The Crosses of St. Brigid and Louise O’Keeffe

The original Rush job: The tradition of making St. Brigid's Crosses is still widely practised in many parts of Ireland today. ©Photograph: John Reidy
The original Rush job: The tradition of making St. Brigid’s Crosses is still widely practised in many parts of Ireland today. ©Photograph: John Reidy

We really don’t know what St. Brigid did to deserve her lofty perch in Irish legend and religious circles.
Other than being quick-witted enough to see what was under her feet while trying to cobble a cross together to convert a dying pagan.
She must have had some inkling of what working against the clock is like.  It is, of course, the original ‘Rush-Job’ or maybe that’s where the always smartening term ‘Deadline’ came from.
From what we know of her, St. Brigid wouldn’t mind one bit sharing the lime-light, this week, with another amazingly resilient woman of more modern times.
Lives Linked
The lives of St. Brigid and Louise O’Keeffe are linked by crosses and, possibly, persecution. St. Brigid took her case-making materials from the floor of a hut. Louise O’Keeffe had to pick herself off the floor and find the means to help her survive.
In December 2008 Ms. O’Keeffe, from Dundurrow near Kinsale, lost a Supreme Court case to have the abuse she suffered at primary school recognised by the state. Shortly after the case the State Claims Agency sent warning letters to the legal representatives of her fellow sufferers that they’d be pursued for costs if they didn’t drop their claims.
She shouldered what must have seemed an unbearably heavy cross for all those years. It was made all the heavier by weight heaping bureaucracy and bullying at the highest level. The faceless, highly cossetted and pensioned threatened penury on all who dared to attempt to seek the light of justice for suffering endured.
They did this from the wooden panelled offices where their ilk bask in their perceived God-given anonymity and government protection.
Callous Actions
Shouldn’t we know the identity of the people who, by their callous actions, sentenced hundreds of ‘survivors’ of abuse to years of anxiety and slow deaths through addictions to alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines and eventual madness.
St. Brigid would understand how and why Louise O’Keeffe would have to stand up for herself and the badly wounded in society today and all the yesterdays.  
She stood up and won an amazing battle for the people who dread unassisted sleep. Their breached walls, broken windows, cracked ceilings and porous floors are hopelessly inadequate at keeping the replayed nightmares in their horror libraries contained or at bay.
I was thinking of Louise O’Keeffe and the slow-burning fire she lit in 2008 and I lit a candle in a tin can beside me while I was putting this piece together – it didn’t burn down much.
I’m going off through one of  Willie Leane’s fields now – once I find out where the bull is – to make a St. Brigid’s Cross as many the time before.  I’ll weave a prayer and my thoughts into the making for those too far gone to do it for themselves – a bit like St. Brigid did I suppose. – John Reidy 1-2-2014