I was listening to The News At One on RTE Radio 1 the other day when I heard Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley TD tell Audrey Carville that Ireland’s international reputation has been ‘tarnished by the Olympic tickets controversy.
You’re probably familiar with the ongoing story. Irishman Kevin Mallon was arrested last week in Rio for allegedly selling Olympics tickets at inflated prices on behalf of a British company, THG. It seems that hundreds of tickets allocated to Ireland had allegedly been found on sale illegally.
On Monday, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Independent TD Shane Ross, said he was ‘absolutely stunned’ that the Olympics Council of Ireland (OCI) had refused his request that independent investigators be added to the OCI’s inquiry into the controversy.
Ross, who has built his career hurling from the ditch and whose ministerial performance so far was last week awarded an impressive score of 0 out of a possible 10by the Irish Times’ Harry McGee, said he plans to raise the matter with the Attorney General. This would be the same Shane Ross who – when it suited him – said that the Attorney General’s advice is “simply an opinion”. That should be an interesting meeting.
Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil’s Transport, Tourism and Sport spokesman called on Ross to initiate an independent investigation, saying that Ireland’s international reputation is ‘tarnished’ by this controversy.
Now, I’m sure Timmy Dooley is a grand fellow – the people of Clare clearly think so, having first elected him in 2007 – but I would question how tuned-in he is if he seriously thinks Ireland’s international reputation can be tarnished by a grubby little affair involving alleged ticket touting.
Seriously, Timmy, we’ve had – what? – three, four, Olympics doping controversies? I’m no expert on the Olympics, I’ll admit, but all I can recall are the sample-tampering charges against Michelle Smith de Bruin which were never actually proven, Cathal Lombard failing an EPO test in 2004, Cian O’Connor’s horse – which the Fédération Equestre Internationale said it was satisfied had nothing to do with O’Connor – and now the allegations against Michael O’Reilly.
And something that seems – at least on appearances – a bit dodgy with tickets. A scandal? Perhaps, but we’re hardly Russia, Timmy.
In any case, I would contend that Ireland has an international reputation which simply cannot be tarnished. After all, if you think the world only sees us as a twinkly-eyed, rain-enshrouded tax haven, just look at all that Ireland has given the world.
Ireland gave the world a particularly sex-obsessed version of Catholicism.
Ireland gave the world the Magdalene laundries.
Ireland gave the world forced adoptions.
Ireland gave the world the industrial schools.
Ireland gave the world sex abuse on a national scale.
Ireland gave the world Direct Provision.
Ireland gave the world a poster child for austerity.
Ireland gave the world the Eighth Amendment and because of it we export ten terminations a day.
Ireland gave the world the mother and baby homes.
Ireland gave the world 796 dead babies in an abandoned sewage system in Tuam.
And that’s just ten things off the top of my head. Besides, if Timmy Dooley seriously thinks Ireland has an international reputation which can be tarnished by Olympic ticket shenanigans, he obviously hasn’t seen those mad Taiwanese news animations about the Fianna Fail engineered economic crash.
Seriously though, Timmy, did you miss the whole Tuam Babies story? Did you not see the headlines on the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and all the others? Did you not even see ‘Philomena’?
That’s our ‘international reputation’ right there for you. We took our country back from the Brits and we handed it straight over to the Roman Catholic Church.
We took Catholicism – hardly a feminist institution at the best of times – and we invested it with a particularly vehement strain of misogyny. Religiosity, obsession with sex and a visceral hatred of women infected every part of Irish life.
The Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes were a perfect encapsulation of everything that Ireland became. Young women pregnant out of wedlock – and not always having had sex by their own consent – were imprisoned and enslaved. Their babies were taken from them and the healthy children were sold to the Church’s wealthy American donors.
The birth records of those babies were altered to ensure that the mothers would never be able to find their babies and the babies would never be able to find their mothers. It was done with a cold calculation which betrayed a heartless foresight.
That’s monstrous enough, but the Tuam story – broken nationally by Alison O’Reilly in the Irish Mail on Sunday – revealed something even more monstrous. The kids not healthy enough to sell to America, were left to die.
The 1944 Health Board report on the Tuam Home talks of children emaciated and pot-bellied with the flesh hanging from their arms. Babies let to die, green diarrhoea running through their little bodies.
The nuns received a headage payment for each child but the infant mortality rate in mother-and-baby homes was five times that in the general population, with malnourished children housed in close quarters, and disease spreading like wildfire.
Babies were passed along a battery of women for breast-feeding and any woman producing milk fed several babies at once. The nuns ordered this because they did not want mothers bonding with their own babies. Imagine that. Imagine setting out to deliberately thwart the most primal love of all, the love of a mother for her baby.
You’d wonder how Jesus of Nazareth, reportedly not the son of his mother’s husband, might have fared in an Irish mother-and-baby home. You’d wonder how his mother, a teenager pregnant out of wedlock, might have been treated here?
Anyway, Timmy, I don’t think we need worry too greatly about the Olympics or its impact upon Ireland’s international reputation. I think the world has more than the measure of us already.