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February 2014 Archives

Witness tells abuse inquiry how he confronted nun during alleged beating


Counsel told why he had written to local paper thanking those who ‘helped light up our lives’

St Joseph's Home,Termonbacca, in Derry: Witness said many people also did their best for those at the home.

St Joseph’s Home,Termonbacca, in Derry: Witness said many people also did their best for those at the home.

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 01:00

A witness at the North’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has told how he “had enough of the torture” from a named nun at a Derry boys’ home run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

However, he also insisted many people did their best for those at St Joseph’s, Termonbacca, and this was why he wrote a letter to the Derry Journal in 2004 praising those who “helped light up our lives”.

Struggling with his emotions, the anonymous witness told the inquiry’s senior counselChristine Smith he could take no more beatings with an electric flex from a named nun and physically confronted her.

“I just couldn’t take it any more, I was beaten so severely with that flex,” he said.

‘Put up resistance’

“I put up resistance, stopped her, disarmed her, restrained her, let her break free. She came back at me with a dustpan brush.”

He continued: “At the end of it, she came at me with a pair of scissors, I was able to disarm her and restrain her. I told her, ‘you are not going to beat me again – ever’. She realised she could not get the better of me. I never got beaten again.”

He believed that when he was aged about seven, he was sedated by nuns because he and some other boys were hyper-active. “I don’t know to this day what that medication was. Within a short period I had to go and lie down. It was that potent.”

The inquiry was shown a statement from one of the nuns which contradicted many of the claims of force-feeding, humiliation and physical abuse.

The witness said she was a “congenital liar”.

“I can confirm that I never struck a child across the face,” she said, or used an implement to strike a child.

The witness said “She is turning into Sister Amnesia now.”

Shown the letter to the Derry Journal in which he thanked the Sister of Nazareth, the witness was asked about its tone.


He said it mentioned only those who were kind to him but not the named nuns. He said he thanked the nuns who gave up their lives to help others.

“It wasn’t all a nightmare either,” he said. “What you’ve heard me say is generally about one woman who was very cruel to me and she gets no recognition in that letter. But there were other people in that letter who I wanted to name who were good to me.”

“What you’ve heard from me today is the truth.”

Earlier, another witness broke down as she recalled a conversation she had with another person who had been in care at the Derry home and who later took his own life.

She cried openly as she recalled that the man whom she knew from her time at the home told her he had been anally raped after he had been transferred to another care home in Kircubben, Co Down.

“He came to see me the day before he hung himself,” she told the inquiry. “[He] told me the day before he committed suicide that he had been anally raped in Rubane House.”


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'Termonbacca beatings left me deaf'


Abuse inquiry: 

TermonbaccaSt Joseph's Home, Termonbacca, was run by the Sisters of Nazareth order of nuns

A former resident of St Joseph's Catholic children's home, Termonbacca, has told the Historical Abuse Inquiry that he is partially deaf because of the beatings he received there.

Michael McMoran said one nun targeted him for 10 years, hitting him about the head with a brush, mop or tree branch.

The 53-year-old told the inquiry, sitting in Banbridge, that one nun lost her temper and he was her scapegoat.

In a statement, the nun said she had not beaten him with a stick or a strap.

She said she was surprised that he had made such allegations.

When that statement was read to Mr McMoran, who has waived his right to anonymity, he said: "She's a liar."

Michael McMoran said he is partially deaf because of the beatings he received at St Joseph's Catholic children's home

He described the nun as "wicked".

Later, the inquiry heard from a 44-year-old woman who said she had been sexually abused by a priest while she was at Termonbacca children's home.

Allison Diver, who has also waived her right to anonymity, said the priest abused her several times.

In a statement to the inquiry, she said that on one occasion when he assaulted her, she vomited and the nuns made her clean it up.

She never told anyone that the abuse had taken place, the inquiry heard.

Ms Diver said she did not tell told social workers anything, adding that "you learned to sit there and shut up because they could move you to 40 homes".

The priest has given a statement to the inquiry denying all allegations against him.

Afterwards, Ms Diver told the BBC it had been terrifying at the beginning to give evidence to the inquiry.

Allison Diver, who has waived her right to anonymity, said the priest abused her several timesAllison Diver, who has waived her right to anonymity, said the priest abused her several times

"I can't believe I was strong and I was able to go through it and I feel so so much better for being able to do it," she said.

"It actually starts to help make sense of things in my own head now. It takes away the keys and locks that I would be putting on my own memories."

She said she had not expected the priest to admit the alleged abuse.

"It would have been nice if he had admitted it, but I would never be lucky that way," she said.

"Although it would have been easier to close the chapter by him being able to say: 'I did that and I'm sorry'."

The inquiry is investigating abuse claims against children's residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

Termonbacca and another Derry home, Nazareth House, were run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

The inquiry, being held in Banbridge, County Down, is chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart and is considering cases in 13 residential institutions.

Public hearings are due to finish in June 2015, with the inquiry team to report to the Northern Ireland Executive by the start of 2016.

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Ruairí Quinn looks for another €230m from religious orders


Government wants the funds to help cover child abuse redress costs

 Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn: 'The response has been disappointing.' Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn: ‘The response has been disappointing.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 01:12

The Government will intensify efforts to secure a further €230 million from religious orders to cover the cost of institutional abuse after the official redress body indicated its work would be largely complete by the end of April.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn briefed the Cabinet yesterday on the remaining work of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which had 468 remaining applications to process and a further 17 late submissions to consider at the end of 2013.

The board was established in 2002. With the overwhelming majority of cases to be finalised in the next two months, at an estimated cost of some €1.46 billion, attention is turning once again to the 18 religious orders concerned.

The Minister wrote to the orders in October seeking a big increase in their contribution but he was unhappy with the reply. “The response has been disappointing,” Mr Quinn’s spokeswoman said.

He expects to report back to Government on this matter in due course. There was a unanimous Dáil resolution in 2009 to seek a fair sharing of redress costs.

The orders have to date provided some €500 million between property, cash and other contributions. However, the Government believes they should provide another €230 million to bring the total to €730 million. This would constitute half the €1.46 billion, with the remainder borne by the State.

Mr Quinn presented the 2012 annual report of the redress board to the Cabinet yesterday. By the end 2012, awards of €903.8 million had been concluded with a further €166.1 million awarded in costs.

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Former priest, 85, admits multiple sex offences after 20 years on the run



Francis Paul Cullen was extradited back to the UK from Spain after the church and local safeguarding boards tracked him down
Playa de las Teresitas
Francis Paul Cullen spent 20 years in Spain after fleeing Britain. The Catholic church tracked him down to Tenerife. Photograph: Marco Simoni/Getty Images

An 85-year-old former Catholic priest has admitted sexually assaulting seven children, including altar boys, after spending more than 20 years on the run in Spain.

Francis Paul Cullen was extradited back to the UK last year to face the charges after being traced to Tenerife. The Catholic Church and its safeguarding board helped police to trace Cullen, who was found to have attended mass at a church in Playa de las Americas every Sunday.

On Monday Cullen, looking frail in the dock, pleaded guilty to 21 charges at Derby crown court. The offences, committed between 1957 and 1991 on children aged between six and 16, took place while Cullen was a practising priest in Mackworth, Derbyshire, and later Buxton, Derbyshire, and Hyson Green, Nottinghamshire. Cullen pleaded guilty to 15 counts of indecent assault, five of indecency with a child and one of attempted buggery.

Judge Jonathan Gosling told Cullen, who was born in Dublin, that a "very substantial" custodial sentence was inevitable.

Prosecutor Sarah Knight told the court Cullen was extradited from Tenerife last year on a European arrest warrant containing a series of charges of sexual abuse. She said further complainants had come forward and, because of the European arrest warrant, they had needed to seek the permission of the Spanish authorities to charge Cullen with further offences. But Cullen agreed to the further charges, meaning they no longer needed to seek the authorities' approval, the prosecutor told the court.

Following the guilty verdicts, the judge adjourned sentencing until 24 March. Cullen was remanded in custody.

Speaking after the verdict, Detective Constable Matt Goodwin, from Derbyshire Police, said: "I would very much like to thank the victims of this case for coming forward to the police. It is due to them that Cullen had today pleaded guilty to the offences. Without their help and support, this man would still not have been brought to justice."

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Church still evades moral accountability

The Government has failed to persuade the congregations that ran harsh and unforgiving residential institutions to share responsibility for the crimes and cruelties perpetrated against the children who lived there.




BLOCKED ACCESS: Desmond Connell, when Archbishop of Dublin, went to the High Court to prevent the release of files on clerical sexual abusers. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins/>
BLOCKED ACCESS: Desmond Connell, when Archbishop of Dublin, went to the High Court to prevent the release of files on clerical sexual abusers. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

OVER generations, bishops and their clergy helped to shape a society that banished women to Magdalene Laundries, sent troubled and impoverished children to industrial schools and shielded paedophile priests. Babies born out of wedlock were shipped abroad for adoption and unmarried teachers who got pregnant outside of marriage were sacked.e

As the novelist LP Hartley wrote, the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there,While the Catholic Church and the organisations within it may have apologised for past sins, in many ways, they are still refusing to share collective responsibility for the failings of the past.

When Judge Yvonne Murphy began her long investigation into child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese, she soon discovered that one of the biggest obstacles to her work was the very organisation she was investigating.

Cardinal Desmond Connell – Archbishop for many of the crucial years – went to the High Court to stop her from getting access to the files on clerical sexual abusers in the vaults of Archbishop's Palace in Dublin.

His successor, Diarmuid Martin, who wanted to release the files, paid the elderly cardinal a quiet visit. Afterwards, the cardinal dropped the legal challenge.

When the Murphy report was finally published in 2011, one of its findings was that Cardinal Desmond Connell was more likely to listen to his lawyers than to the victims of clerical sex abuse.

That attitude persists.

Last week, the Christian Brothers contested a damages claim by a young man who was abused by a brother who is now dead. The religious order didn't dispute that the brother had sexually abused the eight-year-old boy, or that the man's history as an abuser had been blithely ignored by his superiors. Or that the boy had been abused repeatedly in the grounds of the Christian Brothers in Artane, Dublin, beginning when he was eight.

The Christian Brothers argued that they were not liable for the damage and suffering that the boy endured into manhood. And the victim should really have taken the case much sooner. Legally, you see, they claimed he had missed the boat in bringing the case so late in the day.

The High Court judge ordered the Christian Brothers to pay the man €370,000 in damages, making a point of saying that he was a truthful witness who had been "severely abused" and suffered "significant trauma".

Religious orders continue to challenge the notion of collective responsibility.

The Government has failed to persuade the congregations that ran harsh and unforgiving residential institutions to share responsibility for the crimes and cruelties perpetrated against the children who lived there.

The State came up with the Redress Scheme for former residents who were abused 13 years ago, and asked the religious orders to contribute financially. After protracted negotiations conducted through the organisation, Conference of Religious in Ireland, the religious orders capped their contribution at €128m.

The claims bill soared. The final bill is expected to be €1.46bn. The Government wants the religious orders to pay half of that, or €730m. The religious orders' final offer is €480m.

Some said they can't pay more, because of the property crash. Others, such as the Sisters of Mercy, flatly refused.

Ruairi Quinn, the Minister for Education, has been chasing down the 18 religious orders named in the Ryan report on residential institutional abuse since last July. At the time, he told them: "Putting it bluntly, I believe that there is a moral responsibility on your congregations to significantly augment your contributions."

By September, he admitted the Government had "got nowhere". According to the department's figures, the orders had actually paid over €175m, and there are all sorts of legal difficulties over many of the properties they promised to sign over to the State to contribute towards the bill.

The Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, meanwhile, continues to chase nuns for a financial contribution to the compensation fund for the women who worked in Magdalene Laundries.

He asked the four religious congregations who ran the laundries for a contribution last June. They politely replied that on reflection they wouldn't be making a contribution.

He wrote to them a month later to say how disappointed he was. The religious orders – the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd – wouldn't budge.

When the UN published a report recently urging the Vatican to investigate the laundries and to pay compensation to the victims, the minister wrote to the religious orders again. He is awaiting a reply.

One of the most disturbing findings of Judge Murphy's report – that Catholic priests and bishops colluded with state authorities and gardai to shield paedophile clergy – has gone unpunished.

The then Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, launched an investigation to establish whether the failings of the church and state authorities "amounted to criminal behaviour".

A dozen detectives led by an assistant commissioner interviewed 800 witnesses over three years, but ultimately no one was prosecuted.

The new child protection laws in place didn't apply when the alleged offences occurred. The case was closed last year.

One man who is more familiar than most with the Catholic Church's current attitude to child protection is Ian Elliott.

He was the chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) for six years.

He was a critical and outspoken watchdog, unafraid of challenging the Catholic hierarchy. He produced some damning reports and audits on how the church was still falling short on child protection measures – and some positive ones.

One bishop accused Mr Elliott of spinning against the Catholic Church – a serious charge that was later withdrawn. Mr Elliott's contract was not renewed and he retired from the NBSCCC last summer.

In this newspaper last week, Mr Elliott said the Catholic Church was "covertly" trying to limit the work of its own child protection watchdog.

He claimed religious bodies were consistently cutting the funding of the NBSCCC and further probes were "starved of resources". He could "see no justification" for this "other than a desire to limit the role of the board by covert means".

In some ways this is not surprising. The current head of the Catholic Church in Ireland is a man who swore to secrecy two children who had been abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

Cardinal Sean Brady was a 36-year-old canonical lawyer when he was involved in a secret church inquiry into Smyth in the mid-Seventies. The inquiry found against Smyth, but he was allowed to continue his rampage against children under the cloak of the Catholic Church for many years.

Cardinal Brady was silent on this throughout the public discourse on clerical sex abuse. When his role became public as part of a legal action, he said he had been there only to take notes. He has publicly apologised to the victim concerned and resisted demands for his resignation. He will retire in his own time later this year.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is said to be enjoying a mini renaissance since the election of Pope Francis, with a surge in crowds visiting the Vatican.

It may take a while for the mood to catch on in Ireland.

Sunday Independent



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We are not alone in our inhumanity to children



At least we were not alone in treating orphans and children belonging to unmarried mothers abominably in the past.

At least ten thousand children, many as young as four, were dispatched from British Orphanages between 1947 and 1967 to Australia by child welfare groups, like the Salvation Army, Barnardos and the Christian Brothers. With the best of intentions it was felt that the children would have the chance of a better life in a country that was warm and sunny and needed labour — but the actions often lacked tact. 

Siblings were frequently parted, never to meet again and many of the children had no notion of what was happening to them. In his book, Orphans of the Empire, Alan Gill notes how one little boy, seeing a sign announcing the mustering point for the Barnado’s party was thrilled, because he presumed party meant cake, another enquired as to whether they would be home in time for tea. 

The Australian government at the time removed children from their aborigine parents against their will. White settlers also committed genocide against indigenous people who had lived there for 60 years. The same crimes were committed against the indigenous people of the USA. So it seems man’s inhumanity to man has no boundaries. 

Gordon Cunningham 
Dublin 13

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved


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Govt urged to deliver on Magdalene promises


Wednesday 19 February 2014 14.17
1 of 2
Wreaths were laid at the gates of Leinster House on the anniversary of the Taoiseach's apology
Wreaths were laid at the gates of Leinster House on the anniversary of the Taoiseach's apology

A group of former Magdalene laundry workers laid wreaths at the gates of Leinster House this afternoon in protest against what they called the Government's inadequate response to their plight.

They were marking the first anniversary of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's apology to all former inmates of Magdalene homes.

Meanwhile, the National Women's Council said many of the survivors have yet to receive a penny from the State.

It called on the Government to deliver on its promises of full restorative justice for them without further delay.

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High Court orders Christian Brothers to pay €370,000 to victim of child abuse


Judge finds congregation took no steps ‘whatsoever’ to supervise abusive brother

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said witness had been 'severly abused' in a manner that caused 'significant trauma'.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said witness had been ‘severly abused’ in a manner that caused ‘significant trauma’.

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 01:00

In what is believed to be the highest court settlement in a child abuse case in Ireland, aHigh Court judge has ordered the Christian Brothers congregation to pay €370,000 damages following sexual abuse of the “most extreme” kind inflicted on a young boy over a five-year period in the 1980s by a since deceased brother.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross found negligent failure by the congregation in taking no steps “whatsoever” to supervise the brother or prevent him getting access to a vulnerable child, despite having “full knowledge” the brother had previously abused other young boys.

Even by the standards of the 1980s, the congregation ought to have put in place a system to watch and monitor the brother to ensure he did not have access to this boy or any others, the judge said. There was no evidence of any system put in place or any treatment of this brother that differentiated him from a vast majority of non-abusive brothers, he said.

Despite the brother having been given a canonical warning in 1960 relating to abuse, it seemed clear the congregation proceeded to treat him in precisely the same manner as every other member of their congregation, the judge said.

This negligence resulted in the boy being grievously assaulted over a prolonged period of time with significant adverse consequences to him, he said.

The abuse suffered was among the most extreme he had seen in his legal career and had caused severe injury affecting the man throughout his life, the judge added.

In evidence to the court, the man, now 42, said the abuse began when he was eight in a Christian Brothers premises in Artane, Dublin, after he had volunteered to help out with gardening. The abuse happened in a store room, a basement and a room overlooking rose beds between three to five times a week in the early 1980s, he said. The brother had also fondled him when he visited him in a convalescent home before his death in 1986.

In his proceedings, he alleged the congregation was responsible for the management and control of the brother.

Historical knowledge
The congregation, he alleged, failed to implement any or any suitable or adequate code of ethics or rules of good practice for Christian Brothers in relation to contact with children despite their historical knowledge of the sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the congregation. He alleged the congregation had breached a duty of care on grounds they were aware or ought to have been aware on December 8th, 1960 that the brother had been given a formal canonical warning by his superiors on account of him “interfering incorrectly with boys”.

The congregation did not dispute that the man had been sexually abused but it denied negligence and liability and also pleaded the claim was brought outside the legal time limits.

In his judgment, the judge said he wanted to make clear he accepted the man’s evidence and that he was a truthful witness who had been “severely abused” in a manner that caused him “significant trauma”.


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Magdalene laundries - Pay up now



Catholics, and many who are not, must be heartily weary of the never-ending litany of cases involving people abused by clerics.

Just yesterday a man abused by a Christian Brother in the 1980s was awarded €370,000 in a case that revealed extreme cruelty.

Part of reconciling the horrors of the past with the possibility of the future is acknowledging a debt and then discharging it. 

It is therefore very unfortunate that so many women who suffered well-documented hardship in the Magdalene laundries are still waiting for compensation promised by the State. 

The money is important but the vindication it represents may be even more important to people who suffered so much and were for so very long disbelieved.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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'Subterfuge' claim after laundries victims asked to sign waivers



The Department of Justice has defended asking victims of the Magdalene laundries to sign waivers accepting “all the terms” of the a redress scheme which it has yet to fully legislate for.

Justice for Magdalenes Research has hit out at the “subterfuge” being employed by the Government in providing justice to victims of the laundries. 

The group pointed out that the department is writing to women offering formal lump sum payments, while stating that all other aspects of the scheme remain subject to legislation or discussions with other Government departments. 

Despite the fact that the full terms of the scheme are not finalised, women are requested to sign a waiver accepting “all the terms of the scheme” and waiving “any right of action against the State or any public or statutory body or agency” arising out of their time in a Magdalene laundry. 

However, in a statement issued to the Irish Examiner, the department defended the waivers, stating they were recommended by Justice Quirke as a pre-condition of receiving benefits under the scheme. It also defended asking people to formally accept the terms of a scheme it has not yet finalised. 

“All 12 recommendations of Judge Quirke are going to be implemented but priority is being given to processing applications and making lump sum payments. Even with this, of the 12 recommendations, nine have been or are being implemented, two require legislation which is under preparation, and the remaining recommendation is a longer-term issue which will be addressed after processing of applications has been completed.” 

The department also said that if women wish to postpone a decision on the scheme until after legislation has been enacted, this could be facilitated. 

However, JFM Research said the “opaqueness” of the scheme meant there were survivors who were unaware that they could postpone accepting their offers and were signing quickly in fear of missing out on the compensation they are entitled to. 

“JFM Research is gravely concerned that information regarding the mechanics of the scheme is being ‘drip-fed’ into the public domain via the media, instead of a comprehensive survivor-friendly guide to the scheme. While the State may be eager to be seen to provide compensation to Magdalene survivors, members of government ought to take a moment to ensure it is happening in a manner that does not further injure those whom the scheme purports to benefit,” said a statement. 

The group published a supplementary survivor guide to the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme in response to some survivors’ “confusion and distress in the manner in which the scheme is being rolled out”.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved


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Just 33% of Magdalene survivors get redress



Less than one-third of Magdalene Laundry survivors have received compensation from the State — one year after Taoiseach Enda Kenny apologised to victims in the Dáil.

The Department of Justice has said it has received 684 applications from women who were incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries run by the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. 

The department has issued 300 letters of formal offer and another 32 provision assessments have been issued. A total of 206 women have accepted the formal offer and payments of €5.6m have been issued. 

None of the 684 applicants have, to date, received their statutory, old-age pensions or health care benefits. 

The Department of Justice has said it is currently finalising the drafting of the necessary legislation to provide the medical provisions recommended in the Quirke report. 

Steven O’Riordan, Magdalene Survivors Together, expressed concern that survivors were being offered lesser amounts of compensation than they were entitled to due to the records of the Orders not matching the accounts of the women in terms of duration of stay. 

“Some women are being offered amounts reflecting months spent in a laundry rather than years they say they were there. Why is the word of the Orders taken when McAleese himself acknowledged there were gaps in the records? These women’s stories have been consistent for almost a decade we have been campaigning. The Taoiseach himself said he believed the women in his apology, yet it’s the Orders word that is taken,” he said. 

Mr O’Riordan said the processing of applications for redress should have been done by an independent body as currently all the women have gotten from the Department of Justice is “delay after delay”. 

Sally Mulready of the Irish Women’s Support Network (IWSN) in Britain said she believed the Government is doing its “level best” to process the applications as quickly as possible. 

“To be perfectly honest, it took 14 years for any action to be taken. All those years of asking the questions and knocking on doors to try and even get an acknowledgement and one year after the apology, look at where we are. It’s a slow process but speeding through this isn’t always helpful. My experience on the ground is that everybody from the Taoiseach to the Department of Justice are doing their level best to process the applications as quickly as possible,” she said. 

Ms Mulready said it was important to look at the wider issue of how far the campaign had come and said survivors based in Britain are “really pleased” with the progress to date, but acknowledged that the issue of pensions had not been resolved yet. 

Head of Outreach with the National Womens Council of Ireland Rachel Doyle said the Government has “failed to deliver” on many of the elements it promised to survivors.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved


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Denying adoption records 'horrific'



President calls on the State and institutions to provide information

President Michael D Higgins has said it is “horrific” that basic information is denied to adopted people and called on the State to act on adoption rights.

President Higgins said there was a “responsibility” on the State and other institutions involved in adoption to provide adequate information to people seeking their identities.

“The one thing that I think is horrific, where information has been denied, where there has been no attempt to meet the reasonable request of people for basic information where the State has been responsible, the State has to take responsibility,” said the President. “Where institutions have been responsible, they have to take responsibility.” 

Speaking to Newstalk, President Higgins said, in terms of dealing with the abuses of the past, the narrative that “you must forgive” has been “too easily trotted out” to people that have been hurt in Ireland. 

He also said a sympathetic statement from Government, followed by an attitude of “let’s move on”, is not a satisfactory response to reasonable requests for basic information. 

He was addressing the launch of his Ethics Initiative, 50 events aimed at increasing awareness and discussion of ethics in Ireland. 

Co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan, said: “When someone such as President Michael D Higgins, who enjoys an international reputation for highlighting human rights abuses, puts the focus on the continued role of the State and the Catholic Church in perpetuating abuses relating to adoption, it must surely force the current government and children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald to act promptly and appropriately.” 

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Ms Fitzgerald said her department was preparing tracing and information legislation, but it would be constrained by constitutional and legal issues stemming from a Supreme Court ruling that found the mother’s right to privacy would have to be balanced against the adopted person’s right to know their identity. 

Adopted people and natural parents consistently say the proposed law does not go far enough in granting access to adoption records. 

Ms Lohan said recent comments from the minister on adoption rights were indicative of a “department in full retreat” from the issue. 

She expressed concern at Ms Fitzgerald’s recent statement that all adoptions under the State post-1952 were in line with the legislation, when some of the agencies regulated by the then Adoption Board publicly admitted to facilitating illegal adoptions.

“The 1952 Adoption Act had nothing to do with child welfare,” said Ms Lohan. “It was an example of the crudest form of social engineering any state could engage in. This act saw the creation of a quasi-judicial body, the Adoption Board, now the Adoption Authority, whose sole raison d’être is to sever permanently the parent-child bond between the unmarried mother and her non-marital child. 

“And why? Not because these unmarried mothers had a record of unspeakable crimes towards other children, not because they were mentally or physically deficient but merely because of their marital status.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved


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Religious bodies 'undermined work of child abuse watchdog'



Chief Executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children Ian Elliott on his way into RTE studios to talk about the Seven reports reviewing child protection practices in a number of Ireland's Catholic dioceses and religious orders. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland/>
Chief Executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children Ian Elliott on his way into RTE studios to talk about the Seven reports reviewing child protection practices in a number of Ireland's Catholic dioceses and religious orders. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE Government's lead adviser on child protection has expressed "profound concern" after a former Catholic Church watchdog accused religious bodies of using "covert means" to limit its investigations.

The sensational claims were made by Ian Elliott, who authored several high-profile reports on the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in various dioceses.

He told the Sunday Independent that the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, which he led until last year, was being undermined by religious bodies consistently cutting its funding.

Mr Elliott believes that efforts have been made to curtail further probes by starving investigators of resources.

He said he could "see no justification" for this "other than a desire to limit the role of the board by covert means".

The remarks have already prompted major concerns in political circles.

The Government's lead adviser on child protection, special rapporteur Geoffrey Shannon, said it was essential that there be a strong, well-funded oversight mechanism for the Catholic Church.

"I think it would be a matter of profound concern if funding was to be cut at the expense of ensuring a robust child protection system," he told this newspaper.

Oireachtas Health and Children Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer also weighed into the row last night, calling on the religious bodies to explain why the funding had been cut.

"There is a need for an explanation. If someone of the stature and calibre of Ian Elliott is raising concerns it is a very serious issue," he said.

Mr Elliott's comments will come as a major embarrassment to the Catholic hierarchy as it seeks to put an end to years of scandal over its handling of child sexual abuse.

Although the safeguarding board is independent, it is funded by three major Catholic bodies – the Conference of Religious in Ireland, the Irish Missionary Union and the Irish Bishops' Conference.

The funding bodies declined to comment on the allegations, but company records reveal that funding for the board was consistently cut in the latter part of Mr Elliott's tenure, slumping from €678,000 in 2010 to €596,000 in 2012.

Mr Elliott was also deeply critical of the insistence by church authorities that the board must be invited into Catholic bodies to conduct investigations.

"Ideally, the board should be given the authority to require access where they believe circumstances warrant it," said Mr Elliott.

He added that there had been a history of "cover-up" in the Catholic Church and it was important that structures now be put in place which would no longer allow this to happen.

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Sunday Independent

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Statement from the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy 20th July 2013



20 July 2013



           Statement from the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy 

20 July 2013 

On 26 June last the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy welcomed the publication of the Report of Mr Justice John Quirke on the establishment of an ex gratia scheme for the benefit of those women who were admitted to and worked in the Magdalene Laundries. The Congregation pledged its cooperation with all recommendations of the Report which touched on our involvement in such a scheme. We would like to renew our invitation to anyone who may have spent time in our care, to come and meet with us, if they so wish. 

In advance of the announcement by the Government that it will fulfil the recommendations of Mr Justice Quirke, our Congregation had given its commitment to Minister Shatter that it would cooperate in the manner envisaged by Mr Justice Quirke. We clarified that we would not contribute financially to the State Scheme. We reminded Minister Shatter that our Congregation has provided care to women who spent time with us in many different contexts throughout our history and that we will continue to do so in ways that accord with our mission. 

As taxpayers who donate their net salaries/pensions to our charitable funds, our Sisters share in the burden of all citizens in responding to women for whom, in past decades, admission to Magdalene Laundries was seen as appropriate refuge. 

A national newspaper, on Thursday last, reported incorrectly on the amount that our Congregation has contributed to the Statutory Fund for former residents of child care institutions. Since 2009 our Congregation has contributed in excess of €21.7 million in cash to the State towards the Statutory Fund, a far different sum to that of €1.6 million stated by the newspaper. 

The €21.7m cash already paid is part of a larger contribution offered by our Congregation and valued in December 2009 at in excess of €127.5 million. The Congregation has been steadfast in its efforts to bring about the complete implementation of its contribution to the State. We urge Government to ensure that unnecessary delays in the implementation of this contribution are avoided to the greatest extent possible.

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There was never any point in screaming or crying. We would just be hit'


Katie Walmsley who gave evidence to the Historical Abuse inquiry in Belfast, talks to Sinéad O’Shea

Margaret McGuckian (left) and Katie Walmsley

Margaret McGuckian (left) and Katie Walmsley


Katie’s mother left her family when she was eight years old. Her father moved the family to his hometown, Derry, where a local priest suggested that the best place for Katie would be a children’s home run by the nuns.

There, her “duty” was to clean the toilets. Sometimes she would be called from class to come and unblock a toilet, lifting excrement out with her hands. She would scrape it off the wall with her fingernails. The nuns made her sleep beside the door because she was too “smelly” to sleep further inside the dormitory.

One day at confession, the priest called her by her name. “ I thought God must have told him that it was me. I was one side of the box. He took me into the wee middle of the box. Then he sat me on his knee, starting touching me down there and told me to run along.”

The abuse escalated and by the time she was 12, he had raped her.

Her weekly bath was filled with Jeyes Fluid. It used to take place soon after the abuse. She’ll never forget the pain around her private parts. She would stand up after the bath and think that she was about to pass out.

“There was never any point in screaming or crying. We would just be hit.”

I met Katie Walmsley in Belfast where she was getting ready to testify before the Inquiry into Historical Abuse last Wednesday, February 12th. Katie is a small, delicate woman in her fifties. She is certain now that the nuns knew about the priest’s abuse.

There was shock initially that such things could have happened in Northern Irelandwhich was Protestant run and apparently freer of Catholic influence. Actually, the relationship between Protestantism and Catholicism may have helped facilitate them.

Jon McCort, a peace campaigner from Derry, who was also a “home boy”, believes that the authorities often knew and didn’t want to act. He thinks that some of this might have been linked to housing policy in Derry at the time which was linked to votes. The more Catholics who got state housing, the more votes they would have. Putting Catholics into institutions reduced the list.

Journalist Eamon McCann told Al Jazeera English recently that he thinks it suited both the Church and the Protestant government to work together on this. It kept children off the streets, out of Republicanism and provided an income to the Church.

Accordingly, the nuns were paid child benefit. Though, as Katie remembers, they would still scream into their faces that they were being forced to “beg” to feed them.

The children were given pig slops to eat. Many of the girls used to get sick. The nuns told them they were vomiting their souls up. Katie recalls being made to eat her own vomit. She has been suffering from bulimia intermittently since.

I once spoke with the late Mary Raftery about how children could have been dehumanised in Ireland to this extent. She felt it was related to the culture of the time. People were very poor and terrified of further impoverishment. These children represented the “lowest” rung of the ladder. The clergy could do exactly as they wished to them. Few really cared.

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Nun at Derry home 'facilitated' abuse by priest, woman tells inquiry


Two victims waive anonymity to reveal abuse at religious-run homes in North

One witness repeatedly broke down yesterday as she described abuse she suffered at the Sisters of Nazareth home in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride.

One witness repeatedly broke down yesterday as she described abuse she suffered at the Sisters of Nazareth home in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride.

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 01:00

A woman waived her right to anonymity at Northern Ireland’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry yesterday to reveal allegations of beatings and sex abuse at a home in Derry run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

Kate Walmsley, now in her late 50s, further alleged that a nun identified to the inquiry facilitated the abuse by one of the priests. She said when the girls at Nazareth House residential care home queued for confession on a Saturday, this nun would ensure she was at the end of the line.

Junior counsel to the inquiry Joseph Aiken asked her: “So you felt she knew what was happening and she put your hand into the priest’s hand?”

“Yes,” she replied.

Ms Walmsley said the priest brought her into his side of the confessional and abused her.

The witness repeatedly broke down. At one point, inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hartsuspended proceedings to allow her to recover.

When she returned, she confirmed various allegations contained in a lengthy statement which has been submitted to the inquiry. This included allegations of beatings carried out by senior girls at the institution and by nuns.

She told the inquiry how a nun had force-fed her during a meal, causing her to get sick. The nun, she alleged, then forced her to eat her own vomit. She said nuns told her she was carrying a mortal sin on her soul.

“I thought my mortal sin was the biggest mortal sin,” she told the inquiry. “I thought the devil would come and take us away.”

She described sex abuse by her peers over a three-month period, saying some girls touched her sexually and forced her to touch them.

She also told the inquiry of the horror of being bathed after an episode of abuse. “If you could understand an eight-year-old who had just been sexually abused by a priest, then put into a bath with Jeyes Fluid and it stinging my insides,” Ms Walmsley said.

“It was worse than any labour pains I ever had. You had to take that and not scream because you would have been beaten.”

A second witness told the inquiry chairman he was sick of hiding behind anonymity and wanted his name put to his testimony.

John Heaney detailed repeated sexual abuse by an older boy who was also a resident at St Joseph’s, Termonbacca.

“He is the only one that ever sexually abused me. Others would have given you a good thumping.”

Mr Heaney said some of the nuns were “monsters” and said that one in particular was “a vile, vile woman” who was “just pure evil”.

He said beatings by the nuns were “random”, and that there was a hierarchy among older boys, and this was wanted by the nuns to keep control.

He said he got beatings from two nuns who beat him on every part of his body.

The final witness said he couldn’t accept that apologies issued subsequently by nuns were sincere. “I think they were religious fanatics who hadn’t a clue how to bring up children.”

When he left the home as a teenager, the witness said he now believes he was “sold” to a farming family in the Republic.

“I worked seven days a week and worked from morning to night and got paid £3 a week.”

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Payments for Magdalene women



Sir, – The authors of “Broken promises and delays for Magdalenes” (Opinion, February 6th) make the serious charges of delay, subterfuge and broken promises relating to the implementation of the ex-gratia scheme established by Government for the benefit of women who resided and worked in the Magdalene Laundries. I would like to set the record straight.

Just three months after taking office as Minister, I sought and received, in June 2011, Government approval to establish an interdepartmental group, chaired by (then) Senator Martin McAleese to establish the facts, insofar as was possible, relating to the Laundries.

Senator McAleese’s comprehensive report was published in February 2013 and was followed by an apology by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny to the Magdalene women on behalf of the State. Mr Justice John Quirke was asked by Government to make recommendations on an ex-gratia scheme to be established to meet the needs of the women concerned. He reported in May 2013 and all of his recommendations were accepted by Government in June. A team of civil servants was tasked with devising the most practical and expeditious methods of implementing the recommendations and reported to Government in October 2013.

To date, nine out of Judge Quirke’s 12 recommendations have been or are presently being implemented; two require legislation which is currently under preparation. The remaining recommendation (No 6) relates to longer term issues which will be addressed on completion of the processing of applications to the Scheme (the full Quirke report is available on ).

Among his recommendations, Judge Quirke set out a schedule of payments to be made to the women concerned and, to date, 684 applications have been received and 300 letters of formal offer and a further 32 provisional assessments have been issued; 206 women have accepted the formal offer; and payments totalling over €5.6 million have so far been made.

The authors of the Opinion piece also mention being in touch with many women who feel “confused and anxious” about the scheme’s “opaqueness”. There is a team of nine people in my department whose sole task is to help the women with their applications and answer their queries. This includes, I should add, reassuring women who telephoned subsequent to the February 6th piece, unnecessarily worried, having read it, that they would not receive money due to them under the scheme.

The authors of the Opinion piece seem also to suggest that it is unfair that each woman has to sign a waiver before acceptance into the Scheme but do not mention that it was Judge Quirke himself who recommended that such waiver should form part of the scheme. Moreover, to ensure that the waiver is fully understood, an amount of up to €500 (plus VAT) is provided to pay for independent legal advice for any woman who wishes to seek such advice prior to signing the waiver.

146 applicants currently reside abroad and 90 per cent of these live in the UK. A grant of €250,000 has been made to the UK-based Women Survivors Support Network to provide advice and support to those resident there. A recent letter received by me from Sally Mulready, who has worked for many years with Magdalen women in the UK, states: “We are having an excellent response from the women themselves who appreciate very much that this is a generous settlement and the work to bring their claims to fruition is fast and efficient.”

With regard to the provision of medical services, Judge Quirke does not state that the women should receive private health care. He recommended they should have access to the same range of services as enjoyed by holders of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 card. The necessary legislation is included on the priority list of the Government Legislation Programme for the spring/summer 2014. Details of exactly what services will be provided, and where and how they will be provided is being determined by the Department of Health.

This Government, unlike its predecessors, responded in a prompt, considered and practical way to the issue of the Magdalene Laundries.

Had I acceded, in 2011, to the demands of various groups who called for a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene Laundries, I have little doubt that a report would still be awaited and the final cost to Irish taxpayers of the inquiry alone, would have exceeded the cost of the ex gratia scheme currently under implementation. – Yours, etc,


Minister for Justice, Equality

and Defence,

St Stephen’s Green,

Dublin 2.

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Nun 'beat girl black and blue'

Historical Abuse Inquiry: 

Nazareth HouseThe witness lived in Nazareth House from 1957 to 1969

The first female witness to give evidence to the Historical Abuse Inquiry said she was beaten by a nun until she was black and blue.

The woman, who is now 58, said she realised the nun enjoyed it when she cried so she stopped crying when she was hit.

She lived in Nazareth House in Bishop Street, Londonderry from 1957-1969.

The inquiry is investigating abuse claims against children's residential institutions in NI from 1922 to 1995.

The witness also told the inquiry she was sexually assaulted by two foster carers she was placed with.

When she went back to the home and told the nuns, they said she was talking nonsense.

The woman's evidence also included an allegation of being lined up for baths along with 100 other young girls, and of the same water being used to wash them all.


She said she did not know she had a sibling in the home until one day, when she was six, another of the residents said to her: "I'm your big sister."

Her sister left the home aged 16, the witness claimed, and wanted to take her with her, but that she was too young to go.

She told the inquiry: "I've been trying to search for my sister for a long time since I left the convent but I just can't find her."

The woman said she also searched for her mother but has never found her either.

She said she did not know what age she was or her birthday while she lived in the home.

Fear of God

She also told how she discovered, three years ago, that she had three other siblings, a brother and two sisters, who had been raised by their grandparents.

On Monday afternoon, another former resident, who is now 46, told the inquiry that the nuns put the fear of God into him by locking him in a cupboard as punishment for truanting.

He said he was traumatised when a nun would not let him attend his mother's funeral.

"It was like she ripped my heart out," he said.

The Historical Abuse Inquiry also heard that children at the Sisters of Nazareth Home in Londonderry were routinely given scalding or freezing showers.

The inquiry, being held in Banbridge, County Down, is chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart and is considering cases in 13 residential institutions.

Public hearings are due to finish in June 2015, with the inquiry team to report to the Northern Ireland Executive by the start of 2016.

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Minister writes to Magdalene nuns for third time seeking contribution to redress scheme



Minister writes to Magdalene nuns for third time seeking contribution to redress scheme

To date €3.5 million paid out to women

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: said all four congregations were

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: said all four congregations were “co-operating” with the Government scheme to compensate the women through “providing all the available records and verifications as requested”

Tue, Feb 11, 2014, 01:00


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has written for a third time to the four religious congregations that ran Magdalene laundries seeking a contribution to the Government compensation scheme for women who worked in the laundries.

In a written reply to a question from Labour TD Anne Ferris, the Minister said: “I discussed this matter with representatives of the four religious congregations in June 2013. Having reflected on the matter, all four declined to make a contribution.

“Following a discussion of the issue at Government in July 2013, I wrote to the congregations expressing disappointment that they had decided not to make a financial contribution . . . The congregations responded reaffirming their position.”

UN committee
He continued: “I wrote to the religious congregations again on this matter two weeks ago following a statement made by the Holy See to the U

N Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to the Magdalene laundries. I am awaiting responses to this letter.”

Last week, in its report on the Holy’s See’s handling of the clerical child sex abuse issue, the UN committee concluded that Rome should hold an internal investigation into the “religious personnel” who ran the laundries and also ensure “full compensation be paid to victims and their families”.

This call was supported by the Irish Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children. It welcomed the UN proposal that the church conduct an internal inquiry into the four congregations concerned and that those found responsible for offences “be sanctioned and reported to national judicial authorities for prosecution purposes”.

The four congregations involved are the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, theSisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. They ran 10 laundries in this State between 1922 and 1996 when the last one, at Sean McDermott Street in Dublin, closed.

Mr Shatter also said all four congregations were “co-operating” with the Government scheme to compensate the women through “providing all the available records and verifications as requested”.

He added that to date, 680 applications had been received by the scheme, with “over 280 letters of formal offer” made. So far “144 women have accepted the formal offer and as at the end of January payments issued to over 100 applicants totalling €3.5 million”, he said.



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Dr Katherine O'Donnell: State must force orders to apologise


Today we are seeing the remarkable images of Pope Francis meeting with Philomena Lee, whose son Anthony was repeatedly taken from her by a Catholic religious order.

The heart-warming scene of Pontiff and Philomena, survivor of Sean Ross Abbey Mother & Baby Home, is a welcome step in the right direction for the Catholic Church.The first time Philomena lost Anthony to a coercive regime of adoption that shamed the 'unmarried' mothers. There were multiple other occasions when this same religious order lied to both Anthony and Philomena and effectively denied them the relationship of mother and son that they both so evidently craved.

Yet there are many more steps that need to be taken and yesterday the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child pointed the way that the Vatican should go. As child abuse was a central focus of the committee it is perhaps not surprising that Ireland figured so prominently in the clearly-written 16-page report.

A central section of the report called on the Vatican to "Conduct an internal investigation into the conduct of religious personnel working in the Magdalene laundries in Ireland". The UN Committee is also calling for "full compensation" to be paid to the victims either through the congregations themselves or through the Holy See as supreme power of the church.

The UN wants the Vatican to take all appropriate measures to ensure the physical and psychological recovery for the survivors and to "assess the circumstances and reasons which have led to such practices and take all necessary measures to ensure that no women and children can be arbitrarily confined for whatever reason in Catholic institutions in the future".

While the Irish State has apologised to the Magdalenes, the four religious orders that ran the Magdalene Laundries (Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and Good Shepherd Sisters) will not apologise to survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

Neither will the congregations make a financial contribution to the Government's reparations scheme, which was founded on the tenets of restorative justice. Yet how can there be justice without the nuns' apology?

These orders still play a prominent role in Irish public life in terms of the schools, hospitals (private and public) and social services they run. It might be argued that their numbers are diminishing, yet that is true only if we consider the congregations in Ireland.

These are global organisations and they are increasing their influence in many other parts of the world.

If the Vatican will not hold them to account for their responsibility in running the grossly abusive Magdalenes in Ireland, how will they be held to account for their behaviour in other countries?

Our Government conducted an inter-departmental inquiry into state involvement with the Magdalene institutions which fell well short of the kind of independent inquiry into the Magdalenes called for by Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the Irish Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee Against Torture.

Cabinet members have periodically conveyed their wish that the orders would apologise or contribute to the compensation fund but in the absence of the kind of inquiry called for yesterday by the UN the Government is left with little more than moral persuasion and the Irish taxpayer is left to pick up the financial tab, as was the case with the redress board and the banking scandals.


Irish Independent

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The Pope meets Steve Coogan



Steve Coogan meets Pope Francis along with Irish woman whose story of having her son taken away by Catholic Church inspired his new film Philomena

The British comedian and director was introduced to Pope Francis in St Peter's Square on Wednesday
The British comedian and director was introduced to Pope Francis in St Peter's Square on Wednesday


The Pope has met Alan Partridge - or rather his alter ego, Steve Coogan.

The British comedian and director was introduced to Pope Francis in St Peter's Square on Wednesday along with Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who was a teenager when her three-year-old son was forcibly taken from her by Catholic Church authorities and put up for adoption.

Her story has inspired the Oscar-nominated film Philomena, directed by Mr Coogan, which tells of her 50-year search for her long lost son, who was sent to a family in the United States. They were never reunited - her son died of AIDS.

The film, which stars Mr Coogan and Dame Judi Dench, was based on a book by Martin Sixsmith, the British journalist.

Mrs Lee, 80, is a founding member of the Philomena Project, which calls on the Irish government to open up adoption records and reunite mothers separated from their children as a result of forced adoption.

She was 18 when her toddler was taken from her in 1952 and kept the tragic story a secret for 50 years.

An estimated 60,000 unmarried Catholic Irish women were shamed into giving up their babies and young children.

The meeting with the Pope had particular resonance, coming on the same day that a UN committee lambasted the Vatican for shielding sexually abusive priests and for failing to ensure the protection of children in the care of the Catholic Church.

The UN committee was sharply critical of Ireland's notorious "Magdalene Laundries", Church-run institutions for unmarried girls who got pregnant, which were not closed down until 1996.

Girls placed in the institutions were "forced to work in slavery-like conditions and were often subject to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment as well as to physical and sexual abuse."

The UN committee called on the Vatican to fully investigate the institutions, to refer abusive nuns to the authorities for prosecution and pay full compensation to the victims.

At the audience Mrs Lee, still a committed Catholic despite her child being taken from her, told the Pope: "I'm very happy to meet you."

Afterwards she said: "As the film portrays, I have always put great faith in the Church and the good will to put the wrongs of the past right.

"I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories."

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Release of adoption record



  • Sir, – Dr Ruth-Blandina Quinn (February 5th) is correct when she states, “many of these [adoption] records were misfiled, incomplete or fabricated”. We know the 1952 Adoption Act was used and abused by those in charge with “the end justifies the means” attitude. They were answerable to no-one and could do what they wanted. More adopted adults are now coming forward with proof their adoptions were illegal and this is only coming to the fore because they searched to find their birth mothers themselves. In fact, the majority of adoptions in Ireland were forced, whereby the mother was given no alternative but to hand over her child and sign adoption papers.

However, Dr Quinn goes on to state, “Far too often, adoption is perceived from the child’s perspective, not the birth mother’s”. Not in Ireland. Here the birth mother’s right is absolute and has been since 1952. The child was the last person to be thought about in adoption in Ireland in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Dr Quinn mistakes privacy and openness with privacy and secrecy. We can know who we are related to, know our identity, know our family, our history and yet respect our mother’s right to privacy. But, in Ireland, still, it remains privacy with secrecy.

It is not the fault of the adopted person that (in Dr Quinn’s words) “ladies now in their 70s and 80s . . . fear that knock on the door”. We didn’t ask to be someone else’s shame, someone else’s secret. That was their decision, not ours, and adopted adults refuse to carry this so-called burden on their shoulders. You cannot erase someone’s identity simply because it might make someone else uncomfortable.

My own birth mother was one of those ladies who Dr Quinn mentioned “fearing the knock on the door”. That knock came in 2011, from me, her daughter, following a year of letters and a neutral third party talking with her. I spoke to her for an hour and was then asked to leave. She admitted it benefited her and that now she can “move on” as she has nothing to fear any more. She said she always knew that one day I would come. I have respected her right to privacy. She knows how to contact me should she wish. She would be made very welcome into my life if she changes her mind.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I have answers to some of my questions – not all, but I know how lucky I am compared to others and I will do everything in my power to see the day that this lovely country of mine recognises my right as a citizen to know my identity and give me access to my file. I know my mother, I’ve met her and yet I’m told I cannot have access to my file to “protect the identity of my mother”. – Yours, etc,


Marlton Demesne,




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Magdalene survivors are still waiting for restorative justice

Opinion: Women feel confused and anxious at the opaqueness of the scheme on offer

Deceased victims of the Magdalene Laundries were remembered at a special cermony at Glasnevin Cemetery last year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Deceased victims of the Magdalene Laundries were remembered at a special cermony at Glasnevin Cemetery last year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


It is almost a year since the Taoiseach made his emotional apology to survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, and yet these women continue to suffer poverty, ill-health and trauma after decades of State-sponsored abuse.

It may surprise the Irish public to discover no legislation has been tabled to provide for the restorative justice scheme recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke last May. To those of us who campaigned against previous denial and delay, this represents more of the same.

Over the past few weeks, Magdalene survivors have begun to receive formal offer letters from the State. In them, the Department of Justice offers a lump sum payment, but states that all other aspects of the scheme remain subject to legislation or discussions with other Government departments.

These additional elements are therefore unspecified, apart from the statutory old age pensions, to be paid from “early 2014”. Disturbingly, many core aspects of Mr Justice Quirke’s scheme are not mentioned in the Terms of an Ex Gratia Scheme , a 13-page document accompanying the offer letters.

To access their modest lump sum – which they desperately need – the women are required to sign a waiver, accepting “all the terms of the scheme” and waiving “any right of action against the State or any public or statutory body or agency” arising out of their time in a Magdalene laundry.

In contrast with the judge’s report, there is no mention of (a) private healthcare provision, (b) healthcare for women living abroad, or (c) a dedicated unit to provide advice and support, services to meet other survivors, assistance with housing and education benefits, and the creation and maintenance of a memorial.

How can the women be asked to agree to all terms of a scheme that are not explicit and do not resemble Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations? It would be cynical in the extreme – and an abuse of power – for the Government to use waivers signed by vulnerable women to avoid implementing the scheme it promised last year. But that is precisely what it seems to be doing.

The healthcare issue is of particular concern. Wide-ranging healthcare provision, which he described as a “fundamental element”, was Mr Justice Quirke’s first recommendation. Many of the women suffer from serious health complaints. In Mr Justice Quirke’s team’s conversations with over 350 survivors, they found one- third of the women live alone. The survivors’ average age is 68, and 14 per cent are over 80.

Acknowledging that many survivors live outside the jurisdiction, Mr Justice Quirke advised that each should be entitled to a full range of public and private health services, equivalent to those provided to victims of the Hepatitis C scandal under the Health Amendment Act 1996. He explained in his report that his recommendations were a result of “helpful consultation with relevant Government officials”. On June 26th, 2013, the Government accepted survivors “should all be granted access without charge to a wide range of services”.

Why the delay?
Why then the delay in passing the legislation? And why the subterfuge? Mr Justice Quirke recommended the establishment of a helpline to assist the women in understanding and navigating their entitlements. Not even this small measure has been implemented. It may be that from the Government’s perspective the less that is understood about entitlements before the women sign their waivers the better.

We and our colleagues at Justice for Magdalenes Research are in touch with many women who feel confused and anxious about the scheme’s opaqueness. This is no way to afford restorative justice. We also know of three survivors who have died and two others who have experienced repeated hospitalisations since the Taoiseach’s apology last year.

Time is not on these women’s side. Further delays and more broken promises are simply unacceptable.

Maeve O’Rourke is a barrister; James M Smith is an associate professor at Boston College. Both are advisory committee members of Justice for Magdalenes Research

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Vatican challenged - Response may define pontificate



The western world has not seen an empire collapse as spectacularly as the Catholic Church since the Habsburg and British empires began to lose their unquestioned — and unquestionable — power just over a century ago. On this historical scale the relatively brief terror of communism is irrelevant.

Caught in a pincer movement between strengthening pluralism and the hubris that convinced it that it need not recognise democratically appointed civil authorities, the Catholic Church has seen its influence and active membership in the West dwindle to unprecedentedly low levels. How else could an Irish Minister for Education — Ruairí Quinn — suggest that the school time given to religion be reduced to allow for greater focus on the sciences? 

This loss of influence has not occurred in swathes of South America, the developing world, or indeed in the lives of millions of Europeans whose beliefs and faith have withstood the acid tests of recent decades. Because of this, especially under this pontificate, the Church’s focus seems to be moving away from Europe. Yesterday’s scathing report from the UN will do little to alter that policy or the drift away from formal, institutional Catholicism in the West. However, Catholicism’s response to it might. 

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child document is one of the most damming and direct challenges made to the Vatican since the role of thousands of clerics in child sexual abuse and paedophilia changed the Church’s place in society forever. It was uncompromising, unsparing, and demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers and turn them over to civil authorities. 

That an organisation as powerful, as worldly wise as the UN still believes, after decades of traumatic revelations and expulsions, that so much remains to be done is chastening and another challenge to those who cherish their place and belief in the Church. Unfortunately, even very recent evidence — the Vatican’s refusal last month to extradite Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski to the Dominican Republic where he faces child abuse charges because, they claimed, he enjoyed diplomatic immunity — justifies the UN’s attitude. 

The report represents one of the first major challenges faced by Pope Francis. Since his elevation, he has used his powerful charisma, mostly by just behaving in a modest and humble way, to try to remake the world image of the Vatican. He has made statements far less confrontational or judgmental than his predecessors. He has shown a human side that his immediate predecessor did not show easily and he has appointed cardinals from the wing of the Church not usually so honoured. 

In the public relations war for the hearts and minds of wavering or lapsed Catholics, Francis has been a game changer, but the UN report is a direct challenge that requires something far more concrete, something far more difficult to deliver, than soothing words about the poor and the need for the Church to be humble. 

The Vatican knows that as long as these issues remain unresolved, its position in the world will continue to decline. The great majority of Catholics, the millions appalled and betrayed by errant clerics, await the Vatican’s response to the UN report with interest and probably some degree of justified trepidation. 

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved


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Vatican 'must immediately remove' child abusers - UN


Kirsten Sandberg from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said a "code of silence" had been imposed on children

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The UN has said that the Vatican should "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers.

The UN watchdog for children's rights denounced the Holy See for adopting policies which allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

In a report, it also criticised Vatican attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

The Vatican responded by saying it would examine the report - but also accused its authors of interference.

A group representing the victims of abuse by priests in the US welcomed the report.

In its findings, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the Holy See should open its files on members of the clergy who had "concealed their crimes" so that they could be held accountable by the authorities.


The Vatican quickly moved into damage control mode after publication of the UN report.

While promising "thorough study" of the criticisms, the Holy See robustly rejects some of the points made by the UN.

The Vatican has always given precedence to Church law, called Canon Law, over local criminal law in dealing with ecclesiastical crime. It does not easily tolerate interference by civil authorities in ecclesiastical matters.

The recent case of a senior Vatican diplomat, a Polish archbishop, who was suddenly recalled to Rome from his post in Santo Domingo after serious police accusations of sexual abuse of minors there is a case in point.

The Vatican has refused an extradition request by justice authorities in Poland and says an internal police investigation is under way inside Vatican City.

It said it was gravely concerned that the Holy See had not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, and expressed its "deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide".

It also lambasted the "practice of offenders' mobility", referring to the transfer of child abusers from parish to parish within countries, and sometimes abroad.

The committee said this practice placed "children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children".

The UN report called on a Vatican commission created by Pope Francis in December to investigate all cases of child sexual abuse "as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them".

Ireland's Magdalene laundries scandal was singled out by the report as an example of how the Vatican had failed to provide justice despite "slavery-like" conditions, including degrading treatment, violence and sexual abuse.

The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses where some 10,000 women and girls were required to do unpaid manual labour between 1922 and 1996.

The report's findings come after Vatican officials were questioned in public last month in Geneva about why they would not release data and what they were doing to prevent future abuse.

The Vatican has denied any official cover-up. However, in December it refused a UN request for data on abuse on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

Demonstrator outside UN human rights agency in Geneva - 16 JanuaryMany campaigners feel the Vatican should open its files on priests known to be child abusers

In January, the Vatican confirmed that almost 400 priests had been defrocked in a two-year period by the former Pope Benedict XVI over claims of child abuse.

The UN committee's recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism.


The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the Vatican has set up new guidelines to protect children from predatory priests.

Catholic Church abuse scandals

  • Germany - A priest, named only as Andreas L, admitted in 2012 to 280 counts of sexual abuse involving three boys over a decade
  • United States - Revelations about abuses in the 1990s by two Boston priests, Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, caused public outrage
  • Belgium - The bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April 2010 after admitting that he had sexually abused a boy for years
  • Italy - The Catholic Church in Italy admitted in 2010 that about 100 cases of paedophile priests had been reported over 10 years
  • Ireland - A report in 2009 found that sexual and psychological abuse was "endemic" in Catholic-run industrial schools and orphanages for most of the 20th century

But, he adds, bishops in many parts of the world have tended to concentrate on protecting and defending the reputation of priests rather than listening to the complaints of victims of paedophile priests.

Meanwhile several Catholic dioceses in the US have been forced into bankruptcy after paying out huge sums in compensation to victims of abuse by clergy.

The Vatican said in a statement following the report's publication: "The Holy See takes note of the concluding observations...which will be submitted to a thorough study and examination... according to international law and practice."

But it added that it "regrets to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom" and "reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child... according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine".

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, head of the Holy See's delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio the report had failed to take into account the fact that the Vatican had made "a series of changes for the protection of children", and its efforts at reform were "fact, evidence, which cannot be distorted".

He added that the UN could not ask the Church to change its "non-negotiable" moral teachings.

Victims groups welcomed the report as a wake-up call to secular law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute Church officials who were still protecting "predator priests".

Barbara Blaine, president of a group representing US victims of abuse by priests - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) - told the BBC that the UN report "reaffirms everything we've been saying. It shows that the Vatican has put the reputation of Church officials above protection of children".

"Church officials knew about it and they refused to stop it. Nothing has changed. Despite all the rhetoric from Pope Francis and Vatican officials, they refuse to take action that will make this stop."

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UN calls for Magdalene laundries investigation, demands Vatican turn over child abusers to police


Wednesday 05 February 2014 15.52
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UN report said girls were arbitrarily placed in conditions of forced labour in Magdalene laundries
UN report said girls were arbitrarily placed in conditions of forced labour in Magdalene laundries

A UN watchdog has called for an investigation of the Magdalene laundries so that those responsible for abusing children could be prosecuted and to allow "full compensation be paid to the victims and their families".

The UN committee on the Rights of the Child said the Catholic Church had not yet taken measures to prevent a repeat of cases such as the Magdalene scandal, where girls were arbitrarily placed in conditions of forced labour.

In an unprecedented and scathing report, the UN also demanded the Vatican "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers and turn them over to civil authorities.

The committee said the Holy See should also hand over its archives on sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children so that culprits, as well as "those who concealed their crimes", could be held accountable.

The watchdog's exceptionally blunt paper, the most far-reaching critique of the Church hierarchy by the world body, followed its public grilling of Vatican officials last month.

"The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators," the report said.

The Vatican has said the UN is interfering with church teachings after the report criticised its stance on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

It also said the church was committed to protecting children from abuse.

However, it said will submit the UN report to "thorough study and examination".

A commission created by Pope Francis in December should investigate all cases of child sexual abuse "as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them," the report said.

Abusers had been moved from parish to parish or other countries "in an attempt to cover-up such crimes," it added.

"Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred," the UN body said.

At a public session last month, the committee pushed Vatican delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests that Pope Francis called "the shame of the Church".

The Holy See's delegation, answering questions from an international rights panel for the first time since the scandals broke more than two decades ago, denied allegations of a Vatican cover-up and said it had set clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.

Justice for Magdalenes Research welcomes UN call

The group that promoted the case of the Magdalene women at the UN has welcomed the call on the Catholic Church to investigate, and if appropriate, punish, the religious personnel who worked in them and in similar institutions around the world.

A  spokesperson for Justice for Magdalenes Research has said the four religious orders that ran Magdalene Laundries in Ireland have refused to accept what they call "unanimous survivor testimony that they were imprisoned and subjected to forced labour and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". 

She said that none of the orders have offered an apology to Magdalene survivors, or contributed to the compensation fund established for them by the State. 

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Release of adoption records

Letters page - Irish Times 15 February 2014

Sir, – While laudable, the call for access to some 60,000 records of those who were adopted requires considerable forethought (Home News, January 24th). Many of these records were misfiled, incomplete or fabricated/embellished when originally taken. Consequently, reliability of contents can never be guaranteed.

With this in mind, caution must also be applied to the potential use of such information when/if released. Mechanisms to effectively link a child to his/her birth family must be adhered to in an attempt to minimise upset on both sides of this sensitive relationship.

Most perplexing, however, is the notion the child has an “absolute right” to this information or to know his/her birth parents. Preliminary discussion must centre on where the child’s rights end and the rights of the birth mother kick in? Far too often adoption is perceived from the child’s perspective, not the birth mother’s. There are indeed many birth mothers like Philomena Lee searching for their children, but there are a considerable number who remain shrouded in secrecy. In the early years of legal adoption in this country, many women handed over their children in an atmosphere of “cleansing their sins”. The circumstances of each adoption is as individual as the child and the birth mother. Many women gave children to people they thought could give the child a better future and in exchange, they were granted privacy. It was an unspoken contract.

While many argue a child has an absolute right to know his/her birth parent/s, it must be respected that many birth mothers also have an absolute right not to be known. While the approach is not faultless, it is my opinion that the State is correct in applying caution to this area. There are ladies now in their 70s and 80s who fear that knock on the door – my own birth mother being among them. – Yours, etc,



Balkill Park,

Howth, Co Dublin.

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Government may rule out formal redress scheme for abuse victims

Ruairí Quinn to set out preliminary response to European Court ruling in O’Keeffe case

Louise O'Keeffe: she has accepted an apology from the Taoiseach

Louise O’Keeffe: she has accepted an apology from the Taoiseach

The Government is leaning against the adoption of a formal redress scheme for victims of abuse in State-run schools in its eventual response to the Louise O’Keeffe ruling of the European Court of Human Rights last week.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will present preliminary observations on the ruling to the weekly meeting of the Cabinet this morning.

While he will seek approval to firm up policy proposals, specific measures today are unlikely.

The questions raised by the ruling are generally recognised to be complex legally and difficult politically. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has already apologised to Ms O’Keeffe and she has accepted the apology .

Last week the Strasbourg-based court overturned a Supreme Court ruling that the State was not responsible for the sexual abuse she suffered as a national school student in Cork.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said at the weekend that the question of a redress scheme for other victims was one of the issues to be considered.

Further questions surround the strength of existing child protection legislation and the implications for school patronage as a result of the ruling.

The latter is seen to be a matter that will require detailed legal work and no proposals from Mr Quinn are imminent. Mr Gilmore has said the issues raised in respect of the relationship between church and State were profound.

A Government source said there is clear reluctance in Cabinet circles to go down the road of developing a generalised scheme for all potential claimants who suffered abuse at school like Ms O’Keeffe.

This reflects deep-seated political anxiety to avoid repeating the experience of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was set up 12 years ago to compensate victims of abuse in such institutions.

When it was originally established, the board was expected to pay some €200 million to some 2,000 survivors of abuse and to complete its work withing three or five years.

By the start of this year, however, some 16,000 survivors of abuse had received €1.6 billion in compensation and most of the money was paid by the State.

With this in mind, at issue for the Cabinet is whether a mechanism to deal fairly with each outstanding case can be developed without prompting further claims .

A formal review is likely to be undertaken into all outstanding claims against the State in cases similar to that of Ms O’Keeffe. This will examine cases already initiated and the potential for further cases.

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State's failure to protect pupil from abuse


Irish Times Letters page


Sir, – As someone with a modicum of legal knowledge, I am amazed at the Department of Education’s assertion that it had no responsibility whatever in the Louise O’Keeffe (and similar) cases. I’m even more amazed that our senior courts upheld that assertion (now overturned by the ECoHR). Responsibility cannot be devolved in such cases. Duties and tasks yes, but ultimate responsibility, no. Not entirely at least. On the other hand it seems to me, though I haven’t read the ECoHR findings, that others must also have had co-responsibility, not least the perpetrator of the abuse; but also the parish priest as “patron”, the board of management of the school and to a lesser extent the parents.

If compensation is to be paid, then will all those listed above, but most especially the church authorities, be asked to cough up, or are they to walk free, again? Or is it to be yet another burden on the unfortunate taxpayer. After all the government has no funds out of which to pay compensation except what we, the taxpayers give them! And we are not only entirely innocent of this crime, some of us are victims too! Yours, etc,



Barrow Lane,


Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – The news that Louise O’Keeffe has won her case against Ireland in the European Court of Human Rights finally rips away the last pretence of generations of Irish governments to evade responsibility for their negligence in protecting children in Irish schools. All Irish people should feel a sense of shame that it took a European court to lance this festering Irish boil.

The Irish legal system comes out of this whole affair more than slightly soiled. The courts always turned down Louise O’Keeffe’s case because they accepted the plea of the executive – even though the State paid for Irish education, it gave a free hand to the Roman Catholic Church to run the schools. It was a grubby quid pro quo – the church got control of the minds and lives of the young and did not make trouble for the State. The State paid up and everything was hunky-dory. Mistreatment? Cruelty? Sexual abuse? Not a chance. The church would not and could not countenance such a travesty. We all know what happened when that can of worms was opened in the past 20 years or so.

The amount of compensation payable now to the living victims of this abuse is almost immaterial. The State fighting to the last gasp when justice demanded a generous approach shows the real attitude of our governments. Money and political power counts – justice is just a word to be trotted out to impress people when the need arises, like an election. Otherwise it’s the always open-to-interpretation law that rules the day.

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 was a great day for Louise O’Keeffe and the other abused children of this country. But it was a day of shame for successive Irish governments, the Irish legal system, the Roman Catholic Church and all those patriots, big and small, who heard no evil, saw no evil and, therefore, did not speak up when they should have.

If this State does not abide by the true principles of truth and justice this tragic type of events will happen again and again. When will we learn our lesson? – Yours, etc,


Greencastle Avenue,

Dublin 17.

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30th anniversary of the death of Ann Lovett



Friday 31 January 2014 17.57

Ann Lovett was discovered in a grotto just outside the town of Granard
Ann Lovett was discovered in a grotto just outside the town of Granard

To mark the 30th anniversary of the death of 15-year-old Ann Lovett, RTÉ is rebroadcasting a radio documentary on the tragedy.

On the afternoon of 31 January 1984, Ann was discovered in a grotto just outside the town of Granard by passers-by. 

She had just given birth to a baby boy. By the time she was discovered, the child had died and Ann was suffering from shock. She died later that day in hospital. 

Her death went unnoticed by the media until a local man, realising the implications of the tragedy, rang national newspapers to tell them what had happened.

The story of Ann's tragic death was made known to the nation five days after her funeral and that of her baby son.

An RTÉ radio documentary, which will be rebroadcast on Radio 1 at 6pm on Saturday, explores the background to the events in Granard and whether attitudes in the area have changed over the years.

The documentary, which was first broadcast in 1996, is also available here.

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Sisters of Charity seek to halt action for damages citing no record of alleged rapist


Woman says she was raped by a groundsman employed in Magdalene Laundry

The Sisters of Charity have asked the High Court to halt an action for damages brought against them by a woman who alleges she was raped and sexually assaulted over years by a groundsman employed in a Magdalene Laundry

The Sisters of Charity have asked the High Court to halt an action for damages brought against them by a woman who alleges she was raped and sexually assaulted over years by a groundsman employed in a Magdalene Laundry

The Sisters of Charity have asked the High Court to halt an action for damages brought against them by a woman who alleges she was raped and sexually assaulted over years by a groundsman employed in a Magdalene Laundry.

The woman claims she was so traumatised by the assaults that, to stop the groundsman accosting her on her way to and from school, she hammered her knee with a paperweight to such an extent she was hospitalised with a fractured knee and avoided going to school.

Her life has been severely affected by her experience. She changed from being a happy, normal child to one who became self-destructive, hated school, herself and people, left school early and developed alcohol, medication and relationship problems, it is claimed.

She says the assaults began when she was 12 and continued until she left school at 15.

Now in her 40s, the woman has sued the Sisters of Charity, alleging they are vicariously liable for severe personal injuries and emotional suffering arising from the alleged assaults of the groundsman from 1977 to 1980.

The man, the court heard, is believed to be dead.

Sisters of Charity
In a pre-trial application yesterday for an order halting the case, the Sisters of Charity say they are prejudiced in defending it on grounds including delay and having no records of the groundsman, including any written record of his being an employee. In an affidavit on behalf of the order, it was stated the woman’s claims are subject to a Garda investigation which has not yet concluded as it has not proven possible to establish if the groundsman had died.

After submissions concluded yesterday, Mr Justice Barrett reserved judgment.

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