Thursday 30 October 2014

Recent revelations show time for secrets and shame has passed

Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30

Ann Lovett’s grave in Granard, Co Longford.

* I wish to respond to Martina Devlin's article regarding birth mothers of adoptees (Irish Independent, June 12).

It first presumes that adoptees of adult age have no understanding of empathy. They are the people who understand most what their birth mothers have suffered in this nation of shame and secrets.

They have thought long and hard before attempting to seek their birth parents and have also had to consider the impact of such a search on the feelings of their adoptive parents.

Secondly, it presumes that birth mothers, who will by this stage be over the age of 18, do not have the mental capacity to behave as adults. Some birth mothers will not want to face the horrors and suffering of their past and, as adults, have this right. But they also have a responsibility as adults of saying this face to face to their son or daughter. They are not children any more. They must act as responsible adults, even if this is contrary to the culture of our nation.

There is also a question of ageism in the article. Why should the author presume that an older mother, or father for that matter, does not have the mental capacity to make her own decision as to whether or not to meet with their child?

The anonymity promised to birth mothers was as valid as the documents many signed as minors or had signed on their behalf by those who were not their legal guardians. It was not worth the paper it was written on.

Yes, there will be women (and men) out there with a deep secret from their past. There will be husbands, wives, and children who have never been told. There will be a minority who may initially react badly to the news there is a family member out there – who has never been part of their lives – but that will pass.

Few will be angered by the supposed "sin" of their mother in her past.

It is time for the secrets, lies and omissions to stop. Every self-righteous gossip in every small town will have had a field day relating the "sins" of their neighbours. There is no legislation to prevent them from doing so. Yet it is almost impossible for an adoptive child to make contact with a birth parent.

It is vital that adoptees access information on the medical histories of their birth families. Breast cancer and many other diseases can be genetic and, given the information, can be prevented.

If a Catholic can admit their failings in confession to a priest, why is it so difficult to admit their great achievement – having given the gift of life – to their child?

The revelations of recent years have made it clear that the time for secrets and shame has passed.

May Ann Lovett and her child rest in peace alongside the other mothers and children for whom these days have come too late.

MARY JOYCE

BOHERMORE, CO GALWAY

POVERTY OF OUR CONSTITUTION

* The Poor Law Commissioners' report of 1861 indicated "that able bodied female pauperism was ... in proportion of more that three to one in comparison with able bodied male pauperism and no inconsiderable number of them are single females rendered destitute by pregnancy, or as mothers of illegitimate children."

A select committee was set up in 1861 to consider the situation. Among the contributors was Cardinal Paul Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, who post the Famine, had been sent by the Vatican to shape modern Irish Catholicism. His contribution was to suggest that unmarried mothers be put in separate wards and kept away from young girls in the workhouse as "the presence and mixture of women with illegitimate children among young girls must tend to lower their ideas of female modesty and purity."

The cardinal continued his attack on Poor Law institutions and, in a letter to the rector of the Irish College in Rome, Father Tobias Kirby, who acted as the conduit to the Vatican, he wrote as follows: "In Dublin alone the expenses of the Poor House have amounted to £60,000 and all the good done amounts to this: that some hundreds of women with illegitimate children and prostitutes and bastards are supported and some 400 old women and men are helped to die before their day."

Fast-forward to the first Constitution of the Republic Of Ireland, established at the first meeting of the Dail on January 21, 1919, in the Mansion House. Among the clauses agreed were: "To encourage the proper physical development of the children of the nation by the provision of meals, the introduction of free medical and dental examination in schools and the organisation of pastimes."

At a Cumann na nGaedheal (now Fine Gael) dominated Dail meeting post-treaty the new post-independence Constitution, which came into effect on April 27, 1923, was drew up. The Mansion House clause regarding children's rights was withdrawn for reasons which were not recorded.

Hell was paved, even then, with good intentions

HUGH DUFFY

AUGHRUSMORE CLEGGAN, CO GALWAY

JOYCE AND GRIFFITH HAD A QUEST

* As we celebrate Bloomsday it might be of interest that, while researching a biography of Arthur Griffith, I was intrigued to discover a 20-year relationship between himself and James Joyce from 1901 to 1922. While this was mainly in intellectual form, there was a close personal aspect to it.

In 1901, when Joyce's article for his university magazine was censored, he sent it to Griffith at 'The United Irishman'. Griffith had it reviewed and wrote himself, "Why the Censor strove to gag Mr Joyce is to me as profound a mystery as to why we should grow censors in this country. Turnips would be more useful".

When Joyce was struggling against the censors, to have 'Dubliners' published, he enlisted the help of Griffith. On his last visit to Dublin in 1912, Joyce called to see Griffith. He told him that he was engaged on a writing project which would have the potential to liberate the Irish people spiritually. He acknowledged that Griffith's aim was to free his people economically and politically.

In 1922, as 'Ulysses' was published and Griffith became president of Dail Eireann, it appeared they were on their way to achieving their ambitions. The fact Griffith features throughout Joyce's novel, despite being largely forgotten by Irish people, shows Joyce recognised the vital role Griffith played in liberating the Irish people.

ANTHONY J JORDAN

SANDYMOUNT, DUBLIN 4

US CAN'T PUT A PRICE ON PEACE

* US$20bn – that's how much the US military is reported to have spent on training the Iraqi army, who have turned tail and scooted.

I thought Americans were experts on economics and peace through dialogue. Maybe the world should start listening to other opinions for a change.

DERMOT RYAN

ATTYMON, ATHENRY, CO GALWAY

1916 COMMEMORATION GROUP

* We are a group of relatives of participants in the 1916 Rising.

We are concerned that attempts by individual relatives to engage with government departments on the matter of centenary commemorations have been unsuccessful. We are now in the process of forming a non-political lobby group to canvas the Government and state bodies. We wish to ensure that we will be consulted, listened to and have a dignified presence at all 1916 commemoration events and that they will be made accessible to all citizens.

We would like to invite anyone who has a family connection to the 1916 Volunteers, Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan or Na Fianna to attend our inaugural meeting in Wynn's Hotel, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, at 2pm on Sunday, June 22.

PADDY DIGNAM, DAVID KILMARTIN, BARRY LYONS, MURIEL MCAULEY AND UNA MACNULTY

27 PEARSE STREET, DUBLIN

Irish Independent

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