MARCHING FOR CHANGE, AND FOR CHOICE

Mary Kate Hickey

As the rain poured down on the thousands of men, women, children and dogs gathered for the fifth annual March for Choice, a loud cheer could be heard from the crowd to mark the start of our journey.

Neither the rain nor bus strikes were able to deter the thousands of campaigners, young and old, coming to show their opposition to the Eighth Amendment.  It is estimated that in all over 20,000 people showed up to march their way to Leinster House.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 22.18.40.png

Sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats and even umbrellas emblazoned with the word “REPEAL” acted as the uniform of choice for the marchers.  Among those in a REPEAL sweatshirt was Marie Mitchell, a mother from Sandyford, showing her support to the Abortion Rights campaign. “I’m a mother of two, a son and a daughter.  My daughter is 20 and I would like for her, and any woman, to have the choice over what they do with their own body,” she said.

The theme of this year’s rally was “Rise and Repeal” which is a reference to the Constitution and the Eighth Amendment, which equates the life of an unborn baby to that of the mother.  And like a rising it felt, with drums, homemade drums and loudspeakers aplenty among the crowd, there was no way it couldn’t have been heard all across the city.

Morale among the crowd was high despite the weather, and campaigners were happy to share their stories of why they felt the need to march in the rain for the right to choice.  Rebecca from Tipperary shared her story: “Today I’m marching with Tipp for Choice in honour of my friend Claire who lost her baby Alex to a fatal foetal abnormality. What Claire and Alex went through was pure tragedy and we have to stop punishing tragedy in this country by repealing the Eighth.”

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-22-16-53

Another person marching was Tanya from Kilkenny. “I set up Kilkenny For Choice this year and I’m marching today because last year, 35 women from Kilkenny had to travel to England to avail of medical services that they need, which is not fair. It’s 2016 [and] women have been denied their rights for far too long. We need to move on to the 21st Century and give women the care they need,”  she said.

The high morale was made ever clearer with chants of “not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate”, “pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die,” and “get your rosaries off my ovaries”, keeping us going all the way to Merrion Square.

These chants, along with banners and signs told a story that many Irish women know all too well, a story that these campaigners are seeking to put an end to.  Robin, from Germany but living in Ireland was one of the many people carrying banners.  He said: “I’m here today because I believe every woman should have the right to choose, and I believe in a broader sense that the Eighth also calls into question everyone’s freedom to make choices over their own body, which is a scary thought.”

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 22.17.16.png

 

Walking along the route with the marchers was an eye-opening experience as you get to hear first-hand stories from them as to why they are there.  Claire Loughran from Naas said: “I’m marching today because I think it is an archaic law and it’s about time Ireland gave women the right to their own bodies.” Accompanying Claire was Heather Law, also from Naas, who added: “I’m marching because I think bodily autonomy is an important thing that everyone should have the right to.”

Marchers travelled from all over the country to show their support. James Doyle from Limerick was one of them. “I just think women should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies, and the state and the church shouldn’t have a say in something so personal,” he said.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-22-17-49

Some people also felt that it was their time to give back, like Luke from Galway, who said he was marching to thank everyone for the yes vote in the Marriage Referendum last year.  “I’m marching today because so many people marched with the YES EQUALITY movement, and now it’s my turn to return the favour and help people have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies.”

 

The streets of the city along the route were littered with people attentively watching our journey from one end of the city to the next.  Some even stopping in their tracks to applaud us in support.  Others there from the opposition, to have their opinions on the right to life heard.

Counter arguments from the Pro-Life side came at one stage in the form of two men, one holding a picture of the Virgin Mary, and one waving a flag.  Both were saying that “abortion stops a beating heart” to the marchers.

Members of the Pro-Life campaign also held a counter demonstration on Grafton Street, where they claimed that around 100,000 lives have been saved in Ireland due to not having abortion on demand. (Based on figures of Irish women travelling to UK for abortions and those in UK having abortions.)

*Some people weren’t comfortable giving their full names, but all agreed to have their opinions published with a degree of anonymity.*

(Originally Published on TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/10/04/marching-for-change-and-for-choice/)

OPINION: CYCLING IN THE CITY

By Mary Kate Hickey

Living within walking distance of the city centre, I could write a book on some of the things I’ve seen on my daily commute.

A lot of these stories involve cyclists, and with a record number of 11,000 commuters pedaling their way into the city every day – according to Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) annual traffic count – it’s no wonder.

image.png

Cycling in Dublin quite frankly scares me, and I personally don’t see myself ever attempting it.  That said cyclists in Dublin also terrify me – they zoom along between cars and buses, on pedestrian walkways and can regularly be seen running red lights.

I don’t hate cyclists but rather have a strong dislike; simply because so many find it difficult to adhere to the rules of the road.  My main issue with cyclists is the lack of respect they have for pedestrians, and pedestrian walkways.

I’ve had many personal experiences with this. Most memorably, I was walking across Millennium Bridge when a man pulled out in front of me on his bike, nearly knocking me over – something many Dubliners have experienced.  By the time I composed myself enough to tell him that he was cycling on a pedestrianised bridge, he was already cycling the wrong way down the Quays.

Another seemingly common trait amongst cyclists is their habit of breaking red lights, having no concern for themselves or others in doing so.  A friend of mine recently told me a story when she was crossing the road with her child, a cyclist breaking the traffic lights almost hit her child in her stroller.  The lights are there not only for the safety of pedestrians, but for drivers and cyclists too. Had there been traffic going in another direction, that cyclist put themselves and others at risk, all for the sake of saving a minute or two.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-22-34-40

As well as this sheer lack of concern for others, some cyclists seem to have very little concerns for their own safety.  Many cyclists in the city forego wearing a helmet, to protect themselves if they are unfortunate enough to get in an accident.  A lot of cyclists also never wear high-vis gear, or have lights on their bikes, making them invisible to drivers and pedestrians, especially at night.

With cyclists sometimes choosing not to use the cycle lanes, drivers have to be vigilant and look on both sides of their vehicle for them. Without lights, and high-vis gear, this makes the drivers’ job to see them a lot more difficult.

With the volume of cyclists on the roads, going down one way streets in the opposite direction might save time – but I’ve often seen cyclists going the wrong way on one way streets, again putting themselves in danger.

The final thing that annoys me about cyclists is the sense of entitlement they have over the road.  Many cyclists seem to think they can cycle wherever they like, whenever they like and not follow the rules of the road.  The rules are there for the safety of everyone, and I think if everyone followed them correctly the roads of this city would be a safer place.

 

(Originally posted on TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/10/06/opinion-cycling-in-the-city/)

DÁIL DEBATES THE EIGHTH

By Mary Kate Hickey 

A bill proposing a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, and allowing for legislation on abortion, went up for debate before Dáil Éireann on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, the government agreed not to accept the bill until the Citizens’ Assembly has discussed the topic even though it is not due to start until early 2017.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-22-25-51

Ruth Coppinger accused “sell-out Independents” of “putting their ministerial seats before the health and lives of women.”

“This vote will guarantee that no referendum will take place during the lifetime of this government,” she added.

The AAA-PBP (Anti Austerity Alliance – People Before Profit) bill was particularly critical of Independent TD Katherine Zappone.  Zappone was elected due to her links to the marriage referendum, and the repeal of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws.

“Many women and girls leave this state every day for an abortion. This is our reality.” Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said.  She added that Ireland cannot continue ‘exporting its issues’, and that the government’s delaying tactics on this matter are unacceptable.

TD Bríd Smith brought abortion pills with her into the chamber – which are illegal in Ireland – to use as a visual aid to her argument.

“You could arrest me for having it and give me 14 years, but you ain’t going to do it because what’s on your books and what’s in your laws, you know that if you dare to implement it you would bring hellfire and brimstone down on top of this House and in wider society because we have moved on,” she said.

Smith started her speech by criticising the poor turn-out for the debate.  With only 14 TDs showing up to discuss the Bill, she was not alone in criticising the attendance, and many citizens took to social media to voice their outrage. The hashtag #repealbill was among the top trending topics in Ireland during, and after, the debate taking place.

The Pro-Life campaign said that the bill was designed solely to generate publicity and not for a  genuine debate.
Twitter Reaction: 

CEILI SA CHLUB: ALTERNATIVE NIGHTS OUT IN DUBLIN CITY

By Sarah Ruane and Mary Kate Hickey.

Thecity.ie went along to ‘Céilí sa Chlub’ organised by Conradh na Gaeilge in search of an alternative night out in Dublin City.

This hidden gem on Harcourt Street promised a great atmosphere with lots of dancing and music and it delivered in every way.

(Originally posted on TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/11/12/ceili-sa-chlub-alternative-nights-out-in-dublin-city/)

SPENDING ON PROGRAMMING BY RTÉ HAS DECREASED, DESPITE A GROWTH IN INCOME

By Rachel D’Arcy, Sarah Ruane and Mary Kate Hickey

Spending on young people’s programming by RTÉ decreased steadily from 2013, The City can reveal. This news comes as it was announced that in-house production on Young People’s programming is set to face the axe. RTÉ announced in November that from 2017, all their young people’s programming will be outsourced to independent production companies. However, that decision has been postponed temporarily while discussions with staff continue.

In figures released to The City through the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (FOI), Young People’s programming saw a 15% decrease in spending from 2013 onward. There was a 4.3% decrease on spending in the young people’s sector within RTÉ in 2015.

rte-2

While young people’s broadcasting will continue to be shown on RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Jr, production of RTÉ’s own young people’s programming – such as Swipe TV and Two Tube – will be abandoned by the state broadcaster amid claims that outsourcing will provide ‘greater value for money in a challenging financial environment’.

In terms of broadcasting time, young people’s programming saw a cut in their hours broadcast during peak time for the station. In 2014, RTÉ broadcast 24 hours of children’s television, which reduced to just 15 hours in 2015 – a 37.5% decrease.

“RTÉ is not reducing its commitment to young people’s programmes, nor is it reducing spend,” the broadcaster stated. Even though young people’s programming will be outsourced, RTÉ claims that they are not going to outsource children’s programming abroad. Rather, they will be allowing independent production companies and animation companies within Ireland to pitch new ideas and programmes to their young viewers.

RTÉ Trade Union Group (TUG) are not happy with the recent revelation claiming that the decision was made without any consultation with trade unions.

“There is no justification for the manner in which this decision was taken and this cavalier attitude to unions and staff only compounds the bad decision,” said TUG Chair, Shirley Bradshaw.

Another person who has publicly voiced their outrage over the decision is Paula Lambert, the voice of Bosco and daughter of Wanderly Wagon’s Eugene Lambert. Ms. Lambert described how cutting children’s TV was always the easy option for RTÉ in the past.

bosco

“It brought back incredibly bad memories for me. I remember Wanderly Wagon was axed and how it was done, and it hurt my dad back in the day. It happened with me with Bosco and it just brought back all these memories of how badly people are treated by RTÉ,” she said.

Following the TUG statement, RTÉ accepted that there had been insufficient consultation before the announcement and that further talks would therefore have to take place. These discussions are set to take place before January 31 2017.

While 2013 saw the introduction of RTÉ Jr, a channel specifically for children, which featured programming indigenous to RTÉ as well as acquired content, from this year onward RTÉ Jr will show programming entirely acquired from independent sources.

Most of RTÉ’s programming saw a decrease in 2015, however, factual television such as Nationwide saw an increase of 56 hours in 2015 compared to the 2014 figures.

As well as a decrease in broadcast hours, RTÉ’s spending on programming fell as a whole in 2015. RTÉ spent €1,149,000 less on television programming last year, a small 0.79% decrease. In house productions by RTÉ were down 7% in 2015 compared to 2014, however programming commissioned and acquired by the broadcaster increased by almost 17% in the same period.

swipe-rte

Even though there was a decrease in spend, RTÉ’s financial income increased in 2015 compared to the previous year.  They received €178.9m from the television licence fee in 2015, up 0.16% since 2014. They also had an increase of 3.7% in their commercial revenue over the same period.  At the end of 2015, RTÉ had a cash, and cash equivalent, figure of €22,746,000, up 34.6% increase from the previous year.

Young people’s programming within RTÉ has still been cut despite the overall increase in income received, and in cash and cash equivalents, with more time and money being invested in factual programming over the years. It is yet to be seen where RTÉ will invest the money in the coming year.

IRELAND’S BUSINESSES ARE AMONG TOP SOCIAL MEDIA USERS IN EUROPE

By Mary Kate Hickey & Rachel D’Arcy

Ireland has been named as one of the top three countries in Europe for social media usage by businesses.

In figures posted by the CSO, it showed that Ireland came second to top, just behind Malta. 64% of Irish businesses, employing 10 people or more, used some form of social media in 2015 – an increase of 16% since 2013. The EU average for social media usage, such as Twitter or Facebook, in a business is 39%.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18tQKGsdP3lLaKejBNM6hMB7wu14m1a85Q3PxFK1fLoQ/pubchart?oid=2139538178&format=interactive

“I have to say I am surprised by those statistics,” said social media expert at Fuzion PR, Greg Canty. “I do social media training for local enterprises and I am astounded by the amount that aren’t on Facebook, Twitter and the likes. Perhaps this could be due to us having a big SME (small medium enterprise) culture in Ireland, and maybe smaller businesses are embracing social media more than larger ones who may get caught up and feel more anxious about it,” he commented.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-21-21-22

Malta had the highest percentage of enterprises utilising social media at 72%, with the Netherlands coming in third, with 63% of Dutch businesses using social media for promotion or otherwise. Poland ranked bottom of the list, with just 22% of Polish businesses utilising social media in their businesses.

“I think many businesses may misunderstand how to effectively use social media. A lot wonder how they can use social media presence to get more sales,” Greg explained.

“I think social media can give businesses a platform to have a conversation with their clients, and not hit them over the head with goods and services they are trying to sell them,” Greg said, on how effectively he thinks Irish businesses are using social media.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-21-21-37

In data released by Eurostat, it shows that Irish enterprises upped their usage of Twitter and similar sites by 3% since 2015, with 30% of businesses now using the microblogging site. YouTube usage also increased by an impressive 7%, meaning that 21% of Irish businesses now use multimedia websites to promote their products or                                                                                                                               services.

“A lot of businesses push out posts, but don’t take the time to engage with customers on a personal level. Social media gives businesses an opportunity to show their own personality, which is difficult to do on a website or in an ad campaign,” Greg said.  He added that businesses could even use social media to share stories about the team that works in the company, and really engage with their customers on a more personal level, to humanise the business.

“I’d also advise businesses that if they’re going to exist on social media, then put in the effort and really exist – don’t half do it.  These things need to be maintained at a professional level to keep an open and interesting conversation with customers.  By responding to customers on social media, businesses  can make themselves look really good and customer friendly, and it’s really easy to do,” Greg added.

As well as increasing social media usage as a form of promotion, a whopping 53% of large Irish businesses had e-commerce sales. These e-commerce sales accounted for 50% of all total sales, meaning half of all sales by Irish businesses included in the survey are made online. “E-Commerce has become a big player in the Irish market, and I think that’s due to it making the ‘pain in the arse’ tasks a lot easier to do. Reliable online shopping makes the annoying tasks less so,” Greg explained.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-21-24-29

However, more businesses made online purchases than sales.  70% of larger Irish enterprises made purchases online in 2015, which accounted for 42% of overall purchases by large businesses.  Medium businesses made around 20% of their total purchases online, with 58% of this size of enterprise purchasing materials or services online.  44% of small businesses made purchases online, or 12% of small business purchases overall.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it is imperative that businesses use social media in this day and age,” Greg told us.

“It’s all about storytelling – telling the customer about who you are – and now social media gives businesses a chance to have a conversation with customers to add to their story.  Engaging with the customer is where that little piece of magic lies in selling a business I think.”

TUESDAY’S TOPS: SWEET THINGS IN THE CITY

The Sweetest Thing

the-sweetest-thing

A little gem on Bachelors Walk! Inside it is quite small – however, it is far from lacking in portion size.  Upon entering, we were greeted by a huge smile, and we took the only spare table left inside.  The staff were wonderfully friendly and upbeat, and they didn’t seem to mind when it took us an age to decide which delicious desserts to try.  I went for the chocolate fudge cake, and my friend had the largest banana split I have ever seen.  The waitresses even joked about the mountain that they were bringing out. Even though it is small and pretty busy, we never felt like we were being rushed out of our seats and we had plenty of time to thoroughly enjoy our desserts.

Sweet Republic

sweet-republic

Only a few yards away on Bachelors Walk is another haven for the sweet toothed.  Sweet Republic only opened last year, but has become a fast favourite in the city.  People were going bananas about it when it opened, and it lived up to the hype.  It has some mouth-watering sweets that could tempt even the strongest willed of individuals.  My hands down favourite is  the Ice Cream Cookie Sambo. They also do shakes, cupcakes and even sweet pizza!

Coco Bó

coco-bo

The only place in Dublin to make your own chocolate bar, Coco Bó is located in the heart of the city on O’ Connell Street.  Coco Bó’s ‘Made by Me’ bars are €2.50 at the minute, on their Autumn special.  The customer gets to customise everything, from the type of chocolate, to the fillings which range from fruit to marshmallows and popping candy.  I got one with white chocolate, marshmallows and dried raspberries – amazing! They also offer a range of ice creams and toppings, as well as coffees and teas which are a welcome sight in these colder months.

 

Aungier Danger

aungier-danger

After opening their first shop a little over a year ago, Aungier Danger has become a well-known name in the world of Irish donut lovers.  They are open every week day from 7:30am, and weekends from 10am until whenever they sell out!  They have every day staple favourites like Oreo Marshmallow, and my personal favourite, Lemon and Poppy seed.  Aungier Danger have made a name for themselves by making some very topical donuts like the Repeal the 8th and Weed Donuts they made earlier this year.

Murphy’s Ice Cream

This delicious handmade ice cream is by far some of the creamiest I’ve ever tasted in Dublin. Tucked away on Wicklow Street – just off Grafton Street – the ice cream bar is a true Irish gem.  The menu gives the names of the ice cream in Irish as well a

murphys-ice-cream

s English, so anyone can try order using their cúpla focal if they wish.

They’ve conducted some crazy experiments with ice cream over the years, with flavours like Candied Chilli Pepper and Christmas Pudding! My favourite is the Caramel Honeycomb, though I also love the Raspberry Sorbet.  Even in the cold weather this ice cream is not one to be missed out on.

 

(Originally published on TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/11/08/tuesdays-tops-sweet-things-in-the-city/)