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Blame is not all with religious orders – family, society and poverty played a part

Liam Collins


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Denise Gormley and her daughter Rosa (7) at the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, where the bodies of 796 babies were uncovered. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Denise Gormley and her daughter Rosa (7) at the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, where the bodies of 796 babies were uncovered. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

REUTERS

Denise Gormley and her daughter Rosa (7) at the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, where the bodies of 796 babies were uncovered. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

When Brinsley MacNamara wrote The Valley of the Squinting Windows, he wasn’t just writing about a small midlands village, but the pervasive obsession with secrecy, sanctity and sex that permeated Irish society for much of the 20th century.

More than anything else, this embraced the question of unmarried mothers and what Enda Kenny called in 2017, our “morbid relationship with what is called respectability”, the very real shame felt in families when someone had a child outside wedlock.

It is tragically ironic that in the end it was not the State, but the Catholic Church that was left holding both the baby and the bathwater.


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