Tuesday 25 June 2019

The Past Is A Different Country – Ireland in 1984

Former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald
Former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald
Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the Smithwicks Brewery in 1984

Joe O'Shea

On a cold, wet winter's day, January 31, 1984, a 15-year-old schoolgirl was found in shock and close to death beside a grotto on a hilltop in Granard, Co Longford.

Ann Lovett had left her secondary school earlier that day and gone, alone, to the grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where she gave birth to a baby boy. The stillborn infant had been wrapped in her coat. Ann died shortly afterwards.

The death of Ann Lovett shocked Ireland. The Gay Byrne Show led the national debate and hundreds of women wrote in to talk about their own experiences of pregnancy outside of marriage and the reaction of family, community and the church.

In politics, Garret FitzGerald (left) was Taoiseach, and the early part of 1984 was dominated by the New Ireland Forum, a discussion group that included representatives of political parties in Ireland and Northern Ireland and the search for a way forward.

The economy was in severe recession, the reckless borrowing and spending of the 1970s and the Second Oil Crisis of 1979 led to rocketing national debt while employment and industry stagnated.

And those born during the baby boom of the 1960s left in increasingly large numbers with emigration rising sharply through the decade.

In June, US President Ronald Regan (left) arrived on a state visit while in July, the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) rail service between Howth and Bray was opened.

On July 8 Bob Dylan headlined at Slane Castle, playing before a huge crowd and joined on stage for the finale by Van Morrison and Bono.

Some concert goers rioted in Slane village, burnt out three cars and attacked the local Garda station.

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