Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The eyes have it!

The nurse was very kind. And very, very professional. I was in the Royal Hospital in Belfast. I had come directly from speaking at Fra Fox’s funeral and before that Terry Enright’s funeral. They are two of the good guys.

Anyway I was to have surgery on my eyes. For months now they have been sore. The problem is the lower eye lids were growing inwards. It’s a condition called Entropion. It’s very irritating because the lower eye lash brushes against the cornea. Sometimes this can damage your vision. So surgery was prescribed.

It’s a fairly straightforward procedure which takes a few hours. I had opted to get both eyes done in one go. The surgeon was brilliant. So were all his team. And I am very grateful to them for their professionalism, skills and generosity.

The operation sounds very gruesome. It’s carried out under local anesthetic. All the little injections around the eye really sting and smart. Essentially I suppose what happens is that the surgeon cuts into the offending eye lid or in my case eye lids, corrects the inward leaning eye lids, straightens them out and then stitches it all together again.

And then after a cup of tea and a bit of toast your out on the Falls Road again looking for the quickest way home. And then the anesthetic wears off. Your eyes go black. You hide behind dark glasses and everyone you meet makes the same joke.

‘Ah, the blues brothers!’.

Or. ‘How you Roy. It’s Roy Orbinson isn’t it?’

Or. ‘What a great Stevie Wonder impersonation.’

Or   “Where did you leave the Labrador?”

But I’m glad I got it done. It was really debilitating. It was very difficult to read material or to use the computer.  Your man’s typing this piece for me. That’s another challenge. He keeps telling me to stop dictating to him!

But hopefully now in a short while I’ll be back to myself.

It’s busy times here. I’m back in Dublin since Monday. The death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway University Hospital on October 28th brought the lack of protection for pregnant women and the absence of legal clarity for the medical profession back into sharp relief. Six successive governments have failed to introduce the required legislation for 20 years.

The ‘Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A,B, and C v Ireland’ was published yesterday after several days of leaks to the Dublin media.

The report sets out the options for the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy in circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother which can only be avoided by a termination of the pregnancy. This is the core of the matter on which the Dáil has to legislate in the immediate months ahead.

And the budget is next week. The government is poised to take €3.5 billion in cuts and new taxes out of the economy. This will be the sixth austerity budget in four years.

Increasingly the burden is being borne by lower and middle income families, by the poor, and by those most dependent on public services.

These include citizens with disabilities, the elderly, patients in our hospital system, and others who are dependent on home help support, as well as our children. There are half a million people unemployed, and tens of thousands of mainly young people scattered throughout the globe.

So, there’s a lot to be done to straighten this out. Sinn Féin has produced an alternative budget which shows that a €3.5 billion adjustment is possible without the adverse social consequences of austerity. We also produced a Jobs Plan and early next year we will bring forward proposals for dealing with the banks.

There is a compelling need to oppose austerity, to develop social solidarity and for those who can, to stand up with and for our neighbours. People are doing that in increasing numbers. There was a big anti-austerity rally in Belfast recently. And one in Dublin at the weekend. Unfortunately a silly statement from trade union leader Jack O Connor distracted attention from what was an otherwise highly successful protest.

Apparently a section of the crowd booed the ICTU President Eugene McGlone. He took it in good humour and responded accordingly. I wasn’t on the march but according to those I’ve spoken to who were, those booing included trade union members, some carrying trade union banners. Jack called them fascists. He knows better. There were no fascist protestors on the anti-austerity march. His remarks were over the top and offensive.

Many people who are annoyed at the government are particularly incensed at Labour’s role. Some see the obvious contradiction in ICTU’s opposition to austerity and its support for the Labour Party. Booing is a fairly harmless expression of this and while I don’t recommend or approve of it as a tactic, it’s hardly a mark of fascism.

I have a lot of time for Jack O Connor. I am a trade union member myself. But this is a time to stay focussed on the outrageous behavior of the Fine Gael/Labour government. It is a time to build constructive opposition to that government and to develop real alternatives.


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