THE Central Statistics Office yesterday published figures that show how very much, and for the better, Ireland has changed in a short time.
One set of figures — those dealing with births — paints a picture that those apparently stern men and women who took the salute at Dublin’s GPO during celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising would hardly recognise. Whether that revolutionary generation would condone the social evolution once precluded by strict religious dominance is a matter of conjecture.
The CSO records that nearly four-in-ten births — 36.4% — were outside marriage. Of these, 59.5% were to cohabiting parents. What is not a matter of conjecture is the fate that befell those who became parents outside marriage around the time Éamon de Valera inspected that 1966 guard of honour in O’Connell Street. Some would have faced opprobrium or ostracisation. Some would have faced both. Others, always the mothers as the fathers were often silent, quickly absent partners in these dramas, might have found themselves in mother-and-baby homes, especially if they did not have independent means. Others emigrated. The children were almost universally offered for adoption.
This little lesson from history begs two simple questions. Why are today’s beliefs so very different to those held by many people in 1966 and how many of the principles we hold so dear today will seem preposterous in half a century?
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