Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.
Monday, December 19, 2005
This is the organisation who worked hand in glove with the same church to steal children from their parents and hand them over to the abusing religious orders.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Saturday, November 26, 2005
In a letter sent out by the commission through lawyers to the abused on November 16, consent is sought for them to be included on a panel to be questioned in the research. Closing date for this was yesterday. This gave virtually no time at all for consultation, though the more responsible solicitors were offering to answer questions, according to copies of letters I have seen. As far as the Commission is concerned, the information about the study is extremely limited.
The Commission says that participation "will be subject to the usual confidentiality requirements". There is no "usual confidentiality". This is new territory. The UCD research represents a new departure. With a "research team" engaged, the ability of the Commission to control confidentiality, or indeed any other aspect of procedure or content, is tenuous. Those who have contacted me about the letter have rejected participation out of hand. One of them wrote the following: "Do you realise how many people have our files? They are held by the Department of Education, the Redress Board, The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Barnardo's, the archives of the religious institutions, the solicitors who have acted for us, or are acting for us, the psychiatrists and psychotherapists and the courts.
Now they want UCD to analyse us. It makes me so angry. And we cannot get our medical files from the religious institutions nor can we get the names of our families." The Commission quotes Professor Carr, who is leading the research team, as assuring Judge Sean Ryan and his team that the interview material "will be securely stored at UCD", that details will remain confidential, and that the Human Research Ethics Committee has approved. The heart of the matter lies in what is to be achieved. "The research will say how the overall group of participants were affected by having lived in an institution, how it affected their psychological adjustment, their quality of life and how individuals coped with the challenges that they faced during their time in the institutions and afterwards." From the trust that I have built up over a number of years with men and women who went through the industrial school system, and from their testimony, I can answer most of those questions.
Furthermore, having covered and read much of the material before the Commission, I can also say of that body that it is not getting very close to the truth. I fear the research project will do even less well. Leading spokespersons of the abused are disdainful and dismissive of the process altogether. There is a further compelling reason for doubt about what is being done. Though it is a long time ago, UCD similar research and then lost all the research documentation. This arose at the time of the Kennedy Committee's work, in the late 1960s. It was done because Ireland faced international disgrace as a result of OECD investigations into our education system.
These showed serious defects in the education levels of people in industrial schools. Inmates were, of course, not being educated. They were doing manual work for the Orders, their education - like everything else - being seriously neglected. Some regard this as the worst of all the abuses. The UCD researchers at the time knew none of this. One who was there has told me: "I personally recall the arrival of the earnest young men in horn-rimmed glasses at Artane with their bundles of forms. "Like all intruders, they were bitterly resented by the Christian Brothers who handed out the forms designed to measure our mental maturity. We were never interviewed. Not even a 'good morning' ever passed between either side.
That probably explains why they appear not to have detected any abusive indicators in the children." The same person says of the Commission's new project "we are guinea pigs again". Perhaps Professor Carr will give some thought to his predecessor in the research field, who was Professor of Logic and Psychology at UCD, a Father Eamonn Feichin O'Doherty. His research is referred to in Appendix F of the Kennedy Report. His testimony hinged on the concept that the educational backwardness of industrial school inmates resulted from innate inability, bad blood, family circumstances.
It was not related to the conditions in the institutions. Such was the Professor of Logic's logic. Moreover, he blamed early experience in life, not realising that the early life, from the age of two, had been in the industrial schools. He ignored the prison environment, the constant fear, the brutality and violence, the starvation, the meagre and inadequate clothing. Instead, it was all bad genes. This was a piece of National Socialist research. Current researchers can neither criticise nor defend these assertions because UCD lost all the research material. I do not think Professor Carr should proceed any further until questions have been asked about the project. Apart from anything else it is appropriate to ask what psychiatric or therapeutic skills are possessed by the members of his team. I don't know the timescale of the research but I think that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse should bring its work to an end since that work is going nowhere at all. It is not satisfying the abused. It is costing a great deal of public money.
Furthermore, it is not getting to the heart of truth. One of the Artane boys constantly in touch with me whose experiences have marked him for life, tells me that there was no library in Artane. This was a so-called "school" for upwards of 800 boys. Even National Schools had little libraries. He goes on: "Of all the horrors Ireland inflicted on me, the one that probably did the most long-term damage was the loss of education. I had a childhood ambition to be a physicist or medical doctor - my father was in St John's Ambulance and taught me first aid. "I have no doubt whatever that I could have realised my ambition had I not been imprisoned. I entered Artane a bright and able child; I escaped from the prison two years later a mental and physical wreck and with my educational prospects in ruins." His future life was whipped out of him, like the offending Adam. He was enslaved and tormented like so many others.
Are they to be subjected to further and increasingly idiotic "research"?
© Irish Independent http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/ & http://www.unison.ie/
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Sunday Independent November 20th 2005
WHEN Bertie Ahern says that he gave the child sex abuse issue the highest priority during his two terms as Taoiseach, he is being disingenuous.
What he has said is this: "I have put child protection in the context of sex abuse within religious institutions and by clergy at the forefront of the work of my term as Taoiseach. My record in relation to the investigation and exposing of child sex abuse is second to none. As Taoiseach, I oversaw the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse and the Ferns Inquiry. And it is through this process of inquiry and disclosure that we as a society are enabled to ensure that the abuse and dereliction of duty in the past does not recur." The truth is that the growing threat of court action in respect of sexual abuse in church-run institutions over decades was the reason for the programme of action initiated under Ahern's first term as Taoiseach. Documentation shows that the Department of Education, in the mid-Nineties, conscious of this, and also advised in part by legal opinion about the level of cases that might come to court, brought to the Government proposals for obviating this threat.
Bertie Ahern did indeed take action, but principally for three reasons. The first was to protect the State by creating an alternative process, through the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The second was to protect the Roman Catholic church from the same threat of widespread legal action by people who had been dreadfully abused, not just sexually, but in terms of extensive deprivation of health, education and the minimal comforts of care and kindness. The third reason was fear of the revelations, which were emerging through television and articles, and which were likelyto snowball. The legislation then introduced by the Government was couched in terms that were protective of the church and of the State.
Bertie Ahern opposed the idea of redress, which was only brought to Government as a necessary additional measure. Without it, the legal challenges were likely to be mounted anyway.
This was then followed by the outrageous secret deal with the church, which put the financial burden of redress on the State, and therefore the taxpayer, and absolved the church with payment of less than 10 per cent of the likely eventual charge on the State for the iniquities that had been perpetrated in more than 100 brutal and ill-run institutions around Ireland.
He presided over a Government - and a Department of Education under three ministers, Michael Woods, Micheal Martin and Noel Dempsey - that liaised with outreach organisations in Britain, and through organisations working for abused people, was in touch with the lives, psychiatric care and the search for redress of deeply damaged men and women.
The whole process was bravely challenged by Judge Mary Laffoy. She blew the whistle on what was happening. She took on the Government for its hypocrisy in not funding or supporting the very inquiry that Bertie Ahern claims is his great gift tosolving the institutional abuse issue.
She blew the whistle in another and much more fundamental way by publishing the only full account of gross ill-treatment by the church of young people in the Fishing School in Baltimore.
It described near-starvation of the inmates who lived in squalor and in rags, without proper medical or educational care.
It is argued that money was short. This is not true. An adequate per capita payment, in all the institutions, was made. The money was not properly accounted for. Much of it was sent back by religious orders to Rome, adding to their coffers and depriving the imprisoned children in Ireland of the wherewithal for a proper start in their already much damaged lives.
Witnesses also refer to the rich lives of the religious who starved them.
Mary Laffoy was a watershed figure. After her the State changed the law. This followed recommendations from the barrister Sean Ryan, who had worked on the abuse legislation. He had done so during the crucial period in which the commission was starved of back-up by the Department of Education while the Redress Board, in secret, was paying out compensation money.
The money awarded, where this can be assessed, fellfar short of what the courts could have been expected to award. Colm O'Gorman's €300,000 award is the civil marker to be compared with much lesser sums for institutional abuse.
Sean Ryan, the man who had drafted legislation and had been intimately involved with the Department of Education in constructing how the process should be pursued, was then made a High Court judge and put in charge of the Commission on Child Sexual Abuse after Judge Laffoy's resignation.
It would have been better if a different judge, one who had not been involved in constructing the terms of reference to be followed, both before and after Laffoy, had been appointed.
Since then the whole process has been held up by lengthy inquiries into different institutions. The stated purpose of these inquiry sessions has been to assess whether what is allegedto have happened actuallydid happen.
These inquiries, where the institution is being questioned, have been in public. The inquiries where abused people have been interviewed have been in private. The public statements and answers, usually given by religious who were not in the institutions and did not know what happened, have mainly been whitewash operations.
We are led to believe from them that the floggings in Daingean did not take place. The abuse and starvation in Artane did not happen.
One member after another of the various religious orders that abused terribly their trust in caring for largely innocent children have pleaded either ignorance or presented anodyne answers to crucial questions.
When Bertie Ahern himself appeared before Judge Ryan, on Friday, July 9, 2004, he told the commission that his apology to the abused, in May 1999, had come about as a result of representations made by the groups acting for the abused and by individual members of them. Such groups did not exist then and there is no evidence of such meetings. He said that Government thinking "came from the victims".
It did not. It came from the Department of Education, and there is substantial documentation proving this.
More telling still, at the time of the Taoiseach's appearance before the commission, two former ministers, Martin and Woods, directly contradicted the Taoiseach on this issue of where the apology came from, telling Judge Ryan that it was a departmental proposal.
The judge has not yet recalled the Taoiseach to check out the differences and contradictions contained in this evidence.
As said above, this line of approach by the Department of Education, and accepted by the Government, was motivated by the threat of legal actions against the State.
A statement issued this week by Irish SOCA, the only organisation acting for the abused that has spurned help from the State, came out strongly critical of the absurdity of Bertie Ahern's position, where he wants the good done by the church to beconsidered in amelioration of the abuse.
Bertie Ahern has said: "The notion that the institutional church has not been held to account is misconceived." And he goes on: "Our legalsystem provides a remedy in damages."
But what about crime? And what can a permanently damaged, middle-aged victim of physical and sexual abuse over years do with the provisions of the law on damages? What possible hope do they have of contending against the State, when the State has allied itself with the church in constructing, through legal deals, a mechanism of self-protection and immunisation from real redress?
It is not damages or civil actions that are relevant: it is prosecution for crimes of violence against innocent and powerless victims, that need to be pursued against senior members of the church who have consistently, over long periods of time, protected the abusers and the regimes under which the abuse became chronic and insidious.
Colm O'Gorman has played a blinder in recent weeks and has been a proper focus for media attention, though his experience is with diocesan abuse, dare one say it, of a lesser order, in the main, from the institutional abuse that happened in Letterfrack, Daingean, Clonakilty, Artane, and so many other places of dreadful incarceration.
However, ironically Ferns and O'Gorman's impressive outspokenness have helped Bertie Ahern and the church to talk in terms of all this being put behind us. For the other abused it is happening now, and will go on into the future. And while on the one hand the church is talking of sorrow and pain and apology and regret, behind the scenes, with expert legal advice, itis fighting every inch ofthe way to deny what happened within the industrial school system.
The practical proposals so far coming from Government concern investigation. They deal in hopes about improvement. There is no real underpinning of legal intent.And the process is going onas before.
Bertie Ahern's declaration about the church's place in Irish society is totally ill-timed and totally ill-judged. We have yet to address the full problem of abuse. And it does not lie in the past.
It is a present and a future agony for tens of thousands of victims.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.
And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.
O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.
Monday, November 07, 2005
One in Four staff will also be available for private meetings throughout the day in Wexford and Enniscorthy on Thursday 10th of November. Those wishing to arrange a private meeting should contact Bernadette Morris on 01 6624070, the number of available meetings is limited so please call in advance.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
THE State inspector of industrial schools failed to tell gardai of a sex abuse case she knew of in 1954. This is the first time it has come out that Dr Anna McCabe, a Department of Education employee, was aware of sex abuse at an industrial school. The Child Abuse Commission yesterday heard disturbing evidence concerning St Joseph's Industrial School, Kilkenny, run by the Sisters of Charity. It heard that in 1954 the school found a painter had been sexually abusing some of the girls there.
The case became known only after sisters in charge became concerned that two girls were "exhibiting immoral sexual conduct", and were teaching other girls to do the same. Dr McCabe, inspector of industrial schools in the 1940s to 1960s, separateinterviewed nine girls, to find the painter interfered with some of them. On November 2 1954, the Department of Education wrote to the school and proposed that Dr McCabe should consult the local parish priest, Fr O'Keefe, who would decide whether to consult his bishop on the matter.
On November 5, the painter was dismissed after a meeting between Dr McCabe, parish priest Fr O'Keefe and the school manager. The commission was told Fr O'Keefe requested that the man not be prosecuted and Dr McCabe agreed. Fr O'Keefe reasoned that although the man "deserved penal servitude", a trial would bring the school into "deep disrepute". Also, the girls would have to testify and this would leave an "indelible mark" on them.
The Commission heard that Dr McCabe was of the view that Fr O'Keefe's advice showed him to be a "sensible and shrewd pastor", and she agreed with his approach. Fr O'Keefe also decided not to make the case known to his Bishop, Dr Patrick Collier, because he was in poor health and might find it too shocking. The commission discussed three other cases at the school, and when the sisters first knew of them.
One involved David Murray, a trained childcare worker who was employed by the institute as part of a reform in 1972 aimed at providing boys at the centre with a 'father figure'. He was sacked in 1976 after Sr Joseph Conception found evidence against him. Another case, in 1976, involved Myles Brady, another trained child-care worker, dismissed after he was found to have interfered with boys. Murray and Brady were later convicted and sentenced. The Commission also heard about a fourth case of abuse involving a woman who left St Joseph's in the 1980s. The Commission will now go into private session and hear further evidence about St Joseph's.
David Quinn Social Affairs Correspondent Irish Independent
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Nobody who worked in the old Irish Press will forget Brendan Comiskey for one particularly pious and arrogant piece of grandstanding. The newspaper’s television reviewer had made a light-hearted comment about the then-imminent birth of the singer Madonna’s first baby, and expressed the hope that this infant didn’t cause as much trouble as the son born to a previous Madonna. Bishop Comiskey considered this remark to be blasphemous, and used the might and prominence of his role to demand a boycott by all God-fearing Catholics of the Irish Press group newspapers. At that time the group was in serious difficulties and, indeed, closed not long afterwards with the loss of hundreds of jobs and hardship to many families. Had Comiskey enjoyed quite as much clout as he hoped at that time, this may even have been precipitated by his intervention.
Now we know that, at this time, the same bishop who considered that hundreds of people deserved to lose their livelihoods because of one hack’s throwaway quip did not feel that paedophiles and rapists should suffer any such fate as a result of their activities. Perhaps this is an insight into the value system of the man who hid himself away from the media he had once courted, in the wake of the Ferns Report last week, and issued a bland statement defending himself and describing his complicity in criminal activity for many years as “human failings”. But it is also possible that Comiskey saw his attack on the Irish Press’s blasphemous leanings to be entirely congruent with the effort to cover up and deny incidents of clerical sex abuse. In both instances, he may well have reasoned, the institution was under attack, and the institution had to be protected at all costs, even by the sacrifice of collateral civilian casualties. It would be invidious to suggest that Bishop Comiskey set out to do evil.
But then, very few people do. Bank robbers, social welfare fraudsters, even child abusers can all find justification in their circumstances to justify and excuse their own particular brand of “human failing” — that’s how defence lawyers make a living. Had Bishop Comiskey’s fingerprints been found all over the recovered Northern Bank raid notes, rather than the CVs of known child abusers, he could just as easily have pleaded “human failings”. The fact that he’d have a far slimmer chance of fobbing off the law with that excuse if he’d been a party to stealing money rather than innocence is part of the reason why this obscenity persisted unchecked for so long. As far back as the mid-1980s, the then Archbishop of Dublin sought legal advice as to the church’s liability for clerical sexual abuse. He was told that any bishop who knew there were grounds to suspect a priest of abuse and failed to withdraw him from ministry could be held legally liable for negligence.
His sole response was to take out insurance cover against any resulting financial loss, and to advise every other bishop in the country to do the same. By 1990, most dioceses had this insurance in place. So they all knew this crime was prevalent enough to be a real concern, but their overriding instinct was to protect the institution from a financial hit, rather than to protect the children from the beasts who were raping and terrorising them. Prioritising money rather than people may well be a human failing, but in this case it was also a conscious, fully informed choice. In 1988 Bishop Comiskey presided over a Confirmation ceremony in Monageer church in which he was assisted by a priest who had sexually abused some of the Confirmation girls just days before. Having specifically requested that James Grennan be absent from the ceremony, the girls’ families walked out in disgust. When first asked about it Bishop Comiskey flatly denied the walkout had happened.
The evidence suggests that Bishop Comiskey, along with his Episcopal brethren, had reason to believe that children were being sexually abused by priests and acted deliberately to deny, and cover up this crime. There’s now a proposal from Michael McDowell, the justice minister, to make this form of “human failing” a statutory crime, but surely a Catholic churchman doesn’t need legislative imprimatur to tell him the difference between right and wrong? What was it that stopped them from expressing a normal human response to the discovery that children were being sexually abused by priests? It can’t be that they were all at it, although a friend of mine, a senior counsel who has represented many victims of abuse, reckons that in some institutions abusers believed that the right to haul little orphaned boys from their beds in the middle of the night, rape them and dump them back with blood running down their legs, was something of a “perk” of the job.
It can’t be that they didn’t believe it or they’d never have gone to the expense of insuring against the costs of successful damages actions. The only explanation is that, somewhere along the way, the imperatives of the Catholic Church became less about what Jesus Christ thought of anything, less about people and more about power. Teachings about loving your neighbour and embracing humility weren’t going to butter any parsnips. Vatican II may well have declared that the church consisted of its flock, not its hierarchy, but within the world’s oldest civil service, Pope John XXIII was viewed as little more than a meddling cabinet minister. And in the world’s oldest civil service you can expect the top brass to come and go, but the system survives their well-intentioned tweaking and marches on. The rule of celibacy may have been designed to protect church wealth, but it also established a fortress of maleness at the heart of the Catholic Church, and it is a culture that simply cannot accept that the purpose of the institution could possibly be more important than the strength and endurance of its structure. So leaving helpless kids to the mercy of brutal paedophiles was about protecting the brand.
These bishops may have convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing, serving a greater purpose than mere transient humans, poor people’s children, could possibly understand. But in their hearts they knew it was wrong. They behaved like terrorists, blithely disregarding human suffering in pursuit of ends they believed would justify their means, and if the Catholic Church doesn’t censure them, the law must.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Since the launch of the Ferns report into the handling of allegations of clerical sexual abuse, the number of calls to One in Four has increased by 70% and the number of visits to its website has increased by as much as 400%. The group's annual report published today showed that it had delivered 3,440 one-to-one psychotherapy sessions to 235 people, an increase of 61% on the previous year. "Each and every day we witness the extraordinary courage and potential of those whom we work to support," said Mr O'Gorman. Around 93% of the abuse reported in the psychotherapy sessions was perpetrated by men, with women accounting for just 7%.
The most common type of abuse was clerical at 29% with 20% occurring within the family, 13% in the extended family and 10% from strangers.
The One in Four website recorded 3.4 million hits last year, with 40% of these coming from North America and 4% from Australia. "Many people left so-called care from those institutions with the determination they would never go back, so it's not surprising that so many people from overseas are engaging in that way," said Mr O'Gorman.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
THE following nine priests were also investigated by the inquiry. Six of the priests against whom allegations of sexual abuse were made are dead.
A curate, he allegedly sexually abused three boys; Edward, then 15, over five years from 1974; Gavin, from age seven or eight into his teen years; Eric, then 15, in 1993. He denied all allegations, including a statement of admission to two gardaí relating to Edward. The report considered the garda investigated the complaints in an effective and professional manner.
Trevor alleged the priest, a family friend, abused him. He was then about 18. Before the diocesan authorities, the priest apologised and took full responsibility. Ben’s mother alleged the priest abused him while babysitting the six-year-old boy. The priest agreed to go to Canada for treatment.
A total of 11 females alleged abuse. Two said the incidents happened during pre-marriage talks. Julie alleged he abused her when aged nine in the 1970s. Grace alleged the sexual abuse during the early 1970s when aged 10 to 13. Ruth alleged sexual impropriety as did two sisters, Orla and Susan (December 2002). A married person alleged the abuse took place when she was aged 18 and pregnant with her second child. Other complainants said they were abused when aged between five and eight. Bishop Eamon Walsh told the inquiry a file had been sent to Rome and their decision was awaited.
Three named and other unnamed students at St Peter’s College alleged abuse. A settlement was reached in one case. Another male alleged, in 1999 after counselling, being abused during the early 1960s. In the mid-1960s a man alleged being fondled when he sought documents for his forthcoming marriage. In 1966 he asked Bishop Donal Herlihy to be removed from the school and the bishop transferred him to parish work. The report said had help been available to Fr Delta in 1966, “further abuse of children might have been avoided.”
Pamela attempted suicide following the sexual abuse she alleges began in the early 1970s when she was 13-14. After her attempt, he was transferred out of the parish. Bishop Herlihy writing to the Cardinal in Westminster, said that “Father Iota had some involvement with a girl, which is now happily terminated.” However, the report strongly criticised Bishop Herlihy’s recall of the priest to Ferns. And instead of ensuring he had minimum contact with children, the priest was appointed to teaching and chaplaincy role in diocesan national schools.
Pamela reported her alleged sexual abuse by Fr Iota to Fr Kappa in the early 1970s. When she was 17 he supplied her with alcohol, and full sexual intercourse allegedly took place a year later. She became pregnant and believed her child was fathered by Fr Kappa but he refused to recognise the child as his own. The report said it understood Pamela’s complaint had only recently been made known to the diocese.
Bishop Walsh asked this priest to stand down from his ministry after Denis alleged, in 1998, being abused by him over eight years until the early 1980s. However, Denis made a statement to gardaí withdrawing the allegation and subsequent efforts failed to trace him. The diocese heard about it in 2004. The report said it was appropriate to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse which were subsequently retracted with a view to assessing a priest’s suitability to minister.
Jenny received counselling for periods of her life after she alleged in 2000 this priest took naked photos of her during the 1950s. Bishop Comiskey paid her €4,000 for counselling costs but said he could not offer an apology on behalf of a priest long since dead.
When the diocese became aware in 2004, he agreed to stand aside from active ministry and to attend a psychologist. Ten years earlier a nurse had made a child abuse notification when informed the boy was not attending school, was isolated and had befriended a priest. The report noted there was no evidence whether the priest attended a psychologist. It was unable to comment on the appropriateness of Bishop Comiskey’s response in permitting this priest to remain in active ministry. Complaints were made by two unnamed priests against other priests but the report said it was satisfied the diocese and gardaí were justified in taking no further action.
Six of the priests had died before any allegations of abuse were made against them. Three more died subsequent to the allegations. The nature of the response by the church authorities in the diocese of Ferns to allegations of child sexual abuse by priests operating under the aegis of that diocese has varied over the past 40 years. These variations reflect in part the growing understanding by the medical professions and society generally of the nature and the consequences of child sexual abuse and in part the different personalities and management styles of successive bishops. Between 1960 and 1980, it would appear that Bishop Dónal Herlihy treated child sexual abuse by priests of his diocese exclusively as a moral problem. He penalised the priest in respect of whom the allegation was made by transferring him to a different post or a different diocese for a period of time but then returned him to his former position. By 1980, Bishop Herlihy recognised that there was a psychological or medical dimension to the issue of child sexual abuse. His decision in 1980 to send priests in respect of whom allegations of abuse were made to a psychologist was appropriate and broadly in accordance with the understanding then evolving.
What was wholly inappropriate and totally inexplicable was the decision of Bishop Herlihy to appoint to curacies priests against whom allegations had been made and in respect of whom a respected clerical psychologist had expressed his concerns in unambiguous terms as to their suitability to interact with young people. Equally inappropriate was Bishop Herlihy's decision to ordain clearly unsuitable men into the priesthood when he knew or ought to have known that they had a propensity to abuse children. In the view of the Ferns Inquiry, as it was the view of Roderick Murphy SC (now Mr Justice Roderick Murphy) as expressed in his report on Child Sexual Abuse in Swimming (1998), that where a credible allegation of child sexual abuse is made against an employee (or other person acting under authority), it is the responsibility of the employer or superior to require the employee to step aside promptly from any post or position in which he has access to children.
Bishop Comiskey accepted that this principle was equally applicable to the exercise by a bishop of his authority under canon law in relation to priests of his diocese. Furthermore, it was recognised that in the case of diocesan clergy "stepping aside" from a position in which there is unsupervised access to children, necessarily entailed stepping aside from the active ministry entirely pending the investigation of the allegations. The annexed report sets out in detail the difficulties experienced by Bishop Comiskey in securing the removal of diocesan clergy under his aegis from particular posts held by them. In almost every case, significant periods elapsed before the bishop could persuade the priest in question to vacate his position and undergo the assessment and treatment suggested by the bishop. In no case did the bishop persuade or compel the priest concerned to stand aside from his priestly ministry. The inquiry does not underestimate the difficulties encountered by the bishop but does expressly criticise his failure to stand aside from the ministry those priests against whom allegations had been made and in respect of whom information was or should have been available to the bishop.
Subsequent to the appointment of Bishop Walsh as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ferns in April 2002, more effective steps were taken to ensure the protection of children. In particular, all outstanding allegations of child sexual abuse were reviewed by the administrator in conjunction with a new advisory panel. In addition, the bishop appealed widely to members of the public to come forward to the diocese, the gardaí and the Health Board with information in relation to any allegation or suspicion of child sexual abuse not previously made known or which had been disclosed and had not been satisfactorily investigated or dealt with. There was a very significant response to that appeal. In April 2002, 11 priests against whom allegations of child sexual abuse had been made were living. Three have been excluded from the priesthood by direction of The Holy See and seven have stood aside from the active ministry at the request of Bishop Eamonn Walsh. The eighth priest is advanced in years and is in retirement. The Garda Síochána and the Health Board are advised from time to time as to the whereabouts of the priests who have stood aside and the circumstances in which they live. The Garda and the Health Board are satisfied that the arrangements made in respect of those priests provide an appropriate measure of child protection.
The inquiry is satisfied that the current practice of the Diocese of Ferns operates to a very high level of child protection. The regret is that this satisfactory position was not achieved at an earlier stage. Hopefully the procedures created and operated in the Diocese of Ferns will provide a model not merely for other dioceses but for other organisations facing allegations of child sexual abuse by their members. Formal complaints of child sexual abuse were made against eight priests to An Garda Síochána. The Garda Authorities' handling of one of those complaints was wholly inadequate. In the opinion of the inquiry, the remaining formal complaints were generally investigated by the Garda in an effective, professional and sensitive manner. In some cases the work of the gardaí was expressly commended to the inquiry by the victims. The Director of Public Prosecutions directed the institution of criminal proceedings in only three of the six cases in which recommendations in that behalf were made by the Garda. In two of the criminal proceedings, convictions were obtained. In the third case, the prosecution was withdrawn after the accused priest committed suicide. Evidence was given to the inquiry of some complaints that had been made to different gardaí prior to 1988 which do not appear to have been recorded in any Garda file and which were not investigated or pursued in an appropriate manner.
This unsatisfactory approach may have been due to the unwillingness of the complainant to pursue his or her complaint or reluctance on the part of members of the Garda Síochána to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by members of the Catholic clergy. The evidence available in respect of the period prior to 1988 is insufficient to enable the inquiry to express any firm view on this issue. The inquiry is fully satisfied that subsequent to 1990, the members of the Garda Síochána were not deterred or inhibited in any way from carrying out a full and professional investigation of complaints made to them of child sexual abuse by members of the Roman Catholic clergy. The South Eastern Health Board was notified directly or indirectly of many of the allegations of child abuse. The board was in a position to provide, and did so in many cases, counselling or support for the alleged victims. All Health Boards have wide-ranging statutory obligations to promote the welfare of children in their functional area but there are few, if any, [that] express statutory powers enabling them to achieve those objectives where the welfare of the child is endangered by abuse perpetrated by persons outside the family circle.
In the absence of requisite statutory powers there was no significant response available to the board to the allegations of abuse made known to it. The inquiry was concerned that the South Eastern Health Board and other authorities appeared to be unaware of the very limited nature of the statutory powers available to them to intervene for the protection of children in the circumstances under investigation by the inquiry. With the benefit of hindsight it is possibleto see that the church authorities, the medical profession and society generally failed to appreciate the horrendous damage which the sexual abuse of children can and does cause. The inquiry was struck by the hurt still borne by mature and fair-minded victims who gave evidence before it. The Oireachtas has a fixed maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the more serious offences involving child sexual abuse. The inquiry is of the view that the severity of that penalty is fully justified. No allegation was made and no evidence was placed before the inquiry suggesting the operation or the organisation of a paedophile ring in the Diocese of Ferns or any clerical institution within that diocese.
The inquiry wishes to express its admiration for the courage and integrity of all those witnesses who helped it with its work.
The Ferns Inquiry has sought to provide an honest and objective description of the events that led to its establishment. In chapter 8 (g) of this report, the inquiry has suggested remedies to some of those problems that have not yet been addressed by church or State authorities. These include a public education programme and regulatory and legislative changes that would provide protection to children abused by third parties. The members of the inquiry would express the hope that should the type of abuse chronicled in this report ever occur again, there will be mechanisms and procedures in place which will enable victims promptly to report the abuse in the confidence that they would be believed and the certainty that appropriate action would be taken to terminate the wrongdoing.
* This figure does not include those priests included in the appendix annexed hereto. (This refers to five cases which only came to the attention of the inquiry in recent months because of an error on the part of the diocese and were not fully examined by the Inquiry.)
Monday, October 24, 2005
An Oireachtas inquiry into how Circuit Court Judge Brian Curtin came to be charged with possession of child pornography will make no judgments, the Supreme Court heard today. In a last-ditch effort to stop the Oireachtas committee investigation, lawyers for the Tralee judge told the court that the committee would not be able to issue any recommendations on his future.
John Rogers, SC for Judge Curtain, told the seven-judge court that the investigation headed by politicians would simply be a gathering of evidence. Judge Curtin was acquitted of possessing child pornography in April last year, on direction of the trial judge. It was ruled evidence found on the judge's computer could not be admitted as it had been seized on an out of date warrant and was therefore in breach of his constitutional rights.
Mr Rogers told the court a major plank of the case was that the committee had no fact-finding power. He said in essence it would be a commission with no right to adjudicate. "It's plain that the committee cannot make any finding of fact or recommendation," he said. Mr Rogers told the courtroom that any material gathered by the committee would be handed to the Oireachtas unedited. He said it would include bundles of statements, evidence from computer experts and information gathered and presented to Tralee Circuit Court last year.
As part of the constitutional challenge to the Oireachtas inquiry, Mr Rogers outlined his client's defence that his computer had been invaded by viruses known as "Trojans". "My real complaint is this, that this material does not constitute a finding of fact about anything," he told the court. "This is the essential point and the point I would not want to lose." Mr Rogers said the committee would hear technical evidence from computer experts on how Judge Curtin's computer could have been infected. He insisted gardaí had accepted the existence of viruses as an explanation of how child pornography was allegedly found on the computer.
Mr Rogers also stressed that there would be conflicts of evidence from expert witnesses regarding the judge's computer. He said it would be left up to individual politicians to decide who they believed. Lawyers for Judge Curtin are challenging the constitutionality of a committee set up under Article 35 to gather information on his arrest and being charged before presenting it to the Oireachtas. The committee would operate in private unless Judge Curtin requested otherwise. Under the Constitution, it would make no findings of fact, presenting all collected information to politicians, who would then decide whether to impeach the Judge.
Judge Curtin lost a High Court challenge to the committee earlier this year. He claimed he should be tried by the Houses of the Oireachtas rather than give evidence to a committee. But the Oireachtas had no powers of trial. The hearing is expected to last around three days. It is also expected that lawyers for the judge will seek to have any evidence contained in his computer excluded as it was obtained unconstitutionally.
It is only the third occasion in the history of the State that all seven Supreme Court judges have heard a case. Previously the judges have ruled on the constitutionality of charging residents in nursing homes for their care, the legality of the Abbeylara inquiry into the shooting of a man by gardaí at an isolated farmhouse, and the right of a disabled child to continue in education.
© 2005 ireland.com
Sunday, October 23, 2005
SOME senior priests have called for the removal of Eamon Walsh, the Bishop of Ferns, ahead of the publication of a devastating report into clerical sex abuse in the diocese this week. The priests, speaking on condition of anonymity, claim they have been “hung out to dry” by Walsh, who was appointed as caretaker bishop after the resignation of Brendan Comiskey three years ago. Walsh is not expected to be criticised himself in the report. But a number of Wexford priests claim they have not been briefed on the content of the report by him, or taught how to deal with angry parishioners. The senior clergymen claim rank-and-file priests have not been prepared for the fall-out from the Ferns inquiry report, which is due to be discussed by the cabinet on Tuesday.
The report is expected to trigger significant public anger at the Catholic church for failing to sack priests accused of abusing young children. It catalogues decades of widespread abuse by up to 30 priests in the diocese, up to and during the 1980s. “We’re out on a limb,” said one senior priest. “There is a lot of anger out there. At the moment, we are in a vacuum and don’t know what to expect. Walsh has failed to act as a bishop should in taking care of us and showing regard for our feelings. We have nobody stretching out a hand asking us how we are doing. “For the last three years we have been left to our own devices. We could have received more understanding and care from those at the top. The sooner it’s over and this man (Walsh) moves on, and the sooner we get our own bishop, the better.”
The unnamed priests, who also complained to the Irish Catholic and some local newspapers, claim that Walsh has “abandoned priests in their hour of need”. They say there have been a number of informal meetings to discuss the bishop’s leadership, amid what they say is sinking morale among priests in the diocese. The priests are also considering the appointment of a spokesman, independent of Walsh and the church hierarchy, to represent rank-and-file clergy when the report is made public. However, other senior clergy including Monsignor Lory Kehoe, the vicar-general of the diocese, denied last week that there was a split in the diocese and defended Walsh’s handling of the controversy. Following a day-long gathering of priests, the senior clergy declared their unequivocal support for Walsh in an attempt to quell clerical discontent.
“We wish to reiterate our full support for Bishop Walsh and our appreciation for his extraordinary commitment to the diocese, its priests and people in very difficult times,” said Kehoe. Fr Joseph McGrath, another senior Ferns priest and signatory to the statement, said he was “quite happy” with the way Walsh was informing priests regarding the Ferns report. The National Conference of Priests in Ireland said it supports the appointment of a priests’ spokesman in Ferns. “It is a very good idea,” said Fr John Littleton, the NCPI president. “It will be good for the priests on the ground dealing with the fall-out to have a separate voice from the episcopal commission.”
The long-awaited report into the sexual abuse of children by priests in the diocese from the 1960s to the 1980s will be made public by Brian Lenihan, the minister of state for health and children. It is expected to slam church authorities, the gardai, the South Eastern Health Board and the Department of Education and Science for failing to act on reports of abuse. Led by Frank Murphy, a retired Supreme Court judge, the Ferns inquiry is the first state investigation into the Catholic church’s handling of clerical sex-abuse allegations in Ireland. Earlier this year, Walsh warned church leaders to brace themselves for the publication of the report. He wrote to the leaders of Ireland’s religious congregations asking them to pray for “a positive outcome”. Last week Tom Moriarty, a clinical and sports psychologist who helped the Dublin football team to All-Ireland victory in 1995, addressed a meeting of priests in the diocese.
Friday, October 21, 2005
A convicted rapist and murderer whom gardaí wish to question about a number of serious crimes has been transferred from Northern Ireland to a prison in England. 61-year-old Robert Howard was taken from Maghaberry Prison this afternoon and flown from Belfast to Newcastle.
The plane landed shortly before 4pm, and Howard was then driven to Frankland High Security Prison in Durham. Howard, originally from Wolfhill in Co Laois is serving a life sentence for murdering a 14-year-old Hannah Williams who disappeared from London in April 2001.
Her body was found 11 months later, 20 miles from her home, in dense undergrowth in Kent.
Howard was acquitted earlier this year of the murder of 15-year-old Arlene Arkinson who disappeared after accepting a lift from Howard in Co Tyrone in August 1994. The jury at his trial at Belfast Crown Court was not told about his previous convictions, including a ten-year sentence for raping a 58-year-old woman in Co Cork in 1973. Howard lived at a number of addresses throughout Ireland in the 1980s and 90s, including Wexford, Dublin, Newry, Monaghan, Castlederg and Letterkenny. Gardaí have formally requested permission from British authorities to travel and question Robert Howard in relation to the disappearances of a number of women as well as other serious incidents.
The gardai are also slated for their handling of the Fr Jim Grennan case in Monageer. He abused ten girls over a number of years. But otherwise the force comes out of the inquiry relatively unscathed. The other priests named include Fr Sean Fortune, probably the most notorious of the abusers, Fr Donal Collins and Fr James Doyle, who were both defrocked last year. The South Eastern Health Board is also condemned for its failure to act properly on reports of abuse.
Dr Herlihy, bishop from 1963 to 1983 when many of the worst abuses were taking place, is singled out for for his responses. The report acknowledges that Bishop Comiskey did take some action. But this mainly involved moving the abusers from one parish to another. He resigned in 2002 after the BBC documentary, Suing The Pope, which led to the Ferns inquiry. The Murphy report, which went to the Government on Monday, is being vetted by the Attorney General.
It will be presented to the Cabinet by Junior Health Minister Brian Lenihan on Tuesday.
That afternoon the five Wexford TDs - John Browne, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Liam Twomey and Tony Dempsey - will be briefed by the minister. Wexford senator Jim Walsh and MEP Avril Doyle have also been invited. It is understood Mr Lenihan has assured TDs that Judge Murphy's recommendations will be implemented in full. It is expected the report will be published next week.
Ferns diocese is preparing its response. At a meeting earlier this week at Ballyvalloo Retreat Centre, Blackwater, Co Wexford, around 60 priests were told how the Church would respond to victims, clergy and parishioners. Priests were addressed by clinical sports psychologist Tom Moriarty. He helped prepare them for likely fallout from the report. Mr Moriarty worked with the 1995 All-Ireland winning Dublin football team.
David Quinn - Religious Affairs Correspondent
Monday, October 17, 2005
SPECULATION about the content of the imminent report into clerical sexual abuse in Wexford is not just inaccurate, it is also unhelpful, according to one of the support groups for victims involved in the probe. A series of newspaper reports in the past few days and increasing speculation as to the nature and content of the final report of the Ferns Inquiry due to be published shortly are "spin" and could well detract from the ultimate findings of the report, according to One in Four director Colm O'Gorman.
In a letter to newspapers today, Mr O'Gorman, a victim of the late Fr Sean Fortune in Ferns, asks people to stop speculating about the report's content.
"Whilst the significant and pressing interest of all is, in the context of the report, understandable, it may prove to be both inaccurate and unhelpful. In the absence of the final published report of the inquiry there can be little value in speculating as to its content and findings. Our purpose in seeking the establishment of this inquiry, indeed my primary purpose when I wrote to the then Minister for Health and Children Micheal Martin in March 2002, was to seek an examination of how these issues were responded to by both Church and State authorities and to lay the evidence of those facts before the public. The point of any inquiry of this nature in setting out the detail of such responses must be to both name and respond to past failures and work to ensure that such appalling failures are never again permitted to happen," he said.
Its purpose cannot be to provide salacious headlines in the press or to feed any "public appetite for scandal", he added. "It is my hope that the final report will focus on the evidence presented and detail that evidence in a clear, objective manner." It is believed that up to 200 victims of clerical sexual abuse gave testimony to the inquiry. Among them were victims of Fr Sean Fortune, Fr Jim Grennan and boys abused at St Peter's College in Wexford. The inquiry sought to identify what complaints have been made against clergy in the Diocese of Ferns and whether the response to those complaints was adequate. It also considered the response of the diocesan, Church and State authorities to cases of sexual abuse involving priests of the Diocese of Ferns.
* March 2002: BBC screens Suing the Pope, documenting the abuse in the diocese of Ferns.
* April 1, 2002: Bishop of Ferns Brendan Comiskey resigns.
* April 4, 2002: Then Health Minister Micheál Martin appoints senior counsel George Birmingham to compile a preliminary report on clerical sexual abuse in the diocese. It is completed in August.
* July 2003: Ferns inquiry begins.
* October 2005: Report due to go to the Tánaiste and the DPP.
By Neans McSweeney, South East Correspondent, Irish Examiner
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Solicitors should know a bit about the crime of fraudulent conversion, even though it is based on an Act of the British parliament of almost 90 years ago. It concerns a person entrusted with the transfer of any property fraudulently converting this property to his or her own use. Several solicitors have been in trouble with this over the years by taking clients' money and using it for their own purposes. If a solicitor were to receive money from, for instance, the Residential Institutions Redress Board as compensation for persons abused in religious institutions, and if that solicitor were to convert that money - or even a part of that money - for his or her own use without the informed consent of the client, that would seem to be fraudulent conversion.
There might be a defence to that charge, but we - or, at least, a court - would have to hear that defence.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
John Twomey, according to what Jim Beresford told the programme, works for the outreach services of the Department of Education and Science as Co-ordinator of the London Irish Survivors Outreach Service. He was therefore employed by the Irish Government. This detail, not given to the programme, was later confirmed by Marie Aubertin, of LISOS, who confirmed that Twomey is coordinator of LISOS and the Irish Centre. LISOS is advertised on the website of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The outreach programme has offices in Sheffield, Manchester, Coventry, and Camden Town in London. In the Dail some months ago it was revealed that a sum of €1.6m of taxpayers' money had been spent on these organisations by the Department of Education.
Jim Beresford said he thought Joe Duffy had walked into a trap and the facts needed to be re-examined at an early date. Though the programme returned the next day and the day after to the same subject, This sound advice was not followed, although John Twomey participated again yesterday. Moreover, that evening, when RTE's 'Prime Time' did a further presentation on the same issue, it used John Twomey again, presenting him as someone acting on behalf of abused people. It did not examine his affiliations and financial involvement with the Irish State.
I listened to yesterday's programme and was impressed by Ken Murphy, who tried to accept the principle surrounding the suggested overcharging while at the same time arguing against the hysteria and the many broad assumptions being made of illegality without any proof.
As far back as the year 2000 there has been a deep division over the way abused people should be represented. At that time the Department of Education and Science wanted agreement to appoint a panel of solicitors attached to the Redress Board to represent all applicants to the Board. This would preclude the abused relying on independent help from their own chosen solicitors, whose expenses should be borne by the State. The reasoning for the Department's approach was, and still is, obvious. It is now not an issue. The panel idea - which was never a proper approach-7/8 has been abandoned. The relevant legislative change, stipulating independent, person-to-person legal representation, has been introduced. The burden of cost was placed on the State.
But the relevance of attempting to discredit as many solicitors as possible will be evident. It shifts the blame, presently on the Department, to the legal profession. Arguably, it strengthens the powers of the representative groups. It gives a false and distorted view of the legal profession. Lawyers were identified as people who could carry the blame for the bad stories connected with the on-going abuse saga. It creates a cosy, if slightly conspiratorial relationship between the Department and those it employs. THOSE groups who wanted to adopt the State approach included Right of Place, Aislinn and SOCA-UK, all in receipt of Government funding, and arguably more compliant. Some, indeed, were also in receipt of money from the Church. The State's representative expressed to them his belief that victims were more than capable of making submissions to the Redress Board on the abuse they suffered. The Department also sought a 'cap' on payment to the representative group of solicitors. No such cap was on their own legal advice.
Organisationally, and, in my view, despicably, the State has sought to enmesh the representative bodies, thus compromising their independence. Several of these bodies have received very substantial amounts of State funding, some of which has gone into the purchase of property the ownership of which, far from being vested in the State, is privately controlled.
In the end the abused were given proper access to legal representation. This has worked tolerably well. It surprised people who are representative of the abused when Prime Time, following up on the Joe Duffy programme, did a further so-called investigation in which, of the three participants, two, Christine Buckley and John Twomey, were in receipt of money from the State. Christine Buckley makes no secret of this. Her organisation, which does a good job, could not work otherwise. John Twomey, however, appeared as an angry representative someone seriously cheated by a solicitor. He did not tell the interviewer that he was part of the Department of Education's outreach programme. It seems improbable, given the appearance of John Twomey on both programmes, that whatever factual information the Joe Duffy team had, was not relayed to Prime Time.
As a result of the unbroken sequence of Duffy programmes a mood of hysteria has developed about solicitors possibly cheating on the abused. There is every likelihood that a small number of solicitors have over-charged. But it was clear from the demeanour of Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, when he appeared on Thursday's 'Prime Time' programme, and again on Joe Duffy yesterday, that the alarm was much open to question. He was taken by surprise at the all-embracing charges that were being made against the profession. He tried, unsuccessfully, to calm people. The charges, in the main, have yet to be justified. Carmel Foley, who has joined in the hysteria, can calm herself down and think more prudently about the virtual lack of proof so far put into the public arena. If there is a problem, then the Law Society and her office can look into it. But I would strongly advise her not to be guided, either by Joe Duffy or by Prime Time. They are not telling the full story.
On a number of occasions, meeting Joe Duffy and by telephone, I have asked him to do a programme about the abused. He could start with Artane. This is the first time I have been aware of a serious and hard-hitting endeavour. It is unfortunate that it sustains and relays a long-standing nag at the legal profession, in which certain representative bodies on behalf of abused people together with the Department of Education and Science, seem to be walking hand-in-hand, if not arm-in-arm.
Mary Hannafin, the responsible minister, might look to her laurels on this if she wants to keep her vote.
It had been widely believed he would earlier this year have been appointed the next bishop of Galway to replace the 75-year-old Dr James McLoughlin. But when that post became vacant there were still many problems to be sorted out in Ferns and it was decided that Bishop Walsh was too important to move. It is felt, however, that in recognition of his work he will be given a diocese or an equally senior appointment in the near future.
Bishop Walsh was appointed Apostolic Administrator, or caretaker, of Ferns in 2002 and was being widely tipped to formally take over the diocese later this year. Now church sources indicate that this is unlikely. Dr Walsh took over as administrator of the diocese when Bishop Comiskey resigned his post due to public outrage over his handling of the Fr Sean Fortune case. Fortune was a notorious child abuser. Since becoming caretaker, Bishop Walsh has suspended a number of priests following allegations of abuse. This led to criticisms that he did not sufficiently recognise the accused priests' right to their good names.
Last year, Fr Jim Curtis, parish priest in Clongeen in the Ferns diocese, was critical when Bishop Walsh failed to state publicly whether a curate who had been cleared of wrongdoing by a garda inquiry was to be reinstated.
David Quinn Religious Affairs Correspondent Irish Independent
IT HAS been dubbed the "Cradle of Evil".
Right at the heart of the clerical sex scandals is St Peter's College in Wexford town, where many of the priests involved in the allegations were trained - and where young boys were abused. The closed seminary has been one of the main focuses of the investigation, with revelations that a gay sex ring was operating at the college. While it once had a proud history of training priests, it soon became known as an "academy of debauchery". By the mid-70s, the college had gained a reputation, among those in the know, for every kind of abuse - from priests and seminarians feeling up young boys to instances of outright rape.
Victims of the abuse have told of how other schoolchildren would openly taunt them as the accusations of abuse grew around the town. At the centre of the web of abuse were Fr Sean Fortune and Fr Donal Collins, whose reputations as paedophiles grew over two decades.
Collins was sentenced to four years by a court in 1999 for indecent assault and gross indecency on four boys, while Fortune killed himself in the same year. Abuse victim Pat Jackman said that St Peter's was the talk of the town, with pupils being asked to stay back for "extra lessons", knowing full well their fate. The notoriety of what went on at St Peter's preceded it with tales of the activities of Fr Sean Fortune circulating around the area.
"What went on is just unbelievable," said one of the former victims.
It has been suggested that Fortune, who was 44 when he died, had been attacking boys for 20 years. However, even by the time he had entered St Peter's, rumours about the college abounded, with allegations that many of the priests were homosexual, while others were said to have girlfriends staying in their rooms. At the centre of the abuse were Fortune and Collins - known as "Flapper" and "Paws". A former Christian brother training to be a priest, Fortune organised a scout troop in order to prey on young students.
However, it was Collins who was seen as the more dangerous of the two, running a swimming club where his developmental checks were an excuse for debauchery. In 1999, Collins, the former principal of St Peter's College, was released from prison on grounds of ill health.
Other instances investigated by the Ferns inquiry included the high-profile case of Msgr Micheal Ledwith, who lectured at St Peter's in the early 1970s before taking up a post at St Patrick's College, Maynooth - where he later become president. In July this year it was revealed that the diocese of Ferns made a settlement of more than €200,000 to a Catholic priest who was sexually abused while a student at St Peter's.
Shane Hickey Irish Independent
The searing revelation that the very highest levels in Rome knew of the litany of shame will rock the Church. But an inquiry into clerical misconduct in the diocese has found that not only did they know of the scandal, they also did nothing to stop it. Irish news sources have learned that the report highlights staggering inaction by the Church, several departments of state and the gardai. In one case a priest sexually assaulted 10 girls on the altar of his church.
The paralysis by those in authority enabled widespread assaults to continue. The number of priests cited in the findings runs into double figures. Evidence of a shattering saga of systematic abuse of boys at St Peter's College in Wexford town has also emerged. Similar abuse took place at several other parishes within the diocese. The Government-backed report is the result of the first-ever investigation by the State into how the Catholic Church managed cases of child sexual abuse.
It will show that abusers were left in charge of children and will present substantial evidence of previously unreported incidents of abuse. The vast majority of priests within Ferns are known to have been beyond reproach. The fallout from the findings has thrown a pall of sadness over the diocese. One of the most shocking offenders was Fr Jim Grennan. He sexually assaulted 10 girls on the altar of the local church in Monageer, Co Wexford. The South Eastern Health Board examined the girls and confirmed in writing to Bishop Brendan Comiskey that there was a case to answer.
There was a Garda investigation but victims statements went missing and astonishingly the DPP was never informed of the case.
However, it is understood that many within the Church were simply overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. The gardai are strongly criticised for their handling of the Grennan case in the inquiry report. But in other cases they were found to have acted appropriately and professionally. Reports on the Grennan investigation went to the health board and the Department of Education but it was generally seen as a local issue and left to the authorities in Ferns. The report makes recommendations for changes in child protection codes and other legislation.
Despite the horrific revelations, it is believed highly unlikely that any members of the diocesan hierarchy will be prosecuted as a result of the negligence.
The legal opinion is that no existing legislation provides for prosecutions. The inquiry, under the chairmanship of judge Frank Murphy, interviewed over 200 witnesses. What emerged was a devastating picture of the level of abuse in the diocese from the 1960s onwards. And despite claims of contrition on the part of the Catholic Church, inquiry chairman Judge Frank Murphy says that he sometimes came up against a brick wall in his investigations. The report is critical of the lack of co-operation from the Church at most stages of the inquiry.
Other cases investigated by Judge Murphy include Fr Sean Fortune, who committed suicide in 1999, Fr Donal Collins and Fr James Doyle, both of whom were convicted of child abuse, and Monsignor Michael Ledwith, President of St Patrick's College, Maynooth. The file is expected to go to Health Minister Mary Harney early next week and she will pass it on to the Attorney General. A Government minister, possibly Brian Lenihan, is to be appointed to oversee the public response to the revelations. The intention is to publish the document before the end of the week.
But one of the most surprising findings is that the Vatican was aware of the abuse.
The report highlights the level of communication that existed between the Church and the State authorities, how much they knew and how little they did. It shows the degree to which the Church put Canon Law above the law of the land. At present, there is no statutory obligation on a bishop - or anyone else - to relay a complaint or a suspicion of child abuse to the State; whereas Church law contains rigorous rules and sanctions. Such crimes may be tried by an ecclesiastical court in Rome.
They are given the status of "pontifical secret". This means that they are dealt with in the strictest confidentiality. Canon Law sets a statute of limitations of 10 years from the age of 18, not - as civil law accepts - from the time the victim becomes aware that a crime has been committed. Yet there is evidence from both Ireland and the US that the Vatican was aware of specific allegations over very many years yet failed to remove the abusing priests.
The Murphy inquiry was set by the then Health Minister, Micheal Martin, in 2003 following the resignation of Ferns Bishop Brendan Comiskey.
Sarah Murphy Irish Independent
- ► 2007 (17)
- ► 2006 (40)
- ► November (7)
- Church is guilty of institutional criminality
- Abused men at risk of suicide, warns One In Four
- Unnamed priests ‘identified’ by Greek letters
- Ferns report: executive summary
- Judge Curtin inquiry 'would not make judgments'
- Senior Ferns priests call for bishop to stand down...
- Irish Times Cartoon
- Howard transferred from North prison
- Ferns priests named in litany of shame
- Ferns Inquiry 'spin' should stop, says O'Gorman
- Legal rip-off allegations a matter for gardai
- Too much heat, not enough light on rip-off lawyer ...
- The troubleshooter: his tough stance alienated som...
- 'Academy of debauchery' was feared by its victims
- Vatican in sex abuse cover-up