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.

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