MARCH is always a frantic month for one reason or another.
It will involve Lent for a lot of people. And that means a pause and a reflection in the interest of physical and spiritual wellbeing.
It also involves St Patrick’s Day. If we don’t celebrate our wellbeing we celebrate the Irish language, culture and history. If we allow ourselves to get past the commercial plastic Paddywhackery, of course. President Joe Biden released a statement this week announcing Irish Heritage Month.
And they acknowledge that there is a long long way to go in those spheres of influence before we can say there is gender equality. We also will hear of historical women as their history is reclaimed and we all benefit from remembering in a more comprehensive way.
He connects his family’s history to the story of Irish America and America itself. It is a constructive pause for Irish Americans to see the best of themselves – it is something that we would do well to import back to our island.
On a lockdown St Patrick’s Day let’s take the opportunity to reflect on the best of ourselves, in all of our complexity, rather than mourn the lack of green beer.
The beginning of the month also marks International Women’s Day and the end of the month International Day for the Right to Truth. These International Days are useful reminders of rights that exist in theory and gaps that exist in practice.
In Ireland there are a fair few events at the beginning of the month that give a nod to women. The discussions often rightly focus on women in the media and women in politics. And they acknowledge that there is a long long way to go in those spheres of influence before we can say there is gender equality. We also will hear of historical women as their history is reclaimed and we all benefit from remembering in a more comprehensive way.
There are few events if any which are organised for the International Day for the Right to Truth, which falls on the anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero by a San Salvadorean state murder squad. It is a day which recognises the rights of victims who suffer compounded harm from the denial of truth.
This year we have seen the rights of victims of state and state sponsored violations have their rights to truth diminished across the island.
Women who suffered in mother and baby homes on the one hand have seen a partial acknowledgement of the horror of their experience and on the other are fighting against the destruction of their files and testimonies. They have seen no accountability.
Victims of our conflict have witnessed a British government deny them any process of truth recovery whatsoever, despite an international agreement – the Stormont House Agreement – being signed six years ago. With 91 per cent of conflict dead being men, women have a particular experience of the denial of truth.
If there was lateral thinking, we would see the connections of International Women’s Day and International Day for the Right to Truth. We would connect the dots of how systemic hatred of women informs the denial of truth to those same women when they experience systemic violations. When there is redress for victimhood, we would see particular processes that notice and protect the rights of women as a matter of course.
But on this island we do not join dots – we have days in silos. Women will be noticed on March 8. And the right to truth will not be noticed at all on March 24. And that diminishes us all.