Tag Archives: Ireland

More notes on leaving home: The war of the noticeboard, letting go of bitter things and early drafts of new year resolutions

The most important note to make on leaving home- remember.  To do.  The hoovering.  You are going to regret it so much when you neglect the hoovering.

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The notice board wars began in early October and have continued until now, the final week.  The debate over which side shot first rages on, but what is known is this; in this Welsh medium hall, on the noticeboard there is a welsh and English side to each notice.  Someone swapped all of the notices to display only the Welsh side, or only the English side, depending on who you ask.  The war began to escalate into a blockade of language.  The English notice would be pinned over the Welsh, the Welsh over the English, endless loops of passive aggressive pinning.  The battle reached a fever pitch when someone took a sharp object to the English section of a notice and slashed it through.  The war then entered an uneasy truce.  We all knew a line had been crossed.  The war was revived last week, when someone attempted to throw out the ruined and slashed English language sign along with a reminder to keep the kitchen clean for inspection.

The war entered a new, potentially explosive phase: That of the note.   A note was posted, berating the attempted binner of the notice and the slashed sign.  A reply was quickly posted, citing the reasons for the binning and signed ‘love, Batman.’ A final note was posted in an attempt to defuse the renewed hostilities.  ‘I LIKE TRAINS’, it proclaimed.  There could be no truer peace treaty than that, and for now at least, the warriors rest.

Peace in our time

So I’ve been in Wales for three months, and it’s been nice.  A new network of friends and interests hesitantly and shyly started to root out.  A lovely thing that happens when you’re completely removed from your old town is that all your bitterness and anger just flows away.  It’s so much easier to just let go when you realise that these things don’t really matter, that these things are shifting, that there are more people to see and places to go and things to do than you could ever possibly get through.  Why waste time being stubborn and unhappy?  I slowly started to reflect on the place I’d stepped out of and while looking at it from an angle I hadn’t seen before I began to see where my edges were.  Where all the things that I had raged and wailed and cried about didn’t actually matter one single fuck once you were out of there.  I slowly got back into performing, after a pretty bitter departure from it last year.  I rediscovered the old magic and sprang back into it.

Doctor Who and Roomates

I started bonding with my roomates on the Pantycelyn international students corridor.  Three Americans, an Austrian and two French girls formed my little circle, along with some friendly Welsh and English from upstairs.  In a moment of near unrivalled glee, we ran up to campus as a group and found a Tardis parked in front of the Union, with a talking, lit up Dalek trundling around.  It offered a great photo op, both sweet group snaps and self indulgent selfies.

This entire year was worth it for this Time Lady picture.

This entire year was worth it for this Time Lady picture.

Now it’s nearly time to come home.  I’ve started into a new diary, a smart black notebook I bought to convince myself to maintain this diary- I paid 13 pounds for this notebook, for fucks sake, so I’m going to use it.  Around this time of year, I usually start to think about what I want to do next year, and reflect on what I’d like to develop, change or introduce in 2014.  I present to you here my rough longlist of new years resolutions for your consideration.

1. Become blood of the Dragon

2. Buy more mugs

3. Get really buff and strong.  Start lifting.

4. Also, get super fit and flexible. start yoga

5. Kiss more people.

6. Use the word ‘accoutrements’ more (Referring to luggage and bags)

7. Vacuum every week, so that your room does not become white with dust and the halls warden suspects that you’re dealing cocaine.

8. While deflecting this suspicion, illicitly brew Yakka in bedroom sink (not really, I promise. Please don’t kick me out if you read this…)

9. Listen to more podcasts. In fact, make one. It can’t be that hard.

10. Do couch to 5K, without ending up in a bath of cold water sobbing and eating oranges.

11. Learn to dance properly, and not like a complete berk. (seriously, you’ve made a name for yourself here as the ‘dancing Irish girl’. That’s not a good thing. You need help.)

12. Drink less soft drinks.  Stop being happy about being a non-drinker when you ingest about nine times your healthy level of sugar and caffeine every day.

13. Try to quit coffee.  not tea though.  You gave yourself a three day migraine last time.

14. Vacuum every week.  Remember how much you regret not hoovering enough this semester.  Remember it!

15. Post more letters. people like letters.

16. Practice yoga stretches, tai chi and herbal tea to become one with your spirit and nature.

17. Be less of an angry motherfucker.

18. Keep your diary this year. don’t just get bored after a week like usual.

19. Make lists that are a nice, satisfying length. Don’t end list blogs on an odd number.

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Niamh ‘Wait… fuck!’ Keoghan

Eurovision 2013 Liveblog

This concludes tonight’s 2013 Eurovision Song contest live blog.  Goodnight Europe

11:50- there it is folks, this years winner- Denmark!

11:10- ‘SHE GONNA EAT ME IN MY SLEEP’- Screams BHT as Lena gives the points with perky jumpy aplomb

10:55- It’s not the winning r beating the UK that counts, it’s the shirtless men.

10:50- Azerbaijan looks like the Predator Alien.

10:45- GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT MY ASS.  800 YEARS.

10:42 Sweden’s judge looks like a character from Final Fantasy.  Ireland got two points, ripple of ‘wooos’ spread through the room.

10:40 BHT is hugging her wine bottle, sobbing and singing along to winner takes it all

LIVEBLOG SUSPENDED because how on earth could you top that.

10:25- ‘Is this really funny or do I just really like Sweden?’ ‘You just really like Sweden.  And you’re drunk.’ (Then the titties happened)  SKIRT RIPPING

10:10- Maybe this is the wine talking, but BHT predicts A MILLION POINTS for Dreamboat Dolan tonight.  Interval act is a medly by last year’s winner, wearing a dress that has crashed into a seagull on the way to the Arena.  Sex Kitteh likes her hair, but is uncomfortable with the juxtaposition of ‘We got the power’ alongside white flag and military jumpsuits.

10:05- Georgia are really fuckin’ boring so instead we’re waiting for DREAMBOAT DOLAN to wrap up the show, and seeing what kind of riverdance knock off Sweden have planned for the interval

 

9:55- ‘FUCKIN’ DUBSTEP!’ BHT declares, spilling half her wine drunkenly as Danaerys Stormborn takes the stage for Norway.

9:50- Team BHT now wondering what happened to make Lena so fucking weird the year after she won Eurovision as Italy takes the stage. Fun fact- Italy were never regular attendants at Eurovision until recently, where they’ve performed… dreadfully. Italian singer having a bit of a wobble during his song.

9:45- Hodor?

9:40- The most homoerotic song of the night from Azerbaijan.  Greece next with ‘Alcohol is Free (but trousers are expensive)’.  Any song with a bazooki solo is fine by me.  Sex Kitteh wants to vote for Greece, so Germany will have to pay for the party next year.

9:35- Denmark is tonight’s favorite to win doing a Sandie Shaw and singing barefoot.  Sex Kitteh and bearded Avenger have named her Hermione Granger.  ‘If there’s nothing but teardrops between you I’m sure you could sort it out with some vigorous sex.’  Thor representing Iceland now, which seems like unfair advantage to BHT. Then again, only other skilled singer from Iceland=Bjork, who is probably an Alien.

9:25- BHT’s brother would like it to be known he wants Hungary to do well because he did three weeks of chef training in Budapest.

9:20- ‘Thats just what Bonnie Tyler SOUNDS like!’ BHT snaps defensively to Sex Kitteh and Bearded Avenger.

9:15- Romania, otherwise known as the best fucking song of the entire fucking decade.  BHT is excited, BHT sex kitteh is intrigued and BHT Beard Avenger asks ‘Is that the bad guy from Tekken?’  We will hear no bad words spoken about counter tenors.  Second Dubstep breakdown of the evening.

9:05- Jesus up there currently.  Armenia is so boring we muted them so we could listen to 2011’s winner, Lena.  First glasses of wine cracked out.  the Nethelands up next, dark horse entrants into the contest from last week.  BHT hopes Adele is listening.

8:55- Eupoooooooooori- Whoops, sorry.  We meant Gloooooorious.  Germany standing atop the bare staircase of Austerity.  Pretty symbolic.

8:55- Malta, home of Malteasers on stage now.  Poor guy sounds like Bruno Mars with kidney stones. Worst instrument miming of the night goes jointly to the Acoustic Bass and ukulele mimers.  Maltese Bruno Mars, following girls is not cool.  Russian entry singer needs to reconsider the position of her parting as she continues the scourge of maxi dresses.  Cascada up next for germany, prepare to relive  MTV in 2006

8:40- Estonia has broken the Eurovision by switching off the colour.  BHT sex Kitteh is dissapointed with the lack of skirt ripping so far. Maxi dresses and beach coverups dominate tonight’s wardrobe.  Enough dry ice to smother the first five rows.  Giant disco ball from which emerges slutty Taylor Swift singing for Belarus wearing a Gina G style sparkly dress.

8:30- Spain off key and boring.  Awkward instrument miming all up in here.  BHT co-host ‘sex kitteh’ asks ‘What are the chances some of Spain’s dress coming off?’ Wishful thinking, BHT SK.  Are bagpipes native to Spain?  Belgian performer is only 18 but still has the eyes of a serial killer (BHT Sex Kitteh thinks he’s sexy.) (no she doesn’t).  BHT SK- That’s ‘the is it thrush?’ dance from the Belgians.  FIRST DUBSTEP BREAKDOWN OF THE NIGHT

Eyes of a killer… Eurovision act, that is!

8:25- ‘Oh wait!  There it goes!’ Skirt is growing.  Resembling a volcano.  As Finland takes the stage, Feminists everywhere gird their loins for the problematic lyrics.  WIND MACHINE VEILS

8:20 First superfluous dancers of the night from Moldova AND a bloke miming the piano.  BHT party currently arguing about Molodovan performers skirt.  ‘Is it growing bigger? No thats just the lights on it’

8:20- Everyone in Lithuanian entry singing off key.  Strobe lighting giving BHT and co-hosts a small seizure.  Verdict- this really sucks.

8:15- BHT waiting patiently for the ABBA reunion interval show.  Assuming Benny and Bjorn are backstage trying to squeeze into their stretched out jumpsuits.  France first, a rather jazzy entry of the style which has left them bottom of the table in recent years.  Entry looks like Ke$ha and Country Love crashed in midair.

8:10- Out Ireland comes in dead last.  BHT hopes this is not an omen of things to come…..

8:00- Fuckin’ neon butterflies invading Malmo via the sea.  If BHT was the olympic opening ceremony BHT would sue….

7:55- Fever pitch!  Here’s our spotting guide and an awkward photo of Dana

1-Skirt ripping (or someone emerges from someone else’s skirt)

2-awkward attempts at humour from the host

3-Ethnic chanting/dress/instruments

4-completely superfluous dancers

5-Obviously mimed instruments

6- Graham Norton says something bitchy

7- Marty Whelan tries to sound like Terry Wogan and fails.

7:45- dreamboat junction in fifteen minutes

She wants your heart

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7:30- Prep underway.  Hair blowdried and backcombed, leather pants applied.  Wine uncorked.

total eclipse of the Bonnie

11:30AM – Bank Holiday Tuesday will be liveblogging and tweeting the 58th Eurovision Grand Prix tonight from 8PM.  Follow on twitter @Keofunkel and @BankHolidayTues for the proceedings which are sure to include alcohol, camp and shrieks of joy at the sight of the return of those leather pants to Irish eurovision hopes.

DEM PANTS

Restrain your orgasms until tonight, ladies.

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Niamh ‘BHT is back in business baby’ Keoghan

Some common questions about Feminism

Happy international Women’s day!  Wow ladies, a whole day.  It’s like the oppression never even happened and isn’t still happening!  No but seriously, on this day I’d like to take time to answer a few questions that I’ve heard recently about Feminism and to respond to some frequent critiques of feminism that I hear and would like to address.  Oh, and to answer the most commonm question I hear every International women’s day; International men’s day is on the 19th of November.  It’s also international white middle class man day EVERY DAY OF THE FUCKING YEAR.  Stop being a smartarse.

I look really stereotypical. Soz.

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Do feminists hate men?

 

Okay, so firstly let’s talk about what feminism is exactly.  A lot of people assume that it’s a hard and fast philosophy that all feminists agree on and never debate amongst themselves.  It’s much more like marxism or any other political theory- just that, a *theory* that everybody has a grand old time debating about.  Feminists agree and disagree on plenty of things.  Just because one woman who called herself feminist told you this one time that all sex is rape does NOT mean all feminists agree with that.  There are feminists like me who are staunchly pro choice and there are others who argue that abortion damages women- I don’t agree, in fact I’ll disagree to the bitter end, but the basic fact is this-

Feminism is the idea that gender doesn’t define a person, who they are or what they’re good at.  It’s about empowering women to take control of their bodies and lives, and to not feel inferior to anyone.

But do feminists hate men?  Well, I certainly don’t.  I have two brothers and a dad that I love very much, not to mention my two uncles, my grandfather, my five cousins and countless male friends.  I like men so much sometimes I even FANCY some of them.  Not the ones I’m related to.  That would be weird.  But yeah, I don’t hate men.  And I know men don’t hate me.  Not really.  Germaine Greer and some second wave feminists might disagree and say that all men secretly subconsciously hate women because society has programmed them that way but I take a more chilled out look.  Guys get totally fucked over by society’s notions of gender.

So do you support men’s rights too?

OBVS LIKE.  I so do.  I believe in gender equality.  Feminism is all about the gender equality. I’m not saying you’ll never see a feminist argue against that because like I said, anything goes, but generally we’re good with men having rights.  If men didn’t have rights, we wouldn’t have them either because hey, we want to be equal.  Thing is, a lot of critique of feminism from a men’s rights perspective misunderstands what feminism wants to do.

My dad and brothers as working class men find it incredibly difficult to express emotion through any conduit other than anger.  My Dad has admitted to me  ‘Ah no, I can’t cry.  I cry on the inside.’ There’s a reason the suicide rate among young men is so high, and it’s not feminism- it’s the standards we still judge men by; expecting them to be tough, and stoic, and virile.  Be the breadwinner and if you’re not able to support a wife and family on your own, you fail as a man.  This is all the stuff that feminism is opposed to- it’s opposed to the idea that men have to fit into any sort of prescribed gender role.  It argues that just as women can be tough and ballsy, men can be caring and nurturing and neither option is better or worse than the other.  A major argument I hear in critique of feminism is that fathers have very few rights in relation to custody of their children.  And let me put my hands up right now and say this- I think fathers should have equal right to custody of their kids.  It’s the old assumption that men aren’t carers and women are, and I don’t like it.  I don’t for one second deny that men get totally gypped by custody law. Feminism wants to make custody law fairer too- We don’t want to go back 150 years when men were given sole automatic custody of their children and nor do we want the burden of childcare to inevitably be a woman’s job.  Equality for all!  Feminism is a synonym for ‘gender equality.’  The only reason I don’t go around calling myself a ‘Gender Equalist’ is because it’s too clumsy a term and there’s also nothing wrong with the word ‘Feminism.’  It doesn’t alienate dudes at all.  Dudes be my brothers.  Dudes suffer from this screwed up idea of gender too.  I think a major problem with the whole ‘mens rights’ thing is that while well meaning, they tend to misinterprete feminism as being just blind misandry- they seem to envision rights as a finitie resource and asking for more of them for women means men losing a bit, but that’s not it.  Mens and Women’s rights are all important.  Nobody’s fighting here.  We’re all friends.

In conclusion- Everybody is my bro, I don’t hate men.

So can men be feminists?

Totes.  Feminist men, as I have discussed elsewhere at length, men who respect me as a person and as an equal are rad.  I was being humourous obviously, but there really is no subsitute for genuine respect and support.

Are all feminist lesbians?

No.  I am a noted man-lover, as are many others.  Of course there are lots of lesbians who are feminists too, not to mention lots of gay men and trans men and women.  One of the big challenges to feminism at the moment is supporting and accepting trans women (i.e. people who were born as psyically male but transitioned to living as a woman).  Again, early second wave feminism (Which was the 1960s radical movement that is most people’s go to image for feminism- think angry bra burners and shouty women) Was quite unpleasant about trans women and men, but it’s moved on since then.  Feminism has also now had to become intersectional- which means basically that it doesn’t fight against the massive monolith of PATRIARCHY anymore (when you hear me joking about ‘crushing patriarchy’ it’s usually slightly toungue in cheek) because although there is a patriarchal order to the world, women are oppressed for a lot of different reasons- My experiences are very different to a black woman, or a muslim women, or a woman not from europe.  It’s also very different from the experiences of working class women or women who live in poverty- In these cases it’s often racism and class constraints oppressing women and their experience of sexism is marked by these things also.

So it’s not enough to just rail against ‘teh menz’ anymore.  We have to understand that it’s all a bit more complex, and that systems of oppression are wildly different depending on location, race, class, gender assignment and sexuality.

So are not all feminists shouty and angry?

Well, some are.  I know a lot of women who are currently very angry about lack of legislation for abortion in any circumstance in Ireland.  That makes me quite angry too.  A lot of women are angry at being told not to dress too provocatively or drink too much in order to avoid being raped, as if the responsibility is on us not to be raped rather than on the rapist not to rape.  I’m angry that people like David Quinn can pontificate about sexuality and abortion to teenage girls and that in my lifetime women were incarcerated in industrial laundries.  I’m angry that women are deprived of choice in this country, and that young mothers and single mothers are often still stigmatized and sneered at.  It makes me all very sad, and very angry.  In fact, a lot of this general background anger is the reason I got back into writing after a long break.  But I’m also by nature an optimist, and I was raised with manners and politeness on me, so generally I try not to get shouty.  I’m not good at being angry- some people are fabulous at it and they do well, but it’s not my style.  I prefer to be a comedian and to make my point via humour.  I think making sexism and misogyny look silly with a single zinger is worth twenty angry blog posts.  That’s just my style.

So yeah, I think all feminists have anger in them, particularly in Ireland right now.  Not all shouty though (Although there’s nothing wrong with being shouty- there is plenty to shout about), some of us do better with humour as an outlet for the rage.

Dont’ you already *have* equal rights?

Nominally, maybe.  But some burdens fall unequally on the shoulders of women.  Things like childcare, which as we’ve discussed, is unfair to mothers and fathers.  Women are also still asked things like ‘what were you wearing’ when they report that they’ve been raped.  In some cases, a woman’s sexual history has been used to throw out rape trials.  Women still get objectified in comics and games in a way men never are.  Most of the ‘objectification’ men go through in games- the super muscled hot heroes- that people site to me as an example of ‘men are treated bad too!’ are really wish fulfillment roles for guys to play as.  I refuse to accept that you’ll see a page three spread of a guy with his cock out any time soon.  All I’m saying is that you don’t just roll up feminism when you’ve got legislation.  You have to keep pushing at thousands of years of society having certain ideas about women and their capabilities.  That’s all.

So what makes me a feminist?

Basically if you’ve ever been made feel ashamed of having or wanting sex, or of dressing a particular way, or if you’ve ever just felt really uncomfortable with the way you or your friends/relatives are treated because they’re women, or felt that women are held to a higher standard and half to work twice as hard to be considered half as good, or been accused of ‘getting hysterical’ when you’re just trying to debate a point, yeah. That’s all the bullshit feminism deals with and tries to critique.  You’re a feminist.  It doesn’t mean you hate men or agree with every dumb thin Caitlin Moran says on twitter, it doesn’t mean you punch the air and go ‘FUCK YEAH!’ when Julie Burchill says prostitutes should be shot as collabarators with the partiarchal regieme, and it doesn’t mean you have to be anything other than what you want to be.  It justs means you want to do your own thing, and for everyone else to get off your tits about it.

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Niamh ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ Keoghan

Bank Holiday Tuesday’s 2012

Okay, here is part 1 of all the things that I am able to remember from 2012.  Either I remembered it, or was reminded of it by reading my old tweets.  I tried to pick things that had a deeper cultural relevance that I noticed, rather than just being a list of stuff that came out or happened.  Also a lot of shit happened so I’m not going to get everything in.  But here is what Bank Holiday Tuesday remembers

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Everyone dressed as Slenderman for Halloween.  2012 will go down in history as a very difficult year and you could see echoes of this all through pop culture.  Our collective consciousness was fixated on the approaching Mayan Apocalypse date with a kind of gallows humour.   Slenderman became a widely known character in 2012, after spending time building up steam on message boards, youtube and in general internet counter culture.

The original Slender man photo, and the one that started the mythos

I think this surge in popularity can be attributed to two things- our approaching sense of dread, uncertainty and doom, and THAT FUCKING GAME.  I don’t think there is a university aged person in Ireland now who hasn’t played that game while wankered at a house party with all your friends around you screaming DON’T GO IN THE BUILDING! He’ll sneak up behind you OH MY GOD THE CHAIR’S BEEN MOVED.

In all seriousness, I do think the Slender man’s popularity as the horror mascot of the 2010s is telling of our anxieties and fears as a generation, and perhaps also of the stagnation of the horror film industry.  The next iconic horror character after Samara from the Ring movies (remember when Samara from the ring movies was a ‘thing?’ remember throwing all your hair in front of your face and whispering ‘seven daaaaays’? good times) Doesn’t come from a schlock slasher horror or a remake of Japanese suspense- Slenderman didn’t come from any work at all; he originated on a horror message board (Slendy is page 3,hilariously)  and was then adopted into various works such a Marble Hornets and… that fucking game.  It’s a public domain, open source free shared horror template!

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

So with all this in mind, a million tall skinny guys went as Slendy for Halloween, with mixed results.  My top award goes to Danny who honestly scared the bejesus out of me with his costume.  Everyone else, I will offer the wisdom; a morph suit does not a cosmic horror make.

Barrack Obama was re-elected but do I really need to include it on my review in detail?  It all played out like a really forced media game, with people insisting ‘ooooh no it’s gonna be really close, seriously!!!’ when the stats really showed otherwise.  Bouncing back from what I personally think was a voodoo magic sabotaged performance in the first debate, Obama pretty much stormed it beyond Fox News and conservative talk radio in the states, mostly because Paul Ryan and Mittens are just so.  fucking.  WEIRD.  No really, Paul Ryan is really scary looking and I would not have wanted him to be the vice Prez. Now with a looming debt crisis and without the idealism of change behind him, Obama has a very rough second term to ride out.

It was a good year for feminism in a strange way, considering we had so much complete and utter fucking bullshit to contend with.  The GOP candidate Todd Akin started off with some incredibly bone headed comments about rape and how rape victims rarely get pregnant because the body has magic rape detection powers that repel the evil sperm- if only this were true.  Cue more comments from other GOP candidates about how ‘some girls rape easy’ and the shitstorm caused by health insurance providers possibly being made to include birth control as part of their healthcare plans.  Apparently sex is now a lifestyle choice, and avoiding pregnancy for medical reasons can ONLY be done via no sex.  Weird.  Also weird is the idea that the pill is solely birth control when often it’s used for regulation of hormones.

Chris Brown Left twitter, leaving in his wake the need for another terrible celebrity to lol at, and a shitload of misogynistic abuse leveled at the female comic whose sparring with Brown seemed to be what fucked him off Twitter.  I will confess to never wading into the Chris Brown pool because I’d feel like a hypocrite and an elitist, because I listen to Ike turner, John lennon, Phil Spektor and many others who have done terrible, terrible things to women without much sign of remorse.  I would say I don’t take much stock in Chris Brown as an artist and in his music, he is absolutely hideous both with general misogynistic bullshit and with constant backhanded references to his violence and all it paints for me is the picture of an entirely unapologetic guy.  I will never ever like Chris brown.  What a jerk.

Online bullying is the sad new way people are terrible to one another now, with several heavily reported young deaths by suicide linked to online harassment.  To throw my hat into the ring on what is a very sad and controversial topic, I have to say that I’ve always argued it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s the attitudes prevailing in society.  The big problem people have with the internet is that it is essentially anonymous, and it is claimed that this encourages downright sadistic and unpleasant things to be said and done to people.  I have to argue that people talked shit and said horrible things to me when I was 12, before facebook and even before bebo.  back then, they got to me by sending text messages and making phone calls- teenagers will always utilize technology to be brutal to one another, and in the adult word we seem to have entirely forgotten harassing phone calls and letters.  This isn’t a new thing, and it isn’t going to be solved by censorship or legislation.

In a broader sense, I’m kind of disturbed by this obsession we all have with understanding why someone took their life- the media seems determined to connect it with one single influence when in reality the victims of suicide have many different reasons and factors effecting their ability to think straight and seek help.  It’s a terrible complicated mental health crisis and we can’t keep catching our heels on scapegoats.

The Olympics and Paralympics blew everybody’s minds mostly because I don’t think people were expecting much.  It had some pretty bad pre talk, but the thunderous opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle let you know this was the real fucking deal.  Mostly due to Tom Daley representing team GB the diving events had a lot of popularity (and now there’s a celebrity diving competition on ITV1 next year!).  I took great personal pleasure from the extensive coverage of the men’s gymnastics.  (Team GB Gymnastics squad, I’ll see you in my dreams)

Katie Taylor inspiration-bombed all of Ireland with her amazing Gold Medal performance (I watched her final fight through my fingers) and the rest of the Irish team put in a fucking fantastic Olympics, our best performance since 1956.  Cian O’Connor redeemed himself after the stripping of his 2004 gold by claiming bronze here and Rob Heffernan came agonizingly close to a bronze for Ireland in the bafflingly intense and amusing spot of race walking.  Ireland’s Paralympians continued the inspiration-parade, being fucking fantastic setting world records and the like.  I’m still a bit sad that it’s gone, tbh.

The question ‘You don’t agree with abortion, do you?’ Made dinners in older relatives homes excruciatingly awkward for many this year, as the mother of all throw downs sparked off again.  led most visibly by Clare Daly of the ULA and Sinead Redmond, a righteously pissed off pregnant woman the campaign for action on the X case was launched this year.  Youth Defence reared their charming heads again with a billboard campaign around Irish cities that showed torn stolen istock photos and 18 week scans reading ‘Abortion tears her life apart.’ Following this, the posters were vandalized, criticized and generally just written off as the sort of bullshit YD like to go on with.

When Savita Halappanavar died the game seemed to change.  Previously on the fence onlookers marched on government buildings, the Catholic church made statements, people squabbled over the numbers attending rallies and in the midst of all this the media had no idea where to turn.

Interesting to me was the reaction to the story that asked people to give Praveem Halappanavar, Savita’s widower, his privacy.  Enda Kenny was quoted as saying ‘we must remember that a man’s wife has died.’ The political set seemed confounded by what to do when Mr. Halappanavar made it clear he wasn’t going away and doesn’t want a respectful silence over this issue.   They got really confused when Mr. Halappanavar Insisted he wouldn’t co-operate with a HSE led investigation that included several Galway based doctors on it’s panel.

Pro Choice groups called for the X case to finally be legislated for, while Pro Life groups wrung their hands over things like the ‘suicide clause’ not being included in any legislation (Although I do wonder why any woman would fake being suicidal to get an abortion as opposed to the much easier option of, oh I don’t know, GETTING THE BOAT TO ENGLAND).  Now as the year closes it does so with the news that legislation for abortion in line with the X case ruling will be introduced, governed by regulations.

The age of X Factor seems to be ending, as James Arthur only managed to squeak number 2 for Christmas.  Overall it seems we’re getting a bit tired of the polished pop reality star- even X Factor USA was won by a 40 year old country singer, and Britain’s Got Talent by a teenage girl with a dancing dog.  Glee popularized ‘Somebody that I used to know’ to the point where it became the smash indie hit of the summer, along with fun’s ‘we are young’ and Adele continuing her charts dominance.  Glee has slipped from cultural juggernaunt with some modicum of critical acclaim into the realm of the cheesy melodrama it used to parody.

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Whew, way too much happened this year, fucking hell.  I’ll see you in part 2

Niamh ‘There will be awards at the end of all this’ Keoghan

 

Atheism and me

I'm an atheist but I'd wear this T Shirt.

Recently I’ve heard a lot of people speak about their non-belief in god, and how they feel a bit sad they’ve lost their faith.  They observe those of faith with a kind of longing.  ‘I wish I could believe.’ they’ll fret.  ‘I wish I could believe the way they do.’ I seem to hear this a lot around Christmas time, with all the cribs, the mulled wine, the carols and the family feeling.  It’s easier at this time than any other to feel like you’re missing out by not believing in God or religion.  I’m not one of these people.  I LOL’d so hard at the news that the Pope had joined twitter that I ruptured something.

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Now, let me say outright I’m not getting at anybody for their religious beliefs- as sacred as sacraments are to some, so is their freedom to believe in what they like to me.  I know good Christians, good Muslims, good Unitarians and a load of good wishy-washy non-denominational people with a spiritual bent.  I’m cool with religious people.  It just really isn’t for me.  It isn’t for me for the following simple reasons- when I was religious, I wasn’t very good at it. I’m bad at Catholicism, full stop.  Here are the list of things that made me a bad Catholic.

I’m not good at being told what to do.

I don’t like the taste of communion host.

Incense makes me sneezey

I used to try and take the baby Jesus out of the crib and use him in my dolly’s games

I have masturbated many times a week since 2008

I love eating chicken on a Friday.

I was a practicing-ish Catholic until 2010.  I went to Mass pretty often.  I believed that generally, God had my back.  Even as I drifted from Catholicism, I had my own personal relationship with god.  I had a firm faith in the afterlife.

You can trace my split with the Catholic church back to the early days of 2000, when I had a massive nervous breakdown in Second class.  When I was in second class I made my first Holy communion and so we were taught by Sr.Dympna, a nun who was a very cool old lady but also very firm.  She was old school in a nice way; big on handwriting, sums, nature and common sense.  Being as I was bold as brass, completely disorganized, scruffy and unfocused she had a lot to work on.  In fairness to her, she saw my potential, which many of my later teachers didn’t.  We once had a class inspection by a Christian Brother.

When I was seven I was very sensitive to bad smells.  And that day, the classroom stank of a vegetable stench.  It was everywhere- it was sort of like raw onion.  I still remember the feel of it in my nostrils, choking me.  It was the most horrible thing I’d ever smelled. Even now 13 years later when I get a hint of that smell I gag.  It was in my throat and up my nose and giving me a migraine. I could hardly breathe.

Of course, when you’re seven and you can’t cope with something, you naturally have a little freak out.  I didn’t know where that smell was coming from- I actually think it might have been an onion bulb that the class had in a jar of water, growing the roots- but my tearful cries of ‘the smell! It’s such a bad smell!’ were interpreted by Sr.D as the seven year old saying ‘the christian brother is smelly!’ My mother was spoken to sternly outside the door when she picked me up early for a dentist’s appointment- the nun was disgusted that I would insult a christian brother by calling him smelly, or indeed calling the room he was in smelly!

That’s where it began.

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An Interview with Sínead Kennedy- Pro Choice activist

Vigil for Savita

 

This the first interview I ever conducted.  Sínead Kennedy is a lecturer in NUI Maynooth and a spokesperson for the pro choice campaign.  She’s a member of the United Left Alliance and, as I told her TO HER FACE, is a bit of a badass.  I am still scarlet that I managed  to call my interviewee a ‘badass’ within the first ten seconds of the interview. I’d put my serious journalist face on for nothing!

The interview was written for the Student Standard, which is Maynooth’s only independant news source.  I am a massive hack for the Standard, do check it out!  It’s made with love. <3

I would like to thank Sínead, who was very friendly, reasonable and generous with her time in giving me this interview.  

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It’s been 20 years since the X case ruling and in that time seven successive governments have not introduced legislation clarifying the legal position of abortion.  At the start of this year, the United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly introduced a bill that would provide for the ruling in the X case.  That bill has now been voted down twice, and people are getting angry, none more so than the Pro Choice movement which has recently seen a huge surge in public support.  From a small march of under 5,000 people just a few months ago to the massive march of 15,000 after the death of Savita Halappanavar, the debate has shifted up a gear.  With accusations of cowardice on the part of Fine Gael and particularly the Labour Party, mysterious automated anti abortion phone calls, Praveem Hallapanavar sticking it to a HSE led enquiry (and at time of writing, preparing to bring his case to the European court of human rights) a spasming media old and new following the story day by day there is a wick of change that has been ignited.  In the midst of all of this, a few speakers keep re-appearing – Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute, William Binchy, David Quinn and Íde Nic Mhathúna (who was chastised on Indian Television) on the pro life side and Clare Daly, Ruth Coppinger, Sínead Redmond and Sínead Kennedy on the pro choice side.  Sínead Kennedy is a lecturer in Maynooth’s English Department and agreed to an interview with me.

I suppose I should begin by asking what you made of last night’s verdict [Clare Daly’s second attempt at passing legislation for the X case on Wednesday the 28th of November]?

“It was very disappointing – that was the first thing about it. It wasn’t maybe entirely unexpected as it became clear during the course of the day that Labour were not prepared to vote for it. But the fact is that this is the second time that it has gone before the Dail and it’s the second time it’s been voted down and literally 30 days earlier a woman had died. It seemed it should have been treated as a matter of some urgency and the fact that it wasn’t just shows what these politicians are.  Because being realistic, we are talking about another six months before we see legislation. And given the fact that a woman has died because of the lack of legal clarity, it just seemed disgraceful.”

I’ve been keeping up with the Labour Party and what they’ve had to say.  From what I’ve read, they’re saying that without the support of Fine Gael, the bill was going to be defeated anyway and if they had voted yes, the government would have collapsed and the wait would be even longer.  What would you say to that? Labour have also claimed that they are the only party to have included legislation for X in their manifestos in 2011.

“This is always the excuse for not doing anything: we can’t make it too radical or push too hard. I’m putting the emphasis on the Labour Party but there is an onus on Fine Gael too to vote for this. This government has a responsibility to act. But my fear would be that in the attempt to pacify the pro-choice elements of Labour and the anti-choice elements of Fine Gael you’d end up with some sort of compromise that means you have a very weak piece of legislation that would not provide an effective legal protection for women.”

We then moved to discussing Sínead’s involvement with choice advocacy through the years, starting with her memories of the original X Case in 1992.

“Well, I remember the X case. I was about 12 or so and I remember it really had an impact on me.  The fact that she was 14 seemed so close to my age and my sisters.  It was one of those things that had an impact on everyone our age. It was a huge story at the time, I suppose now many people don’t remember it. So when I was in college, the C case came about and I didn’t want to see this again and got involved in the campaign. Ever since then I’ve been campaigning on the issue. We campaigned for action on the C case and nothing happened and there was a referendum in 2002 to reverse the X decision which we campaigned against.  This year, the twentieth anniversary of X, we decided this couldn’t be allowed to continue, so we started up a campaign called Action on X.  Clare Daly in the United Left Alliance (and I am also a member of the United Left Alliance) brought forward a bill in April so we began to work on that.  And then there were those horrific Youth Defence posters over the summer to shame women and I was so inspired by the response of mainly young women who spontaneously organised.  Sínead Redmond organised a Facebook page entitled ‘Unlike Youth Defence I trust women to decide”, this amazing thing; and they had this protest outside the dail, it was all these young angry women saying who said we will not be shamed, we are proud and we are feminist, we believe in choice and our rights and we won’t be shamed by conservative elements like youth defence. That led to the March for Choice and we had begun to set up a campaign when sadly, Savita Halappanavar died.

The posters over the summer, showing torn pictures of both a sonogram picture and of a woman’s face came with the slogan ‘There is always a better option.’ Youth Defence, formed in 1992, are a controversial pro-life organisation operating in Ireland.  The posters over the summer were for many younger people their first encounter with Youth Defence.  I asked Sínead if she thought the story of Savita Halappanavar has become a game changer in this debate, like the X case was in 1992.

“That’s exactly how I’d put it. I think it has connected with people.  Too long and too often the debates on abortion get caught up in these legal arguments and medical arguments; abstract theoretical arguments.  I’m always struck that in these discussions women themselves are virtually absent; it’s like they’re just these disembodied wombs. So it’s like the women just become completely invisible. I think with the X case and Savita you’re presented with a case in all it’s complexity and all it’s human pain and tragedy and people respond in  a human way. Because then they realise that these things are not abstract moral decisions; they’re made by real people. Obviously these are extreme cases; in terms of rape or in terms of risk to a woman’s life. But I also think it just shines a light on the struggle that ordinary women go through every day in making these decisions. Sometimes they are difficult decisions and sometimes they’re not but they are always a valid decision.”

The question of validity recurred in the course of our interview, when I asked for Sínead’s thoughts on the comments of Breda O’Brien, who was featured on the main evening news on the 18th of November stating that many pro-life activists felt ‘excluded’ from the marches and vigils held in the wake of Savita’s death.  I asked Sínead to comment on the implicit statement here, and one that has been circulating around since the story broke; that the pro-choice lobby are exploiting the death of Savita Halappanavar for their campaign.

“Should the anti-abortionists be excluded? Absolutely they should be excluded. I mean it’s their campaigns that have put women’s lives like Savita at risk and I certainly reject any claim that we’ve exploited this. I think we need to look at the facts here.  Praveem, Savita’s husband, contacted the pro choice group in Galway.  He told her story- He decided to tell her story, and the first people he told her story to was not to newspapers, but to Galway Pro choice- why?  Because he wanted to make sure that what happened to his wife would never happen again.  I think that we have to salute his courage and determination- it’s a very brave thing to do to not only have the Irish media but in many ways the entire world media spotlight shone on you at a time of grief- I mean the man has lost his wife, and he’s been this incredibly powerful and articulate advocate for her, determined that she will receive justice.  So I completely reject that. It’s just not true.”

I was curious to know what were some of the crazier things that Sínead has heard in nearly 20 years of involvement in pro-choice advocacy, and some of the stranger arguments against abortion.  We ended up discussing the philosophical nightmare of contemplating non-existence.  Sínead goes on to comment on the language used in debates about abortion.  The question of ‘valid decisions’ returns here.

“Sometimes I get quite nasty misogynistic comments. But the best one is ‘what if your mother had aborted you?’ I always think that that is the most stupid.  They always ask you this question and I find it slightly bizarre that the non-existent go around contemplating their own non-existence.  I find this bizarre.

I think you have to not expect everybody starts from ‘I believe and support free safe legal abortion’ but most people if you ask them ‘well if a woman’s life is at risk, then can she have an abortion?  Okay well what about her health?  What about if she’s been raped or in the case of fetal abnormalities?’ Once you break down these absolutes you start asking the question ‘what is a valid decision?’ One thing that really irritates me is the language that is used. This idea of women demanding abortions and abortion on demand – this word, ‘on demand’.  We never use this word for other medical procedures.  We never talk abou people demanding to have their tonsils out, but somehow it’s appropriate to use here.  The other thing I’ve heard about is the idea of the floodgates.  This is the other term I keep hearing. It’s interesting that this is the same term you often hear used in Racist discourse when they’re talking about immigrants and talking about floods of immigrants- There’s a correlation between sexist and racist discourses as well.  It’s important to pay attention to these kinds of questions as well.

When asked about the recent statements made by the council of Bishops and Archbishop of Dublin Diamuird Martin on the ethics of abortion, Sínead was critical of the church’s continued patronage of health and education.  We compared our experiences of catholic education- Separated by approximately 10 years, but both coloured by the church.

“Well, the idea that the Catholic church in Ireland can pontificate on any aspect of morality or can lecture anybody when we know the sort of horrific crimes they have been guilty of… If the church wants to make comments nobody can stop them, but what I object to is when the church begins to interfere in medical decisions and in the state.  I think that’s a problem.  I have no problem with what people choose to believe privately; I respect people who don’t agree with abortion – that’s their view and they’re entitled to it.  Where I have a problem is when they try to impose their view on me and on other people.  That’s the difficulty I have.  I mean, if the church wants to, within it’s own religion say these things that’s fine, but when it begins to impact on other people who don’t share these beliefs then there’s a problem. I think there’s also a failure within Ireland to separate church and state.  The fact that the church continue to play significant roles within health and education is a huge problem.  I think until we get the church out of our hospitals and out of our schools we are going to continue to be contaminated by their influence.

In reponse to comments I made about being taught a very pro-life favouring religious syllabus at school:

“We got the ones on contraception; all the things that were wrong with condoms and the pill.  And then you’d get the rythmn method- which was suitable only in marriage but it was apparently very very safe and [we were told] all these awful things that were going to happen if you used a condom or the pill.”

Finally, I asked Sínead two questions: did she think this government would legislate for the X case, and will there be access to free, safe, legal abortion in Ireland within the next ten years.

“I’d answer yes to both questions.  I think this government will legislate because we’re going to make them, and if we don’t, we’re going to bring them down.  If they do not act.  There’s a huge campaign building and I think they’re going to come under enormous pressure to act. bI would also answer yes to the second question because I do think things are changing.I think the anti abortionists realise that.  We need a twofold strategy; one is legislation for the X case.  Not that I think [legislation for the X case alone] is enough, but because once you have legislation for X, for the first time in the history of the irish state, the terms under which abortion is legal in this country will be laid out in law and that is highly significant.  I think that anti-abortionists realise that.  I don’t think that they’re wrong in saying that it will bring abortion to Ireland, but obviously it only brings abortion for highly restricted circumstances and obviously there’s a lot of things it won’t address.

I think that there is momentum building to have a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment and I think that it is going to become a major political issue within the next year.”

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Niamh ‘Serious journalist face’ Keoghan

Never Again. Things I learned at the vigil

6 Things I learned marching to the Vigil for Savita Hallapanavar.

Savita died of septicemia in Galway University hospital after suffering a prolonged miscarriage over 3 days.  After 1 day she requested the pregnancy be terminated but as a fetal heartbeat was detected, this request was refused.  This reflects Ireland’s legal limbo over what to do in a case such as this- Doctors are reported to have told Savita and her husband that nothing could be done while the fetus still had a heartbeat and that ‘this is a catholic country.’ about 10-15,000 people marched and held a vigil today in Dublin to express outrage at her needless death, and to pressure the government into legislating for the X case.  The X case was a supreme court ruling that entitles a woman to a termination if there is a real and substantial risk to her life.  Here are some things I learned today

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The silence of two thousand people together not saying a word

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‘I’m sorry- I’m just so fucking pissed off.’ These were the words of an emotional speaker at the candlelit vigil held on Kildare street last night. I arrived at the last minute to witness what turned out to be a massive spontaneous gathering- Nearly 2000 people united in anger. I walked up nassau street and soon encountered a group of banner holders, being led along the street by a Garda outrider. Traffic had not been diverted and so a 46A was left abandoned beside the National Library, it’s lights switched off. The Garda outrider told us he was going to lead us around to Merrion Square because ‘there’s another protest on outside Kildare street, and I don’t want there to be trouble.’ Someone holding a banner asked ‘Is it because we’re pro choice and they’re pro life?’ Confusion erupted. the Garda didn’t know who was at Kildare street and was plainly attempting to avoid any sort of riot. A girl called her friends to ask where they were and proclaimed ‘Lads, they’re up here!’ and so we marched up Kildare street.

The Garda outrider was worried about violence, but this was the most quiet crowd I’d ever squeezed through- the kind of quiet, dignified outrage you only see once in a generation. The joyful, bright atmosphere of the march for Choice last month was well gone- this was silent, unending fury. People were holding candles- I happened upon a friend of mine who spoke of how shocking the case was, and I expressed my surprise at the turnout on such short notice. At a glance, there were more people here at this spur of the moment event than were at the March for choice. The shock at Wednesday’s news had brought people to their feet.

People stood on and listened as Clare Daly, Sinead Kennedy and others spoke but what was most striking were the moments of quiet that were only punctuated by cheers during speeches. When Sinead kennedy called for a sit in and for silence, a crowd of 2000 people sat in the middle of a main road and were silent. The only people left standing were press photographers and increasingly alarmed Gardai. 2000 people sat in silence. I will never forget it. I will never forget that silence, the kind you only experience when you are surrounded by two thousand people and nobody is speaking. I’ll never forget the candles and the deep, deep anger I could see in every face. Nobody was weeping or screaming but the scab had been cracked on this open wound in Irish society.

It’s not just Ireland that is reacting to this story. The Young Turks, Fox News, The Huffington Post, Reddit, The Guardian; Sky news was leading with the story of a young woman denied vital medical attention at a Galway hospital for a period yesterday. We’ve been called Medieval but this is a sadly modern form of cruelty. Before 1821 in fact the Catholic church allowed abortion up until ‘Quickening’- when the foetus’ movement was visible. The pro life movement has grown since the advent of sonography and ultrasound gave us more and more detailed images of the foetus developing. We can’t just call this an ancient problem. This is a legal and moral debate taken solely from our modern world.

The microphone was offered to anyone who wanted to speak- A young woman named Elle gave the quote that begins this column, after her voice cracked and she lost her breath. She called, as everyone else speaking did, on the people of Ireland to return on Saturday to another vigil at the Garden of remembrance. The meeting was dispersed quickly and traffic began to move along Kildare street again as if nothing had happened. The empty thin metal tins of spent tea lights littered the ground, and lit candles lined the railings of Leinster House.

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Niamh ‘Just fucking legislate already’ Keoghan

 

For fucks sake: The Supreme court ruling on referendum literature

GODDAMN

 

Irish Government.

 

You had ONE JOB.

 

For fucks sake…..

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My totally rational response to the latest episode of Downton Abbey

In my fan fix Lady Sybil teams up with Hannah Sheehy Skeffington, Lady Gregory Countess Markevich and Maude Gonne and they form a roller derby team and Yeats writes a rad poem about them and she gets the vote and Tom drives a flying car over Dublin bay and Sybz pronounces it ‘Dahblin’ and Ethel gets her baby back and then all the Ladies of Irish republicanism team up to break Bates out of prison with Eamon DeValera and Anna is like a trained ninja and Edith drives the getaway car and Cora out- sasses all of them with her sassy American ways and then Sybil is made the FIRST LADY PRESIDENT OF IRELAND and nobody ever dies ever and they all live happily ever after the end

Niamh I just need a minute to ease my sobbing Keoghan