Last Friday, Ireland’s listening ears were arrested by the news that a baby girl had been found in a bag in Rathcoole in Co. Dublin.
The usual appeal went up in the media for the mother of the baby to come forward. She was told, via news bulletins and articles in the papers, that she would be treated sensitively, and there were ‘concerns’ for her health. So far so inoffensive.
Then the speculation started. It was assumed by some that she was a single mother, perhaps one who couldn’t afford an abortion.
All the speculation reached screaming-at-the-radio levels today, when Pat Kenny spoke to the pompous psychologist David Carey in an ‘interview’ which consisted of two fatuous, upper middle-class, upper middle-aged white men indulging themselves with conjecture, speculation and discussion of the social, emotional and mental health of this woman. Calling their self-indulgent twaddle patronising is an understatement. It was unhelpful, at best, and damaging at worst. If you have low blood pressure, you can listen back here.
These two men, comfortably ensconced in their ivory towers, sounded very smug as they speculated on every aspect of this woman’s life: They decided she was poor, distressed, probably in need of medical attention and possibly on drugs. Look, I’m not saying that the media shouldn’t have reported that the baby was found, of course they should, even just in the hope that it would help to find her mother . But the media should stick to reporting facts and the facts in this case are that a baby girl was found in Rathcoole, she was less than 3 days old, she was healthy, removed to a hospital and her parents (as of today, not just her mother) is being sought. That is all we can know for sure and that should be the limit of what is reported and commented on.
What annoyed and vexed and upset me today was listening to all the supposition that is going on. The woman in question was patronised, pitied (comments like ‘the poor girl’ really set my teeth on edge) and blamed. Because if there’s one thing we’re really fantastic in this country, it’s victim blaming. For all these conjecture-merchants knew, the baby might have had a very abusive father and the mother felt that the safest place for the baby was where she was left. Lord knows that the HSE can’t be trusted: Maybe this woman had already had a baby (in spite of David Carey claiming it was most likely a first baby – he has no proof that that’s the case) in a hospital and was so brutalised by the system she couldn’t bear to return (this is not far-fetched, research for my PhD bears this out).
Maybe there was drug-taking, and the father was the one doing the drugs. Maybe this woman was in a relationship where the father decided the baby didn’t look enough like him and started saying it wasn’t his and threatening the mum and the baby. Maybe the woman gave birth and fed the baby and to punish her for loving someone else, the jealous father took the baby and abandoned it. This is me, speculating, painting possible scenarios. Wild and all as they are, they are just as likely, just as possible, just as credible as anything that Pat and David came up with this morning.
The only difference is that I haven’t patronised the woman in question. I haven’t decided I know anything about her and spouted it on the national airwaves with authority.
I know nothing about this woman, I don’t claim to, and I don’t need to. I just hope with all my heart that she is safe, she is well and that she finds peace sooner rather than later.