Thursday 18 July 2019

'Love in the face of deceit' - thousands turn out for protests over clerical abuse

26 Aug 2018; General view of Stand4Truth protesters on Parnell Square East, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
26 Aug 2018; General view of Stand4Truth protesters on Parnell Square East, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

David Fleming, Laura Lynott and Sean O’Grady

Thousands of people have attended a silent vigil in Tuam to commemorate the babies who died at the town’s Mother and Baby home and the Stand4Truth rally in support of victims of clerical sex abuse in Dublin.

Both events took place at the same time as tens of thousands gathered in the Phoenix Park for the first papal mass there in 39 years.

In Tuam, roughly a thousand people walked in silence to the site of the Mother and Baby Home where 796 babies died and a significant number of remains were discovered on the grounds in septic tanks. 

While in Dublin, thousands more gathered at the Stand4Truth rally, organised by clerical abuse survivor Colm O’Gorman. 

Mr O’Gorman, head of Amnesty International in Ireland, took to the stage and asked people to be silent to think about why they were there. 

"We're here to stand for truth," he said ahead of performances at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.

Performers included Hozier, Róisín O, Liam O Maonlai of the Hot House Flowers, Mary Black and Mary Coughlan.

Speaking to the Irish Independent ahead of his performance, Hozier said that he felt compelled to attend the event - which will saw gatherers, including survivors of abuse - walk from the Garden of Remembrance to the last Magdalene laundry on Sean McDermott Street in the city. 

People carried placards reading "Truth, Love, Justice" throughout the event. 

While Mary Coughlan sang Magdalene Laundry to the roughly 1,000 strong crowd. 

Speaking to  Independent.ie Mr O’Gorman said:  "I sent a tweet out a couple of weeks ago and I could never have believed that this many people would be here.

"This event is love in the face of deceit," he added, referring to the Church's failure to root out abusers.

"I want to protest the Church, the abuses over the history of the state," said Conor Courtney (31) from Cabra, Dublin. 

"It's great to see people out protesting because it needs to be done.

"We need to let people know we don't stand for anything the Church does anymore. The times are changing."

Like many who were amongst the crowd, Mr Courtney noted the significant social changes that have taken place in Ireland in recent years.

"The more people who protest, the movement is going to grow. We're ready to let go of the control the Church has put on us." 

Alison Kelly (61) from Sutton, Dublin is hopeful that the protest will lead to positive change in the years to come.

"It's very important and it's a very good turn out," she told Independent.ie.

"There's always the worry people won't turn out because of the weather. 

"I would hope (a day like this changes things). People have been sidelined and neglected."

Colm Roddy (71) from Co Galway said he was still a firm believer in God, but felt it was important to speak out against abuses in the church.

"I'm here because I was brought up, brainwashed effectively, by the Roman Catholic Church," he said.

"I believe very firmly in Jesus and the Bible. I think the core of all belief is truth, justice, love and non-violence. 

"All of those have been betrayed, as far as I'm concerned. That's why I'm here."

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