The Irish State Shield Against Unwed Mothers

The Irish State Shield Against Unwed Mothers
By Fintan Dunne
  • Claire Byrne Buries the Genocide 
  • Sean O'Rourke Keeps it in The Family 
  • Katherine Zappone Stacks the Political Deck 
  • Epilog for multiply-raped 'Angela'
"U.K.‘s Radio 4 ran a series called “Does He Take Sugar?”, referring to when someone asks the carer about sugar, instead of directly asking the person..." --Yvonne Rogers
Women from the Mother and Baby Homes belie the older stereotype and range in age from mid forties to early seventies. These are modern women and they can speak for themselves. Irish First Mothers is their representative group. If you want to know their views, ask them. Don't ask someone else whether they take sugar.

RTE's Claire Byrne Buries the Genocide On 5th March, 2017 Minister Katherine Zappone admitted what the Irish Government had denied ever since the 'Tuam Babies' story broke in international media. There were after all significant irregular infant remains on the site of the former unmarried mothers home. Within 48 hrs Irish First Mothers raised the question of genocide with the Irish attorney general. The following Monday morning the pre-eminent Irish broadcaster, Pat Kenny led his national radio show with an exclusive interview with Kathy McMahon and reported that genocide claim. Later that day, Kathy was invited to appear on the RTE TV show, Claire Byrne Live. Sitting among a specially invited audience with adopted persons before the show began, she told presenter Claire Byrne that she wanted to discuss the genocide claim. Byrne never responded and began the show by quizzing Kathy solely on her personal experience of unwed pregnancy.  Byrne never came back to Kathy re genocide and she concluded the segment by means of an interview with an academic historian, Desmond Ferriter. Kathy had founded Ireland's largest and properly representative group of affected mothers. She should have been interviewed - not Ferriter. Genocide should have been their topic.  But it is station practice to interview adopted persons; to feature adopted persons opinions; and to interview academics. The affected women are disallowed political expression. RTE is a state broadcaster and the state is hostile to such claims for fear of liability to redress. Thus did Claire Byrne bury the genocide of Irish womenRTE's Sean O'Rourke Keeps it In the Family The national broadcast station's unwritten policy again ruled when the interim report of Judge Murphy's Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was published. The mothers who are the inquiry's predominant focus were excluded from Sean O'Rourke's flagship morning radio show.  Instead it was Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance(ARA) -an adopted person who has been a member of the Labour Party's executive committee- who provided commentary and analysis. Lohan runs the ARA with academic Claire McGetrick. The pair have spawned a cottage industry of bodies from the Philomena Project to Justice for Magdalens Research(JFMR) and the Clann Project, in addition to the ARA. On a point of information, Sean O'Rourke's daughter, Maeve has been a long-time legal adviser to the ARA. Note also that O'Rourke wife, Caroline Murphy recently took up a role as media advisor to FG Justice Minister Charles Flanagan. It's impossible to write about this nexus without using the words cozy cartel.  Such arrangements breed self-reinforcing ignorance, and that ignorance was on full display when O'Rourke subsequently interviewed Minister Zappone on the interim report -alone and again without the balancing participation of the affected mothers. "Where were the men?," jeered O'Rourke -referring to the alleged desertion of unwed mothers by males. He and feminist Zappone shared a short snigger over that. If they had a mother from Irish First Mothers in studio their ignorant stereotype might have been enlightened. In truth, many men were driven away by religious and bureaucrats.  Many of those men loved their partners dearly and some -despite the interference of the state- went on to marry their beloved and have subsequent children together. Those couples had in effect been robbed of their first child by state-sanctioned forced adoption. Such cases are among the Irish First Mothers.  Zappone was as ignorant as was O'Rourke, because incredible as it may seem, she has to this day never sat down with the First Mothers group. The pair's sneering, born of unprofessional nepotism and elitist authoritarianism badly let let those couples and all affected mothers on that day.
RTE Six One Propaganda It will hardly surprise you that when then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly announced the terms of reference of the now ongoing Commission of Investigation, it was again groups run by adopted people who appeared on Six One News to lavish praise on the Minister. Adopted persons, Paul Redmond and Susan Lohan headlined the news coverage and analysis.  Redmond said he was delighted. Lohan cautiously welcomed the news. The First Mothers who were actually in the homes had totally rejected the commission. RTE squelched that inconvenient fact. Applause all around for the State. Redmond was also recently interviewed in depth by Miriam O'Callaghan for her radio show. He spent a total of 17 days in a Mother and Baby Home -as an infant. Hardly a searing experience. I7 days in a Mother and Baby Home does not give you a womb. He would have been oblivious to the constant sobbing of mothers grieving for their stolen newborn infants.  But RTE's prime commentator on giving birth in a mother and baby home is an adopted man - rather than an actual mother who was in a Mother and Baby Home. Go figure?
Kathy McMahon was sleepless to that sound of sobbing at night, as she told a Dail committee in 2015. But her account of that horror and indeed her entire testimony was omitted from the report sent to the Seanad by Chairperson, Mr. Jerry Buttimer, FG. Out of sight -out of mind, eh? The State didn't want to hear. RTE didn't want you to see. Survivors demand to speak. Nobody among the RTE shows mentioned replied to request for comment. Katherine Zappone Stacks the Political Deck Katherine Zappone never met with First Mothers -despite the fact that her two ministerial predecessors in the Department had invited the group to consult over legislation and despite her political perspective as a feminist. Kathy McMahon, founder of First Mothers was eventually promised a meeting by Zappone but died over a year later -still waiting. Ahead of the final report of the Commission of Investigation, Minister Katherine Zappone announced the formation of a consensus-based Collaborative Forum -supposedly to involve those affected in shaping the Government response prior to the Commission's final report due before February, 2019. A selection panel would pick the members of the Forum.  Yet again, adopted persons and academics formed the majority of the selection panel: 
Ms Clodagh Malone  Coalition M&B Homes Survivors  Ms Mari Steed           Adoption Rights Alliance (USA)  Dr James Gallen        Dublin City University  Prof Patricia Lundy    Ulster University Ms Teresa Blake SC Irish Human Rights Commission Mr Fintan Dunne        Irish First Mothers Ms Malone and Ms Steed are adopted persons. I was a sole voice for mothers interests. By the second meeting of the panel, the offer of consensus had turned into an inflexible government agenda and debate was shut down. I resigned forthwith at the start of the second meeting.  If legislators and bureaucrats were better informed they might realize that adopted people are often conflicted in their attitudes to First Mothers -exhibiting either conscious or unconscious hostility arising from feelings of abandonment. Inclusion of adopted persons in State structures overseeing the welfare of so-called birth mothers is therefore ill advised. But such a level of nuanced understanding by a department of government is rare. Especially if they refuse to meet with those at the coal face who are better informed. Susan Lohan in my presence, after Kathy McMahon had spoken of the need for redress for mothers remarked: "what would mothers want redress for?" One can only speculate on the reasons underlying that remark. But it might be a class bias. Because another wrinkle is that adopted infants went quite disproportionately into wealthier families; whereas the victims of forced adoption were easier prey if from a lower social class. Many of the illegally taken infants went to judges, lawyers, doctors, business leaders and others socially advantaged. The groups with power in society today.
To directly answer Ms Lohan, mothers might want redress for illegal incarceration; forced removal of infants; lifelong trauma; ongoing PTSD and diminished life potential.  But, rather ominously Judge Murphy's interim report made no finding of harm in respect of mothers. As if harm to the mothers can only be adjudged in the limited form of physical abuse or neglect in the homes under scrutiny. Perhaps a judge a score years younger would have been a better choice to lead this Commission. EPILOG FOR MULTIPLY RAPED 'ANGELA' Propaganda often relies on adjusting the words we use to reframe an issue. There is and was no such thing as a Mother and Baby home. They were called Unmarried Mothers homes. Places where unmarried mothers were socially imprisoned -overseen by the state. Years ago when this deliberately protracted and constructively ineffective state examination of these issues began, Kathy McMahon was invited to consult with then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Mr. Charles Flanagan, FG. I was at her side when she told him that she wanted a prosecutions arm to any investigation to uncover unreported rapes of women and sexual abuse of minors. Minister Flanagan dismissed the idea curtly. "There are Garda stations in every town -some of them are even open 24 hours. Any crimes should be reported there". What Mr Flanagan cared little to know about, the listeners to LMFM were enthralled to hear, when McMahon later went on air with Deirdre Hurley to recount the appalling multiple rape of "Angela" a woman with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. She was then 37 years old, in St. Patrick's Unmarried Mothers home, Navan Rd., Dublin and on her fourth pregnancy.  By any prudent calculation of the crimes of a careful abuser, Angela must have been raped well over 200 times. She later gave birth to her fourth child while sitting on a toilet in St. James' hospital. Fourth time around, she literally didn't know what being pregnant was. Most other women in First Mothers have similar tales of pregnant minors. What kind of evil regime oversaw such repeated abuse? What kind of evil regime fails to investigate this? On LMFM, Kathy McMahon recounted how when the women would sneak out for a cigarette, Angela would tell them about the prize she had won for being the sugar plum fairy. And she in her betrayed innocence would dance the sugar plum fairy dance for the other mothers. It's an image I can't shake, and I can't write about without shaking, right now. You won't hear about that on RTE. It might cost the state money. But don't take my word for it. These women are outspoken on Irish regional radio shows and elsewhere. I'm a messenger. These women are the message. So it's better that you hear from the women themselves. Theirs is the authentic voice which our elites would rather silence. If you think you already know about Unmarried Mothers homes, you don't. They do.
Go listen. That full LMFM interview about Angela is here.

My interviews with seven of the women are on a webpage here.
See also:


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