The post-truth affliction at NUI, Galway and other Irish universities

The Post-Truth Era hit Ireland earlier than most other nations. Women’s studies at the universities provided a fertile breeding ground for false histories. In no time, the notion of the ‘misogynistic nation’ took hold and grew into a full-blown conspiracy theory. One article in particular from NUI, Galway published in 2016, provides us with the exemplar of the post-truth affliction within Irish academia as it contains nearly all the spoofs which masquerade as genuine Irish history. Troublingly, these spoofs appear to be taught to students at university, thus ensuring that new generations of history teachers will pass on such spoof, thus providing more evidence that the universities claim to be able to teach critical thinking skills continues to be rendered bogus.

Most Irish universities are busting their gut to rise in the university world rankings but try as they might, NUI, Galway’s ranking has plummeted again this year. It would plummet further down the order if the veracity of its output was included in the ranking’s assessment process. However, NUI, Galway is not the only university to be affected by post-truth menace and for students affected by poor standards, should be entitled to a return of their fees.

In the fifth chapter of the book the writings and claims of various academics are compared to the historical evidence. Here is an extract from that particular NUI, Galway article. Judge for yourself if the pursuit of objective truth is currently beyond the capability of most Irish academics.

 

Abuse – The Catholic cure for Poverty

I could present no more exceptional exemplar of all the maladies that infringe upon quality history writing than within the one article entitled, ‘The Catholic cure for Poverty’ written by Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley working as a history lecturer at Galway University[1]. A classic of the genre, where a highly partisan interpretation of historical events is used to promote a current agenda. To her credit, Buckley manages to wrap several agendas into one invective piece, killing many birds with as many stones to hand. The article is a left-wing supremacist attack on what she sees as the right-wing establishment; her artillery cannons are loaded with ‘straw man’ shrapnel, aiming the barrage at the Catholics, the Irish political classes and the Irish people. Named after the huffing and puffing, big bad wolf in the Three Little Pigs story, a straw man attack is where the views, actions and arguments of the opposing side are misrepresented, and these misrepresentations are then attacked. It is a recognised informal logical fallacy that aims to discredit and humiliate the opposition using tactics ranging from the exaggeration of small facts to complete fabrication of falsehoods; it is regarded as dishonesty, which serves to undermine rational debate.

That is a definition, and I am not accusing Buckley dishonesty, she is not the first author to fail to put the mother and baby homes story in its correct historical context and is merely repeating the fallacies of other writers without checking their veracity. While her agenda clearly shows elements of Marxist socialist, feminist and anti-Catholic tendencies, she lets the sisterhood down by failing to credit the various women’s movements for their input and considerable influence on the moral and social hygiene movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Failure to recognise women’s achievements is an all-too-common feature of extreme feminism, which prefers to resort to false historical self-victimisation to both support their raison d’etre and promote self-notoriety. All built on a ton and a half of falsehoods. In this section, I will get through some of the claims made in Buckley’s article and I will do the job of a historian and place these claimed events and arguments in their historical context. I am sure that I will be attacked, and stand accused of promoting my own agenda, but at least I fully inform my readers of all the issues surrounding these historical events, even if they oppose whatever agenda I may stand accused of promoting. Readers of history are entitled to be permitted to formulate an informed opinion rather than have it manipulated through cherry-picking small bits of information, filtered through present-day understandings and misunderstandings. Accordingly, I have gone back to the original documents, which historians refer to as primary sources, have included the relevant extracts below so that my readers can judge for themselves whether or not the history is based thereupon has been subjected to impartial interpretation.

As one author builds the mistakes of another, adding embellishment on top embellishment without dissent, myths grow into those of epic proportions that incrementally creep further away from the grain of truth towards having no basis in reality, thus becoming complete conjectures.

Carrigan Report Myths

One of the common myths that have emerged in recent years goes under the title ‘the suppression of the Carrigan Report’. In reality, the Carrigan report’s findings were not suppressed and incorporated into law through the Public Dance Halls Act 1935 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, which raised the age of consent and banned contraception. If Dr Buckley read the report, it states that it was never intended to be made public. The myth arises because of a memo sent to the cabinet on October 27th, 1932 from the Minister of Justice, James Geoghegan TD, which was severely critical of the report and insisting that it was too one-sided. He was right, the report was one-sided, even for the mentality of the 1920s, blaming motorcars, cinema and dance halls for the rise in illegitimate births. Highly selective extracts from the report have over recent decades, provided the propagandists with fertile soil from which to propagate all sorts of fallacies. Even where the report provides no soil, the fallacies still manage to grow but in keeping with the laws of nature, can only grow with the application of more manure.

Buckley writes, ‘the Carrigan Report revealed abuse was rampant in Irish institutions.’[2] Nowhere in the Carrigan Report does it say any such thing. It is a blatant falsehood or a mistake of monumental proportions due to her qualifications in academic history. We all can make mistakes and a single elementary failure to look up a document, which she herself has hyperlinked in her article, might be forgivable but for the plethora of other historical falsehoods and misinformation peppered throughout her invective article. [3]  Published several years ago in May 2016, the article has remained uncorrected since then, and no erratum has been prefaced to the online article to date. It reveals that Dr Buckley remains unaware of the mistakes and that the article has not been subject to competent peer review until now.

Dr Buckley mistakenly claims that the Carrigan committee’s report dates from 1935, in reality, it delivered its findings on August 20th, 1931, and its report was circulated to members of the Cabinet on December 2nd, 1931. The report offers an essential insight into the mentality and the concerns of the élite and middle classes regarding the specific problem of protecting girls and women in 1920s, not just in Ireland but also worldwide as evinced through this statement contained within the report.

The Secretariat of the League of Nations, at the instance of the Department of External Affairs, supplied us with official publications and a summary of the legislation in different countries on subjects pertinent to our investigation. The Secretariat also prepared for us a special Memorandum, drawn up by one of its members, Dr Max Habicht, comparing the provisions of Stead’s Act [the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885][4] with existing international conventions having for their purpose the protection of women and children.[5]

Note: the primary purpose for establishing the Carrigan Commission was ‘the protection of women and children’. Note also, a fundamental of clurichaun syndrome requires that Ireland be treated in isolation from all other countries, thereby falsely promoting the notion that Irish find solutions to Irish problems without reference to the international context. Moreover, when comparisons are made, they tend to be with Britain rather than another country similar to Ireland, which faced similar social problems. In the period under study, Britain was the richest country in the world and Ireland one of the poorest with just over half the GDP per capita of Britain. In light of such, hardly any comparison to Britain concerning efforts in mitigation of poverty is valid. Research validity requires academics to be able to work outside the Anglophone, and that seems to be well beyond the capability of most social historians and sociologists working Irish academia. Note again, however, in the above extract; the committee was concerned to look at what is now called best practice in other countries for the protection of women and children. However, Buckley states that ‘the Carrigan committee was tasked with investigating the ‘moral state’ of the country.’[6] The Carrigan report again, begs to differ.

Under the terms of our Reference we had to consider the secular aspect of social morality which it is the concern of the State to conserve and safeguard for the protection and well-being of its citizens. We looked upon it as our duty in the first place to collect sufficient information from such authentic sources as would enable us to determine whether the standard of social morality is at present exposed to evils, which the existing laws of the Saorstát [Free State], for the suppression and prevention of public vice, are inadequate to check and should they be in our opinion inadequate, to proceed, in the next place, to consider how best they can be made effectual and to recommend [changes to the law] [7]

Interpreting ‘social morality’ as the ‘morality of the country’ is an easy mistake to make, but anyone who reads the report will see that it was primarily concerned with the protection of women and girls from sexual predators, to analyse the dangers faced and recommend action. The report was not in the modern sense moralising nor accusing women of immoral behaviour. If anything, the report authors can be accused of it is philogyny (opposite of misogyny) and misandry (prejudice against men). Only one small section of the report mentions the need to protect boys who were as we know today just as much if not more in danger than girls from sexual predators.

Buckley’s claim that ‘the Carrigan Report revealed abuse was rampant in Irish institutions’ is not only not supported by any statement in the report but is directly contradicted. The report is full of praise for intuitions like industrial schools and even calls for the establishment of penal borstal intuitions, which were already imposed on boys, to be extended to girls.

For girl offenders between 16 and 21 years of age we recommend the adoption of the proposals favoured by the majority of the witnesses, who were examined by us on the subject. They appeared to us sound and practical and can be given legal effect without difficulty by the application, with suitable adaptations, of Part 1. (Reformation of Young Offenders) of the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, under which the Borstal system was established, which on the whole has proved satisfactory for dealing with male offenders between these ages.

At present, in the numerous cases of girl offenders, which would be most judiciously disposed of by sentences of detention under the Borstal system, if it were available… [8]

As for the ‘Catholic cure for poverty,’ the cure is striking secular in the Carrigan Report:

In explanation of the numerous cases of outrages upon young females, the Commissioner pointed to the fact to which attention was directed by other witnesses, that in this country the children of the poorer classes are less protected than in Great Britain. In Dublin the necessity in the case of many families living in tenements, for the parents, both father and mother, to leave the children to look after themselves in the day time while they themselves went out to earn their livelihood, was a constant source of danger. In rural districts girls of 14 years are sent out to service, which deprives them of the protection they had with their parents.[9]

The report expressly states that children are left on their own or forced to work as servants, depriving them of parental protection due to poverty. The mother and baby homes commission confirmed that most of the women in the homes were previously employed as domestic servants. The landlord classes (both Irish and Anglo Irish) have been abusing young girls and boys for centuries, but it seems to have escaped the attention of Buckley et al. Also escaping attention is the role which women, and in particular women doctors played in analysing the problem of unmarried mothers and how to protect them and children from venereal disease. The Carrigan Commission was keen to seek out the opinion of knowledgeable women and report it accordingly.

The period of 16 to 19 years of age is regarded as the dangerous age for girls, being the period when they are most susceptible emotionally and least capable of self-control. In a pamphlet issued by the [British ] National social Purity Crusade, of which the author is Miss Helen Wilson, a prominent member of the Association for Moral and social Hygiene and an advocate for raising the age of protection for girls in England to 18 years, at least, figures are given showing that in the examined cases of 401 women, who were professional prostitutes, 231 had first lapsed between 16 and 19 years of age and of 317 similar cases 194 had become prostitutes between these years. The Poor Law Commission of 1927 reported (clause 259) that mothers of firstborn illegitimate children, who seek relief in this country, are commonly between 17 and 21 years of age and it recommended that the age of consent should be raised to at least 18, if not 19 years.

We concur and would add that the necessity for the better protection of girls has become more acute since the Report of the Poor Law Commission was published. We accordingly recommend that it shall be an offence to have carnal knowledge of a girl under 18 years of age.[10]

Language and the connotations associated with certain words has changed over the decades, and if such a passage were written in the same language as today, it would be sternly rebuked, and the authors would have probably gotten George Hooked. The snowflake generation is particularly sensitive to certain words’ connotations as they have grown up in an environment of political correctness and sometimes, to borrow a tired old expression, political correctness gone mad. However, snowflaky connotations are anachronisms and can have no place in history, but this ignorance has many harmful consequences. A case in point was that of the elderly Irish radio presenter, George Hook, who, perhaps ham-fistedly but with avuncular intent, proffered advice to women about not putting themselves in danger of sexual attack. He was hysterically accused of victim-blaming and ended up being hounded out of his job. Many of us, men included, have developed strategies to avoid situations, potentially putting us in danger. There are certain streets, specific venues that I would not visit alone or even venture near, late at night. I would also advise my daughters and wife on avoiding putting themselves in danger and any stranger I think might be in danger. Not only that, I would do the same for my son and my male friends too, but I will also put their safety before the hypersensitivities of the snowflakes and make no apologies for doing so.

Interpreting historical documents like the Carrigan Report is where the role of the historian assumes its primary importance, translating such documents into today’s parlance so that they can be easily understood by the people of the present, including the snowflakes. The commission was not casting a slur on girls of 16 to 19 years of age it is an observation written in the archaic language of the 1920s where the connotations on such words as illegitimate, ignorant, morality, purity did not carry the attached extra emotional meanings of today. The next extract is illustrative of that when it refers to ‘ignorant girls’. Ignorance would be replaced with the phrase innocent and naïve in similar reports of today, and that was what was meant, not thick or stupid.

Reason : The evidence satisfied us that the uncontrolled freedom the promiscuous entertainments in which town and country girls are now in the habit of participating, such as Dance Halls, Picture Houses and ‘joy’ drives in motor vehicles, are designedly resorted to ‘and availed of by male prowlers’ as they were described, to bring ignorant ‘girls to ruin’; and to render them easier prey, intoxicants, as well as drugged drinks, not infrequently are given to them.[11]

Without knowledge of the past, any person attempting to read through historical documents can easily make mistakes by doing what comes naturally, filtering information through the prism of current understandings.

The contributors to the Carrigan Report and others in similar reports during the Free State period did not see poverty as a moral failing as Dr Buckley implies, nor were they advocating a Catholic cure for poverty. Such an allegation is untrue especially because the Anglican Church also stands accused of ‘slaughtering’ poor babies. Accordingly, would Buckley’s article not be better retitled, the Christian cure for poverty?

Extract from: Jordan, Eugene. The Irish Attack on Christianity – The Case for the Defence. Tafannóir Press, 2021. Available here

Endnotes

[1]   Buckley, The Catholic Cure for Poverty.
[2] Ibid.
[3]   A hyper-link is highlighted text within an electronic document when clicked brings readers to another (linked) web-page.
[4]   Book (eISB), Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other purposes. [14th August 1885.].
[5]   Knitter, ‘Days In The Life’.
[6]   Buckley, The Catholic Cure for Poverty.
[7]   Knitter, ‘Days In The Life’.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.

References

Book (eISB), electronic Irish Statute. Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other purposes. [14th August 1885.]. Accessed 19 December 2019. http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1885/act/69/enacted/en/print.

Buckley, Sarah-Anne. The Catholic Cure for Poverty. Jacobin, 2016. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/05/catholic-church-ireland-magdalene-laundries-mother-baby-homes

Knitter, The. ‘Days In The Life: The Full Carrigan Report’. Days In The Life (blog), 24 June 2005. http://the-knitter.blogspot.com/2005/06/full-carrigan-report_24.html.

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