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.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Guinea Pigs Wanted

Sometimes it seems our academics learn nothing. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has spread the tentacles of its curiosity into the academic world, "inviting" University College Dublin to carry out a study of the long-term effects on those who were in the industrial school system. The research, if it happens, will involve around 400 men and women. It is being undertaken without any consultation with the abused. Contact is indirect, through their solicitors.

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 &

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Government can't wash its hands ....

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

ADVENT - Patrick Kavanagh

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

Public Meeting at The Talbot Hotel in Wexford this Thursday, November 10th at 7pm

One in Four, the national charity that supports women and men who have experienced sexual abuse and/or sexual violence, will hold a public meeting at The Talbot Hotel in Wexford this Thursday, November 10th at 7pm. The event has been arranged in the wake of the recently published Ferns Report. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to engage with the charity, which has been centrally involved in the Ferns Inquiry process. “It is our hope that this process of public dialogue will help to inform One in Four’s view of the way forward; the steps necessary to move through and beyond the issues central to the Ferns Report”, said Colm O'Gorman, Director of One in Four who will speak at the meeting. “We hope to begin a new kind of public discussion that allows the voices of all those affected by sexual abuse in the Diocese to be heard. That of course includes victims of abuse, their loved ones, their communities as well as those not directly affected by abuse but who have nevertheless been impacted upon by the Ferns Report.”

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.

The Good Priest

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Schools inspector who knew about sex offences did not alert gardai to crimes

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