Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

The plight and flight of Mná na hÉireann

As an Irish emigrant I want to return home someday, but yesterday’s news of the death of Savita Halappanavar highlights that as an Irish woman I might be better off in the UK, writes Hazel Nolan.

Protesters outside the Dail last night over the death of Savita Halappanavar. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Thu, Nov 15, 2012, 01:00

   

As an Irish emigrant I want to return home someday, but yesterday’s news of the death of Savita Halappanavar highlights that as an Irish woman I might be better off in the UK,  writes Hazel Nolan.

Protesters outside the Dail last night over the death of Savita Halappanavar. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

I am part of the latest wave of young emigrants leaving Irish shores. In the polarised political landscape of the Emerald Isle, the one uniting factor is the recognition that a thriving economy is essential for our young people to have a future in the country in which they were born, and grew up. It is a future I still hope one day to have.

There are many like me who have moved away, but have not left Ireland behind. One day I still hope to return. However as a young Irish woman having lived in the UK, I would now find it very difficult to move back to Ireland due to the continuous mistreatment of Irish women by the State.

Waking up to news headlines, as I did yesterday, of Woman ‘denied a termination’ dies in hospital, means I feel I face the choice of my home, or my rights.

During the resent US elections, many people in Ireland looked with aghast at the views espoused by the Tea Party movement. That is how I now look at the members of the Dáil who do not believe they have a responsibility to legislate to protect my rights, and women’s lives.

That the European Court of Human Rights has found the state guilty of a “violation of women’s human rights”, for the failure of successive Governments to vindicate a right established in the Irish constitution, is an embarrassing indictment on an international scale.

These TDs remain in defiance of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the X case, the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case; and the two referendums where the Irish people have upheld the right to an abortion where pregnancy poses a risk to a woman’s life, including the risk of suicide.

I want to return to a country that values me as a woman, upholds my rights, and respects my bodily integrity. I don’t want to return to a state that forces women, like Michelle Harte who had cancer and was refused treatment by the ethical committee of a hospital, to travel outside the State for medical treatment to save their lives.

Other countries have implemented legislative regimes that strike a balance between ensuring women’s access to abortion where it is lawful, and regulating such access. Why can’t Ireland?

As a young Irish woman, I protested with many others last night outside the Irish Embassy in London regarding the failure of the state to legislate for the X Case, in light of the death of Savita Halappanava.

We have now reached the stage, on the long, dark, shameful road of women’s rights in Ireland, where women are literally dying because successive governments have neglected their responsibility to them. Where will that road now lead?

Two things have been consistent in Ireland’s history since Independence, the first is emigration, and the second is the degrading treatment of mná na hÉireann.

It’s time to change the narrative, or the government.

Hazel Nolan is from Kinsale, Co Cork. She works in the UK Parliament in Westminster, and is a committee member of the Labour Party Irish Society and London Young Labour.

Read Mark Hennessy’s report of last night’s protest outside the Irish embassy in London here.