1. I read Yeats’ famous poem, The Second Coming: “
                                                     … and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

2. We continued our analysis of Eithne Strong’s relentlessly grim epic poem, Flesh: The Greatest Sin; in which Ellen’s innocence is destroyed by the poverty and weakness of spirit around her.

3. We listened to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech in the Dáil about the Tuam Mother & Baby
 from which …
“we [had] better deal with this now” because if the Government did not, another taoiseach in 20 years would be saying: “If we only knew then, if only we had done then.’ But his or her then is our now.”
And I wonder what will be the Tuam Mother & Baby Home issues of your careers that you will have to be strong about and face up to so that future generations don’t castigate you for burying your compassion, mercy and humanity.
4. We read through a few scenes from a play together: ‘Eclipsed’ by Patricia Burke Brogan; highlighting the way innocence gets drowned in the contingencies of life, and how compassion can be squeezed out of us under pressure.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described the Tuam Mother and Baby Home – where hundreds of babies’ remains were discovered – as “a chamber of horrors.”
From The Country Girls by Enda O’Brien

The first nun who came to the classroom was young and very pretty. Her skin was pinkwhite and almost moist. Like rose petals in the early morning. She taught us Latin and began by teaching us the Latin for table and its various cases. Nominative, vocative, and so on. The lesson lasted forty minutes and then another nun came, who taught us English. There were two new sticks of chalk and a clean suede duster on the table beside her hands. Her hands were very white and she wore a narrow silver ring on one finger. She was twisting the ring round her finger all the time. She was delicatelooking and she read us an essay by G. K. Chesterton. Then a third nun came to teach us algebra. She began to write on the blackboard and she talked through her nose.

‘Nawh, gals,’ she said. I wasn’t listening. The autumn sun came through the big window and I was looking to see if there were any cobwebs in the corners of the ceilings, as there had at the National School, when shethrew down the chalk and called for every girl’s attention. I trembled a little and looked at the x’s and y’s she had written on the blackboard. The morning dragged on until lunch time. Lunch was terrible.

First there was soup. Thin, grey-green soup. And sections of dry, grey bread on our side-plates.

‘It’s cabbage water,’ Baba said to me. She had changed places with the girl next to me and I was glad of her company. She wasn’t supposed to change, and we hoped that it would go unnoticed. After the soup came the plates of dinner. On each plate there was a boiled, peeled

potato, some stringy meat, and a mound of roughly chopped cabbage.

‘Didn’t I tell you it was cabbage water?’ Baba said, nudging me. I wasn’t interested. My meat was brutal-looking and it had a faint smell as if gone off. I sniffed it again and knew that I couldn’t eat it.

‘This meat is bad,’ I said to Baba. ‘We’ll dump it,’ she said, sensibly.

‘How?’ I asked.

‘Bring it out and toss it into that damn’ lake when we’re out walking.’ She rooted in her pocket and found an old envelope.

I had the meat on my fork and was just going to put it in the envelope when another girl said, ‘Don’t. She’ll ask you where it’s gone to so quickly,’ so I put just one slice in the envelope and Baba put a slice of hers.

‘Sister Margaret searches pockets,’ the girl said to us.

‘Talk of an angel,’ said Baba under her breath, because Sister Margaret had just come into the refectory and was standing at the head of the table surveying the plates. I was cutting my cabbage, and seeing something black

in it I lifted some out on to my bread-plate.

‘Cathleen Brady, why don’t you eat your cabbage?’ she asked.

‘There’s a fly in it, Sister,’ I said. It was a slug really but I didn’t like to hurt her feelings.

‘Eat your cabbage, please.’ She stood there while I put forkfuls into my mouth and swallowed it whole. I thought I might be sick. Afterwards she went away and I put

the remainder of my meat into Baba’s envelope, which she put inside her jumper.

‘Do I look sexy?’ she asked, because she bulged terribly at one side.

When our plates were empty we passed them up along to the head of the table.

The lay nun carried in a metal tray which she rested on the corner of the table. She handed round dessert dishes of tapioca.

‘Jesus, it’s like snot, Baba said in my ear.

‘Oh, Baba, don’t,’ I begged. I felt terrible after that cabbage.

‘Did I ever tell you the rhyme Declan knows?’


‘“Which would you rather: run a mile, suck a boil, or eat a bowl of snot?” Well which would you?’ she asked, impatiently. She was vexed when I hadn’t laughed.

‘I’d rather die, that’s all,’ I said. I drank two glasses of water and we came out. Classes continued until four o’clock, Then we all crowded into the cloakroom, got our coats, and prepared for our walk. It was nice to go out on the street. But we bypassed the main street and went out a side road, in the direction of the lake. As we passed the water’s edge, several parcels of meat were pitched in.

‘I have done the deed; didst thou not hear the noise?’ said one of the senior girls and the lake was full of little ripples as the small parcels sank underneath. The walk was short and we were hungry and lonely as we passed the shops. It was impossible to go into the shops because there was a prefect in charge of us. We walked in twos and once or twice the girl behind me walked on my heel.

‘Sorry,’ she kept saying. She was that mopey girl who kept passing me the bread the first evening. Her gym frock dipped down under her navy gaberdine coat and she had steel-rimmed spectacles.


For Savita Halappanavar

The procedure complete, I wake alone.

The hospital sleeps…


From Voices at the World’s Edge edited by Paddy Bushe:

“On the 13th of May 2009, around eleven in the morning, I fell on a moving staircase at Leonardo Da Vinci airport, Fiumicino, doing myself severe injury.”



Anne Enright, from the essay, Difficulties with Volkswagen:


“Perhaps Ireland was not real enough to have real childbirth in it. The question remains as to why, in a country obsessed by reproduction, obsessed for decades with the ownership of female fertility – a country, moreover, with more decent writers per acre than any other piece of land in the world – there are so few accounts of labour and birth in Irish literature.

These subjects are deeply taboo, but that is not a real excuse: Irish writers have long been in the business of breaking taboos. Many Irish writers were men – but so was George Moore. Many of the women writers did not have children, or if they did, they had no time to write anymore. ‘For every baby a tooth,’ they used to say, and, when I started out, ‘for every baby a book’. (They were wrong.)

But even if the writer is a woman, and one who has given birth, there are problems writing the experience into a novel, as opposed to a non-fiction account. It is hard to remember a labour, unless you remember it too well. There is also an uncoupling of cause and effect. The beauty of the child, the fact of the child, has very little to do with the ease or difficulty with which they came into the world, and novels are all about cause and effect.

Birth is so melodramatic. It is, in a funny way, an accident, the way a car crash might be an accident, and accidents make us question the fiction – Who made this up? you say. This is one of the reasons why there is a lot of sex in novels and very few babies. Paradoxically, modern fiction describes many, many sexual positions, and almost no contraception. Babies themselves make poor characters in novels: they may have personality, but they have very little moral agency. Actually, let’s face it, mothers make poor characters in novels: they have limited choices, and there is always something on their mind other than the plot. It is very difficult to think of novels – or, indeed, of Shakespeare plays – that have a mother as the central character.

Of course, when the novel shades into genre – historical fiction, sci fi, and horror, it deals with childbirth alright, but in the gothic, spooky, or sweaty-screamy way: there are birth scenes in Gone with the Wind and in Rosemary’s Baby, and Danielle Steele is rarely without one, apparently. But the history of the modern novel is the history of the individual in society, and childbirth, I would argue, is not about the individual. It is about … something else.”

James Plunkett, Strumpet City

Edna O’Brien, The Girl with the Green Eyes


As a former nurse, she knows how death works. “I know the things I don’t want. I don’t want to end up in hospital having to be fed with a peg feed through my stomach and I don’t want a drip. Just so long as they inject me with painkillers to keep me comfortable that’s it. I don’t want anything to prolong my life.”

Full article in Irish Times here >>> http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/terminally-ill-ex-nun-i-have-right-to-decide-when-i-go-to-heaven-1.2965489

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