Today I want to talk about activism. I don’t believe I’ve done enough in my life to call myself an activist, but I do believe in campaigning and the power of coming together for change.
At the end of August, the Pope made a visit to Ireland. For many it was an important and historic day for their religion, but for others it surged anger towards a institution that has darkened Ireland’s past with shame and lies. If you’re unclear of Ireland’s history with the Church, this article on the Tuam Babies and the Magdalene laundries are just two examples of what went on behind closed doors.
Colm O’Gorman, the Executive Director of Amnesty International and a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, organised a solidarity march in honour of all the victims who suffered in the hands of the Church. The march was to be held at 3pm, the same time that Pope Francis would be saying mass in Phoenix Park. For many of the victims, they felt that the Pope had not done enough to recognise the abuse. Instead they considered him to be hiding behind words, rather then actively seeking to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
On the Sunday, my friend and I went for brunch before we headed on to the march (I don’t think I’ve ever sounded like such a millennial).
We gathered by The Garden of Remembrance, where the street faces a church, which I found to be quite symbolic. While holding our placards aloft, we stood and listened to the words of Colm O’Gorman, Marian Keyes and music from Hozier, to name just a few. Afterwards we marched down Parnell towards Sean McDermot Street to the last Magdalene Laundry, that closed as recently as 1996. In my last three years living in Dublin, I’ve never heard O’Connell St. so silent. Buses and trams were brought to a halt and bystanders stood on paths, watching us walk past silently in our thousands.
A more recent story of activism is the going on’s have a small rural village in the west of Ireland.
A few weeks ago, An Post- which is the national postal service in Ireland- announced that it will be closing 159 post offices around the country, mainly in rural Ireland.
In communities, when a small shop, the post office and the church are the only social meeting spots for the older generation, the post office is seen as a central point to their day to day lives.
One small village in Kerry called Ballinskelligs took charge of this threat and held a meeting in the community hall with two hundred local people and TD’s (members of parliament) attending. The meeting caught the attention of the media and made the national press, though the campaign continues to be ongoing.
This story in particular inspired me. When it comes to an issue we don’t agree with or we think needs changing, we can often think “what’s the point in saying anything, it’s not like it will make a difference.” If a small community like Ballinskelligs can come together and get noticed for something that they find important, what’s stopping the rest of us standing up for what we believe in.
Is there any issue you think needs changing or campaigning for?