Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ireland's Shame - Someone Should Have Spoken Out

As an Irish citizen and Roman Catholic I feel compelled to voice my overwhelming anger at the horrific atrocities carried out in our Industrial and Reformatory Schools across Ireland over a period of nearly sixty years. The perpetrators of these evil acts of mental and physical torture were not WW2 concentration camp guards but men and women of God, namely priests, nuns and Christian Brothers. Those were the people supposedly responsible for the welfare of these vulnerable children some of whom were placed in the institutions simply because a parent had died. What God in Heaven could have allowed this to happen? I never thought I'd hear myself ask that question.

The very houses set up in the mid-nineteenth century as places of refuge were to become akin to prisoner of war camps, their staff inflicting such appalling abuse to their young charges that words fail to describe. Punishments is not the term I'd use in this case as the children did no wrong but the acts of violence include; rape, horrific beatings, starvation, not allowed a drink of water from mid-day onwards so forced to drink from toilets, humiliation. The list is endless and far too harrowing to describe in detail.

Although the physical scars may have long since healed the horrendous emotional abuse these unfortunate children suffered at the hands of those bastards will surely have left them with scars no amount of counselling may ever heal. For them, the recent so-called heartfelt apologies by the representatives of both the clergy and state must have served to drive the dagger even deeper into their wounds. Words are cheap. Justice is what these people need in the form of acknowledgement of and apology for the wrong doings directly, where possible, by those personally responsible followed up by appropriate financial assistance from the religious orders concerned. The men and women who carried out these atrocious acts should be named, shamed and brought to justice regardless of their seniority.

What also disturbs me is the fact that our State has no plans to clear the "criminal" records of those youngsters sent to Reformatory Schools whose only crime was petty theft. What kind of mentality could continue to impose such cruelty on these unfortunate individuals? Has their suffering not served many times over as their sentences?

I feel I should point out that there were also acts of kindness by members of staff towards the children. One woman recalls being given a sweet once a week by a nurse. These kind souls it appears were also terrified of their evil colleagues as the gestures were made in secret.

My heartfelt admiration goes to Christine Buckley and all the other victims of abuse who have so courageously brought this litany of evil into the public domain where it is now in a five-volume Report, evidence that their stories are real, they were not imagined as some people cruelly insinuated.

For all those who suffered in the dark I pray their stories will light the way towards a brighter and safer world for our children and those yet to be born.

Should you wish to read the Report it can be viewed here The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Above image sourced at


Monday, May 18, 2009

Connemara Revisited!

Our arrival (hubby and I) a little over a week ago in Spiddal, Connemara, County Galway was greeted by warm sunshine along with a gentle breeze blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed summer had finally arrived on Ireland's West Coast.

(Above: View over Spiddal Quay, Connemara, County Galway)

Not too much has changed in Spiddal since our first visit exactly thirty seven years ago when we, along with a group of friends (most of whom we still meet up with fairly regularly for a few scoops) arrived in Spiddal in the lashings of rain looking for a suitable field to pitch our tents. Oh! those were the days when slogging it was the only way we knew for none of us even had the price of B&B accommodation let alone possessed a car!

(Above: Sunrise over Spiddal Quay, Connemara, County Galway)

Another area we visited was Carraroe. In 1972 we spent a wonderful week there with friends this time in more upwardly mobile accommodation, a caravan!

(Above: Coral Beach, Carraroe, Connemara, County Galway)

(Above: Rugged Landscape, Carna, Connemara, County Galway)

Of all the locations we visited the one place I was really eager to see again was Clifden, Connemara's largest town. Again, back in 1972, we spent a week there long before the developers were given the go-ahead by greedy politicians to build structures not in keeping with the surrounding landscape.

Walking down Clifden's main street brought back the memories of all those years ago but something was not quite the same. It didn't take too long to realise that what was ruining the street was the car parking on both sides. Every inch of road space was packed with high-sided SUVS and vans making it impossible to enjoy what is left of a one-time beautiful, easy-going thoroughfare.
[Above: Main Street, Clifden, Connemara (]

Times change and populations increase but that's no reason to forfeit the beauty of an area when all that is needed is some good common sense planning. I was heartbroken to discover that the holiday chalets (where we spent that wonderful week in 1972) with the remains of the old railway station building in the background have all been replaced by a shopping complex and apartments. If I had been in charge of planning my main requirement would have been that all those buildings be just two storey in height with similiar brickwork. I'm amazed the Galway County Council didn't insist on it but then I'm no expert on such things.

(Above: Holiday Chalets/Railway Station Building in background, Clifden 1972)

(Above: Beach Road towards Clifden, August 1972)

(Above: Another view from Beach Road towards Clifden, August 1972)

Overall, development disasters apart, we had a most enjoyable holiday in one of Ireland's most scenic locations and to add to the joy we were blessed with five continuous days of glorious sunshine, almost unheard of in these parts. Hopefully we won't wait another thirty seven years to return.


Friday, May 1, 2009

"Atishoo, Atishoo We All......."

In recent days I've been remembering my adoptive father telling me about the 1918 Spanish Flu to which, as an infant, he lost his mother then one week later his sister.

His grandmother, who later reared him following the death of his father in an accident in Wales, told him that his sister was actually the first in the family to contract the virus. As her mother would have been her sole carer it's not surprising that she too would eventually succumb to the infection given that hygiene conditions back then would not have been at their best. What I find amazing is that none of the other family members were infected.

As a youngster it was quite frightening listening to Dad talk about what sounded like a deathly plague from the Middle Ages so last week when I first heard the news reports of a possible flu pandemic it immediately sent a familiar shiver down my spine.

My feeling is I don't think we have to panic just yet, if at all, because this time around we not only have the treatments but thanks to modern technology and twenty four hour TV channels we now have up-to-the-minute information on how the virus is being transmitted, whether those affected are coming from Mexico or person-to-person plus simple hygiene precautions to prevent its spread.

The 1918 flu pandemic claimed up to fifty million lives, I hope and pray that those statistics remain well and truly confined to the history books.

I thought this link might be of help to anyone wishing to read up on Swine Flu: NHS Swine Flu Q&A

*The above image, sourced from Wikimedia, shows American Red Cross nurses tending to 1918 flu patients in temporary wards set up inside Oakland Municipal Auditorium.