The Ballot Box

I have a slightly strange relationship to the processes of democracy – since I think that I have never in my whole voting life cast a vote for the winning candidate in any election. Not a surprise when you think about where most of that voting life was spent.

The extraordinary Presidential Election in Ireland wound its way to a conclusion with the election of retired politician and – one suspects – thoroughly decent man Michael D Higgins. It’s what happened to the other candidates which tells you so much about Ireland today. One was unwound by revelations about a clemency plea for a former gay partner. Another by past and present ambivalence about his involvement in violence. The third by the revelation that, far from being a-political, he had sought donations for Fianna Fail.

Meanwhile I’ve been reading – with some difficulty – The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. It tells the story of one of the unmarried mothers of rural Ireland in the 1950’s – within my lifetime – the so-called Magdalenes. Taken into the Convent pregnant – made to work in the laundry for three years – child taken away for adoption in America – made to sign an undertaking that she would never seek contact. Painful, painful stuff.

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