The Politics of Philomena

Featured

The most startling thing to emerge from the premiere last night of Philomena was the lack of any questioning around accountability for the theft of a child, in this instance Anthony Lee from his mother Philomena, who was incarcerated in Sean Ross Abbey for 4 yrs in the 1950s.  The whole issue of criminality was avoided throughout the entire film and there was an uncomfortability in the Q & A emanating mostly from Steve Coogan, who was making every effort to be inoffensive in his efforts to appease Catholic sensibilities.  It would seem to me that Mr Coogan, producer, co-writer and star of the movie, didn’t really understand the politics of the issue of the banished babies and the criminal trafficking of children for profit out of Ireland and other countries that was perpetrated by the Catholic Church and religious congregations.

What happened here was that like many other children, Anthony Lee was taken from his mother without informed consent and for over fifty odd years the Irish Catholic Church, Religious congregation and indeed the State itself, concealed the whereabouts of mother and son from each other.  Yet, what we watched at the IFI premiere last night completely avoided the global issue of the “banished babies” of Ireland.  Nobody so far has been held to account for this practice; there have been no Garda investigations or Interpol investigations; nobody from the national Airlines (Aer Lingus) or Pan Am airlines that actually trafficked the children out of Ireland have been confronted. Indeed, this whole issue has been slightly saccarined and turned into a warm human interest story rather than a story of organised, joint-venture criminality.

The whole reality of this film is sentimentalised through a naive catholic spiritualism.  A lot of it is cliched and it never really deals with the horrendous tragedy and evil of what was perpetrated on thousands of mothers and their abducted children to this day.

The story of Philomena is based on true events.  True events that happened to generations of people and, while this abduction of children was going on in so-called Mother and Baby homes, there was also the rape torture and inhumane treatment of tens of thousands in what are now known as Ireland’s residential institutions.  The Mother and Baby homes like Sean Ross Abbey, Bessborough, Castle Pollard etc. formed part of a network of compounds where individual citizens were incarcerated and exploited till they died, made good their escape or somehow found themselves miraculously released.

The trauma of what took place in these institutions still permeates this society through the suffering of the individuals who were incarcerated there.  That suffering continues as many mothers seeking to find their children and many children seeking to find their parents are still not being given access to their personal records, to their authenticity, to their origins. There is an indifference, a disregard and a continuous punishment in the way Religious Congregations and indeed the State continue to behave around this issue, which borders on contempt.  There was an opportunity in Philomena to address these issues but the writers of the script chose not to do so.

This undermines the credibility of the movie and does a great disservice to this single story and to the big story because after all this tale is one of thousands of similar tales that are now emerging as part of Ireland’s social and criminal history.

Despite the warmth of the film and the good reception that it received at all the film festivals so far (Toronto, London, Venice) somewhere, the real issues that are at the centre of this story, the hard cruel facts, that unheard story, that brutality, uncomfortable as it is, has to be heard, has to be owned has to be accounted for.  It is not just the story of Philomena and Anthony Lee, it is the story of a society and as such the secret history of Ireland and the Irish State and religious institutions cannot be so simply packaged in a feel-good, heartfelt portrayal of real events that have not been dealt with so far.

We had to drag the apology from the Taoiseach in relation to the Magdalene Laundries and large parts of the truth have still been avoided in the massive whitewash of the Ryan and McAleese Report. The complete indifference and lack of consequences for all those that were involved in the criminality and abuses that were described in the Ferns, Murphy, Cloyne reports etc. There is a great danger here of assuming that we have dealt with these issues and that there is some measure of closure on them, but still the Church and State continue to deny wrong going and the myth that everybody was just trying their best in very difficult times continues to be perpetrated.

Judy Dench gives a fantastic performance as does Steve Coogan, the whole cast excelled themselves and it is a good movie, but that’s all it is –  a good movie, an entertainment, a night out in the cinema.  It doesn’t ask anything of us, it merely brings us along in a sad-warm way.  It’s a road movie that is very satisfying.  The danger here is, is that it smothers the ongoing issue of what’s happening in Irish society and elsewhere and can give further credence to the school of thought that wishes to put this whole issue behind us and let us get on with it.

Adoption Rights Alliance and other such organizations and individuals are desperately seeking information and the rights today for open access to all of their paperwork, their birth certificates, medical records etc.  They are seeking their truth that has been held from them all their lives as it was for Philomena Lee and her son Anthony Lee.

The film will certainly throw light on all of the issues that I’ve mentioned above and it will find its place in the cultural representation of Ireland’s social history, albeit from a British perspective and sensibility. This is a British movie, but what’s not uniquely British about it and what came across last night in the Q & A and in the movie itself, was its unwillingness to ‘go there’.  While I welcome the film, I note its lack of responsibility to the overall story, its insistence on the sensibility of the human story at the cost of the politics and the truth of the issue.   When, in actual fact what you have here is organized criminality on such a scale that it should really warrant a massive European, if not global investigation or tribunal, not dissimilar to that which is conducted by the United Nations into crimes against humanity because that is what this is.

With due respects to all of those who were involved and with deep respect to Anthony Lee who died searching for his mother – who died being told a lie by the very people who thieved him from his mother and continued that thievery by robbing him of his mother’s whereabouts – this story is not just theirs; it is all our stories. And unless you deal with this story in the way you would deal with any fascist of dictatorial regime, like the institutional Catholic Church, like the institutionalized Irish State,   all you are doing here is facilitating and enabling the closing down of the story, the othering of the story and the perpetration of further suffering.

There were comparisons made last night with the Magdalene Laundries so on so forth, but you can’t compare ongoing trauma and truth with films that are by-and-large commercial enterprises to the story of institutional tragedy.  The story of Philomena Lee is essentially a political one involving a sovereign state and its inactions to protect its citizens and a global church that professes Christianity love, truth and respect, but is engaged, in this instance, in joint venture acts of appalling inhumanity and cruelty.  It is up to us, the cinemagoers to inform ourselves to the highest degree on all of the issues that are missing from this film.  That said I would urge you to see the film because some truth in all its horrors still manages to reach out and touch us. Perhaps because of what we already know in relation to the culture that still exists in our country.

It will take some time for society to extract the truth on this whole issue.  Memorials at the Garden of Remembrance, Magdalene Sisters films, and films like Philomena can never be a substitute for the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in fact sometimes such films can damage truth and authenticity as they can perpetrate the lie that it was ‘all done in good faith’. This film will now be promoted by Harvey Weinstein and may possibly even win an Oscar, however there is always the possibility that it could damage the ongoing advocacy for truth and accountability.

With all that in mind – please go.  And when you come out of the cinema, get involved, demand answers.  Seek accountability.  Don’t let the Church or the State off the hook. What happened here was on an enormous scale and that enormity has not been reduced, but has been added to by the continuous refusal of the congregations of nuns at the centre of the Mother and Baby homes who were willfully engaged with the theft, trafficking and sale of children to be held accountable, to hand over the many documents and files that they have in their possession.  These documents need to be given to their rightful owners without any hindrance whatsoever. Everybody has the right to their own information. The lie that is about that these documents were lost through fire damage or floods etc. needs to stop.  People have memory. The congregations duplicated many of its documents. Every child had a passport forged.  People know.  Including Aer lingus, Pan Am and emigration.

In essence the film is about secrecy which forms an unbroken web. That secrecy is never challenged.  And even the cinema goer is asked to accept that secrecy.  It is this very secrecy that gives rise to gross abuse in society, from the institutions of the state, the institutions of the church and the very institution of the family and here right before us in the IFI that secrecy is well maintained by the cultural industry and the film community.  This is far too serious an issue to be turned into mere entertainment.  Philomena the film is not Rabbit Proof Fence, or Los Ninos Robados.  It is a vehicle for the desires of Steve Coogan and the advancement of his career at the expense of a real truth, a real politic.  Mr Coogan needs to be aware of this, that in doing what he did he places himself firmly on the side of those oppressive regimes that wish to keep us all silent, all stunted and childlike and all contained.

This story and the thousands of stories like it will one day escape from this place and find a place where their truth will be heard, understood and accepted.  To avoid is to deny.  To deny is further injustice.  The struggle and the search for truth continues. Mr Coogan had an opportunity to inform the public.  He chose instead to protect the wrong doers – the Irish State and the Catholic church.  He needs now to correct this if he is to have any credibility.   He needs to inform himself of the reality by speaking with those many people who are desperately seeking their children, desperately seeking their mothers.  Its important to note that Philomena Lee didn’t write the book. Didn’t make the movie.  And the problem now is that the story is in the hands of unscrupulous, unprincipled Tinseltown merchants.  And we all have an obligation here to ensure the right thing is done and that the truth is told. Only then can a society grow. Only then can true faith be meaningful.

Wanted: 1980 VHS footage of Late Late Show

I am hoping to track down footage that is currently missing from the RTE archives.

The Late Late show program (Gay Bryne RTE 1)  was broadcast on 17th May 1980 

If anyone still has their collection of VHS recordings from TV shows from the 1980tys or any of the bands/performers below kept copies of the show could they please contact me.

libertysuit

The Late Late show broadcast on 17th May 1980 

Guests on that night’s show were:

Daddy Cool and the Lollipops

Tony Dowling, 

Tony Cull 

Katherine Kelly

Gerard Mannix Flynn

Limerick Grannies

Solid Gold

Tony Summers

Please pass on to anyone who might be able to source VHS TV recordings.  Thanks

You can email me on farcryproductionsltd@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Call to action, all Dublin northsiders

 

Brendan Walsh

Dubliner                                 (Photo: Brendan Walsh)

 

It would appear the DublinTown/BID company is hell bent on generally demonising and othering the North side of this city.  I am a member of the DublinTown/BID board and I wish to entirely distance myself from the attached report that was presented at this afternoon’s financial meeting at Dublin City Council.

It seems that the CEO, Mr Richard Guiney, thinks he is running this city and that he can make generalised pronouncements as ‘fact’ regarding certain parts of the city.

Fear and crime in Ireland, not just Dublin, is a big issue. Fear of crime is a global issue and is well-documented, but it is seldom used to demonise an area, a neighbourhood, a community.  Somebody has to come to the defence of the great Northside of our city and the fantastic people that live and work there. DublinTown/BID was set up to improve area’s (the clue is in the name- Business Improvement District).  It was rebranded ‘We are DublinTown’ to be more inclusive and welcoming.  But when it starts to demonise and ridicule whole parts of the city, in my view, it is time to challenge Mr Guiney and his board and the whole idea of what DublinTown/BID  actually is.

As an Independent City Councillor, I have a deep loyalty to my city and its citizens and a duty to Dublin City Council.  Dublin City Council should come out and defend the city and the politicians of the Northside should come out and defend that part of the city against Mr Guiney’s and BID’s slurs about its character and good name.

Nobody has questioned DublinTown’s findings  in the attached report or where he got them from.  Nobody at the meeting today of the Finance SPC questioned him on them other than me.  On the contrary, they broadly endorsed Mr Guiney’s presentation, obviously completely unaware that he was going to present his report to the RTE news as a fait accompli. Of course, the media picked up on his negative portrayal of the Northside of our city in a sensationalist headline that doesn’t help this city in its many struggles. Or assist the many individuals and residents who go out every day to make the place a better place.

Twenty years ago, Limerick city was greatly damaged by this same kind of media coverage of reports like these and it has taken the citizens of Limerick to the present day to shrug off and counter the stigmatising of that great city.  As in Limerick, short term sensational headlines did most of the damage and DublinTown and Mr. Guiney are now engaged in that same practice and Dublin will suffer greatly as a result of their careless recklessness toward the businesses and citizens of this city.

The reputation of Dublin and in particular Dublin’s Northside is at stake here.

DublinTown/BID is not a statutory organisation.  It should not be given a carte blanche platform to put out these reports. I am constantly questioning DublinTown/BID and the manner in which it is allowed to conduct its business in this city.  It carries a big business agenda and ignores SMEs and shops and as, in this report, it recklessly ghettoises a large part of the commercial and residential district. In my opinion, this renders BID unfit for purpose as it is negatively branding the north side of the city and spreading more loathing and fear. Not even An Garda Siochána would put out such a report and description.

For an organisation like DublinTown/BID to be doing this is an agenda of destruction, disregard, and disrespect for the city’s northside. City dwellers, especially northsiders should stand up to this and defend their city from the likes of DublinTown/BID who exist on a rate payers’ levy that is akin to a ransom demand according to most small business who are in a deep financial struggle to even exist.

For a company that is given rate payers’ money and allowed do this with it without being challenged is an absolute disgrace. Shame on the DublinTown/BID company, its board and its CEO for this action and these outrageous statements.

They should unreservedly apologise to the northsiders of Dublin for undermining them and stigmatising them in such a fashion.  If they were to do this to Grafton Street or indeed, South William Street there would be an unmerciful outcry.  We need now to hear the real voice of the Northside. The real voice of all Dubliner’s who love their city.

Mr. Guiney of DublinTown, instead of creating unity and a shared city that we can all enjoy, is creating a city of divide and foreboding and this at the expense of the city and its citizens, and he gets rate payers’ money to do it.

Given the day that’s in it, Bloomsday, where we celebrate the greatness of our city in all its guises from the Monto to the Sandycove Martello tower – it’s time to defend Dublin in all its aches, pains and glories.

Up the Dubs.

Link to RTE report: http://m.rte.ie/news/2016/0616/796148-dublin-opinion/

Talk by Fiachra MacGabhann- Dundalk

For those of you within driving distance of Dundalk town there will be a very interesting talk given by Fiachra Mac Gabhann this Friday June 10th on Irish Place Names.  It will be well worth attending. No booking needed.

 

kilflynn

Kilflynn, Co Kerry……

 

An Archive of Our Past: Placenames and Sense of Place

Speaker: Fiachra Mac Gabhann

Time: 8.00pm

Venue: Wellington Hall, St. Mary’s Road, Dundalk

Date: Friday, June 10th 2016

Organisers: Dundalk Culture Club

 

Toponymy – the study of Place Names – gives us a fascinating and unique access to our past. It connects us to the landscape and nature and is a well­spring of geographical, historical and mythical information.

Fiachra Mac Gabhann presents a talk that will draw on his extraordinary ten­ volume study of the Place Names of County Mayo, Logainmneacha Mhaigh Eo, to examine some of the intricacies of these themes and piece together some of what has been lost, and offer perspectives on the historical and cultural significance of Irish placenames to our sense of identity.

Admission is Free but donations are welcome. 

This event has been organised by the Dundalk Culture Club.

Disruption of Water Supply – Saturday

Disruption of Water Supply – Dublin  – Saturday 28th May, 2016.

Please see list of areas affected below:

Dublin City Council, working on behalf of Irish Water, advises that, while a repair is being carried out on a large water main, there will be reduced pressures and possible temporary loss of water supply in parts of the city from 08.00am until midnight on Saturday 28th May, 2016. The areas likely to be affected are:

 

Chapelizod, Islandbridge, Infirmary Road, Phoenix Park, Oxmanstown Road, Prussia Street, Grangegorman, Arbour Hill, Phibsborough Road, Broadstone, Constitution Hill and surrounding areas, as shown in the shaded area on the attached map.

 

Dublin City Council will make a number of water tankers available on the day.

The daytime contact telephone number for Saturday is 01 8643634.

After 17:00 hrs the contact number is 01 6796186.

 

Map available at: http://www.dublincity.ie/sites/default/files/content/Press/Documents/islandbridge.pdf

 

Conflict + the City – Free talks

Some of you might be interested in this two day conference at Liberty Hall. The event is free but you must register through the email at the bottom of this press release.  It is a public event and open to all.

31st May-June 1st 

List of speakers can be found here: http://conflictandthecity.ie/speakers/

 

CONFLICT + THE CITY – Public Conference in Liberty Hall Theatre  (FREE)

City Wall CHAPTER 5-700x572Dublin City Council’s Heritage Office, in conjunction with UCD Decade of Centenaries, is organising a two-day Public Conference entitled‘Conflict + The City’ in Liberty Hall Theatre. The Conference is aimed at the general public and admission is free.

Over the two days speakers will engage with the audience in discussing the effect of war on the streets and buildings of cities, the rebuilding that then happens and how this affects the way we experience our cities today. Day one will mostly concentrate on Dublin post-rebellion (and post-1922) and then broaden out to look at major cities across Europe with international speakers focusing on Beirut and Berlin. Day two will look at Jerusalem, Belfast, Sarajevo, and the contemporary situation in Calais, for examples.

Speaking about the conference, Charles Duggan, Heritage Officer with Dublin City Council said “This conference is designed for the general public, for anyone who has an interest in Dublin and how the city was rebuilt after the conflicts that took place from 1916 to 1922. But as well as that, we will be placing Dublin in a greater European context and looking at the effect of conflicts on other great European cities. A host of International speakers, together with local experts will deliver talks on an aspect of the city that has yet to be explored.”

Dr. Ellen Rowley of UCD said “Staying in the twentieth century, this two-day public conference will present research into various architectures of war and cities in repair, from Beirut to Blitz-time London; from Cold War bunkers to Belfast’s peace-lines. Today, in Dublin, much of how we move through, spend time in and experience the city comes out of the 1920s reconstruction projects. The scars of conflict and the efforts towards rebuilding resonate through Dublin’s architecture, almost 100 years later.”

ENDS

The conference is free but booking is essential.

For more information see W: www.conflictandthecity.ie

E: heritage@dublincity.ie T: (01) 222 3090

 

Happy Birthday Pecker Dunne

1st April 1933-19th December 2012

Pecker Dunne broke the mold.  He was one of the great liberators of the Travelling community and from the Travelling community. He was a fluent conversationalist and his wit and intelligence and expression could transform and transcend any company.

He was always a man who would stand up to prejudice and racism not just on behalf of his own community and himself but on behalf of others. He knew hardship and empathized with the hardships of many others outside of his own kind, own clan and own community.

If the word ‘hero’ applies to anything, well then it applies to Pecker Dunne and his epic life journey.  The testament to the man and his artistry, his humanity and his commitment to his community and family are a well-known legend and live on today through his children and his wife Madeline and indeed the very essence of the Pecker himself.

For those that knew him and experienced him, he is part of our living culture.  That essence will never die.  Like the great Irish legends that were written down in Clonmacnoise, the Pecker Dunne engrained his experiences and his artistry and his music into our society, into our everyday.  And we are the richer for it.

 

Peckers tune,  Tinkers Lullaby, written for his young son, is an anthem about the Travelling community.  It is a deep lament in the great tradition of lamenting and indeed keening.  It is grief stricken but its melody and lyrics are full of hope and love and dignity.  Learn it and sing it.  From the GAA grounds of Limerick to the Rugby grounds of old Landsdowne road, to the race tracks of Galway, the streets of Dublin and Donegal, and the corners of Ballybunion through fields and encampments, roadsides and halting sites and the grand music halls and concerts venues of America – the Pecker Dunne can still be heard if you care to listen.

 

Kennedy and Pecker Dunne 1981 one

Kennedy Wedding, Glandore

The above photos are from the wedding at Glandore, Co Cork (Cuan d’Ór ) in the early 1970tys of a young American couple Miss Shauna Sump Hegarty and Mr Mark Kennedy both from Oregan USA. Pecker Dunne played music at their wedding as he did at many a wedding.

 

Pecker Dunne casket

The simple coffin of Pecker Dunne. A burial full of humility and serenity.

 

Tinker’s Lullaby 

Go to sleep my little tinker
Let all your troubles pass you by
For you have no place to camp now
Ah that’s a tinkers lullaby.
Ever since you were a baby
Cradled in your mothers shawl
Society said they did not want you
And now you have no home at all

When your mother died and left you
You had to fend all alone
All in this land of saints and scholars
And still you have not got a home.

Although your clothes are torn and ragged
And your hair is silvery grey
Some day you’ll die and go to heaven
And you will find a camp ground there.

Go to sleep my little tinker
Let all your troubles pass you by
For you have no place to camp now
Ah that’s a tinkers lullaby.

 

Everybody in Ireland and indeed the world should get to know the Pecker. Listen and learn from his music and become wise from his shared experiences.

Breithlá Shona Dhuit Pecker agus go raibh míle maith agat.

 

Draft Tree Strategy – Dublin City Council

Below is a PDF file of the Draft Tree strategy for Dublin City.  There is an opportunity for people who  live in Dublin to comment and give observations and suggestions on ‘treeing’ your City.

8. Presentation on Draft Tree Strategy

  • Please email observations/submissions to treestrategy@dublincity.ie
  • Closing date Fri 29th April

8. Presentation on Draft Tree Strategy