Sunday 21 July 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Nuns looked after ‘hard cases’ at a time when our governments did not'

Cruelty: The foundling hospital ‘lost 17,000 babies in 10 years. They ended up in the dung heap.’ (stock photo)
Cruelty: The foundling hospital ‘lost 17,000 babies in 10 years. They ended up in the dung heap.’ (stock photo)
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Kelly’s article (‘Constant negative screen portrayal of our priests and nuns as pantomime villains is lazy and unfair,’ Comment, January 11).

I believe the leadership of the Irish Church must carry most of the blame for not defending the nuns.

I am sure these educated gentlemen are well aware of the precursor of the mother and baby homes, the foundling hospital, which, according to the minutes of the Irish Parliament as a result of an investigation by Sir John Blaquiere, in a 10-year period “lost 17,000 babies” who were not adopted, as the nuns are accused of, but “ended up in the dung heap”.

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The hospital was eventually closed down in 1820. The ‘Cambridge History of Ireland’ volume three, page 241, states: “The Dublin Foundling Hospital was characterised by corrupt administration, poor diet, disease, infestation and cruelty, until its closure in the 1820.”

To more recent times, it is important to remember there is another side to Tuam, and similar institutions, which I witnessed as a 10-year-old altar boy serving in a garrison town during World War II.

It was not uncommon for young girls to become pregnant. There were then only two choices – get married or go to an institution similar to Tuam. Your family did not help, they did not want you in their parish or indeed in their own county, and society held the same view.

If the marriage option was pursued, the ceremony took place at six in the morning to avoid the further disgrace to the family of their daughter marrying a soldier and, from the Church’s point of view, the marriage of a pregnant girl was, to say the least, frowned upon, as it could be a source of scandal. 

I often stood watching to see if the groom would arrive and the priest and servers would go outside the altar rails and the marriage would take place.

When the groom did not turn up, the pregnant young woman with her friend or sometimes her sister, both in tears, left for Tuam or somewhere similar.

In these days when there is much  generosity in Government circles for hard cases, which now include  unwanted pregnancies and LGBT people, there appears to be very little generosity of spirit to the nuns.

The nuns provided care in times when the lack of charity by previous governments in dealing with hard cases is now ridiculed by the current Government. These hard cases included unwanted pregnancies and the criminalisation of LGBT people.

Hugh Duffy
Cleggan, Co Galway

It’s still not too late for UK to decide to Bremain

For 40 years, the UK has been a member, a major contributor and solid partner in a free, united, powerful and democratic Europe.

The great European project is as noble, valid, and necessary as ever. It is absolutely essential to peace and goodwill in Europe, across the globe, and to saving our planet’s seriously threatened eco-system. The EU was a safe home for eastern European countries escaping the clutches of the Soviet Union.

There are those who want to create and exploit division in Europe and the UK, and see Brexit as a form of ‘Wrexit’. They set at nought the heroic sacrifices, sad deaths and injuries of many millions in previous generations from catastrophic conflict and convulsion.

Back in 2016, people voted by not a regional, but a small overall margin to explore the idea of Brexit. That has been done, finished.

Now in 2019, things are different. Crunch time approaches. People now know so much more about the EU, the  personalities involved, and the UK’s important place and leadership role in it.

The recent upheaval has paradoxically created new bonds, understandings, and friendships between the UK and its European partners. It tested Europe’s unity and mettle, but found it to be strong. Now the UK has to continue to explore a Brexit, or can instead choose to explore Bremain.

In this phase, the British government and parliament has a clear duty, an urgent obligation, to put to all the people, now far, far better informed, a vital question. Do we run with the Brexit deal or choose to Bremain? The choice is Brexit or Brenew!

John J Waring
Castleknock, Co Dublin

Taoiseach has let down the women of Ireland

Thanks, Leo. When you left your female colleagues excluded at the gates of the Our Lady Mary of Zion Church complex, you treated all the women of Ireland as outsiders.

Eve Parnell
Dublin 8

A creed of ‘live and let live’ is all that I ask for

Daniel O’Connell, ‘the Liberator’, spent a lifetime campaigning for Catholic emancipation and repeal of the Act of Union. Catholic emancipation in 1829 ended many of the restrictions on Irish Catholics under the British penal laws.

Once Catholic emancipation was achieved, O’Connell campaigned for repeal of the 1801 Act of Union, which had merged the Irish and British parliaments at Westminster. O’Connell sought an independent, self-governing 32-county Ireland. It would be another 100 years before that aim was partially achieved. In the interim, Irish people continued to be persecuted for their Catholicism and nationalism.

Even though O’Connell felt that Catholicism and nationalism were two sides of the same coin, he was tolerant of all religions and none. In a High Court case against the Crown for religious tolerance, O’Connell famously said that “every religion is good, every religion is true to him who in his good caution and conscience believes it”. O’Connell, like myself, had a ‘live and let live’ approach to life.

Religious freedom and nationhood were hard won by those who preceded us. I am indebted to those who suffered hardship and death for God and for Ireland.

As a practising Catholic, I have respect for people of all religions and none. All I ask in return is their respect for my right to practise my Catholicism in an all-inclusive Irish Republic.

Daniel O’Connell demanded no more and no less than that from the British.

Billy Ryle
Tralee, Co Kerry

Irish Independent

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