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. 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.

At Letterfrack by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Deference. That key ingredient for soft power, even if it is enforced by hard methods (think of Putin or Trump). A lot would argue that deference is in decline. Figures on trust in public individuals, such as politicians, but also the media, are in decline. The internet allows for a greater challenge to authority than ever before (notwithstanding the ongoing battle over who controls it). Still, I think deference has a lot to answer for when it comes to injustices meted out by those who hold power.

When the archaeology of child abuse is finally dug up, a lot of what was allowed to go on, could be put down to deference. When I was at school, I was once hit on the head with a toffee hammer by a PE teacher for suggesting we play football instead of rugby for a change (this was a Hogwarts type grammar school, that allowed a few of the likes of us in). He cut my head and left a large lump. But I never thought to report it to anybody (not even my parents) because given the regime, I didn’t feel anyone would believe me. But this is such a minor example, given what is now being uncovered in other schools, churches, and institutions where children are under the tutelage of adults (scouts, football). Trust and deference go together.

In the past there were never the type of safeguards that are in place now. An authority figure, be they a priest, teacher, or coach, would command a level of trust given the position they held. But challenging that position, especially when your own values (e.g. religious) are invested in such people, meant that many were afraid to speak out. I know this from the experience of my local community growing up where the priest was a paedophile. Today, many of those parishioners can no longer look at photos of the happiest days of their lives (weddings, christenings, confirmation) because he is in the picture.

letterfrackIt seems there are never ending examples still emerging; in just the past week I have read reports of alleged abuse of children at a ‘therapeutic’ Christian farm in the US state of Georgia, and the discovery of mass graves of young children by unwed mothers in Tuam, Ireland. Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s haunting but beautifully written poem, At Letterfrack is an account of similar abuse at the Industrial School in Ireland that went back to the 1930s. It was so bad that boys would try to escape.Ice grows on dormitory windows. Inside, rows of snores./Together, two boys whisper and dress in the dark. Hand in hand,/they run through white fields towards home.” But as the Ryan Report found, “they would usually be apprehended, sometimes by local people, and returned to the school.” On return, “they are beaten and sprayed with a hose.” One can hardly imagine how the perpetrators could defend such treatment. But people have great belief in the Faith and the institution of the Church; this trust is passed onto those who represent it, and were thus rarely challenged or questioned about their cruel practices.


Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual writer working both in Irish and English. Among her awards are the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Michael Hartnett Prize, and the Ireland Chair of Poetry bursary. Her most recent book is ‘Oighear’.


At Letterfrack

From the Ryan Report on Industrial School Abuse, Volume 1,
Chapter 8, paragraph 162: “The children would run away at night
but they would usually be apprehended, sometimes by local people,
and returned to the school soon after.”


This bog of flattened bracken was once a vast forest,
filled with wildcats and wolves.
The bog still dreams of trees, buried deep, unseen.

Centuries ago, people build tougher roads here —
slats of wide wood hauled up and laid side by side
so treacherous wetlands of bog could be crossed.
These roads remain, far below the surfaced,
where years of peat grow over the past like scabs.
The bog swallows people and their paths.
The bog swallows itself.

Later, few trees grow
so people hunt the wood that lies below,
trunks of sunken forests buried in the bog.
At dawn, they seek patches of peat
where dew has disappeared, then pierce
the surface and push long rods deep,
deeper, through gulping ground
until they strike solid wood.
They pull chunks up and make rafters,
doorways, window frames.
From this land, a school and a spire rose.

Behind the school, a path ends at a small gate–
small plot, small stones, where smalls letters spell small names.
Leaves whisper: there is nothing here to fear.
The earth holds small skulls like seeds.

Ice grows on dormitory windows. Inside, rows of snores.
Together, two boys whisper and dress in the dark. Hand in hand,
they run through white fields towards home.
Does the land betray them?
No, a wizened hawthorn holds out hands to try to hide them.

In winter, runaways are easily found. Even in the dark,
small bootprints break through white to the ground below.
Does the land betray them?
Yes, it shows their path through snow.

They do not cry as they are dragged back, stripped of clothes,
pushed against the wall, their small feet sinking into snow.
There, they are beaten and sprayed with a hose.
Does the land protect them?
Yes, it holds their hands in the dark?

In dormitories of sleeping boys, they shiver and bleed
and weep black bogwater tears. Overhead, rafters dream
of their sunken mothers, submerged still,
deep in the bog.
Does the land protect them?
Yes, it stays under their fingernails forever.

By March, the snow has returned to air, the footprints
disappeared. From the earth, buds open white petals to light
where wood anemones fill bog-paths with stars.
Do they hold onto this land?
No, they forget. They let go.

They boys grow up. They walk away.
They leave Letterfrack, and go to London, Dublin, Boston.
Through their dreams, the mountain cuts a stark shadow.

Do they hold onto this land?
Yes, it holds them hard always – as a scar silvers from a red welt,
it tightens at the throat like the notch of a belt.

At Letterfrack is from Doireann’s collection Clasp, published by Dedalus Press

Poems of Working Class Lives – 2004 Generation Poets

Following on from my previous post on working class poems by a selection of the 1994 Generation Poets, is the second instalment as part of my paper for the upcoming Institute of English Studies conference on March 13th-14th in London.

Below are ten poems from the 2004 alumni of New Generation Poets, that have been selected in terms of whether I could find a relevant poem online or not.

2004 Generation Poets

Patience Agbabi, The Devil in Cardiff. I could have taken a number from the wonderful reworking of Chaucer, in Telling Tales, but here is the lovable rogue Robbo, who previously appeared on the site.
…non-stop to Hell! Dying for a pint, he is./Only serve tea down there, and bloody biscuits …/Bitter for me … He’ll be back here/in less than a month, though, bet you a fiver,/they’ll be beggin’ him to go./Get an ASBO from Hell, Robbo.’

Paul Farley, Depot. A magical, mysterious place where the objects of the street are housed (dustcarts, lampposts) and where street cleaners know more than you might imagine.
Here are the bays, where dustcarts spend their evenings,/where grit summers, dreaming of Januaries,/and barriers mesh, likes deckchairs off-season.’ (more…)