I started this blog entry early last summer. I thought I’d have a bit more time to ease into the blogging malarkey before I had to deal with anything remotely serious. I thought I’d have more time before my mental musings were exercised by anything more demanding than odd socks, turbulent teenage years and my increasingly frequent menopausal moments. It was not to be. 2017 seemed to be a year when many wrongdoings of the past, (some of which were seismic events in my teenage years)were brought out into the light of 21st century Ireland for exposure. Many times I’ve revisited this piece and nearly pressed publish but I have felt that this wasn’t the completed article and I was never fully happy with it and I don’t think I will ever be..there is just too much toxic crap in our cultural landscape to do justice to in a blog. Recently, it was the appalling treatment of Joanna Hayes 34 years ago by the various institutions of the state that got many many column inches. I have no great hope that 2018 will not bring further moments of national despondency as we gear up for a referendum on the 8th Amendment so here’s the blog.
For the past while, I’ve had Simon & Garfunkel’s 1960’s hit ” Sounds of Silence” whirring around inside of me. Not in a good way either. The sounds of silence are quite horrifying really. I am frequently shocked, saddened, angered and disbelieving about the state of this small island that we live in. As comforting as it might be to try convince ourselves that all these wrongdoings can be confined to the annals of our history, I fear not. But let us revisit and remember the often silent & suppressed grief of nearly 800 mothers whose babies died from 1925 to 1960 whilst in the care of the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam in Co.Galway. A grief replicated in too many Mother & Baby Homes throughout the country. The protection and or sidelining of the silent partners, the fathers who ejaculated their semen into fertile women. The not so silent shaming of those who dared to have sex outside marriage by those who didn’t or those who were more fortunate in the trajectory of said sperm. Women who would be forced by the shame felt by their families into being not seen and not heard and forced to live a life with their babies never acknowledged.
It is the 34th year anniversary of the death of Ann Lovett and her newborn baby boy, who died in childbirth at a grotto in Granard. A girl aged 15 when she died alone, born the same year as me, whose death cast the the first ripples that cracked the wall of silence surrounding the shame of unplanned pregnancies that had gripped the families of Ireland for generations.
The sounds of maintaining a cover of silence over the abuse suffered by a child called Grace because the HSE appropriated her voice. The same disingenuous and more recent attempt to silence Sarah who suffered horrendous abuse in the same foster home as Grace. The HSE maintained the pretense of protection , refused to bear witness and then refused to take action when others broke the silence , bore witness and spoke out. The sound of the silent protection of an organisation’s reputation being put before its duty of care.
It is the long years of establishment silence that awaited the whistle blowers, that fills me with a gut wrenching anger. Be it Catherine Corless, a local historian who became a whistle blower about a septic tank used as a burial ground for some of those uncared for Tuam babies. Be it Sergeant Maurice McCabe who was shown the lengths that the top echelons of An Garda Síochana would go to, to punish and bring into disrepute anyone who threatened that organisations code of silence. Be it the social worker involved with Grace, who made a protected disclosure but found the the resulting silence so deafening that a circuitous route via vis the Dail’s Public Accounts committee was only avenue in which she could make some noise. Our countries wish to keep whisperings of evil wrong doings as whisperings in the hope that they might fade away fills me with an abject despair and a fear that we will never learn.
And so with this in my head I wonder what do I do? What can I do? And if for the moment it is only starting conversations, really voicing my opinions that is what I will do. So this week I’ve spoken with my eldest three children aging from 14 upwards and my 89 year old mother on why I am in favour of Repeal the 8th. I’ve remembered , Ann Lovett, Savita Halappanavar and a girl from Co. Clare who I visited back in Bessborough when I was a 17 year old student in UCC back in 1986. I’ve spoken how I believe that my personal views , my own value system and my own choices in my life are just that, they are mine and for me are entirely irrelevant in determining how I will vote in the forthcoming Repeal the 8th referendum. I have no right to dictate anybody else’s views. I will not ever live their life as they can’t live mine. I am firmly and unequivocally pro choice.
I’ve spoken about how I believe “Direct Provision” and our state’s treatment and our treatment of and attitude towards Asylum Seekers & Refugees is going to be viewed as our generations Magdalene Laundries. My belief that it is a irrefutable fact that we (we being us the Irish people and not just the politicians,) are only pay lip service to the most vulnerable members of our society has been voiced.
The fact that just because there is a prevailing attitude in any given cultural context at any given moment in time, is never an excuse for wrongdoing, or doing nothing , we have to keep telling each other this. We have to keep challenging, asking and attempting to stay informed. We cannot rely on one source of information or quick sound bites or indeed the traditional media to shape our views. We are capable of critical thought. In this digital age of information we can no longer pretend that we do not know and in this modern era we can stop blaming the church and the political institutions. It is past time to stop standing silently by.
It is too easy to be silent, it is too easy to share opinions with just like minded people. It’s too easy not to be arsed to have the debates, the discussions and the conversations. I’m going to keep disturbing the sound of silence.