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Wednesday 31 March 2010

The God Squad, out in full force

I cried buckets of tears reading The God Squad (1989), Paddy Doyle’s account of being brought up in a religious institution in Ireland. I sat on my back door step, smoking cigarettes – one after the other – and shivered at how this man, who was about the same age as me, had suffered and barely survived while I blithely grew up in relative safety and comfort not many miles away. How could I not have felt (in a kind of Jungian collective unconscious way) something of what he was going through? As I read I felt guilty, terribly sad, raging, angry, and full of admiration for the writer who had managed to keep hold of his sense of self. He survived. He lived to tell the tale and be a witness to unbelievable cruelty in the name of religion.

When Paddy’s mother died of cancer, his father took his own life in front of his innocent four-year old son. Young Paddy was taken before an Irish District Court, to be detained in an industrial school for eleven years. You may have to read that sentence again because it really doesn’t make any sense. And the more you think about it, the more you realise that this beautiful green country of ours harboured a great evil that has yet to be addressed in any kind of proper fashion. If I feel despair, it is nothing in comparison to the despair felt by the forgotten children of this Ireland.

I thought in my innocence that he had been singled out. I didn’t realise 'til recently that he was one of many. What I feel, however, is irrelevant. I am a mere Second Hand Rose and must listen to the voices of those whose childhoods were stolen, who were treated as if they were murderous criminals beyond pity or love.

As Paddy Doyle said: "It is about society's abdication of responsibility to a child. The fact that I was that child, and that the book is about my life, is largely irrelevant. The probability is that there were, and still are, thousands of 'me's'".

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paddy Doyle came to talk to our class, I feel like I was in my very early teens but if the book wasn't published 'til 1989 I guess I was around 16. I still remember it clearly, and what struck me most was his extraordinary sense of humour. No self-pity whatsoever. The courage that man must have had leaves me cold, twenty years ago this was a very different island and I can't imagine what he must have gone through first getting the book published and then dealing with the aftermath. Because he was the first, wasn't he? the first to speak out? And now twenty years later, TWENTY YEARS, the full extent of institutionalised abuse remains unknown, and we're generations away from being healed.

March 31, 2010 11:21 PM  

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