Wednesday 24 August 2016

Letters: Birth mothers should feel no sense of shame or fear

Published 14/06/2014 | 02:30

Philomena Lee, daughter Jane and son Kevin at the grave of her son Michael A. Hess in Roscrea. Picture: PJ Wright
Philomena Lee, daughter Jane and son Kevin at the grave of her son Michael A. Hess in Roscrea. Picture: PJ Wright

* As an adopted person, lucky enough to be adopted by loving and caring parents, I was surprised to read Martina Devlin's article (June 12) about the trauma that adoptees' birth mothers (of course, she never mentioned the birth fathers) would face if their adopted children were allowed access to information that would identify them, or if that information became publicly available.

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The premise of her article seems to me to be that having a child adopted is some sort of secret that some birth mothers should be allowed to keep secret? Why? Because their husbands or children wouldn't approve?

If the reaction to finding out that your wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, sister went through the trauma of having to give away a child resulted in anything more than the warm embrace of love and support, I would be amazed and would question the emotional health of such a marriage or family unit in the first place.

There could be no other justifiable reaction to such news and instead of worrying what would happen if the secret was found out, we should instead be asking anyone with a negative response to explain themselves.

There should be no birth mother who ever feels shame that they had a child or that the child was adopted. It may be that after meeting, a relationship evolves from it.

If a birth mother decides she does not want that child to be part of her life, then that is her right but she has no right to also make that decision on behalf of the birth father or any siblings. They must each be allowed to make that decision for themselves.

To properly face our past, we must confront it and accept the things we cannot change and deal with the things we can. We can't undo the past but we can make sure those who want to be reunited can be and stop putting obstacles in their way.

Ms Devlin's article seeks, perhaps unintentionally, to perpetuate the stance that having a child adopted is something to be ashamed of when she implies that it would damage birth mothers if people knew their secret. It shouldn't need to be a secret.

I think the love and support that would be extended to birth parents and the knowledge that their child was raised well would do more to give them peace of mind in later life than any amount of secrecy and the worry of it ever being found out would.




* David Quinn writes (Irish Independent, June 13): "Single mothers were treated appallingly almost everywhere, not just in Ireland."

I have no doubt some of what he writes may be correct, but please, Mr Quinn, don't be trying to find an excuse for us, as there are no excuses whatsoever for any of these dreadful happenings. End of story.




* The Government made a good decision on an inquiry into the mother and baby homes of the past and may include the testing by companies of drugs on children in the homes and illegal adoptions overseas.

Some people did speak up. A medical doctor closed a home after 100 baby deaths in one year in the 1940s. It opened again as there was still a need for it. The deaths reduced to single figures. The illegal adoptions to the US were seen as being for the infants' future. Adoption within Ireland became legal in 1952.

It was a major issue for the State, how to support thousands of pregnant women outside of marriage. There was little social welfare like today and there was a church and social stigma into the 1970s. It does not excuse the cruel physical treatment of them. Ireland changed with the arrival of television in the 1960s. It opened minds.

We see today how the Muslim faith is strict in a few African and Middle-Eastern countries. A woman or girl can encounter similar problems.

One woman who was a professional working person in Sudan was sentenced to death for allegedly abandoning her Muslim faith to marry a Christian. She has been given a stay of execution for two years. Many countries condemned this, but the authorities insist she will be executed. Hopefully, she won't.



* The honest approach to the ongoing mother and child homes controversy is to withhold judgment. Remember, the period being covered is the first half of the past 100 years that included the aftermath of two world wars and a civil war.

Ireland was in desperate poverty then. The conditions existing would be undreamt of today; shortages, deprivation, minimum education, gruelling moral standards and no money. Illness and disease were rampant among man and beast.

No welfare system existed. There was overcrowding in small houses and flats in the cities and, with strict rationing, many were on starvation level. Rural areas, were it not for the fact some could grow a few vegetables and borrow a drop of milk, were even worse. The only light was a homemade candle and paraffin lamp, a reason why people spent more time in bed for five months of the year. Piped water and flush toilets didn't exist. The tub of cold water on the back-door step served as the Saturday evening family communal bath.

Most children in country areas were born at home with the assistance of a mobile midwife that got around on a bike. Hospitals and doctors were often not easily accessible and people died – since a pony and car or a bad bicycle was the only means of transport.

In this scenario, pregnancy was booming and some young girls in trouble, thrown out of their homes, were glad to get the refuge of these mother and childcare homes and the advice and kindness of the nuns, usually trained nurses, who ran them.

With this soul-destroying background it would be difficult to say who was culpable for any mistreatment – community, church or State?

Inquiries only stir up anger, grief, guilt and compensation claims. The decent thing would be to copy the example of the Bethany Mother and Child Care Home survivors – in Tuam, Roscrea or elsewhere.

They erected a memorial in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin, with the names of 222 children and commemorated them in a ceremony of prayer, leaving them rest in peace.




* Eighty years after Mussolini insisted on having dinner with the referees the evening before the matches and the World Cup hosts are still getting "home town decisions". Plus ça change.




* FIFA is conducting a "together we fight match manipulation" campaign in TV transmissions during the World Cup. So there – manipulation of individual matches is not acceptable and there was no manipulation in the decision to hold the 2024 competition in Qatar.

Moreover, the Croatians have to understand that the bizarre decisions in their game against Brazil were not manipulation. It was merely the time-honoured principles that the home team is favoured and the host country should be in the competition as long as possible.



Irish Independent

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