“In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality..”

Many of us expressed frustration today, as Mick Wallace’s bill on abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities failed to get the support it needed from TD’s. As somebody who is a strong believer that we need to repeal the 8th amendment, I was frustrated too; until I really began to think about it.

“In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality” is simply not enough. It means that women are still not allowed to decide what will happen to their body, in the case of a crisis pregnancy. If this bill was to be passed, it would raise so many more questions; how fatal does a fatal foetal abnormality have to be before it’s deemed acceptable to terminate the pregnancy? Who gets to decide on this, and how? What type of abnormalities would fall into this category? With the state of Ireland’s medical system, most women would be almost full-term by the time the doctors had decided if her foetus had a chance of survival. And what about the women who are told, “Sorry, we’re not sure if your baby’s disease is fatal or not. You’ll have to carry on with your pregnancy and see.” How is that fair? And then there’s the women whose babies will be diagnosed with conditions that mean they will have no quality of life. Do they not deserve to abort their pregnancy if they choose to? “In the case of..” is just not a sustainable option.

It’s like when people say that abortions should only be available in the case of rape. Do they realise how long a court case can take? These things can take months, sometimes years. By the time somebody was convicted of rape, a child would already be born. And what if they were found not guilty of rape, but guilty of sexual assault? Where do we draw the line? In the case of repealing the 8th amendment, there is no drawing the line. It has to be all or nothing.

The decision on whether or not abortion should be made available in Ireland is in the hands of the Dáil. 78% of these people are men, who will never know what it’s like to fall pregnant. A vast majority of these people are stable in their finances and careers, and probably in their relationships too. This vast majority don’t know what it feels like to go through a crisis pregnancy, where you end up pregnant when you simply don’t want to be.

Enough of this talk of, “in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality” or “in the case of rape”. What about in the case of when a woman simply does not want to be pregnant? We seem to be skimming over the fact that unwanted pregnancies happen on a daily basis. What about the girls who are still in school, and want to experience a regular transition into adult life? What about the college students, who struggle to make enough money to look after themselves, let alone a child? What about the woman who already has four young children, and does not have the energy or financial means to raise another? What about these normal, everyday women? Do they not deserve a safe, legal abortion too?

“If they didn’t want to get pregnant, they should have used protection.” Moan the pro-lifers. Did you know that condoms sometimes break? Pills don’t always work? The implant isn’t fool-proof? And even if you didn’t use protection, it doesn’t make you a bad person. Uneducated about safe sex, maybe, but it doesn’t make you any less entitled to a safe, legal abortion than anyone else.

Recently I spoke to a doctor, and she asked if I had any plans for future contraception. I told her that I’d been researching the coil, and she said “Are you sure you’d want the coil? You seem very nervous.” And my response, “Well, a pregnancy would make me even more nervous.” It made me think, what would I do if I got pregnant at my age? My anxiety would sky rocket. I’d probably go mad. I’d be making myself physically sick with worry. But because of my own personal circumstances in life, I wouldn’t have an abortion. However I’d like to have the option to, and I’d like if other women were allowed to make that choice themselves based on their own personal circumstances. I respect that these women are able to make the best choice for themselves.

Until you’ve taken a pregnancy test while shaking, alone in a bathroom, or you’ve watched a friend burst into tears as a red cross appears on her pregnancy test, or you’ve seen a family member debate in despair about whether or not they can truly afford to have another child. You’ll never really understand what it feels like. You’ll never know the torment that these women go through, and it happens more often than we think. I’m sure the vast majority of us know somebody who’s had to go to abroad for an abortion, because our country is too backward to provide them here. Abortions need to be made available in Ireland, and it has to be all or nothing. There can be
no ifs, buts or maybes when it comes to such a serious repealissue.

Michaela Meets: Walking On Cars

It’s been a long wait for the fans, but Walking On Cars debut album “Everything This Way” is finally being released on January 29th. In Universal’s Dublin office, I got the chance to speak to Paul Flannery (bass guitarist) and Dan Devane (guitarist) about Walking On Cars’ last few hectic months. WOC_Packshot

The new album gives us plenty of new songs to listen to, but after signing with Virgin, were the band convinced to change their sound? Dan says no, not really, and that there’s always a misconception that a record label will come in and tear a band apart. The lads seem pretty damn appreciate of Virgin in fact, because they’re all too aware of how expensive a career in music can be; making an EP, buying a van, paying for diesel and hotels. They’re happy to be getting a wage at the end of the day now, and Dan jokes, “They [Virgin] have better resources than we have to help us achieve our goals, which is of course, taking over the world.”

While the financial side of things is improving for the band, there’s still the challenges that come with touring. Both of the lads agreed that it can be very hard for their lead singer, Pa, who has a baby. But how does touring effect their love lives? “We all have girlfriends and boyfriends, but I’d say they’re more than happy to have us out of the house for a week or two” Paul laughed. Dan added that no matter how difficult the challenges are, you always get past them, “We just did a sold out show over in London to 1000 people and we were just blown away by the reaction. All the challenges disappear then, and you think ‘Wow, that was amazing’. It’s worth it.”

Walking on cars_Press Photo_PORTRAIT FINALAnyone who listens to Walking On Cars knows that their music can deal with a lot of personal issues; broken hearts, angst, sorrow. But is it hard to always come up with these type of lyrics? Paul says that because everyone always has their problems, even when things appear to be running smoothly, it’s easy to put the songs together. He added “It’s a lot harder to write a convincing happy song than it is to write a convincing sad song. If we wrote a song about all our happy times, I think people would be pretty sickened with it!” The band try not to let things get too dreary though, and Dan explained that even though the themes are dark they like to keep the sounds upbeat.

Walking On Cars have been announcing that a debut album would be coming up for what seems like forever, and the lads are really happy that the time is finally here. They recognised that fans were getting frustrated, and when they got a solid release date Paul said his initial response was, “Yes! Tell the people!”

Judging by the band’s Youtube views, the fans are really liking the new music. Their single “Speeding Car” racked up more views in the first two weeks than any of their other videos had in the first two months. Paul says that the comments on the videos can put you in a really good mood too, especially when hungover. He said, “You read a few comments and you’re like, yeah, I can get out of bed now.”Photo01_19flat_f1lowres

Walking On Cars are used to performing live now, but that doesn’t mean that the nerves go away. Paul says that nerves can hit at the weirdest of times, like when you’re playing a small gig in Nottingham in front of 26 people. Another time you’d be playing in a bigger venue like the Olympia, and you’d be absolutely fine. Dan says that nerves are unavoidable, but that they’re not always a bad thing, “It takes a few songs to get settled as well, to get the adrenaline up. Then you see one of your friends in the row and you’re like, ‘Stop looking at me!’ You learn to use that though. It’s where the energy comes from.”

Photo01 (2)Like any band, when they first started out music was just a hobby, but now it’s a full-time career. Do the lads still enjoy writing and playing music as much as they used to? “Definitely” they said. When music is your main focus and you don’t have to work in another job full-time, it’s a lot easier. The lads were full of stories of tougher times, but they appreciate the memories all the same, “We used to drive to Belfast in our really shite van, it was terrible. Sometimes it didn’t even work. One time we had to drive home in it and it kept overheating. It was a bank holiday Sunday, driving home from Derry, and every ten miles we’d have to stop and refill the water thing. We had to stop in the shop and be like ‘Can I have twenty litres of water?’ Fill it up, drive ten miles, stop, let it cool down, repeat. Things like that don’t happen anymore. But that was all great craic, it’s part of it.”

And their hopes and expectations for the album? Well they want megabucks, yachts and trips to the Carribean. No really, they genuinely just hope that people will like it. They want to pick up some new fans from around the world, and maybe get some good festival slots this summer too. Paul told me, “We really can’t wait for it to come out, then we can start working on the second album.” Get cracking lads!

The Festival Lowdown – Knockanstockan

Having won Best Small Festival, Best Line-Up, and the Family Festival Award in 2012, it’s clear that Knockanstockan has a lot to offer. It’s one of the smaller and lesser known festivals, but that doesn’t mean that it’s anything to look dowknockn on.

A sell out event in 2014, if you want your Knockanstockan tickets you need to act quickly. Taking place at Blessington Lake, Wicklow on the 24th and 25th of July this year, this festival is sure to bring you the only the best from the underground music scene.

Knockanstockan is a completely non-profit festival, run by over 250 volunteers with the help of many musicians, artists and community members. It showcases some of the best raw talent in the country, and has been compared to a cheap and cheerful alternative to the ever popular Body & Soul.

knock2You might look at Knockanstockan’s line up, consisting of the likes of O Emperor, Syd Arthur, The Eskies and Twin Headed Wolf and think, “I don’t really know any of these bands” but that’s where the beauty lies with this festival.

With a long list of genres including rock, folk, traditional Irish, rap, soul, dance and much more, you have the opportunity to explore and listen to music that you never would have thought to listen to before. It’s a relaxed and chilled environment and with over 150 acts to choose from, you’re sure to leave with a couple of new favourites.

At only €80 for a weekend ticket, Knockanstockan is definitely one of the more student friendly festivals. A family camping ticket is only €160, and if you have your own campervan the weekend works out at €105. Return buses can also be booked from Dublin at only €15, which is both cheap and convenient.knock3

From hearty steak sandwiches to homemade ice cream, your wish is Knockanstockan’s command when it comes to delicious food. There will also be a range of vegan and vegetarian options available, so nobody’s left out.

And onto an important aspect of any festival – alcohol. Knockanstockan is fully licenced, with a range of fun and funky bars to suit your needs. As well as that, they’re one of the sounder festivals who allow you to bring your own beer, which is also handy for students on a budget. Tobacco is also available on site, for those of you who forgot to cross it off your checklist.

knock4Always striving to make an improvement, Knockanstockan’s campsite is larger than ever this year, as well as having a bigger and better camper van field. There’s nothing worse than having four other tents thrown on top of your own, and at least at Knockanstockan you’ll have plenty of space.

Not just a festival for the music, art and activities are another primary focus at Knockanstockan. This year they’re exploring the concept of light and dark, and the transformation of artwork between day and night. Art installations of this theme will be all around the festival site.

Like they do every year, Knockanstockan will be hosting a full programme of performance art. There will be spoken word artists, pop up performances, stilt walkers and acrobats to name but a few. These are the little things that are sure to make Knockanstockan 2015 a festival to remember.

If after reading this Knockanstockan is really appealing to you, you’ll need to get your tickets quick. With a little over two weeks to go until the festival, it wouldn’t be a surprise for it to sell out again, and it’s not one that you’ll want to miss.

Bright future ahead for star of The Voice, Nicola Lynch

Her stint on The Voice of Ireland may have come to a halt, but for pint-sized rapper Nicola Lynch from Ballycroy the journey has only just begun, as already she has been offered record deals.

Nicola is both amazed and delighted at the amount of people who want to work with her, but because she’s still signed to Universal it’s making things increasingly difficult, “It’s hard to pick them up now because I’m still signed to Universal. I’ve tried to contact them and tell them and say ‘let me go’, but they might be keeping me under contract and want to work with me.”

Nicola says that this situation has left her feeling a little lost, and stressing about the future “By the time I get told if I can be released from Universal, my offers I get now could be gone.” She says that all she wants is an answer to whether or not Universal are going to sign her, and jokes that they should know by now.

Nicola was quickly snapped up by Judge Una Foden during the auditions, who immediately recognised her unique talent and rapping skills. But rapping wasn’t something that she always did, and she says that she picked it up after hearing her brother doing it, “just to stand out a little”.

Beginning to sing from a very young age, her family always knew that she had talent. Her younger sister Jade recalls a time when Nicola was the angel in a nativity play back in National School, commenting on how wonderful she was.

Coming from a family of 15, which Nicola describes as “crazy”, means that she always had a large support group that constantly stick together, “Someone’s always experiencing something different in the house, so you’re going through the same as what they’re going through.” She says that they are a constant source of motivation and urge her not to give up on her dream, “I think I want it more because of them.”

But it’s not only her family and community that have gotten behind her. Nicola says that while attending national school, she received a huge amount of musical encouragement from her teacher Leona Conway. She says that she got her to enter competitions, sing for school plays, and even join the choir. She says this is what really got her into singing, and other people made her realise that she really did have talent, “I liked people telling me that they thought I was good!”

Nicola admits that working so hard only to be knocked out during the battles left her feeling a little defeated, but the worst thing was leaving behind all the friends that she’d made on her journey, “That’s one of the hardest things of leaving the competition, actually leaving them, it’s like you’re leaving your family behind.” She struggled to say goodbye to them but has stayed close to many of the amazing people that she met.

On this year’s show, they introduced the ‘Knockouts’ stage, something that’s never been done before. Nicola feels that this is where it may have went wrong for her, and says that she feels she would have gone further in the competition if it was down to votes because Mayo would get behind her, “I didn’t actually know it was knockouts. They kept it really secretive! When I found out I was against Niall and Chloe I was like, ‘I’m gone’.”

Speaking about the comments Bressie made that her rapping wasn’t clear on the night, Nicola reflects back on how she felt, “I was really pissed off at that, like really pissed off. Going on live TV and saying that, and to be told it was all for entertainment.” However she decided not to listen to him after getting positive feedback from the other three judges, as well as her fans, “I didn’t bother with Bressie, and not everyone listens to him anyways. I don’t listen to him. I thought at first I would have, but no.”

Her sister Jade also said that Nicola was very hurt by the comments, “For Bressie to say that kind of put her down.” But the offer she received only the day after she left The Voice put her back in good spirits. Jade said that she’s been asked to work with people who have dealings with shows such as Geordie Shore and The Valleys, “She was asked yeah, for a few people. I think the producer or something to do with Geordie Shore for some television kind of thing.”

Nicola knows that this is just the beginning for her, and already has solid plans set out for the future and is adamant to make it in the music industry, “I think I’ll keep trying now. I’m going to try to write a lot more of my own stuff and maybe with other artists. I think if you go along with other people that have a fan base you’ll build off them, and I think you need to go out and work now as hard as you can. My face is out there now, I think I need to just work around that and keep on it.”

Light Up Limerick’s Bridges

This is an article that I wrote, which didn’t end up being published anywhere. However, I want to post it somewhere anyways to raise awareness about the developments in lighting up Limerick’s bridges, and this is an article that I worked really hard on.

Schoolgirl Katie Whelan has been left in absolute amazement after the Council have given her permission to “light up Limerick’s bridges”. The 18-year-old, who had a dream over the Christmas break about her cousin Lisa, who tragically died by suicide three years ago, which gave her the idea for this project, said that she couldn’t believe that she got a straight up yes so quickly. She said, “I thought it was going to drag out a couple of weeks and that they’d have to think about it, but I have the full support of the Limerick City Council so it’s absolutely amazing.”

Katie, who is a Leaving Cert student at Ard Scoil Mhuire, came up with the idea to light up Limerick’s bridges with positive quotes such as “It’s a bad day, not a bad life”, after she dreamed that Lisa saw the bridge light up before she jumped, and ended up stepping back. But despite the tragic circumstances that gave her the idea, Katie does not want the project to be focus solely on the prevention of suicide: “I don’t want it aimed just at suicide prevention. This is to boost the whole city. If you’re having a bad day and pass something that’s really positive and uplifting, hopefully it will make a change to people who aren’t even contemplating taking their life.”

Katie is working closely with the Council to make this happen, and they’re hoping to have Thomond Bridge finished before March. Because this is something that’s never been done before, the boxes will have to be specifically made before which will take both time and money, and the cost is looking to be between €1000-€1500.

With her exams coming up, Katie has a lot of work to juggle but says that local Councillor Daniel Butler is taking a lot of the weight off her shoulders. She’s determined to get things done, and said “Now that I have a definite yes, my sights are set on what I want to get done. I’ve got my family behind me and my school is completely behind me as well.”

Daniel Butler, City West Limerick Councillor, said that he was delighted to help Katie get the green light for this campaign. He said, “We went into the meeting together aiming high, and left on a high. Katie is an incredible young Limerick woman and I hope the people of Limerick, especially young people, get behind her campaign now as we move on to the next stage. I can assure her I will be working hard for to see this through to fruition.”

With a donation site in the works, Katie will be looking for donations to see the project through. Although she knows that money is tight, she said that she would be grateful for anyone who can help out financially, “I’m looking for local businesses, the people of Limerick, and anybody else who can to donate.”

With the Council and the public behind her, it looks like Thomond Bridge will be lit up as soon as possible, and will hopefully be followed by the rest of the bridges in Limerick.

The Mocks

Hmm, where will I start?
To be honest I thought the mocks would be a lot worse. I thought they’d make me cry an unbelievable amount and that I’d launch into spontaneous panic attack during each exam, when really, I was okay.
I’m aiming for 475 in the leaving cert, and honestly I’ll be over the moon if I hit 420, or even 415 in the mocks. I know they’re not exactly good to go by, seeing as a half the time they’re not corrected properly and the teachers can be pretty obvious with hints in the weeks before the exam itself. But I thought they were great for timing, and I’m using them in a positive light, to see where I need to focus my work on.
This year I’m studying English, Irish, Maths, French, Geography, Biology an Home Ec. Maths is my only ordinary level subject and it’s extremely hard trying to juggle it when I’m so bad at it, along with the six honours subjects that I’m actually using to count in my points.
So far, I’ve gotten two mock results back. I got a D2 in maths, which I was absolutely over the moon with considering only 10 people in my year passed ordinary level maths. And I got a C2 in biology which I was also very happy with, because I thought it was my worst exam.
For the 475 I want in the real thing, I’m hoping to get an A2 in geography, a B1 in home ec, a B2 in english, B3’s in irish and biology and a C1 in french. It’s pretty wishful thinking, I know, but if you aim for the moon you’ll fall amongst the stars!

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