Sunday 25 September 2016

Letters: Antipathy towards single mothers remains in Irish society

Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30

Cemetery: babies were buried in
mass grave Photo: Andrews Downes
Cemetery: babies were buried in mass grave Photo: Andrews Downes

The story of the babies' cemetery in Tuam has revealed a rather schizophrenic streak within Irish society. There has been considerable outrage and cries of 'shame!' and perhaps not without reason. It seems a little unfair, however, that today's public can heap such opprobrium on nuns who were asked by Irish society to take on this task when it was Irish society – families and courts – who sent these girls to mother and baby homes in the first place because they did not want them around.

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It seems equally unfair to specifically blame the Catholic Church, considering such homes operated under similar, or worse, conditions in the Protestant UK. It would be more honest to acknowledge these homes, along with workhouses and Magdalene laundries, came into existence precisely because of a new middle-class that emerged in Victorian times and craved 'respectability' above all else. The Free State continued to operate what it had inherited from the Empire after 1922.

Insofar as 'religion' had any role, it was because it came to be another expression of the brand of 'respectability' so beloved of the Victorian bourgeois. So much for history, what about today? Whereas Victorian middle-class 'religious' morality may have played a role in the past, today's antipathy is rooted in baser motives – sheer economic miserliness.

Underlying these economic arguments are also thinly veiled secular moral ones: single mothers tend to be portrayed as work-shy, fraudulent, lazy and unhealthy.

If one is not willing to contribute to the welfare of such mothers and one thinks their condition somehow reprehensible, how can one decry past behaviour towards them, or claim to be so very different to past generations?




I know the banking inquiry, whenever it goes ahead, will without doubt be very complex for most of us ordinary mortals.

Here is a simple story about one visit I had during the boom years to my bank.

I wanted foolishly to top up my already too high existing loan with a few more grand to change my car. My expectation was entirely negative with regard to the outcome, as also was the bank manager's, but in any case, he went ahead and clicked all my details into the system. Then suddenly I heard him say "this is madness, it's telling me to go ahead".

He was more surprised than me. Need I say more. Madness indeed.




Margaret Grealish is so right in saying that not a single father seems to have existed in this whole and deplorable saga. This, however, is not because they are hiding behind bushes but rather because if unmarried they are treated as sub-citizens when it comes to their child.

From the moment of conception the unmarried father is a victim of sexual inequality as all rights governing the child are with the mother. She can abort the child, refuse him access to the child or give the child away with it being none of his business.

Our Constitution does not recognise unmarried fathers, they have no rights to custody of their child, they are not the child's family. The mother on the other hand has custody and all the rights to her child. The unmarried father has only the right to apply for joint guardianship with the mother at her discretion or he may not get to see his child.

Our courts are full of cases of unmarried and separated fathers wanting to be heard but you don't hear of the plight of these desperate men because all these cards are "in camera". I believe that we would be a leader and more informed society if these cases could be in the "light of day".

Take a trip to any family court where these fathers do exist and ask their stories, find out why they are there and then see if you still call them spineless, irresponsible. Have you any idea as to the number of suicides among unmarried fathers after years of trying to "exist"? We never look at the other side of the coin and it's about time we asked what life is like as an unmarried father in Ireland.

It is so good of you at least to recognise that these are their children and perhaps you will raise your voice for them too, to have the right of custody for their child. Surely it is in the best interest and welfare of the child that he is in joint custody of parents with both his/her parents right acknowledged?

How many women do you hear on the radio who have moved the father out and within days have moved another man in? How many of these women have children for different fathers, or how many don't know who the father even is?




Entertainment-wise, the Bob Dylan concert in Dublin was one of the worst musical experiences of my life – extremely disappointing. Dylan's expressionless interaction with the audience practically zero; just one 'thank-you' at the interval followed by a few incoherent words. This one fraction of conversation appeared to be so unexpected that it resulted in a roar of applause from an audience who appeared to be happy to continue elevating this man to god status.

One could forgive Bob Dylan for delivering a poor performance if he just had the graciousness to acknowledge in some small way his loyal audience who had paid hard-earned money for tickets as well as many who had travelled long distances to attend this show.




You'd have thought that a guy with such an ostentatious combover as "The Trumpster'' would have learned by now that in a fight against nature, there is always going to be only one winner . . .




The increasingly vocal Mary McAleese has commented, with all the authority of an ex-president, that bishops advising the Pope on family matters is "bonkers," due to their celibacy.

If one of those same bishops, or a cardinal, or even the Pope, were to question the capability of, for instance, our Government or Council of State to perform its duties, we can only imagine the fury and cries of "theocracy" that would follow.

Such outrage works both ways, though.




Have you noticed the time off that RTE people enjoy, when you consider the salaries and the short weeks they work? They must be the envy of many professional and business people, and the rest of us Joe and Mary Soaps who fall under the working time act.

It is ironic to hear those same individuals asking the question, "how many people in your organisation earn more than €200,000?"

There must be a handsome budget at RTE which enables these excesses.


Irish Independent

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