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the Other Ireland

We see it often enough: revelations about the private life of a public figure escalate into full-blown political and media spectacles. It also happens, though, that “ordinary” individuals are wrenched from everyday life and projected onto a national stage, as if acting out some deeply repressed anxiety in the social psyche. What was it about narratives of sexuality in Ireland, for example, that earlier this year turned the private trauma of a 14-year-old girl into a crisis that convulsed the entire nation?

In January, a Dublin schoolgirl, pregnant after an alleged rape by a neighbor, sought passage to England for an abortion. Since a 1983 referendum had approved a constitutional amendment banning abortion, the Irish state forbade her to leave the country. The ensuing public protest threatened not only to bring down the government but also to undermine the new union proposed for the European

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