Ireland’s attitude to the Catholic Church has made it possible for people to “literally demonise" nuns and completely obscure the good work they have done over the years.
Iona Institute Director David Quinn is warning that nuns are the last group of women society permits us to “say whatever we like” about.
In his latest Sunday Times column, Mr Quinn notes that Irish nuns have been caricatured in film and TV as evil, cruel and inhumane in recent years.
On Newstalk Breakfast, he said Ireland’s preoccupation with the negative record of the nuns in Ireland has left us unable to recognise the good work performed by so many around the world.
“Basically, in Ireland - for understandable reasons it has to be said - we are concentrating very, very much on the negative record of the nuns in places like the Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby homes,” he said.
“But what it has done is, it has completely obscured the good work that the great majority of nuns have done in their lifetimes and actually have been doing for the last number of centuries.”
Mr Quinn said the attitude is a bit like considering British history and focusing solely on the crimes of empire, rather than admitting that Britain has also done a lot of good.
“The result of only looking at the negative side of the ledger is that it is perfectly acceptable now to put up posters that basically literally demonise nuns,” he said.
“I have seen posters, I am thinking of a particular one emblazoned on the side of a building in St Brigid’s Day last year, of a young nun sweeping skeletons under the carpet.
“Then you have posters of angry nuns, basically calling for them to be arrested for evil deeds.”
The columnist said Irish people have become better at seeing two sides of our relationship with Britain in recent years – and urged people to “look at the positive side of the ledger”, as well as the negative, when it comes to nuns.
He said a nun he recently invited to speak an event told him she was unavailable because she was training young teachers and nurses in South Sudan.
“That is in one of the most dangerous places in the world,” he said.
“Now, to me, I am not fit to untie their sandals. I could never do that - particularly over the age of 65 - and this is happening every day.”
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