Dublin, 2018. History unfolding around us.

A grey, windy, rainy “spring” Sunday may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you envisage your perfect Sunday, and granted we will all have diverging views on what exactly a perfect day looks like. But for me, I was intent on recreating some small moments of perfection. A Sunday to myself. A Sunday to explore. A Sunday to reconnect with my old city. I recently discovered the MyDublinDay Instagram account, and it’s an awesome idea. One of those ideas you can’t help but think…”why the hell didn’t I think of that?!”. On a daily basis someone new takes over the account to escort you through a day in their shoes in our fine capital city. And guess what?! Last Sunday was my turn! And it was going to be perfect…right?!…

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…that’s where I had planned to start my story for you. I had planned to tell you all of the, no doubt, thrilling details of where I ate. What I saw. How I felt. I was planning to ladle out some saccharine smulsch for you about how fantastic it was…and it was fantastic; just not for the reasons I had originally curated and prepared for you.

To my mind, Dublin has always held up a mirror to us as a nation. Even when we may not be completely aware of it, our cultural subconscious pours onto the streets of our capital city. At any given moment you only have to take a purposeful walk through town to feel our anxieties, hopes, annoyances or celebrations expressed in very real ways on our streets. Our stories are acted out through our interactions with each other; the words we use or sometimes, more importantly, the ones we don’t use. Our stories are told through the art we absorb and connect with. Through the colours on our walls and the music in our ears. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are a visceral people; our souls are bared and we can’t escape our history as a nation of expressive, artistic, passionate, tribal people. The difference is that these days, we are oh-so-very-fucking-modern about it all and our expressions are somewhat more nuanced.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when on my day out exploring Dublin last Sunday I found myself viscerally connected to a history that is unfolding before our eyes. As I avoided the rain I found myself interweaving with the stories of the thousands of women who are involved in the up-coming abortion referendum in May. Dublin is getting ready to hold its breath…we, as a nation are standing on the edge of a cliff…what’s next for us? I could barely turn a corner without being touched by some element of the conversation.

The “no” side with its heartily-funded campaign; not one large-scale advertising format seems out of its reach. The “no” campaign is one that could be characterised by its big, bold statements and small, vague sources. The “yes” side is the opposite; a grass-roots movement that seems to have organised itself around a model of sensitive militancy. The “yes” campaign is one that is characterised by the boots-on-the ground, pure people-power. These women are sharing stories of pain and anguish; baring their souls to offer “public support on a private matter”. These are the yes and the no, the pro and the con, the black and the white in a topic that will be fought and won in the grey areas.

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I had no intention of writing about this issue. I have been successfully avoiding the topic for years now. But after my day in town last Sunday I don’t think I can immerse myself in a city and not recognise the elephant in our nation’s room. It would be insensitive to our history. It would be dismissive of our current conversation. It has occurred to me that, while I don’t want to be actively involved in the debates, I do want to recognise the story-tellers out there who are baring their souls. Right now in Ireland there are women who are facing scrutiny and judgement and despite this have made a decision to lend their voices to the shouts for choice. There are also the women who have made the choice not to travel for a termination; to carry a fatal fetal abnormality to term. To face a future of uncertainty in a healthcare system that can’t prioritise their health. Each choice is personal. Each choice is life-changing. But in choice there is empowerment and these are the voices that are currently shaping the future of our nation.

I am so proud of women in Ireland who have chosen to raise their voices and invest their stories into the conversation. There is a militancy in words; activism of statements. They are the history makers.

I don’t think the matter can be resolved simply, or even adequately debated. It is emotive, divisive and polarising by its very nature. We can all relate to that moment when the air is sucked out of a room at the mere mention of “abortion”. No. This conversation is not black and white; it is a wash with nuanced grey areas. And this blog post is not intended as a channel to advise you what way to vote, there are plenty of voices out there far more educated than mine and if you are in any way unsure then I would highly recommend a walk through our streets to connect with the voices on this topic.

I don’t intend to sway you. I don’t intend to barrage you with my opinions, or how important this particular subject is. I just want to recognise those who have the courage I don’t. The women who are involved and who can never not be involved. The women who live and breathe this every single day.

And I hope you can understand why I couldn’t do a blog post about brunch in town on a wet Sunday. There was brunch…(of course there was brunch)...but there was so much more. It was a powerful moment for me. A perfect day, but for reasons that I simply was not quite ready for.

 

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