Alliance Support Group

March 2013 Archives



Magdalen LaundryMagdalen Laundry

A FEW years back, there was a debate on Clare FM’s ‘Morning Focus’ programme on the many incidents of abuse that were institutionalised and systemic within the Catholic Church down the years and decades and the cover-up of same.
In this regard, Bishop Willie Walsh was one of the most enlightened, just because he had, over the course of many years and statements, showed himself to have the courage to speak out about the Church’s failings and the systematic abuse that had taken place.
He was as open and frank as any Church leader, being honest enough to say “for the disastrously inadequate response of our Church to the heinous crime of child sex abuse, I will always carry a sense of sadness, regret and shame”.
However, on this ‘Morning Focus’ debate, the general tenor of the discussion was that amid all the abuse that was everywhere and anywhere, there was no laundry in Clare – at least the county had been spared that.
In Limerick and Galway, yes – on Clare Street and Foster Street respectively, but not Clare.
The ‘Morning Focus’ presenter didn’t know any different – how could he, because unless he had personally known someone who was holed up in a laundry in Clare and subjected to slave labour conditions, it’s not the kind of thing that was out there and talked about – openly, covertly or in any way.
It was more a case of airbrushing such facts, sweeping them under the thickest of carpets. See no evil, hear no evil and definitely speak no evil. It never happened.
It did, however. There was a laundry in Ennis – a Magdalene Laundry in everything but name and the Clare FM phones that hopped for a few minutes told this to be true.
There were Ennis townspeople and those from further afield for that matter who set the record straight and told the story of a laundry under their noses in Ennis.
Of course, there’s no mention of this laundry that was housed in the old Convent of Mercy grounds where the Temple Gate Hotel is located today.
We should get to know what happened there, because press reports from over 100 years ago help to debunk one theory that has been expounded in the report that was published last Tuesday.
That theory related to a claim that the laundries weren’t about profit – that they weren’t businesses, more about a service that nuns were providing, to the women who worked there and the public who availed of the service.
“The results of the financial analysis carried out tend to support a view that the Magdalene Laundries were operated on a subsistence or close to break-even basis rather than on a commercial or highly profitable basis,” the report says.
An article in The Saturday Record from June 6, 1907 paints a different picture – that it was about business, that it was about profits. The article had a headline of ‘A LOCAL INDUSTRY’ with a sub heading of ‘ST BRIGID’S HOME LAUNDRY, ENNIS’.
“The Sisters of Mercy of the Ennis Convent are carrying out some big improvements in their laundry, which are all found to have the effect of making it still more successful,” said The Saturday Record.
“They have procured the services of a Miss Hume, a most competent manageress, who has received training and a first-class diploma in the branch of laundry work in the colleges of Kildare Street, Dublin and South Kensington, London.
“In addition, Miss Hume has had the experience of nine years as manageress in the Kenilworth Square Laundry, Dublin, where she gave complete satisfaction to the public.
“At considerable expense, great improvements have been made in the laundry with a view to making the work a success. In the past, there have been drawbacks incidental to the fields of industry, but it is felt that all these are now overcome and there is every reason to anticipate a high standard of excellence in the work turned out in future.
“It is hoped that the public will recognise the good which is being done in the worthy cause of affording employment for deserving women by increased patronage. The manageress will be glad to submit terms and rules for intending customers on application,” the report added.
One wonders what the terms, conditions and rules for the women employed in the laundry were; one wonders were they there of their own free will; one wonders was it a case the women being sentenced to work in the laundry; one wonders if the only escape was by running away; one wonders was there was a link between St Brigid’s Home Laundry and the Industrial School and the Our Lady’s School Orphanage, also operated on the same convent grounds by the Sisters of Mercy.
These questions aren’t answered in Senator Martin McAleese’s report. This is why this report only scratches the surface of what went on behind closed walls.
It goes without saying that every diocese in Ireland should have its Murphy/Ferns Report – the one in Killaloe should look into clerical sex abuse and could also look into what went on in St Brigid’s Home Laundry. 

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Magdalene name finally added to headstone


The Good Shepherd Order has added another name to a headstone for a mass Magdalene grave, more than a quarter of a century after the woman’s death.

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By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Reporter

Esther Harrington’s name was added to the headstone just this month despite having passed away in the care of the Order on Jul 6, 1987. She had spent 70 years in Sunday’s Well Magdalene Laundry in Cork, entering at age 14 and remaining there until her death at 84.

This correction was only carried out following pressure from the woman’s great niece, Rose Brien Harrington, from Cobh, who discovered the error.

“I assumed she was in St Joseph’s, but in a grave of her own. I was suffering from cancer when she died so I couldn’t get to the funeral. When the whole Magdalene apology came I discovered it was a mass grave in St Joseph’s and she wasn’t on the headstone.

“I contacted the order who confirmed she was buried there. They apologised for what they called an ‘oversight’ that she was not on the headstone. I was in such a temper about it. She was being treated with disdain in life by these people and here again in death.”

Last Saturday, friends and relatives held a small ceremony to mark of Esther’s resting place and to honour a life spent almost entirely in Sunday’s Well Magdalene Laundry.

Ms Brien Harrington said she had visited her great aunt in Sunday’s Well shor-tly before she died and described her as a gentle woman who was almost childlike after so many years behind the walls of the laundry.

“I remember she was bedridden by then in an old dormitory. It was covered in rosary beads and crucifixes, she had no personal belongings. It looked like she was on a hospital bed with worn sheets and rotten old blankets. There was another woman in the bed next to her and she looked after her. It was very sad.

“I gave some of the women pick and mix sweets and their eyes lit up, they couldn’t believe it. They loved my hair too and kept rubbing it, saying it was lovely. They were like children really. I cried coming out of there, it was desperately sad.”

According to the family, Esther had entered the laundry in 1918 at the age of 14, although the order disputes this and says she entered when she was 20. She worked as a seamstress and, according to Ms Brien Harrington, this may have ensured she remained there for life.

“She was a trained seamstress so they needed her in there. I know my grandparents tried to take her out at some point in 1930 and the local priest called round and told them that he would see to it that they would lose their shop and that their children would be out on the street.”

Ms Brien Harrington also expressed her anger at incorrect details supplied to her by the order. It issued her birth, death and baptismal certs for Esther. The baptismal cert lists Esther’s date of birth as being in 1902 when she was born the following year. Also, the death cert supplied by the order cites her as being 81 when she died when, in fact, she was 84.

This is the second time the Good Shepherd Order has amended the headstones of the mass Magdalene graves in St Joseph’s Cemetery. In February, it am-ended a headstone in the cemetery following an Irish Examiner article outlining how it listed four Magdalene women as being buried in two different locations.

Three of the names now have asterisks attached with a footnote stating: “Interred in Residents Plot Sunday’s Well”.

However, no explanation is offered for the woman listed twice on the headstone with two different dates of death.

The Sunday’s Well grave has been vandalised and is inaccessible to the public.  

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Full Details of the Staturory Fund Board

27 March, 2013 - The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund (RISF) Board held its inaugural meeting today having been formally established by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D.

The RISF Board is a new body, established under the provisions of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012. The Board will oversee the use of the cash contributions of up to €110 million pledged by the religious congregations to support the needs of some 15,000 survivors of residential institutional child abuse. These survivors have received awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board or equivalent court awards. The support to be provided will include a range of approved services, including health and personal social services, education and housing services.

The Board is chaired by Ms Sylda Langford and comprises four ordinary members who are former residents of institutions:

Mr Paddy Doyle

Ms Bernadette Fahy

Ms Phyllis Morgan

Mr Martin Power

and four other ordinary members:

Mr Damian Casey

Mr Austin Currie

Mr Tom Daly

Ms Katherine Finn BL

At its meeting today the Board agreed the appointment of Ms Mary Higgins as chief executive officer, from April 2013. The staff of the former Education Finance Board are transferring to the RISF with effect from 29th March 2013. The Board has commenced work on the arrangements to be put in place for the operation of the Fund.

Further publicity will be undertaken as the work of the Board progresses and a website with detailed information will be available on the Fund’s services in due course.

Editors’ Note:

Board Members Details

Sylda Langford


Former Director General of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Previously Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Justice and Law Reform. She has extensive experience in policy formulation and delivery and has a professional background in social policy and social work. She is Chair of the Citizen's Information Board and a member of the New School Establishment Group.

Paddy Doyle

Former resident. Disability activist and author of “The God Squad”. Member of Committee to oversee the Memorial to victims of institutional abuse.

Bernadette Fahy

Former resident. Counselling Psychologist. Outgoing member of the Education Finance Board. Member of Committee to oversee the Memorial to victims of institutional abuse.

Phyllis Morgan

Former resident living in the UK. Coordinator at the Irish Survivors Advice and Support Service, founded by the Irish Women Survivors Support Network.

Previously with the London Irish Survivors Outreach Service.

Martin Power

Former resident living in the UK. Social worker. Previously involved in youth justice and the NHS.

Damian Casey FCMA

Assistant National Director, Finance Shared Services in the HSE. Previously worked in the private sector in management accounting, financial analysis & reporting.

Tom Daly

Former teacher and Adult Education Officer and Education Officer with City of Cork VEC.

Austin Currie

Former TD and Minister of State1994 to 1997. Previously Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning in the Northern Ireland Executive. Candidate in 1990 Presidential election.

Katherine Finn

Barrister specialising in Criminal Law. Previously a prosecution solicitor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

CEO Details

Ms Mary Higgins was most recently an independent Management & Social Policy Consultant. Previously she was the Director of the Homeless Agency and the earlier Homeless Initiative. She has also held the position of Director of Threshold with previous experience in Emigrant Advice and Cherish.


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Statutory Fund People - Your questions answered?


Former Director General of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Previously Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Justice and Law Reform. She has extensive experience in policy formulation and delivery and has a professional background in social policy and social work. She is Chair of the Citizen's Information Board and a member of the New School Establishment Group.

Paddy Doyle

Former resident. Disability activist and author of “The God Squad”. Member of Committee to oversee the Memorial to victims of institutional abuse.

Bernadette Fahy

Former resident. Counselling Psychologist. Outgoing member of the Education Finance Board. Member of Committee to oversee the Memorial to victims of institutional abuse.

Phyllis Morgan

Former resident living in the UK. Coordinator at the Irish Survivors Advice and Support Service, founded by the Irish Women Survivors Support Network.

Previously with the London Irish Survivors Outreach Service.

Martin Power

Former resident living in the UK. Social worker. Previously involved in youth justice and the NHS.

Damian Casey FCMA

Assistant National Director, Finance Shared Services in the HSE. Previously worked in the private sector in management accounting, financial analysis & reporting.

Tom Daly

Former teacher and Adult Education Officer and Education Officer with City of Cork VEC.

Austin Currie

Former TD and Minister of State1994 to 1997. Previously Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning in the Northern Ireland Executive. Candidate in 1990 Presidential election.

Katherine Finn

Barrister specialising in Criminal Law. Previously a prosecution solicitor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

CEO Details

Ms Mary Higgins was most recently an independent Management & Social Policy Consultant. Previously she was the Director of the Homeless Agency and the earlier Homeless Initiative. She has also held the position of Director of Threshold with previous experience in Emigrant Advice and Cherish.


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Cloyne priest to be laicised over abuse complaints


Five women abused by priest in 1970s and 1980s

St Coleman's Cathedral, the main church in the diocese   of Cloyne

St Coleman's Cathedral, the main church in the diocese of Cloyne

    First published: Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 06:00


An elderly priest in the Diocese of Cloyne is facing laicisation after a church inquiry upheld a series of complaints by five women that they had been sexually abused by the priest while minors in 1970s and 1980s.

Yesterday the diocese confirmed its canonical court had found in favour of the women in relation to the priest, who had been the subject of complaints from the women that he abused them when they were under 18.

“A number of complaints of sexual abuse of minors against a priest of the Diocese of Cloyne have been upheld by a canonical penal trial. The priest has been dismissed from the clerical state,” said the diocese.

Denied impropriety
The priest, who denied any impropriety, has 15 days in which to appeal the ruling to the apolostic signature in the Vatican which, as the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church after the pope, oversees the administation of justice in the church.

Yesterday’s ruling follows a hearing at the Nano Nagle Centre in Cork, which began in 2010 and was suspended for a period but resumed in 2012 during which time the women gave evidence.

The priest, who had a canon lawyer as his advocate, denied the allegations but the three priest judges were satisfied to a standard of “moral certainty” and found him guilty of the complaints.

The penalty of laicisation is suspended pending an appeal by the priest who has already featured in a number of high profile inquiries into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in the diocese by the former bishop, Dr John Magee.

Yesterday, the women who testified at the court were briefed on the verdict. Afterwards they spoke of their relief at the verdict which saw the judges unanimously find the priest guilty of all charges.

“Having gone through the canonical process and knowing how stringent and rigid it was, I feel relieved and vindicated,” one woman said. “No one would go through this process without having had to live the nightmare, but it’s such a relief to be finally believed.”

Another woman said: “I feel vindicated in so far as we can be. I’m glad the church held this hearing and made the findings that they did, but I wonder would they have gone this far if it wasn’t for us being so relentless in our quest for truth.”

In 2008, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church had criticised how the diocese and then Bishop Magee had handled complaints againt the priest. The complains against him also figured in the Murphy report. 

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Calls for probe into forced adoptions


By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Reporter

Groups representing birth mothers and adopted people have called for an investigation into the scale of forced and illegal adoptions in Ireland.

It comes following a national apology by Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister, to thousands of unmarried mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their children for adoption over several decades.

An apology was recommended last year by a senate committee that investigated the impacts of the policies pursued at the time.

It found that, among unmarried mothers, adoption rates were as high as 60% in the late 1960s in Australia. By contrast, in Ireland in 1967, 97% of all children born outside of marriage were put up for adoption.

Bernie Harold, chairwoman of Adoption Loss — The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, said birth mothers here were “moved” by the apology but there seemed little will at Government level to examine Ireland’s forced adoption practices, which continued into the 1980s.

“We should not be complacent or smug on this side of the globe, however,” she said. “No-one can doubt that Ireland’s forced adoption practice was comprehensively championed as an official Government policy until well into the 1980s.”

Ms Harold said clear proof of this lay in the fact that, in 1974, Paddy Cooney, as minister for justice, said in a speech to social workers at the adoption agencies’ annual conference, that adoption “is better for the illegitimate baby than to be cared for by its mother”.

Ms Harold said there was a key difference between Ireland’s experience of adoption and that of Australia. “There was a stark difference between Australia’s practice and our own, and that concerned the widespread false birth registration, unbeknownst to their mothers, of thousands of babies, and the failure of registered adoption agencies to arrange legal adoptions,” she said.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance, called on the Government to investigate forced adoption practices in Ireland, given the similarities between Irish and Australian practices at the time.

“With regard to the Australian state apology for forced adoptions, when it is Enda Kenny’s turn to issue the same apology for Irish victims of this barbaric genetic engineering, he or his successor need only take Julia Gillard’s text and replace the word ‘Australia’ with ‘Ireland’ and hey presto, a State apology is born,” said Ms Lohan.

She said the scale of the abuses inflicted on natural mothers and adopted people though illegal and forced adoptions needed to be investigated.

“Eamon Gilmore should revisit his statements on the civil rights issue of the generation,” she said. “The forced confinement of unmarried mothers and their children to State-funded mother and baby homes, illegal vaccine trials on the children, forced adoptions and child abductions and child trafficking — this is the civil rights issue of the State since its inception.”

- Contact; helpline on 01 6600795 or 

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Former Christian Brother found guilty of sex abuse at Letterfrack


Sentencing later for Robert Doherty (72), who denied charges

The former Christian Brothers industrial school at Letterfrack.   Galway Circuit Criminal Court was told that former Christian Brother Robert Doherty nicknamed his victim

The former Christian Brothers industrial school at Letterfrack. Galway Circuit Criminal Court was told that former Christian Brother Robert Doherty nicknamed his victim “Tuppence” after telling him he was not worth tuppence. Photograph: Joe O'Shaughnessy


 A former Christian Brother was found guilty yesterday of the sexual abuse of a boy in Letterfrack Industrial School in Connemara during the 1960s.

Robert Doherty (72), a native of the Falls Road in Belfast, with an address at Glenwood Estate, Dundalk, Co Louth, had denied six charges of indecently assaulting the boy on various dates between August 1965 and April 1967, in a bedroom beside the boys’ dormitory in the institution. Evidence had been heard during the three-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court that Doherty nicknamed his victim “Tuppence” after telling him he was not worth tuppence.

The victim, now 59, told the jury he had been sentenced to four years’ detention in Letterfrack when he was 9½, for stealing a bicycle from outside a church during morning Mass which he returned later that day to his local Garda station.

After the court case yesterday , the victim shook hands on the steps of the courthouse with retired detective Jack Cosgrove, and thanked him and all of the gardaí from Clifden and Letterfrack who helped bring Doherty to justice. “I’m proud of all the gardaí who encouraged me to go on. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for supporting me.

Day in court
“They promised me in 1999 that they would back me and I would not be here today without their help. I wanted to face my abuser and have my day in court. I dreaded the judicial process on many occasions but the gardaí kept telling me to go on and keep fighting. They kept in touch with me. I never gave in and I never gave up thanks to them,” the man said, with tears in his eyes.

He had told the court that when he was sent to Letterfrack he was brought on the train by gardaí with another small boy as far as Galway and a Christian Brother brought them the rest of the way to the isolated Connemara institution on December 23rd, 1963.

He said he had been very small for his age and encountered only one Christian Brother during his four years there who was kind to him and who never touched him. That Brother, he said, had been in charge of the small boys’ dormitory and the abuse only began when Doherty was put in charge of both the big and small boys’ dormitories in 1965.

For the next two years, he said, from the age of 12 until he was released in April 1967, he was systematically abused two to three times a week.

He said Doherty would call him to his bedroom, make him lie on the bed and abuse him for up to 20 minutes. He would then open the door and tell him to get out, threatening him that if he said anything he would get him. He told the boy he was going to call him “Tuppence” because he was small and wasn’t worth tuppence.

The man said Letterfrack was a harsh place which was ruled by fear. If a boy was caught talking in the dorms or wet his bed, he would be stripped naked, made lie across the bed and beaten with leather straps.

The man said he told his mother on his release from Letterfrack about the sexual abuse. She didn’t understand and beat him severely, telling him she was going to beat the devil out of him. He said he began drinking and later fled to England where he lived on the streets and served time for petty crime.

In stark contrast, Doherty told the jury he had had a very happy childhood and loved the Christian Brothers so much he decided to join them aged 15. He said he received an excellent education and arrived at Letterfrack, aged 24, as a primary school teacher.

He denied ever laying a finger on the victim and said no boy had ever stood in his bedroom in Letterfrack. Judge Rory McCabe remanded Doherty on continuing bail to await sentence on May 15th next and directed the preparation of a victim impact statement. 

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Former priest to be freed as 18-month term for abuse backdated


Victims tell court how Patrick McCabe (77) left them ‘tortured, tormented and haunted’

 Abuse victim James Moran speaking to the media outside court today  after former priest Patrick McCabe received an 18-month jail sentence for indecently assaulting him and another young boy in the 1970s. He said said McCabe's sexual assault had blighted his life. Photograph: Courtpix

Abuse victim James Moran speaking to the media outside court today after former priest Patrick McCabe received an 18-month jail sentence for indecently assaulting him and another young boy in the 1970s. He said said McCabe’s sexual assault had blighted his life. Photograph: Courtpix

A former priest whose abuse of children in the 1970s and 1980s was featured in the Murphy report will walk free this weekend after an 18-month jail term was backdated by the judge.

Patrick McCabe (77), formerly of Alameda, California, was extradited here in June 2011 and has spent the last 21 months in custody awaiting sentence.

Waiving his right to anonymity, one of his victims James Moran (50) said McCabe’s sexual assault had blighted his life. Mr Moran said he went from being a happy child to contemplating suicide at 18.

McCabe pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to indecent assault of Mr Moran at a Co Kildare school between January and April 1977.

He also pleaded guilty to indecent assault of another boy, who cannot be named, at two locations in Dublin between January and September 1979. Both victims were 13 when McCabe molested them.

David Keane SC, defending, said he had been instructed by McCabe to offer a “sincere apology to the two victims for the pain and hurt he has caused”. He said his client also asked for their forgiveness.

Judge Margaret Heneghan said both victims had described how the abuse at the hands of McCabe has left them “tortured, tormented and haunted”.

Garda Insp Jim Doyle told Cormac Quinn, prosecuting, that he travelled to California in 2006 to interview the priest about the abuse.

McCabe told him he visited Mr Moran at his boarding school after seeing a photograph of the boy at his parents’ home. The then laicised priest said: “He met all the requirements to match my fetish. He was handsome and had a nice shirt and tie. I embraced him and fondled him.”

The second victim was abused at the parochial house after McCabe had offered to show him the crypts of the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin city centre. McCabe was dressed and was sexually aroused when he started kissing the boy and lay on top of the boy with all his weight.

On another occasion the ex-priest abused the boy after they had prayed together at an altar he had in his home. He gave the boy a present of rosary beads after the abuse.

McCabe was arrested in the US in August 2010 and extradited to Ireland in June 2011. Last October he was jailed for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to the indecent assault of five schoolboys.

Judge Heneghan said the maximum possible sentence for each offence was two years. She said she had to take into account McCabe’s guilty plea, his admissions to gardaí, his remorse, his age and his medical condition.

She said McCabe’s conduct was utterly abhorrent and was an immense breach and abuse of trust but accepted a submission from defence counsel that these offences lay at the lower end of the scale. She said this was not a case where consecutive sentences were appropriate.

The victim said his life had been blighted by the abuse and the events around it. As an adult he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I failed my Leaving Cert, failed all attempts at relationships but most importantly, felt I had failed my family. I have experienced every emotion associated with self-loathing,” Mr Moran told the court.  

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Minister Quinn announces establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund

Minister Quinn announces establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund

The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund (RISF) is to be officially established next Monday, the 25th of March. The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D. is also announcing the appointment of the members of the RISF Board and the designation of the first CEO.

The RISF Board is a new body which is being established under the provisions of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012. The Board will oversee the use of the cash contributions of up to €110 million pledged by the religious congregations to support the needs of some 15,000 survivors of residential institutional child abuse. These survivors have received awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board or equivalent court awards.

The support to be provided will include a range of approved services, including health and personal social services, education and housing services. To date €40m in cash contributions have been received from the congregations and a further €27m is expected on the establishment of the Fund.

Minister Quinn said, “The establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board represents a critically important step in responding to the needs of those who were subjected to horrendous abuse while children in residential institutions. I greatly appreciate the fact that the members have agreed to contribute to the work of the Board and I wish them well in their work. While the tasks facing the Fund are significant, I am confident that it will make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of the survivors of institutional abuse.”

The composition of the Board is as follows:

Ms Sylda Langford, Chairperson

Ordinary Members (former residents of institutions)

Mr Paddy Doyle
Ms Bernadette Fahy
Ms Phyllis Morgan
Mr Martin Power

Other Ordinary Members

Mr Damian Casey
Mr Austin Currie
Mr Tom Daly
Ms Katherine Finn BL

The Board members are appointed for a four year term of office, commencing on 25th March, 2013. The positions are not remunerated.

The Minister also announced that Ms Mary Higgins is to be appointed as chief executive officer of the RISF Board. She was selected following a recruitment campaign held by the Public Appointments Service.

The Minister also commenced Part 4 of the 2012 Act, which dissolves the Education Finance Board and transfers its remaining functions and staff to the RISF, with effect from 29th March 2013.

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Former Christian Brother found guilty of sexually abusing boy at Letterfrack




Former Christian Brother found guilty of indecent assault at trial in Galway Circuit Court
Former Christian Brother found guilty of indecent assault at trial in Galway Circuit Court

A former Christian Brother has been found guilty of the sexual abuse of a boy at Letterfrack Industrial School in Co Galway in the 1960s.

Robert Doherty, 72, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault by a jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this morning.

He had denied the offences, which took place on dates between August 1965 and April 1967.

Doherty, originally from the Falls Road in Belfast and with an address at Glenwood Estate, Dundalk in Co Louth, was recruited to the Christian Brothers at the age of 15.

In 1965, he began teaching at Letterfrack Industrial School at the age of 24.

He initially had only a teaching function but a year after his arrival, he was put in charge of the boys detained there.

He worked in Letterfrack until 1968 and left the Christian Brothers order in 1976.

The retired primary school teacher had denied six charges of indecently assaulting a young boy on dates between August 1965 and April 1967 in his bedroom beside a dormitory in Letterfrack Industrial School.

The victim, who is now 59, was sentenced to four years' detention in Letterfrack at the age of nine for taking a bike for a few hours before returning it to a garda station.

He said the facility was ruled by fear and he could only remember one Brother who did not abuse him during his time there.

The man said the abuse happened on a regular basis over a considerable period of time.

Doherty had denied all the allegations, stating that no boy had ever entered his room during his time at Letterfrack Industrial School.

After the jury resumed deliberations this morning, they returned majority guilty verdicts on all six counts.

The 72-year-old has been remanded on bail until 15 May when medical reports and a victim impact report will be presented to the court.

Speaking after the verdict, the victim thanked gardaí for the support they had given him since he first reported the abuse in 1999.

He said he had dreaded the legal process many times, but was glad that he had never given in and that he had never given up hope. 

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Former Letterfrack teacher denies abuse charges


The trial is expected to last two or three days at Galway Circuit Criminal Court
The trial is expected to last two or three days at Galway Circuit Criminal Court

A 73-year-old former Christian Brother has gone on trial in Galway charged with the sexual abuse of a young boy at St Joseph's Industrial School in Letterfrack during the 1960s.

The trial began before a jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this morning.

The retired teacher has pleaded not guilty to six charges of indecent assault against one boy on dates between 30 August 1965 and 4 April 1967.

Prosecuting barrister Conor Fahy told the jury of six men and six women that the accused is a former Christian Brother who had worked at the school during the 1960s.

The trial is expected to last two to three days.

Several garda witnesses from the Letterfrack and Clifden areas are due to give evidence.

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"Medical View 'Inconsistent' with Goldenbridge Abuse

"A senior surgeon who worked at the hospital where children from the Goldenbridge orphanage were treated during the 1950s has said that he cannot corroborate the description of the most severe injury inflicted on Christine Buckley. She claims injuries were inflicted on her by beatings at the hands of Sister Xavieria, the Sister of Mercy nun at the centre of the controversy over alleged abuse at the orphanage.

"Buckley, who was the subject of the Dear Daughter documentary on Goldenbridge broadcast by RTE television last month was among 18 former residents who alleged physical and verbal abuse by Xavieria. Their claims have since been supported by dozens of former residents. But in the medical opinion of J B Prendiville, a surgeon attached to Dr Steeven's, the hospital which treated Goldenbridge children from 1955 until its closure in 1987, Buckley's claim in the documentary that her leg was split open from her hip to her knee alter a beating by Xavieria is difficult to comprehend.

"This has added to controversy over the claims made by Buckley and others against Xavieria. The nun denied abusing the children on RTE's Prime Time programme last week and a number of former Goldenbridge residents have supported her. Now Buckley says she is appalled that the abuse is denied by Xavieria, questioned by medics, and missed as exaggeration some former residents.

"Buckley said she was viciously beaten by Xavieria after it was discovered she had smuggled a letter out to a newspaper with the bread delivery man. The nun, she claims her repeatedly on the legs with a stick, using such force that her thigh burst open from her hip to her knee, leaving a scar that stretched from her buttock to the end of her thigh.

"She says she recalls being brought to the hospital covered in blood. She was treated in casualty, or "the dispensary'' as it was known to the children. She recalls her wound being sutured and dressed — she believed she received 80 to 120 stitches. She was not admitted as a patient to the hospital, and after her wounds were dressed was sent back to the orphanage.

"Prendiville said he cannot recall ever treating a Goldenbridge child with a lacerated thigh. He said an injury needing such extensive stitching would not have been treated in Casualty. Standard medical practice would have necessitated that such an injury would require extensive surgery under a general anaesthetic, and a child with such an injury would have been detained as a patient at the hospital. In his experience, injuries to limbs caused by blunt instruments do not cause significant lacerations, but are more liable to cause fractures and muscular injuries — a medical view supported by R B Fisher, consultant at Belfast City hospital with 10 years experience of treating the victims of punishment beatings.

"As a specialist in soft-tissue injury and burns Prendiville said that such an injury would have been referred to him by medical staff; since it was an unusual case he would have undoubtedly recorded it for academic purposes. But he has no record or memory of any such case although he concedes he might well have been away at the time Buckley's leg injury brought her to Dr Steeven's.

"Moreover, he has not seen the scars she still bears on her leg. His assessment is based on what was the standard practice in the casualty department, of which he was in charge. Neither he, nor three other medics who worked at Dr Steeven's in the 1950s, can recall anything suspicious among the Goldenbridge children who regularly attended the hospital with typical childhood ailments.

"There is no documentation to chart what happened to these children. Medical records were destroyed in a fire after the hospital closed. The doctors are casting their minds back to incidents that happened more than 40 years ago, a time when responses to child abuse were generally muted. And some former residents of the orphanage have emphasised the repeated warnings, prior to hospital visits, that they should lie about the cause of their injuries.

"Buckley's testimony has been supported by dozens of former residents of Goldenbridge and another institution. St Kyran's where Xavieria also worked. The nun herself reportedly wrote to a friend "The allegations all nearly have a basic bit of truth but are blown up to an unbelievable state."

from 'The Sunday Times' (Irish edition) 28 April 1996

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The Mirror (London, England), 11 October 1997 by Neil Leslie
The elderly mother of tragic Goldenbridge baby Marion Howe claims her daughter's death at the hands of nuns was "nothing short of murder".
Distraught Christina Howe has revealed for the first time that she believes her 11-month-old toddler was assaulted with a hot poker.
She was speaking after receiving a pounds 20,000 payout from the Sisters of Mercy and an apology over the death of baby Marion. But she said the payout was no substitute for an explanation of her child's mystery death.
It is 42 years since Marion died but pensioner Mrs Howe sobbed: "I just can't forgive them."
Speaking at her home in Dublin last night, she said: "What they did was murder, that's my view of it anyhow.
"I am still very angry and I still don't know the truth. That was all I wanted to know, the truth. Money didn't matter. But now we will never know because there are no witnesses. It's an awful burden. I will never get over it."
She revealed that the nuns had initially offered pounds 7,500 for her and her husband Myles to drop court action against them.
"They offered us that money a few months ago. It was an insult really. But we didn't want the money, we just wanted to know what happened to our lovely little girl.
"She was such a beautiful baby. I had 16 children and 10 are alive and I just look at them now and wonder which one would she have been like.
"It's heartbreaking. We will try to put it behind us now. My husband is still too upset to speak to anyone about it."
Christina wept again as she recalled why her little girl was taken from her all those years ago. She said: "I was sick. She was only supposed to be there for two weeks but she was dead in four days.
"Some of my older daughters remember. Mary, who was around four or five, recalls her being taken away in the pram and saying 'Day Day'.
"Little did we know it would be the last 'Day Day' we ever saw her alive.
"We are still angry. The nuns never even told me what happened at the time.
"They rang my husband who was in England and told him not to bother coming home, that they would look after everything.
"They wondered why we were so upset and told us: 'It's only a baby'.
"But our little girl was lucky because she had parents. What about all the little ones that didn't. How many more have been buried like that?"
Christina believes horrendous burns to her baby's legs were caused with a hot poker. "I always said it was a poker because of the shape of the holes. She was only 11 months old.
"It's really awful what they did. Marion had burns on both her legs, not just one which was reported.
"You could place your fingers right through the hole in her little leg. How could anybody do that to an 11-month-old baby.
"It is frightening to think such things could have happened to a little infant.
"And these people had the cheek to say they would bury our baby. They were covering up. Do they think we are fools?
Mrs Howe and her husband visited the orphanage near Dublin three weeks after Marion was buried in an attempt to find out what happened.
She recalled: "The nun who answered the door shut it in our face. We were devastated. There was no any investigation, yet we told the Guards.
"We were left thinking, year after year, day after day, what ever happened to our little Marion.
"We never got the truth. No money will ever replace her.
"When my husband reported it to the police they should have looked into it.
"Think what we could have done to save other orphans from torture?"
The court victory has opened the door for a flood of similar settlements against the Sisters of Mercy who ran a cruel regime in Goldenbridge 40 years ago.
The scandal was uncovered after orphan Christine Buckley exposed the brutal life in her television documentary Dear Daughter last year.
Christine told of the reign of terror in which kids were beaten, placed in tumble dryers and forced to sit on potties for hours. Christina Howe saw the moving film and was horrified.
"It was then we realised that if all this had happened to this woman, what had happened to our little girl," she said.
Christine Buckley last night offered her sympathy to the Howes.
She said: "It must have been like burying their baby again.
"If they had got a million pounds it would have been nothing because they did not get an honest explanation as to what happened."
She said it was time for an independent public inquiry.
"The state has let us down badly. Had one of us been the daughter of a VIP this would never have gone so far.
"The Howes have waited 42 years for the truth. Someone knows the answer to their question."

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"States of Fear, the Redress Board and Ireland's Folly"


In 1996 the producer and director, Louis Lentin, made a television documentary about abuse in children’s homes which was shown by RTE, the main public service broadcasting station in Ireland. It focused on the brutal regime which was said to have been operating during the 1950s at St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, one of a network children’s homes or detention centres which were funded by the state and run by the Catholic Church.
The documentary featured allegations made against Sister Xavieria, one of the nuns belonging to the Sisters of Mercy order which ran the home. The woman ‘survivor’ at the centre of the film claimed that, on one occasion, she had been caned by Sister Xavieria so severely that the entire side of her leg was split open from her hip to her knee. She says she was treated in the casualty department of the local hospital and believes that she received 80 to 120 stitches. No medical evidence has ever been produced to substantiate this bizarre claim.
The surgeon who ran the casualty department at the hospital in question has given evidence which renders it highly unlikely that such an incident ever took place. Apart from anything else, the surgeon points out that caning would not have caused a wound of this kind, which would have required surgical treatment under a general anaesthetic and not stitches in a casualty department. Yet although the evidence suggests that the woman’s memory was a delusion, her testimony was widely believed at the time. In the wake of the broadcast, atrocity stories about Goldenbridge and other industrial schools began to proliferate.[3]
3. Sunday Times (Ireland), 28 April 1996, citing the views of the surgeon, J. B. Prendiville.
The following is the relevant extract from the Sunday Times article - it was published on the website of the victims' group "Alliance Support".

"Medical View 'Inconsistent' with Goldenbridge Abuse" - extract from article in The Sunday Times (Irish Edition) 28 April 1996

One of the more chilling allegations to surface was that an 11-month-old baby died four days after she was put into Goldenbridge. When the infant's father, Myles Howe. returned from England and went to St Ultan's hospital, he was told by a nurse that his baby had burns on her knees but the staff had got her too late to save her. The postmortem said the child died of dysentery.


The Howes have never been satisfied by the official response.


[Doctor] Prendiville [1] recalls that St Ultan's was established largely for dealing with bowel complaints such as dysentery or gastroenteritis, a common illness among children which at that time could reach epidemic proportions in Dublin. He speculated that Marian Howe was more than likely admitted to St Ultan's with a bowel complaint. "I wouldn't say that burns of that size on a child's legs would have been the cause of death. They didn't treat burns in St Ultan's. If the baby died from a burn, there would have to be an inquest. But failure to communicate information is a defect in many hospitals," he said.

But if the burns were not the cause of Marian's death, asks Howe, why was he told by Xavieria that it was an "accident" and not dysentery that killed his child? Why, on his arrival at St Ultan's to see his dead child, did a nurse indicate to him that his daughter had died of burns? And why could nobody explain to him the large burn marks on the sides of her knees?

The outrage that followed the Prime Time programme [2] was directed as much at Xavieria's denials of abuse as at an apparently "soft" line of questioning. The allegation that a baby in her charge died of burns was not put to her on the programme. The reason was that after researching the allegation, the Prime Time team could find no evidence to support it. according to an RTE source. The reporter did ask Xavieria about the incident, he said, but her response was edited out of the programme.

Both Buckley and Dear Daughter producer Louis Lentin, regard the Prime Time report as an effort by RTE to undermine the documentary. "Sister Xavieria is perfectly entitled to any right of reply, but this programme bent over backwards to be reverential," said Lentin. "The facts were not put to her in a strong, investigative manner."

References in Sunday Times article:
[1] Doctor J. B. Prendiville was a senior surgeon who worked at the hospital where children from Goldenbridge were treated during the 1950s.

[2] A Prime Time special broadcast by RTE in April 1996 highlighted some discrepancies in the tale of horror contained in the "Dear Daughter" documentary.

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Cartoon history of nuns in Ireland needs to be challenged


We know little about the history of nuns in Ireland in the period covered by the McAleese report


“As late as 1989 there were more than 11,000 women in 128 religious congregations in Ireland. That suggests there is an enormous history awaiting research and analysis.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien



The recent comments of two nuns who belonged to a congregation involved in running Magdalene laundries, broadcast on RTÉ on condition that the nuns or their order were not identified, have served to extend reaction to the recent McAleese report.

The confrontational tone of the nuns’ assertions – “all of the shame of the era is being dumped on the religious orders . . . the sins of society are being placed on us” – has been seized on by some as crass and self-serving and by others as offering a necessary corrective to a one-sided narrative.

The polarity of the responses is predictable and understandable, given the emotiveness around this subject recently. The narrative of the laundries with which we have become familiar is one of slavery, harshness and a legacy that includes now mostly elderly women sometimes overcome as they recount cruelties, lost youth, and mental and physical pain.

That the voices of the women incarcerated in the laundries were heard was essential but it is not in any sense to diminish their suffering or belittle their vindication by appealing for more history and less targeting of scapegoats. There is much in the McAleese report that can, will and should be contested and it is to be hoped that in time it will be rigorously dissected to test its accuracy and the logic underpinning its content and conclusions.

In his recent apology, Enda Kenny described the report as a “document of truth”, which is far-fetched; producing a report that would justify that description is an impossibility given the fragmentary nature of the evidence available. The methodology of the report is also open to criticism, particularly in terms of the weight attached to evidence.

To give one example, the contention in the report that the laundries were not profitable is in no way justified, given the acknowledgement that surviving statements of income and expenditure have not been independently audited, and that “the only available direct documentary record held by any of the religious congregations in relation to the organisations and entities which used the services of the Magdalene laundries operated by them relates to the laundry at Seán McDermott Street, Dublin”. That record consists of just a single ledger from the 1960s.

‘Profound hurt’
The report also gives prominence to the assertion of members of the congregations that they “have experienced a profound hurt in recent years . . . their position is that they responded in practical ways as best they could in keeping with the charism [power to inspire devotion], of their congregations to the fraught situations of the sometimes marginalised girls and women sent there by providing them with shelter, board and work”.

That defence can be contested, and nuns of course are not immune from embracing selfish distortions of reality, but it does deserve consideration and context. It is unfair and unhistorical to decide all nuns involved in this area were devoid of humanity, and the “bad nun” version of history needs to be challenged to generate a more nuanced approach to the relationship between State, society and sexuality, and in relation to power and gender in modern Irish history.

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South African Cardinal says paedophilia 'not a criminal condition'


Sexual abuse survivors react angrily to Archbishop Wilfrid Fox Napier's remarks on paedophilia
Sexual abuse survivors react angrily to Archbishop Wilfrid Fox Napier's remarks on paedophilia

Survivors of sexual abuse have reacted angrily to comments by a Roman Catholic cardinal that paedophilia is an illness and not a criminal condition.

Archbishop of Durban in South Africa Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier made the remarks in a BBC interview.

Cardinal Fox Napier took part in the election of Pope Francis.

He was asked what the new pontiff could do to repair damage to the Catholic Church's reputation caused by the way it dealt with sexual abuse by priests.

He said paedophilia was an illness not a criminal condition and questioned whether someone with such a psychological defect automatically deserved to be punished.

The cardinal spoke of two priests he knew who were abused as children and went on to become paedophiles.

He told the BBC: "Don't tell me that those people are criminally responsible like somebody who chooses to do something like that."

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland has said it finds the comments of Cardinal Fox Napier unhelpful and a strategy to avoid the fact that this is a crime.

Spokesperson Cliona Saidlear said it noticed that categorisations of paedophilia come into discussion when there is a way to deflect conversation about responsibility.

She also said it would question why this is being raised at this point by the cardinal.

Ms Saidler added that the psychiatric grouping of the perpetrator does not add anything to the discourse.


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Profile: Pope Francis




Pope Francis is the first from the Americas
Pope Francis is the first from the Americas

Pope Francis is the first from the Americas, an austere Jesuit intellectual who modernised Argentina's conservative Catholic church.

Known as Jorge Bergoglio, the 76-year-old is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed.

He came close to becoming pope last time, reportedly gaining the second-highest vote total in several rounds of voting before he bowed out of the running in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Groups of supporters waved Argentine flags in St. Peter's Square as Francis, wearing simple white robes, made his first public appearance as pope.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening," he said before making a reference to his roots in Latin America, which accounts for about 40 percent of the world's Roman Catholics .

Bergoglio often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina's capital.

He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.

He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.

"Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit," Bergoglio told Argentina's priests last year.

Bergoglio's legacy as cardinal includes his efforts to repair the reputation of a church that lost many followers by failing to openly challenge Argentina's murderous 1976-83 dictatorship.

He also worked to recover the church's traditional political influence in society, but his outspoken criticism of President Cristina Kirchner couldn't stop her from imposing socially liberal measures that are anathema to the church, from gay marriage and adoption to free contraceptives for all.

"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptise the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage," Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalise the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptised!"

Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism, "this Church of `come inside so we make decisions and announcements between ourselves and those who don't come in, don't belong," to the Pharisees of Christ's time - people who congratulate themselves while condemning all others.

This sort of pastoral work, aimed at capturing more souls and building the flock, was an essential skill for any religious leader in the modern era, said Bergoglio's authorised biographer, Sergio Rubin.

But Bergoglio himself felt most comfortable taking a very low profile, and his personal style was the antithesis of Vatican splendour. "It's a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome," Mr Rubin said before the 2013 conclave to choose Benedict's successor.

Bergoglio's influence seemed to stop at the presidential palace door after Nestor Kirchner and then his wife, Cristina Fernandez, took over the Argentina's government.

His outspoken criticism couldn't prevent Argentina from becoming the Latin American country to legalise gay marriage, or stop Fernandez from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination.

His church had no say when the Argentine Supreme Court expanded access to legal abortions in rape cases, and when Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminate against children, Fernandez compared his tone to "medieval times and the Inquisition."

This kind of demonisation is unfair, says Mr Rubin, who obtained an extremely rare interview of Bergoglio for his biography, the "The Jesuit."

"Is Bergoglio a progressive -- a liberation theologist even? No. He's no third-world priest. Does he criticise the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes," Rubin said.

Bergoglio has stood out for his austerity. Even after he became Argentina's top church official in 2001, he never lived in the ornate church mansion where Pope John Paul II stayed when visiting the country, preferring a simple bed in a downtown building, heated by a small stove on frigid weekends.

For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals.

Bergoglio almost never granted media interviews, limiting himself to speeches from the pulpit, and was reluctant to contradict his critics, even when he knew their allegations against him were false, said Rubin.

That attitude was burnished as human rights activists tried to force him to answer uncomfortable questions about what church officials knew and did about the dictatorship's abuses after the 1976 coup.

Many Argentines remain angry over the church's acknowledged failure to openly confront a regime that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate "subversive elements" in society.

It's one reason why more than two-thirds of Argentines describe themselves as Catholic, but fewer than 10% regularly attend mass.

Under Bergoglio's leadership, Argentina's bishops issued a collective apology in October 2012 for the church's failures to protect its flock. But the statement blamed the era's violence in roughly equal measure on both the junta and its enemies.

"Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticised the leftist guerrillas; he doesn't forget that side," Mr Rubin said.

The bishops also said "we exhort those who have information about the location of stolen babies, or who know where bodies were secretly buried, that they realise they are morally obligated to inform the pertinent authorities."

Human rights accusations

That statement came far too late for some activists, who accused Bergoglio of being more concerned about the church's image than about aiding the many human rights investigations of the Kirchners' era.

Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court, and when he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman said.

At least two cases directly involved Bergoglio. One examined the torture of two of his Jesuit priests -- Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics -- who were kidnapped in 1976 from the slums where they advocated liberation theology.

Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Jalics refused to discuss it after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.

Both men were freed after Bergoglio took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them -- including persuading dictator Jorge Videla's family priest to call in sick so that he could say Mass in the junta leader's home, where he privately appealed for mercy.

His intervention likely saved their lives, but Bergoglio never shared the details until Rubin interviewed him for the 2010 biography.

Bergoglio - who ran Argentina's Jesuit order during the dictatorship - told Rubin that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship, and once gave his identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border.

But all this was done in secret, at a time when church leaders publicly endorsed the junta and called on Catholics to restore their "love for country" despite the terror in the streets.

Rubin said failing to challenge the dictators was simply pragmatic at a time when so many people were getting killed, and attributed Bergoglio's later reluctance to share his side of the story as a reflection of his humility.

But Bregman said Bergoglio's own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens, and yet publicly endorsed the dictators. "The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support," she said.

Bergoglio also was accused of turning his back on a family that lost five relatives to state terror, including a young woman who was five months' pregnant before she was kidnapped and killed in 1977.

The De la Cuadra family appealed to the leader of the Jesuits in Rome, who urged Bergoglio to help them; Bergoglio then assigned a monsignor to the case. Months passed before the monsignor came back with a written note from a colonel: It revealed that the woman had given birth in captivity to a girl who was given to a family "too important" for the adoption to be reversed.

Despite this written evidence in a case he was personally involved with, Bergoglio testified in 2010 that he didn't know about any stolen babies until well after the dictatorship was over.

"Bergoglio has a very cowardly attitude when it comes to something so terrible as the theft of babies. He says he didn't know anything about it until 1985," said the baby's aunt, Estela de la Cuadra, whose mother Alicia co-founded the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in 1977 in hopes of identifying these babies.

"He doesn't face this reality and it doesn't bother him. The question is how to save his name, save himself. But he can't keep these allegations from reaching the public. The people know how he is."

Initially trained as a chemist, Bergoglio taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before taking over as Buenos Aires archbishop in 1998.

He became cardinal in 2001, when the economy was collapsing, and won respect for blaming unrestrained capitalism for impoverishing millions of Argentines.

Later, there was little love lost between Bergoglio and Fernandez. Their relations became so frigid that the president stopped attending his annual "Te Deum" address, when church leaders traditionally tell political leaders what's wrong with society.

During the dictatorship era, other church leaders only feebly mentioned a need to respect human rights. When Bergoglio spoke to the powerful, he was much more forceful.

In his 2012 address, he said Argentina was being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.

The message resonated in a country whose president was ruling by decree, where political scandals rarely were punished and where top ministers openly lobbied for Fernandez to rule indefinitely. 

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Survivors Voice Responds to Conclave:


Survivors Voice Responds to Conclave:




Date: March 12, 2013


Contact: Gary Bergeron / 978-606-3193

Bernie McDaid / 978-569-3109




This week, as the conclave to elect the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church begins. People from around the globe continue to wait, wonder and ask "Who will be elected as the next Pope"?


As this question has been asked over and over again for the past several weeks, Survivors of clergy abuse from around the world continue to wait, as well.


We are not waiting to find out who will be elected as the next Pope. We are waiting for the world to join us and finally start asking the right questions.


The question of who the next pope will be, pales in comparison to the question of what the next pope will do. While former Pope Benedict officially called the sexual abuse by clergy of children a "crime", he failed to remove those who committed those crimes, and those who harbored those criminals.


In order protect future generations of children from abuse, and in order to repair the damage done to yesterday and today's generation of clergy abuse survivors from around the world, we need to stop asking "Who will the next Pope?" ... we need to begin asking "What will the next Pope do".?


Will the next Pope, remove from ministry the priests who abused children?


Will the next Pope, hold accountable the bishops who protected abusive priests and who failed to protect children?


Will the next Pope finally begin to engage the survivor community and begin filling the obligation of repairing the damage done to thousand of clergy abuse survivors from around the world?


Will the next Pope change the culture of self preservation for one of child protection?


If the measure of our society is based on the protection of our children, then "Who will walk through the centuries old doors of the Sistine Chapel as the next Pope?", is not as important as "Will the next pope have the courage to walk through the door which survivors from around the world have courageously opened for the first time in centuries?"


Gary Bergeron 978-606-3193 /


Bernie McDaid 978-569-3109 /


For Further information please visit Survivors Voice


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We are not the voice of all survivors.

We are but just a vessel to help survivors find their voice.

What began as quiet whispers, are whispers no more.

Please support us & join us in saying "Enough"


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Magdalene nuns speak out


By fmulcahy fmulcahy
Last Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013, 19:29

Sir, – The comments by Sister A and Sister B made for interesting reading (Front page, March 7th). I have little doubt there are many of us over the age of 60 who agree wholeheartedly with the nuns. Ireland was an unforgiving nation in our growing years and little help was forthcoming from the State or its people.

Nuns, priests and brothers filled the gap, caring for the sick the poor and destitute, with little or no help from the system. The nuns stated they did not speak out as “they would be stoned”. Predictably enough, the first stone flew from Mick Finn in your paper on Saturday (Letters, March 9th)! – Yours, etc,




Co Limerick.


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New pope must address scandal of Legionaries of Christ founder


Questions over protection of child abuser Maciel Degollado remain unanswered


St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


When Pope Benedict spoke of the face of the Catholic Church being “disfigured”, and when he used the word “filth” about aspects of church life, maybe he was partly referring to the Vatican itself. The next pope will have a major task ahead of him, not just with the universal church, but with reforming the Roman curia.

The Vatileaks gave us insight into a dysfunctional system. We got a glimpse of a structure that was riddled with power struggles, infighting and jealousies. Even if only part of what was revealed is true, it still amounts to a major clean-up task for the new pope.

My concern is an older scandal, which continues to reveal new and more astonishing features. I am referring to the story of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel Degollado. For those who don’t know, this man founded a large and conservative religious order, and also a lay institute, Regnum Christi. He was a great friend of John Paul II, and of one of the most powerful people in the Vatican, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

He died in 2008, and it is now clear that not only had he fathered children by two different women but, much more disturbing, he had a record of sexual abuse, including seminarians and even some of his own children. He was also possibly the greatest fundraiser the church has known. His order, the Legionaries, is immensely wealthy, and he poured enormous amounts of money into the Vatican, including reputedly funding most of John Paul’s foreign journeys.

Many questions need to be answered regarding this man and his relation to the Vatican establishment. How could he continue to be welcomed and honoured by the pope and the curia long after it became clear that there was at the very least serious concern about him? Facing up to these questions will have to be part of making a fresh start.

‘Perfect example’
What did Pope John Paul know, and when did he know it? In 2004 he ordained 60 Legionaries in the Vatican, and he spoke of Maciel as the perfect example of priesthood to be followed by these young priests. This was years after a Vatican investigation had taken place, and when knowledge of Maciel’s activities was being widely published. If John Paul did know that there was, at least, great suspicion about this man, why did he present him as a model? Or was it that he, old and frail, was ignorant of the facts? If so, who was responsible for not warning him, to prevent him from making such a terrible mistake? Or is it possible that the pope did know, but chose to ignore the facts?

There must be people in the Vatican who know the answers to these questions. John Paul has already been declared “blessed”, and there is a possibility that he may be canonised.  

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UK church sex abuse ruling could facilitate compensation claims


Last Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013, 09:29


The Catholic Church could facing spiralling compensation costs after an attempt to avoid liability for abuses committed by priests and nuns was dismissed by the British supreme court.

The decision will have implications for a wide range of organisations by expanding the principle of “vicarious liability” to other churches, local authorities, charities that rely on volunteers, as well as scouts and guides. Lawyers said it could even affect claims involving Sir Jimmy Savile’s abusive past.

The refusal by theBritain’s highest court even to hear the church’s challenge, that clerics are not “akin to employees”, marks the end of a potential legal escape route from responsibility for compensation.

Lawyers for the trustees of Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust had appealed against a decision in the court of appeal that they had a duty to compensate a young girl for alleged beatings inflicted by a nun and sexual abuse perpetrated by a priest as long ago as the 1970s – if the facts of the abuse were established.

Issue settled
However, in a statement issued a fortnight ago, the supreme court said it had refused permission to appeal “because the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance”. It believes the issue has now been settled.

Lawyers for the diocese have conceded they cannot take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and consequently, the court of appeal’s ruling becomes definitive.

The ruling stated that although a priest may not be directly employed by a diocese, “he is in a relationship with his bishop, which is close enough, and so akin to employer/employee as to make it just and fair to impose vicarious liability [on the church for the priest’s acts].”

The claim was brought by a 48-year-old woman known as JGE, who cannot be named for legal reasons. She said that as a child she was beaten by a nun at a convent-run care home and later raped and sexually assaulted by a priest.

Fr Wilfred Baldwin, who has since died, was said to have abused her in the robing room on the day of her first communion. The facts of what took place are disputed: the Portsmouth diocese denies there was any abuse and insists a priest is an office-holder, not an employee.

Unusually, the courts decided to settle the broader issue of the church’s “vicarious liability” before establishing whether or not the woman was abused. A high court case will now have to consider the specific facts of her claim.

Cathy Perrin, a solicitor with the Catholic Church Insurance Association Services Ltd, who represented the Portsmouth diocese, said: “We are very disappointed. We had been hoping for clearer understanding of what ‘akin to employment’ means.

“This will not just affect Catholic priests. It will have impacts on commercial organisations and make local authorities responsible for the actions of foster carers. I don’t think this is a case we can take to Strasbourg, so this appears to be the end of it.”

Tracey Emmott, the solicitor who represented the victim, said: “This case is likely to trigger further complaints against the church. Since it started, I have had claims from four other people that this priest abused them. Its wider impact will extend to other organisations, such as scouts, because they are like employers.

Vicariously liable
“It could even affect claims against Jimmy Savile, for example when he was volunteering as a hospital porter. The hospital would have to argue it was not vicariously liable.”

Commenting on the decision, Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: “It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this case. It will almost certainly become an international precedent, opening the door to financial liability against the church for tens of thousands of victims of abuse worldwide.

“Evidence abounds of the shameless lengths to which the church has stooped for decades to evade financial responsibility for widespread abuse of children in its care. To have fought to evade liability for admitted abuse is both morally repugnant and a continuing blatant breach of the church’s obligations under the UN convention on the rights of the child.” – ( Guardian service)

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My friend, Sr Xavieria, the 'evil monster'


Florence Horsman-Hogan recalls the contested legacy of a controversial nun


My GOOD friend Sister Maura Lally passed away in late January in her early 90s. Aged 87, despite having undergone surgery, she was still well known for hopping on a bus and heading into a prison or city-centre flat where she'd visit some of her 'past pupils'. Or sometimes, no matter how tired or unwell she was – she would diligently write letters and cards to send to her 'past pupils' who wrote to her or rang her, wanting to keep in touch with their 'mother'.

Maura had gone to Goldenbridge Industrial School as a young nun in the Forties. She became resident manager in the mid-Fifties. She described her time there as one of "hard work, blood, sweat and tears", as the school had up to 190 pupils with six staff to look after them. I just can't imagine nowadays any teacher or childcare worker accepting 24-hour care of over 30 children each. Scabies, rickets, dysentery, malnourishment, child brutality and poverty was the norm for post-war Ireland, but at least within the walls of the school the sisters felt they could provide some sort of safety.

She appeared to have great memories. I don't know if she was just trying to fool herself – or whether she actually did manage, as a young woman with no childcare experience, to achieve some level of happiness in what appeared to me to be a world of drudgery and broken dreams.

In 1963 she was transferred from Goldenbridge to a smaller residential care facility run by the Sisters of Mercy in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. Although she would describe her time in Rathdrum as very happy, always, to me, she appeared to hanker for Goldenbridge.

Her support of others was legendary – making wedding dresses and even helping to pay for the weddings of former pupils. She was also big into encouraging girls to advance in education at a time when education of females wasn't so hot in Ireland.

But here's the rub. Maura, otherwise known as Sr Xavieria Lally, has also gone down in history as one of the most evil monsters to ever care for a child. Serious allegations of child abuse as the resident manager in Goldenbridge were featured in a programme called 'Dear Daughter' in 1996. The programme, which achieved worldwide fame, portrayed her as an evil child-beater, even bursting one girl's leg open with a baseball bat, such were the beatings she gave.

A Prime Time programme featuring Maura and many past pupils from Goldenbridge was aired later. At the time Maura was 76. Pupils came forward to accuse and defend her with equal fervour. In one case, a girl directly contradicted an allegation by her sister that Sr Xavieria had thrown her into an old disused 'furnace room' and left her there for days, stating that it was a housekeeper who'd locked her there for less than an hour

By her own admission, Maura admitted "she used the stick" far more than she'd ever like to think about – but this was in the 'spare the rod and spoil the child' era.

Yes, there was abuse in Goldenbridge. But to hold one nun, herself a victim of the terrible poverty and oppression that had swept post-war Ireland, to blame for a poorly State financed, overcrowded and understaffed institution was cruelty itself. Even in the final Ryan Report, the most savage allegations made so publicly against her were omitted.

Despite garda investigations of the allegations of severe physical abuse in 'Dear Daughter', no criminal charges were ever brought against Sr Xavieria Lally. Such was her public vilification, that when 20 of her former pupils from Rathdrum tried to get a support letter published in the media, they had to get a solicitor to do it for them.

I don't know the full truth of Goldenbridge. I only know through my own upbringing by a Sister of Mercy who was also accused of abuse in the Redress Board, that while there were many guilty of visiting terrible abuses on those of us who were vulnerable and unprotected – not all of those accused were guilty. 

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Secret lives - Lives broken by effects of Institutions

Irish Times Magazine - 9/3/2013

Jacqueline Nolan describes how, during the year after the Ryan report into institutional sexual abuse came out, her mother became very ill and died. What was the sad secret that devastated her?

My mother could hardly walk. Something had happened in the 10 months [ following the Ryan report] to turn her into a stooped, thin, old woman

In 2010, the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal spread from Ireland and the US and hit Europe’s mainland. In the words of one journalist in the Netherlands, where I live, 2010 was the year the scandal went viral. It was also the year I discovered I had an older brother. My mother had him in her late teens in a home for unmarried mothers in the Irish midlands.

My brother spent 10 years in foster homes before he was handed over to a Catholic institution where he was abused.

In May 2009, the Ryan report into child abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland over a 60- year span were published. My mother died in 2010.

When the news about the five- volume report reached the Netherlands, where I live, it was packaged in statistics which, however shocking, seemed at a safe distance from my own life.

My sons and I visited my mother in Dublin that May, when the report came out, and we walked with her in Howth, along the sea. In March 2010, I returned to Dublin for her 79th birthday. My mother could hardly walk. Something had happened in those 10 months to turn my mother – who always had a spring in her step – into a stooped, thin, old woman.

I got a phone call from my sister a month later. She told me I had a brother, Philip. He was born before my mother met my father and now, after 60 years, he had found her. He was living in northern England and had two daughters. My head was reeling with questions I didn’t have the coherence to form and yet everything – the jigsaw puzzle of my childhood I hadn’t realised was unsolved – seemed to fall into place at that moment.

I was born in the 1960s in a working class area on Dublin’s north side. Our street was filled with kids, stray dogs and used prams whose wheels we used to make trolleys to tear down the hill of our cul- de- sac. I was the youngest of three sisters

My mother rarely showed us affection. She showed her love through her cooking; baking endless bread and cakes.

At Christenings, communions or weddings, she always wanted to be the centre of attention. When my sister adopted a baby girl and the biological mother took her back six months later, before signing the final set of papers, my mother wept and said she was devastated.

“No,” cried my sister. “I’m the one who’s allowed to be devastated. Me.”

The radio was my mother’s constant companion. On Saturday afternoon, there was an Irish music programme and the deep- voiced RTÉ broadcaster always finished with the words: “And remember, if you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song.”

I often heard the announcer thanking the Artane Boys’ Band for their contribution. I had no idea who the Artane boys were. As a little girl, I understood the sense of Irish wholesomeness they symbolised – like the brown soda bread my mother baked. “I have to tell you that Philip spent some years at Artane,” my sister said during the phone call announcing the existence of my half brother.

Paragraph 7.549 of the Ryan report reads: “Sexual abuse by Brothers was a chronic problem in Artane.”

The institution used “severe punishment . . . to enforce a regime of militaristic discipline”. The report describes the dominant climate of fear, the emotional neglect, bullying by older boys, punishment for whistle- blowers, the cold and the hunger.

Philip told me. “Everything you’ve heard was true, except it was10 times worse.”

My sister and I planned to visit him in Retford, Nottinghamshire, in November 2010, four months after I had first spoken to my brother on the phone.

She flew in from Dublin, I came from Amsterdam. Philip had called us incessantly for weeks beforehand.

I was fired with endless questions about where I was working that week, as if keeping track of every move I made would cement the certainty of our meeting.

Six days before we were due to meet up, my mother had a massive stroke. I had to Instead, I sat at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport waiting for a plane to Dublin, listening to my brother – a 61- year- old man – on the phone, crying inconsolably for a mother he would never have.

Anger towards my mother welled up in me as I thought, even in this she was claiming centre stage. When I got to her hospital bedside, my heart changed.

I imagined her as a pretty country girl-working away from home in Kilkenny in 1949 before finding herself pregnant and scrubbing floors for the nuns in a home for “fallen women” in Castlepollard.

She blamed herself even though her baby had been taken from her against her will. My grandmother had 11 children and there were still some young children at home. One of my aunts tried to convince my grandmother to keep the baby, but she was unrelenting.

“I wondered how you got on and what did you do with yourself,” my mother wrote to Philip in March 2010. “I visited you once. You didn’t know me. You were so happy playing with other children and I decided to leave well enough alone. I couldn’t offer you anything.”

When my mother and father met and decided to get married, she pleaded with him to let Philip come and live with them. But he couldn’t deal with the perceived stigma of having another man’s child in his home.

Before she fell ill, I had asked her about Philip’s father.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “He wasn’t a nice man.”

She died the day my sister and I were due to meet our half- brother. At her funeral, the priest said many children in Howth would miss my mother who, stooped as she was, managed to walk as far as the local shop each day to buy bars of chocolate for whoever flocked around her.

I finally met Philip in the summer of 2011, along with my sister- in- law, Carole, the dog Jess, my two nieces and their five children.

Philip’s house is full of stuff he collects each week at the local car boot sale: his couch is lined with toy leprechauns. He signs the dog’s name on all the greetings cards he sends me. He hasn’t worked since his mental breakdown, which happened when the abuse scandal came to light.

Philip told my sister and I about the severe physical abuse and humiliation. On one occasion, the boys were doing a play written by one of the brothers. “Long, long ago, twice beyond the space of twice 2,000 years,” it began.

Philip got it wrong and the Brother – some 14 or 15 stone according to Philip – sent him “eight feet across the concrete with his fist. Then he kept pelting me on the floor with his belt for not getting up.”

One memory has haunted Philip. “There was this fella who used to soil the bed at night. The brother would take him to the top of the stairs and strip him. We were made watch.

“They beat him and left him there all night with no clothes and no blankets. It felt like being in the amphitheatre. For every night he soiled the bed, he’d have to spend the next one at the top of the stairs.”

Sitting on the sofa in their tiny, terraced house Carole told me about how Philip had kept the Artane abuse a secret – even from her – until the Catholic church scandals came into the media spotlight. “He said he thought I’d leave him if he told me.”

He couldn’t bring himself to talk to me about the sexual abuse but named the brothers who came to him at night.

Before his placement in Artane Industrial School, when he was 10, the authorit i es had sent him to St Brigid’s hospital in Carlow. “They put pegs on my head,” Philip said.

At Artane, he was also sent for psychiatric treat-ment – “I went around like a zombie” – and was warned by the brothers to keep it hush.

The events since my sister first phoned to tell me about Philip’s existence rushed through my head like flashes from a film: how I went up to anyone I vaguely knew in the supermarket the next morning announcing I had a brother; imagining what Philip would be like as I spoke on the phone to my new family with their northern English accents, hearing that he had been in Artane and the moment when I asked if he had been abused.

But nothing had prepared me for the shock of hearing that my brother, as a 10- year- old, had been subjected to electro- convulsive therapy. I had a son the same age. It was if the electric waves went through my own body. I realised that my mother, the country cook all her life, had ultimately chosen to semi- starve herself to death in the kitchen of her self- imposed atonement. I understood her response and her double loss when my sister had to give back her adopted daughter, how she must have relived the parting with her own son after spending more than two years with him in Castlepollard.

My family’s story was getting too big for me to absorb, so I imagined I was in some Mike Leigh film, looking for humour to sweeten life’s savagery. I pretended I was in a cinema looking at close- ups of the leprechauns on the couch.

The scenes before I left were difficult. Philip drove somewhat recklessly to the station, asking if I could stay longer. He hadn’t slept all night. My nieces and some of their children were there to wave me off. On the platform in the sweltering heat, there was a lot of girl talk as I t wist ed t he woollen coat, which I had been wearing when I left Amsterdam, with sweaty hands.

“We’re going to say goodbye to you now,” they said as their eyes turned in another direction. I fol-lowed t heir gaze. Philip was standing in a corner on his own, weeping. I went over t o him, the two of us left on the platform. His need for me almost repelled me at that moment. Without Carole’s amicability and my nieces’ banter, the tragedy of Philip’s life and that of my mother’s could not be played down by my film fantasies.

The train arrived. I hugged him and he thanked me profusely. On the train, I looked at a photo of his wedding – he was handsome then, and Carole pretty and slim – and a letter from the Christian Brothers Philip got in January 1969 after he had requested a birth certificate to get married.

“Dear Mr Nolan, I wish you every happiness and success in married life and I hope you’ll be able to pay a visit to your old school while on your honeymoon,” wrote a brother in neat handwriting.

“Lovely place to bring your bride,” I said to him later. He texted during my journey home to say he had forgotten to give me two brown soda bread loaves he had bought for me. “I’ll ask at the post office if I can send it by post,” he wrote in a letter he sent a few days after I got home.

My brother is a wounded man. Philip’s daughter, Rebecca, recently described how, during sessions at his psychiatrist, he often recalls a memory from Artane as if it were happening to another boy.

“He’s looking in through a window at himself. But it’s really about him.”

Rebecca is the only person, besides professional carers, he will talk to about the sexual abuse. “He quivers and shakes when he’s telling his story: the footsteps coming in the night. That’s why he can’t sleep now. The posh rooms he was taken into, often a few boys at a time. How he would look around the room and look at the different life the brothers had.”

The abuse that took place in Artane – just a few miles from where I played freely with dozens of children on the street – was part of a world I knew nothing about; and yet it was present in so many memories from my childhood, embedded i n my mother’s darkness.

Philip and I talk regularly on the phone, about the weather, his dog, the mundane details of daily life. I have become a sister and mother in one. I used to sing traditional Irish music. When I feel like singing now, I can’t sing an Irish song, not for the moment. It seems too big a lie.


My mother Margaret was born on March 10th, 1931. Giving a voice, finally, to the silenced events which cast a shadow over her life - events, which, in my niece's words “have destroyed generations” – feels like my birthday gift to her.


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Sisters Interview - Listen


Letters page Irish Times 9/3/13

Sir, – That the “Magdalene Nuns”, who defended their role in the laundries (Front page, March 8th) had to be described as “Sister A” and “Sister B” speaks volumes. – Yours, etc,


Friars Walk, Cork.

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Magdalene nuns hit back at critics and defend their role


PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Corrrespondent

Fri, Mar 08, 2013

Two nuns who were involved in running Magdalene laundries have hit back at criticisms of the four congregations which operated the 10 such institutions in Ireland up to 1996.

In interviews to be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1’s The God Slot at 10 o’clock tonight “Sister B” said: “All of the shame of the era is being dumped on the religious orders.”

When asked whether an apology might be appropriate after the McAleese report on the laundries, “Sister A” responded, “apologise for what?”

Reporter Claire McCormack interviewed the nuns for America magazine and was allowed share it with The God Slot on condition that the nuns, their congregation and where they worked were not named. Their words are voiced by an actor.

“Sister B” claimed that religious congregations in Ireland have been “stigmatised by the media”. “Some people claim generational hurt but we are suffering the generational hurt as much as any of the residents out of this and it is unfair . . .

“The sins of society are being placed on us, the scapegoat, and we are being sent off into the desert because that’s the only way they can get rid of the stigma. It’s the media who are portraying us in this light.”

Asked whether an apology might be in order, “Sister A” responded: “Apologise for what. Apologise for providing a service? We provided a free service for the country. Okay, it may have been putting away an ugly part to society, which it was in a sense, but it was the family who chose to put them there,” she said.

“Some of the orders accused educated the country, nobody is blamed for that. Society at the time had a great need to help these women and we stepped in . . .

“There was a terrible need for a lot of those women because they were on the street, with no social welfare and starving. We provided shelters for them. It was the ‘no welfare’ state and we are looking with today’s eyes at a totally different era.”

Asked why the four congregations were not speaking out more, “Sister A” said: “Because we would be stoned! . . . Society is more inclined to believe the bad stories and people have forgotten the good we have done through all our years.”

© 2013 The Irish Times

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Abuse victim suffered months of inhumanity, European court told


Georgina O'Halloran– 07 March 2013

A WOMAN who was abused by the principal of the national school where she was a pupil 40 years ago "endured months of inhumanity and degradation", the European Court of Human Rights has been told.

Louise O'Keeffe (46), a mother of two from west Cork, yesterday began her appeal to the Strasbourg court against a decision by the Supreme Court that the State was not legally liable for the abuse she suffered.

Ms O'Keeffe was abused at Dunderrow Primary School, Co Cork, in 1973 by Leo Hickey, who was sentenced to three years in jail in 1998 after being convicted of assaulting a number of girls in the 1970s.

She sued the State, saying the Department of Education was liable as it paid Hickey's wages, supervised the curriculum and inspected the classrooms, but she lost her case in the High Court and Supreme Court.

Speaking at the European Court of Human Rights, counsel for Ms O'Keeffe, David Holland, told the 17-judge court: "Ultimately, the case was about human rights and a child's right to have the State protect it with reasonable steps from sexual abuse by an adult placed by law in coercive power."

Mr Holland said that Hickey, as headmaster of Dunderrow National School, was a "pillar of the establishment" and was "invested by the State with a power that seems to an adult unremarkable but is to a child awesome and terrible".

He said Ms O'Keeffe had been abused from January to September 1973 and had to "attend that school daily . . . constantly watching, fearing, hoping, worrying . . . she endured months of inhumanity and degradation".

Ms O'Keeffe subsequently found out that in 1971 a parent complained to the school manager of abuse of another girl.

"Louise O'Keeffe could have been saved, but nothing was done," said Mr Holland.

"All she needed was a simple instruction to school managers that where they learned of serious abuse of children, they must report it to the authorities."


The failure to issue that inst-ruction is sufficient to engage the responsibility of the State, he said. Mr Holland said the State's argument that it was not informed of the abuse was the "two monkeys defence" of "we saw no evil, we heard no evil".

"Unless the State satisfies you that they had in place an effective, preventative system designed to bring the evil to its attention, 'we saw no evil, we heard no evil' is not a defence. It is an admission of liability," he said.

The State denies liability.

Counsel for the State, Feichin McDonagh, said at issue was what the State knew or ought to have known of the risk that a primary school child being sexually abused by a teacher who was "a pillar of society", where the State had no knowledge of any such propensity on the part of that teacher.

He said the State had not invested this man with power.

Ms O'Keeffe took a civil action against Hickey and was awarded a monthly payment of €400.

The court will make its judgment at a later date.

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Abuse victim's case under way at European Court


The State must accept responsibility for children who were sexually abused in schools managed and run by the Catholic Church, the European Court of Human Rights was told.


By Ann Cahill
European Correspondent

However, the State denies it had such responsibility in the case taken by Louise O’Keeffe, who was 8 when she was abused by Leo Hickey, the then principle of Dunderrow National School. Her case agues that the State failed to structure the primary education in such a way as to protect her, and pupils should be eligible for compensation as those in residential institutions were.

“It’s a child’s right to have the State protect them from who in law have a coercive power over that child,” her lawyer David Holland told the court in Strasbourg.

He said that in 1995, gardaí investigating claims by another pupil contacted Ms O’Keeffe and she found out a parent had complained about Hickey two years before her abuse began.

He pleaded guilty to 386 offences against 21 pupils and was jailed in 1998.

Mr Holland said that, since legislation had been introduced in the 1930s on foot of investigations into abuse by teachers, the State knew the dangers and should have introduced guidelines or a system for complaints. Instead, he said, complaints were generally dismissed or ignored by the Department of Education.

Feichín McDonagh, for the State, denied it had any liability in relation to “what the State knew or ought to have known that a primary school child in a day school in Ireland in 1973 in a school established by a bishop, managed by a clergy man, [was] abused by a teacher who was seen as a pillar of society”.

He denied the department ignored complaints adding “the State did not know of the propensities of Mr Hickey”.

The school was owned by the Diocese of Cork and Ross. Following complaints, Hickey went on sick leave in 1973 and later resigned but taught in other schools until 1995.

The complaints had not been passed on to the department or the gardaí.  

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Statement from the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy-Magdalen Laundries.


5th February 2013

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy welcomes the publication of the Report of the Inter-

Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries.

For the women who spent time in Magdalen Homes, we hope this Report brings clarity, greater

understanding and healing.

Two Magdalen Homes, at Dun Laoghaire and Galway were under the care of Convents of Mercy.

Both were already in operation before coming under our care. The Home at Dun Laoghaire closed in

1963. The laundry at the Galway Home closed in 1984. Many of the women who resided in the

Galway Home remained voluntarily in our care for the remainder of their lives.

Our Galway records suggest that women came to the Home in many different ways. They stayed for

varying periods of time. Some women came and went on several occasions.

We fully acknowledge and are saddened by the limitations of the care which could be provided in

these Homes. Their institutional setting was far removed from the response considered appropriate

to such needs today. We wish that we could have done more and that it could have been different.

It is regrettable that the Magdalen Homes had to exist at all.

Our sisters worked in the laundries with the women and, while times and conditions were harsh and

difficult, some very supportive, lifelong friendships emerged and were sustained for several decades.

We would like to extend an invitation to anyone who may have spent some time in either Dun

Laoghaire or Galway to come and meet with us, if they so wish.

Finally, we wish to thank Senator McAleese, Nuala Ní Mhuircheartaigh and the members of the

Committee for their detailed and thorough work in this sensitive area.

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Cork woman's abuse case to open in European Court of Human Rights


Louise O'Keeffe was abused in Dunderrow National School in Co Cork in 1973
Louise O'Keeffe was abused in Dunderrow National School in Co Cork in 1973

The case of Louise O'Keeffe, the Cork woman who failed at the Supreme Court to have the State held liable for sexual abuse she suffered at school as a child, opens today at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Ms O'Keeffe took the case after the Supreme Court ruled the State could not be held liable for the abuse as the school in question was run by an independent board.

The outcome of the case, expected to take months, could have a major bearing on a large number of similar cases of abuse victims who have been unable to sue the State for damages.

For Ms O'Keeffe, a 47-year-old mother of two from west Cork, this is the last opportunity to hold the State responsible for the abuse she suffered as an eight-year-old at the hands of teacher Leo Hickey at Dunderrow National School in Co Cork in 1973.

Hickey was sentenced to three years in prison in 1998 after being convicted of assaulting a number of girls in the 1970s.

In 2006, the High Court rejected Ms O'Keeffe's case against the Department of Education. The Supreme Court affirmed that decision in 2009.

Her bid to have the case heard in Strasbourg was challenged by the State.

It argued that since Ms O'Keeffe had not sued the Bishop of Cork and Ross, she had not exhausted all legal remedies in Ireland.

However, in July last year the ECHR disagreed, arguing that since she had sued the State, it was not necessary for her to also sue the bishop.

It is understood that 200 similar cases were postponed or dropped after the Supreme Court rejected her case.

If the Strasbourg court finds in her favour it could have major implications for other victims.

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Abuse victim's landmark EU case could open compensation claim floodgates


Ralph Riegel– 04 March 2013

THE European Court of Human Rights is to hear a landmark case by an Irish abuse victim which could open the floodgates to multi-million euro compensation claims.

Louise O'Keeffe (46) told the Irish Independent she was "nervous, fearful and hopeful" about Wednesday's hearing of her case by the ECHR in Strasbourg.

She is appealing against the Department of Education's denial of liability for abuse suffered by children in national or secondary schools.

If the ECHR rules in Ms O'Keeffe's favour, the department will be forced to settle hundreds of compensation claims with youngsters abused in schools where the State is deemed to have had an oversight role.


The mother of two won a landmark victory last July when the top EU court agreed to hear her case after preliminary submissions.

The Government had vehemently opposed the move and will now contest liability before a full ECHR hearing.

The case has enormous implications for Ireland given that over 200 other abuse victims have signalled similar compensation claims.

A compensation ruling could apply to thousands of children who were abused in national or secondary schools in Ireland over the decades.

Ms O'Keeffe had been abused as an eight-year-old girl in a Dunderrow primary school in Cork in 1973 by her then principal Leo Hickey.

She sued the State and claimed the Department of Education was liable as they paid the teacher's wages, supervised the school curriculum, paid the teacher's pension and even inspected the classrooms.

However, the State contested the action and insisted that it was not liable given that there was an independent board of management in place. The department vehemently denied vicarious liability.

Ms O'Keeffe also took a civil action against Leo Hickey, who is now retired, and was awarded a monthly payment of around €400. Hickey was jailed for three years in 1998 after being convicted of indecently assaulting a number of girls in the 1970s.

Ms O'Keeffe eventually lost her Supreme Court case against the State, later expressing fears she could lose her home given that legal costs were estimated at over €750,000.

"It was frightening, of course it was. It isn't just my home. It is my children's home. So it was a very scary time for all of us," she said.

But the court ruled she should not be held liable for the legal costs arising as there were "exceptional reasons" for her taking the case.

Ms O'Keeffe later appealed the matter to the ECHR. The Strasbourg court decided last July "to admit the case for determination".

Ms O'Keeffe said she was "nervous, fearful and hopeful" about the hearing.

"I don't think we will get a ruling for some time because up to 17 judges will have to consider the issues involved here," she said.

"I am hopeful that justice will be done and my long fight will be over. This has been a very, very long battle."

The Cork mother flies out to Strasbourg tomorrow and returns on Thursday.

More than 200 other abuse victims signalled similar civil claims against the Government but either dropped or postponed their actions in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment on Ms O'Keeffe's appeal.

The charity, One In Four, has staunchly supported Ms O'Keeffe in her stance.

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien to face Vatican inquiry



The complaints have been reported to the Vatican, and a Scottish Catholic Media Office  said: "We expect that they will be investigated and a conclusion drawn"
The complaints have been reported to the Vatican, and a Scottish Catholic Media Office said: "We expect that they will be investigated and a conclusion drawn"

Cardinal Keith O'Brien will face a Vatican inquiry after admitting that his sexual conduct "had fallen beneath the standards" expected of him during his almost 50-year career.

The cardinal said he would not contest claims against him and intended to retire permanently from the public life of the church.

The admission came a week after three priests and a former priest accused Britain's most senior Catholic cleric of inappropriate behaviour dating back to the 1980s.

The cardinal, stepped down from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in the wake of the scandal.

He has asked for forgiveness from those he had offended.

In a sweeping apology issued yesterday, he said of the claims: "Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

"However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."

The complaints have been reported to the Vatican, and a Scottish Catholic Media Office spokesman said: "We expect that they will be investigated and a conclusion drawn."

The inquiry is not likely to begin until after a new pope is chosen. It is understood the cardinal, who will not attend the conclave, is currently out of the country.

The cardinal, who was born in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, had been the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh since 1985.

Ordained as a priest in 1965, he was proclaimed a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003. He was Britain's most senior Catholic cleric.

One of Scotland's most outspoken opponents of moves to legalise same-sex marriage, he was last year named "Bigot of the Year" by gay rights group Stonewall.

The claims against him were reported in the Observer newspaper last Sunday and the following day it was announced that the cardinal would quit his post with immediate effect.

His resignation was in fact accepted by the pope on February 18. The cardinal had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75 and the Scottish Catholic Media Office said his resignation had not been accelerated because of the allegations.

In fresh claims published yesterday, the former priest who reported Cardinal O'Brien over the allegations attacked the Church's response to the complaints.

The man, who remains anonymous, told the Observer: "There have been two sensations for me this week. One is feeling the hot breath of the media on the back of my neck."

He continued: "the other is sensing the cold disapproval of the Church hierarchy for daring to break ranks. I feel like if they could crush me, they would."

The source to the Observer said: "The vacuum the Church has created has allowed whimsy and speculation to distort the truth."

He said: "the only support I have been offered is a cursory email with a couple of telephone numbers of counsellors hundreds of miles away from me."



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Vital adoption reforms delayed


Monday, March 04, 2013

By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Reporter
Adoption tracing and information legislation cited as a “priority” by successive governments since 1997 has been delayed again.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald had said previously that an Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill was being prepared and would be brought before the Oireachtas before the end of last year. However, she has now said this legislation will be before the Dáil some time this year.

Despite adoption support groups for decades calling for full access to adoption records, Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had to deal with constitutional issues around privacy and a Supreme Court ruling that said the mother’s right to privacy would have to be balanced against the adopted person’s right to know.

The legislation currently being proposed essentially gives a statutory footing to the National Contact Preference Register and the current tracing guidelines. The register was set up in 2005 with the aim to match adopted people with their natural parents.

Adoption advocacy groups have criticised such a plan, saying the register has failed as a suitable tracing and reunion mechanism.

Statistics from the Adoption Authority seem to confirm this view. It granted just 11 of almost 60 requests made to it in 2011 for the release of a birth certificate.

The register received almost 9,000 requests up to 2010. It matched just 482 people — a success rate of around 5%. It is estimated that there are at least 50,000 adopted people in Ireland.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said that successive governments’ unwillingness, rather than inability, to honour adopted people’s basic rights made a mockery of the apology to Magdalene Laundry survivors and the hand-wringing about the State’s trampling of human rights.

“The cynical denial by Government of the crimes surrounding adoption in Ireland, including but not limited to forced adoptions, illegal adoptions, and trafficking, is no different to the denial faced by the industrial school and magdalene laundry survivors a decade ago,” she said.

“We are exhausted from the stonewalling we experience from the minister and the Adoption Authority on these matters and until they accept that, even the dogs on the street know what went on.

“We fully expect that it will take a UN body or some other international embarrassment for the Government to put in place 21st century mechanisms to give us access to our files and families and for our families to find us.”

Joan Collins of the United Left Alliance said the delay in legislation was “not good enough”. 

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The Orphans That Never Were

The Orphans That Never Were

On the night of February 23rd 1943, a fire in St Joseph's Industrial School in Cavan Town, an orphanage, run by an enclosed order of the Poor Clare's nuns caught fire.

35 orphans and one elderly woman died that night and the enclosed order of nuns who shunned attention now were centre of one of Ireland's largest tragedies.

Twelve miles outside of Cavan town, lay the small rented home of the McKiernan family. By all accounts they were poor but happy. Hugh Snr and Elizabeth were the parents. They had had four children - Hugh, Matt, Susan and Elizabeth Mary. In 1937, Mrs McKiernan died and local priest advised that two girls should go into the convent. The turnaround was so quick the girls were not even at their mother's funeral. The family visited the two sisters over the next few years - allowed only a precious fifteen minutes inside the large entrance doors of the convent.

The morning after the fire in the orphanage, Hugh heard news from a neighbour. He immediately thought of his sisters. He cycled all the way to the post office in Butlersbridge and rang the guards in Cavan town. Both sisters were dead.

Ciaran Cassidy - a native of Cavan town - in this week's Documentary on One - The Orphans that Never Were talks to the McKiernan brothers and attempts to locate survivors of that night - to discover what happened and why.

Compiled and presented by Ciaran Cassidy
Production Supervision: Peter Woods.

This story also formed the basis for a RTE television documentary

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries

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'Regret' over Nazareth House abuse compensation


Lord McConnell Lord McConnell said issued an apology to victims of the abuse in 2004

Related Stories

The former Scottish First Minister Lord McConnell has told of his regret that almost ten years on since he made a landmark apology to historic child abuse victims in Scotland, they have yet to see redress.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Lord McConnell said there had been "absolutely no progress" on compensation for victims, and called on the government to "do the right thing".

Potentially thousands of adults who were abused in Scotland's care homes have been unable to pursue civil damages because they are "time-barred" under Scots Law.

Abuse survivors and campaigners want Holyrood to change the law or follow in the footsteps of the Irish Government which has paid more than a billion euros to victims.

In 2004, then first Minister Jack McConnell made a "full and sincere" apology to Scotland's child abuse victims on behalf of the nation.

Start Quote

There has been absolutely no progress on compensation, and on the time-bar, and I think it's deeply regrettable”

End Quote Lord McConnell

Speaking to BBC Scotland's The Investigation, Lord McConnell said he hoped the apology would be the first step towards full redress.

He said: "There have been some things that have happened that have taken forward a strategy to help those who have suffered as a result of this historic abuse.

"But there has been absolutely no progress on compensation, and on the time-bar, and I think it's deeply regrettable.

"I suspect it is because the ministers involved were not strong enough to stand up to anybody who was expressing caution to them but I can't know that for a fact. All I know is they haven't made the right decisions."

Helen Holland, 53, is one of the abuse "survivors" who has campaigned for a change in law.

'Sexual abuse'

She suffered physical torture and sexual abuse at a Nazareth House, Kilmarnock, from 1964 to 1974. The care home was run by the Catholic Order, the Sisters of Nazareth, and Helen's chief abuser was a nun called Sister Kevin.

She told how once as a punishment she was taken by Sister Kevin out to the outhouse and thrown in an industrial tumble drier which was switched on.

"I thought I'm either going to be badly burned or I'm going to be knocked out with my head hitting the bottom of this thing or I'm not going to be able to breathe.

"Somebody help me but I knew the other children couldn't do anything because the nun was standing there.

"Sexual abuse started at the age of eight until the age of 11.

"And I remember thinking 'what kind of horrible place is this?' I used to…pray that my dad would come and get us, so that somebody would know what was happening and would come and rescue us. But nobody ever did."

Helen finally plucked up the courage to go to the police 30 years after she left Nazareth House. But the Crown Office decided not to prosecute because the nun was too old.


Whoever drafted the legislation in the first place didn't contemplate the possibility of victims of sexual abuse and physical abuse”

End Quote Cameron Fyfe Lawyer

Helen was one of around 1,000 abuse victims whose civil damages claim collapsed after two test cases failed at the Court of Session then the House of Lords in 2008. The cases were ruled to be time-barred.

Under the Prescription and Limitations Scotland Act 1973, anybody coming forward with historic allegations must do so within three years of their 16th birthday.

Lawyer Cameron Fyfe, who brought the test cases, insists it's a "completely unfair rule."

He said: "The three year rule applies quite rightly to road accidents and accidents at work, but whoever drafted the legislation in the first place didn't contemplate the possibility of victims of sexual abuse and physical abuse.

"And therefore in a sense it was overlooked. But the tragedy is that now that this problem has been recognised, no one - the Scottish Parliament, the courts - no one is prepared to do anything to rectify it. So, all these victims remain without compensation."

Judges do have the discretion to overturn this rule, but it is rarely done.

In 1999 the Irish Government launched a commission to investigate child abuse and set up a redress board to compensate victims.

By 2010, it had paid out an average of 63,000 Euros to 14,000 people. The final bill will be more than a billion euros.

Historic abuse

Canada, Australia and Jersey have also set up inquiries and reparation schemes.

BBC Scotland has estimated, using comparative figures from Ireland, that a similar state compensation scheme in Scotland could cost more than £500m.

Lord McConnell said: "I don't think how much it might cost the state or particularly the organisations who were covering up the abuse…is a factor

"When we were making the decision around the apology …the idea there might be compensation at the end of this was an encouragement to us not a block on us doing it. And if it is now a block on anybody making the right decision they should search their conscience and do the right thing."

Asked if he believed justice would have been delivered for abuse victims by now if he were still first minister, Lord McConnell answered: "I have absolutely no doubt about that."

The Scottish government told the BBC that £6m had been spent on improving services for abuse survivors. Last month it announced plans for a National Confidential Forum, where anyone who went through care can tell a panel about their experiences in private.

The spokeswoman said the government was aware of concerns regarding the time-bar and was seeking views from a range of stakeholders in improving the law on time bar and to identify what more can and should be done for survivors of historic abuse.

A spokesman for the Sisters of Nazareth told the BBC they were not aware of any allegations relating to Sister Kevin. He said the Sisters of Nazareth had always tried to provide a compassionate and supportive home for the children they were looking after.

The Investigation: Scotland's Forgotten Children will be broadcast at 10:30 on 3 March on BBC Radio Scotland. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer.

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Why should new Pope modernise Church just to placate liberals?

David Quinn:




Benedict has retired, so what now?

WITH Pope Benedict gone the hope of some people is that his successor will be more 'liberal'. It is hoped he will permit married priests and women priests. It is hoped he will permit intercommunion with Protestant denominations.

It is hoped he will 'modernise' the church's attitude towards divorce, sex and contraception.

In fact the Pope, no matter who he is, will do none of these things unilaterally. He would instead act in concert with the bishops, and even then would and could only go as far as permitting say, married priests or intercommunion.

Neither he nor the bishops have the authority to introduce the other desired reforms.

But this doesn't mean that the pressure on the church to conform to modern, liberal secular norms will abate. On the contrary, it is certain to intensify and increasingly the church, and Christians generally, will find the law being used against them to make them conform.

In Scotland, Catholic midwives in public hospitals have been told they must help prepare women for abortions regardless of their own beliefs.

In Ireland, pharmacists have to sell the morning-after pill despite its abortifacient effects.

In England, Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close because they do not agree with adoption by same-sex couples.

Liberal societies take the view that no one should be allowed to impose their morality on anyone else but then turn around and do precisely this to people who don't go along with their norms.

Once we have it into our heads that something is a 'right' then we rule that everyone is obliged to give people those 'rights'.

Therefore those nurses in Scotland should think themselves lucky that they aren't obliged to help perform the abortions as well.

Thus pharmacists are obliged to be 'pro-choice' and dispense the morning-after-pill to whoever wants it even though it could easily be got from a pharmacist down the road.

Catholic adoption agencies must go along with same-sex adoption no matter what their own view on the matter may be, or else close down.

This is what Pope Benedict called the 'dictatorship of relativism'. It simply won't tolerate anyone which doesn't go along with it. Another term for this is 'illiberal liberalism'. Another one is 'intolerant tolerance'.

All dominant opinions become like this. They become aggressive and they use a combination of social pressure and the law to make everyone toe the line or else stay quiet.

Of course, liberalism wasn't supposed to be like this. Liberalism is meant to be pluralistic and to make space for all points of view.

But that is emphatically not how it is working out in practice.

The single biggest institution resisting the pressure to conform to modern, liberal, secular norms is the Catholic Church.

It won't accept that morality is a matter of opinion. It won't accept that there is your truth and my truth. It doesn't want to see religion relegated to the private sphere.

This makes liberal societies intensely uncomfortable. It makes modern people intensely uncomfortable because they feel insulted by the suggestion that their actions in the end must be judged according to objective moral norms.

This is why the Catholic Church is in the firing line so much. People continually feel insulted and offended by its insistence that objective moral norms exist, and that sometimes their choices are simply morally wrong.

Therefore, the church must give way. People want to feel comfortable. They don't want to feel judged even in the most indirect way. They only want their choices to be affirmed. They don't want the church saying it will help them to do the right thing. They want the church to help them to do what they think is the right thing. That's a big difference.

This is why our media champions dissidents within the church, but only a certain type. For example, there are ultra-traditionalist dissidents who reject the Second Vatican Council. It's okay for the Pope to crack down on them, even to excommunicate them as has happened.

BUT it's not okay for the Pope to crack down on liberal dissidents. They are to be left alone because they are the ones our media hope will one day bring the Church into line with western liberal norms.

And on this point, a king-sized irony is lost on us. In terms of liberal societies the church itself is the dissident we must crack down on.

This is happening relentlessly. It must be forced to go along with the norms of liberal secular societies, or else be pushed to the margins of society, 'excommunicated' in effect.

Therefore liberals hope for a Pope who will end the church's dissent, who will bring it into line and make it go along with their values.

If he does not do that, and he won't, he can expect the relentless attacks to continue.

- See more at: 

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'Not a shred of remorse for victims'


A former Christian Brother whose sexual abuse of three boys left them with deep, emotional scars showed not one shred of remorse for his victims, a judge said as he jailed him for five years.


Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin imposed eight concurrent five-year sentences on Edward Bryan, formerly of the North Monastery in Cork, reflecting the eight counts on which he was convicted for indecently assaulting three boys.

Aggravating factors in the case, noted by the judge, were the prolonged period of the abuse, the multiple victims, and the age difference between Bryan and the boys.

The judge was particularly critical of the defendant for the manner in which one of the accused — who had no solicitor bringing civil proceedings — was challenged in cross-examination on the basis that he was only in it for the money.

After this victim gave evidence yesterday, the judge asked Blaise O’Carroll, defence senior counsel, if he would like to say anything on Bryan’s behalf to the victim on this issue.

“This was an egregious assault on his character. Do you have anything to say about that,” the judge asked.

Mr O’Carroll said, “No, my lord.”

The judge raised this matter during the sentencing. “Why he should be insulted in this way I cannot understand. I am saying it out of frustration: Why should he be subjected to this?”

The judge also said: “There is no shred of remorse in this, not a shred of remorse. I find that alarming. There was a conviction in June [after the first trial]. The [February] convictions cannot have come as a total surprise to Mr Bryan. The lack of remorse is particularly glaring as an aggravating factor.”

Det Garda Eimear Brennan told the court of the nature of the sexual abuse in the 1980s, which included getting the boys to strip naked, sometimes climbing on their backs and ejaculating.

Afterwards, the victims said the important thing was being believed and Bryan being convicted. One said he felt the sentence was a bit light. Another said: “To me, sentencing was never the issue.” The third victim said: “I am delighted he has gone to prison.”

All three gave victim impact statements.

One man said: “I felt worthless, ashamed, guilty and hated myself for not having the courage to come forward and report what had happened. On a number of occasion I sat in my car outside various garda stations in Cork and just cried. Unable to go in and tell what had happened to me.

“To see members of my family breaking down in tears in the [witness] box has been an absolutely horrible experience. I myself have spent over 10 hours in the witness box, the majority of which was under cross-examination. To have to go through all the graphic detail of what was done to me was something I wouldn’t want anyone to have to do. But I did it and if it took 20 trials and 100 hours in the witness box, I would still do it.”

Another victim said: “People ask me why did you not tell anyone — your parents for instance. I can only say I was ashamed, afraid, you dare not tell of allegations against a priest, teacher or anybody and I certainly wouldn’t tell my father. I couldn’t have told my mother, it would have broken her heart. I kept it locked away until it raised its ugly head. It has been haunting me for 23 years.”

A third victim said: “If Edward Bryan had admitted to what he had done I may have found it easier to deal with it. He chose to deny and chose not to remember, and only referred to me as the ginger-haired lad, even though he knew me and my family so well. I’m glad I did report it.

“My voice as an adult today calls for this type of sexual abuse to stop and save other children from becoming victims.

“I can never forgive this man for using and abusing his position of power to dominate and gain my trust only to sweep it all away for his own sexual pleasures.”


Not easy for a frightened child to stop such abuse

At a young and very impressionable age, I was preyed upon and abused on numerous occasions by a Christian brother, a person who was supposed to be trusted.

Br Bryan was a well-known teacher and basketball coach and he zeroed in on me. He skilfully manipulated me. It was drilled into me that he held the key to making my dream of becoming a good basketballer a reality.

I was completely under Br Bryan’s control. And I was scared. I did not have the emotional skills to stop the abuse or change my circumstances.

Although that’s the truth, and deep down I know this, I still question it every day. Why didn’t I do something to stop it? It’s easy as a man to say I should have done these things, but as a frightened child it’s not so easy.

The impact this abuse had, and is still having, I would not wish on anyone, not even Edward Bryan. As a result, I turned to drugs at a very early age to try to help me escape my own thoughts, my overwhelming sense of shame and guilt. The pain was all-encompassing and unexplainable to anyone who hasn’t suffered.

Dark is the only way to describe such a part of my life, dark and lonely.

I felt worthless, ashamed, guilty, and hated myself for not having the courage to come forward. On a number of occasion I sat in my car outside various garda stations in Cork and just cried, unable to go in and tell what had happened to me.

Telling people you love you were abused is not easy. Telling my wife was the most upsetting thing I have done. If it wasn’t for her support and belief in me I wouldn’t be here.

I am a good person who had bad done to me, yet it was put to me that I was the bad person. It has been a huge eye-opener to see how our legal system operates, to see how victims are treated.

He put us all through it again

As a young boy, I was brought up in the tradition in which my mother and father would always tell me to respect priests, guards, teachers, and our elders.

As I progressed and got more involved in basketball I trained daily. I fell in love with the game. You could say basketball at this stage was my life at 16.

By this time I considered Brother Bryan a friend and trusted him, not only as a teacher but also as a coach. This trust was short-lived as he invited me to one-on-one training sessions, giving me a time and place where to meet.

[These sessions] progressed into me getting fully naked down and him jumping on my back. Br Bryan was nearly fully naked except for a pair of Speedos.

On my session with Br Bryan, while giving me a massage he took hold of my penis, stroked it until it became hard and brought me to ejaculation. This was in no doubt the most uncomfortable situation I have ever found myself in, but I didn’t question it because I wanted to get on further in my basketball career.

That training went on for months, twice a week. Today, as I look back, I am disgusted with myself, but most of all with him. I trusted this man, a man of authority held in high regard, but I was betrayed and violated in the most horrific way, sexually abused as a young boy.

People ask me why did you not tell anyone — your parents for instance. I can only say I was ashamed, afraid, you dare not tell of allegations against a priest, teacher or anybody. I couldn’t have told my mother, it would have broken her heart. I kept it locked away until it raised its ugly head. It has been haunting me for 23 years.

[The trial] was one of the hardest things to go through in my life. Having my wife hear what happened to me at the hands of Edward Bryan and the graphic nature of the abuse and watching [the other victims] give their evidence, the breakdowns of them and others in court.

If Edward Bryan pleaded guilty it would have saved all involved one of the most emotional times over the course of not one, but three trials, but he chose not to do so, subjecting us again and again to the most horrible memories.

Trust swept aside for his pleasures

My friendship and trust of Br Bryan was very high. Thoughts of something happening never crossed my mind. Unfortunately, he sexually abused me.

These so-called training sessions would end by Br Bryan asking me to strip down to my Speedos. He would then proceed to get on my back and wrap himself around my body from behind as I stood with my legs and arms apart. Facing the wall he would then ask me to carry out certain exercises. All of these had a repetitive motion.

These were the moments when the atmosphere in the room changed. It went from Br Bryan I thought I knew, to somebody I didn’t know. To this day I will never forget the silence that overcame the room and the only thing I could hear was the sound of him breathing.

Looking back, it was obvious he was getting sexual gratification out of this, but at the time I put myself in a state of denial.

[As an adult with family] I was determined not to let Br Bryan destroy the life I worked so hard to achieve, but since it was raised up again over two years ago it has been a very tough period in my life.

I can never forgive this man for using his position to gain my trust only to sweep it all away for his own sexual pleasures.  

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Bethany Home redress



Irish Times Letters

Sir, – The Taoiseach or perhaps his civil servants and those in the Department of Justice appear worried that including Bethany Home in a redress scheme similar to that offered to Magdalene women opens up the State to further claims from broadly comparable Roman Catholic institutions.

There is one difference. Bethany Home was treated differently because it was a Protestant institution and instructed by the state to confine its activities to that community. The instruction, on pain of refusal of funding, was delivered in 1939 by Dr Winslow Sterling Berry, deputy chief medical adviser at the department of local government and public health. It arose because allegations of neglect occasioned three visits to Bethany by Berry in 1939. More Bethany children suffered and died from 1935 to 1939 than in any other five-year period.

The medical adviser’s response was to note that, “The institution is kept very well . . . it is well recognised that a large number of illegitimate children are delicate and marasmic [starving]”. He then indicated the State’s fundamental problem with Bethany, its “proselytising activities”.

By way of contrast some years later, James Deeney as chief medical adviser from 1944 inspected the Roman Catholic Bessborough home and observed that it, “seemed to be well run and spotlessly clean. I . . . could not make out what was wrong; at last I took a notion and stripped all the babies and, unusually, for a chief medical adviser, examined them. Every baby had some purulent infection of the skin and all had green diarrhoea, carefully covered up . . . without any legal authority . . . I closed the place down and sacked the matron, a nun, and also got rid of the medical officer. The deaths had been going on for years. They had done nothing about it”. The 1939 medical adviser’s priority was regulating sectarianism. Deeney’s was regulating welfare.

Bethany children continued to die, martyrs to the cause of the state’s privatised sectarian welfare and detention system. The survivors, because of this system, suffered illness, neglect, abuse and exclusion.

They therefore deserve redress. – Yours etc,



Bethany Survivors,

South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

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Former Christian Brother sentenced to five years for indecent assaults



Edward Bryan had pleaded not guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court when the trial opened

Edward Bryan had pleaded not guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court when the trial opened

A former Christian Brother at the North Monastery Secondary School in Cork has been sentenced to five years in prison for indecently assaulting three schoolboys in the 1980s.

Edward Bryan, 59, of Martinvilla, Athboy Road, Trim, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Following the six-day trial, the jury spent 12 hours deliberating over three days.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin praised the jury saying if he had a hat on, he would take it off for their integrity, their application and their dedication.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Ó Donnabháin said there was not a shred of remorse and he found this alarming.

This was the third time Bryan was tried in relation to these indecent assault charges.

Last June, a jury found Bryan guilty of indecently assaulting one boy at the school in the 1980s.

However, they could not reach verdicts in relation to four other complainants.

Byran had a re-trial in November 2012, but that trial collapsed.

One of the complainants had shouted at Bryan, in an emotional outburst from the witness box, saying he had ruined his life.



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ANALYSIS: The people should say sorry too


The Irish public speak of being shocked by the report on the Magdalene Laundries, but everybody knew what was going on, writes Frances Finnegan


THE revelations in the McAleese report on the Magdalene Laundries have once again “shocked” an Irish public, appeased only by the Taoiseach’s detailed apology and promise of full redress. Hopefully, there will be no more denials, no more indifference, and no more attempts to suppress what has been known for years. But are we still engaged in a whitewash?

Is the State really to be held responsible for the conduct of one-time enclosed religious orders, who, for many years were accountable to nobody and practically a law unto themselves? Is their reputation in this matter to emerge untarnished? Are we satisfied that from the 1920s on, proper government inspection of Magdalene Laundries was carried out (on behalf of state referrals only — other inmates being denied even this meagre protection) when at the very same time, inspections of closely linked industrial schools proved so woefully inadequate? And are we really to believe that despite the testimony of many stricken women over recent years, the committee in its investigations found no evidence of abuse?

The records, of course, support the findings. But the Magdalene system, in operation for well over a century, was itself an abuse — and a dangerous one. Stripped of their identities (and in all the penitents’ registers I made use of they were given new names) inmates became anonymous. Forbidden to speak of their past and often deposited in secret by families who disowned them, from a worldly viewpoint they ceased to exist. Comments such as “escaped”, or “scaled the wall” account, in the records, for the departure of various women.

I suspect that this report — relating only to state involvement and dating only from 1922 — is merely a beginning. The Irish public should prepare itself for more “shocks”.

The institutions at the heart of the report are still being misrepresented in an attempt to depict them, or the society in which they flourished, more favourably. These convent Magdalene asylums set up in the Victorian period were established for one purpose — confining “fallen” women (prostitutes, unmarried mothers, victims of incest or rape, “wayward” girls, or even those suspected of sexual misconduct) until they were reformed.

We must have become more prudish than our predecessors — or more dishonest — as these certainties are now indignantly denied. Admittedly in latter years state referrals (always a minority of admissions) became more common and included other categories, highlighted in the report. As well as these, women were judged to be in moral danger or of the “feeble minded” class. But throughout their existence the ethos of the homes remained consistent. Much more damaging than the “stigma” attaching to these places was what occurred inside.

“Residents” — a ludicrous term in the circumstances but one seized on by the system’s apologists — were confined for an indeterminate period, and subjected to harsh discipline, surveillance, penance, and prayer.

Laundry work, silence, and religion were imposed not only as punishment but means of reform; and penitents were detained, if possible for life, to prevent their re-exposure to “sin”. They were neither educated nor trained for restoration to society.

This incarceration of women but never men reflects the double standard in these matters — attributed to the Victorians but extended to the late 20th century. It demonstrates, too, a morbid fear of women’s sexuality. But equally repellent was the class nature of the operation. In common with the related industrial schools system, it was the poor, not the well-to-do, who were destined for these institutions. The only middle-class inmates were the nuns.

Whatever the extent of the State’s involvement (and certainly in the earlier period it was minimal) it was never as great as that of society itself. Nor does the State’s use of these homes account for the brutal treatment meted out to many of the women or excuse the cruel regime that was universally applied. Of course, without orders of female custodians, preoccupied with the sexuality of others and determined to wipe out female “sin”, these harsh penitentiaries could not have existed, But society must also share responsibility, having benefited from the system for over a century by ridding itself of unwanted women, availing of the laundries, or employing former inmates as cheap domestic drudges.

The eventual closure of the Magdalene Laundries took place, not for humane or liberal reasons or our changing attitudes to sex, but because, with the advent of the domestic washing machine, these institutions became no longer financially viable. But doubtless, if we still needed vulnerable women to wash our dirty linen they would still be incarcerated, still be subjected to that warped existence, and still be stripped of their sexuality and deprived of a normal, healthy life.

Society should gladly pay to put things right since the religious orders, given free reign by an uncaring nation to inflict their rule on others, now plead poverty.

But financial reparation, whatever its source, and however unstinting, is not enough. Let society, by no means blameless in this matter, stop being “shocked” at each successive revelation, and admit its own hypocrisy. The truth is that throughout these institutions’ history, most people had a fair idea of what was going on. All those who failed to actively oppose the system — and I know of few who did — are partially to blame.

Perhaps another apology is called for — this time from those people of Ireland who knew the situation, but looked the other way. And in particular, the trade unions, the various women’s movements, and non-Catholic religious bodies might stir themselves, having lacked the courage or the interest to support these women in the past.

- Frances Finnegan has lived in Ireland since 1979 and is the author of Do Penance or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland. The result of 21 years’ research, the book was first published by Congrave Press in 2001, and Oxford University Press in 2004. She was historical consultant for a Channel 4 documentary on the subject, Sex in a Cold Climate (1998) and Les Blanchisseuses de Magdalen, a France3/Sunset Presse film of the same year. She has met many former inmates of Magdalene and industrial institutions, has lectured extensively on the subject, and gave evidence to the McAleese committee in 2011.

Picture: A plaque dedicated to Magdalene Laundry survivors in St Stephens Green in Dublin. 

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Magdalene advocacy group set to outline redress views


The first of the Magdalene advocacy groups is to meet Mr Justice John Quirke on Tuesday to discuss the redress scheme for survivors of Magdalene Laundries.


Steven O’Riordan of the group, Magdalene Survivors Together, said that solicitor Frank Buttimer is examining the terms of reference drawn up by the Government. “We will be having a general meeting with Mr Justice Quirke where he will hear our views, what we are hoping to achieve, and what we are seeking in terms of redress for the survivors. We have already submitted our proposal so we are hoping that from the meeting we will get a good grasp of where the common ground is,” he said.

Mr O’Riordan said he had received 300 calls in the wake of the McAleese report, out of which 60 more survivors have been identified who wish to be included in the redress scheme.

Meanwhile, Justice For Magdalenes (JFM) have sought clarifications on the redress scheme. These include:

- Will Justice Quirke be commissioned to implement the process that he recommends after three months?

- Will the process be transparent and on a statutory footing with independent statutory powers?

- Will there be an appeals process and independent monitoring of the process?

- Will this process be carried out in a fair, fast, accessible, non-adversarial and transparent manner?

- Will Government make available to survivors and their families free independent advice and assistance in relation to this scheme?

- Will the Government meet with JFM to discuss its Restorative Justice and Reparations Scheme, submitted in Oct 2011 and requested by Justice Minister Alan Shatter?

It also raised questions concerning maintenance of Magdalene graves, redress for women outside of Ireland, access to adoption records, and the need for supports and services for survivors.

Sally Mulready of the Irish Women’s Support Network said the group was hoping to meet Mr Justice Quirke “very soon” to discuss the planned package.

Following Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s apology, the Government said it would make €250,000 available to the group for support services for British-based survivors of Magdalene laundries and industrial schools.

Picture: Steven O’Riordan: To meet with Mr Justice Quirke.

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Bethany survivors: It's discrimination that we are excluded from redress


Friday, March 01, 2013

By Mary Regan, Political Correspondent

Survivors of the Protestant-run Bethany Home have claimed it is a form of “discrimination” that they are excluded from justice or redress granted to victims of Catholic-run institutions.
Some of the small number of living survivors met with a cross-party group of TDs at the Dáil yesterday to present their case for redress scheme similar to what is being offered to Magdalene survivors.

They are also seeking a memorial for the hundreds of women and babies who went through the homes, and an apology like the one delivered to the Magdalene women by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last week.

It is estimated that there are just 15 to 20 people who would be eligible for redress from the home and the sums involved would be small.

The Bethany Survivors group said the State had a “definite responsibility” for the Bethany Home and for the children who were “neglected and abandoned because of the actions or inaction of the State”.

The group said 219 Bethany children were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery between 1922 to 1949 having died of neglect, malnutrition, and conditions associated with poverty.

It said many women were sent to the home by the courts for crimes ranging from petty theft to birth concealment to infanticide.

And they said inspectors covered up what happened “to safeguard the sectarian separation on which the system as a whole was based”.

Derek Leinster, 71, who was born in the home, said: “We want a redress system to recognise our loss. We want the state to stop discriminating against us.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has indicated he will examine the matter but his spokesperson said yesterday that it was a “completely different” to the Magdalene Laundries.

“The arrangements being made for the women who worked in Magdalene Laundries without pay simply cannot be applied to the completely different circumstances applied to the many maternity and infants homes in the State and those resident in them.”

The spokesperson said the home provided a maternity facility, particularly for unmarried mothers. “It did carry out a number of other functions including assisting with women from the criminal justice system but the High Court in 1940 found that 90% of its work was maternity cases.”

Survivor: Patrick’s story

Bethany Home survivor Patrick Anderson:

“My birth mother came from Co Wicklow and entered the Bethany Home in Mar 1947, she was five months’ pregnant. She had me in July and left in me and the home in December.

“I was removed from the birth home and taken to a nurse mother in Roscrea, Co Tipperary. In Apr 1950 I was removed by the Church of Ireland to Dublin where I was examined by the doctor and it was noted that ‘this child came in poor condition with rickets and his lips and cheeks blue’.

“I was adopted in Northern Ireland in 1952 by a farmer and his wife, both aged 51. I was traumatised by the physical, psychological, and emotional experience that up to that young age I had been through.

“When I was 13, my adoptive mother died and I took up most of the cooking and farm work and lived in a tree hut on the farm. At the age of 15 I got a part time job and saved up €12. I got a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool where I slept rough...

“In 1990 ... I found my birth mother’s name, I traced her after a year searching. Through a third party I made contact but she refused to meet me and I was hospitalised after a suicide attempt.

“Shortly afterwards, I got a record of my birth certificate and another one — of a child that my mother had three years after me. I discovered I had a brother who was removed to Utah when he was three months old.

“[When she diedI went to the funeral with two yellow roses — one from myself and one from my brother — my identity was unknown to those there.” 

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