Remembering… Mary Raftery

“The Church thinks in centuries, do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?”

Stanley Tucci’s pithy lawyer puts it up to Mark Ruffalo’s investigative reporter early on in Spotlight, the deft dramatisation of The Boston Globe’s incendiary exposure of the systemic cover-up of widespread child abuse by the clerical elite. For decades. Sound familiar?

Hollywood thinks in blockbusters, but did it have the resources to take it on? Whatever about the availability of budgets, its success is due in no small part to an experienced cast willing to resist any scenery-chewing righteousness. The ever reliable Ruffalo captures the tenacity and flightiness of a truth vigilante on the verge of something big; but it takes Michael Keaton’s restrained editor to reign him in, having at one time been too eager to get over the finish-line himself. There’s big. But there’s bigger.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”

Sound familiar? The axis of blind eyes and indifference kept on turning. Tucci can be trusted to deliver another unequivocal truth.

The audience of the Dublin cinema I’m in knows where the conclusion is headed. As does the rest of the Western world familiar with the story of Vatican corruption. Despite the multitude of spoiler alerts revealed over recent years, a reminder can still leave them sitting silent until the last of the credits roll. After the written updates on what happened next disappear; and the flashing lists of destinations revealed as locations where clerical child abuse investigations have taken place.

Ferns, Ireland. Gortahork, Ireland. And the rest. Counties are an irrelevancy.

RTÉ deals in small investigative departments, but did it have the resources to take it on? It had Mary Raftery.

“Mary was best known for her 1999 ground-breaking “States of Fear” documentaries. They revealed the extent of abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and institutions managed by religious orders. It led to taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising on behalf of the state.

Her work also led to the setting up of the Ryan Commission, which reported in May 2009, and to the setting up of a confidential committee which heard the stories of victims of institutional abuse.

Speaking about her findings to the BBC in 2009, Mary Raftery said: “There was widespread sexual abuse, particularly in the boys’ institutions.

“Extremely vicious and sadistic physical abuse, way off the scale, and horrific emotional abuse, designed to break the children.

“We had people talk to us about hearing screams… the screams of children in the night coming from these buildings and really not knowing what to do.

“They didn’t know to whom they could complain because the power in the town was the religious order running the institution.”

Following the documentaries, the government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has compensated about 14,000 people”  Source: The BBC

mary raftery

Mary Raftery

Spotlight is a reminder of the power of Mary Raftery’s investigative journalism, and her fearless tenacity that served the village truth in the face of wilful blindness. In an era in which RTÉ doesn’t appear to be over-endowed with such resources, her contribution, and premature death, still has the power to pin the viewer to the seat for just a few seconds more.

Password protected

Hi ho. It’s back to full-time work, I go. This time to one of those large organisations with its own IT Department. Gotta love those IT guys. Every day is a no-uniform day, another opportunity to remain nonplussed with head down while all about them are losing theirs. And go by the name of Gary. Usually.

Gary set me up on the system on my first day before sauntering back to his mothership with an over-the-shoulder warning I’ll need to change my password regularly. It took a nanosecond to lash in the first: my Daughter’s name and birth year. There was a time I would’ve approached the task by having a generous stare into space before being jolted back into real time with precisely the right song title for there and then, only for it to be rejected for not containing the requisite mix of numbers and letters. Napoleon36. A historic figure and a few random numbers to you, an Ani DiFranco song and the year of my Mother’s birth to me. [“Everyone is a fucking Napoleon”. Except you, Ma, you’re just naturally short.]

Passwords represent rare opportunities to smuggle a teeny wee piece of your heart into a soulless workplace. The hidden bit of you for when a framed photo or potted plant won’t do. When the frame is empty, and you couldn’t give a fuck about plants. The password protects those cordoned off files and feelings you can’t share with anyone.  Except on the rare occasion a Gary needs it, and they’ve probably heard them all.  I wish I could remember all of mine and print them off like the keyboard-track of my life.

I’d forgotten the scale of my Ani DiFranco habit back in my 20s. Her middle finger was perpetually aloft to the latest man who’d broken her heart, and to The Man who breaks millions to make millions. Notsosoft – the first, and sole remaining, password from an early email account. A relic of me as the idealist, brimming with enough angst to take Him and his sort on. Like many of us thundering up the highway towards World Change, I was seduced by a boy down a back alley where we both overstayed our welcome. Subsequent passwords from that love affair: firedoor00, untouchable02 (as in Untouchable Face), and thereyougo04 (..”swinging down the boulevard..” I was well into Katell Keineg territory by then)

Damestreet08 didn’t expire till ’09. Scene of my first kiss with my now husband up against a fancy streetlight outside the Brian Boru Pub on the corner before you cut down to Burdock’s. We parted an hour after it started from where I floated back to the car-park. It was locked so I had to cough up eighty quid to get my car out. I’d have cheerfully paid double that. Fakeempire09 and Slowslow10 came later followed by the date and place of our wedding. Now I bring our little one in to work every day. All kitted out in lower and upper case accessorised by a one and a two. Till home time, when she comes running towards me with her lopsided ponytail and Minnie Mouse t-shirt giving me a few ideas for the next password.

There’s a change in constellation. Something’s been re-arranged. Even Ani is lighter of step..

Update: Since this was originally posted, I’ve gone through..

Numptynuts15, Shitebags15, and Saveme16.

Got a password story to share?

How to decrease your readership in 10 easy steps

*sound of footsteps legging it*

Use reader repellent post titles, obviously.

Have a gradual public breakdown, that’s not quite sure whether it’s an actual breakdown, or just one of one’s personae looking for a way out.

Periodically compose an irrational rant against Bono/parenting/Norn Iron.

Why use 10 words when 1,000 will do?

Only use questions rhetorically, OK? It breaks up the tedium.

Alienate yourself from your new or potential blogging mates by forgetting to do the small-talk and getting a bit too relaxed on the sofa of their comments section with your coat still on. Put your feet up too soon and on your head be those pursed lips. It’s OK, bumping into each other in a mutual blogger friend’s comment section loses its awkwardness after a while.

*re-reads last point* Don’t make an iota of sense if at all possible.

Forget any sort of theme, anyway.

Or having a name that conveys any meaning.


Actually, just the nine will do.



There’s a woman who’s been trying to get up since dawn, to get the wreckage into gear, and dash, and spend, and pray she has enough petrol.

A woman who works all day and returns home to put in another shift by the fridge. And that takes the time to read the latest dubious story linking ISIS membership with wayward teenagers whose mothers work outside the home; or half half (OK, quarter) listen to yours.

There is a woman who will sit up all night with a Netflix series, and will not rest until the finale is over; who hides at the school gates rain, hail or shine; who feeds her pet hates;  makes the bed just before getting into it, puts the candid feelings into cake, and makes your wishes up for you. You’re a bank manger! You have the power to let me borrow all your birthday money!


Yes! Found the Green & Black’s

There’s a woman who spends all her time, all her money, all her love, on the things and the people that matter. Like coffee, and toilet paper, and overdue Xtravision fees.

And through every hour, she will always be fed the feeling that she should feel she is not giving enough, not doing enough, not consuming enough.

Mothers, you do enough to put up with this insufferable bullshit. Now let us do something for you. Like stopping the exploitation of your bankrupt consumerist vulnerabilities, and the relentless rampant rifling of human emotion to sell you something else.

Mothers, you’re amazing…ly gullible if you fall for it.

FauxHealth: My cover. My arse.


Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?

Who’s gonna drown in your blue sea?

Smart arse.

How d’ya mean?

Answering a question with a question.

We’re in this boat together, baaaaaaaaaby….

That reminds me..

What Happens When the Heart Just Stops?

Hmm. You become a Mumford & Sons fan. Vote Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, or Labour. Casually wear navy with black. And use parenting as a verb. In random order, obviously.

What about voting Sinn Féin?

That’s not a lagitamit…


Do nat interrupt me. I did nat interrupt yew now, did a?

How Soon Is Now?

Somewhere between after a while and a wee while ago. I love this game.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Erm. Nothing, I guess, when you put it like that…

Where Did Our Love Go?

I dunno. You were the one who questioned it in the first place. I’m happy to move on.

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

*pitiful look*

Where Is My Mind?


What’s The Matter Here?

Let’s just get back to the questionnaire

Isn’t She Lovely?

Lovelier than two lovely things stuck together with Huberman endorsed angel wing encrusted adhesive. Dusted with glitter.

Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

What difference does it make?

*arched brow*

Who’s That Girl?

*incredulous* Jean Byrne

What’s Goin’ On?

Scattered showers, red mist. Thunderbolts and lightning.



…You Want Me, Baby?

I Want You. You’ve had your fun you don’t get well no more.

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?

Elvis Costello

Who Wrote The Book Of Love?

That’d be Stephin Merritt

Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

To hear it again? OK, hang on til I get it..

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

*shrugs* Self praise is no recommendation



Let all the children boogie

No-man’s land between New Year and pay-day is the least hospitable place of the year. Forced to count in coppers as coins small and smaller regain their status as legitimate currency. Even the ducks can’t be arsed making the modest swim across the mirrored pond to accept our offer of stale bread. The new bike is wearily abandoned mid-cycle in solidarity with them so we walk it back to the car then bundle ourselves into the house with a collective relief none of us own up to.

For every set of speakers blasting Bowie across suburbia this week there must be the same in neighbours wishing someone would turn it the fuck down. Consideration for ours is fleeting with the volume creeping upwards incrementally with each passing video. Our girl’s not sure if he’s a boy or a girl but gives up caring eventually. She claims every song as her favourite. I think she’s lying; it’s Starman. We debate the merits of Bowie versus Michael Jackson. She looks at me pitifully when I suggest there’s no contest. Don’t be silly, Mum. She hasn’t learned to eye-roll yet so laughs instead. Her musical loyalties are taking shape, another marker of her move further into the forest of independence. And wilful disobedience.

No-man’s land between New Year and pay-day was probably the only time of year Bowie could depart. Nature has the grace to be grieving already. The light respectfully hangs at half mast giving sufficient visibility for small hands to grab older ones to swing one another around the hearth to wake the dead and ourselves momentarily up out of the January fug.

Grave robbers and revisionists

It’s January 2016, so it must be time for…

Anti-Sinn Féin sentiment to hit apoplectic proportions across the mainstream media and middle-classes. The only thing more nauseating than the self-serving antics of the All-Ireland version of the politburo is the hysterical outcry The Party provokes among those respectable folk forced to suffer the riff-raff.

Specifically, the cynical self-serving outcry that has them holding their noses as they take their seats next to them in the pews of Leinster House; all the while conveniently ignoring their own role in sanctioning the same bunch of “grave-robbers and revisionists” to dominate the high-table of decision-making in the North through endorsement of the Good Friday Agreement.

It’s the sort of hypocrisy that enjoys persistent re-profiling into a gesture of such messianic proportions in the re-telling it’s a wonder the entire Republic weren’t awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sure, those wee northerners would’ve obliterated each other had the political elite not stepped in to break up the skirmish. Sure, aren’t they all grand up there now? And aren’t we the fine nation that made all those generous concessions that didn’t affect us anyway to ensure peace was brokered between neighbours before we went back to ignoring them or sneering at them. And haven’t we a right to raise a brow at any allegation of hypocrisy, automatically charging anyone daring to do so with membership of Republican Sympathisers. Usually with all the consideration and finesse of a tweet.  But..but…but…They’re not blowing the fuck out of each other! We made that happen! It’s different down here! What’s that you say about rampant sectarianism, political intransigence, and crippling poverty? Sorry, you’re breaking up….

It’s the sort of hypocrisy that enables the political and media elite to formulate a sickening hierarchy of respectable republicans. And get away with it. Where Mairia Cahill’s harrowing abuse can be exploited and adopted as a political weapon to fire from the benches of the Seanad while it’s fair game to relegate Pauline Tully, former wife of republican criminal Pearse McAuley, to a level of scrutiny consistent with the worst kind of victim-blaming those same critics abhor when applied elsewhere. Despite the over-lapping political ideologies of both women.

It’s the kind of hypocrisy that showers concern on the impact of the lack of law and disregard for justice on one woman, while spectacularly ignoring the commonalities of conflicts that unleash violence of every conceivable guise on too many women. But selective opportunistic support will do in lieu of giving a fuck, and possessing any sincerity or commitment to addressing the legacy of the Conflict. As long as they stay out of our way, and we can reduce peace to a tear-jerking sound-bite and the Conflict to a petty internal parochial battle between neighbours fuelled by irrational nationalism (our favourite fairytale), and write our late-coming elite into the history books of heroes, right? Right? Right.

Who will write the history of the Conflict? It’s not the job of the Shinners, but certainly not that of the myopic mainstream media and political middle-class of the Republic.

I ain’t no apologist or fan of Sinn Féin, but victim-robbing and revisionism cuts a number of sinister ways.

More rioja, anyone?



One of the consequences of the death of a totem figure is all the eloquent writing it unleashes in those left behind. Column inches capturing the alchemy of every Bowie there ever was continue to line up uniformly on the screen; like mourners taking off their caps to respectfully watch the hearse go by.

I am not one of those writers, but I’m glad I jokingly (if in all seriousness) suggested a moment’s silence at his passing at the end of a work meeting this morning. Sixty-somethings turned to thirty-somethings to compare shock and surprise. Forty-somethings joked with fifty-somethings that they’d never heard of him until a seventy-something interrupted the joke to point out the expanse of his legacy.

For a few minutes at least, they weren’t PSNI officers, or civil servants, or opposing sectoral soldiers, or silent minute-takers, but fans and admirers. Another reminder of the power of music in knocking down barriers and levelling the ground between us all.

David Bowie R.I.P.

What happened next? Blogging 2015 re-visited

Was someone foolish enough to offer me a new job? Just how was that gig I rhapsodised over? Did my mother-in-law hear about my court appearance? What was with the weird name change?

Prepare yourself for an eyelid-droop-inducing revisit to those riveting cliff-hanger blog moments of 2015 to find out what happened next. Insert dramatic violin music here.

Coincidentally, it also covers top five things I wasn’t proud of this year, and the top jerk of the year (in a recurring role).


Post: The revolving door

Our girl turned three.


What happened next?

She turned three and a half a week later, and remained that age until she turned four.

Post:  Personal specification

Job interview season returned as my contract neared an end. Willpower competed with ambition in the race for last place. Some finer interview moments revisited.


Except it wasn’t

What happened next?

Last minute stay of execution. Within days of the excruciating whip-around and proverbial last supper. Not as close as the time it was granted after those very events took place. Mind you, that was one of the better leaving bashes. And would’ve been perfect had I not returned to my desk the following Monday. Awkward. Am back in the same position this year. Thrilling seat-of-the-pants stuff. I’ll warn them to hold back on the fake gushing this time lest their insincerity be tested.


Post: Gaol Bird

A short secular prayer service for Patti Smith in anticipation of her impending June gig. pattismith

Brilliant gig, probably.


What happened next?

I forgot to get the tickets. People have the power… to be almighty arses.


Post: Scenes from a court summons

Random snapshots from my self-inflicted brush with the law.


No laughing matter, obviously.


What happened next?

Amnesty took on the case. Consequently, the local newspaper received dozens of shrill letters from a protesting public.

OK, OK. I learned my lesson and received a new driving licence with two points knocked off for bad behaviour.  On the plus side, my hair looks alright in the photo. No discernible difference in the reactions from my mother-in-law. But our wedding photo still hasn’t made it to the sitting room gallery. My paranoia levels remained consistent with pre-court appearance.


Post:  Places I’ve lived

A postcard from the hedge written as part of an exercise to loosen up the sharing muscles in a new writing group I joined.


Virgin Mary not featured

What happened next?

The writing group met for a further four sessions with the aim of facilitating participants to share their abortion story. Which it did. Folk responded kindly to the results here, and I was very grateful for that.

On a side-note, I eventually gave up trying to out-stare the Virgin Mary and fled to the city after three of the wildest years of my puff to date.


Post: Tagging along

Where I celebrated a year of blogging and vowed to bid farewell to it for a bit.


It’s this or…running? I think not!

What happened next?

Following orders from my impressively weak will-power, I returned the next week. Shrugs.


Post: The Professionals

In which The Professionals got themselves careers.


“Don’t worry about your annual performance review. He just rabbits on about targets and work/life balance like he actually gives a toss”


What happened next?

Another nauseating board-room meeting. Just for the sake it.


Post:  Yardsticks

A visit to a primary school eerily similar to my own, and the introduction of our girl to another.

school furniture

Does my arse look big in one of these?

What happened next?

I cried looking for my mammy. Sigourney kicked me up the arse.


Post: Squalor Victoria

We visited an abandoned gaol and spotted some famous characters in the Orange March.

What happened next?

We eventually made it home to a frazzled man worn out from trying to convince our three-year old her Ma hadn’t really been incarcerated.


Oh no, is the Wi-Fi down again?



Post:  This writing life

A whistle-stop tour through my life with some of the prominent pens and keyboards that have featured in it along the way. In response to a nomination for the Irish Blog Awards lifestyle category.


Jesus wept. That would’ve been the Irish in him.

What happened next?

A lengthy, and incomplete, meltdown over the creeping invasion of the limiting notion of ‘lifestyle’ blogging. To be continued. Probably.


Post: Did you read Róisín yet?

A reflection on the connection my mother and I have had with Róisín Ingle’s weekly column over the years. It ended with a phone-call in which I told her I also had an abortion following Róisín’s public disclosure of her own.


Oh Holy Mother of God she only went and had an abortion

(Image: Irish Times)

What happened next?

I told her I was only joking.

Only joking.

Some reasonable questions followed along with assurances that she would’ve supported me without judgement had I gone to her. I knew all that all along. And had long dismissed the stereotypical image of the rosary-bead wielding older woman apparently found everywhere beyond The Pale.

Post: Births, deaths, and marriages

Where I visited the top fromage in the Norn Iron Humanist Association with a view to giving serious consideration to training as a celebrant. With a straight face.


“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word life. It means forever. Oops. Sorry. Force of habit.

What happened next?

Periodic chin-stroking. Like this, look *me chin-stroking*. My fella has a beard so I picked up the habit unconsciously. Handy for chin-hair watch.

Also, did the sums and couldn’t justify the spend on a massive gamble with no guarantee I wouldn’t fall at the first hurdle. Realised that while aspects of humanism are consistent with my outlook,  I’m not ready to surrender the life-time war against being labelled in any walk of life. More questions than answers linger. To be continued. Sorry.


Post: The green of Ireland

Brief exchange with a taxi driver who collected us from the cinema after seeing the brilliant Queen of Ireland. Not very funny retort included.

What happened next?

“And SHE must’ve thought it was some film, wah?”, chuckled the taxi-driver to me in reference my 80 year-old mother sitting in the back seat.

My mother and I whipped off our seat-belts and Hong Kong Phooey’ed the fuck out of him.


Panti is left discombobulated after hearing about the incident


Actually, my mother railed against the display of casual ageism by quietly pointing it out to me when we got out of the car. Oh, right. That’s another thing that’s all ahead of me.


Post: Running to stand still

Our house went up for sale.

estate agent

Heeey, how can I annoy the hell out of you today?


What happened next?

The house was tidied for the first time in five years. In a manoeuvre comparable to immersion-left-on anxiety, I pulled a dramatic five-point turn a mile out the road and ran back into the house to hide the furry Celtic F.C. Santas before the prospective buyers arrived. Estate agents replaced Bono as the new receptacles for my affection.


Post: What to give the special blogger in your life this Christmas

Where I was unequivocal in my hints for potential presents this year.

What happened next?

Ignored again. But I did get this lovely coaster.

elvis costello

Very handy for cups and glasses of all sizes. A blogger’s must-have.

OK, you can turn back to Come Dine With Me now.