Saturday, 11 March 2017


How Northern Protestants in the Dáil would have questioned power of Catholic Church
·         Irish Independent
·         Martina Devlin

VARIOUS threads have begun to unravel in Irish life as one shameful episode after another is highlighted: from concerns about conditions in mother and baby homes run by nuns, to an intellectually challenged woman’s 20 years of abuse in her foster home, with warning flags persistently ignored.

A pattern can be traced in these unwinding strands – deferral to authority, a tendency to look away from disconcerting truths and reluctance to challenge Catholic institutions.

With the glow still warm from last year’s centenary celebrations, it is increasingly clear that the fledgling Republic made a catastrophic mistake in outsourcing health and education to the Catholic Church – meanwhile neglecting its inspection duties.

Embedded in the new Irish State, the Catholic Church grew ever more authoritarian, extending its reach to exert political and social control. Some of its work was beneficial, especially in a country as poor as Ireland, but the unfettered power was problematic.

Ireland’s institutional history, from the industrial schools to the Magdalene laundries to the mother and baby homes, is a source of dismay. But self-flagellation serves less purpose here than action. We must become serious about separation of Church and State.

Education is a key example of ongoing, inappropriate Church influence. Almost 97pc of state primary schools are under Church control. Allowing the continuation of a baptism barrier in admissions’ policy cannot continue.

It is indefensible that State-funded schools can show bias, with the freedom to cherrypick pupils baptised as Catholics on the grounds of protecting their religious ethos. Do they also apply religious ethos requirements to teachers employed there (using our money)? If so, do the State’s laws have anything to say?
Clearly, current admissions’ policy is discriminatory – a child’s religion ought not to be a factor. Even if a school building is owned by a religious institution, for decades it has been maintained, renovated and extended by the State, while teachers’ salaries and pensions are paid by the Exchequer.

And while we’re in a reforming mood, the inclusion of religious instruction during school hours, also promoting the Catholic ethos, is highly questionable. Civics should be studied, instead of prioritising one religion above another in the national curriculum.

How did Ireland find itself in a position where Catholicism held undue sway in areas far beyond its remit? For that, we must look back to the foundation of the State – to partition.

The creation of two states on either side of the Border, run along repressive and ultraconservative religious grounds, has caused misery and hardship on this island. Imagine how Ireland might have flourished if it had developed without the drawbacks of partition.

In the North, Orangeism would have been restricted. As for the Irish State, Protestants were a loss, where a sizeable minority in the Dáil would have challenged Catholic Church power accrual.

Protestants also had the urge to practise social control, of course, and did just that in Northern Ireland. But they would have opposed the land and power build-up engaged in by the Catholic hierarchy.

I’m not suggesting no Tuams would have happened – Northern Presbyterians are far from progressive on women’s rights – but they would have objected to handing over education and health to Catholicism.

Consider WB Yeats’s Seanad speech in 1925 against the Free State’s proposed divorce ban – perhaps his most eloquent parliamentary contribution. Church-led proposals to outlaw divorce were “grossly oppressive”, according to the poet, arguing on both moral and political grounds. However, he lacked support in a Catholic-heavy jurisdiction.

“If you show that this country, Southern Ireland, is going to be governed by Catholic ideas and by Catholic ideas alone, you will never get the North,” he warned. “You will create an impassable barrier between South and North, and you will pass more and more Catholic laws, while the North will, gradually, assimilate its divorce and other laws to those of England. You will put a wedge into the midst of this nation.” Yeats also said “men and women who are held together against their will and reason soon cease to recognise any duty to one another”.

He also spoke out against strict censorship laws introduced in 1929, driven by ultraconservative Catholicism averse to “unwholesome” foreign influences and immorality. That damaging legislation could be interpreted as one more example of the harm caused by partition.

It is tempting to criticise a sheep-like population of earlier years for paying insufficient attention to scandals flourishing in their midst. But that ignores the historical context – the poverty, lack of education and the way the Catholic Church’s institutional authority was backed up by the State.

Plus, sexuality was tightly controlled. A social revolution has happened since the 1990s. At university in Dublin, I remember being asked to buy condoms for fellow students when I went home to the North for the weekend. It was 1985 before they could be bought without a prescription. That sounds like the Dark Ages to young people today.

Attitudes to contraception have shifted, but abortion remains a thorny and divisive subject. On Wednesday, International Women’s Day, thousands of pro-choice supporters marched in Dublin for a referendum to reform Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion regime.

We are in our comfort zones complaining about abuses suffered half-a-century ago. But people are reluctant to make the link that civil rights continue to be denied to women today, with autonomy over their bodies withheld from them.

Enda Kenny made a fine speech in 2011 expressing Ireland’s horror at institutional abuse, and lambasting the Vatican for attempting to frustrate inquiries into “the rape and torture of children”.

He tackled similar ground this week, referencing the “social and cultural sepulchre” uncovered by the Tuam babies’ scandal, but this time the Taoiseach said society was also to blame.

FAMILIES could have resisted and kept their pregnant daughters, and some did. A sense of shame was instilled by an autocratic Church which dominated every pillar of society, especially the family, but not everyone accepted that.

In the late 1970s, a family at the bottom of my street kept their pregnant schoolgirl daughter, and her baby. None of them was treated as a pariah; on the contrary, the community admired that family’s solidarity. So, who is society? It’s all of us.

Finally, amid the recrimination, we must remember there were decent and committed members of religious congregations – Father Peter McVerry’s work for the homeless is inspirational, for example. And by the way, the Loreto nuns visited that schoolgirl with a gift of baby clothes.

Image result for rich nuns

Accounts reveal massive sums paid to order
·         Irish Independent
·         Shane Phelan

THE religious order at the centre of the Tuam babies burial scandal has been paid €43.5m over the past 10 years by the private hospital group it runs.

Image result for millions of euro

Accounts for Bon Secours Health System Ltd reveal the payments were made to Bon Secours Sisters Ireland in respect of the leasing of buildings and interest on loans advanced by the order. The payments mean that, unlike many other religious orders in Ireland, the Bon Secours Sisters are in rude financial health.

However, the order has refused to say what it does with the money paid to it by the hospital group.

Its finances have come under sharp focus in recent days, with calls made in the Dáil and the Seanad for the order’s resources to be made available to survivors of the Tuam home and relatives of those who died.

The order operated a mother and baby home in the Co Galway town between 1925 and 1961. Historian Catherine Corless believes the remains of almost 800 children may have been buried in underground chambers at the property. Bon Secours Health System Ltd has private hospitals in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Tralee, as well as a private clinic in Cavan and a care village in Cork. Its most recent set of accounts, for 2015, showed a payment of just under €4m was made to the order that year in respect of the leasing of buildings and interest on loans.

The accounts also revealed the hospital group generated a profit of €2.3m.


The order refused to discuss its finances when questions on the issue were posed by the Irish Independent. “The Bon Secours have no comment to make on the financial questions,” it said in a statement.

The refusal to comment means it remains unclear whether the order would consider making a financial contribution to survivors of the Tuam home or their relatives.

It is also unclear if the order will consider assisting financially with anticipated efforts to identify the remains discovered by the Mother and Baby Home Commission in Tuam.

The order said it was co-op-erating with the commission, but declined to go into specifics.

“The order is co-operating fully with it, which means that we cannot comment on any aspect of it as to do so would be to commit an offence,” the statement said.

Notes in the Bon Secours Health System Ltd financial accounts indicate there are plans for significant investment in the group of hospitals in the coming years. Some €9m was spent upgrading facilities in 2015 and further investment of up to €150m is planned by 2020.

The hospital group catered for almost 100,000 patients in 2015 and employed 350 medical consultants and over 2,700 additional personnel.
In the Dáil this week, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith (pictured inset) called for the order to be disbanded and its resources used to compensate families involved and to provide memorial services for the children buried in Tuam and other homes.

In the Seanad, Sinn Féin senator Máire Devine said profits from the hospital group “need to be given back to the Irish people and to the women and children who were so dreadfully treated”.

However, Maeve O’Rourke, the legal advisor to the Clann, a group assisting people give evidence to the commission, said compensation was not on its agenda at present.

Ms O’Rourke said access to records and archives was the key concern. “What people want right now is access to information and there are major concerns about the secrecy surrounding the commission of investigation,” she said.


  1. Is Ms Devlin-Author-a modern Jeremiah. Certainly an opening up of attitudes and accountability is called for. Here in the UK it was/is? common place to have children baptised only to access RC Schools. In my own parish children got stamps to prove they were in Church in the run up to First Holy Communion. I presume something similar also applied to confirmation. Whatever the future the old control mechanism needs to go. I have relatives who never go to church except for the command performances. We need modern Jeremiahs inside as well as outside the church

  2. Nuns you say the good maybe few and far between.

    Reach out to the PASSIONLESS beside you +Pat in Larne and the door will close in front of you.

    As for Loreto again beside you +Pat in Ballyclare she'd rather walk on the other side of the road.

    We hear of vocation crisis in the catholic church and it's evident here in Ireland but the girls side of religious vocation is on it's knee's. Rightly so and for all the wrong reasons.

    The inside vocation destroyers love to say "Many are called but few are choosen" More like "Many vocations are destroyed and only those who fit a certain mould" "Only if we want you in the team" All F--K-Rs the good shepherds and shepherdess's are being denied access in the churches. Or is it me am I the one who is F--K-D up?.?.?.?

    Outside of the screening that needs to take place to rule out deviants, no vocation should be destroyed like those Tuam babies. Those innocents are surely home surrounded in love.

    As for the money nuns +Pat thats all that counts for the churches PAY as YOU go. Now the churches are places for the sinners not the saints but that doesn't mean to continue sinning look the fools gold in the pocket of the church. THE CHURCHES SHOULD ONLY HAVE ENOUGH TO GET THEM TO THE NEXT DAY. Jesus said take no haversack sandal or spare tunic.

    Rant over for today I believe as I think I may end up talking to myself. lolololololololololol Holywell here I come lolololololololololol

  3. MourneManMichael12 March 2017 at 09:45

    Martina Devlin's article is thought provoking, and raises vital issues neglected by Kevin Meagher's recent otherwise prescient book: "A United Ireland: Why Unification is Inevitable and How it will come about."

    While post recent election the Wee North may be entering a new political dimension, perhap aspirational nationalist/republican politicians on both sides of the border need to address many of the issues raised by Ms Devlin. "Home Rule is Rome Rule" is clearly a vital concern for northern Protestants. And rightly so!

    1. It is also a concern for some Northern Catholics.

  4. All through national school I thought Rome Rule was rubbish. How wrong could I be. I think however united Ireland is a different issue and should not overlap into the religious forum. Church run schools could work with an open minded religious ethos. All Sacramental preparation should be parish based and outside school

  5. From what I've gleaned today via my radio we won't be having any stable political life or possibly faith life for many years to come.i just find it so hard to comprehend that in Ireland we have all those private hospitals
    But for me today I'm off to Brian darcy mass....hope one day to make it to Larne.

  6. Ye are all in the same boat as these vile creatures who murder babies. You were all part of them when the going was good! Ye are the same one and all, disgusting vile creatures. Ye have spent an entire life scheming and dominating people. No more and that includes you Buckley, Page and the lot, no difference between ye all. Disgusting vile creatures.

    1. Agreed. Page is a vile creature. Pat not so bad.

    2. 14.00 The going wasn't good all the time. How's it going with you

    3. 14.35 Thank you for your kind comments. Peace to one and all

    4. I cannot see why you call Sean "vile"?

      The situation he got himself into in Sligo was a result of alcohol, loneliness and I imagine a host of other things to do with his upbringing and training.

      He stayed here in Larne with me, the lady he had befriended and her children.

      I saw absolutely nothing improper.

      They have now both moved on. Sean has achieved sobriety, a new life, a wife and a ministry in the COE.

      Which of us has not had crashes and made mistakes on our life journey?

    5. You have been totally wrong in your assessment of "friends" in the past. quid ergo dico quod

    6. Nobody is irrelevant 14.00 not even you. As to the comment about judging friends. Sometimes we are wrong and sometimes we are right. It's the way life is. Through it all we have to strive for something better and believe in the kingdom. Otherwise this religion stuff is a waste of time

    7. Sorry MC seems I misread your comment at 16.29. I thought 14.00 was asking if she/he was irrelevant

    8. Sean at 18:52, not t' worry. I was just expressing a little humour to the poster at 14:00, cos he/she didn't explicitly include me in his/her list of 'vile creatures'.

      Feel a bit miffed, actually.

    9. MC o yr a gobshite t be sure Sorry my Christianity won't let me insult you any further in an effort to make you feel better. .Where's me medication

  7. How many convents did you all enjoy hospitality in throughout your deceptive lives?

    1. I was never involved in a convent that had a mother and baby home.

      I was chaplain to two convents that ran schools / retreat houses.

      My "hospitality" extended to breakfast after early morning Mass.

  8. Pat what sadness the church has brought to the people of Ireland. They ran the country. I still have the shivers going down my spine of the abuse from Tuam - 800 babies lieing dead in tanks - this is shameful but again the Irish public have just accepted it as something that happened. We had Maynooth earlier last year - nothing happened - I question where is the irish public have they lost told faith - its time to stand up to these bishops - yer man the papal nuncio is off - everything is falling down - its time Pat - we need to clear this shower and start again fresh. I would deffiniely hope the Pope will visit Tuam next year on his meeting on the family.

    1. What sadness the Church has brought the people of Ireland... Correct.

      What sadness the people of Ireland have brought the Church...Also correct.

    2. 21:26, 'what sadness the people of Ireland have brought the Church'??? Please explain!

  9. Pat was in Wembley yesterday with 10000 catholics - this is the future of the church - question is whats going on in Ireland - the church is dead. We need it to rise.

    1. @16.32. You say "-the Church is dead. We need it to rise"
      Thank you!
      This is a wonderful reflection for the end of Lent and in particular for the Easter weekend itself.
      It happened once and it happens again.
      "--the church is dead. We need it to rise "
      That's the challenge.
      And here's another quote -
      " Let it begin with me... "

  10. To poster at 14.00.. Such global abuse is very reprehensible and uncalled for! As a conscientious, practising Catholic who regularly defends the Church, I am shocked that you use the phrase " vile creatures" to describe a fellow Christian. You received a dignified response from Sean Page... I think that said it all! I think you should apologise for the hurt you have caused (as I am sure he has done if he needed to)


  11. Personally I would prefer if you, Pat, would exclude posts such as those at 14. 00
    Those of us who post in good faith and like to disagree if we Ned to don't need Posts like that in our lives
    Please take note, Pat....thank you x

    1. Note taken. Then they scream about censorship?

  12. Thank you PAT ... Let them scream
    Most of us who post like to chat about our faith, our religion, other religions and none.
    We don't wish to call others out for their previous lives
    I respect everyone here who uses a name or a pseudo
    Sorry that I haven't the courage to do the same, mostly because I in contact with a lot of the readers .
    Censor away, particularly where name calling occurs.

  13. 19.47 Good to know there are still some gentle folk about. I appreciate some need to be anonymous while the few prefer to be screaming cowards

  14. This whole Tuam story is quintessential fake news. Hysterical headlines claiming hundreds of babies were dumped by evil nuns into a sewage tank are just pure nonsense. The actual statement from the commission was that the structure could have been part of a water purification system or a septic tank in the past. To even infer a septic tank without sound evidence is m8schevious in the extreme. The timing of this controversy might cause some to posit that it has more to do with the debate on the 8th amendment than anything else.
    The report of babies stacked like sausage rolls in this tank are based solely on the testimony of two men, now in their 60's who allegedly fell through an opening into this tank as children. They must have great eyesight to have seen so much in the darkness! Ms, Corliss talk of the children falling in on top of piles of bones where had the ' sausage roll' blankets suddenly disappeared to?
    There are so many discrepancies in the story.
    Have people forgotten the TB epidemic that gripped Ireland for many of those years that the mother and baby home operated? The infant mortality rate in jnstitutions shot up. Yes there is a shameful side to the story of mother and baby homes but it is a shame the whole if society share. Wake up and smell the coffee!

    1. Its nearly as bad to excuse horrors as commit them!

    2. Its nearly as bad to excuse horrors as commit them!

  15. No Pat. It's evil to twist and distort the past to beat others in the present. No horrors existed in Tuam, just the sad practice of a society obsessed with a perverse sense of respectability. There were no gas chambers or cruel guards. Just young girls in the care of those who should have known better.

  16. Maybe you should publish Claire Byrnes list of almost 800 names
    together with the beautiful poignant

  17. 800 names are only a fraction of infants deaths in the Ireland of the 40's and 50's. Do you want to publish them all with some suitably sinister slow motion pictures of nuns in habits, why no blame them for them all.

  18. In old Testament times the people chose a scapegoat. A poor animal who was beaten and abused- taking on the sins of the community. It seems the practice has become more refined in modern times with the media choosing the scapegoat!

  19. God gave his only son to us - its time we followed him again and not these bishops and priests - maybe i am wrong to think God loves me so much.

  20. At last some sensible reasoned comments.

  21. We don't follow Bishops or priests, they are entrusted with the role of shepherding us, are they human? Do they make mistakes? Are some of them self-seeking? Are some of them hypocritical? Are some of them downright immoral? The answer is yes to all of the above. But unfortunately Christ had to choose his disciples from a broken humanity .

  22. Christ has to choose his disciples from a broken humanity. That's true and He can obtain wonderful results from what seems initially material which is not that promising! I understand that there were problems even in the first Twelve. But in times of opposition and even downright persecution(such as Penal Laws era in Ireland) the Church can actually gain in strength and rise from its complacency. When Christ needs defenders, these too will appear and they know if they are chosen and they will speak up, even though they know full well that they and His Church will be sjected to ridicule. Why would they expect better treatment than the Master.Himself received?