When we meet Amy Dunne, she’s already had THAT morning. Y’know, the kind where everything seems to go wrong? It began with a flat tyre, delaying her arrival to the shoot (which she was already feeling nervous about), then the parking machine wouldn’t work when she did arrive – and to add insult to injury, one or her fabulous brand-new acrylic nails snapped off. But Amy chooses to laugh it all off as she pops herself up on a high stool for hair and makeup and jokes about her “typical me” morning. We instantly read her as funny, sassy and humble. As we look at her smile through her stressful start to the day, we aren’t surprised at how unfazed this young woman is – although she tells us she is in fact a worrier. But Amy has gone through so much at just 32 years of age; her resilience and strength really is a marvel. You may remember reading about Amy in the papers, a few years ago, when she was known as just Miss D. In 2007, when Amy was 16, she learned that she was pregnant. Not long after, on her 17th birthday, a scan revealed that her baby, a little girl, had anencephaly, a fatal abnormality.
Devastated at this tragic news, Amy made the tough decision to travel to the UK for an abortion; but she wasn’t able to. As she was in temporary foster care, the HSE attempted to stop her going, and so she ended up in the High Court, with her private trauma becoming a public circus. Media jumped on the story; protestors with disturbing pro-life posters lined up outside the court. Amy was shrouded in shame that didn’t belong to her. She eventually won the case, at 19 weeks pregnant, but this was no celebration. Her nightmare was just beginning; she had yet to make the desolate journey to the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool. If you think you know Amy’s story already, you haven’t scratched the surface. Told with searing vulnerability, her just-released book “I Am Amy Dunne” documents every painful detail of this awful saga; from Amy’s fraught teenage years to the court case trauma to the heartbreaking aftermath. It is shocking and sickening. The book also tells the story of Amy learning to love herself and recognise her worth after so many years of low self-esteem and hurt. Everyone in the country should read her book. But, for now, settle down for our chat…
Amy, we just finished the book. People really don’t know the full extent of what you’ve been through until they read it.
My best friend said that she didn’t even know me, until reading the book. She said that it explains a lot about why I am the way I am! [laughs] I bared my heart and soul and shared some of the most private moments I’ve been through. My anxiety has been through the roof about it coming out…
The book is your story, told to journalist Orla O’ Donnell – one of the reporters back in 2007, part of the media whose coverage upset you. We bet you didn’t expect that one day she’d be helping you to tell your story.
She did so, so much for me with this book, because it was such a difficult thing to write; it was the most emotionally challenging thing I’ve had to do since going through the actual trauma. Orla’s help was really invaluable. She had to deal with a lot of breakdowns and crying and she was personally affected by some parts, too.
Something that really struck us, as we read each shocking detail, is that what happened to you was so recent. But your treatment did not match a modern society.
I know. I can’t believe it myself, it even shocks me. And to be honest, I feel like there’s still lots to be done for women in this country. It bewilders me how little women are in power in Ireland, making decisions.
We were so angry reading what you were put through. Have you managed to let go of that anger over the years? Does it ever leave?
No, I’m angrier. I’m very angry. I think the older I get, the more injustice I feel I was put through, and the more I understand about what I was put through. Reading my book back and putting all the pieces together, I’m really pissed off that I wasn’t looked after and treated better. I have a teenage son and I would not let one ounce of what happened to me happen to my child. Yes, my family wasn’t in a great place at the time, but the fact that nobody else, not one person, stepped in to help me, as a child, is scary.
You were just barely 17 when this case was going on. Everyone else, as you describe, was “detached from the issue” while you had “the issue attached to (your) body”. On top of that, you had to deal with pro-life campaigners outside court, waving horribly upsetting posters around. As you describe in the book, it totally broke you down.
I was just a baby. I thought I was grown up at the time, but I was a baby. It was just too much to deal with, for anyone, but especially someone at that young age. I was suffocating, and I felt so alone. Even in the years afterwards, it was very difficult to cope. I’d cover it all up by putting myself out there and pretending I was confident, even though I really wasn’t. I got bullied a lot through my 20s, there was that mindset of “who does she think she is” but really it was just looking for validation as I felt broken. I think people are more understanding now. Back then, it wasn’t so kind…it was cool to be mean.
You dealt with so much shame…and only when writing your memoir with Orla did you finally see the judge’s report, all those years later. In it, he used one word that meant so much to you. He said you had been “blameless”.
I’d no idea what was in that judgement. And if I’d known what was in it back in the day, I could have saved myself from years of hating myself. I had always blamed myself. I even blamed myself for not taking enough Folic Acid when I got pregnant, thinking that’s what caused the anencephaly! If I’d heard that none of it was my fault back then, I could have lived a lot healthier, mentally.
One of the more traumatic chapters of the book is following the court case, when the judge finally ruled that you could travel to the UK to have your abortion. When you woke up following your compassionate induction to learn your little girl Jasmine had already passed away in the days prior, you were soon rushed to a plane back to Ireland. You barely got to spend time with Jasmine or, even get to see her face. How cruel…
Whenever I think of it, I get shivers down my arms. I’ll never heal from this part of my story; it was the most heartless thing that I’ve ever gone through. I woke up at 6am, and the plane home was booked for 10am. I was still medicated from giving birth, I begged and begged to stay longer. Every day it passes my mind that I didn’t get to see her face, to the point that I contacted the hospital recently, just to check if there are any pictures with my medical records. I haven’t really let that go, it always breaks my heart.
You were just a few months into grieving your baby when you realised you were pregnant with another. It’s like the universe wanted to be kinder to you. This baby is now your beloved son Adam.
He was my saving grace. And reading over the book, a thought struck me; if I hadn’t had Adam when I did, I would have feared getting pregnant in the future. But I didn’t have time to fear, I had to get on with it, and it was a blessing in disguise. I know I was young but that was the path that was meant for me, I needed him.
Jasmine has stayed in your heart of course…you tattooed her little footprints on your wrist and you visit her graveside. You say she’s your guardian angel.
She is. I always felt comfortable enough, no matter what time it was, to sit by her grave and have the chats with her in my head…it made me feel safe. It’s always been complicated for me when people ask “oh, how many kids do you have?”. I either say one and feel guilty, or say two, then feel like I have to explain and upset myself or others. So, that to me is a tough question.
You were re-traumatised in 2018 by the pro-life posters as the country geared up to vote to repeal the 8th amendment. You say it took you back to the darkness 2007; but it resulted in triumph for the women of Ireland, who were granted bodily anatomy.
Absolutely, and it was a lot of validation personally because until then, the abortion conversation wasn’t being had. I spent so many years still thinking that I did something wrong in the eyes of my country; I wish I’d heard all the other women’s voices beforehand to know I wasn’t alone, we all had each other. While it was the right result in allowing women to choose what the want to do with their bodies, it’s not as smooth a process as it was said to be, even though it was passed…so there is still so much work to be done.
You’ve been through so much more than the Miss D trauma, which you open up about in the book. You were let down again in 2020 when a man who had been brought to court for stalking you and harassing you walked away with a suspended sentence.
Yeah, I waited four years for that result and it broke my heart. Since all that started happening to me, I became so paranoid, I’d have to check any noises, my blinds…even my attic before I’d go to bed. And all the time we waited for that day in court, he was able to walk past my store, looking at me, intimidating me. It all affected me so much and then I felt I got no justice in the end.
Your story is also one of a young woman getting her confidence back; after all the trauma she’d endured. Understandably, it was very difficult for you to do that…
It has taken time. I used to blame myself for the way men treated me, for example, and I sought all my validation from men. Any confidence was superficial, I’ve come to learn. But something has changed in me now, I think it’s after reading back over my story. I’ve realised that anyone would be blessed to have me by their side because I’m so strong. I now know I’m a powerful b*tch! I spent so many years looking for validation from men, and I never knew the warmth and empowerment of validation from women, and that’s worth so much more to me, now. We’re all like one big group of awesomeness!
You posted on your Instagram the other day that you “won’t be a woman that keeps her mouth shut”. We need more women like you Amy, because it’s women like you that will bring about change.
Everyone knows me for being outspoken. If there’s ever a problem, you better believe I’m the one to get it sorted! Actually, I’d love to get involved in making documentaries like Stacey Dooley in the UK. I’d love to make people aware of certain situations and shine a light on them. I’d love to work with pre-teens, because I believe that’s when you either go downhill or build the bricks for a good future. I like the idea of helping people.
Interview: Niamh Devereux
Photographer: Lili Forberg
Stylist: Zeda The Architect
Makeup: Robyn Byrne Makeup
Hair: Nadine Walshe
Shot on location at funky new hotel Dublin One, designed for creative minds and social spirits. Expect cosy rooms, unique interiors, great coffee and expertly mixed cocktails. dublinonehotel.com
I Am Amy Dunne, published with Gill Books, is out in all good bookshops now