Category Archives: A Pedicure in the Pro-Cathedral

Bid to mute Irish anger

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / February 22, 2011

The funny thing is that Paddy Doyle was invited to the very thing he was barred from.

“They said the cardinal from Boston wanted to wash me feet,’’ he was saying on the phone, “but it sounded like they wanted to wash their hands of the whole thing, so I said no.’’

Paddy Doyle — survivor of abuse, sexual and otherwise — was in no mood to accommodate the forgiveness-seeking special liturgy convened by the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, or O’Malley’s Irish host, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, over the weekend. But he went down to the Pro-Cathedral on Dublin’s north-side Sunday afternoon to watch the fuss and bumped into Mary Smith outside.

Mary Smith’s mother was pregnant with her when she was confined to a laundry run by nuns and made to wash her supposed sins away by providing free, forced labour. Mary Smith, later confined to a Magdalen laundry herself, wanted to hand O’Malley a letter, asking him to help the Magdalene survivors, including the ones who fled to Boston.

“So I says to Mary, come with me, and we’ll go in the side door, which is the only door I can get my wheelchair through,’’ Paddy Doyle was saying. “But there were some men, and they wouldn’t let us in. I asked the garda, the policeman there, to help us but he wouldn’t. So there you go. The church and the state in this country are one and the same.’’

While Paddy Doyle was sitting in his wheelchair in Dublin, describing how difficult it is to speak truth to power in Ireland, Ruairi Collins was sitting 3,000 miles away in his Cambridge office, talking about the same thing.

Collins left Ireland for Boston three years ago, just as his country’s economy went bust, just when the Irish government decided to bail out the banks that gambled away the nation’s prosperity, the same government that bailed out the Catholic Church a decade before by forcing taxpayers to pay the settlements for predatory priests and enabling bishops.

They bailed out the bishops, they bailed out the banks, but the ordinary punter left holding the tab is being forced to bail out of Ireland.

Collins was looking forward to Ireland’s general election Friday because he wanted desperately to help throw out the bums who threw him and the rest of his generation out of the country or onto the dole. But then he found out he can’t vote.

Ireland is one of only two European Union nations that doesn’t allow natives living abroad a vote. Dominicans, Brazilians, and Cape Verdeans, whose natives form some of Massachusetts’ largest and most vibrant immigrant communities, can vote abroad. The native Irish, whose assimilated cousins make up the biggest ethnic group in this state, cannot.

“About 30,000 people have left Ireland in the last few months,’’ Collins said. “It’s crazy they don’t have a vote considering they’re the ones most impacted by government policies.’’

Collins, 34, who works for a digital textbook publisher, came across a new online initiative, ballotbox.ie, which is compiling votes from some of the 3.1 million Irish-born immigrants scattered around the globe.

Brian Reynolds, one of ballotbox.ie’s creators, said the site is aiming to get at least 5,000 votes to pressure politicians back home to let some emigrants vote.

“Half the people who have left in recent times are still paying mortgages or left their families back home,’’ Reynolds said from Toronto, where many have gone because with the US immigration system hopelessly outdated it’s almost impossible to stay in this country legally. “It’s really scandalous. The people who want to vote the most can’t.’’

Collins already voted online.

“It’s only symbolic,’’ he said, “but maybe next election it will be for real.’’

Paddy Doyle can only hope.

“The country would be much better off if they had let the emigrants vote,’’ he said. “But that’s what people in power do. They don’t want to give it up. Not to the likes of ordinary people.’’

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com