Remembering Ann Lovett: Granard, Co Longford votes yes, but just about
The town of Granard, Co Longford has voted Yes to repeal the 8 Amendment to the Constitution and pave the way for abortion to be legalised in line with the rest of the country.
But the vote was very tight in the north Longford town and even if the significance of the result may be lost on some, others, of a certain age, will note it and remember the name of the town instantly.
For it was in Granard that a 15 year old schoolgirl called Ann Lovett died alone giving birth to a baby in a grotto in the winter of 1984.
Had she lived she would have celebrated her 50 birthday last month.
For some, 1984 might seem like a lifetime ago – particularly many of the young people who came out in their droves to support a yes vote – but it isn’t really.
When I voted yes in the referendum this weekend, I did so with a number of people in mind.
But Ann was top of the list.
Maybe it’s a generational thing.
We were the same age, both born in 1968.
I was born less than two months before her.
At face level, we also had things in common.
We were both from small towns, in my case from just outside Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, and came from similarly sized families.
And we both had completed our Inter Certs the previous year.
Who knows, given that Ireland is really just a big village, maybe our paths would have crossed at some stage.
But the parallels stop there.
She was hiding a secret, one that was considered a very dark one back in 1980s Ireland – she was a 15-year-old pregnant girl.
Her death consumed Ireland at the time when deference to the Church was the cultural norm.
Mass media decamped to Granard in a bid to find the truth behind such a sad and tragic story.
But the locals pulled rank – no one knew anything, sure if they did they would have helped her was the mantra.
She was buried shortly after her death which may have never been uncovered had it not been for an anonymous phone call to the press.
The circumstances around her death remain a mystery to this day but one thing is clear and that is that she died ashamed and alone - even though we now know that people in the town knew she was pregnant.
Significantly too she had few choices available to her.
There are many other women to remember, of course, on a day that the silent yes vote emerged as the champion to put Ireland on course for timely and significant change when we now seem to be experiencing another level in the separation of church and State.
The women who were banished to the Magdalene laundries and the Tuam babies are just two examples.
More recent events like the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar are also being marked, as is only fitting.
And the many women impacted by the recent cervical cancer scandal also come to mind.
To let such an historic day as today pass without remembering Ann and these other women and their children would be wrong, I think.
The one remaining daughter in the Lovett family is Louise.
An advocate for women and children’s rights she tweeted earlier today as it became evident that Ireland, and Longford, had finally decided to embrace its womenfolk as well as their choices and decisions.
Her message was simple:
The Granard vote was a close call though.
Apart from one box at Granard National School returning 69 votes to 59 in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment, the Longford town ultimately voted with the Yes side.Box number four recorded 30 votes to 27 in favour of Yes and box number 2 displayed 162 votes for Yes as opposed to 154 for the No side.
Maybe times really are finally changing.