Friday 9 December 2016

Letters: True legacy of our past is shameful as we approach 2016

Published 20/06/2014 | 02:30

Captain Eoin Rochford from the Irish Defence Forces reads the Proclamation outside the GPO in Dublin during the 97th anniversary of the 1916 Easter RisingJulien Behal/PA Wire
Captain Eoin Rochford from the Irish Defence Forces reads the Proclamation outside the GPO in Dublin during the 97th anniversary of the 1916 Easter RisingJulien Behal/PA Wire

Reading of the latest scandals arising from a past that seems to be growing darker by the day, my thoughts strayed to the 1916 Rising and the lofty ideals that inspired our Patriot Dead.

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The Easter Proclamation pledged, among other things, to cherish all the children of the nation equally. In 1922, we got the chance to translate those ideals into reality but we didn't do that. Within months of independence, boys and girls in industrial schools were being subjected to a level of brutality far above that experienced in those same institutions before we won our freedom. The schools had been handed over to religious orders that ran them as they saw fit. Hence began a long litany of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

For so many women, the new Ireland proved to be a little piece of hell. Just as someone had quietly deleted the image of a woman patriot from a photo taken during the Rising, so were the human rights of women, especially single mothers, airbrushed out of the new order that replaced the power of the black and tan with that of the black and soutane. The Magdalene laundries filled up, and from the earliest days of Irish "freedom", babies were being snatched from their "fallen" mothers to be sold for adoption, while other babies were dying, as we now know, in large numbers in the mother-and-baby homes.

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