Read the article and the see the pictures here: Pages 56 and 57.
When the young Will Eames and I shot this set, we did not imagine it would be published, or at least the practicalities of such an enterprise was not at the fore of our minds. But when the editor of Totally Dublin clapped his eyes on our reverent Saint, well, it was only right that she was included in the December edition, for Christmas!
But alas, although the shop guy loved the prints we gave him, the nature of his business meant he would not agree to the publication of some of the more detailed images. It was heart breaking. We had to change the images we wanted to use, photoshop out distinctive features and darken corners to increase anonymity of this little jewel of Catholic retail in Dublin city.
The Censorship of St. Blackbird!
I was briefly ruined by this censorship, but the incident gave me the slightest insight into the impacts of Catholic influence which has oppressively dominated Irish Culture and in many respects still does. While we may be in the process of removing the restrictive layers of enforced religion (is that a pun?), it cannot be denied that the negative effects of Catholicism will be felt for a long time to come, even as the tangible manifestations of such oppression are at long last being addressed and discussed openly.
Here are a few (personally interesting) particularly Catholic induced events and some revolutionary battles won in the face of Catholic sexual oppression:
March 25th, 433: St. Patrick arrives in Ireland, at Slane.
(There's a quote I'm after, watch this space)
Jack Harte, Unraveling the Spiral - the Life and Work of Fred Conlon
1965: Author John McGahern's novel The Dark is banned in Ireland for its alleged pornographic content and implied sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and descriptions of physical abuse by the protagonists Father. The controversy led to McGahern's dismissal from his teaching post.
The Dark, John McGahern-s second novel, is set in rural Ireland. The themes - that McGahern has made his own - are adolescence and a guilty, yet uncontrollable sexuality that is contorted and twisted by both a puritanical state religion and a strange, powerful and ambiguous relationship between son and widower father.Against a background evoked with quiet, undemonstrative mastery, McGahern explores with precision and tenderness a human situation, superficially very ordinary, but inwardly an agony of longing and despair.-It creates a small world indelibly and without recourse to deliberate heightening effects of prose. There are few writers whose work can be anticipated with such confidence and excitement.- Sunday Times-One of the greatest writers of our era.
- Hilary Mantel, New Statesman
1971: Women in their numbers travel to Belfast to bring back contraceptives still illegal in the Republic of Ireland, contesting the anti-birth control policies of the Catholic-dominated Irish government and the Criminal Justice Act of 1935, which forbid the import or sale of contraceptives.
When the would-be smugglers emerged from the train, a customs officer raised his hand to halt the procession. One of the women cried, "Loose your contraceptives!" and a shower of condoms, pills, diaphragms, foams, intrauterine loops and spermicidal jellies fell at his feet. Some women tossed the contraceptives over customs officials' heads to friends. Others produced the pill, swallowed it, then challenged customs men: "Now confiscate that!"
1984: A 15 year old school girl with a concealed pregnancy gives birth alone in a grotto in County Longford. The young girl and the new born baby are later found dead in the grotto.
Ann Lovett's death came just four months after the outcome of a divisive abortion referendum in which a two-thirds majority voted to enshrine the right to life of the unborn in the constitution, creating confusion over where that left the rights of the mother. The death of mother and child became symbolic of the emerging clash between church and state. The media spotlight was understandably glaring.
1993: Homosexuality is decriminalised in Ireland.
Homosexual acts were illegal in Ireland up until the Summer of 1993. The offenses against the Person Act lifted the band, and declared the age of consent to be 17, the same as that for acts between heterosexuals.
Read an interesting article on some of the artistic and performative responses to Ireland's Catholic heritage and recent history here