Get Your Rosaries Off Our Ovaries
“Whoever invented that slogan is a GENIUS,” said Fiona. It’s very catchy, and the men can join in too, since each participant is chanting not about their own personal ovaries but about the universal ovaries of Ireland, which must be massive.
My tiny friend had joined me in Dublin for the weekend and we’d just crashed into a colossal protest march for abortion rights. My arrival had coincided with the start of the Savita Affair — an outcry resulting from the death of a pregnant woman who was refused an abortion which might have saved her life. It’s a huge scandal — even the Catholic Church has agreed in principle that abortions are OK when the mother’s life is in danger (if it’s only her health that’s at stake she has to tough it out and get disabled) but nothing has ever been clarified in law, and the government doesn’t even collect statistics about the number of legal abortions performed. Meanwhile, anybody who wants an abortion for non-life-threatening reasons simply hops over to the UK secretively, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which seems to satisfy the authorities but subjects the patient to increased risk, stress and expense.
Is Ireland “a medieval theorcracy” as one of my colleagues here called it? The church certainly has a level of power — and indeed relevance — that seems odd to a UK dweller, where even those who have religion are used to basically ignoring it.
I wandered along to the Irish Film Institute, the equivalent of the BFI Southbank or Edinburgh Filmhouse. It’s a splendid building with a fine bar and restaurant — I have to admit it has the edge on Filmhouse. Out of ethnographic curiosity, and because it was free, I drifted into a screening of Irish Film Archive material –
Note the casual approach to presentation, where line flubs are simply left in — who’s going to tell a priest he needs to do a retake? You can get yourself excommunicated for that. Note also the strange fluctuations in volume during the VO sequence, which impart a pleasing MARIENBAD quality.
I entered the cinema five minutes before the programme was due to start, but found it was already in progress. I kind of approve of this casual approach. Radharc, pronounced Riork, seemed like quite a benevolent, thoughtful TV show. The second episode was much more interesting than the livestock one. It dealt with the homeless, and took place a street away from the cottage I’m currently sat in, typing this. Interviews with homeless men were conducted with mutual respect: the interviewer genuinely wanted to know what his subjects thought, and the men had such automatic respect for the priest with the microphone that they all came across as intelligent, soft-spoken and naturally submissive, even as they confessed to being violent, temperamental alcoholics.
The most interesting moment was the guy, talking with his back to the camera to protect his identity, looking like a close-up from Peter Brook’s KING LEAR, who spoke of his lack of religious belief, and was allowed to do so without any comment from the interviewer or presenter: “There isn’t any God. A long time ago people were ignorant, but they’re educated now. I may not be, but some are. There’s nothing.” He’s asked what will happen to him when he dies. “I’ll be dead and I’ll go into a hole in the ground and that’s the last that will be heard of me.” He’s asked if that worries him. “That costs me nothing. It could happen tomorrow and I wouldn’t care. I’d be better off.”
The poor guy has figured it all out, and it hasn’t done him any good. I suspect his social situation is the reason he’s allowed to speak his mind without criticism — he’s regarded as someone who will make atheism look bad. They probably wouldn’t have let an Oxford professor espouse the same views…