A reply to Breda O Brien’s column in The Irish Catholic 20th February 2014
I really do have some sympathy for Breda O Brien, particularly after reading her column in The Irish Catholic (published 20 February) entitled ‘My Good Name Was Demolished’. Like Panti, I think that “the woman writing in the newspaper” is probably a very nice woman. And I do believe Breda when she says “I have never written anything designed to hurt or harm anyone”. I particularly feel sorry when she says that all of the publicity around the so called ‘Panti-gate’ episode has led her 15 year old daughter to ask whether they were in danger from all the vitriol. It is sad that anyone is left feeling so vilified and vulnerable.
Breda’s latest column in The Irish Catholic outlines all of this and then goes on to explain why she is against what she calls ‘gay marriage’ and yes, it revolves around children.
Breda says “No gay couple can bring children into their relationship without the assistance of at least one person of the opposite gender. This fundamental difference, with all the profound implications for children of being raised either without their mother, or their father, is supposed to be politely ignored so that adults can receive their ‘rights’” She goes on to mention about online forums where those who were conceived “through gamete donation” are desperately seeking their biological identities (actually Breda refers to them seeking their siblings and parents which I am sure is offensive to many, if not all, of those who are seeking this information).
These are two completely separate debates. I agree that all children, whether they are conceived naturally and adopted or via donated eggs and or sperm have a right to their biological information. I believe that to be a human right. But Breda – you admit that most parents who use donor assistance are heterosexual. So why is this relevant to marriage equality?
And what are the ‘profound implications’ for children raised without mother or father? Breda you must know that for decades children have been raised without two parents, usually by a lone mother who conceived the ‘natural’ way – no gametes required at all. These women, who decided to parent alone while the biological father resumed his life with little or no interest or support for his child, had to endure the same nonsense about children needing to be parented by a mother and father. And the tragedy Breda is that for many of us, although educated and reasonably smart, the baloney that was peddled during endless debates in the 80s and 90s about ‘unmarried mothers’ sank in. Like you Breda – my good name was demolished and demolished regularly. It resulted in the fact that somewhere in my subconscious there was always the feeling that I was not a good enough. In fact, like thousands of other single mothers not only was I good enough, I was actually as good as many couples.
My eldest daughter is now a wonderful woman of 26 and I have two more daughters – teenagers, who were conceived within marriage. I can tell you there is no difference Breda. Children need security, love and protection and yes it is easier if there are two sets of shoulders to bear the responsibility, particularly financially. But if there aren’t – one set can do just fine. But as to the gender of those shoulders – it matters not one bit.
I am still angry that it took my daughter reaching 21 years of age for me to really believe that I had done a good job. But the experience has given me the empathy to know how it feels to be ‘oppressed’ as Panti described it in her Nobel Call at the Abbey Theatre. I know how it feels to be on the outside; in the minority and having my life choices questioned and my child’s future maligned. I know where you are Breda and it’s not nice.
Then I read the last paragraph of your column where you talk about “dissolving a child-centred institution like marriage which is designed to bond parents with biological children, and replacing it with an adult centred institution designed primarily to act as a state-sanctioned approval of romantic sexual relationships” and I get angry all over again! I get angry on behalf of single parents, of childless married couples, of celibate married couples and gay couples seeking equality.
I am glad that the priest who married me didn’t seem to share your view Breda, as I walked up the aisle behind my then ten year old daughter. As for ‘state sanctioned approval of romantic sexual relationships”....em., was I nuts? I got married for love.