The Republic of Ireland is facing deep financial crisis, as these robots will explain:
The 1980s were also a difficult time for the Republic. The troubles over the northern border were at their height. Ireland was facing a seemingly bleak future. Unemployment was at epidemic proportions, reaching a historic high of 17.3% in 1985, the very same year when extraordinary – some would say miraculous – events were to take place.
The Ballinspittle Virgin
Ballinspittle is a small coastal town in County Cork in the South of Ireland. In July of ’85, it was reported that a statue of the Virgin Mary situated in a roadside grotto had begun to move. The plaster figure was dressed in Mary’s traditional blue and white and adorned with a halo of small electric light bulbs. Like the hundreds of grotto dwelling Virgins all over Ireland, this icon was made and had been in-situ since 1954, ordained a Marian year by the Pope of the day, Pius XII, as it marked the centenary of the Catholic church’s adopting the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Upon reports of the miraculous apparitions, thousands upon thousands of pilgrims were attracted to the town, undoubtedly adding to county Cork’s coffers in the process – a boon, no doubt, in such dark economic times. Speaking in 2005 at the “miracle’s” twentieth anniversary festivities, now retired, Garda (police) Sergeant John Murray recalled, “In July 1985, I saw something physically impossible at that grotto. I saw the concrete statue of Our Lady floating in mid-air. Not rocking to and fro but floating.” He admits that on first hearing the reports he was sceptical, “I was amazed to find no wires or trickery there at all.” Psychologists, opthamologists and other investigators took an interest in the goings on in Ballinspittle. They quickly came to the conclusion that the “movement” was no more than the effect of staring at an object for a long time in changing light conditions. It was then reports started to come in of the 152kg statue being seen in locations remote from its grotto home.
D-I-V-O-R-C-E and the bomb
Twenty years earlier, between 1962 and 1965, Ireland was home to a number of weeping statues of the Holy Virgin. The peak of these “miracles” coincided with the terrifying Cuban Missile Crisis. In the 1960s, the Catholic church felt its doctrines on sexual ethics had come under threat with the advent and availability of the contraceptive pill. Early in the 1980s reports conducted by social services, women’s and family groups showed domestic abuse blighted the lives of as many as 23% of Irish women at one time or another. An editorial in The Irish Medical Times, commenting on a study that showed a link between “shotgun weddings” and physical domestic abuse, stated the problem succinctly: “Irish men have their sexual desires sublimated by religion, exhausted by sport, drugged by drink, or deflected by [cultural] puritanism.” This all culminated in growing support in the 1980s for reform to the country’s archaic laws preventing divorce.
Allegations that statues of Mary, Mother of Jesus, had started weeping, moving their hands/eyes/heads began again in the spring of 1993 as recession loomed on the horizon in Europe once more. These new apparitions received little attention beyond local newspapers. When the Fine Gael party returned to power in 1994, they promised a referendum on divorce. This time even weeping plaster could not outdo a flesh and blood attraction brought in by the Catholic Church, opponents of reform – Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Christopher Hitchens sums up the views of this wizened virgin on divorce, “It didn’t matter if you had been married to an alcoholic who beat you and sexually assaulted your children, you were not going to get a second chance [of happiness] in this world or the next.” Fortunately, the people of Ireland, in spite of the intervention of “Hell’s Angel,” as Hitchens dubs Teresa, a mandate for divorce reform was passed by a vote of 50.3% to 49.7%.
Today in 2013, The Republic’s abortion laws are under scrutiny. Simply stated, Ireland prohibits terminating a pregnancy under any circumstances except when continuation of the pregnancy jeopardises the mother’s life as distinct from her health. In October 2012, thirty-one year old Savita Halappanavar was denied a termination of her seventeen week pregnancy despite the fact that she was already having a miscarriage. At the inquest into her death, at the University Hospital Galway, coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, returned a verdict of medical misadventure citing the cause of death as septic shock. The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 is currently being debated. Some Catholic commentators, like Phyllis Zagano of the National Catholic Reporter fear more horrors to come should the bill be passed into law:
“…then IVF and morning-after pills wear new badges of legality in Ireland…Most egregiously, by including threatened suicide as a risk to the health of the mother, the proposed Irish law makes mockery of psychiatric care. Has anyone told the lawmakers that abortions also cause suicide?”
In 2008-9, as unemployment seemed contagious and tens of thousands of Euros were being wiped off the value of people’s homes, the Virgin of Ballinspittle was on the move. In the main, reports came from viewers of the 80′s miracles. Although this garnered more press attention than the weepers and wanderers of the early 90s, the fervour and publicity surrounding these new occurrences has not equaled the proportions of 1985′s incredible happenings. Could this have been because women in Ireland have, slowly and incrementally, achieved a greater degree of equality and financial independence? The visions that some claimed brought comfort to a people facing dark times not only coincided with grim economic circumstances but also times when laws directly affecting the autonomy of women were under the microscope. Perhaps the Irish people are less impressed by Marian miracles because fewer and fewer Irish women see “herself” as a role model or could this financial crisis and the proposed tweaks to the country’s abortion laws mean Mary makes a comeback this Summer?