Posts Tagged ‘justice’

A True Reckoning

The Irish religious orders humiliations on little children and their Mums in the Institutions, is a long and sordid history. It has gone on since the birth of the nation. Their presumed moral authority has been a solid foundation for these kinds of abuses. And these Religious Orders thought they had the right to commit these abuses against the children. Because they were poor and their parent(s) had little education, some people in the government of this country – and that includes the Catholic Church – have justified the most heinous acts against children.

Look at how nonchalantly the TDs in parliament took the incident of the boy who had his arm broken when he was savagely beaten by the Christian Brothers in Artane. And at least one boy had already been beaten to death in that Institution before!

Being tied by vows to a religious order like the christian brothers or the sisters of mercy does something to people. It can intoxicate them, poison their spirits, their resolve; it can mutate their values, their life-long innocence even, it can make probably rather passive and fun-loving people into beasts. Abusing poor children to build a christian brother/sisters of mercy empire, does this even worse. Is anyone surprised?

We need a true reckoning, a true accounting. These acts committed against children and families will always be part of Ireland’s historical legacy. Any history of this “Island of Saints and Scholars” that excludes the appalling abuses committed by the religious orders against children will be a history of lies.

Read Full Post »

Eighteen groups that were involved with the running of residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan commission have refused to contribute to the €1.36 billion costs incurred by the State in compensating people who had been abused in the institutions.  Source

Why is this thing dragging on? Why can’t the Criminal Assets Bureau step in?  Has anyone in the present government actually read the Final Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse? And if they have read it, have they read it out loud to these Religious Congregations? Here’s a few of their findings with my own comments added:

A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from. Seeing or hearing other children being beaten was a frightening experience that stayed with many complainants all their lives.

It’s high time these Congregations were subjected to ‘pervasive fear’ and ‘terror’ – Let them live with the fear that their assets will be taken from them. Introduce them to the terror of being flat broke.

Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment. Absconders were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and were humiliated.

Shaving them of their assets would be perfect justice.

The boys’ schools investigated revealed a pervasive use of severe corporal punishment. Prolonged, excessive beatings with implements intended to cause maximum pain occurred with the knowledge of staff management.

Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable and this led to a climate of fear amongst the children. The regulations imposed greater restrictions on the use of corporal punishment for girls. In some schools a high level of ritualised beating was routine whilst in other schools lower levels of corporal punishment were used. Girls were struck with implements designed to maximise pain and were struck on all parts of the body. The prohibition on corporal punishment for girls over 15 years was generally not observed.

Corporal punishment was often administered in a way calculated to increase anguish and humiliation for girls. One way of doing this was for children to be left waiting for long periods to be beaten. Another was when it was accompanied by denigrating or humiliating language. Some beatings were more distressing when administered in front of other children and staff.

Maximum pain must be returned to these Congregations – this is the sword they wielded on children, they lived by this sword, let them die by this sword. Never mind that this punishment will be public and humiliating: this is Justice.

The recidivist nature of sexual abuse was known to religious authorities. The documents revealed that sexual abusers were often long-term offenders who repeatedly abused children wherever they were working. Contrary to the Congregations’ claims that the recidivist nature of sexual offending was not understood, it is clear from the documented cases that they were aware of the propensity for abusers to re-abuse. The risk, however, was seen by the Congregations in terms of the potential for scandal and bad publicity should the abuse be disclosed. The danger to children was not taken into account.

The Congregational authorities did not listen to or believe people who complained of sexual abuse that occurred in the past, notwithstanding the extensive evidence that emerged from Garda investigations, criminal convictions and witness accounts. Some Congregations remained defensive and disbelieving of much of the evidence heard by the Investigation Committee in respect of sexual abuse in institutions, even in cases where men had been convicted in court and admitted to such behaviour at the hearings.

Any other organisation, or group of organisations, found to have endangered children in such a despicable way for so long would be shut down and their assets seized. These Congregations terrorised children. They made children feel worthless. It’s high time these Congregations were worth less …

Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools. Witnesses spoke of scavenging for food from waste bins and animal feed. The Inspector found that malnourishment was a serious problem in schools run by nuns.

Bearing in mind that the stated reason the majority of children were consigned into the ‘care’ of these Congregations was that they were children from dysfunctional families; yet here we have findings that the Congregations were dysfunctional, dangerous and utterly unsuited to caring for children. Yet the State funded them and the Congregations took the money under false pretences. It’s time these monies were fully refunded.

Clothing was a particular problem in boys’ schools where children often worked for long hours outdoors on farms. In addition, boys were often left in their soiled and wet work clothes throughout the day and wore them for long periods. In all schools up until the 1960s clothes stigmatised the children as Industrial School residents.

There was a further stigma if you absconded, at least in Ferryhouse. They made you wear short trousers – the thinking here was that you would be easily spotted if you re-absconded: Here’s a pic from Ferryhouse. See if you can count how many of the children in the pic absconded:


Their only crime was that they wanted to go home – and this was only part of the ‘justice’ the Congregations meted out to children. Time they were put into short trousers.

Where Industrial School children were educated in internal national schools, the standard was consistently poorer than that in outside schools. National school education was available to all children in the State and those in Industrial Schools were entitled to at least the same standard as that available in the country generally. Internal national schools were funded by a national school grant and teachers were paid in the same way. There was evidence particularly in girls’ schools that children were removed from their classes in order to perform domestic chores or work in the institution during the school day. When discharged, boys were generally placed in manual or unskilled jobs and girls in positions as domestic servants. Even where religious Congregations operated secondary schools beside industrial schools, children from the Industrial Schools were very rarely given the opportunity of pursuing secondary school education. Industrial Schools were intended to provide basic industrial training to young people to enable them to take up positions of employment as young adults. In reality, the industrial training afforded by all schools was of a nature that served the needs of the institution rather than the needs of the child.

It’s time to serve the needs of survivors and victims and not the sensibilities of these Congregations. The statutory objective of CAB is to target the proceeds of criminal activity to ensure that those engaged in criminal activity do not benefit from it. These Congregation were unjustly enriched by the slave labour of children.

– – – – – – – –

Realistically though all the above actions would only happen in my dreams – and they would be wild dreams. As a child I never had such dreams in anyway. Never did I dream that what I, and so many other children, were suffering should be revisited on those making us suffer. I’ve never dreamt of pushing a nun’s hands into a fire; I’ve never had the dream of battering a member of the clergy with a hurley stick or a wheel brace or a coin-embedded leather strap; I’ve never dreamt of starving or enslaving members of the Religious Orders. My dreams were more fantastic than those – fantastic, because I knew they were not going to come true; for you see I dreamt of decent and enough food on my plate; I dreamt of warm places, of running free in a meadow; of confusion explained; of childish puzzlement satisfied; of a little red bus; of loving touches; of being wanted;

And then there’s a squeeze on my shoulder and I’m released from my reverie. I sit at a big table and the Minister repeats his question:

“Would you like a bun with your coffee, Andrew?”

It’s not a religious Minister that’s asking the question but a democratically elected Minister and 18 years of an almost unrelenting childhood flashes before me:

Flashes of a loving family that soon went sour; of loving relatives who wanted to care for us; of a father’s refusal to allow that; of a final 6 weeks of being locked in a room with my sister and crippled brother, surviving on rainwater, nettles and mushrooms and sometimes milky eggs; of men in spacesuits rescuing us from the filth and squalor; of being scrubbed and washed and togged out it new clothes; of being in Court and being handed an orange and my brother; of hooded heads with faces and long dark corridors lined with statues; of children kneeling in a hall chanting ….. and all the horrors that followed.

And I’m not looking for revenge – only justice. And I can still dream.

Read Full Post »

By By COLM SMITH  Sunday July 23 2000

Brendan O’Connor met the commanding, dogged and angry John Kelly, spokesman for Irish SOCA, who says States of Fear changed his life.

THE retirement of British social services expert Bob Lewis from the six-member Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, and the granting of individual legal representation to all victims of abuse appearing before the commission, will be seen as major victories for the group calling itself Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (Irish SOCA). More specifically, they will be seen as victories for the organisation’s public face, the commanding, dogged and charismatic John Kelly.

In recent months, Kelly has been at war with the Government, the commission and, perhaps most interestingly, with most of the other groups purporting to represent victims of child abuse. Kelly characterises many of the latter as opportunists who have resigned themselves to an unsatisfactory inquiry because they are in receipt of Government money through contracts to run counselling services, among other things. They in turn accuse him of trying to bully the commission.

Kelly himself has never taken the king’s shilling. He says that Government funding for his organisation was contingent on the Government seconding someone to his organisation. He mutters darkly about civil servants having access to his files and dismisses the idea of Government aid. Instead, this former London Underground worker has funded his own organisation with financial input from some of his supporters. Irish SOCA hoovers up Kelly’s disability pension from London Underground, a small inheritance from his mother and the proceeds of the sale of his house in Britain. Mainly, however, Irish SOCA runs on rage.

States of Fear changed John Kelly’s life. A former pupil of Daingean, he says he was horribly abused there until the age of 15, when he went to England. Though he had sought psychological help for his problems before then, it seems to have been States of Fear which finally explained John Kelly to himself.

After the documentary was aired, Kelly went to meetings of some of the abuse victim groups that sprang up at the time but he found he wasn’t satisfied with the tone of these groups. Impressed by speeches Kelly had made from the floor, people began to suggest to him that he set up his own group, and so he did. Irish SOCA was initially affiliated with SOCA UK, the British organisation, until a parting of the ways over co-operation with the current commission.

Irish SOCA first came to prominence late last year during the debate about the amending of the Statute of Limitations to facilitate those bringing claims of abuse many years after the abuse happened. From the start, Kelly was a natural politician. His powerful voice matching his imposing frame; his domineering manner made him a natural leader among a group who were all too often cowed, nervous and terrified of confrontation. He came in with all guns blazing, criticising not just the Government but the judiciary, the ISPCC and what he saw as the corrupt organisations that were rivals to his own.

Kelly claims that his group now has a membership of between four and five hundred members. He talks of the mandate these afflicted souls have given him and it is from this mandate that he draws his power. He believes, and he is probably right, that his organisation’s threat not to participate in this inquiry has gained the concessions granted thus far the resignation of Bob Lewis and individual legal representation for each victim of abuse appearing before the commission.

Last February, Irish SOCA held a meeting at Liberty Hall. The first part of the meeting was taken up with some very impressive demagoguery from Kelly. That was followed by addresses from Mary Raftery, who made States of Fear, and a handful of opposition politicians, including Alan Shatter, whose firm acts as solicitors to Irish SOCA. The enduring impression was of Kelly’s powerful exhortations to those present not to co-operate with the inquiry. The mandate was not so much given to Kelly as seized by him. But then it was easy to see how the disempowered could feel so empowered by visionary and appealing statements like “We need to have someone in our corner. We take centre stage here, not the judge, nor the State, as the State is indictable.”

Whether you like Kelly’s bull-in-a-china-shop-meets-sergeant-major style, you can’t but see the merit in many of his arguments. He opposes the fact that any evidence given at the inquiry cannot be used in subsequent criminal or civil trials. Like the “deal” he sees between other victim representatives and the Government, this so-called “immunity” is, he believes, also a “deal”. He believes immunity is being offered to abusers in return for co-operation with the inquiry. Judge Laffoy, who chairs the inquiry, has dismissed any suggestion of immunity. Furthermore, the commission has explained that the so-called “immunity clause” is essential under constitutional law in order to be able to compel people to appear at the commission. This is just a niggling detail to Kelly, yet another detail in what he sees as a vast conspiracy between “the unholy alliance of Church and State” to cover up the scandal of institutional abuse.

Slightly more difficult to empathise with is his argument that the Government should have no part in the setting up of any inquiry into this matter. Again, the language in which he conveys this is powerful, with poetic pauses perfectly placed. “The State is telling us again what’s good for us, like they did when we were children … but we’re not children any more.” Kelly wants a completely independent tribunal of inquiry with an international basis, a tribunal where the rules are set by survivors.

But just as John Kelly doesn’t trust the departments of Justice, Education or Health, the Catholic Church or the judiciary, neither does he trust many fellow survivors people in rival organisations. You get the impression that the only voice John Kelly trusts is that of John Kelly, which is in turn the voice of SOCA.

One international expert whom SOCA didn’t trust was Bob Lewis from the UK, who once worked in an institution which has been the subject of an investigation by the British police. Lewis resigned from the commission on Wednesday following SOCA’s demand that he do so. Bob Lewis’s record is impeccable and Kelly is careful to stress this.

In the wake of the resignation, Kelly claims that SOCA wanted Lewis’s retirement only because they felt he would empathise with other administrators of state institutions, having been one himself. As Lewis himself saw it, “People are being urged not to co-operate with the commission because, wrongly, the impression has been given that I am in some way implicated in inquiries related to child abuse in Britain.”

In fact, Kelly’s short career in the limelight has been littered with inconsistencies and about-turns. When I met him last week, his primary concern was the naming and shaming of abusers. He illustrated this point more than once by showing me a tabloid newspaper headline about a recently convicted paedophile. However, he also stressed the need for financial restitution as a tangible sign of the guilt and sorrow of the unholy alliance.

But just last December, Kelly was saying, “This is not about money, it is about uncovering the truth.” Kilkenny solicitor Michael Lanigan told an Irish SOCA meeting earlier this year that there was no need for a truth commission because we all know the truth. “You’re not going to get a compensation tribunal by polite request,” he told the audience. At the same meeting Kelly told the crowd that the commission was “just a confessional”. “We want compensation for what happened us,” he stressed.

Right now Kelly seems to want truth and much more. Through naming and shaming, he wants to see the families of the perpetrators of abuse stigmatised the same way his own family has been. He wants the State, the Church and the judiciary to pay for what they did, not just to come and confess their sins in the confessional of the commission. He would also like, he adds, to get back some of the money he has put into Irish SOCA.

When all that is done, he says, there will be no book or no political career. When that’s done he just wants to get on with his life.


Read Full Post »