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2006-12-06 17:52:36

Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

Re: From the Guestbook {2}


November 29th 2006

Sometimes it seems our academics learn nothing. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has spread the tentacles of its curiosity into the academic world, “inviting” University College Dublin to carry out a study of the long-term effects on those who were in the industrial school system. The research, if it happens, will involve around 400 men and women. It is being undertaken without any consultation with the abused. Contact is indirect, through their solicitors.

In a letter sent out by the commission through lawyers to the abused on November 16, consent is sought for them to be included on a panel to be questioned in the research. Closing date for this was yesterday. This gave virtually no time at all for consultation, though the more responsible solicitors were offering to answer questions, according to copies of letters I have seen. As far as the Commission is concerned, the information about the study is extremely limited.

The Commission says that participation “will be subject to the usual confidentiality requirements”. There is no “usual confidentiality”. This is new territory. The UCD research represents a new departure. With a “research team” engaged, the ability of the Commission to control confidentiality, or indeed any other aspect of procedure or content, is tenuous. Those who have contacted me about the letter have rejected participation out of hand. One of them wrote the following: “Do you realise how many people have our files? They are held by the Department of Education, the Redress Board, The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Barnardo’s, the archives of the religious institutions, the solicitors who have acted for us, or are acting for us, the psychiatrists and psychotherapists and the courts.

Now they want UCD to analyse us. It makes me so angry. And we cannot get our medical files from the religious institutions nor can we get the names of our families.” The Commission quotes Professor Carr, who is leading the research team, as assuring Judge Sean Ryan and his team that the interview material “will be securely stored at UCD”, that details will remain confidential, and that the Human Research Ethics Committee has approved. The heart of the matter lies in what is to be achieved. “The research will say how the overall group of participants were affected by having lived in an institution, how it affected their psychological adjustment, their quality of life and how individuals coped with the challenges that they faced during their time in the institutions and afterwards.” From the trust that I have built up over a number of years with men and women who went through the industrial school system, and from their testimony, I can answer most of those questions.

Furthermore, having covered and read much of the material before the Commission, I can also say of that body that it is not getting very close to the truth. I fear the research project will do even less well. Leading spokespersons of the abused are disdainful and dismissive of the process altogether. There is a further compelling reason for doubt about what is being done. Though it is a long time ago, UCD similar research and then lost all the research documentation. This arose at the time of the Kennedy Committee’s work, in the late 1960s. It was done because Ireland faced international disgrace as a result of OECD investigations into our education system.

These showed serious defects in the education levels of people in industrial schools. Inmates were, of course, not being educated. They were doing manual work for the Orders, their education – like everything else – being seriously neglected. Some regard this as the worst of all the abuses. The UCD researchers at the time knew none of this. One who was there has told me: “I personally recall the arrival of the earnest young men in horn-rimmed glasses at Artane with their bundles of forms. “Like all intruders, they were bitterly resented by the Christian Brothers who handed out the forms designed to measure our mental maturity. We were never interviewed. Not even a ‘good morning’ ever passed between either side.

That probably explains why they appear not to have detected any abusive indicators in the children.” The same person says of the Commission’s new project “we are guinea pigs again”. Perhaps Professor Carr will give some thought to his predecessor in the research field, who was Professor of Logic and Psychology at UCD, a Father Eamonn Feichin O’Doherty. His research is referred to in Appendix F of the Kennedy Report. His testimony hinged on the concept that the educational backwardness of industrial school inmates resulted from innate inability, bad blood, family circumstances.

It was not related to the conditions in the institutions. Such was the Professor of Logic’s logic. Moreover, he blamed early experience in life, not realising that the early life, from the age of two, had been in the industrial schools. He ignored the prison environment, the constant fear, the brutality and violence, the starvation, the meagre and inadequate clothing. Instead, it was all bad genes. This was a piece of National Socialist research. Current researchers can neither criticise nor defend these assertions because UCD lost all the research material. I do not think Professor Carr should proceed any further until questions have been asked about the project. Apart from anything else it is appropriate to ask what psychiatric or therapeutic skills are possessed by the members of his team. I don’t know the timescale of the research but I think that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse should bring its work to an end since that work is going nowhere at all. It is not satisfying the abused. It is costing a great deal of public money.

Furthermore, it is not getting to the heart of truth. One of the Artane boys constantly in touch with me whose experiences have marked him for life, tells me that there was no library in Artane. This was a so-called “school” for upwards of 800 boys. Even National Schools had little libraries. He goes on: “Of all the horrors Ireland inflicted on me, the one that probably did the most long-term damage was the loss of education. I had a childhood ambition to be a physicist or medical doctor – my father was in St John’s Ambulance and taught me first aid. “I have no doubt whatever that I could have realised my ambition had I not been imprisoned. I entered Artane a bright and able child; I escaped from the prison two years later a mental and physical wreck and with my educational prospects in ruins.” His future life was whipped out of him, like the offending Adam. He was enslaved and tormented like so many others.

Are they to be subjected to further and increasingly idiotic “research”? © Irish Independent

In a report, by Bruce Arnold, regarding yet again another Investigation by the Ryan Commission, through UCD, to report on the affects of Institutional Care in Ireland.
This is further abuse by the Government. We were not asked to participate in this Judge Sean Ryan has no authority to do this. .Solicitors, also, have no right to discuss what is in our files with other agencies. We were not asked.


Who do these people think they are to decide for us? WHY?

‘Right of Place’ – Cork, gets 4.2. million Euro.
‘Aislinn Centre’ JERVIS CENTRE, DUBLIN, gets 135,000.
SOCA UK – gets 185, 000 with a Bed and Breakfast House in Dublin to boot.

Please contact all groups and ask what is happening in our names?
They must not be allowed to do this to us again.
We must demand our rights and then complain to the Irish Government, NOVA.
From a very irate victim/survivor of institutional abuse. James Lawler

Sunday Independent November 20th 2005

WHEN Bertie Ahern says that he gave the child sex abuse issue the highest priority during his two terms as Taoiseach, he is being disingenuous.

What he has said is this: “I have put child protection in the context of sex abuse within religious institutions and by clergy at the forefront of the work of my term as Taoiseach. My record in relation to the investigation and exposing of child sex abuse is second to none. As Taoiseach, I oversaw the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse and the Ferns Inquiry. And it is through this process of inquiry and disclosure that we as a society are enabled to ensure that the abuse and dereliction of duty in the past does not recur.” The truth is that the growing threat of court action in respect of sexual abuse in church-run institutions over decades was the reason for the programme of action initiated under Ahern’s first term as Taoiseach. Documentation shows that the Department of Education, in the mid-Nineties, conscious of this, and also advised in part by legal opinion about the level of cases that might come to court, brought to the Government proposals for obviating this threat.

Bertie Ahern did indeed take action, but principally for three reasons. The first was to protect the State by creating an alternative process, through the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The second was to protect the Roman Catholic church from the same threat of widespread legal action by people who had been dreadfully abused, not just sexually, but in terms of extensive deprivation of health, education and the minimal comforts of care and kindness. The third reason was fear of the revelations, which were emerging through television and articles, and which were likelyto snowball. The legislation then introduced by the Government was couched in terms that were protective of the church and of the State.

Bertie Ahern opposed the idea of redress, which was only brought to Government as a necessary additional measure. Without it, the legal challenges were likely to be mounted anyway.

This was then followed by the outrageous secret deal with the church, which put the financial burden of redress on the State, and therefore the taxpayer, and absolved the church with payment of less than 10 per cent of the likely eventual charge on the State for the iniquities that had been perpetrated in more than 100 brutal and ill-run institutions around Ireland.

He presided over a Government – and a Department of Education under three ministers, Michael Woods, Micheal Martin and Noel Dempsey – that liaised with outreach organisations in Britain, and through organisations working for abused people, was in touch with the lives, psychiatric care and the search for redress of deeply damaged men and women.

The whole process was bravely challenged by Judge Mary Laffoy. She blew the whistle on what was happening. She took on the Government for its hypocrisy in not funding or supporting the very inquiry that Bertie Ahern claims is his great gift tosolving the institutional abuse issue.

She blew the whistle in another and much more fundamental way by publishing the only full account of gross ill-treatment by the church of young people in the Fishing School in Baltimore.

It described near-starvation of the inmates who lived in squalor and in rags, without proper medical or educational care.

It is argued that money was short. This is not true. An adequate per capita payment, in all the institutions, was made. The money was not properly accounted for. Much of it was sent back by religious orders to Rome, adding to their coffers and depriving the imprisoned children in Ireland of the wherewithal for a proper start in their already much damaged lives.

Witnesses also refer to the rich lives of the religious who starved them.

Mary Laffoy was a watershed figure. After her the State changed the law. This followed recommendations from the barrister Sean Ryan, who had worked on the abuse legislation. He had done so during the crucial period in which the commission was starved of back-up by the Department of Education while the Redress Board, in secret, was paying out compensation money.

The money awarded, where this can be assessed, fellfar short of what the courts could have been expected to award. Colm O’Gorman’s €300,000 award is the civil marker to be compared with much lesser sums for institutional abuse.

Sean Ryan, the man who had drafted legislation and had been intimately involved with the Department of Education in constructing how the process should be pursued, was then made a High Court judge and put in charge of the Commission on Child Sexual Abuse after Judge Laffoy’s resignation.

It would have been better if a different judge, one who had not been involved in constructing the terms of reference to be followed, both before and after Laffoy, had been appointed.

Since then the whole process has been held up by lengthy inquiries into different institutions. The stated purpose of these inquiry sessions has been to assess whether what is allegedto have happened actuallydid happen.

These inquiries, where the institution is being questioned, have been in public. The inquiries where abused people have been interviewed have been in private. The public statements and answers, usually given by religious who were not in the institutions and did not know what happened, have mainly been whitewash operations.

We are led to believe from them that the floggings in Daingean did not take place. The abuse and starvation in Artane did not happen.

One member after another of the various religious orders that abused terribly their trust in caring for largely innocent children have pleaded either ignorance or presented anodyne answers to crucial questions.

When Bertie Ahern himself appeared before Judge Ryan, on Friday, July 9, 2004, he told the commission that his apology to the abused, in May 1999, had come about as a result of representations made by the groups acting for the abused and by individual members of them. Such groups did not exist then and there is no evidence of such meetings. He said that Government thinking “came from the victims”.

It did not. It came from the Department of Education, and there is substantial documentation proving this.

More telling still, at the time of the Taoiseach’s appearance before the commission, two former ministers, Martin and Woods, directly contradicted the Taoiseach on this issue of where the apology came from, telling Judge Ryan that it was a departmental proposal.

The judge has not yet recalled the Taoiseach to check out the differences and contradictions contained in this evidence.

As said above, this line of approach by the Department of Education, and accepted by the Government, was motivated by the threat of legal actions against the State.

A statement issued this week by Irish SOCA, the only organisation acting for the abused that has spurned help from the State, came out strongly critical of the absurdity of Bertie Ahern’s position, where he wants the good done by the church to beconsidered in amelioration of the abuse.

Bertie Ahern has said: “The notion that the institutional church has not been held to account is misconceived.” And he goes on: “Our legalsystem provides a remedy in damages.”

But what about crime? And what can a permanently damaged, middle-aged victim of physical and sexual abuse over years do with the provisions of the law on damages? What possible hope do they have of contending against the State, when the State has allied itself with the church in constructing, through legal deals, a mechanism of self-protection and immunisation from real redress?

It is not damages or civil actions that are relevant: it is prosecution for crimes of violence against innocent and powerless victims, that need to be pursued against senior members of the church who have consistently, over long periods of time, protected the abusers and the regimes under which the abuse became chronic and insidious.

Colm O’Gorman has played a blinder in recent weeks and has been a proper focus for media attention, though his experience is with diocesan abuse, dare one say it, of a lesser order, in the main, from the institutional abuse that happened in Letterfrack, Daingean, Clonakilty, Artane, and so many other places of dreadful incarceration.

However, ironically Ferns and O’Gorman’s impressive outspokenness have helped Bertie Ahern and the church to talk in terms of all this being put behind us. For the other abused it is happening now, and will go on into the future. And while on the one hand the church is talking of sorrow and pain and apology and regret, behind the scenes, with expert legal advice, itis fighting every inch ofthe way to deny what happened within the industrial school system.

The practical proposals so far coming from Government concern investigation. They deal in hopes about improvement. There is no real underpinning of legal intent.And the process is going onas before.

Bertie Ahern’s declaration about the church’s place in Irish society is totally ill-timed and totally ill-judged. We have yet to address the full problem of abuse. And it does not lie in the past.

It is a present and a future agony for tens of thousands of victims.

Bruce Arnold

Sorry saga of abuse victims has not gone away, you know!

Saturday August 26th 2006

THE Department of Education has carried out research into the organisations and work of State-funded support groups in Britain. These operate on behalf of men and women sentenced to terms in orphanages, industrial schools and reformatories run by the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

The period of their incarceration dates from the 1940s, but the majority now living in Britain were in these institutions from the 1950s to the 1970s, and in some cases later.

Many left Ireland as soon as they could and tried to make a life in England. This was far from easy, but in their view anything was better than remaining where they had been so harshly treated. There are five centres, in Manchester, Coventry, Sheffield and two in London. They are funded by the Department of Education with help from the Federation of Irish Societies. These two commissioned the report in November 2004. It is rather sadly entitled “Helping us put ourselves back together”, and was ready for publication over a year ago. But it was held up by the Department, then edited and changed before its limited release last month. A good deal of the funding and expenditure information has been removed.

There are other questions that raise serious doubts about the value and purpose of the survey. The two people commissioned to do it are David Vanderhoeven and Michael Pitchford. The former is a PhD research student at Sheffield University. Mr Pitchford works for the Community Development Foundation in Leeds. They carried out research into Irish Travellers in England but otherwise had no experience in the field of Irish abuse victims.

As Professor Patrick O’Sullivan, of Bradford University, said in an earlier report for another Government department in 2001: “On the whole, Irish organisations do not use external research in their service planning. The most important use that they make of research is in supporting funding applications. The search for funding can, therefore, shape the research agenda and decide the future of a piece of research. A suggestion put to authors was that this funding-driven approach to research might cumulatively amount to a pathologisation of ‘Irishness’.”

This new report finds that the Department of Education had little close knowledge of what it was funding, what agreements existed, how money was spent and what financial and professional audits were conducted.

One of the five centres, the London Irish Survivors’ Outreach Service (LISOS) had no service agreement. The others provided for general information, a referral service, financial assistance and advice. The ISOS organisations also helped with the Child Abuse Commission, counselling, the Redress Board and the retrieval of records by individuals.

Astonishingly, no evidence was found that the Department of Education had either seen or signed the agreements. This would suggest that no effective audit on the substantial public funding of the organisations has ever taken place. This view is reinforced by the fact that, although the terms of the four existing agreements are reported to be “common”, job descriptions in the different regional centres differ as do titles and salaries. Also, the actual descriptions of jobs are at odds with the terms of the overall agreements.

The uncertainty is reinforced further. There is evidence of “a lack of clear guidance” from the Department as to the role and remit of the service “particularly with the shift from the Child Abuse Commission towards being focused around the Redress Board.” It is also not clear what “shift away” means, and whether the implications of this suggestion are clearly understood. Recent training offered to ISOS personnel in Dublin, by the Department, in “money advice to survivors” has possibly resulted in the huge increase in survivors being channelled to the Redress Board where they are represented by British solicitors. They come from English law firms on the LISOS Approved List.

In 2005 a total of 1.9m was paid in fees to these firms in respect of 178 cases. The sum in 2004 was 600,000. None of this was for court appearances since those solicitors do not have legal access to plead here.

IT can be inferred that the outreach services have channelled abused people to the Redress Board for settlement of their cases. The report finds lack of coordination of services, the Federation of Irish Societies being blamed. But no one knows the role and function of that organisation’s development coordinator. The job was filled for a year, little was achieved. The position is still vacant.

Unsurprisingly, the abused want no Church links. There is a known lack of trust, acknowledged in the report, between survivors and the centres because of close Church involvement. Yet there are such links, many of them hidden. They undermine trust because the Church was the main body responsible for the years of suffering of the abused. Nevertheless this long delayed Report recommends the continuation of the services from those very centres.

When asked, Mr Pitchford referred all questions to the department. The report raises more questions than it answers. But that is the way with such reports and has been the way for two decades with the Department of Education on this issue, something to which Mary Hanafin has yet to put her hand.
Irish Independent

Last edited by Marie-Therese O’ loughlin (2006-12-11 17:47:05)



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