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.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Very First Christmas I Remember.

I was probably eight years old and had being placed, by the nuns, with a family in Blackrock, Co. Dublin for the holiday period. The family's name was Windass, and Mrs Windass was the mother of a new born baby, Christopher.

Even now I think of how awesome a thing it was that they would open their home to me for Christmas when they had a little baby to look after. It couldn't have been an easy thing - even though I was a very timid eight year old. I would stand to attention when anyone walked into a room, I'd even stand to attention when I was answering any question put to me. I would sit ramrod straight on the couch or chair. In fact it was their Aunt who showed me how an eight year old boy should be behaving at Christmas and at any other time. She showed me how to slide down banisters, how to hop from chair to table to couch, how to climb trees and walls, the fun a child can have with suds and soap in the bath. How to play Hide-and-seek. Even how to have fun while washing the dishes. How to iron a shirt.

Also the civilised art of using a knife and fork and spoon as all we had in the Institutions were a tin plate, an enamel mug and a spoon.

That magic Christmas, everything, that makes Christmas magic, happened. It snowed ! I remember helping to clear the snow from the driveway using salt. Ghost stories were told in the evening around a blazing fire. Plum Pudding was served with Ice Cream - to me THAT is the most luxurious of all meals! Lemonade and Hot Chocolate was consumed. I got to visit families related to Mr and Mrs Windass. I met other children too and these children were adept and jumping and climbing and hide-and-seek.

All these people I met showed a regard for me. The family I was with made me feel loved, comfortable, important. Even though they had a new born baby to look after they managed to make me feel I was the centre of attention. I feel I was part of everything they did that magic Christmas.

I remember being "surprised" by an Irish Red Setter - I believe this was the first time I ever saw a dog - and I ran screaming. It loped after me in the street it's ears and tail flopping all over the place. I was sobbing and shaking with fright and Mrs Windass calmed me down with cuddles and assurances. I wanted to stay in that embrace for ever. I remember reading the Mutt & Jeff cartoons in the Sunday Papers and Mr Windass rooting out old editions of the papers to get past cartoons and the way he messed my hair and smiled as I read out and laughed at those cartoons.

I remember asking millions of questions about this and that AND receiving answers. All simple acts of kindness - but do people realise how much this affects a young child?

Singular.
Simple.
Acts of Kindness.
Shown towards a small curious child.
Individual attention of a loving nature.

And Santa managed to get in on the act too. Presents were exchanged. I remember being taken by their Aunt to Clerys in O'Connell Street to buy presents. She gave me money to buy presents for Mr and Mrs Windass. I remember buying a mirror and a necktie for them. But Santa was only one part of this Christmas - not by any means the major element.

Sure there were "Christmases" in the Institutions when I was younger - these involved going to Masses, smelling incense burning, saying rosaries, practicising ceremonies with little statuettes and constantly praying. And on Christmas day we would each be given a toy to play with for a few minutes - between prayers of course. All of us were made to stand in a corridor and then one by one we were taken into a room with box shelves on the wall. We were told to pick a toy from one of these and then we were allowed to play with it for a few minutes. I remember vividly getting a Dinky red London Bus one Christmas to play with - Magic !

Another Christmas I was given a book with pictures - one picture stood out, it was a huge American automobile with a ton of chrome. So I had a little experience of Christmas, and to me it involved praying, religious ceremonies and once a red bus or a book to play with. And in these Institutions it is said that individual attention of a loving nature was impossible because there were too many children and too few members of the religious orders - yet this didn't stop individual attention of a violent nature by these same religious orders.

Beatings and abuses were a constant in those places - either group punishments or individual acts of cruelty. And when these orders give their excuses AND their denials it brings the rage welling up in me. All the acts of cruelty committed against children in those places - do these orders realise how much they affected the children?

Acts of Cruelty.
Shown towards small children.
Individual attention of a violent nature.

And one of these orders had their chance, in front of judges, to have their say against me. To deny my truth. And they remained silent - sitting throughout behind their legal people.

Cocooned from the truth.

It seems I am breaking the law with my little Christmas story - a few days in the life of a child from the Institutions - I could risk a hefty fine and imprisonment for what I've written. But NOT writing about this one Magic Christmas would betray Mr & Mrs Windass, it would deny their kindness and love to me. I was not allowed by this religious order to have any further contact with these loving people so I have never being able to tell them how much of the Magic of that Christmas has stayed with me. How much their simple acts of kindness affected me.

God be good to both of you and all those in your family.

Happy Christmas ..... and Thanks.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Suicidal behaviour linked to industrial schooling

Researchers have found high levels of suicidal behaviour and mental health problems among former residents of industrial schools and reformatories, writes Carl O'Brien , Social Affairs Correspondent

A study commissioned by the Health Service Executive's (HSE) National Office for Suicide Prevention found that abuse of alcohol and drugs, along with social isolation, were common among former residents.There is also evidence to suggest that sons and daughters of former residents are also suffering from mental health or emotional problems, such as difficulties bonding with their children. The findings are contained in research by Martina O'Riordan and Dr Ella Arensman of the National Suicide Research Foundation, based on interviews with 90 former residents.

The research is due to be officially launched at a conference at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin this afternoon by Dr Helen Buckley, a co-investigator of the Ferns inquiry. Dr Arensman said former residents experienced a wide range of mental health difficulties including inadequate coping skills, impulsive behaviour, post- traumatic stress disorder and anti-climax following attendance at the redress board. She pointed out that despite the closure of the schools, Government inquiries into abuse at institutions and the work of the residential institutions redress board, the suffering of former residents appeared to be continuing.

"The experience of being abused in an institution has led to anxiety regarding the possibility of receiving nursing home care in later life," she said. This fear of what might happen to them as they grow older must be given appropriate consideration as a risk factor for suicide ideation among survivors. This also indicates that the long-term effects of being resident in an industrial school during childhood have yet to be fully explored and understood."

The report says that considering the wide range of mental health difficulties experienced by former residents, a multi-disciplinary treatment approach is required within the support services. This would include further collaboration with other mental health services and is in accordance with the Government's 10-year blueprint for developing mental health services.

Major sources of support identified by former residents included relationships with other people, children and access to education. Less frequently reported sources included support from survivor groups, having a job and receiving counselling. Dr Arensman said the findings should be further validated by further research directly involving people with a history of institutional child sexual abuse, as well as physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Other studies focusing on the consequences of child sexual abuse in general have revealed consistent evidence of links with adult suicidal behaviour.

"There is a lack of studies addressing the relationship between institutional child sexual abuse and suicidal behaviour and related mental health difficulties as well as protective factors," the report says.

© 2007 The Irish Times

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Report vital if Church to be held accountable for actions

There have been three events of some significance since my article, a fortnight ago, about Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the 1962 Report on Artane by Father Henry Moore.

The first and most important concerns the Archbishop. In response to a letter that Jim Beresford sent him, dated July 29 and referring to the article, the Archbishop promised that an immediate copy would be sent to him by registered post. It has not yet arrived, but this may be the fault of the Royal Mail which has been disrupted by an industrial dispute.The second, reported to me by Irish SOCA, is that an unspecified number of lawyers acting for abused people have filed for discovery of the Father Moore Report as important testimony in respect of their proceedings. The third event -- on the face of it the least important -- was an anonymous postcard among my mail which said: "How about your Collected Musings, ie 'The Child Abuser's Bedside Book', save you all those instalments." There was no address, so I cannot reply directly; it touched a raw nerve, however. It also made me conscious yet again that a whole Church, with many good and admirable sides to it, is being correctly held accountable for the serious damage done to maybe 30,000 Irish men and women who are the survivors, and many more who are now dead.

It was done once, when they were children, and this was bad enough. Far worse is the fact that it is being done all over again by Church and State in the cover-up that has gone on for the past eight years. These, including those I deal with, have lived for up to 80 years with that shadow over their lives. My concern for them is not unmixed with recognition that each revelation affects many others as well. In the Archbishop's letter to Jim Beresford, Diarmuid Martin said: "There was never any intention on my part to hide the document which has effectively been in the public domain for some years through it being provided to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. It was my understanding that the Commission would make the document available to any interested party at a time considered appropriate."

The Archbishop should know that none of this is the case. Father Moore's Report has never been in the public domain and there is no record of the Commission making it available to any party, interested or otherwise. Quite the reverse is the case.

On five occasions in the past two years the Father Moore Report on Artane has been the subject of questioning before the Commission. These were in September 2005 and in May and June of 2006. The extensive evidence in September 2005, given by a Christian Brother, Michael Reynolds, was essentially hearsay. He relied on "documentation" and claimed that this "seemed to suggest" that Archbishop McQuaid asked the chaplain to make the report. A garbled version was then accepted of what happened. What actually happened was as follows: Moore was appointed chaplain by the Archbishop with the subsidiary responsibility for reporting on what was happening in Artane and he delivered this report in November 1962. He then referred to it when he appeared before the Interdepartmental Committee on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders. This had been set up by Charles Haughey. Artane was in his constituency. It was chaired by Peter Berry, Secretary of the Department of Justice.

Moore's Report, and the verbal testimony he gave, enraged Tarlach O'Raifeartaigh, Secretary of the Department of Education, who was also on the Committee. O'Raifeartaigh constantly interrupted Moore but Berry, to his credit, insisted on Moore being heard. O'Raifeartaigh gave Moore such a rough ride that the priest left the committee room shaking. Later, Archbishop McQuaid complained about this to the Department of Education. O'Raifeartaigh sent his inspectors to Artane, the visit announced in advance to the Christian Brothers there, and they arrived on December 20, 1962. The purpose of their visit was clearly to discredit Moore's complaints. Their own inspection report discounted or dismissed Moore's work.

We know, from fragments, what the report contained. He told the Archbishop about the staff, salaries and the old and decrepit state of the buildings. He described the conditions for the boys. "They are badly clothed. They have no overcoats, only rain capes. They have no vests and no change of footwear or socks. Sometimes the boys' shoes are too small and give them sore feet. Bedclothes are inadequate, the boys are undernourished and the medical facilities are appaling."

To his credit, though not to his advantage, Father Moore repeated this and much more to the Inter-departmental committee. Understandably, O'Raifeartaigh, whose Department of Education was entirely responsible, was apoplectic. The testimony given before Judge Sean Ryan has covered none of this. Greater emphasis has been given to the Inspection Report, engineered by O'Raifeartaigh, rather than to Father Moore's Report. The Department of Education visitors did a white-wash on Artane and ever since, the Father Moore Report has been effectively suppressed. All the exchanges before the Commission confirm this, with the added indignity that Moore, for offences four decades later, has had these brought up at the Commission -- without being ruled out of order by the Judge, which he should have done, since they are totally unrelated -- in order to further discredit the Moore Report.

It is clear that we still have a long way to go.

Irish Independen Saturday August 11 2007

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Victim of abuse cannot pursue action for damages

Victim of abuse cannot pursue action for damages

Mary Carolan

A man whose life was blighted after he was seriously physically and sexually abused at a residential school operated by the Brothers of Charity cannot proceed with an action for damages against the State and Southern Health Board (SHB), the High Court has decided.

Because a settlement of £28,000, secured by John Barrett (53) in a 1999 action brought by him against the Brothers of Charity, was recorded at that time as "full and final settlement of all claims", he could not now proceed with his action against the Southern Health Board and the State, Mr Justice √Čamon de Valera ruled yesterday.The 1999 settlement was made without admission of liability. In his action against the health board and State, Mr Barrett, The Ballagh, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, claimed the health authorities and the State failed to properly inspect or inquire into what was going on at Our Lady of Good Counsel school at Lota, Glanmire, Cork. Moreover, he claimed his experiences there blighted his life, leading to problems with drink, depression and sexual relationships.

Although his parents were then still alive, he was admitted to Lota on the application of the Cork Health Authority in 1961 at the age of nine after he was mitching from school where he was being allegedly beaten for failing to write with his right hand. He claimed he was subject to serious and frequent sexual abuse until he left Lota at the age of 16. The abuse included being buggered on three or four nights a week for two- to three-hour periods each night, he claimed. A Brother Ambrose, also known as James Kelly, had been convicted and sentenced to 36 years on charges relating to that abuse and also relating to abuse of other boys at Lota. Mr Barrett claimed other Brothers also abused him.

Mr Justice De Valera delivered his reserved judgment yesterday on an application - made in March 2006 - by the health board and State defendants (the Ministers for Health and Children and Education and Science, Ireland and the Attorney General) for an order dismissing the proceedings on grounds of the earlier settlement, delay, and because, they claimed, the proceedings were brought outside the legal time limits.

Mr Justice De Valera said Mr Barrett's claim against the SHB and State was initiated in July 2000. A defence was filed by the SHB in 2001 but no defence had been filed by the other defendants. The judge noted that certain facts alleged by Mr Barrett, including that he was admitted to Lota in 1961, when he was described as suffering from a mild mental subnormality, and that he was physically and sexually abused there, were not contradicted. It was also not contradicted that Mr Barrett was able to read on admission to Lota but not to write and had received no further education there. It was also uncontradicted that Mr Barrett developed severe alcoholism and depression from early adult life which was professionally diagnosed as having been caused by the abuses suffered at Lota and that he was psychologically inhibited from disclosing abuses until 1997.

Mr Justice De Valera said he was satisfied that the defendants are "concurrent wrongdoers" within the provisions of section 2 of the Civil Liability Act 1961 and that other provisions of that Act applied to the case, including section 16 which provided that, where a person suffers damage as a result of concurrent wrongs, satisfaction by any wrongdoer "shall discharge the others whether such others have been sued to judgment or not".

Section 16, when applied to this case, discharged the SHB and State defendants in circumstances where Mr Barrett's claim had been fully satisfied, the judge ruled.

ADDITIONAL:

Case may go to Supreme Court

John Downes

The man at the centre of yesterday's failed High Court challenge is considering taking his case to the Supreme Court.

John Barrett told The Irish Times he was disappointed at the decision of Mr Justice De Valera not to allow him to proceed with an action for damages against the State and Southern Health Board. The court ruled that because a previous settlement in an action brought by him against the Brothers of Charity was recorded at that time as "full and final settlement of all claims", Mr Barrett could not proceed with his separate action. "I don't think I should have lost," he said. "When that document was put in front of me I had no idea what I was signing. The case against Brother Ambrose hadn't even come up before the courts." Mr Barrett, who survives on an invalidity pension, said he did not know how he will pay the costs of his failed challenge.

He estimated there were some 2,000-3,000 survivors of abuse who cannot apply to the Residential Institutions Redress Board for compensation. But the board includes payments from both the religious orders and the State, he said. As a result, it was his belief that victims such as himself should also receive compensation from the State. "As far as I'm concerned the Government has broken its agreement with survivors," he said. "The religious have kept their side of the agreement, I've been paid by them. But as far as I'm concerned the Government have not.

"It is the Government at the end of the day who took me from my home in the middle of the night and sent me to Lota."


2004

2002


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Demolition of St. Theresa's Gardens

So St. Theresa's Gardens are being demolished ,,, well that's a good thing as far as I am concerned. While this place will be obliterated from the face of the earth - the memories of sexual abuse - rape - grinding poverty will live on.

I will not forget the abuse I suffered at the hands of those who were, in the least, supposed to be my main protectors. So much for being ONE-HAPPY-FAMILY. It was the weakest of us who suffered and the abusers were the strongest. But No More!

No Forgiveness and No Forgetting.

A Survivor of St. Theresa's Gardens.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cheating abuse victims

Cheating abuse victims

Ron McCartan broke down and cried in Court Number 4 at the Four Courts in Dublin last Tuesday as his family gathered around to comfort him. It had been a seven-year battle, but was a moment he had yearned for almost his entire life. It was also a moment which should have the most profound implications for the largest compensation scheme ever established in this country, writes Mary Raftery .

Ron is 61 years old. At the age of 10, he was sent to Artane Industrial School, where he was raped repeatedly by one Christian Brother and severely beaten by others. In this regard, as he says himself, he was not unusual. "Many, many other boys suffered the same," he told me yesterday. "We've had to live our whole lives feeling humiliated and worthless because of what they did to us as children."

What does make Ron unique, however, is that he decided to fight both the State and the Christian Brothers through the courts, instead of opting for the compensation scheme available through the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB). With the final settlement of his case on Tuesday, Ron received damages of €350,000. This far exceeds anything paid out to date by the RIRB. But what caused Ron to cry was the personal apology to himself from both the Christian Brothers and the State, which was read into the court record. It was the culmination of his absolute determination that they publicly acknowledge the damage they had done to him as a child. This is not an option for anyone going through the RIRB. For them there is no personal apology, no acceptance of individual responsibility from those who destroyed their childhoods and their lives. All they get is a sum of money, which has now been shown to be substantially less than might be available through the judicial process.

Of the almost 15,000 people to apply to the RIRB, roughly 7,000 have now had their cases heard. The average payout is €70,000, less than a quarter of Ron's settlement. Of the larger awards, a minuscule number (well below 1 per cent) have received over €200,000, with only a single individual getting the maximum of €300,000. The overwhelming majority (80 per cent) have received under €100,000. In addition, the average amount awarded has steadily declined since the RIRB began its hearings four years ago.

It was always a premise of the scheme, repeated by numerous Government Ministers, that the payments would be at a level commensurate with High Court awards. The problem is that no court has as yet ruled on damages specific to abuse suffered in a residential institution. There is, however, some indication that the RIRB amounts have been well below what the courts might award. In 2003, in what became known as "the visitor case", a man sued both the State and the Irish Sisters of Charity for the sexual abuse he suffered as a child while visiting a friend in the industrial school in Kilkenny.

This was a single incident of abuse, perpetrated by a male childcare worker at the institution, and was described by the judge as being at "the lower end of the scale of sexual abuse". However, in recognition of the trauma suffered, he awarded the victim damages of €75,000. There have, in addition, been a number of high-profile cases of individuals sexually abused as children by priests and teachers where the damages awarded by the courts have substantially exceeded the maximum paid out by the RIRB.

It is also increasingly apparent that many of those who have had their cases heard by the board have emerged feeling hurt, humiliated and damaged by the process. They are further subjected to the gag clause in the legislation which makes it a criminal offence for them to reveal how much they received or what happened at the hearings. "No one can tell me to keep quiet anymore," says Ron. "All our lives, we had this secret, that we'd been abused and tortured. I went to court because I wanted them to apologise directly to me personally, to have to say my name. With the redress board, all you get is a bit of money, usually a pittance, and then you have to keep quiet about it. That's just wrong."

It is difficult to believe that it was the intention of those who established the redress board that victims should feel bullied and humiliated by virtue of going through the process. Nor do I believe that this is the intention of those who currently run the board. It was, after all, established in the first place to spare people the trauma of going through the courts.

However, it is clear that the problems are significant.

The RIRB must move to stop the hurt which has become so much part of the experience of the thousands of vulnerable people with whom it deals. It must also reappraise urgently the amounts it awards in the light of mounting evidence that it is now short-changing victims of abuse.

© 2007 The Irish Times

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time is no healer for us



Time is no healer for us - we.....heal.....slowly, if at all.

We make no...demands on ourselves except to.....survive.

We have come from ..... those places to here.

We don't forget...ever.

We are asked to forgive....
To forgive those who deny our truths...
We CANNOT forgive THEM...
We will NOT forgive them.....ever.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

77 GRAVES in LETTERFRACK.

No matter how fine and warm and sunny the day is, no matter the bursting through from the soil of beautiful spring flowers like the bluebell and the lemony polyanthus, no matter how sweet and fresh the air is, and how freshly green the new spring buds appear on the boughs you actually don't have to remind yourself how STARK the sight is you are seeing .

77 GRAVES in LETTERFRACK.

ALL YOUNG BOYS.
ALL DEAD.
ALL PLACED IN A BOG.

And as we were taking down the details of these
BOYS a fly would hover near us and at times land on the notepad. Was the spirit of one of the BOYS craving the warmth of our bodies? The brambles clung to us as if these POOR BOYS were reaching out to us and unwilling to let us go.

And as we worked on this task, in another country a
FORMER "RESIDENT" of LETTERFRACK who worked in this GRAVEYARD as a CHILD PRISONER OF THE BLACK-GARBS became violently ill and spewed his guts up for a number of minutes to his family's astonishment.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

LOVE is no more

LOVE is never having to say you're sorry, but if you do, you don't have to mean it.
LOVE
is never having to admit to physical abuse.
LOVE
is never having to admit to sexual abuse.
LOVE is never having to admit to psychological abuse.
LOVE
is never having to admit to illtreatment of abandoned children.
LOVE
is never having to admit to cruelty to children.
LOVE
is never having to admit to the starvation of children.
LOVE is never going to win any part of the argument.

It's a hell of a thing when the Pope starts preaching about damnation

Sunday Independent April 1st 2007

THE majority of a group of undergraduates, 90 per cent or so of whom claimed to be Roman Catholics, admitted at a debate in Dublin City University last week that they had no knowledge of the content or meaning of the Angelus. As always when in conversation with people who profess to be Roman Catholics, I was shocked, but not surprised. It has long been my opinion that the reason the Church hangs on to most of its members is through keeping them in total ignorance. If the ordinary members of the Church knew the irrationality of the Church's theology, they would abandon even their nominal membership.

The popes do their best: the late Pope John Paul II frequently outlined Roman Catholic teaching, emphasising that the Church condemned those members who refused to follow it and stating that repeated refusal was effectively self-excommunication. The cheats got round that by saying he was "only" the Pope; and anyway, he was Polish, and everyone knew the Poles were fanatics when it came to religion, something to do with having lived under Communist rule for so long. They hadn't learned the ways of progressive thought and custom.

Probably the first time the majority of Roman Catholics in western Europe (particularly in hypocritical Ireland) had got down on their knees to pray was during the election process for Pope Benedict. "Anyone but him, Lord," they beseeched, "not the prefect of the doctrine or whatever it's called. Give us a nice wishy-washy fella who won't make us feel uncomfortable. And lo! The Lord turned unto them and answered their prayers, in a manner which blasphemous secularists would have described as the sign of the two fingers, and guided the College of Cardinals to elect Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the body that used to be called the Inquisition, as Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict was on record as having said that we were "impregnated by a culture that has taken away the sense of man's guilt, the sense of one's own guilt". That, he said, was the denial of a key reality of faith that hell exists for sinners. Oops! Even Pope John Paul hadn't been that uncomfortably open. And just last week, Pope Benedict preached a sermon in which he said that society's problem today is that it doesn't talk about hell. It's as though it doesn't exist. "But it does," Benedict stated.

And there's blue bloody murder further down the ranks of Roman Catholicism. How dare he? Probably even his own priests are furious: they're having a hard enough job getting people to pretend to be Catholics, by claiming the name, and getting married in church (the first time they've darkened the door in 10 years) without the Boss talking about the uncomfortable truths of basic teaching. To add insult to injury, the Pope used a Bible story about sex to illustrate his point. It comes from the Gospel according to John, when Jesus stopped the crowd stoning to death a woman taken in adultery. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," he told the crowd, and slowly they slunk away.

Nowadays, of course, the poor woman would have been reduced to a pulp, because they'd all have thought themselves without sin since the Church doesn't bother to spell out the reality of sin. Indeed, the majority of Catholics don't believe adultery is a sin. Pope Benedict's interpretation put the kibosh on that. "The reading shows that Christ wants to save souls," he told the congregation in Rome. "He is saying that he wants us in paradise with him, but he is saying that those who close their hearts to him will be condemned to eternal damnation." Oops again! And here were the few of them who even knew the bible story thinking that Christ meant that adultery was a minor matter.

There are even people claiming to be Catholics giving out hell because priests with the courage of their vocations refuse to marry them in church if they are divorced. They can't seem to get their heads around the idea that they are daily committing the sins of fornication (sex unsanctified by marriage) and adultery (sex with a person previously or still married to someone who is still alive), either of which qualifies them for eternal damnation. And as for homosexuals, unless they live a life of virginal celibacy accompanied by prayer for strength to"endure their cross of abnormality", they're headed for the roasting nether regions as well.

Pope Benedict seems like a very nice man. He probably doesn't yearn for the good old days of his previous job with the Inquisition, when his predecessors in office had the useful tools of red hot pincers, the rack, and in serious cases, the burning alive of sinners, to enforce the Church's teaching. He probably thinks he's being fairly mild by reminding his flock that Roman Catholicism is not a "feel good" religion. It is only outsiders who are amused by the floundering that goes on when such statements are made, as people rail against the requirements for membership of the Roman Catholic Church.

It requires the abandonment of reason to blind faith as an act of will. You have to believe that the Virgin remained a virgin after giving birth. You have to believe the actual body and blood of the living Christ, who is the actual son of god is present in the Eucharist. If you don't believe these decreed Articles of Faith, you are an apostate, and that in itself is the greatest of sins, and qualifies you for hell, as surely as do fornication and adultery. It ain't easy, having the extraordinary gift of being baptised a Roman Catholic. And there ain't any going back; ignorance is no defence in the court of final judgment, not if you were given the blessing of baptism. The Pope knows that, and he's trying to spell it out. It's the rules or it's hellfire for all eternity.

Awkward critter, ain't he? Personally, I think he's admirable, because I detest hypocrisy. But I also think he should put his own house, that is the Roman Catholic Church, in order, before he starts preaching to others about ethics. Humanists, you see, don't have to believe in hell. They're supposed to do the right thing based on reason, not fear of damnation' and morality. He got extremely sniffy about the EU's 50th birthday celebrations, which didn't have a religious element to them. "A society in which the Christian conscience does not live any more ends up empty and bankrupt."

He went further, and had the brass neck to say that a Christian conscience was needed to promote justice and a sense of responsibility (by which, of course, he meant the Roman Catholic version of Christianity.)

That is quite simply breathtaking arrogance, ignoring the seminal role of Judaism in the formation of European culture and ethical codes. It also insults humanists as incapable of ethical thought and practice, as though their values of tolerance and belief in the universal declaration of rights are inadequate for a morally just and happy life. Humanists, you see, don't have to believe in hell. They're supposed to do the right thing based on reason, not fear of damnation. That's something the Pope, and all the members of his flock, can't get their heads around.

Emer O'Kelly

© Irish Independent

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fly Away

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Lyrics By Nelly
Original Picture Here:> ABBYMH1022

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Why Apologise?

THE Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, and the Redress Board, are winding down their operations and tidying up some of the loose ends connected with their work, including that of the Investigation Committee. This has borne the brunt of the inquiry process and is chaired by Judge Sean Ryan.

Last October, the Investigation Committee was asked by Noel Barry, of Right of Place, whether the commission "has completed taking evidence from survivors of industrial abuse and is the report due to be given to the Government in December of this year?" A solicitor for the committee said it was open to the commission or the committee to hear evidence and that a small number of witnesses remained to be seen. One such witness is the Taoiseach, who appeared before the commission on July 5 2004. Yet he has been excluded from being seen a second time.

On the basis of his testimony on that day it is clear that he seriously needs to "clarify particular issues". He told how the issue of making an apology arose. He said it came up at Cabinet from Micheal Martin, in March 1998, and that by the end of the year a decision had been made "to act" in respect of abuse. This resulted in the Government Working Group to address abuse in industrial schools. The group, with several secretaries-general of departments, was unprecedented in its seniority and importance.

Bertie Ahern, in 1998 and later, gave the impression that this was motivated by his knowledge of the suffering of abused people and his encounters with them. It was central to his testimony before Sean Ryan. The evidence, however, raises serious questions. The report of the working group, and the Taoiseach's response to it, is primarily about legal issues involving Church and State. The victims of abuse feature as part of that larger legal issue. In his testimony on July 5 2004, Ahern implied that the Government's package of abuse legislation was a response to demands from victim organisations. This was not the case. The whole programme - of legislation and its implementation pursued now for 10 years - came from the Government.

Though Bertie Ahern said he had been inspired by those who had been abused - represented by groups as well as individuals - this could not have been the case because none of the groups existed. Further, very few individuals had met either the Taoiseach or any of the relevant ministers before 1999. In answer to a question, during his July 2004 appearance before the commission, about the actual apology given on May 11 1999, the Taoiseach said the recommendation for an apology was "not in the report". It came, he said, "from the representatives of the various groups".

Yet these groups did not exist at the time. They were formed after the apology and in response to it, on the basis that the abused now saw, and believed in good faith, that action was at last starting and would remedy their long-standing anguish. But Bertie Ahern told the commission: "I remember how the apology came around very clearly, because, while all of the issues that we were talking about; professional help and caring and trying to assist these people back who had been badly dealt with by the State in our view, the hurt was not going to be removed unless you said sorry. We made the decision. They felt that we owed them something."

He went on, using this lyrical language, and vividly recalling a whole sequence of personal experiences that, he claimed, helped to set the agenda for the next few years.

His testimony was in conflict with evidence by Micheal Martin, Michael Woods and Tom Boland, the key figure in the whole creation of the strategy for dealing with the victims of abuse. It was also in conflict with the facts surrounding the representative groups.

These are as follows:

The Alliance Victim Support Group was formed in May 1999 after the apology and as a direct result of that apology. Christine Buckley, of Dear Daughter fame, was originally part of this group, but later separated and formed the Aislinn Centre for Healing. The Survivors of Child Abuse, known as SOCA, was formed in June 1999, following the apology, and led by Mick Waters. There was a split in February of the following year, and two SOCA organisations now exist. Right of Place/Second Chance which then represented the Upton School inmates and is based in Cork, was formed in June 1999, after the apology, founded by Noel Barry.

Micheal Martin was asked by Mr Clarke, a barrister for the commission: "As I understand it the report from your working group became available in April 1999. That report was then considered by the Cabinet sub-committee which you chaired. That Cabinet sub-committee recommended a number of measures to Government at that time, of which the apology was one, and indeed the establishment of the commission was another; is that correct?"

Martin replied: "That's correct, yes."

Bertie Ahern was not on that working group [chaired by Martin] nor on the sub-committee [chaired by Tanaiste, Mary Harney].

The actual recommendation in favour of an apology was reportedly contained on page five of the Report on Measures to Assist Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse and went to the Government in April 1999, but passages on that page, dealing with the Government's "pro-active" response to the abused, have been blanked out.

This, after all, was a sensitive strategic document.

The day of the Taoiseach's appearance at the Abuse Commission, I wrote an article saying that the apology was "pivotal to the whole process" and listed the areas that needed to be addressed in response to the almost complete loss of confidence in the process, by then, among victims of abuse.

"The Taoiseach needs to change this perception and tell us what the State will do in legal terms, to meet the implied promises and undertakings that are now being given or made." This was in the context of the difficulties that had led to Judge Mary Laffoy's resignation and her replacement by Judge Sean Ryan.

I wrote a further article published July 10, 2004, analysing the conflict of evidence between Bertie Ahern and the other ministers and officials. The following Monday, John Kelly of Irish SOCA wrote to Bertie Ahern, telling him that Irish SOCA had asked Judge Sean Ryan to "recall him [Ahern] to the Commission and obtain clarification" about the apology. The Taoiseach replied to John Kelly saying that the correspondence had been sent to the commission. Nothing happened. After seeing the correspondence I wrote to the Taoiseach, who confirmed what had been said to Kelly. This letter was dated May 17 2006, but referred to the transmission of correspondence in July 2004. This was therefore long after any action might have been initiated by Judge Sean Ryan. The Taoiseach's letter concluded: "Taoiseach has no objection to publication of the correspondence in question, if Mr Kelly agrees."

I wrote twice to the commission, questioning its inaction in respect of the Taoiseach. The commission refused to comment and clearly had set its face against any clarification of the Taoiseach'sposition. This was a serious omission. It was made more serious due to one key issue.

When Bertie Ahern said that the apology and all that depended on it would have to be processed "wholeheartedly" he omitted a key problem for many abused people. This was that they had been criminalised by the court processes, which had consigned them to the industrial schools - to all intents and purposes 'prisons' - and they had not been exonerated. They cannot be exonerated.

If they were, it would lay the State open to unlimited further actions for damages, notwithstanding the processes already completed in respect of individual abused victims. And in any case, if they have received compensation, they have sold their rights in the restrictive terms of acceptance.

Judge Sean Ryan, in a statement predating the hearing at which Ahern gave testimony, provided a postscript that is worth quoting here. On May 7 2004, he said: "The Taoiseach's apology of the 11th May 1999 marked a transformation in attitudes. How did this change take place and why? It seems to us that this is a legitimate area of inquiry and we want to ask those who apologised to victims of abuse and who contributed to the redress fund - we want to ask them: 'How did you come to apologise?'"

At the desk of the Taoiseach, this key question remains unanswered.

Bruce Arnold

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