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Added on November 24, 2007

[This is a famous article by Kevin Myers regarding the 1999 conviction of Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe on bogus charges of raping a child. Kevin Myers is no friend of the Catholic Church. Is there a reason why other journalists failed to see what was so obvious to him?]

An Irishman's Diary, by Kevin Myers
Irish Times, Saturday, 31 July 1999

A column I wrote last Monday for Wednesday was withdrawn because what I sought was being achieved - the release of Pablo McCabe and the former nun Nora Wall, both imprisoned for the rape of a child. So: might this case not suggest that our entirely proper desire to expose the sexual abuse of children could now be running out of control? For these are cleansing times; and cleansing times can be very dangerous times indeed.

We should always beware the deeds of good men and women when there is a public war against vice of any kind. The "witches" of Salem were not persecuted by bad men or women; people then genuinely lived in fear of witchcraft, just as they did of communism in the 1950s. In the witch-hunt to remove it from public life in the US, innocent people's lives were ruined, yet through often honourable motives (apart from those of Joe McCarthy).

No Impropriety
So let us be clear: good people are fighting the fight against child abuse, and from the outset of the Wall case, no impropriety was done. Everyone, from the investigating gardai to the trial judge, did their duty properly and within the law. But there is a climate in this country which enables injustice to be done even as the institutions of the state perform to the best of their ability. If, as I believed all along, Nora Wall did not rape Regina Walsh, then she has been the victim of this climate and of these institutions, and she has been grievously wronged.

Yet wronged so understandably. We all want justice for the nameless battalions of children we now know have been abused down the decades by members of religious orders. Might not poor Nora Wall have become the lightning conductor for all the storm-clouds of rage that have built up over these events? Was her predicament not made worse by the heresies of the equality agenda, so that nobody dared say in public what many of us thought in private: that no woman could ever freely assist such as Pablo McCabe in the violation of a child?

Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were found guilty (by a majority verdict only) of raping Regina Walsh 12 years ago. But another claim of rape, unsubstantiated by a witness, was dismissed by the jury. We have now learnt that Regina Walsh alleges she was raped by a black man in a laneway off Leicester Square in London.

She also claimed to have been raped by a male relative, though she later withdrew that allegation. And she was counselled after her boyfriend allegedly beat and abused her, and spent some time St Declan's Mental Hospital in Waterford.

She is a woman who deserves our compassion. She has spent much of her life in institutions, without the critical emotional support that all growing children need to help them shape their perceptions of the world and themselves. Is it possible that the hardship of her life means that at times her memory is impaired?

Other Allegations
And would it not have been reasonable for the jury to have learned about other allegations she has made about being raped?

The crucial prosecution witness, Patricia Phelan, testified that she had seen Nora Wall holding Regina Walsh down while she was being raped by Pablo McCabe. We now learn that Patricia Phelan some years ago made allegations of sexual abuse, and her sister of actual rape, against a man, and this matter had been brought before the courts, where the judge remarked that he was "less than impressed by their evidence". The court last Saturday heard for the first time, after Pablo and Nora had been found guilty, that Patricia Phelan has also made allegations of sexual assault against her father, her brother and an uncle.

Finally, Pablo McCabe had told investigating gardai he was guilty. He is a truly pathetic man. A substance abuser of heroic proportions, he is a recidivist offender, a schizophrenic and an epileptic and suffers from Parkinson's Disease. He has spent long periods being treated in St Brendan's psychiatric hospital, Grangegorman.

He slept for much of his trial. No credence can properly be attached to anything he says. Today he is free; ironically, he is in fact probably better off in jail.

Harrowing Tales
Nora Wall in particular has been branded as an evil sexual pervert. Her trial occurred after the showing of the States of Fear series. Might the jury members not have been influenced by the harrowing tales they heard in those programmes? Unfortunately, they did not hear of previous and, some might think, unconvincing allegations of sexual assault by the two main witnesses. Is it not possible that they have transferred their general indignation at sexual abuse by religious onto the single, unfortunate figure of Nora Wall?

Be strong, Nora, wherever you are. You have endured an unspeakable, terrible ordeal. Hold fast to your sanity and your health. Let your name stand for all the other and nameless religious who have only served their community, yet have been tarred with broad-stroke accusations of abuse. I believe you are innocent, and I wish you well. Your Calvary, as Calvary it has truly been, will not have been in vain if we learn from it. Massed self-righteousness is an ugly animal, and it invariably spawns an uglier beast still - the lynch mob. Listen: can't you hear its baying in the wind?

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