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.

Tuam Babies

 

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Essex Street Site, Temple Bar Dublin -Above, a list of institutions under investigation in the Mother and Baby home  inquiry

 

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Nora at Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar West

 

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Names of infants buried at Tuam Mother and Baby home

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Repeal the patronage of the present Artane Band

Tonight before Dublin City Council meeting a motion will be tabled to discontinue the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s patronage of the Artane Band. This band form part of the institutional gulags that are directly connected to the Tuam mother and baby home, the Magdalene Laundry system, the Industrial and reform school system, the orphanages, Bethany Home and the many other sites and centres of injustice to children and women that are scattered around this country.

Please support our campaign to disband the Artane Band.

www.disbandtheartaneband.com

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Bon Secours grounds Tuam

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

Emergency Motion on behalf of Independent Cllr. Mannix Flynn (IND)

That this meeting of Dublin City Council calls on the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Brendan Carr, to withdraw the patronage of the Lord Mayor’s Office from the Artane Band.
This patronage causes grave offense and insult to the many who suffered child sexual abuse in the Artane Industrial School, Artane Boys Band and other such Christian Brother Institutions.

It is important to note that the present Artane Band was founded in the Artane Industrial school and continues to wear the insignia and uniform of that industrial school.  Its origins are firmly rooted in the industrial school system and its legacy of crimes against children, further it is still connected to the Christian Brothers organization.

Reasons;.

The Lord Mayor, Cllr. Brendan Carr, has continued to ignore the many who are campaigning for justice with regards to what happened in their childhoods in the Artane Industrial school and indeed the Artane Boys Band, where many young children were sexually, emotionally and physically abused, their suffering continues to this day

For the Lord Mayor and chairman of Dublin City Council to continue to be the patron of the Artane Band is an outrage and will bring Dublin City Council’s reputation into disrepute by supporting the legacy of child abuse that took place in Artane Industrial School and the Artane Band. It is important that Dublin City Council and the office of the Lord Mayor distance themselves from this band and its history, which are well documented in the Ryan Report.

It is not the children who are in the band at present, but rather the band that the children are in, and its association with crimes against children. The institution of the Artane Industrial School and the Artane Band are directly connected to the likes of the Tuam Mother and Baby Homes, the Magdalene Laundry system, the Industrial and Reform School system, the Bethany Home and Orphanage system and form a central part of the architecture of containment that was so unjust.

Dublin City Council in this instance is facilitating further harm and suffering to the many victims of child rape and cruelty perpetrated on them while in the Artane Industrial School, home of the Artane Boys Band.

It is a fact that many of those who were abused and child raped by Christian Brothers were members of the Artane Boys Band, now known as the Artane Band.

Time to repeal the patronage of the present Artane Band in the interest of justice

Cllr. Mannix Flynn

Pop-the-shop-up 18 Ormond Qy Upper

Final three days of Kamerino – the Catalan pop-up shop being housed at 18 Ormond Quay Upper until Sunday evening (5th March)

Friday: Shop is open tonight until 6.30pm

Saturday: 10am until 1.30pm (closed for workshop 1.30-2.20)

Late night opening Saturday 4th March: 8pm

Workshop:  1.30pm-2.30pm Saturday 4th March  (Paper hat making)

Talk: 3pm Saturday 4th March 2017

Sunday: Final Day – 10am-6pm

 

 

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Hand painted fan  c1910 – Collection Kamerino

 

 

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Kamerino box of tricks

 

Talk: Art for Parties and Street Theatre, Barcelona 1926–1948 by Xavier Palet Sabater

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From March 1st-March 5th 2017 Xavier Palet Sabater will set up his exquisite Catalan shop in Dublin at 18 Ormond Quay.  As part of his week-long residency he will be giving a talk on the history of the objects and collectibles along with a workshop (10 persons only) on Saturday 4th March.  See below for details of both.  

TALK: Art for Parties and Street Theatre, Barcelona 1926–1948

Saturday 4th March @ 3pm, 18 Ormond Quay Upper Dublin

The talk will start with an introduction to late-19th-century Barcelona to give an idea of the historical and social context that saw the establishment of El Ingenio, a shop specialising in party favours, street theatre and curious miscellanea. It will then take a tour through the story of the shop from 1880 to 1975, focusing on the years around the Second Spanish Republic, when most of the objects in the collection presented in Dublin were made.

In addition to giving an engaging talk that incorporates objects and costumes rescued from the old workshop, Xavier will also deploy his artistic and theatrical skills to present an original performance.

WORKSHOP: SATURDAY 4TH MARCH 2017 @ 1.30PM – 18 ORMOND QUAY

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Xavier will also run a 1-hour workshop in which he would teach participants how to make different styles of paper hats.

The group would be maximum 10 persons

Participants would need to pay €10 to cover the cost of materials.

 

img-20161230-wa0005Workshop details:

Date: 4th March

Duration: 1 hour

Time: 1.30 pm

Place: adifferentkettleoffishaltogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublin 7

Participants should bring their own scissors ✂

 

Please email: farcryproductionsltd@gmail.com to book your place.  (Only 10 places available)

 

 

Xavier Palet Sabater was born in a small town in L’Empordà, Catalonia. In 2000 he embarked on an artistic career restoring antique furniture and artwork while managing his workshop and the Kamerino shop in Calonge. Since 2007 he has also worked in the field of performance art and theatre, designing, directing and performing his own work at a number of festivals. In 2016 he launched the Kamerino de l’Enginy project in Barcelona.

 

Tim James Morris grew up on the south coast of England to a family with Welsh roots, but has lived for the last 15 years in Barcelona, where he translates for art exhibitions, festivals and other cultural events.

Tim will translate Xavier’s talk and workshop on Saturday 4th March 2017

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Kamerino: Catalan shop comes to Dublin

KAMERINO POP-UP SHOP. Barcelona

Exclusive five-day sale of a unique collection of handmade pieces from the old workshop of a historic Barcelona shop specializing in party favours and theatrical curios.

You’ll find cardboard masks, hats and instruments, genuine Japanese lanterns, paper toys and a dazzling array of other weird and wonderful objects made between 1926 and 1948.

From Wednesday 1st March 2017 until Sunday 5th March 2017

Open: 10am-6pm daily

Adifferentkettleoffishaltogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublin 7

The Catalan artist/performer/scenographer/collector and antique furniture restorer Xavier Palet Sabater will set up his exquisite shop at 18 Ormond Quay Dublin 7.  Now the new home of Dublin Civic Trust.  This will be the final event to take place in this historic building before the Trust begin renovations and the scaffolding goes up.

Please call in and visit over the week.  Xavier is selling rare Catalan stock from 1926-1948 and will be giving a demonstration and talk on Saturday 4th March at 3 pm in 18 Ormond.  (Adifferentkettleoffishaltogether)

This is a free event but limited seating – 20 persons

Please email farcryproductionsltd@gmail.com to book a place

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Kamerino shop, Barcelona

 

 

POP-UP SHOP KAMERINO. Barcelona

Exclusiva venta durante seis días de la inédita colección recuperada de un antiguo almacén de Barcelona dedicado a la fabricación artesanal de artículos de teatro y fiesta entre los años 1926 y 1948.

Podréis encontrar máscaras, sombreros e instrumentos de cartón, auténticos faroles japoneses, juguetes de papel y una infinidad de objetos curiosos…

Además, programaremos una charla teatralizada para dar a conocer el proyecto.

Estaremos en a different kettle of fish altogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublín, del 28 de febrero al 5 de marzo de 2017.

Horario: 10 h a 18 h

Encontraréis más información en la página de Facebook Kamerino Collection in Dublin.

 

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Please join us for Xavier’s workshop on Saturday 4th March at 3pm in 18 Ormond Quay Upper (adifferentkettleoffishaltogether)

 

xavier.jpg  Xavier Palet Sabater was born in a small town in L’Empordà, Catalonia. In 2000 he embarked on an artistic career restoring antique furniture and artwork while managing his workshop and the Kamerino shop in Calonge. Since 2007 he has also worked in the field of performance art and theatre, designing, directing and performing his own work at a number of festivals. In 2016 he launched the Kamerino de l’Enginy project in Barcelona.

 

timTim James Morris grew up on the south coast of England to a family with Welsh roots, but has lived for the last 15 years in Barcelona, where he translates for art exhibitions, festivals and other cultural events.

(Tim will be translating Xavier’s talk on Saturday 4th March)

Further information on the Kamerino Collection in Dublin Facebook page.

Supported by: Dublin Civic Trust/Farcry Productions/The Temple Bar Company/DCCFarcryLogos.indd

Dublin Civic Trust Bookfair Saturday 10th December

Saturday 10th December 2016 from 11am until 5pm, Dublin Civic Trust  who now reside at 18 Ormond Quay Upper Dublin will hold a book sale of their  many publications covering interests from the streets of Dublin to best practice in maintaining your heritage building.

Perfect Christmas gifts, walking tours of Dublin, Conservation and restoration manuals, Trees of Trinity, and many, many more…….

Drop in and get to know the Civic Trust.  They Rock!

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