Category Archives: Women’s rights

March for women’s right to choose, Dublin, Saturday, September 30

The 6th annual March For Choice is taking place this Saturday, 30th September, assembling at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square from 1.30pm, before marching to Leinster House at 2pm.

 

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Where, oh where, is our James Connolly?

by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

“There is always some excuse ready for evasion. The difficulty is, that every party likes some part of the truth; no party likes it all; but we must have it all, every line of it. We want no popular editions and no philosophic selections—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” —Terence MacSwiney, Principles of Freedom

SIPTU’s Head of Research publicly announced in 2001 that the union would be sponsoring “the publication in several volumes of all Connolly’s articles and letters”, which would “at last enable us to appreciate Connolly’s own originality and greatness to the full”.1 I happened to be sitting next to him on the platform, and in my own contribution I welcomed the announcement but hoped people wouldn’t take it as a signal to sit back and think all was now well in the world of publishing Connolly. I was aiming for that curious amalgam that goes under the name of ‘cautious optimism’, and probably came off as a moany old begrudger. In fact, I was guilty of being far too generous altogether.

Recovering Connolly

My presence on that platform was a result of the momentum that had been building up for five years previously. On the unveiling of a statue of Connolly in Dublin in 1996, I was allowed to point out in the programme that hundreds of his articles had never been made available since their original publication, and to republish the first Connolly work for twenty years.2 The year after, The Lost Writings was published, in which I assembled 65 articles of his unpublished since his execution. It never ceased to amaze me how many people were under the sincere impression up until then that all of Connolly’s work was available. The Collected Works title put on a reprint of previous Connolly selections in 1987-8 had been taken all too literally by many. Also in 1997 Red Banner began its ‘Hidden Connolly’ series, underlining that The Lost Writings wasn’t even the half of it.

A group including some prominent labour historians then tried to get an initiative off the ground which would assemble a team of researchers to publish all of Connolly’s works, an initiative which had the blessing of the Labour Party leader (dubious as that may be). But the SIPTU announcement cut the feet from under that. While ‘The Hidden Connolly’ continued to mine a seemingly inexhaustible seam, any impetus towards publishing Connolly’s complete writings was sucked into the Liberty Hall plughole.

The first fruit of SIPTU’s project appeared in 2005 in the shape of a Connolly biography by Dónal Nevin. It was a disappointing work, but promised Read the rest of this entry

Galway march for right to choose, Sat, June 17

“Galway Pro-Choice will be holding a ‘Rally for Repeal’ on Saturday June 17th. We are asking the public to join us from 2pm at the fountain in Eyre Square.

“The purpose of the march is to call on the government to implement the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly in which an overwhelming majority voted to mandate the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.

“We believe that the best way to implement the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly is to hold a referendum for the repeal of the 8th Amendment.”

 

The fight for women’s right to abortion in Ireland

thousands-take-to-streets-in-dublin-as-irelands-abortion-debate-heats-up-again-1443290602-1

Right to abortion march, Dublin, September 2015.  Pic: Amnesty International

by J. McAnulty

On 25th November thousands of activists demonstrated in Dublin calling for the abolition of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution – a section that asserts equal rights to life between the mother and foetus (the wording refers to the “unborn” which assumes that that life begins at conception). The demonstration was in part was a celebration of the decision by ICTU, the Irish trade union congress, to support the call to repeal the 8th. In tribute to recent mobilisations by Polish women, many wore black – the main symbol for the Polish demonstrations.

Yet the two campaigns are very different, and the comparison shows up many weaknesses in the Irish movement. They are similar in that both involve the mobilisation of tens of thousands of women, fed up with church and state ruling over their bodies. However in Poland we had a spontaneous movement that took strike action and went onto the streets in an instant and successful counter to an attack by the right, designed to extend the law to prevent abortion under any circumstances. The Irish movement is based around a call for a referendum to remove a decades old element of the constitution and is heavily dominated by the trade union bureaucracy and the populist and reformist politics they espouse.

The colour and militancy of the demonstrations tends to disguise the fact that the repeal campaign, as with anti-austerity campaigns and protests against water charges led by the union bosses, is at its heart a lobbying campaign aimed at persuading the Irish bourgeoisie to change direction. This limits both policy and tactics.

Weak campaign

Of course the idea that the constitution poses such a direct threat to women is repulsive and should always be opposed, but it is the Read the rest of this entry

éirígí fully supports women’s right to choose on abortion

indexOne of the few policy positions of the party – in fact, the only one that springs to mind – I have disagreed with has been the initial position on abortion.  I have argued here, and elsewhere, that only a right-to-choose position is consistent with socialist-republican principles.  In fact, it’s the only position consistent with republicanism – a secular, modernising, emancipatory trend in Irish politics.  The party has now adopted a full right-to-choose position.  I hope that nobody leaves over this, just as those of us who disagreed with the old/original position didn’t let that get in the way of seeing éirígí as the best thing in Irish politics since the founding of the IRSP back in 1974.  (And, incidentally, the IRSP very quickly after its establishment adopted a right-to-choose position.)

Following is the party statement issued a few hours ago:

éirígí adopts full pro-choice position and calls for the introduction of legislation to allow for the unimpeded access to legal, free and safe terminations of unwanted pregnancies in both the Six and Twenty-Six Counties.

The Party membership, voting within local Ciorcal (branches), over the last number of weeks have overwhelmingly adopted a motion which was first presented to the 2015 Ard Fheis in November last. The wording of the adopted motion reads,

“éirígí rejects sexism in all of its forms and reasserts its commitment to full equality for all, regardless of gender. éirígí recognises the inherent right of all people to control their own bodies, including their reproductive organs and reproductive processes. éirígí therefore supports the right to unimpeded access to legal, free and safe terminations of unwanted pregnancies.

“Pending the creation of an all-Ireland state, we call for the rapid introduction of legislation to allow for unimpeded access to legal, free and safe terminations in both the Twenty-Six and Six County states.”

In adopting a pro-choice position on the provision of termination services éirígí repeats its call for the intensification of sexual education programmes both within and without the formal education systems across Ireland and for the introduction of identical free contraception programmes in both the Six and Twenty-Six Counties.

The new éirígí policy on abortion replaces the one adopted in November 2012 which had allowed for terminations in a range of situations but fell short of a full pro-choice position.

 

The lesbian fighters of 1916

Kathleen Lynn, doctor, revolutionary soldier and socialist-republican

Kathleen Lynn: doctor, revolutionary soldier and socialist-republican

There’s a very interesting article by Louise McGrath in Wednesday’s Dublin Inquirer about lesbians who fought in the 1916 Rising: http://dublininquirer.com/2015/11/25/remembering-the-lesbians-who-fought-in-the-easter-rising/

The article is based on information provided to McGrath by Mary McAuliffe, a lecturer in women’s studies at UCD and former president of the Women’s Historical Association, along with Workers Party Dublin city councillor Eilis Ryan and Brian Merriman, the founder of the International Dublin Gay Theatre festival.

The article identifies not only a few well-known cases of gay women and men from that era – Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper (although they weren’t participants in the Rising) and Roger Casement – but also talks about several lesbian couples who were: Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen (both of whom took part in the Rising and held rank in the Irish Citizen Army) and  Elizabeth Farrell and Julia Grennan (Farrell being the person who accompanied Pearse to surrender to the Brits).  It also notes the bisexuality of Read the rest of this entry

Upcoming conference on radical agitation from 1968-2010: a call for papers

“From Civil Rights to the Bailout: Social movements, workers agitation, and left-wing activism in Ireland, 1968-2010”

Irish Centre for Histories of Labour and Class
NUI Galway
19-20 June 2015

From the Civil Rights Movement to contemporary protests against austerity, the years since 1968 have witnessed widespread and varied social movements in communities, workplaces and colleges throughout Ireland, North and South, that have fought for, and resisted, social change. These movements have spurred the growth of numerous organisations ranging from those advocating limited reform, to those advancing revolutionary change in society. However, despite its immediate relevance to an understanding of contemporary Ireland, the lack of historical research conducted in the agents and resisters of social change since 1968 is a noticeable gap in the study of class and politics in Ireland. This interdisciplinary conference hopes to address this.

We welcome scholarly contributions of 20 minutes from established academics to students on any issue that falls under the remit of the conference title. The conference also affords us the opportunity to preserve and generate sources for the benefit of future researchers. We hope to offer workshops on oral history and the preservation, including digitisation, of documentation such as leaflets, posters and periodicals. To this end, we especially want to hear from activists in movements and organisations from the period who may be interested in sharing their experiences and documentation in a friendly and open environment.

Possible topics for papers include but are not limited to:
* Civil Rights in Northern Ireland
* Trade union growth, activism, and change
* Workplace strikes/occupations
* Left Social Democratic groups (e.g. Socialist Labour Party, Liaison of the Left, etc)
* Socialist Republicanism
* Trotskyist, Communist, and other Leninist groups
* Anarchist and other libertarian groups
* Catholic Worker, Christian Socialist groups
* Left-wing periodicals
* Community campaigns (e.g. housing, drugs, hospital closures, water charges)
* Second Wave Feminism and Women’s rights (e.g. equal pay, access to contraception, divorce, abortion rights)
* LGBT rights
* Anti-globalisation movement
* Anti-war movement
* Solidarity campaigns on issues abroad (e.g. Nicaragua, Vietnam, Miners’ Strike, apartheid in South Africa)
* Student activism                                                                                                                         * Media representation of social movements, trade unionism, and left-wing activism

If you wish to present a paper, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biography including affiliation, if any, by 31 March 2015 to David Convery at david.convery@nuigalway.ie

If you were/are an activist in this area and are interested in attending, please let us know at the same address by the same date. We would be especially grateful if you could inform us if you are willing to share your experiences as part of an oral history interview and/or have documentation which would be of interest. All documentation will remain the possession of the owner.

For more information, please see the conference website at:  http://fromcivilrightstothebailout.wordpress.com

The birth of The Pill

Given the excitement caused in Ireland, north and south, by The Pill folks might be interested in this new book called The Birth of the Pill, reviewed by a friend of mine here: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/in-review-the-birth-of-the-pill/

 

1916, 2016: them and us

This first went up on the site back on April 28 this year; I’m putting it back up on the home page because it remains relevant.  I’ll be highlighting it continuously as long as I need to!

indexOne of the products of the end of the Provisionals’ armed struggle in the six counties and their signing up to, and enthusiastic participation in, an internal settlement there is that the kind of historical revisionism that was officially-backed from about the mid-1970s until the end of the 1990s has become outmoded.  The kind of nonsense delivered up by the likes of a would-be Sebastian Flyte such as Roy Foster is now surplus to requirements.

Instead, there is a new war over ‘1916 and all that’.  The southern establishment is much more relaxed about recognising and celebrating the importance of 1916 than they have been at any time since the explosion in the six counties at the end of the 1960s and start of the 1970s.  On the other hand, the establishment is vitally keen on tying the 1916 rebellion and subsequent war for independence into its own history.  They want to present the events of 1916-21 as finding their natural and logical conclusion in the establishment and development of the 26-county state.

Moreover, they want to show that this state and its population, or certainly its ruling elite, have ‘matured’ to the level of putting the old ‘enmity’ with England behind them.  ‘We’ can now recognise the ‘sacrifices’ made by Orangemen in the First World War and also commemorate men from nationalist Ireland who joined the British imperialist army and died on the slaughter fields of that war.  It’s all just part of Ireland’s rich and diverse Read the rest of this entry

Women’s right to abortion: compromise is the losing option

by Anne McShane

The government hoped that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013, which came into operation in January, would stifle the demand for change in favour of women’s rights. But the opposite has happened. There has been a new spate of protests over the first reported case under the new legislation. ‘Miss Y’, an asylum-seeker who arrived in Ireland early in the year, sought an abortion on the grounds that she was suicidal. Despite her clear desperation she was refused the procedure and forced to continue the pregnancy. Yet another victim of the misogyny embedded deep within the theocratic Catholic state and its institutions.

The 2013 act was reluctantly introduced by the government in response to immense pressure from the population. Opinion polls have consistently shown an overwhelming majority in favour of some abortion rights. One published in the Irish Times in June 2013 showed over 80% in favour where there is a risk to the health of the mother: ie, the British system. A similar number supported abortion on the grounds of rape, foetal abnormality and other difficult circumstances. Almost 40% supported the proposal that women should be able to access abortion on the grounds of choice. It was a population very clearly out of kilter with its government.

Suicidal

Clare Daly, then a Socialist Party TD, introduced a private members bill in November 2012 demanding legislative action for abortion. She argued that the government needed to implement the decision in the ‘X case’ – a leading high court judgment from 1992, which ruled that women should be allowed an abortion if their lives were at risk from suicide. She claimed that this was a way of getting the issue discussed for the first time by Leinster House; it was a step in the right direction. Certainly it did spur a major debate, with many women coming out for the first time to talk openly about their abortions. It coincided with outrage over

Read the rest of this entry