Letter to the editor: “Silence is not an option” on Gaza

Head of Nursing and Midwifery and Associate Professor Fintan Sheerin encourages “all members of the College community to speak out”

Dear Editor

It is with a sense of outrage that I write regarding the events in Gaza. Having read of the horrific deaths of six-year-old Hind Rajab as she lay in a car beside the bodies of five family members, and of the Red Crescent ambulance crew tasked to respond to her pleas, I can no longer stay silent. I do not seek to represent anyone else and am writing on a personal basis.

I have been in the nursing profession for nearly forty years and twenty of those were spent in clinical practice where I came face to face with life and death on a daily basis. I have also worked, more recently, in refugee camps across Europe and in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, where I have seen the daily suffering of people, as they struggled to feed their children or sought to escape from situations of terror and dehumanisation. I shudder thinking of the terror this little child felt as she begged the ambulance despatchers, ‘I’m so scared, please come’. As a father and grandfather, I will be forevermore haunted by those words.

I think of the bravery of the ambulance crew, Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoun, who went to her aid, driven by the values of caring, justice and humanistic engagement; values that are central to the ethe of nurses, midwives, doctors and all other healthcare professionals. These are also the principles that guided the many other health care workers who have died in Gaza in the conduct of their work. They are my colleagues and they have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

These deaths are part of what UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called ‘utterly unacceptable’ killings and they have been perpetrated, purportedly in self-defence, by the Israeli Defence Forces, a force which Netanyahu claims is ‘the most moral army’ in the world. There is nothing moral about these deaths or the people who carried them out. They do not relate to any event which required ‘self-defence’ but are part of the unlawful terrorisation and slaughter – the collective punishment – of a people, actions that the International Court of Justice suggest may constitute genocide.

As a nurse, the International Council of Nurses’ Code of Ethics requires me to promote an environment in which the human rights of individuals, families and communities are acknowledged and respected. I will not stand by in silence when these rights are being violated with impunity.

As an associate professor in Trinity College Dublin, and a senior member of the College community, I am bound to ‘courageously advance the cause’ of a just society (Strategy 2020-25). I will not stand by in silence in the face of ongoing injustice; injustice that dates back many decades.

As a human being, and a duty-bearer, I have the obligation to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil human rights of rights-holders (UNSDG). I will not stand by in silence and derelict my duty to fellow human beings.

I encourage all members of the College community to speak out as lives are lost in catastrophic numbers. Despite what others have said, our voices and solidarity can make a change. As the murdered Jesuit philosopher, Ignacio Ellacuría, said, we can ‘…reverse history, subvert it, and move it in a difference direction.’

Silence is not an option.

Dr Fintan Sheerin

Head of School and Associate Professor in Intellectual Disability Nursing.

The writer of this letter has noted that it has been written in a personal capacity and that it does not reflect the views of other College staff.