Friday 17 November 2017

Dr Ciara Kelly: Why Brexit could be bad for our health

Ciara Kelly
Ciara Kelly
Irish people have been accessing health care in the UK for years.
Dr Ciara Kelly

Dr Ciara Kelly

And so the unthinkable has happened and Britain has left the EU. The whole notion of the Brexit vote seemed nearly incomprehensible to us Irish with almost 100 pc support here for them staying within the union. In fact, beforehand much of the commentary was along the lines of, "Ah sure, I can't really see them going…" despite the polls telling us the leave side were ahead of the stay side towards the end.

The idea of Ireland leaving Europe has never gained any real traction here, even though the monetary policies of the Bundesbank that we are subjected to are designed to suit Germany's economy - which Ireland's been out of step with for decades. Which in no small part contributed to our recent boom-bust experience.

It can, of course, be argued that we in Ireland gain from Europe in other ways. Through investment. Through access to a large trading block. Through access to the European courts. But in part, it seems to me, one of the main reasons we like being part of the EU is a niggling feeling somewhere deep down that we cannot govern ourselves.

Yes it is very clear in this centenary year of The Rising that we threw off British imperial rule. Although in some ways it could be argued that that was almost an accident because even though we all like to look back with pride on that now, the rebels at the time were not popular with the Irish people and didn't have anything like majority support for their actions. Yet despite the fact that almost four million of us now claim our Granny fought like a trooper in the GPO - that simply wasn't the case.

But even having booted out the British, we quickly embraced if not the rule then the dogma of Rome. So that certainly for women in Ireland 'Independence' was a bit of a misnomer, as our rights post-1916 were far less than our rights pre-1916 under British imperialism - which must have been a bit of a slap on the face to those women who actually did fight like troopers for what they perceived freedom to be. It never materialised.

Irish society evolved over the 20th century and the influence the Catholic Church had on us lessened, but over that same period we joined the EU - taking much of our laws and guidelines then from Brussels instead of Rome. The consistent theme being though that at any given time in modern Irish history it has been London, Rome or Brussels - as opposed to Dublin - that has been calling the shots here.

My main concern about Britain's relationship with Europe, to be honest, only relates to how it affects us - and I'm not talking economics here. Irish people both through the common travel area arrangements and through the EU have been accessing health care in the UK for years. Irish patients travel in their droves to the UK for treatment. For transplant surgery, for cancer treatments. For specialist care or residential care unavailable anywhere in our country and of course the biggest numbers relate to Irish women travelling to access terminations in crisis pregnancies. Thousands travel every year.

In fact, I would go so far as to say if it wasn't for the compassion of the UK health service in treating our sick and our vulnerable - particularly our vulnerable women - the pressure to repeal the Eighth Amendment would have gathered momentum years ago, as the safety net of Britain has allowed us to continue with the grossly hypocritical Irish solution to an Irish problem that we currently enjoy here.

Brits out? No thanks.


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