I was never so ashamed to be an Irish man.

Savita Halappanavar

“I WAS never so ashamed to be an Irish man.”
That not from me, but a slightly erratic stranger watching the closing minutes of the Six Nations Rugby match at the weekend.
For one I don’t get that emotional about fully grown men running after an oval ball, pushing each other over and eating each others ears; give them a hurley and a more practical round ball and I might just show interest.
Secondly, I am sorry to say, I am an Irish woman that has been pretty ashamed of my nationality, its leaders and even some of its people for the last couple of years.
That is not an easy statement from a woman partly brought up by grandparents who lived through the War of Independence, hid friends and relatives in their small cottage from the black and tans, and raised a family to be proud of our nationality, culture and heritage.
But how can I be proud to be an Irish woman in a country that treated and continues to treat my gender as second-class citizens.
Article 41.2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann is currently under review in a bid provide for a more modern, balanced wording around family rights.
Let us hope that it has more success than the incumbent, which purports to support woman and mothers.
Since the foundation of the State, with some special assistance from the Catholic Church, this country has done little to support women and mothers.
My grandmother’s generation were subjected to Churching after giving birth. This was the embarrassing practice of having to go to confessions after having a child, even within marriage, so that these women could go back into the Church again.
The men were free to come and go as they wished – they didn’t have the stain of childbirth on their soul.
When my mother’s generation became mothers for the first time they were instantly dismissed from their civil service jobs.
Throughout both generations women were put in mental health asylums, many for life, if they gave birth outside marriage or presented with postnatal depression.
Likewise they were sentenced without judge or jury to years of servitude, abuse and hardship in the Magdalene Laundries for the crime of becoming pregnant outside of marriage, flirting with men, being “a handful” or any other issue the great decent Irish people did not deem acceptable and proper behaviour. And yes things have changed and improved, but has our attitude to women.
Last week my husband was in hospital and required surgery.
I knew as I dropped him off at the hospital that the consultants, doctors and nurses would go to any lengths to save his life if anything went wrong.
Could he say the same when he accompanied me to the maternity hospital when I went for check ups during my first pregnancy two years ago? The reality is he could not. A doctor would be forced to second guess every decision she or he made if there were any complications with the pregnancy or birth.
My life could not get the same at all cost priority, the legislators had left the health professionals and women in a dangerous limbo for two decades.
Recently a regional newspaper, not in this county, published a court case in which two women were named as having been convicted for prostitution.
Fair enough you would think; it was a court case held in public and there were no reporting restrictions. And I agree.
Here is my issue. Just a few short weeks later that same newspaper refused to publish the names of the men who pleaded guilty to soliciting women for sex.
It was argued that it would cause unnecessary embarrassment to their family and these “respectable” citizens could be compromised at work or in the community.
Double standards once again. Did the editor think that these women were unworthy of the same projection afforded to the men just as implicit in the crime.
I can assure him as a woman that they did not grow up aspiring to be prostitutes, and their humility began long before the newspaper printed their names.
Just last week, a friend of mine was going for a job interview with a large multi-national company. A talented, accomplished woman in her early thirties, and her biggest dilemma before the interview was would she leave her wedding ring on or off.
Of course there is legislation in place to protect against discrimination in the work place, but in a time when it is difficult to find secure employment one is well aware that there are employers that like to jump to conclusions about a woman’s age and the likelyhood of her applying for maternity leave in the future.
One so-called Irish businesswoman admitted in a radio interview that she would not employ a newly-married woman for this very reason.
Shame! Yes I am ashamed to be the same gender and nationality.
And the reality is the friendly stranger concerned about a rugby result should have probably been ashamed of being an Irish man long before a rugby match.



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