MORE to follow.
At the UN Committee Against Torture.
An Irish official from the Department of Justice, sitting next to Minister of State for Justice and Equality David Stanton (left), spoke to the committee about the report into the Magdalene laundries by former Senator Martin McAleese published on February 5, 2013.
“I have to say at the start the Taoiseach’s apology and the findings of the McAleese report still stand. There’s no question of walking back from either.
“On the question of criminal abuse, I’ll start by saying that the department approved payments for 677 women and, as part of that process, there’s a lot of interaction between the individual women and the department. And only in two cases was a reference arose to the question of possible criminal abuse…”
…It was quite rightly stated that a question of criminal abuse was not a specific term of reference for the McAleese committee. The chairperson did decide to look into the matter. He interviewed [inaudible] to determine if they had seen any sign that would indicate any abuse within the institution or whether doctors had treated any suspicious injuries and he got no indication from them.
He also looked at the question of unlawful imprisonment. There was never any legal basis for detaining a woman in a Magdalene laundry if she was an adult. And at the time, the age of majority in Ireland was 21. So that’s, any woman who was 21 or older, there’s no legal basis for their detention in a Magdalene institution.
A number of women, when interviewed by the chairman of the committee, did say that they were unsure of whether they were always free to leave and a smaller number of women who felt that they were being detained against their will but those particular cohort of women all came through the industrial schools and there was a provision in the act that governs those industrial schools that provided that a child committed to an industrial school could be subject to controls up the age of 21. So that there would be a legal basis for them being restricted, their liberty.
We have no reason to believe at this stage, that there is a body of evidence out there which was not looked at by the McAleese committee. But if there is evidence of criminal abuse that’s newly available, we would be happy to receive it from any source.
The McAleese committee did look for all relevant diocesan records and did inspect material from the Galway diocese. In addition, the Department of Justice itself, and separate to the committee, did receive material from the Galway dioceses, because it lists a number of individuals and that facilitated the granting of payments to those individuals because it proved that they were in that institution.
There are questions of sensitive personal data regarding the archives of the McAleese committee. A person who was in a Magdalene institution is entitled to access to religious records relating to her so any individual who wants to access records relating to them may have access to them.
There is no statute of limitations in Ireland for criminal offences. We are not aware of any civil action that has been taken in the Irish courts relating to a Magdalene institution and has failed because of the statute of limitations being envoked.
Moving on to the actual scheme itself, Judge Quirke recommended that only two criteria be applied for the question of eligibility for payment, under the scheme. That was one, the person was admitted to the, one of the specialised institutions and the second was they worked those in those specific institutions.
In that context the Government decided that persons should not benefit from two schemes with one exception. And this was an exception that was specifically recommended by Judge Quirke, it was a report and that is in relation to girls who were transferred from industrial schools to Magdalene laundries under the relevant legislation and the exception applies where the period up to the age of 18, so in period up to the age of 18, they’re eligible for possibly compensation, or payments, from either the Residential Institutions Redress scheme or the Magdalene scheme. But for the period over 18, it’s limited just to the Magdalene scheme.
The question of medical assistance abroad was mentioned. The provision and statutory provision has been provided for the provision of medical assistance in Ireland. But, obviously, that can’t be applied to other countries because we don’t have the jurisdiction over their medical system so the arrangement is done on an ad-hoc basis, individual basis, depending on which country they’re in, arrangements made on that basis.
Now that the majority of women have been identified and have been in and have been paid, there is work necessary to progress other matters and that includes the question of a memorial…
Felice D. Gaer, a member of the UN Committee Against Torture, above, recalled the words of the late Sir Nigel Rodley who addressed Irish officials in 2014.
He referred to your legacy of abuse and I’m going to quote him here: he said it was ‘quite a collection’. Quite a collection and his view was, he said it is time the Irish state stopped it’s automatic response to every scandal, being to first deny, then delay, then lie, cover-up and, eventually are forced to throw some money at it and hope it will go away.
“Now, this is a surprisingly sharp omment from him and I only bring it up at the end now because first I wanted to honour his memory but recalling this, I also wanted to recall that when we reviwed Ireland the first time, in 2011, Mr Shatter [former Justice Minister Alan Shatter] came in and his response to the question of what was happening with the Magdalene laundries was to say that the, this was something that happened long ago, that the girls…and it was only by, that everybody had gone there with consent.
“And I’m glad to hear today that the position of the Government has changed on that position.”
Watch today’s proceedings live here
Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion
Miriam O’Callaghan with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, left, and Ms Zappone’s late wife Ann Louise Gilligan
On Saturday with Miriam….
…Minister Katherine Zappone will look back on the campaign for marriage equality that she and her recently deceased wife, Ann Louise Gilligan, began over a decade ago.
In their first interview since Dancing with the Stars, model Thalia Heffernan and dancer Ryan McShane tell us how love blossomed for them on the dance floor…
…Legend of Liverpool football Ian Rush will chat about his life and stellar career as Liverpool’s top goal scorer.
…Ireland recently struck gold in the U20 European Championships and rising athletics star Gina Akpe–Moses will talk about her big win in the 100 metres.
Also music will be provided by proponents of harmonic folk ‘n’ roll, Morrissey and Marshall.
*returns imaginary telly licence to shuttered-up An Post office*
Saturday Night with Miriam At 9.20pm on RTÉ One.
Why is there no Twitter hashtag foe Miriam’s Saturday night show? Nervous about potential wrath or something more innocent?
It would surely be logistically easier to treat the British Isles as what it has always been – a single customs area. Checks only at ports.
— Daniel Hannan (@DanielJHannan) July 28, 2017
Speaking for myself, I want the time from 1815-1914 back. A golden age of unity and prosperity under the Empire.
— John McGuirk (@john_mcguirk) July 28, 2017
From top: Google Earth image of Clonkeen College rugby picthes; Outside Clonkeen College, Deansgrange, County Dublin; Peter Tanham
Further to news that the Christian Brothers are selling off 60% of Deansgrange, County Dublin-based Clonkeen College’s pitches for €18m, in part to pay for their €10m contribution to the sex abuse redress scheme….
Peter Tanham writes:
The move by the Christian Brothers has been condemned by parents, pupils, staff and local residents. Understandably so, as it will have significant impact on the community.
This unilateral decision by the Christian Brothers has implications far beyond Dun Laoghaire. It serves as a microcosm for the trouble we all face as religious organisation, who own much of our schools, hospitals and public service infrastructure, continue their decline.
Who Own Schools in Ireland?
To start understanding the larger problem, let’s pause to remind ourselves how the Irish schools system is organised. The Department of Education sets the national curriculum, sets the standards for teachers and pays their salaries. It also pays for most of the investment to build and maintain school buildings and facilities.
However, it doesn’t run the individual schools. Instead, it outsources this responsibility to organisations like the ERST, Catholic Schools, Educate Together and others. These organisations are known as Patrons. Patrons establish the ethos of the schools, they set the enrolment policies and they appoint the Boards of Management to each individual school in their patronage. The Board are in charge of the day-to-day running of each school.
96% percent of our Primary Schools and half of our secondary schools are in the patronage of a religious organisation.
Technically, these schools are privately owned but publicly funded, since the taxpayer pays the bulk of the building and running costs.
The Sale of the Pitches
This brings us back to Clonkeen College. The Christian Brothers own the land and the buildings, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST), a lay organisation created by the Brother’s in 2008, are the Patrons, and the taxpayer (via the Department of Education) pay for the teachers, pupils and investment in buildings and facilities.
In recent years the Department of Education (i.e. taxpayer funds) have spent €700,000 to drain, level and fence the playing pitches around the school, according to the principal Edward Melly.
They made these investments because the Christian Brothers gave them a guarantee that the school’s land, although owned by the Christian Brothers, would be given on licence to the ERST as long as the school is in existence.
“The Brothers gave us repeated permission to invest in and carry out works on the lands. They gave us no indication at any point they were at risk. We made extensive investments based on that information.”
On May 3, 2017, the Christian Brothers unilaterally informed the school’s board of management that they had entered into contracts for the sale of 7.5 acres – about 60% of the school’s sports pitches.
This week, after a parliamentary question in the Dáil, Richard Bruton admitted that the Christian Brothers have told him that the pitches have already been sold after 12 months of secret negotiations with a property developer.
The Christian Brother’s gave no prior warning to the School’s principal, parents or Board of Management.
That is the state of our Education infrastructure in Ireland in 2017. Over 2,000 schools are maintained and run with taxpayer money, but if the organisation which owns them decides to sell the facilities, we can’t intervene to stop them.
As we speak, how many other schools’ facilities might the Church be secretly negotiating to sell?
Effect on the Community
The sale of two thirds of a school’s pitches will undoubtedly be detrimental to the education of the 500 pupils of the school, but more than that it should act as a canary in the coal mine for how we, as a country, approach not just education but public service provision in general.
Last month, The Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary got €13m from the sale of a 5.4-acre land attached to Our Lady’s Grove Primary School in Goatstown Road, despite protests of parents.
We are all paying, through taxes, to invest in public infrastructure like Schools and hospitals, which are owned not by us, but by private organisations who are then free to turnaround and sell them or change their use in ways that aren’t in everyone’s collective best interest.
Nowhere is this more evident and troublesome than the €300m we’re about to invest in a new National Maternity Hospital which will be fully owned by a private organisation, not the state.
Where We Go From Here
The numbers in the religious organisations in Ireland are rapidly dwindling and getting older. They will be the first to tell you that. They see the writing on the wall.
We’re at the start of a decade or two of massive change, which can either one of two outcomes. The first, if our government remain disengaged, is more and more schools being affected like Clonkeen and Our Lady’s Grove, with their lands sold to the highest bidder. Rising property prices will drive this further.
The second, is that we re-engage with these organisations, using both carrots and sticks, to start the necessary transfer of education provision into the custody of the state, as it is in any modern country.
I have talked to many in the church who acknowledge that (in their words) they took the education system this far, but now it needs to be handed over to the state.
There are many good people within these organisations who know that the transition needs to take place, and they just want acknowledgement that many of them did good, honest, compassionate work to educate where the state failed to do so.
It is possible to acknowledge that good work of those in religious life, while at the same time abhorring the current set up and feel an urgent need for change.
This doesn’t have to be a battle at every stage, but at many points it will be.
In my day job (I run a tech company), when people make large investments in a business they take equity ownership. I don’t see why the same can’t happen here.
If Simon Harris is investing €300m in the National Maternity Hospital, at the bare minimum that should come with a large % ownership stake in the Saint Vincent Hospital Group.
Every time the Department of Education makes an investment in a school property or grounds, it could similarly start taking equity in the school ownership in return.
The funds they used to buy these lands came from tax exempt donations from the Irish public. These tax exemptions amount to decades of public subsidies, so compelling them to act in the public interest isn’t an outrageous demand.
Over time we can start transitioning our public infrastructure into state ownership for the benefit of future generations – exactly where it should have been all along. This is not an immediate solution, but a problem this big rarely has quick fixes.
Peter Tanham is the CEO of an Irish tech company and the Social Democrats representative for Dun Laoghaire. Follow Peter on Twitter: @PeterTanham
RTÉ host and Sunday Independent deputy editor Brendan O’Connor
Further to Vincent Browne presenting his final Tonight with Vincent Browne show last night…
In the Phoenix magazine…
“..TV3 heads Bill Malone and Aoife Stokes have been negotiating with Sunday Independent and RTÉ host on The Saturday Night Show, Brendan O’Connor, to take over the show for several weeks now.
“…TV3 wants to transform its nightly show from hard politics to a softer chat show and they believe O’Connor’s Saturday night show as well as his Cutting Edge programmes equip him for the job.”
Earlier: Last Night With Vincent Browne
Currently the situation at RTÉ is causing widespread disquiet.
The NUJ and many women are angry that male presenters are paid considerably more than their female counterparts, the head of the company is concerned that it is losing money while the general public is worried about a possible increase in the price of the TV licence.
I have a suggestion that could solve all these problems at once: reduce the salaries of the men until they match those of the women.
There! Everyone is happy!
RTÉ bosses have been accused of gagging staff who want to talk publicly about the gender pay gap controversy.
During a meeting of RTÉ National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members on Thursday it was claimed that management had refused to give permission to some of its stars to engage with the media about the ongoing debate over pay.
One presenter told the meeting she had been approached by a number of newspapers and asked to comment on the issue but when she asked for authorisation from RTE it was denied.
Related: Running Out Of Mileage
Previously: Six One, Half A Dozen Of The Other
Vera Twomey and her daughter Ava in Tyesterdays edition of ‘The Algemeen Dagblad’
Vera Twomey and her husband Paul Barry gave an interview with a Dutch daily newspaper yesterday over their struggle to obtain medicinal cannabis for their daughter Ava.
Vera, Peter and Ava have moved to Holland to legally treat the symptoms of Ava’s dravet syndrome.
Previously: Vera Twomey on Broadsheet
Every Friday, we give away a voucher worth TWENTY FIVE big ones to spend at any of the 14 Golden Discs stores nationwide.
All we ask from you is a tune we can play at an unspecified time NEXT WEEK.
This week’s theme: A song for YOU.
To celebrate our seventh birthday, what tune would you dedicate to a specific ‘ sheet commenter writer, columnist, cartoonist, troll or even admin person you feel is deserving of the honour?
To enter, please complete this sentence:
‘For the birthday that’s in it, please play_______________for_________________because_____________’
Lines MUST close at
6.25pm MIDNIGHT Sunday!