On a bitingly cold, dark, dismal January 31st in 1984 Ireland, an innocent 15-year-old went to the grotto of the Virgin Mary, and, heavily pregnant and in the throes of agonising labour, without the benefit of a soul to comfort her, lay down on the frozen, filthy ground and gave birth to a baby son. Ann Rose Lovett must have been terror-stricken. Her infant died, and, later that afternoon, tragically, so did his poor mammy. Had she lived, Ann would have been 50 last week. Her baby boy would have been 34.
On the 20th anniversary of Ann’s death, while working for the Evening Herald, I was tasked with heading to Granard in County Longford to see, in my then editor’s words, “what the mood is like”. I made a call to Emily O’Reilly, the journalist who broke Ann’s tragic tale back in 1984, to see if she’d any words of advice. In 2004, Ms. O’Reilly was our country’s first female Ombudsman, later being elected as European Ombudsman…her advice was to wish me luck and to ”tread carefully”.
Well folks, ‘the mood’ was hostile. It’s a painful subject for the lovely people of Granard, who told me back then, (when I identified as a journalist), that they just “want to forget”. Fair enough, but I’m personally finding it impossible to forget, and the scandal of what happened to that poor girl still covers this entire country, most especially the town of Granard, like a dense fog to this very day.
My first port of call was to the grotto to say a prayer for the young girl who was found crying and dying in the dirt beside her infant son; who was never afforded the dignity of being named. Three days later, both were buried, fated to become two of Ireland’s tainted unmentionables; legacies of the fierce and cruel stranglehold the Catholic Church had on this nation of ours.
My second stop was to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, its steeple clearly visible high on the hill, cloaking the town like a dark spectre. Look, I won’t go into detail regarding my visit, because I genuinely don’t wish to upset the Lovett family, or the decent people of Granard, but, following my little chat at the parochial house, I was run out of town. Yep, word spread that a nosy journalist was asking questions, resulting in staff at the accommodation where I’d planned to stay packing my bags and leaving them at reception. Apparently they didn’t have a room after all. A burly thug approached me on Main Street, and, in a threatening voice, fist close to my face, told me what would happen to me if I didn’t “get the f**k out of town”.
I wasn’t easily intimidated and headed to Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School, the ‘caring institution’ where Ann attended, to find out just how ‘caring’ they were, and asked how staff (back then), had failed to act and help this petrified child, who sat in class each day, clearly heavily pregnant. The response (at the time) was shocking; evidence of the decades-long wall of silence dutifully erected around allegations, speculations and above all, dark, shameful secrets that nobody was willing to breach. Undeterred, I continued up the hill to Granardkille graveyard – where Ann and her baby are laid to rest – and said a prayer. It was there a local lady approached me and revealed her son (whom she insisted, and I believed her, was not the baby’s father), had befriended Ann. This lady was the only friendly face I encountered that day; and, 34 years later, on the anniversary of Ann’s 50th birthday, and while times have changed and the schools/businesses/churches, etc., employ different personnel now, no more details of her story have amassed; most notably not the identity of her baby’s father.
Tragically, three months following Ann’s death, her teenage sister was found dead of an alleged prescription drug overdose. I wrote my story, and it was published in memory of the brave young girl who was outrageously crucified for falling pregnant outside of marriage. As someone who was herself a teenage mother in the ‘80s, (but with the benefit of a wedding ring), I dedicate my column this week to the memory of Ann and her baby son; we must never forget them. Their deaths remain our national shame because collectively, as a society, we must all be held responsible. May they rest in peace.
Scarla’ for ya McGregor
Flamboyant, outrageous, ostentatious, notorious and legendary, etc. There are many adjectives that describe MMA fighter Conor McGregor. He’s built a reputation, fortune and image around bawdy showmanship and, as a fellow Dubliner, I’ve admired him for it. But, given last week’s disgusting behaviour, let me offer alternative adjectives…vacuous, vapid, imbecilic ignoramus. To be honest, McGregor’s latest (probably) pre-planned publicity stunt, where himself and his hangers-on appeared to go on a violent rampage and allegedly gate-crash a UFC 223 media event, will likely go down as one of the most embarrassing and shameful incidents in Irish sport. According to the New York Police Department’s spokesperson, “he (McGregor) has been charged with three counts of assault and one of criminal mischief”.
N-n-n-n-ice one Conor, you’ve managed to turn a mediocre event into a scene of utter chaos. Not exactly coola boola behaviour for one of Ireland’s most bankable and, to many, influential role models, now is it bud? I’m scarla’ for ya. How will your career ever recover from the fall-out? Ya numpty!