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International Women's day

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 8th, 2018 at 09:53:07 PM EST

President McAleese opening the Muriel Boothman Centre.

The office of President of Ireland is a largely ceremonial one and not directly involved in day to day government decisions. Nevertheless, as the only directly elected national office, it carries with it considerable influence and prestige. The President is an embodiment of how Irish people see themselves and want to be seen abroad. The last three Presidents - Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, and the current incumbent, Michael D. Higgins have performed their duties with considerable aplomb and have also been ardent feminists.

When my late wife, Muriel Boothman, was having considerable difficulties with her then employers, Wicklow County Council, because the information centre in the Community Education Centre she managed included leaflets from agencies which did not specifically rule out the possibility of abortion referrals abroad for women in crisis pregnancy, she heard that President Robinson was to visit our then small rural town to open a new Credit Union building. Muriel was at that time also the chair of the local women's group, which with 600 members was nearly as large as the town itself and perhaps the largest local women's community group in Ireland.

The women's network drumbeats started to roll and President Robinson was prevailed upon to also officially "open" the Community Education Centre information centre after she had been at the Credit Union. I still remember marching down the main street of our town with President Robinson and our children and several hundred supporters from the Credit Union to The Community Education Centre where Mary Robinson gave an inspirational address. Wicklow County Council was not best pleased. Some members wrote to the Attorney General asking him to prosecute my wife and information centre volunteers.

Some years later President McAleese presided at the opening of the Muriel Boothman Centre (Pictured above), named in honour of my late wife by the Clondalkin Addiction Support Programme where she had become manager following her constructive dismissal by Wicklow County Council. Her comments then on the scourge of hard drug addiction in Ireland were apt and well informed. I mention these occasions to illustrate how influential recent Presidents have been in the ongoing development of Irish society. Ireland is about to vote on the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion, a development which would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

Mary Robinson went on to become the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights where she earned the ire of the US for her forthright condemnation of human rights violations under the "global war on terror" and was eventually forced to resign that post. Mary McAleese completed a doctorate in theology after her Presidency and has been making waves by her forthright condemnation of Catholic Church misogyny in recent times. She has just delivered the opening address at the "Why Women Matter" conference in Rome which was forced to relocate from the Vatican after the Vatican refused her permission to speak there.

Delivering the opening address at a Why Women Matter conference in Rome, organised by Voices of Faith, Ms McAleese said she suspected that many women would say "they experience the church as a male bastion of patronising platitudes to which Pope Francis has added his quota. John Paul II has written of the `mystery of women'. Talk to us as equals and we will not be a mystery".

Pope Francis had said "a `deeper theology of women' is needed. God knows it would be hard to find a more shallow theology of women than the misogyny dressed up as theology which the magisterium (the church teaching authority) currently hides behind," she said.

The conference to mark International Women's Day was scheduled to take place at the Vatican, as it has over the past four years, but was moved to a location near St Peter's Square when Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, refused to allow Ms McAleese as a panellist.

In earlier remarks, she had been even more caustic:

Former president Mary McAleese has said she fears the Catholic Church's hierarchy has "reduced Christ to this rather unattractive politician who is just misogynistic and homophobic and anti-abortion".

She described Vatican opposition to women priests as "misogynist codology dressed up as theology" and criticised "the patronising platitudes that women have heard from a succession of popes and cardinals".

Speaking at a press conference in Rome on Wednesday, Ms McAleese also said Pope Francis should visit Newry, Co Down, if he comes to Ireland next August, in the wake of clerical child sex abuse revelations there which led to the recent resignation of the Bishop of Dromore.

Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey resigned last week amid controversy over his decision to concelebrate a Mass with abuser Fr Malachy Finnegan in 2000 and to say the priest's funeral Mass in 2002. Bishop McAreavey first became aware that Fr Finnegan, the former president of St Colman's College Newry, was an abuser in 1994.

Mary Robinson has been a campaigning radical all her life:

However she first hit national headlines as one of University of Dublin's three members of Seanad Éireann to which she was first elected, as an Independent Senator, in 1969.[17] From this body she campaigned on a wide range of liberal issues, including the right of women to sit on juries, the then requirement that all women, upon marriage, resign from the civil service, and the right to the legal availability of contraception.

This latter campaign won her many enemies. She was denounced from the pulpit of Ballina Cathedral for her campaigning for family planning rights for women in Ireland, causing distress to her parents.[18] Condoms and other items were regularly sent in the post to the Senator, by conservative critics and a false rumour was spread that the chain of pharmacies Hayes, Conyngham & Robinson was owned by her family (and so therefore that her promotion of contraception was an attempt to benefit members of her family).

So unpopular, was her campaign among fellow politicians that when she introduced the first bill proposing to liberalise the law on contraception into the Seanad, although two other members 'seconded' the initiative, political leaders did not put it on the agenda for discussion.


For many years Robinson also worked as legal advisor for the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, with future Trinity College Senator [and later Presidential candidate] David Norris. Coincidentally, just as Mary McAleese replaced Mary Robinson as Reid Professor of Law in Trinity, and would succeed her to the Irish presidency, so Robinson replaced McAleese in the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform.

Mary McAleese was initially seen as a much more conservative figure, having been a candidate for the centre right (and socially conservative) Fianna Fail party and nominated by Roman Catholic Bishops to serve on various Church bodies. She was a member of the Catholic Church Episcopal Delegation to the New Ireland Forum in 1984, and a member of the Catholic Church delegation to the Northern Ireland Commission on Contentious Parades in 1996. The only President to have come from Northern Ireland, her family were forced to relocate from the Ardoyne catholic enclave in Belfast by loyalists when the Troubles broke out.

But she caused consternation in the Irish Catholic hierarchy when, after being elected President, she took communion in an Anglican (Church of Ireland) Cathedral. Cardinal Desmond Connell called her action a "sham" and a "deception" - at a time when condemnation by the Catholic hierarchy still meant something, although it was by then no longer powerful enough to cause the fall of governments.

The careers of both women, and the opposition they came up against at the time, give some indication of how far Ireland has come socially in the past few decades. Whether Mary McAleese will have a similar influence on the Roman Catholic Church worldwide remains to be seen. However as a practising Catholic, a former President of a largely Catholic country, and the holder of a doctorate in Theology, her voice will be difficult for the Vatican to ignore.

Her reminders of the Church's history of involvement and cover up of child sex abuse in Ireland will be particularly unwelcome in Vatican circles, with a visit by Pope Francis to Ireland planned for this summer. He is unlikely to receive the rapturous welcome afforded to Pope John Paul II in 1979. Nevertheless the government is scrambling to hold the abortion referendum before then, in case his visit were to become a rallying point for conservative catholic forces in Irish society.

I will leave the last words to her:

The Catholic Church was "at a very important crossroads", she said. "Either it will become a large and largely irrelevant cult or sect, or it will do what Christ intended, flood the world with the capacity for healing and for love," she said.

It was a choice which would "be made, ironically, by our hierarchy" because of "an old imperial system of clerical elitist governance" conferred on them.

As regards Pope Francis, she said, "The hopes that I had for him and about him and about the church that he might help us to create, dwindled into disappointment. So, five years on, I'm disappointed in Francis. I keep living in hope."

On women priests, she said, "I've read everything written on the subject, all the stuff that was recommended to me by Cardinal Desmond Connell when I wrote and said to him `tell me all the arguments in favour of excluding women' and when I read them they were so stupid I realised very quickly that it was codology dressed up as theology."

She said she decided then, "I cannot be bothered arguing. Sooner or later the dead weight of its own stupidity will disintegrate this argument."


On the Dromore controversy, Ms McAleese said there was a "very, very strong onus" on Pope Francis to visit Newry, as "he would be the first pope to come after the Ryan report, the Murphy report and in particular the more recent events in the diocese of Dromore where, 20 years after the clerical guidelines were introduced that told us how wonderful church protection was going to be, we faced the resignation of a bishop. Why? Because he presides at the funeral of one of the worst serial physical and sexual sadists in the history of the church."

Fr Finnegan had been "president of one of the most prestigious Catholic boys schools in Northern Ireland and . . . seems to have been able to continue his appalling abuse of children untrammelled", she said.

There was "all sorts of talk about places where he [the pope]" should go when he visits Ireland. "But, in terms of the pastoral needs in Ireland, he needs to go to Newry," she said.

It will be interesting to see whether the Pope does go to Newry this summer. She has made it very difficult for him to refuse, as much media coverage will be about his refusal, if he does so. Damn those influential women!!!

'Clericalised' Catholic Church will not survive, says McAleese
"The clericalised church will not survive and that will be good. Just how long it might take or whether I'll be around to see, or whether my children will be still Catholics, my grandchildren, that I don't know.

"But frankly I did my best and the people who let me down in the job that I was given, the vocation as a Catholic mother and a Catholic woman, the people who let me down are not very far from here (in the Vatican)," she said.

Speaking in a question and answers session following her address to the Voices of Faith conference in Rome, she told delegates that next May in Dublin she was keynote speaker at a conference on the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Hosted by the Columba Press the theme of the conference, suggested by Sr Stanilaus Kennedy and Dom Mark Patrick Hederman, is "the Catholic Church has five years left in Ireland to reform or die", she said.

In Ireland "our church became an empire. We're only now seeing the final dismantling of that patriarchal, misogynistic empire. So we've actually never seen our church fully flourish in the way that I think Christ intended," Ms McAleese said.

"So we're now at a moment when the most educated generation in the history of Ireland is demanding that that's the church they want and if it's not the church that is available, well, they'll walk away."

The "gravitational pull of patriarchy, empire and misogyny and of homophobia has drained, in many ways, respect not just for the church. The danger is that it could drain it for the gospel itself. That's what keeps me in the church, really," she said.

Outlining her own background, she said she was "born and raised a Catholic in Belfast, one of the eldest of nine children. Because we were Catholics we lost our home, my parents lost their business, my father lost his sanity, my brother was almost murdered.

"On the morning that we were married two of our wedding guests, Catholics, were murdered in sectarian attacks. We lived in the area of Belfast with the highest density (of sectarian attacks) bar none. So that's my hinterland."

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 01:32:52 AM EST
Should the Two Marys and Michael succeed in driving the patriarchs out of the Irish Catholic Church they would have done a greater deed than St. Patrick is sometimes credited with: driving the snakes out of Ireland. The first are the more venomous. But then it would be hard to drive out what was never there. None-the-less, driving the patriarchs out of the Irish Church would be a great deed indeed.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 06:18:13 AM EST
Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese were fringe political candidates, at best, before their election to the Presidency. Both had failed in their efforts to be elected to the Dail, the main Irish house of Parliament, although Mary Robinson did gain election to the Irish Senate, in an election constituency reserved for graduates of (the originally protestant) Trinity College Dublin which had been created to encourage minority protestant participation in the Irish state.

It was therefore all the more remarkable that both managed to beat quite popular establishment candidates to win the Presidency.

Mary Robinson - then an independent retired from politics -gained the support of the Labour Party and the Workers Party - an offshoot from Sinn Fein. She beat the Fianna Fail governing party candidate, Deputy prime minister Brian Lenihan, by 52-46% of the final vote. The campaign was marked by a controversial attack on Robinson by Fianna Fail Minister Pádraig Flynn as not being much of "a wife and mother" and "having a new-found interest in her family" - a reference to her public career profile in the context of a culture where many still thought that "a women's place is in the home". Flynn, even more controversially, also joked privately that Robinson would "turn the Áras [Presidential residence] into the Red Cow Inn [a popular hostelry]" - a reference to her socialist and feminist background.

Mary McAleese had stood, unsuccessfully, as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the Dublin South-East constituency at the 1987 general election, receiving only 2,243 votes (5.9%). Remarkably, she managed to gain the Fianna Fail nomination for the Presidency despite that position being contested by Albert Reynolds and Michael O'Kennedy. Reynolds was a former Taoiseach while O'Kennedy was a former cabinet minister having served in the very important Finance and Foreign Affairs portfolios. Both were also sitting members of Parliament, Teachtaí Dála (TDs). Fianna Fail, a conservative establishment party, may have felt the need to select a more liberal outsider to broaden the party's appeal and base. Her profile as a campaigning feminist, popular broadcaster, respected academic, and northern nationalist fitted this need perfectly.

The degree to which the very popular Robinson presidency had changed Irish political culture can be gauged from the fact that there were 5 candidates in that election, four of which were women, and the only male candidate came last. Some change from the previous election where Robinson had been the first ever female candidate for the office.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 11:25:42 AM EST
The Republic's Rule by Rosary has always been the most sympathetic argument for keeping NI in the UK.
by rifek on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 08:40:38 PM EST
I wish you luck in deafeating the power of the clergy. However, from the outside, Ireland still looks like a theological tyranny. The Dail sseems to prefer to act as a rubber stamp for their clerical overlords than as a representative of the people who elected them.

I appreciate that the population are disgusted by many aspects of the Church, but they still turn out in droves on sunday. And worse, in Ireland as elsewhere, politicians are, as a group, more religious than the people they represent. I guess it's something about conservatism, power and authoritarianism.

But the implication is clear that, because of that sentiment, polticians will always abase themselves before the cloth and legislate accordingly.  

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 08:58:28 PM EST
Weekly mass attendance in Ireland is down from 91% in 1972 to 30% in 2011. Priests and religious orders are literally dying out.  Same sex marriage has been legalised.  Secular "Educate together" schools are opening all over the place. Bishops are often ignored, even by the "faithful".  Foreign born immigrants (who make 16% of the population, greater than the UK's 13%) are often more religious than native born. I'm not saying the Churches have no influence, but that their influence has been in secular decline, much more so than in other Catholic countries like Spain, and perhaps even the UK.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 10:01:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You picked the day the government  brought forward  a bill for a repeal of the 8th amendment and an abortion regime much like the U.K's to write that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 9th, 2018 at 11:17:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women's Day needed a bright spot.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 03:37:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean like some of the UK. One like Northern Ireland, let alone Gibraltar, wouldn't be one to brag about.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 05:59:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Under the EU proposals for Brexit, there can be no "regularity divergence" between Ireland and N. Ireland, and the DUP insists their can be none between N. Ireland and Britain. Of course that only applies to things where they want no divergence, like trade or immigration, and not where they do - like same marriage equality, abortion etc. As usual it's have cake and eat it...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 11:37:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The point of my post is that, whatever the sentiment of the people, it is politicians who legislate and they are far too prone to doffing a cap to the cloth.

Referenda can happen, legislation can be proposed, but it is the laws that make it to statute that matter. And it is polticians who have to pass them, and I simply do not trust the independence of polticians when it comes to matters of religion. That cynicism isn't restricted to Ireland, it's a problem all over the world.

Look at the DUP. The UK has bishoops, rabbis and imams in the House of Lords. The previous leader of the Liberal Democrats has admitted that he could never have supported gay rights in Parlaiment, several members of the Tory party continue to raise the issue of abortion in the UK and many commentators admit that, if it were a secret ballot of politicians so that they would not have to face consequences for their vote, abortion would be prohibited in the UK.

Look at the USA !!!!!

Never, ever, trust politicians when it comes to religion. Right now, this essay was about Ireland and abortion, so I said, don't trust the politicians.

I'm sure the referendum will have the right result, but then you have to legislate and that's wwhen the Church will stick its oar in, because that's when it's most effective.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 08:51:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I accept your general point - politicians tend to respond more to the wishes of donors and well organised lobby groups than they do to majorities in the populace at large which don't contribute to their campaigns, don't represent an organised threat to their re-election, may be susceptible to false or misleading propaganda, and indeed may or may not bother to vote.

However you also said:

However, from the outside, Ireland still looks like a theological tyranny. The Dail seems to prefer to act as a rubber stamp for their clerical overlords than as a representative of the people who elected them.

I appreciate that the population are disgusted by many aspects of the Church, but they still turn out in droves on Sunday. And worse, in Ireland as elsewhere, politicians are, as a group, more religious than the people they represent

That was all certainly true of Ireland in the past, but I'm suggesting to you that it is less true now, and possibly even less true of Ireland now than (say) Spain or the UK. I wish I were 100% sure the referendum will pass (my children are delaying their travel plans so as to be sure of being in the country to vote), but it will not take place in a policy vacuum.

Cabinet agrees to table legislation to hold an abortion referendum

The Government will publish on Friday a short policy paper outlining a proposed future abortion law, which it will introduce in the Dáil if the referendum is passed.

It will commit to abortions on request up to 12 weeks and propose that a time period should be introduced between the request for a termination and the abortion pill being accessed.

It would not stretch beyond three days, it is understood. The two options being examined are a dated prescription or requesting the woman return to the doctor in the following days.

After 12 weeks, two medical professionals will be asked to determine the risk to a woman's life, health or mental health before a termination can be provided. The same will apply in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. An appeals mechanism will be available to the woman in the event she is unsatisfied with the outcome.

There is no absolute guarantee that an abortion law to effect the above policy will be passed post referendum because the Government is a minority government and will allow a free vote. Any law passed can also be amended in the future. However it will be a brave politician who will vote against the will of the people as expressed in the referendum having taken place in the context of the above government legislative proposals. You have had some recent experience of how few politicians are prepared to vote with their conscience if it is contrary to even a very narrow referendum result.

However I do have some misgivings. Ireland has been travelling in a progressive liberalising direction for about the last 30 years but that trend has been sharply reversed in the US, UK and some Eastern European countries. I am fearful of the day that happens in Ireland as well, and hopeful that it will not happen in time to defeat the 8th. the Amendment (legalisation of Abortion) referendum proposal. I always said that the 1960's didn't happen until the 1970's in Ireland.  Hopefully the Trump/Brexit/neo-fascist era won't arrive here for another few years yet.

I also hope your cynicism isn't widely shared in Ireland. It is difficult to motivate people to go out and vote if they are convinced it won't make any difference anyway...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 12:14:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if we had 30% religious attendance that'd be 18 million every sunday. I think you'll find that, even with other religions included, the figure barely gets much above 3 or 4 million. 30% is colossal. And  a political class that recognises and is wary of that bloc will be more easily influenced. It is imperative to recognise that dead hand in Irish politics

As for the UK, despite our polticians, Alaistair Campbell was right; "We don't do god". Overtly religious politicians are somewhat distrusted here, even if demonstrations of observance are standard fare (for some reason a picture of Mrs May attending church is always released to the papers for monday deadline, and they often publish it).

They keep trying on abortion, but c/w in even the most right wing newspapers is that any govt that seriously intrudes on women's rights in this regard will fall the day after. They can talk all they like, but they'd never dare do anything.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 12:38:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think something like a third of your academies are faith schools. Do they not "do God" in them?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 01:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea but 30% down from 90%+ is a big trend, and the Irish do cognitive dissonance better than anyone. How many of those 30% actually believe or follow Catholic social teaching?

Government to consider introducing free contraception for all

The Government will consider providing free contraception, in the event the Eighth Amendment is removed from the Constitution.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed his department will make proposals by the end of March to reduce crisis pregnancies.

The "nature and scope''of measures to improve access to counselling, contraception and perinatal care will be examined by an internal Department of Health group. Chief medical officer Tony Holohan will be involved in bringing forward the proposals. Free contraception was originally proposed by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

How many will refuse? And this is a government allegedly led by the most right wing leader of the most right wing party in the state.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 02:10:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When Polish Women Revolted
It was Gocha Adamczyk, a member of the left-wing Razem Party, who, through a simple Facebook event, called for Polish women to protest against the proposed abortion bill in September 2016. She invited women to post their pictures wearing black and adding the hashtag #BlackProtest.  The call for Polish women to "strike" against the proposed abortion bill was announced by Krystyna Janda, the famous actress known from Andrzej Wajda's film The Man of Steel. These simple yet powerful ideas inspired more than 150,000 Polish women -- and more abroad -- to join the online protest, wearing black to symbolically mourn their reproductive rights. Demonstrations had already begun earlier that year, in April, when the first version of the bill appeared. But it was after the bill was introduced to Parliament in summer 2016, with the #BlackProtest online and the Women's Strike on October 3 on the streets, that they reached worldwide prominence and the peak of their strength. All of this culminated in the International Women's Strike on March 8, 2017.

These "Black Protests" inaugurated a new Polish feminism that could live outside academic and nonprofit frameworks. They didn't exist just on social media, but also in the streets, with over 150 towns, small villages, and cities seeing protests on October 3, 2016. And the strike tool gave them a distinct labor dimension. For example, a group of teachers from Zabrze, a post-industrial town in Silesia, posted a picture to Adamczyk's page of their own Black Protest. When a male colleague reported them to the Disciplinary Board of Education, they were forced to fight for their political rights at work -- and won.

by das monde on Sat Mar 10th, 2018 at 02:18:35 PM EST

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