There’s a saying in Ireland: Ní saoirse gan saoirse na mban. It means ‘there is no freedom without the freedom of women’. Unless you live under a rock, or you’ve been on your holliers in outer Mongolia (do they have good broadband? I’ve no idea), you’ll likely have been aware of the abortion referendum in Ireland. I myself wrote a brief piece about it recently.
I wanted to reflect on the campaign, now that we are done. The result isn’t quite in yet, but it will be any minute now. We as a nation have voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment of Bunracht na H-Eireann, which criminalised abortion in Ireland.
I had really wanted to be out there, wearing down my shoe leather, wearing out my voice. I’ve marched, I’ve discussed, I’ve argued. I’ve thankfully never needed to even think about needing an abortion, but I felt so strongly. There but for luck goes anyone with a womb, like. But my recent accident and resultant bandy arm precluded me from playing an active role. It was so very hard to sit this of all things out, but I had no choice (ironic, that, huh?).
I recently read Louise O’Neill’s ‘The Surface Breaks‘ and Tara Flynn’s ‘You’re Grand: The Irishwomen’s Secret Guide to Life‘. It turns out that these two books spoke volumes about what was going on in the world around me. If you haven’t read either, I highly recommend you do – probably in that order, actually!
Both of those authors played prominent roles in the campaign. Their opinion on where women are and where they should be in society is clear from their writing. Louise’s book struck a chord when I thought about the personal sacrifices that many made throughout the referendum campaign – enduring abuse online and in real life, having to speak publicly about the trauma they suffered when their own pregnancies went wrong, when they suffered rape, when they felt so alone in this country. It spoke to me of a coming together for the greater good, to right a wrong done in 1983, and really to begin to right the wrong of inequality through the centuries.
Tara’s book, although much lighter in tone, spoke to me in a much broader sense. Women won this vote in much the same way as Irish women have done and do almost everything in life – with dignity, compassion, and a fire in their bellies. We looked out for each other. We refused to be baited. We held our heads high. We got our men to support us and fight alongside us and allow us to have our say (by and large, we’ll not mention the debate manels).
Marian Keyes, another writer who I highly advise again you read, particularly her book ‘The BreakThe Break‘ regarding this particular topic, summarised it so well when she spoke about feeling as though we are breaking free from a cult. I’ve seen several people talking about how now they feel ok to be proud of Ireland today. For others, this will take a while to feel real.
For me, this result is not the end. The women of Ireland have risen. I don’t see them sitting back down and shutting up any time soon. And for the reason, I stand in awe of all na mná*
*Irish for ‘women’