I’d kind of missed the fact that it’s the 100 year anniversary of the 1918 election in Ireland, for which the franchise was substantially expanded and women could vote for the first time. I like the fact that we still vote using paper and pencils and that then as now people could spoil their ballots if they so wished.
Having no other plans this evening I’m going to watch some of the “election coverage” on television. My daughter is the same age her great grandfather was in 1918. I hope she’ll remember going to vote with us to repeal the eighth amendment and in favour of marriage equality and the other visits to polling stations along the way.
This week the Bill to provide for legal abortion services was passed. A hundred years ago women got more rights, and I hope next year we can give more rights to those who need them.
It took 20 years to legislate on the referendums on the X Case. This week feels a little surreal. Less than seven months after we passed the 36th amendment legislation on abortion services is wending its way through the Oireachtas. It isn’t perfect legislation and it will exclude people who need to access abortion services when they have a diagnosis of a non-fatal foetal disability, those who don’t meet the 12 week deadline and those who face barriers to access like conscientious objections.
I’m torn on waiting to get the legislation to be more inclusive and seeing the need to pass the current Bill and keep working on service provision. It’s been hard to listen to some TDs talk about pregnant people, in particular the narrative I have heard and, for a long time, believed about abortion. There’s been some very nasty rhetoric that I don’t think I’ll forget.
I still think of Savita every day, and when I woke at 5.17 am today she was on my mind as I saw on my phone that the Dáil had passed the Bill to regulate the termination of pregnancy. My heart sinks when I think about whether we’ll have to hear about another Savita in order to get the law right. I hope we won’t, but the reality is that abortion services are going to be restricted in Ireland for the foreseeable future.
I do hope that come the new year people who need care won’t be getting their information from lampposts like the ones we’ve been used to seeing. I hope everyone who needs care can access it. I hope we don’t have more letters in the courts because we didn’t care for those who needed care. We’ve come a long way, but we know from bitter experience that this is not the end of the fight.
When I was 21, my parents brought us on holiday to New York for Christmas and the new year. It was a magical holiday, in large part because it was my first trip to America and New York felt like a movie set. The weather was amazing, including snow on Christmas Eve and cold, clear days perfect for sightseeing. I think we all have very happy memories of the trip.
On Christmas Day we went to mass in a church a short walk away from the apartment we were staying in and listened to a priest telling an anecdote about Christmas in Ireland. I haven’t thought about that mass for a long time but something sparked the memory yesterday. One of the (very few, to my mind…) good things about a mass is that no matter where you are it’s going to be pretty much the same. The rituals and the prayers stay the same, you know roughly when the standing and kneeling bits are going to happen and while there’s been a few changes in recent years very little is going to be unfamiliar.
I thought of how comforting that must have been for the immigrants from rural parts of Ireland, as well as everywhere else, having arrived into a place utterly removed from anything they had seen before. Especially when the mass was in Latin, because you didn’t even need to speak English to figure out what was happening. That sense of familiarity must have been a bright spot.
I love this time of year, even though it no longer has any religious meaning for me. Christmas always stirs emotions, good and bad. That mass in Manhattan was probably one of the last times I felt meaning from a service, and 15 years on it remains a fond memory.