Opinion: Stephen Donnelly is making pregnant women feel like they don't matter

Opinion: Stephen Donnelly is making pregnant women feel like they don't matter

1 week ago

"We may not have the power to change things, but that isn't going to stop us from fighting for what we deserve."

If this week's March for Maternity proved anything it's that new parents, women and expectant mothers are stronger than any Government. We may not have the power to change things, but that isn't going to stop us from fighting for what we deserve. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly's silence has been deafening, but his lack of action hasn't stopped people from doing everything in their power to stop the maternity restrictions. Hundreds gathered in Dublin city this week to show they're not willing to settle. Women have constantly been treated as second-class citizens in Ireland and it is time for that to stop. Women deserve better. New parents deserve better. Pregnant people deserve better.

Organiser of this week's march Linda Kelly spoke to HerFamily about just how hurtful Donnelly's silence is. "When you are ignored it makes you feel like you don't matter. That's what Stephen Donnelly is doing right now to families all across the country," she said. "The least, the very least, he could do is meet with #BetterMaternityCare to hear our concerns and to help find a solution to this issue."

She called on Donnelly: "Meet with us and take control of this issue until it is resolved. Make sure women's experiences are heard and that these restrictions are ended."

Despite his silence, Linda said the turnout at the march filled her with hope. "It was really inspiring to see so many people standing together, using their voice to call for an end to these restrictions. I've been to lots of protests but none as special as the #MarchForMaternity.

"It felt like a historical moment where families decided we are going to demand #BetterMaternityCare and we're not going to stop until we get it.

The restrictions are not only causing distress for women in labour, parents who have lost children and new fathers. They're also straining people's mental health. This is supposed to be one of the happiest chapters in our lives, but these restrictions have turned it into a nightmare for far too many people. Linda expressed her concerns about the lasting impact these restrictions will have. She believes the Government needs to do more to support those who have had to deal with these intense restrictions.

Introduce a dedicated funding arrangement should be put in place to support mental health services in the community to offer services specifically to all families who have attended maternity services in the pandemic.

Linda agrees that women in Ireland have been treated less than by both Government and society. We are not second-class citizens. It is time for us to be treated with the respect and equality we deserve. If this was an issue that affected men it would have been amended a long time ago.

"And lots of people are telling me that it is going to influence who they vote for at the next election. There's been a huge level of interaction with locals TDs and party representatives and people have been making a note of who is genuinely committed to supporting #BetterMaternityCare and who is not."

Line of Duty actress Amy De Bhrún joined Linda at the protest this week. She told Her.ie : "I became a bit enraged with the fact that as the world was opening up, and people were going away on holidays and getting to go to pubs and things like that, there was still no change in maternity restrictions."

"My message to [Stephen Donelly] is open up the door and talk to the campaigners. If you're interested in what women need and what restrictions need to change, talk to the people who are experiencing it on a daily basis."

It is time for Minister Donnelly to act now. Women are not going to be silenced or ignored any longer. It's time for their needs to be met.