Ready, Winning and Able

When the Irish Paralympic team returned from Beijing in 2008 with three gold medals, one silver and a bronze, the public started to take notice. Expectations were high for London 2012 but very few people predicted the final tally of sixteen medals – eight gold, three silver and five bronze. Double gold medal winners, Mark Rohan, Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop became household names last summer while the whole Paralympic team stole the hearts of the Irish public. The 2012 Sports Sentiment Index (a survey that looks at attitudes to sport) found that the Irish Paralympics team was the public’s “Team of the Year”. Continue Reading →

How have women’s lives changed in a generation?

In 1970, Ireland was a very different country for women. A woman could not sit on a jury or keep her job in the public service when she got married. She could not buy contraceptives, refuse marital relations with her husband, live in a different place to him, get a barring order against him or divorce him. Just over a quarter of women had jobs outside the home and those that did could expect to earn about half as much as men. Continue Reading →

Baby Ava: An Irish Surrogacy Story

Caroline O’Flaherty can’t remember a time when she didn’t dream of being a mother. Even when all the odds were stacked against her, in the face of cervical cancer, radical surgery, failures of fertility treatment and adoption, Caroline never gave up hope. Her dream finally came true in April 2011 when her daughter, Ava, was born in India. However, that was only the start of a long, legal battle to bring Ava home to Ireland. Although Caroline and her husband, Niall, are Ava’s biological parents, it was a surrogate that carried and gave birth to their daughter. Continue Reading →

Family holidays at a fraction of the cost

It’s that time of year again when our thoughts turn to warmer, happier possibilities. Some of us are excitedly planning and booking for the summer ahead, most of us are still dreaming of far off shores and some have already given up hope of seeing them this year. If you are one of the many who have written off the chance of sun this summer, don’t despair! There are ways and means of getting out of this rain-sodden piece of turf and that foreign holiday may not be as far away as you think. Continue Reading →

Raising Gender Stereotypes – Steve Biddulph

When Steve Biddulph published his international bestseller, Raising Boys, girls were doing “just fine”. Then, about five years ago, he started to notice “a sudden and marked plunge in girls’ mental health”. He decided it was time for a new book and last month Raising Girls hit the bookshelves. Continue Reading →

Families for Rent

There’s a new kid on the block and it looks like he’s here to stay. Well, at least until his lease expires. More and more Irish people are choosing the mobility and flexibility that comes with renting their homes instead of buying them. There has been an 84pc increase in private sector rentals since 2006, with 18.5% of the population now renting. In Dublin, that number is over 30%. Contrary to popular opinion, our levels of home ownership are actually lower than the European average, which stands at 73.6pc compared to 69.7pc in Ireland. Continue Reading →

Who needs cash?

As a sixth consecutive austerity budget starts to hit us in the pocket, many people are becoming exasperated at the lack of initiatives offered by the government and instead are taking matters into their own hands. Barter and swap groups have been starting all over the country, providing communities with new ways of accessing goods and services they may not have the money to buy. Continue Reading →

Do you have to be skinny to wear skinny jeans?

It is ten years since Lucy Pinter of Superfine styled Kate Moss in grey, faded skinny jeans. Within months, Vogue had hailed a new trend and it wasn’t long before the high street followed. Possibly the most lauded skinny jean of them all, Topshop’s Baxter, was launched in 2005 and is still available, although sales have been overtaken by the even skinnier Leigh jean, 1.2 million of which were sold last year.

You only need to look out the window to see that skinny jeans are ubiquitous. My kids, my husband and my mum wear them. And yet, their universal acceptance has done nothing to dent their popularity. In fact, every new season brings a new skinny jean. They have long since left the confines of denim and have brought patterns and textures back to jeans. We’ve had floral, brocade, baroque, sequinned, we’ve had velvet, coated, leather, camouflage. Continue Reading →

Isn’t it time to start making women’s health a priority?

I belong to a minority group. I am more likely to die of a preventable disease than my peers in other countries. My risk of death from a stroke, heart disease or cancer is one of the highest in Europe. I am considered too incompetent and untrustworthy to make a decision regarding my own reproductive health and I have no right of access to treatment for medical issues in this regard.

I am a woman living in Ireland. Continue Reading →

How can friendships survive a new baby?

Marlene Dietrich said “it’s the friends you can call up at 4am that matter”. I’m guessing these friends haven’t just spent two hours pacing the floor with a screaming baby while arguing with their partner about who deserves the most sleep. At that stage, the 4am phone call would have to be really, really important. Continue Reading →