Family at heart of Fiona’s memoir about fostering

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Fiona Neary dodged a bullet at the age of 16, having been left at home in charge of domestic duties while her mother and younger siblings went shopping. She’d been tasked with cleaning and washing the dishes, necessary chores in a busy family during the pre-dishwasher days of the 1980s. However, Fiona was too busy enjoying rare time on her own and listening to pop music on the radio for such trivia. Work could wait.

But events overtook her – which was why she dodged the bullet, because normally she’d have got a roasting for neglecting her duties. Fiona’s mother had begun to foster children a few years previously and, at the time, the Nearys were hosting two young girls who had come from a home with an abusive father.

The girls had found a refuge with the Nearys and were still in bed that Saturday morning. Their parents weren’t meant to contact them without the approval of a social worker – and certainly not meant to visit.

But, next thing, Fiona saw their car outside. With no adult present, she had to deal with it. The mature way she coped as the girls hid in their room led to Fiona’s mother absolving her from duties for the rest of the day.

Fiona recalls that occasion and others in her memoir, Parcels in the Post: Growing Up with Fifty Siblings, which has just been published by New Island Press.

Fascinating, enraging and beautifully written, its unfolding came as a surprise to Fiona.

“I never intended writing a book about my family’s experience of fostering,” says the woman who is best known in Galway for her work with the Rape Crisis Centre and as the national co-ordinator and executive director of Ireland’s Rape Crisis Network Centre, which works with other organisations to tackle sexual violence.

Pictured: Fiona Neary.


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