Category Archives: Ireland

Donegal Danders: Creeslough Church

St Michael’s Church Creeslough (Image Thesilvervoice)

I can well recall the total astonishment and indignation when the new Catholic Chapel was being built in Creeslough, County Donegal almost 50 years ago. For years after it opened whenever we drove past, my father would say – ”Just look at that! How can that be a chapel?” (We never actually referred to a Catholic ‘Church’ in this part of Donegal. The word ‘Church’ implied a different denomination, so we had ‘Chapels’) We knew what a real Chapel looked like and this new building was not remotely like anything we had seen before.

A ‘proper’ Chapel in my home parish : Church of St John the Baptish , Mevagh (Image Thesilvervoice)

Many churches constructed in Ireland after Catholic Emancipation in 1829 were imposing, cut stone buildings with high ceilings and sometimes even with soaring elegant steeples reaching heavenward. Frequently visible from a great distance, they were instantly recognizable – you just knew what you were looking at. The more modest church buildings without lofty steeples, at the very least ‘looked holy’. And so, when Doe Chapel was to be demolished and a new Chapel built in Creeslough there was some bemusement at the design of the new building.

The village of Creeslough is nestled under Muckish Mountain, a mountain that dominates this area and villages for miles around. This new building was to be in the image and likeness of the mountain. To add to the dismay, the name Muckish, or in Irish, ‘An Mhucais’, had the meaning of ‘pig like’ or ‘the back of a pig’. To say that there was a level of consternation in the local discourse would have indeed been an understatement.


Muckish or ‘An Mhucais’ on a hazy day (Image Thesilvervoice)

Church architecture has changed dramatically in the last half century and what looked strange to our eyes then, is quite acceptable nowadays. I have since learned that the Creeslough Chapel was designed by Liam McCormick, (1916 – 1986), who has been described by the Irish Heritage Council as “one of the most important church architects of his generation”. So while back in the area on holiday this year, I decided to take a closer look at this strange looking chapel, this ‘hulk of a building’.

St Michael’s, Muckish and the Presbetry (Image Thesilvervoice)

The Presbetery or ‘The Parochial House’ as we in Donegal would call it, was designed by the same architect, Liam McCormick. He was born in neighbouring Derry but had strong Donegal family connections. He had his early education in Greencastle and has many iconic buildings and churches to his credit, including several in Donegal and the headquarters of the Met Office in Glasnevin, Dublin.

St Michael’s Church Creeslough. (Image Thesilvervoice)

In the adjoining grounds, there is a very nice metal Cross, incorporating a Crown of Thorns – One of the few clues as to the purpose of the building! From this viewpoint too, approaching from the car park, there is a water feature to the side of the building with what resembles a primitive cross as a backdrop.

Near the door stands a chapel bell– I like to think that this is originally from the old chapel in Doe, although I could not make out either the date or the foundry on the bell. This bell may have been heard by generations of worshippers in the parish, ringing the Angelus, celebrating marriages or pealing in mourning .

The windows on the front of the St Michael’s Creeslough (Image Thesilvervoice)

A very interesting feature of the building is this group of 6 very small windows. Apparently McCormick drew inspiration for his design, not only from Muckish, but also from the many vernacular cottages in this part of Donegal, mostly whitewashed buildings with small windows.

The light bright semi circular interior. Note too the lovely colourful work on the altar, possibly also by Helen Moloney. (Image Thesilvervoice)

The true joy in this building is inside! The doors lead into a semi circular auditorium with large windows at one side framing a view of Muckish and filling it with natural light.

Inside looking out – or outside flowing in? (Image Thesilvervoice)

The colourful medal-shaped Stations of the Cross are unusual and sit well with the most spectacular stained glass windows I have seen in a long while. These are set into the 6 small windows and funnel vibrant light through the thick walls. They are the work of Helen Moloney (1926 – 2011) who worked with McCormick on a number of his churches. They have to be seen to be really appreciated.

Passing through the heavy doors on the way out, you just know you will be back to see this wonderful creation again, with its many exciting parts – a truly spiritual work of art! If you are passing, why not drop in?

*** It would be very nice to see the architects and artists credited in church sites such as this. This is a tourist attraction in itself, in the same way as the great cathedrals across the world, so what would be amiss about adding information about the design, the architect and artists whose work is here and having a donations receptacle for the upkeep of these great works of art on site?

Note: ‘Dander’ is an Ulster word meaning ‘wandering’ !

 

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In memory of Margaret Gallagher, the last of a generation.

On this day, 25 August 1979, the youngest and last surviving child of our great great grandparents, died. She was Margaret Gallagher from Mulnamina, Glenties, Co.Donegal who was born just after Christmas in 1893, the 10th child of famine survivors, Daniel Gallagher and Isabella Mulloy. Margaret, known as Maggie, but who referred to herself as ‘Peg’, was aged 86.

How we children loved heading to Glenties to her little house on the side of the hill, overlooking Gweebarra Bay! Her brother – Uncle John – lived here with her in the three roomed house – 2 bedrooms and a kitchen. The front door was always open and we would run straight into the flag floored kitchen with its open turf fire. The kettle was swung over the hot embers the minute we arrived, and the fire raked. Small in stature with her hair tied back in a roll, she moved about very fast, her long skirt covered with an apron, busying herself setting out the table, in spite of protests that ‘a cup of tea’ would be fine. There was no running water, so all the water was drawn from a well. Only 3 lightbulbs were connected to the electricity supply and a battery operated wireless stood up on a shelf.

Aunt Maggie was unmarried. She had been a dressmaker living in the nearby town of Glenties and had been engaged to be married. When duty bound to return home to care for family,that relationship ended. Her mother, Isabella, died in 1925, and then her sister Kate died of T.B. just 10 months later. Kate had lived at home, with her parents and brother John who was also unmarried. Aunt Maggie then became the carer to her father Daniel, who died within three years of Isabella, at the age of 87. Losing parents and a sister so close together must have been very sad for her.

Running up the lane to her house was all part of our great adventure. We invariably arrived unannounced and always in good weather. We ran about outside, inspecting hens, byres, the donkey, cows, apple trees, and Spot the dog who lived in a cozy stone lined kennel hewn into the bank. We would be called in for tea after a while, and that could either be fresh baked bread and home made jam or a chicken dinner, the key ingredient being a hen we had met just a short time earlier!

Gweebarra Bay as seen from near my great grandparents home.

It is sad to visit the lonely and unkempt grave where she and her brother John now lie. The plaque that my father placed at the foot of the headstone some years after her death is now almost illegible. The grave is not easy to find, but I will make my way up the hill and across the uneven ground in a few weeks time to leave some flowers among the weeds.

The plaque my father laid on the grave where John and Maggie lie.

I like this little poem as it reminds me of the simple, quiet lives they led, up there on the side of the hill, over looking the Gweebarra.

”Where do people go to when they die?
Somewhere down below or in the sky?
‘I can’t be sure,’ said Grandad, ‘but it seems
They simply set up home inside our dreams.’ ”

By Jeanne Willis

She lives inside my dreams

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WW1 Victoria Cross begins a journey back to Ireland.

Richard Bennett, Curator, Army Museum of Western Australia with Martin O’Meara’s V.C.

This morning in Fremantle, at the Army Museum of Western Australia, a short ceremony took place to farewell the Victoria Cross of Martin O’Meara, who was the only Irish born winner of the V.C. in Australian service in World War 1. The medal is making a journey back to Ireland on loan to the National Museum of Ireland for 12 months. This is the first time any V.C. in public ownership in Australia has been permitted to leave the country. A truly remarkable co-operation between the two countries!

The Tipperary man won the Victoria Cross because of his astonishing acts of bravery over a number of days at the height of fighting at Pozières, France, in August 1916, saving the lives of 20 men. Martin had emigrated to Australia around 1912 and there he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in 1915 and ended up in France. He was awarded the V.C. by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21, July 1917. He subsequently visited his family briefly in Tipperary before returning to the front.

The war never ended for Martin, as following his return from service in 1918, he spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals, with much of it in straitjackets. His torment ended with his death some 17 years later in 1935.

Marty Kavanagh, Honorary Consul of Ireland with Maj. Henry Fijolek and Neil Daley of the War Museum at the Museum in Fremantle.

This historic event, happening just 102 years after the King honoured him, is yet another fascinating chapter in the story of Martin O’Meara. It will be on display in the National Museum of Ireland by the end of this week and a truly significant homecoming is guaranteed.

These images were taken by my friend Leith Landauer this morning. Leith, fascinated by this Irishman, researched and shared and promoted Martin’s story over the years. It is very fitting that she too is making her way back to Ireland, having attended the leaving in Fremantle she will be here for the welcome in Dublin and to see it proudly displayed at Collins Barracks.

My earlier posts on Martin’s story can be seen here and here

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Two Working Men at Cork County Hall

Standing outside Cork County Hall is a pair of statues of two men looking up at a tall building. The only information about the statues is on a nearby plaque on which it is stated that it was a gift from the Irish Transport and General Workers Trade Union – a curious fact in itself!

The Sculpture on the County Hall Plaza ‘Two Working Men’ (image thesilvervoice)

In the courtyard of The Kingsley Hotel across the road, there is another pair of statues. These are two young lads looking up to the top of the tall building that is now the hotel. Dressed in clothing of many decades ago, the sculpture is particularly charming as it is life size.

Two boys at The Kingsley Hotel. (Image thesilvervoice)

The poses of the young boys are identical to the characters in the larger statues – the characters on the left have arms akimbo, while those on the right have hands behind their backs and all four are gazing upwards. The plaque alongside explains everything!

The Kingsley Hotel information plaque (Image thesilvervoice)

It reads:

‘It’s a fine big place you’ll have to agree’

Says Miah to Cha as they strolled by the Lee

‘I heard’ tis a hotel, called the Kingsley- it’s new’

So they stopped for a while to admire the view.

The spot that they gazed at – they’d looked at before

As the high diver plunged to the onlookers’ roar

The Lee Baths had gone now but here on its site

Was a beautiful Inn, inviting and bright.

The decades have passed now but the two friends still meet

To see them right now just look across the street

A critical eye’s cast on every new building

As curious as ever, just like when young children

The story on the plaque is continued

”In 1968, a stunning piece of sculpture by world renowned artist Oisín Kelly was unveiled just across the street on the Plaza outside County Hall. The piece was entitled ‘Two Working Men’ but the people of Cork quickly and affectionately renamed them ‘Cha and Miah’ (Charles and Jeremiah) after two famous Cork characters. The curiosity displayed by the men depicted in the sculpture led us to think that they must have been just as inquisitive as children. So the hotel commissioned this piece to remind us of a time when we were young and the world was full of wonder and curiosity was just part of who we were. Stay forever young at heart.

The Kingsley is located on the banks of the River Lee on a site that was once the famous Lee Baths, where hundreds played, dived and frolicked in the decades between the 1930s to the 1980s.

Enjoying the Lee Baths in the 1950s. (Image OldPhotosofCork here

Oisín Kelly (1915-1981) was a renowned Irish sculptor who had been a student with the famous sculptor Henry Moore. Visitors to Dublin will be familiar with the impressive statue of Jim Larkin on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. Jim Larkin (1874 – 1947) was a labour rights activist who founded the Workers Union of Ireland and co- founded The Labour Party in Ireland. A powerful orator, he was known as ‘Big Jim’. Kelly’s statue was unveiled in 1977 and has become an iconic feature of O’Connell Street. Among several inscriptions on the plinth is a quote that I particularly like from one of his Larkin’s speeches – ”The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise.”

Oisín Kelly’s statue of Jim Larkin in Dublin. (Image wikipedia )

Another equally famous and earlier work of Kelly’s is the Children of Lir sculpture that dominates the Garden of Remembrance, also in Dublin. It is based on the ancient Irish Legend of four children who were turned into swans, about which more can be seen here.

File:Children Of Lir taken by jaqian.jpg
The Children of Lir (Image by
jaqian
licensed for use on Wikimedia Commons)

Kelly’s ‘Two Working Men’ were commissioned by the Irish Transport & General Workers Union. Kelly spent three years fashioning the older man and the younger man gazing in admiration at the impressive Liberty Hall in Dublin – Ireland’s tallest building at that time. The local council refused permission for the installation, arguing that it would be a traffic hazard. And so the ITGWU decided that the statues would go to County Hall in Cork in 1969. By that time, Cork County Hall had replaced Liberty Hall as the tallest building in Ireland – a title it held until 2008. In true Cork style the sculptures were nicknamed Cha and Miah after a Cork comedy duo. The names have stuck and while a request for directions to the Oisín Kelly sculpture might be met with blank stares, a request for directions to see Cha and Miah would be immeditely recognized!

It’s a pity that Cork County Council do not have information at their site about this work of one of our most renowned sculptors. Kudos to The Kingsley Hotel for their salute to the monument across the street!

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D-Day postponed by Irish weather reports

Blacksod Lighthouse, Co Mayo Ireland (Image thesilvervoice)

This is Blacksod Lighthouse, near Belmullet, County Mayo on the remote west coast of Ireland. It doesn’t look much like traditional lighthouses as the light is perched on top of an old granite building that dates from 1864. It may look insignificant, but what happened here a few days before the World War 2 D-Day Landings in France would change the course of history.

Ted Sweeney was the lighthouse keeper who also logged hourly weather reports. Blacksod was of meteorological significance as it was the first land based weather station in Europe, where weather readings could be professionally taken on the prevailing European Atlantic westerly weather systems. Ted’s weather reports were relayed to the Meteorological Office in Dunstable in Bedfordshire, England. Operation Overlord was planned for June 5th as moon and tide conditions were ideal, and the weather looked favourable.

But, Ted’s report at 2 am on June 3rd recorded a rapidly falling barometer and strong winds. This caused consternation with the Allies. Dunstable called to confirm the accuracy of the readings and asked Ted to repeat the details of the 2 am report. They called a second time to verify the same information. Ted had no idea of course what the fuss was about. But Eisenhower, who commanded the Allied Expeditionary Forces  cancelled Operation Overlord as heavy rain and wind was now forecast in the English Channel on the morning of June 5th

Met conditions on June 4th based largely on weather reports from Ireland .This chart is held at Foynes Maritime Museum. (Image thesilvervoice)

By noon on June 4th Ted’s readings looked more favorable. Rain had cleared at Blacksod and visibility was good. This improved weather would reach the English Channel, some 450 miles away, in time to allow Eisenhower to order the D-Day landings of some 160,000 army personnel on the beaches of Normandy on June 6 1944 – the largest amphibious invasion in history.

Commemorative plaque at Blacksod Lighthouse (Image thesilvervoice)

The rest, as they say, is history.

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Celebrating Age with Silver Surfers

Flor McGillicuddy – Grandad in Chief with the boys from Ballyroan School

The 10th annual Age Action Silver Surfer awards were held yesterday at Dublin City University (DCU) and what an inspiring event it was! The image of the overall winner 95 year old Florence McGillicuddy is all over the newspapers today. He was the winner of the Golden IT category for people over 85 years of age, and then went on to take the ultimate prize. Flor is a ‘grandad’ to boys at Ballyroan School in Dublin. He runs a blog at grandadonline.com on which he records his memoirs for his young friends. There you will find some of his activities and ways in which he interacts with the scholars. I think this must surely rank as the most inspirational winner of the title to date. It would be good to see similar inter generational projects all lover the country!

An Acorn tablet was presented to each winner. It is designed specially for older users to help overcome social isolation and open up communications using safe and secure platforms. It is designed around secure Apps covering Independence, Health, Finance, Communications and Security and has been extensively tested by groups of older users. It sounds to me like a wonderful idea and will be most welcome when it comes to the market in July. Another sponsor of the awards was Doro Phones – smartphones designed with older users in mind, another splendid idea. It’s great to see the technological needs of older people being facilitated by these companies.

The President of Dublin City University, Professor Brian MacCraith

DCU is a particularly appropriate venue for these awards as it was the world’s first Age Friendly University. The President of DCU, Prof. Brian MacCraith, whose mother will reach her 100th birthday this week, established the ‘Age Friendly’ status in 2012 and is proud of the fact that this model has now been replicated in 50 other establishments across the world.

The entire event was presided over by the very genial radio personality Shay Byrne who was chivalrous and delightfully entertaining. An excellent choice as host! Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action reinforced the main messages of the organization – challenging stereotypes, embracing new challenges and empowering older people.

So, back to the real stars of the show- the finalists!.

First up was the category for people who have just discovered IT and have enhanced their lives as a result.

Sr Barbara Molloy hails from Galway and had to leave her work in Egypt when her congregation considered it unsafe for her to remain. On her return to Ireland she got online and found she could keep in touch with friends she had to leave behind when she mastered email and apps.

Patrick Douglas from Clonmel has discovered internet technology and uses it to keep up with his former army colleagues who served in the Lebanon.

From Limerick, we met Patrick Begley who does work with the Southhill Community and George Virgo who hails from Cork .

Eleanor Lynch who has found a new lease of life using IT.

Eleanor Lynch from Togher came out winner. Eleanor was profoundly deaf but following a cochlear implant she has embraced technology to enhance her life. She is now never far from her phone and her laptop. Well done Eleanor!

The next category ‘Hobbies on the Net’ had some fascinating finalists!

81-year -old Stan Philips from Ferrybank uses his digital skills to enhance his poetry and music collections, while Corkman Tim Hegarty has taken up Furniture Restoration since retirement and uses music and TED talks to keep him motivated while he works. 83-year-old Kevin McDermott has a body of work on Youtube and the Liberties History Group, ranging in age from 60 to 89, research local history and genealogy and are currently undertaking a project on Quakers in their very old part of Dublin. All are doing excellent work, but the winners chose The Three Paddys from Mallow as winners. Paddy McAuliffe, Tobin and Buckley learned filming and editing skills that they now use to film and record the life stories of local residents. Excellent work!

Margaret Culloty making a huge difference to Co Kerry

The Community Champion IT Award brought finalists from Meath, where Ita Healy does trojan work for the age friendly town of Trim, from Dublin where Roderick Hanley is the chief ‘techy’ person in Kiltipper Woods Residential Centre. Sr Catherine Kelly, an 82 year old in Kilcock Co Kidare has her community up to speed with laptops and ipads and smart phones while in Millstreet Co Cork Séan Radley runs the Millstreet .ie website as well as the local museum when he is not busy editing music and being an historian. Margaret Culloty, 77, from Co Kerry was the winner in this category for her selfless work in keeping online records for over 3,000 participants in the Kerry Community Games. Well done Margaret!

Sr Margaret Kiely is a volunteer wtih Age Action in Cork

Tutors are vitally important to Age Action as they are the crucial links for overcoming digital exclusion in older people. We have two categories here – Tutor(s) of the Year had some impressive contenders for the award. Brian Lennox of Dublin has guided 79 learners on the Getting Started programe, as well as volunteering at the LauraLyn childrens hospice. We then heard about Michael Dangerfield from Malahide who has patiently steered 72 Getting Started students through the course and Leslie Thornton who has tutored 88 older people. The dedicated staff of Deloitte Ireland have shared their expertise with over 100 older learners. Amazing and life changing contributions from them all! The winner of this category was Sr Margaret Kiely a retired addiction Councillor and now an Age Action volunteer, based in Cork who enthusiastically helps older learners, keeps excellent records and produces certificates for those who complete the courses.

Bandon Grammar School who pass on valuable IT skills to older people in their community.

Schools are also involved in upskilling older people – Transition year students in 27 schools have so far had 680 trainees. It was so nice to see so many young people at this event this year and huge thank you to all of them! The schools making it to the short list were Bantry Community College in Co Cork, Newpark Comprehensive in Blackrock Co Dublin, aided and abetted by the Gardaí from Blackrock police station. The title of Schools IT Tutors of the year went to the students of Bandon Grammar School- well done to them!

Huge thanks to Age Action and all their sponsors for making this such a wonderfully positive event, and a thousand congratulations to all those finalists who have inspired us all.

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Ireland’s Marriage Referendum 2019

My canvassing badge from 1986.

Tomorrow, 24 May 2019, we in Ireland will once again be casting our votes on an aspect of our divorce legislation. Because we have a written Constitution, the consent of the Irish people is needed before the Constitution can be amended. This can only be done by way of a referendum.

The explanatory booklet issued to every household in Ireland

The proposed amendment is for the removal of the requirement for spouses to have lived apart for at least 4 years in the previous 5 before a divorce can be granted. We will at the same time be voting for foreign divorces to be recognized here.

Our written constitution was adopted in 1937 (following independence from Great Britain in 1922) and while based on the British parliamentary system it also included fundamental rights based on the teachings of the Catholic faith. The Church was very influential at that time and for many decades afterwards. John Charles McQuaid was a friend of the then leader of the government, Eamon DeValera. McQuaid went on to become the Primate of Ireland and wielded extraordinary influence on succesive governments. The new constitution was unequivocal with regards to divorce. It stated: No law shall be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of marriage .

I was a footsoldier canvassing in favour of the amendment to remove the bar on divorce in 1986, mainly because of these three women:

‘Mary’ had married in Ireland. She endured years of abuse in a violent relationship. She was thrown down the stairs a number of times and her husband put weedkiller in her shoes. She had nowhere to go. Police were reluctant to get involved in domestic disputes.

‘Kate’ fled from an intolerable marriage to an alcoholic and took her children to live in England. She obtained a divorce and eventually moved back to Ireland. Following a church annulment of her first marriage, she remarried in the church. Her second marriage was recognized by the Church, but not by the state, to whom she was a bigamist.

‘Brigid’ was the daughter of a farmer. She lived in the family home with her father, a married brother and his wife and children. Her father arranged a marriage with a neighbouring farmer and he provided a dowry of some acreage. Brigid and her future husband met just once prior to the marriage, that had taken place some ten years earlier. They spent one week together before she was forced to move back to her father’s house, as she was not acceptable to her new husband’s mother. ‘Brigid’ gave birth nine months later. Her father had died and her brother and his wife, now with their own growing family wanted her to move out, but she had nowhere to go. She had no entitlement to any state assistance as her husband was a well-to-do farmer.

There were many more ‘Marys’, ‘Kates’ and ‘Brigids’ in Ireland with tragic stories to tell. And some people who had entered marriage for life found that it simply didn’t work out. I was prepared to stand up for them and with them in campaigning for an amendment to our constitution.

The campaign was a harrowing one at many levels. Taking on the might of the Catholic Church – not to mention their devout followers- was not for the fainthearted. Compassion was not part of their version of ‘Christianity’. The campaign was divisive; it was personal, with insults and even objects being thrown at will. Priests bellowed from pulpits. On my final day as a practicing catholic, a young curate yelled about the ‘Jezebels’ in the town who were lining up to ensnare the happily married men of the parish. I got up and walked out and away from all of it.

The referendum was resoundingly defeated by 63% to 34%. The outlook was bleak for those caught in the awfulness of marital breakdown, but their plight was of no consequence to the Church who had won the moral conflict. 9 years later it was once again put to the people, once again it was a bitter and divisive conflict, but it was won by the slimmest of margins – 50.28% to 49.72%. Divorce legislation was enacted in 1996.

Tomorrow we will vote again. This time we have no visible campaigners. No hollering clerics. No praying zealots at every corner. We will vote to remove divorce restrictions from the Constitution altogether, and if passed, the government will enact legislation to reduce the waiting time from 4 to 2 years. Two days ago, the Catholic bishops requested that people think very carefully before they vote. A very reasonable request. Yesterday I saw 6 Vote Yes posters outside Cork. I have not seen a single poster urging a No vote. We have come a long way in 33 years.

Both earlier campaigns had memorable moments that remain etched in the memories of those of us who fought the battles. Alice Glenn famously remarked that women who voted for divorce would be ‘like turkeys voting for Christmas’. A priest claimed that by divorcing abusive husbands, women were simply ‘passing on the abuse to another unsuspecting woman’ and Alice again warned that divorced women with children would be exposing their children to sexual abuse by the stranger who would replace the father. Older wives would be replaced by fresher younger models and there would not be a farm left in Ireland as women would rush to get their share of the land when marriages fell apart. At the 1995 referendum count, as results were announced, a well known religious zealot, Mrs Cribben, shouted out – “G’way ye wife-swapping sodomites.”

And so tomorrow, let us vote YES once again, to show that we have evolved into a more humane and compassionate society than existed just a few decades ago.

My rather battered copy of a Martyn Turner Cartoon published in the Irish Times 3 weeks before the 1986 Referendum. The caption reads:
1991AD: FOLLOWING THE DIVORCE OF THE COUPLE AT NUMBER 999 THE FABRIC OF SOCIETY IN DUNROMIN ROAD COLLAPSES

Both the cartoon and my 1986 badge will now be returned to my treasures box,

Job done.

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