Ellen & Carla – Million Times Better Than Bieber

As many of my regular readers will know, I am a huge music lover. And apart from the love of discovering a band before everyone else discovers them and makes them mainstream, I simply love finding new home grown Irish talent.

15-year-old Ellen O’Mahony and her best friend Carla Ryan are singer songwriters who play guitar, ukulele and piano. These two truly gifted schoolgirls were videoed performing one of their original songs – Dreamer.

What, for me, puts the icing on the cake is the fact that they are singing without the aid of auto-tune AND playing instruments….two de riguers of all singer/songwriters which have perennially evaded Justin Bieber.

I think you’ll agree, our wee country really does nurture some gifted singer/songwriters and I wish these lovely ladies every success in their musical careers.

Refugees CAN Add Value

Take a look at the video above. It’s about a young man, Massoud Hassani, who grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, and who found himself and his family being accepted as refugees in the Netherlands. He graduated university in Holland and is now a product designer. His unique and personal experiences that shaped his childhood in Afghanistan have served him well as a designer and he has invented a wonderfully simple, cheap and highly effective tool for clearing mines scattered across the desert floor surrounding Kabul.

What’s my point, I hear you ask? All too often, people in the developed world (and I hate that phrase), view economic immigrants and refugees as a drain on resources and a negative addition to the social fabric and make-up of the host country they move to. But this gentleman has shown that if a government, a nation, or just a single person, throws off the shackles of stereotyping and pigeon-holing of a person, if they actually look upon that person and their family as human beings. If they would only acknowledge that the education, training and experience that an immigrant or refugee brings with them is truly valuable, rather than forcing them to PROVE that their education is as good as ours, then that country, that nation and those people stand to benefit in very real ways.

Immigrants, of which I am one myself, truly add value. Sure, they might not adopt 100% of the social cultures of their host country. But then, if they did, then we probably would never have adopted curry as a nations favourite food, or adopted a sport such as football as a truly global phenomenon, or added new words to each nations lexicon, such as pyjama and bungalow in the case of the English language  I believe that 100% assimilation is never the answer, but a simple understanding and acceptance of the guiding principles, culture, history and values of ones host country IS necessary in order to be accepted in ones host country. But at the same token, openness and acceptance is a two way street, and ones host neighbours should cherish the idiosyncrasies that, for example, made me ME, or Massoud MASSOUD.

Right now there is an ever increasing right wing ultra conservative backlash against refugees and immigrants all across Europe. I found myself wondering why. As a proud Irishman, we’ve grown-up with stories and experiences of friends and loved ones getting on the boat or plane and heading off to find their fortune and salvation abroad. It’s been a theme of our beloved country for centuries. And we’re experiencing yet another wave of emigration right now. It’s something we though unimaginable during the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, which saw the boom times roll in, and sights of newly minted Celtic Warriors jetting off to Dubai and New York on fanciful shopping sprees for the latest $800 pair of Manolo Blahniks.

But now that emigration is again a reality of life in urban and rural Ireland, I wonder what kind of welcome the “Tribe” get these days. Stories abound of “Irish need not apply” adverts found in the Australian job ads. But in Europe, the backlash has extended to include those who used to be considered “one of us”. Eastern Europeans get no end of harassment in places like Holland and Belgium. Moroccans are considered fair-game for abuse and open racist taunts amongst the Dutch. And God forbid you be of African extraction should you find yourself in Spain or Italy. But why?

Well, I honestly think it has EVERYTHING to do with HOW we process the refugee applications. It’s typical in Europe (Holland and Ireland being two good examples) to house families and provide them with subsistence money to feed and clothe their families whilst their applications are being processed. All the while, those in the family have degrees, skills and trades and who COULD work, and in turn contribute to the exchequer and actually add value, are PREVENTED from working. They are left in refugee detention camps to rot away until their applications are either accepted or rejected. Those lucky few who are housed in normal homes and start to slowly integrate with local life are live hand-to-mouth, their children however already soaking up local life like sponges.

And society resents them for the very fact that they ARE being housed, they ARE getting social welfare hand-outs and they ARE getting something for nothing. But it’s not of their own choosing. If you went to a refugee centre and asked anyone of them, would they like to work or sit on their ass, what do you think their answer would be?

It’s time that we, as fellow humans, stopped this immoral, inhumane stereotyping of our fellow man, and changed both our opinions of refugees and the manner in which we get them through the system and contributing to society. That way, they will never be considered a drain on an economies resources, but rather a very real benefit and a net contributor to a nations ability to grow and add value to all her citizens.

Butterfly On A Wheel

A picture speaks a thousand words. And the Infographic below does a pretty good job at depicting just how one-sided the current attacks by Israel on the Gaza Strip are.

You remember that biblical story of David and Goliath? David slayed Goliath using nothing more than his sling and some stones, and then later became King of the Jews. Well, looks like the shoes on the other foot now, with Israel adopting the role of Goliath.

I mean, ask yourself this. What would YOU do, if a neighbouring country has stopped all freedom of movement of you and your fellow citizens, stops/limits key resources for you to build and run a nation (petrol, medicine, food, cement, lumber) and that those lucky few who CAN cross the border to work have to deal with 3 hour queues at the border checkpoint just to get to work everyday (and that’s on a good day when the border is open).

Or that said neighbouring country continues to steal your land, land which was delineated by an U.N. edict, and then citizens of your neighbouring country build homes for themselves. Oh, and not only that, they build a huge big fucking wall ON YOUR LAND to keep you OUT?

Seriously, what WOULD you do?

Ireland Abortion Laws – Living In The Dark Ages

Ireland has hit the worlds headlines again, and it’s sadly for all the wrong reasons. The death of a young woman, Savita Halappanavar, who moved to Ireland from India with her husband and became pregnant.

Savita and her husband, an engineer at Boston Scientific, moved to the city of Galway, where she worked as a dentist. At 17 weeks pregnant, she went to the hospital in Galway in severe pain. The medical staff there discovered she was miscarrying.

Her husband, had described how she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated, given that she was in immense pain and was miscarrying. He said the request was refused by medical staff who said they could not do anything because there was still a foetal heartbeat. He said they were told that this was the law and that Ireland “is a Catholic country”.

She was denied an abortion, which had it been carried out would have saved her life.

She died of sepsis, in agony.

What kind of Dark Ages mentality is this? That a woman, who’s life is at risk, ends up dying in hospital from something which was completely preventable, but because religious doctrine dictates what laws we have on our statute books. This is something I would have expected back in the era of the medieval church, an era that had no problems with sacrificing the life of a woman, if it meant that canon law and order prevailed. But this is the 21st century, where all men AND women are created equal and have the same rights.

We, as a nation, have had to endure for the past 20 years the stigma of being one of only TWO countries in the EU where abortion is illegal. The other being Poland. Both countries are deemed the last great bastions of Catholic doctrine whereby the sanctity of an unborn foetus has the same rights as that of a living person.

Yet when Savita, who is not a Catholic, went into hospital, she had already begun to miscarry. What the hospital seems to have done, is to make a decision to put a woman’s life in danger, so as to protect the rights of a foetus that never even had a chance of surviving.

There can be no justification for such a decision. It was ruled by the Supreme Court during the infamous “X Case” that whilst abortion in Ireland was illegal, there was one clear exception, that of when a woman’s life is endangered by the continuation of her pregnancy, be it medically or psychologically.

As Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a renowned Ob/Gyn, wrote –

There is no medically acceptable scenario at 17 weeks where a woman is miscarrying AND is denied a termination, there can only be three plausible explanations for Ms. Hapappanavar’s “medical care” :

1) Irish law does indeed treat pregnant women as second class citizens and denies them appropriate medical care. The medical team was following the law to avoid criminal prosecution.

2) Irish law does not deny women the care they need; however, a zealous individual doctor or hospital administrator interpreted Catholic doctrine in such a way that a pregnant woman’s medical care was somehow irrelevant and superceded by heart tones of a 17 weeks foetus that could never be viable.

3) Irish law allows abortions for women when medically necessary, but the doctors involved were negligent in that they could not diagnose infection when it was so obviously present, did not know the treatment, or were not competent enough to carry out the treatment.

The Irish government, in recent months, has also faced the wrath of the European Court of Human Rights, who told the government to get its house in order and make clear any ambiguities regarding the interpretation of the law, i.e. when it was, and was not, legal to carry out an abortion here in Ireland.

There are two elephants in the room of course. The first being the huge numbers of women who have travelled across the Irish Sea every year to have an abortion carried out in England. The second being the supposed right of ANY government preventing a citizen to decide something for themselves that impacts their own body, their life, or even death, simply because it does not fit in with your own personal or religious ideologies.

Let’s begin with the first elephant, the numbers.

It is estimated that on average, between 4,000 – 6,000 Irish women head across to England each year to seek out an abortion. In fact, if you look at the statistics, you can see that we are 16 times higher than any other group.

And the demographics clearly show that those having to travel abroad are the same group of people who had no voice, because we were too young to vote, during the last referendum on legalising abortion in Ireland.

Statistics from the UK Department of Health website

So the shear volume of women, who took the enormously brave step of getting on that boat or plane to England, because they could not get an abortion here at home, have spoken with their feet. And yet the government continues to ignore the fact that these women have had to leave the country to get the medical treatment they so desire.

And what of a woman’s right to choose. It should not be anyone else’s decision to make. Not of the State, her family, or even that of her husband/partner. It is HER body, and it is her decision to make. HERS!

It’s the same dysfunctional nanny-state mentality that prevents a terminally ill patient from seeking out a humane and dignified way of dying in the event that they cannot live a fully functioning and valuable life. This is a decision that they alone should be able to make and choose the time when they want to make it. Not some jumped up little bureaucrat who is “only following the letter of the law”.

If the laws in this land are broken or do not serve their purpose, then the solution is very simple….CHANGE THEM! These are not written in stone, and preventing the people of this land from having THEIR say and failing to set-out a referendum on the topic is a crime in and of itself. It is oppression on a national scale.

How many more women like Savita will die needlessly? One is already one too many.

The message below sent to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, could not have put it more succinctly.