The Politics of Philomena

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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.

Cllr’s on board of BID support private quango

street cleaningCllr Lacey (Labour) and Cllr Nial Ring (Independent) have come out in support of the privitisation of street cleaning services in defiance of SIPTU, Trade Union, Shop stewards and DCC waste management workers. Both Cllrs are on the Board of the ‘BID/We are Dublin Town’ a private Company and a Quango which has basically been engaged in misinformation and scaremongering in the face of many businesses who wish to end their involvement with this quango.

(See statement here:

http://www.wearedublintown.ie/2017/07/cllrs-reaffirm-council-no-budget-dublintown-cleaning-service/

 

This is the letter, below, that SIPTU issued to Owen Keegan (CEO Dublin City Council) and also to all street cleaning workers on July 10th.

I find it difficult to understand how Cllr Lacey and Cllr Nial Ring who profess to be ardent trade unionists, indeed Cllr Lacey is a member of the ‘Labour party’, can come out against the Dublin City Council workers and Trade union members who have great concerns about losing their jobs to private companies like ‘BID/Dublintown”.

These double standards need to be exposed irrespective of the outcome of Monday’s vote on the BID/Dublintown.

It really is unprecedented that Cllr Lacey and Cllr Ring would issue such a contemptuous disregarding press statement in support of a private company.  A true slap in the face to the DCC workers they are elected to protect!

We all know what happened and what is still happening as a result of privatizing, general waste and the bins.

Let’s keep it Council.

page 1 SIPTU

Letter sent by SIPTU officials to City Manager, Owen Keegan with the concerns their workers have in relation to BID

 

page 2 SIPTU

Letter sent by SIPTU officials to City Manager, Owen Keegan with the concerns their workers have in relation to BID

 

More Dublin Businesses Vote NO to BID

More and more businesses are speaking out about the waste of their money spent by the Dublin BID company (Dublintown) and are voting NO to the continuation of this BID scheme.

 

Joe Macken (Jo Burger, Crackbird, Bear and more), Kim Condon (Magill’s Delicatessen) Margaret Brannigan (Gollum’s Jewellery) are just a few of the hundreds of businesses who are saying NO, Voting NO – Join them. Why pay Double Rates?

Regeneration Land Grab

 

This is what is happening all over Ireland and Dublin, whole communities being displaced from their traditional homeplace all for the sake of privatization under the guise of ‘rejuvenation’.

Hurray for the RIff Raff shine a light in this dark corner.

No to BID Campaign Outraged at DublinTown’s Refusal to Appear at Public Debate

PRESS RELEASE WEDNESDAY 12TH JULY

No to BID Campaign Outraged at DublinTown’s Refusal to Appear at Public Debate

 

The No to BID Campaign has today (Wednesday 12th July) expressed its outrage at the refusal of DublinTown (formerly Dublin BID) leadership to appear at a public debate ahead of a vote on the renewal of the initiative.

 

Commenting on this, No to BID Campaign spokesperson Kim Condon said; “we are extremely angry and disappointed that DublinTown have refused to engage in the public debate organised for today. It is yet another example of their lack of transparency and the dictatorial style of leadership they engage in. The No to BID Campaign were very eager for business owners in the City Centre to have a chance to hear the issues properly debated in a public forum. As we have not received any response to our invitations, we are now forced the cancel the venue.” 

 

The public debate on the renewal of DublinTown (formerly Dublin BID) was organised for 6pm this evening at the St Stephen’s Green Club with an independent moderator to oversee the event.

 

Dublin BID (operated by DublinTown) is a company which was set up in 2008 following a vote of Dublin city centre businesses. It is charged with improving Dublin City as a commercial district. Businesses in the district pay a compulsory levy of 5% of their commercial rates. DublinTown is renewed every five years by a vote of businesses in the district. The vote this year is overshadowed by a groundswell of anger and mistrust from businesses over a proposed 34% increase to the levy and highly-contested footfall figures.

 

The No to BID Campaign has been gathering momentum this week, with the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the Irish Hotels Federation, the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association and the Irish Hairdressers Federation all declaring their support for the No side.

 

ENDS.

Mnx-Flyer-DublinTown2017-A5.indd

Trade Unions claim ‘no need for Dublintown’

 

11th July 2017

Trade Unions Claim Dublin City Council has no need for Dublin Town

The No to BID Campaign today (Tuesday, 11th July) welcomed SIPTU/IMPACT Trade Unions involvement in the campaign to scrap Dublin Town. In a letter seen by the campaign team, which was written to the Dublin City Manager, Owen Keegan highlighting the fact that the DCC Waste Management Department ‘Can deliver services to all areas of the city day and night without the need of external providers and we are surprised that this message was not outlined more forcefully.’

Commenting on this, No to BID Campaign spokesperson Kim Condon said; ‘Our campaign would like to thank Patrick McCormack from SIPTU for writing to the City Manager. In his letter he clearly states that Dublin City Council Waste Management staff will have no problem in coping in the event of a No vote, and reinforces the position that there is absolutely no need for Dublin Town and it should be scrapped immediately.’

In Mr McCormacks’ letter he follows on to say; ‘One of the biggest problems that our members face daily is the lack of enforcement personnel on the ground which is due to the failure of Dublin City Council to hire Litter Warden staff. A situation that if not resolved shortly will be referred to the WRC as a breach of the Landsdowne Road Agreement.’

Kim went on to say; ‘We would not be surprised if there were walk outs by Trade Union members in the coming days.’

Tomorrow Evening, (Wednesday, 12th July) the No to BID Campaign will host a debate in St. Stephen’s Green Club from 6pm. The debate will be chaired by former Environment Editor of The Irish Times correspondent, Frank McDonald and will be broadcast live on Facebook Live.

VISIT  www.notobidcampaign.com

 

Irish Times advert

Advert in today’s Irish Times 11/06/17

 

-Ends-

Please Note:

Kim Condon is available for interview.

For more information please contact:

Paul Allen                                                                 Rory Sweeney

Paul Allen & Associates                                          Paul Allen & Associates

18 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2                            18 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

01 676 9575 / 087 257 5700                                       01 676 9575 / 086 897 6442

 

Emergency Motion Calls on DCC CEO Owen Keegan to Withdraw Council Staff from DublinTown Board

PRESS RELEASE: MONDAY JULY 10TH 2017

 

Emergency Motion Calls on Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan to Withdraw Council Staff from DublinTown Board

An Emergency Motion has been brought before Dublin City Council calling on the CEO Owen Keegan to withdraw DCC staff from the DublinTown Board. This is to allow due process in any investigation the Council may have to carry out as a result of complaints made to the Council by DublinTown CEO Richard Guiney about Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn.

An official complaint was made by Mr Guiney to Dublin City Council on Friday regarding Councillor Flynn, who is heavily involved in the No to BID Campaign.

Commenting on this, No to BID Campaign spokesperson Kim Condon said; ‘’we were alarmed to hear about the complaint in the first place. Even more alarming was that Councillor Flynn first heard about the complaint when a member of the media contacted him about it on Friday. This would suggest that officials in Dublin City Council or in DublinTown have been selectively leaking information to the media as part of their dirty tricks campaign to discredit our group. We are calling on Owen Keegan to investigate immediately and for DCC staff to withdraw from the board of DublinTown to allow due process in the investigation.’’

Ms Condon went on to say; ‘’the No to BID Campaign is having a surge in momentum and we have received a huge increase in support. It is clear to me that DublinTown is in trouble and chose to engage in this stunt as it is in the dying days of its reign.’’

The Emergency Motion, brought to the DCC South East Area Committee, will be heard today (Monday 10th July) and has been tabled by Councillor Flynn.

DublinTown (formerly Dublin BID) is a company which was set up in 2008 following a vote of Dublin city centre businesses. It is charged with improving Dublin City as a commercial district. Businesses in the district pay a compulsory levy of 5% of their commercial rates. DublinTown is renewed every five years by a vote of businesses in the district. The vote this year is overshadowed by a groundswell of anger and mistrust from businesses, a proposed increase to the levy and highly-contested footfall figures.
Paul Allen & Associates,
Public Relations,

18 Fitzwilliam Square South,
Dublin 2.
Tel: 00-353-1-6769575

 

No to BID Campaign calls on PAC to Investigate DublinTown

PRESS RELEASE: JULY 7TH

www.notobidcampaign.com

No to BID Campaign calls on PAC to Investigate DublinTown
The No to BID Campaign, the group of Dublin City Centre businesses opposed to the renewal of DublinTown, have written to the Public Accounts Committee Chairperson Sean Fleming TD asking him to investigate serious concerns the group has about the corporate governance and the lack of transparency at the company. The primary concerns relate to allegations of financial mismanagement, DublinTown’s support for drug injection centres and the city’s footfall figures.

The call for the PAC to investigate DublinTown comes ahead of a vote among business owners in city centre on the 17th July. Businesses are being asked whether to disband DublinTown (formerly Dublin BID) or to extend it for another five years.

The campaign to date has seen many allegations of missing ballot papers, falsified footfall figures, support for drug injection centres and breaches of corporate governance. Commenting on this, No to BID Campaign spokesperson Kim Condon said; ‘’we are calling on the Public Accounts Committee Chairperson Sean Fleming to immediately investigate what has been happening at DublinTown over past 5 years. DublinTown and its management have forced us into this position by their lack of transparency and clarity. The businesses who pay into the DublinTown scheme have been repeatedly stonewalled when asking important questions on the footfall figures, drug injection centres and financial affairs at the company. We have been point-blank refused any real answers.’’

Ms Condon went on to say; ‘’nobody wants to take this sort of extraordinary action, but we have been left with no other alternative. As the campaign has gone on, more and more serious concerns and questions about DublinTown have arisen. There would appear to be no level of corporate governance and their lack of engagement with businesses who pay their wages is astounding. Members of the No to BID Campaign have been threatened with legal action by DublinTown, seeking to censor us. That is the sort of organisation we are dealing with and a perfect example of why I’ll be voting No to BID on July 17th and I call on all businesses in the city to do likewise. We have organised a public debate on Wednesday 12th, and Bobby Kerr has agreed to host a radio debate on Newstalk tomorrow Saturday morning at 11.20am. I would encourage business owners to attend and tune in, as it may be our last chance for honest answers ahead of the vote.’’

DublinTown (formerly Dublin BID) is a company which was set up in 2008 following a vote of Dublin city centre businesses. It is charged with improving Dublin City as a commercial district. Businesses in the district pay a compulsory levy of 5% of their commercial rates. DublinTown is renewed every five years by a vote of businesses in the district.
The No to BID group comprises of over 800 businesses in Dublin City centre, illustrating a diversity of business interests dedicated to shutting down the DublinTown operation.

ENDS
Please Note:
Kim Condon is available for interview.
For more information please contact:
Paul Allen                                                                 Rory Sweeney
Paul Allen & Associates                                          Paul Allen & Associates
18 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2                            18 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2
01 676 9575 / 087 257 5700                                       01 676 9575 / 086 897 6442

 

http://www.notobidcampaign.com/press-release.html