Sometimes I’ve wondered how things like the holocaust could happen in Germany: the home of Kant and Mozart and Bach and Hegel and Marx. But the simple reason is that it could happen because people allowed it to happen. Only by turning a blind eye to evil does evil continue. But why do people allow the evil? Without that allowance, the evil wouldn’t be possible. I don’t get it.

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats.
There we’ve hid our fairy vats
Full of berries,
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
you can understand.

Between 1925 and 1961 in a place of rolling green fields, quaint stone buildings, and pubs serving Guiness and hosting gigs with bands like Pogues and Christy Moore, in one institution in Tuem, Galway, Ireland about 800 children were allowed to be neglected to death. This is not news, because there has been hints and whispers of this before, but any public airing of this has quickly dissipated. After the predatory sex scandals of the Catholic Church, the institution has been quite weakened in Ireland. Now, this time, when it was reported – it blew up internationally.

So, while songs like Sally MacLennane rose to the rafters in the pub, Catholic nuns were abusing and neglecting children in ‘The Home’ in Galway to the point where at the peak, two of the kids died every week. This out of a total population of about 330 in all in an institution built for 270 or so. Over a period of three years, 300 children died; every single child in that home was replaced by another . This happened in one institution run by the Catholic Church, and there were hundreds of institutions just like it all over Ireland.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by farthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands, and mingling glances,
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap,
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
you can understand.

It is easy to be outraged; to rage against the whole edifice of the Church and demand that it be razed to the ground and that the ground be salted so that the demons buried there would never rise again, but then that question comes up. Not the one about “how could Germans from the home of Kant and Bach and Marx allow the holocaust to happen”, but “how could the Irish from the home of Yeats and Pogues and Christy Moore allow this to happen”?

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes,
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout,
And whispering in their ears;
We give them evil dreams,
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Of dew on the young streams.
Come! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping then
you can understand.

But there is no answer, is there? Unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock were bad, sinful, and you could do anything to them because they had to be punished for being what they were. Even if hundreds of them died, it was no great loss, because the sanctity of morals must be upheld, and the arbiter of morals were those which put those babies in a septic tank when they had been neglected to death.

Away with us, he’s going,
The solemn-eyed;
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hill-side.
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast;
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
he can understand.

How does a society get to a point where children dumped into mass graves becomes something to sweep under the rug for the tranquility of the polity? How can a church call itself a moral voice when it is the instrument which puts children into not merely mass graves, but septic tanks? As if children were rubbish to be disposed of?

I don’t get it.