Journalists

Wednesday 16 August 2017

CONTROVERSY: Pregnant women should have the right to make their own choices when it comes to their bodies. Stock Image

Pregnant women still treated like children 

It's like a cruel version of Groundhog Day. Once again we are wondering how a young, healthy woman in early pregnancy can die in an Irish maternity hospital. Once again we are sending a husband, who has fled abroad to the comfort of his family, heartfelt condolences and promises of an investigation into the death of his young wife in an Irish maternity hospital. Once again we are sympathising with distraught parents about the death of their babies (in Cavan hospital last week), and promising to find out the truth; to do better; to try to ensure that such tragedies are averted...

Acting health minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath

What planet are you on? Healthy minds matter 

It must be nice to live on another planet. One where everyone is feeling the effects of economic recovery; where homelessness is not at crisis levels; where debt isn't a constant worry and where no one suffers from mental health issues. It's a place where life is so pleasant and uncomplicated that few people suffer from anxiety or stress or depression, let alone terrible things like schizophrenia, manic depression (bipolar) or suicidation. And those few who do? Well, it's made very plain to them that they are causing the nice, contented people acute embarrassment - as well as taking money...

Conor McGregor. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

My Week: Conor McGregor* 

Monday: I wake up. Although, of course, I have not actually been asleep. No, no, my friend. Not in the way that other, mere mortal people sleep. Instead I have trained myself to metaphysicise; I have transmorgorified, I have metamorphisitised, I have fundamentally reimagined a way of resting my body, so that I am consciously wrestling with the inner movements of my muscles, even as my body believes it is sleeping. And while I do dat, my amigo, I am also full of the most beautiful feelings and emotions. My woman, my girl, the future first Lady of Ireland and myself, did go and...

Pride: Oglaigh na hEireann were able to represent themselves in all their dignity as defenders and peacemakers. Photo: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire

We all became Rising stars, for ours is still a story in the making 

It's probably not an over-generalisation to say that half the country has an Auntie Mary somewhere in the world. Last week, the Hunt Auntie Mary arrived over from Toronto to celebrate the centenary of the Rising with her Irish family. "Do they teach you all this stuff in school?" She asked my kids as they prepared to head into the festivities. Well, yes they did. Not only that but they were delighted to tell her that "real" soldiers, with a flag and a proclamation had arrived into all Irish schools, to tell them about the history of both.

'She sang, played, drew and cooked with them, with great enthusiasm and genuine love. And boy, did she love to cook.'

Why I said au revoir to my porn-loving Mary Poppins 

About a decade ago we had what could be called a childcare crisis. After five years of spending every spare penny on creche fees, both our children were now firmly ensconced in a local primary school. You'd think things would have gotten easier then, but, as many parents in similar situations will tell you, while full-time creche might be ruinously expensive, at least you don't have to deal with the vagaries of the Irish school calendar. Or the charming way that every other week, there seems to be a reason to celebrate school-life by sending the children home at 12.30 in the...

On the canvass: Carol on the campaign trail, minus children, during the General Election Photo: Justin Farrelly

The mother of all election campaigns 

The teenage daughter is near ecstatic at the sight. "The fridge is full", she sings. "I can't believe it. It's really full... Of food," she adds, in case we make the mistake of assuming that she would be as deliriously happy if it was packed with, say, a decent vintage of Pinot Grigio or a dozen bottles of stout. The fridge is indeed full, of cheap but nutritious groceries purchased at a nearby Aldi, and the fact that she finds this such a wondrous event only adds to the already burgeoning weight of guilt that has been steadily piled upon me in recent weeks. But at least she's talking to me. And she...

SECRET TALKS: Helmut Kohl

Carol Hunt: Kohl was right - our neutral stance is totally irrational 

In 1981, German chancellor Helmut Kohl deemed the Irish insistence on retaining neutrality to be an "irrational" one. Notes of a meeting (marked "especially confidential") he had with Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in December of that year, saw FitzGerald helpfully inform him that "Ireland was emotionally attached to military neutrality" mainly because we were still a "country divided" and "occupied by a another NATO member". He suggested that in the context of a new relationship with Britain over Northern Ireland, things could, perhaps, develop.

Mother Teresa. Phot: AP

Mother Teresa 'a friend of poverty, not of the poor' 

When her helicopter touched down at Knock in 1993 there were thousands ready to greet her. She met everyone who mattered. Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and his wife Kathleen were among the faithful who stood in line to give obeisance to the diminutive, ostensibly humble nun, the famous Mother Teresa. As Christopher Hitchens succinctly put it (C4 documentary, Hell's Angel); "Not many claims made by the Irish clergy are widely or uncritically accepted, even in Ireland, but the saintliness of an Albanian nun, named Agnes Bojaxhiu, is a proposition that's accepted by many...

NOT DONE YET: ‘In 10 years I will look back and wonder what the hell I was talking about,’ says Carol

The big Five-Oh - so is this it, am I destined for old age now? 

Suddenly I find that I am surrounded by middle-aged people. Some of them are positively elderly. As in around 50 years of age. Just think of that - 50 years. A whole half-century already gone. The point of no return, when you know that the years you have left will be fewer than those behind you. On my 40th birthday I had a big celebratory bash. Some of you may still remember it. Myself, friends and family booked a hotel in town, hired a magician and a fortune-teller, ate, drank, danced and were very merry indeed.

An insecure world: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in 'Homeland', a series in which its characters seem to understand Isil more than those who should be leading a campaign against the terrorist threat

A window into the dark, murky times we have failed to understand 

It may not have won an Emmy this year, but if there had been categories for Cassandra-style prescience and astute political predictions Showtime's Homeland would have swept the boards. This award-winning series has been around since 2011 but I only reluctantly started watching it this autumn. I say reluctantly, because those who recommended it to me did so on the basis that the leading CIA spy character was a blonde, bi-polar woman called Carrie. Seemingly we had a lot in common, which was enough to ensure I mulishly made a point of avoiding it.

Rip off: Minister Pachal Donohue has already warned against a return to rip-off Ireland. If we want to continue to attract tourists, we need to cop ourselves on

Our loss is Lisbon's gain: when will we ever learn? 

It was quickly dubbed #foodgate. Twenty euro for a burger, a bottle of water, dessert and coffee? That's what a pre-paid voucher would have bought you at last week's Web Summit. Good Food Ireland may have wanted to highlight the quality of Irish produce to the 40,000 plus people who forked out a ton of cash just to attend the famous tech fest, but what got the headlines was the fact that we still see tourists as eejits to be scalped for every penny we can get out of them.

Divided: Protesters (not residents) Stephen, Mark, Kim and Susan, who are in favour of the Travellers moving to the new location, demonstrate at the entrance to the proposed site at Rockville Drive in Carrickmines, Dublin.

There's a pair of us in it when it comes to being good neighbours 

Racism. There's been a lot of talk about it this past week. The Oxford dictionary defines a racist as: a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another. This is the term that has been used recently - by certain politicians, members of the media and hordes of social media warriors - to describe members of a small community living in a modest suburb in south county Dublin.

All That I Leave Behind

All That I Leave Behind - a mother who abandons her children 

Tolstoy told us, "All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way", but what of the families, the vast majority I suspect, who are a tangled mix of both? What of mothers who are guiltily ambivalent about the role that is thrust upon them by a society that still insists the burden of childcare is their responsibility? Are women like Nora, from Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, who leaves her children behind in order to live her life, an anomaly? (When this play was released, it was so controversial that the famous actress Hedwig Niemann-Raabe said she would only play...

HOME SAFE: Elizebeth O Brien is hugged by a relative at Dublin airport after arriving home from Tunisia on Friday

I fell in love with the people - but I won't be returning 

Last summer I wrote a travel piece on the wonders of Tunisia. It was titled: "Discovering culture and kisses in a sun-soaked land of Kaboul-mania". The culture is self evident, Jewish, Roman, European and African heritage; the kisses come from the Tunisian tradition of kissing a friend so many times on each cheek depending on how long it's been since they last met (I counted up to ten between two women) and the "Karboul-mania" described the adoration that so many Tunisians had for their new, young, female, Minister for Tourism, Amel Karboul.

Gay Byrne

Gaybo was right - this is about women and sex 

Gay Byrne, as he often does, got straight to the nub of the issue. "This has to do with sex specifically," he said, "and there's a feeling that these girls are getting away with something, [that] this is promiscuity, rampant in our society, and they are being paid to do it." It's 1986 and Gay is interviewing Marianne McArdle, an "unmarried" mother with two children, and Mary Higgins, Information Officer with Cherish (now One Family) on his RTE radio show.

Richard Bruton

Quotas discriminating against men? It seems the backlash has begun 

Straight, white males are the "new" oppressed minority. It's true. Just look around you. Even though they seem to be everywhere: controlling our parliament (both houses); in total charge of the church; filling the majority of top posts in just about every sector in society (bar the low-paid ones that they don't want); running the banks; earning more cash then their female counterparts at every turn. But still, our poor men are suffering increasing oppression - if you don't believe me, just look at the recent Battle of Clontarf.

Controversy: Jamelia weighs in on the body image debate

Why we all need to name (and shame) body fascism 

A woman walks down the high street. She goes slowly, head lowered, eyes downcast, hoping no one will notice her. She knows she shouldn't be here. She can sense disapproving stares and hear the odd "tut" of annoyance that her presence causes. She prays no one confronts her. As soon as she can, she takes a quick turn to the left and breaths a sigh of relief as she finds herself on a side-street which has been dedicated to "people like her". She is safe. She is amongst her own kind. She can relax. For now.

Liz McManus

Shadows of Secrecy & Silence 

Two years ago, in the wake of the Savita Halappanavar tragedy, ex-politician Liz McManus wrote an opinion column for the Irish Independent entitled, "Culture of secrecy and silence brought us to this sorry place." In it, she described the slow pace of change in an ultra-conservative Ireland, where matters of female freedoms are concerned - particularly crisis pregnancies. Her second book, A Shadow in the Yard, set in the early 1970s in Donegal and Derry, also concentrates on these themes and how they affect her two protagonists; Rosaleen McAvady and her daughter Aoife.

Iona Institute's Breda O'Brien

Is it going to be hello marriage equality, bye bye Mammy? 

It's disconcerting to remember that just 20 years ago nearly half of the voting population of Ireland ticked the No box when asked if they wished to repeal the constitutional ban on divorce. Those in favour of continuing the ban warned the rest of us, ominously, that if we voted Yes, marriage as we knew it would be destroyed - women would be abandoned; farms would be split up and as for the children? Well, we all knew what would happen to them: "Hello Divorce, Goodbye Daddy", being the most iconic poster from that period.

The Central Bank

The nuclear option for mortgage lending 

Misery loves company, goes the saying. Which is why I'd like - on behalf of myself and my debt-laden generation - to thank the Government and the Central Bank for the new rules on mortgage lending. There are few people of my age - who bought a home during the so-called-boom in order to put a secure roof over our kids - who needed to read last week's Household and Finance Survey compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to know that we are... I think the correct word is "screwed". We'll be paying off a massive mortgage on a negative equity house for perhaps the rest of our...

Indian Muslim children pray for the victims of the Peshawar attack. Photo: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

We must remember that war is not equivalent to terror 

Where is Christopher Hitchens when you need him? If he was mistaken and there is indeed an afterworld, we should have been able to hear his roars during last Tuesday's Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3. It's generally accepted now in polite left-wing society that Hitchens got it wrong on the Iraq war. But as one sympathiser said: "His heart was in the right place; too bad he couldn't see that the Bush administration's wasn't. And too bad the Left couldn't tell the difference".

Inappropriate: Two girls are photographed mid-selfie at the scene in Sydney

Sickening trend of narcissistic selfies 

There's a horrific hostage situation taking place nearby; people's lives are in danger, streets have been cleared and police are on site, armed and ready for action. So, what's your immediate response to such a dangerous situation? Do you run for the hills? Do you obey police orders? Do you call around to check that family and friends are okay? For an increasing number of people it's none of the above. Instead, many self-respecting "millennials" (people between 18-35) will get themselves right onto the scene of the crime disregarding all safety orders. They do this so that they can...

Ordinary people are under a lot of pressure

Welcome to the last refuge for families close to the brink 

'Basically," says Paul, "what we're trying to do here is prevent homelessness. In 20 or 30 years' time, people will look back and realise that what's happening now is the scandal of the century. They'll wonder how it was allowed to happen - why the Government let it happen". Barrister Paul Comiskey-O'Keeffe, without hyperbole or exaggeration but with much frustrated outrage, explains to me how the current mortgage debt crisis in Ireland will eventually lead to people being dispossessed of their homes on a scale not seen since the Famine or the Land Wars.

Elsa & Anna

Why parents shouldn't be afraid to Let It Go 

So, did you manage to get your hands on a Frozen "Elsa" Glow Doll yet? If not, do you know anyone who was lucky enough to do so? (You may be able to negotiate your yearly salary in exchange for it). Does Santa have any left? More importantly, has Ryan Tubridy and the Toy Show team been able to put their hands on one for tonight's Christmas show (see below left)? And the question on everybody's lips today - will there be one for everybody in the audience?