More medals from the Pope-for Bertie Ahern, the consummate chameleon.?
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announce in the Dail the morning after the Ferns Report was published, in October 2005, that he was still committed to an Inquiry into the Dublin Archdiocese.He rejected calls for one in 1998.
By that time we already knew enough for alarm bells to ring on the practice of moving priests - against whom child abuse claims were made - from parish to parish.
This practice had the very obvious effect of putting other children at risk of abuse from priests already known to be a danger to them. He rejected requests, in a written reply to one victim, on the following grounds:
* The Church is not a public body.
* Tribunals of Inquiry can only be established into definite matters of urgent public concern.
* It would be unfair to focus on the Catholic Church and they might challenge it in the courts.
* Such an Inquiry would be so huge it would be ineffective.
In response can we now ask;
How was it subsequently possible to establish the Ferns Inquiry if the church not being a public body was such an issue? How can the sexual abuse of children and its subsequent cover up by anyone not be described as a definite matter of urgent public concern? Why would it be unfair to focus on the handling of allegations against priests after so many allegations were in the public domain? But there were other jarring inconsistencies in Mr Ahern's comments.
If he realised as far back as 1998 that the number of possible allegations to be investigated was so huge; why is he claiming to be so surprised this week at the extent of child sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Ferns? He has at least correctly anticipated the public outrage at the findings of the Ferns Report.
But now he's jumping on the back of that outrage, promising inquires and 'audits' nationwide. Never underestimate a populist!
Fianna Fail & the Church have always had a "Special Relationship"
NOW the Ferns Report has been published.
It represents excellent work by the Inquiry team and details shocking accounts of the sexual abuse to which so many children were subjected. It also highlights consistent facilitation of that abuse by the Diocesan Bishops' practice of protecting the priest and the institution of the Church instead of the children. Anyone who thinks this outrageous scandal is unique and probably not repeated elsewhere needs to wise up - fast.
There have been two Grand Jury investigations into the Archdioceses of Boston and Philadelphia in the United States. We have had 10 years of revelations within Dublin and no effective response from the state authorities.In Australia the word 'catholic priest 'is synonamous with 'child abuser'.!
Fianna Fail, and Bertie Ahern; the child abusers best friends. Read on;
Sean Cloney, a quiet reserved man whose life and marriage had almost been destroyed by the Catholic Church in 1957, had over a decade tried to stop and expose Father Sean Fortune, who had been curate at Poulfur parish in Fethard-on-Sea.
Sean Cloney, his wife Sheila and the Protestant families in Fethard were the subject of a vicious sectarian boycott in 1957 after the Cloneys refused to have their two daughters Mary and Eileen educated in the local Catholic school The day after the revelation that a Garda inquiry into Fortune was under way in March 1995, Veronica Guerin interviewed the family of one of Fortune's victims who had received a letter of apology by Bishop Comiskey. Unfortunately, in their anger, the family had burned the letter, a significant fact that was to be used to deny the story and attack Veronica.
Her Sunday Independent article, published on March 19, 1995, was immediately denied and the church initiated a campaign against the journalist and the Sunday Independent . Veronica refused to relent and a second article was published the following Sunday repeating the claim.
The late Veronica Guerin exposed the Ferns scandal in the "Sunday Independent" in 1995. Her efforts,were aided and abetted by Sean Cloney and two other figures: Gary O'Halloran, a Fine Gael councillor from Tramore and New Ross farmer and former Labour Party activist, Billy Moroney. The three had between them unearthed a mass of information about the activities of paedophile priests, the cover-ups both by State and church and the mismanagement of Ferns.
Gardai, who remain nameless, also contributed significantly with supporting information that helped prove stories about the abusers and the cover-ups surrounding them. Veronica, and other journalists, faced concerted opposition not only from the church but also the State in the form of the departments of Education and Health and Guerin] was denounced and faced derision for her work .
The South Eastern Health Board who failed to protect children in Ferns - and elsewhere,attacked her.
More than a decade on, the report of Judge Murphy's inquiry has finally realised the work they did and which was championed in the media by Veronica Guerin and the Sunday Independent . On her return from America,where she pursued fugitive Bishop Cumisky (who had fled from the publicity) she took part in a panel discussion on RTE's Questions and Answers during which she was the subject of near vilification for her pursuit of the Bishop.. She was repeatedly accused of invading the bishop's privacy.
The person RTE chose to voice the "ethical journalism" question to Veronica was a member of the right-wing Catholic party, Muintir na hEireann. Veronica was introduced as the journalist whose attempt to interview Comiskey was "described as outrageous".
The other panellists, including Eithne Fitzgerald, Vincent Browne and Brian Cowen, turned on Veronica and the presenter John Bowman called for a show of hands from the audience on whether or not they agreed that Veronicaand the Sunday Independent should have exposed Comiskey's whereabouts.
None of the audience raised their hands in response to the question of whether it was appropriate that the location of the bishop should be published. Bowman then turned to Veronica and said: "No supporters Veronica, sorry about this".
(Andrew Madden,the source of a portion of article is the author of 'Altar Boy, A Story of Life After Abuse')
in May 2006 Ireland trembled in horror at the appaling vista of some of the country,s worst sex offenders being released from prison due to an "error of technicality" in the law of the land.Sometimes one wonders if the department of justice is full of incompetent lawmakers who thrive on enriching the legal profession .
The simple truth of this abject affair of paedophiles being released into society due to a "technicality" is this: Because of Government inaction the Supreme Court decision emerged,and the debacle unfolded. The Fianna Fáil — Progressive Democrat coalition looked at the recommendation from the Law Reform Commission, which would have prevented this national scandal, long ago, and dismissed it,as they have dismissed so many other reform minded reports on a huge variety of issues,during recent years-in some cases it was plain ineptitude and in others-for reasons of political expedience.
The decision to ignore this issue was admitted by Minister for State for Children Brian Lenihan, also, Tánaiste Mary Harney told the Dáil that, as far back as 2002, the Government, through the Justice Department, was informed by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office about a case that ultimately led to the early release of a self-confessed child rapist.
This administration is a shadow of what good governance is about. They have failed the people on every single affair of state because they are constantly pandering to so many lobbies and blackmailers-farmers,public service unions,and so forth-that they have lost the respect of all decent minded people .
Left.Derry O Rourke:This man commited hundreds of offences,against young children in his charge as a swimming coach in an upmarket suburb of Dublin,over a period spanning two decades..Many of these abominations will never see the light of day as a result of government indifference-and incompetence-on the issue.
His name may even be removed from the sex offenders register-which is another secret government file to which citizens have no right to view.This man may be your new neighbour next week.But you will never know his background-until he strikes again-
Wednesday 9th November 2005
Liz O'Donnell T.D. spoke in Dáil Éireann today, Wednesday 9th November on Judge Murphy's Ferns Report.
I would like to preface my remarks with a word of support for those priests who have done no wrong, and deserve our support and sympathy at this time.
A Ceann Comhairle, it is difficult to overstate the importance of this Report produced by Judge Frank Murphy and his colleagues. It is a landmark document in the context of child sexual abuse- abuse compounded in its gravity because the actors were members of the most trusted group in our society.
The victims, children of all ages, suffered not only the most awful forms of sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of clergy, but also suffered the silence, betrayal and inaction on the part of the Church who placed the protection of the most vulnerable below the Church's priority of :
Protecting the Church.
Child protection came last.
I heard a chilling description of what these abusive clergy did to their victims as the equivalent of "eating their souls – destroying their souls".
Unlike other forms of abuse or ill-treatment, sexual abuse of children by priests, and subsequent disbelief of their stories, if they had the courage to speak, is uniquely destructive of the individual spirit – that inner place or core.
Given the scale and brutality as outlined in these pages it is truly remarkable / awesome to witness the human capacity to heal and even forgive among some victims.
The End of The Special Relationship
This Report, however, is landmark in another aspect. It will change forever the special relationship that has existed for many decades between Church and State. This Report must be the starting point for the State's response to all contained in it.
This new beginning cannot happen unless the old relationship ends. The unrelenting deference, which constituted the relations between State and Church. It was given and expected.
It was extremely influential in terms of outcome. It must end absolutely. Only then can the State act as it should as we go forward – objectively.
The systemic failure outlined in the Report means that nothing less is acceptable. If the Church leadership, the hierarchy, were a Cabinet, it would resign en masse or be thrown out of office. But the Church is neither democratic nor accountable. In many ways it is a secret organisation - with its own diplomatic service, civil service, laws and self-regulatory codes, which have failed the public.
Because the Church in Ireland was the main interface with God, the Irish people and the State have shown deference personally and collectively over many decades. This veil of deference is the root cause of society's failure to stop the Church's systemic mal-administration and dereliction of duty to protect children as outlined in terms of the Report. Because what happened in one diocese is just a microcosm of the situation in all dioceses, the findings are damning in their import.
The fact is, there have been hundreds of crimes of clerical abuse against children, which went unpunished. Priests were transferred instead of being exposed. Priests with propensity to offend were ordained, appointed to curacies. Bishops colluded and covered up these matters.
The mighty Church has fallen from grace because of its failure to protect children.
The first response of the State must be to unequivocally state that the special relationship is no more and to take steps to demonstrate that disconnect between State and Church. From now on, with that veil of deference removed, the State can deal with the Church authorities in the same way as it would any other voluntary or State agency that provides services for children and families.
This means no longer accepting the good offices of an admittedly remorseful hierarchy, after the event. The track record is such that we cannot accept that the Church will be truthful or capable of self-regulation.
The late disclosure of files by the Church to Ferns Inquiry shows that the instinct for self-preservation and denial is still rife.
This 'no more Mr. Nice Guy' approach by the State means no longer countenancing the unhealthy enmeshing of the Church in the secular layers of our society.
It means no more consultation between Church and State on IVF.
On abortion services.
On stem cell research.
On Ireland's support for family planning in the third world.
On contraception or supports for single mothers.
On adoption. On homosexuality. On civil marriage.
In a democracy, all views can be articulated, but the special relationship is over. The deference is over. The cosy phone calls from All Hallows to Government Buildings must end.
This also means, like it or not, looking at the church's almost universal control of education. Our national school system was established 170 years ago and while they were originally meant to be (to use today's terminology) mixed religion or multi-denominational, in practice, it did not happen. As a result, virtually all national schools are under the management of one church – the Catholic Church.
Despite the State paying the bulk of the building and running costs, the relevant church authorities privately own and control the vast majority of national schools. The Bishops are patrons of 95% of national schools (3,013).
The same institution that has been found so wanting, effectively decides who is suitable or not to work in our children's schools. If our stated commitment to "taking all necessary action to protect children" is to be more than rhetoric, it is imperative that we radically address this issue. Indeed the investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin should deal with transfers of lay teachers for allegations of child abuse without due regard to child protection.
The Money Trail
I'd like to turn, Ceann Comhairle, to the neuralgic issue of money. Again in light of the terrible wrongs suffered by victims, discussing the finances might be viewed as unseemly. But money has been a motivating factor in the actions and inactions of the Church authorities in this whole subject.
Central to the Church's self-serving response over the years have been private financial settlements without liability, as well as confidentiality deals.
If the State is carrying out audits in every diocese, investigations that could uncover scores of previously undisclosed abuse cases, I believe they must also audit the Church's wealth. Given the nature and extent of the wrongdoing of this institution against citizens, the Church should be obliged to open up its books. Discovery orders should be made to gain some understanding of the money trail. Such an audit of Church assets and wealth is long overdue and should have taken place prior to the indemnity given to the religious orders. I note also that, true to form, the Church has the temerity to claim €100,000 for their legal costs for dealing with the Ferns Inquiry.
Its is estimated that the Church now faces a compensation bill of up to €250 million for clerical sex abuse resulting from existing claims and new cases set to emerge following the publication of the Ferns Report. On top of this is the €128 million already paid to victims of abuse in children's homes run by religious orders.
Going back to the need for separation and objectivity between Church and State. Sadly, it is difficult to argue that this was the paradigm within which the negotiations on the indemnity deal struck by the government with the religious orders, took place.
The cost to the orders, as I said, was about €128 million while the cost to the State would be a blank cheque- the State covering every single lawsuit brought against the congregations for child abuse in reformatories and industrial schools. This is not, of course, to understate the share of responsibility the State had for some of the horrors that unfolded in those places. But, the uncomfortable fact is that in several cases taken in the courts by victims outside the redress scheme, the liability of the State has not been proven.
So blanket indemnity was overgenerous by the State- why? All roads lead to the deference of the special relationship.
The result was a bad deal for the State and a good deal for the religious orders. Initial estimates of the potential liability were in the region of €250 million. Three or four times that amount may prove closer to reality, in terms of liability to the taxpayer.
The special relationship has not served Ireland or its citizens well, and it did not serve the victim's of abuse well. For example, the implication posed in the Ferns Report is that complaints of sexual abuse made against priests to the Gardaí were handled inadequately. Evidence given to the inquiry team shows that some complaints made to Gardaí do not seem to have been recorded in any Gárda file. Most worryingly, they do not appear to have been investigated in an appropriate manner, due reluctance of members of the Gardaí to investigate allegations against members of the Catholic clergy.
Again the veil of deference descended. Undoubtedly progress has been made in relation to the relationship between the Gardaí and the Church, and this must continue.
I welcome the Governments commitment to introduce new legislation. But legislation alone will not suffice. The law must operate and apply in a context of objectivity and cool detachment. Victims, family members, friends, politicians and Gardaí and judges must not be deterred or reluctant to speak out and act in these matters. I welcome that the Government is to move to allow for barring orders against persons, including priests, who are a risk to children in order to restrain them from occupying any employment that exposes them to children and a new criminal offence of failing to protect children from injury or sexual abuse, or reckless endangerment.
Whatever about failure to protect, I want to turn, a Cheann Comhairle, to the failure to prosecute cases of child abuse. For many years, I have been baffled by the non-prosecution of child abuse cases even when validated by the Health Boards.
As Opposition Spokesperson for Justice from 92 to 97 I tabled dozens of parliamentary questions to the Taoiseach, for the DPP, asking why the statistics were skewed? Because of my interest over many years I became a contact point for many families, exasperated because of non-prosecutions. The DPP does not give reasons – leaving victims and their families distraught.
In some cases it was because of delay. Frequently the accused would take civil actions seeking to stop the prosecution on the grounds that delay in prosecution prejudiced the defendant's right to a fair trial. This device was successfully used by the notorious child rapist George Gibney, who escaped prosecution and is now living abroad. Many abusers have availed of this and it is the judiciary, not the State that have developed to some extent the law in this regard.
In my view we must change the law to state that delay alone cannot be used by the defendant in child abuse allegations, to stop prosecution. The passage of time, and thus delay, is part and parcel of child abuse. Many victims will only disclose when they are safe or adult.
In summary, a Cheann Comhairle, it is time for straight talking and respectful disengagement by the State from the Irish Catholic Church across all sectors. This enmeshed relationship has been characteristic of Irish life since the foundation of the State.
q One recalls De Valera's drafts of Bunreacht na hÉireann being edited, page by page, by the Hierarchy. And my own Party's unhappy but courageous suggestion of disengagement known as "taking God out of the Irish Constitution".
q One recalls
o The many battles, mostly lost, between State and Church.
o The pregnant women isolated and condemned from pulpits, dismissed from schools, banished to Magdalene laundries. All the acts of a non-loving Church.
o The unrelenting deference expected and given at State functions and in terms of diplomatic protocol. (The papal Nuncio is numero uno in our diplomatic corps).
o The sweetheart deal for residential abuse.
o The non-extradition of Brendan Smyth.
o The related intrigue in the AG's Office, and the inactions of Official A, issues never really resolved as to any Church's involvement.
o The millions paid out in private financial settlements by the Archdiocese of Dublin and perhaps others.
o The abortion referenda and the wording being negotiated with the Bishops and the pro-life movement.
o The tip-toeing around the State ceremony marking the elevation of Desmond Connell to cardinal in Dublin Castle – the "Larkin" affair.
o My own mauling when as a Minister, in July 2001, I criticised the Church authorities for doing what this Report has now found – transferring paedophile priests rather than exposing them for prosecution.
o The fact that many priests so transferred went on to play leading roles in the child abuse scandals in the United States.
o The secrecy about money and possible movement offshore thereof.
o The hiring of the best lawyers, the hardball played by them on the Church's behalf, and it still goes on.
o The deafening and immoral silence of the Vatican on the Ferns Report.
It is overwhelming. It is compelling. There is no other way to say it. The special relationship must be over between the State and the Church.
As a faith organisation it must look to rebuild - if it can - its relationship with its flock. My own view as one who has irreconcilable differences with the institution of the Church is that unless it allows the laity in, including women, it is in terminal decline. But to follow my own logic, those are religious matters- not matters for the State.
Kathy’s Story by Kathy O’Beirne
Kathy O'Beirne's earliest memories are of being battered and sexually abused. Unable to confide in anyone about the beatings she regularly received from her father or about the boys who made her play dirty games, she became withdrawn and self-destructive, leading a psychiatrist to diagnose her as 'a child with a troublesome mind'. As a result, aged only eigh,t Kathy was removed from the family home and incarcerated in a series of institutions. In the first, a reformatory school run by a holy order on behalf of the Irish State, she was raped by a visiting priest. When she tried to get help, she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where the abuse continued, along with the administration of large amounts of drugs and electric shock treatment. At the age of twelve, Kathy was sent to a Magdalen laundry. These notorious workhouses operated in Ireland throughout the twentieth century and during that time thousands of young girls, some orphans, some pregnant and some considered 'at risk' in the community, were forced to slave in horrendous conditions. Locked away from their families and the outside world, many of the girls were cruelly punished and sexually abused by the staff or lay visitors. Kathy fell victim to one of these predators and gave birth to baby Annie just weeks before her fourteenth birthday. The little girl had a serious bowel condition but lived to the age of ten, providing the only light in Kathy's blighted life. After all that she has suffered, Kathy has now come forward to tell her harrowing story in the hope that more will be done to help survivors of institutional abuse. She recounts her tragic experiences in unflinching detail but what is most remarkable is the strength of character that shines through such a dark tale. It is this strength that has enabled her to survive and fired her continuing struggle for justice.
Don't Ever Tell: Kathy's Story: A True Tale of a Childhood Destroyed by Neglect and Fear by Kathy O'Beirne
Childhood Interrupted: Growing up under the cruel regime of the Sisters of Mercy by Kathleen O'Malley
Fear of the Collar: My Terrifying Chidhood in Artane by Patrick Touher
Behind Closed Doors by Jenny Tomlin
Freedom of Angels: Surviving Goldenbridge Orphanage by Bernadette Fahy
For Crying Out Loud: One Woman's Story of Hope and Courage by Cheryl Frampton
Plea for State to stop pursuing her for €500,000 legal costs
A MOTHER-OF-TWO who was sexually abused by a school principal could lose her home as the State aggressively pursues her for €500,000 in legal costs.
She lost her action against the State earlier this year over the appalling abuse and as a result now faces the legal bill.
Yesterday, however, Louise O'Keeffe (42) was awarded €305,000 in damages against the principal, Leo Hickey, who was jailed in 1998 for three years for abuse of 20 children.
But it is unlikely she will ever get a penny of it from the former principal of Dunderrow National School, Kinsale, Co Cork.
Instead she lives in fear that she and her two young children will be rendered destitute by the State's continued pursuit of the outstanding legal bill.
Last night, she issued an emotional appeal to the Government to live up to its responsibilities over the terrible ordeal she suffered 30 years ago.
"My parents had no choice about sending me to national school.
"I had to go.
"The responsibility for ensuring we were safe and protected rests with the State," she said.
Colm O'Gorman, director of the abuse victims' support group One in Four, accused the State of performing a "rather blatant dodge" in claiming to have no legal responsibility for the actions of teachers in national schools.
He said the Department of Education directly paid the salaries of teachers, set the terms of their employment and agreed their contracts.
But, he said, it continues to place responsibility for their actions on schools' boards of management which are made up of volunteers.
Whatever about the State's historical dependence on religious and charity organisations for schooling in the past, it must now "accept responsibility" for children in its schools, he said.
Mr O'Gorman, a Progressive Democrat candidate in the forthcoming election, said other victims of abuse have been intimidated from pursuing their cases against the State as a direct result of the fate being endured by Ms O'Keeffe's.
"Solicitors are much clearer in their warnings to people with regard to the risk of having to pay costs.
"If it is the State's intention, to make an example out of Ms O'Keeffe, it has had the desired effect," he said.
Mr O'Gorman also dismissed yesterday's damages as a "paper award" as the court has questioned Mr Hickey's ability to pay.
Mr Justice Eamon de Valera awarded Ms O'Keeffe €305,104 in damages, noting she had suffered "catastrophic injuries" as a schoolgirl.
He said Mr Hickey had aggravated the situation by not coming to court and awarded costs against him.
Mr Hickey was sentenced to three years in jail in 1998 after pleading guilty to 21 charges of assault from a sample of 380 counts involving 20 girls.
Earlier this year, Mr Justice de Valera ruled the State was not to blame for the indecent assaults suffered by Ms O'Keeffe and said he had no option but to award costs, estimated to be about €500,000, to the State.
Ms O'Keeffe has appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Her solicitor confirmed yesterday that the Department of Education "continues to look for legal costs,", even though the High Court has found she "was abused in an appalling fashion".
A Department of Education spokeswoman said she could not comment, given the pending Supreme Court action.
Ms O'Keeffe said she hoped the Government would consider "the bigger picture".
"I've already gone through one nightmare - I don't want to have to go through another one," she said.
Grainne Cunningham, Ralph Riegel, and Ann O'Loughlin (Irish Independent)
27 March 2007
We should all fear State that turns against its most vulnerable citizens
By Fergus Finlay (Examiner)
IN a democracy there is no uglier spectacle than the power of the State being used against its own citizens. In fact it’s not even compatible with the notion of democracy.
Only totalitarian states operate as if the interests of the state were more important than the needs of the people.
Of course, in any democracy, the State is often involved in making choices, and frequently difficult ones.
The common good demands that the State gets involved in arbitrating or mediating between different interests, and that always involves winners and losers. In a democracy, the winners will often, though not always, be the more vulnerable. In a totalitarian state, the powerful will always win. We have seen two examples in the past week where the power and influence of our State was deployed to make sure vulnerable people lost.
In one situation, people who have been sexually abused by teachers have been denied any form of redress by the State and threatened with financial ruin if they seek to take a case.
In the other, families of autistic children have been told that a State which has historically under-provided for their children’s needs still knows best and will allocate only what the State considers appropriate.
Every teacher is a public servant. Their salaries are paid by the State; their conditions of employment are set by the State. It is not possible to pay a teacher more or less, or treat a teacher better or worse, than in the conditions laid down by the State.
But much more important than that, every teacher provides a public service, perhaps the most important and long-lasting public service there is.
They don’t save lives, of course, but they form them. For better or worse they influence the course of young people’s lives, often forever. A good teacher will often be counted among the most important influences that most of us can remember.
They do all this on behalf of the State. The investment made by the State in education is critical to the development of a society and an economy.
Decisions made by the State over generations in relation to education are among the most formative and influential possible — in years to come, for instance, historians will trace the foundations of the Celtic Tiger right back to the decision to introduce free second-level education.
But a bad teacher can destroy lives. A teacher who uses the authority and control their position gives them to abuse children can, and does, leave scars that never heal. The man who abused Louise O’Keeffe in Dunderrow National School, near Kinsale, was a public servant employed for the specific purpose of helping to shape her young life and equip her for the future. His name was Leo Hickey, not just any teacher, but the principal of the school. And the State has no responsibility for this public servant.
The State has argued successfully in the courts that it did not employ Hickey and cannot be regarded as liable for the actions that devastated the lives of Louise O’Keeffe and others. Instead, Hickey was hired by the local school, through whatever structure was in place at the time.
The courts may be prepared to accept this legal technicality, but it is a fiction. Anyone who is involved in a school board, at whatever level, knows it is not possible to buy a pencil for the school, never mind hire a teacher, without ultimately accounting to the State for it.
Every penny spent by a school must be reported annually and nothing of any substance can be spent without the permission of the State.
But then, having won its case against Louise O’Keeffe, having established in the eyes of the law that it was not liable to her, the State set about punishing her for daring to suggest it had some responsibility for the terrible things a public servant had done to her.
The State is now pursuing her for costs amounting to €500,000 and has threatened every individual it knows who has been similarly abused that they, too, will be punished if they seek redress.
This is the State that has apologised to people who have been abused in religious-run institutions largely funded and inspected by the State.
This is the State that has insisted on paying the lion’s share of the necessary redress to the people who were abused because, in the Taoiseach’s words, the State didn’t want to bankrupt the religious orders.
This is the State that has failed to take any action against politicians who have defrauded taxpayers of millions and broken half a dozen laws.
This is the State that has paid out tens of millions to soldiers who have lost hearing as a result of their employment.
This is the State that has wasted hundreds of millions on vanity capital projects.
The State may have law on its side in the case of Louise O’Keeffe and other people who have suffered gross abuse at the hands of public servants, but there is no justice in this action, and no morality.
THE State may not care about people who have been abused in school, but it still knows best about how to meet the needs of its most vulnerable citizens.
So it has argued, successfully, in the courts against the family of Seán Ó Cuanacháin. Seán is six, and has autism. If the State is awarded costs in this case and pursues them, his parents’ search for a proper education for their son may cost them their home.
I’m not going to go into the rights and wrongs of different forms of education for autistic children here.
The one thing that is absolutely indisputable about the development of young people with autism is this: early intervention is essential, and education must be intensive and geared to their specific individual needs. If that doesn’t happen, the prospect of good development is hugely diminished.
And it didn’t happen, and won’t happen, in Seán’s case because the State has decided it doesn’t want to guarantee it. The State knows best what’s good for Seán.
It doesn’t matter that in our constitution "the State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family".
All that means, it seems, is that families can provide whatever education they can afford themselves.
If they believe they can rely on the State to listen to them about their children’s needs, they should forget it. It might tell you in the constitution that you know best what your child needs, but that’s tough. The State will decide what’s appropriate.
Many families of young people with autism were hoping this time it would be different.
But the very fact that the State was prepared to drag this family through 68 days in the High Court should have told us all we need to know.
The State has argued in the past that its responsibility for education should only extend to those whom the State regards as educable. Clearly, that mindset has not changed.
We need to be angry. But the behaviour and mindset behind these cases should make us more than angry.
We should be afraid of a State that acts this way.
(heading for a historic third term-and the vote of every priest, nun, and rosary reciting farmer in the country..)
But the ordinary workers will pay dearly after the re-election.
The disgraceful deal with religious orders
29 October 2006
Today’s tracking poll results bring unwelcome news for the Labour leader Pat Rabbitte, but he continues to do an important public service by refusing to let the public or the government forget the consequences of the appalling, unfair, behind-closed-doors deal that Bertie Ahern’s government did with the religious orders.
Last week in the Dail Rabbitte again focused public and political attention on the consequences of this deal, as he has done repeatedly since he became leader of his party.
He used the recent estimates of the Comptroller and Auditor General of the final cost of the Residential Institutions Redress Board - heading for an astonishing €1.2 billion - to pose a set of questions for the Taoiseach, to which, predictably, he received no satisfactory answers.
Dragging horrors into the light
Sunday, January 10, 2010 By John Burke
In the past two years, Cynthia Owen has rarely left home. The 48-year-old Dubliner has been semi-reclusive since an inquest named her as the mother of an infant murdered 34 years earlier.
The baby’s discarded body was discovered in a plastic bag by two youths in a Dun Laoghaire laneway.
That verdict, in February 2007, finally gave a name to the child - Noleen, as chosen by her mother.
It also identified the child’s birthplace as Owen’s family home - number 4 White Villas in Dalkey - later dubbed by the media as the ‘‘Dalkey house of horror’’.
The jury’s unanimous decision at Dublin County Coroner’s court was preceded by Owen’s emotional evidence in which she recounted seeing her mother, Josephine Murphy, stab the infant to death with a knitting needle. Josephine Murphy died in 2006, but a statement she gave to gardaí in 2005, in which she denied killing the infant, was read out at the inquest.
Further, Owen claimed the child had been conceived as a result of incest and that she had been subjected to ritual abuse by friends of her father, and that Peter Murphy senior, a now-deceased council labourer, was the father.
Speaking about the events, Owen says: ‘‘It was a victory . . . I was not jubilant . . . that would not be the correct word, but it was a victory for justice and it was a victory for Noleen. My child was given back her name.”
The pursuance of justice for baby Noleen began in 1995,when Owen walked into a Garda station in Dun Laoghaire and said she had given birth to the infant when aged 11, and that she had seen her mother kill the baby with a knitting needle moments after the birth in April 1973.
Nearly 15 years after walking into that Garda station, Owen says her attempt to obtain justice for her and her baby has met constant obstacles. Owen now lives in Wales with her husband Simon, without whom she says she could not have continued her fight.
Since the inquest, Owen says she has had ‘‘no peace or a chance to heal’’. And while the process of writing a memoir of her tormented childhood, which will be published on January 10??, has been cathartic for Owen, it is not her main reason for exhuming her past.
‘‘I have had to work on this book to highlight the injustice of my daughter’s murder and the lack of action taken in this case,” she says.
‘‘My daughter was clearly identified at the inquest, her place of birth and death established as 4 Whites Villas Dalkey, providing the Gardaí with a murder scene and a time of death and likely suspects.”
Owen’s evidence to the inquest depicted a childhood home filled with unspeakable horrors. In addition to the claims against her father, Owen claims one of her brothers, Peter Murphy junior, also raped her. The inquest heard a statement from a former childhood friend of Peter Murphy junior.
He recounted him saying he ‘‘had sex with his sister’’. The witness said he and Murphy were ‘‘only 11 or 12’’ years of age at the time, and added that after the comment he ‘‘stopped hanging around’’ with Peter Murphy junior.
Peter Murphy junior denied the allegation in evidence.
Owen re-lived much of her childhood experiences when giving evidence at the inquest. The difficulties she has faced since are clear in a diagnosis earlier this year that she was suffering from severe prolonged post traumatic stress disorder.
During the inquest, Owen gave gardaí and the coroner’s court a list of men - including her late father - whom she claims subjected her to ritual sexual abuse in the early 1970s. She claims that at the time of the abuse, three of those men were members of An Garda Siochana.
Owen is unhappy about the ineffectiveness of successive Garda probes that were conducted into her daughter’s death - beginning with an original murder inquiry in 1973 and ending with another inquiry in 2007.
‘‘They interviewed only three people after the inquest and - for the seventh time - the DPP decided not to prosecute. They wouldn’t even tell my legal team who the three witnesses were.
‘‘The minister for justice at that time, Michael McDowell, ordered an inquiry into the case, but I wasn’t interviewed as part of that inquiry and our request for specific terms of reference were denied.”
Owen’s lawyers have since demanded a full public inquiry into the murder. ‘‘The present Minister for Justice has repeatedly refused to meet with me, my solicitor or my local Member of Parliament,” she says, questioning why the two justice ministers who have succeeded McDowell - Brian Lenihan and Dermot Ahern - have declined to commission a broader inquiry.
‘‘The Minister for Children, Barry Andrews, has also declined to meet me, saying he is too busy.
The Minister for Children is too busy to meet with the mother of a murdered baby, and a victim of a paedophile ring of which up to eight men are still alive and still a real risk to society?” she says.
‘‘I am releasing this book with a heavy heart. I am saddened that this has to be the way of having my daughter’s voice heard . . . my daughter was born and murdered in my family home when I was only 11 years old. There is a murder scene and a group of suspects, and yet no one has paid for her death.
‘‘I made the painful decision to show a picture of her grave, knowing that she lay there in secret, with no name and no identity for 22 years, while her murderers enjoyed freedom. All we have been left with is her name and the place where she lays, unacknowledged and betrayed.”
In addition to the mental and emotional difficulties Owen faced when writing the book, her publishers have faced a legal minefield in bringing it to print.
‘‘A lot of my story has had to be left out to protect the guilty,” Owen says. This includes a list of the names and occupations of the men Owen says took part in her ritual abuse. During the inquest she was prevented from reading out her statement listing the names and occupations of the men who she says abused her. She claimed that, in total, 14 men, including her father, abused her.
Her late father, who was accused of being the ringleader in her ritual abuse, took a High Court action prior to his death in 2008, in which he challenged directions given to the inquest jury by the presiding coroner, Dr Kieran Geraghty.
‘‘The coroner was threatened with legal action by some of the men who abused me; he was also threatened by a person that they would kill themselves if he summoned them to give evidence about my father’s sexual abuse,” Owen says.
A date in early March has been set to hear a High Court action launched against the Coroner’s decision by Owen’s father prior to his death in 2008, which is being continued by one of Owen’s siblings.
‘‘I am still here and I am still fighting and I will not be silenced, and I am not finished with them yet. This isn’t over by a long shot,” she says.
She is hopeful that her book will reach out to other victims - ‘‘in particular to victims of ritual abuse in Ireland. I have included a report in the book from Fiona Neary from the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI), to show that ritual abuse has and is taking place in Ireland.”
This declaration runs contrary to the observations contained in the report, commissioned by Michael McDowell.
‘‘Victims of ritual abuse in Ireland are being told that it does not exist, just like we were once told that clerical abuse did not exist, that women do not commit sexual abuse. That has all been proven untrue,” says Owen.
‘‘I am astounded that, on the back of the Ryan and the Murphy reports, the Irish authorities seem reluctant to take any proper action about my case, if only to protect other innocent children.
‘‘If nothing else, I hope that this book gives me the voice I didn’t have as a child, and that it brings people like the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Children into my world so they can see for themselves what I experienced as a child, and what my daughter went through.”
Living with Evil by Cynthia Owen is published by Hachette Ireland