Demand for empathy at all-time high as country lurches into another scandal

The empathy of the Irish people has been tested over the past few days, weeks, months.

If it were an elastic band made of heartstrings, it would be twisted this way and that, knotted and frayed, bent and contorted.

If we have the ability, and we should have, to place ourselves in the shoes and hearts and souls of others, then this country has not been an easy place to be in recent times.

Even as the smoke settles from last Friday’s referendum, we find that empathy played a key role in the decisions of those who voted both Yes and No, it dictated their decisions.

And now, it is being tested again.

Over the past month, there have been women receiving phonecalls and messages telling them that their terminal illnesses need not have happened, that they could have been prevented. A time when the phone became the purveyor of potential mortality and sadness.

Today and tomorrow and over the next few days, there are many people whose lives are going to be upturned by other phone calls; people whose very sense of structure is going to be tested, with the news that the one thing that they all cling to, their identity, is not what they thought it would be.

As you read this, more than 120 people, are being told that the people they thought were their parents are not.

The ages of the people being told ranges from 49 to 72, but there is no perfect age in life at which hearing such news leaves little impact. For the most of those adopted, the news is delivered early and it becomes a part of what they are.

To hear the news and to hear the circumstances in which it came about, when one is more than a half century old is a shock to the system and a further blow to the notion that this was ever a caring country, one that nurtured every citizen equally.

Minister Zappone said yesterday that this was news of a such gravity, that at one stage a discussion was held as to whether it should be imparted at all. But in recent weeks, we have heard a lot about the right to know, and the decision has been taken to deploy social workers to deliver the news and work with those who receive it.

People have a right to know who they are, and how they are. For too long, things were done in this country ostensibly for our own good, but primarily for the good of others.

In truth, the numbers in this latest scandal are unknown. This is not a new scandal. This was known about for decades and the Adoption Rights Alliance had been telling every minister for children about the falsification of records for the guts of 20 years.

And yet nothing was done. Perhaps a hope that in time it would all go away. But people like Catherine Corless have done this country a great service. She and others have given names to the numbers.

And when you see names, it means more, it pains more.

And it should double our determination to ensure that the likes of this never happens again.


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