Tuesday 17 September 2019

Nell McCafferty: Much done, more to do - now let's show the same compassion to homeless

MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE: Nell McCafferty, second from left, with women on the platform of Connolly Station, Dublin, in 1971 prior to boarding the Belfast train to buy contraceptives, which were then illegal in the Republic Pic: Irish Times
MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE: Nell McCafferty, second from left, with women on the platform of Connolly Station, Dublin, in 1971 prior to boarding the Belfast train to buy contraceptives, which were then illegal in the Republic Pic: Irish Times

Nell McCafferty

After voting Yes in Ranelagh, I glumly took up my usual position at the outdoor cafe in the Triangle. A homeless young man of my acquaintance was sitting on an empty plastic crate, his back against the tree. I was glum because the campaign to legalise abortion had not sufficiently joined the logical dots between contraception and homelessness.

This young man had been meeting his young homeless girlfriend under the tree for the past week. The progress of their flourishing romance had been lovely to watch. After kissing her fellow goodbye and walking away she suddenly turned as the traffic lights changed to green, ran back and flung her arms round his neck. When was the last time you saw a delighted homeless couple passionately embrace? Or even embrace at all? My gloom lifted.

After 30 minutes - she had left the area - I noticed him put his empty coffee cup into the wastepaper bin.

So I bought him another cup - latte as usual - and exchanged customary greetings. "God bless you," is what we say in Ranelagh. "Are you falling in love with that girl?" I asked. "Ah, sure we only met a week ago," he grinned happily. Something's going on, I remarked, you've been shaving every day this past week. He smugly stroked his chin. "I hope you're going to use contraceptives," I evangelised. "I haven't got the price of a bed in the hostel yet, and they don't have double beds," he grinned cheekily. "How much are condoms, anyway?"

About €15 a packet, I guessed. Plus €10 a night in the hostel - he added up the figures, turning glum. I walked home, berating myself that I didn't know that cost of safe sex after years of preaching about it.

When the exit polls confirmed an overwhelming majority for legalising abortion, my flabber was gasted. What is a flabber anyway and where is it located in my body?

What are we celebrating when it comes to celebrating this vote about the female body?

"All is changed, changed utterly," a male comrade texted at 4am. "Slainte," he changed the end of that poetic quote to "health". I liked that. Of course, he could hardly have ended that quote accurately. "All is changed, changed utterly. A terribly beauty is born." Beautiful, terrible, born? What have we done, I asked myself, and answer came there none.


How Did Your Constituency Vote?

Final Results Constituencies declared: 40/40

Map Key

Yes 55% 50% 55% No

I haven't celebrated the result yet. Much done, more to do. I refuse to declare that the result defines us as a compassionate people. Tell that to the homeless young lovers in Ranelagh, or a worried pregnant woman, clutching dangerous abortion pills.

A compassionate nation would not tolerate 100,000 homeless people. The Irish are McAlpine's Fusiliers. We could easily build that number of social houses in a year. That would be one part of the answer to what are glibly called social abortions.

Some people are celebrating what that they think is the collapse of the mysoginist Catholic Church. The wonderful feminist nun Margaret Mac Curtain wiped the smile off my face when I remarked that God had been abolished in the clerical sex abuse scandal which broke the power of that church.

"No church can prevail against God," she said witheringly, adding that "The nuns are waiting in the long grass."


Constituencies with the strongest Yes/No vote

The table below shows the top five constituencies with the strongest vote for or against repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Dublin Bay South 78.49% 21.51%

Dún Laoghaire 77.06% 22.94%

Dublin Fingal 76.96% 23.04%

Dublin Central 76.51% 23.49%

Dublin Rathdown 76.10% 23.90%

Donegal 48.13% 51.87%

Now I'm unexpectedly smiling. Women burst out of the long grass on Friday, May 25, 2018. Goodnight and God bless us all, sisters and brothers and lovers... "I've had a love of my own like you. I've had a love of my own."

Sunday Independent

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