People in History - social change

People in History – A woman who has witnessed change in Ireland since 1950
I was born in Castleconnell, a small village in county Limerick, in 1944. I grew up on a farm, where
in my childhood we had been the first farmers in the area to purchase a tractor and milking machines.
We were not able to afford machinery such as Combine Harvesters and Threshing machines until we
received the CAP. This legislation meant that when Ireland became a member of the EEC in 1973, the
Common Agricultural Policy allowed us to modernise farm.
Education changed drastically from when I received my education to when my children went to
school. It was not until I had left Second Level Education that the education system in Ireland began
to change. When I went to school, it was common for boys to leave in second year that is if they even
went to Secondary School. In 1967, Minister for Education, Donogh O’Malley introduced free second
level education allowing ordinary families to send children to get state exams, such as the group cert,
inter cert, and Leaving cert. While all of these changes were happening in Ireland, I was attending
university in Maynooth, co.Kidare.
When I was born, Catholicism was important to everyday life. We attended mass every Sunday and
we did not eat meat on a Friday. My father was not as agreeing with the teachings of the faith as my
mother was. This was because the church had banned my father’s favourite books, by the author
James Joyce. I can recall a trip made on the old Dublin Road to Phoenix Park, in 1979. Here, we saw
Pope John Paul II. Afterwards, we heard that over 1 million people attended this open air mass. My
faith is not as prevalent today as it was in the past. I no longer attend mass and I voted to make
divorce legal in 1997.
When I was born, women and men were not equal in law. It was not until 1973, when Ireland joined
the EEC that Ireland began to introduce laws such as the Employment Equality Act which made both
men and women equal in the workplace. During my early life, I had no female political role model. I
looked to my history textbook to see figures such as Countess Markiewicz, the world’s first female
minister as my role model. When Mary Robinson ran to be President of Ireland in 1990, I wanted to
give my children and grandchildren a present day role model in politics, so I voted for her to be our
first ever female President.
In my childhood, the main mode of transport was on pony and trap, or bicycles. I have a memory of
cycling with my father and brothers to Thurles on Munster final day, where I supported county
Limerick. The CIE was set up in 1946 which allowed the people of Castleconnell access Limerick city
for shopping, leisure and schools. We once made a trip to visit my uncle in Boston. We flew out from
Foynes in the Shannon Estuary on flying boats. When it was time for me to bring my own children to
visit my uncle, Shannon Airport had been built and we flew on a large passenger plane.
For Leisure, we had the local GAA team and our ‘wireless’. The ‘wireless’ was our radio, where we
had Radio Eireann. We often listened to the results from across the country on the radio before we
would head to Dance Halls. We did not have access to modern mobile phones, so instead we used the
public phone box in the centre of the village until we got a phone line installed. RTE network 1 was a
constant in our living room, and we would all gather around to watch the Late-Late Show every
Friday night, as is still a tradition in my own home today.
The Ireland I live in today is quite different to the one I grew up in. Some things have worsened but
overall, things have changed for the better.