Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poverty In Ireland

Poverty In Ireland

I have done the research, and according to the latest Central Statistics Office findings contained in the 2007 EU survey of income and living conditions, I am “At Risk Of Poverty”

Do I feel impoverished? Not at all.

I don’t have any spare money; we can’t pay our bills fully. We can’t afford new clothes; we can’t afford to mend the car. We cannot afford to go out at weekends. But we are not poor. Well not in my mind anyway.

According to the Combat Poverty Agency 16.5% of the Irish population are at risk of Poverty and 5% actually experience consistent poverty, now these figures were released in 2007, and as we all know this was before the credit crunch kicked in, before the banks crashed and before the developers saw the light and ceased building.

Our nation is suffering poverty and not just in a purely financial sense. Yes the money seems to be gone, the good times are behind us for a period of time, but we have also lost our sense of justice as a nation, our sense of community our sense of togetherness

When I think of real poverty I think back to my recent visit
to the graveyard beside the old Christian Brothers Industrial School in Letterfrack, in beautiful Connemara. Now if you want to experience a real sense of poverty then make an effort to visit this place. Set amidst some of the most stunning scenery that our country has to offer is an example to us all.

As our country grew over the last century or so, we allowed far too many of our citizens to fall by the wayside. Humans are selfish by nature, but as a nation we have spent millions of pounds promoting our Irishness to the rest of the world. We want to welcome you to our country, we are great people. We will take care of you when you visit

Alas this is an empty promise. We were never able to take care of the most vulnerable in our society so how then can we take care of our guests.

I had been to Letterfrack on many occasions before. It is a quiet west Galway village at the base of the Connemara National Park.

One sunny afternoon, which was strange for this past summer my wife and son accompanied me on a search for a playground in the National Park.

Two year olds have so much energy and swings and slides are a great way to tire them out

As we walked up a slight incline past the church I noticed a small black wrought iron gate and a sign that said “graveyard”
I have always found graveyards very relaxing places, the history of them makes me want to recall past times so we decided to investigate. The path through the gate took us to a serene wooded area and up the hill again.

At the top a marble plaque was placed on the wall with this haunting script

What they suffered they told but few
They did not deserve what they went through
Tired and weary
They made no fuss
They tried so hard
To stay with us

I opened another small gate and we entered the graveyard and my heart sank. I actually felt sick to my stomach. I felt a tremendous amount of anger.

There laid out in front of me were row upon row of small black heart shaped gravestones 77 in total to represent 99 boys who died in the care of the Christian Brothers from the 1890’s to the 1970’s when the school was finally closed school

This is the final burial place of some of the unwanted souls of Ireland’s shameful past.

I just looked a the ages of the dead children, 10 years old, 3 years old, six years old, age unknown.

The uniformity of the gravestones reminded me of the final resting place of the soldiers from the two world wars. But these were not soldiers who died in war; these were children who died in utter poverty and confusion.

Records show that these children were beaten, abused and shown none of the respect that we should afford our youth.

So the next time that you think you are poor. The next time you moan about not having this and not being able to afford that. Stop and think a second. Think about the pain and suffering that these children suffered, and what’s more all done in the name of god

Most graveyards that adjoin a church can be seen from the church, but not this one. This final burial place of scores of children is hidden in a wooded area away from the church. You would not find it unless you were looking for it

The church abused and tortured these children and even in death the church still feels the need to shame them by hiding them away.

These beautiful black marble gravestones were not placed there by the church, they were not placed their by the families of the deceased, they were actually placed there as recently as 2002 by the Joseph Pike Research Group, in a bid to remember these young boys.

These children suffered real poverty. Poverty in its purist form.

I do hope that during this current recession we can spend a little time to look out for a neighbour or a friend. Never be afraid to ask the question “Are you Ok?” Can I help in anyway?

Many of us are really lucky. We have our families and friends and support networks to help us through.
Having visited the graveyard in Letter rack I am trying to put my own advice into action

I hope that you will try it too, and when someone does ask you for help, hold out your hand and your heart and remember that it was not too long ago that we as a nation just turned our backs on the most needy in our society.

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