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The desperate cry of a people calling out for help

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They feel as though the wider world has forgotten about them. They live in what has been described as the world’s biggest open-air prison camp, 1.8 million of them crammed into a tiny strip of just 140 square miles, and they want the world to remember that they exist – and that they are finding it almost impossible to breathe. For 11 years now, they have been blocked into an area which is smaller than County Louth by fences, bullets, and occasional bombs. Travel is an impossible dream for most of them, a life-saving hospital visit can become a logistical nightmare, and even the fishermen risk being murdered if they dare to venture just a few miles offshore. Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe in the making and yet when the local people protest, as they have done in their thousands over the past three weeks, they are demonised, dehumanised, and gunned down. Shot at by snipers located behind a fortified fence, murdered, or hospitalised, for daring just to protest, even if they are unarmed. …

Rallying the troops for a divisive campaign

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Two meetings in the same city, but they felt like different worlds. As campaigning begins in earnest ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on May 25, the battle lines were drawn this week when both sides of the debate launched their respective campaigns at a series of regional events and rallies throughout the country.
Two very different events took place in Galway within 48 hours of each other which underlined the strong feelings in both camps and the intense battle expected to win the hearts and minds of undecided voters over the next seven weeks of canvassing.
Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and the legislation, known as the Eighth Amendment, which acknowledges the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child was passed by referendum after a bitter, divisive debate in 1983.
Most of those who will vote on the issue next month would not have been around or entitled to vote 35 years ago.
It was notable at the launch of the ‘Together For Yes’ cam…

Is it time for Pope Francis to apologise to the Irish people?

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At an estimated cost of €20 million to the Irish people, the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August promises to be a very different affair from the emotional 1979 tour in which Pope John Paul II seemed to capture the hearts and minds of a generation.

Given how poorly the Vatican has dealt with a litany of scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, many people are now beginning to ask whether the current pontiff has a duty to offer a full apology to the Irish people.

Who should he meet and what should he say during his August visit to the island?

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has told the Irish media that he would like to visit a prison during his August trip.

“He’d like to go to a prison,” Archbishop Martin said last December. “Everywhere he goes, he goes to a prison.”

The Papal visit looks set to be a pivotal moment for the Catholic Church, recovering lost trust after years of scandals involving clerical sex abuse, the enslavement of women in …

'Japa Ireland' and an appalling abuse of trust

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“Go to India,” they said, over and over again.

“It will change your life.”

With all we heard about the imprisonment of women in Magdalene Laundries, the appalling treatment of women and children in Mother and Baby homes, and the criminal cover-ups of sex abuse by members of the clergy, it was inevitable many members of my generation would turn our backs on the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

And yet there is such a huge spiritual side to our ‘Irishness’, so evident in the traditions and rituals which pre-date the arrival of Christianity to our island,  that many of us have set out in search of new outlets far removed from the Catholic traditions we grew up with.

But is it the case that in some cases we have swapped one group of abusers for another?

And that some people have turned a blind eye when alerted to abuse by colleagues or ‘teachers’, just as the Bishops used to move child rapists from one parish to another without any concern for the welfare of future victims?

This week, I…

For Peter and the families, it's personal ...

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Imagine you are 70 years old. Throughout your life you have dealt with the stigma of being branded as ‘illegitimate’ and your long quest to find your birth mother had ended in a Magdalene Laundry, where she had lived for over 30 years.You used to visit her every fortnight, after managing to track her down, although the nuns warned you to pretend that she was your aunt. They told you they would prevent you from visiting if you told the other inmates the truth about your relationship with your own mother and it used to pain you to see the defeat, the lack of sparkle, in her eyes.Together with the other inmates, she washed and cleaned the clothes of the great and the good around the city and county. For years, she never ventured outside the laundry walls even though she was just minutes from the heart of the city.But you kept the relationship going, and enthused about how her spirit lifted just a little after you married and she met her first grandchild. You saw flickers of her spirit on…