- 26 Aug 18
As an estimated 200,000 gathered at Phoenix Park today to see Pope Francis, a more intimate but powerful event took place just off O'Connell Street.
Set up by activist and former victim of clerical sex abuse Colm O'Gorman, Stand for Truth was established for those that have been harmed by the institutional Roman Catholic Church, or who wished to stand in solidarity with these victims.
"It's not an organisation, just a grassroots effort from various different activists to create an alternative space for people to gather who didn't want to be part of what was happening in Phoenix Park and felt uncomfortable with the Pope's visit. It's not about protesting," organiser and theatre writer-director Grace Dyas told Hot Press before the event.
Dyas was right in the sense that the atmosphere of the event was not anger but of catharsis, a sense of relief that those who had suffered in the past, now had an event to call their own - one filled with culture.
Leila Said Gutowski, an American sex abuse survivor in attendance at the event, told Hot Press: "I was abused in the '70s. Many people knew about it including the diocese, they knew everything but did nothing ... I live in Ireland now and I'm honoured to be here."
Many artists played at the event to show their support, performing works that contributed to an overarching theme of remembrance and courage. Liam Ó Maonlaí kicked off the show with a stirring rendition of American trad tune 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child', before duetting with Brian Kennedy for a rendition of John Lennon's 'Imagine'. The latter added his own new verse for the track: "Imagine there's no pedophiles / I wonder if you can / No need to rape or vilify / All of these thousand little lambs."
"I literally wanted to bring my voice for the voiceless because we are talking about a generation of women and men who had been silenced by the highest power that this country has known - the Catholic Church," Kennedy told Hot Press at the event. "I want to stand beside those that have been abused and say with them 'We don't accept it. We want the truth to come out and an apology.' The Pope's remarks were just not enough."
Another recurring theme of the event was a dissatisfaction with Pope Francis' efforts to apologise to victims. Speaking to reporters, Colm O'Gorman stated: "The Pope meeting with survivors of clergy abuse had value and purpose. But in no way have we seen him tell the truth. Instead we've seen deflection. What we want is the Pope to say: 'I, Pope Francis acknowledge the Catholic Church facilitated in a cover up in the rape of children and did so with intent'. So far, the Pope has talked an awful lot about the failing of other people."
Performing his hit song criticising Catholic institutions - 'Take Me to Church' - at the event, Hozier agreed with O'Gorman's stance, telling Hot Press: "There's been 20 hours of coverage and there will be some expressions of sadness and sorrow. However, an actual apology and redress can only happen when responsibility is acknowledged."
Independent Senator Lynn Ruane - attending the event - stated: "The capital has shut down for a Pope that a lot of people in this country don't recognise any more and who don't feel he or the Catholic Church represent them. We have plenty here who are Catholic and are standing in solidarity for a church they want to see change."
Poet Sarah Clancy delivered an electric spoken word piece entitled 'Cherishing for Beginning' - satirising injustices in Ireland, novelist Marion Keyes read Raymond Carver's poem 'Late Fragments' while Dyas performed a monologue recounting the story of a man using heroin to cope with the pain of being abused as a child.
In terms of music, other highlights included Villagers delivering a stirring acoustic rendition of their track 'Courage', Mary Coughlan performed her powerful ballad 'Magdalene Laundry' while Mary Black and her daughter Roisin O (Thanks Brother) wowed attendees with their rendition of 'Grace' about Joseph Plunkett's wife Grace Gifford.
Grace - Róisín O and Mary Black #Stand4Truth pic.twitter.com/qbLdKS1ziR
— Darragh Doyle (@darraghdoyle) August 26, 2018
However, the real centrepiece of the event was organiser Colm O'Gorman's speech about seeing Pope John Paul on television tell the young people of Ireland he loved them in 1979.
"I remember that moment because I believed him. It's not very often young people are told they are loved just for who they are. It was a profound moment. My heart nearly burst when he said it. When I think about it now, I think about the fact that about a year and half later I was raped for the first time by a Roman Catholic priest. A priest that had been ordained four months before John Paul came to Ireland, despite the fact his church knew he was a child sexual abuser. A priest who remained in ministry for 16 years after that visit, despite complaints going to every bishop and diocese where he was and to that very same Pope and his ambassador here in Ireland," O'Gorman told the crowd.
Addressing John Paul, the organiser stated: "You did not love us. We have discovered over the last twenty years the depths of how you did not love us ... The extraordinary thing about that discovery is we've learned something else. We learned as a people that we failed for looking to others to tell us how we could love each other. If we want to understand how to love each other and care for each other at moments of joy, tragedy, triumph or crisis, we don't need to look to a bishop, priest, cardinal or pope. We need to look to ourselves and our humanity."
O'Gorman's words were met with rapturous applause. Following his speech, the crowd embarked on a silent march from Parnell Square of Sean McDermott Street, home of the last Magdalene Laundry to close in Ireland.
The silent #Stand4Truth march has now moved onto O'Connell Street pic.twitter.com/GaPz5IKxg4
— Hot Press (@hotpress) August 26, 2018
There, artist Will St Leger had created a special piece for the location. "I jumped at this chance because as an artist I wanted to find a way of visualising that suffering. However, I realised it wasn't about my vision. It's about the many who were involved with this," St Leger told Hot Press.
The artist hung huge white sheets on the establishment, featuring marked out squares where thousands could write messages as a means "to purge their feelings". As this was happening, various survivors of the Magdalene Laundries recounted to audiences the trauma they had suffered, causing many in the crowd to weep.
Following the event, O'Gorman waited to speak to those impacted by the event he had organised. Speaking to Hot Press, he said: "To see Parnell Street mobbed with people, standing together with the intent they did was wonderful... I feel proud of this country, of us as a people. We're not a perfect society but we are better than we used to be.
"Hopefully we are discovering the capacity that if we look honestly at the things that we get wrong and the terrible things that we do to each other, we might find a capacity to love and to do things better. I hope people take away the intent that they brought today and put it back into their lives, their communities, where they love and live and work and that they stay connected."