Róisín Ingle: My sister Rachael dropped me at that London clinic in a black taxi

Today is the anniversary of the day 66.4% of us voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment

Sisters Róisín and Rachael Ingle. ‘Thank you, Rach’

Sisters Róisín and Rachael Ingle. ‘Thank you, Rach’

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Something that’s been a regular delight in the past few months has been taking delivery of the pandemic post. Whether it’s the arrival of a crucial part for the bread machine someone had inadvertently chucked in the bin, or the opening of a package containing a book or a boredom-killing game, every knock on the door signals great excitement in our house.

Unlike what used to happen in our pre-pandemic lives, the postperson doesn’t need to knock twice. Nor do they need to leave a message directing us to collect our package somewhere else, because there is always somebody around to take in the delivery.

Sure, where else would we be?

This postal appreciation is something I hope we don’t leave behind. Our daughters have learned to write letters. Replying to correspondence from their little cousins, Síofra and Iseult. Writing thank you cards to their godparents, Paul and Mary.

I got a lovely bit of pandemic post myself the other day, an unexpected card. There was a golden peacock on the front and, inside, some handwriting I vaguely recognised

One day they received a beautifully written note from their friends Amelie and Lucie, in Co Laois, filling us in on their adorable new puppies and long walks in the woods.

As it happens, on this blustery May morning, the sheets performing a lively jig out on the line, one daughter is sitting at the kitchen table writing a letter to a boy in her class, thanking him for sticking up for her when something unpleasant happened at school.

“I never said thank you at the time,” she said the other day in a worried voice, admonishing herself. I tried to help her understand that when sad or shocking things happen, sometimes we are caught off guard and don’t react the way we usually would or how people might expect us to.

We suggested she could write him a letter. “Wouldn’t it be too late?” she asked. It’s never too late, we said.

I got a lovely bit of pandemic post myself the other day, an unexpected card. There was a golden peacock on the front and, inside, some handwriting I vaguely recognised. A Polaroid picture was tucked inside the card. A smiley portrait of two sisters. Rachael and me.

Rachael won’t mind me saying that this is totally out of character for her. It took a pandemic, as we are all fond of saying lately. She writes as much herself in the note.

“A bit late (and a bit out of the blue) but when I found this photo over the Covid lockdown, it made me remember all the fantastic, crazy, happy times we’ve had together.”

It was my big sister Rachael who gave me the idea to keep a lockdown jar filled with the things everyone in the house is longing to do when this is all over. “One of my wishes in my jar,” she wrote, “is to make sure I keep in touch with you more often when things get back to ‘normal’. Hopefully you will oblige me!”

She said other things too. About how proud she was of me. It doesn’t take much this weather, but I sat looking at the photo and I remembered and I cried.

Today, of all the days, I want to say it publicly while also acknowledging the unconditional love shown to so many of us

Today, May 25th, is the second anniversary of the day that 66.4 per cent of us voted for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed so that women in Ireland could have reproductive freedom. It’s an important day in the history of the State. An important day for me as one of the thousands of women and girls forced to travel secretly to London or elsewhere for an abortion.

Years later, I wrote about that experience in an attempt to reduce the stigma surrounding a procedure that is a necessary reality in the lives of many women.

I will be thinking about a lot of people on this anniversary. Of Savita Halappanavar, who died and in dying galvanised so many of us to activism. Of Kitty Holland, who told not only Savita’s story but her own. Of Tara Flynn, Lucy Watmough, Janet Ní Shuilleabháin, Saoirse Long and every woman who courageously, and often at unseen personal cost, shared their stories.

Of the women and girls north and south, some of them vulnerable immigrants, who were taken through the courts. Of male politicians such as Simon Harris and Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, who, on educating themselves, changed their minds on the issue. Men who stopped judging women and became our champions, ensuring abortion would be provided as healthcare, as it always should have been.

I’ll be thinking of the people on the Citizens’ Assembly and of everyone in Together for Yes and of activists such as Ailbhe Smyth, Gaye Edwards, Brianna Parkins, Ivana Bacik, Anna Cosgrave, Claudia Hoareau, Maria Fleming and Clare Daly. I’ll be thinking of every man, woman, transperson and child who ever wore a badge or a jumper or helped when help was so badly needed.

It was Rachael who booked our flights to London more than 20 years ago. It was Rachael who dropped me at that clinic in a black taxi. It was Rachael who hugged me and held my hand afterwards

And I’ll be thinking of my sister Rachael. It was Rachael who booked our flights to London more than 20 years ago. It was Rachael who dropped me at that clinic in a black taxi. It was Rachael who hugged me and held my hand afterwards. It was Rachael, who kept whatever she felt about my abortion to herself, respecting that I was the only person who should or could make a decision that would have such a significant influence on the rest of my life.

I could say it to her face, from a safe social distance. I could write it in a letter, adding another bit of unexpected pandemic post to the pile. But today, of all the days, I want to say it publicly while also acknowledging the unconditional love and kindness shown to so many of us by our sisters, brothers, friends, boyfriends, husbands, cousins, mothers, aunts, uncles, colleagues and healthcare workers who, in so many quiet ways, offered comfort along a lonely road.

You all know who you are. Thank you. And thanks, Rach. It’s never too late.

The Together for Yes documentary When Women Won, directed by Anna Rodgers, is free to view on the IFI Player until Sunday, May 31st

roisin@irishtimes.com