What has happened in the four years since the state was made to take its share of blame for the abuse in National Schools in Ireland?
Dr Conor O’Mahony, a deputy director of the Child Law Clinic at University College Court, writing for RTÉ [full article at link below], says:
For decades, the State failed to implement child protection frameworks in national schools. The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled [in the Louise O’Keeffe case, 2014] that this was partly to blame for abuse in those schools, but the State continues to fight survivors of abuse tooth and nail...
…The O’Keeffe judgment ought to have been a watershed moment in which the State’s role in facilitating heinous sex crimes against pupils in national schools was fully acknowledged and accepted.
Instead, the State immediately went into damage limitation mode.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s apology to Louise O’Keeffe pointedly referred to children “in the location where she was”, failing to acknowledge that the judgment concerned a systemic failure to supervise child protection in national schools rather than a specific failure to respond to a complaint in Dunderrow.
This pattern continued when a redress scheme was established for victims of sexual abuse in national schools as part of the State’s implementation of the judgment.
The scheme limited redress to those victims who could establish that their abuse had occurred in the aftermath of a prior complaint which had not been acted upon.
First, this distorts the true basis of liability in the O’Keeffe judgment. As the Court observed, the State’s obligations were
“not fulfilled when the Irish State … continued to entrust the management of the primary education of the vast majority of young Irish children to non-State actors (national schools), without putting in place any mechanism of effective State control against the risks of such abuse occurring”.
The emphasis was on risk and the need for preventive measures, not on investigation of actual abuse.
To say otherwise is equivalent to saying that a search party is an adequate substitute for a stable door.
Gemma O’Doherty reports that several former pupils of Terenue College have come forward claiming they were sexually and physically abused in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ms O’Doherty writes:
Terenure College is one of a growing number of fee-paying Irish schools who may have to confront decades-old abuse in the coming years, as survivors gain the courage to come forward and seek redress and compensation.
The financial implications for private colleges which find themselves exposed to historic claims could prove catastrophic. Some may face the prospect of having to sell off valuable chunks of their campus or even closure.
But many victims believe the time has come to blow the whistle, regardless of the consequences.
They say their ‘alma maters’ should no longer be allowed to hide from the dark secrets of their past, which have shattered so many lives.
[One said:] “As a survivor of the violence and sexual abuse at Terenure, it saddens me to think that success on the rugby pitch was put ahead of child protection.
“When past pupils admire with pride the trophy cabinet in the college containing the Leinster Schools cups, they should be aware that they were won at the expense of innocent boys whose lives were destroyed by perverts disguised in brown Carmelite habits and grey suits.
“A few bad apples in the barrel yes, but nobody ever cast them out. Why not? The public, who subsidise private schools, have a right to know what happened. We can’t keep brushing abuse scandals under the carpet.“
From top: The Burlington Hotel, Dublin 4; George Gibney
You may recall the ongoing efforts of US journalist Irvin Muchnick to obtain former Irish swimming coach George Gibney’s immigration and visa file through the US courts.
Gibney was charged with 27 counts of indecency against young swimmers and of carnal knowledge of girls under the age of 15 in April, 1993 – but sought and won a High Court judicial review in 1994 which quashed all the charges against him.
The judicial review was secured following a controversial landmark Supreme Court decision – during which Gibney’s counsel Patrick Gageby argued that the delay in initiating the prosecution against Gibney infringed his right to a fair trial.
Mr Gageby won this decision. His sister Chief Justice Susan Denham was on the bench that day.
Following this Supreme Court decision, Justice Declan Costello conducted a judicial review and held that Mr Gibney’s right to a fair trial would be infringed if the prosecution were to be proceeded with.
After this, Gibney left Ireland for Edinburgh, Scotland and then Florida.
Further to this…
Mr Muchnick, of Concussion Inc, reports that an Irish woman has claimed she was sexually molested by Gibney when she was 11, in 1982, in the pool of the Burlington Hotel in Dublin 4.
For the purposes of this article, we are calling the victim in the 1982 incident “Julia.”… I have no independent verification of Julia’s allegation. But I believe her. And the full context of the Irish swimming scandals and of Gibney’s checkered two-continent history supports publishing her account.
Julia told me that she was abused by both Gibney and Ger Doyle (she remembers the former calling the latter “Jerry”). The delay in Julia’s coming forward has many familiar elements — shame, possible collateral damage to loved ones, fear that she would not be believed nor her information acted upon — and some unique ones. The latter include her absence from Ireland during the period when the swimming scandals first broke in the news media there.
“I never came forward about Gibney because I didn’t see the point after the injustice the others were dealt out. I didn’t want the upheaval in my life,” Julia told me.
“I had a hard childhood and just wanted to forget about everything I went through and get on with my life. What Gibney did to me was minor in comparison to other things that were done to me so I didn’t see the big deal about it when I was young. I sometimes thought about it but never saw myself coming forward until two years ago I saw a picture of Gibney and Ger Doyle in their younger days on the Internet and recognized them.”
Julia said that on an evening in 1982 her father brought herself and her brother, who is three years older, to the pool of the Burlington, in Dublin’s affluent Ballsbridge neighborhood. The brother asked how they would get admitted to the pool of a hotel where they were not staying. The father said he would arrange it through a lifeguard he knew. Julia believes the “lifeguard” was Doyle.
“My father talked to the lifeguard for a few minutes. He then told us it was OK and waved us in and said he would come back for us in two hours. When we got to the pool there was a man and a woman there. The man started talking to my older sibling, telling him that he was an Olympic swimming coach. My brother was really excited about this and came over to tell me. The man approached us and started splashing me with water so I splashed back. I asked him was he really an Olympic coach and he said yes. We thought it was amazing that we had met somebody like this.
“The man said he lived in a luxury apartment and would bring us there to show it to us if we came back the next night. He told us that he came here every night to swim.
“He said he wanted to see me swim, so I swam up and down the pool. He said I was a good swimmer but needed some lessons to be better. He made my sibling and me have swimming races. The girl he was with sat at the edge of the pool smiling as she watched the fun.
“The lifeguard blew the whistle after an hour was up. Gibney told me to stay — that he would give me a free swimming lesson. His girlfriend and my brother left, leaving me alone with Gibney and Ger Doyle.
“Gibney became angry and bossy. He brought me to a corner of the pool where the lifeguard was sitting and put his hand inside my bathing suit. He probed me everywhere and then put his finger inside me. While he was probing inside me, the lifeguard was watching and said, ‘Enough.’ Gibney said, ‘Just give me a few more minutes, Jerry.’
“The lifeguard was getting annoyed with Gibney and said to Gibney every few minutes, ‘Time is up, enough.’ Gibney would keep answering, ‘Just give me another minute, Jerry, I’m nearly finished.’
“There was something violent about him and I was afraid so didn’t protest. He was ordering me around. I froze while he abused me.
“When he was finished he told me to come back tomorrow night and he would bring us to his apartment. He told me to get out and get dressed. I was frightened and dressed as fast as I could.
“I just wanted to get out of there. I was afraid. I met my sibling in the front hall of the hotel waiting. He asked me why I took so long to get ready. We waited for my father to pick us up. I watched Gibney from the hall, he seemed to know a few people at the hotel, the workers from the bar and the receptionist knew his name, he talked to them. He left the hotel with two other men. My brother tried to wave to him but Gibney ignored him and walked on. My father came shortly after that to pick us up.
“My father said he would bring us back there the next night. The next day I pretended to be sick and have an earache. I knew he would do something worse to me the next time and dreaded it. After protesting, I got my way. My mother was there when I was pretending to be sick and said not to bring me swimming if I had an earache.
“I was 11. I didn’t fully understand what had happened to me and just thought every man did this to girls and that it was normal. I didn’t know any different because I had been sexually abused throughout my childhood; my first memory was when I was four “
Julia ran away from home in 1987, at age 16.
“The last two years of my life have been spent putting the pieces of the puzzle together to try and make sense of everything that happened to me as a child. Gibney is just one little piece of the big puzzle.”
Michael O’Brien: “All we have is denial, denial, denial. And the one thing that I will propose: that the assets of the Catholic Church be frozen and frozen now. Until the mother and babies, the institutional abuse, the clerical abuse and the magdalene laundries – all that is sorted out for once and for all so that this country can move, as it did years ago, as a peaceful country. And not for us to be listening, day after day, day after day. Because when you talk about abuse, I feel, as if it only happened to me a few minutes ago. And this is the problem we have.”
“The Catholic Church has denied and denied and covered up, from the first day. And not one Bishop, not one who covered it up has been brought into one of our courts.”
Claire Byrne: “Michael, do you not feel that things are moving? When we have the Taoiseach saying, only yesterday, that the church must measure up to the responsibilities that they accepted. Do you not feel that that’s a fundamental shift?”
O’Brien: “I can’t believe the Taoiseach any more because I remember when they removed the ambassador from the Vatican – a big hullaballoo. What did he do? He sent him back again. He put an ambassador back in there again. And went soft on the church. And because the mother and babies [story] came, this disgrace upon all of us, a shame upon all of us, that this thing happened, he now, again, is battering, shouting at the church.”
“I’m shouting at the church because I know what the church done to me and what two or three individuals of the church done to me. It’s easy to stand there, you, David [Quinn]. You know nothing about being raped and buggered. You know nothing about it. I do. I do. And four of my brothers and three of my little sisters – the same thing happened to them. Eight of us from the one family.”
Byrne: “Ok, Michael, I just…”
O’Brien: “So don’t…”
Byrne: “I just don’t want to put David in a position where he’s seen as a denier because he is not.”
Gorman: “It might be useful for me to say something and I completely understand where Michael’s anger and upset and I think it’s quite righteous where it’s coming from. But I do just want to say David [Quinn] and I were talking earlier on about the first time we were in a television studio and on that occasion David was advocating for the church to sell off every asset the church possessed until it properly compensated and dealt with these issues. So…”
David Quinn: “Thank you.”
Gorman: “So, to be fair, David’s been clear. David and I don’t agree on a very significant number of things but, to be fair, he’s also looked for, he’s generally looked for accountability on these issues.”
Byrne: “And I’m glad you made that point. We did ask out Claire Byrne Live/Amarach research panel: should the Government seize church land and property to compensate victims of clerical or institutional abuse – 69% said yes and 17% said no, 14% don’t know. Which is interesting. Because only in the last couple of hours, Minister Leo Varadkar says that property cannot be seized and that, if we ran a referendum on it, that that referendum would be lost. I know that Simon Harris suggested that, over the weekend, that perhaps we could do that. I don’t know, David, if you have a view of that.”
Quinn: “I mean it’s extremely likely it would be lost because you, you’d have to change the constitution in such a way that you make it easy for the State to seize property and, you know, it wouldn’t just be the church that would be affected. Basically, you’d give the State incredibly sweeping powers to seize property. Obviously, in terms of the compensation scheme, the 18 orders around the institutions must contribute their fair share and so the Comptroller and Auditor General released a report and so, if they’re not paying their fair share. Mind you, it also showed, of the 18 orders, most have paid what they said they’d pay and it’s important to put that on the record. The two, which are the biggest ones, which are the Christian Brothers the Mercy sisters, who ran most of the country’s institutions, they have yet to meet their obligations. I hope that happens in time. It ought to happen in time.”
Donald Clarke: “…People who do not believe in the Catholic doctrine, do not believe in all the things that are being said, should not take part in its rituals. These seems a very, very modest proposal to me…”
A look at the social welfare system in Ireland, from the eyes of Roos Demol, a Belgian writer/blogger resident in the country for eighteen years, as posted in Migrants in Ireland, her blog dedicated to stories of the Irish immigration experience.
The last thing I ever wanted to do was to become dependent on social welfare. But things happen. I had to quit my job a few months ago because I needed to be with my daughter who had several health problems, so money was already scarce, then my estranged husband decided to cut the maintenance in half and I was left penniless.
As any mother would do, I got into protection mode and did everything possible to get some kind of income. While looking for jobs, I also signed on for social welfare in the hope it would keep me going.
Ireland has an extremely outdated signing-on system., the endless paperwork, the old fashioned standing in line, the grumpy people in the social welfare office, it was all very unpleasant to experience, but I took it on and went through it, because I had no choice.
Nothing, however had prepared me for the meeting with the social welfare inspector.
Of course, I do understand why an inspection could be necessary, especially since I noticed that in the social welfare office and the community office every document you produce is considered to be fake, and everything you say is considered a lie, even my birth certificate was looked at with suspicion. ( I had to point out to the lady in the SWO that ‘September’ in Dutch means ‘September’ in English. I keep forgetting that Anglophones find understanding other languages very difficult).
I went to the appointment with the inspector as instructed on a Monday at 12. I was a bit taken aback by the office doors that each had a lock and an entry code. What was going on?
The man, blond with little piercing blue eyes, let me into his office, as always I smiled and said hello. He didn’t smile back.
He took my file and looked through it, then he said ‘So are you going back home?’ I looked puzzled. He repeated ‘why don’t you go back home to your family?’. I then realised that by ‘home’ he meant Belgium.
I looked at him in disbelief. I said ‘I’ve been living here for 18 years, my children are Irish, why on earth would I go back to Belgium?’
Then he said ‘So I guess you’re not then’. ‘Because you are going to get money off the state here’ he shouted out loud with a menacing look on his face.
I was bewildered, from then on I knew this was not just a talk about what happened and about the steps I should take, etc. this was an interrogation. I had to keep telling myself I was in Ireland, land of the thousand welcomes. I have borne children here, I have paid taxes, I pay taxes every time I buy something, I pay road tax, I delivered very intelligent and talented children to this country, I organised charity events for Action Breast Cancer , I am a cultural ambassador for the Irish In Europe Association, promoting Irish businesses in Brussels, I did workshops with teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, I fundraised money for the local school, brought choirs to small churches in the country side and many more things. but here was a guy telling me I am taking money off the state and telling me I should go ‘home’.
That meeting lasted around an hour. I was treated like a criminal all the way through, everything I said was either ridiculed or sneered at.
I could only think of one thing. What if I was black? What has this guy been saying to other people?
I did not sleep that night, I was completely traumatised. I made a complaint, we’ll see what happens.
I thought about the movies I saw, the books I read about the Magdalen sisters and the industrial schools, Angela’s Ashes and the way poor people were treated in the old days. It was always just fiction, but now I had experienced it myself, it is still happening.
I used to work in the employment office in Brussels, I met people like me, I also worked in prison for six years as a nurse. Never in my entire life have I treated anyone with such disrespect. I am totally disgusted.
I am in bad luck and working hard to get out of it. I am not taking social welfare because in the end I am not yet reaching the (very low) threshold for job seekers allowance, and the thought of ever having to see this man again, makes me sick. I think I’d rather go ‘home’ indeed.
On RTÉ’s Six One, anchor Brian Dobson introduced a news item, by RTÉ’s political correspondent, saying the following:
“The Ceann Comhairle has said additional measures may have to considered by the Oireachtas for deputies who abuse Dáil privilege and name individuals unfairly in the chamber. “
The news item included footage of Ms Fitzgerald interviewing the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl and, while it didn’t broadcast the full interview, the report presented Mr Ó Fearghaíl’s responses.
Martina Fitzgerald (voiceover): “While he says it’s important that deputies raise issues of public importance under Dáil privilege, he says they may also have to have a look at new regulations for those who abuse the privilege.”
Seán Ó Fhearghaíl: “The new Committee of Procedures, I would hope, will draw up a set of measures to deal with such eventualities.”
Fitzgerald (voiceover): “And what about fining them?”
Ó Fhearghaíl: “I don’t know, I don’t know. It would seem to me, to be a pretty crude instrument but it might be an effective instrument. I’m willing to consider that. If that’s proposed and agreed by the CP, I’ve no difficulty with that approach.”