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Irish Left Archive: The path to marriage equality in GCN – II June 6, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in LGBT Rights, Marriage equality, Social History.
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To mark the anniversary of the marriage equality referendum, The Cedar Lounge Revolution is publishing a short series of posts on the evolution of discussion of same-sex couples, lgb families, and their legal recognition, as portrayed in the pages of Gay Community News in the 1990s. The first post in this series covered the years 1990 to 1994; here we continue the story with material from 1995 and 1996. The articles are from my collection of GCN issues from the 1990s. (My collection is incomplete, and important developments may not be included because of that.)

The first piece is from the April 1995 issue, and it is a short review of John Boswell’s The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, which is an atypically scholarly book to make the review section of GCN. However, as the review itself explains, this particular book had ‘broken out’ of academia and had garnered attention in Newsweek. I notice, but don’t know what significance to attach to, the fact that the reference in the article to ‘same-sex “marriages”‘ places inverted commas around the word marriage.


Irish Left Archive: The path to marriage equality in GCN – I May 23, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in LGBT Rights, Marriage equality, Social History.

It is a year since we voted not only to lift the ban on same-sex couples getting married, but to place an obligation on the state to put in place a law for marriage equality.

Marriage equality was not always the priority for the gay community. This post looks at the evolution of interest in that topic and the related questions of gay families and of the recognition — both legal and unofficial — of partnerships. It is far from a scholarly article: First, it uses just one strand of data: the pages of Gay Community News (GCN) in the first half of 1990s; second, my collection of back issues is incomplete. Never the less, they illustrate what the gay community’s leaders were saying and what its media felt was important to report.

The first issue of GCN in my collection is from 1990, and even that is too late if you want to do a complete analysis, because it does not show if or how the Irish lesbian, bisexual and gay community reported on or reacted to the introduction of civil unions in Denmark in 1989.

1981 Irish Anti Apartheid Movement letter looking for letter writers to South African Prisoners February 8, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in racism, Social History.
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From 1981 a letter from Louise Asmal of the Irish Anti Apartheid Movement, looking for letter writers to South African Prisoners imprisoned because of their opposition to the evil system of apartheid.

Its 30 years since “Boys From The Black Stuff” June 20, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in British Politics, Culture, Film and Television, Social History.

The full series and the pilot episode (and sure there’s no football on tonight to watch)

Episode 1 – “Jobs for the Boys”


The President used the ‘s’ word February 23, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Class, Community, Culture, Economy, Ethics, European Politics, Inequality, Ireland, Neo-conservatives, Political Philosophy, Social History, Society.

The archived speeches on the site of the President, http://www.president.ie go back only as far as 1997 (Mary McAleese’s inauguration speech), and even in a group that consists of nine members, a sample of two is not a good representation. That said, it is worth noting that this week, President Higgins caused the words socialism and socialist to appear on that site for the first time, by using them in a speech yesterday on Tuesday in London.

When the L.S.E. was founded in 1895 by the four leading Fabians, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Wallas, its founders were convinced of the power of education in not only lifting their fellow citizens out of poverty but also of such citizens understanding, participating, and in time, offering an alternative form of society, one that would be egalitarian, democratic, tolerant, one which would extend and deepen democracy in every aspect of life. Such an achievement would also constitute, they felt, the establishment of socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

He also said

the great founding texts of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Croce and others

and, quoting Frederick Powell,

“Privatisation is the road back to autocracy, in which a hollowed-out state is bereft of anything meaningful to attract the support of the citizen – especially the marginalised, excluded from the mainstream of society.”


Standing in support of unregulated markets, of unaccountable capital flows, of virtual financial products, are scholars who frequently claim the legitimation provided by a university. The university is at times put under pressure to demonstrate its utility as the seat of the single hegemonic model of society and economy that prevails.

I believe universities are challenged now not only to recover the moral purpose of original thought, emancipatory scholarship,


Weber, of course, could not have envisaged the consequences of the journey intellectual thought would make from reason to rationality, but then on to calculable rationality, and finally, in our own time, to the speculative gambling that is at the heart of so much global misery with its view of those humans who share our fragile planet, not as citizens, but as rational choice maximizing consumers.

We are in such a winter as Weber foretold. For example, we have arrived at quite widespread acceptance by policy makers of a proposition rejected by the majority of serious economic historians, that markets are rational. This, on occasion, leads, in the extreme, to the suggestion, absurd and all as it may sound, that it is people who are irrational, the markets rational


The mid-twentieth century constituted an atmosphere where social capital emerged and social democracy mediated conflict. The twentieth century saw too a public debate about the role of the State, the rights of the individual and social policy, of the balance between these areas.

In succeeding decades political philosophy and social theory gave way to issues of administration analysis of the role of the State faded and gave way to applied studies, in an administrative sense, of the State’s actions.

A discourse based on solidarity interdependency, shared vulnerability, community, gave way to a discourse on lifestyle and individual consumption. A society of citizens gave way to a disaggregated mass of individual consumers.


There is not, for example, any better future for economics as a subject and discipline than as political economy within a system of culture.

Wow. That won’t go down well on Merrion Street.

See the video here: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1362

The past and the present… November 26, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Social History, Social Policy, Society.

We live in a state where significant elements of its apparatus, including most crucially those elements charged with security and oversight of such matters colluded (with some honorable exceptions) with Church authorities in covering up a range of acts which are difficult to credit both in their scale and severity. The Church itself up to its highest authorities are shown to have known about this abuse across decades and been unwilling to deal with it on any serious level until societal mores changed sufficiently and its power was diminished sufficiently for temporal authorities to take charge.

There’s a telling paragraph in the opening pages of the Report:

The volume of revelations of child sexual abuse by clergy over the past 35 years or so has been described by a Church source as a “tsunami” of sexual abuse.2 He went on to describe the “tsunami” as “an earthquake deep beneath the surface hidden from view”. The clear implication of that statement is that the Church, in common with the general public, was somehow taken by surprise by the volume of the revelations. Officials of the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities have repeatedly claimed to have been, prior to the late 1990s, on „a learning curve‟ in relation to the matter. Having completed its investigation, the Commission does not accept the truth of such claims and assertions.

And it continues:

The Dublin Archdiocese‟s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State.

It also notes that, under the section Knowledge of clerical child sexual abuse:

The authorities in the Archdiocese of Dublin and the religious orders who were dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse were all very well educated people. Many had qualifications in canon law and quite a few also had qualifications in civil law. This makes their claims of ignorance very difficult to accept. Child sexual abuse did not start in the 20th century. Since time immemorial it has been a “delict” under canon law, a sin in ordinary religious terms and a crime in the law of the State. Ignorance of the law is not a defence under the law of the State. It is difficult for the Commission to accept that ignorance of either the canon law or the civil law can be a defence for officials of the Church.


Another consequence of the obsessive concern with secrecy and the avoidance of scandal was the failure of successive Archbishops and bishops to report complaints to the Gardaí prior to 1996. The Archbishops, bishops and other officials cannot claim that they did not know that child sexual abuse was a crime. As citizens of the State, they have the same obligations as all other citizens to uphold the law and report serious crimes to the authorities.

There’s this:

State authorities The Gardaí

1.92 There were a number of inappropriate contacts between the Gardaí and the Archdiocese. Clearly the handing over of the Fr Edmondus* case to Archbishop McQuaid by Commissioner Costigan was totally inappropriate. The relationship between some senior Gardaí and some priests and bishops was also inappropriate – in particular, in the Fr Carney and Fr cases.

1.93 A number of very senior members of the Gardaí, including the Commissioner in 1960, clearly regarded priests as being outside their remit. There are some examples of Gardaí actually reporting complaints to the Archdiocese instead of investigating them. It is fortunate that some junior members of the force did not take the same view.

And this:

The health authorities

1.97 As is described in Chapter 6, the health authorities have a very minor role in dealing with child sexual abuse by non family members. The Commission is concerned that the legislation governing the role of the HSE is inadequate even for that limited role. There is a need to clarify exactly what the role of the HSE is in relation to non family abusers and to set out clearly the powers it has to implement that role. The HSE and the health boards have given the impression to Church authorities and the Gardaí that they can do more in the area than they actually have the power to do.

And in terms of recognising that child protection was an issue note that as far back as 1970:

State responsibility for child protection

1.99 The Commission notes that there was an extraordinary delay in introducing child protection legislation. The need for new legislation was clearly recognised in the early 1970s but it was not actually passed until 1991 and not fully implemented until 1996. That new legislation, the Child Care Act 1991, does not sufficiently clarify the powers and duties of the health authorities.

The primary responsibility for child protection must rest with the State. In enforcing child protection rules and practices, organisations such as the Church cannot be equal partners with the state institutions such as the Gardaí and health authorities. The Church can certainly work in co-operation with the State authorities in promoting child welfare and protection as, for example, the sports bodies do, but it must be remembered that it is not an agency with equal standing.

Then there is the issue of communication between Church and State:

1.101 Such communications as took place between the Archdiocese and the Gardaí prior to 1995 were largely inappropriate. Since the implementation of the Framework Document, the Archdiocese and other Church authorities report complaints of clerical child sexual abuse to the Gardaí – this is appropriate communication.

There are some dispiriting points as regards how victims of abuse were perceived, not by those immediately around them but by the authorities:

1.103 The vast majority of those who were abused as children complained when they were adults. In almost all cases they said that they did not complain as children because they did not think they would be believed or because the abuser had told them not to tell anyone. It is striking that, of the relatively small number who complained at the time, the majority were in fact believed. They were believed by their parents and they were believed by the authorities to whom the abuse was reported. This makes the failure by the authorities all the more egregious.

And a set of statistics that makes one wonder at how matters might have transpired had the issue not surfaced when it did, since it appears that the act of rendering it public assisted in bringing evidence of abuse forward:

The controversy and drama surrounding the Fr Brendan Smyth case in 1994 (see Chapter 7) brought clerical child sexual abuse to public attention. It is probable that this was the first time that many members of the public became aware of the possibility of clerical child sexual abuse. The claim that bishops and senior church officials were on „a learning curve‟ about child sexual abuse rings hollow when it is clear that cases were dealt with by Archbishop McQuaid in the 1950s and 1960s and that, although the majority of complaints emerged from 1995 onwards, many of the complaints described
in this report first came to the attention of the Archdiocese in the 1970s and 1980s. The Commission examined complaints in respect of approximately 320 complainants against the 46 priests in the representative sample. Of the complaints examined by the Commission,

three were made in the 1960s;

11 were made in the 1970s and there were two suspicions/concerns;

64 were made in the 1980s and there were 24 suspicions/concerns;

135 were made in the 1990s and there were 23 suspicions/concerns;

112 were made in the 2000s (mainly between January 2000 and 1 May 2004) and there were 10 suspicions/concerns.

I genuinely believe every citizen of this state, and those on this island, should be reading this which is available here. As yet a further catalogue of the failures of the state and more widely the society it is essential if we are not to repeat them and as a means of validating those who at the very point where they needed the trust and security of the state were let down by it.

Clontarf Traffic School – update… June 21, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Social History, Social Policy.
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Following on from the shameless nostalgia of this… Leveller has pointed me to the following news…

…[the] traffic school for children on Dublin’s northside is to be replaced by three new all-weather sports pitches.

The €2.7m development is expected to be completed before the end of the year and will include a full-size GAA pitch, a full-size soccer and rugby pitch, along with a pitch for seven-a-side games.


In the past, the huge site also boasted an athletics track and a football pitch dating back but the new development will be the most up-to-date of its kind in the city.

The project is being funded by Dublin City Council, along with the Department of Sport.

There has been a contribution from the GAA.

While the pitches are aimed at training, each will meet the full requirements of the playing code for each of the games.

The pitches will be floodlit and surrounded by a see-through perimeter fence.


In the past, the huge site also boasted an athletics track and a football pitch dating back but the new development will be the most up-to-date of its kind in the city.

The project is being funded by Dublin City Council, along with the Department of Sport.

There has been a contribution from the GAA.

While the pitches are aimed at training, each will meet the full requirements of the playing code for each of the games.

The pitches will be floodlit and surrounded by a see-through perimeter fence.

Interesting though to note that…

Four years ago, Dublin City Council announced plans for a major revamp of the traffic school, to include lecture halls and an indoor arena for use in bad weather.

It was also planned to double the size of the road track, complete with traffic signals, road markings, pedestrian crossings, corners and road signs.

Pending the revamp, the school closed and road safety aught by a team from the Council’s Road Safety unit visiting schools with portable equipment.

A council spokeswoman said it had since been decided to replace the traffic school with the football pitches, while the road safety team would continue to visit schools.

While in no way dismissing the the sports complex I can’t help but wonder if doing away with the Traffic School is such a great idea. It certainly caught the imagination of generations of Dublin school children and school visits? Not sure that’ll work in quite the same way.

In the meantime here are some photographs of the site as it currently is.




Traffic School in Clontarf – Redux April 18, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Social History, Social Policy.

A contributor to the CLR asked a question and got an answer, at least in part, to a question posed in last weeks post on the Traffic School at Clontarf…

From Cllr Bronwen Maher, Independent Councillor.

Re: Clontarf Traffic School…

Its to be re-opened, was to be improved, Dublin City Council have plans for that whole area including new all weather pitches. Must check on status, will table a question for May city council meeting.

Its taking some time to do, similar with getting Fairview Park back together after the port tunnel.

Bronwen Maher.

The Traffic School in Clontarf… a little piece of history… April 11, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Social History.

I visited the site of the old Dublin Corporation Traffic School in Clontarf the weekend before last. I’m sure many people have seen it and many more will remember it. A small enclosed world, set between Alfie Byrne Road and the newish (well… to me anyhow) station at Clontarf, with its own roads, pedestrian crossings, signs and known to generations of school children. This was where we brought to learn the rules of the road, and then… and this was the important bit… ‘drive’ pedaled ‘cars’ around those miniature roads for five or ten minutes.

This is what it looked like (embedding is disabled but click on the link and it will bring you straight to the YouTube clip);

I must have been there sometime in 1972 or 3. I can’t think that it was any later than that because I remember being very very young (no doubt someone will correct me and I’ll discover I was 12).

The site today is deserted. Some of it has been given over to a playing field. It’s clear that it’s also used for making woodchips. In fact I suspect Christmas trees are broken down there. And because it has been part opened as a way to the DART it is possible to walk around it.

It’s odd for a number of reasons. Firstly there is the JG Ballard like desolation. This is what you feel that our cities would be like after the bomb. The road surfaces are actually in pretty good shape, but the verges and traffic islands are overgrown. The main centre where we filed in for the class on road safety is now boarded up. When I last visited an alarm was going in one building. The other oddness is trying to match it to my memories. I seem to recall the sea was an awful lot closer than it is today, that looking out from the school one could see the smooth surface of the water of the bay. A lot depends on when Alfie Byrne Road was built and whether that was reclaimed land. And then I remember the day I was there it was sunny, but cold. I’ll have to ask my friends from that time if that’s what they remember as well.

Here’s some photographs of what it looks like today. Perhaps some people know the history of the place and why it was eventually shut down (sometime in the last five years I believe).




Living history… “Aspects of Maynooth” September 9, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, History, Social History.

As it happens I was in Maynooth this weekend and caught sight of an exhibition in Maynooth Town Library.

Entitled “Aspects of Maynooth” it was compiled for Heritage Week by Terry Nealon and Fergus White of the Local History Group.

It’s a fascinating overview of the history of the town concentrating on interviews with and reminiscences of ordinary people who lived and worked in it and eschewing the Carton House/Maynooth College view served up as representative of the place in the guide books, which while of importance often overshadows a reality of many thousands of lives spent there. There’s an history of the War of Independence and Civil War centred on the town. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area, and apparently it will be on display in the Library until the end of the month. I believe there may be plans to consolidate the work in some other form.

Anyhow, a number of images struck me as particularly interesting and I’ve been given permission to reproduce them here. They certainly give a sense of how life has changed in Ireland across the century.

First is an image of a group of school boys from c. 1914 – 1920.

If you click on the image you’ll see that they’re arrayed in a fairly eclectic mix of clothing and footwear. The boots are in most cases those of older boys or men, probably brothers or fathers. The jackets possibly are from American parcels sent by relatives in the United States.

It’s fascinating to move on some thirty or so years to another group of school children [click on image to see at higher resolution].

Note the bare feet of the two children in the front row on the left.

And here is an image [click on image to see at higher resolution], probably from the late 1950s of a Corpus Christi Procession through the main street. This would have been organised independently of the College but is indicative of the flavour of the times. The two men at the front holding the awning were former IRA members. Note the people kneeling at the side of the road.

Different times.

Anyhow, it’s in the Library and open to viewing on Monday/Thursday 1 pm – 8 pm, Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday 9 am – 5 pm.

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