How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

There is constant talk today in Ireland of vindicating the rights of women by striking out that controversial provision in Article 41.2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution). S 2.1° of the article states that “In particular, the state recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved” while s 2.2° states that “The state shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.
Many people hold that this method of recognising women’s rights by tackling the provisions of the Constitution began (and succeeded) in the case of McGee v Attorney General – however, I argue that the true result of this case actually decelerated the cause for Irish women.

The landmark case of McGee v Attorney General [1973] IR 284 illustrates an unprecedented breakthrough in the area of family planning in Ireland and tells the story of May McGee, a young wife in financial difficulty whose health was in danger after four pregnancies.

Mrs McGee’s doctor prescribed her contraception from London which she attempted to import but it was seized by customs officials, as it was illegal in Ireland at the time to sell, offer, advertise or import contraceptives. She sought a declaration that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935, (under which she had been threatened by the Revenue Commission) was unconstitutional. Mrs McGee claimed the law that prevented her from bringing contraceptives into the State infringed the implied right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens under Article 40. She also argued that under Article 41, the importation ban violated the “inalienable” rights of the family in attempting to frustrate a decision made by Mrs McGee and her husband for the benefit of the family as a whole. It was also disputed that the law violated her freedom of conscience, with all claims denied by the Attorney General. Judge O’Keefe dismissed her case, but when Mrs McGee took her appeal to the Supreme Court in November 1973, she won decisively by a 4-1 margin. Judges Walsh, Budd, Henchy and Griffin all found that the act breached her constitutional right to marital privacy.

This judgment divided the nation. On one side, the anti-contraception campaigner Desmond Broadberry deemed it a “sad day for Ireland” and Catholic bishops reiterated that contraception was “morally wrong”. On the other side, the Family Planning Clinic in Dublin saw it as a “big breakthrough”. The Supreme Court was decisively ahead of public opinion and politicians on contraception. However, only a decade later was the anti-abortion amendment added to the Constitution. How did this happen?

It is crucial to note that the majority of judges did not condemn the law banning the use of contraceptives – they simply based their decision on the right to marital privacy implied in the Constitution. Judge Walsh specifically referenced Article 41, detailed above, which is currently receiving some media coverage for its comments on the family and, in particular, the role of women within the family. This clause has come under criticism with many campaigning for a referendum to either change this wording or strike out the Article altogether for its disregard to women’s rights. In a similar vein, although referring most likely to S 3.1° (ie. the state’s pledge to guard the institution of marriage with special care and to protect it against attack) the Supreme Court again seems to only superficially support women’s rights (just as in S 2, which while appearing to consolidate women’s rights is instead incredibly limiting). May McGee won her court case, but not because she was in danger of dying, not because the Supreme Court found the ban on her importation of contraceptives unconstitutional, not because as a woman in Ireland she deserved her right to this healthcare. May McGee won her court case not because she was May McGee, but because she was Mrs McGee. In this way the court case was, according to Ivana Bacik, “a catalyst for the pro-life amendment campaign”.

May McGee’s case is the pinnacle of paradoxical finding and possibly the most important Supreme Court case in Ireland. Although it accelerated women’s rights in Ireland to a huge extent, it had a detrimental effect in setting them back too.

 

 

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

 

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The Fixable Fact of Homelessness in Ireland

The Fixable Fact of Homelessness in Ireland

By July 28 this year, the homeless population of Ireland reached a staggering 10,275. The number of homeless families has increased by 178 per cent since June 2015, with more than a 1000 per cent rise in the number of families becoming homeless every month since 2011. This astronomical number does not even include “hidden homelessness” – people living in squats, staying indefinitely with friends, those in domestic violence refuges or even those who are sleeping rough. The official rough sleep account in Dublin in April 2019 was 128 people.

For Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen, the solution to homelessness is clear – more social housing and more affordable rental accommodation. But is it quite that simple? Maybe it is.

Of course structural factors are prominent in the direct causes of homelessness. One cannot deny the effects of the housing market – people are being pushed out of their homes due to high rents, landlords selling up and an overall shortage of properties to rent at all. In some cases, life’s circumstances such as mental illness, relationship breakdowns or addiction, can cause people and families to become homeless quite suddenly. However it may be submitted that there is something more fundamentally flawed that remains rooted in the people that have the power to change things.

Every person in Ireland is painfully aware of the horrors of homelessness . Those growing up in Dublin especially have grown grossly accustomed to the sight of homeless people, or young children going to school out of bed-and-breakfasts, or students crashing on their friend’s couches as they cannot afford their rent at the moment. It is a sure sign of something inherently wrong when these statements simply don’t faze anyone anymore.

While the stark figure of 10,000 homeless seems daunting and unapproachable, the solution is just within our grasp. A solution to the every-growing “Homelessness Crisis” is perhaps not as distant as we perceive. So why is the government making no visible effort to tackle the issue in any tangible way? There is certainly a stigmatised view of the cycle relating to homelessness – a slight feeling that perhaps these people put themselves in this position and we should leave it up to them to remove themselves of it, one of those phenomena that is terrible in theory but bizarrely appears to be acceptable in practice through a warped sense of victim-blaming. However, a dehumanised approach to homelessness will hardly solve the urgent crisis at hand. The small and incremental actions that are currently being taken are almost insignificant compared to the rapid rate of the growth of homelessness right now.

Greta Thunberg has recently emerged as a global leader, working diligently to combat climate change. Yet her discourse is undeniably appropriate in a discussion on homelessness. At the UN Climate Action Summit, though referring to a very different topic, she stresses: “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.”

Amidst a disheartening crisis, it is essential that the public maintains hope and focuses on working toward the solution, not the problem at hand. Focus Ireland has provided some recommended figures earlier this year – €400 million to deliver 2,000 social homes in addition to 7,716 homes in 2020, the approval of a €1.3 billion borrowing capacity to finance 6,500 new social homes by 2021, an “innovate homeless prevention” fund of €500,000 and €250,000 to fund mediation services. They also recommend a vacant home tax to return units back into the “active housing supply”, the provision of Case Managers and Family support teams, the restoration of domestic violence services, an increase of Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payments. Ireland’s rainy day fund, which will be worth approximately €2 billion by the end of next year, would more than cover this. And I cannot think of a better cause for these funds than the eradication of homelessness, once and for all.

 

 

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

 

Want to learn more about how the housing crisis is impacting students in Ireland? Listen to the STAND Student Podcast – Episode 1

 

 

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

With the constant expression of feminism in this day and age, it is worth considering the case of McGee v Attorney General to investigate the true intention behind the seemingly revolutionary case which supposedly forwarded women’s rights in Ireland via the Constitution.

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It cannot be denied that homelessness is a devastating issue gripping contemporary Ireland, but perhaps the solution is closer than it seems.

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STAND Student Podcast Episode 1: Student accommodation and the housing crisis

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Did the Greta effect fail in the US?

Did the Greta effect fail in the US?

 

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The Greta Thunberg’s effect in the USA

On the 18th of September, Thunberg took the floor in front of the US Congress. With a clear reference to Martin Luther King, she stated: “I also have a dream: that governments, political parties and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences”. In a country where climate change is “being discussed as something you believe in, or not believe in”, “It is time to face reality, the facts, the science.” As she emphasised the necessity to address climate change as the emergency that it is and recalled that there was no way to cut a deal with Mother Nature, some listened carefully while others rolled their eyes.

A few hours later, what sounded more like a good ad than a “short-film”, starring herself and the journalist Georges Monbiot, was released. Through it, they intended to promote their “Protect. Restore. Fund.” slogan and to show that more can be done thanks to “natural Climate solution”. In the video, we learn that only 2% of the funding granted to the decrease of CO2 emissions is invested in natural tools, such as replanting enough trees.

On Friday, global climate strike day, Thunberg stood in front of about 250.000 strikers in New-York’s Battery Park. “We will make them hear us”, “we are a wave of change”, “this is what people power looks like” she said, as her speeches seems to become more and more revolutionary.

A few days later, Thunberg spoke at the Youth Climate Action Summit, held on the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Thunberg was one of the lucky activists who was given a visa on time and could indeed talk in front of the Assembly. She hammered that “we are at the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” In the end, “Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

About what could be expressed at the Summit, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, was clear to world leaders: there is no need to take the stage if it’s not to develop “concrete and transformative” plans. “We had enough talk”, “this is a climate action summit” (emphasis added). “Nature is angry”, so it’s about time to implement the Paris Agreement. 

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, said that “Germany sees its responsibility on the international stage and on the national stage”. This is a lot more than we would never hear from the United-States President, Donald Trump, who tried as hard as he could to avoid attending the summit, and finally stayed 15 minutes without saying a single word. 

Later on that day, 16 children including Thunberg, aged between 8 and 17, coming from twelve different nations, filed a complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. According to them, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey breached the most widely ratified treaty in history, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by letting children’s lives being impacted by the climate crisis. These nations are amongst the most polluting countries. One may wonder why the United-States, the historical biggest polluter, and China, the current biggest polluter, aren’t on the dock. The reason is simple: those two states never ratified the Third Optional Protocol of the treaty which allows children, or adults representing them, to seek justice for alleged violations.

 

 

US presidential campaign & the Green New Deal 

The Green New Deal (GND) is a ten-year plan aiming at economic justice while addressing climate change. It has already been discussed in the American political sphere. After being rejected by the Senate in March 2019, some Governors adapted and implemented the Deal in their State.

While Republicans resolutely oppose the GND, Democrats embrace it. So far, Trump’s campaign only states that he had done an incredibly good job in increasing the oil and gas exploitation and exports. He also congratulates himself for undoing the Clean Power Plan. Nothing eco-friendly to be found here… As for the other Republican candidates for the 2020 presidential elections, they still have no idea what their election platform will be like, except for advocating not being Trump.

On the Democratic side, election manifestos are actually written, and each includes a point about climate change. All claim wanting a fair transition to a neutral emission State. Some of the candidates even have co-sponsored the GND in the Senate. 

As the campaign moves forward, it will surely be interesting to see the place climate change gets in the national debates. 

 

 

Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

 

 

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Did the High Court of Ireland just take away our right to strike?

Did the High Court of Ireland just take away our right to strike?

It appears that every week now, a new Ryanair strike is imminent, stirring up memories of early August when the public was first fed the news that an Irish High Court injunction had simply shut down a strike by Irish Ryanair pilots. Of course, this was impacted by the complementary news that the equivalent strike among UK-based pilots due to take place at the same time was to go ahead. How could that be possible? Admittedly, in Ireland we don’t engage in industrial action to the same frequency as countries like France or Denmark, or apparently the UK in this case, but there must remain some sort of inherent, strike-culture mindset that would make it at least somewhat uncharacteristic for such an injunction to be passed in our little democratic republic?

 

The Judgment

On 21 August 2019, the Irish High Court passed an injunction to prevent any Irish-based pilots from striking later in that same week for issues regarding pay. The union responsible and the parent union of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association, FÓRSA, was requested to return to mediation tactics so as not to dismiss the final holiday plans of thousands of Irish travellers.

 

The Arguments

Ryanair, in seeking an injunction (a court order requiring a party to do, or preventing a party from doing, a specific action) to prevent the industrial action, claimed that the strike proposed was a breach of an agreement signed by the parties the previous year following mediation after industrial action last July and August. Ryanair made further claims that there was no valid trade dispute between the parties and that the dates chosen for the strike were decided upon especially to cause major business disruption, as well as to coincide with the Ryanair strike organised by UK-based pilots. At the same time, FÓRSA argued that the strike ballot was fully compliant with the rules of the union itself as well as with laws associated with the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. They continued to express  that they were in fact involved with a trade dispute which related to pay, adding that Ryanair had failed to engage with proposals made in March. Despite this, in his ruling Mr Justice McDonald stated that he was satisfied that Ryanair DAC was entitled to orders against FÓRSA in preventing the pilots from commencing a 48-hour strike at midnight on 22nd August.

However, Ryanair failed in a similar bid against UK pilots to secure an injunction against this strike. There was strong emphasis, in particular, on the fact that Ryanair was “foolish to bring this into the High Court rather than the negotiating room” (Brian Strutton, Secretary of the British Air Line Pilots’ Association). One might wonder why the legal right to strike was seemingly shut down in one case and welcomed in another, identical one.

 

But how was the injunction passed?

In Ireland, there is actually no general right to strike.There is simply a freedom to engage in industrial action under certain circumstances, which creates an immunity against any legal restrictions on these strikes, which means that trade unions are protected from prosecution if, and only if, the trade unions legally organise industrial action and if the action itself is lawful. This stems from the Industrial Relations Act, 1990,  in which any members of a trade union who participate in a lawfully balloted strike are granted immunity from the specific actions and/or torts (civil wrongs) that they commit, provided that some conditions are met. One of these, as mentioned with Ryanair, is that immunity is only granted to acts done in consideration or continuance of a trade dispute (a dispute between workers and employers, which relates to employment or non-employment and/or terms and conditions of employment).  Furthermore, even when such a dispute relates to the terms and conditions of employment or even the employment of an individual, if the agreed procedures for the resolution of individual grievances are not exhausted, immunities will fail to be granted. In the case at hand, FÓRSA argued that they were involved in a trade dispute and Ryanair DAC claimed that they were not – and they ultimately won.

Although the outcome of this case resulted in many happy holidaymakers able to jet off to enjoy their last moments of summer fun, it does encourage us to question what happens from here. The result is likely to leave a lasting imprint on our strike-culture here in Ireland – not only in legal precedent, but in the minds of the public themselves too.

 

 

Photo by Lucas Davies on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get our top news straight to your inbox.

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

With the constant expression of feminism in this day and age, it is worth considering the case of McGee v Attorney General to investigate the true intention behind the seemingly revolutionary case which supposedly forwarded women’s rights in Ireland via the Constitution.

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With the recent Ryanair case, one might wonder why the legal right to strike was seemingly shut down in one case and welcomed in another, identical one.

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Self care advice for college students

Self care advice for college students

Starting college is both an exciting and frightening time. For some people, it’s their first taste of freedom away from home, and for others, it’s a fresh new start. College is a time of self discovery and this can be quite intimidating. Freshers’ Week can be overwhelming at times. With many societies and events happening at once, it can feel like you have to go to every event in order for you to have a fulfilling Freshers’ Week. But once it’s over, you can be left feeling unsure. It is very easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle and end up burning yourself out by trying to do as much as you can. But it’s important to look after your mental, physical and emotional health. 

The first thing is to figure out what services are available for you. If you have a disability, set up a meeting with the disability service and find out what facilities they offer. During my time in college, I found the disability service to be a huge help with my transition from secondary school to university. College can be difficult for everyone but it can be even trickier when you’re disabled and it’s good to know what services you have to help you along the way. Services disabled students might be entitled to are exam accommodation, occupational therapy, assistive technology, etc. Even if you think you won’t need any support, it’s good to have a relationship with the disability service – just in case you’ll need to use it in the future. There are also supports that are open to all students, which may include counselling, peer support, tutors and accommodation. You should familiarise yourself with the supports you have available to you to help you when you need it.

One thing that saved me a lot of time was getting a calendar. This can be a physical one or an electronic one, whatever you prefer. Once you get your timetable, put this information somewhere you can access at any time. This will allow you to see where you have gaps, during which you can schedule studying, society events, coffee break or even a nap in between classes! You don’t have to plan every detail to the second, but knowing when your classes are and when certain events are happening can be a useful tool in finding the right work/life balance. 

Looking after yourself during college is necessary. Remember that self-care doesn’t just mean bubble baths and face masks – it also means eating, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep. Self-care while as a student can mean taking a step back from social events or societies if they are causing you to miss class, sometimes it’s taking the day off from studying, or maybe it’s allowing yourself to go out and have fun once in awhile. 

College can be one of the most exciting times of your life but it can also be a very stressful experience. In the era of social media, you can constantly be comparing yourself to friends and classmates. You can get down on yourself because you’re not getting the best marks or you’re not going to the best events but it’s important to remember that behind those screens, everyone else is having those same anxieties. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, it’s okay to have struggles, and it’s okay to ask for help. College is a time for you to explore your identity and flourish as a human being. 

 

 

Photo: Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get all the top news straight to your inbox.

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

With the constant expression of feminism in this day and age, it is worth considering the case of McGee v Attorney General to investigate the true intention behind the seemingly revolutionary case which supposedly forwarded women’s rights in Ireland via the Constitution.

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It cannot be denied that homelessness is a devastating issue gripping contemporary Ireland, but perhaps the solution is closer than it seems.

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With Trump’s administration, constructive talks about climate change on US soil is not an easy task. However, advocates of a Green New Deal are not backing down…

Did the High Court of Ireland just take away our right to strike?

With the recent Ryanair case, one might wonder why the legal right to strike was seemingly shut down in one case and welcomed in another, identical one.

Self care advice for college students

As the college term begins again, a recent graduate gives their advice on how to look after yourself during the year.

Why self-care can be a radical act

For self-care awareness day, our editor Cassie reminds us that self-care first emerged in the sixties as a way for feminists and civil rights activists to challenge the system.

Why self-care can be a radical act

Why self-care can be a radical act

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde, writer and feminist

What do you think of when you hear the term self-care? Do bath-bombs, luxury spa days or yoga retreats spring to mind? Is it reminiscent of a solitary walk in the woods or of curling up with a good book by the fire? Maybe it simply means cooking yourself a good meal or going to bed on time. More importantly, do you react positively to the term or do you view it as somewhat self-indulgent?

Self-care relates to the self. It is personal in nature. Thus, it makes sense that self-care looks different for each of us. However, the concept has an interesting and complex history that most people have forgotten about.

With the advent of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, self-care became a political act. Women and people of colour perceived the white, patriarchal medical system as inadequate for their specific needs and – worse – as sexist and racist. To tackle hierarchies of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, marginalised groups had to look after their own health, simply because nobody else would. For women, taking the time to self-care also went against patriarchal ideas about women’s role in society, as women are often type-cast as carers of others rather than self-carers.

As Sadie Trombetta writes, for these groups, “[self-care was] a courageous act that started with acknowledging that they had needs, that their needs were important, and that those needs deserved to be met, no matter what their oppressors said”.

Many black people at the time lived in the kind of sub-par conditions strongly correlated with ill-health. To help address this structural inequality, groups like the Black Panthers set up free community-service programs to look after the healthcare needs of their community and ensure their access to healthcare. Women’s groups took their cue from these community programs and opened health clinics to ensure women – particularly poor, working-class women – could get the care they needed. This often included access to reproductive services.

Around the same time, a broader wellness or self-care trend arose within society – however, this had more to do with improving quality of life than ensuring access to healthcare. People began doing activities such as yoga and paying attention to their diet in order to create positive health (rather than the mere absence of illness). By the 1980s, this trend had become mainstream and commercialised, and soon it developed into the mass billion-dollar industry we are familiar with today.

As a result, some argue that self-care has been hijacked by capitalism and that the concept has been reduced to something we buy – wholly divorced from its political origins. However, for marginalised groups the act of looking after oneself is still arguably a radical act for the reasons outlined by Trombetta. Furthermore, in airplanes we are told to tend to our own oxygen masks first before helping others. This isn’t selfish – rather, it puts us in a better position to help others and to deal with life’s challenges. Used wisely, self-care can help us become our best selves so that we can also serve society – a noble aim for any aspiring activist!

If we are seriously concerned about effecting change in our world, it is important to keep psychologically healthy so that we don’t become disheartened or burn out. The fact that the term ‘self-care’ was googled twice as much in the week after Trump’s election illustrates this point beautifully.

Now, where are my bath salts…?

Photo via Pixabay

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How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

With the constant expression of feminism in this day and age, it is worth considering the case of McGee v Attorney General to investigate the true intention behind the seemingly revolutionary case which supposedly forwarded women’s rights in Ireland via the Constitution.