The Snapper and Ireland’s attitudes to “unmarried mothers” and unplanned pregnancy..

Last night while radio and tv stations broadcast debates on the announcement by government to bring in legislation in relation to the X Case (which is 20 years overdue), Roddy Doyle‘s The Snapper was also broadcast.

While the film was released in 1993 the book was written in 1990. Back when condoms were for sale with prescription only, the morning after pill was not legal and the Magdalen Laundries were still up and running. Sharon Curly was lucky her parents loved her and she was not sent ‘away’ either to relatives or to a laundry to have the child and to have it put up for adoption. In 1990 a unmarried mother was becoming less and less of a scandal and The Snapper helped break down some of those taboos.

With the availability of abortion in the UK the moral standards in Ireland changed, being an un married mother was preferable to the other choice women were making. to travel. So to limit that the taboo was lessened and financial supports put in place to include these new families long with widows/widowers/deserted spouses.

Eventually we stopped called them ‘unmarried mothers’ but single parents, and then lone parents, but with the greater access to contraception and the morning after pill (which in it’s current form only became legal here in 2001) there is now a move to remove those supports. So women are damned if they have the baby or damned if we don’t.

There is still so much ignorance about contraception, we don’t have comprehensive health based sex and sexuality eduction in our schools. What is doled out is ad hock and influenced by staff and the ethos of the school and the majority of schools are patroned by education trusts which are at least christian and usually catholic.

Many people (and a fair % of them are men)  seem to think that all women can use hormonal contraception and that it is 100% effect and so women who end up pregnant must want to be or are too stupid to use contraception correctly. This lack of education is a social issue and does lead to assumptions and stigma.

We have moved on a fair bit from the early 90s but we still have far to go, at part of that has to be about the rights of children who are born from unplanned pregnancy and their rights and the father’s rights and the many presumptions made in the family courts. These days the term ‘unmarried father’ or single Dad or is at least heard.

But we will have a long way to go and comments made in the Dáil this week show it’s even harder when our TDs come out with comments stilling saying that lone parents are the reason we are in a recession and not the golden circle of Anglo Irish Bank.

Facts about lone parents rubbish claims they abuse welfare system

By Colette Browne

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SOME of you halfwits have been blaming bankers and politicians for savage cutback, but righteous truth merchant, and Fine Gael TD, Derek Keating, has finally had the courage to identify the real cause of our current woes — single mothers.

What were you fools thinking, believing that dapper fraudsters in designer suits had led us to our current sorry impasse when clearly young women pushing buggies are the real reason the country is going to hell in a handcart.

Now, there are some who would argue that single mothers in this country have historically had enough odium heaped upon them and their children by pious politicians, but Mr Keating has decided the time is right to dump another digger-load of sanctimony over their heads.

In an extraordinary rant in the Dáil on Wednesday night, before voting for the many regressive measures contained within the Social Welfare Bill, the Fine Gael TD revealed that he had done some research of late and was appalled by what he found.

Budding anthropologist Mr Keating said he has discovered a sinister subset of single mothers, those with “three and four children”, who only stop spreading their legs to stick out their hands to ask for more benefits.

“I came across a case recently and when I examined it I noted multiple such cases. I discovered young women who find themselves caring, not for one child or two, but for three and four children by multiple fathers who are uncaring and failing in their duties of care and support with the consequences picked up by the taxpayer,” he thundered.

This proliferation of promiscuous women and feckless fathers “who do not accept their responsibilities”, is creating “a new lifestyle of welfare economy” which is “morally and socially wrong”.

While Mr Keating was quick to note that there were some “deserving” cases in receipt of social welfare, he said the State simply couldn’t afford to continue to support these naïve, wastrel women and their exponentially increasing broods.

Unfortunately for Mr Keating, the only thing he seems to have failed to uncover, in all of his painstaking research, is any evidence to support his judgmental dirge.

So lone parents are still being rebuked, reviled and scapegoated, but sure shouldn’t they be grateful that they are not locked away for the good of the rest of us, to work as slave labour for nuns and to have the honour of washing the sheets from the Áras, while the babies are adopted and under Irish law still have no legal right to find out who their parents are.

We still have so much growing up as a nation and as a people to do and we need to do it with compassion.

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