1. The earnest letter from a despairing ex-pat abroad:
I refer to Breda O’Brien’s article on stillborn babies (17th January), in which she exhibits grave concern at the language employed to describe the conditions that lead to tragically premature death and foetal complications.
Ms. O’Brien states that “Sometimes, these children are treated as if they were never alive at all. Expressions like “fatal foetal abnormality” are incredibly insensitive, as is “incompatible with life””. She fears the influence those harrowing words “incompatibility with life” has in diminishing society’s regard for the dignity and well-being of these foetuses. These are much-longed for pregnancies of grief-stricken parents who are frequently deserted by the state and left to balance their humanity with their hopes in stigmatised isolation. More often that not, these parents are treated as if they don’t exist at all.
The expression “Sometimes, these children are treated as if they were never alive at all” is incredibly insensitive but entirely accurate within the context of church and state. Ms O’Brien also states “Grief cannot be evaded or hurried. There are events in life that leave you reeling, and reaching for answers that just don’t come. But rituals help.”
One couldn’t agree more. However, for decades, these rituals were not afforded by the church and state to Irish women who had miscarried or whose children were stillborn. Women whose unborn and born babies were not afforded recognition or granted status until recent years. Babies who until recently were considered non-entities, denied the sacrament of baptism or a burial with dignity. Babies who were clumsily and insensitively discarded in hospitals.
As an emigrant who left Ireland for more equitable shores during the oppressive 1980s, the echoes of persistent hypocrisy in Ms. O’Brien’s concern continues to send a chill down the spine.
Is mise le meas
Professor Fiachra O’Bualla
Institute of Clannad & Enya Studies
Department of Celtic Mythology
University of Missouri
2. The uppity passive aggressive letter with subtle feminist undertones
There is a fine line between RTÉ giving due coverage to Leo Varadkar’s disclosure of his sexual orientation, and spectacularly exploiting it with a toe-curlingly embarrassing sensationalist headline spectacle replete with ‘in studio’ analysis from ‘Emotional State Expert’, David Davin Power.
Mr. Davin Power helpfully pointed out that Minister Varadkar appeared “somewhat nervous” prior to sharing this information on his personal life. I was able to put this insight together with my other information, which included a few condescending remarks on his “prior achievements”, and the certainty that the bulletin would have worked equally well as a news parody in a mature democratic republic.
“Yes, Eileen, I can confirm all Ministers did arrive by a mode of transport this morning”
Finally, one wondered why the Correspondent on The Obvious was not positioned outside the Dáil to lend it the weight of gravitas afforded other government related stories, however irrelevant their location. Martina Fitzgerald would no doubt have braved it. But then RTÉ are well-used to leaving women out in the cold.
Leitrim Women’s Council
3. The ‘hilarious’ witty two-liner letter
According to Minister Brendan Howlin, the people of Ireland have “lost sight of the depth of the economic crisis”.
Will this mean another tax penalty imposed on them as punishment?