By Linnea Dunne
“It was hard as we hadn’t told anyone where we were going, so we had to lie.” I’ve heard it all before, yet the words, shared as part of a Repeal Project Instagram post, seemed painfully poignant nestled into a feed of feminist mantras, cute babies and artisan coffees. This is part of everyday life in Ireland too: we have cocktails and special family moments and vegan delicacies and lies.
As a mother, I think about this a lot. We talk about how the way we are with our kids will make them feel when they grow up, face difficulties, screw up and need help. Out of all the fears I have around the huge responsibility that is parenting, this is one of the greatest: that they won’t come to us when they have nowhere else to turn; that they’ll think we’d judge them more than we love them.
And then I think about all the mothers whose daughters go to visit friends in England. How can they be so sure?
These lies are part of life in Ireland. We ban abortion but allow travel, and stuck in all the moral superiority and the notions of a clean conscience are endless made-up stories and secrets. Comments about responsibility and loving them both are made at dinner tables where women are struggling to keep anything down at all as they anxiously wait to find out if the pills have worked. Sneering judgement of a future of abortion on demand is directed at a TV screen during yet another panel debate, as another family member books a red-eye flight for a girls’ night in Liverpool. And their parents buy it, because it’s easier that way.
If they knew, would they care? Would they still choose the path of judgement over love, the moral highground over showing up when their family needs them?
What kind of loving them both is that?
“It was hard as we hadn’t told anyone where we were going, so we had to lie,” wrote an older sister who travelled with a younger sister without telling a soul. They are two of many women, two of thousands of people shown the way to a terminal of lies, a ferry full of secrets. They will stare in silence at a croissant at the airport as the person at the table next to them Instagrams the perfect flat white with a backdrop of airplanes. They will check in to a cheap hotel with murky carpets just as a stag party falls out the doors to hit the town and a young Italian couple takes a selfie with a Union Jack in the background. And they’ll make up memories of a trip they never made, burying in silence the experience of being shamed, exported by their own country.
This is life in Ireland: we have a shiny new terminal, the very latest smartphones to connect us, and secrets that go back centuries to divide us.
If it was your daughter, would she tell you? How can you be so sure?