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.


  1. I am organist/choirmistress at St Andrew’s, Ardrossan – a wonderful position to be in. I am by birth Irish, and glad to note the progress the Republic has made over the years. I will miss Mary McAleese who kept office with dignity, charm and authority. I spent quite a while in care as a youngster, then was “sold” out of a protestant children’s home and brought up in Glasgow. I only found out I had 5 older siblings later in life and had quite a search to find them. i needed to know they were safe and well. through a remarkable set of coincidences ( perhaps a Divine source) we all met eventually. So many children were put away and then manipulated, and not just by the RC Church. My natural aunt spent time in the “Maggies” and lost a little son to these people, while being held a prisoner more or less. A terrible experience, but all the more awful for me to find out that money changed hands in my infancy. Bishop, I understand your comments only too well.

      1. What galls me about the hypocrisy of those times is the fact that Mary the Mother of Our Lord, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude, was in a “predicament” herself. Without Her courage and determination I often wonder where we would all be at this very time. My reunion with my original family was joyous – they remembered me and had mourned me since their childhood as they had been told I had died. These were the morals of these times, but oh what damage was done, and how difficult to repair.

  2. I saw the new President’s victory speech. Very moving but a striking absence of the RC church from his vision of Ireland and Irishness, for obvious reasons; the country has come a long way from de Valera.

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