he run up data for me on this issue. He kindly complied and sent his findings to me and told me to run the commentary on my own no pressure on me at all then :)

What the data showed on Youth Defence is that the gender divide is pretty much 50/50, based on the first name of followers:

This wasn't overly surprising, after all pro-life seems to be a sort of 'default' position to hold. Many people find the idea of abortion abhorrent until they do more research. Many teenagers, including me when I was younger, hold pro-life views. Mainly because at that stage life comes in black and white and it's not until later that we discover the myriad of reasons why it is acceptable to hold a pro-choice view. I know myself on encountering Youth Defence at the tender age of thirteen signed up because "killing babies is bad mmmkay" until I went home and my mother explained to me that it wasn't that simple and told me to write them a letter retracting my interest in their group. Youth Defence target this angle through the photos and billboards they put up - who doesn't find them horrific? And they are horrific but they do not represent the reality of abortion.

The data on Choice Ireland shows a majority female interest, based on the first name of followers: 
I don't know for definite why this is. We are told time after time that abortion is not just a "woman's issue" and that the man should have a choice too. Something I whole heartedly agree with but I doubt there are many women seeking termination without at least discussing it with their partners. I know many of my male friends are pro-choice yet have never expressed interest in joining any of these groups. Himself even is pro-choice but hasn't signed up to support any pro-choice group and yet I have signed up to many. I discussed it with him last night and we came to the conclusion that choice is a topic where a lot of men can comfortably sit on the fence about. Most men will support their partners if they choose a termination but in reality the physical buck stops with the woman. However for women living in Ireland the choice is to keep the baby or travel to a different country in order to have a termination. So the women of Ireland can't afford to sit on the fence and therefore have a vested interest in supporting pro-choice groups in our own country.

Once again many thanks to Geoff who you can find here @geoffsshorts and here

Friday, 28 September 2012

Pro-choice, anti-choice and misinformation!

So tomorrow I (and a hoopload of others) will be Marching for Choice! I'm also Marching for Democracy. It's been twenty years since the X-case, Twenty years and three referendums that supported a woman's right to a termination in the case of her life being at risk or in the case that the baby was incompatible with life, twenty years, three referendum and twelve women a day who must go abroad to seek an abortion. Three referendum that successive governments in their cowardice refused to legislate for. It is an infringement on the rights of the woman and an infringement on democracy. Three times this issue has gone to the polls and three times the government in power has refused to listen to the voice of the people.
Twenty years and more of woman shaming
I want to state here and now that I have NO problem with people who are against abortion. Zero! Zilch! That is your opinion and your choice to make. However I have a HUGE problem with the amount of misinformation that floods out from the 'pro-life side'. I state 'pro-life' in commas because it infers that anyone on the pro-choice side is pro-death or anti-life. That's not true. Some of the main proponents of the 'pro-life' side seem to think that every pro-choice person wants every pregnant woman to have an abortion. There have even been encounters which go to the tune of:
Pro-life: What if your mother had been pro-choice?
Pro-choice: She is, she chose to have me.

But that's a minor point. Some of the gravest misinformation was on our streets recently by Youth Defence. The infamous billboards and leaflets claiming that there was always a better option. 


Questions were asked of these claims. What if it's a case of rape? Like the X-Case, what if it's a case of rape of a 12 year old girl?
'Pro-Life's answer is that the girl should carry to term no matter what and if she really doesn't want the baby, to put him/her up for adoption. Whatever about a woman's right to choose, no child should ever be forced to give birth. Let me give you some statistics on this: pregnancy is a risky business anyway but girls under the age of 15 are FIVE times more likely to die in pregnancy than women in their twenties. Babies are 60% more likely to die if their mother is under 18. 
Not to mention external effects such as the girl having to take a year out of her education, societal implications and the speculation and gossip that would inevitably follow such a situation.

The other accusations of some 'pro-life' groups that abortion is the tearing out of a fully formed foetus kicking and screaming from a mother's womb. Youth Defence posters are full of this. Most of their posters consist of either almost fully formed foetuses or miscarriages NOT abortions. A zygote and a blastocyst are less than 2.5 inches. Find yourself a ruler and measure it. Another stunt by 'pro-life' groups is that they want to film abortions happening to put others off. Abortions that occur in the first nine weeks (as most abortions do) would make for pretty boring filming. 
An abortion before nine weeks consists of a
woman taking a tablet and having a heavy period.
Most Irish women are not in the nine-week mark due to arranging time off work and travel etc.
This is what an abortion after 9 weeks looks like.
Late term abortions are few and far between. In countries like the UK it's not possible to have a late term abortion unless the mother's life is at risk or the baby is not viable. But it is possible. And women that need them can get them. Unlike the women of Ireland whose country has turned it's back on them and decided to sweep them under the carpet. Women who have a late term abortion only do so under dire circumstances and we certainly owe them and all other women more than shame.

Which brings me to my last point. A lot of 'pro-life' groups are about the shaming of women. Not trusting a woman to make her own decisions over her own body. And it hearkens back to a time not so long ago when girls or women who find themselves pregnant out of wedlock were 'sent to care for a sick relative' or even worse sent to a Magdalene Laundry.

It's 2012 Ireland - we owe those 12 women a day, those 5,000 women a year, those 100,000 women since the X-Case more dignity than to be swept under the carpet like a dirty secret of the state.

Join us tomorrow at the Spire at 2pm and March for Choice!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Blasphemy Law - I promise I'm not just late to the party

Cast your minds back to January 2010 when Dermot Ahern brought us back to the Middle Ages with the introduction of a new blasphemy law which gave the Gardaí the power to seize blasphemous material from the home or any other premises used by a person convicted of blasphemy. It also came with a hefty €25,000 fine. Ahern said he had three options: to abandon the old bill; to hold a single-issue referendum to remove the constitutional reference to blasphemy; or to update the references in the 1961 Defamation Act. Opting for reform, he said he had removed the seven-year jail sentence from the old legislation - how generous of him! Just the year previously Ireland  had voted at the UN against an attempt by Islamic states to make ‘defamation of religion’ a crime. And yet the Minister for Justice sought to revive this anachronistic medieval crime in modern Ireland. The proposed law flew in the face of a recommendation by the Law Reform Commission which said that there was no place for such an offence in a society which respects freedom of speech.
Speak no evil!
So where are we now?
As far as I know no one has, as yet, been convicted of the crime of blasphemy in Ireland. Which comes as somewhat of a surprise to me as we Irish are generally quite blasphemous by nature even on a day-to-day basis. I mean if the government wanted to whip up money for the Troika, the fines taken from any open pub on any Friday night should set us up to pay back a good chunk of the money (better shut up or they might take that idea on board!). Outside of Ireland it has had huge ramifications. Our introduction of the blasphemy law led to Islamic states such as Indonesia and Pakistan praising us, using us as an example and a defence for their own backward laws. Unlike Ireland, Indonesia and Pakistan have not been so slow out of the traps to bring down the full force of their might on people they deem guilty of blasphemy.

Alexander Aan is an Indonesian atheist and former Muslim. He was imprisoned this year for posting comments and images to Facebook that were judged to be "disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility" by the Muaro Sijunjung district court. The sentence sparked national debate and caused Amnesty International to designate him a prisoner of conscience. The sentence sparked debate over here. Senator Ivana Bacik and Senator Jillian van Turnhout have both asked the Irish Government to support Alexander Aan, with Ivana Bacik going as far as to say the law needed to be repealed. Bacik saying in a Seanad debate "We need to examine our blasphemy law because it is clearly having a repressive effect in Indonesia, Pakistan and other countries. I know the matter will be reviewed as part of the constitutional convention, but I believe the law should be repealed. Perhaps progress can be made more quickly in this regard." It is worth mentioning that in countries such as Pakistan members of government have been murdered for speaking out against their Blasphemy laws.

Ireland is having a repressive effect. Even more callous than the imprisonment of Alexander Aan in Indonesia was the imprisonment of a fourteen year old girl with Down's Syndrome in Pakistan. She was arrested after a mob (always the voice of reason) accused her of burning pages from the Koran. It has since emerged that an Islamic mullah has been accused of deliberately framing the girl by planting burnt Islamic texts. The mullah Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti insisted it was the only way to get rid of Christians in the area. Speaking to Western newspapers Chishti said he is not sorry that Christians have not left the area in the aftermath of the girl's arrest.
The girl in question has since been release on a $10,500 bail fee under the condition that she turn up in court for her trial. The girl, and remember here she is of diminished mental capacity, had to be taken from the prison in an armoured vehicle and whisked to a waiting helicopter while covered with a sheet to protect her identity in order to protect her from outside mobs. Amnesty International are hoping that the girl will be granted asylum in another country to ensure she need not be brought to trial in Pakistan. If  she is brought to trial and found guilty, Pakistan can go as far as condemning an intellectually disabled teenager to death for a crime she was most likely framed for, and even if she wasn't, could not have had the capacity to understand the consequences of her actions.

So here we are. No one in our country has been convicted of blasphemy, and believe me Atheism Ireland have tried. No one is going to arrest us for watching Father Ted and no one will arrest you if you feel like using a copy of the Koran to start your barbecue of an evening. However Dermot Ahern can not have been so blind sided as to not even imagine the consequence of his actions. As long as our country, the pimple on the arse of Europe, continues with the charade of this archaic law other people in the world will suffer. Dermot Ahern has blood on his hands. The blood of people who stand up for the value of free speech and the blood of  innocent children who are framed by manipulative entities. And before anyone asks what would Jesus do? Christ himself was condemned to death for blasphemy. Me? I believe more in Robert Green Ingersoll's words that “This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves”

As an aside on the case of the girl in Pakistan, a British newspaper published a photo of the girl as she was being brought to safety. I can't even describe how disgusted I am that a Western publication would compromise the safety of this girl any further.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Royal nudity and indignant death

It struck me as odd this morning that the British newspapers have decided not to publish photos of the naked Prince Harry in an LA hotel as he played strip billiards, especially as those photos are widely available on the net. We have reporters laying the blame at the door of the Leveson Inquiry and astounded by the censorship of the press with regard to photos can only be described as a royal cockup (pun intended). I'm not getting into the ins and outs (ha) of the Harry photos, primarily because I don't really care for all things royal and secondly I don't really see what the fuss is all about. Young man gets drunk and naked in a hotel room and fails to ensure that those he's naked with doesn't have a camera, woop de doo, non story. I'm not saying that the photos should or shouldn't be published, but it seems strange to see the British media pandering so obviously to Royal whim.

What this was contrasted with this morning is that the British media apparently have no problem with publishing photos of the late Tony Nicklinson as the undertakers took him away yesterday. This is the same press that when the news broke of Nicklinson's death yesterday were quick to speculate causes and if someone had indeed given him his wish of euthanasia.

For those of you who don't know Tony Nicklinson brought a case to the High Court last week asking for a right to die, and lost. He was left with locked in syndrome after suffering a stroke in 2005. What was once a vibrant, active and energetic man was left paralysed and speechless, able only to communicate through blinking his eyes. Nicklinson asked the court to grant immunity from prosecution for murder for a doctor who would give him a fatal dose of painkillers to end his life in Britain. Upon losing his case he accused the court of leaving him to a "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable" life. Nicklinson went on hunger strike and refused medical treatment after the court's decision last week. He developed pneumonia over the weekend and died from the resulting complications. Nicklinson believed he had an undignified life and sought legal help to ensure that he did not have an undignified death.

Alas his fight was in vain. Nicklinson's family watched as he refused food and medical treatment. They accepted his death and were saddened yet relieved that their Dad and husband no longer had to suffer. And then along came the paparazzi. At a time when privacy is a necessity the press were in wait. Quick to cast aspersions on the manner of his death and like vultures quick to swoop in to get photos of his dead body. The press that refuses to show photos of the party prince have no problem with adding insult to injury to a man that only wanted to die in peace and without pain.
What does it say about the reader that their press thinks that photos of a young, naked prince in his prime aren't fit for public consumption but the body of a battered and broken man at his most vulnerable is?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Annnnddddd.....we're back!

Okay I realise it's been almost a year since I started blogging again and I realise that I've been a particularly shite blogger. Mea culpa. Let's hope you can all let me off the hook because it has been a particularly trying year from February until recently and I'm only now getting myself back to normality. This is going to be a short piece because I am not normally prone to bouts of sentimentality but I would like to thank each and everyone one of you for being there for me over the past 6 or 7 months. Times of trouble are when your true friends really step up to the plate and I've been overwhelmed by the support I've been given, I could never thank you all enough.

Now resume being being jerks :)

Will have a new blog post up tomorrow and it'll be a really long one! And from here on blogging will be at least once a week.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience

No, no we didn't go to a restaurant with exceptionally bad service, it was actually an interactive show based on Fawlty Towers. We are ushered into the bar where Basil, Sybil and Manuel are serving in their own inimitable style before being called in for our meal. Our table draws attention first with Basil attempting to open a wine bottle with some help from Manuel:
Very Appetising
Which culminates in Basil falling in to the lap of himself. Wine poured and soup served two guests discover that 'chef' has dropped his false teeth into their bowls. And after much consternation Sybil wonders why she hired Manuel. Manuel insists that he is not 'hire' and once again decides to use himself to demonstrate.
"See - he higher!"
 Sybil at this point loses the rag and yells "Sit Down" at which point himself is without a chair.
My new husband
Soup finished, bowls taken away and order briefly restored before the main course. Until Manuel finding Sybil and Basil have left the room decides to do a bit of showing off and once again picks on our table.  As he uses an unfortunate lady as a ladder he climbs on our table to pretend to be a matador
I should add he did later attempt to fix the lady's hair with a fork!

Basil: "Manuel, what in hell do you think you're doing?!!"
We have a brief and complicated explanation of what we should do in the event of a fire, and because we can't leave through the same exit our table is resigned to digging a tunnel, while the table beside us must jump through the window. Since some tables were unsure of what they were meant to be doing Basil turns to himself and asks him what his profession is:
"Ah a programmer, a logistical mind of reason. Alright everybody in the event of a fire: follow him!"
This culminates in Basil raising the alarm for the drill at which point himself has to leg it out of the room while the rest of us are unsure whether to follow or not. I don't have any photos of him as I was too busy laughing. And so ends the first half of the performance.
The second half is a run through of old favourites from the series with audience interaction. Among the final scenes Manuel looking for his 'Siberian hamster' emerges from under a table with a ladies knickers. In the heel of the hunt Basil winds up wearing the knickers on his head and the grand finale is the infamous goose-step across the room

The show was fantastic, the actors have all the mannerisms and intonations down to a T, and if you ever get the opportunity then go see it - but not with a very tall man who attracts attention.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A tribute to Nana

Apologies again for the lax blogging. My Nana's sudden illness sent the whole family and I into a bit of turmoil.
I'm still finding it hard to believe that she's gone. Less than a year ago she was at my wedding and two days later was dancing around the floor at her 80th Birthday Party. She was a woman that was so full of life and so vibrant that it was difficult to see her suffer and in a way her death was a relief as had she lived she would have been ill and bedridden. That's something she most certainly would not have wanted.
Nana was unlike most other grandmothers. She refused to go grey and continued dying her hair until the very last. She wouldn't be seen outside the front door without her hair curled, her nails painted red, her make up on, dressed to the nines and wearing a "bit of bling". She could be told anything and not judge. Nothing fazed her - she took us and our problems are we were and helped as best she could.
She had a tough life, she endured domestic abuse, had seven children, survived a daughter's death, survived cancer, survived her husbands alzheimers and death and yet remained an eternal optimist.
She loved getting out of the house, going shopping or going to markets and she would do anything for a bargain. She loved to laugh and go on nights out, and it was often difficult to get her to go home after. She loved weekends away. She loved music, primarily country although she was partial to a bit of Dire Straits! She harangued DJ's on local radios to play songs she liked and was known on a first name basis everywhere she went. She was great fun - slagging was often fast and furious and she was never out done in a battle of wits. She was generous - if you so much as complimented a necklace it was yours there and then. And arguments over who would pay a bill almost resulted in Mrs. Doyle like fights. She collected nick-nacks particularly ones that made noise, her house was a menagerie of singing, dancing animals.
Nothing came above family. Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - she loved them all among her last words were that she loved everyone equally. She was willing to do anything for family. Her walls were testament to that love. Every free wall space was adorned with family photos, and a mirror of Rod Stewart that she bought but no one wanted, she felt bad for him and so he took his place on the wall too :)
She was the grand matriarch of a huge family and she is and will be sorely missed.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Ol' celebrity obituary

Yes, yes I know the blogging has been very lax these days so let's jump back in with a celebrity obituary. No, not that singer one Whitney what's her name, she's going to be lauded all over the place. In fact Sky News seem to have no other news apart from Whitney Houston's death this morning.

No let's have a look at David Kelly, poor David has had the unfortunate timing to pass away on the same weekend as Whitney so no one seems to have noticed.Granted David died at the grand old age of eighty two so it appears that his death isn't as tragic. However we have still lost a great actor and comic genius. And we have a lost a man who used his talents to the full rather than wasting them! One of the first times I saw Kelly on television was as the inept builder O'Reilly on Fawlty Towers

Don't hire this man to build a wall!

As a child (and now) I was always a fan of Fawlty Towers, to the delight of my Dad who had viewing partner and much to the chagrin of my mother who's not a huge fan of slapstick comedy - we outvoted her every time Fawlty came on! In fact Kelly himself once said "I've been 52-53 years on stage, and yet Fawlty Towers, those full 9 minutes, make me recognized anywhere in the world."

David Kelly managed to light up the screen regardless of what roll he played and regardless of whether that screen was big or small.Throughout the likes of Strumpet City, Fawlty Towers, Into The West, Waking Ned, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Stardust he seemed to effortlessly fill his screen character’s with a lovable, empathetic charm – and that charm seemed to have stemmed from the fact he was a genuinely likeable man. Who can forget his Grandpa Joe dance of delight, or the naked motorbike ride in Waking Ned? For a man who's screen career has spanned so long it is slightly disappointing that's reduced to a paragraph in most newspapers today.

Any excuse for a picture of Johnny Depp

David Kelly has left behind a wonderful legacy. How proud his family must be of a man who has enriched our culture and our tradition of producing amazing actors and story tellers. He will be sadly missed. A great man has departed from us, but with so many entertaining moments left behind he will always be remembered.
Would ye like a Rasher with that

I'll leave the last words to him with his acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement award at the IFTA's a couple of years ago:

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Michael Noonan and Emigration

Our esteemed Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has stated that “It’s (emigration) not being driven by unemployment at home, it’s being driven by a desire to see another part of the world and live there.” Now pardon my language but I'm really riled up over this. Have you ever heard such bullshit in all your life? Unemployment is 14.5% leaving over 400,000 people (myself included) out of work in this country. And Michael Noonan thinks this has nothing to do with the increase in emigration. Really? If it was all just because of a different lifestyle how come emigration has only risen during the recession? How come people have to leave their partners and children behind? Is that for the lifestyle choice? How come people so desperately want to come home, if they did it for a lifestyle choice?
The hypocrisy of his statement also sickens me. His party tore Mary Coughlan asunder a couple of years ago when she said something similar.

Fine Gael have tried to project themselves as the antithesis of Fianna Fáil. That Fianna Fáil were out of touch with the real world. That Bertie and his cronies were squandering money (which they were). But judging by Noonan's comments Fine Gael haven't a clue what's going on either. It's easy to be on a six figure wage plus expenses and think that all the little people are having a grand old time of it down below. But are we really surprised by the man who, as minister for health, treated the victims of the Hep. C. scandal so cruelly and ruthlessly? Do we really expect that man to feel sorry for us, as we struggle with financial uncertainty? Do you honestly think he cares that you're missing your family and friends? Of course he doesn't because he has never had to worry about meeting his next mortgage payment. He has never had to toss and turn and wonder if he's ever going to get a bloody job. And he knows when his daughters are fed up abroad he can pay for them to return.

Let us eat cake, let our government eat humble pie!

Monday, 9 January 2012

New Year and a cure for cancer - I think not!

Apologies on the delay in writing since Christmas, hopefully I still have some of my four readers left *wave*.
This has been doing the rounds on facebook over the past week. With some of what I consider intelligent people all up in arms about how dichloroacetate (DCA) is apparently a new medical miracle providing a cure for cancer and no one taking notice because the monsters that are big pharma think it's too cheap to produce and would rather have you dying. Lots of comments thanking the powers that be on Facebook for getting this out there since mainstream media won't.
Two points - firstly don't trust anything you read on the internet or elsewhere without delving a little deeper, secondly definitely don't trust anything you read on Facebook for fuck's sake!
Anyway back to the DCA, if you follow the links from to the University of Alberta we find an entirely different story. Clinical trials in humans with cancer have not been conducted in the USA and are not yet final in Canada, emphasizing the need for caution in interpreting the preliminary results. Even the researchers themselves say that no conclusions can be made due to the small scale studies they ran, and also said that they didn't know if improvements in patients were due to DCA or other treatments the patients had been receiving. Following its initial publication, The New Scientist later editorialized, "The drug may yet live up to its promise as an anti-cancer agent – clinical trials are expected to start soon. It may even spawn an entirely new class of anti-cancer drugs. For now, however, it remains experimental, never yet properly tested in a person with cancer. People who self-administer the drug are taking a very long shot and, unlikely as it may sound, could even make their health worse. It is clear that DCA is an intriguing drug, and may become part of the oncologist's tool belt but we also have to remember that cancer is a wily little bugger, there will probably never be a 'single' cure for cancer because cancer is a set of diseases that are so diverse that the cures will also have to be diverse.
As to the Big Pharma thing - do people honestly think that it's beneficial to a pharmaceutical to keep a 'cure' for cancer under wraps. Yes they are in it for the money, do we seriously think that any pharmaceutical company in a recession wouldn't see the benefit of being the first company to produce a cure?
Sott is just blowing this whole thing out of proportion in a badly worded and factually confused article that is currently winging it's way to a Facebook page near you.