ColumnistsVogue Williams

The blackest of weeks for Irish women

Scene of the tragic fire in Clondalkin
Scene of the tragic fire in Clondalkin

IT was International Women’s Day this week.

I think it’s fabulous that every year women come together and celebrate, but I’m just not so sure we need a day for it – what about the other 364 days a year?

I like to empower other women, I think we can get a rough enough ride without tearing each other down so it’s important to keep girl power alive every day of the year and not just one!

In Ireland it was poignant that International Women’s Day fell on Wednesday last week, because what a terribly sad week it was for Irish women, past and present.

In Tuam, Co. Galway, a mass grave of 796 children and babies was uncovered at the Tuam Mother and Baby home.

Women were sent to these homes if they became pregnant out of wedlock and the father of the children was left to lead a normal life.

These women were shunned and forgotten by society at large, while the Church was allowed to use them as slaves and take their babies away.

The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for and the nuns are to blame for these atrocities.

This is a religion that ruled Ireland for so many years committing heinous crimes.

They claim that they thought it was the right thing to do, but I don’t buy it. The Catholic Church was, and still is, consumed by power.

I may have been born a Catholic, but I don’t want to be a part of an organisation that can commit such horrendous crimes.

I considered myself a Catholic until quite recently – well, a non-practicing Catholic because I never trusted the Church, with their silly rules and ideas of what is right and wrong.

After hearing of the deaths in Tuam, I feel God would not condone such actions.

There are wars going on all over the world, but on our tiny island of Ireland there was a blind eye turned to the countless deaths of innocent young children right under our noses.

Also the imprisonment of young women in these homes for so many years should be called what it is, a crime against humanity.

Outcast by their families and society because the Church branded them sinners, their lives were stolen.

I agreed with Enda Kenny in his Dáil speech when he said:“No nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children.

We gave them up to what we convinced ourselves was the nuns’ care.

We took their babies and gifted them, sold them, trafficked them, starved them, neglected them or denied them to the point of their disappearance from our hearts, our sight, our country and, in the case of Tuam and possibly other places, from life itself.”

But if we were comforting ourselves that all this was in the past, think again.

As the nation’s stomach churned at the Tuam revelations, we were hit with another scandal of a vulnerable young woman abandoned in State ‘care’.

Incredibly, the awful things alleged to have happened to ‘Grace’ inside a HSE sanctioned foster family home took place in the 1990s and well into the new millennium.

The tormentors change, but it is still Ireland’s women who are the victims.

And then to complete the most horrendous few weeks, we had to wake to the awful tragedy of the fire in the Clondalkin women’s refuge which claimed the lives of pregnant mum Annemarie O’Brien, her daughter Paris, and her cousins Jordan and Holly O’Brien.

Their mother Biddy is still fighting for her life.

I keep thinking about these women having to flee what should have been the safety of their own homes.

It was a tragic accident caused by an electrical fault, but what makes it even more heartbreaking is the fact that these women and children were trying to escape a dangerous situation, only to be placed into another one.

Ireland still has a long way to go before we can truly celebrate International Women’s Day.

First knees-up in ages was a blast


IT feels odd writing this part of my column because of the tone of the rest of my piece.

I always write about things I feel passionate about and I’m lucky the Sunday World allow me to choose my topics.

I found this week’s column particularly difficult to write because I’m still in disbelief at what has gone on in Ireland. It was only when I started writing that I realised how upset I felt over it.

I do, however, always include a short piece on my week, so here goes…

On Monday I started physio, which I do every morning, five days a week at 7.30am.

I’m up at 6am, but my knee is improving every day so I’m happy to do it. I have the most insane bruising on it – my physio thinks I look like camouflage.

I got to start on the exercise bike this week and I always train my arms and abs, so I’m really happy that I can keep up some kind of fitness.

I had meetings and phone interviews all day Monday – it was my first day back at work in 10 days so it was great to get back into it.

My series that aired on RTE in November is going to be airing on Discovery’s brand new channel Quest Red on March 15, which is great news because I had so many people from the UK asking how they could watch it.

On Tuesday I was hosting a really cool event for the sports brand Asics.

I was hosting the event and taking over their Facebook live feed and the event was unreal.

They rented out Tower Bridge and had runners doing 60 metre sprints in a giant wind tunnel 40ft above the bridge.

They have a new FlyteFoam trainer out and it’s the lightest shoe I’ve ever put on my foot, so I was sure to swipe a pair of those! On Wednesday I had the SS17 press day for Regatta.

I’m the face of their new range so I was there to meet everyone and do lots of interviews.

I love the new range – there may have been some swiping of clothes at that event too!

On Thursday I had meetings and then I went for lunch with my friend Lynn, who was over from Dublin.

I haven’t been home since before Christmas so I’m really missing everyone. I do get to go home next Tuesday, though, which I cannot wait for.

My niece Jeanie started walking in January and I can’t wait to see that.

My friend Sarah arrived on Thursday so we went sightseeing all day Friday and then of course went on the tear on Friday night.

It was my first night out in about three weeks, so the hangover definitely hurt on Saturday.

We did manage to leave the house, eventually! We just went for dinner and chilled because Sarah had to leave on Sunday.