“You know, Claire, it’s not too long ago, where I was, my life, I was convinced, the only way out of the immense emotional pain and suffering I was in, was to take my own life.
I came very close, moments away from it, but thankfully, through various supports, and was able to recover my wellbeing in a sense, and my health. But the situation, for a lot of families around the country, the reality is, around Christmas time, there’ll be a lot of empty chairs at tables, and unnecessarily so.
It doesn’t have to be that way. People don’t want to end their lives, they want to end the pain they’re in. Let’s implement the 24/7 specialist support services, as was said would be done in the Vision for Change, let’s end the omnipresent stigma that still engulfs this very common aspect of the human experience, and prevents so many people from coming forward and getting support.
Let’s create a pioneering education system that nourishes the most important knowledge of all: the knowledge of self, and the relationship with self. Let’s realise that the passing of the Marriage Referendum wasn’t a panacea for all the distress that many LGBT* people experience when coming to terms with their sexuality, and the massive levels of suicide among that group of people, is very concerning.
Finally, let’s finally, put the emotional health and well-being of our people on a par with physical health, in our health service, and in the hearts and minds of our politicians.
As sure as there’s a path into emotional distress and crisis, there’s a way through it and out the other side. And we all need to realise, Claire, that we can all be the lanterns that light that way for others, to support people on their journey back to wellness. Because the wonderful thing as human beings, is that we possess these endless reservoirs of compassion, of kindness, and care.
We can change the story, and the carnage, of suicide on the island of Ireland. We have to change it, and we all share responsibility to ensure that this happens right now.
Hurling veteran and mental health advocate Conor Cusack last night, speaking on RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live.
Protestors, including Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy (bottom right) in front of then tánaiste Joan Burton’s car in Jobstown, Tallaght in 2014
Messages of support for the Jobstown 23 are being collated for a new support page on Irish alt-lit zine The Bogman’s Cannon, ahead of their upcoming trials.
Agitator laureate Dave Lordan writes:
OK, at the request of the campaign, I am putting together a writers, artists and academics, etc, support page for the Jobstown 23, to be published on The Bogman’s Cannon.
PM me to get your few words of support added. The 23 victims of Joan Burton’s show trial will have their names dragged through the mud in the mainstream media and the support page will work as a counter to all that.
Galway’s about to get a fully kitted-out indoor youth centre, organised and run by the father-and-son team behind the local DC Store.
Writes This is Galway:
The massive two-story space in Fairgreen House has sat vacant for years, but it’s getting a complete revamp thanks to the vision and hard work of John Deely from DC Store Galway. The VAULT will be open to everyone of all ages — it will feature a skatepark, climbing wall, urban library, cafe, as well as adaptable workspaces to hold workshops for design, yoga, cookery, art and more.
Fair play, in fairness.
Interview with space co-founder John Deely at the link below.
Michael D. received the lads responsible for the Irish course on the Duolingo app at the Áras in a special get-together earlier today.
Writes Conradh na Gaeilge:
The seven contributors who created and translated the popular Irish course on Duolingo were honoured by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, at a special reception to be held at Áras an Uachtaráin on Friday November 25th. Since the Irish course was launched just over 2 years ago, over 2.3 million people have used Duolingo to learn Irish. This means that Irish is now amongst the 10 most popular languages offered by Duolingo, with the majority of new learners located in the United States.
Anthony Sheridan, of Public Inquiry, speaks on deferential attitudes in Irish media towards politicians and other power-brokers, with reference to John Lee’s recent work with austerity architect Brian Cowen.
A well-informed, objective media is one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy. Journalists in a healthy democracy do not just report news and current affairs; they also have a duty to be rigidly impartial in their analysis of events.
Disturbingly, Irish journalism comes nowhere near the standards necessary to robustly challenge the State and its agents particularly when it comes to political corruption.
The recent publication of Hell at the Gates by journalists John Lee and Daniel McConnell is just the latest example of the disquietingly close and frequently grovelling relationship between the media and those who wield power within the Irish political system.
John Lee, writing about an interview he conducted with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen as part of his research for the book provides us with good example of this cringing, extremely deferential type of journalism.
The headline gives a good indication of the tone of the article: An astute, self-aware, intelligent man.
It’s said of Lyndon Johnson, that he was at his best with an audience of one. I think this applies to Cowen. He uses your first name, looks you in the eye, is exceptionally articulate and sharp. In the fog of war that engulfed Ireland during his years at the top, much of this was forgotten. Yet he understands why that is.
He spoke about how he felt the day he became Taoiseach, the enjoyment of appointing a cabinet and the brief summer of calm before all hell broke loose.
Bright man that he is, he knew there were claims about him that he had to confront. As the interview progressed I merely pointed to where we were in the chronology, and without pause he would take on the issues that he has been given so much time to think about over those preceding four years. He happily accepted he had made a mistake in not addressing the nation.
Before making further comment on the article, I want to express my opinion of Brian Cowen, an opinion that I believe is held by the majority of Irish people.
At best, Cowen is a political idiot. I do not say this as an insult (although it obviously is); I say it because it’s a simple fact. Cowen is nothing more than your typical Fianna Fail backwoodsman, gombeen politician who never had to do anything courageous or visionary to reach the apex of political power.
As a privileged member of one of the many political family dynasties that have plagued Irish politics since independence he was effectively handed power following the death of his father.
He was literally enthroned as Taoiseach by the disgraced Bertie Ahern who was forced to resign after his true pedigree was exposed at a tribunal.
But when Cowen, for the first and only occasion in his mediocre career, was called upon to show courage and vision in leading the nation he failed miserably.
As one editorial put it: The worst Taoiseach in the history of the State.
And yet a stranger reading John Lee’s article could easily conclude that Brian Cowen was a politically intelligent, insightful and courageous man whose overriding mission in life was to promote the best interests of the Irish people.
A stranger reading the article would not see what most Irish people see.
That Cowen is a loyal member of the most corrupt political party in Ireland, the party that promotes the interests of property developers, bankers and other members of the golden circle that feed off the wealth of the Irish people.
A stranger reading the article would not see that Cowen is a loyal member of the party principally responsible for the economic disaster of 2008 that destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens.
However, a stranger who informed himself of Irish history over the past several decades would immediately recognise the rampaging elephant in the room – which is:
The Irish political system is seriously corrupt. In reaction to this political corruption a significant percentage of Irish citizens have rejected the legitimacy of the State and are in open rebellion.
A disturbingly large proportion of Irish journalists are either blissfully unaware of this dramatic shift in the political landscape or are willing collaborators in defence of the corrupt system.
Either way Irish journalism is suffering from a serious malaise that is not only bad for the profession but is having a very serious negative impact on Ireland and its people.
A look at the social welfare system in Ireland, from the eyes of Roos Demol, a Belgian writer/blogger resident in the country for eighteen years, as posted in Migrants in Ireland, her blog dedicated to stories of the Irish immigration experience.
The last thing I ever wanted to do was to become dependent on social welfare. But things happen. I had to quit my job a few months ago because I needed to be with my daughter who had several health problems, so money was already scarce, then my estranged husband decided to cut the maintenance in half and I was left penniless.
As any mother would do, I got into protection mode and did everything possible to get some kind of income. While looking for jobs, I also signed on for social welfare in the hope it would keep me going.
Ireland has an extremely outdated signing-on system., the endless paperwork, the old fashioned standing in line, the grumpy people in the social welfare office, it was all very unpleasant to experience, but I took it on and went through it, because I had no choice.
Nothing, however had prepared me for the meeting with the social welfare inspector.
Of course, I do understand why an inspection could be necessary, especially since I noticed that in the social welfare office and the community office every document you produce is considered to be fake, and everything you say is considered a lie, even my birth certificate was looked at with suspicion. ( I had to point out to the lady in the SWO that ‘September’ in Dutch means ‘September’ in English. I keep forgetting that Anglophones find understanding other languages very difficult).
I went to the appointment with the inspector as instructed on a Monday at 12. I was a bit taken aback by the office doors that each had a lock and an entry code. What was going on?
The man, blond with little piercing blue eyes, let me into his office, as always I smiled and said hello. He didn’t smile back.
He took my file and looked through it, then he said ‘So are you going back home?’ I looked puzzled. He repeated ‘why don’t you go back home to your family?’. I then realised that by ‘home’ he meant Belgium.
I looked at him in disbelief. I said ‘I’ve been living here for 18 years, my children are Irish, why on earth would I go back to Belgium?’
Then he said ‘So I guess you’re not then’. ‘Because you are going to get money off the state here’ he shouted out loud with a menacing look on his face.
I was bewildered, from then on I knew this was not just a talk about what happened and about the steps I should take, etc. this was an interrogation. I had to keep telling myself I was in Ireland, land of the thousand welcomes. I have borne children here, I have paid taxes, I pay taxes every time I buy something, I pay road tax, I delivered very intelligent and talented children to this country, I organised charity events for Action Breast Cancer , I am a cultural ambassador for the Irish In Europe Association, promoting Irish businesses in Brussels, I did workshops with teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, I fundraised money for the local school, brought choirs to small churches in the country side and many more things. but here was a guy telling me I am taking money off the state and telling me I should go ‘home’.
That meeting lasted around an hour. I was treated like a criminal all the way through, everything I said was either ridiculed or sneered at.
I could only think of one thing. What if I was black? What has this guy been saying to other people?
I did not sleep that night, I was completely traumatised. I made a complaint, we’ll see what happens.
I thought about the movies I saw, the books I read about the Magdalen sisters and the industrial schools, Angela’s Ashes and the way poor people were treated in the old days. It was always just fiction, but now I had experienced it myself, it is still happening.
I used to work in the employment office in Brussels, I met people like me, I also worked in prison for six years as a nurse. Never in my entire life have I treated anyone with such disrespect. I am totally disgusted.
I am in bad luck and working hard to get out of it. I am not taking social welfare because in the end I am not yet reaching the (very low) threshold for job seekers allowance, and the thought of ever having to see this man again, makes me sick. I think I’d rather go ‘home’ indeed.