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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 ūüôā – 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.

What I’ve been reading lately – April 2015

I love books as some of you will know, and I read a lot. There’s always at least two books of mine on the go in this house. A friend asked me recently if I’d read anything lately that I would recommend, so I suggested a few things I’d enjoyed and thought she might like. That got me thinking about how much I actually do read, I don’t know if there’s any kind of average of number of books read in a month but it made me sit and jot down what books I’d read most recently. And that naturally led to a blog post. Now this may or may not become a regular feature here but here’s the books I read in April and what I thought of them.

Women of the Irish RevolutionLiz Gillis Women of the Irish Revolution This is a photographic history of many of the women who ¬†took part in various ways in the revolutionary period in Ireland, roughly from 1913-1923. Its a superb book, with so many photographs I have never seen before. Gillis explores each woman’s role and activities and also gives a synopsis of what they did afterwards, much of which I had no idea of. It is an easy to read, beautifully presented book which I would recommend as a good starting point for anyone interested in this period and most especially in women’s political and revolutionary activities.

Secret Diary of a Demented HousewifeNiamh Greene Secret Diary of a Demented Housewife I had never heard of Niamh Greene but saw this in a charity shop, fancied a light read and it was only a euro. Thankfully it was only a euro. I couldn’t finish it and it is very rare I can’t finish a book. Awful. I only managed 20 pages before I threw it in the bag for the charity shop. Poorly written, no likeable characters and after the 20 pages were up I realised I couldn’t care less what happened to the characters and that there was surely something else I could do with my time. I hate to be bitchy but that is my honest opinion of this book. Greene clearly has a market out there for her books, but I’m not part of it.

John Taylor In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran Ok, cards on the table. I LOVED Duran Duran asIn the Pleasure Groove ¬†a teenager, my bedroom walls were covered in pictures of them. I lost interest in them around 1988 and the pictures all came down. I didn’t keep up to speed with what they were doing unless they were mentioned in some magazine or paper I was reading. Kept most of the vinyl though. So I wasn’t aware that John Taylor had written his autobiography until I saw it in a charity shop (there’s a recurring theme here with my reading). It gave me a bit of a trip down memory lane, and also brought me up to date on what the band had been doing. (I wasn’t sure if they were still together or not…..they are) Its a light enough read in most parts, and I got through it quickly. The section where JT (well I have to call him that really, we all did back in the 80’s) details his alcohol and drug addiction and his struggle to overcome them are, for me, the best and most moving part of the book. I enjoyed this far more than I really expected to if I’m honest. If I’d been reading this as a Duran-mad teenager I wouldn’t have appreciated it at all. But as a woman in her 40’s, I found this interesting, enjoyable, and surprisingly moving in parts. Taylor’s honesty about his relationship with his parents and then with his own child and what he calls his blended family takes this out of the realm of the bog standard pop biog.

Easter WidowsSinead McCoole Easter Widows The latest book from Sinead McCoole explores the lives of the seven women whose husbands were executed in May 1916 in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Rising. McCoole has an impressive list of works on women in the revolutionary period in Ireland and this book added hugely to my knowledge of that period. I knew the life stories of Maud Gonne, of Kathleen Clarke, of Muriel MacDonagh, I knew something of the story of Grace Gifford Plunkett, but I knew very little of Lillie Connolly, of Aine Ceannt or Agnes Mallin. This book took years to research and write and while reading it I got a real sense of how engrossed McCoole must have been in these women’s lives. I did find it a little unbalanced at times – I got a much clearer sense of some of the women than of others – but that may be due to the sources that were available. One issue that would have improved my enjoyment of the book is that I found it hard at times to keep track of the various people owing to McCoole’s use of their given names without a surname. Many of the lesser characters share given names with the women or their children and that got confusing at times when no surname was used. However, I found this an excellent read, very well written, and would highly recommend it. Some of the stories are simply heartbreaking and it is clear that some of these women suffered for the rest of their lives, financially, emotionally, physically. A very moving book.

Audrey Niffenegger The Time Traveler’s Wife I saw a wee bit of the film of this on TV about a year ago and thought Time Traveler's Wife¬†the premise was curious. I still haven’t seen the film (but will see it tonight when its on RTE!) but on finding the book thought it was worth a look. And yes, this was another of my charity shop pick ups. I’m not going to outline the plot here, I’m sure there are others out there like me who eventually get around to reading the “latest best seller” a few years after it was published. Its a mix of science fiction and love story and for me it worked on both levels. Henry can travel back and forward through time – at least through his own life – and meets Clare at various stages of her life. They fall in love and marry. If you want to know if its a happy ever after you’ll have to read it for yourself, and DO, its a great book and I loved it. But I wouldn’t read it again (and I have many novels I return to over and again) because I know how it finishes, so the sense of wondering how the story will go wouldn’t be there for me. I’m wondering now if the film can be as good, I’m often disappointed by film adaptations, but we’ll see.

Divas Don't KnitFinally, I read Gil McNeil Divas Don’t Knit Well I’m not a diva (ok maybe I have diva-ish tendencies at times) but I do knit, not briliantly, but I do and I enjoy it. So this was another attempt at a light read. This time it worked, I enjoyed this a lot. Sometimes you (or me anyway) just want a book that’s not challenging, that has a story, that offers a bit of entertainment for an hour or two. Divas Don’t Knit did that for me. Its the story of Jo Mackenzie who after the death of her husband (who had just told her he was leaving her for another woman), moves to a different town with her two small sons, and takes over her grandmother’s wool shop. She sets up a knitting group and gets involved with various local and national characters, some likeable others less so but utterly believable all the same. The plot moved along quickly – maybe a little implausible at times – but it never dragged and it was easy to switch off for a while and just enjoy it. Worth looking at if you need a light easy read of a wet afternoon.

So there you go, that’s what I read in April. Six books. I’d probably usually read more in a month but it was Easter holidays for the part of the month so reading time was much curtailed! If you’ve any suggestions or recommendations of books for me to try, please do send them on, I’m always up for a reading challenge! If you’ve read any of these I’d be interested to hear what you thought of them. Happy Reading!!

And so the fight continues….

Wednesday 13th July,¬† Oldcastle, Co. Meath.¬† A beautiful warm sunny morning, just as it should be for the middle of July.¬† July.¬† My daughter’s birth month and she has just turned 4.¬† Another milestone that a few years ago we didn’t know if we would ever see.¬† I load Fionnuala and her heavy special needs buggy into my little car and head for Mullingar.¬† Our ultimate destination¬†is Dublin as we are taking part in a protest against the cuts in special needs education.¬† It might seem odd to travel from the Meath-Cavan border to Dublin via Mullingar but we’re going by train and Mullingar is our nearest station.¬† It takes about 40 minutes to get there.¬† We take the Castlepollard road out of Oldcastle, bypassing Fore and its seven wonders.¬† There’s nothing worth listening to on the radio so I check the CD player – first CD up is Horslips ‘Treasury’.¬† The first track that comes on is ‘Furniture’, I haven’t listened to this¬†in a while and I’m humming along when they launch into the chorus¬†from¬†‘Or√≥ S√© Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ and I feel the spirit of Gr√°inne Mhaol¬†surging through me, putting me into fighting mode.¬† Fionnuala¬†is clapping her hands and singing away in her car seat, oblivious to her mother communing with long-dead Irish women.¬† Skip through a track or two and next up is¬† ‘Dearg Doom’ – this was the first Horslips song I ever heard – and now the spirit of Queen Meabh is right up there with Gr√°inne Mhaol.¬† The blood is pumping, the adrenalin is rushing, I feel like I can take on the world and win!!¬† And we’ve only been on the road for half an hour…

Eventually I calm down somewhat, get us to the train and safely to Dublin.¬† After a lovely lunch we stroll casually down to Kildare Street.¬† The protest¬† – organised by the Special Needs Parents Association amongst others – is due to start at 3pm.¬† I figure we’ll be there by about 2.40 so at least there will be a few people ready by 3pm.¬† We turn into Molesworth Street and are enjoying the (rare) sunshine when it hits me like a thunderbolt.¬† There are tons of people outside the D√°il.¬† Parents, children, teachers, SNAs, buggies and wheelchairs of all shapes and sizes.¬† There must be a few hundred people there already!¬† I am both amazed and delighted.¬† Many of us have been trying to encourage people who don’t have or know¬†a child with special needs to join us for this protest.¬† I manage to locate some good friends and Fionnuala and I take our places just outside the gates to Leinster House.¬† More and more people arrive, the Garda√≠ close off the lower half of Molesworth Street and still the people keep coming.¬† We are asked to move over from Kildare Street to Molesworth Street for the rally and by now it is a pretty impressive sight.¬† (The press has varying numbers the next day but I believe there was approx 1000 people there).¬† TD’s are arriving out of Leinster House, members of the Technical Group of Independent TD’s, members of Sinn F√©in, I think I see a couple of Labour TD’s.¬† No Fianna F√°ilers or Fine Gaelers.¬† Or not that I could see anyway.¬† The vibe is good natured, people are angry at the cuts to SNA positions, but its a positive kind of anger.¬† Plus there are a lot of children present and we want to keep this a family-friendly protest.

The speeches begin and they are all received positively. Finian McGrath TD spoke very well saying that if people were not for children with special needs then they were against them.¬† The crowd are in total agreement with him.¬† Lorraine Dempsey from the Special Needs Parents Association speaks just prior to a meeting with Minister Cannon and other government TD’s.¬† Shane Ross, Mick Wallace, Catherine Murphy, other TD’s too many to list here, teachers, SNAs, a gutsy young boy with autism and his mum, loads of people speak and the crowd applaud. Its a sunny day, we’re all too hot, the children are getting bored but at least we feel like we’re getting the chance to have our say.

Clare Daly TD opens up the stage for anyone who wants to address the crowd (thinning out a little bit now, its after 5pm).¬† And with my ego to the fore, I decide to go up. I’ve no real idea what I’m going to say but what the hell, I’ll just keep my little daughter’s face in my mind’s eye and something will come to me.¬† There are two speakers before me and then its my turn.¬† Momentarily I panic.¬† I introduce myself to the crowd and then it hits me what I want to say…..

“I don’t want to be here today.”¬† Not the usual opening line to address a rally with I grant you but I elaborate on my theme and speak for a few minutes.¬† I get lots of applause and two TD’s tell me I spoke well.¬† I get back to my daughter and friends to lots of hugs and congratulations.¬† Phew, maybe I didn’t make a class eejit of myself!¬† My dear friend Aisling then¬†speaks very movingly and passionately about her son Jack and their fight for Jack to have the education he is entitled to.¬† Eventually the rally is over and a group of us retire to Buswells to relax, cool down, collect our thoughts and celebrate.¬† After all, its not every day we campaign outside the D√°il and address a rally.¬† We are all thrilled at the turnout and we’re on a high.

After an hour or so Fionnuala and I head back to Connolly station to start our journey home.¬† Its been a long day and we are both tired.¬† We finally get back¬†just before 9¬†having left home at 10 that morning.¬† She goes straight to sleep and I fill my husband in on the day’s events while we wait for the 9pm news.¬† Yay! We got some coverage and another good friend of ours is interviewed with her children.¬† Then we hear that the Govt motion to maintain the cuts already announced in SNA positions has been won in the D√°il by 103 votes to 47 and the high that I’ve been on all day starts to fade.¬† I knew there was virtually no chance of the motion by the technical group (to reverse the cuts) winning but there’s always a glimmer of hope.¬† I spend the next hour or so chatting with friends online talking over the day, swapping news and photos.¬† And so to bed.

But the next morning I feel terrible.¬† Awful.¬† Exhausted. Worn out, weary, tired tired tired of having to fight.¬† And sick to my stomach at the way our children are being treated. And I’m not the only one.¬† Facebook is full of mums and dads who feel the exact same way I do.¬† And that brings me back to my speech at the rally.¬† None of us WANTED to be there last Wednesday.¬† Its not easy taking a child with special needs to the D√°il, having to manoeuvre buggies or wheelchairs, cater for a child who might be peg fed or who might have a trach tube in place.¬† Or who has autism and doesn’t cope well with crowds.¬† Or who has seizures. Or who is simply unable to understand why we are there and why she has to sit in her buggy for Mum for over two long hours, pacified only with white chocolate buttons.¬† But we did it.¬† Parents and supporters from all over the country came, from Donegal, Meath, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow,¬†Louth, Kilkenny, Cork, Galway…. and that’s only the ones I know about. I’m sure pretty much every one of the counties in this State was represented in the crowd last Wednesday.

We did it because we have to fight for our children to receive the education that they are entitled to. We did it because we want our children to be as independent as possible and to enjoy life as much as possible.¬† We came in our hundreds on one of the hottest days of the year to stand outside our national parliament and say to the politicians and to the people of this country “We are here.¬† Our children are here.¬† They are citizens of this country too and they have the right to an education.¬† Listen to us.¬† Support us.¬† Reverse these cuts.”

But so far they haven’t.¬† Parents all over the country are still anxiously waiting to hear if their child will have an SNA in September.¬† And the new school year is only a few weeks away….¬† Other parents that I know have already learned that their child will have reduced SNA hours or none at all.¬† Yet these children’s needs have not changed. I mentioned my friend Aisling and her son Jack earlier. Jack has Down’s Syndrome and CINCA¬† Syndrome.¬† He has high care needs and is classed at severe to profound level of disability.¬† He has a place in a special school for September but so far his mother has been told he will only be able to attend for one hour each day because of the SNA situation.¬† How in the 21st century can this be considered acceptable?¬† Jack has as much right to an education as any other child.¬† I could cite numerous other cases all of which illustrate just how badly our children are being let down by the Irish State.

We all know the country is in a dire financial mess.¬† We are all “taking the hit” and “sharing the pain”.¬† But why are children with special needs being targeted?¬† They are part of this country’s future too.¬† I know I’m not going to get answers to these questions here.¬† I know that the Government will not give me a straight answer.¬† But we live – allegedly – in a democracy and so we will use all the tools available to us to have our voices, and more importantly those of our children, heard.

I didn’t want to be at the D√°il last week.¬† None of us did.¬† But we went and we’ll be there again and again and again as long as we have to.¬† Cuts to special needs education affect every school and potentially every child in the country.¬† Will you join us next time?

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