Abortion – a bitterly divided Ireland?

A section of the huge crowd at the recent ‘Repeal the Eighth’ march in Dublin city centre

This week I was commissioned by a US website, Irish Central, to talk to both sides of Ireland’s bitterly divisive abortion debate.

With the country set to go to the polls in a referendum next May or June, campaigning has already begun.

It was a difficult piece to write, as I did not want my own personal views to interfere with the interviews I carried out with activists on both the pro-choice and anti-abortion sides.

The issue is particularly poignant in my native Galway, where the death of Savita Halappanvar five years ago sent shock waves across the globe.

Savita was denied a termination which could have saved her life and who can forget the image of a medic at University Hospital Galway telling her that “Ireland is a Catholic country”?

A veteran pro-choice activist pointed out to me that Ireland was now a completely different country compared to when the current legislation was enacted in the early 1980s.

She said that homosexuality and gay marriage had been legalised, Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes had closed, and divorce had also been introduced since then.

“This is something that belongs in a by-gone era,” she said. “Women used to come up to us and cry at our street stall in Galway city centre. Things have changed, but people might still be unwilling to wear ‘Repeal the Eighth’ jumpers in more conservative small towns or villages.”

It is also striking to note the differing demographics at the huge ‘Repeal the Eighth’ and ‘Pro-Life’ marches which took place in recent months in Dublin.

Members of the younger generation seem to be far more in favour of changing the current legislation if one is to judge by the turn-out at the marches.

Yet I was also struck by sincerely views are held by those I spoke to on the anti-abortion side.

Tommy Roddy, who campaigned for Marriage Equality, shows that it’s too easy to stereotype people who campaign to keep the eighth amendment.

“I have even had arguments with friends of mine over this issue,” he said.

“There seems to be this assumption that if you were in favour of gay marriage, for example, that you must be pro-choice. I was criticised for my pro-life views in the General Election, but my view is that there is a pro-life culture here in Ireland.”

Thanks to all four for speaking to me honestly about their convictions.

Given how sensitive this issue is, I really hope there is a clean campaign free of personalised abuse over the next eight months or so.

You can read the full article here:


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Second toughest at the Irish Blog Awards!

Journalist and blogger Ciaran Tierney on his last day at work at the Connacht Tribune on September 30. 2014. He came second in the Blog of the Year awards on Thursday night.

When I took voluntary redundancy from a regional newspaper three years ago, I decided to set up a personal blog.

I had no idea what was coming next in my life, but I knew that I loved to write and I saw a regular or occasional blog as a great way of communicating my thoughts and feelings through this crazy journey called life.

Given my own personal demons at that time – sudden unemployment, illness, uncertainty about the future, fear – seemed so universal in an extremely unequal Ireland, it just kind of morphed into a political blog.

Many people feel that the gross inequalities currently on show in Irish life are not always adequately reflected in our mainstream media. Which is why bloggers can play an important role!

I had already written a travel blog – called Ciaran’s Gap Year – during a wonderful career break from the Connacht Tribune and I loved the experience of being able to chronicle my travels through Thailand, Nicaragua, and Spain in 2010.

Little did I think in 2014, when I began scribbling on a reasonably regular basis, that my blog would make such an impact that I’d find myself alone but very happy among strangers at a glittering awards ceremony in Dublin on Thursday night.

Over the three years since, I have touched on issues such as homelessness, Irish neutrality, mental health, Palestinian and Syria human rights, post-conflict Northern Ireland, and our appalling treatment of asylum-seekers, enjoying the sheer freedom which comes with writing a weekly or occasional personal blog.

Through the blog, I have met wonderful people such as Catherine Corless, who broke the ‘Tuam Babies’ scandal; African taxi-drivers, who have been subjected to appalling racism; and survivors of institutional abuse.

The blog has clearly struck a chord at times, sometimes reaching up to 30,000 ‘hits’ thanks to social media shares by people such as Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan MEP, Belenus (of Call for a Revolution in Ireland), and the team behind Broadsheet.ie.

One blog post about 1916 even earned me a regular gig as a paid contributor to Irish Central, the biggest news site for the Irish community in North America.

It was written in anger, after two columnists at the Daily Telegraph dared to compare the 1916 rebel leaders to ISIS.

A night for celebration

So last Thursday was a night for celebration. I had reached the final of the V by Very Irish Blog of the Year awards and it was delightful to receive such recognition from my peers.

It was only when I got to The Academy that I realised the scale of the achievement. Although hardly anyone in the Dublin blogging community knows me, I was one of 5,000 initial entries who were whittled down to just a few dozen finalists.

I was thrilled to come second in the Current Affairs category, and I was also blown away by the quality and broad range of blogs and bloggers who made it to the final.

So congratulations to An Sionnach Fionn, who beat me to first prize in the Current Affairs (Personal Blog) category. And to the team behind Slugger O’Toole, winners of the corporate prize.

Congrats also to The Gastro Gays, who won the Blog of the Year award.

I survived three rounds of judging to make it to the final and the prize has given me a huge boost as I continue to adjust to life as a former newspaper journalist.

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported both me and my blog during a period of transition and even crisis in my industry.

And, remember, if you do want to hire a blogger – I have written about a huge variety of subjects over the past 25 years – there’s one available right here out in the wild west, on the Wild Atlantic Way.

I also hope to continue ranting about injustice in Irish society. Now, more than ever, Ireland needs writers with integrity. On Thursday night, I was delighted to see that there are quite a few of us about!

The silver medal award from the V by Very Irish Blog of the Year awards