An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

18 November 1999 Edition

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Male suicide: the hidden slaughter

BY MICK DERRIG

In this movement we remember our dead. Their deaths define our journey as a human community.

Connolly carried dying into the Stonebreaker's Yard at Kilmainham to be shot in a chair.

The 77 Civil War executions by the Free State.

Barnes and McCormack.

Brave Tom Williams.

Ten Dead Men.

David McKittrick has just published a tome of the Northern War's body count. The book's claim to credibility is that every victim is the same as every other. They're simply numbered.

We republicans knew very well during the war years in the Six counties that there was a hierarchy of death.

An Phoblacht cartoonist Cormac had one memorable blast where the trainee British hacks are told of the current exchange rates in lives: ``1 member of the royal family = 50 Paddies. 1 RUC man = 1,000 Asian peasants.''

There is, however, violent death cleaving through communities on this island and there is hardly a column inch to record the passing of so many. The killer comes in the night here in Donegal and slays those in the full bloom of youth. With decades of good health in front of them. Lives full of Possibilities. Lives full of Time.

Now there are children that will never be born to them in my village. They won't age to take their place in the corner of the pub as oul fellas.

Not only are the authorities baffled by these killings, they just don't seem to care. They sweep up the debris of another killing and then simply wait for another. The killer is known, but no one dares mention the name. Suicide.

There. Said it.

Like the Paras on Bloody Sunday, this is no random slaughter. This is a very discriminating killer. Almost always the victims are young males. These are aimed shots by a society that doesn't need them and tells them so.

And how.

Suicide is now the main cause of death among males in the 15-24 age group in the 26 Counties.

Last year, for the first time, more died as a result of suicide than as a result of car accidents in the 26 Counties. While 462 people were killed on narrow and badly maintained roads, 504 people took their lives. Of these, 421 were male and 83 female.

That's the body count of the worst year of the Northern War. Only with this, no one is working at resolution.

Why?

Because the victims are expendable. There has been an inexorable rise in the male figures throughout this decade. The female quotient of the overall suicide figures has been falling through the 90s, from 20% in 1992 to 16.5% in 1998.

The massive overrepresentation of males in the 26 Counties' suicide figures has led some usually voluminous social commentators to be uncharacteristically silent.

Tell me Nell, when is a Gender Issue Not A Gender Issue?

Easy. When it happens to men.

In fact, the entirety of response of ``Official Ireland'' has varied from the slow to the non-existent. This social phenomenon is happening outside their main social policy paradigm - which is a feminist one.

All current Irish social policy is based on the template of feminism - that women are the vulnerable group in society. It is they who need care and protection.

If there is a gender issue to be addressed by social policy intervention or the provision of better state services it is always to be directed at women. There is, of course, a corollary to this.

Men are OK. Men have no problems. Men don't suffer.

This male suicide thing, basically, does not compute. There has been little public debate on this issue, perhaps because of this.

Any statement around men's rights - like John Waters' reasoned advocacy in the Irish Times - is met with either unsubstantiated charges of misogyny or that the plaintive is ``snivelling''.

Waters has infuriated many in Right On Dublin 4 merely by pointing out social inequalities that would not be tolerated if they were being visited upon women.

All that Waters has asked for is Parity of Esteem for men within modern society. Last week, Vinnie Browne turned the men's issue into farce on his radio show.

He told a worker from the Ballymun Men's Group that the men using the group's drop-in services should simply ``Grow up!''

Can you imagine the Bould Vinnie, or any other social commentator, speaking to someone from a women's group like that? Can you?

A letter in last week's Irish Times dismissed men who suicided as ``copping out''. Would such a letter have been published about women who die by their own hand?

Then again, if eight out of ten suicides in this state last year where by women I think we'd hear rather more about it.

There is a growing belief among academics working in this field that many of the young men who suicide are taking a rational decision. They simply do not want to enter the manhood that is presented before them.

They don't want the life that they see their father's generation enduring. They feel the chill of the cold house of modern manhood and prefer not to enter - ever.

They see a manhood that is derided and discarded by an aggressive male-hating ideology. That belief system is as much enshrined in modern law as Bunreacht na h√Čireann enshrined the misogyny of Maynooth.

Now, a different version of neurotic Catholicism calls the shots in the affairs of this state.

We have a social policy in this state based on the Immaculate Conception. The father doesn't officially exist.

The type of civil death that women used to suffer in this state upon marrying has now happened to fathers. Family courts start from a premise that the father's rights - especially if he is not married to the mother - is a grace and favour arrangement by the mother blessed by the court.

More and more young men see how the tide is flowing and decide it isn't for them. If we can get all hot under the collar about how much Charlie's shirts cost shouldn't we make this slaughter an issue for republicans?

One thing's for sure, as there's another suicide wake in my Donegal parish, no one else seems to care. Perhaps Partnership for Peace will again put a value on young male Irish lives.

At least NATO will require them to be healthy enough to be able to march into machinegun fire as they secure dwindling resources for Europe.com.

Then, at least, their graves might not be as lonely as the freshly dug one beside Errigal.

An Phoblacht
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