Elaine Loughlin: Ireland is no country to be a woman

Burnreacht na hÉireann securely puts ladies in their place.

Our Constitution, penned in 1937 by a hand that was tightly assisted by the Catholic Church, allowed and probably encouraged a toxic patriarchal society that locked away ladies and farmed out their infants.

Even now we continue to pay lip service to females however fail to totally listen or cause genuine equality.

The individual histories and recollections of the survivors of mom and child homes were taped and transcribed as part of the Commission’s work, however their agonizing lived experiences were disposed of in the conclusions as unreliable.

In an open letter penned after the publication of the final report, Clodagh Malone chairperson of the Union of Mother and Baby home Survivors, stated particular and in-depth accounts had been provided however it was then claimed these could neither be proved nor disproved.

” Is the Commission stating they do not accept the statements of the 500- plus survivors who testified to the Inquiry? It certainly looks like it. What was the point in our testifying if our word was to be doubted? Our testimonies are the evidence.”

The Constitution states the household is the “natural primary and essential unit group of society” and the State recognises that “by her life within the home, woman offers to the state an assistance without which the common good can not be achieved”.

You do not have to read in between the lines to understand that in Ireland not all families were considered equal and even acceptable.

” The State promises itself to safeguard with special care the organization of Marriage, on which the household is founded, and to secure it against attack.”

Tuam Mother and Baby home survivor Carmel Larkin, listens to Taoiseach Micheál Martin in her home in Tuam, as he apologised to the women and children of mother-and-baby homes. Photo: Ray Ryan
Tuam Mother and Child home survivor Carmel Larkin, listens to Taoiseach Micheál Martin in her house in Tuam, as he apologised to the females and children of mother-and-baby houses. Picture: Ray Ryan

Ladies, as second-class residents, led the life that was recommended for them. If they wandered off from this one-dimensional function, a role that only enabled pregnancy in marital relationship, they were avoided and sent out away at a time of crisis. Their infants were frequently discarded and buried in unmarked plots, which in the case of the Bessborough mom and infant home have yet to be found.

The personal accounts of the survivors of mom and infant homes shout and yell their way out from the 2,865 pages of the Commission’s final report released this week.

” You were advised every day that you were a sinner,” one female told the Commission.

” I was told by a nun: ‘God doesn’t desire you – you’re dirt,” another survivor recalled.

Another woman stated her experience of entering into labour: “I was screaming with pain, 3 days screaming with discomfort and all you got was ‘Oh you must have thought of this nine months ago ‘or ‘You need to suffer for your sins and you have actually got to bear with it’.”

While one lady stated: “After I informed my household I was pregnant after being raped I was informed ’embarassment on you, look what you have actually done to Daddy’.

However, for decades these voices were silenced, and to add to this hurt they have now been met apprehension.

The report highlighted the lack of the mothers’ voices from the time they were pregnant and making choices about their children, as well as a “lack of modern info about their lives, the situation of their pregnancy and the attitudes of household and putative fathers”.

These details were not taped due to the fact that these lives were not considered crucial, worse still, they were seen as too outrageous to acknowledge.

When a girl – a lot of the survivors were innocent minors uneducated about sex – became pregnant she was ostracised.

Mothers and daddies saw no other choice than to eradicate their daughters because of an unhealthy, all-consuming obsession with ‘the neighbours’ and a fear of what they may think.

” When a single woman found that she was pregnant, a common reaction was to flee from her home or place of work in the hope of concealing her pregnancy from her family and the local community. Females who confided in one or more member of the family were frequently encouraged to leave house,” the Commission discovered.

Pressure to keep their pregnancy a secret added to a female’s trauma

The report keeps in mind the importance put on a “family’s standing” and a so-called “respectability” in the community.

This was intensified by the stranglehold of the Church and a fear of being admonished from the pulpit.

” An ‘invalid’ birth might ruin the marital relationship prospects, not just for the woman who had delivered, however for her siblings, for this reason the pressures to keep it a trick by sending her to a mother and infant house.

” Many women who concealed their pregnancy from moms and dads or relative understood such attitudes. Pressure to keep their pregnancy a trick added to a lady’s trauma,” the report discovered.

This attitude, which permeated society and permitted mom and baby houses to thrive, existed from before the structure of the State right the way through to the extremely current past – child Zoei Bonny, the final infant to be registered as passing away in the care of Bessborough in Cork would be 26 today if she had actually survived.

While the Commission reviewed conditions in mother and infant houses from 1922 on, it information how Ireland stayed a very cold home for females who became pregnant out of wedlock and their ‘illegitimate’ kids.

In Ireland unmarried moms continued to be seen as an unique classification, by the late 1960 s, 90%of ‘invalid’ kids born in Ireland were positioned for adoption; the next highest rate in Europe was 35%.

In 1980, a total of 552 children were born to ladies who were in mother and infant houses, which was greater than the 498 in 1950 or the 456 in 1960.

Even the status of “illegitimacy” was utilized to further stigmatize the countless children born in mother and infant houses right up until 1987 when it was lastly abolished.

The world carried on, but in Ireland we stubbornly refused to alter our attitudes.

Marking the 50 th anniversary of the Constitution in 1988, long-serving Fianna Fáil senator Michael Lanigan declared: “Certainly there have actually been changes in the State in the 50 years of the Constitution but there have actually not been that many radical changes in individuals’s mindsets.”

Holly Cairns TD:
Holly Cairns TD: “Ireland’s history of “using shame and worry to manage females and their bodies is really scary in its scale and impact. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns today said Ireland’s history of “using embarassment and fear to control ladies and their bodies is really horrifying in its scale and impact,” however she added that comparable mindsets towards ladies withstand.

Detailing her experiences of marketing for the repeal of the Eighth Modification in 2018, she told the Dáil: “We would knock on another door to hear: ‘But if this is available in, what’s to stop the kids’ and ‘What’ll stop them from sleeping around every weekend and getting an abortion every Monday?’

” It is still here and has not left us. This is the worry of women and women and this desire to control their lives and their bodies.”

The refusal of the Commission to accept the first-hand statements and the dismissal of a few of the information so generously supplied by the females and their children as “clearly incorrect”, is another slap in the face to those who suffered.

The Commission’s finding that ladies did not suffer abuse, when the survivors’ raw testament clearly shows the reverse held true, is another example of a continuing attitude.

” There are a little number of complaints of physical abuse. The females worked but they were generally doing the sort of work that they would have done at home,” the report found despite sworn affidavits of survivors being dragged down corridors, beaten, and tortured.

One lady documented being forced to scrub a floor shortly after labour, when her stitches burst, she was ordered to clean up her own blood.

A lot more confusing is the conclusion that there was a “little evidence” for forced adoptions.

A baby doll and cot can be seen as a vigil is held at the Tuam Mother and Baby home mass burial site on August 25, 2src19 in Tuam. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
An infant doll and cot can be seen as a vigil is held at the Tuam Mother and Child home mass burial site on August 25, 2019 in Tuam. Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The Commission “discovered little proof that children were forcibly drawn from their mothers” but in the same breath accepted “that the moms did not have much choice.” The report is cluttered with accounts of ladies being required to sign adoption papers against their will with one woman specifying: “I couldn’t have actually signed it because, at the time, I didn’t understand how to read or write.”

Today the females and their children have lastly been provided a voice, but the silence of the males included is amazing, where are the daddies of the 57,000 children born in the mother and baby homes examined by the Commission?

All of this reinforces the ongoing disregard of susceptible groups and a remaining misogynistic mindset that we can not appear to get rid of.

Bunreacht na hÉireann singles out ladies, they are “acknowledged” however in reality, they have actually not been treated as equals.

Even now, single mothers are discriminated against as detailed by this paper in recent months and a significant gender pay gap still exists.

Women are under-represented in politics, the media, theatre, science, research study, and in board rooms. Female political leaders are still not entitled to maternity leave.

The grip the Church once had more than our body and minds has actually been prised open but Ireland is still a country run by guys.

This should alter.

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Post Author: Izabella Jaworska

Izabella Jaworska 56 Southend Avenue BLACKHEATH IP19 7ZU 070 7077 0588