When respect and honour triumphed

THE late, great Sean McCarthy, writer and thinker, often reflected on the terrible insult and injustice done by the Catholic Church to his sister Peggy (Margaret) in 1946.

Peggy died after giving birth to her daughter Breda. The Church made it clear that the coffin containing her remains was not welcome in Listowel Parish Church. Clergy ensured that the gates of the church were locked against her.

Her ‘offence’ - in the eyes of the Church - was that she was unmarried at the time she gave birth.

But for once this disgusting, unforgiving - and unChristian - clericalism met its match in Listowel.

Locals, outraged by this gross example of Catholic Church tyranny, acted to ensure that Peggy McCarthy’s funeral eventually proceeded without further interference.

This dark example of hateful dominance and abuse of power is featured on the RTÉ Radio 1 series Documentary on One this weekend. The programme is made by Listowel journalist and documentary maker Conor Keane, son of the late John B.

Conor Keane has picked a subject that echoes down the decades. It shows how power corrupts and how ordinary people can be pushed too far.

But it’s also a story of redemption, a story of how decency, honour and respect triumphed in a town in North Kerry 72 years ago. It’s a story worth listening to.