Living in a new country makes it easy to get caught up in their domestic dreams and ambitions, which are often different from those of your home country.
Last week, Ireland had the opportunity to play in the soccer World Cup. To compete, however, they had to beat the Danish team in a final game.
While soccer is popular in Canada, Europeans take the sport to the next level. For some, it’s a casual conversation topic; for others, it’s a sport they live, breath, and would die for.
So when the Irish team had a shot at competing, the bars in Galway were chock full with eager fans at the ready.
The game started off promisingly. Ireland led 1-0 in the first few minutes and the atmosphere in Galway was electric—their team was winning.
But then, disaster struck. Denmark scored goal, after goal, after goal, and in the end, it was a landslide 5-1 victory for Denmark. People across Ireland were crushed.
However, the Irish dialogue hasn’t only been centred around the defeat to the Danes .
Within my first few weeks here, I noticed a growing political debate taking place around the rights to abortion.
Currently, abortion is illegal in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. So if a woman wants (or needs) to get an abortion, she must pay for a flight to England.
According to Marie Stopes UK, an independent provider of sexual and reproductive health services in the United Kingdom, women can expect to pay €510 for an abortion pill, €560 for surgery without sedation, or €580 for surgery with sedation (that’s well over $800 CDN for a surgery).
The National University of Ireland Galway Students’ Union figured this to be unfair to its students and the public at large, so in late September they funded a bus ride to a public demonstration in Dublin to show support for the legalization of abortion.
I attended the rally as an ally and supporter, and was amazed by the level of encouragement given to repealing the act.
As I walked through the streets of Dublin, I saw hundreds of signs, with everything from funny cartoons to serious declarations, like “my body, my choice” and “you have no right to my ovaries.”
The march remained peaceful, with officials citing tens of thousands of protesters in attendance.
The protest was considered timely, but not urgent. The government of Ireland has proposed that a referendum for repealing the Eighth Amendment (which “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn) will take place sometime in June or July of 2018.
However, the campaign for both sides of the debate is ongoing, as advocates try to shape the public discourse.
Walking through the streets of Galway shows the level of dedication by some members of the ‘repeal’ campaign. On most days, there is a semi-permanent booth set up on one of the main tourist streets in Galway seeking signatures, informing people of the referendum, and explaining how to register to vote.
So whatever the outcome may be, both the repeal and remain advocates seem hopeful that their dreams and ambitions will be realized in a few short months. Which, for a Canadian exchange student, is amazing to be a part of.