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Saturday 20 September 2014

A political football, passed around

Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30

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Pro Choice supporters hold a protest on O'Connell Street calling on the Government to repeal the 8th amendment
Pro Choice supporters hold a protest on O'Connell Street calling on the Government to repeal the 8th amendment

Summer ended rather coldly and abruptly for most of us last weekend. It wasn't just the chill that crept into the mornings and the evenings. Or the buckets of ice that the great and the good were liberally throwing over each other. It was more than that. More like a perfect storm, that brought us back again to the Ireland of twenty years ago. Two extremes rose up against each other, and most people sat somewhere in between, confused and without leadership. Because summer wasn't over for our politicians.

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We were told that the provision for allowing abortion in Ireland in cases of suicidal intent was something that would only occur in one in every half million people. But when it arose for the first time, as it did recently, it was even rarer than that. So called 'Miss Y' was a woman who fulfilled that one-in-a-half-a-million criterion, but there were many more specific things about this case that made it a one-in-a-million case, or rarer.

If this case had just been a regular one in half million we may never have heard about it, apart from to hear that the law had worked for the first time. But because this woman, this girl, was a stranger, the law, horribly for her, but conveniently for some, didn't seem to work. So this girl, having told us she had been raped already in her home country, was violated again in Ireland. She was violated by the system, by incompetence and neglect. Then she was violated yet again by various people with various agendas, who turned her into a political football, while she was somewhere, largely alone, frightened, deeply damaged and fragile. Indeed her very fragility was used to push agendas.

The perfect storm was that she somehow managed to get to 16 weeks, and a suicide attempt, without the help she needed, without the law kicking in, despite presenting for help at eight weeks. Somehow she wasn't made aware there were people in England who pay for abortions for girls exactly like her.

Somehow she wasn't facilitated in getting the right to travel as many girls exactly like her have been. Somehow she then got 
to 20 weeks or more without help despite the fact that by now, the HSE had apparently been aware of her for weeks. If people 
with agendas had invented this girl, she couldn't have been more perfect.

And the majority of people in the middle just felt so, so sorry for her. Most people were slightly confused, because it seemed that it wasn't so much our laws on abortion that failed this girl, but the system. But there was no one to explain it to them, only people from either side with agendas. The Taoiseach appeared smiling in a polo shirt in Killarney. And some senior politicians - women - agreed that it was terrible, and the law needed to be looked at, but not by this Government, because they have only 18 months left and they have done what they had promised to do - or promised not to do - on this issue. So they passed it on.

Just like that poor girl was passed around. A political football, a hot potato. And all the while them telling us how fragile she is. 

Sunday Independent

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