Sunday, 15 January 2017

Caitriona Ruane and the 'Mayo library case'

Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane did not put her name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.  When I heard that it brought to mind an Assembly debate exactly ten years ago this month.

On 22 January 2007, during a debate on an Equality Commission report Caitriona Ruane:
Perhaps we will hear an acceptance and an acknowledgement from unionists that the 'six counties' were developed as a Protestant state for a Protestant people; that they were built and maintained by systematic discrimination against Catholics.
As I listened to her I could not help but recall three things.  The first was that Caitriona Ruane was originally from County Mayo.  The second was that she had once said that she had never heard of discrimination until she came up to Northern Ireland.  The third was that County Mayo was the scene of one of the notorious cases of discrimination against the Protestant minority in the Republic.

Later in the debate I responded to what she had said:
I think that I am right to say that Ms Ruane comes from Mayo.  If one were to think about discrimination, what county would come to mind more than County Mayo?  The Mayo library case has gone down in the history of this island.
I remember listening to Ms Ruane on the radio telling us that she had never known discrimination until she came to Northern Ireland.  Obviously the events in County Mayo, where the political and public communities agreed with the council's decision not to appoint a Protestant librarian, have slipped her mind.
 This was a case in which politicians and Roman Catholic churchmen in county Mayo rejected the appointment of a Protestant woman as the county librarian.  They believed that only a Roman Catholic should be in charge of library services and the selection of library books in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic county!  In the end they won the day and a Roman Catholic librarian was appointed instead.  The Protestant woman was then sent off to a post in Dublin.  The year was 1930 and the Protestant librarian was Letitia Dunbar-Harrison.

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