A new series, The Way We Were, aired on RTÉ over the last couple of weeks.

The three episodes detailed how Irish people holidayed, shopped and worked in the 20th century.

People below a certain age, such as the millennials of 1980 onwards, probably laughed and cried in equal measure watching it.

Specifically in relation to how women in Ireland were treated, there was probably more crying and cringing than laughing.

Considering the number of reports into abuse that we, as a country, have generated over the last number of years, a fourth instalment, The Way We Were – How We Treated Our Most Vulnerable, would have sufficient content for an episode of its own.

During this era, tragically, the way we were also allowed the proliferation of mother and baby homes.

I, like Damien O'Reilly, listened to the women and their babies (now adults) who are forever impacted by the time they spent in those homes.

I do think that society should bear some guilt

Farms, farmers, succession, inheritance and poverty are noted multiple times in the report. There is no absolution for rural Ireland.

Writer and broadcaster Fionn Davenport, who was born in a Dublin home, responding to the comment in the report that society at large was complicit, said: “If you blame everyone, no one is to blame.”

I agree, but I do think that society should bear some guilt. The millennial generation referred to previously have no link to these atrocities, but it is important that they acknowledge how society, the Church and the State turned a blind eye to the suffering of Irish women over several decades.

Women, children and other groups are still being abused in this country and the excuse that “it’s not my business” lingers.

The agency gets around 50,000 referrals of suspected child abuse each year

Tusla CEO Bernard Closter in an interview with Michael Brennan in the Sunday Business Post said the agency’s focus on domestic violence has increased.

This is happening because the pandemic has kept these victims, described as “overwhelmingly female”, in closer contact with their abuser.

The agency gets around 50,000 referrals of suspected child abuse each year.

The majority of vulnerable children now live with foster families.

While Tusla policy is to keep children in their family home if at all possible, the constraints around COVID-19 have led to a rise in the number of children requiring emergency foster care.

Maria Moynihan spoke with Catherine Bond of the Irish Foster Care Association, which marks 40 years in operation in 2021, as to why people choose to foster and the benefits and tribulations that it can bring.

Last November, Monaghan pig farmers Seán and Sheedy Brady, who have fostered 35 children over the years, were featured on RTÉ’s Countrywide.

If anyone has an interest in getting involved with fostering, it is worth looking up this podcast (21 November 2020) and listening to the Bradys talk about their experiences.

I sometimes wonder has much changed

I was talking to a lady-farmer friend on Sunday last who had unearthed some paraphernalia from a 2003 event organised to support women in agriculture.

“I sometimes wonder has much changed,” she lamented.

This is true for so many areas which impact on women. Progress is very slow.

However, as the 20x20 campaign which aimed to increase the participation in and media coverage of women’s sport demonstrated, progress can and will be made.

Just because that was the way we were, does not mean that has to be the way we will be.

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