On May 22, 1971, forty-seven members of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (IWLM) boarded the 8am train from Dublin to Belfast. Their aim was to purchase contraceptives in the north, where contraception was legal under UK law, and to travel back to Dublin with them in order to highlight the hypocrisy of Irish law, which… Read more →
In late 2012 the Irish Times and National Museum of Ireland selected the Roman Catholic First Communion dress as one of the most important 100 objects in Ireland’s history. A girl’s dress thus took its place alongside bronze age funerary pots and the Book of Kells as items essential to Ireland’s history and culture. Articles… Read more →
Walking home from school on a frigid day in January 1984, two Irish boys came across a shocking scene: in a grotto at the local Catholic Church, alongside a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lay the still bodies of a teenage girl and a newborn infant. The girl, fifteen-year-old Ann Lovett from Granard, County… Read more →
Women from the north and south of Ireland have travelled to England to access abortion services since the advent of the British Abortion Act in 1967 (and before this as single expectant mothers.)1 Lacking help from health services in either jurisdiction of Ireland, activist networks on these abortion trails have emerged to support the thousands… Read more →
“They just took me into the ward and put me on the bed and told me they were going to do some little job … ‘you’ll be very sore, and your legs will be tied together,’ [said the doctor]. And by God, it’s a thing you’ll never forget the rest of your life.”1 Twenty-one-year old… Read more →
On Achill Island, Ireland, an untrained woman was prosecuted for acting as a midwife in 1932. In her defense, she argued that she intervened only in an emergency “to save the mother and child.” Here, local authorities decided “not to press the case hard and to ask for a light penalty.”1 Controversies like this were… Read more →
In 1932, a Donegal woman was brought up on criminal charges after she attempted miscarriage by consuming both pills as well as a ubiquitous item in early twentieth-century households: a bottle of castor oil.1 Just a few years earlier a Belfast midwife, Isabel, defended herself in court after being charged with giving another woman an… Read more →
Last month, a handful of Irish women and men left Dublin on a unique bus tour. For two days, they traveled the country giving information on abortion pills — which are currently illegal in Ireland — to women. Organizer Rita Harrold said of the bus tour and the pro-choice campaign: “You know what? We aren’t… Read more →
By Helen McBride
Last Saturday at an Eminem concert at Slane Castle, outside Dublin, Ireland, a 17-year-old woman was photographed performing oral sex on two males. Unsurprisingly, these photos went viral on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ve been hopeful of Twitter and Facebook recently. In particular the discussion surrounding the #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend inspired a lot of thought about what gender and feminism mean in 2013 and has served as a much needed reminder for white feminists like myself to check our own privilege. That spirit of hope has taken a hit with the Slane Girl Story. Within two days of the Eminem concert, Twitter exploded into a slut-shaming bonanza. The hashtags #slanegirl and #slaneslut trends have taken on the appearance of a free-for-all, cruel, glee-filled, slut-shaming stampede.
By Helen McBride
Prompted by the UN Committee against Torture in 2011 to set up an inquiry, the Irish government has released a report on State collusion with the Catholic Church in the treatment of girls and women in the work houses known as the Magdalene Laundries. These Laundries were run by four Roman Catholic orders of nuns.
The laundries were institutions started by the Catholic Church in 1922, in which thousands of vulnerable women were incarcerated. While in reality those sent to the laundries were products of poverty, homelessness, and dysfunctional families, the myth of the “bad girl” and “fallen woman” sent to the laundries to reform has persisted. Those that were sent to these institutions spent months or years in hard labour, with no access to education, little respect and in many cases lived in constant fear. Work included doing laundry for hotels, hospitals and prisons.