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Open Letter

Ireland has been anxiously anticipating Pope Francis' upcoming visit, and this woman has something to say about it.

Helen McNamara recently shared a powerful testimony about her experience with the Catholic Church and titled it an “Open letter to Pope Francis”.

The aggrieved mother shared her journey from womb to womanhood, explaining that she had been born inside a religious institution in the village of Castlepollard in Co. Westmeath.

The woman was a 'nameless' baby when she was adopted by a loving family, who christened her 'Helen'.

Now a mum with a family of her own, she returned to her birthplace to seek answers about her biological mother. “Forty-seven years later, I went to the exact same address in Castlepollard,” Helen wrote.

Now owned by the state, she was led to the chapel nearby where an employee explained: “how things had worked in Castlepollard in the days of the nuns.”

Young women felt compelled to give up their babies to “wealthy Irish women and foreign people” or families simply wanting to provide a safe and loving home.

After hearing the hardship of women in this position, Helen completely understood when her own birth mother, Bridget, confessed that she never told a soul of her existence.

Bridget was too terrified to even consider meeting her grown daughter.

And Helen has some words to say about her mother's experience to not only Pope Francis but to those in attendance of his visit as well.

She dubbed the church’s acts “disgustingly shameful” and called for more than an apology: “I just wonder what good an apology from you is to the thousands of victims of the institution of the Catholic Church.”

Helen calls out Pope Francis for his €30 million, all-expenses-paid visit to Dublin and asks why the church, that she claims makes over €4 billion, cannot fund its own “publicity trip”.

The mum continues by shifting her focus to those who have obtained tickets to see the pope. She asks if the "half a million planning to attend" have forgotten about “the baby trafficking, the systemic demoralisation and shaming of women for doing something as natural as eating and breathing.

“Have they forgotten about the divide the behaviour and teachings of this church caused in our land, and most importantly, have the WOMEN attending this event, have they absolutely no soul at all.”

While Helen may be spot on naming the atrocious acts the Catholic Church has been accused of, not everyone agrees with her attack on the women planning to be present for his visit.

One commenter replied: “I do also believe Francis is a good man. Much has improved but more can be done including helping victims. The law must also step up to the mark in all of this.”

He argued that wanting to see the pope does not mean that people condone the church’s past actions.

Helen concluded her letter with a call to action, demanding that Pope Francis take action instead of merely apologising to the public.

“Why don’t you, Pope Francis, offer to fund counselling to the thousands and thousands of people who have been affected by the churches actions. We don’t need meaningless apologies [..]

“We need for you to help repair the damage done to the victims, and this is best done by counselling which can then hopefully help them to learn to forgive – both themselves and your church.”

Many have called Helen's bold letter a “nail on the absolute head” and “well said”.

Like Bridget, women and mums have been deeply affected by the horrific institutions and conditions for young girls during those times.

A few months ago in June, 230 Magdalene survivors travelled from all over the world for commemoration. The survivors were finally able to share their tragic experiences and start their process of healing as a community.

“We're being heard after all these years,” one woman said.

It is inspiring to see victims of clerical abuse, like those mentioned in Helen’s letter, band together, and start healing old wounds.

The pope’s visit has caused widespread controversy about the Catholic Church’s actions and its interwoven threads throughout the country’s past.

Helen’s words have moved many, contributing to heightened tension nationwide, especially as we wait to see how the public will react to Pope Francis’ arrival.

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The Time's Up Movement continues to grow from strength to strength, as the women in the field of acting maintain its place in the spotlight. 

Since the success of the all-black Oscars, ahead of tonights' BAFTAs a different statement has been made. 

190 UK actresses have penned and signed an emotive and striking open letter about Time's Up.

 

A post shared by Rosamund Pike (@rosamundpike) on

According to The Metro, the letter has been signed by the likes of Emma Watson, Gemma Arterton, Emilia Clarke, Rosamund Pike  and Carey Mulligan.

The letter calls for an end to harassment and abuse faced by women at the hands of sexual predators. 

‘This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone,' it reads

 

A post shared by @emilia_clarke on

'This movement is intersectional, with conversations across race, class, community, ability and work environment, to talk about the imbalance of power. In the very near past, we lived in a world where sexual harassment was an uncomfortable joke; an unavoidable awkward part of being a girl or a woman.'

'It was certainly not to be discussed, let alone addressed. In 2018, we seem to have woken up in a world ripe for change. If we truly embrace this moment, a line in the sand will turn to stone.’

Tonight, a number of the women who signed the letter will be joined at the BAFTAs by activist guest they have chosen to accompany them. 

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With more than 1,000 UCD students having petitioned for her impeachment, UCD SU President, Katie Ascough, has released an open letter via the Fight4Katie Faceook page.

Katie was the subject of intense criticism in August when she made the decision to remove information pertaining to abortions in the university's Fresher handbook Winging It.

Ahead of today's referendum, which was set in motion by the petition and will ultimately decide Katie's fate as SU President, she chose to issue a letter to the student body.

"I have put my whole heart and soul into being your SU President for the last four months. UCD is an incredible place, and I am so grateful to be elected to represent the 30,000+ amazing students of UCD. You have my commitment, you have my all," she began.

"The Impeachment referendum was initiated because of my decision not to distribute the Winging It books. Doing so would have been illegal. The advice I received on the issue was clear. It said that the prudent action was to redesign the books or, if it was too late – and it was – to cancel them."


"Some have referred to the SU’s “proud history” of breaking the law, especially in the 80s and 90s, but the question is this: Is it fair to demand that I break the law, too?" she asked.

"I ran on a platform of things like cutting the cost of college and improving mental health supports. I did not agree to break the law and run the risk of a criminal record for the rest of my life."

In the lengthy message, Katie was keen to clarify the issues at the heart of the controversy.

"Regarding the Winging It books – I ask you to please place yourself in my shoes. I kept my election promise and delegated tasks to my team; I trusted my team. In trying to respect the pro-choice mandate of the Union, as I had promised, I allowed another officer to sign off on the content of the books."

"I realised the book contained abortion information. Never for one moment did it look illegal to me, it just looked like abortion information. No one on the team told me that I was signing off on something illegal, despite the fact that they admit they knew."

Looking to the future, Katie insists she prioritises the needs of the student body, writing "I am willing, ready, and determined – if UCD students Vote No – to return to my job on Friday morning and begin to mend what has been broken."

"Please Vote No to see your representation restored. Please Vote No for fair treatment of someone who chose to not break the law. And please Vote No to stand up for a President who is committed to you."

Those championing Katie have been vocal in their support of the post, but a number of students have dismissed Katie's protestations.

"Liar, Bigot, and Coward, removing comments and blocking those who go against you on this page," wrote one Facebook user. "Dont let the door hit you on the way out."

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The father of a white nationalist protestor has publicly disowned his son in an emotional open letter published on Monday.

Pearce Tefft's son, Peter, was among the group of far-right demonstrators who took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virgina, last weekend.

The rally quickly turned violent after the group clashed with counter-protestors, resulting in the death of one woman who was killed after a car ploughed into a crowd of people.

Pearce was prompted to write his statement after his youngest son was identified through a number of photos and interviews that appeared across social media.

In the letter, posted on inforum.com, he wrote:

“I, along with all of his siblings and his entire family, wish to loudly repudiate my son’s vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions. We do not know specifically where he learned these beliefs. He did not learn them at home.”

“I have taught all of my children that all men and women are created equal. That we must love each other all the same.”

“Evidently Peter has chosen to unlearn these lessons, much to my and his family’s heartbreak and distress. We have been silent up until now, but now we see that this was a mistake.”

The devastated father then went on to explain his decision to disown his son, saying he was no longer welcome at family gatherings.

“I pray my prodigal son will renounce his hateful beliefs and return home. Then and only then will I lay out the feast.”

“Why must we be guilty by association?,” he added.

Other members of Peter's extended family have publicly condemned his actions and have even asked him to change his name.

His nephew, Jacob Scott Weiber wrote on Facebook: “For anybody who is looking at my Facebook account because they found me through my nazi uncle, Peter Tefft, I would like it to be known that I have nothing to do with him, I utterly repudiate him, and I repudiate his vile nazi ideology.”

"Peter, if you are reading this, PLEASE CHANGE YOUR NAME IMMEDIATELY.”

You can read Pearce Tefft's letter in full here.

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I'm not going to claim that I know the ins and outs of every feminist issue.

But I can safely say that as a 22-year-old woman, I was thoroughly angered by a piece which recently featured in The Independent titled Serena Williams sabotages own equality battle with soft-porn photo shoot.

Why? Because it basically puts women back in a box, and insinuated that the only reason a woman might pose in a swimsuit is to tease and titillate.

Image result for serena williams sports illustrated

Serena Williams' Sports Illustrated cover shoot was gorgeous, yet it was labelled nothing "other than soft porn," by a female sports journalist, and I can't help but ask, are we really that backwards?

For Christ's sake, a woman in a swimsuit is far from soft porn and to label it that is not only degrading, but insulting to Serena.

For anyone who hasn't read the Sports Illustrated feature, Serena wanted to show off her body because it's muscular – and she's proud of that. She wanted to show that it's not only your standard runway models who get to grace covers of magazines.

Strong, athletic and successful women do, too.

Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes of our time, and loving herself and her body does not "sabotage the equality battle."

Image result for serena williams sports illustrated

She has had to face this criticism throughout her whole career, her whole life even, so to describe her as "wanting to be validated for how [she] looks," is totally wrong and disrespectful.

The author says that she "doesn't agree with photos objectifying women." But, what about photos 'objectifying' men? Or indeed, athletes?

The ESPN Body magazine photographs countless athletes year after year, yet is this considered objectification? No. It's to celebrate their bodies, which endure workouts, diets and gruelling regimes so they can be as successful as possible in their line of sport.

Their whole lives are about their bodies. Their talent is their bodies.

Why shouldn't they show them off if they want to?

The opening line of the article suggests Serena's interest in thong bikinis speaks to her sudden lack of interest in the issue of equality.

"I've never actually worn a thong bikini… the thong is perfect, it really made me feel comfortable. I'm officially a thong girl now."

Cool, Serena's into thongs. But that's not all she's into.

How about this quote by Serena: "Luck has nothing to do with it because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come."

Or this one: "I love who I am, and I encourage other people to love and embrace who they are. But it definitely wasn't easy – it took me a while."

Fixating on her comments about a thong is pretty demeaning and it dismisses how hard she's worked and how much she has had to overcome in order to feel good in herself.

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Trying to make it out as if Serena is only into 'showbusiness' like the Kardashians and only cares about how she looks is an unfair assessment of the Sports Illustrated feature.

When you can acknowledge that "Serena has done her bit in the past to raise the issue of equality in sport," why concentrate on a photo of her in a swimsuit?

"She has done her bit" No, she's done A LOT. Why suggest her time has come and passed, and she no longer bothers with equality issues anymore?

Appearing to miss the point, The Independent writer asks: "So to look strong, sexy and to be a woman involves baring your butt and boobs?"

That's not the point.

She's not talking about being naked. She's not talking about showing off her boobs and bum. She's talking about being COMFORTABLE in her own skin, after years of criticism. 

She is talking about how she was bullied about her larger frame and has now overcome it.

And she's saying it's OK to be ANY kind of woman, with any kind of shape, and still love yourself.

Image result for serena williams sports illustrated

"These photos switch Serena into the traditional passive role for women who are objectified as things to be ogled," we're told.

Just because she poses in a swimsuit does not render her countless other achievements null and void.

Women have  overcome the "traditional" and "passive" labels in a big way, and even though more changes need to be made, women have come so far.

We are business women. We are entrepreneurs. We are travellers. We are mothers. We are fighters. We stand up for what we believe in. We are not passive anymore, and if you look at current events – it shows.

500,000 people marched in Washington earlier this year for women's rights. 100,000 marched in London and 5,000 marched in Dublin. 

Tables have turned, and for a woman to make these comments warrants more than a 'simple SMH and move on' moment.

Image result for serena williams sports illustrated

Do you not see the bigger picture? Do you not see that she feels empowered by her body and is proud of it? She's clearly not doing it for people to "lust" after her as the article states.

The article ends by saying, "They allow themselves to become a commercialised version of 'sexy'. And we all know how that sells."

As I stated at the beginning, Serena is celebrating her body because it doesn't look like everyone else. It's not what you see on the average commercial.

She's celebrating her body because she's strong and she's proud of it.

And who is anyone to tell her she's wrong?

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From Miley Cyrus’ tears to Lady Gaga’s protest, Donald Trump’s election has elicited a variety of responses from Hollywood’s elite.

However, at this early stage, few stars have surmised America’s current political situation as eloquently as The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence.

In an open letter for Vice’s Broadly, the 26-year-old Kentucky native has encouraged US citizens to transform their current state of anger and fear into a form of hopeful resolution.

Surmising the feelings of those left marginalised by Trump’s rise to power, the Oscar-winner wrote: “Is this the stark reality?…This country was founded on immigration and today the only people that feel safe, that their rights are recognized and respected are white men.”

“I want to be positive; I want to support our democracy, but what can we take away from this?  It’s a genuine question that we all need to ask ourselves.”

As an outspoken opponent of the President-elect, Jennifer continued by offering seemingly modest solutions to the anxieties of her peers.

“If you’re worried about racial violence love your neighbour more than you’ve ever tried to before – no matter what they believe or who they voted for.”

“If you're afraid of a wall putting us all into another recession then organize and stand against it.”

“If you’re a woman and you’re worried that no matter how hard you work or how much you learn, there will always be a glass ceiling, then I don’t really know what to say.  I don’t know what I would tell my daughter if I were you.  Except to have hope.  To work for the future.”

The actress’ powerful letter finished by recognising that the current mood is apt, but suggested that those left disappointed by the election’s result must continue to strive for progress.

“We’re all allowed to be sad that the present isn’t what we thought it was.  But we mustn’t be defeated.  We will keep educating ourselves and working twice as hard as the man next to us because we know now that it is not fair.  It is not fair in the workplace, so you make it impossible to fail.  And like Hillary, it might not work.”

“But like Hillary, you can still be an inspiration and get important things done.  Do not let this defeat you – let this enrage you!  Let it motivate you!  Let this be the fire you didn't have before.  If you are an immigrant, if you are a person of colour, if you are LGBTQ+, if you are a woman – don't be afraid, be loud!”

Images: Shutterstock

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Earlier this year, Azelia Banks let rip at Zayn Malik on Twitter in a tirade of homophobic and racist remarks.

She tweeted such things like, "Dude, I make better music than you. Simmer down with that fake white boy rebellion and that wannabe beiber swag," and "Lol u a b**ch n***a." There were many more tweets, but let's just say the language in them went from bad to downright awful.

At the time, Zayn simply replied to her, ""@AZEALIABANKS why you been saying nasty things about me? I wasn't talking about you."

However, now the 25-year-old has penned an open apology to the former Directioner.

She sent the letter into Us Weekly, and you can read it below:

Azealia Banks and Zayn Malik

What do you think of her apology? 

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It's been a wild few months for Niall Horan between opening up his own golf management agency to debuting his first solo single this month.

It's safe to say we all love Niall, but this open letter to his fans has just made us melt. He begins by thanking his fans for all of the support.

"Thank you for your incredible reaction to my first solo song. I'm simply blown away by the love This Town is getting. You never fail to surprise me with your passion and support.

 

A photo posted by Niall Horan (@niallhoran) on

"I'm back in London at the moment. It's really good to be back at home after doing loads of travelling," he wrote in a newsletter on his website.

"Wrote some good stuff and met some really cool people. Then I went up to the Ryder Cup which was a great week. So yeah. It's good to be home."

Niall then revealed he's a bit anxious to perform on The Graham Norton Show, which is understandable since he's used to having three other guys behind him.

"I'm doing my first TV performance this week on Graham Norton which is really nerve wrecking and exciting all at the same time. I'll be doing tv shows over the coming weeks too.

"Also I'm doing the final bits of writing over the next couple of weeks and then it's time to record the album. Can't wait to share the album with you all.

"Love you all very much and thank you all again," he added.

Told you you'd love him even more.

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We are constantly being told to ‘live to the fullest’ because ‘life is short.’

We hear these inspirational quotes all the time, occasionally even posting some on our social media profiles, but do we actually take the messages to heart?

What do you mean life is short? I’m invincible. Bad things never happen in my neighbourhood.

I woke up on Friday morning to discover that another tragedy had occurred at the hands of a terrorist organisation, and it dawned on me: life actually is short.

A man drove a truck through crowds of people on the promenade in Nice on Thursday night, amid a firework display and celebration, before opening fire and killing over 80 innocent people.

As a writer, I usually find myself penning articles about the Kardashians, or the latest runway trends, but I write this now, simply as a pissed off citizen of the World. 

There was a time when wars were fought in trenches and on battle fields, by armies who were honouring their country and their people.

Now, in 2016, we see cowards, who are taking these wars to the streets of major cities. It is no longer about territory and power, it is about instilling fear.

The attack carried out on Thursday only proved that our fears have gone beyond the realm of explosives and firearms.

It is an odd feeling, walking to work on an unusually warm summer’s morning in Dublin, knowing that so many people lost their lives that night, simply walking down a street.

Does this mean all vehicles are now a potential threat? What’s next? Skateboards? Bikes?

France is one of the most beautiful nations in the world, but it has been scorned time and time again at the hands of individuals who are ripe with ignorance and hate.

This is not just a message for the people of France, and the devastation they have faced over the past 18 months. It is a message for America, Turkey, Iraq, Belgium, Syria, Afghanistan, and to all the nations in this world who have been affected by mindless terrorism.

I do not want to grow up in a world where the concept of exploration and travel frightens me, purely because of unwarranted attacks on the blameless. I want to be able to visit beautiful countries, without the worry that I may be gunned down, blown up or attacked in any way, for absolutely no reason but bad timing.

While it is near impossible to eradicate evil from our ever-changing world, we must try not fear it. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. We must listen to those over-used John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe quotes, and live our lives to the fullest.

We cannot allow fear to cripple our happiness.

Through this happiness, the evil will lose. They won’t break us. They can’t.

To those of you who fight against terrorism, whether you are a member of the armed forces, a politician or just a protestor hoping for a better world for our children, I thank you.

We must try to tackle these monsters, and fight for world that is not riddled in fear and hatred.

I know it sounds cliché, but the message is real. Hug your loved ones, have that extra doughnut, swim in the ocean, travel the world and enjoy every single second of this life.

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In an open letter published on the Huffington Post website, Jennifer Aniston put to bed any speculation that she might be pregnant.

Titled "For The Record", Jennifer began by saying that her decision to speak had more to do with starting a conversation rather than actually dismissing the rumours.

“Let me start by saying that addressing gossip is something I have never done.  I don’t like to give energy to the business of lies, but I wanted to participate in a larger conversation that has already begun and needs to continue.”

Jennifer hit the headlines after a picture of her in a swimsuit lead some to believe she may be pregnant.

“For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up.

“I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of ‘journalism’ the ‘First Amendment’ and ‘celebrity news’.”

The 47-year-old actress went on to describe her relationship with the media and the scrutiny she’s been victim to.

“Every day my husband and I are harassed by dozens of aggressive photographers staked outside our home who will go to shocking lengths to obtain any kind of photo.

“This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status.

“The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children. “

Jennifer has been in the public eye for over 20 years and has faced ridiculous rumours and embarrassment in the media.

However, this is one woman who is not letting the headlines define her life.

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child.

“That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples.

“We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.

Saying all this, Jennifer still does not rule out having children rather admits she is not actively trying.

“I have grown tired of being part of this narrative. Yes, I may become a mother someday, and since I’m laying it all out there, if I ever do, I will be the first to let you know.”

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Ever picked something up which had your size on the label only find it wouldn’t fit in a million years?  Yup, us too.

Well thankfully British PhD student Ruth Clemens has come to the rescue of every woman who’s ever been left crying by a label.

After failing to get into a size 16 pair of H&M jeans, size 14 Ruth publicly wrote to the retailer expressing her concern and kind of won the Internet in the process.

She wrote: “I'm normally a size 14 on my hips (occasionally 16 if buying trousers) so I thought I'd try them on. It did not go well.”

“As I'm sure you're aware, size 16 is the largest size you stock (apart from in your plus size range, which is very limited in store and does not offer the range of styles for the fashion-conscious that are available in smaller sizes).”

“I am not overweight (not that that should matter) and although I'm 5 foot 11 my body is pretty average shape-wise.”

“It's already difficult enough for me to find clothes that fit well because of my height, why are you making jeans that are unrealistically small?”

“Am I too fat for your everyday range? Should I just accept that accessible and affordable high street and on-trend fashion isn't for people like me?”

“You might recognise the top I'm wearing – it's one of yours and it's a size Medium. Sort it out would you.” 

Ruth has since received tonnes of support from other women who are fed up of misleading labels.  You go girl!

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Joe Biden has commended the bravery of the Stanford assault survivor in a heartfelt open letter.

The US Vice President – who is actively involved in the White House’s campaign against campus sexual assault – applauded the nameless woman’s bravery for using her story to highlight the difficulties experienced by sexual assault victims.

The letter – which was sent to Buzzfeed News on Thursday – not only thanked the woman who confronted her attacker in court with a powerful letter, but also praised the men who interrupted the attack for having the courage to intervene in a culture which so often chooses to ignore sexual violence.

The anonymous woman's attacker has been sentenced to 6 months out of a possible 14 years in prison for three counts of sexual assault in a case which has shocked the world.

He wrote: “I do not know your name — but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages. Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.”

“And I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.”

“It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking.”

“You were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.”

“I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit. I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest. I see you.”

“You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed ‘20 minutes of action’. His son will be.”

“What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.”

“Your words will help people you have never met and never will. You have given them the strength they need to fight. And so, I believe, you will save lives."

"I do not know your name — but I will never forget you.”

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