Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I SOMETIMES wonder whether we are so passive about the way the Government behaves because we find some of that behaviour literally incredible.

The levels of hypocrisy or incompetence or injustice are so great that the mind cannot quite accept them as reality. They seep into that part of the brain we reserve for outlandish fictions and tall tales.

Instead of getting up to shake our fists, as we might do if we could accept that the story is true, we look on in open-mouthed wonder. We treat the scandal as a spectacle, and thus behave as spectators.

Take for instance, the ways in which the Government has dealt with the idea of compensation in the last fortnight.

To even begin to compare and contrast the treatment by the Government of women who were incarcerated in Magdalen homes on the one side and of the former director general of Fás, Rody Molloy, on the other, is to enter the territory of crude satiric exaggeration. As a story, it is entirely lacking in credibility, except for the minor detail that it is in fact true.

We know the State played a key role in the maintenance of the extraordinary system of Magdalen institutions in which Irish women were incarcerated and enslaved for the crimes of being in “moral danger”.

Many of the women were sent to the homes by the courts. The women slaved in laundries that were often fulfilling State contracts, for the Army or hospitals. The State also failed completely to protect the civil and human rights of these women.

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