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Whistleblowing, Misogyny and the Eight Amendment

May 23, 2018

Top left John Connors photo ©IrishTimes ; Top right ©Maser  Repeal the eight logo

Bottom left Dr. Tom Clonan and Tony Groves Bottom right Dr. Tom Clonan and Martin McMahon - photos and logo used with kind permission from Echo Chamber Podcast

 

 

 

I listened to the Echo Chamber Podcast, with guest, Dr.Tom Clonan the other day.

 

Tom is ex-army and a security strategist, but that is not the reason I found him interesting.

 

I learned that he was the one who blew the whistle on sexual harassment and rape in the Irish Army. Listening to him speak of the impact of doing the right thing—highlighting a wrong—and how detrimental it had been on his career and promotion opportunities—felt comfortably familiar, but equally hopeful.

 

I had a sense that if enough people understood what was happening behind the scenes of clickbait and soundbites, a revolution would ensue and the citizens rise up and re-brand the country. Ireland.

 

It needs more than a cosmetic facelift.

 

And as several things, because I really don’t know what else to call them, unfolded yesterday, people’s reactions told me I was not alone in my thinking.

 

When news broke that a body had been found—with a strong intimation it is was Jastine Valdez—two thoughts came in quick succession, that her last moments on this earth were terror and her parents’ complete and utter desolation.

 

I reflexively texted my own daughter to check she was alright—with a foreboding that we had, as nation, crossed a truly horrible line, because we had failed to pay attention.

 

We know the Gardai shot and killed the man suspected of Jastine’s abduction and demise on a bright summer’s evening—and as more information emerged, we learned that he had previous convictions for abusive behaviour under the influence of alcohol.

 

The headlines said he was a quiet and nice man—that this behaviour was foreign to those who knew him.

 

I learned a very long time ago, twenty people will read the same sentence differently.

 

This headline subliminally implied a number of reasons, one, he took a fit of madness and suddenly decided to abduct and kill a young woman or he was stressed or having mental breakdown, or the young woman did something, said something or wore something to provoke his wrath.

 

All of which, distance the man from his actions—telling us, again, that men cannot be held wholly responsible for anything.

 

Commentary on Twitter confirmed this—ranging from, he’s a cold hearted murderer to an evil monster.

 

No. Just no.

 

He was a man who had anger issues. He was a man who apparently had addiction issues. He was a man that lived in country that regards women as disposable objects or usable beings to offload crap on. He was a man that lived in a society where men are very rarely held to account for their actions—an accountability which itself sits within a toxic class system.

 

Our cultural and societal framework played an active part in the death of Jastine. Let’s stop fucking pretending.

 

Until that is acknowledged, we cannot fully participate in changing things for the better—and will find it impossible to differentiate between evil (the complete absence of good) and the product of circumstance and environment.

 

In turn, without that acknowledgement—those in positions of power and influence can avoid the responsibility of building structures to assist those struggling with the impact of a spectrum of abuses.

 

I’m not an idealist. I am aware successful outcomes are not guaranteed, but that does not remove the obligation to try.

 

Equally.

 

Change or even its harbinger, invites chaos and destruction—the time running up to voting to repeal the eight amendment (25th May 2018) is a current example.

 

Women have offered up their pain, their past, their time to persuade the populace to vote YES to repealing the eight amendment from our constitution.

 

Women who are standing on the graves of women and children who were incarcerated, beaten, enslaved—whose children were taken from them, used in medical experiments, sold on the International market, or buried in septic tanks.

 

In the name of man and God—and a perverse morality that is firmly rooted in Irish soil, yet still.

 

All the women I admire and respect (from a distance), were weary in their expressions on social media, that these were heavy and difficult times to be a woman—and where I have always found it to be so, I felt that there was a new level of darkness—a new destructive misogyny gurgling.

 

And I’ll be straight with you, when I hear men but especial women say, oh, but that was in ancient times, I despair and want to explain that the patriarchy has simply adapted, lassoing us onto the never-ending five year plan.

 

By the time I saw John Connors name, the only thing I could do was exhale and have a cup of tea.

 

I recalled his acceptance speech at the IFTA awards and remember being so elated by his courage to call out the Irish Film Board—and filled with admiration for his ambition and determination, which in turn sprinkled some hope that things were changing from when…

 

I remembered one of the first things I was tasked to do when I joined Coopers and Lybrand (now merged with PwC) was to sift through and shred film and stage scripts, many still in their envelopes unopened—my first reaction was horror and I asked why. I was told that they had already decided on the persons and groups who would be receiving funding and needed to clear space in the store for the next incoming onslaught of proposals/applications. I left the office that day feeling so dejected and disillusioned—art discarded by accountants.

 

So yeah, I knew the journey it took for John to get to the microphone to receive his award that night—and I congratulated him, because he was deserving of it.

 

But.

 

I wasn’t even a tiny bit surprised on the position he took on the eight amendment. Although I acknowledge John has done amazing work around mental health awareness and participated in projects highlighting domestic violence—a couple of years ago I saw exchanges with other males that indicated something I am really too old to be patient with—and unfollowed him, taking less of an interest in his career.

 

A short time later, a well-known creative (with a blue tick, no less), who John openly admires, shared a private email he had received and pasted it on his public Facebook page with a question for his ‘fans’

 

—seriously, if a man had written this would you still ask me to be all lovey dovey and kind?

 

Judging on the rhetoric and reasoning for his voting NO, it seemed apparent, not much had changed.

 

I agree with John on the subject of Varadkar. I believe, left in the position he is for too much longer, he will do serious damage to this country—damage that will take generations to recover from—but the place to deal with him is canvassing on doorsteps and the ballot box—not weaponising or politicising women’s bodies.

 

I only had it in me to read three of John's tweets. His rage at the politic system was palpable—and I believe it matched mine—his assertion that there was a high level of collusion at the top is something I would absolutely not contest.

 

John’s vitriol demanded I acknowledge something. It demanded it, because I understood, John’s background is crushing oppression—John knows exactly what is like to be discarded, not heard—and he is living that anger. It hasn’t past.

 

And how else is he going to make it right? What structures have we put in place to support all citizens of this country?

 

If we got better—what would our better country look like?

 

John is climbing to the top—I am at rock bottom.

 

He got to where he is because a few people supported him. I am at rock bottom because of the system he is railing against...

 

Four years ago I took a day’s unpaid leave. I needed to. My panic attacks had returned, I had spun back into depression—and at the time I obsessed about doing what was right, conducting myself with integrity—it didn’t occur to me to take a sick day to write an initial record of what had happened to me.

 

Between crying, a panic attack and anxiety, I think it took me the guts of over fourteen hours to write. I was so distraught, I couldn’t even go back and read over it to edit and correct grammar—and actually apologised for this failing in the email when I eventually sent it—that is how fucked I actually was.

 

Through the senior manager in HR, I was advised that the head of the department refused to meet me on the grounds that I might deduce that he viewed my complaint as being in anyway formal or serious.

 

And I lost everything.

 

Severely months later, completely by accident, I learned that this man was seeking to be re-elected on to the council (Chartered Accountants of Ireland). A man, I often heard described as an expert and consummate professional—a man who was often invited, or invited himself to contribute to discuss regulation, policy and ethics in finance and accounting—at a national level and to the Central Bank of Ireland.

 

I went to my laptop and began typing letters to the Central Bank of Ireland and to CARB (Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board), advising them of breaches in regulation and ethics.

 

I also named Dargan Fitzgerald, Partner, EY. (rebranded from Ernst & Young, after the banking crisis, to distance itself from its past as auditors of Anglo Irish Bank).

 

Those letters were shared and the only reason I know is the increase in visits to my now deleted LinkedIN account, and Facebook page from current and past EY employees scattered across the globe, shortly after submitting the letters.

 

That was three years ago. I'm still waiting for a response.

 

CARB went on to rebrand itself — “Professional Standards” and a website about people in the world of finance passworded its site, shortly afterward, so that photos of those who worked in the industry could not be identified unless you were a member.

 

My motive was this—if you don’t conduct yourself with even some semblance of integrity or even pretend to operate within a set of ethical values you propound to have, on a personal or professional level, you have no fucking business talking about it at a national one, because the only people who are impacted are the plebeians.

 

So, yes, John’s vitriol, demanded I do more than I have.

 

And yes, I prayed, still am, he doesn’t continue using his platform to rail against women who have been struggling and fighting against the system, in forced silence.

 

There is still time. There is still a sprinkle of hope.

 

 

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