Ciaran Tierney tweets:
Amazing crowd at Spanish Arch to support the #Galway buskers, who fear that new bye-laws will drive them out of the city.
Ciaran Tierney tweets:
Amazing crowd at Spanish Arch to support the #Galway buskers, who fear that new bye-laws will drive them out of the city.
From top: (left to right) Orla O’Connor, Co-Director of Together for Yes campaign speaking in Galway; supporters of the Pro Life Campaign and Love Both project, also in Galway; Ciaran Tierney
Ahead of the abortion referendum on Friday, May 25, 2018, Ciaran Tierney attended the launches of both the pro-choice and pro-life campaigns in Galway.
Two meetings in the same city, but they felt like different worlds.
As campaigning begins in earnest ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on May 25, the battle lines were drawn recently when both sides of the debate launched their respective campaigns at a series of regional events and rallies throughout the country.
Two very different events took place in Galway within 48 hours of each other which underlined the strong feelings in both camps and the intense battle expected to win the hearts and minds of undecided voters over the next seven weeks of canvassing.
Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and the legislation, known as the Eighth Amendment, which acknowledges the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child was passed by referendum after a bitter, divisive debate in 1983.
Most of those who will vote on the issue next month would not have been around or entitled to vote 35 years ago.
It was notable at the launch of the ‘Together For Yes’ campaign in Galway that many young women in their 20s and 30s were hugely engaged in a political issue for the first time.
Young women made up the majority of the 200-strong attendance at the Harbour Hotel in Galway city centre where a range of seekers called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in order to legalise abortion in Ireland for the first time.
For Orla O’Connor, Co-Director of Together for Yes, the key issue is to show people that abortion already is a reality in Ireland, but that women are being forced to travel to the UK or Europe for terminations or take illegal pills in secret at home.
Although canvassing had only just begun, she said that those who were in favour of change were receiving a very positive reception at the doorsteps.
“A really important part of our campaign is making sure that people know that women are already travelling to the UK every day or taking abortion pills at home, in secret, but they feel they cannot go to a doctor. It’s already a reality here,” she said.
“Our experience being out leafleting or canvassing is that a lot of people have changed their minds on this issue. People have seen that the Eighth Amendment did not work. It did not stop people from having abortions overseas and it also had devastating consequences when we think of, for example, the death of Savita Halappanavar here in Galway.”
Six years ago, Savita’s death at University Hospital Galway (UHG) made headlines all across the world and galvanised activists in the West of Ireland to seek a change in the law.
The young Indian dentist is remembered at a candlelight vigil in the city on her anniversary every year.
Savita (31) died from blood poisoning at UHG after doctors refused to terminate her 17-week long pregnancy. When the distressed young woman requested a termination in the hospital, she was told: “This is a Catholic country.”
She had presented to the hospital with back pain in October 2012, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later. The resultant outpouring of anger revived Ireland’s abortion debate.
“It’s important for us to make sure that people come out to vote. Our feeling is that people want change. This is affecting thousands of women each year and people have changed their minds about this issue. They see that this is necessary. We are confident, but we are not complacent,” said Ms O’Connor.
“We can see that this is an issue which has really captured young women, but it’s an issue that affects everyone. It affects men, it affects couples. It’s about making sure there is proper health care here in Ireland and about making sure that people don’t have to go through the trauma of having to travel.”
She said that the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015, when Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage via a popular vote, showed how much Irish society had changed over the past 35 years.
Ms O’Connor said that the issue had galvanised young Irish people abroad so much that many were planning to fly home just to vote on May 25.
Less than 48 hours after the Together for Yes launch, the Pro Life Campaign and Love Both project came together for a rally to mobilise support for a ‘no’ vote at the Leisureland conference hall across the city in Salthill.
Bus-loads of supporters from throughout the West of Ireland attended the event. It was notable that there were far more elderly people and families with young children in attendance at the ‘Stand Up for Life’ event.
There was also far more merchandise on show in the vast hall, including graphic images, posters, and sweatshirts, calling on people to vote no on May 25.
During an extremely well-choreographed event, everyone was asked to move to the front of the hall to take a large group photo to mark the launch of the ‘Vote No’ campaign in the West of Ireland.
There is a widespread perception out there that there is far more financial backing available to those who oppose repealing the Eighth Amendment, including funds from the United States, and this was very much in evidence at Leisureland.
One of the organisers, Katie Ascough, defined next month’s referendum as an “absolutely defining moment” in Irish history.
“I want you to think about the thousands of lives that will be protected when we win this referendum,” she said, to a huge round of applause. “There won’t be any second chances to save the Eighth Amendment. We must stand united.”
Another speaker, Bernadette Goulding, claimed the Irish Government had “awakened a sleeping giant” by attempting to repeal the country’s abortion ban.
“Women don’t talk about abortions, it doesn’t lend itself to conversation,” said Ms Goulding, who runs Rachel’s Vineyard retreats for women who have experienced painful post-abortion emotions.
“Those who are pro-abortion don’t acknowledge the grief women experience after having an abortion,” she claimed. “No country is perfect but we all need to be proud of Ireland’s abortion laws.
“Those who are ‘pro-choice’ believe that ‘pro-life’ people only care about the baby, but ‘pro-life’ people care about the mother and the baby. Many people are alive today because of the Eighth Amendment.”
She claimed that the birth of a child “heals the effect of rape” and called on people to stop rape from happening rather than kill an unborn child.
One of the organisers of the launch, Eilis Mulroy of Galway for Life, said anti-abortion campaigners were incredibly encouraged by the huge number of people who were enthusiastic about protecting Ireland’s ban on abortion.
“We want to encourage people to get out and canvass, to tell their families, their friends, their neighbours about the preciousness of the Eighth Amendment, to explain to them how many lives have been saved by the Eighth Amendment. There are people in this hall tonight who are alive because of the Eighth Amendment,” she said.
“Certainly, Ireland has changed since the 1980s, and there’s a lot of positive change, but not on this topic. I’m very encouraged that recent opinion polls have shown there is no majority in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. If you look at the numbers here tonight, you couldn’t but be confident about a ‘no’ vote on ballot day.”
Ms Mulroy said it was too easy to “stereotype” people, but it was clear from the huge gathering in the hall that a huge cross-section of Irish society was concerned by the prospect of having legalised abortion.
“I know many people who have been through an abortion and, for many of them, it wasn’t their own choice. It was the people around them. The challenge for us is to be the type of society that supports women,” she said.
“Our view is that people should get online and inform themselves. People should inform themselves of what’s involved in this legislation, unrestricted abortion, which is a horrendous proposal of ‘social’ abortion.”
When it was put to her that many people would have a difficulty with the term ‘social’ abortion, given the trauma involved, she said that every abortion was a tragedy and claimed that one in five pregnancies in Britain ends in a termination.
“Once you introduce a liberal or unrestricted regime, it becomes socially acceptable in the same way as the smoking ban. You can probably remember being able to smoke on an airplane, but now it’s socially not acceptable, because laws change behaviour. If you say that some people have less of a right to live than others, of course it’s going to make an impact,” she said.
“This proposal is for unrestricted abortion up to eight weeks. I think it’s really important that people are straight and that the facts are out there. We would encourage everyone to be respectful of each other. It’s important that the science and the truth about ‘abortion culture’ and how it harms babies needs to be articulated, and given fair treatment in the media debates.”
An intense period of campaigning is now underway to win over undecided voters ahead of the referendum on May 25.
Ultimately, the real-life testimonies of women across Ireland could be pivotal in terms of deciding the outcome of the vote.
Arlette Lyons of a group called Terminations For Medical Reasons (TFMR) spoke of her personal trauma when she was forced to travel to England for an abortion after being diagnosed with a case of fatal foetal abnormality six years ago.
“We were expecting our third baby when we found out she had a fatal condition at 12 weeks,” said Ms Lyons. “I expected something to be done there and then, but I was told that there was nothing that could be done for me and my family here in Ireland.
“To be given the news that my baby was going to die and then to be told that the only options were to go to the UK or to go full term, I actually thought I was the only one this had ever happened to. The staff at Liverpool Women’s Hospital were so understanding, they had seen Irish couples in this situation so many times.
“I travelled back home by boat, because I could not face the ‘plane. I did not want to fly after having my termination. I felt travelling by boat was less public. When I got back to Ireland, an anger just came over me. That’s why I just went public. It was unjust, what happened to me. Since then, I came together with other women to form TFMR and at least 400 families have been in contact over the past six years.
“The only way women and couples with fatal foetal abnormalities can receive the help they need is to repeal the Eighth Amendment. My story could be anybody’s story, even though I hope it does not happen to anyone else. We need to stop punishing tragedy.”
Ciaran Tierney is a journalist, blogger, and digital storyteller, based in Galway, Ireland.
Attention to detail….
Ciaran Tierney writes:
Galway City Council want to bring in new bye-laws to regulate busking in the city centre and buskers say they are vague, restrictive, and unenforceable. In recent weeks, a war of words seems to have opened up in the local media between the buskers and the city centre traders, who rightly point out that they pay rates and that they shouldn’t have to listen to terrlble cover versions being blasted out through amplified sound systems every day. How did it come to this? That a city famed for its culture and vibrant street life, despite enduring so much rainfall, could be on the verge of losing the wonderful street entertainment which has helped spread Galway’s popularity all across the globe. The buskers are angry.
(H/T: Ciaran Tierney)
Galway fans celebrating their side’s All-Ireland final victory under the Cusack Stand at Croke Park on Sunday (left to right): Conall McGarrigle, Mura Tierney, Micheal O Tiarnaigh, Karen Reen, Ciaran Tierney (author), Reamonn Canavan, and Orna Canavan.
Ciaran Tierney writes:
I was a young student, squatting in London, the last time Galway won the Liam McCarthy Cup and I consoled myself that there would be plenty more September victories when I declined my father’s offer of a ticket and a fare home.
Our team was the best in Ireland and I figured there were plenty more glory days ahead, so I delayed my return home for a winter of studies at NUI Galway.
I thought of the old man, aged over 90 now, presumably shedding a few tears at home in Galway City.
He brought me to Croke Park when I could barely walk and, as an adult, I used to curse him for this strange, seemingly fatal, and beautiful addiction which can arise such passion on summery Sunday afternoons.
He had followed the team long before I was born, with the same sort of fatal pessimism which was common to our Tribe until about 5pm on Sunday.
I remembered 1980. My brother and I were small boys, held aloft by crying adults amid the din of seeing our side become triumphant for the first time in 57 years. Those tears made a lot more sense now, after so many years of heartbreak of our own.
My brother and I had been to every final Galway had lost since a youthful Conor Hayes bounded up the stairs to collect the Liam McCarthy back in 1988.
Galway didn’t score a goal, again, but it didn’t matter when we had such supreme marksmen scattered around the field. They tested our nerves by letting in two goals, but was it ever going to be any other way.
In my previous life as a sports reporter, I had been to many All-Ireland finals. But this was different. I had watched Kilkenny and Cork teams pick up the Cup with the casual appearance of people who were out for an afternoon shopping trip.
But what’s rare is wonderful and, all around us, people in maroon were shedding tears of joy…
…I thought of friends in London, Sydney, New York, Vietnam, and Brazil, and how joyful they must have been at that very moment, crammed into Irish bars in their maroon jerseys at all sorts of hours. Few things can unite our global diaspora like an All-Ireland final.
I thought of men like Ollie Canning, Joe Rabbitte, Eugene Cloonan, Kevin Broderick, and Damien Hayes, so many brilliant Galway hurlers who had put their hearts and souls into winning that elusive Celtic Cross. And, as I looked out towards the Hill and the emotional outpouring all around me on the Cusack Stand, there was no shame in our tears.
And nobody wanted to leave. Why would they, when we had been waiting for 29 long years? Those of us who remembered the glory days of 1987 and 1988 were reminded of our mortality, while the youngsters singing on the Hill must have felt they’d never see those kind of days.
It wasn’t just a victory, it was something wondrous achieved with such class both on and off the field.
To have a captain like David Burke, a man who battled back from injury and knew the pain of losing finals, step forward to collect the cup on behalf of the maroon hordes.
What a magnificent speech he produced, to remember the late Tony Keady, Man of the Match in 1988 and a man who had roared on among us just a few short weeks ago during the semi-final win over Tipperary.
He hoped that the win would give Tony’s wife and children just a little comfort in the midst of their grief, just as the fans had risen en masse to salute their former centre-back six minutes into the game.
What a wondrous gesture to remember the late Niall Donoghue, whose tragic passing in 2013 devastated an entire rural community. In the absolute joy of what once seemed an impossible victory, he reminded us all of the need to look after our mental health.
What a wonderful platform he used to raise this issue in front of hundreds of thousands of TV viewers. Even at the happiest moment of his life, he gave a shout out to those who struggle with demons and the organisations, like Pieta House, who provide wonderful help in the darkest of times.
There’s a lot wrong with Galway GAA – I know too many loyal fans who failed to get tickets for the final – but our young sportsmen did us so proud on Sunday afternoon.
Down on the pitch, our 28-year old ‘superstar’ showed the kind of humility he never gets enough credit for as he embraced Margaret during his captain’s speech.
Without Joe Canning, Galway would never have reached this final and now the nay-sayers can no longer slag off the most gifted player of his generation for not having that elusive All-Ireland medal.
Did he bask in the glory? Of course he did. But he took time out to hug the newly bereaved widow, shared a tear with his parents at the front of the stand, and embraced children with special needs long before he made his way back to the dressing-room.
Such class from a young man who has faced far too much derision and begrudgery since his phenomenal talent began to generate headlines a decade ago.
The Galway hurling community is very much like a big family and the family rallied around the Keady family with absolute class throughout the weekend.
It would have been the perfect weekend if the GAA could sort out the ticketing arrangements which somehow leave some genuine supporters out in the cold.
The single mum from East Galway who takes her son to every game or the club hurler in the city who only missed the final deserve better than the people who attended their first and only game of the year on Sunday.
It was embarrassing to note that Galway fans were outnumbered about 4-1 by their Wexford counterparts at the Leinster final in early July.
Too many Irish sports fans tend to jump on bandwagons and it seems hugely unfair that so many tickets for the showpiece occasion of the year don’t go to the people who actually go out and support the teams in the earlier rounds.
Having said that, the Galway team of 2017 conducted themselves with absolute class, both on and off the pitch, throughout the weekend.
What a moment of pure emotion it was to see their wonderful manager Micheal Donoghue embrace his father, Miko, after bringing the Liam McCarthy Cup across the Shannon for the first time in 29 years.
Micheal surrounded himself with a wonderful backroom team and instilled the kind of self-belief in his players which has been lacking in Galway teams for much of the past three decades.
It was a wonderful championship. My favourite memory of all was of the three Tipperary supporters who embraced us and wished us well for the final in the Upper Hogan Stand at the end of a thrilling semi-final in August.
So magnanimous in defeat, such worthy All-Ireland champions, I thought to myself as I remembered that I used to “hate these guys” when Tony Keady was at his pomp back in the 1980s.
Hatreds can disappear with time, old enemies can embrace and share their love of a brilliant game, and sometimes even the bridesmaids can become champions.
Thank you, Galway hurlers, for filling an entire county with wonder, joy, and pride. And for showing us that some tales of woe and heartbreak really can have wondrous endings when you mix in belief, hard work, and skill.
Is RTE Lol-ing At Its Own Since opening our doors in 2003, has delivered thousands of web and digital experiences, across a multitude of website design companies new delhi platforms alarge enough to offer you the knowledge and expertise we’ve gained servicing the Corporate and website design in Japan Government sectors, yet small enough to care. .
The West has awoken from its slumber and the new dawn is a joy to behold.
Ciaran Tierney is a journalist, blogger, and digital storyteller, based in Galway
From top: Two people sleep rough on Salthill promenade in Galway earlier this year; journalist Ciaran Tierney
Last month, the Cope Galway claimed 50 people were sleeping rough in Galway while there were also 50 homeless families, including up to 100 children, and 45 “single person” households in emergency accommodation in Galway city on any given night.
Ciaran Tierney writes:
The mood was sombre as we left the ground. Galway United had just lost a crucial game to a last minute goal from Dublin club Shamrock Rovers and the unseasonable drizzle matched the mood of the home fans for the walk back to the city centre.
It was the first Friday night in months that Eamonn Deacy Park was in darkness as we left the ground following a home game and the shortening days seemed to bring grim tidings of a long winter to come for the city’s soccer club.
Relegation was beckoning and suddenly, given the biting wind and incessant drizzle, optimism was in short supply.
I normally drive to Galway United games and park my car across the river at NUI Galway. On this night, though, I had brought a group of 22 students from Mexico, Switzerland, Spain, and Brazil to the SSE League game, where they had revelled in the atmosphere and the quality of the football, if not quite the result for the home side.
So I zipped up my jacket and braced myself for the 15-minute walk into the wind and rain, towards the city centre where I had arranged to meet an old friend in a pub.
What I didn’t expect to discover was that a whole new “neighbourhood” had popped up in my city, barely ten minutes away from Eyre Square and the pedestrian heart of the city.
The Dyke Road is really green at this time of year, a bush-lined roadway between the soccer ground and the heart of the city.
To our right, amid the overgrown bushes, a number of discarded sleeping bags caught my eye. I had ignored them earlier, given the logistics of arranging match tickets for 22 foreign language students, but now I was in no particular hurry as I made my way back into town.
I heard some voices coming from behind the bushes. Someone, unseen, called out to me from just metres away.
Curious now, I stopped and peered in through a gap in the bushes. A man of about my own age approached me.
I asked him politely what he was doing there and he told me this was his “home”. Leaving the road for a few minutes, I walked in through the bushes and discovered a makeshift village of six or seven of the kind of cheap tents you can buy for €25 or €30 in one of the discount supermarkets.
He told me that there were a dozen people living there and I felt ashamed that I knew nothing about this makeshift “community” which had popped up just ten minutes from the heart of my city.
I asked him if he was alright and told him I didn’t smoke when he asked me politely for a cigarette. There seemed to be a look of resignation in his weather-beaten face and despair in his quiet voice as I surveyed his appalling living conditions for just a few brief moments.
This was Galway in 2017, the kind of place the tourists never see, and it made me wonder how many other people scattered throughout the margins of my city were living in similar conditions just minutes from prying eyes.
How many were sleeping on friends’ couches or in their cars because the hostels were full? How safe did these people feel, sleeping in tents so near to the city’s main thoroughfare?
And so I walked on into the city centre, where my friend had arranged to meet for a post-game drink before driving home to his small town an hour from Galway.
With him was another man I had met once or twice before. Also about my own age, he began to question me urgently about the rental situation in the city.
On strong medication for the past decade, the man is desperately seeking a change. He wants to move out of the small town where he can’t find any employment opportunities, where he feels trapped, but feels he is stuck in limbo and can’t move on with his life.
He has battled mental health problems for a long time and now feels it’s time to move on. He would love to get a job in the city, to have something akin to a normal life, and I can see despair on his face when I tell him it costs about €350 per month now to rent a room in my city.
How could he afford that? he wondered. How could he get a job when a decent place to live is beyond his means?
He wants to live a fruitful, meaningful life, but he’s in a spiral of unemployment and broken dreams, surrounded by people in the same predicament as him. Although he barely knows me, he confides that he’s trying desperately to get off medication and that it has hampered his ability to regain control of his life.
I feel bad. I feel as though I’m destroying his dream, even with a brief little chat about the rental situation in my city. And I wonder how hard he would struggle to return to the jobs market, given how the medication has “numbed” him out for years now.
I feel desperately sad to see how sad he is about his prospects of getting a job or a flat in Galway. The “half-way house” he lives in is keeping him off the streets, which he is thankful for, but things most of us take for granted (a job, independence, a girlfriend) seem totally beyond his reach.
Surely, in 2017, “numbing” people out of pain because they have had mental health difficulties in the past is just not good enough. Especially if they really want to make changes in their lives.
I feel apologetic as we bid our goodbyes.
I’m not drinking tonight, as I left my car in Salthill an hour before the football game. So I take my leave after almost two hours in the pub and make my way through the city centre.
In Forster Street, there are bodies huddled in doorways, beside some of the city’s busiest and most trendy pubs. Their faces covered under hoods, people have laid their sleeping bags out as they prepare for an uncomfortable night’s sleep.
In Eyre Square, two young men in their early 20s shout loudly to each other as they urinate in full view of a group of appalled Swiss or German tourists. They are oblivious to the disapproving eyes.
I cross the road, where three young women are alighting loudly from a taxi. Already drunk, one of them clutches a drink in her right hand. Excited, perhaps, by the prospect of a night out in one of the city’s clubs, they shout loudly at each other. One of them racially abuses the cab driver before heading off into the night.
The driver glances at me for just a brief moment, shrugs, and drives off to pick up his next fare. His reaction seems to make it clear that this is not an isolated incident on a weekend night.
At the corner of Eglington Street, it seems there is a riot going on. Not to worry, it’s just a group of young people socialising loudly outside one of the city’s biggest bars.
I’m no prude. I used to love socialising in the city centre late at night in my 20s and 30s. But trying to walk by a large group of people who are clearly out of their minds with alcohol is no fun if you are completely sober and walking alone on a Friday night.
I turn down Shop Street, a place which tourists tell me they find scary in the early hours. The place is buzzing with activity, as young people make their way towards the city’s late night bars and clubs. It will be heaving again when the clubs empty out around 2.30am.
I have to admit I haven’t been here for a while in the early hours. On the city’s main thoroughfare, in the heart of the pedestrian zone, I’m quite shocked to see quite a few people bedding down in doorways on either side of the street.
A couple from Eastern Europe seem oblivious to the passing eyes as they argue loudly while laying out their sleeping materials for the night. Tomorrow, people will be drinking lattes right next to the place they now call “home” for the night.
Just 50 metres away, some poor woman is sleeping out on her own. I don’t want to appear too curious, to discover her nationality. A kindly passer-by is down on his knees, asking her if she is ok, and I wonder what circumstances led her to sleep in a shop doorway in my wet and windy city, of all places, in August 2017.
I wonder how she will sleep when the pubs empty out at 2 or 2.30am and the young revellers make their way to the fast food premises. Will she face verbal or physical abuse? It’s already cold and wet in August, but will she still be here in November when the conditions will be much worse?
How did it come to this? That a little makeshift village has sprung up within a ten minute walk of the city centre or that people have no option but to bed down in shop doorways through the night?
That young revellers now see it as “normal” to come across people lying outside under the elements as they make their way to and from the late night clubs?
This is Galway, in August 2017. We have just had an amazing festival season, yet the sad underbelly is impossible to ignore if you venture into the city at night.
Why isn’t there more of an uproar in a place where the City Council can devote an entire meeting to whether or not they should say a prayer before their monthly meetings?
Yes, I felt like a bit of a prude on Friday; or a little naïve, to have been so oblivious to the extent of the homelessness problem in my city right now.
But the City of the Tribes did not feel like the most welcoming place for everyone when viewed through sober eyes on a cold and wet Friday night.