The Irish knitting project

ISSN 0256-5004 (Print)

AIMS Journal, 2016, Vol 28 No 2

Jo Murphy-Lawless gives an update

On the 25 November 2015, in St Laurence's, Grangegorman, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) an event took place which has taken over a year to bring to fruition and which has evolved in ways that none of us could ever have imagined at the outset.

It was the knitting project which started out in the autumn of 2014 as a way to lift the spirits of midwives in training after a dreadful run of inquests about maternal deaths, all ending in verdicts of medical misadventure (see AIMS Journal Volume 27 No. 2 2015, Knitting as commemoration). We determined that we would make a knitted quilt and that we might be able to make a short documentary. In the event, support for the knitting grew so that it stretched across Ireland and to the UK and even beyond. AIMS members themselves contributed very substantially with knitting.

There is so much that is grievously wrong with Irish maternity services, but the eight inquests between 2008 and 2014 shone a necessary light on the sharpest of worst outcomes: how poor care, poor evidence, poor staffing, poor governance, and poor professional oversight led directly to the deaths of eight young healthy women, all of whom had sought out antenatal care early and appropriately in their pregnancies. The system failed them and their families and created the tragic circumstances with which their husbands and families will live for the rest of their lives. The system then redoubled its injury by refusing any open accountability, so that the instrument of the public inquest became the only means by which families could discover what had happened, step by step. Even then widowers had to fight for inquests as these are not automatic.

vol27no2image8.png

By the early summer, we had a name for our group, the Elephant Collective, which echoed the richly coloured and intricate design of the quilt's border by one of our chief knitters, Mary Smyth. By the autumn, as the last squares arrived, we had the making of a quilt more than large enough for a king-sized bed. A new king-sized bed was donated to us and we began to work on the elements for the launch of the full exhibition.

vol27no2image7.png

The evening of the launch acknowledged all who participated and who work to see both justice and radical reform of our maternity services. Five of the widowers were able to attend and they found themselves surrounded by over 100 people to commemorate the lives of Tania McCabe, Evelyn Flanagan, Jennifer Crean, Bimbo Onanuga, Dhara Kivlehan, Savita Halappanavar and Sally Rowlette.

The artist Martina Hynan, sitting with press photographs of the women over many months, reading and re-reading inquest reports, painted large portraits of seven of the women with a sketch under taken of the eighth. These created such a strong presence of the vitality of all the women, their hopeful, joyful lives, that it was as if they were there with us that night. We screened for the first time the trailer of our documentary, Picking up the Threads, shot by Anne-Marie Green and edited by Emma Bowell, which asks such hard questions of a dysfunctional system for which no one in government will take responsibility.

Drama students from DIT under the direction of Mary Moynihan (who has written about the impact of the death of her mother after she had given birth in 1981) recited two poems and sang exquisitely. Caroline Kiernan sat with her needles and a large box of wool urging anyone who wanted to add to a piece of knitting, to pick up the threads of care. The exhibition will now go on tour around the country while we press for answers and a change in legislation to require mandatory inquests when maternal deaths occur.


AIMS supports all maternity service users to navigate the system as it exists, and campaigns for a system which truly meets the needs of all. AIMS does not give medical advice, but instead we focus on helping women to find the information that they need to make informed decisions about what is right for them, and support them to have their decisions respected by their health care providers. The AIMS Helpline volunteers will be happy to provide further information and support. Please email helpline@aims.org.uk or ring 0300 365 0663.

Latest Content

Journal

« »

On message - What can we learn from…

AIMS Journal, 2020, Vol 33, No 1 By Sophie Martin We all have continuous internal monologues running day and night 1 . Much of what the voices in our heads say is a refle…

Read more

Getting to grips with the first Ock…

AIMS Journal, 2020, Vol 33, No 1 By the AIMS Campaigns Team Donna Ockenden and her team’s first – interim – report was published in December 2020. It starts to lay bare h…

Read more

Editorial: Salutogenesis - Putting…

AIMS Journal, 2020, Vol 33, No 1 By Alex Smith The theme for our March edition of the AIMS Journal is Salutogenesis. Salutogenesis is a term introduced by sociologist and…

Read more

Events

« »

AIMS 60th Anniversary Event - Confe…

POSTPONED FROM JUNE 2020 Making a difference past and future The purpose of the day is to celebrate what Birth Activists in general and AIMS in particular have achieved,…

Read more

AIMS Annual General Meeting 2020

This year’s AGM will be an online meeting, so we plan to keep it to two hours. However, there will be the opportunity to stay, chat and socialise with friends and colleag…

Read more

Latest Campaigns

« »

Report on the But Not Maternity/Nat…

AIMS and our partners in the But Not Maternity Alliance and National Maternity Voices organised a webinar for MVP/MSLC representatives. The purpose was to raise awareness…

Read more

Press release: We have a roadmap fo…

AIMS and our partners in the But Not Maternity Alliance have issued a press release on the nationwide status of maternity restrictions highlighting the huge variation bet…

Read more

AIMS Submission to the Violence Aga…

AIMS has responded to the call for evidence to inform the Government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy 2021 to 2024 Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW…

Read more