‘Babies for Sale’…the danger of spectacle vs. news

Once again, we in Ireland are distracted from the critical issues of the day – by the spectacle of outrage at historic wrongs.

Where’s the outrage at our government’s failure to cope with current crisis after crisis?

Does anyone in Ireland share what I experienced in 2012 when I first read about our shock and horror at this headline ‘news’? And then again 2013? And headlines again this year?

Not about the actual news. Rather about the fact that it was and is “news” to no one.

But, if it really was news to you in 2012, 2013 or this year, ask yourself – Why?

Memory is imperfect – so let me frame mine with context. I knew that babies were for sale in Ireland in 1961 or 1962 when this photo was taken.

This black and white image frames my understanding of Ireland in the early sixties.

By 1965, we’d moved to Manhattan so I can say with certainty – this realisation predates that. And my recollection is that it was at least a couple of years before – when I was 7 or 8. (Context again, my Grandfather died in 1960, my grandmother in 1961.)

The desk was my father’s. It wasn’t really a ‘working desk’, it sat in our living room – you know, that rarely-used room (even in America).

My only memory of my father sitting at it was after church, so on a Sunday. My grandmother sat in that white club chair to the right, my grandfather next to her in an unseen wing chair. I can now surmise that it was for a once monthly (perhaps quarterly?) bit of correspondence on my grandfather’s behalf.

The letters were sent to Ireland.

The stationery – Cranes, I think, was thick and bordered and it came out of a box. This fascinated me. It was curious, I suspect, because to my young self – boxes meant presents.

With a brief letter which I have a vague sense that my grandfather was prompting him to write, another tissue-like envelope was enclosed. It contained “a dollar”.

Or what I assumed was a dollar – as that was the only denomination I’d ever seen mailed to me in birthday envelopes from my Aunt and Grandmother.

So whether it was a $20, $50 or $100 bill – it matters not. What my very young self knew, was that people were poor in Ireland and this was for Grandpa’s family.

Another time, I walked in – from school or play – I don’t recall, to the hurried exit of our next door neighbour – Mrs. Curry.

She brushed past me, and I thought it odd. She was a grown-up, and she had been crying.

I asked my mother – “Why is she crying?”

In whatever age-appropriate language my mother used – she told me that Mr. & Mrs. Curry couldn’t have a baby and that made Mrs. Curry upset.

I was baffled. By the time I was six, I was quite expert on the subject of where babies came from – and the unfortunate circumstances of my own arrival.

My best school friend was Donna Cavagnaro. The year before, she’d delighted in informing me that she was adopted. She was special. Her parents came and picked her out. My parents had to take what they got!

So I declared, “She shouldn’t be upset she can pick out a baby, like Donna!”

And my mom told me that’s exactly what they planned to do. They were saving up to get a baby from Ireland.

Now, whether it was those envelopes I’d seen being sent, or perhaps she’d said something specific, I don’t know. I do know my distinct impression was that you bought babies in Ireland. Before 1965.

There were several other adopted children in my Marymount, first through fifth-grade classes. I knew of one girl who, with her brother, came ‘from Ireland’

And until moving here in 2008, I thought nothing of it.

“Taking the Soup”

I had a lot to learn when I “blew-in”.

First, after my grandparents died and my parent’s split (not sure I ever put that together before), there was no “Irish” influence in the household. It was just that of my mother’s Italian family. Hence, I was pretty unprepared for life here.

I thought I’d moved to Ireland, I live on the Cooley Peninsula. It turns out, it’s not actually Ireland. It’s a place known ominously as, “the border”.

Oh, I had a vague notion you didn’t wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day – but not much beyond that.

So this expression “took the soup” was utterly new to me.

I knew some Carlingford folk who were Catholic. The long deconsecrated Church of Ireland serves as the historic centre here. On a shortcut through the cemetery grounds with another American blow-in – I was surprised to see a cluster of headstones bearing a family name I knew. I mused aloud, “That’s odd, they’re Catholic aren’t they?” She, in a fairly ugly tone, responded – “Well, they must have taken-the-soup“.

I guess my expression said it all – so she explained just what was involved in trading away your soul to feed yourself and your family. I nodded.

Deep down, I was flummoxed. I’m a mother. If feeding my children involved a conversion or worse – I’d not have hesitated – in the 19th century or now.

And this was the first of many lessons I continue to take on board in coming to understand life in this place of unforgiveness.

This recent headline drives home the reality that every day, in 21st Century Ireland.

Irish people willingly continue to “take the soup”.

Primarily in swallowing a litany of untruths sold to them by a government-controlled press – but even more heinously in the way we fall for historic scandals dug up and recycled to serve as spectacle. They suck up hours of airtime and column inches, distracting us from the relevant truths at hand.

That 2012 headline, well known to me in 1962, was rolled out again in 2018 – just to distract from the week’s news about Maurice McCabe, Vicky, Emma, Steven Teap and more evictions. 

Weeks later we were still distracted by it while the Oireachtas Banking and Finance Committee was hearing testimony about a 31 billion euro spend to save the money and skins of corrupt bankers and politicians.

We are unwilling to hear the truth about how austerity, homelessness, evictions, trolley counts and dying mothers are the price we are paying for the government’s protection of those well-heeled enough to be protected by crony politicians, and shielded by a silent and colluding press.

The Irish Media is not a fit pillar of this Republic. If it were – you would have known what I knew – 55 years ago.

Call, email, write or Tweet your TDs and Senators. Find a directory to their contact details here.

#EnoughIsEnough.

For a powerful insight into the consequences of an ignorant public, consider the work of Gemma O’Doherty, a well known Irish reporter and Seamus Maye. He ought to be equally well known – but as a soft-spoken and tireless campaigner with a unique experience of Ireland’s big business, politics, law courts, media and corruption/”legal” corruption, he gets less coverage than he should.

Both were part of a TEDxLongford panel of “Changemakers” on 29. June 2018.

An article on the subject can be found here.

A video of the presentations can be found here, shortly.

For a further look at the absurdity of calling the St. Patrick’s Guild revelations “news” in 2018, consider what was know in 2010 – “In the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports…”. Little or no action followed.

 




Why we tell these stories…

Because nothing changes until we cease to view our neighbours as them and we as us.

Take for example the aftermath of one hearing before the Orieachtas.

Padraic Kissane – the gently determined, brave and caring Financial Advisor who encouraged four of his tracker mortgage clients to step forward and testify before the Finance Committee.

This was critical – a watershed moment in Ireland. The tracker mortgage abuses were well known to members of the finance committee, to the bankers and to journalists – but it was not until we had four human faces and stories – that any thing was done.

In a quiet moment, that afternoon, I witnessed a colleague ask him:

“But how did the banks think they would get away with it?”

His response:

“They used our Irishness against us.”

And for nearly a decade it worked. And to some degree it is still working. They had counted on us to be too ashamed to come forward.

And beyond shame, we are ill-informed. While the rest of the world worries about “fake news” – here in Ireland, we suffer “no news”.

And a predisposition to “willfull blindness“.

The absence of a free and vigorous press undermines any hope for accountability from government.

We have few choices.

  • The state owned and operated RTE carries little to ‘out’ anything but historic wrongs (justice here requires a 30 year fermentation process). And we roll out coverage of long forgotten scandals every time we wish to distract from a current political embarrassment. Let’s roll out the long acknowledged adoption scandal to distract from disclosures tribunal, and let’s celebrate a reunion of Magdalene Laundry survivors to take some of the heat off the Cervical Check scandal. Any wonder we have a well used hashtag in Ireland – #NoCountryforWomen
  • The (not very) Independent News & Media PLC has an editorial policy of having it’s reporters “get with the programme”. Theirs. Summed up simply – if it’s good for big business report it. If it’s troublesome to our friends and allies – don’t.
  • Everything you need to know about a free and fair press can be found in the unapologetic way both the Taosieah and the press embraced the idea of a “strategic communications office”. And there is precedent. It’s best illustrated by a headline: The deValera Divine Right to Rule the Irish Press

And lest you think this reflects the work of conspiracy theorists, a well organised group of bankers, academics, lawyers, and professionals worked together for 4 years – coming together with a piece of legislation to be introduced in 2017 when the Dail came back into session.

In an effort to garner attention and support for the bill – over 200 press releases went out in the late spring.  Individual reporters and PR professionals received it well and wrote plenty of copy. None of which got past the editors desk for publication.

Undaunted – they had their press conference – in Ireland’s – 33rd County. Irish Central covered the launch of the bill at the famine memorial in Manhattan. Given that…

..it caters to 34 million Irish Americans and 70 million Irish diaspora and receives 3.5 million unique visitors per month.  It has a large and quickly growing social media following, including 500k Facebook followers, 33k Twitter followers, and 13k followers on Instagram.  The website also enjoys a newsletter subscriber base of 250k.

The Irish press finally picked it up.

Church and State have colluded to maintain power by silencing citizens. And it works. Shame has kept us collectively quiet and accepting of the unacceptable. We have been afraid to rise up and take charge.

So here are some of the unreported stories I’ve experienced alongside beleaguered friends and colleagues:

  • Litigant told by judge – I paraphrase – “You are right, this falls into the spirit of the law – but since the law is so poorly written I cannot rule in your favour”
  • Banks claim to be negotiating – I know 2 cases where new property valuations come in- at let’s say €500k. Owner offers it. Offer rejected.
    Keep in mind, no matter the original debt – all the bank or #vulture it is to be sold on to – will get for it is “market value”. To make the sale of tranches to #vulturefunds attractive – these properties need to be included – there are too few good faith negotiations.
  • Owner scraping by, has two properties, one mortgage. Wants to sell one – can’t afford the tax for the “on paper” capital gain. Worse – one, a Dublin property would be an excellent first home- but can’t come to market because it’s rental income secures the debt – she wouldn’t have on the second property if one could sell the first and pay it down.

These are just three of the stories people are afraid to tell – and to what end would one stand up and be counted?

The press doesn’t cover them anyway. And look what happened to Jonathan Sugarman and Maurice McCable. Stand up speak out and they’ll besmirch your reputation – or worse. This is no country for truth-tellers or whistleblowers.

People paying €600-€1500 a month in good faith – agreed amounts on account of their distressed loans – are typical of the ones whose loans are now being sold. These are not deadbeats vacationing in Spain – as we’ve been led to believe.

I highly recommend Margaret Heffernan’s TED talks on Wilful Blindness and her closing from the second –

Dare to Disagree

The fact is that most of the biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden.
It comes from information that is freely available and out there, but that we are willfully blind to, because we can’t handle, don’t want to handle, the conflict that it provokes.
But when we dare to break that silence, or when we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking.
Open information is fantastic, open networks are essential.
But the truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.
Openness isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

Please – find your voice, tell your story and be willing to listen to and engage with your neighbours – whose stories need to heard and understood.

We welcome your feedback and submissions. Relevant academic articles and examples of best practice elsewhere are of particular interest.

Tell us your story via video, voice memo or the written word. Unedited or unpolished is fine. Send your copy, video links or audio files to info@eveearley.com.

 

 




Pro Bono Publico

A simple latin phrase. Generally, it refers to work undertaken, voluntarily, for the public good.

For our purposes, we’re setting out a space for storytelling. It too is undertaken, voluntarily, for our collective good.

Here we will explore what’s legal vs. equitable in Ireland today.

A wise mentor has suggested that while the recent movement to #Repealthe8th Ammendment to the Irish constitution might have simply prevailed, it was storytellers and the authenticity of their stories that gave rise to the landslide.

I didn’t matter whether they were fact based, clinical observations by doctors or heart wrenching stories of personal tragedy, which in an earlier time, might never have been told.

No longer ashamed, women and men told us their painful, personal narratives. They shared their circumstances and we glimpsed decisions so tragic, so fraught and often, so lovingly made, that we responded to their authenticity. We came to understand the punishing burden of having to travel alone – far from, often loving, and supportive families.

And to have to return to a legacy of grief complicated by silence, guilt and shame.

In the telling, these stories spread and sowed the seeds of empathy. Effectively.

Exit polls would suggest that 50% of “Yes” voters do not support abortion on demand. They did not see it as an abortion referendum. They chose to vote for a right of self determination.

Here in this column we hope to engender that kind of empathy for our neighbours, friends and families suffering under similarly oppressive economic, legislative and regulatory conditions. Too many of us are faced with practices and policies which undermine our ability to provide for ourselves and our families.

These are not tales of woe. Look elsewhere for sagas of victimhood.

These stories are simply exemplary. They might all be punctuated with- “There but for the grace of the gods go I“.

And each is followed by a very specific call to action.

Because, at the heart wrenching core of each story is a simple truth.

It did not have to end this way. For the many, for the few and for the whole of the country.

An empathetic ear, a creative or nuanced approach by a bank manager, a housing executive, a taxing authority or a judge – all would have served to curb the number of homeless, the displaced, the many suffering mental and physical distress –  and ultimately the hundreds dead by suicide.

We welcome your feedback and submissions. Tell us your story via video, voice memo or the written word. Unedited or unpolished is fine.

Just don’t hold it in – we have nothing to be ashamed of. #DontGoItAlone

Send your posts, video links or audio files to info@eveearley.com

 




Dear Daddy…

I miss you. And Happy Father’s Day.

I miss your sense of humour, your wisdom and the very un-Irish, Talmudic way you drove home your messages, with questions.

And yet, even selfishly, I’m not inclined to “wish you were here”. The world you imagined has not yet materialised.

How lovely it would have been had your story neatly concluded as did Judy Collins’ My Father story in her song.

Remember telling my 5, 6 & 7 year old self all about the natural world? All about Five Acres and Independence?

You’ll be pleased to know it’s still in print. Good thing too – because while it was meant to teach subsistence living to a post-depression generation – there are a few generations coming who will likely need it.

More on the economics of that why, another time.

Recently, I found a musty old copy of “The Silent Spring” which looks a lot like this one here.

Though a funny thing happened as I re-read it. I heard your voice. Not while reading Rachael Carson’s words – but in remembering all your asides. You know – the ones where you imagined that I’d live in a house with a rainwater cistern built into the plumbing or irrigating the garden. Where the sun and wind would contribute to my energy usage. And where I’d be using grey water from the dishwasher and washer to flush the toilets.

Sadly though, not yet. And likely not even in my lifetime.

Do you remember telling me that the oil embargo in ’73 was a good thing? We were going to drive smaller cars, rely less on fossil fuel and run cars on electricity. Electric cars took another 40 years and they’ve still not caught on. Cars only stayed small until we forgot. Less than a decade on.

We recycle now, as you said we would. Though not universally. Landfills overflow, and the oceans are full of plastic. A dead whale was found in Thailand with 17 lbs of plastic in its gut. Even fresh water streams are polluted with micro beads of plastic from the synthetic clothes we wash.

And while the bald eagle is back, I’m afraid the last male Northern White Rhino died this year. Few seem to notice that we’re losing about 150 plant, insect, bird and mammal species every day.

I remembered another lesson recently, on encyclicals, labour and social justice.

I was six.

How much did you think I could understand? Did you know we wouldn’t have enough years to talk about these things when I was grown? Or was it just the heady, optimistic times in which we lived?

I can still hear your belly laugh when I came home from First Grade with the campaign rhyme –

Kennedy in the White House talking on the phone, Nixon in the dog house chewing on a bone.

And then he won. An upstart Catholic in the White House! You were sure that meant there would be attention paid to social justice. Sure wasn’t that why the “Power Elite” fought so hard against “the papist”?

And it was John XXIII’s time. I can still here the passion and faith with which you explained why you’d been an organiser, why labour unions were so important and how it had been the words of Pious XIII’s Rerem Novarum which inspired all that in you. You explained it all in my Communion year. You wanted me to understand the significance of a that year’s Papal Directive on Christianity and Social Progress.

For what it’s worth – the only part that really sunk into my young brain was the point you made about my uncles, your brothers. They were steel workers. You said they worked harder at back breaking work, than you did at a desk. You could do your job to 65 or 70 or beyond – but their bodies wouldn’t last to pension age. That was why a balance between labour and capital – as well as respect for the difference in an earned vs. an unearned dollar – was important.

How did you know that I’d remember enough?

Is that why you went on at great length about social justice, job provision and social safety nets? By then I was 10, 11 and 12. I loved the long drives and the stories you told during our Sunday visits – touring through the reservoirs, parks and forests built by the CCC workers. I remember well your stories that their lives in those camps, bleak though it was, offered the only homes and work available.

I remember all the buildings we visited – most artfully embellished with friezes and sculptures owed to the New Deal’s WPA architects. Pragmatism born of desperate times, enhanced by a respect for the creative.

Often I recall your awe for the power of what the public and private sector could accomplish in the sheer depth and breadth of the infrastructure projects, iconic skyscrapers and the monuments you’d point out in our drives around New York City, upstate New York and New England.

I live in Ireland now.

We visit and I giggle most Saturdays mornings in all but July and August. It’s then that I bring in wood and peat for the stoves. It makes me recall your beleaguered expression and shaking head when you described life in Ireland on return from Grandpa’s funeral here. You always began with – “Kiss the American ground you were born on…” followed by vivid and unattractive descriptions of the third world country Ireland was then.

With each filled basket, I can conjure the look. Your loving eyes are firmly fixed on me from over the top of your glasses. I hear you exclaim, “You silly witch, did your grandfather not see to it that we were born in a world of boilers and indoor plumbing?”

And so he did.

But clearly there was a circle in need of closing.

I returned a century after he left. Nearly 50 years after he died. I wasn’t actually aiming for ‘his Ireland’, though I find myself stuck in it. As penance for some as yet undetermined failing, I work at telling your stories, sharing your wisdom and hoping that as America has abandoned it’s promise, moving forward, Ireland can adopt it.

The call to ‘my Ireland’ came after years on an annual course. The week long events were set in Sligo, Cavan, Antrim, Donegal, Down and Mayo studying Jung and archetypal psychology.  Here I met Bridget, Grace and Maeve – in a place where feminine characters and the land dominate in myth. That divine feminine is what called me and where my hope for this place resides.

Here I experience the ancient and natural worlds as you shared them. Living close to the land demands a respect for riotous springs, abundant harvests and the work of just showing up for the hard labour in between.

It invites us to celebrate the seasons.

I closed a circle with that as well. I am at home with an agrarian, eight season calendar. I felt it while rearing your granddaughters in a faith tied to festivals like Imbolc and Lughnasa known to them as Tu Bishvat and Sukkot.

And I live in medial space.

Literally. On the border of Ulster – just beyond the Pale. And not far from Mary Gale Earley’s home place. Her journey informs so much of my understanding here. From Ireland to America, Protestant to Catholic, who could have imagined that a quote from John Henry Newmans faith journey printed on her memorial card, would serve as insight into my struggle to understand this land of them-uns and us-uns?

And figuratively. I live as you did. Devout in your faith, and excommunicated nonetheless. Neither in nor out of Rome’s good graces. I too, live as the other – an American neither Catholic nor Protestant neither in or out of communion with my neighbours.

And always, I carry with me your good humoured observation that –

We’ll get there, by degrees. The way an Irishman goes to heaven.

And while ‘we’ll’ not get where you thought we were going in my lifetime, I’ve every confidence that your granddaughters will move the world in the direction of your dreams.

They made those very same road trips, they heard you marvelling at those miracles of social and economic progress albeit through my voice, and learned the optimism and sense of possibility that your “Greatest Generation” brought to the world. And I’m reminding them here.

I offer every 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 year old too much information, enthusiastically – knowing that something will come of it. Even if it takes a generation or two.

And because, it’s been 38 of these June Sundays without you – I’m reminded of another song from the sixties, Who knows where the time goes?

So for now –

Good-night; ensured release,
Imperishable peace,
Have these for yours,
While sea abides, and land,
And earth’s foundations stand,
And heaven endures.

When earth’s foundations flee,
Nor sky nor land nor sea
At all is found,
Content you, let them burn:
It is not your concern;
Sleep on, sleep sound.

Reciting Parta Quies comforts me.

And makes me smile remembering another look over the top of your glasses, with a beleaguered expression and shaking head. All while lamenting over your lot to have had a daughter who favoured the work of Houseman over Yeats, Joyce and countless other Irish poets.

He was, in your words, “That drunken, gay, Brit”.

Sleep on, Daddy, sleep sound.




“Where will you be five years from today?”

The question is posed by author and creativity consultant, Dan ZadraHis book has the look and feel of a child’s book, which leaves us open, available and curious.

This book celebrates the “want to’s”, the “choose to’s” and the “I can’t wait to’s” in your life”. Whether you’re just finishing school, starting a new venture, celebrating a milestone or envisioning your retirement, you are the hero of this story.

It’s less a work-book than a play-book.

Random list-making exercises invite us to explore what we value.

“Live your life on purpose” is a call to action – and we’re encouraged to write a personal mission statement.

It’s a book of motivation and inspiration. This isn’t a to-do list – it’s a road map.  And a training manual.

“You are the hero of this story”

…and you’re thinking – “Who me? There’s not a heroic bone in my body!”

So, let’s make “hero” a bit less intimidating.

First, throw off the superhero images. Just showing up and being available is Job #1.

Accepting the challenge to live life more purposefully, to imagine a new future and to lay the foundation for a new life stage – is what we in the storytelling business call – “The Hero’s Journey”.

It was described by Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth.

Myths give external explanations and stories for internal strifes. Slaying monsters is slaying the dark things inside of you. If you’re telling yourself “oh no! I couldn’t do that! I couldn’t be a writer!” that’s the dragon inside of you, and you have to slay it.

Simply stated – our heroic journey begins with saving ourselves.

And then:

“Strong people stand up for themselves. Stronger people stand up for others”  Chris Gardner

And #DontGoItAlone – get in touch if you think I can help.

Not familiar with Joseph Campbell’s work?

Hollywood film development director, Christopher Vogler summarises it brilliantly.

 

Here’s what we know about heroes, they-

  • are usually reluctant
  • are often resistant
  • will have to face down fear
  • will survive, wiser for the experience

 

 




Driving Excellence in Ireland, a #Hashtag Primer

If you’re new to following current events in Ireland – this is for you.

Ireland in 2018 is a very hard place to be.

Correction. Ireland until late 2017 was a very hard place to be. Thanks in large measure to #Housing & #Homeless activists as well as #Together4Yes and #Repealthe8th campaigners, things started to change in late 2017.

Now, at least, there is hope.

My February post, On Social Change in Ireland, “we’ll get there…” reflects that shift. And some of the challenges.

On arriving in 2008, “You can’t say that!” was a near constant refrain when I’d reflect back the insanity of life here. A New York reared blow-in, I was identified in my earliest days as “that cheeky American woman”.

After a lifetime recovering from a shaming and silencing childhood (just like most here), I wasn’t buying the idea that the silent-secret-keeping was anything but toxic.

My attempt to address it in a 2012, TEDxBelfastWomen talk met with mixed reviews; novel then, the message seems to be hitting home now.

So, I’ve been cheeky. I’ve found cheeky Irish people. And together we’ve helped to inspire many who were contemplating cheekiness – to get over their reluctance. Our message is simple: #GoForIt (or #JFDI if you’re not easily offended).

If you’ve found your way to us lately, perhaps it was by way of one of these-

  • #YvonneWalsh – A mother of two jailed for refusing to leave her home which would render her children homeless.
  • #VultureFunds – The world has it’s share of problems with them, but our government invited them in and gave them a tax free and virtually unregulated status. #MichaelNoonan
  • #Homelessness The current tally is over 10,000 homeless with over 4000 of those children.
  • #Whistleblower It’s not safe to be a #Whistleblower in Ireland. Pretty much guaranteed you’ll be permanently unemployable, broke and ostracised.
  • #DisclosureTribunal is a current (#MauriceMcCabe) #Whistleblower investigation. Before him @WhistleIRL Nothing will come of it – it never does. Perhaps because any evidence obtained is inadmissible in court. It’s the way the powers that be remain untouchable.
  • #TrackerScandal– Originally 5000, then 33,000 now nearly 40,000 deliberate bank overcharges. The highlight of which was that no one believed it until #PadraicKissane had 5 clients appear before the Dail Banking and Finance Committee. “How did the banks think they’d get away with it?” he was asked. “They used our Irishness against us”. Meaning – they counted on our shame to keep us silent.
  • #Nama – The National Asset Management Agency – great idea in theory.
  • #FF/#FG – Fianna Fail the party in power at the crash/Fine Gael the party in leadership since first in coalition with #Labour, currently in a confidence and supply agreement with #FF.
  • #CervicalCheck No news blackout here. The they tried. The #HSE didn’t advise women or their doctors of misread cervical smears. But news got out on the back of #VickyPhelan‘s lawsuit and subsequent testimony before #DailEirann. The scandal is described in this Irish Times article.

And a few we’d like to see take off –

  • #CherishedChildren – A reminder to many that in Ireland’s founding document, there lies a promise- “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”
  • #Transparency & #Accountability – A reminder that we must relentless demand it. Transparency International produced a report for Ireland in 2009 and updated it in 2012 – the measures they suggested have, to date, been ignored. Nevertheless – there is a SpeakUp.ie site and a on it a helpful video on how to “speak up safely”. #GoForIt – please.

#CalltoAction

Ireland moved from a Third World Country in the 50’s & 60’s – with 1/2 the economy dependent on remittances, to a First World country during the 70’s and 80’s – owed in large part to Diaspora investment. Philanthropists built universities, brought jobs and significantly impacted the business and civic culture.

We need that leadership now more than ever.

 

We used to ask you to come home or send money.

Neither are required. Simply share your experience, your wisdom, and the optimism that seems to characterise the Irish when the leave here.

And if you’re here in Ireland – speak out.

  • Tell your stories.
  • We have nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Nothing changes until we do!

The #CherishedChildren of the Republic need homes, healthcare and stability.

#WereBetterThanThis

 

 

 

 




The Eighth…if you’re on the fence please consider this

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution was added in 1983.

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

In a ludicrous adjustment to reflect reality, a provision was passed in 1992

Since the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment (Travel), the right to travel for an abortion has had constitutional protection.

Hence only women of means have a right to choose. On 25 May 18 we’ll be asked to change this.

I won’t ask why you’re on the fence. I respect your right to an anti-choice view. I do not, however, consider you pro-life. Because you see, I am for choice and pro-life.  I steadfastly believe that every child should be a wanted child, welcomed into this world by one or two loving parents who can and will provide a safe and nurturing environment.

I respect and will protect your right to believe life begins at conception. I would never support legislation to force you to use contraception or to terminate a pregnancy.

I’d ask you to consider only the compassion in which my passion is grounded.

I’m passionate about this because I, among millions of others, grew up with an unfortunate message:

I’d have been better off if you’d never been born

as I heard it – or in the versions of the message countless others heard:

I curse the day I met your mother/father…

If abortion had been legal…

What becomes of these children who “should never have been born”?

Some of us make it. After decades’ long journeys of hopelessness, depression, addiction and despair.

Many don’t. It is to them that I dedicate my efforts to see that the 8th Amendment is repealed.

The anti-choice people will tell you that they are the disabled who will be aborted. And yet, disability groups in Ireland have asked them to stop using their children as an excuse. Most disabilities won’t be identified by 12 weeks. Please work on legislation to protect the disabled children of your concern. I will support your efforts.

I will tell you there are many more otherwise able-bodied children born, whose lives and potential were undermined by being unwanted, unaffordable or simply born to parents who were too young.

I’ve met many.

Those in addiction treatment centres and 12 Step rooms where substance abuse is little more than numbing the pain of being unloved. Never having experienced that unmitigated love of parents – many addicts believe themselves to be unloveable and unworthy of life. Carers and partners may try, but that earliest rejection is not easily overcome.

Those who gave up and finally completed suicide attempts. Consider the expression – the light at the end of the tunnel. The experience in a cocoon of utter and complete parental care – is the first ‘light’ humans experience at the end of the tunnel that is birth.  Unwanted, unloved newborns instinctively can’t trust that there ever will be a ‘light’ at the end of any tunnel.

To the very young offenders I have met, born to very young parents.A few will have turned their lives around. Many will not. Sixty percent of their children can be expected to offend. That’s a lot of knock-on pain for families and communities.

I am grateful to the many who were born unwanted, wounded or not, and who have enriched my life in my experience of having known them.  I a defer to the words of John’s Hopkins University Professor of Psychiatry and author Kay Redfield Jamison. In an interview about her book on her own experience of manic depressive illness  An Unquiet Mind, A Memoir of Moods and Madness,  she shared and I paraphrase from memory, that

while there were times in my life that I was suicidal, I never ‘wished I’d never been born’

I share her sentiment, on my own and my brother’s behalf. I loved him and he enriched my life. And yes we were wounded by my mother’s sentiment, regularly.

Our experience went on to inform my choice in 1972 when, availing of the change in New York State’s abortion law, I terminated an unplanned pregnancy. Absent the law, I’d have sought an illegal abortion as did many of my older friends, one of whom died.

I chose, not without regret, not without prayer, but with the conviction that I would never bring a child into the world who would not be the ‘light of the world’ he or she was entering.

Nearly half a century later I pray for that lost soul and celebrate the lives of the three well-enough loved, well provided for and entirely wanted, planned and celebrated children I went on to rear.

Let God judge me. Let women in crisis choose and let their higher power judge them.

And let us all remember:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

Matthew 5:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




On Social Change in Ireland, “We’ll get there…”

In 2012, I closed a TEDxBelfastWomen talk with “We’ll get there”.

In 2018, I find we may actually be ‘there’.

It referenced my call to throw off the adaptive behaviours common to many on this island – our silence, passivity, self deprecation and shaming ways, in order to take our place on a global stage.

In 2010, I co-founded a coworking space in Newry. The intention was to support the emergence of a more dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem outside of Dublin and Belfast, on the border. Our contention was that the “peace process” had gone as far as it could go. What was then and now required for Ireland is a “prosperity process”.

That required culture change. And for us to share a different vision of Ireland.

From my vantage point on Carlingford Lough and the border, both Northern Ireland and the Republic were, as C.S. Lewis depicted them, a magical, medial place. A space in-between and one where opportunity abounds.

Culture change is a tall order!

It has been a hard road. Yet, the interesting thing about having a vision, setting an intention – and even failing from time to time, is that when you fail – you fall forward in the direction of your dream.

So imagine my delight in 2016 – when the Centre for Cross Border Studies added this tag line to their Cross Border Social Innovation Conference – “Lagan to the Liffey”.

The Emerald Valley facility had by then closed – but “from the Lagan to the Liffey” – our carefully chosen turn of phrase was designed, where innovation was concerned, to render the border invisible – and it lived on. We’d  fallen forward.

This week, I had notice of an event in Belfast focused on telling Northern Ireland’s story. Two things were heartening. I self-describe as an evangelist for Northern Ireland – both economically and civically.

Economically in trying to drive home-grown innovation and inward investment by highlighting our opportunities and accomplishments. Civically in both America and the Republic of Ireland – in efforts to drive a change in both attitude and language.

We are nearly 20  years on from the peace process – but nonetheless, many in both places remain unreconciled to it.

Control, Alt, Delete: Resetting How We Tell Northern Ireland’s Story 
sounds remarkably like this 2015 blog post:
Ireland 2.0 – America, try ‘Ctrl, Alt, Delete’ .

The journalists on this panel will, undoubtedly, be less impatient than the tone taken with my American readers, out of touch with what Northern Ireland looks like 25, 50 & 100 years after their families emigrated.

My point in these illustrations is not “I told you so”. It is to encourage. I’ve not been alone in writing and repeating these sentiments, and it’s not been to win hearts and minds. It was to support people who clearly felt the same way. To let them know they were not alone. And in time, to make it safe for them to speak up.

Failing and falling forward was worth it!

Robert Reich, Berkley Professor and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton has opened a series of lectures to the public. The course is called, In Focus: How to Ignite Social Change.

This slide speaks to “The Three Elements” it takes to reach the tipping point at which social change happens. Thankfully, in Ireland we have reached that point!

In Northern Ireland with the collapse of the Stormont executive and no devolved government for over a year and in the Republic with an ineffective government, as evidenced by crisis after crisis in Health Care, Housing, Homelessness, and a scandal ridden An Garda Síochána, there is, undeniably, a –

  • Widening gap between ideal and reality
  • Broad public knowledge of that gap

And what of the third?

  • Widespread sense of efficacy  ability to narrow the gap

“Ah sure, you’ll never change it” was the language of hopelessness that had undermined us.

But the last decade has offered proof that citizens could achieve a sense of efficacy – 

The populist genie was out of the bottle. Activism could clearly drive change.

Inspired, in the summer of 2017, a group of activists sent out over 200 press releases, yet couldn’t get media coverage for a “National Housing Cooperative Bill” to be introduced on Dáil Éirann’s return in September.

Undaunted, they then held a press conference at the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City – the proverbial “33rd county”. They were joined by Cornell University Law Professor Robert Hockett and got the attention of homeless and housing activists there, academics, politicians, philanthropists and investors. And won their hearts, as in true Irish fashion, when the formalities had passed, music ensued. Imagine visitors to the memorial serenaded with an impromptu rendition of “I’ll Tell My Ma When I Go Home.

The Irish Central – a digital newspaper with a reach of 3.5 million unique views a month covered the story, and the media in Ireland took note.

More and more stories began to surface here, “broad public knowledge” of “the gap between the ideal and real” led four brave individuals to join Financial Advisor Padraig Kissane in testimony before the Oireachtas Finance Committee – ultimately breaking the news of what is now estimated to be 33,000 tracker mortgage holders cheated by their banks.

When Mr. Kissane was asked how the banks got away with it for so long, he responded: “They used our Irishness against us.”

Clearly the banks were counting on our silence, passivity and shame. No longer.

Housing rights advocates and financial reformers are on the move. New legislation is to be introduced and the Oireachtas Finance Committee and it’s Chair TD John McGuinness are holding banks to account.  He and TD Pearse Doherty have called on Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe to support class action legislation because “the culture won’t change until the banks are prosecuted” – even though Ireland does not yet have a mechanism to bring one.

Watch this space!

Back to the subject of “getting there” –  my Irish-American father favoured an expression I am only now beginning to appreciate:

“We’ll get there, by degrees, the way an Irishman gets to heaven.”

Alongside wisdom I have always embraced:

Ours is not to complete the task, but neither may we desist from the labour.

For more on activism in Ireland, On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values

 




Nothing changes until we do!

In a recent LinkedIn article, Ready for a Change? – I made the case for choosing change. On one level it’s selfish – I work with people and small businesses when they’re ready for a change.

On another level it’s in service to those clients, neighbours and friends who require change in their wider worlds. More on that later.

Navigating change, personally, professionally or systemically, requires safe spaces.

So whether that involves creating a safe space personally – by throwing off old habits, distancing yourself from the crazy-makers in your life or quieting your undermining self-talk (all three?) – the work begins when we make up our minds that the pain of changing outweighs the pain of staying stuck.

Or more eloquently – as pictured, it’s time to blossom.

Change in our work lives is no different, although creating this safe place is somewhat more fraught. It requires us to bring equal parts of self-confidence and humility to the process.

Unsafe at work may look like

  • the boss is mad
  • the workplace is intimidating
  • I’m a payday away from disaster

Let’s accept that every situation is “out of our control” and all we can control is our reaction to it.

What if we agree that-

  • the boss is mad! We might ask ourselves: Am I bringing my best self to each encounter? Am I consciously or unconsciously pushing his/her buttons? Have I even asked what they might be?
  • the workplace is intimidating! Does my demeanour (fear, lack of confidence, reticence) inadvertently contribute to the dynamic? What changes in my response might change my experience of it?
  •  am a payday away from disaster! How can I manage money more mindfully, get out of debt and expand my options?

What’s going on here is a kind of archeology. Or as it’s called in 12 step rooms – taking a searching and fearless inventory. We’re not judging or chastising, we’re observing our patterns. Not for anyone else’s purposes – just our own.

Because-

  • Every insight is power
  • Every repaired or rejected relationship emboldens us
  • Every safe place we create empowers us

Empowers us personally, professionally and should we choose to widen that sphere of influence – civically.

Back to what I meant by service.

Typically my clients (and often I) am stressed by failures in systems meant to support.

  • Caregivers waste time, energy and resources navigating the social service and health care delivery systems. Should it require a whole day off to take you ageing mother or child to the doctor, or for a scan? Should you have to go on a day that suits the health service or on an appointment day of your choosing?
  • Healthcare professionals are faced with uprooting themselves and their families while retraining or emigrating because working conditions have become too stressful, chaotic and in many cases dangerous.
  • Financial institutions insistent that they “owe no duty of care” to their clients – exacerbate homeowners attempts to renegotiate indebtedness – causing unimaginable pressures on families.
  • A culture of silence renders workplaces and schools inherently unsafe. Our default to, “sure you can’t change that”, “it’s always been that way” – allows for bullying, sexual harassment and exploitation.

Collectively more confident, we would be willing to speak out against systemic ills – without worrying about being labelled bold or cheeky.

Choose change, find your voice and take care to create safe spaces for yourself. Ask for help if you need to – just don’t go it alone!

Finding our voices simply means we willing to tell the truth. For more on what that would look like, I’ve profiled some ordinary citizen-activists doing just that in a blog post On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values.

The systemic abuses I was addressing were unique to the Republic of Ireland. The call to action is equally relevant to my Northern Irish, British and American colleagues where we face different, but equally concerning failures of leadership and governance.

Change is hard, #DontGoItAlone.

If supportive peer groups, workshops to help you gain clarity or one-to-one coaching would would help – learn more.

 




A Collage, A Vision Board & Action…

“It works if you work it”

Simple, tried and true – it’s an adage heard often in 12 Step fellowships.

So what is a “Vision Board”? It’s a tool for creating authentic outcomes in our own, ideal life. And yes, they work.

This Huffington Post article got my attention in early 2015: “The Reason Vision Boards Work and How to Make One“.

The term “Vision Board” was new to me. Somehow I’d missed the years of evangelising by Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and other celebrities – and I was skeptical.

Yet, I knew they worked, I’d actually been doing them for years.

It Works…

Twenty five years ago, I discovered the book and 12 week The Artist’s Way program.

This was long before ‘vision boards’ existed.

There was a “collage” assigned during Week 7, and it opened the door to a career change and more lucrative work; five years later a second collage inspired a major shift personally. Fifteen years ago, another collage catalysed a move from America to Ireland. 

Twice yearly now, I usher Artist’s Way groups through the process of making their own – and often, I join them.

Updating the images provides an insight into the effectiveness of your efforts. It’s like the infernal voice emanating from a GPS after a wrong turn: “Recalculating“. It’s a call to action. Re-route and get focused on the path of your own choosing.

Clarity about and a focus on your destination, keeps the chaos, distractions and busy-ness of life at bay.

From Seeing is Believing: the power of visualisation:

There’s ample science to support the fact that “Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success!”

If you work it…

Doing a collage or a vision board just didn’t seem like work, so I was skeptical.

And thankfully it’s not! But occasionally, we need reminding: work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Work is our linear, thinking, logical brain, in action. And our logical brain is our “censor”. In the “Basic Tools” of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises: “Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous…the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.”

Creativity resides in our “Artist Brain”. It’s our inventor, it’s childlike curious and apt to take chances – collecting images, being present to possibilities while silencing the “censor” is what’s unleashed while we’re creating the boards.

To quote Stephan Spencer’s article –  Vision Boards, Because New Year’s Resolutions Were So Last Year

“Vision boards help make all of the jumbled, abstract feelings in your head into a foreseeable future. If you’re skeptical about making a vision board yourself, ask what you really have to lose by trying it. Not really much. But perhaps it makes you more in tune to the repercussions of your choices and how they align with getting what you want.”

Images are powerful. This photo taken by Riley Robinson  during a 2005 course we attended in Ireland became my screen saver . Three years later I was living in that very village.

Action

Aligning our intention with our values, staying tuned in to the repercussions of our choices, and focus, is what ultimately determines whether we can sustain the changes we “think” we want to make. Let’s get back to that Logical Brain and the Artist Brain. Creating the vision, imagining what is unknown – requires turning off the logical brain and tuning in to the associative and freewheeling nature of our ‘Artist Brain’.

Keep the vision board up – and return to it’s message frequently, because –

“It’s like selling our own ideas to ourselves.”*

Now you have to close the sale. And I advocate doing that with support.

To that end I’ll be delivering a series of Vision Board Workshops. in 2018. They’ll provide a full day immersive experience during which you can achieve clarity in the company of like minded people. Groups challenge each other. On the day, you’ll find you dig deeper and are supported. Later, should you find your enthusiasm is waning, your peers are there to reflect back the best of what they’ve heard you commit to.

A goal is a dream with a deadline- let’s get dreaming!

The next workshop is on Saturday, 23. June 2018. Interested in laying a foundation for your best future? Click the link or leave your details to the right.

*Lucinda Cross