lorraine carey

Guest Blog & Poem ‘Voices’ by Lorraine Carey

20150622_113326 (2)Article 40.3.3, known as the Eighth Amendment, was voted into the Irish Constitution by referendum in 1983. The amendment states: ‘The states 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.’ It equates the life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, and has created an unworkable distinction between a pregnant woman’s life and her health.

On Friday May 25th, Ireland will hold a referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

This is a highly emotive, divisive debate with both sides passionate about their beliefs and the choices available. I wrote the poem ‘Voices’ (see below) after I read of an attack on an individual collecting outside a Catholic Church, after being subjected to vile abuse from a Pro-Life Campaigner. The sheer level of hypocrisy and turning a blind eye just baffles me. The individual was quoted as saying ” I found it totally insensitive, totally disrespectful and indeed insulting, looking for money to promote abortion outside the Catholic Church”.

I found it sickening when the discovery of infant remains were unearthed in a septic tank, little babies thrown in like refuse, without a second thought or the dignity of a name to mark their short existences.

As a mother, I found it heartbreaking to read of tragedies and ruined lives because of childhood sexual abuse by priests and nuns and the lengths the Church went to, to cover up and keep these individuals quiet. It is disgusting, insensitive, totally disrespectful and indeed insulting that the voices trying to silence those (women), are at the centre of this tsunami in changing culture. Misogyny’s alive and kicking within Ireland and the Church.

The Catholic Church’s control and influence in Ireland has taken a severe hammering with accounts of clerical abuse, mistreatment of women in laundries, selling children and babies to Americans (and subsequently faking these children’s deaths) the discovery of infant remains in Tuam, Co. Galway and a total disregard for the suffering and psychological damage inflicted on siblings, mothers and fathers and relatives who search for any scraps of answers.

Respect, dignity and basic humanity have been lost in a vortex.

So many lives have been destroyed by these atrocities and the traumas never go away.
As an Irish woman and mother, it’s imperative that we vote, as choice is the bottom line here. I have had successful pregnancies and know the pain of an unsuccessful one.

Let’s remember contraception was only legalised in Ireland in February 1985. Though it was still illegal to advertise contraceptives and use of the birth control pill remained restricted, the vote marked a major turning point in Irish history, the first-ever defeat of the Catholic Church in a head-to-head battle with the government on social legislation.

amnesty-03I would like to live in an Ireland, where I know the health of my twelve year old daughter is deemed important and valued, and not at the expense of a malformed foetus, or that her mental health is compromised, because a medic deemed her unborn child’s right to life more important than her own. I would support my daughter in her choice, whatever that choice may be. That’s what mothers do. There have been avoidable deaths in Irish hospitals, because of this Eighth Amendment; and the subsequent court cases brought by grieving widowers / partners have brought this issue into the public domain. Had these women been granted abortions (many in the case where the pregnancy was unviable and/or the foetus had died) a lot of these women would be alive today.

And whoever thinks abortion is an easy option is deluded. I don’t think any woman ever undertakes this decision lightly. She must live with the consequences for the rest of her life.

This is about choice. Women will continue to have abortions and travel to England for them if this Article remains. Women will continue to have unplanned and unwanted pregnancies for many complex reasons. Women are at the forefront. Our bodies should be treated with respect and integrity, as should our minds and mental health. Compassion doesn’t have a price. I respect choice and differing opinions. I respect democracy.


Donegal poet and artist Lorraine Carey has had poetry widely published in: Prole, Epoque Press, Ariel Chart, Poethead, The Honest Ulsterman, Atrium, Live Encounters, The Lake and Picaroon among others. An advocate for mental health awareness, she has had two articles published on the website ‘A Lust for Life’ – an award winning Irish well-being movement. http://www.alustforlife.com/about-us. A runner up in the 2017 Trocaire / Poetry Ireland Competition and The Blue Nib Chapbook Competition, she has contributed poetry to several anthologies. Her artwork / photography has featured in Three Drops from a Cauldron, Dodging The Rain, Riggwelter Press, and Olentangy Review. Her debut collection From Doll House Windows is published by Revival Press. She lives in Fenit, Co. Kerry.


I have felt the flickers,
the flutterings of little arms
and legs in utero.
I have felt the drain of first trimesters,
the indescribable exhaustion,
sleeping afternoons away
as I waited for that glow,
I was told would definitely come.
I have felt that lioness love,
in the small hours watching
tiny fingers uncurl, pawing for
my milk like a blind kitten
as I fought to stay awake.
I have felt sadness for the child I lost,
would never feed, nor walk hand in hand to school.
Amending a clause for women’s rights
won’t quell the drain, the hastily booked, lonely flights
across the Irish Sea. The shame and fear incessant,
weaved within our culture.

Don’t think these women forget,
living the rest of their lives
reminded by a date, a newborn’s cry,
a boarding card stub.
Hear the voices, the tragic stories,
the denial of rights for the living,
the breathing, the menstruating,
the sepsis stories, the widowers accounts.
Save the judgement for reflection,
mirror in hand.
Those shouting loudest about rights,
are happy to preach about sin and contrition,
how soon they forget, selling children
to visiting Americans, dumping infants
in unmarked graves. They grasped dollars
and pubescent bodies with equal ferocity.
Undocumented abuse brushed under, relocated,
as thuribles belch loudly with incense and hypocrisy.
Save the throwing of stones, the shattering of glass
and hold that mirror close.

From Doll House Windows by Lorraine Carey

I have spoken before about my maternal grandmother’s final home – a high rise flat in Gateshead. My paternal grandparents lived in a tenement block in Glasgow. It was on the bottom floor, with two bedrooms, a small bathroom, kitchen, and living room. Up to ten people at a time lived there (my grandmother had ten children, five of whom died before the age of five) from the 1930s to when I first went there in the 1960s. My father left when he was 17, but at 84 still calls Glasgow home.

Flintstones-HouseWhat do you think of when you think of home? Is it the history of wallpaper that reflects the changing times? The leather three-piece suite you bought off some bloke in the pub and had to drive down long country lanes to a hidden away warehouse – but was assured it was all totally legit? (I know someone who actually bought his house from someone in the pub). Was it the smell of chip fat in the kitchen as it cools back to white, a cracked window that was never fixed, the gradual wearing away of the staircase carpet?

20170517_150346Lorraine Carey’s beautifully evocative poem, From Doll House Windows, is about a childhood home and the memories it still holds. “An aubergine bucket served as a toilet,/in a two foot space. Mother cursed all winter/from doll house windows where we watched/somersaulting snowflakes.” And like the poem, many of us had a pet (mine was a succession of goldfish from the fair, that usually died after two weeks), “My father brought back a storm petrel/from a trawler trip. /I homed him in a remnant of rolled up carpet -/ that matched his plumage.” But in the chaos of a young family’s house, something dark goes beyond the everyday in Lorraine’s poem; a memory of home, which will never be forgotten.

(A small note: by pure coincidence, and a reflection of how small our worlds can be, Lorraine grew up a couple of streets away from me in Coventry – who would have thought that ‘County Coundon’ could be a place of such poetic nurturing).

Lorraine Carey was born in Coventry, England and moved to Greencastle, Co. Donegal where she grew up. Her poetry has been widely published in the following: Vine Leaves, The Galway Review, Olentangy Review, Dodging the Rain, A New Ulster, Quail Bell, Live Encounters, ROPES, North West Words, Sixteen, Stanzas and Poethead and is forthcoming in Atrium and Launchpad. A past winner and runner up of The Charles Macklin Poetry Competition, she was a runner up in the 2017 Trocaire / Poetry Ireland Competition. She has contributed poetry to several anthologies and her artwork was featured as the cover image for Issue 15 of Three Drops From A Cauldron. Her debut collection From Doll House Windows – Revival Press is available from www.limerickwriterscentre.com. She now lives in Fenit, Co Kerry.

From Doll House Windows

The woodlouse dropped off the ceiling
like flaky plaster, landing on the candlewick
that failed to keep me warm in the two roomed house.
In damp darkness feeding on their own waste.
Racing rafters for the little heat in a temporary dwelling,
five minutes from Grandma’s.

An aubergine bucket served as a toilet,
in a two foot space. Mother cursed all winter
from doll house windows where we watched
somersaulting snowflakes, as evening fell.
Icicles sparkled, hung from gutters
in tapered spikes.

My father brought back a storm petrel
from a trawler trip.
I homed him in a remnant of rolled up carpet –
that matched his plumage.
Our kitchen cum every room smelt of children,
resentment, the flapping panic of his final days.

Slaters scuttled through my dreams
I tugged on my bedspread, shook them off,
disrupted my mother’s sleep as she manoeuvred
with her ghost breath sighs caught by streetlight.
She pulled the candlewick taut over her belly
the skin marked with angry tracks,

as my unborn sister stretched
in the safety of her amniotic sac.

Chip Van by Lorraine Carey

tesco farmsThe supermarket giant Tesco did a funny thing recently. They invented farms. They began selling food items produced on farms that don’t exist. So now you can buy chickens from Willow Farms, diced beef from Boswell Farms, and a variety of fruit from Rosedene Farms. The amazing thing is, they can get away with it. But the reason they did it actually makes sense, for they realised that people still want to feel that the food they buy is made locally, and not in a factory. The tragic irony is that it is the real farms upon which these imagined ones are modelled, which are suffering at the hands of this type of big capitalism.

vans shoesOne of the contradictions of capitalism, or should I say one of its cons, is the issue of choice. On the ugly face of it, your choice of purchase, whether it be an earring or a car, is endless. You can get a seeming boundless range of designs; for example, when researching chip vans for this feature, I came across the popular shoe brand Vans, and yes, you’ve guessed it (unless you haven’t) was an image of a pair of shoes covered in chips – you can also get a pair with pepperoni pizza design. But the contradiction in all of this, is that as consumers we tend not to go outside our comfort zones. We wear remarkably similar clothes, eat a small range of foods. Hence trends emerge, promoted by social media, the most recent of which sees half the western world running around playing Pokemon Go.

Within this advanced stage of capitalism, a concentration of ownership by large corporations, puts pay to many small businesses which simply can’t compete with such economies of scale and bullying marketing tactics. You have to go ‘niche’ if you want to succeed; to carve yourself a slice of choice no-one has yet had a taste of. But even here, big business will eat it up. Take real ale, for example. For years the likes of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) supported such producers, but now it has been taken up and turned into ‘craft’ ales so as to make you feel that is more artisanal. Similarly, local coffee shops are under attack from the main chains such as Starbucks.

lorraine careySmall family run businesses and trades have been squeezed from such practices for many years. But I think one of the businesses that hasn’t been corporatised in this way, is your fish and chip shop (with the exception of Harry Ramsden’s in the UK, which is now a series of franchises). Lorraine Carey’s nostalgic poem, “The Chip Van,” takes us back to a time when such food outlets were more ubiquitous. (more…)