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Higgins shows humanity about Savita tragedy

Off the fence
Higgins shows humanity about Savita tragedy

Off the fence
Áine Ryan

THERE is no question but that the name of Savita Halappanavar will resonate across this country for decades to come. Even though the circumstances were completely different, those haunting images of the vibrant and colourful 31-year-old dentist have put a face on the X-case and on the faces of the many anonymous women who have needed terminations to their pregnancies for medical reasons or due to the circumstances around which they became pregnant in the first place.
Last week, as the heated debate about the tragedy, and its ramifications, continued, President Michael D Higgins said the following: “My wish frankly is that there be some form of investigation which meets the needs of the concerned public and meets the needs of the family and meets the needs of the State.”
A perfect, measured and fair response by our Uachtarán. It is the clear response of a social democrat and a leader whose role is to be above politics. So why did such remarks cause controversy? How could they be deemed political, even prescriptive? Clearly, Michael D was primarily attempting to balance the needs of the citizen versus the State.
Is it not a relief that we have someone in power – albeit in a symbolic role – who is batting on our behalves? Surely we have listened to enough semantic gyrations and acrobatics by government politicians. How many U-turns and back-flips have they slithered through in the last ten days? (We are not stupid. We all know that if these same politicians were on the other side of the Dáil they would be peddling a polar opposite argument and hovering high on moral indignation.)
I do not give a damn about what parameters are used in the investigation into the death of Savita Halappanavar. All I want is the truth. Not a version of the truth. Not a load of spin about her having some rare E-coli bacteria in her system when she was admitted to UCHG.
It is over 20 years ago since former President Mary Robinson put that symbolic candle in the window of Áras an Uachtarán welcoming all our diaspora back home. Then, the Mayo native etched new and significant boundaries for the role of presidency in our small republic. In this gesture she reached out to many vulnerable people who were forced into economic emigration.
Little did we imagine we would have a Mayo Taoiseach two decades later who – as chief executive of this country – has real power. We may have lost our economic sovereignty to the inherent flaws of capitalistic greed but, as the heartfelt reaction to Savita Halappanavar’s death has shown, we have not lost our inherent humanity.
It was that heartfelt humanity that brought thousands of people out on the streets over the last ten days. Never forget that Enda.