Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Since I'm not there at the moment to go myself, I am posting this in the hopes that Irish readers will be moved to go to this event. The following is an email I received promoting attendance at a rally for anti-abortionists. I hope the Pro-Choice voices can have a presence!

Sick of ignoring the hypocrisy of yet another "pro-life" rally? (see http://rallyforlife .net)

Stand up for feminism on:
Saturday 4th July, 2pm at the GPO

Come in purple, green or white and join the Feminists for Real Life rally! Bring your own noise and placards. Or come to make placards on Thurs 2nd July, 7pm Seomra Spraoi, 10 Belvedere Court, Dublin 1 (map at www.seomraspraoi. org).


Life is not what they say it is.

Supported by Choice Ireland, RAG, Lash Back, other feminists, friends and allies.
All welcome. Please come, spread word: email, facebook, twitter etc and text.
Since my last post, I thought I should probably take a couple of steps back for my American readers, because as unbelievable as it may seem to my Irish readers, the Ryan Report hasn't really made the news in America. I am trying to figure out why, and I can't come up with a reason. On May 20th of this year, the Child Abuse Commission in Ireland released a report of its findings from "the largest investigation of religious orders in Ireland to date," according to the Irish Times, which included incidents from as early as 1914 (focusing mostly on the late 30s to the 70s), and took over 10 years to complete. "The deadline for receipt of complaints of abuse to the commission was July 2001, at which time 3,149 people had applied to testify." And those are only the victims who were still alive and courageous enough to come forward.

The Irish Times reports that the investigation initially got off to a very rocky start because, as Justice Mary Laffoy claimed, the Department of Education and the institutions themselves were not fully cooperating. So, frustrated, she resigned. Her replacement, Justice Sean Ryan, (hence the name "Ryan Report") decided that "the commission no longer intended to name anyone responsible for abuse, other than those already convicted by the courts and that it would interview a cross section of witnesses, due to the scale of the inquiry." And with that, the investigation continued. But the consequence of that decision is obvious: the perpetrators are not named. Additionally, one of the biggest offenders, the Christian Brothers, sued in 2004 so that none of its members (dead or alive) would be implicated. This deal that Ryan made was really like making a deal with the devil because he assured that while the secrets and old wounds would be exposed, there would be no justice.

So what's in the Ryan Report? First off, it's five volumes long -- around 3,000 pages, which described ritual beatings, sexual assault, neglect, emotional abuse -- inconceivable behavior rampant all over the countries institutions that were supposed to be these children's last hope. You can read the report online. (If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can skip to the Conclusions.) They found that over 800 people were responsible for abusing the children in their care.

But here's the thing. You might be able to imagine the fallout from this. But can you imagine it, remembering that the size of Ireland is equal to about one of America's smaller states? Think about the scale, the enormity of what this report means. According to the BBC, "About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s." That is a huge number of people, even in America. But for this tiny place, it's incredible to think of how many victims and their families have dealt with the realities, of what happened -- not abstract, in a report, or a sound bite -- but these things happened, and I think it's easy to forget that these events set a chain reaction that affects people's entire lives, the lives of everyone around them, their children, and their children's children. It goes beyond the thousand or so people who testified for the report. That is a mere sample.

And how are they being treated now? There are reports that the victims who wanted to attend the release of the Ryan Report were locked out of the proceedings. The government is trying to act as though this is the first word on what was going on for all those years. But the truth of the matter is that there have been many court cases over the years of victims seeking justice, and they were all beaten down. As one victim was quoted by the BBC after the release of the Ryan Report, "It has devastated me and will devastate most victims because there are no criminal proceedings and no accountability whatsoever."

I can't really summarize all the different reactions to the report by the Irish Government, and how they are, in my view, completely insufficient, because I would be here all day. But the fact remains that there's still no separation of Church and State in Ireland, and I tell ya, this is the result. And then, adding insult to injury, you have people in the Vatican saying things like abortion is worse than child abuse. Um, thanks. Where's the moral of the story there? Stop your belly aching and think about more important issues like abortion? Buzz off! Some child advocacy groups are calling for a change in the constitution to prevent these kinds of things from happening, and are finding (guess what?) more silence.

When people ask me what Ireland is like, and what it's like to live there, it's things like this that make it difficult to respond. The longer I live in the country and understand Irish history, the more amazed I am at what a complex place it is. No wonder the Irish are continually struggling with defining themselves. The sadness and hurt that one finds when one scratches the surface of what Ireland is all about (because there's a lot more than the pubs and the scenery!), it stops you in your tracks. And yet people have the strength to go on, and fight. And I hope this is one issue that gets its due.

And finally I will end with a video featuring the talk show "Questions and Answers," where an abuse victim speaks. It's incredibly moving, and shows how beautifully tenacious people can be. This man is a phoenix:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A new week is upon us! This is my last full week in the US before I head back "home" to Dublin. I'm excited to see my spouse and my pet, though I will miss my Dad terribly. It's been fun having this time together. But alas and alack, I must return to "real life."

Real life entails worrying about how I can find a job or making some kind of income other than job seeker's assistance. I have been doing the old job search online (for jobs in Dublin) since arriving in Florida, but there's just nothing out there, which for someone like me is kind of amazing. I think the longest I've ever gone without working was one summer -- three months. And that was really only because I started back up teaching and school didn't begin until September! So this experience of being without work for seven months is...well, it's a lot of things: discouraging, stressful, challenging.

I'm still reading the Irish News though, to stay abreast of what's going on back there. And I have to say, it's pretty bleak. Here in the US we have words like "stimulus" and "plan" and "overhaul" in the headlines. New bills are being put forth, which gives the effect of action, new beginnings, you know, things happening. Reading the Irish news, you see "abuse victims," "tax," "protests," "crisis," and all manner of horrible things. And what is this "smart economy" anyways? I mean what is an "Innovation taskforce" supposed to be? Does that sound like a made up term or what? Is that really supposed to instill confidence in the Irish people? Yeah, everything's cool folks, Cowen's got his INNOVATION TASKFORCE working on it. Is Mr. T part of this team? I pity the fool who buys any of this BS.

And while I'm at it, I am sort of appalled at President McAleese's total blame of the abuse scandal on the abusers themselves. She says, “Those who switched off the light of love and hope in your lives, plunged our country into a terrible darkness.” Come on now. These victims could have gotten help for what happened to them decades ago if the State had cared. It's not like they didn't KNOW what was going on. Complacency of abuse is almost as much of a sin as the abuse itself, in my opinion. And it's only when backed into a complete corner does it seem like anyone will acknowledge this dark shadow on the country. But it isn't anything new. Seventy years. Seventy years! And what about the disadvantaged youth of Ireland today? Has it really come that far? According to a June 11, 2009 article in the Irish Times, "There are 6,000 children [in Ireland] at risk who do not have a social worker and 8,000 children have not even had a preliminary assessment." Know where they are ending up? Psych hospitals. Why doesn't Ireland make the fostering of its children a priority? According to this article, children are dying in State care and it isn't even being properly reported! As of June 12, "a total of 6,500 child protection cases [had] not been allocated a social worker." Do you realize how many kids that is? And in a country as small as this...it's truly heartbreaking. But it seems that heartbreak is the blood that pumps through Irish history.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Something nice is happening in Ireland! National Bike Week!!! Throughout June 14 to 21, there are events happening all around the country to promote the wonderful activity of Bicycle riding. More information can be found HERE.

Sadly I will still be out of the country, so you all will have to enjoy the biking fun without me!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Greetings once again from sunny Florida!

I am officially sunburned, despite my best efforts to slather myself in 45 spf. I forgot the spot on my lower back that became exposed when I was bending over gardening! Also, even with the sunscreen, my arms are still a little pink today from being outside about 7 hours over two days. So I guess I need to refuel with the spf after an hour or so. But the "farmer's tan" has arrived, I'm afraid!

And I'm still somewhat baffled by certain aspects of the southern US. For example, here's a photo I took of a billboard off of the highway:

Lovely, isn't it?

Here's another sign, placed at a traffic intersection:

It reads, "Get a Taser. Safe Effective. Easy to Use. Police Proven." The "Police Proven" part sort of baffles me, but I wonder how many calls they get from this sales "pitch."

One of my favorite places to visit down here is this gigantic flea market called, "Super Flea." The sign always cracked me up. Here it is:

Inside, you can get your photo taken with snakes and alligators. I didn't care to do that, but I took a shot of the poor snakes:

It's hard to describe what the inside of the super flea is like, and I didn't want to take a lot of photos because it's difficult to get a photo without a person in it. While you might be amused at a photo of the people at the Super Flea (I must admit that most of the people look like they conform to the fat American/redneck/hick stereotype), I wouldn't want to put anyone's photo on the internet without their permission. But there are rows and rows of cell phone and ipod covers, leather belts, T-shirts with transfers of deer and wolves and hunters with slogans like "I didn't work my way up the food chain to become a vegetarian" on them, thousands of tube socks, moving waterfall wall hangings, tools, hats, bandanas, weapons, and SO MUCH MORE. I particularly like this one area of the super flea, which is an asian dollar store where you can get all kinds of really funny do-dads. I took a photo of the entrance:

I guess it's been warm back in Dublin! I miss it. I guess I consider it home after all, since it's where my heart is.