Donal O’Keeffe Profile picture
Feb 3, 2018 25 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Thread, I'm afraid.

This past fortnight, Down Syndrome Ireland has begged that those of us who have Down syndrome not be weaponised in the #repealthe8th debate and not be used as poster children by either side.
Imagine how hurtful it must be to anyone with DS to be told repeatedly - by people whose defining trait is that they’re consumed with the Holy Spirit of certainty about everything – that they are unwanted and are only alive because their parents had no choice in the matter.
That certainty, of course, ignores the fact that the zealots have absolutely no idea of the choices any parent of a child with Down syndrome has made. Because choice, by definition, is literally anathema to the anti-choice.
Of course the Ionans and Ganleyites – who are almost to a man (and they seem mostly men) Catholic in the extreme – went ballistic that Down Syndrome Ireland should dare to speak on behalf of people who have Down syndrome.
Were there any point, I would ask the Quinns and the Mullens and the Ganleys - of whom we shall never be set free - what they think would have happened to a baby born with Down syndrome in the Tuam Home when the Catholic Church was in its pomp.
In 1938, the headage payment from the State to the nuns in the Tuam Home was £1.62 per child per week. In today’s money that’s roughly €110 per child per week. (The children’s allowance is currently about €35 per week.)
The Bon Secours nuns benefitted also from slave labour from the mothers they incarcerated in the Tuam Home. The Tuam Home was awash with money. And yet at the same time, the infant mortality rate in the Tuam Home was five times that of the rest of the country. #tuambabies
My friend Sheila O’Byrne remembers, in 1976, in St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home on Dublin's Navan Road, being handed babies and told “Take that to the Reject Ward”.
Why did so many children die in Tuam? Are they all dead? Certainly there are hundreds in the ground. Did the nuns take the decision to fatten up the “healthy”, “good-looking” babies to be sold to wealthy American Catholics, and let the other children to die?
I don't know if kids with DS were let to die in Tuam, but with due respect to those who take offence at everything except 796 babies in a septic tank, one doesn’t imagine much demand in the wealthy Catholic suburbs of mid-20th century Boston for kids who had Down syndrome.
I have no doubt the anti-choicers are sincere in their beliefs, but it’s hard to take seriously their fetishisation of theoretical, potential people to deny the rights of actual, sentient people.
Remember, these are the spiritual heirs of those who opposed contraception, sex education, rape crisis centres, divorce, homosexuality, and who – when this was their Ireland - gave us Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, industrial schools, clerical sex abuse,
marital rape, forced adoptions and 796 babies disposed of in a disused Victorian sewage treatment plant scant yards from a graveyard, and the Christian burial their due as baptised Catholics.
To quote Michael Collins, “We’ve had enough of your past. Give us back our country.” #repealthe8th
A vital aspect of the #tuambabies story is the remembrance of the Dolan brothers, two healthy babies born in Tuam and who, seemingly, died in infancy. More than half a century later, the younger sister they never knew has made it her life’s work to find them.
John Desmond Dolan was born, a healthy baby, to his mother Bridget on Tuesday, 22nd of February, 1946 in the Tuam Home. He died, one year and three months old, on Wednesday, 11th of June, 1947.
He was described in the April 1947 inspection report as ‘a miserable, emaciated child with voracious appetite and no control over bodily functions, probably mentally defective’. His death certificate, two months later, calls him ‘a congenital idiot’.
John’s younger brother, William Joseph, was born healthy on Sunday, 21st of May, 1950. William is registered as having died in the Tuam Home on Saturday, 3rd of February, 1951 but, crucially, no cause of death is given and he is not recorded on the national death register.
The record of William’s date of birth was altered (to Saturday, 20th of April, 1950). As the film ‘Philomena‘ showed, this was commonly done with babies trafficked abroad for adoption.
John is probably dead (although his sister can’t even be certain of that). John died – officially, at least – of measles. Three months earlier, John was described as ‘emaciated, with a voracious appetite’. I think the Bon Secours nuns allowed John to starve to death.
The boys’ sister believes in her heart that William is alive in the US or Canada. She has reported her brother to the Gardaí as a missing person. He is, she says, Ireland’s oldest – and youngest – missing person.
The Dolan brothers are just two of the 796 lost children missing and presumed long dead. We would never have heard of John and William if not for Anna Corrigan, the younger sister they never knew, the younger sister who for most of her own life, never knew about them.
In fact, we might never have heard of any of the Tuam Babies at all if not for her, if not for Catherine Corless and if not for Alison O’Reilly, who broke the story in the Irish Mail on Sunday
I have no doubt about the sincerity of those who claim loudly to be “pro-life”, at least when it comes to being “pro-life” about theoretical babies. They often tend however to be somewhat less fervently “pro-life” once those babies are actually born.

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More from @Donal_OKeeffe

Oct 4, 2018
It's Woody Guthrie's anniversary.

In 1950, Woody moved into the Beach Haven Apartment complex in Brooklyn, becoming a tenant of one Fred Trump.

Trump had availed of federal grants to build that complex, grants which were contingent upon his accommodating Black veterans of WWII
Trump took the Government's money and then refused to allow any Black tenants in Beach Haven.

When Woody discovered this, he was incensed.

In a white heat of rage, he wrote:
"I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project."
Read 4 tweets
Oct 3, 2018
On the morning of the 7th of June 1996 in the Co Limerick village of Adare, heroic Irish soldiers, acting under the authority of the legitimate Government of Ireland, attempted to liberate vital funding and – in the course of their duties –
were forced to open fire upon cowardly agents of the traitorous Free State government, killing one.
If you don’t recall it quite like that, there’s a good chance you’re an establishment stooge or – like me – an FF/FG/Labour lackey. It may even be possible you’re Endangering The Peace Process.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 20, 2018
My friend Dave "Rookie" Roche, who’s in his mid-nineties, tells a great story about the famous Fermoy poet and full-time alcoholic Jack Devine standing outside Tommy Baker's barber shop one Sunday morning long ago as the car with the loudhailer on the roof drove past.

"The cream of the country?" says Jack. "More like the cunts from the creamery."
Another time Jack was sinking pints above in the Forge one night when Doctor Hanley started rubbing Jack's considerable belly.

"Tell us, Jack,” he said, “when is it due?"

"Oh, any day now, any day."

"And tell us, Jack, what will you call it?"
Read 4 tweets
Jul 29, 2018
Heard a story about a friend of mine, a Garda now retired. Almost universally liked, he was a notorious soft touch. Under pressure from the Super, he was sent out to the main road with the speed gun. Sure enough, everyone he caught turned out to be a friend with a sob story.
Coming to the end of his shift, he had let off half the parish with cautions and still had no tickets issued. Around the bend came a D-reg car, absolutely bombing it.

“Well, said my friend once the car had stopped, “Amn’t I glad to see you. I’m waiting all day to catch you.”
“Sorry about that, Guard,” replied the Dub, “”but I got here as fast as I could.”
Read 4 tweets
Jul 27, 2018
I attended secondary school in the 1980s. In my first week, standing against a wall on the peripheries of a school concert, a boy said something to me and I replied to him. A teacher ran at me and punched me in the stomach. #liveline
I remember sliding down the wall, the back of my head hitting off a radiator as I blacked out. That was my introduction to a place infected completely by a culture of bullying, a place where violence seemed to seep from the walls.
Corporal punishment was outlawed in Ireland in 1982, but nobody told some of our teachers. One ancient relic, an algebra teacher, offered an amnesty to boys who had failed to complete his daily tests. Three wallops of his cane to the hand if you owned up, six if you didn't.
Read 6 tweets
Jul 23, 2018
Anna Corrigan is laying into Minister Zappone.
Anna tells Zappone this is not a matter for her department. This is a matter for Justice.
This is about illegal adoption, Anna Corrigan says.
Read 20 tweets

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