Washing the nation’s hands.

Today in the UK, three medical staff were charged with the manslaughter through professional negligence of an Irish woman in 2012. She had travelled to London in order to have an abortion, which remains legal in Ireland as long as you’re willing to leave the country to have the procedure performed. It’s also legal to seek guidance from your own doctor, however your doctor can legally refuse to provide this information for “reasons of conscience”. This has been the Irish way for nearly 20 years now. It’s fine to ask, but don’t expect a straight answer. Sure, if you don’t get met with judgemental opinions instead of sympathetic advice, you can make your own choice. Just please, don’t make that choice here. Take it across the sea so we don’t have to think about it, or provide aftercare, or legislate, or actually have a national conversation on the topic. In a time of utter emotional crisis for thousands of women, the state would rather turn its back and let someone else handle it. Just send them overseas.

The most predictable Irish approach to any form of conflict or problem is to simply pretend it doesn’t exist and find a way to sweep it under the rug. This is of course not the only social issue that successive Irish governments have failed to stare directly in the eye. In the five years following the collapse of the Irish economy, roughly 150,000 people emigrated in search of better work, permanent work, or indeed any work to secure some standard of living. Unsurprisingly, the current coalition chose not to weep or apologise at their failure to provide  opportunity for the nation’s young. Instead, they continued to announce reductions in the number of people seeking unemployment benefits, as if we couldn’t read the mile between the lines. How has the state attempted to keep the jobless young at home? Schemes that have ensured an endless pool of replaceable internships, yielding little more for the interns than a nominal fee on top of their benefits in return for a full working week. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of work for the Irish in Australia and Canada, and there’s always TEFL if you don’t mind living up against a language barrier. Just send them overseas.

What then of the right to die, already enshrined in law in many of our cousin nations in Europe? We’ve seen how Irish courts feel about the ultimate act of compassion more than once in recent years. We insist on telling our elderly and infirm that – rather than provide a dignified end to their lives at a time and in a method of their choosing – that we’d rather they carry on suffering needlessly, because the whole concept seems a bit grim. There’s logical concern that any relaxing of Ireland’s euthanasia laws would have to include huge safeguard to protect vulnerable people, however this alone can be managed, and already is in Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. So again, the solution for the state is not to address the issue through rational conversation and intelligent, forward-thinking legislation. What then? Just send them overseas.

Our women, our young people, our elderly, all facing different crises at different stages in their lives, and all being told time and time again to make themselves some other country’s problem. Strangely, however, the only problem that affects middle-aged Irish men that we encourage them to take elsewhere is income tax. A quick visual scan of the demographics of the 31st Dail usually gives an idea as to why that is. Why do we continue to turn our backs on our responsibility to each other? How can we continue to pretend that we’re doing anywhere near enough to provide support and safety to our countrymen and women when they need it most, if we merely shut our eyes and look the other way?

‘A free Ireland would drain the bogs, would harness the rivers, would plant the wastes, would improve the agriculture, would protect the fisheries, would foster industries, would promote commerce, would diminish extravagant expenditure (as on needless judges and policemen), would beautify the cities, would educate the workers (and also the non-workers, who stand in dire need of it), would, in short, govern herself as no external power – nay, not even a government of angels and archangels – could govern her.’ – Padraig Pearse,

Almost a century later, you’d be forgiven for wondering how long Ireland needs to be free before the governing begins.

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