Good to see An Taoiseach in Belfast last week. Good to see his active engagement in the discussions on Brexit and the apparent change of step by Simon Coveney to the inter-party,inter-governmental, talks.
I’m a little sceptical about the substance of all of that, but the mood music has changed from “The Irish Government needs to engage” to “The Irish Government is engaging”.
As an aside from the big picture of Leo Varadkar standing in Queens University very relaxed and happy was a little picture. Senator Niall O Donnaile caught a snap of Leo sitting waiting to deliver his speech in a chair in front of a number of young women wearing “Repeal the 8th” t-shirts.
The t-shirts refer the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which gives equal rights to the unborn as to the mothers that carry them. This amendment has a direct causal link to the “X Case” when a 14 year old rape victim was not allowed to travel to England to terminate the resulting pregnancy and to the death of 31 year old Savita Hapapanaveer in 2012. She died from sepsis related to a failing pregnancy which was about to result in spontaneous miscarriage, but could have been saved had she been allowed the abortion she asked for.
There are daily horror stories relating to the 8th that has resulted in the United Nations saying it has created a state policy of inhuman and degrading treatment of women. The Oireachtas has been dragging its feet to recommend the much needed referendum to change the barbaric regime that has presided.
So the image captured by Niall was pretty powerful.
Except Niall was the subject of online abuse afterwards. The objections went along the lines of Sinn Féin being inconsistent and unprogressive on reproductive rights and where they may seem progressive they are not sincere anyway. The response was pretty vitriolic considering the senator was showing support for the issue at hand.
I get the passion. I am a pro-choice republican woman. I get that women should not be merely “allowed” reproductive rights only in some circumstances. I get that women will make the right choices for themselves and their families, and I believe public policy needs to reflect that without making a song and dance of it. Not everyone agrees with me.
What I will not tolerate however is the anti-republican agenda masquerading itself under this issue which can spew out.
Republican women have experienced decades of violations against their community and their very person and were utterly abandoned by the women’s movement, with very few and notable exceptions. Women who suffered unimaginably in prisons, north and south on this island and in England. Silence. Women who were treated disgustingly in their own homes by state agents as their homes were torn apart and their children terrified. Silence. Women who were deliberately targeted, shot, blown up and killed. Silence. Women who sought justice on the streets and in courts. Silence. Women who still stand in legacy courts denied the dignity of truth or justice. Silence. Women who have been hemmed into their own areas while sectarian protest and marches go past their homes. Silence.
And that silence contributed and contributes to the environment where violations occur.
Yeah, republican women can point out double standards and have just as much passion as any of our sisters. But that is hardly going to move any of our issues forward. Time for a better more considered conversation.