Last Friday, Ed Sheeran released his highly anticipated new album ‘Divide’ with a cover of Irish folk classic ‘Galway Girl’ being one of the more prominent songs on the singer-songwriter’s album. Sheeran is evidently proud of his distant Irish roots with many references to the country his grandparents hail from.
It seems a tragic irony that on the same day ‘Galway Girl’ is given an acoustic pop revival, in the Galway town of Tuam, a government-led excavation revealed the remains of 796 children in an unmarked septic tank below the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home ran by the Catholic Church.
It was a maternity home ran by the Bon Secours Sisters for unmarried mothers from 1925 up until 1961. It seems like yet another case of the Catholic sisters separating the mothers from their babies. Those who survived birth were mostly illegally sent off for adoption across Ireland and even the United States. What makes the Tuam maternity home as scary as the Magdalene Laundries was the death toll of the babies and toddlers within the house.
A mass grave of 796 infants from stillborn up to nine years old was found beneath the grounds of Bon Secours, almost double that of other Catholic-run maternity homes in Ireland. In 1975, the mass grave was first discovered by two children, initially believed to be a mass grave for victims of the Great Famine that plagued 19th century Ireland.
It wasn’t until 2012 when the tireless work of Catherine Corless found the death certificates of the infants that died in Tuam over the 35-year period in which the home functioned. Corless was startled at the fact that of the almost 800 deaths, no burial records existed for any of the children.
Even more startling was the sheer lack of interest in this shocking story. 800 children unaccounted for and virtually nobody cared. It was common practice during the 1920’s and even up to the early 1980’s that unmarried women who got pregnant were sent to sisters’ homes and treated like sewer rats.
Everyone knew about the conditions these poor women faced but nobody raised a finger, all because of the sheer power the Catholic Church had. They were quick to silence the little opposition that came their way, mainly due to the fact that the mother-and-baby homes were state-funded and operated by the Catholic nuns that bore the Bon Secours name.
The Irish State and Catholicism went hand-in-hand like gin and tonic. Not one concerned civilian could say a thing without feeling the wrath of the unwed mothers that bore the brunt of the nuns inside the Tuam home.
It’s despicable to think that Ireland fought for hundreds of years against British rule – before the Cromwellian Plantation of 1652 to the Easter Rising in 1916 – only to hand the newly crowned Irish Free State over to the barbaric animals that were in control of the Catholic Church.
The same institution that repented against contraception but were eerily silent of the millions of Africans that still succumb to sexually-transmitted diseases due to lack of contraception. The same institution that bent over backwards to prevent women from controlling their own body back in the 1920’s and even still today in 2017 Ireland.
Need an abortion? That’ll be fourteen years in prison or take a demoralising, humiliating Ryanair flight to Bristol with the very visible bump for the 100-odd passengers and flight crew to gaze upon in pity and sorrow.
The Catholic church views abortion as murder. If abortion is murder, then this must be genocide. Unbelievable from an institution who have been spewing pro-life agenda for years that they turn a blind eye to nearly 800 deaths of new born and infant children under the guise of Catholic nuns.
Bishop Brendan Leahy took it upon himself to express shame upon this situation. He said, “certainly we hang our heads in shame but it brings us back to the fact that this is what we want. To promote a culture that really does care for life both before and after birth.”
Quite an unwarranted apology and one that is very late and stinks of desperation from a dying institution. The church’s anti-contraception and anti-gay rhetoric ship has been sunk with the now widely available contraception methods in chemists across the country as well as the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1992 and the same-sex referendum of 2015 that passed with an approval of 62% from the Irish public.
The criminalisation of abortion and the mass grave in Tuam are stark reminders however of the past and present control that the Catholic Church has in Irish society. Eventually, abortion will be decriminalised but the question many young vulnerable women ask is; for how long?
Pro-choice campaigners, such as left-wing politician Bríd Smith, proposed a bill on Monday to reduce the sentence of abortion from fourteen years to €1. Even a measly euro is way too much punishment for a woman’s right to bodily integrity.
The outbreak of the Tuam baby scandal will almost certainly help the pro-choice campaign and those women who bear the brunt of a potentially fatal birth, either for them or the child, in the campaign to give women the rights to their children.
To reference our pal Ed Sheeran’s revival of ‘Galway Girl’, here’s hoping the Galway Girls that fell victim to the Catholic Church and the Irish State get the recognition and remembrance they deserve and the perpetrators be brought to justice.
On a more cheery note, here’s uncle Joey Diaz’s take on the Catholic Church and how to deal with those nasty nuns. Up yours Sister Hyacinth!