IT’S very important for politicos to do well in the popularity stakes but for the more obscure ones, eager to ascend the greasy pole at all costs, spouting the correct political line is a matter of life and death. As is the case with Ciarán Cannon, a mini-minister for something entitled ‘The Diaspora’ (as Boris Johnson might say: ‘Cripes, what’s that?’).
Cannon made his name organising pilgrimages to Lourdes for young people (a theme was ‘Praying the Rosary with Bernadette’), but his recent speciality is cutting Irish intellectuals down to size. For instance, last week he lambasted John Waters for giving a talk on the Tuam Mother and Baby controversy to alumni of the University of Notre Dame.
No hoax here
Waters called his talk ‘When Evil becomes Virtual Cyberspace, Failing Media and the Hoax of the Holocaust of Tuam.’ The word ‘hoax’ horrified Mr Cannon who declared its use was ‘exceptionally hurtful’ to the surviving inmates of a children’s home where ‘babies were thrown into a concrete bunker rather than given a respectful burial.’ He advised Waters to do ‘more research.’ The finger-wagging Cannon also was annoyed that the University of Notre Dame gave Waters a platform to discuss the Tuam controversy. Which was somewhat understandable, considering that, earlier this year, at Navarra University, Waters rubbished the ‘fact’ that Tuam nuns ‘killed’ almost 1,000 babies and buried the bodies in a septic tank.
Here’s what he said in Spain: ‘The same story emerged in 2014, no change from the present version now except there is an inquiry which has issued a preliminary report and simply repeated the same allegations. No news, no facts, no change in the evidence.
‘In 1975, two boys were playing on the site. The feet of one of the boys went through part of the ground where they were playing and they found below a vault in which there were some bones.
‘Everybody knew there had been an orphanage on the site and it was not surprising for anyone at that time to say that human bones were found on the site.’
Waters’ comments were to the point, but what gripped the public imagination worldwide was the hysterical twist given to the discovery by social media and Irish journos: that babies had been dumped in a sewer and that nuns were responsible.
Last Saturday in his American speech, Waters focussed on the word ‘Holocaust’ that had been used in relation to the deaths. He said: ‘What happened in Tuam was not murder, driven by hatred or done to eliminate a class of people. There was no Holocaust in Tuam. There is no evidence of a single murder. No section of the population of people was targeted by another or by anyone for the purposes of extermination.’
His issue was with the Irish media and the ‘fact-deficient culture’ of the internet that had told a massive lie to the greater world. ‘Tuam is now a byword for the murder of children, for torture and genocide,’ he said.
Truth in the news?
As far as Waters was concerned, the web had poisoned ‘the once great newspapers of Ireland so that they ceased to be reliable as conduits of fact and truth.’
He hit the nail on the head. Because once the word ‘holocaust’ came into play to describe the events at Tuam, every piece of lurid information that emerged from that point on was treated by the Irish media as a valid, irrefutable fact. Responsible for the situation whereby sensationalism became the party line were the barely literate trolls who dominate the internet. (Although a different organism, this form of low-life interacts in close physical association with the print and TV media, to the advantage of both).
And when our political class make bizarre utterances, it’s feeding time at the zoo among hacks and cyberpunks; as happened last March when Minister John Halligan linked the Nazis, Tuam and the Bessborough home in Cork.
He suggested that if nuns had been accessories to a crime they should be held accountable, regardless of how many years had passed or the advancing years of the culprits, ‘as was the case with the Nazi war-crimes trials.’
Halligan’s remarks were absolutely outrageous but, curiously, no one in the Irish media called for some balance. To a man and woman, the hacks swallowed the ‘holocaust’ analogy, gurgling in paroxysms of artificially induced indignation at the supposed crimes of the Bon Secours Order and the Catholic Church.
No open minds
Brendan O’Neill, editor of the British online magazine ‘Spiked’ wrote that such was the morality-charged climate generated by the Tuam controversy that anyone who kept an open mind as to what happened risked being denounced as an apologist for horror. He described the ‘ostentatious emoting on Twitter’ as ‘an ugly spectacle, designed not to work out what happened in the children’s home but to make it a symbol of evil that we decent people might contrast ourselves against.’
O’Neill described the process as ‘virtue signalling –an attempt to advertise one’s own moral rectitude by poring over the depravity of bygone ages.’
Nor could he understand why the Irish media did not wait for the facts to become available. ‘We don’t know how many of the 796 children who died at the home were found in the structure; or what the structure was; or how the children were buried –whether it was respectful or done in a cavalier way,’ he said.
Not a hell-hole
The report that evil nuns hurled tiny corpses in with the shit disgusted him because there was absolutely nothing to show that this happened.
‘If we look calmly at what is actually known, then it seems that while the home was an awful, tragic place, it was not necessarily a site of insanity or evil,’ he said. Indeed, he reminded us that the ‘structure’ had 20 chambers and, in fact, had been turned into a kind of catacomb.
Referring to eyewitnesses, O’Neill said the infants were ‘swaddled up,’ not simply dumped, and that after the discovery of the structure, a priest blessed the site and local people set up a grotto.
All of which suggested, he argued, that Tuam was not a dreadful place but a town with some good people who cared for the dead. In other words, there was nothing to suggest the remains of the infants were buried without due accord and respect, even if Tuam’s affluent classes (including politicians) were too miserly to alleviate conditions in an orphanage that was in a poor state of repair.
Interesting too that journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes quoted an eyewitness who was an employee at the home and who remembered assisting the nuns in carrying the bodies of deceased babies through a tunnel which led to a burial vault. Boucher-Hayes stated that a vault accessed by a tunnel could not be a septic tank.
Mini-Minister Cannon needs to ‘cop himself on’!