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Pro Bono Publico – Tell us your story

August 15, 2018 1 Comment

A simple latin phrase. Generally, it refers to work undertaken, voluntarily, for the public good.

For our purposes, we’re setting out a space for storytelling. It too is undertaken, voluntarily, for our collective good.

Here we will explore what’s legal vs. equitable in Ireland today.

A wise mentor has suggested that while the recent movement to #Repealthe8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution might have simply prevailed, it was storytellers and the authenticity of their stories that gave rise to the landslide.

I didn’t matter whether the content was a fact-based, clinical observation by a doctor or heart-wrenching stories of personal tragedy, which in an earlier time, might never have been told.

No longer ashamed, women and men told us their painful, personal narratives. They shared their circumstances and we glimpsed decisions so tragic, so fraught and often, so lovingly made, that we responded to their authenticity. We came to understand the punishing burden of having to travel alone – far from, often loving, and supportive families.

And to have to return to a legacy of grief complicated by silence, guilt and shame.

In the telling, these stories spread and sowed the seeds of empathy. Effectively.

Exit polls would suggest that 50% of “Yes” voters do not support abortion on demand. They did not see it as an abortion referendum. They chose to vote for the right of self-determination.

Here in this column, we hope to engender that kind of empathy for our neighbours, friends and families suffering under similarly oppressive economic, legislative and regulatory conditions. People without access to the courts, legal advice or remedies when facing eviction, homelessness or having had egregious experiences of our health and social care systems.

Too many of us are faced with practices and policies which undermine our ability to provide for ourselves and our families.

These are not tales of woe. Look elsewhere for sagas of victimhood.

These stories are simply exemplary. They might all be punctuated with- “There but for the grace of the gods go I“.

And each is followed by a very specific call to action.

Because at the heart-wrenching core of each story is a simple truth.

It did not have to end this way. For the many, for the few and for the whole of the country.

An empathetic ear, a creative or nuanced approach by a bank manager, a housing executive, a taxing authority or a judge – all would have served to curb the number of homeless, the displaced, the many suffering mental and physical distress –  and ultimately the hundreds dead by suicide.

We welcome your feedback and submissions. Tell us your story via video, voice memo or the written word. Unedited or unpolished is fine.

Just don’t hold it in – we have nothing to be ashamed of. #DontGoItAlone

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