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Cyber-Bullying: The Story So Far…

cyber_bullyingLast Saturday, the 24th of November, Lara Burns was found dead in the stables next to her home in Co. Kildare. At only twelve years of age Lara had seemingly decided she could not go on any longer and taken her own life. The youth who was just three months into her first year at Maynooth Post Primary School is survived by her devastated family, mother Helene, father Robert, stepfather Noel and brother, Brendan.

Tragically, Lara is the third young girl to take her own life in recent months. Her death follows that of Erin Gallagher (13) from Co. Donegal and Ciara Pugsley (15) from Co. Leitrim who took her own life in September. As we all know and understand suicide is a complex issue which not only results from depression but a series of socio-cultural factors. However, in the case of these three girls cyber-bullying has been considered a primary factor in their horrifically premature deaths.

Claims that Lara Burns had been the victim of bullying first came to light after her brother Brendan who wished to pay tribute to his sister set up a special Facebook page in her memory. While he simply but poignantly wrote “RIP sis” many other contributors to the site made reference to the bullying Lara should never have had to endure.

Yesterday, after speaking with a source close to the Burns family, The Daily Star reported that Lara had in fact battled self harm issues in the period before her death. Apparently the youth had been working closely with and receiving emotional support from Pieta House, a group which provides help for those suffering from suicidal thoughts. In the wake of their daughter’s death the Burns family actually requested that in lieu of flowers at the funeral mourners donate to this particular group.

Having discovered that Lara was self harming for quite some time many are worried that the girl suffered at the hands of bullies for much longer than was originally thought. Naturally, due to the seriousness of this case and the growing epidemic that is cyber-bullying Gardai will be investigating further.

The Statistics

It is a little known fact that more people die as a result of suicide each year in Ireland than in road traffic accidents. While older people, especially men, are typically thought of as the most vulnerable group this is beginning to change and we are seeing suicide affecting increasing numbers of Irish people across the lifespan. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) youth suicide is growing at the fastest rate. In fact suicide is now considered one of the three leading causes of death amongst those aged 15-44 (male and female). Disturbingly, the WHO also found that youth suicide rates in Ireland are the fifth highest in the European Union whilst a separate report published by the Irish Medical Journal has revealed that there has been a 16 percent increase in a 20 year period in the rate of suicide in Irish teens under the age of 17.

Social Media

Thanks in part to ever changing hormone levels the teenage years are widely understood to be some of the most turbulent and vulnerable of an individuals entire life. Unfortunately today’s teenagers are facing greater challenges and dealing with more pressure than ever before. Simply inhabiting this world requires a person to deal with pressures resulting from alcohol, drugs, sexuality, sexualisation, body image etc. Of course technology despite all of its wonderful aspects also has a part to play. Today, your average teenager has a cell phone, a Facebook account, and probably numerous others (Bebo, Twitter or ask.fm anyone?) Obviously I am not suggesting we simply cut off these lines of communication but it is of the utmost importance that we recognise the dangers that come alongside them. There is no denying that there has been an influx of social media sites in recent years and I like so many others believe this is one of the major problems affecting teenagers today.

Today, if you don’t have a Facebook account you’re considered weird and lets face it no teenager wants to be considered strange. Not having a link such as this to their friends can make a fourteen year old feel like a social outcast. However having a social networking account (accounts in many cases) provides a direct channel to that individual meaning that if they are in fact being bullied they are contactable outside of school hours, at night time at the weekend, always.

The Problem With Anonymity

Typically, people have the confidence to say things they otherwise would not – both good and bad things – when a screen separates them from the individual they wish to speak to. Ian Power, communications manager of SpunOut, a youth organisation which aims to put an end to cyber-bullying, believes that this is how and why cyber-bullying so often spirals out of control. Power believes that what many individuals say online is more often than not something they would never say in “real life” In his opinion the “rise in the past year in the number of websites that allow anonymity” only exacerbates the issue. With the privilege of anonymity tormentors often feel that they can hurl even more outrageous insults and comments at their victims. Insults such as “I’m sorry to hear you tried to kill yourself. Next time finish it” This comment was aimed at a young victim of bullying here in Ireland. One website that grants users total anonymity is Ask.fm. This controversial site has found itself at the centre of both Ciara Pugsley and Erin Gallagher’s deaths.

Ciara Pugsley

Ciara Pugsley, who attended St Clare’s Comprehensive School in Manorhamilton Co. Leitrim, took her own life just last September after becoming the target of a vicious hate campaign launched against her online. The fifteen year old’s tormentors primarily used Ask.fm to abuse her. Among the comments the teenager received were ones telling her she was fat, ugly, retarded and that she lacked all self respect. Another individual, perhaps the same individual, then made reference to her depression questioning whether or not she was just pretending to be in pain in order to get attention. Heartbreakingly, the last message to appear from Ciara on her account was a response to the question “whats been up with you?” to which the teenager replied “u’ll see soon.” Shockingly vitriolic comments concerning Ciara were even posted online following her tragic death.

Erin Gallagher

Six weeks later, in a strikingly similar case, thirteen year old Erin Gallagher from Ballybofey, Co. Donegal was found dead after informing her online contacts – friends and tormentors alike – that she was considering killing herself following a bout of abuse suffered on Ask.fm. Again the comments aimed at Erin were much the same as those aimed at Ciara. The thirteen year old was dubbed a “fat, ugly tramp” by tormentors who once again preferred to remain anonymous. Multiple references were also made to the fact that Erin had been physically assaulted by some of the same girls. In a comment posted on Friday, the day before the thirteen year old died, Erin responded to bullies who were poking fun at the fact that she had been badly beaten by another girl and perhaps even had some of her hair pulled out during the attack

“Do u think ur funny bullying me over ask.fm? Yeah u prob think it was funny when I f**kin put a rope round my neck cause of yous, yous are that sad! Leave it now u had ur f**kin fun get over it! My hair wasn’t all over the ground trust me plus stop going round saying I got a bald patch I had or have no bald patch”.

Calls To Ban Controversial Site Ask.fm

In her Facebook tribute Erin’s older sister Shannon Gallagher wrote “I love you darling. It’s so hard to say you’re gone. Everyones heartbroken. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister. You were a stunning girl. No one deserved what you went through. I’m sorry that I couldn’t prevent it. Love you with all my heart” which actually spurred an outpouring of grief from family, friends and sympathisers across the nation and those who wished to call for an end to the now supremely controversial site Ask.fm.

Calling for an end to the site was Peter Sweeney who wrote:

“Erin is a 2nd year student who went to a local school here in Ballybofey who tragically due to bullying ended her own life. An absolute waste of a young life who had so much ahead of her. She was on a website called ask.fm where a lot of the bullying took place, and I call for it to be banned. Rest in peace Erin.”

Shockingly another user, Laura O Sullivan, who echoed Sweeney’s sentiments admitted “My own sister had the same trouble with that ask.fm, had a suicide letter written also, my mum found it thank god.”

Founder Of Ask.fm Defends His Site

Responding to the negative press Ask.fm has received following the death of these girls the sites founder Mark Terebin told RTE that he sympathised with the families of the victims adding “We do understand the gravity of the situation… of course there is a problem with cyber bullying in social media, but as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK… It seems like children are more cruel in these countries.”  Having been further pressed by the media to comment on the situation at hand Terebin then issued another statement saying “Mass media is knocking on the wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem. It’s not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that have been devalued lately. Don’t blame a tool but try to make changes… start with yourself. Be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others.” He then went on to blame the medias coverage of these suicides for further deaths amongst teenagers “Suicide is not something to encourage via mass media. The more you promote suicide, the more it happens.”

It’s true, Ask.fm was quite innocently set up as a social networking tool that would allow members to ask questions and seek advice on various topics. It was never intended to be misused and abused the way it has been by certain members of the public. I’m sure cyber-bullying was never something website developers intended to encourage. There is also truth in what Terebin has said: we should be more tolerant of and nicer to others. However Ask.fm’s terms of service clearly states: “You will not, directly or indirectly, transmit any obscene, offensive, threatening, harassing, libellous, hate-oriented, harmful, defamatory, racist, illegal or otherwise objectionable material or content.”

Mr Terebin has gone to great lengths recently to point out that his site is just like Facebook or Twitter – a mere social networking tool – perhaps then it is time that he admit that he does in fact have a responsibility to the many users of his website. No, I do not believe that shutting down Ask.fm will eliminate cyber-bullying or teen suicide but Mr Terebin simply cannot continue to deny all culpability. The fact remains that each and every websites content must be monitored and managed and that is precisely why the founder of this particular site has tried to transfer the onus of responsibility to the shoulders of so many others. Certainly I do not wish to imply that the deaths of these girls are his fault but it seems to me that Mr Terebin should refrain from implying that the “cruel” children of Ireland and those who work in the media are to blame. In my opinion these are two incredibly naive statements. One simply cannot tar all the teenagers of Ireland with the same brush and an educated person would never suggest shutting up when it comes to suicide or depression for that matter. For years we have struggled to overcome the taboo status of suicide here in Ireland something we are only now succeeding in. It has long been acknowledged that communication is the key to battling both depression and suicide, given the statistics we saw earlier this is not the time to revert to silence and secrecy.

Anti Bullying Campaigners

In the wake of Lara Burns recent suicide Mr Jonathan Pugsley, father of Ciara , has come forward to express his sympathy for the family saying “It is devastating to learn that another young girl has taken her own life. My heart goes out to the Burns family because I know what they are going through” He also appealed, once again, to the politicians of Ireland to take “urgent action” to prevent more deaths amongst our young people. “I’ve tried to research all of this and it seems to me that the politicians in this country have spent the past 10-12 years talking about bullying but have done nothing about it.” Mr Pugsley said adding “The time for talking is over. We need urgent action now and urgent policies now to prevent further deaths.” Thanks to impassioned and dedicated campaigners such as Mr Pugsley and the tireless work of organisation’s like The National Anti Bullying Coalition (NABC) it seems our leaders will set in motion the changes this country so badly needs.

Following the success of the Tools for Teachers programme developed by teachers Sean Fallon and Mary Kent which provides free expert training in the recognition and elimination of bullying in schools across Ireland the NABC has urged Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to develop and implement an anti bullying system within Irish schools that is at least as effective as that devised by Fallon and Kent. “So please, Minister Quinn, use the authority you already have under the Education Act to initiate the end of this misery for students and their families now. For some of our teenagers, there is no time to lose, and next year may be too late” said a spokesperson for NABC recently. Fortunately, it is now expected that the minister will present an action plan expertly devised by members of The National Behavioural Support Service, the HSE and National Educational Psychologists to the NABC in the coming days.

Meanwhile, also petitioning for change is Minister for Justice Alan Shatter who wants to examine in further detail the prospect of prosecuting cyber-bullies. Addressing members of the Dail Shatter explained that bullying was a form of harassment and as such fell within the provisions of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. Whilst he acknowledged the difficulty in prosecuting bullies and the need to remain both practical and realistic he also said that he hoped to learn from countries such as Scotland and Australia both of which treat the matter extremely seriously.

At this point anything that would contribute to the recognition that bullying is not acceptable within schools, the workplace or any other environment is warmly welcomed by the people of Ireland. Until then it is important to remember these guidelines issued by SpunOut.ie for combating cyber bullying:

  • Ignore the bully – Do not respond online.
  • Keep some evidence of the bullying. Take a screenshot of the comments being posted to sites and retain all text messages.
  • Confide in someone you trust such as a friend, family member or teacher.
  • The most important thing of all is to speak up. Do not suffer in silence.

Naturally bullying contributes to feelings of depression so I also spoke to Sandra Hogan of AWARE to hear what advice she had to offer those suffering from depression. This is what she had to say:

“Anyone who might be affected by depression or concerned about a loved one can access information and support which is available. Our website www.aware.ie contains lots of helpful information about the condition and about our support services. Once you know what you are dealing with, it is that little bit easier to find coping techniques and minimise the impact it has on your life. There are some helpful resources aimed at young people such as spunout.ie, jigsaw and headstrong. Getting professional advice from a GP or other appropriately qualified health professional is important too.”

Please, whatever you do just remember there is truth in the old idiom “A problem shared is a problem halved” and speak out!

By Kerri Mitchell

For those coping with or affected by depression/suicide

Childline: 1800 666656 or text list to 50101

Parentline: 1890 927277

Teen Ireland: 1800 833634

Console: 24/7 helpline 1800 201890

3Ts 24/7 helpline: 1800 247100 or text “help” to 51444

HSE Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1800 742745

AWARE: 1890 303 302

Pieta House: 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie

Cyberbullying advice websites

Expert advice at webwise.ie

Academic based research at cybertraining-project.org

SpunOut.ie

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Ireland And Abortion : A History Of Silence…

 Where were you on February 23 1992? Me, I was three years old and more than likely playing with my prized collection of Barbie dolls blissfully unaware of the court case that was rocking the Irish nation.

The case I’m referring to is of course The X Case and February 23 is the day the chaos eventually came to an end with the Supreme Court ruling (after a long and hardy battle) that a pregnant and suicidal fourteen year old was in fact entitled to an abortion.

Previous to this only the physical health of the mother was taken into account when deciding whether or not she was entitled to an abortion but this ruling meant that for the first time ever a woman’s mental health as well as the very real threat of suicide would also be taken into consideration.

Today, twenty years since that judgement was first handed down, I’m sorry to say Irish women are still waiting for the legislation that will allow them access to life-saving terminations.

Here, I take a look at what is perhaps the most controversial and divisive topic of our time; abortion and the Irish Governments damning history of silence…

The X Case

The X Case is without a doubt one of the most controversial and closely followed legal battles in the history of the state. Not only did it spark outrage and debate amongst Irish citizens but it also drove thousands of people – both pro choice and pro life – to demonstrations across the country.

It all began in December 1991 when a fourteen year old girl known only as X was raped by a man known to her and her family. Just one month later, following a bout of illness which forced the girl to visit her local GP, both her and her parents were informed that she had in fact become pregnant. It was then that the youth finally broke down and admitted that her attacker had been sexually abusing her for two years.

Immediately the attack and the years of abuse were reported to local Gardai and investigations began. Meanwhile, unable to tolerate the thought of carrying to full term her rapists child the fourteen year old and her parents decided it would be best for her to travel to England in order to undergo an abortion. Before doing so however they asked Gardai if the foetus could be tested in order to provide proof of paternity as the accused was denying all responsibility. The Gardai then asked The Director of Public Prosecutions if this evidence would be admissible in court who in turn contacted The Attorney General Henry Whelehan who immediately sought an injunction under Article 40.3.3 of the constitution – at the time this put the unborn child’s right to life on equal footing with that of the mother – which barred the teenager and her parents from leaving the country or terminating the pregnancy. Already in England the family were then forced to return to Ireland.

The first injunction barring the girl from leaving the state only lasted until February 10th at which point her case was then tried in front of Justice Costello. Despite hearing testimony from a clinical psychologist who felt the girl was at high risk for suicide and from her distraught mother who related how her teenage daughter had admitted wanting to throw herself down a flight of stairs and even considered throwing herself under a train while in London, Justice Costello eventually decided that the right to life of the unborn child should not be interfered with and ruled that the defendant must be restrained from leaving Ireland for a period of nine months.

“The evidence also establishes that if the court grants the injunction sought there is a risk that the defendant may take her own life. But the risk that the defendant may take her own life, if an order is made, is much less and of a different order of magnitude than the certainty that the life of the unborn will be terminated if the order is not made.”

Determined to see what they believed was justice served the defendant and her parents immediately sought an appeal from the Supreme Court. The teenagers legal team argued that the High Court judge was “wrong in law” in finding that the danger to the life of the mother was less than the danger to the life of the unborn.

On the final day of proceedings the Supreme Court judge ruled that the decision of the High Court should be set aside and the youngster was permitted to undergo an abortion. It is understood, however, that while awaiting termination the girl suffered a miscarriage.

Interesting to note is the fact that the victim’s perpetrator was tried, jailed, and eventually had his sentence severely reduced on appeal only to go on to kidnap and sexually assault another teenager in 1999.

The Referendum

As a direct result of The X Case and the Supreme Courts ruling the Irish Government put forward three possible amendments to the Constitution in a referendum. These amendments were known as the 12th, 13th and 14th amendments.

The 12th amendment asked to remove suicide as grounds for abortion, the 13th amendment asked that women should have the right to travel outside the state for abortion and finally the 14th amendment asked that information about abortion should be made available in the State.

Given that we are constantly hearing how severely opposed to abortion the people of Ireland – such a devout Catholic country – are you would expect that the 12th amendment passed where the 13th and 14th failed. In actuality the opposite is true.

History Is Forced To Repeat Itself

Despite the results of these referenda, the Irish Government did not act on them, and in 1997 history repeated itself with The C Case. This time a thirteen year old girl was forced to delay the termination the courts eventually declared she was fully entitled to in line with her basic human rights and in light of the X case ruling.

Instead of tackling the issue then and granting the Irish people what they had already asked for in the previous referendum the government engaged in what many critics have called “delay tactics,” commissioning more reports and expert committees on the subject. This continued until 2002 when then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, held another referendum asking what was essentially the same question as that of the failed referendum of 1992 – should we remove the threat of suicide as grounds for abortion. A decade later the Irish public issued the same answer, no. Once again they voted to support the X Case decision. Regrettably despite this, the second vote on the issue, legislation was still not forthcoming. Having yet again failed to address the issue of abortion the Irish Government ensured that women in need of what are in many cases life saving operations would not have access to them here in Ireland – Baffling considering the Supreme Courts ruling concerning the X case and indeed the two referendums in which the Irish public voted in favour of termination if and when the mothers life is in danger.

Dr Mark Murphy who has carried out and published extensive research into the States abortion crisis has found countless cases in which mothers threatened by a real and substantial risk to their lives were ultimately forced to travel abroad for a termination of their pregnancy. Dr Murphy found that 9% of GPs had managed a patient with a life threatening medical condition (including but not limited to cancer patients who required abortions in order to avail of chemotherapy, women with severe cardiovascular disease and those at severe psychiatric risk such as rape victims) however he recorded only one instance of an Irish doctor performing a termination in an Irish hospital – in the case of severe preeclampsia.

Savita Halappanavar

While I do not intend to belittle the pain and trauma suffered by these women who had to fight so hard simply to access the medical care that would allow them a chance at life perhaps the most shocking and heartbreaking case of all is that of Savita Halappanavar a woman who critics of Ireland’s antiquated and draconian abortion regime have dubbed a “martyr to the political cowardice” of our government. Savita, you see, did not have the opportunity to take her case to the courts.

If the X case gripped the nation twenty years ago then it is the tragic tale of Savita Halappanavar that is all but consuming the people of Ireland today. Two weeks ago Mrs Halappanavar who was 17 weeks pregnant and suffering intense back pain was admitted to Galway University Hospital where it was soon discovered that she was in fact miscarrying. As time went on it became clear that the child she was carrying would not survive and both Savita and her husband were made aware of this. Now in terrible pain Savita requested – on numerous occasions – a medical termination as did her husband Praveen only to be told that nothing could be done for her as a fetal heartbeat could still be detected. Having further questioned the hospitals decision the couple were then informed that an abortion could not be carried out as Ireland was a “catholic country”

Eventually, following three more days of agony in which the couple repeatedly begged for a termination doctors finally agreed to remove the remains of the fetus. Sadly, it was just days before Mrs Halappanavar showed signs of severe septicemia (this occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream) which later proved to be fatal and at 1.10 a.m. on October 28 the 31 year old was pronounced dead.

It is understood that had the fetus been removed earlier the life of this woman, a beloved wife and daughter, could have been saved. Multiple investigations into Savita’s tragic and seemingly needless death are currently being carried out. This, however, will do little to ease the troubles of Mr Halappanavar a man who lost both his unborn child and wife within a matter of days.

Medical Confusion

As difficult as this may be for some to hear the Irish government’s failure to create definitive legislate concerning the issue of abortion is not only unfair to the women of the country but all those in the medical profession. Doctors want to provide safe and effective care for patients but legislation is required in order for them to provide that care. In other words they need clear guidelines for managing difficult situations such as that of Mrs Halappanavar’s. Addressing the nations current stance on abortion Dr Murphy said “To delineate and categorise those medical conditions on each side of that nebulous line between ill health and life threatening illness is difficult.” Personally I would be of the opinion that it is just too difficult. When it comes to matters of life and death I think we can all agree that the last thing we need is “grey areas”

Of course this is where our politicians and legislators are supposed to step in and provide legal clarity but even now despite rulings from the Supreme Court, referendum results, the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the Irish State is continuing to breach the human rights of every woman in the country due to their failure to implement a legislative or regulatory framework outlining their abortion rights, and countless medical professionals leaving them in no doubt as to what is required those in power have failed to take action and ultimately failed to protect the women of Ireland and their families.

Enough

Just what is it that our leaders are waiting for? Another fourteen year old rape victim to test her rights within the courts? A desperately ill cancer patient to beg for a shot at life or perhaps another unnecessary death such as that of Savita Halappanavar? The people have spoken and they have said, enough. We have had enough of the antiquated and draconian notion that a living breathing woman’s right to life is valued even below that of an unviable fetus, enough of exporting dying women to England in order to undergo the lifesaving abortions they should have access to within their own country, enough of women like Savita dying needlessly and others in similar situations enduring days of agony simply because this is a “catholic country.” Yes, we the people of Ireland have had enough.

A debate is scheduled to take place in The Dail today – Wednesday 28th of November – let’s hope a real effort is made to eliminate medical confusion and find a solution to the abortion crisis in our country. Maybe then the almost 21 year wait will somehow seem worth it.

Silver Linings Playbook…

15A, general release, 122 minutes.

Director: David O’Russell

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver.

Director of 2010s Oscar winning The Fighter which told the story of “Irish” boxer Mickey Ward and the brother who helped train him before going pro in the in the mid 1980s David O Russell is back only this time he has something a little different to offer. Having always been what one would refer to as an eclectic filmmaker this hardly comes as a surprise after all he is the same man who gave us Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees. This time around instead of focusing on the gritty true story of a working class hero he has something altogether more cerebral, uplifting and witty to offer eager audiences in the form of Silver Linings Playbook which is based on acclaimed novelist Matthew Quick’s book of the same name.

Despite being a much easier watch than The Fighter it is important to note that Silver Linings Playbook does in fact have its darker moments. When we first meet Pat Solitano (Cooper) he is dodging his medication in a Philadelphia mental institution. Naturally, it’s not long before we find out how he got there. Turns out Pat has quite the temper. Not only that but the doctors treating Pat have decided he is suffering from bi-polar disorder. All of this was originally discovered when Pat, a former high school teacher, returned home from work one day to find his beloved wife Nikki indulging in a shower with another man. As you can imagine Pat was not best pleased and proceeded to beat the guy half to death, and has been locked up ever since.

Refusing to give up on her troubled son is Pats saint-like mother Dolores (Weaver) who fights relentlessly (as only a mammy can) to persuade doctors to let him come home after eight months of incarceration. Eventually she manages to do so and Pat who is still avoiding his medication, is still dangerously unstable, and still cannot manage to get along with his equally obsessive and gambling addicted father Pat Senior (De Niro) returns to his family home. It is here that Pat becomes manically optimistic and convinces himself that his estranged wife Nikki will have no problem taking him back if he only works hard enough.

Pat as he himself puts it does not “have a filter.” So when he talks he does so with purpose and just what is his purpose? Why to tell it as it is of course. While this is a joy to watch and I often find myself envying his rather um refreshing honesty others who have to deal with Pat clearly do not feel the same way. However, when he is introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence) the younger sister of his best friend Ronnie’s wife it’s clear from the very start that he has finally met his match. Tiffany, you see has problems of her own: her husband has recently been killed in a horrific car crash a tragedy which has left her fragile and ever so slightly erratic. She also has as Pat so kindly informs her “poor social skills” which is true in fact they are just about as poor as his own.

It’s not long before Pat finds out that Ronnie and his wife Victoria (Julia Stiles – nice to see her back) still see Nikki on a regular basis. Knowing that he has very few people he can ask this favour of Pat soon asks Tiffany if she will deliver a love letter to Nikki on his behalf. She agrees but under one condition, Pat must train with her to enter a ballroom dancing competition and the rest as they say is history folks, well… sort of!

As you would expect it all becomes a little soppy in the last half hour but do not write this one off as a romantic comedy, it is way too good for that. This is a beautiful, smart, grounded and well put together film. Perhaps most impressive is the way Russell manages to mix so well the light with the dark. He does not, like so many others, shy away from the issue that is mental health. Instead he portrays characters who are complex and at times scarily relatable. Cooper, who I was worried for after his part in The Hangover 2 and Limitless is absolutely brilliant in this and it’s just great to finally see Robert De Niro taking on a role that is worthy of his talents – I cannot tell you how sick I was getting of Jack Byrne’s, honestly they should stopped after the first Meet The Parents. When it comes to Lawrence I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say in fact to sum up her performance all you need is one word and that is, sublime. In years to come I think we’ll look at Lawrence’s career and compare her to Hollywood’s finest leading lady; Meryl Streep.

After winning The Audience Award at this years Toronto Film Festival critics everywhere are saying Silver Linings Playbook will surely be in line for an Oscar with certain Oscar “locks” predicted including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay so why not go take in a must see tonight?

Kerrie Mitchell.

No Record Of Abortion Request In Savita Case

Since the death of Savita Halapannavar following a miscarriage on the 28th October at University Hospital Galway her devastated husband Praveen has been fighting with the help of his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell to prevent a HSE inquiry into her death.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner Mr O’ Donnell confirmed that Mr Halapannavar’s legal team had requested that Savita’s medical records be handed over to her family and that any HSE copies be deleted immediately.

The solicitor said that it was his understanding, based on previous cases, that the HSE must comply with this request. Continuing Mr O Donnell warned that if the HSE failed to meet with this request that Mr Halapannavar’s entire legal team are fully prepared to file a complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner and if necessary obtain a High Court injunction to “restrain” any further access this particular group may gain to the files in question.

Mr O’Donnell then went on to criticise Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his comments on the case in which he said that widower Praveen should meet the chairman of the HSE’s inquiry “without prejudice” as this would be “in the interest of his own family’s tragedy.”

Given that it is his wish that any investigation into the death of his wife be fully independent Mr Halapannavar has already refused to cooperate with the HSE. Speaking on behalf of his client who wished to defend his decisions thus far Mr O’Donnell said “His wife died in the care of the HSE. He doesn’t think it’s appropriate nor does his family think it’s appropriate that the HSE should investigate it. They are the ones who are being investigated, so they should not investigate this.”

In what is perhaps a very surprising turn of events it was claimed, mere hours ago, by Mr O Donnell that having gained access to and studied closely Savita’s medical records that there is absolutely no mention of her or her husband’s repeated requests to have the fetus terminated after it was confirmed by hospital staff that Savita was in fact miscarrying and that the fetus would not survive.

The revelation came at the same time that it was announced that the HSE had asked the State’s health watchdog HIQA to initiate a statutory inquiry into the death of Savita Halapannavar. A move which may have been decided upon after an unprecedented intervention on the part of President Michael D Higgins who yesterday insisted that the inquiry into the woman’s death must meet the needs of her family as well as the state.

However, the director general designate of the HSE Tony O’Brien has since said that even if Mrs Halapannavar’s family decide not to cooperate with the HSE’s inquiry that it must still “be brought to a conclusion” It his belief that it would be “criminally negligent” to put an end to the HSE’s inquiry at this stage.

Mr O Brien claims that he requested the HIQA inquiry which may take place before the HSE’s inquiry concludes in order to give the family “further reassurance.” Only time will tell if this will in fact help to ease the worries of Mr Praveen Halapannavar and his family.

By Kerrie Mitchell

More than 55,000 Men and Women Seek To End Page 3 Tradition

British feminist Lucy Anne Holmes has launched a campaign entitled “No More Page 3” which is aimed at Britain’s greatest selling newspaper The Sun and the publications now 42 year long tradition of “Page 3 Girls.” For those of you who don’t already know what exactly this tradition involves  (I can’t imagine there are many of you)  let me enlighten you, a page 3 girl is a girl who bares her breasts in what is always the largest image of a female included in the entire paper.

Despite numerous attempts to bring to an end this truly retrogressive tradition which originally began in November of 1970 not one has been successful, however, with the launch of this latest campaign perhaps all that will change? Certainly this petition and the letter Lucy Holmes drafted to Dominic Monahan, editor of The Sun, in which she politely requests that the publication stop showing “the naked breasts of a young woman in your widely- read ‘family’ newspaper” has captured the attention and imagination of both the British and Irish public like no other.  The number of signatures received has already reached a whopping total of 55,064 – a number which continues to rise as I type! Contributing to the campaigns success is of course social media. Within days of its being launched a whole flurry of support had been expressed by both men and women via sites such as Twitter and Facebook with comments ranging from the concise but hardhitting “Because women contribute to society in many ways that do not involve a mans erection” to the poignant “Because I want my daughter to grow up in a world that respects her for ALL she is, instead of treating her like meat”

One particularly honest male journalist by the name of Mike Delwiche actually took to British publication Grazia in order to discuss his reasons for turning his back on Page 3 and joining the petitioners. According to Delwiche he first discovered Page 3 models at the age of 11 and even though looking at these young girls and becoming aroused by them made him feel, in his own words, “dirty” he continued to buy these papers with the sole intention of ogling these women and their naked breasts. Continuing he explains that the guilt seemed worth it at the time because he enjoyed “the feeling of power over the models on the page, always willing and available when the girls I knew in real life seemed so alien and unobtainable.” After a while, however, Delwiche noticed his attitude toward women and the way he would interact with them changing and not for the better. Girls, he says became little more than sex objects something he merely thought he wanted to look at and touch. He could no longer think of a woman as a person but rather as a “walking pair of breasts.” Naturally these changes worried Delwiche but he was not inspired to change his ways until the day a female friend he truly cared for explained that Page 3 made her “feel cheap” and like “a piece of meat.” Thanks to this man’s honesty and indeed his courage I think we can all understand why women across the world take offence to such images especially when they are repeatedly served up alongside breakfast in the daily newspaper. Ultimately, this is a tradition which conditions men (and women in fact) to view females as sex objects.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and so naturally there are those individuals who simply do not agree with this campaign. The Huffington Post’s Rita Pal for instance believes that this petition is just another attempt by feminists to further emasculate men in a world where they have already “ripped out their masculinity.” Hrmmm…! Not only that but the journalist believes that in fighting to bring to an end this obviously sexist tradition women are essentially fighting to “control the biological and sexual imperative of men.” At one point Pal even calls petitioners “prudes.” Well there’s one I haven’t heard before and don’t you just love how Pal has conveniently forgotten that men in their thousands have also signed this petition? Another argument the journalist makes is this; “every man over the age of consent has seen a naked woman in or out of their bed” here she really shows her ignorance by ignoring the fact that The Sun is in fact a family newspaper and that regardless of what those over the age of consent have or have not seen children in the UK and Ireland are constantly coming across these images in newspapers left behind on buses, or strewn on the kitchen counter of their homes.

Last but certainly not least Pal makes the argument that these images actually promote a healthy body image for women the world over. At this point I would like to draw attention to the fact that out of all the thousands of women who have modelled for Page 3 since 1972 only 4 of them have been black. Typically the women The Sun serves up for consumption are all white, slim and able bodied. So, just how may I ask does this publication promote a healthy body image when it sticks so rigidly to a pre-defined notion of beauty that lacks any kind of diversity? Honestly, Pals arguments are good ones, really they are, I mean clearly women should feel confident in their sexuality and clearly men have every right to their sexuality, but in relation to this particular situation these arguments are completely irrelevant don’t you agree? You have to admit that women saying they find these images degrading and that they would rather not be confronted with them on a daily basis hardly qualifies as an attempt at castration. And here I was thinking us feminists were supposed to be the completely unreasonable ones who blew every little thing out of proportion in order to make a point!

Of course this campaign also raises issues within the feminist community. Certainly there are those feminists who consider Page 3, glamour modelling of any sort, stripping and even prostitution to be the ultimate celebration of female sexuality and truly believe that these activities send a message to women everywhere to stand up and be confident in their bodies. Typically these individuals also believe that it is patronizing to think of glamour models etc as victims (in fact there are those who feel it is the “right” of a glamour model to exploit the desire/weakness of mean everywhere in return for monetary reward) However, I would argue that these images do not reflect the full and complex sexuality of women and that they, in fact, fail to even come close to representing female sexuality in all its true glory. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons why women are signing in their thousands.

I am fully aware of what I am opening myself up to in writing this article. As Joan Smith pointed out 23 years ago, opponents of Page 3 are doomed to be accused of “motives of envy and prudery… particularly if they are women.” (Hello Rita Pal!) Already I and many other campaigners have come up against sarcastic comments and questions such as “Are you also planning to campaign against all classical art featuring naked women?” The answer, dear readers, is no. I simply believe that there is a time and a place for baring ones breasts and the daily newspaper is not it. I am not, as some would have you believe, here to shut down all instances of sexual expression I am simply reiterating a point once made by British comedian Jennifer Saunders “tits aren’t news.”

To sign this petition and lend your support to Lucy Holmes – a woman who by the way has already received such a torrent of abuse simply for standing up for what she believes in that she has had to contact the police on numerous occasions – simply click here.

By Kerrie Mitchell.

Pregnant Woman Dies After Hospital Denies Termination

A pregnant woman has died in hospital following a miscarriage just days after being refused the abortion that may have saved her life.

By Kerrie Mitchell

Three separate investigations have been launched into the death of 31 year old married Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar, following her death in Galway University Hospital.

It is understood that Mrs Halappanavar who lived in Roscam, Co. Galway with her husband, 34 year old Praveen, an engineer employed by Boston Scientific, died on October 28th after contracting a severe case of blood poisoning.

Mrs Halappanavar was admitted to Galway University Hospital a week earlier complaining of intense back pain where it was quickly discovered that the woman, now 17 weeks pregnant, was in fact miscarrying. Her husband Praveen claims that despite repeated requests from both his wife and her family for a medical termination hospital officials refused to carry out the procedure because a foetal heartbeat could still be detected.

It has also been reported – by numerous sources – that when Mr Halappanavar questioned the hospitals refusal to carry out the abortion he was informed by officials that it was not allowed because Ireland is a “Catholic country.”

Although the procedure was delayed a further three days, Mrs Halappanavar did eventually undergo surgery to remove the remains of the fetus. Following this the woman subsequently developed septicemia (this occurs when bacteria enters the blood stream) an infection which proved to be fatal. At 1.10 a.m. on October 28 Mrs Halappanavar was pronounced dead.

Now, Mrs Halappanavars distraught family is said to be taking legal action against the hospital claiming that if the fetus had in fact been removed earlier the life of this woman, a beloved wife and daughter, could have been saved.

Three separate investigations are now being carried out by the coroner in Galway, the local hospital’s risk review group and the HSE’s National Incident Management Team.

A spokesperson for the Hospital has refused to comment saying that the hospital cannot under any circumstances discuss the details of an individual patient within the media.

Undoubtedly this tragic case will re-open the debate on abortion which is perhaps Ireland’s most controversial and divisive social, legal and medical issue.

Currently, Ireland’s position in relation to abortion is set out in the Constitution as follows “it is lawful to terminate a pregnancy in Ireland if it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, which can only be avoided by a termination of the pregnancy.” This ruling also takes into account the mental health of the mother in question and the potential risk posed to her life which may arise from the threat of suicide.

Naturally this particular case will enrage pro-choice campaigners who will argue that this proves that abortions are not taking place in those cases where the mothers life is in fact at risk while pro-life campaigners will counter that matters are much more complex than this.

In what many reporters are dubbing a “terrible irony” this case comes just days after the Irish Government delayed revealing its stance on abortion. Health Minister Dr James Reilly was originally scheduled to report back to a European body by the end of October on the Government’s proposed actions following the ruling of the European Court Of Human Rights on the abortion regime in this country. Two years ago the Strasbourg Court criticised the Irish Government for leaving its own courts with a lack of clear information regarding lawful abortions. Dr Reilly now has just weeks to set out a plan to respond to the Courts ruling.

Over 1,000 people gathered outside Dàil Eireann last night in order to vent their fury at Ireland’s abortion stance following Savita’s death. Large crowds also assembled in Cork and other parts of the country to protest.

Tis The Season To…

Christmas, it comes earlier and earlier every year. This I know for a fact, you see I work in retail which means that I’ve been singing along to classics such as Baby It’s Cold Outside for weeks now. Hell our “Christmas Shop” has been open since September 1st and no your eyes are not deceiving you, September 1st folks!

So, just how have I managed to survive all these years in retail and the ever advancing onset of the festive season without morphing into the Holiday’s most notorious villain? It all comes down to one phrase, a phrase you might just recognize: “If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em”

These days I take the time to organise a number of treats both big and small for myself and friends to enjoy together in the run up to Christmas. Often these “treats” are not even remotely related to the Holiday season which I have never been overly precious about but revolve around eating, drinking and laughing. Then again eating, drinking and laughing has always been the very definition of Christmas, at least for me. Point is, it doesn’t really matter what you do this Christmas as long as it makes both you and yours happy. Believe me it’s much easier to tolerate all that joy to the world and peace on earth malarky once you give yourself a reason to smile.

I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of traditional and not so traditional things for you and yours to do in the run up to Christmas. Here’s hoping this is enough to get all you Bitter Bettys out there in the Christmas spirit this year…

… Get Your Skates On;

Can you think of anything more festive than ice skating? Yes, it’s embarrassing, yes, you’re going to look like a severely impaired newborn foal out there and yes you will fall over but you know what? You’re going to laugh like never before and what in this world provides a better bonding experience than humiliation? That’s right, nothing! Besides is there anything cuter than slip sliding across the ice and being held up but that guy you’ve been swooning over for months? We all need a cliché or two in our lives!

Check out Dundrum On Ice

Opening Hours:  Monday – Friday; 3pm – 8pm.

Saturday – Sunday; 10.30 am – 9pm.

… Drink A Cocktail Or Three;

When it comes to Christmas I’m a woman divided one part of me fantasizes about cable knits, woolly socks and a boozy hot chocolate sipped by the fire whilst reading Pride and Prejudice while the other swoons over the glitz and glam of the party season. You know what I’m talking about folks, the sequin dresses, the strappy heels, and of course only the most potent of cocktails. Luckily I know how to satisfy both of my festive personalities. Leaning toward a night out? Then you’ve got to try Dublin’s own Vintage Cocktail Club which not only boasts an impressive array of cocktails – including Rested Manhattans, Mojitos, and Dark & Stormy’s to name but a few – but also delivers on its promise to show you a truly unique night on the town! For those of you in the mood for a cozy tipple beside the fire then check out this recipe featured on my blog Your Ethereal Feast which yields what might just be the best winter warmer ever!

Vintage Cocktail Club, 15 Crown Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

… Host Thanksgiving Dinner;

I’m very lucky because I’ve been seeing a rather lovely American boy for a number of years now which means that I get to celebrate Thanksgiving or what I like to call “stuff yourself stupid day.” American or not there’s no reason you can’t get involved too. Why not throw an impromptu dinner party for your friends? To make it really special and slightly more grown up (23 years of age and I’m still using the term “grown up”!) simply pay attention to detail when it comes to your table! It’s amazing just how big a difference the little things can make and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Simply pick up some pretty napkins, light some candles and perhaps add some flowers. For winter I really like muted tones with metallic accents as they’re chic, sophisticated and unlikely to clash with anything in your apartment! If the mere idea of throwing a dinner party is something you feel overwhelmed by simply get your friends involved and ask each person to bring just one thing they feel confident making and if most of it does end up coming straight out of a microwavable container who the hell cares? It’s your party and you can fake it if you wanna! Oh and while you’re at it why not pull a Christmas cracker or two? Just because the pilgrims didn’t have them doesn’t mean we shouldn’t!

For super chic kitchen and tableware check out Avoca which has locations across Ireland and on Suffolk Street in the heart of the city.

… Dress Like The Last Member Of Wham;

Who can forget George Michael in the now infamous video for Last Christmas? For years we ridiculed the man for wearing that sweater but it’s time to come clean, he had it right all along. There really is nothing better than a motif sweater this festive season guys. Why not head to my own personal high street hero, Topshop, where you can choose between this, this and this. I think you’ll agree that all three are absolute gems and will have you channeling your inner George in no time!

… Laugh Your Ass Off;

Aw yes, Christmas, that time of year has come again when comedians everywhere get set to release and tirelessly promote DVD’s of their latest and greatest performances! Sure, they’ve brought us lots of joy in the past but why not skip the DVD this year? After St Stephens day it usually sits there gathering dust anyways. Oh but don’t skip the inappropriate laughs, chuckles and cackles instead catch your favourite comedian live! This year I’m going to take in a little Michael McIntyre but if he’s not your kinda guy then why not head on over to Vicarstreet.ie where you can book a little quality time with comedians such as Neil Delamare and Tommy Tiernan?

Vicar Street is located on Dublin’s Thomas Street.

… Treat Yourself;

Ok ok, so Christmas is about giving but whoever said you couldn’t give to yourself? The best gift is the one (or should that be ones?) you give yourself. To ease your conscience, however, I’ve found some super stylish and super affordable pieces such as these three gorgeous party dresses (pictured here, here and here) from Warehouse all of which will undoubtedly carry you through the festive season and beyond. Better still if you pick up the December 2012 issue of MarieClaire you’ll receive a further 20% off all full priced items. You’d be losing money not to am I right? And hey if you’re feeling generous you can always pick up a little something for your mom, sister or best friend too!

… Bake Yourself Fat;

Face it, no one likes Christmas cake, it’s heavy, it’s outdated and we only ever started making it because we didn’t have anything better to work with. Aw but gone are those dark days of old. Today we have innumerable options when it comes to sweet treats that everyone will find palatable. Check out just a few of my most popular and perhaps more importantly tried and tested recipes here, here and here which are featured on my blog! If you find you’re still jonesing for something a little more festive then click here to explore what is perhaps my favourite foodie blog of all time and where you’ll find all sorts of festive goodies including gingerbread apple upside down cake and roasted chestnut cookies.

… Trim Your Tree;

I’ve had my own apartment a number of years now and year after year people seem surprised when I tell them that yes I am putting up a Christmas tree. I guess it is a lot of bother when you can take it all in without the hassle just by heading back to the parents place but for me Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the frustration and eventually the relief that comes with putting the tree together and untangling those damn fairy lights. What really makes the process special, however, is the thought of breaking out those ornaments originally bought to mark a special time in my life. I have for example a bauble that represents the first year I moved in with my fiancé and another ornament given to me last Christmas by my future mother in law which is incredibly dear to me. I cannot wait to bust out these trinkets alongside my fiancé this Christmas so we can enjoy a little trip down memory lane together. Why not start your own collection or pick out a special ornament to give a loved one this year? Sentimental, soppy, sad, call it what you will but these are the things you’ll cherish for years to come.

I love these glass initial baubles €6 from Anthropologie!

Time For A Few More Fabulous Suggestions?

Why not have a T.V. marathon? Pick a day, any day, to just sit on your butt and watch the entire lastest season of your favourite show. Friends, Sex & The City, Top Chef America, Dexter, Breaking Bad whatever it may be. The only rule is this; no leaving the couch!

Compile a Christmas playlist! And no it doesn’t have to be full of the usuals such as Driving Home For Christmas just lots of upbeat songs that are going to get you in the mood to dance around your house a la Cameron Diaz in The Holiday.

Speaking of which, watch The Holiday, Love Actually or some other form of Christmas tripe! Snow infused visuals help!

Get crafty and by this I mean channel your inner artiste no matter what your ability. Make a sock puppet for your Dad, a necklace for your mom or a card for your friend. There’s something about doing it yourself that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and from what I hear that’s how Christmas is supposed to make us feel.

I do believe that’s your 12 days of Christmas sorted! You can thank me later folks…!

By Kerrie Mitchell