Childcare Strike 2020 Dublin Wednesday 5 February Was a Huge Success

Independent Left support the planned childcare providers strike on Wednesday 5 February in Dublin. Here a female creche worker sits a table with three young children who have beakers in front of them and are looking at wooden toys on their hands. Foreground right  is a colourful blurry toy.
Independent Left joined the protest of childcare providers in Dublin on Wednesday 5 February 2020.

On Wednesday 5 February thousands of childcare workers went on strike to march in Dublin in protest at the crisis in childcare. Independent Left members fully supported this action. Yes, it was a challenge to arrange alternative childcare for the day but action was urgently needed and the march was a necessity. Not only did the protest show how powerful and united is the sector, but it was met with a hugely positive public response as we all know how the sector needs radical changes.

The state needs to follow the example from the rest of Europe and subsidise childcare, treating it as an essential service, not a for-profit sector.

The march was organised by the Early Years Alliance an organisation facilitated by SIPTU and consisting of workers, providers, unions and parents.

Little Learners Checklist at the Childcare demonstration 5 February 2020. A woman with a Little Learners flag hold a 'checklist' placard with a cross by all the issues of her concern.
Little Learners Checklist at the Childcare demonstration.

I spoke to a childcare worker who participated in the action and shared our childcare policy with her. Her description of her daily life provides a powerful illustration of why this strike was necessary.

My husband starts work at 7.30 a.m. so it’s my job to get the kids up and to school. I have two boys, eight years and three years. I drop my eight-year-old off at the school gates at 8.30 to hang around until 8.50: no other way to get him to school and me to work. I got stuck in traffic on the M50 on my way to work as a childworker. I’m very lucky that my three-year-old attends the same creche as me, so only one drop-off for me.

Today, I got to work with five minutes to spare; I’m usually fifteen minutes early, I have to be. Planning needs to be done, the classroom needs to be set up, etc. I bring my son to his classroom where two staff are already setting up the room, completing planning sheets and general organising of the room for the children’s arrival at 9 a.m. Their shift doesn’t start until 9, we only get paid from 9, yet they’ve been here at least twenty minutes setting up. They are very kind to take my son five minutes early so I can get to my classroom and begin my set up.

As the day goes on, we have a first aid incident. We have a child protection concern. I am organising a Together Old and Young visit to a local nursing home. I speak with a parent who is concerned about her child’s development, all within the first hour-and-a-half. We are told we are short staffed today and full time staff need to take a shorter lunch to accommodate. This is not a bad day, just a regular one in this line of work. I also have to discuss the upcoming protest with parents.

Overall, they are very sympathetic to our cause and those who are able to will arrange other means of childcare for Wednesday 5 February to alleviate some staff to attend the protest.

My shift finishes at 1 p.m. and I go to collect my son. But as usual I don’t leave my room on time because someone always needs something: a hug goodbye, a form signed, a conflict between children that needs resolution or even a staff member who needs to go and use the toilet!

I collect my son and he is full of smiles and chats about what he has done that day. He says a fond goodbye to his teachers as if they were his friends!

All of this is so important in our society and I am sick and tired of feeling the way I do in this sector. Yes, I love my job but hugs and smiles and a child’s positive progress doesn’t pay the bills… never even mind the cost of childcare.

Upon reading your article, admittedly, I had a chip on my shoulder, ready to read about ‘tax breaks’ and ‘extended ecce’. I was nicely surprised. It’s nice to see childcare workers being mentioned more than once and in a positive manner.

Zappone says I should join a union if I have a grievance… my problems are not with the management team of the creche, it’s with the state and the ridiculously high expectations they are putting on me and my colleagues.

Sixteen years I’m working in this sector and I’m losing faith.

Everything that is in the link you sent me is true. The whole sector needs an overhaul, childcare should never be for profit! In all the different positions I’ve had, the worst practice I’ve seen has been in private centres and it is not through the fault of the staff.

Change needs to happen it MUST be done in collaboration with the people who are actually on the ground working directly with the children. All these new schemes sound amazing, but when they are put into practice it just pushes us further and further to breaking point.

Thank you for giving me a bit of hope for the future of my profession.

Valuing Us is Valuing Children: placard on the childcare demonstration
Valuing Us is Valuing Children: placard on the childcare demonstration
 It's time for change: huge turnout for the childcare protest
It’s time for change: huge turnout for the childcare protest
Thousands marched for the childcare sector on 5 February 2020
Thousands marched for the childcare sector
John Lyons of Independent Left stands on the right of a group of childcare workers and parents at the demonstration of 5 February 2020. The demonstrators display a lot of red clothing and have placards around their necks proclaiming: loving my job won't pay my bills! We are professionals, treat us professionally.
John Lyons with childcare protesters 5 February 2020

Councillor John Lyons expressed his full support for the strike.

Parents shouldn’t be paying such high costs for childcare and staff should be given increased pay and a proper career path with full training. This campaign can win and the protest on 5 February is the right way to go about forcing the new government, whoever is in power, to listen and to respond.

A picture of Councillor John Lyons, standing beside text in bullet points:
I support the planned strike by childcare organisations on 5 February 2020. The EECE needs to begin at two years of age and double the hours to 30 per week available twelve months of the year. An increase for each child's capitation grant for accessing creches. A massive increase in investment: a minimum 1 per cent of our overall GDP is needed to create a fully functioning national childcare system. An increase in financial supports to long parents and migrant parents whom are most vulnerable to poverty and isolation. Government needs to create public creche facilities in local communities.
In general election 2020 Councillor John Lyons, standing for Independent Left in Dublin Bay North pledged his support for the Childcare Strike of 5 February and raised several demands on behalf of the sector.
Councillor John Lyons supporting the huge childcare sector march of 5 February 2020
Councillor John Lyons supporting the huge childcare sector march of 5 February 2020

Interview with a community childcare worker ahead of the strike of 5 February 2020

In advance of the strike by childcare workers, I spoke to ‘Anne-Marie’ who works in a community childcare centre.

NMcD: Why are you going on the protest?

A-M: I’m going on the protest to support the early years professionals in the community and private sectors who for years have been under huge pressure, who are not treated as professionals, who are expected to hold the rest of the country by looking after and educating the children; for children with additional needs; for afterschool clubs; for everybody.

For all these years we’ve got very little extra funding, we’ve got more people coming an assessing us and making sure we are doing our jobs. We have, I think, eight different government bodies that come in at the drop of a hat to see what we’re doing and to make sure we are doing everything right. And that’s fine, we’re all about good governance and transparency but it’s just constant.

Then there is new childcare funding, which came out in November, is making it even more difficult for parents and for services to be sustainable. Every couple of years funding gets changed and we never know from one year to the next year if we can be sustainable and continue to run the community service that we run. It’s not good.

We’re a community. So we are middle of the road paid, compared to the girls that are on ten Euro-something an hour but it’s below the Living Wage and it’s not good enough.

NMcD: It’s a community creche that you run here. We’re in an area of economic deprivation in north Dublin. Can you tell me the kind of service that you provide and support you give to families in the area and why it is important that we need to fund community creches?

A-M: This community service has been running for a long time in this area. Like all the other community services out there, particularly in areas with disadvantage, we have children with a lot of additional needs, not just official additional needs but because of their lifestyle and home circumstances. We’ve a lot of homeless children; children whose parents have experienced addiction; who are in recovery; young parents who have left school early. A lot of single mums. And that just puts extra pressure on the children, because of whatever’s going on at home. The children all come here and get a breakfast; they get a proper home-cooked meal. Not everybody is going home to a cooked meal with fresh fruit and vegetables every day. They are really cared for and looked after here. It is the home from home, well that’s what we want it to be. But it’s very difficult to provide that when your funding and constraints are there.

I think in an area like this it should be like a DEIS service, where we have additional staff to provide the care and support that the children need. We have a lot of parents that would come to the office looking for different supports, whether it’s things going on at home. It’s more than just drop your child and run out the door. We provide additional supports: we have a lot of children that are referred to social workers, public health nurses, Focus Ireland. We do support the whole family. We do refer children on to psychologists, speech therapists for additional supports. It’s constant it’s full on.

When you look at the funding over the last few years, for example, the ten years since they put up the ECCE scheme (that’s the three hour sessions per day for the pre-school groups), that’s for thirty-eight weeks per year. When that started ten years ago it was €64.50 per week per child, ten years later it is €69. So that’s an increase of four Euro fifty in ten years. That’s the equivalent of forty-five cent a year. Now we give the children breakfast, we give the children lunch, we have to pay the staff when they are on holiday because it is not covered by the funding, these staff possibly have to go and look for jobs in the summer or sign on in the summer, so that’s a lot of women – predominantly – who are signing on through the summer. We want permanent jobs, proper wages and we want support from the government to make that happen.

NMcD: In an ideal world, how would you like government support to run to make life easier?

A-M: At the moment the inspectors and regulation people that come out to see us are TUSLA, Pobal, Department of Education and Skills, Department of Health, the Revenue, Workplace relations, Building Control and Fire Control. So all these people can come at any point through the day when you are trying to support and look after children. Any of them can come in and look for a huge amount of paperwork. We need one government body to run us and support us and understand. There’s overlapping, so they are looking for that and then the next week someone else can come in the look for basically the same thing. We all want the same thing: we want children to reach their full potential.

Early intervention is the key. We have six children here with undiagnosed additional needs. We won’t get any AIM support staff to support these children until they are three. We have six children that are under two that, in our opinion, have additional needs. That puts extra pressure on staff in the room. Two members of staff with ten children in the room and there could be three or four children with additional needs. Nobody is recognising it. We all talk about early intervention but it’s not happening. If we had an extra member of staff in the room as the DEIS model, we could provide better care for the children.

NMcD: Would you say the waiting lists for children seeking early intervention affects your work as well?

A-M: Definitely. If we’ve got a child and the parent has maybe said, ‘I’m a bit worried about her speech’, it’s fourteen months on the waiting list, depending on when they go on it, then they have to go in for an assessment, then it could be another six months before they are seen and go through a stage of intervention. That child is nearly two years older at that stage. So if you saying it at two, two-and-a-half, that child is nearly at school before they are getting any intervention.

NMcD: And the formation of language is vital in the first three years?

A-M: The first three years is just massive for every area of the development of children. It gives them the bottom of the pyramid. It gives them the basic skills to build on over the years. People think that their child starts their education at school but they start during pregnancy and certainly during the first three years. That’s why it is essential. We have over a hundred children on our waiting list at the moment. We are a seventy children service. Most of those on the waiting list will never see the inside of this building because people stay for four or five years. We are one of the only services in this area that takes children under two. We take children from six months. That’s the early intervention that they need. We need extra staff in each room because the biggest cost to childcare is the staff, and even though they are paid way under what they should be paid, that’s the most important part of your money because ninety percent of your money goes on staff.

NMcD: A final question, how has the feedback been from the parents when they know you are closing on Wednesday for the protest?

A-M: A couple of them are disappointed because obviously they want continuous good quality care for their children. But most of them have been supportive because they understand, because they know us, know what we provide and how essential it is for their children’s development. Also for their own time, headspace and development. So some of the parents will be coming and marching with us. Which is great.

A notice from the wall of a childcare centre reads:
We will be closed all day on Wednesday 5th February for a staff meeting and to take part in the National Early Years Protest.
You are welcome to join us and the thousands of Early Years Professionals who are protesting due to the current childcare crisis in Ireland. We aim to provided professional, quality, affordable childcare in a sustainable, enriching learning environment. We need support from the government to do this!
Many parents supported the childcare strike of 5 February and came on the Dublin protest.

If the new government that forms after the election on 8 February does not respond to the sector, then another day of strikes and protests will be necessary.

Damien Dempsey: 21 December 2019, Vicar Street, Dublin

Damien Dempsey, wearing a black shirt and shitting in front of a microphone holding a guitar. His expression of one of intense feeling.
Damien Dempsey: a poetic and sincere voice of those who are struggling in Irish society and beyond

By Aislinn Wallace and Niamh McDonald

Damien Dempsey has been a powerhouse on the Irish music scene for nearly two decades. He brings a voice to the struggles of those suffering in Irish society and beyond with poetry and sincerity. 
Damien’s Christmas Vicar Street gigs have become part of the Christmas calendar for many of his devoted fans. Saturday’s performance was no exception, with a packed-out venue. 
Damien has never been ambiguous about his politics and his music reflects this. The crowd in the gig represented all ages, with an overwhelming working-class representation and with people from all corners of the island. Hearing the whole audience sing out songs such as Colony highlights the level of consciousness Dempsey has raised in his loyal fans over the years.

From the stage: Damien Dempsey live

From the stage, Damien spoke openly about his own mental health struggles; he creates a space with his music to help break the stigmas around mental health and encourage people to talk openly about their own struggles. As two people in the middle of a crowded floor we observed so many resonating with this message as they openly sung along to Sing All Our Cares Away.

Close up of Damien Dempsey singing open-mouthed before a microphone, eyes closed with an intense expression.
Damien Dempsey: accessible and revolutionary

Not only does Damien sing about the scourge of mental health and its destruction to so many, he also brings a message of anti-racism and the importance of the power of women to his songs and gigs. His music talks about the gentrification of Dublin and beyond in the guise of a housing crisis at the expense and displacement of the working class.
Damien is known for his activist and solidarity work, from supporting the anti-water charges movement, to singing at the Moore Street occupation, as an activist in Apollo House and supporting Repeal
The range of influences in Damien’s music includes reggae, R&B, and Ireland’s folk tradition, fused to create a multi-dimensional sound, one that is accompanied by lyrics that convey a strong message of class politics in a way that everyone can relate to. 
The value and influence of an artist such as Damien Dempsey to working class struggles can’t be underestimated: like many others before him, Damo’s sincere and simple music raises issues that affect us all and vocalises the social and economic issues in a way that resonates widely with people.

It’s accessible and revolutionary at the same time. 

The left hand side of the image shows a striking, black and white portrait of Damien Dempsey, with a slight smile. On the right are tour dates: December 2019 ones in Vicar Street (the venue in yellow letters); a space then a block of six dates in April (green) 03 Bantry, 04 Drogheda. 05 Ratoath, 17 Dunmore East, 18 Co. Kildare, 19 Gweedore. Then a space and 14 March 2020 Electric Ballroom London (orange) and 10 July 2020 Iveagh Gardens (blue).
Damien Dempsey can be seen live in 2020 with six April dates in Ireland.

Damien Dempsey’s Soundcloud.

Bolivia’s Coup of November 2019: where did it go wrong for Evo Morales?

Evo Morales waving the colourful flag of the Movement Towards Socialism against a black, night-time background. He is smiling and so are the people around him, some of whom also wave flags and others have musical instruments.
Evo Morales: an indigenous, radical union leader whose compromises
with big business lost the support he needed to resist the coup of 10 November.

On Tuesday 12 November 2019, Jeanine Anez, a fierce, right-wing opponent of socialist Evo Morales, took power in Bolivia with the backing of the police and the military. This represents a setback for the working class and indigenous people of Bolivia (and beyond). It was a setback that could have been avoided and the main lesson is a simple one: socialists cannot succeed in bringing about lasting change from the top downwards.

In 2005, Evo Morales became Bolivia’s first ever elected indigenous President, he maintained this position for nearly fourteen years. How did an indigenous, radical union militant and leader of coca growers become the president of Bolivia?

This article seeks to explain the rise of Morales and the MAS party (movement towards socialism) government and the process of change it brought to the people of Bolivia and its economy. This explanation has to be found in a wider understanding of the history and politics of Latin America.

Latin America is one of the most unequal regions on the planet: according to Meirke Blofield’s 2011, The Great Gap: Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution in Latin America inequality in Latin America has been an entrenched characteristic since colonization, he states that in 2009, 189 million people in the region lived in poverty.

Latin America has a long history of reliance on world markets and transnational powers for its survival. Following a history of colonialism, in post-independence, Latin America prioritised exporting its vast abundance of natural resources over developing its economy domestically, leaving the region weak, underdeveloped and vulnerable to the boom and bust cycles of capitalism. The Great Depression of the 1930s hit the region very hard as demand for exports dramatically reduced.

World War II and the subsequent rebuilding years following the war created a stimulus to world trade internationally and Latin America’s exports began to rise. By 1955 manufacturing was ahead of agriculture in real GDP terms. Latin America adopted a form of Keynesian economics with welfare supports and social democracy. It wanted to turn from free market economics to focus on domestic development using Import Substitution Industrialisation (ISI) as a protection from the turbulent and at times devastating consequences of Laissez Faire economics.

ISI focused mainly on high export Tarriffs, domestic industrial growth as opposed to agriculture and saw a rapid growth in urban populations across the region, it shielded many from the full force of market demands through subsidies, it gave labour rights, gave land rights to indigenous groups and initiated public health, education and housing programs.

A square made out of coloured squares which run in diagonals: 1 yellow, bottom left; 2 orange; 3 red; 4 purple; 5 blue; 6 green; 7 white; 6 yellow; 5 orange; 4 red; 3 purple, 2 blue and 1 green, top right.
The Whipla: the flag of some native people of the Andes

While this protectionism gave some improvements to the quality of life it did not tackle the deeply entrenched inequality that remained a consistent across the region: those who mainly benefited were the formal work force, the middle class and the elite.

Latin America was still dependent on core countries for export and import, technical and intellectual know-how and loans to help cover the high costs of its welfare programme demands. In the 1970s, the global economy experienced another shock, in the form of an oil crisis and war in the Middle East.

The downturn affected the Latin American region in many ways, the revenue from and rate of exports reduced; the cost of imports increased; inflation across the region exploded, leading to an ever-increasing debt for every Latin American country. For example, in Bolivia the inflation rate in 1984 was at 1,300% by 1985 it was 11,805%. By 1983, total debt in Latin America was nearly 300 times the rate of its exports. The region had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for assistance in paying its soaring debt from international capital.

Loans from the IMF are significant for countries as they signal to international markets and lenders that the country is credit worthy. The IMF insist on neo-liberal structural reforms from a borrowing country: the IMF is the last resort for countries, they are rarely able to refuse.  Structural reforms consist of reducing state spending, privatisation of state assets and resources, also the privatisation of health, housing and education resources, a more precarious labour market with few labour laws, minimal welfare supports. This austerity often led to authoritarian regimes and military control in order to implement such goals.  As Jean Grugel wrote (in Grugel & Riggirozzi’s 2011 Governance after Neo-liberalism in Latin America):

By the early 1980s the social fabric of the region was in tatters, the horrors of civil war, military aggression and state sponsored repression created a willingness among ordinary people and their leaders not to push too far in the way of redistribution.

 A change in international relations and a horror at how the military regimes treated its citizens brought a third wave of democracy in Latin America in reaction to authoritarian control.

The third wave worked in two ways: through free market economics and liberal politics. This created a very minimalist form of democracy and its only requirement was free and fair elections. Neoliberalism believes in reduced state intervention and control that the free market can regulate itself and will eventually reduce inequality using trickle-down economics. It is in the context of this third wave that, despite its limitations, radical movements could begin to find political expression, including in Bolovia.

Bolivia has a wealth of natural resources including forestry, minerals, lithium and more recently, oil and natural gas reserves. Additionally, there are large swathes of agricultural land with a strong livestock industry and significant soya bean production. The wealth and development from these resources have never been equally distributed among all sectors of the Bolivian population.

According to Linda Farthing’s 2019 article, ‘An Opportunity Squandered? Elites, Social Movements and the Government of Evo Morales’, the elite within Bolivia have run the country in their own self-interest for over 200 years drawing from their own class to ensure the positions of the presidency, the senate and the judiciary were tightly within their power. 

The neo-liberal era in Bolivia did not reduce inequality; the New Economic Policy negotiated by the IMF was implemented by three consecutive right-wing state managers from 1985-2002. This shock treatment caused profound economic and political exclusion of popular sectors, threatening their very livelihood leaving them without defences.

Nevertheless, this inequality was challenged in a number of dramatic outbreaks of social struggle by workers and their allies. In 1952, for example, Bolivia experienced a social revolution.

Bolivia 1952, massive crowds of workers march behind white banners, the most prominent of which reads VIVA EL M.H.R.
A massive, workers-led revolution swept through Bolivia in 1952

The implementation of the New Economic Policy in the 1990s saw reforms in labour laws, reductions in mining, and an increase in gas production. The traditional unionised sectors from rural areas were destroyed.  People sought employment and began organising in more urban environs. The USA under the new economic regime were facilitated to destroy coca growing and coca farmers. This brought traditional union organisations, national liberation movements and indigenous groups together: earlier in the twentieth century, these groups did not have perceive common ground with each other. These challenges and new formations of popular sectors and their subsequent struggles against the New Economic Policy lay the foundations for the MAS party and the presidency of Evo Morales.

The period 2000 – 2002 saw powerful social movements such as the 2000 water war in CochabambaAymara and a protest movement in Chapare of coca growers.

The original strategy of MAS was in extra-parliamentary activism, grounded in anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist and rank and file democracy. Its power lay in the great number of different organisations involved in the party, including neighbourhood groups, unions, precariat workers, women’s groups and indigenous organisations. These groups were able to mobilise against neo-liberal reforms and eventually topple two successive right-wing presidents.

Jeffrey Webber’s 2017 The last day of Oppression and the First Day of the Same:  The politics and Economics of New Latin American Left, points out that Bolivia had a huge opportunity for fundamental, transformative and structural change from 2000-2005 as it was in a:

… revolutionary epoch this saw a combined rural and urban rebellion of a liberation struggle to end the interrelated process of class exploitation and racial oppression.

Post 2005, however, the class composition leadership layers of the party, its ideology and political strategy began to shift from a revolutionary organisation to a reformist outlook. When it began to contest elections and needed the middle-class urban voters, its leadership began to reflect an outlook formed more by the intelligentsia and middle class than that of workers.

The election of Evo Morales and the MAS party brought significant improvements to the lives of those who have suffered consistent inequality, poverty, racism, sexism and exclusion in Bolivia. According to Linda Farthing the victory of MAS expanded formal rights for women and indigenous people, leading to a significant increase of both within the MAS party and in positions of power in government.

Bolivia has seen one of the greatest drops in poverty: it has tripled the minimum wage, provided massive public investments in rural areas with new schools, hospitals and roads, and initiated the biggest land reform since the 1952 revolution. Despite opposition from the USA, MAS ensured that coca production became an indigenous right. The Morales leadership introduced a more radical constitution, voted on by referendum, his leadership brought a reduction in violence and a more stable situation for the majority of Bolivian people.

Yet Evo Morales’s administration failed to deliver on its more radical promises.

The domestic elite and transnational capital still had control of important sectors of the economy: banking, insurance and construction (mainly in LA Paz the capital and Santa Cruz the headquarters for the hydrocarbon and agribusiness sectors). After Morales’ first electoral victory to the presidency, the ruling elite still maintained power in the senate parliament.

The elites in La Paz initially resisted the new Morales regime, but the flow of capital from large government contracts and a limited expansion of state banking soon saw the economy thrive and profits grow and with that the La Paz elites were happy to cooperate.

The Santa Cruz elites, on the other hand, have always been part of the regional autonomy movement and have rebelled against central government whenever they have come under pressure to deliver to the state an increased share of the economy.  To thwart Morales, the Santa Cruz movement formed a coalition with three other regions with a neo-liberal ideology and a discourse of light skinned superiority. At its height, this coalition mobilised a million people, almost bringing the Morales government to crisis, but the rebellion didn’t last as Morales had the support of social movements across the country. The right did manage to gain concessions from Morales regarding land reform, which saw many of the elites keep illegally acquired lands.  Nor did Morales fully nationalise gas production, which had been an election promise, but managed to secure a much-improved deal which brought a huge amount of capital to government funds.

A woman, dressed in white with a large sack of made of purple cloth is walking past graffiti which translates as: Gas is not for sale, damnit!
An indigenous woman stands in front of graffiti that says: Gas is not for sale, damnit!

The process of change in Bolivia under the Morales government saw much improvement for many, but there came a point where its momentum towards change began to falter. Workers remained in precarious employment. The rate of unionisation dropped despite the country having a strong militant history of union organisation. Bolivia under Morales, despite the name of his party, was not a socialist state, the elite still owned vast swathes of land, foreign investment grew under Morales and this gaves the elite power and leverage. In short, the left administration scored some success but failed to deliver on its radical promises.

Morales continued to negotiate and work with domestic and foreign capital even after increasing his political power after the 2009 election. The process of change in Bolivia has not seen a socialist society emerge, nor could it when the strategy was to work with the local elites and global powers, to obtain the resources for reform.

Morales and twenty members of his administration had to flee for their lives to Mexico following threats from the army and police on 10 November 2019. Their ability to rouse the population and especially the working class against this coup had been deeply undermined by years of disenchantment as well as a perception of interference with the election of 20 October 2019 by Morales’ supporters.

Of course, Independent Left are against the coup and for a restoration of Morales. But we also have a wider vision.

Time again in Latin America and beyond the demands of capital have clashed with aims of governments that have declared themselves socialist. And every time, whether the Castro regime post-Cuban revolution, or that of the Sandinistas, governments that tried to manage their local part of a world capitalist system ultimately failed to transform society.

You cannot bring about socialism on behalf of the working class while in partnership with big business. Instead, we have to take over the workplaces and run them on entirely different lines, with entirely different goals and with very different politics to those of Morales.

How Amy Dunne’s bravery helped change Ireland’s abortion law

By Niamh McDonald, Chairperson, Dublin Bay North ‘Together For Yes’ 

‘Repeal Changed My Life’

Portrait photograph of Amy Dunne. No background other than a blue sky. A confident, proud expression on her face.
Amy Dunne in 2019. Amy was ‘Miss D’ in the landmark ‘right to travel’ High Court abortion case of 2007. Pic: Arthur Carron

Ireland’s long journey from being a country with strict anti-abortion laws to the success of the Repeal movement was not a gradual one.  Rather, after years when there was no movement on the issue, the country would gain a much deeper national understanding of why women should have right to choose from particular cases.

The awful situation that a fourteen-year-old girl – Miss X – found herself in, having been raped and made pregnant in 1992 shook the country. Not only was she refused an abortion in Ireland, but the Irish courts initially refused to let her travel to England for an abortion. Only after a massive outcry and a march of over 10,000 people did the Supreme Court rule that abortion was legal if the woman’s life was at risk.

Students from 1992 sitting in the road in the Dail, behind a banner saying 'Abortion Information Now'. A highlighted square and arrow draws attention to where the image has been altered to cover up a phone number.
In 1992, newspapers didn’t even dare reproduce phone numbers of abortion information services. This, taken by Eric Luke, was doctored to remove the number before being published in the Irish Times.

Another such case was that of Miss D, who we now know as Amy Dunne. Last week, Amy told her story to RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke. Unlike the X case, Amy wanted a baby but discovered in 2007, on her seventeenth birthday, that the baby had anencephaly. Her choice was to have an abortion, but because Amy was in temporary foster care, social workers were involved and the told her that she – along with anyone who travelled with her ­­– would ‘be done for murder’.

Amy refused to back down and took her case as far as the High Court in order obtain the right to travel to the UK (and her passport, which was being withheld from her).

In Liverpool, after induced labour, her baby, Jasmine, died. The experience has left her haunted. As Amy put it, ‘I would have lived with the regret of having an abortion but now that’s not what I have, I have a baby I carried, I have a connection, I have a grave, I’ve had a funeral. I have pictures, I have a child, I have memories. I have newspaper clippings.

‘I am forever haunted instead of just being able to go and do what I needed to do.’

The retelling of such a traumatic experience in public while trying to live with its consequences every day is a huge act of bravery and this bravery highlights the sheer cruelty of the actions of anti-choice bigots who still continue to bully pregnant people when they are at their most vulnerable.

Repealing the 8th was a huge achievement, one that was delivered thanks to the grassroots organisation of thousands of  women across the state. But the legislation is too narrow and restricted. People are still travelling for abortion healthcare, the lack of flexibility in the law means some migrants and people in Direct Provision are left without care.

We urgently need legislation for exclusion zones, a demand that Amy Dunne spoke in favour of. She said that seeing protests at hospitals made a difficult situation worse for a woman who has a hard choice to make, ‘I don’t think anyone should be allowed protest outside a hospital. Pro-life people should be ashamed of themselves. I think it’s sick – I think they have a mental illness. We all make decisions and they’re not made lightly.’

Fine Gael were happy to ride the Liberal repeal wave that was created by the hard work of grassroots activism but now when women and pregnant people need support these are sadly lacking