Politically correct

yes-equalityOn Friday 22 May the people of the Republic of Ireland get to vote on a referendum regarding marriage equality; in other words, the straights get to say whether or not the gays get to marry.  I find it ridiculous that the masses get to choose whether people who love one another are allowed to marry, but that’s the state of our world these days.  Of course, Claude and I don’t get to vote, and that makes me sad.  I’d love to be able to proudly mark a YES on my ballot.  Such is the plight of the ex-pat.  I am frankly surprised how many people are scared to admit that they want to vote yes – and how many are scared to admit they want to vote no.  The No side has a pretty lame argument: some blather about ‘marriage is about having children’, and how scary surrogacy seems to be, and children needing both a mother and a father (while any number of studies easily accessed will refute that argument quite handily).  They don’t take into account the two-gender marriages that won’t or can’t produce children, or relationships that may emulate a single-sex marriage exactly.  If you ask me, I think it’s just another way for the insidious Catholic church to assert itself into the government and into the minds of the people.

Last week we received our first water bill in the post.  Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention – I’m looking at you, USA – wouldn’t know that water charges are a huge bone of contention in Ireland.  The entity administering this boondoggle is called Irish Water, and everyone reviles them.  They’ve already pulled millions of euros out of our pockets and now they’re siphoning even more – Like that analogy?  I thought it apt – without having done anything to improve infrastructure or water quality.  I’ve been told that the government will not start prosecuting people who refuse to pay until they are 4 bills in arrears.  Others have said that they don’t think the government has the intestinal fortitude to prosecute the predicted number of people who plan to refuse to pay.  But we’re afraid of the consequences to our bid for citizenship if we refuse to pay and end up in court.  So as much as we despise the position we’ve been brought to, we’re going to capitulate and pay the bill.  After all, as Americans we’re used to paying for water.  Where we come from, it doesn’t ‘just come from the sky’!

Speaking of the insidious church, I am finding it more and more difficult to listen to people make reference to their god without adding my two cents.  All these exhortations of “God bless you” and “God willing” and “with God’s help” etc. ad nauseum make me want to stomp my feet in frustration and ask all kinds of questions that will most certainly upset the devout.  I see parents going through the expensive and time-consuming routine of offering their daughters up as brides to the christ (aka communion) because they don’t want their children to feel “left out” while they themselves claim not to be religious or even attend church on a regular basis.  Ireland actually has blasphemy laws on the books under which one could theoretically be prosecuted for saying something against someone else’s god!  There’s an atheist group that I think I should join – and I will, as long as they don’t ask for too much of my time.

I like to be politically involved but I find that it’s difficult to be involved more deeply than simply peripherally, as I can’t really effect any change in any meaningful fashion until I am no longer afraid for my immigration status and can be allowed to vote.

It is 20 months until we can apply for citizenship.  Until then we can only sit back and watch the politics fly.

— Cindy


Was it for this?

News has been swirling around the recent revelation that the grounds of one of Ireland’s many “mother-and-baby homes” contains a tremendous number of unceremoniously buried children.  This home was run by a Roman Catholic Church sect called the Bon Secours nuns; it is located in Tuam, Co Galway.  The story has gone viral, with the usual bad information and overstated statistics — but one thing we can all be certain of is that those children died neglected and unhappy at the hands of the church in collusion with the State.  We can only hope this revelation opens a thorough investigation by the Gardaí, and more than that, a wider dialogue about the role the church plays in the laws of the Republic of Ireland and the lives of her wonderful people.

Today I found this poem by a young man called Stephen Murphy.  He speaks so eloquently, so movingly, about the historic price paid by the people of Ireland.


— Cindy

Long time no see

Hey blog, how have you been?  Lonely?  Sorry, my fault.  You see, we have been pretty busy doing our own thing, and you know, I haven’t thought much of what we’ve been doing has been exciting enough to write about, so no entries recently.

Summer is here but you wouldn’t be able to tell because we’re still wearing our winter coats some days.  However we have transitioned more often to the lighter windbreakers, so maybe it’s here…  The plants in the front garden are looking happier, and the fields of bluebells (and white and pink bells [?]) are just gorgeous.  PJ the groundskeeper has been running the lawn mowers.  I purchased a pot of shamrocks in early March which had been doing pretty well but is now living outdoors in the hopes that it perks up and starts growing again.  And here I thought I had overcome my black-thumb tendencies.

We had a few days of very disrupted weather, with lashing rain and tremendous winds.  The bay was green with all the stuff dredged up by the roiling waters.  I like the days where the sun just peeps out occasionally and the rain threatens because the Prom is practically empty of people and it makes for a nice, relaxing walk.

The farmer’s market is gearing up with more people and more vendors.  Summer fruits season is nearing.  I am looking forward to some lovely salads!  Claude and I are on a diet, of sorts, cutting out breads, white potatoes and (sob, sniffle) desserts.  While he has not returned to his bike riding since starting his new job, we do try to get out and do some walking as often as possible.  I miss baking, it’s one of my favorite activities and produces such delicious results.  Maybe after we drop a few pounds…

I have started a new volunteer job on Monday nights participating in facilitating English conversation skills with a group called Fáilte Isteach (it means incoming welcome).  My two ‘students’ are a woman from Pakistan and a woman from China.  It’s an interesting and unusual task.  I’m not sure I’m very effective at it but the woman who facilitates the volunteers is very encouraging.  It happens on Monday evenings so we go out for dinner prior to class.

I have also started going to exercise classes conducted by a very energetic and talkative young physiotherapist with MS Ireland.  Their office is way over on the other side of Galway so getting there is quite the trek, but I think eventually it will be worth it.  He has a special vibrating machine that is supposed to help MS people with motor function and strength issues that I’m looking forward to using on a regular basis.

Can’t go to class today though.  The buses are on strike!  I never realized how dependent we are on them until they became no longer available!  Claude sure can’t cab to work every day!  Bus Éireann is administered by the government and has been instructed by the Labor Court to cut €5 million from the budget.  They want to take that from the drivers in the form of holidays and sick pay.  The drivers are not pleased.  Thus, no bus service.  I sure hope they get this ironed out soon.  I need my lifeline into the city.

The abortion debate is still going strong, which in my opinion is a good thing.  Irish women aren’t going to let the government sweep this issue under the rug.  There’s a tremendous amount of support for a significant change in the law, and possibly even the constitution.  I sit on the outside looking in and hope for the best and only rational outcome of legal abortion for all women in Ireland.

This summer is going to be very special because we have so much of our family coming to visit.  We are very much looking forward to hosting them all and showing them our lovely hometown and beautiful Ireland.

I have gotten used to being pegged for American as soon as I open my mouth.  Fortunately most Irish folks don’t mind Americans, they have a certain affinity because so many of their friends and family emigrated to the US.  The Boston bombing was very close to many people’s hearts.  Galway was, in a lot of cases, the last vestige of Ireland that emigrees saw before sailing east across the Atlantic to the new country.  I also get away with murdering the Irish language; people shake their heads good-naturedly and gently correct me.  I am absolutely convinced that I will never speak or understand Irish but I can at least kind of read it and pick out certain vocabulary words.

So that’s about it for now.  I’m sure Claude would have some observations to offer but that will have to wait for another day.  Cheers!

— Cindy



white flowers

Slowly emerging from the dark ages

abortion lawsSo far most, if not all, of our blog posts have been about happy things, or light-hearted observations of our experiences in the last year plus of living in Galway, Ireland.  And for the most part, it has been an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting experience.  But there are deeper observations to be made – I’m going to go out on a limb and make them.

As some of you readers may know, in late October of this year a young woman of Indian descent died needlessly at University Hospital Galway while miscarrying her pregnancy.  She and her husband wanted that baby, had planned for it.  Even through the extreme pain she was suffering she knew that she was not going to be able to carry to term.  With a heart that was breaking in two she begged the doctors and nurses to help her by inducing labor.  She was told “this is a Catholic country.”  In other words, the church has so hamstrung the laws of this nation that they were not legally allowed to terminate the pregnancy as long as there was a fetal heartbeat.  She suffered the pain and humiliation of this miscarriage for 5 days before the fetus’ heart stopped.  By then she was septicemic.  Before she passed away from the infection that ravaged her system, she did point out to the staff that she was neither Irish nor Catholic.

Ireland has been taken to task on many occasions by European Union rights groups for their draconian laws and generally Catholic stance on human rights, particularly in the cases of gay rights and of abortion.  (Same-sex sexual activity has only been decriminalised since 1993.)  The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to ban abortion constitutionally, backed strongly by Catholic influence.  This fact amazes and stuns me.  In 1984 a 15-year-old girl named Anne Lovett and her newborn son died alone and freezing after Anne gave birth in a church yard precisely because of the stifling attitude of her religious upbringing.  In 1992 the Irish Supreme Court ruled in the X Case, which allowed for abortion in the case of risk to the mother’s life including risk of suicide.  The problem with the ruling is it is in direct opposition to the Eighth Amendment, and worse, to the Offences Against the Persons Act of 1861 – yes, you read that right, a law written in the 19th Century which is still in effect today – which makes it illegal to use drugs or instruments to cause an abortion.  The Irish Parliament has REFUSED to legislate on these issues for over 30 years now.

The Catholic church would have women believe that their lives are never at risk from pregnancy.  The government sees no problem if women choose to travel to another country to obtain abortion services.  Most private physicians will perform follow-up treatment for women who have done so.  So no one seems to understand why Irish women are so angry about Savita’s death.  The church has no intention of assisting women who can’t afford to travel, so they’re resorting to purchasing abortifacients over the internet – the import of which is also illegal.  The utter hypocrisy of not allowing babies who are still-born or die upon birth without being baptised to be buried in consecrated graveyards doesn’t seem to faze the church at all.

I’m not a religious person, neither Claude nor I are, really.  We have our individual views about it.  He tends toward the Buddhist way of thinking, I tend toward the agnostic.  No matter how you define it, we are definitely not advocates of the Catholic vision of the world.

At this point a number of EU rights groups are calling for sweeping change to these ancient laws.  Ireland is out of step with all of Europe in this regard and does not, in my opinion, deserve to hold the EU Presidency next year until its laws come in line with the rest of the Union.  The anti-choice groups are pulling out all the stops, pressuring their local politicians to not allow women the right to a safe, clean abortion in Ireland.  Women are once again being held hostage to their gender by the Catholics.

The Irish people have some fairly archaic attitudes when it comes to being open with one another, talking about sexuality and differences, speaking of uncomfortable subjects and history.  They use euphemisms to describe horrors of their history.  They have a similar stiff-upper-lip style to the British.  They call periods of anarchy in their history “the Troubles,”  like it’s a touch of the flu or sluggish bowels.  People die and they’re labeled as “the tragic.”  It’s all so … very.

— Cindy

On Being Irish

St Paddy’s Day is passed and I have come to reflect on the quiddity of the Irish people.  An Irish friend told me that the Irish have a fundamental philosophy that dictates that things will work out.  His example was that one of the non-Irish directors at work became concerned about a change in political will at the highest levels.  To hear my friend tell it this director was running around like Chicken Little for want of a new strategy and plan.  His Irish counterparts were much more relaxed and and took the serene Irish approach to the problem — Things will work out: cibé rud a tharlóidh,  in Spanish que sera sera.

The Irish don’t appear to have the rugged individual as an archetype; there is no Marlboro Man.  While there is a concept of ownership and a pride therein, there is also a concern for others.  There seems to be very little of the “I’ll take what there is and others be damned” attitude that I find so prevalent in the United States.  There seems to be more concern about the smaller guy, perhaps because in international dealings Ireland is the small guy.  When the Irish economic bubble burst a few years ago, Ireland, under the pressure from the International Monetary Fund, (IMF) bailed out the Anglo Irish Bank (AIB) and implemented austerity measures that pushed the people farther into poverty and the economy to the brink of insolvency.  The government finds itself squeezed between the corporastocracy-inducing IMF and the anger of its people.  So how does the anger of the riled up Irish express itself?  Currently I see protests (Occupy Galway, household tax protests), and political humor in the St. Patrick’s day parade in the form of St. Patrick chasing the AIB snakes out of Ireland.

What does it mean to be a US Citizen in Ireland?  I feel shame.  From this small country arises an armed force of 13,500 soldiers.  And where are they deployed? From Wikipedia: Army personnel are currently serving in Kosovo (KFOR & UNMIK), Bosnia Herzegovina (EUFOR BiH), Western Sahara (MINURSO), Congo (MONUC), Afghanistan (ISAF), Chad (MINURCAT), Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Lebanon (UNIFIL) Haiti (UNDAC) and the Middle East (UNTSO).  Seems like they are helping people or cleaning up messes made by the US.   In the St. Patrick’s day parade, there were members of state police from Massachusetts.  Their uniforms, in stark contrast to those of the Irish Garda, were very militaristic and fascist in appearance.  While they may be the good guys, out to protect and serve, they didn’t portray that.  They portrayed the “might makes right” philosophy of the US Government.  Another float in the parade portrayed the Irish government ministers under the control of the banks and the banks making millions on the arms trade.  I feel shame that the US is the worlds largest arms trading country.  I feel shame that the US government has become a corporastocracy.  I feel shame that Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has come to ring hollow.  The US is now engaged in several foreign wars proving that government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation can long endure.  I feel shame that I lived in and was part of the worlds largest bully.

I feel wonder and awe at the Irish.  Socialism is alive and well here, and unlike the specter portrayed in the US  by the far right bleatings and machinations it is not a bad thing.  The Irish are approaching a crossroads.  They will soon decide if they will continue down the path of corporastocracy and all it entails or take another path.  I hope their quiddity leads to a government of the people, for the people and by the people and that it shall long endure.

Corporastocracy : (n) Government under control of corporations.   Often felt to be a kakistocracy.

— Claude