To the 111 TDs who voted No to the Medical Treatment Bill 2012…

To the 111 TDs who voted No to the Medical Treatment Bill 2012,

As an Irish citizen and as a women, I wish to express my anger, sadness and dismay that the archaic nature of our abortion legislation has lead to the death of Savita Halappanavar. Legislation, that each of you has stunted by voting no last April. How many more women need to die, and how much blood needs to be on the hands of the Irish people before you are compelled to act?

I have spent the last 18 months living abroad, where I have spoken at length on this issue with women from both developed and developing nations, all of whom were appalled that in a country, which sends the best and brightest graduates out into the world, which is home to some of the most cutting-edge technology brands in the world, which is known the world over for its rich culture, still hasn’t handed over the control of women’s bodies, and still holds their health, and in this case their lives, in the palm of its hand.  

Ireland is a progressive country in so many ways, but for a government that spends so much of its time keeping up appearances both politically and economically, this is an embarrassment. I am not often compelled to make a stand but when I woke up this morning and read about Savita Halappanaver I was ashamed be Irish and I was angry. I am ashamed to be from a country where a women was allowed to suffer, to cry out in pain, and to die, in the name of out-dated, ill-advised, and inhumane legislation. 
We can be presidents, we can be CEOs, we can be mothers, but we can’t make our own choices about our own health.
I could be Savita, my sister could be Savita, my best friend could be Savita, or if this farce continues for another twenty years, my daughter could be Savita. This is no longer about religion, this is about life and death. Whether it’s to help a teenage girl with a crisis pregnancy or a married woman who wanted to save her baby to the bitter end, enough is enough; it’s time to legalise abortion in Ireland and trust Irish women with their own bodies.
Forget the party line, forget small town politics, remember Savita Halappanaver and fight for the rights of women in Ireland.
I don’t often get vocal about politics, I tend to be a laid-back kind of dame. But I woke up this morning enraged that the dinosaurs we have for leaders in Ireland, have dithered for so long that the inevitable has happened. A women is dead and a man has lost his wife. Below is a list of the TDs I sent the above email to, all of whom voted, last April, against the the bill that would prevent this exact thing from happening. (I must note that I noticed a few of our more prominent politicians were absent for the vote). If you think Irish women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies, these men and women are the folks you need to convince… 

Home (bitter)Sweet Home

So it’s been six weeks since I’ve blogged.
Sorry about that. (New Year’s Resolution #52: Be a better blogger.)

In that time I’ve been back to Ireland for a too-brief stint. Also in that time I entered and won an Expat Advisory emigrant experience writing competition, the winnings of which will go straight into the pot for the trip.

It’s been amazing to be back and I’ll go into more reflections on my sabbatical in the motherland soon. But in the meantime, here’s the piece which also doubles up as my explanation for the impromptu journey home…

Ten Thousand Kilometers

Last week my mother told me she has cancer. She lives 10,000 kilometres away. On Tuesday my mother was poked, prodded, scanned and operated on. She lives 10,000 kilometres away. Yesterday my mother told me they don’t think they got it all. She lives 10,000 kilometres away.

I’m new to this expat lifestyle. I’m only six months on the job. And I was finally getting good at it. From initial months of homesickness, house-hunting, job searching, friend making, acclimatising – then acclimatising again once the rain went away – I had finally found my stride. “Check me out, I live in Cambodia. Those 10k km? They ain’t got nothing on me.”

I’m a Skype pro, a Facebook fiend, a Twitter addict and a resident on Gchat. I’ve got that whole trans-continental-communication thing down. I don’t let time difference get in the way (I’ll happily wake you up at 6am) I’ve worked out the most flattering web cam lighting (on the sun-soaked balcony for extra effect) and I end up telling my family the local news I’m so abreast of it (“Oh you didn’t hear who’s getting married?”).

But this past week, simultaneously the longest and the shortest in my life, with all its new emotions, revelations, mini victories and massive defeats, has brought it all home how far away from it I really am. Those ten thousand kilometres, may as well be a million for all the good I can do so far away.

“Sure you’d only be sitting here looking at me” my mam says when I apologise for my, in hindsight, ill-timed move – though that’s probably more of a reference to my poor Dad, who I can imagine has spent much of the last week doing just that; sitting, and looking at her. But that’s what you do on such occasions. Just be there. Make endless cups of tea (or is that just Ireland?), make small talk about the weather (just in Ireland again perhaps?) all the while avoiding, never mentioning, completely shoving under the carpet the gravity of what’s really happening (okay, that one’s definitely just in Ireland, right?).

I can’t make the tea over Skype, but I can chit chat about the weather and waffle on about everything but what really matters. But that point that eventually comes, the bit where the wall collapses, when the sadness, the anxiety and the sheer fear comes spilling out, that’s the part that Skype can’t really transmit. No one wants to be a blubbery face on a computer screen. Staring at another blubbery face 10,000 kilometers away.

So instead, the nattering about nothing continues. Until we make our excuses, say our goodbyes, press the little red phone at the bottom of the screen, hear that funny hang-up sound the computer makes and then, once we’re sure the line has dropped, once we’re sure there’s no need to hold it together for a second longer, we break down in tears. Simultaneously, equally, but 10,000 kilometres away.

My mother doesn’t say I love you. It’s not that she doesn’t think it – or at least I hope not – it’s just that gushing emotions aren’t really her style. “It’s a bit American” she reckons, akin to seeing a therapist, having a boob job, or getting divorced. She’s a strong Irish woman, and saying such things is maybe frivolous and unnecessary.

My mother has said I love you at least a dozen times this week. She doesn’t realise, this is utterly disconcerting to me. It shows me she’s petrified, and it makes me petrified too. It shows me she’s sad, and it makes me sad too. And it shows me, she’s not just my mam, she’s a human too. And this is the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching part of all.

Because all I want to do is give my mother a hug. But she lives 10,000 kilometres away.