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F'lines child ab 331

Child Abuse Scandal The Good Priest: David Rooney's controversial illustration from 2005
It was 1985 when BRUCE ARNOLD first
wrote about the child abuse scandal
in Ireland. In a powerful new book on
The Irish Gulag, he is hugely critical of
the efforts of the State as well as the
Church, accusing them of conspiracy.
WORDS Jason O'Toole
The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child to those in the camps, more or less at the whim of the Abuse – also known as the Ryan Report – is flawed Commandant. But one bad parallel is probably enough." and "will bring no closure for the victims". CONSPIRACY BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE This is the damning assessment of the renowned polemic Arnold was inspired to write The Irish Gulag for two "very writer Bruce Arnold, who spent over six years investigating personal reasons". The first came from his own childhood the child abuse scandal. During this period in his Irish experiences of growing up in a "dysfunctional family" in independent column, Arnold broke many of the key stories surrounding what is undoubtedly one of the most shameful "My parents were not married as my father couldn't get episodes in the history of the State's existence.
a divorce from his first wife. My mother had five children, Arnold's tireless research has resulted in a new book, two girls and three boys, with me in the middle. My father which is an authoritative account of the abuse conducted drank; my mother had a bad heart and died at the age of by priests and nuns in the industrial schools. Entitled The 38,. That would have qualified all of us, in Ireland, for Irish Gulag: How the State Betrayed Its Innocent Children, the book's incarceration in one or other of the industrial schools.
title draws comparison with the notorious Russian Gulag "In fact it led to my two brothers and myself going into regime, which was a network of prison camps for children what was variously described as ‘a home for boys' and that masqueraded as schools. ‘Kingham Hill Orphanage for Boys'. That was in the autumn "In the Russian Gulag – so well described by Solzhenitsyn of 1943. As late as 1948, in the Ordinance survey maps of – life itself was cheap and millions died at the hands of the the area of the Cotswolds, the school was still described Soviet Union's monstrous leader, Joseph Stalin," Arnold as ‘Kingham Hill Orphan Homes'. It became a school but explains. "One of the greatest ironies of the system was always reserving special attention for children from broken that a small but significant number of children were homes. It was a wonderful school. I loved my time there. incarcerated, for their whole childhoods, for truancy. And We were treated kindly, educated well and given our self- then they were put to work, on miserable rations and in respect and dignity. But I was fortunate. It could have been cold, unhygienic circumstances, working for the orders and far different scenario if I had been reared in Ireland…" not being educated. In Ireland, while few actually died, the Arnold also became interested in the scandal after hearing indifference was the same. Unlike Russia, in Ireland, the first-hand some horror stories of abuse in the industrial children were worth money so long as they were kept alive." schools. The experience prompted his wife Mavis Arnold He makes the point that comparisons with the treatment to co-write, with Heather Laskey, a ground-breaking book, of prisoners in concentration camps is not entirely off the Children of the Poor Clares, on the subject back in 1985, long before any of the other investigative works. "In what was done to the children, there was a parallel "My wife and I had a pregnant girl to help us with our with the Nazi concentration Camp system," he insists. "At children when they were young," he recalls. "It was her the heart of this was the rule that anything could be done third pregnancy. All had resulted from unhappy, transient Bruce Arnold
criticising its limited terms of reference," he recalls. "I condemned the fact that it operated under the Department of Education, the main culprit in allowing the abuse to continue over a period of six decades." Nor is he done with controversy on the subject yet. He is angrily dismissive of the way in which the entire process has been handled by the State, "I need hardly say that my findings on the completed Commission Report is that it is a white-wash," he says, "incomplete in crucial areas and lacking the forensic approach of other State tribunals. What Bertie Ahern and his Ministers did – and it has been the object of constant criticism and questioning by me – is nothing short of a cover-up and the Ryan Report is part of that. It is hugely expansive about the terrible things that happened in the past. It is mealy-mouthed and restrictive about the behaviour of the State over the past ten years: about how the State stopped Mary Lefoy in her tracks; about how the Department of Education failed to give the full story, ‘lost' documents, found them again, covered up essential material and in any case should not have been running a Commission of Inquiry when they themselves were being inquired into." "THE COMPLETED COMMISSION REPORT IS A WHITE-WASH – INCOMPLETE IN CRUCIAL AREAS AND LACKING THE FORENSIC APPROACH OF OTHER STATE TRIBUNALS." taking a meagre €127m in exchange for immunity for Arnold's book challenges the motive, purpose and direction of any supposed State process of "Undoubtedly there was an conspiracy between Church and State, and the so-called ‘Secret Deal' was "Far from being for the abuse victims, this was at the heart of this," explains Arnold. "How could aimed at self-protection by the State," maintains a deal of such consequence be put through, signed Arnold. "The compensation issue is a completely and sealed, by an outgoing Minister, without benefit phoney one. The deal was signed and sealed in 2002. of Cabinet approval and vetting by the Attorney Though I investigated it and the Comptroller and General? And why was it done? Why the secrecy? Auditor General investigated it, nothing was done. Why the haste? My probing drew the attention of the Noel Dempsey, Education Minister at the time, Comptroller and Auditor General, John Purcell, to the defended it. He said that it could not be renegotiated. responsibilities of the State in taking the lion's share He says the same today. He is not shedding crocodile of responsibility for abuse claims and letting the tears, like the present Minister for Education, Batt Church off with ten per cent responsibility.
O'Keeffe, who has a sentimental belief that the "I also published articles, which were addressed orders will come across with something more.
to the new Archbishop of Dublin, that helped to "On the face of it, the State's compensation system persuade Diarmuid Martin to release the highly cannot be changed. It operates by law through the controversial Henry Moore Report on Artane. This Redress Board and everything awarded is given on a was published in the Irish Independent against the points system. There is no reason for the Religious wishes of the Sean Ryan Commission. They sought to give more to the State – but we will see on that to dissuade Martin and suppress publication of score. Compensation, or Redress, as it was called in and abusive relationships. After a time she told the Report. The Report was highly critical of the the legislation, is a thorny issue. It was made secret us of her background as a girl in the care – what Christian Brothers and their administration of the and this in itself was a cover-up. The payments are a ridiculous word for it! – of the Poor Clares in St largest Industrial School at Artane." fractional compared with what the High Court would Joseph's in Cavan town. Another friend, Heather award for the dreadful levels of abuse involved. " Laskey, also had a similar helper from the same THE COMPENSATION DEAL IS PHONEY How damaging is all this to the Catholic Church in Arnold is also highly critical of the then Taoiseach "Those girls were savaged by the nuns. There is Bertie Ahern's handling of the scandal. "I hope irreparably in anything that belongs to no other word for it. In addition, through their "I exposed serious misinformation by Bertie Ahern, the old dispensation. The Church, if true and open stupidity and religious fervour the same nuns caused about the origins and motives for his so-called and generous and loving, can possibly build for the deaths of 35 children in the convent fire there ‘apology' in 1999. I showed – with the support of itself a new life and role among the Irish people. I in 1943. This was covered up by the State during an confidential Cabinet papers – that it was primarily regard myself as a Christian and the Christian faith inquiry, which absolved the nuns. When the abuse concerned with protecting the State against as taught by Christ is infinitely valuable. Humans saga erupted with the Goldenbridge revelations legal action by the abused. Ahern also lied about always mess it up by sanctimonious hypocrisy, lies, and then with Mary Raftery's stunning States of Fear consultations with organisations for the abused, at arrogance and greed. All of that has to stop," Arnold programmes, I was ready for all that was coming." a time when none of these organisations had been Indeed, he was ready. In 2003, Arnold was the formed," says Arnold.
Can the Church survive? journalist who exposed the controversial ‘Secret Bruce stuck with the story through its various "I am not optimistic," Arnold concludes.
Deal' negotiated by the then Minister for Education twists and turns. Michael Woods with the Catholic Church in the "I analysed the workings of the Commission to The Irish Gulag: How the State Betrayed Its Innocent Children is published by Gill summer of 2002. The key to the deal was the State Inquire into Child Abuse from its earliest operations, and Macmillan and is in all good book shops now.
THE CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL abuse certainly continued into the 1970s and indeed later. Corporal Punishment was banned from Irish schools in 1982 by the then Minister for Education, John Boland with the issuing of a simple regulation instructing teachers that it was banned. How many people were affected?
It depends on how widely you want to interpret the
word ‘abuse'. Beating kids up in schools had been routine in Ireland in State-run national schools and boarding schools for the well-to-do alike. It is widely accepted that the Christian Brothers ran the toughest regime and everyone who went to a Christian Brothers-run school is likely to have witnessed varying degrees of brutality. But what happened in the reform schools like Daingean, and in industrial schools and orphanages generally, was far more systematic and more extreme. Religious orders were always at the heart of the action and responsible for the worst of the abuse.
Who was responsible for running these
There were 18 different religious orders who ran them on behalf of the State, including the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Charity, the Presentation The Question
What is the Ryan Report?
Brothers, the Dominican Fathers and the Christian The Commission To Inquire Into Child Abuse was and Answer
appointed by the Government in 1999. The first presiding judge was Mary Laffoy. She resigned Which children were in the institutions?
Guide To What in controversial circumstances, slamming the
Their main shared characteristic was poverty. They Government, the Department of Education and the were children of unmarried mothers. Of broken it's All About…
Religious Orders for obstructing her work. She was homes. Of families that couldn't make ends meet. replaced by Judge Sean Ryan. The Ryan Report is by Children whose parents were alcoholic. Who were some distance the most comprehensive and damning caught mitching. Who were involved in minor of all the investigations into Child Abuse in Ireland.
misdemeanours. Ordinary kids who happened to find themselves in a little bit of trouble, whether of Why was the Commission appointed?
their own making or not.
Historically a cult of Omerta had prevailed in relation to the abuse of children in Irish society. What crimes were committed – against the
However, the gradual erosion of the control exerted children, that is?
by the Catholic Church on the Irish body politic The problem is that the litany is so shocking and inevitably led to the breaking down of old taboos. horrifying it'd take a week to list them all. The With the rise of feminism and the emergence of a kids were brutalised, beaten, punched, kicked and culture of rebellion – broadly associated with the leathered, had their heads immersed in water so that civil rights movement, the influence of rock music, they couldn't breathe, were sexually assaulted, raped the emergence of students as a political force and a and buggered, forced to eat their own excrement, widespread liberalisation of attitudes to sex – people thrown out in the freezing cold all night… Do I need felt free to criticise the church. Victims found the to go on? Irish industrial schools and orphanages courage to speak out. Equally importantly a new and made Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay seem like a less deferential attitude in the media meant that it fucking holiday camp.
was possible, finally, to begin to publish the truth about what really went on. The complaints mounted. And was every priest or brother involved?
Journalistic investigations intensified. The floodgates No, far from it. But a lot were. What's more it seems impossible to believe other than that even the decent ones knew that terrible things were Were there any particular watershed moments?
happening – and kept their mouths shut. Certainly In journalistic terms, certainly, we can identify the superiors of the orders knew. They ignored crucial contributions: Mavis Arnold and Heather complaints and expressions of concern. They hid the Laskey's Children Of The Poor Clares; Julian Vignoles' abuse and covered it up. There is no doubt that they radio documentary Magdalen Laundries; Louis Lentin's bear full responsibility for what happened.
TV documentary about Christine Buckley and the abuse in Goldenbridge Orphanage for Girls, Dear Sexual abuse? By clerics? Are these the same
Daughter; Paddy Doyle's book The God Squad; and, most people who tell their flock they can't use
powerful of all, Mary Raftery's superb three part RTÉ contraception? And who are opposed to gay
documentary series States Of Fear, which lifted the marriage? And who defend clerical celibacy?
lid comprehensively on the chronic persecution and Indeed they are. You might say that the stench of abuse of children in State-controlled institutions.
hypocrisy is rank. In the extreme.
For more on the Child Abuse Scandal, see The
How long was the abuse going on for?
You also mention violence by priests, brothers
Message (page 11) and Bootboy (page 80)
The Commission's remit ran from 1936 onwards and and nuns? Are these the same people who preach
The deference to the Church was pervasive. The Education Michael Woods and rushed through on Somewhere along the way they seem to have authorities were willing to sweep it under the carpet the final day in Government of the Fianna Fail / PD convinced themselves that they were entitled to and that's what was done. coalition. The orders agreed to pay a miserable €127 impose their will and their religion on people by million. Meanwhile the taxpayer ends up footing force. Which isn't all that hard to understand when Presumably, as soon as it was identified the
90% of the bill. You could say that it was the final act you look at the violent history of the Church. But the religious orders came clean…
of official collusion. So we all pay for the crimes of thrust of what you're suggesting is right: they seem Not on your nelly. The Church and the religious to have entirely forgotten the teachings of Christ orders did everything they possibly could to squirm their way out of liability. They resisted investigation Ehhhh, CORI… Are they the same people who
Jaysus, surely lots of people knew what was
with fire and brimstone and, more pertinently, with keep talking about social justice?
going on?
court action after court action. They behaved without Don't start me on that one. Please. I'm feeling ill… Lots of people had an inkling. But that doesn't any morals or decency. Their reputation is rightly in mean they knew enough to go after it. Given the tatters as a result.
Why are the Catholic bishops breaking ranks to
culture of the time, ordinary people weren't in a criticise the religious orders and suggesting that
position to challenge very powerful organisations. There'll be compensation, won't there?
they should pay more?
Think of East Germans challenging the Stasi and Yes, there will. A Redress Board was established to Well, apparently the bishops have no authority you get some sense of the scale of the task. Some which victims have to apply. Others have chosen to over the religious orders. It seems that the orders tried, like Frank Crummey of the ISPCC. He was go to court. But nothing could be enough. Over 940 report directly to their headquarters and to Rome. silenced. The terrible truth is that every child was at million euro has already been paid, so the bill will The bishops want to distance themselves from the risk, including those not in the institutions Judge certainly exceed a billion euro, though that could offenders – and also to make it clear that it's the Ryan investigated, and many were molested or continue to inflate.
orders who have to pay up and that the Church abused. But they rarely even bothered to report such won't. But don't take what you read at face value: incidents as they would not have been believed – and Who will pay for it?
there's a lot of spin going on. The orders are being doing so would invite further violence or abuse.
An appallingly ill-conceived deal was done with advised by PR companies. It is all about damage the Conference Of limitation, I'm afraid, and the institutional Church So it wasn't just in the ‘institutions' that people
Religious in Ireland is up to its neck in that. were abused physically and sexually?
No. There was a pervasive culture of violence in the 18 orders) by So will the orders be forced to give more?
education and an endemic problem with sexually With the current state of the public finances, the abusive clergy. One of the other watershed moments Government is scrabbling for cash. came when Fr. Brendan Smyth was exposed. He They are in a very strong position was a Norbertine priest who raped and abused to revisit the deal on the basis that hundreds of kids, over a period of 40 years. Rather the orders hid relevant facts that than reporting him to the authorities, his were in their possession at the time order moved him from parish to parish with the deal was done. There seems to be the collusion of the Church authorities, general agreement that they should thus exposing more (and more) children pay 50% – at least. It'll be interesting to to his crawly paedophile attentions. He see if the Government has the bottle to was arrested in 1994. Delays in fulfilling an extradition request from the RUC led to the collapse of the Fianna Fail-Labour coalition of Well then, if the orders ultimately
report to Rome will the Pope dig
into his pockets?
But going back to the institutions, was nobody
Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Well, you never keeping tabs on them?
know – but that's very unlikely. Very In theory the Department of Education was unlikely altogether. And if he were to, supposed to oversee the system but it failed it'd be impossible to see it as other than to do so. Worse, in fact, individuals within another PR stunt.
the Department over the years were guilty of an extraordinary level of abasement to the What about nationalising all their
princes of the Catholic Church. They failed dismally to protect the children committed A lot of people think it's be a very to institutional care. Judge Ryan's report good idea indeed. They should also be is clear on this: he says that Department swiftly removed from any position of officials effectively colluded with the responsibility in relation to education institution's regimes out of deference to and health. The Government the religious orders. For this reason nobody should take the opportunity to disagrees with the view that the State is nationalise vital infrastructure. It partially responsible too.
is shameful, in a Republic, that a sectional interest was allowed to What long-term effects were there?
control so much.
The extent of the personal trauma for the individuals varied, of course, but the cumulative Shouldn't the perpetrators be
effect and the extent of the emotional brutalisation, punished? Will anyone even be hauled
and scarring, was horrendous. In many cases before the courts?
victims suffered – and still suffer – an inability to Yeah, in less tolerant societies they'd be form relationships. Alcohol abuse was common. tarred and feathered, dragged through the Many experienced recurring nightmares. There streets tied to chariots, stoned to death or was widespread depression, mental illness, and even hanged drawn and quartered. But we attempted suicide. People like Christine Buckley and don't want to see any of that! A lot of them Mannix Flynn, (and Colm O'Gorman in relation to are dead, presumably rotting in whatever non-institutional abuse) have written very movingly hell they believed in. Others are in advanced about their experiences.
decrepitude. The Government has made some noises to the effect that if the evidence is there Why wasn't something done long ago?
they'll act. But it seems unlikely, to be honest As I already said, there was a culture of denial. and we'll believe it when we see it.
Priest On The Run: Another of David Rooney's illustrations


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