Athea Graveyard Collection

From the Duck & Swan nights a few years ago. Stephen Murphy
Seán Batt & Eamonn Riordan. Thanks to Bridie Murphy

Sincere thanks to all who have contributed so generously to the Graveyards Collection. The amount raised so far is €1,152.70.

Envelopes can still be handed in to the box at Athea Credit Union or they can also be dropped in to the Athea Community Council Office.

Death Notice

The death has occurred of Dan Keane, South East London, & late of Upper Athea, Athea, Co. Limerick.

Peacefully at his residence on 14th January 2021.

Predeceased by his parents Maureen & Con Keane.

Sadly missed by his family, wife Lyn, son Dan, daughters Hazel, Ellen, Stefanie & Finnoula, grand-daughter Keeley, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, brothers Jack & Connie, sisters Breda, Ellen, Siobhán, & Sinéad, nephews, nieces, cousins, other relatives, kind neighbours and a very large circle of friends. May he Rest in Peace

A private family funeral & cremation will take place in London at a later date.

Please feel free to leave a message in the Condolence Book online or send Mass Cards and letters of sympathy to Kelly’s Undertakers, Athea.

‘Ar dheis Dé go raibh a Anam dílis’

We offer our sincere condolences to Dan’s family in London and Ireland and his brothers Jack and Connie in Upper Athea.

Shameful Treatment

By Domhnall de Barra

This past week has been very emotional for me with the report on the Mother and Baby Homes published on Tuesday. The emotions went from empathy, sorrow and increasingly to blind anger as events unfolded. It was harrowing to hear of the accounts of all those women who were guilty of the “crime” of becoming pregnant outside of wedlock. You would need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the narrative that was repeated time and time again. They were abused, degraded,  made to feel worthless and evil and had their babies taken away from them to be put up for adoption, often for money to wealthy families overseas. That this was done by religious groups is hard to understand by today’s standards and it would seem as if this was a time back in the dark ages but it was only in the recent past. I grew up in this time, in the middle of the last century, and believe me it was not  a happy time. From a very young age we lived in fear. Firstly we were introduced at school to a God that was very vengeful and just waiting for us to slip up to cast us into the burning fires of Hell forever. Everything that was enjoyable seemed to be a sin and we constantly lived in fear that we would die in our sleep and be damned forever. That was only the mental torture; we learned to accept physical abuse as something we had to live with. At school we were slapped if we couldn’t solve a mathematical problem, failed to recite a poem from memory or even smiled at the wrong time. At home it was no different. If we were late coming from school we got a beating and for the rest of the evening we had to watch our p’s and q’s or we felt the lash of the sally rod across the backside and backs of our legs. That was bad enough when we were children so you can imagine what it was like when we reached puberty and discovered feelings for the opposite sex, or even the same sex which was one of the biggest sins of all. We constantly felt guilty of having “impure thoughts”  and were severely reprimanded when we told of them in confession. Trying to avoid sin was almost impossible and even if you could manage in some way to do so you could be caught out by a “catch-all” sin which was: “going into the occasion of sin”. Even going to any place where there was a possibility of meeting girls or boys could be construed as “an occasion of sin”. There was no sex education, even the mention of the word was taboo but we knew it was one of the deadlier sins and we should not even think about it. No wonder so many of us were fecked-up by the time we reached adulthood.

I do not blame the parents or teachers of the time who were only doing what was perceived to be their duty and, to be honest, an odd belt of the stick wasn’t going astray. This society was created by an alliance of state and church, a state that enacted legislation to enforce the moral code of the church and handed over health care and education to their care. Women did not fare well under this regime and were looked upon as producers of children and obedient housewives. That a woman might have a career of her own was frowned upon and I remember the dismay among certain sections of the community when the first woman joined the Gardaí. Love did not always come into marriages  as suitable matches were made, with a dowry or “fortune” changing hands, for eligible girls. They then became the property of their husbands and it was the luck of the draw as to how they were treated from then on. When they married they made a vow of obedience to their husbands who had the right, or even the duty, to chastise them physically if they disobeyed them or offended the moral code. The husband also had conjugal rights, put simply it meant the right to have sex whenever he chose despite how the wife felt. By today’s standards it was rape but back then it was different and people had to just get on with life. Obviously not all marriages were like this but there were quite a few. Some young girls got pregnant because they were ignorant of the facts of life and, with no contraception available, nature took its course. Others fared even worse and got pregnant as a result of being raped.

Not all rape happens as a result of being overcome by superior strength or threats; some girls who were sent as servants to big houses felt that they had no choice but to submit to the sexual advances of their employers if they wanted to keep their jobs. There was a sick joke doing the rounds at the time that goes like: “what is the wages for a servant girl?” the answer being “£50 a year and a baby at Christmas”.  This then was the society, created by the unholy alliance between church and state, that treated pregnant girls in such an awful way. They were let down by society, church, state and their own families who feared the shame and stigma of having a daughter with an illegitimate child. Strangely there was no talk of “fallen men” because the women took all the blame.

That they were treated appallingly is beyond question and it was high time that a proper investigation was completed. It is a comprehensive document of over 3,000 pages and has to be welcomed but once again the women and their children were left down. Despite the fact that they were promised that they would be the first to see the report, it was instead leaked to a Sunday newspaper a couple of days early. To add insult to injury the Taoiseach made an apology in the Dáil a day after the survivors of the report got hold of it. They had no chance to read this huge volume or respond to its findings and, as time goes by, we are learning more about why. The conclusions of those who did the report are hard to fathom. They say there is no evidence on physical abuse or forced adoption. How could they possibly come to this conclusion after hearing the testimony of all those women?  Did they think they were all hallucinating or, worse still, telling lies?. I listened to a very articulate woman called Noelle Browne, on the radio the other day describing her battle over five years to get a copy of her submission to the investigation. After being fobbed off for so long they eventually said they would read it to her over the phone but she refused and eventually received a hard copy. It was full of what she described as “gross inaccuracies” and was laid out in a series of over 220 questions despite the fact that she had never been asked those questions in the first place. This is a well educated intelligent woman so, if they could do that to her testimony, what did they do to the accounts of many who weren’t as well versed or coherent?  It seems like these victims are being abused all over again. They deserve better from us as a people and a state but I won’t hold my breath. I listened to a government minister the other morning answering questions about the legislation to give people a right to their birth certs. He said it could be ready by the end of the year. Is he serious? This

is not the Bible or Encyclopaedia Britannica he is crafting; it is a simple piece of legislation that could be through both houses of the Oireachtas in a couple of days or a week at the most.

It is another example of kicking the can down the road in the hope that, in a while, this will be out of the news, the urgency will be gone and the can gets a further kick into the dim and distant future. There is also unnecessary delay in excavating the burial area of the children from the mother and baby home in Tuam discovered by historian Catherine Corless, whose work brought all this to light. There are talks about objections and such but, if it wanted, the state could have the excavators in there in the morning. No, I fear that all this inaction and the fudging of the conclusions in the report, have more to do with avoiding culpability than anything else. If found culpable, the state could be faced with countless actions for damages and they will not let that happen. Thankfully times have changed  for the better and we cannot judge the people who lived in that  awful past too harshly. Neither can we blame the clergy and religious orders of today for what happened. We are extremely lucky to have good priests like Fr. Duggan and Fr. Mullins who have only the best interests of their congregation at heart. Remember Jesus never looked down on the sinner. One of his closest associates was Mary Magdalene who was reported to have been a prostitute previously. It is a pity that His representatives on earth in the last century did not treat the mothers and babies in the same way.