General Election 2016 · Politics

#GE2016 part four: Election Day – shaping the new Government?

Over the course of the election campaign, I’ve been watching politicians from various parties and some from no party on the media. Some of what they have to say I’ve liked, some not so much, and some made me plain angry. No surprises there really. But this time round (and I’ve voted in every election I have been eligible to vote in since I turned 18) I have struggled to decide who to vote for. I have now decided and I will be voting later on today but one thing has really struck me as I’ve deliberated over who to vote for. I will be using my vote today but I will not be playing any positive part in shaping our next Government. And that makes me wonder if our electoral system needs some tweaking.

I live and vote in the Dáil constituency of Meath West. There are 9 candidates seeking election here. Some constituencies have 20 candidates, our neighbours in Meath East have 12 to choose from. I could, if I wished, vote for all 9 in order of preference. On this occasion I choose not to do that. Of our 9 candidates 2 are from Fine Gael, the majority party in the outgoing coalition. I will not be voting for either of them, I don’t agree with them on many issues and one of them I have found to be an utterly ineffectual TD so no vote from me there. We have one candidate from Fianna Fáil and I cannot forget what that party has done in the past. Again, I also disagree with many of their policies. So no vote going there. For those of you unfamiliar with Irish politics, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are (currently) the two major parties, so you might see where I’m going. We have one candidate from Sinn Féin. I have voted Sinn Féin in the past and while I do not agree with all of their policies, there is some common ground there. Depending on how things go today (and there are MANY uncertainties in this election) Sinn Féin could well end up as the leaders of the opposition in the next Dáil. But I cannot vote for their candidate here as he and I differ on the repeal of the 8th Amendment which is a red line issue for me.

So 4 down and no vote cast yet. There’s an independent candidate who has not even produced any election literature that I can see (and I’ve looked) so that’s a no. 5 down, 4 to go. The Labour party candidate – and indeed the only woman standing here – hmm, she had a chance of a lower preference from me until I spoke to her at a hustings event and again we differ on the repeal of the 8th. Nope, move along please. 6 down, 3 to go. I’m now left with the Green Party candidate, the Direct Democracy candidate and a candidate from the Christian Jobs and Action Party. I do not believe any political party should espouse any religious belief so that’s a no. (Unsurprisingly, we differ on the 8th too) So I’m left with 2 out of 9. One of these will get my first preference, the other my second. Neither party has – in my opinion – any hope of forming part of the next government. But at least I will have voted.

So, back to my earlier point about maybe our system needing tweaking. There are some parties who DO interest me (actually the Greens come into that category too), such as the recently formed Social Democrats, the People Before Profit movement and the Anti-Austerity Alliance. None of them are contesting this constituency so I can’t vote for them, yet they are the parties with whom I would have the most common ground (in different ways). Should we have some kind of national list system alongside the constituency votes? That way more people might feel like they are actually getting a positive say in who shapes our next government? I don’t have any ideas as to what form that might take or how it might work, but this election has really gotten me thinking.

There are some independent candidates in other constituencies who I really hope get elected (and in some cases re-elected), Katherine Zappone, Carol Hunt, Averil Power, Joan Collins…. to name just a few. Let’s wait and see – I will be glued to the results for the next few days.

General Election 2016 · Parenting · Special Needs

#GE2016 part three: Why we have to Disable Inequality

The Disability Federation of Ireland has been running a campaign called Disable Inequality prior to and during the general election campaign, asking voters to vote to end discrimination for people living with disability. You might wonder in what ways are people living with disabilities facing discrimination. Take a quick look at the stories that the Disable Inequality campaign are sharing and you’ll see.

I do not have a disability but am the very proud mother of a feisty and fabulous daughter who has physical and intellectual disabilities. If you have children, ask yourself will your child/ren be helped and enabled to achieve their full potential? Children with disabilities are frequently told no they can’t take a certain subject for Junior or Leaving cert because the extra supports they need are not in place. Does that sound fair to you? Children with disabilities (who are still growing) are all too often left months, even years, with too small or inadequate equipment, or face long waits to have physiotherapy or occupational therapy. Does that sound fair to you?

Some children with special needs have to attend special school (like our daughter does) as their local school cannot provide the assistance and supports they need to achieve their full potential. That means they don’t get to go to school with their siblings and neighbours. Does that sound fair to you? In our case, our daughter’s school is 26 miles away. That is a round trip of 52 miles each day. 5 days a week. That is 260 miles she travels each week just to attend school. She has been doing this since she was five years old. Does that sound fair to you?

If children were facing these issues around equipment, therapies, appointments, schools because of their ethnicity or religion there would (hopefully) be an uproar. Yet when it comes to our children with disabilities we are told its all due to budgetary cutbacks and to staff shortages and to ‘the system’. If you get the opportunity to talk to a candidate in the next two weeks, ask them what they and their party if they have one are going to do to end this discrimination. Or contact them and ask. During the marriage referendum campaign last year I recall seeing a poster that said ‘Let’s treat everyone equally’. I hope I live to see the day when that really happens.

General Election 2016

#GE2016 part two: Leaders’ ‘Debate’

Two weeks to go to polling day and last night (Feb 11th) saw the first televised leaders debate on TV3 and Newstalk radio. I was undecided whether to watch or not as generally I don’t find the debates that interesting or useful when it comes to deciding how to vote. However influenced a little bit by commentary on Twitter, I decided to give it a whirl.

I should have stuck to my gut feeling and watched some more Netflix. I won’t waste my time or yours rehashing what was said, apart from Gerry Adams telling Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin (separately) “catch yourself on” and Micheal Martin telling people they had a brass neck. Honestly, you’d get a higher level of debate in sixth class.

I do wonder why media and politicians think these debates are a good idea. I’ve watched some British ones and some Irish ones and I’ve almost always come away fed up of hearing our political leaders shout over each other, not really listening and really engaging with the issues, of hearing them just spouting a load of frequently meaningless lines. Last night was no different. Now maybe some people do find these events useful when it comes to deciding who to vote for, but not me, all it has done is reinforced my decisions who NOT to vote for.

14 days and counting……..

Bits and Bobs · History · Politics

RTE’s Rebellion – final thoughts

The first big TV programme of RTE’s 1916 commemorations finished on Sunday night. I watched all five episodes with decreasing enjoyment as the weeks went on. So here’s my final thoughts. It wasn’t complete garbage, but it wasn’t great either.

My main problems with it:

* the inaccuracies throughout – I accept that a lot of viewers would not have been aware of them but as the whole drama was about one of the major episodes in Ireland’s history I don’t think it was unreasonable to expect that the details could have been sharper.

* the whole storyline with the character of May was appallingly lame and hackneyed and added nothing to the drama, if anything it took from it.

* while I felt the acting overall was good, there were some rather weak portrayals and in particular I felt Camille O’Sullivan’s portrayal (betrayal??) of Countess Markievicz was little short of hammy.

* the character of Lizzie – while generally I liked her – was just a bit too gushy and times and no way would she have spent days (weeks?) in an armed rebellion looking like a glammed up Virgin Mary in that coat and dress. (Although I did LOVE the coat)

I think RTE overhyped it and hence expectations were high. It does seem to have inspired some viewers who wouldn’t know much about the personalities involved to go away and read up on it which is most definitely a good thing. Or maybe they said that just to shut me up from saying “But the Countess wasn’t like that!!” !!!

Feminism · General Election 2016 · History · Parenting · Politics · Special Needs

#GE2016 part one: what kind of voter am I?

Here in the Republic of Ireland we have a general election looming. It was finally declared this morning and will take place on Friday February 26th. Consequently I will be glued to the TV on Sat 27th, Sun 28th and quite possibly Mon 29th depending on how long it takes for all the counts to be concluded and the results finally known. (For readers unfamiliar with our system, we have multi seat constituencies and vote by proportional representation so it can take awhile. For political nerds like me that’s part of the fun.)

Along with the various candidates clamouring for our attention and promising us the sun, the moon and the stars, or least promising that they aren’t as bad as the other lot, a number of organisations have campaigns running either asking candidates to make various pledges or asking voters to highlight the issues that matter to them. Reading through some of these made me think about the issues that will decide how I use my vote this month. I WILL use my vote – I have voted in every election I have been eligible to vote in – but as yet, I am uncertain which way it will go.

In an attempt to tease out some of my thinking, I’m going to look at some of the issues/ideas/ways in which my vote might be influenced. A lot of psephologists and political analysts talk about there being certain ‘types’ of vote – so what kind of voter am I?

I’m a woman. I’ve often wondered if there really IS such a thing as ‘the woman’s vote’. It implies that women will vote the same way or at least be influenced by the same issues when deciding how to vote. I don’t know if that has ever been true. The National Women’s Council of Ireland have asked candidates to sign up to their Breakthrough Manifesto for Women, all of which I agree with. At time of writing none of the candidates declared for my constituency of Meath West have signed up for this. I know women who will not agree with all of the points in this manifesto, but we are all women voters – so is there really a ‘women’s vote’? Should a woman vote for a candidate simply because she is a woman? No – there are some women candidates who, if they were running in my constituency, I would not give any vote to, because their policies and beliefs are so far removed from mine that they would not be representing me.

I have a child with special needs, and am her carer. This will be one of the biggest deciding factors for me when using my vote. I wholeheartedly support the Disable Inequality campaign to end discrimination for people living with a disability. In case you think such discrimination does not exist, ask yourself do people with disabilities have the same access to education, training and employment as everyone else? (The answer is no by the way). Ask yourself, do people with disabilities struggle financially? (That’s a yes – the burden of paying for extra heating, housing aids and transport means many families with a member with a disability are struggling) This week when the country has been shocked by the terrible story of alleged abuse of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, Inclusion Ireland has released its manifesto for the election. It makes sobering reading.

I’m middle aged (and proud of it! Think of the alternative!) – is there a particular voting trend or voting appeal that should apply to me? I can’t think of one. Does being 44 (nearly 45) mean I think and hence vote a particular way?

I live in rural Ireland, on the edge of a small town with a rural hinterland. I am not originally from rural Ireland but have chosen to settle and raise our daughter here. That surely implies a commitment to rural Ireland, I could have just as easily chosen to live in a large town or city. I have no connection to farming, I don’t follow GAA (ok I like to see Meath win), I’m tired of hearing about ‘blow-ins’ who don’t understand the community they live in. Surely a community is not something set in aspic, surely it changes and adapts to those who live in it whether or not their families have lived there for generations. Those who wish to represent rural communities would do well to remember that these communities are not homogenous. Yes, many of the so-called rural issues are important to me – better public transport, the effects of the economic downturn and how long it is taking to see the promised upturn in some areas, employment, migration etc. But these are not the only things that will determine how my vote is used.

I want full equality in education, and support the campaign by Education Equality for the ending of all religious discrimination in State-funded schools. I would be delighted if the Education Equality campaign would also look at the issue of special schools and religious ethos.

To sum up then, I’m a middle aged woman living in rural Ireland with a child with special needs. I want to see full equality in our education system, an end to the inhumane system of direct provision and the repeal of the 8th Amendment. I care about where our food comes from and what we are doing to our planet. I’m not motivated by the acquisition of wealth and am passionate about making our history and heritage something that can be appreciated and cherished by all. What kind of voter am I then? I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that voters don’t fit into easy little boxes for canvassers and pollsters to tick off. We are more complex and have a range of issues that will affect our votes.

So, candidates of Meath West, what can you do to win my vote? You have 24 days including today and polling day. It’s over to you!

History · Politics

RTE’s Rebellion – initial thoughts

I’ve just watched the first episode of RTE’s Rebellion series and overall I enjoyed it. My main thoughts:

Great to see women characters to the fore, I wonder if the Elizabeth character is a composite of Helena Molony and Countess Markievicz?? I’m not sure about the storyline with May – the idea that she took the document from Dublin Castle because she had been thrown over by her married lover. I’m not really buying that. The Frances character – I was delighted to see her wearing a Cumann na mBan brooch 🙂 – I started off liking her portrayal, but not sure how they will develop her. The moment when she said to Pearse (incidentally I thought the actor resembled Willie rather than PH) that she was happy to play her part and he then dismissed her was good to see. Not good that it happened but good to have that shown early on. Let’s see how that develops.

Very good that the different groups involved are being flagged up – Irish Citizen Army, Volunteers, hints of the IRB (although I don’t think they were named – I might have missed it) – I know for those of us who have read and studied this period, such highlighting isn’t needed, but for people who didn’t know the rebels’ backgrounds, it was probably useful. Making the main real-life protagonists into background characters works well I think, I see some people commenting on social media that they wanted to see more of the Countess or more of Connolly, well I like the idea of focusing on those who are lesser known. Good to see some slight nods to social history as well, mentions of separation money etc.

It is a dramatisation not a documentary and so can take licence with some things that an account claiming to be strictly factual cannot. I will continue to watch it because even though I know how the story ends, I want to see how they show it. Verdict on episode 1 – good, generally well acted, mostly looks good (Dublin could do with being so clean today!), not perfect, but main thing is its not one dimensional.

Feminism · Parenting · Politics

Why I won’t stop crying

I don’t know where to begin or even what I want to say. Like so many others I feel utterly useless today. Here in the privileged bloated West we have seen a picture of a little boy, a beautiful little boy lying face down. He looks utterly relaxed, his hands turned palm up, his wee feet stretched out. I’ve seen my own beautiful child lying in a similar position so many times. The difference is she was in her cot and then later in her bed, or on our sofa. Safe and warm in her own home. But that wee boy is lying on a beach in Turkey and he is dead. He drowned as a refugee trying to escape to safety. His brother and his mum died along with him.

But what can I do? That’s a question many people ask themselves about all the pain and suffering we see in our world. Can I stop the refugee crisis? No, of course not. Can I go to help? Apart from the fact that a well meaning but untrained volunteer is the last thing that refugees need in their faces, my own family circumstances mean I can’t travel to Syria or to Lebanon or to Calais or to any of the many many other places around the world where my neighbours need help. I can donate money to various charitable organisations, I knit hats and jumpers for a little charity in Turkey that helps Syrian refugees in camps there. I can help organise collections of much needed items in my local community and get them to people who can get them to Calais. I can organise grocery shopping for the women’s refuge in my county. I can go to coffee mornings to help children with illnesses and disabilities. I can do all of these things and I try to.

I wonder is the most important thing the one that in many ways is the easiest to do.  I can and will bear witness.  I will not turn away when I see these pictures.  I do and will continue to get angry, to question, to ask, to read, to listen, to think and to learn about why such things are happening and what we as a world can do to help our sisters and brothers.  I encourage, no I implore everyone reading this to do the same.  Don’t turn away and bury yourself in a superficial world of entertainment, so called reality TV, celebrity happenings and other amusing stuff.  Yes that all has a place but don’t ignore what is happening in the world.  Don’t think you can’t do anything.  You can.  You can bear witness.  You can get angry and demand answers.  You can let those in power know that you are watching.  For those of you in Ireland, you can sign this petition and demand that our Government allow more than a few hundred refugees in to our country.

I cry every time I see that picture of little Aylan Kurdi. And then I get annoyed with myself and vow not to cry any more, my tears are useless, they don’t achieve anything. Then I realise that the day I stop crying for the wrongs and injustices in this world is a bad bad day.

read feel act
POSTSCRIPT:

Members of the Irish Parenting Bloggers have come together in a blog-hop to share their thoughts on the current crisis and to let people know what they can do to help. Click on the link below to read our posts and please feel free to spread the word by sharing on social media platforms using the hashtag #ReadFeelAct.



If you want to do something to help, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Sign the petition to ask the Irish Government to do more to help. Just click here.  For anyone in the UK you can sign a similar petition here
  2. There are numerous charities helping the refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea. Please, please donate even a few euro to Medecins Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, or Trocaire.
  3. Alternatively, if you’d like to be part of a very worthy organised event the Irish Parenting Bloggers have organised a virtual coffee (or tea!) morning – check out and ‘like’ the Facebook Event page here  –  to help raise much needed funds for the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity Campaign. On Friday, September 11 just pour yourself a cuppa; go to http://www.irelandcalaisfund.ml/ and make a donation to the fund (we suggest €5 per person but please give what you can) and upload a screenshot of your donation plus a pic of yourself enjoying your cuppa to your Facebook page or other social media channels and tell your followers all about it.  Then just link to this event to encourage your friends and family to take part too.
Politics

Something happened in Ireland yesterday

Yesterday was 22nd May, we had a referendum, well two actually. One on lowering the age at which a person can stand for election as President and the other on marriage equality – allowing same sex couples to have civil marriage.

I’m writing this in a hurry as I’m heading to Dublin in a short while to attend the Countess Markievicz summer school, which is on women and equality. Its always a good day and I’m looking forward to it.

I always vote and take pride in so doing but I was never prouder to vote than yesterday. Even in my small rural town in north Meath there was a sense amongst some of us anyway that something was happening. People were talking about marriage equality in the supermarket, Yes Equality badges could be seen all over the place. It felt good, really good.

Then I started looking at social media and got very emotional, the #hometovote stories made me well up, just the sight of so many people coming home to vote because this issue meant so much to them. As the day went on and it became apparent that turnout was good, possibly even high by referendum standards, I felt a rising sense of excitement. Now I’m a news and politics junkie and watch election results come in but never feeling like this.

Then on Twitter yesterday evening seeing Des Bishop ferrying people around Dublin so they could get to vote, and seeing others all around the country doing the same, well it just gave me goosebumps. Taxi firms waiting to collect people at train and bus stations and taking them to the polls for free (ok yes marketing ploy maybe but it felt good!), watching to see would twitter user @KDamo get home to vote (he did) all of this combined to make me feel that something happened here yesterday. Something good, something positive. A step towards equality for all.

And that’s what I hope the most. That the marriage referendum will be passed and that the energies that have arisen around this are then used in all the other equality struggles in our country. But that is for another day. For today I will wait and watch and hope that its a YES, and even better a resounding YES.

Its a new dawn, its a new day, its a new life……… and hopefully we’ll continue to feel good!

Politics

Time warp after UK election – 1983, 1918, where are we now??

Its just about 8.30 on the morning after the UK general election of May 2015. I stayed up til 1am last night after a very long day yesterday and didn’t see most of the results come in. Having woken up to the news that the Conservatives are on course for an overall majority, I am trying to gather my thoughts.

What I feel at this stage (619 of 650 seats declared):

Thatcher’s Britain is back. I actually can’t find the words to explain how this makes me feel. I grew up in the 1980’s, I saw what that era did to the country I grew up in. Its happening all over again.

Scotland -the SNP have taken nearly all the Scottish seats. I don’t know enough about the details of internal Scottish politics to comment thoroughly but from my perspective I’m wondering was this a pro SNP vote (which makes me think of Ireland in 1918 election) or an anti Labour vote. Cameron is saying he wants to govern over a United Kingdom. Its already clear that the UK is a very different place.

UKIP. The rise of UKIP scares me, I’ll be honest. Are people voting for UKIP because they like their policies or in an attempt to keep other parties out? I hope its the latter. I don’t care what Farage and his coterie say, when I look at UKIP I see fascism. And that is utterly terrifying.

As a history student in the early 1990’s (A level history) I read Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England. I think I need to read it again. Is England now irrevocably a 2 party system?

As I finish this, I hear that Boris Johnson has won a seat. There are no words. This has been a terrible terrible night. Part of me wishes I had stayed up to bear witness, but the rest of me is glad I got some sleep. I don’t live in Britain any more but the fight against stupidity, sloppy thinking, inertia, apathy, fascism, narrow mindedness, it goes on in every country.

Rest up comrades, the fight continues.

Feminism · Parenting · Politics

Lancing Ireland’s boil

A boil can not only be extremely painful, it can get you down. The infection can make you weak and give you a fever. There are other things that can be tried, but sometimes a boil just has to be lanced.

That’s advice I found online earlier when I was thinking about writing this post. I have been thinking for days now about whether or not to blog about the mother and baby homes, the Tuam babies, the Magdalene laundries, the illegal forced adoptions, the vaccination trials that were carried out apparently without the consent of the mothers of children in these institutions, the secrecy and heartbreak that accompanies all of this. What stopped me from blogging until now was the sheer enormity of it all. Every day another new and awful story. Every day more accounts on the radio from mothers who had their babies taken from them. Every day inexorably building up to the point where I nearly stopped listening, nearly stopped reading, nearly stopped thinking. And then I realised. THAT is what Ireland did for years, for decades, for generations. We as a country, as a society, stopped thinking and stopped listening. We pretended that these women and girls and their babies were not our responsibility. We convinced ourselves that by putting them away in these institutions we were dealing with this issue. These fallen women, these offenders, it was best for the wider society if we did not have to see them, to think about them, to deal with them. And their babies? Well sure weren’t we giving them the best possible life by allowing them to be adopted? And if some of them died because of poor conditions or insufficient nourishment or the rapid spread of a disease then maybe that was God’s will.

Well now these stories – none of which are actually new – are coming to light. For years now Irish society has been repeatedly shocked by stories of child abuse in institutions run by various religious orders and often supported by State money, horrified by accounts of priests being moved from parish to parish where they remained free to sexually abuse children, appalled by the suffering of the women incarcerated in the Magdalene laundries. And now the country is sickened all over again by the stories of what went on in the mother and baby homes around the country. You probably know a family who have been directly affected by this, most of us do. And therein is another part of the problem. We all know this, we all know or have heard of people who were born in a mother and baby home, or of a woman who spent time in one of those homes. But it seems to be something an awful lot of us know about but no one talks about it. Now it seems Ireland is ready to talk, to hear, to think. It is time to lance that boil, it will hurt, it won’t be pretty, but it needs to be done if any kind of healing can ever happen.