DEARBHAIL MCDONALD LEGAL EDITOR – 24 DECEMBER 2013
THE Government is in "active" compensation negotiations with a former nun wrongfully convicted of the rape of a 12-year-old girl.
The case intensified in recent months when M Wall (65) sought details of the circumstances surrounding her prosecution and negotiations are now at an advanced stage.
"The case is still active and negotiations are currently under way," said a spokesperson for Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
"In the circumstances it would not be appropriate to make any comment."
Ms Wall was convicted of rape at the Central Criminal Court in June 1999 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
She was the first woman in the State to be found guilty of rape, but only served four days of her life sentence as her conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal six weeks later.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions agreed to a retrial when it became apparent that there had been non-disclosure of evidence in relation to one witness.
But within months, the DPP said that he would not be pursuing the retrial, instead supporting Ms Wall's application to the Court of Appeal for a declaration of miscarriage of justice.
It emerged that one of the complainants had a history of making false complaints of assault and a key witness had been declared unreliable prior to the trial and should never have appeared in court.
In 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeal declared a miscarriage of justice after hearing a "forensic debacle" had led to her conviction.
The DPP said that had he been aware of significant information which had come to light, the prosecution against Ms Wall and a now deceased homeless man, Paul McCabe, for the alleged rape of the girl would never have been brought.
In 2009, Ms Wall was given leave by the High Court to bring a judicial review challenge to the alleged refusal by the Justice Minister to make a decision on her application for compensation.
Sir, – The inquiry by Róisín O’Shea into the workings of the Irish family law system (John Waters, Opinion, December 13th) seems to be the first major piece of hard evidence of a very unjust system which has been going on for decades.
Attempts by Waters and certain fathers’ groups over many years to shine a light on blatant discrimination which affected both men and their children, met with obstruction, denial and a wall of silence. Of course the secrecy which surrounded the proceedings of these courts afforded a very convenient shelter behind which to hide – which suited politicians, policy makers, and various interest groups from the health, welfare and justice sectors.
That all of these basic human rights abuses, not only the denial of access of fathers to their children but the denial of children of the right to know their fathers, have been going on at a time when we were recognising the abuses of former eras in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, shows that we have learnt very little.
Indeed we were trumpeting our adherence to principles of equality for all and had even set up an Equality Authority to demonstrate our good faith. Sadly it was an illusion.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that apart from the official neglect mentioned, powerful lobby groups had no interest in delving into this matter. A National Council for Men was wanting in this regard. A report to follow those of Ryan, Murphy, the Magdalene laundries is warranted. – Yours, etc,
Religious icons on the Dublin building that housed the Magdalene laundry. Photo: Mark McCall
For decades, "bad" Irish girls were sent away to convent-run laundries, where they worked for no pay in awful conditions for years on end. Now, writes Jane Wheatley, survivors are finally getting compensation.
Martina Keogh was 16, selling newspapers outside a Dublin cinema, when a fight broke out on the street beside her. She was arrested along with the girls involved, sent to court and convicted of disorderly conduct. Her punishment would be two years' incarceration and unpaid labour in a convent laundry run by nuns.
It was 1964, the year the Beatles released A Hard Day's Night, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton married for the first time and 5000 more American troops were sent to fight in Vietnam, but Martina would know nothing of all this. Instead, she would spend her days washing and ironing and her nights in a locked dormitory with bars on the windows.
On a hot, sunny day earlier this northern summer, Keogh takes me back to the convent in Dublin's Sean McDermott Street, an imposing four-storey brick building now silent and empty of life. Set into a panel of the big, wooden, double-entrance doors is a small, eye-level grille. Keogh recalls being escorted there by a garda (policeman): "The shutter across the grille slid back and I could just see eyes looking out," she says. "The garda said, 'Got another one for you here, Sister.' "
At the far end of the building is a set of gates - "That's where the laundry vans came in and out" - topped by an iron arch inset with the words, "Monastery of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge". Some letters are missing. A woman walking along the street towards us stops, curious to know why we are taking photographs. She has lived in the block of flats next to the convent all her life, she says, and remembers as a child standing on a balcony and throwing sweets and cigarettes over the high wall to the inmates walking in the exercise yard below. "They wore uniforms and aprons," she says. "We were told they had been bad girls."
Four religious orders ran the 11 Magdalene laundries for 70 years; the last one closed in 1996. Some 10,000 girls passed through these institutions; they worked for no pay and were known as the Magdalenes - fallen women. A few had been sent after police raids on brothels but most came by different routes: some, like Martina Keogh, sent by the courts, some from orphanages and so-called industrial schools. Still more came from Mother and Baby Homes and had their babies given away for adoption, as in the film Philomena, starring Judi Dench, which opens on Boxing Day. Some were consigned by their own families, others referred by social or psychiatric services, the prettier ones considered a risk to morality.
Martina Keogh's story is a common one. Her unmarried mother was living in Dublin with one son and was pregnant with Martina when she went home to Kerry to ask for support from her family. But in 1950s Ireland, her hopes were doomed. "My grandfather was a schoolteacher," Keogh tells me. "Two of Mam's brothers were garda; they ran her out of town for bringing shame to them. My grandmother kept my brother and Mam came back to Dublin." After Martina was born, her mother went out to work, leaving her with a child-minder, but it was hard to manage and at age two the child was put into an orphanage. "A place in Kilkenny," she says. "Lovely it was. But when I was four, Mam married the oufla [the old fellow, as Keogh called her stepfather] so she could get us kids back. Once you were married, you were an honest woman."
Martina was soon being sexually abused by her stepfather: "I was in and out of orphanages and always running away." By the time she was sent to the laundry she'd been earning for several years: "We needed it - the oufla wouldn't give Mam any. 'I'm not feeding your bastards,' he said.
"From the moment I arrived [in the laundry] we worked [very hard]. Feeding the sheets into the dryer, that was brutal, and ironing - vestments, shirts, nuns' habits - I f...ing hate ironing. I won't have an iron in the house. Once a friend of mine was told off for being slow on the compressor and the nun brought it down on her hand. Oh, it was awful; when it lifted off it brought the skin with it. I ran away, I couldn't look. We were locked in the dormitories from 7.30pm till the nuns came to wake us for Mass at 6am. If there'd been a fire we'd have burnt in our beds."
Keogh got out when her two years were up but many women never left. Institutionalised, uneducated and with no support or contacts in the outside world, some of them didn't even know their real names or where they came from.
Mary Josephine O'Neill spent 17 years with the nuns and had her name changed twice. She was five when she was put in a residential convent school because her mother was considered incapable of looking after her. There was already a little girl with the same name, so Mary became Molly. "After two years my sister arrived. I didn't even know I had a sister but I ran down to get her."
Now 65, Mary Currington (her married name) has vivid memories of her convent years: some have haunted her to this day and caused terrible distress in her marriage. "School was very severe; we were sexually abused by the older girls. We little ones were in a dormitory that was supposed to be supervised by one of the sisters, but it wasn't and the big girls would come in. Oh, the dreadful, disgusting things they made you do, and did to you."
At 16, Mary was sent to work on a farm in west Cork with a relative of one of the nuns. As she left the convent, she was given one piece of advice, "Don't let a man get near you or touch you." She couldn't settle on the farm and was eventually taken away to work in the laundry of another convent run by the same order. "I had my name changed again, this time to Geraldine, even though I cried and said my name was Mary. I was taken upstairs, my clothes taken off me and all my long, black hair cut off. I was 18. We washed everything from sheets to businessmen's shirts. You had to scrub stained things by hand, there was bleach in the soap and your knuckles were raw."
Later she worked in the sewing room. "We made banners for processions, vestments for the clergy and the choir, altar linen, smocked dresses in lovely material and Holy Communion dresses.
"I didn't know it but all the time my sister was living up the road; she came knocking to see me but they never, never told me she'd come. Then she got a letter to me by the priest who heard confessions and that's how we communicated. He was a good man, that priest, he knew I wanted my freedom. He often spoke to [head nun] Mother Mount Carmel for me - 'Geraldine is mature enough to leave us' - but she always refused. It was a shameful thing to be in the Magdalene Asylum, as it was called; the arch over the door said 'Penitentiary' in big, iron letters. At least criminals know their release date. We had no idea and no voice."
But still, says Currington now, for all her longing, getting out of the laundry was the worst day of her life. "It was cold, January 1969, the year the Troubles started in the North. One of the sisters called me and said, 'Quick now, you're leaving.' I asked about saying goodbye, but she said there was no time. I was to go and work as a domestic at Saint John of God Hospital [in Dublin]. I grieved mightily for my friend I'd left behind."
Could she have written letters? "No point, they would have been confiscated. They didn't ever want you to have communication from outside."
Mary saved up her wages from the hospital and eventually joined her sister in England. "I had no worldly knowledge; I was too shy to go out. One day I saw an advert in the paper from soldiers overseas who wanted pen friends. I wrote a bit about myself and got 18 replies! The first one I opened was from the man I married. I was 32 and had never been with a bloke."
Mary and her husband, Norman, have been married for 36 years and have one son. "But I'm afraid I was a failure in the bedroom department. It was all tied up with the abuse as a child. I tried to be a good wife, but every time it felt like rape."
Of her 17 years with the Good Shepherd nuns, Mary says now, "It was a humiliating, degrading, shaming life and it doesn't leave you. I hate shut doors; I always sleep with mine open."
Twenty years ago, in 1993, the Dublin convent that had housed the largest of Ireland's laundries sold some of its grounds to a property developer. When work started, a mass grave was uncovered containing the remains of 155 women - many of whom could not be accounted for in the convent's records.
Until then, those women who, like Martina and Mary, had managed to get out never spoke of their years in the laundries, not even to husbands and families, crippled as they were by shame, insecurity and low self-esteem. They had been fodder for a humiliating system of slavery - the religious orders could rely on income from the laundries free of labour costs - which, astonishingly, still continued into the final years of the 20th century, condoned or at least ignored by government and a supposedly newly enlightened society.
Many, like Mary, had left Ireland for England; some went further afield, to the US, Canada and Australia. But now the scandal prompted a few to raise their heads, cautiously, above the parapet.
A campaign began and networks were formed encouraging women to come forward with their testimonies. But it would prove to be a very long battle. Already under pressure from allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children in its care, the Catholic Church battened down the hatches under this fresh assault. Meanwhile, the Irish government of the time denied any responsibility, claiming that the laundries were entirely the preserve of the religious orders that ran them. This is despite the fact that many girls were delivered to the laundries by government authority, via police, courts, health and social services, and that government institutions sent their dirty linen to be washed by the Magdalenes.
In 2002, as the campaign to win justice for survivors struggled to make headway, the government set up a Redress Board to compensate those who, as children, had been abused in residential institutions such as industrial schools and reformatories that were subject to state regulation. Millions of euros were eventually paid out - much of it to lawyers, who had a field day. Some of it went to women like Mary Currington, who had been in those institutions before they entered the laundries, but their years as Magdalenes went unacknowledged. The majority of laundry survivors did not qualify for compensation under the scheme.
Finally, in 2011, Ireland's government bowed to pressure from the United Nations Committee against Torture and established an inquiry into the laundries headed by a senator, Martin McAleese. His team took evidence from survivors in Ireland and the UK and reported in February this year. Two weeks later, the prime minister, Enda Kenny, met 15 survivors at the Dáil (parliament) in Dublin to listen to their stories and to apologise.
Sally Mulready chairs the UK-based Irish Women Survivors Network and was with the women. "They had never spoken in public before," she tells me in her London office. "The pain and stigma had muzzled them. The apology was so moving and strong; the feeling in the room after Enda Kenny left was palpable. This has liberated them, they can hold up their heads now. One woman said, 'I won't need to hide any more. Ireland is my country and I'm going to show my face there.' " Mary Currington had met Kenny at the Irish Embassy in London - "We'd been treated as individuals and listened to carefully" - and was at the Dáil to hear his apology. "It was fantastic."
After their private meeting, Kenny went on to deliver the public apology to the women in front of members in the Dáil chamber. Kenny then ordered a judicial commission to come up with a compensation package for Magdalene survivors.
Four months later, on that hot june afternoon in Dublin, I leave Martina Keogh at her home and hurry to a press conference to hear what Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposes to do for the Magdalene women. He says that because many of them are elderly - the average age of survivors is 68 - there will not be a statutory inquiry involving lawyers and lengthy procedures that could take years to resolve. Instead, the government will make ex-gratia payments to all the women to express the "sincere nature of the State's reconciliatory intent". Payments will be made on a sliding scale depending on how long a woman worked in a laundry: €11,500 ($17,300) for three months or less, up to a maximum of €100,000 for a period of 10 years or more.
In the bar of Buswells Hotel that evening, I find Sally Mulready and other Magdalene advocates enjoying a quiet celebratory meal. "It's a very fair package," says Mulready. "We've been pushing for this for 15 years, so today is a good day."
Some 17,000 kilometres away in Western Australia, 82-year-old Betty White agrees. She spent more than six years in a Magdalene laundry in Limerick, and on the phone from Perth, where she lives with her son, Teddy, she tells Good Weekend her story. "I was adopted as a baby by a lady from Dublin, but when I was about six the nuns came and took me away. The courts had ordered it, I never knew why. I went to an industrial school, which was a terrible place, then I came to the laundry in Limerick when I was 19.
"At first I was put to making the Limerick lace for wedding dresses and the like; it was very delicate, there was a lot of work. The nuns must have got good money for it. Then I got bad headaches, so they put me to ironing the big, heavy habits.
"We never had a bit of music in there, just prayers. One nun, Sister K, was so good to me. She was in charge of the laundry and sometimes she'd ask me to come and help with a dirty shirt or something so I could listen to the radio for a bit.
"The dormitory was big, maybe 30 or 40 girls. There was a lot of crying at night and we'd get up to one another, but if the nun came in we'd all rush back to our beds. I was there for six or seven years. I thought I'd never get out.
"Then one day, without any warning, I was let go. I asked to see Sister K, she came down and gave me biscuits and sweets to take with me. 'I'll always pray for you,' she said. I cried and cried.
"I went to England to work and met my husband. I did tell him about the dreadful time in the school and laundry and he said, 'Don't worry, forget about it.' We were happy together for 40 years."
Along with other survivors living overseas, Betty White has now received compensation from the Irish government. "I do feel I earned it," she says. "All those years working for nothing."
In July, the four religious orders who ran the laundries announced they would not make any contribution to the compensation fund. Justice Minister Alan Shatter thought the nuns' decision "very disappointing"; Magdalene survivor Phyllis Morgan said, "This is dreadful. I thought they would have done the decent thing."
The nuns have agreed to provide records of the women's time in the laundries and to meet survivors in a spirit of reconciliation. Neither Mary Currington nor Martina Keogh will be taking up the offer. "I wouldn't want to set eyes on any of them," says Keogh.
Australia's child laundries
Australia had eight Magdalene laundries – all at Sisters of the Good Shepherd convents – from the 1940s until the ’70s. There is no firm data on how many girls they held but it’s estimated to be several thousand.
The convent laundries were in all states. There were three in Melbourne alone, at Abbotsford, Oakleigh and Albert Park, with another in regional Victoria at St Aidan’s in Bendigo. Hobart had the Mount Saint Canice Good Shepherd convent in Sandy Bay. Sydney had one in Ashfield, Perth in Leederville, Brisbane in Mitchelton and Adelaide’s was the notorious The Pines at North Plympton.
As in Ireland, the convent dormitories and commercial laundries were for girls who were wards of the state or deemed delinquents but often were victims themselves who had committed no crimes. The 2004 Senate report Forgotten Australians – which led to a national apology from then PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 – described the laundries as prisons for girls forced into labour with poor living conditions and scant education.
“These were lost childhoods,” says Leonie Sheedy, executive officer of Care Leavers Australia Network, an advocacy group for former wards of the state. “Churches got wealthy on our labour. It’s extremely hard to get this history visible.”
Stenna Keys is 57 and lives in Portarlington, near Melbourne. Born Stenna Nemec in Slovenia, she came to Australia with her parents, who were assisted migrants and ended up working long hours in factories in Melbourne’s west. Her father was a violent drinker and she was sexually abused from the age of five by neighbours and relatives of neighbours. “We were like the latchkey kids but without a key,” she says. “We were left alone a lot.”
In one abusive episode, her young adult neighbours used a knitting needle on her – which meant Stenna could never have children. She started running away from home and school at age 11. This was in the late 1960s around Footscray and Sunshine, which even now can be dangerous places. She sometimes slept in bus shelters. “I was starving. No money, no nothing, no one’s looking after me and I’m just a kid, maybe 12 or 13 …”
She was made a state ward and put in Winlaton, a juvenile prison in Melbourne. After escaping, she was then sent to the Good Shepherd convent in Abbotsford, which she describes as “a horror place”. She worked in the laundry all day – after church – on the steam press, pressing sheets for hospitals. She says she was sexually abused by other, older girls, but that the nuns turned a blind eye. “You’d pretend everything was okay.”
Stenna was released after only a few months but the effects are still with her. She has worked in menial jobs (although is now trained as a Bowen therapist), has self-medicated for post-traumatic stress disorder with drugs and alcohol, has health problems and has been through two failed marriages. Only now is she beginning to learn how to trust. “I don’t feel like a victim any more. I’m a survivor, not a victim.”
She lived in Tasmania in the mid-2000s. After an intervention by her psychologist, two senior Good Shepherd nuns came to hear her story, then sent a letter admitting “the sisters were not able to provide you with the sense of nurture and security which you so desperately needed”. Good Shepherd now officially acknowledges past instances of “injustice and harm” and has committed to “healing and reconciliation”.
Maureen Cuskelly, 58, of Wodonga, had an entirely different experience. She came from a poor and uneducated Catholic family. Her mother and father had seven kids in quick succession and couldn’t look after them properly. Maureen, a middle sibling, went into Abbotsford at the age of seven. A year later she got out because her mother – with her father now vanished – was living in a house in Echuca, on the Murray River, and had convinced the Victorian government to give her children back, which they did. But when Maureen was 12 her mother’s health deteriorated and the children were taken once more; Maureen and one of her sisters ended up in St Aidan’s Good Shepherd Convent in Bendigo. She was briefly released to a chaotic household, then readmitted for five years, until she was 17. She worked in the laundry folding sheets and on the “mangle” steam press, and also had to polish the floor of the convent concert hall every day. She did school by correspondence.
“Most people there hadn’t done anything wrong. I hadn’t. My sister hadn’t. One girl wagged school for two days to see a boyfriend; she got one year in. Another girl from Benalla was raped by her uncle. Us girls became victims. The nuns thought they were helping the community.”
Maureen says the worst cruelty at St Aidan’s came from the nuns, particularly the head nun, Mother Rita. During her reign, solitary confinement was in a toilet that was locked from the outside. “Girls came out broken-spirited,” Maureen says. “One girl wrote ‘I Love Elvis’ on her arm and went in for three days. When the girls came out, they were gone. They were cold, isolated, scared, threatened. Mother Rita was an awful woman. A very harsh, very small and very cruel woman.”
When Maureen finally got out in the early 1970s, she found she was institutionalised. After trying to live in a hostel and work as a clerk, she readmitted herself to St Aidan’s as it was all she knew.
Eventually she left and did year 12 at a school in Bendigo, became a mental health nurse and, after one destructive marriage, got a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s, in health science. She now works in a senior role in community mental health in Wodonga. She has also recently found and been reunited with her father, Colin, in Ballina, NSW.
Her hands are crippled with arthritis from relentless work on the steam press and from using the electric polisher. She’s had surgery but, for a long time, and during her studies, she couldn’t hold a pen.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Archbishop Eamon Martin was responding to calls from listeners who asked why the Church had not put more pressure on the religious congregations to contribute to the redress scheme being designed by the Department of Justice. The four Catholic orders — the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity, and the Good Shepherd Sisters — co-operated with the McAleese inquiry but then said the report had established State involvement in sending women to the laundries and therefore the issue of redress lay with the State.
Archbishop Martin also told Today with Sean O’Rourke said he believed Pope John Paul II would have been “shocked and horrified” by the extent of child abuse in the Church. He refused to suggest the canonisation of Pope John Paul II was taking place without due regard for his failure to act on child sex abuse allegations.
“I would like to think that those preparing this cause have established that he didn’t know about this,” he said.
Archbishop Martin became Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh earlier this year and will act as an assistant to Cardinal Sean Brady for at least another two years, before he succeeds him.
The 52-year-old said the Church’s role in covering up the worldwide scandal “ought to haunt it forever” as what had happened was a “terrible, terrible sin”. As a priest, he said he had never thought this was taking place.
“It should continue at the front of my mind as the people who were abused will never forget... If you are abused you can’t close the door on your abuse,” he said.
Archbishop Martin described the decision to put the reputation of the Church ahead of child protection as a “false ideal” that had seriously damaged “trust, the morale of priests, and caused enormous trauma to victims”.
In response to questions about the lack of female priests, he said lay people have a far greater influence in the Church now and that clergy were “not insulated from family life”.
Archbishop Martin described Pope Francis as “quite provocative” as he “really challenged every Catholic by asking them how are you helping the marginalised”.
I am one of the fortunate survivors to have secured a criminal conviction against one of two Spiritan priests who sexually abused me. Last week’s national audits of the Catholic clergy show others are not so lucky, writes campaigner Mark Vincent Healy.
THE RELEASE LAST week of eight more national audits of the Catholic clergy by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) reveals a consistent trend that few religious perpetrators of the sexual abuse of children are being held to account by the Catholic Church or State in Ireland.
The audits of 22 dioceses and six congregations show allegations were made against 796 religious where only 48 priests, or 6 per cent, were convicted. The cold statistics utterly fail to portray what such figures represent to survivors and their families.
It is too hard to comprehend that 1,933 people raised allegations of abuse against 796 religious in 28 audits over four tranches conducted by the NBSCCCI so far.
The aggregate figures seem unable to shock or appal. They have all been heard before. People do not want to be reminded of that stomach churn and anger they experienced when such news was far more visceral the first time they heard it.
A 94 per cent chance of getting away with clerical child sexual abuse sends out all the wrong signals.
As a survivor, I would like to take a look at what’s in a figure; examine the differences between Diocesan and Congregational child abuse data; review missionary child sexual abuse and see if the future holds out any hope for survivors and their families.
What’s in a number?
First let us look at the figures – what’s in a figure, a single count or conviction? As a survivor, I have no wish to feed any prurient interest in the details of such abuse of children. Perhaps when one considers what a conviction actually means, it might help put some perspective on the gravity of what has been reported in the figures presented to the public concerning the participants in the latest audits by the NBSCCCI.
Figures matter, so let us look at the facts in the public domain behind the audits remembering each figure represents enormous distress and lifelong suffering.
In the St Patrick’s Missionary Society audit, there is one conviction reported, where in fact there should have been two. The single figure in the report represented the conviction of Fr Thomas Naughton and the missing figure represented laicised Peter Kennedy. Both men were convicted and reported in the news media.
On 17th December 2009, Fr Thomas Naughton, a 78-year-old member of the St Patrick’s Missionary Society, was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment having pleaded guilty to indecent assault of a victim, which began in 1982 when the victim was only six years old and Naughton was 51 years of age.
On 9th July 2013, former priest Peter Kennedy, a 74-year old former Kiltegan, was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment having pleaded guilty to indecent assault of 18 victims in over 100 incidents between 1968 and 1986. One the victims was only eight years old when his abuse began. Kennedy was 29 years of age when he began abusing these boys.
Now read the St Patrick’s Missionary Society report where it says one priest was convicted. It doesn’t reveal the half of it; the bravery of the abused to seek justice, the devastation to the lives of so many, nor the fact when you increase the number from one to two for those convicted how many lives that increment by one represents. You suddenly are presented with 18 brave survivors and countless family members affected by such crimes and intergenerational lifetime devastation.
Survivors rarely obtain justice
In the eight dioceses of Derry, Dromore, Limerick, Elphin, Killala, Waterford and Lismore, Achonry and Archdioceses Cashel and Emly, there are now a total of 198 allegations against 109 priests for which there have been no convictions.
The fact none, or so few, are ever held to account would not encourage others to come forward – especially when one considers the high risks involved in doing so.
The question is simply this: would you take such risks, or even encourage someone dear to you to raise their complaint, in light of this information and the odds stacked against them? If you loved them at all, you would probably implore them to come away from such an action, fearing for them greatly.
Many times survivors are told how brave they are, how courageous they are but they are also described as ‘money grabbers’ or seeking attention for a failed this or that life. Their suffering is minimised or trivialised in the multiplicity of lifespan burdens, which are all too often theirs to carry alone, if they can carry them.
Have we become inured or numbed to the headlines and desensitised to the realities behind the figures? Can we no longer sense the heartache and life span devastation of those so abused and indeed their families and communities?
Missionary child sexual abuse
If the average rate of accountability is only 6 per cent for clerical child sexual abuse that lowers to only 4.6 per cent for missionaries who are convicted, compared with 7.8 per cent for diocesans recorded in 22 of the 26 dioceses in Ireland.
Not all survivors involved are from Ireland as revealed by missionary audits and reviews. Missionary child sexual abuse presents enormous complexity. For this reason, I have felt compelled to raise awareness of missionary child sexual abuse notwithstanding the enormous good in the world achieved by most missionaries for which the Irish people can be rightly proud. However we must not shirk any responsibility to offer ‘Rescue Services’ and ‘Safe Space Provisioning’ which I am calling for to those survivors abused by Irish missionaries at home and overseas.
It has been very difficult to report on missionary child sexual abuse since the RTÉ fiasco, “Mission to Prey”, aired on 23rd May 2011. Following the release of the programme, the former head of the Irish Missionary Union, Fr Eamon Aylward said it would be difficult to investigate crimes in 83 different countries, but that in Ireland 99.9 per cent cooperation with state authorities is in place.
To date there have been six missionary orders audited where a total of 452 priests have had 1,208 allegations raised against them but only 4.6 per cent or 21 priests have been convicted. This is a very sad reality which ought to raise calls for investigations into clerical sex abuse in Africa by Irish missionaries.
In the audit reports to date, seven of those brave enough to come forward were from Africa where the risks are far greater to them in coming forward due to the very unsympathetic reception facing survivors of missionary child sexual abuse in Africa. Three are reported to have come forward in the Kiltegan report and four came forward in the Spiritan (Holy Ghost Fathers) audit report in the last tranche.
One particular case involves an African who reported his abuse by a member of the Spiritans to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in May 2012 but it was not recorded in the audit report issued in September 2012 some five months after notifying the auditors. Only due to pressure to publish a correction was the error and oversight recorded on the NBSCCCI website in an amended Spiritan report. The number of priests against whom a complaint had been raised was incremented by one to 48 but notification to the Gardaí or HSE has not been incremented.
Indeed it has only been reported that the safeguarding board has “no remit” to deal with abuse by Irish priests abroad. Not only are these African victims bereft of any justice by and large, but their legal rights are not protected where they have been contacted directly by agents for the religious orders involved.
As a survivor, I would think it is not the place of the religious orders or their agents to compromise any survivor’s well-being or take high risks of re-traumatising them in the guise of support for them. Investigations are for the civil authorities due to the risks involved to any victim, both legally and medically.
Conviction rates for sexual crimes
Obtaining a 6 per cent conviction rate for clerical child sexual abuse actually seems high when you consider that the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre noted in its Annual Report for 2012 that only three cases of rape out of 322 known cases actually succeeded in a criminal conviction. This shows that the crime of rape in general has less than a 1 per cent chance of a conviction for 2012 in Ireland.
If anything, these odds are a frightening and powerful argument against personally reporting such abuse where justice demands so much from the victim and their families. Certainly, from a perpetrator or facilitator’s perspective, the policy of denial, collusion and cover up, pays too big a dividend in deferred minimal sanction imposed on perpetrators and an enormous financial gain over decades in accrued reputational standing to a diocese or congregation earned at the expense of sexually abused children. It is this sort of ‘return on deception’, which can motivate the facilitation of such heinous crimes against children. Financial restitution is the very thing that is so begrudgingly offered, if at all, and is invariably the cause of further humiliation and re-traumatises victims who seek what they most justly deserve.
Safeguarding policy may well be improving and for that, mandatory reporting is needed – but so too then are ‘Rescue Services’ and ‘Safe Space Provisioning’ for survivors. Safeguarding should mean far better services to survivors and their families not just abuse prevention.
Mark Vincent Healy is a survivor campaigner seeking ‘Rescue Services’ and ‘Safe Space Provisioning’ for survivors of clerical child sexual abuse.
He said his hope was that the work of the diocese's Safeguarding Office and volunteers ensure that the inadequate response of the past will become a thing of the past.
Armagh policy and procedures 'need to be clearer'
The review found that in the Diocese of Armagh, while the policy and procedures are comprehensive in setting out how to manage risks to children when they are initially uncovered and in the short to medium term, they are less clear in setting out how the church proposes to manage individuals in respect of whom there are longer term risks.
The report says reviewers saw no reference in the policy and procedures to a protocol for dealing with respondent priests or others against whom an allegation might have been made but where the civil processes have been discontinued.
It said the policy and procedures need to be clearer about the processes for internal investigation by the church and for the management of those who continue to present a risk to children.
The review found three assessment criteria had been partially met.
The review says there were 16 Diocesan priests in the Archdiocese of Armagh against whom allegations have been made since 1975 to the date of the review.
In their audit, reviewers say there were references to a total of 36 alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse during this time.
They say 36 allegations were reported to the relevant police services involving priests since 1975.
Of these 33 were reported to relevant social services.
The report says four priests against whom an allegation has been made, including complaints and expressions of concern, are in ministry.
Eight priests who were still members of the diocese or order against whom an allegation was made were still living at the date of the review. Seven priests against whom an allegation has been made have died.
Two priests against whom an allegation was made are still members of the diocese and are termed "out of ministry".
Two priests against whom an allegation was made are retired; one priest against whom an allegation was made had left the diocese or priesthood.
The review finds one priest had been convicted of having committed an offence, or offences, against a child or young person since 1 January 1975.
The audit states that all allegations made refer to the period between 1950 and 2000.
Of these 19 events are reported to have happened between 1950 and 1980 and 13 events between 1980 and 2000.
In four instances it states the dates of alleged abuse are not recorded.
It finds that there have been no new allegations that refer to abuse having been perpetrated after the year 2000.
Diocese of Kerry 'committed to child protection'
The audit of child protection practices in the Diocese of Kerry revealed that allegations of abuse had been made against 21 priests there over the past 37 years.
67 separate allegations were made against these priests and the audit found that all of these had been reported to gardaí and the Health Service Executive.
The audit said it is clear from its policy statements that the diocese is committed to child protection.
The audit found that allegations of child abuse have been made against a priest who was allowed provide holiday cover in Co Kerry when he retired to the diocese, despite having abused a large number of boys in the previous diocese where he served.
The audit states that authorities in the priest's old diocese were aware of allegations against him, but this information was not shared with the Bishop of Kerry.
The review said the NBSCCCI would be aware of some of this abuse through other reviews already undertaken.
The review also stated that the society, which currently has its headquarters in Co Wicklow, is likely to move its base to Africa in the coming years.
The report cited the example of a Kiltegan Fathers priest in Kenya who it is believed may have abused at least 50 victims since 1966.
The audit found there were local reports which raised concern about homosexual activity between the priest and young Goan boys in the 1960s, however this information was not communicated to central leadership until 1997.
The man was stepped aside from ministry in 1986, and remained a member of the society until 2002.
To date, the society has made contact with 34 of the 50 people involved.
The audit found the priest was dismissed from the clerical state at his own request, which was the only way in which this could happen while the society was under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
In another example, a priest was accused in 2006 of abuse of a young person in Africa 26 years previously, and the priest admitted the allegation.
An assessment found he was at low risk of re-offending.
In 2012, a second allegation emerged leading to a second assessment, which identified several previous incidents of offences against young people by the priest when he was on mission in Africa.
The audit noted that because of the passage of time it was extremely difficult to identify child victims abroad who are now adult and who have not come forward themselves to make a complaint.
The audit recommended that the leadership of the society should ensure that all allegations of clerical abuse are responded to quickly in compliance with church requirements and in accordance with the standards of the society.
The report revealed a letter in which a society leader expressed regret to a member at the fact that he had decided to leave and seek laicisation, despite the fact that the priest was a self-confessed abuser of young boys while serving on the missions.
The report found that the issue on the management of priests in theDiocese of Achonry had been problematic.
In 1981, a priest brought in with the help of a religious order, and without the knowledge of the then bishop, went on to abuse a boy. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for abusing 18 boys in five counties between the 1960s and the 1980s.
The reviewers found evidence that information about the priest's abuse of the young boy had been made available to another priest in the diocese at an early stage, but this had not been passed on by the diocese to the gardaí.
The report confirms there was further strong evidence brought to the attention of the diocese in 1997 on the same case but the complaint was not passed on to gardaí until 2002.
Bishop Brendan Kelly has already published an apology for the manner in which the diocese managed complaints against this priest.
Bishop Kelly today said he has spoken to his predecessor, Bishop Thomas Flynn, but has no explanation as to why evidence of allegations of assault by a serial sex abuser were not passed on to gardaí by the diocese for nearly 20 years.
Speaking in Ballaghadereen, Co Roscommon this afternoon, Bishop Kelly said he had discussed these questions with Bishop Flynn from time to time but all he could do at this particular time was to ensure that whatever mistakes were made in the past would not be repeated at the present time.
Former priest Peter Kennedy, who was extradited from Brazil and is now serving a ten-year jail sentence for abusing 18 boys in five counties, had worked for a period of time in the diocese of Achonry in the early 1980s when an allegation was made about his behaviour to a priest in the diocese at an early stage but was not passed on to gardaí until 2002.
Bishop Kelly also said he had informed gardaí of the presence of two retired priests who had not worked in ministry in the diocese but lived locally and were facing allegations of sexual abuse overseas.
He said he would act on a recommendation in the report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church today and contact the bishops of the religious orders responsible for the two men, but it was now the business of gardaí to carry out any further investigation that needed to be done.
Archbishop Dermot Clifford said he can assure the people of the diocese that the church will continue to do everything in its power to protect the children and young people involved in church activities.
He said most of the seven recommendations of the report have been implemented and the rest will be implemented as soon as possible.
The report found there were allegations of abuse against 13 priests in the diocese from 1975, seven of whom are still alive.
No priests were convicted of any of the offences alleged.
Fourth group of audit reports
It is the fourth group of audit reports from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
Drawing on records in church files, they examined the response to allegations since 1975.
It also reported on current arrangements for safeguarding children.
In a statement today, Cardinal Seán Brady said with the co-operation of safeguarding personnel, he undertakes to "act promptly" on the recommendations in the audits.
Charity One in Four has welcomed the publication of the reviews saying "huge strides have been made in ensuring that children are safer than ever before from sexual harm".
However, the organisation said some serious concerns are identified in the reviews particularly in relation to the Christian Brothers and to the Kiltegan Fathers.
The finding that the response by the Christian Brothers to survivors was overly litigious and weak in pastoral care matches the experience of One in Four clients the charity said.
Regarding the Kiltegan Fathers, the charity said a major problem exists in that complaints of child sexual abuse made against priests working in developing countries have not been addressed.
The charity also expressed concern at the small numbers of alleged sex offenders who have been convicted in a criminal court.
Just 12 Christian Brothers have been convicted of child sex abuse despite allegations being made against 325 members of the order, a safeguarding audit has found.
The audit of the Christian Brothers shows that since 1975, 870 allegations of abuse have been made against 325 brothers.
All allegations have been reported to gardaí and the HSE, but just 50 of the brothers involved are still alive. One brother who is alleged to have carried out abuse is still in ministry; while 49 have retired; another 49 are out of ministry; and 145 have died. Just 12 brothers have been convicted.
According to the report: “The files read by the reviewers left them in no doubt that a great number of children were seriously abused by Brothers.”
It also said: “The number of convictions by the courts, compared to the numbers accused of child abuse, is significantly small.”
The Ryan Report had already uncovered the massive scale of abuse carried out by Christian Brothers but the audit published yesterday said that order had acknowledged the “inadequacy of their historical response” and had improved child protection structures throughout its ministries.
Of the 50 members against whom allegations have been made the audit report said it was “safer for children if those accused remain as part of a community and safety and support plans can be put in place”.
But Maeve Lewis, of One in Four, said the low rate of convictions for sex offences among dioceses and religious matched that in society and was “a huge challenge” for everyone.
The report also said the Brothers now report allegations promptly to the authorities and dealt closely with the gardaí and the HSE.
It found allegations notified to the Christian Brothers most often came through the alleged victim’s legal representative. It also found some confusion over the way files of complaints were maintained.
“It is unclear from some of the files when the Brother was removed from ministry; the process that led to the action; and the procedures in place regarding monitoring and review following the individual’s removal.”
There were also no records of preliminary investigations on files, often in cases of no criminal prosecution, meaning reviewers felt the alleged perpetrator was often “in a limbo situation”.
It also urged the Christian Brothers to consider reviewing their response to victims, in consultation with victims or victim groups, and develop a strategy which sets out the support options for complainants.
In a statement the Christian Brothers’ Province Leadership Team said: “We want to learn from the mistakes of the past and to create a safe environment for all children and young adults. By developing robust child protection measures and inviting the national board to independently assess these, we aim to continuously enhance child protection safeguards so that the mistakes of the past may never be repeated.
“The congregation accepts in full the national board’s recommendations on how to further enhance safeguarding measures. Half of the board’s recommendations have already been implemented or are nearing completion and work on the remaining elements is underway.”
A total of 67 allegations of child sexual abuse against 21 Kerry diocesan priests have been made since 1975, but only one priest has been convicted, according to the Review of Safeguarding Practice in the diocese.
Of the eight living priests against whom allegations have been made, four have been laicised; one dismissed; one retired; one is out of ministry and one is still in ministry, having been cleared following an investigation.
The diocese has so far paid around €800,000 in compensation to victims.
While the review by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church is favourable overall to the actions being taken by the Kerry church authorities, it makes recommendations for improvements, which have been accepted by Bishop Ray Browne.
Bishop Browne has been in charge of the diocese since last July and his predecessor, Bishop Bill Murphy, is commended in the review, which said cases of abuse had, in general, been appropriately managed and Bishop Murphy had “met his responsibilities well in this regard”.
But, the review is critical of a lack of written policies and guidance on specific issues, including “whistle blowing” by clergy, or other church workers, who may have suspicions of unacceptable behaviour by colleagues.
It calls for action to rectify the situation and the absence of a complaints procedure. It is also critical of the handling of some abuse cases, that generally arose several years ago.
During the review, on May 15-16, case files were examined and people in the diocese’s safeguarding system were interviewed. The diocese, which has about 130,000 Catholics, has 130 parish safeguarding personnel and a range of counselling, support and information services.
Since the 33-page review was completed last May, four complaints against three priests have been received, it was revealed.
Bishop Browne said he fully welcomed the findings and recommendations and described the past and present suffering of the victims as “truly horrific”.
Expressing his “sincere sorrow and regret” to the victims, he said he had met and listened to some and had been horrified at how the abuse had profoundly affected their lives. “I encourage anyone who has been abused as a child to report the matter to the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána, or the diocese, seeking support and help.”
At a news conference in Killarney, he was asked why there had only one conviction of a priest in 38 years, despite the 67 complaints.
“That’s a question for the gardaí. It just shows how difficult it is to bring a court case.”
The main recommendations of the review were:
nThat the safeguarding policy state clearly how individuals who pose a risk to children are managed and that current child protection concerns be fully reported to the civil authorities without delay.
nTo act on all recommendations of a 2009 report on all known cases of abuse.
nThat all information of complaints, as well as actions by the Church authorities against alleged abusers, be copied onto the case file.
nThat Bishop Browne keep a register of visiting and retired priests and that necessary checks be made before they are allowed to take part in ministry.
nThat all Garda vetting files and other vetting records be transferred to the diocesan offices.
nThat all Church personnel working with children are informed of and trained in child protection procedures.
Concerns about a priest who was serial paedophile were not passed on to senior diocesan figures or to the authorities in the north west despite being known at a early stage.
A Kiltegan father, Peter Kennedy, spent time providing relief cover in the Achonry diocese in the early 1980s and during his stay he abused a young boy.
He was convicted this year of abusing 18 boys in different parts of the country during the 1970s and 1980s having spent 10 years on the run in Brazil.
Although he was not named in the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland report on the diocese his case was clearly referenced as that of Fr P, who was the subject of a diocesan apology in Jan 2012 following his extradition from Brazil.
In that case the NBSCCCI said there was strong circumstantial evidence that the diocese was aware of allegations since 1997 but did not pass this on to gardaí until 2002.
Meanwhile, two other priests who have retired to the Roscommon area from abroad moved here after allegations were made against them but these were not investigated by their home diocese.
Gardaí have been made aware of their presence and the diocese has set up new procedures for monitoring and registering visiting priests.
Bishop Brendan Kelly said the diocese would take the report on board and apologised for past failures.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI) has said all of these have been dealt with appropriately by the diocese.
In seven cases, the PSNI did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute and three were considered to have had a “semblance of truth”.
All seven priests remain in ministry. The ‘semblance of truth test’ is a standard set by the Catholic Church to handle cases that are not prosecuted but where there are concerns about the conduct of priests.
In the other seven cases, one person is in prison and the other six are on leave pending investigations.
Bishop Noel Treanor issued a statement welcoming the review and the fact it had endorsed the procedures adopted by the diocese.
Meanwhile in the Archdiocese of Armagh, the reviewers found that there had been allegations made against 16 priests since 1975 — nine of the accused are still alive.
These included allegations made against Fr Michael McQuillan, who had been a chaplain at a Co Armagh school. He was convicted of 40 offences against children between 1986 and 1993.
The NBSCCCI said the nature of the legacy cases in Armagh were extremely complex and many were contested by the priests involved.
Cardinal Sean Brady has been fully briefed on all of the cases.
A large number of complaints have been made against one priest who was allowed to return to ministry following a criminal investigation which resulted in no prosecutions.
The NBSCCCI said: “In relation to living priests who have been the subject of allegations, the reviewers saw evidence in these cases of notification to the civil authorities, as well as an internal Church investigation and are satisfied that the appropriate decisions were made for those priests who have remained in ministry.”
In Armagh the NSBCCCI said records relating to allegations made before 1995 were poor because of inconsistent filing and a lack of clarity around how decisions were made.
Despite improvements, the reviewers said there were still key gaps in the structures for processing complaints. There were no records of any meetings of a diocesan advisory panel on child protection taking place before 2009.
In some files there were also significant gaps in the records. But the NBSCCCI said its reviewers were reassured by the improved measures in place since 2010.
Concern has been raised about the management of records relating to abuse allegations against priests in the Diocese of Ossory.
The NBSCCCI said that notes on some historic cases were on handwritten documents which could not be read and there were significant gaps in the accounts.
It has urged the diocese to reorganise its catalogue and to have the reports freshly typed up.
In all, there were 14 allegations made against priests in the diocese since 1975. However, even in more recent cases there was a lack of clarity on the outcome or how the diocese had dealt with them.
In one case, the former bishop decided in 2005 that there was no substance to an allegation but it was unclear how or if it was probed by the civil authorities.
Co Kerry priest accused of sex abuse left church to work with children
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 06:08 PM
A priest facing several sex abuse allegations asked to be dismissed and went on to work in a job which gave him access to children, the church watchdog has found.
The ex-cleric was the subject of four serious complaints relating to his time working in a children’s home in Co Kerry in the 1970s.
But the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church found he was never prosecuted.
Furthermore, he was dismissed from the priesthood at his own request and was allowed to move to another part of the country and take a job involving access to children.
Overall, it was found that 21 priests faced a total of 67 allegations in the Kerry diocese. Only one priest was convicted.
One of the clerics was still in ministry and another five have left the priesthood.
In one case, a dead priest has 25 allegations against him dating back to schools in the diocese in the 1950s and 1960s and more are expected.
Another case involves a priest who was jailed after a trial in 1997 and a suggestion that one of his victims complained to a previous Bishop of Kerry, but no record of it can be found in church files.
Bishop of Kerry Ray Brownes has apologised to anyone abused in the diocese.
In the Diocese of Down and Connor, which includes Belfast and is the second largest in Ireland, 14 concerns or allegations were raised since the appointment of Bishop Noel Treanor in June 2008.
Of those, seven had insufficient evidence. Of the other seven, all are currently out of ministry, one is the subject of a criminal investigation and one is in prison.
There are 19 living priests of the Down and Connor Diocese who are subjects of child safeguarding concerns.
Of these, seven were known about before Bishop Treanor was appointed.
Two of these seven men had further historical allegations made against them after June 2008; and a further 12 diocesan priests also had historical allegations made against them since that time.
Bishop Treanor said the report found that all concerns/allegations reviewed have been properly managed by the diocese.
“My overriding concern as Bishop of Down and Connor is and will continue to be the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in the diocese,” he added.
“In church and society the hurt and destruction wrought by the abuse of children and vulnerable adults continues to cry out for unflinching commitment to the pursuit of safeguarding and the growth of a culture of vigilance.”
The Diocese of Ossory was found to have shortcomings dealing with complaints about unacceptable behaviour towards children and the timescales involved.
Twenty-seven allegations have been made against priests of the diocese since 1975 – most of which occurred under the tenure of Bishop Peter Birch and then Bishop Laurence Forristal.
The charges, all of which were reported to gardai and the Health Service Executive, related to 14 priests.
According to the report, current Bishop Seamus Freeman, who was ordained in 2007, has dealt with allegations against two living priests since then – his management of which has been deemed appropriate.
Of the 14 priests at the centre of the allegations, three have been defrocked, four are still living and seven have died.
Two priests have been convicted of child abuse.
Monsignor Michael Ryan, vicar general at the Diocese of Ossory, expressed his “heartfelt sorrow” to victims of clerical abuse.
“I am deeply sorry for what has happened to you and to your families and I pray that the Lord Jesus will give you healing and peace,” he said.
In the Armagh Archdiocese, run by Cardinal Sean Brady, the audit warned that it found little information on the receipt and management of allegations before 1995.
It said there was “inconsistent filing leading to a lack of clarity about how decisions were made”.
The report found Cardinal Brady, on taking up his role as Primate of All-Ireland in 1996, made a “commendable decision to gather and document whatever information was available.”
“However the reviewers cannot be confident that the records of allegations made prior to 1995 are complete,” it added.
Sixteen priests in the archdiocese have faced 36 allegations and four of them are still in ministry.
Only one priest has been convicted and the audit said no allegations have been made since 2000.
Cardinal Brady, who has been heavily criticised for swearing two victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth to secrecy during an internal church inquiry in 1975, said his first thoughts today are with abuse survivors.
“I know that for you, survivors of abuse and your families, days such as today are especially difficult. You have suffered terribly and I am truly sorry,” he said.
Elsewhere, in the Diocese of Achonry, Bishop Brendan Kelly told the internal watchdog that the diocese did not have a safeguarding policy and procedures document in place before 2008.
There had also been little evidence of a systematic process for filing or managing information about abuse allegations before then.
There have been no fresh allegations against the diocese since Bishop Kelly was appointed in 2007.
Before that, a total 15 allegations had been made against it, relating to 11 priests.
Thirteen of those charges were reported to gardai, and 12 of them to the HSE. No priest was convicted of any offence.
Only two of the 11 priests accused are still living.
Bishop Kelly apologised to anyone who has suffered clerical abuse, which he said causes “incalculable damage”.
“Vigilance will be maintained as an absolute priority in this critical area. That is our assurance to all parents and children,” he added.
“It is entirely reprehensible, a serious crime and a grave sin.
“It is all the more grievous when the perpetrator is a person in a position of trust, such as a priest, who is called to be a minister of the good news of love, compassion and justice.”
The report found there were abuse allegations against 13 priests in the Cashel and Emly diocese from 1975.
Seven of the accused priests are still alive.
Archbishop Dermot Clifford said most of the recommendations had been fully implemented and the others would be put in place as soon as possible.
A review of child protection in the Kiltegan Fathers, a missionary order based in CoWicklow, has found that the congregation “has been challenged by a relatively high incidence of serious and ongoing abuse amongst its members”.
The report, one of eight published yesterday by the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) looking at practices in a number of Irish dioceses and religious congregations, is damning of the St Patrick’s Missionary Society for its handling of child sex abuse allegations both in Ireland and overseas. It pointed out that how it dealt with abuse allegations differed in Ireland and Africa, with its actions here more robust than overseas.
The report from the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog found 50 child abuse allegations have been made against 14 of the congregation’s priests with one convicted in the courts. All these allegations were received by the order after January 1st, 1975.
‘Too much tolerance’
The reviewers also found that “accused priests were afforded too much tolerance and so found it too easy to avoid being held accountable for their actions”.
The report found evidence of delay by the congregation in “clearly adhering to church safeguarding policies and practice guidelines as these were being introduced in the Irish church”.
It was “not as robust as it might otherwise have been in dealing decisively with child protection concerns about some of its members”.
The review found that “abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response” and emphasised it was “important to emphasise that all children deserve the same respect and attention regardless of where they are geographically located, or of their ethnicity”.
The NBSC pointed to a letter “on file in which a society leader expresses regret to a member at the fact that he has decided to leave and to seek laicisation”. This priest, the review noted, was “a self-confessed abuser of young boys while serving on the missions”. The reviewers “were not satisfied that canonical sanctions against many of the priests who are known to have abused children were being sought as a matter of course”.
It said about one of the congregations priests, jailed for 12 years because of his later abuse of children in Ireland, “it is not known whether he abused children while involved in missionary work”.
It recalled how in 1966 there were minuted reports of abuse of boys by one of its priest in Kenya but that he did not stand aside from ministry for a further 20 years.
This letter I have drafted and will be sent to the relevant organizations and T.D. of Dail Eireann .
I am a survivor of the Industrial School regime where I spent the first thirteen horrific years of my young life. I was informed on Friday 6th December 2013 by a telephone conversation that I received by two members of staff in "RIGHT OF PLACE SECOND CHANCE, CORK” that a Christmas party that was organized for past pupils for the 14th December 2013 in Cork that the venue had been changed. . When asking why at such short notice to the change I was appalled and shocked to hear the response.
“The H.S.E has instructed these groups who are suppose to be representing us in a private memo they received in October which stated any social events funded by them CAN take place in a license premises, but the sale of alcohol is strictly prohibited to be sold to any survivors attending that event".
The original venue that our party was to take place was a licensed premises Redmond’s GAA Club in County Cork. The proprietor refused to comply with this demand from the H.S.E. and so was relocated to a community hall where no alcohol is served. This hurt me. Our dinner will be brought into us and entertainment will be provided. I can attend the social event if I want, but no one can consume alcohol and therefore goes our freedom of choice again. I am entitled to have a drink with my meal if I choose to do so. I said ! no you can’t do that and when asked the reason why? I was informed that it is to protect the safety of their outreach officers. So basically what their saying is we can’t handle our drink we are violent and are all alcoholic’s. I am over the age of 18 and a very responsible adult . To be told again we can’t do what we want, brings it all right back. We are nobody's in these people's eyes .
This so called policy has been signed off by employers across the boards of all survivor groups. This is what I was told. Asking why we were not informed of this new policy. And when I requested the original email I was told it was a private memo only sent to them to which I responded, its not private now . No notification whatsoever was published in any form nor any communication sent out to its members. Although we can attend the event we cannot purchase alcohol. We now are been dictated all over again. I will be gracing the steps of Dail Eireann to veto this" private memo" regarding this ridiculous new policy. The perception they have of us survivors today has not changed and never will. I am extremely upset about everything that has gone on since these groups were formed. It’s the principle which matters in this case. Not the alcohol. and our basic rights as human beings . Talk about knocking people when they are down. The spirit of Christmas has been taken from us again.
Kiltegan congregation criticised in latest Church reports
325 Christian Brothers faced a total of 870 child abuse allegations from 50s to 70s
The Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) said “abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
The Kiltegan fathers religious congregation has been heavily criticised in the latest tranche of reviews on child protection carried out by the Catholic Church.
The Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) said, where St Patrick’sMissionary Society, Kiltegan, was concerned that “abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response.”
The reviews which also include six Catholic diocese and the Christian Brothers this morning, have been generally positive where the dioceses are concerned.
However the NBSC reviews has been very critical of past handling of allegations in most instances, particularly by the St Patrick’s Missionary Society based at Kiltegan, Co Wicklow and of the Christian Brothers.
It has disclosed that 325 Christian Brothers faced a total of 870 child abuse allegations most of which related to the 1950s, 60s, 70s period. All had been reported to the gardaí and health authorities with 12 Brothers convicted in the courts. The NBSC reviewers found that the Christian Brothers’ initial response to reporting allegations to the statutory agencies “was not systematic and was inadequate.”They also found that “in the vast majority of cases reviewed, the Christian Brothers did not have direct contact with the alleged victim and the files developed contained significant correspondence between legal representatives of the parties involved.”
This, they said, “was to the detriment of pastoral care and restorative practices, which the Province could provide.”
However the reviewers also met with representatives of the HSE and said they were “impressed by the positive working relationship between this agency and the Christian Brothers.” They go on to say that their review “clearly mirrors the historically progressive understanding the Christian Brothers have developed of child protection issues. It also reflects the positive attributes of their work and the extensive positive experiences they have of working with young people.“
For their part the Christian Brothers have pointed out that they have received juse one allegation against a member of the congregation in the past decade with a total of ninereceived this past 23 years.
Where St Patrick’s Missionary Society is concerned, it has received 50 allegatoins made against 14 members . All had been reported to police and one member convicted in the courts.
In a fairly damning observation about this congregation the NBSC reviewers said that “abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response.” They said it was “ important to emphasise that all children deserve the same respect and attention regardless of where they are geographically located, or of their ethnicity. The reviewers are concerned that this has not always been reflected in the practice of the SPMS (St Patrick’s Missionary Society), as detailed in the case files.” It gives examples to illustrate the point.
They also say that they “were not satisfied that canonical sanctions against many of the priests who are known to have abused children were being sought as a matter of course.”
The review also says that “there has been confusion in the SPMS with regard to confidentiality. It was reported to the reviewers that historically, the interpretation of ‘confidentiality’ had in effect been ‘secrecy’. As a consequence, there was real reluctance to share information about safeguarding matters in the Society.”
Christian Brother clerical abuse allegations 1975 - 2013
325 Christian Brothers accused of child abuse
870 abuse allegations were reported to the religious order
12 of the accused Brothers have been convicted of child abuse
145 of the Brothers who were accused of abuse have since died
49 of the Brothers who were accused of abuse are now retired
49 of the Brothers who were accused have since left ministry
1 of the Brothers who were accused of abuse is still in ministry
A team of reviewers examined files dating back to January 1975, and in its final report, the board stated: "The numbers of allegations and Brothers accused is substantial.
"The files read by the reviewers left them in no doubt that a great number of children were seriously abused by Brothers."
The NBSCCHI report has found that "the Christian Brothers' initial response to reporting allegations to the statutory agencies was not systematic and was inadequate".
However, it added that its auditors were "satisfied that the Christian Brothers now report promptly".
The report stated that police in the Republic of Ireland had expressed "satisfaction with the current reporting by the Christian Brothers".
'Safety and support'
The auditors also said they were "impressed by the positive working relationship" that the Christian Brothers had developed with health authorities in the Republic of Ireland.
With regard to serving Christian Brothers against whom an allegation of abuse was made, the auditors said they believed "that it is safer for children if those accused remain as part of a community and safety and support plans can be put in place".
In relation to the accused men who have since left the order, the report said details of the abuse allegations had been "passed to the civil authorities along with their last known address".
In 2009, the Christian Brothers issued an apology following a damning public inquiry into child abuse in Catholic-run institutions in the Republic of Ireland.
The order said it accepted the findings of the Ryan Commission "with shame" and was "deeply sorry for the hurt" the Christian Brothers had caused through abuse and its failure to respond to abuse allegations.
They contacted me to tell me of An Bord Pleanála’s decision not to go ahead with the proposed site for the memorial Journey of Light beside the Garden of Remembrance.
The memorial was one of the recommendations of 2009’s Ryan Report into child sex abuse. It documented and validated the stories of survivors of the horrendous physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of our children in state-run institutions in Ireland in the last century.
Paddy and Bernadette are two of the people on the board mandated to devise a process for selecting a memorial and an appropriate location. They contacted me because they know of the work I have done on the story of The Children of Lir over the past 20 years and of my interest in the proposed site.
They are very deflated and disappointed at the news, because of the huge commitment and dedication they and their colleagues on the board have given to the project.
Some time ago I contacted Paddy and subsequently Bernadette and told them about the findings from my master’s degree research on the story of The Fate of the Children of Lir. I have explored Irish myths and considered their contemporary relevance for the past 20 years, mainly at the Annual Bard Summer School on Clare Island in Co Mayo. I also worked for a number of years exploring the myth of The Children of Lir and its contemporary relevance with various focus groups. Myths were one way our ancestors made sense of the world. Myths have lasted the test of time and can inform our sense of ourselves and our world view in some deep way.
The Fate of the Children of Lir is one of the most abiding and best loved, if also poorly understood, myths from ancient Ireland. This is a story that has captured the imagination of parents and children, artists, poets, musicians, sculptors — even business entrepreneurs. Think of Oisín Kelly’s Children of Lir sculpture in the Garden of Remembrance for example, or Lir Chocolates.
The story appears all sweetness and light on the surface, but underneath lies a much darker tone. In a simmering tale of thwarted ambition, politically motivated match-making, a loveless marriage, deep resentment, and the tragic abuse of power, Aoife resolves to kill the four children of Lir. Failing in that ambition, she turns them into swans and curses them to spend 300 years each on Lake Derravarragh, the Sea of Moyle, and the Western Ocean. After 900 years, they return to human form. Old and wizened, they are baptised by the monk Mochaomhog before dying and being buried on Inis Ghloire.
Working through this story with many groups over the years, I have seen their surprise at the dark interpretations arising from what they had assumed to be a gentle childhood story. Examining the myth in depth brought observations on the unequal power relations, the use and abuse of power, the lack of respect for women, and on enforced silence in the face of the terrible suffering that victimised and virtually invisible children went through.
We know from anthropologists that the way people listen to stories is always in terms of their contemporary realities. The oral tradition is always about the here and now.
Our group analysis of The Children of Lir brought troubling associations with modern Irish history — with the treatment of women and children in industrial schools and Magdalene Laundries; dreadful abuses of power held over women and children; and the terrible effects that can arise — or rather that have arisen and still arise when society’s checks and balances are not fit for purpose.
So when I heard of the proposal to locate the memorial beside the Garden of Remembrance and that it would be linked with The Children of Lir sculpture, I thought it was a fitting symbol to redress the terrible story of The Children of Lir with a contemporary healing image of a Journey of Light. Having both symbols together could create the possibility, the space, for something better to emerge.
However, it would seem sadly, with the decision of An Bord Pleanála, that we are not ready to move out of the influence of the powerful myth of The Children of Lir even though we have many other ancient myths which could serve us much better. Myths which capture our ancestors’ understanding that a blend of wisdom, responsibility, and accountability is needed to balance the exercise of power. Having The Children of Lir and the Journey of Light together on one site, might have facilitated symbolically, the emergence of a new understanding.
* Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop is CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. 1800 77 88 88 — national 24-hour helpline for victims of sexual violence
Magdalene survivors living abroad are being told the minister for health is to consider looking after their health needs abroad as part of the planned redress scheme.
By Claire O'Sullivan
Irish Examiner Reporter
Last week, Minister Alan Shatter had said “in line with the recommendation of Judge Quirke these services will provided in the State” suggesting they would only be available to women living here and not those residing in Britain, US, Australia, Germany and Cyprus where some of the survivors now live.
This statement caused uproar with Justice for Magdalenes Research saying such a scheme would be “discriminatory” and was “beyond belief in this the Year of the Gathering”.
But in a response to a Dáil question from Sinn Féin deputy Mary McDonald, Minister Shatter yesterday appeared to stand back from last week’s comments.
“Legislation is required in order to implement Judge Quirke’s recommendation with regard to the provision of medical services to the women. The issue of providing medical services to women, eligible under the scheme, who reside outside the State will be considered by the minister for health,” he said.
Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said “making the necessary arrangement with other jurisdictions should not be a hurdle for government”.
“Inter-country arrangements for the provision of health services already exist within the EU and similar arrangements can be sought for the handful of women who now live in the US, Australia and Switzerland. Bilateral arrangements are already in place between Ireland and these countries on far more complex issues than providing health services for a dozen elderly women.”
Holy See says its policy is to keep such cases confidential
Pope Francis addresses the faithful as a pigeon flies by during the Angelus prayer at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday. The Vatican has refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church’s internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying that its policy was to keep such cases confidential. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA
The Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church’s internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying that its policy was to keep such cases confidential.
In response to a series of tough questions posed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.
The response of the Holy See, which will be directly questioned by the panel in January 2014, will be closely watched as it tries to draw a line under financial scandals and abuse by priests that have damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.
Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis has largely succeeded in changing the subject after the resignation of Benedict XVI in February.
The questions from the panel aimed to assess the Church’s adherence to the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty guaranteeing a full range of human rights for children which the Holy See has signed.
In its response the Vatican said internal disciplinary proceedings “are not open to the public” in order to protect “witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process”, but said this should not discourage victims from reporting crimes to state authorities.
However, it said state laws, including the obligation to report crimes, must be respected.
The Holy See noted it was “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and emphasised that it had changed the requirements for admitting candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops’ conferences to draw up guidelines to combat abuse.
But it indicated the Vatican could not be held responsible for the behaviour of institutions or individual Catholics around the world and said local bishops had the responsibility of ensuring children were protected.
“The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world,” the response read, indicating the Catholic Church’s central administration could only be held accountable for events within the Vatican City State.
The US-based advocacy group the Center for Constitutional Rights criticised the responses as too vague.
“In claiming it only bears responsibility for what happens inside Vatican City and blaming the lack of prevention ... on local governments, the Holy See has taken one of its most explicitly disingenuous and misleading positions on the issue to date,” the rights group said in a statement.
Fianna Fáil leader, Michael Martin, says “that just like the Church, the Republican movement saw the institution of the Republican movement as more important than individual victims.”
Considering that he is the leader of the ‘Republican party,’ does he include his party, past and present, in that statement? Fianna Fáil gave a sweet deal to the religious orders in the past, in relation to compensation for abuse victims.
Does he not see the hypocrisy of claiming that Republicans are more interested in the Republican movement than in individual victims, when he himself is using a high-profile abuse case for his own party’s political point-scoring?
Rather than get in a few cheap shots at Republicans, he would have been better-served commenting on why law and order in Northern Ireland didn’t act upon the abuse, and convict without putting others in danger.
Like his counterpart, Fine Gael leader and An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, Martin is quick to throw around individual names to attack Republicans, when it suits him and his party, yet scurries off into a dark corner when the going gets tough. Martin knows the facts of the case, the timeline of reporting, and the failings of the RUC investigation, yet he has distorted these and used Aine Adams’ ordeal as a stick with which to beat Republicans. It is beneath Martin, a man who aspires to be leader of this country, to crassly and contemptibly exploit an abuse victim’s suffering to further his own political ends.