Dr Andrew Rynne has lived a storied life. The first doctor in Ireland to offer vasectomies, he reckons he’s performed about 30,000 of them over the course of his life.
“First up, best dressed…Nobody else could do them and nobody else would do them because they were afraid of the Catholic reaction to it.”
Dr Rynne described the “furtive” way men would approach his clinic in those days.
“They hoped that nobody would see them and they kind of almost covered their face. They’d almost wear a false moustache so as not to be recognised.”
One major change he’s seen since he started out is that, now, men can get the procedure without the “permission” of their partner.
“We used to have to talk to the men and their wives…We had to get two signatures. That’s not the case nowadays. Nowadays we would take the view that a man’s fertility is his fertility and nobody else need give him permission.”
Dr Rynne’s “protest” action of selling condoms at his clinic (at a time when they required a prescription) ended with him being brought before Naas Court and an eventual change in how birth control was sold in Ireland.
“This was a deliberate act of civil disobedience…what else were we to do? This was Mr Haughey’s solution to the Irish problem…I broke the law and brought it to international attention.”
On the 12th of July 1990, during a routine procedure, a man barged into Dr Rynne’s operating room and he found himself faced with the barrel of a .22 rifle. At the other end, a former patient. Thus, began a bizarre, terrifying siege that forms the basis of The Vasectomy Doctor, a short film based on Dr Rynne’s life, which will be shown tomorrow at Cork’s Everyman Theatre as part of The Cork Film Festival. Dr Rynne was shot at multiple times by the gunman, who had had a vasectomy performed on him 8 years previously.
“I could look down the barrel of the gun. I could see the worm of the gun…I ended up with a bullet in my right hip…He was pointing at my genitalia, I suppose, which he mercifully missed.”
A chase ensued, with Dr Rynne’s patient that day attempting to calm the gunman down by giving him a cigarette. The saga moved to a nearby field, where the gunman had just one demand. A pint. A fact Dr Rynne is reminded about regularly by the local barman.
“That barman was never paid for that pint of Guinness.”
Listen back to the whole interview on Today with Sean O’Rourke.
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