Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural covered up again but who regulates the regulator?


There is a poetic symbolism to the images here of the artist Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural at the Project Arts centre. (additional images in comments section) The art is covered up. A government body orders a theatre space to cover up a mural of a heart, leaving just half a heart in its wake.

The line from the Charities Regulator is that the Project Arts is excluded from taking a stance on Repeal because that would be ‘advancing a political cause’ that does not relate to their charitable purpose of their arts space.

Ludices, qui iudicat in veritate - who judges the judges? Here we have the Charities Regulator making that determination of who or what lies within the charitable purpose of an organisation. It was with some interest that we learned that the current CEO of the Charities Regulator is John Farrelly, a man who has three books published by Veritas. When you go to the Veritas website and check on their links with various charities, the anti-choice group Family & Life are the first on that list, and describes itself as:

“focused on protecting human life and helping women, children, unborn babies and families in vulnerable situations. “

This is like being a detective in ‘The Wire’. We really need to set up a situation room, complete with the corkboard, and follow all the connections between the various power brokers, because this is a case that goes back to the start of this State. What we are going against here is an established network of power, which has inculcated itself into the machinations of the State. Generations of fundamentalist catholics in government departments, in the judicial system, in every root and branch of the State acting in the interest of the Catholic Church. From the 1920’s the Catholic church was invited in, and it fitted itself into the role of social guardian like a hand into a welcoming glove.

The decision to invite them into that role has never really been examined, but it is a decision which has caused untold damage in our society. What followed that was a culture of repression and suppression. A culture of cover-ups. In this way it is apt that half a heart lies in Temple Bar, where once there was a full one raging against the 8th.

Anyone who has been paying attention over the last half century that has elapsed since 1967, when abortion was introduced in the UK, will know the book of evidence which we can all lay at the feet of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Words that are like triggers because of the trauma they bring with them, words for their institutions, like industrial schools, in the mother & baby homes, and in the Magdalene laundries. Places like Letterfrack, Goldenbridge, or Tuam are now synonymous with the cruel and brutal treatment of women and children. This is part of our history and the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Irish State was so much like a partnership, that on the last day of a Fianna Fail government in 2002, the agreement reached was that compensation to victims of this abuse, would be split between the State and the various religious orders. After the publication of the Ryan report, the amount owed by the Religious orders was increased. As of 2015, only €85 million of the €226 million has been paid over. Apparently only 13% of this redress scheme has been paid by the Religious orders.

‘History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake’, wrote Joyce. The repeal referendum in many ways is the collective awakening of the Irish people from the horror of this history.

This was present at the very origins of the State, as the Catholic Church were put into this position of the moral authority over people, by the Cumann na nGaedheal government. That was built around a core ideology of misogyny, that saw women as the moral corrupters.

The Catholic Church had a deeply sexist view of women in society. As the sociologist Tom Inglis (1998) points out, they portrayed women as “fragile, weak beings” and “for women to attain and maintain moral power it was necessary that they retain their virtue and chastity.” In order to enforce these attitudes, the church portrayed sex as unclean and immoral and ultimately, women’s bodies were something to be ashamed of.

Suppression of sex was a priority. The aim was to make Ireland into the best Catholic nation in the world, and sex could be only about procreation. From the outset sex outside of marriage, became targeted by the moral guardians of the Catholic Church, and the aim was to suppress all sexual activity that they deemed illicit. Censorship was introduced by 1923 in films, imagine what they needed to ban in silent moving pictures of that era?

The Church succeeded in imposing that view into the subsequent laws which quickly followed, such as a strict censorship in films, by 1923. The very subject of sex was repressed through the power of the Church and through the laws enacted by the state. Divorce disappeared in a ban imposed in 1925, as did access to contraception and there was a ‘crusade’ against the red light district of Dublin’s Monto. What all this did was to repress all discussion of sex, so that the subject became synonymous with ‘filth and sin’ and imorality. By 1930 there was a report produced into sexual crimes in Ireland. The Carrigan Report revealed widespread sexual abuse of children. It was decided by the Department of Justice not to publish it. The culture of cover ups had started and so it would continue.

By the mid 1930’s our state had begun to target “matters which might tempt its citizens to engage in any sexual relations” namely dancing. (P. Conroy, p37, The Abortion Papers Ireland)

Pauline Conroy summarises this activity neatly here:

“A comprehensive array of laws in the sphere of employment, citizenship and fertility control were adopted by the Oireachtas and founding fathers of the state in the 1920’s and 1930’s which fixed and subordinated the status of women in Ireland for the subsequent five decades and more.” The Repeal referendum echoes back to this time and it is part of the process that we have to go through as a people to address these injustices. A woman’s role in Ireland was fixed at the very start of this country’s life, and the 8th amendment needs to go because it is a law that actively subordinates women.

A cover-up of a Heart mural for repeal was so apt. It follows a policy that has been handed down since the inception of the Irish state. We were encouraged to see new Repeal murals spring up in Dún Laoghaire, by the artist Holly Peireira, (image in comments) and another one the Amnesty building.

We should not underestimate the struggle that is ahead of us in this campaign to repeal the 8th. Neither should we underestimate the powerful network between Church and state which oppose us. That is why we need to rise up as a people, and say no to all the cover ups. No to not discussing matters openly and acknowledging the reality of the need for abortion as part of free caring health care system within Ireland.


TEXTS consulted:…

The Abortion Papers Ireland: Volume 2, Attic Press 2015, Pauline Conroy : Dúirt Bean Liom ...A woman told me..Punishing the Productive and Reproductive

Inglis, T. Moral Monopol: The Rise of the Catholic Church in Modern Ireland, 1998, Dublin UCD press
Veritas Charities links