Moral blindness over mothers and babies

The Tuam babies controversy showed no signs of abating

It wasn’t a cheery week in the media. In Iraq the inroads of the extreme ISIS group struck terror into the hearts of locals and unease into the minds of anyone worried about instability in the Middle East. Sad and disturbing stories of mother and baby homes dominated at home and the week ended up with news bulletins highlighting the shooting of a six-year-old.

Of course media footage can be manipulated for political effect, but whatever the case one of the most unsettling scenes of the week was film of an Iraqi man being hauled from his car at a checkpoint by the ISIS extremists and taken to be shot. The BBC News coverage on Tuesday night showed the event right up to the moment before the trigger was pulled. Later in the week it was news of beheadings and even crucifixions.

With such a political background in Iraq and the ongoing troubles in Ukraine, it made viewing the World Cup in Brazil a rather uneasy experience. And when you consider the protests there about the huge expenditure on the event while there is such dire poverty in the country you’d have to deliver some local anesthetic to your conscience to relax and enjoy.

The controversy stirred up by the Tuam babies controversy showed no signs of abating.

During the week Liveline(RTÉ Radio 1) delivered a collection of terribly sad stories about adult children looking for their natural parents and parents looking for children they had given up for adoption. I just hope the pain that was revived will be therapeutic for those involved rather than just entertaining radio for the listeners.

Some reactions continued to be over the top. For example, though he made some useful observations, especially about past treatment of children with disabilities and current treatment of non-national children, Tom Clonan, on last Friday’s Pat Kenny Show(Newstalk), didn’t do his arguments any favours by talking about ‘gulags’ and ‘concentration camps’ in Ireland. However there were more moderate contributions. On the same show former Justice Minister Nora Owen acknowledged that good things happened in those mother and baby homes too, and thought the burial       place in Tuam was wrongly described as a ‘septic tank’. Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party didn’t want to see the story “run away in a way that’s not truthful”. 

Also on Friday, over on the weekly ‘Gathering’ segment of Today With Sean O’Rourke(RTÉ Radio 1) journalist Brenda Power stirred the pot by turning the alleged ‘septic tank’ into a “cesspit”.

She also wanted to question wider societal attitudes and warning against scapegoating the nuns. Senator Ivana Bacik spoke of the importance of gender balance on the banking inquiry, and I wondered why she wasn’t in the habit of defending gender balance in marriage.

The constant emphasis last week on the importance of finding natural mothers and fathers certainly creates problems for those who wish to blur or obliterate the distinction and complementarity between mothers and fathers. 

On last Saturday’s Talking Points(Newstalk) Sarah Carey interviewed Fr Vincent Twomey about the current controversy and while he described what happened to children as terrible he thought that those in the Church in those days absorbed the prevailing culture and wondered why they weren’t more self-critical.

Unfortunately he wasn’t part of the rather unbalanced studio debate that followed. Carol Hunt of the Sunday Independent didn’t agree with Fr Twomey on the matter of anti-Catholic bias in English speaking media and thought it was more a case of the media being anti-power, calling power wielding institutions of all sorts to account, though she didn’t explore the media itself being held to account!

The media debate, especially as far as the contributions of politicians were concerned, was marked by an incredible moral blindness.

There was much angst relating to the children in the past, but no awareness of the hypocrisy involved in many of these politicians voting last year for an abortion bill.

Some commentators even criticised the abortion régime here, not for allowing it but for not facilitating it enough! I often imagine future generations looking back on our times and wonder what scandals they’ll be unearthing. Will they be championing the babies that will die as a result of the abortion act?

Will there be enquiries into what happened to their bodies?


Pick of the Week


Sunday Morning Live BBC 1 Sun June 22, 10am

New run of the religion and ethics discussion show, presented by Sian Williams

The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne RTÉ1 Sun June 22, 10.05 pm

Taoiseach Enda Kenny talks to Gay Byrne about the people, events, ideas and beliefs that give his life meaning.

A Secret Buried: The Mother and Baby Scandal TV 3 Thurs June 26, 9 pm

Special programme examining the current mother and baby home controversy.