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Raped by a priest, abused, incarcerated and no apology – Magdalene survivor narrates ordeal

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Seven years ago a small red exercise book was put on display in the Little Museum of Dublin. A sticker announces its purpose: “Laundry Lists Writing-In Book.”

The artefact was ignored by most visitors, which is hardly surprising. At first glance the contents are innocuous, for the copybook contains only a list of names: of families, companies, schools, clubs, religious orders and State institutions. They were clients of the largest Magdalene laundry in Ireland.
In the museum, small objects are used to tell a larger story – about Dublin, about Ireland and about the large, very odd family to which we all belong. But in trying to record our complex shared history, we also want to be inclusive. Some visitors are religious, others are not. Most people come to be entertained as much as educated.

“More than 10,000 women and girls spent time in the laundries, which operated with the blessing of an unholy trinity of family, church and State

For these reasons we struggled to find an appropriate way to talk about the ledger on guided tours of the museum. It is not something that can be referenced with a quip. It demands scrutiny. Because that copybook, in which neat red ticks denote the completion of a job, is not merely a list of clients.

It is also a damning indictment.
In the 1950s this country locked up 1 per cent of its population. We incarcerated more people per head of population than Stalin did in Russia. And the Catholic Church played a leading role. Until very recently, religious institutions ran orphanages, industrial schools, homes for single mothers and the now-notorious Magdalene laundries.
The laundries started before the foundation of the State, apparently as places of respite and training for women, prostitutes in particular. However after independence they soon became places of arbitrary detention: for orphans who had grown up in State care; for cruelly named “fallen women” who had given birth outside marriage (often as a result of rape); for girls who were simply outspoken or even high-spirited.

Moral code

Women who didn’t conform to the demands of a society with a strict moral code were locked away “for their own protection” – the medieval logic of the laundries – and forced to do backbreaking unpaid work in businesses run by religious orders. Mortality rates were shockingly high, and some victims were buried in communal graves, sometimes unmarked and unrecorded.

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More than 10,000 women and girls spent time in the laundries, which operated with the blessing of an unholy trinity of family, church and State. Nobody knew what was going on behind those walls – and everyone knew. In fact, every Irish person over a certain age is implicated in this story, whether they like it or not. That includes me.

“She still has the scars on her body. She still wakes up crying in the middle of the night

I was 24 years old when the last Magdalene laundry closed in Dublin in 1996. Old enough, that is, to vote, to care about notions such as truth and justice and to feel outraged by human rights abuses in Rwanda and Bosnia. Yet here at home I ignored the shocking reality of life for some people – a reality that was hiding in plain sight. (As a nun once put it to The Irish Times,

“There are very serious problems in Dublin if we could only get our hands on them. Girls arriving up here from the country with no money and nowhere to go.”
Two decades later, Irish society was beginning to come to terms with the brutal reality of life in the laundries. Our ledger had come from High Park, a laundry in Drumcondra that was run by the Religious Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. In addition to the many ordinary families whose names are listed, there are also emblems of Official Ireland, such as the Department of Justice and Áras an Uachtaráin. This copybook could be used to tell a larger story. But how?
We knew that the power of one person’s story might be the best way to explore its meaning. However, many of the survivors were reluctant to talk in public, while others had escaped from Ireland for a new life overseas. Among the emigres was Mary Merritt, who was interviewed for the BBC Panorama programme in 2015. Born in a Dublin workhouse, Mary spent her childhood in Ballinasloe, in the care of the Sisters of Mercy.
At the age of 16 – “I was a bold child” – she was caught stealing a few apples from an orchard and was sent to High Park. Renamed Attracta by the nuns, she spent the next 14 years enduring horrific trauma and abuse. Escaping from the convent, she went to a priest and begged for help. Mary was raped by the priest and became pregnant with a baby she met only once before the girl was given up for adoption. She told her story to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ radio in March 2018.

Memories

At the age of 83, Mary was brave enough to share her story with the BBC. Would she be willing to share her memories of High Park with our visitors? A couple of phone calls later I had her email address. Mary was living in Tunbridge Wells, and eager to talk: “I would like to take up your invitation and tell you my heartbreaking story. It is with me always.”

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Over the next 12 months I spent many hours with Mary and her husband Bill. Married for more than 50 years, they are utterly devoted to each other, and today, at the age of 88, Mary remains as “bold” as ever. Chatty and warm, she has a loud, slightly wicked laugh and delights in spending some of her compensation money by staying in a posh hotel on her visits to Dublin.
Mary once met Paul McCartney and still raves about the experience; takes her neighbour’s dog for a walk every morning; sends thoughtful cards in the post. But her voice hardens when she recalls the misery of life in High Park. She still has the scars on her body; still wakes up crying in the middle of the night; still wants an apology from the church. When she talks about these things it is with the resolve of an extraordinarily strong woman who would not be silenced by malicious forces.
Last year, Mary was in Áras An Uachtaráin when President Michael D Higgins apologised to the Magdalene survivors on behalf of the State. Mary used to do the laundry for the Áras.
However, she admires our current President. “He is,” she says, “a lovely man.” Reflecting on this it is tempting to conclude that the story has played itself out, that we are now reconciled to the past and that wrongs have been addressed. But Mary Merritt is still waiting.
“I never received an apology from the church,” she told me recently. “And I am still angry. I want that apology before I die. And until then, I will continue to speak out.”
In Ireland, artists were once internal exiles.
These days they play a key role in commemorating the past, which Fintan O’Toole has memorably described as “an act of imaginative sympathy as it is of historical reconstruction.”
Inspired by the remarkable work of theatre-makers like Louise Lowe and Selina Cartmell, and encouraged to be fearless by Mary herself, we introduced her to the writer and director Gerry Stembridge, the designer Stephen Dodd and the actor Amy Kidd. Together we have created a new work that will receive its premiere at the Dublin Theatre Festival. Lasting 15 minutes, it can only be seen by one person at a time. At the end the audience is invited to inspect the High Park ledger.
You Can Leave at Any Time is not exactly a play, a memoir, an art installation or a museum exhibition, although it is indebted to each of these forms. We don’t care what people call it, though we do know that some will find it an uncomfortable experience. If my contemporaries feel a measure of shame, that is not inappropriate.
Younger visitors may be shocked to discover quite how recent it all was. We hope that people of all ages will be transported, horrified and ultimately inspired by the story of a woman who refused to allow her life to be ruined by powerful men and women who were almost unimaginably cruel.
Source: irishtimes

 

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Oyepeju to unveil Ara Foundation in Ibadan

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Ibadan – born  industrialist, Alhaji Ademola Oyepeju is poised to officially launch the Ara Foundation,  a Non- Governmental Organization birthed to support the less – privileged.

The event, which is billed to hold December 5 at Scrolab Hotel, Oke – Ado in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital will also feature celebration of founder’s birthday, presentation of awards to some eminent personalities, scholarship for indigent students and empowerment program.

Dignitaries expected to grace the ocassion include : the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji Aje Ogunguniso 1, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives  Congress (APC) and Chief Bayo Adelabu, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 election.

Others are: Chief Oyegade Oyepeju, Alhaji Amadu Zungeru, Sarkin Hausawa of Ibadan, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (Sunday Igboho), Sheik Muyideen Ajani Bello, Hon Muse Ariyo, Pastor Kayode Akinola, Alhaji Taofeek Babatunde, Prince Abass Aleshinloye, Alhaji Taofeeq , Tao Onibata, Professsor Abideen Olaiya and  Rev Mrs Olaiya, among others.

Oyepeju, in a statement signed  on Thursday, explained that the foundation was founded in 2018 and it is duly registered with the government.

The business magnate also added that since its establishment, the foundation has lifted many poor people to a better state through financial aid to petty traders, schorlarship for indigent students in tertiary institutions , donation of tools and equipment for artisans to boost their businesses among others .

He emphasized the need for all levels of government to embark on more programs to alleviate poverty, unemployment and insecurity especially among youths.

According to him, “the focus of the foundation is beyond humanitarian services but a ploy to enhance growth and advancement of the society through  extension of helping hands to the needy and  idle hands who may later became devil’s instrument.

“The increasing number of people with no clear cut jobs is alarming and dangerous for the society and to prevent total collapse the needy should be supported and engage “, Oyepeju noted.

The industrialist, however  advised youths to shun violence and channel their energy and talents towards national development.

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Oyo: Buhari begins training, empowerment program for 400 youths in mechanized farming

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Senator AbdulFatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial District  will on Thursday,  3rd December, 2020, in conjunction with the National Directorate Of Employment (NDE), engage no fewer than  four hundred (400) selected youths from across the thirteen (13) local governments of  the senatorial district in Mechanized Farming.

The three (3) day  intensive training on modern techniques of farming will come up simultaneously at three different locations, Kisi, Town Hall in Kisi, Irepo local government, Ipman Hall in Saki at Saki West Local government and Ipapo Town Hall in Ipapo at Itesiwaju local government in Oyo North.

Apart from the daily transport allowances and feeding for the beneficiaries, the trainees will at the end of the  training programme, be empowered with seedlings, herbicides, equipment, training allowances and certificate

Oyo North is an agrarian district which if well harnessed will serve as food basket for the state and Nigeria as a whole as well as increase the revenue base of the state and nation through import of agricultural products like, sorghum,millet, cashew, cassava,yam amongst others.

The knowledge acquired by the beneficiaries at the end of the training, is expected to be used to increase their harvests which will in turn improve their living standard.

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This brings to total, one thousand two hundred (1200) constituents selected from Oyo North Senatorial District that have been engaged in one training or the other by Senator AbdulFatai Buhari, in the last one month.

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Untold story of sex for passport saga at Nigeria Embassy in Germany

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The recent news which gone viral with a video clip alleging that a Nigerian Embassy staff in Berlin,  Germany, one Mr Martins, was  engaged in sex for passport / visa  racketeering and fraud  has been found to be  maliciously subjective  and a deliberate attempt to cast aspersion, dent the image of the Embassy and intimidate the staff into accepting unethical practices  as the norm.

According to a fact-checking news organization based in Paris , – Bureau The Truth described  the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin as one of the very few  best Embassies in the world where the staff strictly adhere and comply with the oath of service and the official charter of duties without compromising or bending the rules.

Bureau The Truth disclosed that the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin has consistently for many years proved to be impregnable for passport /visa racketeers shunned malpractices and diligently mobilized its staff into servicing the needs and attention of Nigerians in Germany and carried out its diplomatic function.

The fact-checking news organization revealed that this seemingly hardliner modus operandi of the Embassy and its staff has been a cog in the wheel of operation of a clique of Nigerians from a particular ethnic group which specializes in Nigeria passport racketeering, child trafficking and immigration sharp practices.

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According to Bureau the Truth, Nigeria Embassy in Germany has been able to wade off immigration rats and cockroaches mainly because of its internal security mechanism which Mr Martins has dutifully guarded and coordinated.

Bureau The Truth revealed that Mr Martins is a man of integrity at his duty post and has never been found wanting in his course of duty and he has never been alleged or being suspected of any official malaise .

The fact-checking organization disclosed further that Mr Martins seemed to be a thorn in the flesh of intruders into the Embassy as his no-nonsense posture at work has made him an enemy of fraudsters who find it hard to penetrate the Embassy.

Bureau The Truth investigation disclosed that, the alleged Mr Martins is not in any official capacity of influence  to issue a passport / visa or interfere in the process of passport /visa-issuing adding that it found out from its investigation that the video on viral was a deliberate setup.

Bureau The Truth pointed out that there is nothing in the video which indicate any discussion relating to visa or any diplomatic business.

“A  thorough analysis of the video has nothing to show or any discussion about passport /visa or diplomatic business but a deliberate incursion into another man’s privacy by a set of people whose intention is evil and who were forcing their voices on their victim ‘

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Bureau The Truth opined that the video has a touch of ethnic affiliation as the voices were a mix of English and an ethnic language belonging to Nigeria.

It also pointed out that the said video had only Mr Martins who was being bombarded with a flurry of comments without allowing him to have a say and without showing his alleged partner.

Bureau The Truth also observed that one of the invaders of Mr Martins’ privacy was heard telling him why he always refused to take whatever instruction issued to him by another colleague in the office .

Bureau The Truth called on the Nigerian Ambassador in Germany to ensure a thorough investigation of the case with clinical and precise format devoid of media siege and blackmailing tendencies pointing out that the profile, integrity, precedent and business activities of those in the video should be thoroughly perused, audited and noted.

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