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RE: THE ELEVENTH HOUR RECALL OF CHRISTIAN BROTHERS TO THE COMMISSION TO INQUIRE INTO CHILD ABUSE.

Christian Brothers still holding back the truth on child abuse and money……… JUDGE Sean Ryan displayed serious annoyance and frustration with the lawyers representing the Christian Brothers at Wednesday’s public hearing of the Investigation Committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, of which he is chairman. He said he was uneasy to the point of suspicion as to the motives of the Christian Brothers in withholding questionnaires and statements made by the Brothers who worked in industrial schools where there was abuse. The suspicion is by no means new to the rest of us, but to see it coming from Judge Ryan was a welcome development, as were his strong criticisms of the whole performance by the legal team for the Brothers and by Brother Seamus Nolan, who has been appearing as Christian Brother spokesman during public hearings. Last May, he gave an undertaking that the documents would be given to the Commission. Now, legal privilege is apparently being claimed, though this was not absolutely clear. It seemed also that what the lawyers knew was different from what Brother Nolan knew. He had his own views on the documents and how useful they might, or might not, be but was not aware of the correspondence between the Christian Brothers and the Commission. Yet he is their spokesman! It was not surprising – indeed, it was welcome – to hear Judge Ryan describing the organisation’s performance as “deliberately offensive”. These are gross delaying tactics. The questionnaires and statements are probably as Brother Nolan described them, not containing “anything of great note”. They date from 2000, in the early days of the State’s attempts to investigate abuse, a great deal of it believed to have taken place in Christian Brother institutions. Investigation so far has been disappointingly anodyne. We seem further from the truth than ever. There is a soft centre to the inquiry. It is directed in public at Brothers and other witnesses from the Orders, while the abused are confined to private sessions or one-to-one hearings. There is the fact that witnesses on behalf of the religious are answering most of the questions secondhand, at a remove from the appalling revelations that continue to emerge. The scrutiny of their testimony is at best slack. The latest of the revelations are contained in the searing account by Peter Tyrrell in his posthumous memoir, ‘Founded on Fear’, and recently published. It takes the miserable story back in time into the late 1920s, demonstrating the terrible fixation on brutality that pervaded industrial schools. Judge Ryan has also undertaken, rather belatedly, a potentially important investigation into the key question of finance. This has been given to an international company based in Paris called Mazars. I feel concern for their future credibility in the work they are doing. Mazars’ work is in the field of business advice involving ‘forensic investigations’. That is precisely what we have here. But do Mazars see it thus? They have an office in Dublin. The report is already in draft form. If true, this is astonishing. It suggests that the following complex investigations have been carried out. Firstly, a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the Irish State’s voted per-capita grants to the industrial schools and reformatories from the 1920s to the 1970s, together with an equally thorough investigation of the numbers of inmates, year on year, in each of the roughly 25 institutions involved. The research resources for this ‘forensic analysis’ are indeed there, somewhere. But the records have not been found or submitted in full to the Commission on Child Abuse and anyone seeking them from scratch would need a major team of researchers. There has been no report of such investigation and no comment on progress in any of the many announcements from the Commission. And there is another problem: while the institutions were paid what was essentially an adequate grant per inmate to cover physical protection, board and keep, good nourishing food, care of health and welfare with dental and optical attention – none of which happened – no records were kept. Furthermore, the industrial schools used child labour to help in the earning capacities of each institution. Some of them, like Daingean, were highly rated as successful agricultural ‘performers’ in Offaly, making profits for the reformatory, profits that were earned by child labour. No accounting of this exists. It did not educate the children or provide them with better food or care. The testimony on this is huge and incontrovertible. For Mazars to stand over the required report would be a miracle. Into the bargain, they are working with the religious but are not meeting the victims. IN 1961 an Irish rural family, two adults, two children, father unemployed, would receive £2 2s 6d a week. There was a further payment of 13s 6d for the second child in the family, making the total for the four people £2 16s; (no payment was made for the first child). This meant 14s a week per person as subsistence. The per-capita payment, at the same date, for a single child in an industrial school was £3 9s 9d a week. There were, in addition, block grants. What Mazars make of all this is going to be the next interesting discovery… By Bruce Arnold

Mazars is an international, integrated and independent organisation, specialised in audit, accounting, tax and advisory services.

Mazars can rely on the skills of 13 000 professionals operating in 58 countries. As the market challenger, Mazars is fully able to provide large corporate multinational firms with seamless tailored solutions. Its complete, adaptable and flexible range of services also makes Mazars perfectly able to serve smaller companies and owner-managed businesses as well as high net worth individuals.

All Mazars staff are bonded by strong quality guidelines, determined to exceed technical and ethical standards and convinced that passion for accountancy, rigour in the way they perform their job on a daily basis and open-mindedness are the keys to success.

Comment: 1
Having read the transcript this morning of Judge Sean Ryans “slap on the wrist” to Christian Brother, Seamus SHambles Nolan, one can’t help but feel some small stirrings of “sympathy” for Shambles Nolan. Padraig Lankford, well, that’s another matter and NO DOUBT Sean Ryan had his OWN REASONS for SPIT ROASTING Lankford. The archetypal URIAH HEEP, regardless of Lankfords ducking and diving, HE WAS HELD TO ACCOUNT BY RYAN. Poor old Shambles Nolan, UNBRIEFED and wholly unsuspecting of the caustic wit of Sean ryan, wit, interspersed with UNFLINCHING ACCURACY to its recipient, Lankford, was NOT lost on those present who AT LAST witnessed the acceptable spectacle of SEAN RYAN DISPORTING FOR ALL TO SEE THE PRONOUNCED “FANGS” of Ryan as they sunk deeply into the growing and unacceptable aquiescence which Lankford was left with NO choice but to render TOTAL CAPITULATION to the superior mind he assumed he was capable of entering into a little “”sabre rattling”” with Mr Lankford, lost. Despite the conclusion, in the event, NO CONCLUSION as to whether or not these “QUESTIONNAIRES” will or will not be handed over, I feel we are about to be presented with some more “courtroom theatre” in regard to those two. MY MONEY HAS TO BE ON RYAN, as past events have PROVED THAT THE VENERABLE LANKFORD IS SOMEWHAT PREDISPOSED TO THE “ODD EMOTIONAL, UNCONTROLLED OUTBURST, NOW AND AGAIN” However, the events of Wednesdays proceedings leave one or two unexplained ‘areas’ which may add a sense of continuum in their own right, not least the FACT, PERHAPS TO BE ESABLISHED, OF WHETHER OR NOT THE OBLATES OF DAINGEAN FOLLOWED THE SAME PROCEDURE IN ISSUING “QUESTIONNAIRES”, AND IF SO, PLUS OF COURSE, “INTERVIEWS” WITH PREVIOUS OR EVEN EX-SERVING MEMBERS OF DAINGEAN, WITH LIVING “PHYSICAL” EXPERIENCE OF DAINGEAN, IF EXISTING, WERE ALSO HANDED OVER TO THE COMMISSION! WILL THE “ARCHIVIST” FOR DAINGEAN, Father MICHAEL “TAFFY” HUGHES BE SUMMONED BACK TO THE COMMISSION TO ANSWER YEAH THE affirmative OR NAY, OR OTHERWISE!  The beat goes on. Bruce Arnold raises a most intriguing point in respect of the monies allocated to these Gulags for the upkeep of children, as the black garbs in the past REFUSED to render their accounts for auditing, HOW WILL THIS INVESTIGATION INTO THE AUDITING OF THESE GULAGS SUCCEED IN ANY WAY. Are we about to witness MORE SKULLDUGGERY! A VICTIM /SURVIVOR OF INSTITUTIONAL ABUSE.

Comment: 2

Re: Commission to Inwuire into child institutional abuse..
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Some comments, from a concerned victim, with the benefit of increasingly doubt-filled hindsight“ on the origins, bona fides, terms of reference, due expectations and due performance, to date, of the Ryan Investigation Commission into Child Abuse.

1.  Apologies how are you?

The first official acknowledgement that a significant amount of brutal, perverse and chronically damaging deeds had been committed against children in the care of the State’s Institutional schools by a sizable number of “take your pick“ employees/ associates/ members of unincorporated bodies of Religious Orders, run under the “take your pick 2“ stewardship/ agency/ direct instructions of, naturally, previous dumber and dumber Governments duly emerged in a public apology made by the Taoiseach and addressed to the then unnumbered and widely scattered, but tragically reduced (largely by suicide or by so-called ˜self-destructive lifestyles) surviving victims long after the general public was boggled with, if not already bored with the whole subject.

After all, there had been decades of ever-more-graphic details in newspapers about cases of sexual abuse against children in State-licensed institutions, as well as a steady output of books, plays and movies depicting the scary regimes operating behind the misnomers that Religious childcare neatly concealed.

While it is fair to say that the Taoiseach’s apology was generally welcomed by victims at the time (We felt that, at last, we would have a real chance of being believed instead of, as was the norm for those incarcerated, being blamed, physically punished or, at best, merely pushed away when we ventured to complain) in the light of the recent Jesuitical-style apologies emitted by spokespersons for the institutions to the Ryan Committee, the whole concept of apology has now soured, for this victim at least, from being a spark of hope on the road to discovery“ essentially Why did this happen to me? into what I now see as a cynical damage limitation exercise“ a characteristically cold and calculated reaction from the Church Establishment to appease outraged feelings among its flock while, with the same vicious stroke, repositioning victims as unworthy whingeing perpetrators of the villainy which, by sly inference, had us institutionalised in the first place:

“We apologise.  Yes, we had a few bad apples; but it was largely the children who committed the abuse on each other.”

We apologise for the wrongs done; but we’re concerned at the numbers of alleged victims now coming forward only after they saw the possibility of getting monetary awards.

For the record“ dismiss all images of cider-swilling, drugged-up, car-joy-riding Dangers-to-Society lusting for Lotto-like awards“ the ˜villainy that had me institutionalised, at four years of age, was an Order of the Court, with the reluctant acceptance by my mother, because she was unmarried and in no financial position to continue caring for me; the Court specifying that I be taken care of by a particular order of nuns in a specific convent.

My mother did not agree, however and was not even consulted about my later transfer to the hellhole school that was instrumental in putting a stop to my education, in terrorising me from being a normal infant with a future“ top of my class in reading and writing at my old convent“ into being depressed and fearful child, afraid to close my eyes in the dormitory lest the abusers catch me unawares, reduced in my labours (yes, for all but a chosen few boys, this school’s was effectively a child labour camp) in ever-reducing steps to working, like some brute animal, on the school dump, or to me being transferred for periods, as part of the peculiar alternative disciplinary resolution of this school, into mental hospitals; all of which led to my mother losing track of my whereabouts and to me being ultimately told by the mental hospital nurses the cruelly unhinging lie that she was dead.

My first reaction to the performance of the Ryan Committee is, therefore, astonishment and real anger that it’s only reaction to the shameless PR attack by the religious powers-that-be on the past victims of their concerted abuse was a limp Thank you very much Father/ Brother/ Sister, Overawed and Underwhelmed? From: a victim/survivor of institutional abuse.

No Confidence in the Ryan Commission.

October 16, 2006

Albert King on behalf of Mary King. (Victim of institutional child abuse)

When one reads the transcripts of the Ryan Commission Phase 3 hearings it’s quite clear that victims of institutional child abuse have no confidence in the Ryan Commission.

It’s also quite clear that both the Redress Board and the Ryan Commission still show signs of having quit planet earth, for different destinations.

Almost every man and woman who has experienced institutional child abuse has had the Redress Board and the Ryan Commission up to here, and yearns to have something done about it.

Instead of making the Redress Board and the Ryan Commission a better place for victims of institutional child abuse, Ahern and his henchmen created a vast edifice of public disinformation, to make it seem a better place.

Almost every word Ahern and his henchmen have spoke in relation to the Redress Board and the Ryan Commission would have been perjury had they been on oath.

Albert King on behalf of Mary King. (victim of institutional child abuse. Phase III – Witness Examination Experts.
July 4, 2006

Phase III – Witness Examination Experts.

When one looks at the transcript of the Phase III public hearing of June
20th 2006, there appears to be more questions than answers from the Ryan
Commission in relation to the issue of the “experts”.
The Progress Report and Plan dated 3rd May 2006, and the timetable for the Phase III public hearings In relation to the “experts” was originally set for the 8th and 9th June 2006, until the “experts” were taken off. It’s quite clear that the Ryan Commission had known the names of the “experts” long before they were taken off the original timetable. It begs the question – why did the Ryan Commission withhold the names of the “experts” until their names were received in a letter from the Ryan Commission dated 15th June 2006, which is well after the “experts” were taken off the original timetable. The hearings with regard to the “experts” have not been re – scheduled. However, the Ryan Commission engaged the following list of “experts” to assist the Ryan Commission:

1. Mazars will examine funding in a number of institutions.
2. Professor David Gwynn Morgan will report on:
(i) Historical background
(ii) Pathways into institutions
3. Professor Anthony Staines will examine health issues and health recording
in institutions.
4. Professor Robbie Gilligan will examine relevant recent institutional
history post the Kennedy Report and current issues in childcare with
reference to making recommendations.
5. Mr. Ciaran Fahey, Chartered Engineer, will report on buildings in a
number of institutions.
6. Professor Alan Carr has been engaged to carry out a survey of a
representative body of former residents of institutions.
7. Mr. Patrick Brennan and Mr. Richard Rollinson are expected to furnish
reports on general childcare issues to enable comparisons to be made
historically and with reference to U.K experience.
8. Mr. Diarmaid Ferriter is expected to report on relevant historical
issues.
It should be quite clear that the Ryan Commission will not be able to
fast-track its findings without the re-scheduled hearings in relation to the
eight “experts”.
Furthermore, it should be perfectly clear that we have never had confidence
in the Ryan Commission since the letter and resignation of Honourable,
Justice Mary Laffoy in 2003.
Finally, we predict that a large number of complaints will surface before
and especially after the Ryan Commission has completed its findings.

Albert King, on behalf of Mary King. Victim of institutional child abuse

Christian Brothers still holding back the truth on child abuse and money’

Saturday December 2nd 2006

JUDGE Sean Ryan displayed serious annoyance and frustration with the lawyers representing the Christian Brothers at Wednesday’s public hearing of the Investigation Committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, of which he is chairman.

He said he was uneasy to the point of suspicion as to the motives of the Christian Brothers in withholding questionnaires and statements made by the Brothers who worked in industrial schools where there was abuse.

The suspicion is by no means new to the rest of us, but to see it coming from Judge Ryan was a welcome development, as were his strong criticisms of the whole performance by the legal team for the Brothers and by Brother Seamus Nolan, who has been appearing as Christian Brother spokesman during public hearings.

Last May, he gave an undertaking that the documents would be given to the Commission. Now, legal privilege is apparently being claimed, though this was not absolutely clear.

It seemed also that what the lawyers knew was different from what Brother Nolan knew.

He had his own views on the documents and how useful they might, or might not, be but was not aware of the correspondence between the Christian Brothers and the Commission. Yet he is their spokesman! It was not surprising – indeed, it was welcome – to hear Judge Ryan describing the organisation’s performance as “deliberately offensive”.

These are gross delaying tactics.

The questionnaires and statements are probably as Brother Nolan described them, not containing “anything of great note”.

They date from 2000, in the early days of the State’s attempts to investigate abuse, a great deal of it believed to have taken place in Christian Brother institutions. Investigation so far has been disappointingly anodyne. We seem further from the truth than ever.

There is a soft centre to the inquiry. It is directed in public at Brothers and other witnesses from the Orders, while the abused are confined to private sessions or one-to-one hearings.

There is the fact that witnesses on behalf of the religious are answering most of the questions secondhand, at a remove from the appalling revelations that continue to emerge.

The scrutiny of their testimony is at best slack. The latest of the revelations are contained in the searing account by Peter Tyrrell in his posthumous memoir, ‘Founded on Fear’, and recently published. It takes the miserable story back in time into the late 1920s, demonstrating the terrible fixation on brutality that pervaded industrial schools.

Judge Ryan has also undertaken, rather belatedly, a potentially important investigation into the key question of finance. This has been given to an international company based in Paris called Mazars. I feel concern for their future credibility in the work they are doing.

Mazars’ work is in the field of business advice involving ‘forensic investigations’.

That is precisely what we have here. But do Mazars see it thus? They have an office in Dublin. The report is already in draft form.

If true, this is astonishing. It suggests that the following complex investigations have been carried out. Firstly, a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the Irish State’s voted per-capita grants to the industrial schools and reformatories from the 1920s to the 1970s, together with an equally thorough investigation of the numbers of inmates, year on year, in each of the roughly 25 institutions involved.

The research resources for this ‘forensic analysis’ are indeed there, somewhere. But the records have not been found or submitted in full to the Commission on Child Abuse and anyone seeking them from scratch would need a major team of researchers. There has been no report of such investigation and no comment on progress in any of the many announcements from the Commission.

And there is another problem: while the institutions were paid what was essentially an adequate grant per inmate to cover physical protection, board and keep, good nourishing food, care of health and welfare with dental and optical attention – none of which happened – no records were kept.

Furthermore, the industrial schools used child labour to help in the earning capacities of each institution. Some of them, like Daingean, were highly rated as successful agricultural ‘performers’ in Offaly, making profits for the reformatory, profits that were earned by child labour. No accounting of this exists. It did not educate the children or provide them with better food or care. The testimony on this is huge and incontrovertible.

For Mazars to stand over the required report would be a miracle. Into the bargain, they are working with the religious but are not meeting the victims.

IN 1961 an Irish rural family, two adults, two children, father unemployed, would receive £2 2s 6d a week. There was a further payment of 13s 6d for the second child in the family, making the total for the four people £2 16s; (no payment was made for the first child). This meant 14s a week per person as subsistence.

The per-capita payment, at the same date, for a single child in an industrial school was £3 9s 9d a week. There were, in addition, block grants. What Mazars make of all this is going to be the next interesting discovery.

Paddy says: Write to the Editor – Irish Independent

Irish Independent

Last edited by Marie-Therese O’ loughlin (2006-12-11 18:21:16)

 86 2006-12-03 21:52:49  Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin
Re: From the CrookedLawyers.com Guestbook {2}
Orphans died because nuns didn’t want them seen in nightgowns.
Sunday November 5th 2006 NICOLA TALLANTTHIRTY-five orphans who perished in a blaze in Cavan more than 60 years ago were locked into their dormitories as the fire raged because nuns didn’t want them seen in their nightgowns.

The shocking claims are made in a new TV documentary which investigates the fire at St Joseph’s Orphanage in 1943. One of the 50 children who were rescued claims that the children were ordered to say the Rosary as the fire spread from the laundry to the second and third floors of the building.

The full truth has never emerged but it is now claimed that all the children could have been saved.

Cavan farmer Matt McKiernan lost his two sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Susan, on the night of the fire. They had been sent to St Joseph’s six months previously when their mother died. “They were two lovely girls and we never imagined when they went in there that they would never have come out again,” he says.

On the night of February 23, 1943, while war raged across Europe, a small fire started in the laundry of the old building. Within 45 minutes it gutted the entire school, leaving only smouldering remains. Sarah, who has asked the makers of Scannal not to identify her, was one of the last to escape and has never spoken before about her experience.

“I arrived in St Joseph’s in the Thirties and I remember going in. I was only five but I remember these huge white marble steps. It is still very clear in my mind today.” She remembers how the fire raged. “Someone was looking out the window and saw the smoke but it must have caught quickly because the next thing was that this smoke was coming in.”

Locals in O’Sullivan’s bar were about to finish up for the night. One of them, Sissy Reilly, saw flames coming from the orphanage and sounded the alarm. Local man John McKiernan recalls: “We tried to make our way up the stairs but we were beaten back by the flames. We were overcome with smoke.” The documentary claims that one teacher, Miss Harrington, who was looking after Our Lady’s dormitory, located in the middle of the building, rescued the children in her care after she was awoken by the smell of smoke.

But it was the girls on the top floor, under the control of Bridget O’Reilly, who would perish in the blaze. There was one fire exit on the top floor but O’Reilly left it bolted and moved the children from one dorm to another where she felt there was less smoke.

She then went down the stairs and left the building herself as it filled with smoke.

Local Michael Holmes says: “I have it from a reliable source that one of the reasons the children weren’t taken out was because the nuns didn’t want them to be seen in their nightgowns.

“It took a long time for locals to gain admittance to the building. But instead of being directed to the top floor where the children were, they were asked to go into the laundry to fight the fire,” he explained.

“What happened was a scandal. It took 45 minutes for the building to be burned to the ground. They say that there was a good chance of every single person surviving if they had been brought down the stairs and out the door in the first 15 minutes.”

The Cavan fire brigade arrived in a handcart with a fire hose but it was ill-equipped, with a punctured hose and faulty ladders. “When I came to, I was sitting on the window ledge,” Sarah remembers. “There was nobody there with me. People below were shouting at me to jump but I just absolutely froze. I reckoned I was going to die. I could hear the glass cracking and could see the flames getting nearer and nearer. Then someone got hold of my feet and dragged me down the ladder and I was brought to the surgicalhospital.”

Paddy Doyle was sleeping at the army barracks in Cavan town on the night and was woken to help with the clear-up operation.

“We were told to find bodies. There were all these children. We were just picking up bodies and bringing them out to quilts laid out on the square. You wouldn’t recognise anything.” Workers could only find enough remains to fill eight coffins so the bodies were buried together in a mass grave.

Sarah recalls the funerals: “I was going over to the chapel to the mass and there was this big sheet on the playground spread out. Someone kept saying not to look, but of course you look. I didn’t even realise it then that they were all bodies there. All in lumps.”

She explains how it affected her: “When I saw all the coffins – that is when it really hit me. They were all my friends that I used to play with. We used to joke and laugh and play together in the fields and they were all gone.”

When Local Government Minister Sean McEntee established an 11-day public inquiry into the cause of the fire, the nuns were allowed give their evidence from the comfort of the convent, and hired senior lawyers to represent them.

The inquiry report was published that year and concluded that there was no one to blame for the deaths. It found that the locals were unfamiliar with the layout of the building and that there was a lack of leadership on the night.

It recommended amending the fire-escape regulations within industrial schools and called on a national fire brigade to be established.It was found that an electrical fault was to blame for the fire.

“I don’t talk about it now. That fire to me is part of my private life,” Sarah confides, “That life is gone. It is bad memories and I don’t go back.”

Irish Independent
36 Die in Cavan Orphanage Fire

November 5, 2006

The Cavan Fire
In the early hours of a February morning in 1943 fire broke out in the basement laundry of St. Joseph’s Orphanage & Industrial School run by the enclosed order of Poor Clare nuns in Main St., Cavan town. The fire very quickly turned into an inferno. The alarm was raised by horrified townspeople who tried to help. At first they could not gain access to the convent and when they were admitted it was almost too late too reach the terrified, screaming children, trapped in the top floor dormitories. A hugely inadequate fire service meant that within forty minutes the flames had taken hold, the roof had caved in and the building was left just a shell. Thirty five children and an elderly lay woman burned to death. The following day the remains of the thirty six bodies were recovered from the smoldering ruin. They were put in just eight coffins and buried subsequently in a mass grave.

The horrific tragedy became national front page news and controversy about locked fire exits and why the children were not evacuated in good time gave the impetus for a public Tribunal of Inquiry. But the results of the Inquiry raised almost more questions than it answered. The inquiry was viewed as a whitewash by some as there was no attempt to hold anyone directly responsible.

“In Cavan there was a great fire,
Judge McCarthy was sent to inquire,
It would be a shame, if the nuns were to blame,
So it had to be caused by a wire.”
Dogerel penned by
Brian O“ Nualain (aka Myles na gCopaleen)
Secretary to the Tribunal of Inquiry.

While the Tribunal of Inquiry did make some reccomendations which were the basis of reform of local fire fighting services and fire safety standards in Industrial Schools – the locked fire exits were to have horrific echoes in the Stardust almost 40 years later. Some argue that the true story of what really happened that night and why so many children were burned to death was not uncovered.

“Duradh liom agus creidim an ta a dairt liom a  Gur ceann de na fathanna nar tugadh na paista­ amach An Ait na nach raibh na mna rialta ag iarraidh go mbeidh siad feicithe agus feisteas oache orthu.” Machea¡l Holmes – Craoltar

(“One of the reasons given why the children were not evacuated in time was that the nuns did not want the girls to be seen in their night clothes”)

However one thing is certain, for those who were involved in the fire the nightmare still lives on

“It’s a miracle I was alive after that … when they put a ladder up it wouldn’t reach. I kept looking around and I thought – I’m going to die here. The flames were coming nearer and nearer. I could hear glass cracking, cracking – I thought I’m going to die…”
Sarah – Survivor of the fire

Sarah (not her real name) was one of the last girls to be rescued that night from the burning building; it’s a trauma which has haunted her life. The memories are as vivid 63 years on as she tells her story for the first time publicly but the stigma felt by inmates of such institutions then, for her, has not diminished either.

“Sure no-one would imagine that that would happen…. my two sisters – yes they went into meet their deaths…that’s all I can think about.”
Matt McKiernan – Brother of Mary & Susan McKiernan who perished in the fire.

Cavan man, Matt McKiernan still feels the acute pain of the loss of his two sisters who perished in the fire. They had been placed in the Industrial school only 6 months earlier after the death of their mother because the local Roman Catholic priest felt it was not appropriate that young girls be looked after by a protestant neighbour or even their own father.

Scannal talks to some of the people who risked their own lives to try to save the children and who had the unenviable task of recovering the bodies afterwards.

“I think I’d like to forget it because it was one of the saddest days I ever remember in my life… something like 9/11 it was dreadful…” John McKiernan – Rescuer

This week Scannal examines the events of that night and the scandal of how 35 young girls & one old woman were burned to death because of a deadly combination of incompetence and arrogant narrow mindedness, officially swept neatly under the carpet of a smug era where children and especially those kind of children really did not count.

Those who lost their lives in the fire

Mary Harrison (15yrs Dublin )
Mary Hughes (15yrs Killeshandra)
Ellen McHugh (15yrs Blacklion)
Kathleen & Frances Kiely (12yrs & 9yrs Virginia)
Mary & Margaret Lynch ( 15yrs & 10yrs Cavan)
Josephine & Mona Cassidy ( 15yrs & 11yrs Belfast)
Kathleen Reilly (14yrs Butlersbridge)
Mary & Josphine Carroll (12yrs & 10yrs Castlerahan)
Mary & Susan McKiernan (16yrs & 14yrs Dromard)
Rose Wright (11yrs Ballyjamesduff)
Mary & Nora Barrett ( 12yrs -Twins – Dublin)
Mary Kelly (10 Ballinagh)
Mary Brady (7yrs Ballinagh)
Dorothy Daly (7yrs Cootehill)
Mary Ivers (12yrs Kilcoole Wicklow )
Philomena Regan (9yrs Dublin)
Harriet & Ellen Payne (11yrs & 8yrs Dublin)
Teresa White (6yrs Dublin)
Mary Roche (6yrs Dublin)
Ellen Morgan (10yrs Virginia)
Elizabeth Heaphy (4yrs Swords)
Mary O’Hara (7yrs Kilnaleck)
Bernadette Serridge (5yrs Dublin)
Katherine & Margaret Chambers (9 & 7yrs Enniskillen)
Mary Lowry (17yrs Drumcrow, Cavan)
Bridget & Mary Galligan (17 & 18yrs Drumcassidy, Cavan)
Mary Smith (80yrs employed as Cook)

Comment

That Ireland today is even aware of the tragedy attests to the impact of Mavis Arnold and Heather Laskey’s groundbreaking publication, Children of the Poor Clares: The Story of an Irish Orphanage (Belfast: Appletree Press, Ltd., 1985). In the official government inquiry, neither the religious order that managed the industrial school nor the local district council were found culpable despite evidence to suggest the institution was not in compliance with regulations regarding fire drills and locked fire-escapes. However, as Arnold and Laskey report, the legacy of the tragedy remains the conviction that the nuns’ first reaction, before they realized the seriousness of the situation, was to avoid having themselves or the girls be seen in their nightclothes. For this reason, many believe, the girls were ushered back into their dormitories from which the raging fire ultimately allowed no escape.

Cavan Fire Inquiry Motion.

Seanad Eireann – Volume 27 – 10 March, 1943

Mrs. Concannon Mrs. Concannon

Mrs. Concannon: On behalf of Senator Quirke I move:”

That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into the following definite matters of urgent public importance, that is to say:”

The cause of the fire which occurred during the night of Tuesday, the 23rd February, 1943, at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Main Street, Cavan, and the circumstances in which loss of life was occasioned by the said fire, and to make such recommendations in relation thereto as the tribunal may think proper.

Mr. Baxter Mr. Baxter

Mr. Baxter: If I may, I should like to second this motion to set up an inquiry into the cause of the fire which occurred in Cavan on Tuesday, the 23rd February.

Naturally when a great tragedy like this strikes a small community, such as ours in Cavan, there is, as there should be, a searching of mind and soul to discover what and where are the weaknesses which make it possible for such a catastrophe to come upon us.

Up to the present the public know only what was served up to them through the daily newspapers.

However undesirable it may be that the daily Press should institute a sort of inquiry into such a catastrophe, without indeed being very well equipped to do so in the circumstances, we have no complaint to make of what the public were told in regard to the occurrence, with the exception of the report and a comment in the Irish Times.

We welcome this inquiry. All intimately or remotely concerned are glad of the Minister’s decision to hold an inquiry.

We welcome it and all possible facilities will be afforded the tribunal by the interested parties of the religious Order and the ecclesiastical authorities as well.

For various reasons, as I have said, through the Press and the Press alone have the public been told anything about this fire.

It is regrettable that an organ of opinion like the Irish Times should have acted and written as unwisely as it did in the circumstances.

It caused very considerable pain, it may be without knowing it.

The religious community who are the sufferers to the greatest extent by this catastrophe feel that they were hardly treated fairly.

The Minister’s action is welcome because there is an urgent necessity in the first place to prove or disprove some of the things that have been written and circulated from one end of Ireland to the other and, perhaps, outside our shores as well.

In its editorial on the fire, the Irish Times asked the question: “Is it reasonable, in this year of grace, 1943, that more than 80 children should be housed in buildings that lack fire escapes/”

That statement was not true.

Other statements were made about the difficulties of gaining access to the buildings, and the facilities placed at the disposal of the people who went into them by the members of the religious community.

There were some statements made about the difficulty of procuring keys, but that is really a misrepresentation of the facts.

In great trouble like this, people, the public and the Press in particular—should be doubly careful about what they say and write, lest a great injustice may be done.

Hence it is that the Minister’s decision to set up an inquiry is comforting and encouraging to all interested in the situation that has been created and in the trouble that has come upon the religious community, the town of Cavan and the surrounding neighbourhood.

I should say that really the truth is that the period from the time when the fire was discovered at approximately 2 o’clock until the last possible rescue of the last child at a quarter to three, was so short, the fire had got such a hold, the difficulties that confronted the few people who had discovered the fire in dividing their energies and in trying to provide more help were so great, their attempts to effect rescues from the room into which they went until it was flooded with smoke, and to get equipment to reach a building four storeys high were so unavailing, and the efforts of the number of people who congregated in that time had to be scattered over so many different activities, that it is little less than miraculous that so much was achieved.

Mr. Crosbie Mr. Crosbie

Mr. Crosbie: On a point of order, are we holding an inquiry now in this House into the fire?

Leas-Chathaoirleach Leas-Chathaoirleach

Leas-Chathaoirleach: I think it is undesirable to have any statements affecting matters that will be the subject of inquiry.

Mr. Crosbie Mr. Crosbie

Mr. Crosbie: The matter is surely sub judice.

Leas-Chathaoirleach Leas-Chathaoirleach

Leas-Chathaoirleach: The whole matter will come before the inquiry.

Mr. Baxter Mr. Baxter

Mr. Baxter: I do not want to say anything that is not in order.

This may not interest Senator Crosbie, but if Senator Crosbie were a member of our small community down there, about whom so much has been said and written that is not true, Senator Crosbie would feel that there were impelling reasons why we should hold this inquiry.

Much has been said that is untrue. It has gone out to the public and has not yet been contradicted.

I felt, therefore, that there was justification for giving in this House the reasons why we welcome this inquiry.

I think I am within my rights in saying that I do know that in such a catastrophe there are lengths to which decent people will not go.

The charity of silence is often much more powerful and fairer to afflicted people than any desire for work of a spectacular nature on the part of newspapers however attractive it may be from the point of view of circulation, it is undesirable that, when tragedies come upon the country, people should feel an impelling urge to describe them in the most gruesome form and in a manner that may be very unfair.

When the commission starts its investigations, I think that a tale of marvellous heroism will be unfolded, and that those who misunderstand at present, because they have not been given the facts, will then see the facts in their proper light.

This will have a restraining influence on people who desire to speak of these things in a manner that should not be encouraged.

Perhaps the House does not desire me to go further than that: at least some Senators obviously are not anxious that I should.

I would like the Minister to give some information, of a more explanatory nature than he gave in the Dáil, when he indicated his intention to set up this commission of inquiry, with regard to the personnel of the commission.

The Minister indicated that it was not a question of trying to fix blame or responsibility, and I am sure that view would be accepted.

We have been thinking about this locally, to find the weaknesses in our defences.

If this inquiry is to result in securing our communities against such occurrences in the future, it must fix responsibility somewhere.

We must discover the causes of the weaknesses and, probably, we will have to distribute the causes over different authorities and even different persons.

Even Government Departments have partial responsibility in this matter and in arranging the personnel the Minister should give consideration to that aspect.

Those who are interested in the holding of the inquiry would be happier if the Minister would recognise that it will be impossible for the commission to make a report without finding faults or weaknesses somewhere.

It is quite conceivable that responsibility might be fixed with a certain disregard for the actions or efforts of different parties in the past to provide against occurrences like this.

The Minister would be well advised to indicate that the chairman of the commission would be a lawyer, that someone acquainted with fire-fighting would be another member and that an inspector of his own or of some other Department would be included.

That third person, I gather, would be from some Department in contact with these institutions in the past, and that would make the commission better balanced and its judgment would be fairer.

It would make the people concerned at both ends feel that there would be a judicial approach to the questions which the Minister is putting to the commission.

I think it will be revealed that there is nothing to be shirked, nothing which cannot be discussed and that, as the circumstances were, everything that could be done was done.

If there were faults, they are faults which are to be found in a great many of our institutions.

That aspect is very important in regard to the personnel of the commission, and the Minister would be well advised to take it into account, especially in view of the fact that the Irish public has been given an interpretation of the position which is not true and which has tried sorely the feelings of people who have had a great burden put upon them.

It is a peculiar dispensation of Providence that that burden should be put upon those people.

Wrongs must be righted and it is important that the commission should watch every aspect of the case to ensure that the examination will be regarded as perfectly impartial and that the ultimate decision will be regarded as a judicial decision.

Mr. Hayes Mr. Hayes

Mr. Hayes: The Minister I know has no Departmental responsibility but as we are on this question of an inquiry will the Minister say whether an inquiry is to be held into the disaster in Waterford, although I know that is not a matter of local government?

Mr. MacEntee Mr. MacEntee

Mr. MacEntee: Of that I have no knowledge.

With regard to what Senator Baxter said I should like to say that I have reason to know that this inquiry will be welcomed by all concerned—I mean by those who have been most intimately and tragically associated with it.

Perhaps it conveys a wrong impression of my point of view if it is assumed that the commission will not have to fix responsibility.

I did say in the other House that I was setting up this commission not so much to find scapegoats as to try to find what were the weaknesses which led to this tragic and regrettable loss of life, and with a view to devising such safeguards as would prevent similar occurrences in the future.

I am not able to announce the personnel of the commission to-day.

There are certain formalities which have to be gone through between the Minister responsible for the setting up of this tribunal and the Department of Finance which have not yet been completed, and I am not yet at liberty to give precise details.

The chairman will be an experienced lawyer.

We have secured the consent of a person experienced in fire fighting and in fire prevention to act on the commission and I hope to secure a lady as third member of the commission.

She will not be an inspector of the Department of Education but she may be a lady who is attached to another Department.

The third member will in any event be a lady.

I should say we have had to ask for this tribunal because there is no Department which has special powers of holding what is in the nature of a sworn inquiry at which people can be compelled to produce evidence and papers.

I have taken the responsibility of setting up this tribunal because not merely the internal regulations which were supposed to be applicable to these buildings come into the question but also the sufficiency of the fire-fighting appliances in the town, and the measures which were taken to deal with the fire.

I would like to ask the general public and the Seanad to withhold judgment upon these issues until the committee has made its report.

I think that when the personnel of the committee is published it will command confidence.

Certainly it is my desire that the matter will be fully investigated and that whatever issues from the commission should receive general acceptance.

It is particularly my desire that the people in Cavan and those people elsewhere associated with institutions of this kind will realise that it has been a fair and just attempt, not indeed so much to find culprits, nor as I said to make scape goats of people, but to see how these things can occur and, having regard to the fact that there are numerous institutions of this kind throughout the country, to consider whether it is necessary for us considerably to revise the powers which we have for dealing with them, and for ensuring that the precautions which this disaster has shown to be necessary will always be taken.

I do not know that there is anything else I can add.

I have considered the question of putting a lay person on this commission, that is one who is not associated with any Government service, but my difficulty is that I do not want to ever weight it.

The industrial inspector, on the one hand, with knowledge of what is required in industrial undertakings in relation to fire prevention, and the experienced technician on the other hand, will be more or less assessors to guide and direct the chairman of the tribunal in relation to the investigation, and in consultation with him to make the necessary recommendations.

It might be very difficult to find a third person who would be as competent to do that as a person who is already familiar with factory and workshop regulations and the manner in which they are generally applied.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that it would be best to put there a person of the type I have mentioned.

However, my mind is not closed, and if suggestions are made to me between now and, say, Friday or Saturday, I will consider them.

I do not want to overload the tribunal.

The custom has been to keep the size of these tribunals as small as possible, down to three persons; indeed sometimes only one person has constituted the tribunal.

As a rule when there are technical questions involved there have been two or three.

If I can I do not want to exceed that number.

Question put and agreed to.

Last edited by Marie-Therese O’ loughlin (2006-12-16 18:47:54)

 

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