Fuck You Very Much, Ireland.

Dear Ireland,

Ireland. A place of culture of heritage. A place well-known for its artistic ability, its musical talent. Ireland. The land of saints and scholars. The land of musicians, green flags, Guinness and good craic.

But beneath Ireland’s proud and talented exterior, there lies fraud, injustice and false awarding. You see, as a student in Ireland, I have felt the pinch more-so than I dare to admit. I’m from Roscommon, and there aren’t any third-level institutes there. There is Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), but not many courses there appeal to me. There is National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), and Galway-Mayo Instititute of Technology (GMIT), an hour’s drive from my home. There is Sligo Institute of Technology an hour away from my home. But without the aid of Dublin Bus services in the west, it is impossible to commute from one to the other as a Student. This leaves no choice for students in the west but to rent accommodation near their selected Institute, which usually costs about €300 a month.

In the end, I decided to pursue my talents and interests, and applied to Ballyfermot College of Further Education to study Television and Digital Film. Although there is a Film and Television course in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, I decided to go to Ballyfermot. The course I am studying is a one-year course, and I thought it was best to get a taster of the area before I plunged straight into an intense degree.

Not that it would make much difference if I studied a one-year course in this area in Galway, as I would also have to rent accommodation there, which costs more or less the same as accommodation in Dublin.

Now, as a Student in Dublin, my living costs are extortionate when you take into account I am forced to rely on my parent’s income, when they are struggling financially as it is. I pay €90 a week on accommodation; (this is in a ‘digs’ arrangement, so I get meals, too) I pay €25.50 on a Student Return ticket from my hometown to Dublin, and back again, every weekend. I pay €16.50 a week on a Student Weekly Bus Ticket. €136.50 is spent already, only for the essentials, only in one week. Then, I’m usually given a further €8-€15, (depending on that week’s finances), on spending money. Normally, I’m given €150 a week for everything.

€150 a week, for the right to an education? €600 a month, for the right to an education? About €4,200 a year, for the right to an education?

You may have stopped reading right about now, as you’re sick of my pointless rambling and complaining. But I have a point, I swear!

Since beginning my course in Ballyfermot, I have encountered other students who are entitled to Back to Education Allowance. When I found out I had gotten a place on my current course, for a brief moment, I was naive enough to think that I was entitled to BTEA.

The conditions of Back to Education Allowance strictly state that the individual applying for this financial aid must have been out of education for at least 2 years. I was out of education for almost one year in 2010-2011; I was therefore not applicable for the financial aid I so desperately need.

Furthermore, students who, quite frankly, do not deserve or need this financial aid are being granted it without any hassle whatsoever. I have encountered students who spend their Back to Education Allowance on drugs and alcohol, not even appreciating what they have. Aside from this, there are students in their early to mid 20’s getting Back to Education Allowance when they live in walking distance from their college, which means they don’t have travel expenses. And what about the Grant? Students living at home, who don’t have to pay rent, are being entitled to this financial support, without trouble also. I’m not entitled to either. My parents have been struggling financially for a lot of my upbringing, they still do struggle. But still, their income is ‘too high’ for entitlement to a grant for myself, my brother or my sister.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone SHOULD have the right to an education, but we live in an Ireland that has, quite frankly, fucked us over. We have returned to a time where education is becoming a luxury, a thing offered to students with rich parents.

We live in an land of culture, of music, of art, of fun. But all of this heritage has been smothered by the clear injustice going on in our Ireland. I used to be so proud of you, Ireland, but lately, I struggle to see anything you’ve done right for me. You haven’t looked out for people like me, you’ve ignored us, you’ve used us, you’ve abused us.

Aside from BTEA and the Grant aid, what other financial aid is offered to Students? It is expected that parents on a minimum wage can afford to send 1, 2, 3 or more students off to college? How unrealistic is this? How unfair is this? But most importantly, how corrupt is this?

Get a part-time job, I hear you say. It seems I spend my life applying for some sort of part-time employment, both online and through handing in CV’s. The majority of employers seem to not even have the decency to contact me back.

So, fuck you very much Ireland. You’ve wronged me, left me out, betrayed me. But, maybe someday I’ll forgive you. Only if you stop throwing our wads of cash, earned by the working Ireland, to imbeciles not even appreciating their education, not even appreciating their chance. You’re handing out money to support drugs and alcoholism, from what I can tell.

Perhaps a better system would be checking what these students are spending their ‘free money’ on. Perhaps then, people who need the money will get first preference, and these students wont be rewarded for laziness any longer.

But, in a corrupt Ireland, I’ll be waiting, and waiting, and such a skill of logic will never come by…

Yours faithfully,

Aisling Kelleher.

To be a woman

What is a woman? Is a woman someone who simply has a vagina, or is she a sexy goddess who teases men? Is a woman someone who’s feminine and petite, or is she simply just a gender; clashing alongside males?

According to the Bible, the first woman was Eve. She was made because Adam gave one of his ribs to create her. This suggests that without men, women would not exist. And what about the word ‘woman’ itself? Without the ‘man’ at the end of this word, women would once again not exist.

Society has led us to believe that a woman is the nurturer. She is gentle and helpless in the face of man. She is the victim of domestic violence, but never the culprit. She is pretty, sweet, and innocent.

What is a man? A man is the macho protector of the Woman. A man is physically strong, protective, responsible. A man is the culprit of domestic violence. A man is the inappropriate individual who goes out with a 17 year old girl; whereas a woman is left uncharged should she go out with a 17 year old boy.

It is expected that women make good mothers, that they are good in the kitchen. It is expected that us, as women, remain slim, pretty and sweet. But where did this notion come from? In truth, are we, as women, entirely reliant on men? Or, are men entirely reliant on women? Perhaps the most accurate answer to this question is that both men and women exist independently in their own right; not needing the existence of one another to the extent we are led to believe in.

Women have the right to be strong, independent, intelligent creatures just as much as men do. But why is this female independence discouraged by the media?

As a woman, I am expected to be pretty, well presented, gentle, helpless in the face of danger, and nurturing in the home. But if I were a man, my expectations become something completely different.

Women who are fat, ugly, uninterested in appearance… they are deemed by society to be ‘incomplete’. In many senses, women are not complete human beings if they don’t live by the expectations set out by them.

As an average person in society, being a woman comes second to me. I will try to my full ability to succeed. I will aspire to freedom, independence, happiness, and love. As a woman, I’m expected by society to behave in a typically female fashion. Why does my sex come primarily before my status as a human being?

We, as women, are expected constantly, daily, hourly, to be a gender, and not a person. As a woman, I’m constantly bombarded by images of beautiful women, in advertisements and in film, telling me to be a particular person, telling me to be a particular woman.

Can’t we, as women, simply exist in society by our own rights? Rather than the rights set out for us? I want to be successful person; to be a beautiful woman comes secondary to me.

As women, we experience unbelievable pressure to be slim, pretty and well presented. The same expectation simply does not stand for men.

I for one, would love to see more intelligent, successful women, who pride themselves on their intelligence and hard work, rather than on their looks. Take JK Rowling for example, a smart, sophisticated woman who has made a global name for herself being a person, not a woman.

If we compare her to the likes of Paris Hilton, the contrasts are astounding. Hilton stands in society being a stereotypical woman, not being a human being. What sort of message is she sending out to us ordinary women?

I’m not saying that we, as women, don’t have the right to embrace our girliness, embrace our looks, if we have them. What I’m saying is… Why should this embrace of artificial womanhood come before our expression of humanity itself?

We are all souls, both male and female… colourless, energetic, determined souls, dancing across the planet determinedly, chasing faith, success, pride and freedom. In the end, gimics such as makeup, hair, tanned bodies and bleached hair, stand for nothing.

We, as women, need to show a better message. We need to be braver, stronger, and more independent. We need to put a stop to society’s expectations of us.

Aisling Kelleher

Fear of Death? Or, Fear of Living?

Personally, I’m afraid of death. But lately I’ve got thinking, why am I afraid of death?  I am not the only one who fears ‘the unknown’, which essentially is death.  We are all fearful of death.  But, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Death is but the next great journey”.

 

None of us know when we will die, how we will die, or how long we have left to live.  That’s what makes death so frightening.  The only thing we all know is that we will eventually die.

 

Whether it’s tomorrow in a road accident, or in 55 years from Cancer, none of us know.  And here’s the really freaky part.  None of us know where it is we go when we die.  If we travel to foreign countries, we will feel a similiar blurry, unsure expectation.  After all, how do we visualise a place we have never been to?  When we travel, we daydream about foreign lands, different currencies, and strange accents.  When we actually arrive at our destination, however, we are frequently surprised at how different our expectations were.  Reality always seems to surprise us; whether it makes us happily excited or drastically disappointed.

For me, death is the greatest comparison to travelling.  We, as baptised Catholics, have been thought from early age that there is an afterlife.  We have been bombarded with animated pictures of a bearded man in a gown waiting for us at the pearly gates.  He will assess our life’s journey, and then grant us entry, or throw us denial into Heaven.

But what, exactly, is this idealised Heaven we’ve been programmed to believe in?  Ecstatic happiness so often found on Earth, amongst the living. Is this not the Heaven we’re thought about?  And the epitome of sadness, regret and anger, is this not the dreaded ‘Hell’ we’re told about?

 

In my own opinion, the likelihood of an afterlife seems non-existant.  This brings up another thought; the dead living amongst the living.  The Bible tells us this is not possible.  But, what is the Bible?  The Bible is, essentially, a detailed book of opinions and metephores.  This is in my own opinion, I don’t mean any disrespect.

There have been countless stories and tales about supernatual experiences on Earth.  If we compare these experiences with the experiences of a dead person in Heaven, we are obviously greatly outnumbered.  How can we be expected to believe in something that has nothing to back it up?  I’ve never received proof of an afterlife, but I have heard numerous stories of the dead living amongst the living.

Still though, I must ask this question – Why do we, as human beings, fear death to the extent in which we do? Technology is constantly developing and growing, but we will never be able to receive proof of an afterlife or indeed verification from any organised religion. Death is one of the few things we will never receive an answer for.  Death is a matter of faith.

Nobody will ever know what happens to us after we die.  And, although I do not believe in an idealised ‘afterlife’, I find it difficult to believe that after we die, we simply disintegrate, disappear, and never return again.

 

We are all individuals, specially made and impossible to repeat.  If so much work has been put into us to make us this way, how on earth could we disappear in every respect after death?

 

There has to be more than this issue than meets the eye. I know I will never find an answer. But I am also confident that someday, death will indeed become ‘the next great adventure’. And it will not become a terrifying experience that will result in the complete disappearance of me.