Hello 21st century


The Spire of Dublin symbolises the modernisati...
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Hello, 21st century. This is Ireland.

You might remember us from the Celtic Tiger – we were introduced briefly then, and had a little flirtation. After that we disappeared into a misty ether made up of traditional activities like emigration, recession, corruption, and embarrassing debt problems.

I’m happy to report that we’re back! Not our politicians – they’ve decided they don’t want to meet you. Not for a while at any rate. Transport 21, did you say? No, that was a mistake. Too far too fast, with a lot more to do. Or something like that. Although they are convening our national parliament a full two weeks earlier than usual, it’s not because they’re excited about the future. It’s because they want to wash their hands of the past, and as quickly as possible. They’re not really the same thing. Some of them do say things like “We are where we are”, and “It’s time to stop looking back and look forward” and “We must concentrate on a sustainable future”. But what they mean is “We are where we are, because we got us here, but forget that part”; “It’s time to stop looking back because if you do you’ll see snapshots of us golfing with the bad guys”; and “We must concentrate on keeping my seat after the next election and making sure that if I can’t, I will get a good pension.”

But I digress. I’d like to welcome you to Ireland, 21st century, even if our politicians won’t touch you, and your issues, with a bargepole. It’s amazing the way you seem to have appeared in a couple of different forms recently.

First, there was the European Court of Human Rights ruling, which found that a woman whose life would be at risk as a result of her pregnancy, was entitled to have her life saved in Ireland, the country in which she resides. Wait a minute, you say; was this not decided before? Yes it was; but unfortunately our politicians are too afraid to legislate to allow our doctors to carry out such life saving operations. As a result, a seriously ill woman was forced from pillar to post, meeting closed doors all the way, to travel to England. That story makes me ashamed of my country. Legally, she was entitled to treatment here. Morally, she was entitled to have her life saved here. But in reality, our politicians did not have the moral courage to legislate for these despite the wishes of the electorate being clear. You, 21st century, have dug our heads out of the sand and forced us – you might think – to address this issue. But still we hear nothing about it from the Government, or from the Opposition. God forbid, a policy position might be taken inadvertently. People might be offended!

This week we got another taste of what life in a modern country might be like; a country that isn’t built on vested interest groups and old school ties, and that isn’t run by the one of the highest proportions of men to women in the ‘developed’ world. Pharmacy chain Boots is to offer the morning after pill without a doctor’s prescription, after a consultation with a pharmacist. This will cost €45.

Up to now women have had to pay for a GP visit (€50 – €60), plus the cost of the medicine. Few GPs work weekends, when this service is most needed. And GPs have been free to refuse the pill on moral grounds, despite the fact that women may not be able to access another doctor. The morning after pill is a serious drug, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But pharmacists are trained to advise. And the argument that women will repeatedly take it as a form of contraception ignores the fact that we all have responsibility for our own wellbeing. A doctor can’t stop you smoking, eating or drinking yourself to death – all they, or a pharmacist, can do, is educate you. And this will still happen. GPs’ concerns about this development are rather transparent, and suggestions that pharmacists don’t know what they’re doing are at best disingenuous.

While this is a commercial decision and not a political or moral one, it’s another step towards the 21st century. Finally.

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3 comments

  1. I think you’re wrong there De, I think Boots are also taking a moral stand. It’s easy to bag out the big guys but somewhere in there are actual people, and these people care about providing medicine (albeit at a profit but you can’t have everything!). It’s certainly a good start. It shows as well how far Ireland has come, this would be inconceivable (no pun intended) twenty years ago, or even ten!

  2. @Denise You could well be right about that, but I suppose primarily it is a commercial decision – it will make them a lot of money. And that’s fair enough, but if you look at the UK, where people can get it on the NHS for free, we still have a way to go!

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