Irish Press Honor Prof's New Book

The Irish publishing world will unveil on Thursday, Jan. 21, a new book by UALR Professor Moira Maguire on the history of childhood in Ireland after the country gained independence from England in the 1920s.

Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland, published by Manchester University Press, examines how the Irish state cared for poor, illegitimate children after its war of independence with Great Britain.

Maguire, interim chair of UALR’s Department of History, will be honored at the launch of the book at the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM). The book focuses on children who formed a significant proportion of the Irish population but have been seemingly ignored in the historical record. She re-evaluates Catholic influence on Irish society from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Maguire began Precarious Childhood more than 10 years ago when researching a dissertation on infanticide in Ireland led her to NUIM.

“Even as I was finishing my dissertation, my intellectual focus was shifting to broader questions of children, childhood, and state care for poor children,” she said.

Much of Maguire’s research was included in the Ryan Report, an investigation by the Irish government through the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) into all forms of abuse in Irish institutions for children.

The majority of allegations centered on the system of 60 residential reformatory and industrial schools operated by Catholic religious orders and funded and supervised by the Irish Departments of Health and Education.

When the Ryan Commission released its final reports in May 2009, the evidence of rampant neglect and physical and sexual abuse received worldwide media attention and led to troubling questions about how such a state of affairs could have existed in a democratic western society.

“The media, as well as the Ryan Report, missed the real message of this dark period in Irish history,” Maguire said. “The media chose to focus on the most salacious elements of the Ryan Report, such as the sexual abuse that occurred in many of the boys’ schools. The report overlooked the historical context of the industrial school system.”

The Catholic Church received the brunt of worldwide criticism. Many people called for investigations into church activities, legal action against Catholic clergy and prominent Catholic leaders, and demands for compensation and restitution for victims of alleged abuse and neglect.

In her book, Maguire concludes that Irish society failed poor and marginalized children.

“The Departments of Health and Education, who had legal responsibility for the children involved, failed in their duties to provide for and protect them,” she said.

“District court justices willingly committed children to industrial schools whose parents were guilty of nothing more than poverty, and inspectors from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children seem to have made it their mission to take children away from parents who did not conform to middle-class standards of respectability.”

For more information about her book or her research in the Ryan Report, contact Maguire at (501) 569-3235 or at mjmaguire@ualr.edu.

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