What’s in a Name?

It turns out a lot, even if you aren’t unfortunate enough to be “A Boy Named Sue”.

“It’s that name that helped to make
you strong…

And I think about him now and then,
every time I try & every time I win.”

I share that sentiment!

It was a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon in February 1955. Shortly after my birth, the doctors started to take seriously my mother’s complaints of feeling unwell. It turns out she wasn’t ‘just’ a first-time mom not up to the rigours of pregnancy.

It was nothing less than an acute gall bladder, requiring a surgery that was nearly too late – peritonitis had set in. Whether she ever held me, I’ll never know – but it was more than a month before she would have the chance to hold me again. Much that I have come to understand about myself since reflects the loss of that bonding.

That’s a tragic beginning for any infant – the most fundamental experience of being connected to a secure place in the world is lost forever.

Kenneth Allen – near Drumscra, Northern Ireland

But it was accompanied by a gift.

I’m reminded of the dock leaves that grow alongside nettles – pay attention and you will find the cure for the sting close at hand.

That same day the universe provided a cure – the first of many women who would step in and mother me over the course of my lifetime.

 

My hospital discharge was to come 5 days later, before my mother had become fully conscious.

Infants in those days could not be sent home without a name and this presented a problem.

My father was insistent I be called Margaret Mary after his mother. My maternal grandmother asserted rank and demanded Concettina – which, beyond the decidedly ethnic – in her dialect, was not as lovely sounding as it might appear.

Enter a woman whose name, ironically, I never knew.

She was a nurse, described to me often as a God-fearing Southern Baptist woman recently arrived in New York City from somewhere in the Deep South. She bore a faith-based authority and strength of character that stood her in good stead when dealing with my fierce, 6’5″ Irish father.

She sat with my mother through her intermittent periods of consciousness insisting that she name me. My mother – quite sure she was dying had little interest in entering the fray. She finally relented saying – “Think of the first woman’s name you can think of”.

It was a simple as that – she gave me the first woman’s name. She used my mother’s name in the middle – and that rescue comes to mind whenever someone points out that my initials spell my name.

The power in that name is that it distinguishes me from the needs and wants, expectations and desires of what went on to devolve into a very toxic family. It also bonded me to the woman who bore me – in spite of the wounds that kept us unavailable to each other in life.

I have also learned in the telling and retelling of that story, that sometimes the Divine enters the world in the guise of strangers. Others like her followed – people whose acts of kindness shaped my life and my orientation to the world. I expect it was that first intervention which allowed me to be open to her successors when they appeared.

At age three and a half – long before nursery schools existed – a paediatrician, Mary Pfaff – made it possible for me to enter a convent kindergarten. In those pre-Vatican II days, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary were addressed as “Mother”. Mother Catherine – was precisely that for the 9 months of the year I was in her care and through the letters she wrote me in the summertime.

By six, my mother’s best friend’s parents – Rose and Abe Goldstein entered my world – becoming significant in the years after I left the safe confines of Marymount and lived – just a few blocks from them – in Manhattan.

At 13 it was a nurse – at 15 an Aunt who was reintroduced to my life. At 25 no more unlikely an advocate than my father’s first wife, the mother of my two half-sisters who appeared to fill a void at the time of his death. At 27 I met my dearest friend who mothered me through the early days of my marriage and my first pregnancy – arriving at the hospital for the birth of my eldest and triggering a moment of panic when the nurse announced that “my mother” had arrived. The ‘real’ one as it turned out.

And then there was Alice – another God-fearing Southern Baptist woman transplanted from the Deep South. God may not have promised us tomorrow as she often reminded me – but she witnessed that what we need is delivered if we’re willing to accept it, from unexpected and even unlikely people.

She and a tribe of other mothers helped to rear my children. They shared their wisdom and their experience of having been well-mothered – they modelled and taught what they knew and I did not.

The purpose of this introduction is not to tell you about them – but to ask you to imagine who you might be or what you might bring into the life of another, especially a child – if only for a moment.

None of these people was ever-present. The total time spent with some would hardly amount to a day or with others, a week – but when I stop to consider their impact on the quality of my life and the chances for my future – especially as compared to my brother’s experience – each in their way was life-saving, life-giving and life-affirming.

Each in their way sustained me.

We don’t have to aspire to “be the change you want to see in the world”.

We can easily be the change someone needs in their life today. And that may amount to only a smile or a kind word – something we can all afford.

Special thanks to Sally Murphy for her recent presentation – at her Re-Stór event with Shane Breslin. She inspired the writing of this part of my story – for which I’d never quite had all the words.




Meet Stephen Henderson…Ruach Music

If you’d asked him a decade ago when he was 13-years-old what he wanted to be when he grew up – he probably wouldn’t have said entrepreneur.

If you’d asked him where he wanted to live when he grew up  – he might have said right here.

That’s the joy of having watched the rise of Ruach Music.

Everything you need to know about him can be found both in the name of his business – Ruach means spirit, wind, breath or air and in his first product, the cajon – a drum, which in his words is

..such simple instrument but you can do so much with it.

And that he has!

His story can be heard here. He covers his journey from building his first cajon at 16 because he couldn’t afford it otherwise, through to customising instruments for other musicians by request.

He launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to finance expanding production. Since then products have been added – all of which they manufacturer and export.

There’s now a team of seven – and even better they’re giving back!

In support of being “a brand at the heart of the music industry“, they’ve launched two initiatives.

The Ruach Sessions – supporting musicians in their early days with free videos and the Ruach Roster – the global family of artists they endorse.

In 2014, he was kind enough to present at an event in a series I was co-hosting with young tech entrepreneur, Chris McCabe. Newry Creates was designed to showcase the kind of innovation and regional economic impact that Ruach Music and so many others – have launched in South Down, across Ulster and around the island of Ireland. We can and do turn ideas into livelihoods.

Stephen Henderson inspired then – and continues to inspire now. Beyond telling the world about the latest products, this campaign will support the training of a student and further up-skilling the team in order to continue their commitment to craftsmanship.

So now we’re delighted to share the details of his latest Kickstarter campaign – The World’s First Pocket Guitar Stand.




That which abides… a barometer for love & startups

Coincident to marking a decade in Ireland last November, a colleague introduced me to a startup he’d joined as a co-founder.

Frankly, in spite of my longstanding enthusiasm for all bright and shiny new things – I was far less intrigued and excited – and considerably more cynical than I would have been ten years ago.

Okay, maybe more cautious than cynical.

I’m as committed as ever to building a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem on Ireland’s border, as well as continuing to drive business and civic leaders to focus on a prosperity process. It’s key to ensuring the gains made in our now decades’ long – and Brexit-challenged – peace process.

That said – economic dynamism – like finding true love – requires kissing a lot of proverbial frogs. The failures are as important – if not more educational – than the successes.

Nevertheless, with considerably less of my three-score-and-ten remaining- I now apply the same criteria to investing my time in a startup as I do in relationships.

    1. Is its mission, structure and philosophy congruent with my authentic self?
    2. Does it support my commitment to gradual development and steady progress in work and life by simply maintaining momentum and focus? (In spite of my distractability!)
    3. Opportunities and possibilities are great, but is this one appropriate for me now?
    4. Nature requires beginnings and endings – will the abiding memory of having invested my time and energy be a good one?

It’s a lot to ask of a fledgeling relationship – and I agree – it’s a ridiculously high bar to expect a software platform to meet.

And yet –  I’ve found one that does. Meet Bizmerang!

Mission, structure and philosophy –

Empowering Change best describes not just my practice, but my way of being in the world. It has always been grounded in gathering tribes. I believe that we come into the best version of ourselves when we are surrounded by those who share our values and a commitment to serve each other.

First I gathered a family of choice when my family of origin dispersed. The next included my partners and peers in recovery and others came of the faith, business and civic groups I have built and rebuilt in a lifetime of too many relocations.

Bizmerang’s tag line is “Help Each Other Grow”. It’s move from a Facebook Group to this platform is grounded in wanting to improve the depth and quality of the relationships nearly 3000 people have already established – so we’re definitely on the same page!

Gradual development and steady progress to maintain momentum and focus –

The platform’s Circles exist as wholly autonomous groups, “Hosts” create communities of their own design, in an environment under each host’s control. Bizmerang is free of the noise, distractions and advertising otherwise present on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s my guarantee that setting the group’s dynamic and pace is of my own doing.

An added advantage is that it has encouraged me to reconnect with both the people I have fallen out of touch with – and some of the networking groups and Chambers I no longer interact with frequently enough. Renewed relationships keep the focus of my work in Northern Ireland, the Republic and abroad – in balance

Is now the best time – and is this the best place?

Empowering Change – Personally, Professionally and Civically – requires both a seasonal restructuring of my program times and vigilance when it comes to not losing myself in the work of my practice when what I really need is a more consistent focus on the business.

A single platform that allows me to deliver content, genuinely communicate with and not broadcast-to followers – while encouraging them to interact with each other, would have been enough.

The addition of features that allow me to offer courses, as well as create, promote and manage events – both online and in person, would have been enough.

The opportunity to experience a launch and learning curve in this Northern Ireland tribe of fellow “Bizmerang-ers” who have been generously sharing wisdom, experience and referrals since January 2017 – puts us all at an advantage!

Will will the abiding memory of having invested this time and energy be a good one?

Well, the Bizmerang project has three things going for it here:

  • As a Host of two Circles – Catalysing Connections and Ulster Connections – I’ve had occasion to revisit projects and relationships begun between 2009 and 2011 – which felt like they’d been left unfinished. I’m already thrilled to see a framework forming on those foundations
  • In launching the Circles, I’ve had the pleasure of introducing old friends and colleagues – as well as newer acquaintances with whom I’ve not yet worked. With each invitation and introduction, I’ve been able to express my gratitude directly for the many kindnesses shown me – and pay a few forward.
  • While preparing content for posts, articles and courses to upload – I’ve had quite a stroll down memory lane. It’s humbling to know that not a single effort, false start or amateurish attempt at building a network has gone to waste.

So that’s a resounding yes!

Beyond being confident that the time and energy invested has been well rewarded already – it’s been a joy to awaken enthusiastically. Not a single task has felt like work – it has just flowed.

Care to join the adventure?  Complete the form at the right – and I’ll send an invitation!

And while you’re at it – reach out and congratulate co-founders Shane McCann and Guy Bucknall who connected via the Co-Founders Programme at Catalyst.

It’s also my not-too-subtle reminder that networks are great – but it all begins with #ShowingUp!




An Election Day Road Trip; Ireland to Damascus…

…or back to business as usual in our “Grey Town“.

All aboard!

We’re on the road to the polls Friday – and just for one day – ordinary citizens are driving.

By Monday next, we’ll know if we Irish have collectively stepped up and chosen our own Road to Damascus...

…or as in C.S Lewis’ bus ride, we’ll have chosen to continue living our own divine comedy, opting to stubbornly remain in this hellish “grey town” rather than humbly choosing the work of getting to heaven.

    • In choosing the road to Damascus we will have admitted to ourselves and each other that a collective conversion is required.
    • That is nothing short of a “complete and dramatic reversal, from an enemy to an advocate” for ourselves and our fellow citizens.

Why?

Because right now 20% of us are facing the stress of housing insecurity, 25% are on HSE waiting lists, we about to enrich another private business for a major infrastructure project, the courts are available only to the rich,  as are cutting-edge cancer drugs, #Whistleblowers are still demonised enough to not come forward and 4000 children are homeless…

Road Trip

It’s time. We all need a break.

All this recovery/austerity/crisis fatigue is taking its toll. Everyone’s tetchy.

I know, you middle and upper-class types haven’t been on a bus in years. If ever. Not to worry, we’ve booked the luxury models for you.

Relax, you’re not expected to co-mingle with the hoi polloi. Opt for the upgrade and ride along with the Banker, Barrister, Politico or pseudo-Journalist convoys.

The rest of us can examine why the powers-that-be must clean up their own acts –
or have it done for them.

Bankers first

Whew, y’all really do need a rest. It’s sad to think you had simply wanted a secure, pensionable job. What happened? Now everyone is gunning for you – literally and figuratively.

Consider this nastiness:

And all poor Bernard Byrne was trying to do was “make nice” to the Finance Committee.

Where is this hostility coming from? It’s getting as bad as Iceland!

Almost as bad as Iceland – Ireland’s only jailed four bankers for less than a total of 10 years. Iceland?  They’ve put away 36 – for nearly a century!

I suppose your conclusion is that since few were punished – nothing really needs to change? Wrong.

Barristers next

Wow! That is certainly an exclusive club you belong to. Imagine! Entry is contingent upon working one whole year or more after graduation – for “free”.

Does anyone think anything good could come of a process called “devilling“?

It’s clearly not character building!

Having now attended a half dozen proceedings involving lay litigants up against your lot – I can personally speak to the haughty, condescending and patronising arrogance the litigants and the gallery face. In three of these cases, I’ve listened to barristers carry on to the judge about how bothersome it is to deal with the unqualified truth-tellers desperate enough to appear undefended in your realm.

I would empathise if any of these litigants had the option of having adequate representation via legal-aid, crowd-funding or as should be the case for tracker mortgage victims, class actions. They are an identifiable class of plaintiffs that have the same cause for claims. Such a vehicle would also have allowed a single lawsuit with the potential to provide more adequate compensation for their real losses- rather than what the regulators negotiated. The same regulators who were willfully blind to their circumstances for years.

Seriously, what kind of arms-length-transaction was that? And how much ought to be owed for destroying families and driving innocent victims to suicide?

Politicians and Journalists

Your convoy might be asked to come to terms with is how you aid and abet the King’s Inns’ crowd in silencing anyone who might have a mind to call for fairness in the legal system. Ending their monopoly requires political will – and we don’t get political will if citizens don’t know what they don’t know about how corrupt it is out there.

Or more importantly, that reform of the courts, legislature and political processes really are possible!

Would you ask the politicians some hard questions for us? Perhaps cover stories that matter?

          • Are there really judges who in spite of having had substantial debts forgiven – hear cases on bank claims?
          • Where will #accountability and #transparency come from when so many stories go untold – or the version offered is only that of Ireland’s power-elite?
          • Why is there little objective press cover for High Court Master Edmund Honohan’s experience of the legal inadequacy of procedures dictating possession orders, evictions, and summary judgments?
          • Why has there been little or no coverage of The Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill – which has been stalled for years by this government?
          • Why was a group, determined to work within the legal and political systems to advance reform, forced to rely on self-funding a trip to New York City in order to get media coverage via Irish Central for their efforts?
          • Or for the same group to have to fund-raise thousands to get any coverage in an Irish newspaper?
          • Why does coverage of activists and changemakers always involve besmirching their character first and presenting their arguments later (if at all)?
          • And why have the newspapers never admitted that “property porn” pays the bills – so there is zero chance of fair coverage when changemakers try to hold the banking, legal and political professions to account in matters of development, foreclosures and vulture funds?

If you believe that these four groups will police themselves from within – then vote for the same-old-same-old.

But Eve, there are no TDs are standing it’s “only” Council and MEP candidates.

That’s true – but there is no “only” in politics. Strike a blow to their candidates – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will get the message.

  • Just say no to their MEP candidates.
  • Listen to the Independent candidates – few have been given press coverage and they’ve no party coffers behind them.
  • Choose carefully when you vote for Councillors. Ask them if they will stand up to their parties?
  • If they’re Fianna Fáil candidates – ask them how they intend to take back their party? How they will demand an end to confidence and supply?

The aiding and abetting must end. Fianna Fáil cannot claim any party or policy differences if they oppose nothing. Particularly, while silencing TDs of conscience trying to bring about legislative reforms from within.

The question of whether it is the institutions or our representatives that are not fit-for-purpose must be examined.

To do that we need to elect committed, representatives who value the Republic and its citizens over self-interest and party politics.

Please, #VOTE.




Coffee Klatches, Consciousness-Raising & Water Coolers…

So what do they have in common? They remind us that there really is “nothing new under the sun”.

And the sentiment itself is ancient – Ecclesiastes 1:9 – written nearly a thousand years BCE.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Coffee klatches, consciousness-raising groups and water coolers were among the favoured gathering places in my lifetime. Humans are social animals, we thrive in community and whither in isolation.

And conversations drive change- whether it’s personal, professional or civic.

The gatherings haven’t changed much – but they have reflected changing times.

In my 1950s and ’60s childhood, there was the ‘Coffee Klatch“. Women gathered around kitchen tables with a comfortable camaraderie that helped them overcome the isolation of suburban lives. And while klatch literally translates into gossip, it was more than that. Problems were solved, wisdom was shared and comfort provided.

And lest you think that the amity of “kitchen table’ gatherings was the sole purview of women, ‘kitchen cabinet‘ was used to describe the informal group advising an American president a century earlier.

In the ’70s, coffee klatches evolved into living room gatherings – and consciousness-raising groups emerged. Those conversations made way for the second wave of feminism.

In the ’80s and ’90s, industrial psychologists described the “water-cooler effect” as though realising the benefits of engaging with colleagues and coworkers was a new phenomenon. By the early 2000s formalising this type of employee engagement was seen as beneficial – and cutting-edge.

Yet an 1850 Melville novel about life on a warship described a place where informal communication and rumour abounded. The “scuttle-butt” was the site of the freshwater pump and casks of ale where sailors of every rank would gather.

The 21st Century gathering places have changed. We’re spoiled for choice. Coffee shops abound along with coworking and other ‘3rd spaces’. The kitchens are gone – but the tables and the intimacy remain.

Our challenge is to imagine a new way of gathering. We’ve toyed with networks and platforms that serve the commercial interests of others. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter etc – are great for connecting. But they fail when it comes to relationship building.

So what is next?

Well – watch this space – and if you’re interested in joining a dynamic community of changemakers at the next level of cutting-edge – get in touch!

 

 




On Memoir as a Call to Action…

So what’s a memoir? It’s simply a tool – and it’s best described by Julia Cameron – who created it:

“The Memoir is a weekly exercise that builds upon itself. You will divide your life into sections; as a rule of thumb, divide your age by twelve, and this is the number of years you will cover each week…you will trigger vivid memories, discover lost dreams, and find unexpected healing and clarity...

Along the way, you will find dreams you wish to return to, ideas you are ready to discard, wounds you are ready to heal, and most of all, an appreciation for the life you have led.” 

The book – and the exercises are grounded in the author’s experience of developing this version of her Artist’s Way method for people considering, approaching or already enjoying retirement.

One especially heartbreaking sentence I have heard over and over from my newly retired students is, “Oh, my life wasn’t that interesting.”

My own experience includes dozens of conversations with peers who relate stories of the lives of their friends who have retired – lives they can’t even imagine.

  • I hate golf
  • What would I do?
  • I’d be so bored?
  • But my work is who I am!

About the latter – let me assure you – it is not.

In groups over the last three years – men and women between 40 and 70+ have joined me in an exploration of this exercise. “A-Ha” moments abound. Not because they ‘figure out’ or ‘dream up’ new ways of being – but rather because they come back into themselves.

What were those passions you discarded in search of “a proper job”? Where were those places you imagined travelling to or schools you really wanted to attend?  What did you imagine being when you grew up?

And if you became what you always wanted to be-when exactly did you decide what that was?

If you find you’re resisting the idea of remembering – you’re not alone. I worried – as did participants described in the book – that I’d find I’d made a terrible mistake. That I was to blame for every ‘wrong turn’ or outcome I’d experienced.

But a funny thing happened.

The decision made at 25 – considered in week six – was revisited with the knowledge gleaned from my deep dive into ages 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19, and 20-24. That choice really was the best one I could have made for that young woman at that time.

The process of remembering is a gentle one.

Embrace it. You’ve got nothing to lose.

If you’d like to learn more or see how it works in action – you’re welcome to join our private Facebook Group where I’ve explored my journey through Weeks 1 to 8.

Not yet ready to pick up the book or start the 12-week process?

Try a baby step toward the process.  I encourage you to start gathering photos from your childhood and adolescence – pictures that catapult you back to moments in different places and times.

Who we were, what we imagined, what was encouraged, nurtured or supported – or wasn’t – impacted our trajectories.

This one taught me all I needed to know about who I am now, why I do the work that I do and how I know that whatever one does or says on behalf of a young child – it matters!

When you’re ready to make a change – get in touch!

#DontGoItAlone

For more information on the book, our groups or the process – click here.




Pro Bono Publico – Tell us your story

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 Amendment 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 the content was a fact-based, clinical observation by a doctor 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 the 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. People without access to the courts, legal advice or remedies when facing eviction, homelessness or having had egregious experiences of our health and social care systems.

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

 




‘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 Phelan, Emma Mhic Mhathúna, Stephen 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 known 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.

 

 




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.