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June 16, 2014 / catherinebwrites




The Tuam babies are on everyone’s mind these days.   It is a horrendous story.  Some blame the nuns.  Others society.   Some are beating their breasts.   Others are saying we should put it behind us an move on.   But  maybe we Irish are , as a nation, just growing up. 

    As a new nation, freshly released from British rule we had nothing except our notion of ourselves as poets and storytellers, our grudge against Britain and our Catholic religion .   We’d spent centuries surviving by saying “yessir, no sir, three-bags-full-sir” to the British authorities.   So it’s hardly surprising that once we got independance we continued saying “yessir, no sir, three-bags-full-sir” to the Church we’d clung to despite all Henry  XIII and his descendants could do to make us abandon it.

We behaved like bullied children, afraid of people in power, afraid to speak up, afraid to look at ourselves too closely and, in turn. bullying others when we got a position of power.    When our artists held up the mirror we excoriated them, we fired them from their jobs and we banned their works.   When whistleblowers spoke up we refused to believe them, we called them communists and agitators.   We  sidelined them or fired them or made their lives misery.

We held tightly to the notion of ourselves as the “Island of Saints and Scholars” when, in fact, we were an island of people too scared to face up to reality. This is no excuse for how, as a nation. we behaved but it may explain it.

I am proud of the fact that we are now, at last, able to face our deamons.   That we can, at last, recognize that we allowed things to happen that should never happened.   We can now acknowledge that we treated women with appalling cruelty and children as disposable comodities while  claiming to honour and protect them.   We know at last how we kow-towed to a Church which is governed by celebate men with little understanding of human love or human development and none of human sexuality. 

I believe  it is important to look at our past with a dispassionate eye.   I also believe that  it is important to  honour to the victims of that past by identifying and publishing all the  details of their horrible treatment.    Not to wallow in victimhood but  so that we can apologise for and learn from our mistakes.   So that we may  become more human,  more integrated, more compassionate, more sane, more courageous and stop acting like frightened children .

In other words we need to use all the revelations of these past years as the impetus that helps us, as a nation, to  grow up.   I do not believe that this is something that will happen instantly butI am thrilled that I hve lived long enough to see it start.

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