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Sunday, 08 July


Motherhood and an end to womens civil war "IndyWatch Feed"

Maternal ambivalence has always been provocative: a review of Sheila Hetis new book.

Doors, choices, decisions. Credit: Pixabay/qimono. CC0 Public Domain.

Sheila Hetis Motherhood came out in May, not a day too soon for me. Her book is something I urgently needed to read, a novel drawn from life and a kind of fictionalized diary that allows Heti to interrogate the question, Should I become a mother?

Her answer is no, she will not. Or given that Heti inverts the question, seeing it as a positive choice: yes, she will remain childfree. Although the book doesnt use this term, freedom is an idea to which it keeps returning.

The narrator calls writing the book a prophylactic or a raft to get her to the other side of 40, an age Heti reached while finishing the manuscript. The reading experience is often maddening, like watching a mouse scurry around in a trap.

 On the one hand, the joy of children, she writes, On the other hand, the misery of them. On the one hand, the freedom of not having children. On the other hand, the loss of never having had them

As in Hetis breakthrough work How Should a Person Be? much of Motherhood consists of recounted conversations with friends and family as the narrator seeks direction from anyone and everyone in her life. In offbeat injections that brighten the prose she also consults the coins (a flipping method adapted from the I-Ching), producing exchanges in which we are tempted to find meaning, at turns comic and profound.

Are these women punished?


By not experiencing the mystery and joy?


In any other way?


By not passing on their genes?


But I don't care about passing on my genes! Can't one pass on ones genes through art?


Do men who don't procreate receive punishment from the universe?



Reflecting on motherhood and transgenerational trauma "IndyWatch Feed"

Today Im preparing for my 11th meeting with the World Mental Health Survey initiative, in Harvard. At my first meeting in 2005, Professor Brendan Bunting, Dr Sam Murphy and myself were planning the NI study of Health and Stress (NISHS), the largest study of mental health in NI, and part of an incredible initiative, which studied the rates of mental illness, treated and hidden, in countries all over the world. In 2005, we were having discussed whether people here would answer these sorts of questions and how NI would compare to other places. The results were astounding, NI ranked in the top 3 countries worldwide for most mental illnesses. Our rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was the highest of all the countries who participated (8.8%) and traumatic experiences that were due to the Troubles accounted for the excess1. Dr Finola Ferry interviewed some of the worst affected for a follow up study, and what we heard was truly horrific2.  What was emerging was a portrait of a society where almost 4 in 10 people experienced a violent trauma, one in 5 had a mood disorder such as depression and almost 40% met the criteria for any mental disorder1. Importantly, 13.9% had a higher risk of mental illness due to their exposure to the conflict, and this group had a profile of trauma related mental illnesses that were quite different from those found in other places. We also identified a group (4.3% of the population) who had witnessed violence related to the Troubles, who had 15 times the rates of suicidal behaviour of the general population3.

This trip to Boston is particularly poignant for me as it is the first time that I will be making the journey as a parent. My daughter is now one, and this time preparation also involves making lists of her favourite food, nap times, and how to manage six oclock grumpiness. The past year has been joyful, chaotic, and incredibly, unimaginably demanding. Ive been doing a lot of reading about the importance of childhood attachment and sensitive parenting and maternal mental health, and how this impacts on the childs mental health. Ive thought a lot about how a parents capacity to cope with stress shapes their childs fight or flight response and their own ability to cope. Children learn by social modelling, by copying what they see, including how their parents cope under pressure, and manage difficult emotions. Its a huge responsibility, and it often seems that no matter how hard we try, we are destined to mess it up one way or another.

It has got me thinking about those parents in NI who have raised children, whilst coping with the effects of trauma exposure and the horrors that they have witnessed. PTSD is characterised by hypervigilance, constant anxiety, rumination, fear and paranoia. People can be literally plagued by flashbacks and nightmares, and they report an inability to experience...


Who are you identity vortex "IndyWatch Feed"

Are you more than a confluence of time and space? One poet's reflections on the meaning and role of identity today.

Bathers by Paul Czanne. Wikimedia Commons.

Just as the child, by sleep already possessed,
Drops in his quiet bed, eager to rest,
But begs you: Dont go yet; tell me a story *

Mint gyermek, aki mr pihenni vgyik
s el is jutott a nyugalmas gyig
mg krlel, hogy: Ne menj el, meslj

The tell me a story moment in the poem is almost a century ago: 1937. The Hungarian poet, Attila Jzsef, wrote this poem to welcome the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist, Thomas Mann, at the Academy of Music in Budapest. The welcoming gesture was, in the end, not performed as planned. The director of public prosecution decided to ban the poet from addressing the novelist with his poem.

Almost a century has passed since state censorship embargoed in Budapest in 1937 one writer greeting another with tools of their trade words.  

His existence and name forgotten, the state censor is long gone. The poet and the novelist have both become admired, quintessential icons of European culture. Thomas Mann lived long enough to give anti-Nazi speeches on the BBC, only to be a suspected communist by McCarthyism. Attila Jzsef, the poet and the hero of our story-telling story, committed suicide the same year, in 1937. 

But his poem not only remains, but its relevance has been increasing over time.

To be or not to be: that is the question is part of everyday speech, a quote we might hear in a conversation (and not just in English), without referencing its source: Shakespeares Hamlet. Similarly, some of the lines from Welcome to Thomas Mann have entered public consciousness in Hungary.

Sit down, please. Let your stirring tale be said.
We are listening to you, glad, like one in bed,
To see to-day, before that sudden night,
A European mid people barbarous, white.*

Foglalj helyet. Kezdd el a mest szpen.
Mi hallgatunk s lesz, aki csak ppen


The bogey of a hard border is starting to vanish before our eyes "IndyWatch Feed"

Majority reaction to the Chequers summit is cautiously optimistic, most reservations from all but the Brexiteer fanatics being postponed, using the alibi  of next Thursdays publication of the 120 page government White Paper before they fully respond.  If youre naturally positive, youll see it as an undoubtedly soft Brexit;  if  youre a cynic whether Leaver or Remainer, you may call it a fake Brexit. The outcome can be summed up by saying that on goods and regulations, the UK will take back control, but will agree to follow  EU rules or suffer the consequences. Call that control  if you will, but control by whom ?

Thats the meat and potatoes. The rest is salad lots of bits and pieces, mind, and some of them could stick in your throat.

The Leavers can scream betrayal. For Remainers, especially Irish ones, there is a dilemma. Theresa Mays carefully engineered cabinet coup, nurtured with a minimum of fanfare and delivered with zero eloquence as usual,  will I suspect leave the ranters against the UK with a sharp sense of anticlimax and disappointment.  The extremists among them really wanted Britain to be humiliated, even at the expense of Irish prosperity. Were not out of the woods yet but it looks as if well make it.  For the first time since the referendum, the initiative rests with the UK government for the EU to respond.  While theres lot of detail to explore and even invent, the Commission is no longer dismissive of  customs alignment or of technology to monitor end-user destinations.

Not that all the claims for the new united Brexit strategy are entirely convincing. Cabinet Office minister David Lidington,  once a junior  NI spokesman in opposition makes a dizzying claim in the Observer..

Making sure Brexit works for the whole United Kingdom has been a priority for the government from the very start. It is why we made strengthening the Union one of our objectives for the negotiations. It is also why we have been assiduous in sharing and discussing our plans with the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Tell that to Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones  And what devolved government in Northern Ireland, was he talking to?

But on border issues  he may be on safer ground.

Both the UK and the EU have made a sincere commitment to the people of Northern Ireland: there will be no hard border. Equally, as a UK government, we could not countenance a future in which a border was drawn in the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Making this commitment to a common ruleboo...


Are the Tories gagging democracy? "IndyWatch Feed"

By Dorothy Bruce

Theresa may is fond of pontificating about British values a belief in democracy, upholding the rule of law, a deeply embedded sense of fair play, integrity, tolerance. These were the values many in the UK believed, and were told, ruled an Empire on which the sun never set. But the never-setting sun was not allowed to use its rays to cleanse murky corners, and now the internet has prised open a number of historys iron-bound chests to prodding by inquisitive fingers and intensive questioning rather like enthusiastic and knowledgeable amateurs at an architectural dig. And what has been unearthed and brushed off rarely shows Theresa Mays British values in a flattering light.

More recently, under Mrs Mays tenure in office at Number 10 these values have crumbled to dust faster and more comprehensively than possibly at any time previously. What we have watched in the last years, months and weeks has not been an edifying sight.

We have witnessed misinformation disseminated at every turn and lying on an industrial scale. Unknown and untraceable shadowy bodies donated monies to the DUP (a party which only has representation in Northern Ireland) during the EU referendum to help sway the democratic vote in Scotland and England. SNP MPs have been barracked and nastily hustled at Westminster in attempts to stop democratically elected MPs making points and representing the interests of their electors. Democracy and fair play?

Tory shadow banking

More recently, investigative journalists have followed money spoors to other shadowy, illusory organisation obscure trusts and unincorporated associations, floating like clouds in thin air, and which appear not to be registered with the Electoral Commission. Under UK electoral law all donations over 7,500 have to be registered and the source of the donation named. Over the last five years Tory election spending in Scotland has more than trebled. In the Scottish parliament election of 2011 the Tories spent nearly 275,000. By the 2016 election, they splashed out more than three and a half times as much 978,921.07.

Pete Wishart asks for a debate at Westminster to shine a light on Dark Money swirling around obscure corners of right-wing conservative funding

Monies floated into Tory target seats to bankroll wins. Two of the largest beneficiaries of the recent so-called dark money scandal were David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland and MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, and John Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.


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Saturday, 07 July


Theresa May claims to be a proponent of gay rights, and no doubt she is, in other parts of the UK. In Northern Ireland, however, she is countenance to their denial "IndyWatch Feed"

By Eoin Tennyson

A British Government survey of 108,000 LGBT individuals has affirmed that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is still alive and kicking across the UK. Two-thirds of those surveyed fear holding their partners hand in public while five percent have been offered controversial conversion therapy. These results may shock some in England, Scotland and Wales; but they are all too recognisable for those of us here in Northern Ireland.

The Tories LGBT Action Plan seeks to advance the rights of LGBT people both at home and abroad but consistently fails to acknowledge that Northern Ireland is a place apart when it comes to LGBT rights and equality, remaining one of the most homophobic places in Western Europe. At times, the report even borders on tone-deaf optimism: emphasising that that the UK is recognised as a leader on LGBT rights in Europe rather than addressing domestic disparities.

LGBT people are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience a range of mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts and selfharm. Evidence attributes the prevalence of mental ill-health to a range of factors including discrimination, isolation and homophobia.

Over the past twelve years, successive Stormont Executives have failed to deliver on commitments to the publication of a sexual orientation strategy. We still do not have an overarching policy framework within which statutory bodies can work to promote equality of opportunity and tackle homophobia. The British government have turned a blind eye.

In the most obvious omission, the document fails to outline a plan to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland, despite overwhelming public support. Studies have shown that the introduction of same-sex marriage has had a positive impact on the mental health of LGBT people in other countries, allaying perceived stigma and internalised homophobia.

Where Northern Ireland finally does get its one mention in the document, its merely to disclaim that many of the plans recommendations cover policy areas which are devolved. A hollow reminder that in the absence of an Assembly, and with Westminster abdicating their responsibilities in relation to human rights, we are set to fall even further behind on LGBT inclusion.

There can be no doubt that the Tories have shied away from these issues to avoid any potential fallout with their confidence-and-supply partners, the DUP, who vehemently oppose marriage equality. Theresa May claims to be a proponent of gay rights, and no doubt she is, in other parts of the UK. In Northern Ireland, however, she is countenance to their denial.


This week, the EU should press Ukraine on fundamental rights "IndyWatch Feed"

As European and Ukrainian leaders gather in Brussels, it's time to highlight the need for further protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in Ukraine. 

President Petro Poroshenko at Police Day in Kyiv, Ukraine. (c) NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. On 9 July, Brussels will host the 20th EU-Ukraine Summit, the annual exercise when Kyiv and the European block highlight their strong bilateral relations. No doubt, the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and European Union leaders will follow the usual united front.

But they will also most likely have in mind that this summit is special. There might be some new faces in the family picture next year, as both parties will face tough elections by then, with the presidential election in Ukraine next March and the election of a new European Parliament less than two months later.

In this context, next weeks meeting will be a test of the EUs will and capacity to promote a truly democratic Ukraine. But it will require EU leaders to go beyond business as usual and get honest with Kyiv. So far, the EU rhetoric has been supportive: Kyiv must continue reforms, which would bring it closer to the EU politically and economically, as Federica Mogherini said just a week ago in Copenhagen. But when it comes to respect for the rule of law and human rights, the EU finds it a lot easier to address violations in the conflict-affected eastern Ukraine and Russia-occupied Crimea than to call out Ukrainian authorities on human rights abuses in the rest of the country. 

To be clear, Ukraine has been devastated by Russias military incursions in Donbas and occupation of Crimea. Despite that, the country has made profound strides in transforming some of its political institutions and practices. However, in the past two years, Ukraine has taken several steps backward on media freedom and free association, and it has done little in the face of rising hate violence, without drawing much alarm or protest from the EU. The governments backtracking might worsen if it chooses nationalist expediency in next years elections. The EU should take these...

Friday, 06 July


Cmo lucha Pamplona contra la violencia sexual durante los Sanfermines y el resto del ao "IndyWatch Feed"

Las fiestas de San Fermn se han dado a conocer por las denuncias sobre violencia sexual. Sin embargo, las autoridades locales aseguran que es bueno que ms mujeres estn reportando agresiones. English.

Una mujer sujeta el tradicional pauelo rojo durante el chupinazo en Pamplona. CC-BY-2.0 Los Sanfermines, la festividad de Pamplona (Espaa), son conocidos internacionalmente por su encierro en el que se corre delante de los toros y su atmsfera fiestera de descontrol. En los ltimos aos, esta hedonstica reputacin se ha oscurecido a causa del aumento de las denuncias sobre abusos sexuales.

En 2013 fueron vistas alrededor del mundo unas fotografas de mujeres rodeadas por hombres que les tocaban los pechos durante el chupinazo sanferminero con el que se da inicio a las fiestas. Desde 2015, el gobierno local ha recibido docenas de denuncias por acoso en esta festividad.

No obstante, las autoridades locales aseguran que este aumento en el nmero de denuncias es algo bueno, y tambin la prueba de que se ha producido un cambio de paradigma que ha hecho a la sociedad menos tolerante a la violencia sexual y ha permitido a ms mujeres dar a conocer las agresiones.

Antes casi nadie se atreva a denunciar explica Tere Sez, figura clave en el movimiento feminista de Pamplona y parlamentaria navarra. Se ocultaba afirma, mientras que ahora no hay tolerancia a la violencia sexual.

Laura Berro, concejala de Igualdad de Pamplona, tambin atribuye el aumento de las denuncias de violencia sexual a los aos de trabajo institucional...

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