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Farewell to the land of shame

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It can be very empowering when the marginalised, the denigrated, and the shamed overcome their fear and find their voices.

In a quiet Galway graveyard last year, I heard an amazing man tell a heartbreaking truth with unbelievable conviction and power in his voice.

Where, he wanted to know, was his little sister?

Why was nobody giving him any answers?

It brought tears to many an eye to hear him speak his truth. I stood there, stunned in admiration, listening to a man who had been told he was worthless for much of his life.

Born into a horrible institution, fostered out to a family who beat and abused him; dealing with the terrible stigma of being branded as “illegitimate” as he set off on his journey through life.

And now, late in life, he had found out that he had a little sister who may or may not have been buried in a septic tank.

I marvelled at the conviction in the voice of a man who had found love and become a good father against all the odds, despite rather than because of a la…

Is it time to stop punishing tragedy?

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On the daytime radio show in which the host gets paid almost €500,000 per year to hear the concerns of the ‘plain people’ of Ireland, I heard a middle-aged man proclaim his total opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment this week.
If his daughter became pregnant because of rape, he told the host, he sincerely hoped she would choose to keep the child rather than go through with an abortion.
A few weeks earlier, in a vast hall, I heard a woman tell an audience of about 400 people that the act of giving birth “heals the effect of rape”.
She called on the people at the Save the Eighth campaign launch in the West of Ireland to stop rape from happening rather than kill an unborn child.
She didn’t explain how that could be done.
At the same event, a woman told me that the proposed legislation for unrestricted abortion would bring a culture of ‘social’ abortion to Ireland.
I was shocked.                                                      

She made it sound as though some women dec…

The desperate cry of a people calling out for help

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They feel as though the wider world has forgotten about them. They live in what has been described as the world’s biggest open-air prison camp, 1.8 million of them crammed into a tiny strip of just 140 square miles, and they want the world to remember that they exist – and that they are finding it almost impossible to breathe. For 11 years now, they have been blocked into an area which is smaller than County Louth by fences, bullets, and occasional bombs. Travel is an impossible dream for most of them, a life-saving hospital visit can become a logistical nightmare, and even the fishermen risk being murdered if they dare to venture just a few miles offshore. Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe in the making and yet when the local people protest, as they have done in their thousands over the past three weeks, they are demonised, dehumanised, and gunned down. Shot at by snipers located behind a fortified fence, murdered, or hospitalised, for daring just to protest, even if they are unarmed. …

Rallying the troops for a divisive campaign

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Two meetings in the same city, but they felt like different worlds. As campaigning begins in earnest ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on May 25, the battle lines were drawn this week when both sides of the debate launched their respective campaigns at a series of regional events and rallies throughout the country.
Two very different events took place in Galway within 48 hours of each other which underlined the strong feelings in both camps and the intense battle expected to win the hearts and minds of undecided voters over the next seven weeks of canvassing.
Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and the legislation, known as the Eighth Amendment, which acknowledges the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child was passed by referendum after a bitter, divisive debate in 1983.
Most of those who will vote on the issue next month would not have been around or entitled to vote 35 years ago.
It was notable at the launch of the ‘Together For Yes’ cam…

Is it time for Pope Francis to apologise to the Irish people?

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At an estimated cost of €20 million to the Irish people, the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August promises to be a very different affair from the emotional 1979 tour in which Pope John Paul II seemed to capture the hearts and minds of a generation.

Given how poorly the Vatican has dealt with a litany of scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, many people are now beginning to ask whether the current pontiff has a duty to offer a full apology to the Irish people.

Who should he meet and what should he say during his August visit to the island?

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has told the Irish media that he would like to visit a prison during his August trip.

“He’d like to go to a prison,” Archbishop Martin said last December. “Everywhere he goes, he goes to a prison.”

The Papal visit looks set to be a pivotal moment for the Catholic Church, recovering lost trust after years of scandals involving clerical sex abuse, the enslavement of women in …