The Politics of Philomena


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.

Brendan Kennelly at The Abbey Theatre

Today Brendan Kennelly, his life and work, will be celebrated at The Abbey Theatre, Dublin in the presence of President Michael D. Higgins, Brendan Kennellys family and his many admirers from around the country.

It is a great honour for the Capital City of Dublin, where Brendan lived and taught and wrote for decades to bestow this occasion  upon him.

Below is a poem that will resonate to the many out there who suffer from addiction and cling to hope.  Don’t give up. Go forward.




The horror of accusing morning light

Condemns me to another hideous day

Did someone cry? What did I do last night?

Was someone hurt? Insulted? What did I say?

My hands are crazy, blood streaks my eyes,

Jeering images flash havoc through my mind,

My mouth is full of muck and stupid lies,

I”m hell, I know hell’s taste and smell and sound.

Healer,  I hear you speak: your head and heart

Help  many a suffering man and woman

While I, like countless women and men,

Am learning how to tend and heal each hurt

With candid, gentle words profoundly human

Thanks to you, hope lives again’

Brenday Kennelly ©

Silence is Violence

artane-demo-3Today a group of us took to the streets of Coolock at Northside Civic Centre where my motion regarding the history of the Artane Band and the Artane Industrial School was put before the North Central Area Committee. In what can only be described as a gross act of denial only one Councillor voted in favour of the motion. (Cllr Michael O Brien)

Denial ruled the day. It was an act of shocking violence the deafening silence.  How can it be that the findings of the Ryan Report and the finding of serious Garda inquiry into child abuse, wholesale criminal and sexual violence that was perpetrated in Artane industrial school can be written out of history?
It is a great shame that the Cllrs in this instance chose to keep Ireland and it’s people in the dark and protect the Christian Brothers and their manifestation through the present Artane Band.  The people of Artane and indeed the North Central Area need now to stand up to this shameless shameful act.
The paedophiles and rapists and child abusers will take great comfort in today’s decision by this area committee and its councillors.  While we, the people who experienced this abuse in our childhood, carry a much heavier burden as a result of today’s refusal by the Cllrs to acknowledge the true and proven history of the Artane Boys Band, the Artane Band and the Artane Industrial School.
Like the dark days of the beginning of this journey for justice, we stood alone against the Catholic Church, the Christian Brothers and the orders of nuns.  Sad today, that we stood alone again at the North Side Civic Centre.

We take comfort from the many people, local residents  who we met, all of whom understood our issue and were fully supportive.
We thank you for your hospitality and we will be visiting with you again soon.
Truth and Justice are what we seek.

These two motions below were fully supported last month by all but two Councillors at the North Central Area Committee Meeting. 

Again supporting a true denial of the accurate and true history of the Artane Industrial School and the Artane Boys Band – Artane Band.  History repeats itself in the form of gross denial.  Our lives don’t matter.


SNAP support Artane Band Disbandment


snapheader5The group at the centre of the recent Oscar winning film, Spotlight have today issued a statement in support of our motion to have the Artane Band disbanded. 

Barbara Blaine, the founder and president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an international advocacy group for survivors of clerical sexual abuse, has come out in support of a campaign to have the Artane School of Music disbanded.

SNAP is supporting a motion by Dublin councillor Mannix Flynn for the disbandment of the music school, an establishment jointly run by the Christian Brothers and the GAA. The band in its current form wear the original and traditional insignia and uniforms worn by the band from when it started at a time when children attending St Joseph’s Industrial School in Artane were subjected to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the religious.

Speaking from Chicago in support of councillor Flynn, Blaine said: “I believe that so much suffering and pain has been caused to those who lived through the horrors of the industrial school in Artane. They have been through enough. We should be doing all we can to prevent any further pain and suffering.”

Petition to Disband the Artane Band

I just started a petition: Disband the Artane  Band.
It is no longer appropriate, with what we now know, about residential institutional child abuse at St Josephs Artane, that this band, should be still in existence, wearing the uniform of that institution – St Josephs Industrial School Artane, and making statements that they are proud of their history when in actual fact, the vast part of that history was engulfed in horrendous human rights breaches upon children, including child sex abuse at St Josephs Industrial school, Artane, where the band was founded.
We who are the survivors should not have to endure the ordeal of this band in that uniform, parading around Croke Park, or any other public place. This is a constant active reminder of our ordeals and every effort should be made for this to stop.

Our lives, in those institutions, matter. What happened to us matters. We have a right to get on with our lives to recover and to heal. The Artane Band, in its present form, is a major obstacle to that process. No other band of its type would be allowed to get away with what they are getting away with. The band is still under the control fo the Christian Brothers through the Artane Music School.

If enough people sign my petition, we can make a difference.

Here’s a link to the petition
And here’s a link to share it on Facebook

If there’s anyone you know who might be able to help me spread the word, please let me know. Thanks so much — I really appreciate your help!

Kind regards,  Gerard Mannix Flynn
Artistic Director,
Farcry Productions


Festival of Feminism – Ennis ‘Silence+Voice’

Festival of Feminism
 8th and 9th of October

The Daly family from Limerick.  A family of women steeped in strength, true feminism, and republican tradition.  

  • Two days of key note speakers talking about Trauma, Silence and Voice
  • The speakers are Bríd Keenan, Belfast based expert on trauma
  • Siobhan Madden Social Researcher, Feminist Activist speaking about voice, silence, memory and knowledge
  •  Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, speaking about her Grandparents and campaign for gender equality in third level institutions
  • Mary McDermott Radical Educator and Feminist Philosopher who will speak about the interaction betweeen social and personal change
  • These speakers and key themes are interwoven with music, poetry, drama song and dance, and most importantly conversation and tea….
  •  €25.00 per individual for the two days.. plus a light lunch, plus a creche, plus ISL interpreters and for those that cannot afford it we have a limited amount of free tickets….so it would be nice to entice those on the East Coast over to the West for two days.


Bike Stuff n’ Gadgets awards

Five Smart Projects Receive Funding to Improve Cycling in Dublin

Dublin City Council and Enterprise Ireland announced the winners of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) competition at The House of Lords, Bank of Ireland, College Green this evening.

The competition, which was launched by Smart Dublin last March, sought to find smart technology solutions to help improve and scale up cycling across Dublin. The challenge generated 98 expressions of interest, 23 proposals with 14 dragons den style pitches.

Five companies were selected to receive funding of up to €12,500 and supports from Dublin City Council to research and demonstrate the viability of their smart solution.


The chosen companies and their smart solutions are:


  • Ambie introducing BikeLook which monitors bicycle usage and deters and detects bicycle theft


  • Fluidedge introducing Liberty Bell, a bell that allows cyclists to record actual or perceived obstacles to aid safe cycling in Dublin


  • Hindnseek presents a low power device attached to a bicycle that generates real time data with can be integrated with other data sources


  • Limeforge Ltd. offers the See.Sense Tracker providing a ‘find your iphone’ like capability allowing cyclists to easily track their stolen bikes


  • M2C Smartcharge Ltd. introduces a tracking, logging and data harvesting system for use with bicycles in an urban area aiding the cyclist in predicting the ease of a journey, safety along the way and creating a secure parking facility and the end of the journey


Commenting at the announcement Dublin City Council’s Chief Executive, Owen Keegan said “A key aspect of our Smart Dublin initiative is to test new ways for the Dublin Local Authorities to pilot and understand the possibilities of using innovative technologies to solve city challenges.  We are genuinely impressed with the level of ideas that were presented through the SBIR process and look forward to working with these entrepreneurs to pilot and hopefully scale their products using Dublin as a test bed.”

Kevin Sherry, Divisional Manager, Enterprise Ireland commented “Enterprise Ireland is excited to work with Dublin City Council on this initiative, and we congratulate the phase one winners on their innovative solutions which will improve the cycling experience and safety of bicycle users in urban areas.”

David Timoney, Dublin Cycling Campaign who are supporting the initiative added “There are real opportunities to use these new low cost innovations to better understand cycling patterns and experiences.  This in turn will allow for more evidence based decisions by the City on cycling infrastructure. The data will hopefully strengthen the already strong arguments for increased transport spends on cycling.  Furthermore solutions to address cycle theft in Dublin through smart tracker devices have the potential to dramatically reduce bike theft levels currently estimated at a staggering €20,000 per annum in Dublin alone.”

The companies have three months to develop their solution to pre-prototype stage, after which some will be selected for further funding (up to €25,000 each) to complete their prototype solutions.


 For further information contact:

Jamie Cudden, Smart City Programme Manager, Dublin City Council M 087 783 5411

Notes to the Editor:

Details of the successful proposals are:

Ambie: BikeLook is a smart city solution to monitor bicycle usage and to deter and detect bicycle theft. Using low power radio (Bluetooth Smart) to track bicycles in the city. Bluetooth trackers’ effectiveness is usually limited by the radio range between the sensor and a mobile phone, but through strategic location of listening posts at bicycle parking, junctions and on street sweepers, the opportunity exists to monitor the volume and direction of cycle traffic in the city.


Fluidedge: ‘Liberty Bell’ – A smart bicycle bell that allow citizens who cycle record actual or perceived obstacles to safe cycling in Dublin. Hotspots are highlighted in real-time and authorities are alerted to poor road conditions or poor behaviour by other road users.


Hidnseek: A low power device attached to a bicycle that has the ability to generate real time data which can be integrated with existing data sources and information to create an overall accurate picture of the cycling experience in Dublin. The device can measure GPS co-ordinates, speed and environmental conditions using the low cost sigfox network.


Limeforge Ltd – See.Sense: The See.Sense Tracker will provide a ‘find your iphone’ like capability using LPWA and GPS, allowing cyclists to easily track their stolen bike anywhere across the city. At the same time, our patent-pending use of sensor technology enables the crowd sourcing of real-time data about cyclist’s journeys over a wide range of variables. Two variants will be created – one for use on personal bikes and one for integration into city bikes alongside our ICON intelligent bike light.


M2C Smartcharge Ltd: A tracking, logging and data harvesting system for use with bicycles in a metropolitan area. The system will endeavour to aid the cyclist in predicting the ease of a journey (front end), safety along the way with geographic analysis (Journey Safety) and create a secure parking facility at the end of the journey (destination management)



Smart Dublin is an initiative of the four Dublin Local Authorities to engage with smart technology providers, researchers and citizens to solve city challenges and improve city life.


Enterprise Ireland is the government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. It supports sustainable economic growth, regional development and secure employment.


Dublin Cycling Campaign The Dublin Cycling Campaign is an independent, voluntary cycling advocacy group that has been working to improve the city for all cyclists since 1993


What is Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)? SBIR refers to the public procurement of research and development on new innovative solutions before they are commercially available. It involves different suppliers competing through different phases of development, while the risks and benefits are shared between the procurers and the suppliers under market conditions.

Things to see -Farcry Productions- Culture Night Dublin

If you are heading out into the heart of the city of Dublin tonight for Culture night do check out various sites by  Farcry Productions (

  •  Something to Live For

    Parliament Street/Cork St/Dame Street
  1. ThomasReadPoster.qxd

    Something to live for – window’s acknowledging the contribution made by individuals to the establishment of the Irish Republic. Originally installed 2006-2008


    Pidge Duggen, Ellen Walsh and other great citizens who made this country.

    There has been a special guest put up in one of the windows just for Culture night



  • Close by the previous installation, you will find SOMEBODY’S CHILD, Essex Street, Temple Bar West.   This work lists the names of the children buried in a pit in Tuam, Bons Secours Mother and Baby home, Co Galway.






  • THANK YOU – GO RAIBH MAITH AGAT – Georges Street, opposite The George

Proclamation translated into Arabic, Chinese, Gaeilge, French, Polish and Russian.  To find the German translation you will have to walk to The Oak Pub on Dame Street and look up above the door!



  • CHILDREN TO YOUR FLAG, NEVER IN DARKNESS – Video installation, Dame Street (Stand at the bottom of Georges Street and look up)

A video installation on Dame Street – Georges street of 13 women who contributed greatly to Irish culture, heritage and the establishment of the Irish Republic.



  • Also on the front of the Mercantile Pub, Dame Street you will come across the banners of 7 Women and 7 Men