A reply to Breda O Brien’s column in The Irish Catholic 20thFebruary 2014
I really do have some sympathy for Breda O Brien, particularly after reading her column in The Irish Catholic (published 20 February) entitled ‘My Good Name Was Demolished’.   Like Panti, I think that “the woman writing in the newspaper” is probably a very nice woman.  And I do believe Breda when she says “I have never written anything designed to hurt or harm anyone”.  I particularly feel sorry when she says that all of the publicity around the so called ‘Panti-gate’ episode has led her 15 year old daughter to ask whether they were in danger from all the vitriol.  It is sad that anyone is left feeling so vilified and vulnerable.
Breda’s latest column in The Irish Catholic outlines all of this and then goes on to explain why she is against what she calls ‘gay marriage’ and yes, it revolves around children. 
Breda says “No gay couple can bring children into their relationship without the assistance of at least one person of the opposite gender. This fundamental difference, with all the profound implications for children of being raised either without their mother, or their father, is supposed to be politely ignored so that adults can receive their ‘rights’”  She goes on to mention about online forums where those who were conceived “through gamete donation” are desperately seeking their biological identities (actually Breda refers to them seeking their siblings and parents which I am sure is offensive to many, if not all, of those who are seeking this information).
These are two completely separate debates.  I agree that all children, whether they are conceived naturally and adopted or via donated eggs and or sperm have a right to their biological information.  I believe that to be a human right.  But Breda – you admit that most parents who use donor assistance are heterosexual.  So why is this relevant to marriage equality?
And what are the ‘profound implications’ for children raised without mother or father?  Breda you must know that for decades children have been raised without two parents, usually by a lone mother who conceived the ‘natural’ way – no gametes required at all.  These women, who decided to parent alone while the biological father resumed his life with little or no interest or support for his child, had to endure the same nonsense about children needing to be parented by a mother and father.  And the tragedy Breda is that for many of us, although educated and reasonably smart, the baloney that was peddled during endless debates in the 80s and 90s about ‘unmarried mothers’ sank in.  Like you Breda – my good name was demolished and demolished regularly.  It resulted in the fact that somewhere in my subconscious there was always the feeling that I was not a good enough.  In fact, like thousands of other single mothers not only was I good enough, I was actually as good as many couples.
My eldest daughter is now a wonderful woman of 26 and I have two more daughters – teenagers, who were conceived within marriage.  I can tell you there is no difference Breda.  Children need security, love and protection and yes it is easier if there are two sets of shoulders to bear the responsibility, particularly financially.  But if there aren’t – one set can  do just fine.  But as to the gender of those shoulders – it matters not one bit. 
I am still angry that it took my daughter reaching 21 years of age for me to really believe that I had done a good job.  But the experience has given me the empathy to know how it feels to be ‘oppressed’ as Panti described it in her Nobel Call at the Abbey Theatre.  I know how it feels to be on the outside; in the minority and having my life choices questioned and my child’s future maligned.  I know where you are Breda and it’s not nice. 
Then I read the last paragraph of your column where you talk about “dissolving a child-centred institution like marriage which is designed to bond parents with biological children, and replacing it with an adult centred institution designed primarily to act as a state-sanctioned approval of romantic sexual relationships” and I get angry all over again! I get angry on behalf of single parents, of childless married couples, of celibate married couples and gay couples seeking equality. 

I am glad that the priest who married me didn’t seem to share your view Breda, as I walked up the aisle behind my then ten year old daughter.  As for ‘state sanctioned approval of romantic sexual relationships”….em., was I nuts?  I got married for love.  

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  1. As a woman raising a child on my own can I also say thank you – I am sick to my stomach with all this victimisation from people who feel they have been wronged throwing out horrible remarks with regard to raising and the rights of children in a debate which is about equal rights. So Barbara thank you for your words – you do it well

  2. Barbara, of course Breda does not hold prejudices against single parents, she – among other people who pro 'traditional marriage' – simply argues that the children involved in all of this are entitled to a mother and a father – where possible. She doesn't question the ability of anyone's ability to raise children, whether single or in a partnership.

    I must say I agree with her. My father has raised myself and my siblings alone, and while it is without a doubt tough for him as a single parent, it is tough for me to not have a mother there to do all the “mammy” things that mothers do. Each gender nurtures their own qualities in raising a family – I am not saying a same sex couple don't, but I stress the belief that a child has a *right* to a mother and a father, where possible. Does this have anything to do with the gay marriage debate, or am I homophobic?

  3. I grew up in a similar situation to Cait and agree, would love to have had a mother. I'm in favour of marriage equality but am sickened by the bile and personal attacks on anyone who dares to question anything. Argue the point not the person. There has been a huge amount of online bulling by people who should know better. Brian

  4. To both Cait and Brian, a 'right' or not, many children suffer the death of a parent, or are raised by one parent for numerous reasons. To single out gay people and seek to deny a right that is not even based on having children (unless I missed the law about heterosexual married coupled being forced to reproduce) indeed is homophobic. Should a lesbian who uses artificial insemination to have a child then be denied the right to marry? If we really get down to the idea of a child having an intrinsic right to a mother and father should single women not be allowed to have children? Or should they be quizzed to make sure that they'll at least go and get married to a man sometime in the future?

  5. Breda makes me want to donate my gametes to all the people who want to be parents – who want it so much they are prepared to go through surrogacy, adoption, or IVF. Because statistically I think they are just as likely to be good parents as those of us in traditional relationships who forgot to take a pill, or had sex on the last day of our period or didn't use a condom in time. All the things that so called happily married or unmarried couples do when they are not planning to have children. All these little gametes and zygotes have the same chance of being loved and nurtured by one, two or even more primary caregivers. Some of them just start out being absolutely yearned for. And as I think that is really rather sweet. xx

  6. Excellent piece. Two points to add: first, there can never be any doubt that people who strive to become parents through IVF, egg donation, or adoption, truly want those children, and will love them at least as much as any children begat (sp?) through “natural” means. Second, I really doubt that for B O Brien this is about morality or any of the other frameworks she invokes. She probably just thinks gayness is a bit icky. I wish she and her ilk would just come out and be honest about that!

  7. I just want to say to those who wished they had a mother or father to do things with etc & feel then they missed out. I had a father, but I look back with no memories or happiness of him. He treated my mother crap & my elder siblings with contempt. He was around, in fact he had to stop working when I was young so was around a lot but I have no fond memories or no sense if security because he was there. So when people feel they lost out not having either a mother or father around, maybe think deply & realise life isn't like the Brady bunch & everything would have been ok cos it probably wouldn't have.

  8. “Does this have anything to do with the gay marriage debate, or am I homophobic? “

    no, it has nothing to do with the marriage debate – it's a red herring introduced by breda o'brien to avoid being honest about her homophobia

  9. You are not Homophobic for thinking that – but if you, Breda are actively campaigning against same sex marriage because these unions might contain children – then you are Homophobic

  10. It is my prayer that at some point in her life ie Breda O Brien that one of her children if she has any..cousins…nephew…or close family member comes out gay, lets see what she will do then…hang them?..Well done Barbra for finding the voice to respond to her..

  11. I agree that she just probably feels that homosexuality is a bit icky – but she does say that this is not the case.
    Her arguments don't make sense otherwise.
    As the other Anonymous said above – “To single out gay people and seek to deny a right that is not even based on having children (unless I missed the law about heterosexual married coupled being forced to reproduce) indeed is homophobic. Should a lesbian who uses artificial insemination to have a child then be denied the right to marry? If we really get down to the idea of a child having an intrinsic right to a mother and father should single women not be allowed to have children? Or should they be quizzed to make sure that they'll at least go and get married to a man sometime in the future?”

  12. Well done Barbara. I read Breda's article yesterday and I too found it hard to take in various ways. I am in my early 40's and have not yet had a child. I would truly like to have one. My only option, for now, is to have a baby on my own. I am lucky enough that I would be able to provide a good life to a child and indeed give it all the love I have. In addition have the good support of friends and family. What I truly would like is to adopt a child here in Ireland and give he/she a loving home and happy future. Maybe the people out there worried about children not having a Mammy 'and' Daddy should look at the children who suffer day in day out in atrocious conditions of terrible abuse with no way out. You only have to walk up some of the streets of Dublin to see how some children are being treated. Maybe then it would not matter if it was Mammy & Daddy or Daddy & Daddy or Mammy & Mammy or just Mammy once they were shown the chances in life they deserve.

  13. I am sorry that Breda's daughter worries about being in danger. I wonder if Breda bothered to explain to her that not just in Ireland, but all over the world that gay people are routinely beaten and even killed. Look to Africa, Russia, or even many places in the US where I am from. I am sure that this never entered into Breda's mind at all.

  14. Excellent response to Bredas piece. It angers me that so much emphasis is put on children in the marriage. What about same sex couples who just want to be together because they love each other. They deserve to be treated the same as a straight couple. It boils down to the issue of equality in society not who is best to raise children. Breda has made her position clear. Equality must come second to “the greater good”. Good for who? And who decides what that is?

  15. This is a great response by Barbara. Breda O'Brien's assertion that marriage must be based around procreation and child-centric, rather than being based on romantic love, is complete nonsense and gives rise to all the following questions. Does she therefore think it should be illegal for unmarried people to have children? Does she think it should be illegal for married couples not to have children? Does she think there should be a minimum required number of children that married couples must have? Does she think couples who do not have the required number of children should be fined, imprisoned or even outcast from society? Does she think childless couples where one partner is infertile (say due to a hysterectomy) should be forced to separate so the fertile partner can get with someone else who is also fertile? Does she think older couples where the woman has been through the menopause should be forced to separate so the still fertile older man can get with a fertile younger woman? Does she think couples whose marriages have broken down should be forced to stay together miserable? If marriage is not also about love and romance, does she think the government should maybe just assign people marriage partners based on a variety of factors such as age, height, weight, hair and eye colour, race, creed, profession, socio-economic background, hobbies, etc? If someone objects to their assigned marriage partner becuase they don't love or feel attracted to them, does she think they should be told that's just too bad but it's not about love and it's for the “common good”? If her answer to any of these questions is “yes” (one assumes it isn't) then she would appear to have a completely unrealistic and unreasonable expectation of society in general. If her answer to these questions is “no” then her arguments for opposing marriage equality would appear to be singling out gay couples for particular discrimination and that by any other definition can be justifiably considered to be homophobia.

  16. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this -I am a 40 something woman, who grew up in a “good Irish Catholic family', (note sarcasm) , my parents were both pillars of society and were admired and respected by the community – perfect parents – Mass every Sunday, holy days of obligation, missions, you name it, we were hauled to the Church en masse wearing our “Sunday going to Mass clothes' – lovely – like little ducks waddling after Mommy and Daddy duck – perfect chocolate box family – on the outside that is. I grew up in fear – fear of disapproval, fear of anger, and fear that if I ever told my father what his best friend had done to me when I was a 9 year old little girl, that I would BURN in the fires of Hell for all eternity because after all, it was MY fault, and I was a dirty little girl (direct quote from my good Irish Catholic paragon of virtue mother) – my entire life was been shadowed by this “dirty little girl” mental abuse, – I am not suggesting for even one millisecond that every Irish family is like this – I don't make blanket statements – neither should Breda – I raised 4 wonderful kids – on my own – with no financial support from the father – who my children now refer to as “sperm donor”, since that was the total extent of his involvement – and they are well-rounded, sociable, highly intelligent children, who feel loved EVERY day, and know that, although their father is a tosspot, they don't need him – I, as a single parent, did the whole football thing, the dancing thing, the sex talks, the OMG MOM I had sex for the first time and it wasn't what I expected (from the lads) , etc etc etc etc – my kids wanted for nothing, emotionally, mentally or otherwise – so, for me, the whole notion of a chocolate box family where Mummy and Daddy gaze lovingly upon their offspring is somewhat tainted by my own experience as a child, and although there are many many heterosexual couples who raise their kids and they turn out well, they are not exclusive, I now live – very happily – with my children and my female life partner – who adores my kids as much as I do – my kids love her – and we are happy at last – so judge me all you want Breda – I don't care for your opinion – after all, opinions are like backsides – everyone has one – but don't try to pontificate and tell me that kids need Mummy and Daddy to rear them – my life proves otherwise – oh – and just to let you know – my eldest is a practicing barrister, my second is studying law, my third is an oncology nurse, and my youngest is still in school, but has aspirations of becoming a doctor – not that that matters – they are happy – and dammit, that's all that matters –

  17. Excellent piece.

    As a male parent of an IVF child who was widowed when the child was six I feel that Brenda O'Briens pieces insult me and my child on a number of levels.

    She is not a “designer baby” who was “commissioned” but a much wanted child born to a family who needed a little medical assistance.

    She is not an abnormal child simply because she does not have a mammy figure, she is loved and more normal than many children of “traditional” families.

    And has survived quite well the catholic near-monopoly on education defended by Brenda to turn out heathily skeptical on religion – but does not try to force her views on anyone or make them feel abnormal for believing what they believe – unlike Brenda!

  18. Lisa, you, Barbara & numerous others totally miss the point. The unplanned pregnancy, the bereaved spouse/partner, divorcée all were results of circumstance. The third party reproduction necessary for a same sex couple is by design. Two adults decide to fulfill their heart's desire by purposely creating a child who will be raised by only one or perhaps none of their biological parents. If you have ever witnessed the despair of an adolescent experiencing identity crisis you would understand why this is deeply troubling

  19. Thanks to each of you who left a comment… even Mrs Bopp who thinks I have missed the point. The tide is turning… and I am so excited at the more inclusive and equal Ireland that is slowing dawning..

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