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The Real Ireland

Details are emerging of women who were incorrectly diagnosed as having miscarried, and the story is gathering momentum.  It started with a woman who attended the notorious Lourdes hospital in Drogheda, but now women all over the country are beginning to tell how they were ignored, bullied and disbelieved when they requested a second opinion.

It isn’t a coincidence, and the Lourdes hospital isn’t unique, though it is an institution with a fearsome past where a butcher of an obstetrician inflicted unnecessary hysterectomies on hundreds of women, and where 26-year-old Sheila Hodgers was left to die screaming in agony because the nuns who controlled it at the time wouldn’t administer anaesthesia in case it harmed her unborn child.  She reached such an advanced stage of cancer because the hospital refused to administer an X-ray early in pregnancy, even though she had already had a mastectomy for breast cancer.  Again, the reason was religious — the X-ray might harm the foetus.

Sheila Hodgers died 30 years ago and the nuns are gone, but not the attitudes.

Michael Neary is an overbearing bully with a classic case of the God syndrome so common in Irish consultants, and the nuns have been replaced by the HSE but their legacy lives on.

I’ve written about this HSE crowd before.

These are the people who waited until they could gather 97 terrified women together in one place for the results of their cancer tests, even though  the slightest delay might result in the deaths of some of them.  It was done this way, not in the interest of the patients, but because HSE administrators found it more convenient to herd the women together in one place.

As I said in response to a report on this scandal, the health service is not run by professionals, but by unqualified administrators, light on knowledge and heavy on arrogance — an arrogance born out of the fear that they might be exposed for the ignorant incompetents they are.

As I said at the time, these people are from the vast ranks of mediocre know-nothings who arrived into the old Health Boards as junior clerks at the age of seventeen with a fair-to-bad school Leaving Certificate. If not for this stroke of luck, they might have struggled to find a job selling shoes.

These “managers” spent their formative years stamping pieces of paper and looking down their noses at poor people huddled outside a wooden hatch in some freezing Victorian health centre.

These are the geniuses who stuff our public service, and strangle the initiative of people with real talent and real vision. These are the dead weight that guarantee our health service is, and will remain, a complete disaster.

Why is this?  Why are the administrators in our health service so devoid of human feeling, so incompetent and so robotic in their treatment of the people who pay their wages?

Why are Irish consultants so different from their colleagues in Britain, who display considerably more empathy and who seem to be far less infatuated with their own egos?

I suspect that the miscarriage scandal is Ireland in microcosm.   The real Ireland that has never gone away since the foundation of the State.

There’s a common belief that the revolutionaries who initiated the War of Independence somehow had the interests of the ordinary Irish people at heart, but the evidence doesn’t bear that out.  Many of them, and perhaps even most of them, were well-off people who had little or no understanding of the worries that beset the common people, and for the most part, they held the common man in contempt.

These were people fighting to secure position and wealth for their families, who were already influential and entrenched in the professions in Ireland.

The ages-old dispute between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has nothing to do with ideological differences and everything to do with family rivalries, money, power, position and privilege.

What a revolution it turned out to be, when the revolutionaries gained control of the judiciary, the legal profession at large, medicine, engineering, architecture, construction and journalism.

The revolutionaries were rich, well-connected, deeply conservative, and their independent State cared nothing for the ordinary people.  It handed them over to the tender mercies of the Catholic church to beat and bugger them.  It left them to starve and die of TB in their thousands.

The sad reality is that when the British left, the Irish poor became poorer and sicker.  While the Brits were closing their industrial schools, our privileged elite were packing them with children for the delectation and profit of the clergy.

When a bishop — prompted by medical consultants who saw their wealth and power threatened — objected to a harmless Mother and Child scheme, the State cowered and capitulated.  These medical consultants were Irish, and they came from a long line of influential Irish families who had prospered under British rule.

In this very town, a Belfast doctor by the name of James McPolin, Chief Medical Officer for County Limerick, was particularly vocal in his opposition to the Act.

McPolin, as Declan Lyons describes in an excellent paper entitled Medicine in Limerick in the 20th Century, argued that State medicine contravened moral law, that it was the father’s duty to provide medical care for his dependants and the role of the family doctor and the church, not the State to educate mothers and children about health.

This was a doctor, paid by the State, arguing against State care for its citizens.  He exercised enormous power – of life and death – over the people of this town and I often heard the older people speak of him with a mixture of fear and detestation.  Ironically, Belfast doctors today treat their patients with far more humanity and humility than their southern counterparts do.

The dispensaries over which McPolin and his kind presided were authoritarian places, where the poor were told what was good for them, and how they may or may not conduct their lives.

Much later, a Fine Gael prime minister was able to vote against his own government on the issue of contraception – as if such a thing should have been a political issue at all – saying that he was a Catholic first and an  Irishman second.  Disgracefully, that Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, saw no contradiction between his democratic election by the people and his obedience to the law of his church.  As far as he was concerned, the people’s will mattered only when it didn’t conflict with his private views.

Anyone who has seen the State at work will know that petty officials treat the public like dirt, but of course, these petty officials are just ordinary people like you and me, so how do they come to be so arrogant?

The answer is, they’re not arrogant.  They’re frightened.  On one side, they’re afraid of their superiors and on the other, they’re afraid of being found out.  You see, if generations replaced themselves en masse, there would be no problem, but that isn’t how it works.  There’s always a senior person from the previous decade, carrying the attitudes and mindsets of the past, imposing them on the juniors and the younger ones.  The mindset that pervades our public service goes all the way back to the authoritarian foundation of the State, when well-connected men decided they’d like the Brits gone so that they could become even richer than they were already, and less accountable.

Ireland, I’m afraid to say, has never been a republic, despite the propaganda.

And that’s why doctors and nurses in Ireland feel entitled to bully and shout women down, when they dare to question the infallibility of their judgements.

And why is that?  Because behind it all, the bully is also afraid.

In this unfree non-republic, we never shook off the fear of being found out.

The real Ireland.


Previously: Ireland is not a republic

The medicalisation of society



33 replies on “The Real Ireland”

A small bit off topic, but still a bit relevant with regards being spoken down to by self serving “public servants”, I started a new job recently after a year on the scrapheap post Dell, I received an arrogant phonecall from welfare last week enquiring as to why I didn’t turn up for a means test interview, I explained that I signed off the day I started work, “thats not on our records” I got, “thats not my problem, I signed off” I replied. I got a letter today saying I was cut off the welfare. My only regret being I didn’t collect for the last few weeks, these are the fuckwits who are in charge across the board. Morons

Outsource and privatize all these incompetent fuckwitted departments and sack the whole lot of them. Run the country like a business with properly qualified people in their respective departments

I completely disagree. The last thing we need is profit-motivated companies dealing with poor people.

What we need is a social revolution. We need to unlearn these brutal habits that have beset our nation since its foundation.

Bock don’t know if you’ve happen to catch it yet.. but there’s a brilliant three part documentary RTE are showing at the moment called The limits of liberty. The final part is on Tuesday 15th June at 10.15pm. Similar sentiments portrayed ..except they don’t link it up in the succinct and clear way you do to the current psyche of public officials and our attitudes towards them.

Ronwan congrats on your new job!! You’re never on the scrapheap though! :)
They are fuckwits in the social welfare office they really are. I watched the life after Dell documentary on RTE recently and the hassles people have with them was shown for all to see. You’d get over their incompetence a little if they weren’t such ignoramuses.

Must say that if I found out that I was being taken to our Lady of Lourdes hospital .. I do a runner (it’s a maternity hospital isn’t it ?). It’s managed to get quite a reputation. There is a lot wrong with our health system but mainly it is the fact that it is ran down in preference to private sector.

I agree completely with you on the privatization of the health sector being the wrong move but no-one seems to be able to stop Mary Harney.

Bock yet again I agree with your view. However there seems to be some people in the health sector ,that ought not be there. The HSE are now training the medical staff how to check for early pregnancy? What did these people qualify as? Plumbers, plasters?

Everyone makes mistakes, including doctors. They’re allowed to be wrong, just like the rest of us.

The difference is that in a grown-up society, the doctors don’t believe in their own infallibility and the system doesn’t try to intimidate the patient.

What I meant Bock was running these departments in a professional manner, I used to be motivated by double time for overtime in my last job, and who wasn’t? It got results, these idiots in these jobs have no motivation or cop on, or any aspirations. That is what I meant by running the country like a business, qualified people in their respective positions. I obviously am aware with the downside of capitalism and its consequences.Which is worse? At least when Dell was here (as an example) you could do ok if you had any cop on. I’m not advocating thatcherism either, just professionalism

I agree, but there are examples of public-sector professionalism throughout Europe, and also in Ireland.

That’s why I think the culture needs to be changed.

If we find public servants arrogant, wait till you see what a private company would be like when its profits depend on saying no to you and me.

Well on the flip side, when their profits depend on saying yes to you and me, for example a passport, “no bother Ronwan/ Bock, it’s in the post, sound for the 80 quid, you can go to Spain next week”. It would be in their interest to provide an efficient service.

“…when well-connected men decided they’d like the Brits gone so that they could become even richer than they were already, and less accountable.”

That, Sir, is the best description of the Irish, or indeed any other, war of independance I have ever read.
Notice I did not say Revolution.

This is yet another disgrace for the Irish health service. The only way one could call them competent would be to assume they were in fact carrying out a masse sterilisation campaign.

Now, I’ve been thinking, and there’s nothing I like better then beating someone with their own stick so;
If the foetus is so protected in Irish society, to the point were barely teenage girls and rape victims have to leave the country in order to have an abortion, then surely these over paid ‘consultants’ who were going to remove the ‘dead babies’ are guilty of attempted murder, no?

The Irish nation seems to be getting hit with one catastrpohic event after another. You’ll be hard pressed to keep writing about them all Bock.

Problem as I see it is, does anyone with any real influence read this?
How do we get this type of sentiment into “The Ballot Box”?
Are you talking about Zimbabwe or Ireland?
We desperately need change.

Ferdia2010, Comment 6, said “Must say that if I found out that I was being taken to our Lady of Lourdes hospital .. I do a runner (it’s a maternity hospital isn’t it ?). It’s managed to get quite a reputation.”

Its a minor point in the context of this broader discussion, and I certainly wouldn’t seek to defend the awful reputation that the Lourdes has gained, but firstly is it not just a maternity hospital (not sure what the correct name would be, but its a full service hospital, with A&E, surgery, etc) and secondly I have to commend the midwifery-led unit there which provides a fantastic service. Of course, it doesn’t involve doctors though.

Brilliant analysis. Bock where do you find the time?

The only thing I would add is that decades of emigration saw ireland leaving its brightest and best. leaving the gombeen who couldn’t off his/her arse to leech off the system. Hence our brilliant entrepenuers like Seanie, Fingers etc.

Its a professional class thing. When a person in is professional training, there is always that time when they will first ask a colleage who may be on equal standing, to carry out a task. This is a friendly “would you mind?” Pretty soon the proffesional person realises that “would you mind” is not nessesary, and a request turns to an order. Before you know it, this once pleasent person – after a few years of corporate dinners, a round of golf at the K-Club and too many hours spent in the company of people who get whatever they want – morphs into a corporate machine who thinks please is a sign of weakness and bullying is something that other people do. If you want an example of this, look how Chartered accountants look down on CPAs. There is no logic to it, and yet it is bred into them. Look at how the bank officials and politicians, in the light of the two banking enquires, still look down their noses at the little people. they have been cought with their fists in the cookie jar and like spoilt four year old say “so what!”

Healthcare is the reason I’d never go back. I have a child with a serious birth defect. It took me two years to “present” him to the family at hom ein Ireland because I shuddered to think of what I’d need to do if anything went wrong at home. Our backup plan was “grab the next flight back to the Children’s hospital in Boston”. We have been lucky that he was born in a hospital with a strong reputation in his health area. We were lucky in that we got the best result ever, a relatively healthy, feisty boy. Unlucky in the fact that when all was done and dusted the post-insurance costs / life goes on while your in hospital costs were 6 figures.
The biggest eyeopener that Irish granny saw during this stay was the respect for her opinion. Each morning the surgeon, the attendings, the fellows, cardiologists, pulmonologists etc came into the room. The nurse gave a report for the night, the attending gave a report for the night, I gave my recap and posed my questions, then the team asked grandma how she felt it was going, what her concerns were? She was so taken aback by this dialogue she really was caught on the hop. To this day she talks about it. It was a cultural stunner to her. Not only did she get to ask questions, everything was carefully explained, all plans were outlined, all opinions were given weight.
For the duration we were all included in the process. Unfortuntaely we’ve been the hospitals quite often for miscellaneous issues and the approach is consistent. There are no phantom doctors, no defensiveness, no roadblocks. It’s all very mannerly .
Needless to say this is not the case in all states or areas of the US. We are in the NorthEast full of Ivy League-related hospitals. (All the more reason for snobby arrogance to be evident) Competition is fierce.
It’s not perfect but I do believe that the last thing you need when you’re sick is some socially-stunted git making life more miserable for you. There’s no need for it.

A few years ago I was admitted to hospital with double Phenomena. After trying four different antibiotics they eventually got it under control. However they needed to find the cause. In spite of several blood checks a day, ruling out , T.B, cancer , malaria and a number of exotic disorders they were still flummoxed. As I had recently returned from America my family suggested Legionaries. The consultant dismissed the idea. Ten weeks later lab tests confirmed that it was Legionaries. In mitigation, I was the first case in five years.

You never heard of Double Phenomena Bock.. tsk tsk.. John Travolta has it sur. It’s actually pretty cool. You can move things with your fingers, you can twinkle your nose and break mirrors, you can read a book in a few minutes.. that kind of thing. It turns you into a genius. Gary probably caught it from a bolt of lightning just like John.

You put is clearly and what you put is accurate I do believe. Most people, I always assumed, are aware of much in what you put here today but, much like myself, haven’t figured out how to make this information work to change it all.
I believe an education in another country might have helped but I got the christian brothers and always knew there was something off, couldn’t wait to get out of there. I’m well versed in the bible and all that stuff but I know fuckall about thinking and this I know when I read blogs like this one and realise just how unobservant I can be when it comes to matters here at home.
Here’s one clear example of an observant mind in action;

Bock glad to have given you and FME a laugh. That of course should have read Pneumonia. Interesting to note you now tolerate posts off topic.

Gary — As you know, I always allow a bit of latitude unless people go off on a complete tangent to derail the discussion. And thanks for the laugh.

Sorry Gar.. just kidding. I was thinking it was pneumonia times x 2. Glad they got the diagnosis right in the end and you weren’t diagnosed with double phenomena. :) That would have really been a new phenomenon.
My spelling is atrocious by the way.. I frequently have to spell check words.

@ John Mac II
I appreciate what you say but surely after the Neary affair the hospital should have its house in order, instead more stuff keeps coming out (Not just the Lourdes hospital).

@ ferdia2010
I don’t disagree with you at all. That hospital has an awful reputation and it seems to be a deserved one. But life goes on and people in the area, particularly 1st time parents-to-be, have to make choices as to their healthcare. I just wanted to point out that the MLU (Midwifery-Led Unit) at the Lourdes is a fantastic resource and if couples are suitable for it then the poor reputation of the rest of the hospital should not put them off. (Personal disclaimer – our 1st was born in the MLU). I was worried that this point might be derailing the thread too much, but actually the reason it is so good is precisely because of the absence of consultants … it doesn’t suffer from the over-medicalisation of childbirth, nor the overbearing egos of consultants, and – co-incidentally or not, you decide – it results in a far greater satisfaction rating from mothers and even has a lower cost to the hospital (source for last two points: Cavan midwifery unit proves best. So why are there only two MLUs in the country? This is where it ties in with Bock’s original article. The consultants, in general, don’t like them. They are a threat to their authority and, from what I understand, the MLUs have had to fight tooth and nail to get themselves established and to retain their funding … despite the fact that they actually cost the hospitals less per birth than the conventional consultant-led maternity wards.

I live in Limerick and have often been derided for saying that if anything serious happens to me just put me in a taxi to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. After reading all the above now I know I am right.

What you still doing in Limerick Perfidous Albion?, as this refers to England. It is described so much in english litreture from the Victorion era. You are definitely in the wrong place if something serious should happen to you here .

Just caught up with the blog, What am I doing in Limerick ? I’m a missionary !

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