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Cathryn

I first read about Cathryn Loughnane's fight against the Galway TDs in Margaretta D'Arcy's book Galway's Pirate Women. I got the chance to meet Cathryn and her twin daughters LeeAnne and Rachel at the Women's Mobile Parliament for a Sane World sessions in May, 1999. A few weeks later I went down to Athenry to interview Cathryn about her ongoing struggles as a single mom.



Interview with Cathryn Loughnane

C. L. : My name is Cathryn Loughnane. I’m 35 years old and I'm a single mother with four children.

M.T. : And where are we now?

C.L. : We’re in the Athenry Heritage Center.

M.T. : And tell us a little bit about your work at the Heritage Center.

C.L. : I sit at reception and meet the people that come in and if I’m not doing that I’m out here, working on the graves. I do a lot of work outside as well, you know gardening and stuff, because the men in here do nothing, to tell you the truth, they don’t do anything.

I painted all these graves, all the big graves, and I’m down there with my clippers everyday. I’m out there gardening. But I am supposed to be a tour guide so they are going to teach me next week. They are sending one of the lads from the castle to do a tour of Athenry with me so I can take people on tours myself. So that’s all I do really.

M. T. : And are you originally from Athenry? Does the song come from here?

C. L. : "The Fields of Athrenry," yeah, so lonely 'round the fields! I was born and reared here. I stayed here until I was 14 years old, and then I went to Galway I think for about a year or two, and then I went to London for eight and a half years. I'm back eight, nine years now, and when I came back I fell pregnant on the twins. Actually I only came back on a two week holiday and I fell pregnant. I moved here about four months after the twins were born.

M.T. What’s it like coming back to your home town? Did you plan to come back here or..?

C. L. : No, I didn’t, no. I was out -- it was a Christmas Eve -- and got out of the taxi, which we’ll say was here and into the front door which was there, and four lads jumped me. So that’s why I left Galway. That happened in Galway up in the flats. It totally freaked me out, so I rang my dad. He sent a bus in, and we put what we could in the bus, and I came out. And I’m afraid I’ve never gone back, only to visit friends and family and stuff.

M.T. : Understandably.

C.L. : You know I couldn’t, I couldn’t rear the twins there, you know, I was too frightened.

M.T. : Do you think Athenry is a better place?

C.L. : Oh definitely yeah, cause I mean you can let them out now, you know, out into the garden, where they are safe and nobody’s going to harm them, or me come to think of it. And I got to meet an awful lot of people that I had forgotten about and that I went to school with you know? And they were all happy to see me so I am really glad I moved back to Athenry.

M.T. : Do you still have family -- you said your dad’s here?

C. L. : My dad’s here, yeah and I have one sister.

M.T. : And what happened with these guys in Galway, were they just trying to mug you or?

C. L. : Oh yeah and you know well they were pulling up my clothes and everything, but I put up a good fight and I got away and I got in, you know. But it just frightened me really, you know?

I used to look out the window and they were dealing outside the window, and then anytime there’d be a fire, the fire brigade would come up, and they’d stone them. They wouldn’t let them in to put the fires out. They were going to the toilets in the hall. I just couldn’t live like this.

M.T. : It just seems so ironic that they end up putting single mothers in places like that, you know what I mean.

C.L. : With little kids, yeah. And I wasn’t on the ground floor. I was on the first floor. And I found it awful hard getting up and down, you know, with the buggy and two kids. I’m just glad I left there and came home. I really am.

M.T. : I was wondering if you could tell the story of the situation that you got into with the hostel in Galway. Was it an injunction that you filed against the TDs?

C.L. : It was good at the time, yeah. Well the thing was when I came out of the hospital, I had no place to live. And the girls were 5 weeks -- they had to stay in the hospital 5 weeks because they were small. So in the 5 weeks I was all the time out looking for a place but of course everyone I told I had kids -- no one wanted to give me a place. So I had no choice in the end but to go to the hostel. So we went in there, and the rules were it was closed actually for the day. It opened at 9 o’clock at night and that’s the only time you could go in, and you had to be back out for 9 o’clock in the morning.

So myself and this other girl, her baby was only a couple days older than mine, I met up with her. So what we’d done all day was just go out and walk around the town, go back at nine o’clock. This was with new born babies, mine were only after coming out of the hospital. So, we’d get up every morning, have to get them ready, changed, dressed, make bottles, bottles now for all day, till 9 o’clock at night. It was very hard but we done it. We had no choice, you know, we’d walk the streets, go up to the town, sit in the restaurants, feed the kids, and go back in every night.

So I ended up meeting Margaretta D’Arcy, and she took it from there. And that’s when we ended up fighting to keep the hostel open 24 hours a day. But Margaretta now did most the heavy work, you know, so anyway all I remember was going to court, you know, and going up and standing in front of everyone. I was a nervous wreck. I think I was even crying, and I had it all wrote down on this bit of paper, what I was going to say, you know. The judge was sitting there. He was totally disgusted with us, he couldn’t believe it, telling everyone to be quiet. So I think he actually got up, and he walked out, and the court was just filled with people. Oh, it was packed with people, the doors where open, people were standing outside, I never will forget it. And I just stood there and I read out my bit that I had to say.

But sure in the end we won anyway. And we got it open for single mothers 24 hours a day, so I was pretty happy with that.

M.T. : I should say.

C.L. : But my dad knew nothing about this, I told him nothing. And he was sitting down in Murphy’s the Arch Bar, having a whiskey, and all of a sudden up comes the news, you know, how they run and say, “Well this is coming up...” My father nearly choked. He put his glasses on and says, “What in the name of God is she up to now?” And he nearly choked on his whiskey. Oh I’ll never forget it -- he nearly killed me. He was mortified.

But I was glad I done it. I actually haven’t seen the other girl that was with me, I’d love to see her again. She’s had two or three more kids since, but she’s got a home, more than myself, she has a home now, and I think she’s happy.

M.T. : And what was the actual procedure that you went through? What kind of court was it? Was it against the judges or was it against the council or...?

C. L. : Oh it was against the TDs [Irish equlivalent of Members of Parliament], all of the TDs, not just one. It didn’t seem that they were doing nothing for us, they didn’t care about us living in the hostels, they didn’t, because I was going to them to try and actually get a flat at the time, you know. Of course, ah yeah, yeah, yeah, they were telling us that you have to be so many years, 3 or 4 years, we had to wait for a flat. There was no way I was staying in a hostel for 3 or 4 years with my two kids.

So we just had to show up and speak and give out and you know.

M.T. : Do you remember at all what you said?

C.L. : No, I don’t remember a thing because I was so nervous you know and I thought, well, I can’t stop now, I couldn’t get down, because everybody was just standing looking at us. People going, “Yeah!” and they were all roaring. They were just standing there roaring at us and cheering us. Next we went outside and there was television crowds, and I said, “Oh my God.” They were asking us questions and it was pure nerve racking, I don’t want to remember most of it to tell you the truth. God, that was seven years ago.

M.T. : Do you think you’d do anything like that again?

C. L. : Maybe, yeah. I probably would. Yeah. Yeah. If Margaretta asked me, yeah, yeah, I would. Of course I’ve just been quiet now for the last couple of years.

M.T. : Do you think of yourself as being an activist or you know a leader of change?

C. L. : No, I don’t.

M.T. : Really?

C.L. : No.

M.T. : Even though you did such a remarkable thing?

C.L. : I never really thought about it. I was just really happy, you know, because I know when I was looking for a place to go, you know, the hostel was there for me. And I mean I’ve met loads of young mothers even since, you know, fifteen and sixteen. And they’re living in there 3 and 4 months. I’ve been back in twice since that actually. I had to go back into Galway and go back into the same hostel with the twins, and the doors were open, and they were really nice to me, and you know they let me stay there, so.

M.T. : What, is it like a tourist hostel or is it a special like place that is set up for people that don’t have places to spend the night?

C. L. : Yeah. But you can stay there long term too. But I mean fair play to the women in there that run the home, that help you, that ring the council, you know they get on to the TDs. I mean anything they can do for you they’ll do it. They were very helpful to me. There was lots of times I didn’t have money for food and they would cook us dinner. They were really good to us; because all my money went on the twins. And I’d have to buy nappies, double nappies, double milk, you know, the food, and the most I could actually afford to eat was a toasted sandwich every night after 9 o’clock, and that’s the only thing I ate and that was for nearly, you’re talking 5 or 6 months.

M.T. : Oh my God.

C.L. : That’s what I lived on, toasted cheese and ham sandwich. Do you know? It’s true.

M. T. : What is the situation in Ireland for women in terms of benefits, you know, if you have kids? It sounds like it’s not a very good situation.

C. L. : Oh it’s not , no. I mean I was really hard up. I went down to the community welfare officers. I went to the doctors, I went to the health nurses. I went to everyone and I said, “Please.” I said, “If you only could give me a tin of food,” I said, “And one packet of nappies.” I said it would be a great help for me.

M.T. : Have things gotten any better than in the past? I mean everyone’s talking about how Ireland, you know the Celtic Tiger, is doing so well and the economy is booming and everything is changing so much. Do you think it’s changed in a good way?

C. L. : Well, not really. I mean as I said now the twins are 7 in a couple of weeks time. I still haven’t gotten my own home to live in, so it’s not that great, you know. I’m 7 years waiting for a house for me and my children. So I mean it’s no better as far as I’m concerned.

I mean well and good I can go down there now to the community welfare officer and they give me money once a year to help put shoes and school uniforms you know on the kids, which is about 80 pounds. Which is great, you know, but that’s about all I get really. Actually the children’s’ allowance has gone up as well, because I have twins, yeah that actually went up there. I’ve only been getting it since last year. They actually doubled my money because of the twins. I suppose that’s a plus really.

M. T. : That’s a little late though.

C. L. : It was a little late all right because when they were born all I got was 8 pounds for each of the kids. It’s supposed to give you a start to your new baby, and I don’t know what exactly it’s suppose to buy because it bought nothing. So I got 16 pounds. I was totally mortified, I couldn’t believe it. If I had had triplets they said I would have got a lot more.

M. T. : On the one hand it seems like in Ireland they’re always talking about the importance of children and the importance of the mother and like it’s all in the constitution about how important the mother is and the unborn child and everything. But when it comes down to it, once they’re born, they don’t really give you too much help, do they?

C. L. : No they don’t, no, you know, because a single man here on the dole gets something like... should I say it?

M. T. : Yeah.

C. L. : About 76 pound. And I’m a single mother with 2 kids and I get a 100 pound.

M. T. : That’s disgraceful.

C. L. : Now if that’s thinking about the child, I mean, it’s unbelievable. It's life and that’s it. In my eyes I’ve had to live with it, you know. But I got a job here then, I must be here 6, maybe 7 weeks, so that’s been a great help to me. FAS took me in and so they’ve given me more money. So it’s been a great help. But my year is over. I’ve had it really, you know, because I mean I’ll have to either go out and look for another job... I can’t find me a job that will pay me enough to support myself, my kids, and find a baby-sitter.

I was in a job last year and the basic wage was 160 pound, you know, and I had to pay a baby-sitter to mind the kids so I ended up worse off. I was actually no better. So I left. They wanted me to go back again this year. I can’t go back because it’s not worth it. I was well off to stay at home and do the cleaning and the cooking. I couldn’t afford to go into town there now and say, “Right, let’s go, I’ll buy you an outfit each.” I can’t do that. I’d have to save for weeks and weeks on end just to be able to go to town to buy something for the 2 of them you know.

M. T. : So there is really no incentive to go to work?

C. L. : No, not for me, no. This worked out pretty well, working here, because as I said it’s only 4 hours a day, and they give me an extra 100 pound a week, so that’s really good.

M. T. : And it doesn’t interfere with the other money?

C. L. : No it doesn’t, no, but I’m only entitled to it for a year. But of course while I'm here I have to pay baby sitting expenses as well. But there is another girl who works here and what we do is I work the mornings and she minds the twins, and she works the afternoons and I mind her kids. So, we don’t have to be forking out for baby sitting.

M. T. : That’s really great, but it is kind of sad that before you had that, or for anyone else that doesn’t have a friend like that to barter with, I mean how much would you have to pay on average for a child minder if you went to work for a day?

C. L. : About 50 pounds a week. It’s 25 pounds per child, that’s what it is, so as I say I met Helen there a couple of -- actually it was Helen that told me about the job that was going here. So the 2 of us started working and when the school holidays came we said, “What are we going to do, pay a baby sitter and work for 50 pounds a week?” We just put our heads together and decided I’d do mornings and she’d do afternoons and we would mind one another’s kids, so we would end up having a few pounds for ourselves.

Because I mean it’s for the kids. Do you know, in my house for dinner, you don’t get steak or any of that, you get bacon and cabbage and turnips. That’s what you get because that’s all I can afford to buy really.

M. T. : And can explain -- you said you’d been waiting for a house for almost 7 years or something?

C. L. : I’m still waiting, yeah.

M. T. : Do you have to go on a list or like how do you go about trying to apply, you know, to get housing? Is it like a public housing list or how does that work?

C. L. : Oh it is. You just have to go to the county council and put your name down for a -- well normally you have to go into a flat before you’re entitled to a house. And I think it’s 5 years you have to wait in a flat before you can even get a house. As I said they gave me the flat, do you know, very fast after us going to the courts and being in the news. I think both of us had a flat within something like 3 weeks, because we showed them up. Basically we did show them up for what they really were, you know. Both of us had a flat in 3 weeks, so we thought it was great. But then I’d only been there 3 months and I got attacked and I had to leave. That was it. I couldn’t stay there any longer so I came out to live with my dad.

And I went back into the council to tell them why I left. And I left and I put in for a house with the county council. So as I said now I’m 7 years waiting for a house, 7 years. It’ll be 7 years now September, the twins are 7 on the 2nd of September, so that’s something like only 3 or 4 weeks away.

M. T. : And would you say that’s a pretty typical experience?

C. L. : Yeah, for a single mother, yeah.

M. T. : I know a good friend of mine in Dublin, I don’t think she was doing the public housing thing, but she was just calling around trying to find a flat for her -- she’s got 2 little boys -- and she said she called over 50 places and no one would rent to her because she had kids.

C. L. : Yeah, there’s still you know a bit of prejudice I suppose against unmarried mothers, or I’ve found that anyway. People’s attitudes. You know, “You’re not married, this is what you get.” Well I tell ya, I’ll never be married, and I won’t. I’ll abstain for the rest of my life, do you know. I’m happy here, people know me here, and they know I’m single. So they’re not so bad around here, you know, they really aren’t. They’re not so bad to me in this town, because I’m from here, I suppose. But I don’t know, it’s just the way you get treated, you know, “Oh look at her...”

M. T. : Are there any particular experiences that stand out in your mind where people were really rude?

C. L. : Only when I was looking for accommodations, that’s when, “Oh no, sorry, no kids allowed.” And, “You’re on social welfare. Are you working?” And of course if you’re not working then it doesn’t look good either, you know. A lot of people don’t like to take in single mothers with kids, or even mothers with kids, you know. But if you’ve a job they’re kind of not so bad.

M. T. : But how are you suppose to hold down a job if you can’t pay the child minder?

C. L. : But this is it, you know. Life, I just say it’s life. I’ve learned to live with it you know. But I haven’t done too bad.

Heidi (Production Assistant): Are there any responsibilities of the biological father?

CL: I’ll take a drink now before I tell you that one! God, where can I start? Oh yeah, what I really should start with is when I was 3 months pregnant their dad went off to a pub one night and went off with another woman. So, when he came back the following day I opened the door and he got this [makes fist] into his gob. But that’s beside the point. So, I told him, “Never come back,” I said. “If you do it once,” I said, “You’ll do it again.”

Of course he tried to blame, “Oh it was the drink, it was the drink, you know.” I said, “No,” I said, “If I had drink in me I wouldn’t do it,” you know, I’m pretty responsible. I think I am anyway. So, that was okay, we split up then, and of course the twins are 7 now, and I haven’t had as much as a fiver off him since the day them twins were born. He was working 7 days a week nearly, and he was on the dole getting his money, and that man still never gave me as much as a fiver. The most he’ll do now is actually send a birthday present and a Christmas present to the girls.

I don’t see why I should have to go back to court. I mean I can, they are all saying, “Oh don’t be stupid, take him back to court.” If I go back to court, number one, I have to pay 15 pound to see the solicitor. You know, I will get free legal aid, but the thing is I have to pay the 15 pound anyway to see a solicitor. Not him. I have to because I’ll be bringing him to court, and in the end then they won’t even get it out of him because all he has to do is deny he is working. I’m not paying 15 pound to track that man into court, you know, he should be made to pay by law. Every father should be made to pay for their kids. That’s just another one of those things.

M. .T. : My friend said that she actually went to the States for awhile because she said she couldn’t raise kids here, because it is so difficult. Did you ever consider leaving?

C. L. : If I did meet a nice man and he said, “Come with me,” you know, and he’ll take the girls, I’d be gone tomorrow morning. I would. I’d give Athenry up for that. But that’s never going to happen for me. I mean I have been wanting to go abroad. I’d love to leave, pack up, and go somewhere. I’ll never have the money.

M. T. : Do you have any sense of if Ireland is better or worse than other European countries in terms of the way it treats single mothers?

C. L. : I’m not sure now. I can’t say anything about any other country. I only know what’s happened to me here. I’ve no idea.

I know for a fact in London if you have kids you’ll get a house within a couple of months all right, yeah. Because I’ve known loads of people who have gone there. I suppose even London’s better than here, maybe, I don’t know.

M. T. : I was wondering about, you know, a lot of people have been talking about the fact that all of these women have been getting into government now, in Ireland for the first time, and I was wondering if you think that if that makes a difference or not. Like were any of the TDs that you took to court, were they women, and how did they react to you?

C. L . : It was men, they were all men actually, yeah, disgusted with us. No, and they’re no better now, even 7 years down the road, you know they’ve done nothing for me. I’ve been actually going to one, you know, to try and move the house on and get it done and sure I’m still here, haven’t heard nothing. All I get is when the elections are coming up, letters in the door: “Don’t forget me.”

And they’ve done nothing for me. I’m actually ringing up the council and doing the phone calls and that. I’ve given up even going to the TD here, you know. I’ve given up. I ring the head girl everytime in the council myself, and I talk to her all the time and say, “When is my house going to get ready?” I want a house, I’m sick of this, you know, I’m all the time hounding them. At the end of the day it’s just going to be me that gets my own house and nobody else, nobody else cares anyway. They tell you they do.

Women in government, I don’t know. I can’t answer that one. I don’t know whether they are going to be any good. A lot of them are mothers with children. Maybe things might get better, but they haven’t so far has it?

M. T. : I don’t think we were rolling when you were talking about the story with Clare, your older daughter. Do you want to tell just a little bit about what happened when she wasn’t able to get in touch with you?

C. L. : Oh yeah. I’ve a son as well, they still won’t let me see him because he’s not sixteen.

When I was 17, I got pregnant. That’s a long time ago! Then I turned 18 and then a couple of months later I had a little girl called Clare. And a year and a half later I had a little boy called Mark, and me and their dad spent eight and a half years together, very happy, everything was going lovely until we up and went to London. He wanted to move.

Over there we lived together. We split up. I wouldn’t come back to live here, he wanted me to come back with the children. I wouldn’t come back and live with him. So, he begged me and begged me, and I said no, and I said, “You go back to your mother.” His mother had an awful lot to do with why we split up. So about 6 months later, this was 10 days before Christmas actually, I got this letter saying I had to go to court, that his mother was coming from Ireland to take the kids back home. I said no way, they can’t do this to me. I said no way. So they came over, himself and his mother. His mother was a pretty horrible woman to tell you the truth, very nasty. I went down to the court and stood there. And I said, “These people can’t come and take my kids.” The judge handed this thing over to them and said they could come and take my kids. So, they had to find out where I lived, and I wouldn’t tell them where I lived. I said, “You’re not getting my kids,” so they locked me up and they kept me for hours and hours. In the end I had no choice. I had to tell them where I lived and they said, “We’ll be around tomorrow, to pick up the kids.”

So I was nearly going to do a runner, I had someone that was going to take me and take my kids and hide us, but I couldn’t do it you know. They walked in 10 days before Christmas and took off with my two kids, and I didn’t see them for 6 years, until the twins were born. They came to the hospital to see us, and then they started going back to their nanny and saying, “We’ve got two beautiful twin sisters,” and she turned around and said, “They’re not your fucking sisters,” she said. And she stopped them from coming to the hospital. So, I went up and I knocked on the door, you know, because I hadn’t seen them in so long, and she told me never to come back there, that I was never going to see them again.

So, last Monday night a phone call came to the house. I went home, and the baby sitter was there and she said, “Clare called. She said please phone her. It doesn’t matter what time it is.” She phoned five times. And I said, “No.” I said, “No, no.” I said, “They’ve got the wrong name.” Do you know, I couldn’t believe... I just said, “No,” I said, “It can’t be,” I said. She said, “She’s left this number.”

So I phoned the house and I said, “Who’s this?” and she said, “It’s me mom,” and she was crying, and I just broke down, and it was just -- I couldn’t believe it. But what happened was they went to my sister’s house to find out where... oh I should have said that they sent Clare off to America. She’d been looking for me for a long time. They sent her out to America to get rid of her so she wouldn’t come and see me. She’s been back now about 4 months, and she wouldn’t give up looking for me, so they [Clare and Mark] went to my sister’s house. She told them I lived in Athenry. It’s just been an awful shock, do you know, because she’ll be 17 in a couple weeks time. She came out last week. He [her father] drove her out. She wanted to stay the night. He said no, I want you back on the train. She rang him up at 10 past eight, and she said, “I’m not coming home,” she said. “I’m spending the night.”

MT: Wow, that’s amazing.

C. L. : Yeah. It’s a start, you know. It was awful upsetting because I couldn’t believe it, I said, “He’ll never allow her.” What happened in the meantime is the mum, in the meantime, she died, their grandmother. So no one can stop her [Clare] now, she’s of age. She’s 16 and he has to let her do what she wants now. She’s been dying to see the twins. Because she was, they [Clare and Mark] were holding them in the hospital, they actually named them. Clare named Rachel, and Mark named LeeAnne. I’ve got photographs and everything of them, holding the twins.

So I’m just shocked and I’m overjoyed. And she showed up again at my door yesterday. I’m just really happy. I was awake at 6 o’clock this morning just -- we all slept in the one room, the three of us and all. I just sat there looking at her at 6 o’clock this morning. You know, because sometimes I think maybe she’ll go again and I won’t see her. I keep thinking he’s going to come out and just take her and...

M. T. : Do the twins know that they have these two older siblings?

C. L. : Yeah. We have the photographs you see from in the hospital. That’s the only thing actually that I got since 7 years ago was the photographs, so I’ve always kept them, and I’ve always showed the twins. And I remind them all the time that they had an older brother and sister. So when they found out she was coming last week they were so excited, do you know, and we took a walk up to Supermacs. I said we’ll go to Supermacs, you know. I was too nervous to make dinner. I couldn’t do anything. I was in a total panic, and all my nerves were totally gone, and he dropped her out. I said, “We’ll go to Supermacs,” and we got out of the car down here and we walked up the road, and the twins were saying, “This is my big sister Clare.” To everyone we met on the street. In the Supermacs they told everyone behind the counter and everything. They were so excited, you know. It was just so funny. I couldn’t stop laughing, and they were laughing, and Clare was laughing. They were so excited. They can’t believe she’s here. And now they said to me, “Mommy, why hasn’t she been able to come and see us?” I just said she couldn’t you know. I don’t think I’ll ever tell the kids, the horror. I won’t because it was pure horror for me, it was, but it has made me a bit stronger.

I try to forget so much because their family dumped me, and I said, “Well I have the twins now, I had to get on with life.” I had no choice. You know, many a time, even in the first year I said, “Will I give them up?” You know, I really didn’t think I’d be able to cope and make it, but I met friends, and they used to give me clothes for them. I had a lot of friends who were really good to me. I honestly don’t think I would have made it on my own anyway. I wouldn’t, no. I have a really good friend in Galway, she’s been really good to me, do you know. I’m just glad now every year, I look at them and I think, “Oh God I’ve made it, add another one.” I can’t believe it, you know. I just can’t. I think I’m shocked at myself too really.

M. T. : Especially not having any resources, I mean starting off with 16 pounds, and here you are 7 years later and you’ve got two amazing kids.

I just wanna finish up with a couple of general questions I’m asking everyone. I’m asking every woman about their first names, I guess because women always have the names of like men, like their fathers or their husbands or whatever. I think our first names are so important somehow. So I was wondering if you knew what your name means or why you were named Cathryn?

C. L. : I don’t think there are any other Cathryns in the family, let me think. I think it was my dad that actually wanted to call me Cathryn.

M. T. : There is an unusual spelling of it too isn’t it? Do you like your name?

C. L. : Oh I’ve fancied changing it loads of times. I really have, but I think I’m a bit too old to change it now. I know I used to think about it. Something like Pamela, but I haven’t got the chest for it! Having Cathryn will do.

M. T. : The other thing I’m asking in every interview is if there is any particular women that have inspired you in your life to be an activist or to keep going or who have been sort of heroines for you?

C. L. : The only one now really would be Margaretta, you know. She was always there for me. She was when the twins were born. You know, she gave me a little push, so she did.

M. T. : How did you meet Margaretta?

C. L. : My brother I think knew her first, and he brought me down to meet her. Of course I was shy and I was... I thought she was outrageous and wild, you know, I really did. But I had a great time with her. Oh she’s a good woman. She’s bold, you know. When she talks, she seems, she’s a fighter, she has this fight in her, you know. I just think the world of her. I think she was more like a mother there now to me for years, especially when the twins were born and that. I used to go and see her all the time when I was in Galway. If she wasn’t there I’d get a bit down. I used to love going in there for a cup of tea and a chat, wondering, “What will she be getting up to next?!”

M. T. : You seem like a real fighter, so I can see why you get along.

C. L. : I’m not great, you know. Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not, you know . But I suppose I’m a lot stronger than I was a couple of years ago.

Heidi: I have one question. How would you change things, for instance for your girls, what changes would you like to see to improve their lives?

C. L. : You see, I wish to God I could change a lot of things, you know, I do, but I just... The government, they’re all wrong in my eyes, the courts, the judges. I’m totally against all these people, do you know, because my life and you know what’s happened to me I guess. I don’t know, as I said for the twins now, I took them out of the big town, I put them into a small school, hoping that the teachers will have time for both of them and maybe they will go a little bit further than I did. I left school when I was 14. I was working from 8 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night. I had to. And I was living on my own. And I don’t want that to happen to my twins, you know, or Clare even. I just don’t, you know.

So I can only hope. I don’t pray. I think that’s different to hope a bit. I just hope things are better for them. I’m not sure whether it is. They have another few years to go yet anyway, so maybe things will change. I don’t see it for myself, mind you, you know I really don’t see things changing. In fact if anything things are getting worse.

M.T. : Really?

C. L. : Yeah, it’s got no better for me has it? Seven years and it’s been really hard on me. It's just that I have a lot of really good friends, thank God.

M. T. : Well I just think you’re amazing. I just think you should always pat yourself on the back.

C. L. : I wouldn’t mind having someone else patting me on the back. You know, I get no credit for nothing. Yeah, I have no one there to tell me I’m good or... I have no mother, my father only gives me the dogs. Day in and day out, that’s all I get. So there’s no one there. So I mean I’m not a happy person either. I kind of feel hope now because I have the kids to rear, thank God, and Clare’s back also. Maybe that was, you know, give me somebody else to think about as well. It’s been hard thinking about the two I have now. I don’t think I will ever be happy until all that’s over and done with and finished and you know maybe then I will be happy. Because people are always asking me, “Are you happy?” and I have to say, “No.” And they look at me like, “Come on, a nice young girl like you, with two beautiful kids, you know,” and I have to say, “Yeah, but you’re not in here, you know.” On the outside, I’m always a happy person, everyone thinks I am just wild and mad and really happy. I’m not, inside. You know, I mean I sit at home every night on my own. I’m in bed at 11 o’clock, asleep in my bed.

I think I’m supposed to have somebody there, you know, but I just don’t ever see anybody there. I’ve gone through so much. I can’t , I don’t think I can trust a man either, that’s two of them who really abused me to the lowest you could ever put anybody down. It’s hard you know. I’m just getting too old now, you know. I couldn’t care less if I never went out. I go out there once every two or three months. They were saying to me, “Look you’re going to have to start doing something.” So I started going out, 5 or 6 weeks ago. I said if that’s all that’s out there, I think I will stay at home with my few cans and my kids. My kids are my life, aren’t they really?


Courtcase against the TDs:

Childcare/Poverty:

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