© JL Pagano 2013
I tried waiting a few days to blog about this issue, but I am still angry and so I write this post, even though there are many who, for various reasons, may think I don’t have a right to speak out.
It angers me to think of the pain poor Savita Halappanavar must have gone through.
It angers me to think of the array of emotions experienced by her husband Praveen over the past few weeks.
It angers me that if she hadn’t have died we probably wouldn’t know about her plight and the 20-year clock on X-case legislation would remain ticking.
It angers me that this story was able to be kept quiet for so long. Can you even imagine what would have transpired if this was put in the public domain during those four horrific days Savita was in agony?
It angers me that the media fail to make the distinction between “the abortion debate” and “the abortion argument”. The real debate is on the so-called “pro-choice side”, which consists mostly of rational, broad-minded people who see the topic as a complex one that requires mature discussion and who would have widely varying ethical views on the circumstances in which an abortion should be allowed to take place. The argument, which is what the media focuses on and labels as a debate, is between all the people I mention above on one “side” and on the other, the small minority of people who, through nothing less than misguided arrogance, call themselves “pro-life”, and who find themselves incredibly (and in many cases mysteriously) well-funded, and whose strategy involves name-calling and covering their ears refusing to listen to anything until they get their way.
It angers me that some people think this is purely a women’s issue, when around 50% of the babies in question are male, 100% of the babies’ fathers are male, and although I can’t put a percentage on this, I would say a majority of those fathers love their partners deeply and live through their pregnancy emotionally as much as is humanly possible (not to mention the fathers, brothers and other close male family members of the women concerned).
It angers me to hear people like journalist/Catholic Church apologist David Quinn repeatedly hurl the phrase “pro-abortion-legislation” at an elected representative on national radio knowing full well the people he is really speaking to won’t hear the word “legislation”.
It angers me that there is a body of doctors who support the “pro-life” agenda but when you present yourself to a hospital for a pregnancy you have no idea where the consultants you are dealing with stand on the issue. Perhaps there are ways of finding out but I very much doubt the majority of people know this.
It angers me that having had three children born here in Ireland, I have heard anecdotal evidence that some Irish hospitals are “pro-mother” and some are “pro-baby” – perhaps it isn’t true, but I have heard it enough times from enough different sources for there to at least be a discussion about it and clearly there isn’t one at national level.
It angers me that the “pro-life” hymn-sheet since Savita’s death has been to tell everyone, including (implicitly as they are too scared to actually say it) Praveen Halappanavar, to shut up and wait for the results of inquiries, most of which would seem to involve people with vested interests in either the hospital or the HSE.
It angers me that the likelihood of legislation being passed quickly is probably determined by the agenda of the Fine Gael party, who it seems would experience a back-bencher revolt and thus would want to get through its own laundry list in the Dáil first before even bringing such legislation to the house.
It angers me that Fianna Fáil, whose leader had his feet under the cabinet table for 14 of the 20 years Irish government did nothing about the X case (4 as Minister for Health), is saying anything on this issue.
It angers me that rather than stand with Labour and form a united front, Sinn Féin prefer instead to use political tactics to draw them out of the coalition, implying they have been serious about X legislation for years when I for one certainly haven’t ever heard them make it a front line issue.
It angers me that so many people are saying that they are ashamed to be Irish, understandable though such feelings may be. I may have been born in the USA, but I have lived here for 35 years, proudly consider myself Irish and would rather express my desire to get this situation resolved than express my shame.
May Savita and her baby RIP.
There’s nothing that can take away from that. However, call it sour grapes if you want, but the fact remains that the ridiculous format of the All-Ireland Championship means that for yet another year, the Dubs were eliminated after losing just one match by a team that were allowed to lose one match. I wonder if that status quo would remain if Kerry or Tyrone were similarly affected?
As I was twittering the game on Monday, someone replied and mentioned that the GAA was “confident in its own brand”. Time, methinks, to re-publish a post from 2006, which examined just that very point, and outlines a few areas I felt needed addressing – very few of which have been dealt with in the meantime.
The debate over the use of Croke Park was one of the most fascinating in sporting history, not just on this island. To those who can’t claim ancestry on Celtic soil, it seemed like a ludicrously lop-sided argument.
Basically a couple of big boys who wanted to play ball in the neighbourhood’s immaculate park were being denied by a smart-ass pipsqueak kid who tantalisingly dangled the keys from inside the fence. Yet whenever I heard the protagonists discuss the matter, I always got the sense that the big boys both knew the pipsqueak’s Dad would kick their ass if they pushed him too far.
Before I go on, I should give two reasons why I may be considered biased when writing this piece.
First, I’m a disgruntled Dubs fan who feels like it’s a joke that the only counties who don’t get to use the “back-door” system are the four who actually become champions of their province.
Second, I’m a disgruntled rugby fan who is convinced that were it not for the existence of Gaelic sports, we’d have both rugby AND soccer team that could realistically compete for honours in their respective World Cups.
If you spend any length of time here or indeed study the island’s history, you know that you can’t just look at the GAA as a sporting organisation. It has links to the nation’s history; in fact it has strong links to its very foundation.
Trust me – I totally get that.
I also know the GAA will never, ever go away. And if truth be told, I wouldn’t really want it to. Think of an annoying relative in your family you have a particular dislike for without actually wishing them dead.
So all that leaves me to do is list what I think can be done to make the games more appealing, and to encourage people to follow it not just because they are supporting their county or their country, but because it actually involves entertaining sports that can realistically compete with the ones that are embraced all around the world.
And so I have compiled six points. I’m sure I can list more. And yes, I know you could easily come back at me with things that are wrong with rugby & soccer. Trust me, for every one of those you could come up with, I could produce three, but that’s for another day’s writing.
1. MINDLESS BEAUROCRACY – The Croke Park saga showed me exactly where the GAA’s problems are rooted. To make a decision, it has to be approved by individual province boards, individual county boards, in fact I think parish priests even get a veto by the looks of it. I’m sorry, but from my practical standpoint that makes a mockery of the organisation. Gaelic football and Hurling are minority sports. Not just on the planet, but on this island. That doesn’t mean they’re BAD sports. They are just minority sports. Their top level executive process should not be that complicated. Let the federal level regularly elect a central council for, say, a four year term, and let them get on with governing the game and making decisions without having to convene hundreds of committees all over the country in the process.
2. WHEN IS A HAND-PASS A HAND-PASS? – One frustrating by-product of my first point is that with every new season on GAA sports (though to be honest I’m not quite sure exactly when one season ends and another begins) there is a whole new set of rule changes for the long-suffering fans to digest. Constant tinkering with the hand-pass rules. Yellow, red and even black cards which the referees seem to dole out on a whim more than as a result of enforcing stringent sets of laws. Plus the fact that I can’t for the life of me understand how one man in his forties can be expected to run around a park and keep track of the antics of thirty men aged ten to twenty years younger. I’m sorry – but when a GAA game is officiated, it looks a lot like it a weekend pick-up game down at the park. That is not about the officials, it’s about the ever-changing rules they are expected to enforce.
3. HOW DO YOU GET TO BE CHAMPIONS? – These points are in no particular order, but two get my goat particularly, and this is one of them. Next season, there is to be yet more tinkering with both the All-Ireland Championship and the National League. Now when I say “National League”, what I really mean is the Glorified Friendly Series the GAA runs every spring. Personally, I would find a way of tying the League to the Championship, but what I’d settle for is the GAA executive (one with teeth as I outlined before) to agree on a format and stick to it for at least four or five seasons in a row before altering it. Just stick to this premise – try and get the best two teams in the country contesting the All-Ireland Final. It doesn’t look like rocket science to me.
4. SHOW ME THE MONEY – Though I appreciate the GAA’s pride in retaining its amateur status, I can’t see the GPA going away any time soon. The central executive should let them in under the umbrella and start sharing the wealth generated by the sports equally among those who actually contribute to it.
5. DROP THE DRAWS – My biggest pet peeve of all. I’ve written about it before on my blog. This drives me up the wall and down the other side. There is pretty frequent scoring in both Gaelic football and Hurling. There is absolutely NO reason why a single-elimination contest cannot be settled on the day. No need to bring everyone back the following week to buy thousands more tickets. It really should be unconstitutional to be able to unnecessarily legislate large amounts of cash for yourself. But I guess on this island that wouldn’t make them the only ones, right?
6. WHY HIDE YOUR BEAUTIFUL HQ? – One argument I heard from GAA-heads throughout the Croke Park debate went something like this – “Why should we share with rugby and soccer when they can’t build their own stadium?” To the GAA I say this. You want to really humiliate them? Let them play their games in Croker, and when the French and the Aussies and the Brazilians and yes, even the English come to play, you make sure you let their fans know about your games when you have them assembled before and after the matches. Tell them you built it. Show it off to the world!!! You can’t do that when Kerry plays Mayo. You can when it’s a Six Nations game or a World Cup qualifier.
That’s it for now. Of course I don’t know that much about it to begin with. I’m sure I will incur a backlash from GAA fans.
Sometimes, however, it helps to hear the truth from outside the fence. All I’m saying to the GAA is, maybe the game should market itself towards soccer and rugby fans – some of us wouldn’t actually mind coming on board and spending our money on your tickets. As you are so keen to point out, there’s a lot wrong with our sports as well.
I hope I didn’t offend anyone too much.