Saturday 25 February 2017

Family values in the '40s were not as oppressive as they'd have you believe

Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Brendan Behan - caused arguments amongst the Kenny family over his TV appearance.
Brendan Behan - caused arguments amongst the Kenny family over his TV appearance.

Ever since the dreadful report about the Tuam babies was made public, I've been thinking about my family values. A lot of commentary zoned in on what a cruel, dark and oppressive place Ireland was in the years between the 1920s and the 1960s.

How a supine population acted with craven deference to a callous and hard-hearted clergy. How unwed mothers were shamed, purity exalted to an absurd degree and a higher percentage of the population was walled up in asylums than in the Soviet Union. For this state of affairs, the entire culture was to blame.

Were my family really like that? Were these the values they held? I have been "examining my conscience", as they used to say, and trying honestly to search my memory deposit for recollections of shame, darkness, callousness, stigma, oppression. As I was born in the 1940s, the family values from the 1920s and earlier would have been well in place.

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