MY GRANDAD WAS PUNCHED AND ABUSED BECAUSE OF HIS WORK - BUT HE STILL FIGHTS FOR WHAT'S RIGHT
Fiona McEvoy’s grandad, Frank Crummey, has a long history of campaigning for women’s rights. Now aged 81, he’s urging people to vote YES in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
I’m a Dubliner living and working in London. I've been campaigning for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment from afar. Making Ireland a better place for women is something I'm passionate about. I get that from my grandad, Frank.
Frank Crummey is 81-years-old. He’s been happily married for 57 years, has five children and ten grandchildren.
He grew up in Kimmage, Dublin with his three sisters and his mother was a single parent. He has dedicated his whole life to helping women and children in need.
He was a social worker for the ISPCC and was also a legal executive, representing many women in court in family law cases. He played a role in the opening of the first family planning clinic and the first women’s refuge.
In 1969, he raised the issue of child abuse in the Catholic Church on the Late Late Show on RTE and as the credits rolled, a member of the audience stood up and punched him in the face.
But he has lived long enough to be vindicated and everything he said about the Christian Brothers was true.
In my eyes, he is a hero. He has always stood up for those who don’t have a voice. He is the most moral person I know.
I asked him what his views were on the Eighth Amendment and he had quite a bit to say.
“Nobody is ‘pro-abortion’ and I am as pro-life as the next person. But I have fought for the emancipation of women since the 60s,” he said.
“A woman’s right to choose is an extension of the emancipation of women from the old days.
“People seem to forget that in the 1960s if a married woman was ill and her doctor recommended a hysterectomy to save her life, she couldn’t have it without the signed consent of her husband.
“She would have had to go to England for a hysterectomy, the way women do nowadays for terminations.
“I have spent 30 years attending women’s refuges and legally representing women in great distress. Often they had pregnancies which they couldn’t cope with because of their marital situation.
"They were being beaten up every night, being raped, and again, there was no such thing as marital rape then. Women in dire circumstances and it was just very sad.
“These things were designed to keep women down. They were mainly pushed by the Catholic Church and the governments of the time, which were practically entirely men.”
When I asked him about the role of the Church in the current abortion debate, he points out that Catholic leaders have consistently opposed every social change in Ireland.
“We had the issue of divorce. They had the slogan “Hello Divorce, Goodbye Daddy” a load of shit, it never happened. Now divorce is an accepted part of Irish life,” he said.
“The same with the rights of the gay community to get married.
“The problem with Ireland is, we are still controlled to a certain extent by those men and women who suffered the total control of the Church in their early years and they’re finding it very difficult to break the shackles.
“I was fortunate enough that my mother made me discern between what was right and wrong and not be influenced by any church, just think through it yourself."
'So much hypocrisy'
Frank also remembers a time when it was illegal to give information to a woman on where to go for a termination.
"A woman approached me, very religious, very pro-church and she had a crisis pregnancy," he said.
"I advised her on where to go for a termination. Not only that but I delivered her to and collected her from Dublin airport. In 1997 I was running a referral clinic in Dublin. One of my doctors was arrested and there was a protest outside saying that I was a killer. It was being led by this woman, who I had helped in the 70s. So you have a lot of hypocrisy and ridiculousness."
Frank thinks the referendum on May 25th is just the latest bump in the road to making Ireland a fairer society. But he reckons we’ll get there eventually.
“Our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he couldn’t have dreamed about becoming Taoiseach in the 60s, so we have come a long way.
“Women couldn’t have had terminations in Ireland, but in time to come it’ll be just something in the history of women’s rights.
“I’m over eighty now, I had the pleasure of opening the first family planning clinic in Ireland with Dr Jim Loughran and other wonderful people.
“I also had the opportunity to help Nuala Fennell open the first refuge for abused wives. It’s all part of the emancipation of women and we have a right to continue on that road.
“Women should have totally equal rights in everything that men have.
“I say ‘cut the shit, let it in now’. It’s a woman’s right to choose, let’s get it over with.”
Fiona McEvoy is a member of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign