I was very saddened to hear of the death of Christine Buckley, the Irish-Nigerian woman survivor of Ireland’s gulags – the industrial school system run by religious orders. Christine has been battling with cancer and, in view of her suffering at the hand of the nuns during her childhood, her achievements are more than admirable.
Born in 1946 to a Nigerian medical student and a married Irish woman, Christine spent her childhood in several foster homes before a foster parent put her in the Sisters of Mercy’s Goldenbridge Industrial School, where she, like the other girls, was put to producing rosary beads for the nuns, where she was humiliated, beaten and not given a proper education. In the early 1990s, having survived cervical cancer, Christine decided to track down her parents. Encountering huge difficulties – the nuns were not amenable to share the vital information about her parents with her – she eventually managed to find first her Dublin mother, and then her Nigerian father.
I know quite a bit about Christine, as in 1996 my partner Louis Lentin, having heard an interview Christine had given to the Gay Byrne radio show, made contact with Christine, a meeting that led to the documentary ‘Dear Daughter’ about Christine tracing her parents and her experience in Goldenbridge. We lived with Christine’s story for many months, and when it was screened, ‘Dear Daughter’ had the highest viewing figures for any documentary on RTE, watched by a third of Ireland’s population at the time. Continue reading “Rest in power Christine Buckley – social reformer and fighter”
In July 2004 a badly decomposed body, described by the media as that of ‘a black non-national woman’ was discovered in a black plastic bag on a river bank in Co Kilkenny. Because she arrived as an asylum seeker in 2000, and, like all asylum seekers, had been fingerprinted, Gardai identified her through the finger printing data base at the Garda National Immigration Bureau as that of the 25 year old married mother of two Paiche Onyemaechi. She turned out to be the daughter of the Malawian chief justice and a lap dancer and prostitute. Because her body was found without a head by a local Kilkenny woman walking her dog, it did not take long for media representations to describe Paiche Onyemaechi as a ‘headless hooker’. Continue reading “Headless hookers and suitcase bodies”
When Fatma Kassem submitted her PhD proposal, Yigal Ronen, the director of the Kreitman School of Advanced Graduate Studies in Ben Gurion University required her to make a series of changes. Unless she removed the term ‘Nakba’, the discussion of the Hebreicisation of place names, the term ‘first generation since the Nakba’ (‘first generation’ apparently refers only to the Holocaust), and eliminated the claim that life stories convey broader socio-cultural understandings – she would be unable to pursue her PhD. Under the guise of scientific truth, Ronen – and the university – not only doubted Kassem’s competence as a researcher, but also humiliated her as a [Palestinian] citizen of Israel, questioning her right to name her world in her own words.
Ironically, BGU is home to several radical Israeli (Jewish) scholars, including Neve Gordon, Uri Ram, and Kassem’s supervisor Lev Grinberg. It is also home to the ‘new historian’ Benny Morris, whose studies of the 1948 Nakba exposed the atrocities (though not the deliberate Zionist Plan D, detailed later by scholars such as Ilan Pappe, to ethnically cleanse Palestine). The anti-Zionist Pappe was forced out of Haifa University into exile in Exeter, where he continues to produce politically-committed scholarship about Israel-Palestine. However, the Zionist Morris, despite his important revelations, refutes ethnic cleansing or the existence of a Zionist plan to evict the Arab population, and has repeatedly said that he regrets the Nakba was not more complete; had Ben Gurion, he wrote in 2008, ‘carried out a full expulsion – rather than a partial one – he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations’. Continue reading “Review of: Palestinian Women: Narrative Histories and Gendered Memory, Fatma Kassem, London: Zed Books, 2011.”