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.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hitler & De Valera


Almost 100,000 Irishmen volunteered to fight against Hitler despite Ireland's "Neutrality". Indeed these men, like their predecessors in WWI have been largely written out of official Irish history. While 100,000 Irish were fighting and dying in the war against Hitler's Nazi Germany De Valera found time to visit the German Embassy to sign a book of condolences on the "occasion" of Hitler's suicide.

But De Valera Had A Dark Wartime Secret

The film 'EVELYN' is a happy clappy film and fails to expose true secrets of Ireland's industrial schools, says former inmate David Hencke and Rob Evans - The Guardian.

EVELYN is the classic Hollywood feelgood movie with a happy ending. Handsome, debonair Pierce Brosnan - better known for his role as agent 007 - plays an unemployed Irish father, Desmond Doyle, in a titanic fight to get his children back after his wife abandons the family. The film is a real life human drama set in the Ireland of the 1950s which reveals the plight of children removed by the state or by a petition from one of the parents - usually the father - after a marital split. They were sent to industrial schools run by Catholic orders, which were more akin to the United Kingdom's approved schools than to children's homes. The only way children could be released was if both parents returned to court.

Desmond Doyle committed his six children, Evelyn and her five brothers, to the schools in 1953 after his wife abandoned him. He then discovered that he could not get them back on his own, and his subsequent case led to the law being declared unconstitutional by the Irish supreme court. Hollywood licence suggests that this led to 6,000 children being released. In fact the ruling was challenged and 15 years elapsed before all the children could be reunited with their families. But the film treatment hides a deeper scandal over the use of Industrial Schools. It involved British complicity in paying for children seized by the Irish authorities while their fathers were fighting in the second world war. This has been exposed by the research of one of the former inmates, Patrick Walsh, whose father knew the real-life Desmond Doyle. Mr Walsh, who lives in Holloway, north London, still carries in his wallet a creased photograph of himself as a child playing on the dodgems - a rare holiday treat while he was in the home. He was kept there from 1955, when he was two, until 1969. He is not happy with the film. "It rides roughshod over the historical reality. It is a happy-clappy film far removed from reality. It's fantasy. I believe that Brosnan is on a mission: unfortunately 007 is on the wrong mission on this one."

He discovered an extraordinary secret buried in the public record office in Kew, West London, which dates from the time of the Dublin legislation allowing children to be committed to industrial schools. The law was introduced in 1941 when Britain was nearly on its knees after Germany had overrun mainland Europe and Ireland was a neutral country.

Contempt

At that time some 50,000 Irish men and women had crossed the border and joined British forces fighting the Germans. In particular some 4,000 servicemen had deserted the Irish Free Army to fight on the British side. These "deserters" were regarded with particular contempt by Eamon de Valera, the Irish Taoiseach, whose administration was to pass a law in 1945 to prevent any of them getting jobs with the state for seven years. Many of the children of these "deserter" soldiers were put into care on the grounds that they had been abandoned by their fathers. The Kew documents contain correspondence between officials in Dublin and the British War Office and the Admiralty. The Irish government demanded that the family allowance that would have been paid to the Irish servicemen if their children had not been committed should be handed over to the Industrial Schools. Britain initially refused but the Irish were persistent, and Frederick Boland, a senior official who worked closely with De Valera, wrote increasingly trenchant letters.

In one he couples the demand with the comment: "There is the further incidental consideration that in not a few of these cases the lack of parental control to which the committal of the children is due is attributable to the absence of the fathers with your forces." By the end of the war Britain had capitulated and paid up. It then became clear, according to Mr Walsh, that the Irish had the servicemen's numbers and knew who was serving with the British. Mr Walsh said: "It suggests that if Dublin could supply the roll numbers of the troops involved - rather than the other way round - there was surveillance of the families at the time. The fact that the public record office is keeping secret some other files for up to 100 years on the connection between neutral Ireland and the Nazis suggests that more will come out."

There is one other nasty aspect to this story: the suggestion that some of the children may have been physically and sexually abused at the homes.

Mr Walsh is also the British representative for the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (Irish Soca). He suffered what he called a "helter-skelter of awfulness" during 14 years in a church-run school. His mother had walked out of the marriage, at a time when divorce was illegal, as she could no longer stand her husband. He says that in an "act of revenge" his father had applied to commit their four children to one of these schools. He was barely two. His mother was only permitted to visit him four times at the school between 1955 and 1969. "She was not allowed to see us as she was considered by the church and state to be the guilty party." His father visited once or twice a year, usually at Christmas. More than 2,000 people, living in Britain and Ireland, are suing the Irish government for compensation for the abuse they suffered in the schools.

Mr Walsh and hundreds of others who were sent to industrial schools and orphanages after their parents' marriages broke down have given written testimony about the sexual and physical abuse . The Irish government has set up an inquiry into the conduct of priests, brothers and lay workers. Mr Walsh said: "It impacts on us when we see a film which trivialises the awfulness of what happened." Evelyn Doyle, now 57 and a grandmother living in West Lothian, stressed that the film was merely a movie based on her true story although it reduced the number of her brothers from five to two. "It is not a historical documentary. It's an entertainment product that they are selling." She added that the film was not seeking to undermine the survivors cause. "I understand where they are coming from. They have suffered - their childhood was snatched from them."

London's plastic Paddies must face up to the issues that shame us all

Henry McDonald - Sunday October 12, 2003

Hitler licking? Well, despite all his many laudable achievements, Eamon De Valera did undoubtedly send his and the Irish people's condolences to the German Ambassador to Dublin on the Nazi dictator's death in his Berlin bunker. Moreover, the republican movement acted in open collusion with the Nazis throughout the war, even erecting a statue that still stands in homage to the IRA leader who forged links with Hitler and dreamed of turning Ireland into a united but Nazi-dependant state.

Altar boy molesting? Again, there is widespread evidence, highly documented and painful accounts of priests sexually abusing young men serving on the altar as well as those children in care homes and orphanages.

Abortion banning? Certainly, the Irish Republic stands almost alone in states of the European Union for outlawing a woman's right to choose. Terminating pregnancies is still illegal in the 26 counties, with women and young girls who are raped, for example, having to take the boat and plane to get an abortion.

The 'Yes' boxes beside all three of the above questions can be ticked, even though raising them landed my fellow columnist, Julie Burchill, in hot water with those claiming to represent the Irish people in Britain. The storm whipped up over Burchill's remarks in her Guardian column earlier this year reveals more about the paranoia and hair-shirt, self-inflicted sense of victimhood inside the professional 'Oirish' in London than it does about the supposed anti-Irish bigotry of the writer.

In a classic case of Burchillian hyperbole, the former star writer (the young gunslinger of Punk rock writing) from the NME described St Patrick's Day as a celebration of 'almost compulsory child molestation by the national church'. For this remark Burchill was reported to the police and accused of stirring up racist hatred against the Irish in Britain.

The complaints of the Irish Camden Centre, however, failed to result in Burchill's arrest on the grounds of racism - a crime second only to accusations of paedophilia in hysterical, hypersensitive Britain. The Crown Prosecution Service concluded that the author of the 1980s 'shopping and fucking' novel, Ambition, did not have a case to answer.

The CPS's decision however has not deterred the most-outraged-Irish-ever in London to detecting anti-Oirish hatred dripping from the pages of Burchill's column. A Green Party (I am not making this up) member of the Greater London Authority has repeated the allegation that Burchill is anti-Irish, this time because she queried the value of Ken Livingstone's decision to spend thousands in council tax payers money on a St Patrick's Day Parade.

In the midst of this debate, obfuscated by threadbare claims of anti-Irish bigotry, an important Irish pressure group has rushed to Burchill's defence. The very people who suffered institutionalised abuse in the grim, grey Ireland of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s have backed the columnist's right to highlight the horrors perpetrated against children in their homeland. Irish Survivors of Child Abuse said it fully supported Burchill and the CPS's conclusion that she was not guilty of racism.

Patrick Walsh, one of the leading figures in Irish Soca, knows more than most about the reality of life under the religious orders in Ireland. He spent his childhood at Artane Industrial school in north Dublin where children were subjected to repeated sexual and physical abuse, which successive Irish governments ignored and turned a blind eye to.

'Her article was perfectly clear in blaming the Catholic Church for crimes against children. Burchill has the support of people who suffered abuse. The political campaign to get her should stop right away,' Walsh says.

As Irish Soca has consistently pointed out, Burchill has no argument with Irish people per se but rather the powerful institutions in the Republic responsible for this historic wrong. As an unapologetic old-style socialist, surely she is entitled to raise the plight of those seeking justice for the terrible sufferings inflicted upon them as small children? And as a feminist she is duty bound to raise the abortion ban and the daily exodus of women, many of whom are also the victims of sexual abuse, from Ireland to termination clinics in England.

The slur of 'racist' is in fact a means of closing down debate in Britain about the failures of the Irish Republic to uphold the rights of children and women. Hurling such terms around is simply a ruse to throw liberal Britain off the scent of misogyny and male/clerical domination that still blights their closest neighbour. If you doubt that these power structures remain in place, witness how the Catholic Church in Ireland forced the last Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat coalition into indemnifying them from paying out millions of euros to the victims of child abuse in religious run-homes and orphanages. Result: the Irish taxpayer will be picking up the tab.

The attempt to smear Burchill exposes the inability of those who wrap the green flag around them from the vantage points of Hackney, Islington and Haringey to cope with anyone who dares criticise the motherland. It also shows how out of touch the so-called representatives of the Irish Britain are with the Irish back at home who, unlike the plastic Paddies of north London, are prepared to say boo to their bishops and question their red-hatted cardinals.

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