Feminism · Parenting · Politics

Lancing Ireland’s boil

A boil can not only be extremely painful, it can get you down. The infection can make you weak and give you a fever. There are other things that can be tried, but sometimes a boil just has to be lanced.

That’s advice I found online earlier when I was thinking about writing this post. I have been thinking for days now about whether or not to blog about the mother and baby homes, the Tuam babies, the Magdalene laundries, the illegal forced adoptions, the vaccination trials that were carried out apparently without the consent of the mothers of children in these institutions, the secrecy and heartbreak that accompanies all of this. What stopped me from blogging until now was the sheer enormity of it all. Every day another new and awful story. Every day more accounts on the radio from mothers who had their babies taken from them. Every day inexorably building up to the point where I nearly stopped listening, nearly stopped reading, nearly stopped thinking. And then I realised. THAT is what Ireland did for years, for decades, for generations. We as a country, as a society, stopped thinking and stopped listening. We pretended that these women and girls and their babies were not our responsibility. We convinced ourselves that by putting them away in these institutions we were dealing with this issue. These fallen women, these offenders, it was best for the wider society if we did not have to see them, to think about them, to deal with them. And their babies? Well sure weren’t we giving them the best possible life by allowing them to be adopted? And if some of them died because of poor conditions or insufficient nourishment or the rapid spread of a disease then maybe that was God’s will.

Well now these stories – none of which are actually new – are coming to light. For years now Irish society has been repeatedly shocked by stories of child abuse in institutions run by various religious orders and often supported by State money, horrified by accounts of priests being moved from parish to parish where they remained free to sexually abuse children, appalled by the suffering of the women incarcerated in the Magdalene laundries. And now the country is sickened all over again by the stories of what went on in the mother and baby homes around the country. You probably know a family who have been directly affected by this, most of us do. And therein is another part of the problem. We all know this, we all know or have heard of people who were born in a mother and baby home, or of a woman who spent time in one of those homes. But it seems to be something an awful lot of us know about but no one talks about it. Now it seems Ireland is ready to talk, to hear, to think. It is time to lance that boil, it will hurt, it won’t be pretty, but it needs to be done if any kind of healing can ever happen.

4 thoughts on “Lancing Ireland’s boil

  1. Well said. I too have wondered about tackling this topic. I think there is an awful lot of self righteous tut tutting going on and a lot of shaking of heads by a generation who have been reared in a much freer society.
    I know people my age who attended schools where these girls were also attending. They saw how differently they were treated and even at times felt it might be wrong but they and the wider community did nothing. They were not bad people, just people who had been indoctrinated that these were “bad girls”. It was a different world back then and many cannot imagine that nowadays, while others have forgotten.
    I liken it to the child abuse scandals of which I was a victim. Many knew something was going wrong in my world but they were uneducated as to what a paedophile really was capable of. In a way at the time many blamed me, even though I was only a child. Lancing that boil brought healing, and I think it will do likewise here. But I do think that society as a whole was different then.
    So glad you wrote this post.

  2. Very well written and it true that it’s the enormity of it that is difficult to understand. I look at it and feel disgust at the families of these girls but I do not know what it was like to live in those time. I feel we need to judge situation while bearing in mind the times in which they happened. Awful, horrific things were done…of that there is no doubt and you are so right that they need to be brought out into the open but I hope the debate and discussion will bear in mind that in looking back we must not assume the liberal freedoms of today in any way relate to the society in which these awful abuses took place

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