The harrowing story of our mother and baby homes is well documented. The tale that hasn’t been told, until now, is the degree of complicity ordinary people had – the choice to ignore what was happening in plain sight often coupled with the fear of a face-off with the Church. Sinéad O’Shea is a film-maker whose 2017 film A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot saw her peel away the layers of frustration with the peace dividend in the North through the story of a family. This time she returns to her hometown of Navan to unearth the resistance and succour offered by local doctors Paddy and Mary Randles.
With a brilliant use of archival footage and incredibly moving interviews, O’Shea brings a deft and compassionate understanding to this tale of compassion. The rapport she has built with her subject matters over time is evident in the ease with which they address her by her first name. Her sensitivity behind the camera brings forth heartfelt emotion. We hear the stories from the likes of Betty who became pregnant at 18 and just “wanted to get away” from the “shame”, but also those of Norman who was a young lad lifted out of it by corporal punishment. The wounds may heal but the scars stay forever.
We are reminded this was a time of moving statues and ‘Hello Divorce, Goodbye Daddy’ – a mixture of false hope and fear-mongering to keep a subservient populace under the mitre. One shocking moment shows Gay Byrne flippantly skirting over the front page story of Ann Lovett, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who died giving birth beside a grotto. But there are good people – the Randles in this instance – who risked ostracisation to come to the aid of those in need. Their gentle power is replicated in this work.
Words: Michael McDermott
Pray for Our Sinners
Director: Sinéad O’Shea
Release Date: April 21