Once upon a time suicide was rampant. The government of the time was losing revenue because of the reduction in manual labour. So, in a bid to curtail the practice of death by one’s own hand, the government brought in laws that dictated that if an individual did make such a decision, his or her family would be penalised with a fine.
For an un-disclosed monetary reward or political favour, the church assisted by propounding suicide to be a sin, punishable by an eternity in purgatory or hell, and ensuring that fear was completely installed, the devout were presented with graphic images on a weekly basis – Sundays being selected as most suitable.
Now confident of having the necessary support, the government criminalised suicide-declaring they were guided by God and Co.
I can’t say for sure if it worked. Shame and monetary punishment ensured silence. Statistics, reports and reviews were not required for things invisible. And eventually other words were found to replace ‘death by suicide’.
The government found that this was not enough to ensure sufficient revenue. So, again it made another law. Actually enshrined it in the constitution that a woman’s place was in the home (irrespective of her location) and once married, was not permitted to be in gainful employment and advised very sincerely that offering up her duster and sweeping brush to the Heavens would be reward enough.
And the church now confident of the necessary support, reinforced the stigmatisation of sex outside marriage further declaring that any form of contraception was a personal affront to the good Lord Jesus.
Together, they commodified the women, who were overcome with the need to morally corrupt men with the temptations of the flesh, by using them as sources of cheap or free labour, declaring this was to be recompense for stepping outside the structure they had built (not gays, as they were the spawn of the Devil). One, they said, that maintained civilised conduct and holy living. Again, her class allocation was irrelevant. A loose woman was a loose woman.
The church and state were not content with the revenue generated, the revenue saved. Not all women were getting married. So, they determined that women must have their husbands’ permission to acquire a loan from a banking establishment. Permission that stretched across all cultural boundaries.
And they decreed that only male heirs were entitled to inherit the farm. Or the land. Male heirs legitimately conceived under the voyeuristic eye of the church, where women did not concern themselves with orgasms and sexual gratification, but dutifully lay back and thought of populating the nation. Children who were not conceived under its watchful eye were not wasted but simply put up for sale on the Black Market. Women whose hearts were broken by their behaviour were told ‘get a grip woman you’re being too sensitive, just give up your oul sins’.
Of course, Ethics had its place, in Rome where it could be discussed and ironed out at leisure under the Italian sun with a good Chianti, served to them by women in black and white habits.
Meanwhile, back in Ireland I was about to have a lesson in social oppression and its reinforcement.
Standing in a kitchen, seven months pregnant, in a home for unmarried pregnant girls. It wasn’t a lecture or a sermon. No. It was a throw away comment by a social worker,
“Just stay away from them, they’re nothing but trouble”.
‘They’ were the Travellers living next door on a Halting Site. In Carrickmines.
Once upon a time the economy began to sink. The youth of the country who woke up early but had no work to go to decided they needed to leave their land of Emerald Green. The Mainland and Amerikey were their first choices. Lands of the free where dreams come true and money made and at the ports they promised their parents to send back a few bob to help them. And their parents remembered their parents and grandparents and wondered would the Leaving ever end. And we lamented with the musicians who knew our hearts and sang The Leaving of Nancy with the Fureys and Carrickfergus with Jim McCann and Dubliners, over a drop of the good stuff.
But when the lamenting was over fault had to be found. It was the women, of course. The married women who were now allowed to work--it was them taking the food out of the mouths of the very craturs they’d raised. And the women, whose heart had no more room to break and started rearing their children on their own, were accused of shtelin’ money from the Shtate.
And the journalists began to help the Church and State by assigning the moral decline to the anarchy of women. And they started writing articles about how children born to women unmarried were developmentally delayed and in all likelihood end up in a life of crime with the absence of male guidance. And the State paying them to look after their children was only encouraging a growth in mobocracy.
Meanwhile, I responded to an article in the Irish Independent written by a Jesuit priest reinforcing that children being reared by single mothers were doomed and would throw this lovely Isle into moral and financial disarray.
“My daughter has an IQ higher than Albert Einstein, would you care to explain how that happened based on your very fine theory?”
I’m still waiting for a response.
We continued to pray for a place in Heaven and demonstrate our charitable natures by publicly dropping coins in boxes for the Poor Black Babies so that their souls could also be saved.
And when the men and women returned to the green, green grass of home (if they could), they spoke of their longing to die on this land. They spoke of private tears on receiving letters with news of a death from their home place.
And the government saw an opportunity for revenue in this black space. And so it came to pass that leprechauns and music were giving their very own stage. Homes were opened with an Irish welcome that had a price attached to its smile. And to ensure that the women in the kitchen were cooking right – officialdom told them they had to pay for a license and a few stars.
And we were allowed to listen to Peigín Leitir Móir and the Streets of London, but never We’re Off to Dublin in the Green and we imported our national pride all the way from Amerikey.
And then, all of a sudden, there was money. We never asked where it came from, we just took it and spent it and went to ports to collect Our Children.
We had, we thought, a bit of Amerikey at home. Now we needed no-one.
Once upon a time we dug up the trams and history. The government cleansed it, sanitised it and declared we were a progressive people. Apartments and houses and shopping centres were erected and day trips were taking up from the rural lands to look at Dundrum Shopping Centre and we marvelled at how we had concreted over our past. And the women wanted a slice of the action but found that progressive didn’t include them. And as they struggled through the mire of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment to get to the cake – the government got nervous about the women’s need to be invited to the party. So they started cutting the funding to the Rape Crisis Centre. The funding to Women’s Aid. And the women got angry. Then others followed, talking about abuse they had experienced at the hands of the church.
And knowing they had the necessary support, the government told us of all the good the church had bestowed upon the land. How peevish and ungrateful these people were talking such filth then quietly handed them an envelope to stick on to their mouth.
The people started getting old and the government feared they may have to spend money looking after them so they came up with plan. A plan not to improve services and to fill our screens with the terror of growing old in a nursing home. And they pleaded with their children and their children’s wives not to make them go in there. And it came to pass that the women stayed at home looking after their mammies and daddies and their husbands’ parents too.
Well, the government was beside itself with excitement and glee. The plan landed them a saving of €4 billion a year and said God Bless all this cheap labour.
The women fought and fought for equal pay and finally The 1998 Employment Equality Act was enacted, but nobody mentioned the legal clause in employment contracts that say discussing your salary with other employees is a fireable offense, which only serves to perpetuate the inequality.
The government was comfortable with this because it meant they didn’t have to spend anymore money and businesses knowing they had the necessary support declared their feminism and their five year plan, like a rosary.
The women who made it to the party saved their own money by paying young girls ‘under the table’ the minimum wage to look after their children, and it all seemed to go well until someone started complaining.
And the government saw an opportunity for more revenue and came up with a new tax rule and told the young girls they would be part of the Black Economy if they didn’t declare themselves and grandparents who looked after them were ordered to fill out a 26 page form.
The businesses wined and dined the politicians and the regulators. They sent each other Thank you letters and Christmas Cards and slept with each others’ wives and then exchanged fine wines.
And of course there was a place for Ethics – in the boardroom or a private room in an expensive restaurant, where they could discuss and iron out a few things under a Green Sky with champagne and smoked salmon, served to them by women and other foreigners in black and white uniforms.
Living like High Kings and wanting for nothing.
Ecstasy, heroin and cocaine were consumed and money offered to sex workers, mostly women, in exchange for acts to relieve them of all their stress. And the sex workers then had money too and they consumed Heaven to relief their stress somewhere in a dark place where they were sure they wouldn’t be arrested.
But then the young boys started dying in numbers that couldn’t be ignored. So the women gathered in quiet covens to come up with a plan. To create spaces and build rooms with air and some coins for their young boys to get well. And sometimes they did, so the women asked for more funding and the government got nervous about spending so they started demonizing the young boys on the telly.
And the struggle continued on.
Once upon a time the money evaporated and the High Kings rushed to save what was left. With a sincere and theatrical gratitude the boys explained to the plebeians that the party was over and it was time to pay with money and prayers. There was no out clause in this contract.
Funding was cut. The Rape Crisis Centre. Women’s Aid. Addiction services. Mental Health Services. Pensions.
There was heavy investment in courting the press. The International Community. Vulture Funds and the disposing of National Assets.
And the High Kings remembered the businesses and wine cellars - knowing they had the necessary support. And banks were saved and hotlines set up to ensure that brickies and leckies were reported for nixers, in this time of tragic austerity.
This time there was no lamenting or the singing of songs – only a pointing of fingers to the foreigners and asylum seekers and the Roma women who were over here getting free money, cluttering up our streets and there was no forgetting the women in Europe that we were paying to raise children on their own.
The politicians stood up and asked for patience and explained we couldn’t see the bigger picture. So we looked down and saw the men, women and children at our feet, homeless, cold and hungry.
But the government didn’t get nervous, there was no-one to fight them. They were saving millions of euro on services not accessed by those who did not have a permanent address. The law their only recourse, but they would have to wait if they wanted free advice.
Meanwhile, I was making a safety plan to leave a violent situation.
Once upon time a leader of this country cut red ribbons and declared us a compassionate people. A leader who received a standing ovation for his benevolence in allowing the Travelling Community what they were already entitled to. Recognition of their ethnicity. But the Travellers themselves were left outside until someone asked if they could witness their own historic moment. There were no cards that had Reserved printed on them and definitely no celebratory cucumber sandwiches were served.
The leader stood before the people and said the recovery was happening but we mustn’t be greedy. The five year plan had to be extended for the sake of prosperity. He told us what we needed was certainty and stability [but conveniently omitted the assurance he had given investors – that the plebeians wouldn’t cause any trouble].
When the new leader came to power he explained to us that we had become a lazy people who needed to rise a little bit earlier. There was a declaration that fraud was rampant and extremism was getting out of control in this country with people wanting, wanting, wanting without giving anything at all. And he comforted the High Kings telling them his homosexuality wouldn’t interfere with his ability to lead. That he wouldn’t go mad and let women have abortions, sure they could keep going to The Mainland and make a weekend out of it, like the boys do smoking a bit ganje in The Netherlands. And sure, can’t mothers bring their children over as well and teach them how to smoke a joint for their pain management.
And, the suffering doesn't end there...
Confident they have the necessary support, the bishops are warning newly ordained priests about the persecution they will endure from the hostility of the Irish people. But, chin up, remember Jesus went through it also. Telling them ‘we must cast our fears aside during these Pentacost days’.
Meanwhile, back in Carrickmines, thirty years later, ten human beings died in a fire because the government said that there wasn’t enough money to ensure Health and Safety Standards.
Today it was reported that an ally of the High Kings, the patriarch of Manor Park Homes, that went into liquidation is now Moran Park Homes who will build houses and apartments over the site and we will concrete over our past. Again.
Soon Leo will tell us our new national anthem is A Nation Once Again - to distract us.