Ireland 2015 : Gay Pride and Mother Shame

It's great to see so many joyful people celebrating the Irish 'Yes' vote for marriage equality. 

My vote was a yes. I am a "live and let live" person. I hope and desire that all who have suffered prejudice, shame or isolation because of their sexual orientation can now find peace and happiness in their own country. 

Congratulations Ireland. By this decision we have shown acceptance of at least one of our 'demonized' groups. But many are still on the margins.

Most women, who like myself, lost a child through forced adoption, voted Yes in this referendum. I speak daily with such women. They were incarcerated in Mother and Baby homes; were deemed "offenders"; were shuttered and railroaded by an unholy alliance of state, church, and Irish families. They know how a gay social scapegoat must feel.

Almost all had their infants taken from them through forced adoption. Many are still marginalized to this day and live lives blighted by an unspoken stigma and rejection.

Contrary to the idea that it was to the distant past that these attitudes pertained, truth is that well into the 1990's women were still forced to hide their pregnancies and intimidated into having their children taken from them through forced adoptions.


ANCIENT HISTORY OR LIVED REALITY?

Following the discovery of a mass infant grave in the west of Ireland, a sudden surge of media interest, faded with the announcement by the Irish government of a very limited inquiry.

Most women in the Irish First Mothers group which I established early last year were deeply disappointed and felt betrayed by a system determined to ensure that nothing would really change.





Only two weeks ago, we saw how little has changed.

A new-born baby was found abandoned at the roadside in Dublin City, the capital of newly-crowned 'liberal' Ireland. No mother has yet come forward to claim the child - despite highly public entreaties on national television. Shocking as that is in 2015 - it's not exceptional. Many women still hide pregnancies, a blessing that in truth should be occasion for celebration.

So the attitudes and stigma have not gone away. In the alleged post-gay-marriage "new Ireland", have social attitudes really changed towards women who found --or find-- ourselves unexpectedly pregnant?

Perhaps not. We failed to send a message to the mother who left her newborn on a roadside. She did not know that she did nothing wrong; had nothing to be ashamed of; and deserved support, respect and acceptance. Why? Because we have not uprooted our old attitudes. It takes more than a tame, behind-closed-doors inquiry. 

The U.N. Human Rights Committee has condemned the Irish government's paucity of effective response to scandals affecting Irish women: whether Magdalene Laundry slavery, medical symphysiotomy butchery; incarceration in concentration convents; sham adoption consents to enable the ruthless ripping away of our beautiful babies.

Government ministers met our group and seemed to listen. Then rolled all over us.


BABIES DEAD AND BURIED

You see, even the discovery of a likely mass grave of 600 infants has not altered deep Irish attitudes or our lived reality one whit. That's reality. The tip of a 2015 iceberg, afloat a sea of still-unchallenged attitudes.

I watched the referendum celebrations, feeling strangely disconnected; strangely disconsolate; and still despairing of justice. I was heartened and yet bereft. Like one prisoner watching another prisoner get their freedom.

Will people also show that they believe it was wrong how we were treated and continue to have valid human rights disregarded? Will our adopted children be given full rights to their birth information? Or has Ireland gained it's liberal cred, free to abandon it's mothers to a sham government inquiry?

Tuam's earth holds hundreds of deceased babies birthed by our fallen sisters. But this appalling fact fails to resonate. Women pregnant through rape or incestuous abuse up to as recently as the late 1990's, still hold the secret of their 'shame'; no prosecutor urges them to come forth. Minimalism and delay are the order of the day, and the long finger beckons.


NO SECOND-CLASS WOMEN

Gays are "out" in numbers, and for decades. First Mothers are largely still hidden, fearing blame and shame. We hide like closet gays, as the holocaust of conscious and unconscious attitudes towards us still haunts Irish streets.

Time to come out, girls. Time to face down the shamers; the blamers; the political gamers.

Time to come out, girls. Time to reclaim all our children - wherever scattered or slain.

Time to come out, girls. Time to speak out or be buried out of sight and mind, again.

Why are only the gay social prisoners being set free? Why not all of us scapegoated ones? Why do we sit here in the same prison - even as newly-opened gates still swing free? We could be out there too - under blue skies of tolerance.

Time to come out, girls. I'll see you online; hear you on air; meet you on the streets. 

We'll take no prisoners.

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  1. The book doesn't close here ! martindowling1.wordpress.com

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