Glen Hansard speaks about why he got involved with the Apollo House occupation

At the end of last 2016 year a group of artists, housing activists and Unions joined together and made a radical short term intervention to highlight the seriousness of the housing crisis in Ireland.

The group called themselves Home Sweet Home and occupied a NAMA owned property  which was an empty office block in Dublin City centre called Apollo House, they along with hundreds of volunteers opened it up to those sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin.  The project in total helped over 100 people who they accommodated and supported to move onto more long term beds  and 100’s more were given food,clothing and advocacy from the Apollo outreach team that supported those still sleeping on the streets when Apollo was full.

It made national and international headlines and for 28 days Apollo House was a space for those sleeping rough to have a place to call home.

Musican, actor and social justice campaigner Glen Hansard speaks about why he decided to become part of Home Sweet Home and experiences  from his youth gave him a better understanding of the issues that lead people to becoming homeless.

 

Strike for Repeal

Images from Strike for Repeals direct action on 8th March 2017

 

On International  Women’s Day 2017  8th of March, Dublin city was brought to a stand still for several hours. Thousands of were women calling for a referendum on the 8th amendment of the Irish Constitution.

The 8th amendment was put into the Irish Constitution in 1982 and equates the life of a fetus to that of a woman. The 8th amendment has been at the center of Irish court battles and has been brought to European Court of Human Rights as it has affected not only women’s health but in some women have lost their lives.

The movement for Free Safe and Legal abortions has steadily grown in Ireland and the issue is now subject to intense national debate. Including the formation of a citizens assembly to make recommendations regarding the 8th amendment and abortion in Ireland.

I spoke to Meireka Radford, student and pro choice activist on International Women’s day whie she was participating in Strike for Repeals action:

 

Paul Murphy TD speaks to the Right2Water demonstration about his upcoming trial after being accused of falsely imprisonment of Joan Burton at a protest in Jobstown.

JNG 2

Image of Jobstown Not guilty campaign taken from the JNG facebook page.

Paul Muprhy TD along with six other defendants are to begin their triall today Monday 24th of April in the central Criminal Court. Murphy along with 18 others has been accused to false imprisonment after a protest in Jobstown in Tallaght began blocking the car of then Tainaiste Joan Burton on the 15th of November 2014.

The accused have been put into three different groups and the first seven begin court proceedings today.

Holles Street Protest-We own our Hospitals.

Images from the protest at Merrion Square on April 22nd.

Saturday the 22nd of April over 150 gathered on Merrion Square  to express their outrage and disgust at the announcement made during the week by Minister for Health Simon Harris.  The protest was called by the campaigning group Parent For Choice.  Harris announced  that the Sister’s of Mercy would be running the National Maternity Hospital when it is to be re- located to a site beside St Vincents Hospital.  This Protest was one of several called in various cities across the country.

The Sisters of Mercy ran laundries for women who became pregnant outside of marriage in Ireland right up until the early 1990s.  It was revealed that within these laundries women suffered terrible abuse and horror and the children of these women were either sold into adoption or perished due to neglect and were buried in Septic tanks.

The protest was calling for the Minister to reverse his decision and that no hospital should be run by any religious organisation.

The video below is of two speeches made at the protest the first is by Graham Linehen parent writer and director and the second by Brid Smith TD .

 

 

 

Home is Where the Heart Is

I met with  Glen Hansard to talk about why he got involved with Home Sweet Home and how the Apollo House occupation was a success and what is next

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How did your involvement with Home Sweet Home begin?

Over the last seven years every Christmas time, I would do gigs to raise money for the homeless charities in Dublin I have always had an interest in helping people out, when someone on the street asks me can you help me out, I always thought to myself instead of giving them a couple of euro Id give them ten, that might change their evening, try help them significantly or don’t help them at all try and make a difference. A friend of mine Dean Scurry approached me about ending homelessness, after a host of conversations I found myself sitting in the Unite offices in early December with the Irish Housing Network other artists and Brendan Ogle of Unite trade union and the Home Sweet Home campaign seemed to be on and it was another level of reality in comparison to raising money.

My true motivation for being part of Home Sweet Home was from what happened when I was a kid and how I ended up in hostels many, many times due to domestic violence at home and the need for my mam to bring us to hostels.  I have a long term relationship with Women’s Aid in Dundalk trying to raise money because that is more close to me than anything else.  My aunty died in homelessness on a park bench two years ago on Christmas day, I had an uncle die in homelessness, and my cousin was one of the first AIDS deaths in Dublin, her sisters also died from AIDS.  So it’s in my family its personal to me.

The occupation of Apollo House was a very radical action and one that had never been tried out in Ireland before could you explain it a bit more?

I never intended to be the guy who went on the Late Late Show and announce we had occupied Apollo House,  they happened to invite me on that night  for something totally different and I took  the opportunity .  I didn’t realise what I was getting into, it was a burden and heavy burden to carry. I was nervous about it.  When we went into Apollo House it was complicated and simple at the same time.

260 homeless and 200 beds in the system to let’s bridge the gap and house those 60 people. I very quickly I realised we were dealing with the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable.  I had an idealistic idea of homeless who lost their home in the bank crash and sober and clean that’s not reality.  I knew I wasn’t going to be running with Apollo that wasn’t my role in the project and I was very happy about that.

 

What was it like in Apollo?

The first few days Apollo felt terrifyingly chaotic and no one knew what they were doing.   Within 3-4 days the place felt brilliant and things kept improving day by day. What was amazing everyone was willing to be able to listen to each other and learning and adapting so quickly? It was incredible, as the days went by it got calmer, more organised and everyone was feeling more relaxed by the time we were leaving it felt like a home. I have so much admiration for the volunteers and the Irish Housing Network for keeping it together in the beginning because it could have easily collapsed at any point in time.  What I will never forget is how alive I felt in Apollo, every day the needle was on the record Apollo lives and dies on us and our energy and our decision making today. This lives and dies on our positivity today this lives and dies on how we deal with each issue that arises.

Did you think it would catch the hearts and mind of the Irish people as it did?

I hoped the Irish people would look at this intervention and say yes there are a few radical heads among them but there is organisation to it and ordinary citizens are helping each other out to fix the problem without going thru endless red tape and bureaucracy. Sometimes a sharp knife to cut right down the middle of the bullshit is needed, it will put a lot of noses out of joint but it gets the job done.  I’d  rather be asking for forgiveness than asking for permission and there was definitely an element of that in Apollo house lets be pro active, the buildings empty let’s use it, all we will be doing is embarrassing a couple of politicians so what!  We should be proud of what we achieved.

What has Apollo achieved?

I think first and foremost for me it has opened people’s eyes and minds to the idea that community can help. We vote in a government to govern us and for some it works, if you have money you can afford private healthcare and your mortgage or your rent and you’re doing all right. I am one of them now I am not from that.

Then there are those such as my mother who would say “I never knew what the fucking Celtic Tiger was but I tell you what when it died we fucking paid for its poxy funeral” so the government continues to put this burden on those who are already stressed out of their minds, exhausted and they feel the system is just rigged against them. Then along came Apollo, a bunch of idealists trying to do some good and the people said  fair play to them, I  will send them a few quid on go fund me, I will wander up to Apollo tomorrow and give them a toaster.  It was back to community and everyone thought they could help.

What’s next for Home Sweet Home?

That I don’t know to be honest, I personally don’t see HSH as a permanent intervention or else it just becomes another McVery or Simon Community. I hope there is another action but with someone else, I like the idea that maybe we inspired them somehow, that it is part of an ongoing development of community.  I happen to have faith in the idea of community it not about anyone in particular; it’s about community and who is next to step up.  

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Information is power when it comes to pregnancy in Ireland

Pamela is a mother for four children ageing from 17 yrs old to 2 yrs old. She has used different maternity hospitals and services around the country and also has had a home birth. She talks about the different experiences she has had with the maternity services across Ireland.

I had my first child 17 years ago and I was very young myself, I had no choice but to be under a Consultant Lead Unit (CLU) in the Coombe Maternity Hospital because I was under 19 years of age. I had an early epidural and I was lead by what the consultants advised me to do. My second child I went to Hollis Street National Maternity Hospital and I availed of the Domino Scheme this is a mid wife lead scheme with a view to having a home birth but at 36 weeks my plans had to change because there was small complications and I needed medical intervention so I had to be in the hospital to give birth. I found this experience very traumatic, when I went into labour the delivery suite was understaffed and I was kept on the ward until I was about to give birth, then the staff were worried the baby was stuck and all of a sudden I went from having just a mid-wife with me to a team of seven different medical professionals in the room and nobody informed me of what was happening. I felt as if I was detached from what was happening to my body and totally dis empowered. What I also found hard in Hollis Street was the delivery units at the time had no en suite bathrooms so when you needed the bathroom you had to go on to the corridor and face strangers while trying to stay focused on labouring a child.

I then moved to Ennis in Clare and when I became pregnant on my third child I had no choice but to avail of a CLU in Limerick. The maternity services available to women in Ireland depend greatly on where you live in the country. I found this out very quickly that my choices we very limited living in a more rural area in many case women even further away from the hospital than I lived had to have planned inductions to ensure they can make it to the hospitals for the birth as there was not option of having a mid wife lead home birth as the service was not available in Co Clare.

When I became pregnant on the fourth child over two years ago I didn’t want to have a CLU for my maternity care and I found a self employed mid wife who could not give me the option of a mid wife lead birth in hospital but a home birth. Unfortunately there is a severe shortage of self employed midwives in Ireland due to the low standard of pay they receive from the HSE. It can be hard to get a mid wife in rural areas as they have to cover large areas and they cannot care for more four women due to give birth in the same month also you will take a chance on having as if a woman goes over her due date you may have to go to hospital as she will not be available. I choose a midwife and a home birth as the time saved from having to go for every appointment to Limerick would have been a four hour round trip and this was not feasible with my family, also all the research has shown that after having three births already it was safe to have a home birth.

Also in Limerick hospital the Anomaly scan is only carried out for women they deem at risk of fatal foetal abnormalities, this scan is carried out at 18–21 weeks. This scan looks for fatal foetal abnormalities and checks that all the babies’ major organs are functioning and growing. It is offered as standard in the United Kingdom. I paid for this scan privately on my last two pregnancies.

I may sound very negative about the maternity services in Ireland but this was the reality for me and the chances of having serious complications are very low but it is very important women find out as much information as possible to what’s available to them and in rural areas I found a lot of this was through local knowledge and word of mouth. The services have improved a lot since my first child 17 years ago but a lot more needs to be done. The maternity services are under such pressure that hospital staffs do not have a lot of time to explain and a lot of women just go with the hospital lead service but policy in Ireland does not mean best practice and it is important to know all of the options available to you.

Pam is an active member of AIMS Ireland which is a charity organisation for the improvement of maternity services in Ireland. www.aimsireland.ie

Why I am pro choice

Abortion has always being a very divisive issue in Irish society, the most recent opinion poll of October 2016 calling for a repeal of the Eight Amendment to the Irish constitution saw 75% of those surveyed supporting that is should be repealed.

I spoke to Aisling Wallace a mother of two and a pro choice campaigner living in Wexford town on why this issue was so important to her and what are the attitudes like in a rural area of Ireland that can be deemed as more conservative and religious than the more urban areas where traditionally the cities have been the centre of campaigning for abortion rights.

aisling-wallace

 

  1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a 34 year old mother to two small girls. I have just returned to work after a long absence due to injury. I have a higher certificate which I completed part time before my kids were born, but not straight after leaving school.

Since 2010 I have been active in left activism. I have been involved in many local and national campaigns in the fight for a fairer society.

  1. Why do you feel so strongly about a woman’s right to choose?

Through my own life experiences and through what I have learnt by reading about equality and feminism I know that women have a huge burden which is not fully recognised by the society we live in. This is the role of rearing children. While very rewarding this is also something that can restrict women’s choices in career, access to education, freedom to travel, and many other life choices. Having children is a choice, and women should not be punished by having to travel to another country to access a basic health service. There are many reasons why women might need an abortion, from contraception failure to rape or health issues. I feel strongly that women’s health is and should be treated as an individual issue, not legislated for in our constitution.

I’m a mother to 2 young girls and I want them to be able to choose the direction of their life.

   3. Are you involved with any organisations/ groups that promote a right to choose if so you can describe what they are like?

I’m involved with my local pro-choice group in Wexford. We are affiliated to the Abortion Rights Campaign. It’s a small group, where we are all committed to informing and opening the conversation about abortion in Wexford. We have monthly meetings where we discuss various topics surrounding abortion to try and bust the myths that have been compounded by years of religious and societal stigma.

 

  1. Have you seen any change of attitude towards abortion in society?

I grew up in Italy, where the church has much less influence on society, and there is a greater sense of freedom of choice. I moved here in 1999. At that time there was no discussion around abortion. Now at least it seems less hidden, and less stigmatised. But that could also be due to the type of circle I am in.

  1. You live in a relatively rural part of Ireland, do you think this has influence over people perception of a woman’s right to choose

Yes, definitely. I live in a town and the influence of the Catholic Church is in everything, even down to the choice of schools to send your children, or what activities are available in the community, is still huge. I think this has an impact on the stigma women feel about talking about their feelings around abortion. But in women my age and younger I think this is slowly changing. It’s more acceptable to talk about abortion

  1. Have you ever received any negativity while campaigning for a woman right to choose?

Yes. We had a stall some months back to promote a fundraiser for our group. There is an area in Wexford where the street is for pedestrians, so we had set up our table with some information and flyers for the gig. An evangelist group were further down the street giving out their stuff. We were getting a really good response, people were interested in talking about the issue of women travelling, the 8th amendment etc, until one of the other group came up and started to shout at us and the people who were talking to us. He was using very emotive  language. We decided to simply move away from that spot. It was putting people off from stopping to talk.

  1. How do you feel about the people’s assembly organised by the government do you think it will help towards a referendum?

I’m not at all impressed by the concept of a citizen’s assembly. The idea that 100 people would decide whether or not we should hold a referendum on the issue of removing the 8th amendment is laughable. How were they picked? Who picked them? What were their motives for putting themselves forward? It’s just not a big enough sample to be truly representative. It’s a cowardly move by the government because they don’t want to upset their supporters in ‘Conservative Ireland’ by calling a referendum. But they are aware of the huge support that repeal has in modern Ireland.

  1. If not what do you think should happen next?

I think the movement is starting to build momentum in pushing the government to action. A referendum to repeal the 8th amendment is the very 1st step for women to have bodily autonomy. But it’s certainly not the last. Women deserve to be able to access basic health care without having to travel. We deserve to be given the best standard if maternal care. We must be allowed to choose when and how to have children. It is paramount if we are to continue to work towards an equal and fair society.

 

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