Absence Of Innocence


From top: Taffina Flood with her daughter Sadie O’ Nolan with protestors on O’Connell Street in Dublin last week; Dan Boyle

Whenever a new paramour entered my life (it doesn’t amount to a very long list) my Mother would ask me:

“I hope you have respected her?

The word ‘respect’ was laced with nuance but never hinted of innuendo. There are some things a child and parent should never speak about, particularly a son and his mother.

Hers was an ongoing piece of parental moral advice. She had been telling me not to mess the other person around, not to let them down, not to make them feel uncomfortable; God forbid – never to hurt them.

For the most part it has been sound advice, advice I have sought to keep, but on occasion I missed. When added to my natural physical shyness it has meant that I rarely, if ever, initiated anything. In that I don’t think myself that unusual.

Through a whole range of misconceptions, misapprehensions and the weirdest of hang ups the general Irish approach to sex, sexuality and relationships has been pretty fecked up.

After generations of avoiding the priest with his blackthorn stick randomly waved through the ditches and the hedgerows, it seemed possible to express in a new Ireland, more open ways to enjoy our collective sexuality. In ways where pleasure won out over shame. But someone had to go out and spoil it for everybody else.

For some Ireland has stepped out of its sexual darkness to turn itself into a 21st century Sodom or Gomorrah. For those who long for a return to the times of sexual backwardness, we are re-living the last days of the Roman Empire.

The truth is we are neither. We do, however, have a problem. The sect of shamed sex Irish has become mirrored with a new sect of shameless sex Irish.

Those who are brash and uninhibited have their qualities, but when they are used to supersede intimacy, by erasing any thoughts or actions of caring for someone, being affectionate towards them, or even moving towards the possibility of loving them, then we have a real problem. And that problem is a problem of men, or at least a problem caused by men.

Much of the talk surrounding the recent Belfast Rape Trial centred around the quality of the evidence, the burden of proof required or the meeting of certain legal niceties. The verdict is what it is, so the legal system has determined.

But being legally not guilty, in this case, certainly does not mean being innocent. Innocence in its widest sense. Innocence in being free from shame. Innocence in being able to maintain character and honour.

Unfortunately, no legal system can attest for these failings. They are character failings profoundly shown in the words of the exonerated towards each other.

The macho language of delight, as Kavanagh probably wouldn’t have called it. The Lord of the Flies glee of boasting where few ‘men’ have sexually gone before.

The law has declared them innocent, although the innocence they each would have had seems to have deserted them so early into what are still very young lives.

And all that was needed was a little respect

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: Rollingnews

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92 thoughts on “Absence Of Innocence

  1. Shane Duffy

    “But being legally not guilty, in this case, certainly does not mean being innocent.” Indeed, no more than it means she was lying either, a point that seems to be lost on everyone, but a point that should have equal weight in te wink and nod of things

    1. david

      Still at it
      Not guilty is just that not guilty
      The lot of them behaved like dogs in heat.
      Now we are going to have a whole new sex education in schools delving into the respect and normality of all sexual practice
      They must now educate about anal sex ,normalising and removing the taboos of group sex ,the influence of porn, etc etc
      God love the next generation as soon everything will be anything goes and to hell with morals and sexualising children as young as eight
      By the time they are finished I presume children will be more confused than they are now.

  2. postmanpat

    “Whenever a new paramour entered my life, my Mother would ask me….. ” FFS! That whole generation married the first “paramour” they rode…

  3. Catherine costelloe

    Our parents had an easier, simpler, more respectful life though, Dan. No page 3 girls, no newspapers on threesomes, porn available at click of a button, destructive drugs available in every town in Ireland. I’ve never seen an older Irish mammy with a pint in front of her either!

    1. postmanpat

      Threesomes, porn and drugs are great as long as no one is hurt and you don’t over of it. Every man in the country with a phone (and a lot of women too) masturbate to porn on a regular basis. Any man who says he doesn’t is lying. Priests masturbate to gay porno all the time and with autonomous gay hook up apps the priest don’t have to fiddle youngfellas anymore. Hell, they don’t have to become priests in the first place! Gay youngfellas don’t have to get there first sexual experience from the visiting local predatory student priest anymore. So you don’t have a bunch of sexually confused and angry drunk men beating there wives and kids a generation later. “mommy , why is daddy so angry?” a “simpler, more respectful life” indeed.

      1. SOQ

        Priests masturbate to gay porno all the time and with autonomous gay hook up apps the priest don’t have to fiddle youngfellas anymore.

        Now dear, we need to have a little chat. Gay priests did not ‘fiddle’ with young fellas, paedophiles did. Gay priests trotted off to the sauna or had affairs with other ADULT men. There is no connection.

        Are we crystal?

        1. postmanpat

          Priest interfered sexually with kids all the time , so did nuns. They still do in the developing world. Given the choice I think a priest would have preferred to have sex with a man closer to there own age but how would that be possible in a society that hates gays? They had to look further down the age groups. A teenage youngfella giving out gay vibes would be a prime target. 14 or 15 years old? old enough sort of physically, plus young enough mentally to scare into silence. so he probably wont blab if one gets the grooming right. You seem to think that all pedophile priests are exclusively into underage boys and wouldn’t look twice at an older man. Underage boys were (and still are in uber homophobic countries) the only option for priests who have to scratch that itch. They become pedophile by default. “Are we crystal?” Christ , go back to your black and white view of he world would you?

          1. SOQ

            Is this a troll? Seriously?

            Paedophiles are attracted to children of both genders, not just boys. Brendan Smyth? Not all priests were gay. Eamonn Casey?

            You seem to be very focused on a marginal line between boys and men without ever mentioning the heterosexual equivalent, why is that? And why are you bringing this up in a thread about consent and presumed innocence in the context of a much published rape trial?

            Getting uncomfortable are we?

          2. postmanpat

            Well I was only responding to Catherine costelloe opinion about life being so great back in the old days before threesomes, porn and drugs. Where people apparently respected each other but at the same time one in five kids were seriously abused by people in authority. I was defending the open use of drugs, internet and sexual experimentation. That these new fangled “bad things” are a net benefit to society as a whole. Then you some along freaking out and lecturing me about how there was never any active pedophile priests back in the day. Have you been living in a cave the last ten years?

          1. anne

            I had this argument with a friend before.. you can see how it’s very insulting to any gay person to be associated with paedophilia.

          2. postmanpat

            I’m sure most gays wouldn’t be insulted by the consistent link between priests and pedophilia. What does it have to do with them? Unless there a priest themselves, but they cant say anything.

          3. Daisy Chainsaw

            Postmanpat, when you’re sexually frustrated, do you seek out kids to get your go?

          4. Rep

            So are a large amount of teenagers then also paedophiles because pretty much all of them are very sexually frustrated and thats not even getting onto adults who are also not getting some.

          5. Catherine costelloe

            I didn’t say life was way better , just simpler. Perhaps Dan didn’t get to discuss porn, drugs, nutity etc with his mammy as different era. Did you, Dan?

        1. david

          Its all about hiding places and also access
          The fact marriage was banned for priests and nuns gave a hiding place so these men and women could have just that a place where no one asked ,why are you not married,
          Then the access .
          The fact the state colluded with these organisations by turning a blinds eye allowed this evil to thrive.
          The state in its collusion is as guilty as those who committed the crimes.
          Many of these people are now retired or dead and have escaped exposure
          I honestly think its time to place a memorial identifying by name all those who abused and those who were in position to stop abuse and protect those children.

        1. david

          Its not just clergy
          Not just gay but heterosexual
          All walks of life

    2. curmudgeon

      And sometimes their daughters “fell” pregnant and they had them shipped off to the laundries.

    3. Dan Boyle

      True. But theirs was an innocence that was imposed through fear. It was never a natural inclination.

  4. rotide

    Those who are brash and uninhibited have their qualities, but when they are used to supersede intimacy, by erasing any thoughts or actions of caring for someone, being affectionate towards them, or even moving towards the possibility of loving them, then we have a real problem. And that problem is a problem of men, or at least a problem caused by men

    Sorry I might be misunderstanding the article but are you trying to suggest that empty casual sex is a new thing, or solely down to men? Because that is patently rubbish.

  5. Murtles

    Innocent until proven guilty but not guilty doesn’t mean your innocent???
    So are we applying that logic to all court cases? What about a person who IS totally innocent of a crime and gets a not guilty verdict, do they carry around the yolk of “well it was only proven you were not guilty, doesn’t mean you’re innocent” for the rest of their lives. Do we need a 3rd verdict status to be introduced? Guilty, Not Guilty, Innocent.

    1. Dan Boyle

      The Scottish system does have a Not Proven verdict that seeks to introduce degrees of grey into decisions. This piece is more about the distinction between a legal judgement and a societal norm.

      1. wellness

        However, Dan, societal norms should not be addressed through such a narrow gender prism, if true equality is to be achieved. I fear that the #Metoo campaign ,while somewhat noble in pursuit , is reductive in its outcome. I find it somewhat ironic that the most liberal are the most outraged by the sexual liberation of our society. Women have autonomy and they are sexualised beings. We are not Victorian housewives, unable to voice an opinion in the presence of the “almighty & powerful” man. The rule of law is also a basic tenet of any democracy and should be rightfully respected. Respect, empathy and reason should be possessed by all .

        1. SOQ

          Advocating a reform of a law does not mean disrespecting it but when it is not fit for purpose or lacking in certain areas, it is people’s right to demand change. That is democracy in action surely?

          At worst reform should mean the complainant will have the right to their own counsel and ability to cross examine. At best the replacement of beyond reasonable doubt with the principle of probability, likely / not likely etc. Also, anonymity for the defendants in NI obviously as that one is a no brainer.

          1. wellness

            SOQ, I have no issue with Dan advocating for a reform of a law. However, reform of a law is not the subject of his post. The subject of the post is moral reform, viewed through a very narrow gender prism.

      2. The Old Boy

        Dan, the Scots law three verdict system is an interesting* quirk of legal history, not an attempt to introduce nuance into verdicts and really shouldn’t be characterised as such.

        *If you’re into that sort of thing. Traditionally, the two verdicts were proven and not proven. At some stage in the 18th century a jury, at the behest of counsel for the defence, asserted its right to find a man “not guilty” because they found him not morally culpable, even though the prosecution had technically proven the facts of the offence against him.

        Since then, the joke has been that a verdict of not proven means “not guilty, and don’t do it again.”

        1. anne

          Did yiz watch Mám Trasna about the wrongly convicted men in 1882 on TG4 last night? If you didnt, it’s worth finding again.

          1. anne

            To summarise, the English were & still are b*stards..

            & the Irish language is beautiful. :-)

          2. Rep

            I listened to a podcast on it before. Whatever about the disgrace of a trial, someone in that community murdered that whole family in a very violent way.

  6. SOQ

    If you start on the basis that neither was lying and that it was all subjective perceptions, in a way that’s even worse. There she was thinking ‘I’m getting raped’ and there they were thinking she was liking it or, maybe they just didn’t care? That is the best case scenarios for those guys and if they were genuinely telling the truth then they have no idea about women, they are absolutely clueless.

    A legal presumption of innocence does not prevent people from passing their own judgements. Despite their private educations and affluent backgrounds, common decency and yes, respect, were clearly never a major component of their upbringing.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      I’m going with “they just didn’t care”. She was there for the lads’ gratification and hers didn’t matter because it never does when the “Belfast Sl*ts” are treated to a spitroast from the “top shaggers”.

        1. Alastair

          Are you aware that this is entirely wrong? Jackson (spitroast) and Olding (top shagger) were both accused and charged with rape.

      1. SOQ

        Because not knowingly raping someone is if not worse than as bad as raping them surely? I mean, how thick and ignorant must you be? I’m obviously not justifying ‘intent’ but why not just go and jump on a sheep if that is your idea of sex?

        A consensual sheep obviously, and female, nothing Queer like.

        1. rotide

          I’m at a loss to understand how something without intent is worse than something with intent.

          So manslaughter is worse than pre-meditated murder?

          1. Nigel

            If people were killing other people all the time without actually realising they were murdering people such that it had to be treated as manslaughter because they genuinely had no idea you would certainly have a severe problem of a particular type. And the people they were killing were all women. And they weren’t killing them they were having sex with then with so little regard to consent that even the women assumed that their consent was either assumed or irrelevant. That’s a problem.

          2. SOQ

            Note that I said ‘in a way’, maybe I should have said ‘nearly worse’. I’m wasn’t thinking legally at all there, just on a human level.

            How hard is it for him to say: “Am I hurting you?”
            Me: “Yes. You’re standing on my foot.”

        2. anne

          He’s off his tree on drink & whatever else you’re having.. he’s up for a bit of a spit roast, as you do.. she freezes… he thinks he’s onto a good thing, so do the rest of the top shaggers. “She’s hysterical, it wasn’t going to end well”.. but she frooze… so he just got it wrong in terms of her wanting it..whoopsie..tough titty for her. She had her arm around one or two of them in the club anyway, and shur they’re like rugby players, who doesn’t want a spit roasting from a “celeb”.

          Those were the judges instructions btw..if the jury thought the top shagger believed he had her consent, then they should find not guilty. Regardless of his state, regardless of her fear, & freezing…

          What about someone who can’t give their consent? Like that poor girl in foster care-Grace? Can that be any abuser’s claim? I thought I had het consent?

          If consent has to be taught people are getting it wrong obviously.

  7. Mayor Quimby

    Personally, I believe her. Her being the only sober person in the house – Dara Florence. She’s turned down money for her interview so she’s got more credibility than “Shayna”

    Notable that Dan doesn’t have anything to say about the complainant’s text “Good fun for a while then girls started to get slutty. “

  8. Sentient Won

    Another man-hating-man joins the man-hating-bandwagon.

    Do you really think those toxic-feminists will respect you in the morning Dan?

      1. Sentient Won

        Thanks to Nigel and Dan it’s a lot easier to figure out the right thing to do these days: Whatever path they are forging, truth lies in the direct opposite direction.

      1. Sentient Won

        You, Nigel, Merkel, HRC, a bucket of regret and a box of adult diapers.

        Less a fantasy, more of a nightmare.

  9. Mayor Quimby

    Personally, I believe her. Her being the only sober person in the house – Dara Florence. She’s turned down money for her interview…

  10. R

    “Those who are brash and uninhibited have their qualities, but when they are used to supersede intimacy, by erasing any thoughts or actions of caring for someone, being affectionate towards them, or even moving towards the possibility of loving them, then we have a real problem.”

    Now if you’d pass the baskets for the first collection…

    The idea that sex can’t be a recreational activity really shows you aren’t far away from the priest and his blackthorn stick – which I suppose doesn’t surprise me for anyone on the Irish “left”

          1. Brother Barnabas

            can he at least watch? sitting quietly in the corner sort of thing, perhaps eating crisps

    1. anne

      there’s a bit of a gap between, throwing her home, any sl*ts get fupped, a merry go round at a carnival & a bit loose, to intimacy or caring.. a bit of respect is what he’s getting at, I think.

      Btw, when the top shagger spit roaster, spoke about the girl as being a bit loose, would it ever cross his mind, that it’s not her, it’s him.

    2. curmudgeon

      It was quite the sermon. Casual sex started being a viable thing when women could get the pill. It was literally criminal here to posess a pack of condoms. Back in Dan’s heyday only very bad things happened to women who got knocked up out of wedlock, the least of which is marrying too young. Respecting them had a whole other meaning.

  11. Owen C

    “But being legally not guilty, in this case, certainly does not mean being innocent.”

    3 paragraphs later

    “The law has declared them innocent”

    Yes, i know there’s context in both lines, but this just shows the sort of nonsense which every alleged opinion former is seeking to apply to the recent rape case outcome. You can either talk about the legalities of this case, or you can talk about the moralities, but for the love of Jebus, do not conflate the two, and remember that the former is an imperfect but absolute method of judgement, while the latter is entirely subjective.

    1. Nigel

      In fairness struggling with these distinctions is exactly what the responses to this court case are trying to do.

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