Sinéad Kennedy

Repeal: a victory for women everywhere

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The impact of the historic vote for abortion rights in Ireland last month was felt worldwide and is a real blow to the religious right. Socialist Review spoke to Sinéad Kennedy, Co-founder of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment about the campaign that inspired and involved so many.

It was a stunning vote, why was it so successful?

Well, it’s difficult to say. At the moment we are still trying to assess it. Certainly it was a larger Yes vote than we had ever imagined. The information that’s beginning to come out suggests people had been making up their minds not just over the last weeks but over the last few years.

Abortion in an era of neoliberal choice

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Despite the claim that we live in an age of "personal choice", the right of women to choose an abortion is under attack. Sinead Kennedy gets to the heart of this apparent contradiction.

One of the important political achievements of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s was winning people to the idea of abortion as an essential choice for women. In the past four decades women’s lives have been transformed so dramatically through the legalisation of abortion that, as US author and activist Katha Pollitt notes, we are in danger of forgetting how things used to be:

Irish meltdown looms

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Ireland, once the poster-child of globalised, deregulated, neoliberal capitalism, is now in the midst of a spectacular collapse.

The Irish government is under intense pressure to accept a bailout from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as fears that the Irish debt contagion may spread and engulf the entire eurozone.

However, what is presented as a rescue plan for Ireland is really just an attempt to make Irish workers pay even more to bail out the banks and protect Irish and European capital.

The Mythology of Imperialism

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The opening pages of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness contain a powerful description of the ideology of imperialism: "The conquest of the earth...is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea..."

It is a novel that reminds us that the real heart of darkness was not in the centre of Africa but in the heart of European imperialism itself.

Imagine, however, this profound study of the European imperial project reduced to a novel of psychological states and literary devices. If you can, you will have some idea of the state of literary studies before the 1970s and growth of what became known as postcolonial studies, a discipline that would so completely transform how we read literature that now it is almost impossible to imagine what came before.

Choice over the Future

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Women are fighting for the right to choose in Ireland's abortion referendum.

As the politicians yet again drag the abortion question into the political limelight, it is worth reflecting on the startling contradictions confronting women in Ireland in 2002. The Celtic Tiger was virtually built on the contribution of vast numbers of working women. The resulting financial independence, albeit poorly paid, has brought independence in all sorts of other areas.

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