Friday, March 17, 2017

Today we wear green. Two weeks ago we wore black.

Today, the nation sets out for its annual celebration of every single Irish stereotype imaginable. Irish and non-Irish alike don every item of green clothing they own and embark upon a day of festivities. There will be Irish flags, shamrocks, and Guinness galore as our little island puts on a show of unity and happiness for the world. We do it for ourselves too though.

 Today, I am forced to reflect upon one of our most infamous stereotypes. No, I’m not talking about our esteemed global identity as a land of drunks. I’m not even talking about the notoriety that comes with our ability to include the word “fuck” in every sentence at least twice. One of our greatest shames comes in the form of the infuriating irony of the Irish capability to sweep everything under the rug and slap on a happy, cheery face for the benefit of others. Perhaps it’s the miserable weather outside. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m up to my neck in college assignments and have work in the morning so cannot partake in the chase for “a bit of craic” that usually manifests in the form of an over indulgence in whatever form of alcohol is on special offer in the local pub. Regardless, no matter what turmoils we struggle with internally, no matter how aware we are of the not so green and happy realities of our history that have come to light recently, as long as we look like jolly little leprechauns today, everything will be grand. Right?

Today, our capital will be littered with people wearing the same coloured clothing, most likely walking in the same direction, making a whole lot of noise. Sound familiar? That’s because less than two weeks ago the exact same thing happened. Except on the 8th of March we wore black not green. We were walking in protest not in a parade. The noise we were making was not one fuelled by Guinness and gaiety, our noise was the angry cry of a people frustrated with the continuous oppression of women. Our noise was that of unity and sorority. Our noise was one that our little island knows all too well – that of rebellion.

Today our Taoiseach is in America. Just as physically distant from the real issues of Ireland as he is figuratively. He has met with men known for their mysognistic comments, sexist views and homophobic practices. As if the people of Ireland have not been insulted enough by our government in recent weeks (and years). We’ve already witnessed the appalling lack of interest and compassion from our TDs towards the lives lost and disregarded at the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam through their lack of attendance to the Dáil debate on the issue. 20 TD’s was the minimum necessary to be present for the debate to commence, and yet at 10 am on the 9th of March there was a scramble to find sufficient bodies to fill the chamber so that the already delayed debate could even take place.
This was just one day after thousands of Irish people had taken to the streets of the capital calling for a repeal of the 8th amendment to our constitution. This was just one day after thousands of Irish people stood up for women’s rights. Just one day.

Today, I still feel like we have been slapped in the face by a hand of ignorance and disregard. I attended the march on International Women’s day. I was in that crowd. Screaming my little head off. I had headed in with a knot of anxiety, fear, and nerves growing in the pit of my stomach. Doubt and negativity crept through my thoughts the entire bus journey into the city centre. I had dressed myself in all black. Even down to my socks. Publicly it would be a sign of solidarity and sisterhood. Privately it was my armour. I was a soldier preparing for battle. Unaware of what opposition I may come across. But as I stepped from the bus onto the Quays a weight was lifted from me as my friend’s arms embraced me in a hug. The entire march was one of the most positive displays of activism I have ever witnessed let alone taken part in. Yes, we were all there to take a stand on an extremely serious matter. Yes, those that disagreed with the movement attended with their graphic posters. Yes, we were all frustrated that we should have to march in the first place. Those that did march though were full of joy, full of empathy, full of hope. The crowd that walked from the Garden of Remembrance was one filled with smiles, laughter, and encouragement. I got into bed that night filled with optimism and positivity. Those feelings were quickly dimmed the following morning with the news of TD’s not bothered to even sit in on a debate in relation to those impacted by the Tuam atrocities. It was dimmed again when the news of a Referendum was announced, but not the Referendum that we called for. Not the Referendum that we marched for. Not the Referendum that we deserve. Irish people abroad have not been gathering in droves for their right to vote in Irish elections. They have been gathering in their black clothes holding up signs that call for a repeal of the 8th amendment. Proving they are more in touch with the needs and wants of the Irish people living in Ireland than those in power seem to be. 

      Today, like every other day, women will board aeroplanes to travel to other countries to receive the abortions they can't access safely or legally at home. Voting rights for Irish abroad is not the biggest issue our nation faces today. Yes, it would be lovely if Irish people abroad were able to vote while abroad. But do you know what would be more lovely?  If more than 10 women a day were not forced to go abroad to receive abortions. It would be oh so lovely if women could have bodily autonomy. 


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