A statue that tells a story of Ireland’s past

A statue that tells a story of Ireland’s past

TWO articles on two separate pages of the Irish issue of last week’s Sunday Times made me realise just how much has changed in Ireland in recent years.

One of them was about the Magdalene laundries. According to this article, a sculpture was commissioned in memory of the survivor of these laundries. It’s since been finished but languishes in storage because a decision has yet to be taken about where it will be erected. Two years ago, the Government said a memorial garden would be opened where it would be erected but nothing has been done about this since.

This article was about a shameful aspect of our country’s past, about the way we treated women who got pregnant outside of marriage. We’ve started to face up to this episode of our past but there remains much to be confronted and understood — as is clear from the reluctance to properly compensate and recognise the women who were forced to give up their children in these laundries.

On the next page of the paper, there was a feature about The Child and Family Relationships Bill which is due to be enacted in the Dáil this month. This is a bill that anyone who was alive at the time when unmarried women were forced into laundries to give birth to their children could scarcely imagine ever being enacted in Ireland. It’s a bill that will give legal recognition and rights to a wide variety of families, households and relationships.

This includes the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children; the establishment of rights for unmarried fathers; the legal status of grandparents; the rights of donor-conceived children to information about their conception; and a whole lot more.w

This bill represents a huge step forward in terms of Irish law and also in terms of our development as a society. For far too long, we didn’t give equal rights or standing to far too many people in our midst. I hope this bill will right this wrong forever.

And as regards those Ireland has wronged in the past? Perhaps it would be a good start if we took this sculpture out of storage and erected it in a special place. That would be an honest attempt to seek forgiveness and move into a better future.