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Book has evidence of Cardinal's role in Brendan Smyth inquiry


Brady should not be allowed retire ‘as if he did nothing wrong’ claims abuse survivor

 Brendan Boland who has written the  book  Sworn to Silence. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish TImes

Brendan Boland who has written the book Sworn to Silence. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish TImes

A number of new documents including Catholic Primate Cardinal Seán Brady’s handwritten account of answers provided at a secret 1975 inquiry into allegations of abuse by the notorious Fr Brendan Smyth, are contained in a book published this week.

Sworn to Silence, by Brendan Boland, also contains the handwritten record of the oath sworn by the then 14-year-old Mr Boland – who was abused by Smyth – to keep the inquiry secret.

A Garda investigation into the activities of the child sexual abuser began following the broadcast in 1994 on UTV of the programme Suffer Little Children which addressed Smyth’s abuse of children.

After the programme Frank Boland reported the abuse of his son Brendan by Smyth to gardaí in Dundalk and the fact that there has been a secret church inquiry into the allegations some two decades earlier.

On February 15th, 1995, as part the Garda investigation into Smyth’s activities in the State, Msgr Francis Donnelly, a priest of the Armagh archdiocese, was interviewed at his parochial house in Dundalk. He spoke of the inquiry in which he took part almost 20 years previously involving Brendan Boland. However, Msgr Donnelly refused to make a formal statement on the matter to gardaí.

His role at that inquiry “was that of recording secretary”, he said, according to a memo by Sgt Larry Witherow in the book, which contains a number of other previously unpublished documents relating to the 1975 inquiry.

According to the Garda memo Msgr Donnelly could not remember the names of other priests who took part in the inquiry, after which the young Mr Boland was made swear an oath to keep it secret.

It has emerged that other priests present during the 1975 interview were: Oliver McShane, who Mr Boland first told about his abuse, and the then “Fr John B Brady”, Cardinal Seán Brady as he is now known.

In later public statements Dr Brady described his role at the inquiry as “recording secretary” and as “note- taker”.

Just four days after Msgr Donnelly was interviewed by gardaí, on February 19th, the then Msgr Brady was ordained Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh with a right to succeed Cardinal Cahal Daly as primate. Two months previously, on December 13th, 1994, it was announced that Msgr Brady had been appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh.

Dr Brady will be 75 on August 16th next when, as canon law requires, he must submit a letter of resignation to Rome, which is accepted at its discretion. To allow Dr Brady “retire naturally as if he did nothing wrong is part of the cover-up” of his role in the Smyth saga, Brendan Boland said yesterday.

A church spokeswoman said Dr Brady was not aware of a Garda investigation in the mid-1990s into the activities of Fr Smyth. “If he had been approached by the gardaí he would have made a statement.”

For his part Mr Boland said he has no desire to meet Dr Brady. “It’s not going to happen. I’d feel like an altar boy again. He would control everything. I don’t want him to be in control anymore.”

At the time of the inquiry in 1975 Dr Brady was a 36-year-old canon lawyer, a teacher at St Patrick’s College in Cavan town and part-time secretary to then Bishop of Kilmore Francis McKiernan who appointed him to the inquiry.

Mr Boland said he had provided the priests with the names of five other young people, some of whom had been abused by Smyth. One was interviewed by Dr Brady later and also sworn to secrecy. The other young people were not contacted by anyone nor were police informed about Smyth’s criminal activities. He continued to abuse children for a further 18 years, including some named to Dr Brady by Mr Boland.

Smyth was jailed in Belfast in 1994 for abuse of children perpetrated in the North in the 1980s. In 1997 he was jailed in the Republic and died later that year. He abused children over a 40-year period.

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Church's hierarchy shows its colours



An arrogant Church hierarchy has a long history of scapegoating and trying to cover up serious scandals, says Ryle Dwyer

RECENT revelations about the mother-and-baby home at Tuam — where 796 children died between 1925 and 1961 — shocked people, but few seemed surprised, because there had already been so many shocking revelations about abuse in Church-run institutions. Indeed, comparisons are being made with Nazi Germany.

During the Second World War John Betjeman, the British press attaché in Dublin, depicted the Catholic hierarchy as the real power in Ireland. “We should bother less about relations, good or bad, with the Government and more with relations with the Catholic Church,” he wrote in March 1943.

The same month Roland Blenner-Hassett, one of three undercover agents stationed to Ireland by the Office of Strategic Services —the wartime forerunner of the American Central Intelligence Agency — depicted the hierarchy as essentially fascist in outlook. He thought this posed a threat because Irish censorship had been so rigid that Irish people had little understanding of the true nature of fascism.

“I am convinced that what the Irish Church hopes to see as the outcome of this war is the military defeat of the Axis, followed by peace between the Allies and semi-authoritarian regimes in Italy and Germany,” Blenner-Hassett wrote. He went on to suggest that the Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, could cause trouble over partition unless Irish neutrality was essentially discredited in the US.

David Gray, the American wartime minister to Ireland, initiated a series of propaganda stunts aimed at distorting the true nature of Irish neutrality. In the process, he goaded de Valera into making the political mistake of proffering official condolence on the death of Hitler in 1945.

When US president Franklin Roosevelt died little over a fortnight earlier, Gray reported that de Valera paid “a very moving tribute” in the Dáil, which promptly adjourned as a mark of respect, and Irish flags were flown at half-mast over Government Buildings. de Valera therefore felt that ignoring Edouard Hempel, the German representative, would be an “unpardonable discourtesy”.

“During the whole of the war,” de Valera privately explained, “Dr Hempel’s conduct was irreproachable. He was always and invariably correct — in marked contrast with Gray. I certainly was not going to add to his humiliation in the hour of defeat.”

His personal gesture to Hempel was understandable, but it was a mistake, because it bolstered the misconception that the Taoiseach had, in some ways, been sympathetic to the Nazis.

Allied efforts to discredit de Valera over neutrality should be seen against the backdrop of concern over what was considered a fascist outlook within the hierarchy. Blenner-Hassett actually singled out Bishop Michael Browne of Galway as “an outspoken clerical fascist”, over his involvement in blocking the appointment of Robert Corbett, the master of the Coombe, as professor of gynaecology at University College Galway in late 1942, simply because Corbett “had been educated at Trinity College, Dublin”.

Michael Browne was connected with a series of controversies during his time as Bishop of Galway from 1937 to 1976. The main reason for the introduction of the controversial Mother and Child Bill in 1951 was to tackle this country’s infant mortality rate, which was the highest in western Europe. The mortality rate may well be largely attributable to the mother-and-baby homes in Tuam and elsewhere around the country.

Although the 1951 controversy is often depicted as a confrontation between the minister for health and the Archbishop of Dublin, Noel Browne, the health minister, was actually more critical of the role of the Bishop of Galway.

In his book, Against the Tide, Noel Browne noted that other churchmen told him the Archbishop of Dublin “was a simple and good man who had been manipulated with much skill by Dr Michael Browne”.

The Bishop of Galway appeared anything but simple in Noel Browne’s account of their private meeting: “He handed me a silver casket in which lay his impeccable hand-made cigarettes. ‘These cigarettes,’ he intoned, ‘I had made in Bond Street.’

“Then he offered me a glass of champagne. ‘I always like champagne in the afternoon,’ he informed me in his rich round voice. He appeared ignorant of the social solecism of mixing cigarettes and champagne. My feeling of awe was mixed with a sense of astonishment that this world sybarite considered himself to be a follower of the humble Nazarene.”

Some of those close to Bishop Browne denounced that cruel portrayal.

“The Bishop never smoked cigarettes rolled in Bond Street or any other street,” Kathleen Cunningham wrote to the press. “He only smoked a pipe. Also he did not drink champagne or any kind of spirits. I should know the truth because I worked for the Bishop for nearly 40 years.”

In 1966 as the country was preparing to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Easter Rebellion, Bishop Browne’s alleged extravagance was back in the news, this time in connection with the rebuilding of Galway cathedral, which some dubbed the “Taj Micheáil.”

As the West of Ireland was widely seen as the poorest region in the country, Brian Trevaskis — a student at Trinity College, Dublin — sparked an unholy controversy on Gay Byrne’s The Late Late Show by accusing Bishop Browne of being “a moron” and suggesting that the cathedral was “a ghastly monstrosity”.

Trevaskis was brought back to apologise on The Late Late Show the following week.

“I should never have used the word ‘moron’,” he admitted. In an ensuing discussion in relation to the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rebellion being celebrated that month, he suggested that building extravagant churches demonstrated that Ireland was not really a Christian country.

“I would ask whether the Bishop of Galway knows the meaning of the word ‘moron’,” Trevaskis added. “I doubt very much that he knows the meaning of the word ‘Christianity’.”

This was an era in which bishops were still virtually untouchable, but Bishop Browne subsequently made his own contribution to the demise of their power.

Before retiring in 1976, he insisted that the priests in his diocese would have the right to approve of his successor, in line with the spirit of Vatican II.

It was widely believed the Hierarchy was anxious to appoint Kevin McNamara, the vice president of Maynooth College, but the priests in Galway would not have him.

Eamonn Casey, the Bishop of Kerry, was acceptable, so he was transferred to Galway, and Dr McNamara was appointed Bishop of Kerry, much to the indignation of Kerry priests.

Bishop Casey had already had an affair in which he had fathered a child in 1974, but the story only broke in 1992 while he was Bishop of Galway.

This showed that bishops were human and with normal frailties, but the hierarchy demonstrated that it was as arrogant as ever by seeking to scapegoat him and cover up other much more serious scandals, such as the Brendan Smyth affair, which continues to plague Cardinal Seán Brady to the present day.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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Our future looks hopeless, says leader of Irish Christian Brothers

By SARAH MACDONALD on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 IN THIS ARTICLE clerical abuse crisis, Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, Irish Christian Brothers, Irish Church SHARE Related Posts The Irish government is going to make it a criminal offence for a priest not to tell the gardai when a sex offender confesses his crime: I say, bring it on Only a proper understanding of the priesthood will renew the Irish Church Irish Church is on the path to renewal, Church leaders tell pilgrims Vatican report hails progress in reform of Irish Church The Irish Church faces yet another test: a widespread loss of faith Zemanta The head of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers has said the order's future is uncertain because of costly settlements in child abuse cases. Brother Philip Pinto said that the congregation, which has 1,200 members, "just doesn't have the money any longer". He said that the order's decision to seek bankruptcy protection in New York was aimed at "trying to ensure that people who have been abused are the ones who get the money, not the lawyers", he said during a break in a conference on religious life sponsored by the Conference of Religious of Ireland. [At the conference he gave an address entitled "Out of Darkness Colour Breaks" which can be read here.] Forty per cent of the costs relating to abuse settlements were "going to the lawyers", he said. The North American province was especially vulnerable to disappearing, he said, explaining that it would take "something drastic" to save it. "In most of the developed world, we are paying for the sins of the past," he said. "Our brothers are aging, our reputation is in tatters, and the future looks bleak, even hopeless. So many of my brothers hide in their monasteries, afraid of drawing attention to themselves." The Indian-born brother who has been congregational leader since 2002 blamed a culture in which "religious in Ireland were abused by the system". Another conference speaker, Nuala O'Loan, former police ombudsman in Northern Ireland, told attendees that "it wasn't just the religious congregations" who were responsible for abuse in institutions and schools operated by religious congregations. She suggested that the "congregations have been made the scapegoats for the failures of all". She criticised "successive Irish governments" who "allowed the children under their care to be deprived of their safety and security and permitted children to be held in institutions in which terrible things happened". The Christian Brothers Institute, the legal arm of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States amid mounting abuse claims. The majority of claims relate to the order's schools in the Seattle area and Newfoundland in Canada. By SARAH MACDONALD on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 IN THIS ARTICLE clerical abuse crisis, Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, Irish Christian Brothers, Irish Church SHARE More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebook Share on myspace Share on google Share on twitter Related Posts The Irish government is going to make it a criminal offence for a priest not to tell the gardai when a sex offender confesses his crime: I say, bring it on Only a proper understanding of the priesthood will renew the Irish Church Irish Church is on the path to renewal, Church leaders tell pilgrims Vatican report hails progress in reform of Irish Church The Irish Church faces yet another test: a widespread loss of faith Zemanta The dining hall of the Artane Industrial School in Dublin, in an undated photo. The school was run by the Christian Brothers (CNS photo/Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse) The head of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers has said the order's future is uncertain because of costly settlements in child abuse cases. Brother Philip Pinto said that the congregation, which has 1,200 members, "just doesn't have the money any longer". He said that the order's decision to seek bankruptcy protection in New York was aimed at "trying to ensure that people who have been abused are the ones who get the money, not the lawyers", he said during a break in a conference on religious life sponsored by the Conference of Religious of Ireland. [At the conference he gave an address entitled "Out of Darkness Colour Breaks" which can be read here.] Forty per cent of the costs relating to abuse settlements were "going to the lawyers", he said. The North American province was especially vulnerable to disappearing, he said, explaining that it would take "something drastic" to save it. "In most of the developed world, we are paying for the sins of the past," he said. "Our brothers are aging, our reputation is in tatters, and the future looks bleak, even hopeless. So many of my brothers hide in their monasteries, afraid of drawing attention to themselves." The Indian-born brother who has been congregational leader since 2002 blamed a culture in which "religious in Ireland were abused by the system". Another conference speaker, Nuala O'Loan, former police ombudsman in Northern Ireland, told attendees that "it wasn't just the religious congregations" who were responsible for abuse in institutions and schools operated by religious congregations. She suggested that the "congregations have been made the scapegoats for the failures of all". She criticised "successive Irish governments" who "allowed the children under their care to be deprived of their safety and security and permitted children to be held in institutions in which terrible things happened". The Christian Brothers Institute, the legal arm of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States amid mounting abuse claims. The majority of claims relate to the order's schools in the Seattle area and Newfoundland in Canada.
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Sex abuse damages claim against Redemptorist Order halted


President of High Court says allowing case to proceed unfair due to delay

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said allowing the case to proceed would involve

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said allowing the case to proceed would involve “patent unfairness”, as the Redemptorist Order had been substantially prejudiced as a result of delay in bringing the case.

A man’s action seeking damages against the Redemptorist Order over sexual abuse allegedly suffered more than 40 years ago as an altar boy has been halted by the president of the High Court.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said allowing the case to proceed would involve “patent unfairness”, as the Order had been substantially prejudiced as a result of delay in bringing the case.

The man claimed that when aged between seven and 11 years he suffered regular and continuous abuse by a deceased Redemptorist Brother while an altar boy in Limerickbetween 1965 and 1970.

As a result, his personal development suffered, he attempted suicide when aged 21, developed an alcohol problem and his relationships with women were damaged, including his marriage, which broke up in 1999, he claimed.

In a pre-trial application, the Redemptorists sought to have his action struck out on grounds of delay in bringing the case.

They argued periods of delay from 1993, when he first made a complaint to the Redemptorists, to 2008, when he first went to a solicitor, and to 2010, when he first made a complaint to the gardaí, were independently and cumulatively inexcusable.

They rejected arguments that a memo by a priest who interviewed the man about his allegations in 1993 was proof of an acceptance the abuse had occurred.

The man’s lawyers argued the delay was excusable on grounds that, due to the abuse, he was psychologically incapable of bringing proceedings until recently.

It was also argued the climate which had prevailed in Ireland had made it impossible for victims of sexual abuse to come forward with complaints.  The manner in which his 1993 complaint was handled by the Redemptorists caused further delay, it was argued.

After beginning therapy, the man in 1993 himself decided to go into the Redemptorist Monastery in Limerick to complain about the abuse and was later interviewed twice by three priests about his allegations, the court heard.

He was later told the Brother involved was innocent after being sent to the Stroud Institute, which provides treatment for clerics with addictions, it was claimed. This was a setback which led to a further delay because he thought nobody would believe him, it was argued.

In his decision to strike out the case, Mr Justice Kearns said the interests of justice required it to be halted.

The judge accepted arguments that the climate in Ireland at the time and the effect of the declaration of the Brother’s innocence by the Redemptorists had contributed to the delay.

In considering whether the delay was excusable, he had to decide where the balance of justice lay, the judge said. In that regard, the most important witness, the Brother involved, had died in 1997, and there was no one to directly challenge the allegations, he said. There was also a lack of relevant documentary evidence and potentially important records have been destroyed.

The existence of a memo from when the complaint was made to the Redemptorists in 1993 was not sufficient to tip the balance of justice in favour of the man and only compounded the defendant’s inability to properly defend the case after such a lapse of time, he said.


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Yvonne Murphy to head mother and baby homes' inquiry in Ireland


The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, GalwayPeople initially thought the grave was for remains of famine victims

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Judge Yvonne Murphy will chair an inquiry into church-run mother and baby homes in the Republic of Ireland, the government has announced.

The Commission of Investigation was set up after the remains of almost 800 children were found in Tuam, County Galway, earlier this year.

The children, one as old as nine, died between 1925 and 1961.

The grave in Tuam was initially thought to date to the 1850s when discovered 40 years ago.

Announcing Judge Murphy's appointment, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly, said: "I am delighted that a widely respected person of the calibre of Judge Yvonne Murphy has agreed to head up this investigation.

"Judge Murphy has a very strong track record in effectively establishing the truth in relation to important and sensitive matters.

"The government may give consideration to the appointment of further members to the commission, but I believe Judge Murphy's agreement to undertake the role of chair of the commission is a very positive development in the process to establish an effective and independent investigation."

Tuam mother and baby homeThe home was run by nuns between 1925 and 1961
The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, GalwayThe unmarked grave is in the grounds of a home which was run by the Catholic Church

The mother and baby home in Tuam was run by nuns of the Bon Secours Sisters for 36 years.

The County Galway home was one of 10 institutions in which about 35,000 unmarried pregnant women - so-called fallen women - are thought to have been sent.

The children of these women were denied baptism and segregated from others at school. If they died at such facilities, they were also denied a Christian burial.

County Galway death records showed that most of the children buried in the unmarked grave had died of sickness or malnutrition.

When the establishment of the commission was announced in June, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny said the inquiry would "probe the past rather than apportion blame".

When the establishment of the commission was announced in June, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny said the inquiry would "probe the past rather than apportion blame".

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A misogynist state



AFTER the Nazi medical experiments on human beings, the Nuremberg code was drawn up to prevent such barbarity happening again. At its core was that anybody being subjected to medical experiments must give their consent.

The treatment of 1,500 victims of symphysiotomy — a medical experiment to make sure women would have as many babies as possible — was in breach of this code as the women were not asked for permission.

The UN Human Rights Committee this week accused Ireland of being responsible for torturing these women, and failing to take responsibility for the crime.

They also took apart the government’s arguments as to why mothers whose health is in danger from a pregnancy, or who are pregnant as a result of incest or rape, or whose baby is fatally damaged and will not survive are denied an abortion.

The government’s case in fact questioned the whole concept of human rights, and suggested that if a majority of people wanted to take away the rights of any group, they were entitled to.

The statements made by Nigel Rodley, chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee when summing up the hearing into Ireland’s observance of human rights echoed what NGOs and civil rights bodies in Ireland have been saying for years: That it is time the Irish State stopped its automatic response to every scandal being to first deny, then delay, then lie, cover up and eventually, if forced, throw some money at it and hope it will go away. In all this, it takes the sides of the elites, those who wield more power than is healthy, whose concerns are for protecting their members including the medical profession.

The UN felt that much of the State’s attitudes towards women and babies was linked to a view of women as vessels rather than people, reflecting a long-outmoded attitude of a misogynist clergy and people.

For Ireland with its cherished history of defending human rights around the world, it was a deeply shameful day.

For the victims it offered the kind of hope they have long been seeking, when at last someone has listened to them and not just the vested interests.

The official report of the UN will be issued next Thursday with a range of recommendations about what the government needs to do to bring these issues into line with international human rights standards.

But the fear is that once again, it will go nowhere. And again in four years time, the same issues will come up at the next hearing.

Walter Jayawardene of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) remarked that the government’s statements in some instances were verbatim to the ones it delivered in 2008.

“They seemed to have just taken it off the shelves and dusted it down,” he said, adding that this time they need to see action.

The ICCL wants the government to set up a mechanism that will oversee that the recommendations are implemented, keep track of progress and be able to report on progress.

They also want a full Oireachtas debate on the recommendations from the UN, and a task force to set out how they are to be implemented and ensure this is a high political priority.

“They have a duty to Irish citizens that are entitled to have their human rights protected,” he added.

One of those who will support and call for such action in the Dáil is Ciara Conway, Labour TD from Waterford and Vice Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, Children and Youth Affairs.

Last year — 20 years after the X-case when the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was going through the Dáil — she warned that criminalising women and doctors and a 10-year jail sentence was draconian as was requiring a drawn out procedure to certify a woman’s life was at risk or that she was indeed suicidal — both issues picked up by the UN committee as a breach of human rights.

“I believe that the public outside Leinster House wants to see changes,” she said.

But the current government has clearly said it will not have another referendum to change the rules on abortion — despite the fact that the previous two were lost because they were seen by the public as being too restrictive by trying to prevent suicidal women qualifying for the procedure.

But there are other options, eminent lawyers and doctors say, and these were relayed to the UN hearing.

Dr Ruth Fletcher, senior lecturer in medical law in Queen Mary’s School of Law in London and co-author of the Doctors for Choice submission to the UNHRC acknowledged that repealing the draconian Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution may be too difficult to do.

Article 40.3.3 reads: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

But the law itself is being interpreted much too narrowly and without taking into account the woman’s human rights. The Courts have not paid attention to key terms such as equality — despite internationally recognised work done on the issue in UCD.

As a result, women are treated as vessels, as the unborn are given protection that deprives women of their moral role, and their right to make moral decisions about their own lives.

Both mother and foetus cannot be equal — “Mr Rodley said it was very hard to get your head around any belief system that would prioritise the life of the unborn over the life of the women,” she added.

On the issue of a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life and health, the woman’s view must be taken into account, she said.

The Department of Health at the hearing admitted that women who were not able to travel abroad for an abortion were discriminated against.

The Irish Family Planning Association has real-life experience of such cases. Niall Behan said they see women all the time that cannot travel — either they need time to get the money, or they are refugees who cannot leave the country. “While they are trying to make arrangements, get passports, collect the money, the clock is ticking.” Many women find it abusive and insulting that they are forced to listen to a litany of advice and options when they call for counselling, he says, as the law insists that advice must be face to face and that all options must be thoroughly rehearsed.

It’s an example of the kind of paternalism the State treats women with, according to Máiread Enright, a law lecturer in Law at the Kent Law School who accompanied the Survivors of Symphysiotomy to the UN hearing.

She is very disturbed by the way the State has portrayed the survivors as elderly, confused women from a dark past. “The government did not listen to them, did not consult them and the Murphy and Walsh reports ignored their submissions”.

Instead it has offered to pay them a limited sum of money provided they first sign away all their rights. This, she points out, is contrary to the Constitution that protects everybody’s right to legal redress.

They rejected the redress and were vindicated by the UN hearing in their demand for a proper investigation and an unbiased redress scheme.

Another internationally eminent legal scholar in the area, Professor Siobhain Mullally of UCC, believes that the government will be under pressure to produce results this time as it sees itself as a good citizen at the UN and in international society.

However the shortcomings of Ireland’s political elites reflects Irish society — and she believes that Irish society will have to change first and put pressure on its politicians to follow through.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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Timeframe and cost of inquiry undecided



The Government has been advised that at least nine institutions should be included in the mother-and-baby home investigation and that death rates there were "undesirably high".

But the terms, timeframe, and areas for investigation will not be known until the autumn at the earliest.

A report for Government has recommended a full historical survey of unmarried mothers and their children be carried out, including where and how they were treated and housed.

Children’s Minister James Reilly yesterday published the interdepartmental report which will inform the terms of reference for the commission of investigation.

The inquiry was announced after concerns were raised about a mass grave at the Bon Secours home in Tuam, Galway, where 800 children died over 36 years.

The report identified a core group of mother and baby homes, as part of its considerations for the inquiry. These include:

-Árd Mhuire, Dunboyne, Co Meath, (1955 to 1991).

-Bessborough, Cork, 1922 to not available.

-Manor House, Castle-pollard, Co Westmeath, 1935 to 1971.

-Seán Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, 1930 to 1969.

-Bethany Home, Blackhall Place, then Orwell Rd, Dublin, 1921 to 1972.

-Pelletstown/St Patrick’s, Navan Rd, Dublin, not available to 1985.

-Tuam, Co Galway, 1925 to 1961.

-Kilrush, Co Clare, 1922 to 1936.

-St Gerard’s, Mountjoy Square, Dublin, 1933 to 1939.

The report noted research which found there were 90,000 illegitimate births in Ireland over 50 years. Mortality rates for illegitimate infants were nearly four times more than others.

An inquiry was likely to identify gender discrimination and social class issues going back decades, it said.

In Tuam, there was an average 22.2 deaths a year and 1,101 births over 36 years. ‘Debility from birth’ was the biggest cause of death, killing 24% of infants, followed by ‘respiratory diseases’ at 15%.

In all, nine homes operated over a 70-year period, up until 1991, where nearly 24,000 births took place.

It remains unclear if St Clare’s Stamullen, Meath, will be part of the final list.

The report said death rates in mother and baby homes were “undesirably high”. In Bessborough Home, Cork, it was one in two babies.

The report looked at the issue of adoptions and noted nearly 2,000 infants went to the US.

It recommended the issue of adoptions was best addressed through legislation.

Difficulties could also arise if the issue of vaccine trials was included in the inquiry because of previous court restrictions, it said. The report found evidence that 474 children’s remains were used for medical tests.

It recommended a sampling style inquiry given the scale of cases. Dr Reilly has asked Judge Yvonne Murphy to lead the inquiry.

But a decision on its terms is not expected from Cabinet now until at least September. The costs and length of the investigation remain undecided.

He said it remained to be seen which institutions were included in the inquiry.

Sinn Féin called for an all-inclusive inquiry which would also include the Magdalene laundries.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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'We never saw holidays or birthdays or a decent meal' says Bessborough survivor, Cathy Deasy



For Cathy Deasy it was a bittersweet day.

“Since the 1990s, we believed there were very many mothers and babies buried at Bessborough and so it is good to see an expert in this area agree that, yes, there could be more bodies buried outside of the official angels’ plot,” she said.

“These were babies that were likely not cared for properly at the home. We have always known there was more to the Bessborough story. To think that I could be standing here on top of an unmarked grave is disturbing but we must pay respect to these women and their children.”

Cathy was four years old when she was taken from Bessborough to be adopted in the US. She remembers always being hungry while at the home. One of her most distinctive memories is playing with the livestock that roamed the expansive estate in Blackrock.

“We never saw holidays or birthdays or a decent meal. I used to play in the livestock building. I never ate beef though. The children were given the broth and bread,” she said.

She was given a number of vaccinations at the home but has no idea if they were part of an official trial.

Toni Maguire, an independent archaeologist and anthropologist who worked with Queens University Belfast for a number of years, said yesterday there are “definite physical indications” there could be unmarked shallow graves in the grounds.

Ms Maguire, who discovered up to 11,000 unmarked graves in Miltown Cemetery in Belfast, completed a cursory examination of the Cork City site yesterday.

She said she would “really like to complete geophysical examinations” on the short avenue that runs from the Bessborough grotto to the formal Little Angels’ plot.

She also warned it was imperative that site examinations were carried out on lands just outside the Bessborough boundary as it could yet be built upon by developers.

“There are definite indications [from the topography of the land] that there could be small shallow graves at Bessborough but it is all hypotheses or theory until you do a geophysical examination there.

“There are small shallow indentations that suggest the potential for graves.”

The group also visited the site outside the boundary of Bessborough, adjacent to the Mahon flyover on Cork’s South Ring Rd. Historical records show this land was once used as a children’s burial ground by the family who owned the Bessborough estate.

“Because of the documentary evidence that says the land outside these boundaries was traditionally used as a children’s burial ground, you have to check it out also,” Ms Maguire said. “It is scary stuff to suggest this ground could be built upon.”

Cathy was at Bessborough yesterday with Mari Steed, Edel Byrne, and Fiona Sugrue, who were all born at the home and are now desperate for a geophysical examination of the lands in and around the former Sacred Heart mother and baby home.

“Our rough estimate from Department of Health mortality figures and from registration office data is that up to 1,000 mothers and babies could have died there,” said Ms Sugrue.

“But we need access to the order’s records so we can verify these numbers.” These records are now being held by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

A worker employed in Bessborough in the late 1980s and early 1990s told the Irish Examiner earlier this year he came across child remains while burying two nuns. Eugene Kelly, from Cork, worked as maintenance man at the former mother and baby home and adoption society between 1984 and 1992, and recalled coming across “little skulls and little bones” as he buried nuns in the onsite graveyard.


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Mother-and-baby home report 'a limited interpretation'



The overwhelming reaction to the Department of Justice’s intergovernmental report on mother-and-baby homes was that it was too limited and would undermine the thoroughness of any subsequent inquiry.

Many of the groups also expressed disappointment that Judge Yvonne Murphy was chosen rather than an international expert.

Adoption Rights Alliance described the report as “coming from the point of view of protecting the State rather than getting at the underlying truth of what happened”.

“This is more basic fact finding rather than truth finding mission. Including a limited number of institutions and leaving out a whole raft of other institutions and adoption issues that are all linked to the mother and baby homes shows a failure to grasp the bigger picture here. We believe no effort is being made to establish accountability,” said Claire Mc Gettrick.

Bethany Home Survivors were pleased to see Bethany Home included. But they had also wanted other institutions such as the Westbank Orphanage in Greystones, Co Wicklow and the Church of Ireland Magdalene Home on Leeson Street included.

“This report is giving a limited interpretation of what happened. There are orphanages and homes linked to Bethany that need to be investigated,” said Niall Meehan.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors expressed mixed views about the choice of Judge Yvonne Murphy to head the inquiry.

“While Judge Murphy did a commendable job chairing the Murphy Commission into child sex abuse, the coalition is aware of concerns by symphysiotomy survivors regarding the redress scheme which Judge Murphy was involved in overseeing,” said Paul Redmond.

“The fact that only registered births are used to calculate figures in the nine M&B homes instead of the numbers of expectant mothers also seriously downplays the numbers involved. Additionally, the issue of illegal adoptions has not been mentioned.”

The coalition expressed concern on the lack of debate on the appointment of Judge Murphy.

“This is of particular concern given the criticism of the Irish Government before the UN yesterday. The committee’s chair Sir Nigel Rodley expressed surprise and exasperation at the myriad of rights abuses that the State has failed to properly investigate. He also criticised the State’s consistent failure to make truth finding and accountability central to the redress provided to victims,” said legal advisor Mairead Healy.

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Pope's sorrow for sex abuse victims is a beginning



Change has come at last. Anybody reading Pope Francis’s homily at a Mass for clergy sex abuse victims in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae cannot but feel the sorrow in his words and his determination to change the culture within the Church that failed to protect children.

This meeting will position awareness of abuse by clergy at the heart of the Church. The Church has also done a service to survivors in inviting Marie Collins onto its panel, ensuring that survivors’ voices will be heard.

If there is a criticism it is that nobody from the institutions was invited. Thousands of young people left the Church as a result of the failures of the congregations to properly ensure their safety while in care.

It is now ‘business as usual’ for some of these congregations, while many of their former residents still suffer the trauma of depression, ill-health, and marital and relationship breakdown. Some are still on the streets, here in Ireland, but mainly in England.

References to redress, statutory funds or other entitlements mean nothing to these sad people and their families. It would be helpful if their suffering, and the lack of acknowledgement of their plight, be recognised now, as they move towards life’s end, still in hope but without the sacraments they crave before they die.

Groups such as ours, the Alliance Support Group, still have a role, though I challenge myself at times as to how effective we are, and whether or not we should fold now, without the funding given to professional bodies that have developed a ‘cottage industry of support’.

Tom Hayes 
Castle Gardens 
Co Armagh

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'NI home should be part of UK child abuse inquiry'

Kincora victim: 

Kincora Boys HomeThe Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast was at the centre of a child abuse scandal in the 1980s

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A man who was abused at Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast has said the home should be included in a government inquiry into child sex abuse.

Clint Massey has waived his right to anonymity to speak about how he was abused by William McGrath in 1973.

McGrath and two other members of staff at the home - William Semple and Joseph Mains - were jailed in 1981 for abusing children in their care.

Mr Massey said: "I strongly believe there's a lot more to come out."

'More suspicious'

He was 16 and had just left school when he was sent to Kincora.

He said: "The mornings were the worst times. I didn't start work until ten o'clock.

"The other two guys who shared the room were up at half six in the morning and gone by seven.

"I didn't wake up until half eight. That was when McGrath had me at his mercy. There was nobody in the house except for just those three men and me."

Clint Massey: 'If it was kept local, the findings could be buried'

Mr Massey told the BBC he "did everything possible to stay out of the place", often going back to his former children's home to stay the night.

He said that the staff at the home were regarded as "pillars of society".

Mr Massey has long suspected that the full story of what happened at Kincora has not been revealed.

"The authorities knew what was going on," he claimed.

"When I walked in there, there were people high up who knew exactly what I was walking into. They just let me walk into it."

Start Quote

You owe the government a pound, they'll chase you to the end of the world for it. Yet they lose all these files? It doesn't make sense to me”

Clint MasseyKincora abuse victim

Amnesty International and politicians, including the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, have called for Kincora to be included in an inquiry into child sex abuse announced by the Westminster government.

The inquiry is being set up to examine how public institutions handled their duty of care to protect children from paedophiles.

On Monday, Lady Butler-Sloss stepped down as the head of the inquiry saying she was "not the right person" for the job.

She had faced pressure to quit from MPs and victims concerned about her family links, because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s.

Lady Butler-Sloss said she "did not sufficiently consider" whether her family links would cause difficulties in the inquiry.

Downing Street said it would "take a few days" to appoint a new chairman and appeared to indicate that whoever was chosen would not be so closely linked to the establishment.

'Persistent rumours'

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt backed Mr Massey's call.

"For most of my adult life, there have been persistent rumours about who was either involved, or knew of what was going on but said nothing," he said.

"It is long past the time when we pay our debt to the victims by exposing the wrong-doing that took place at Kincora."

However, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said there should be an independent, international inquiry into Kincora.

"The British state is clearly incapable of investigating itself," he said.

"Therefore, to be effective, any inquiry into the abuse of children at the Kincora Boys Home during the 1980s needs to be international, independent and have the powers to subpoena witnesses and access documents."

DUP assembly member Robin Newton said: "The scandal of the Kincora Boys' Home continues to taint east Belfast and those who suffered abuse within its walls need justice.

"The abused victims need to know why their plight was ignored and who was involved in their abuse."

Amnesty's Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said allegations had persisted that paedophilia at Kincora was linked to British intelligence services.

He said: "There are claims that visitors to the home included members of the military, politicians and civil servants, and that police investigations were blocked by the Ministry of Defence and MI5."

Mr Massey agreed that the inquiry should look at Kincora.

He said of the government: "All they do is make me more suspicious of them."

"You owe the government a pound, they'll chase you to the end of the world for it. Yet they lose all these files? It doesn't make sense to me."

'Very embittered'

Mr Massey said he had heard the names of some people who were alleged to have had links to the home, but he did not personally see any of them at Kincora.

He spoke about his hope that the result of the ongoing inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland, being held in Banbridge Courthouse in County Down, would be an official apology.

"I just want the state to say 'Clint, we did you wrong, we let you down'.

"Because they did let me down - big, big time," Mr Massey said.

He said his experience of being abused had left him "a very embittered, sad, lonely man at times."

"I have not been in contact with anyone from Kincora so I don't know what their lives are like. But if they're like mine, it's an empty life."


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Fear for abuse records as minister switched


We in the Bethany Survivors campaign and in representing survivors of other Protestant institutions are concerned about the switch of Charlie Flanagan from Children’s Minister to Foreign Affairs.

Over a number of weeks, alongside other organisations, our representatives explained personally to Mr Flanagan our experiences of abuse in children’s institutions. We noted his close attention to the testimony being delivered.

The first hand recording of testimony was invaluable in helping the minister formulate terms of reference for the forthcoming inquiry into mother and baby and related institutions. Since he is gone and the terms are not published we are apprehensive that his first hand experience will depart on the first available flight to Brussels.

We hope that in passing on the baton to the new minister, James Reilly, Mr Flanagan and the Taoiseach ensure nothing is lost in translation. If this takes slightly more time than originally envisaged for publication of terms of reference that is ok, as long as justice and equity is served and no one’s experience is excluded.

Derek Leinster 
Chairperson Bethany Survivors 
Southey Road 

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Terms of reference for baby homes inquiry postponed



The outline and terms of reference for the investigation into the mother and baby homes will be delayed and now not finalised until the autumn at the earliest, it has been announced.

The Cabinet discussed ongoing work on the scope and work of the inquiry yesterday and agreed on a chairperson to head up the inquiry. This person will be announced today.

A 37-page report by an interdepartmental group to help the Government decide the terms will also be released today.

However, a Government spokesman last night confirmed that the terms for the mother and baby home investigation will now not be known until later in the year. The Coalition had said it wanted the terms decided before TDs head off on their summer break this week. TDs are also due to debate the issue in the Dáil tomorrow.

Today’s report will include details about establishing the facts around reports that up to 800 babies were buried in a mass grave at a former Bon Secours Sisters institution in Tuam, Co Galway.

It will also examine other mother and baby homes and is expected to refer to previous historical references and records relating to such institutions.

Charlie Flanagan, the previous minister for children, had said that the interdepartmental group’s work would inform the Government’s decisions on the terms of reference and composition of the Commission of Investigation. The group was asked to look at where records on homes were kept. Church leaders have said that they would cooperate with the inquiry into the mother and baby homes.

A Government spokesman confirmed that the commission’s terms would not be known until “later this year”.

The scope and scale of the inquiry was “not initially apparent”, he said.

There had also been calls to extend the investigation to include vaccine trials and infant mortality rates in institutions, he pointed out.

“There will be no undue delay,” it was added.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors who met with Flanagan just 24 hours before last week’s Cabinet reshuffle have said they are “optimistic” about Dr James Reilly, the former health minister, taking over the Department of Children. The group did say however, they were concerned that the switch was made so soon before the establishment of the inquiry.

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UN: Irish abortion law treats women as 'vessels'



Frances Fitzgerald: Was in Geneva for the hearing.

Irish abortion law treats women as a vessel and nothing more, the UN’s human rights committee chair and former UN special rapporteur on torture told the Government.

The State was forced to apologise and withdraw remarks suggesting human rights could be limited or withdrawn if this was sought by a majority of people, when addressing the abortion issue.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was in Geneva with a team of civil servants giving an account of how Ireland was meeting the demands of the UN’s human rights covenant.

But the committee accused the State of failing to take responsibility for what it suggested amounted to crimes against women and children. They named the Magdalene laundries, the mother and baby homes, child abuse, and symphysiotomy, as “quite a collection,” and one that had continued for a length of time “that it’s hard to imagine any state party tolerating”.

The State had concentrated on material redress rather than taking responsibility for its failures, said the UN’s human rights committee chair Nigel Rodley in an excoriating summing-up that focused on symphysiotomy and abortion.

He blamed the Catholic Church’s historical perspective on women, which dominated the State, referring to it as “the institutional belief system”.

But he also accused the law on abortion as treating women “as a vessel and nothing more”, referring to the ban on abortion for a person who has been raped.

He also accused anti-abortion groups who addressed the committee of “breathtaking arrogance” about the meaning of the right to life in the UN’s covenant.

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties said they wholeheartedly endorsed his comments, which were also welcomed by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Designate.

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Irish State's record on abuse slammed by UN



The UN human rights committee has asked the Government why it refuses to accept any responsibility for the years of abuse and neglect suffered by Irish women and children and why it is so reticent to investigate them fully.

It also warns that doctors are unlikely to provide even the limited abortion to be permitted to save the life of a mother under the current guidelines.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and a number of civil servants defended the Government’s stance on the issues and made it clear that little was likely to change. However, Ms Fitzgerald did describe the situation of the handful of survivors of symphysiotomy as “dreadful”, acknowledging it as a legitimate human rights issue.

The committee was very critical of the Government response to the Magdalene women’s situation, saying that while the Government had apologised, it had not recognised its responsibility.

It said the investigating committee that resulted in the McAleese report was not made up of independent members but was linked to the Government and its responsibility was not to establish the truth of the facts.

“Films relayed one level of truth but we cannot depend on films to deliver the truth of what happened over a period of 70 years. Ireland seems not to be open to reviewing this case. It might be of use to tell us why you are so reticent in examining this head on,” one committee member asked.

They raised similar issues about the treatment of the victims of symphysiotomy — where women in childbirth had their pelvis broken and subsequently prevented from healing, leaving them disabled for life.

Irish Council for Civil Liberties director Mark Kelly said how the Government addresses this issue is now a litmus test for the administration. “It is so clearly an abuse of human rights.”

The committee addressed the recent revelations about the huge numbers of infant deaths in mother and baby hopes, asking if the Government planned to investigate them.

One of the members said it was disappointed the State did not intend to revise the abortion legislation since being limited to saving the life of the mother did not meet the standards of the convention.

They were concerned about the number of physicians under the legislation that were required to certify a woman’s life was at risk and said that subjecting suicidal women to such checks would make their situation worse, and constitute a failure to protect women.

He also pointed out there was no clarity about how the guidelines for doctors would be applied, which was also posing a substantial risk.

The minister in her opening statement said, “The constitutional and legislative framework in Ireland reflects the nuanced and proportionate approach to the considered views of the Irish electorate on the profound moral question of the extent to which the right to life of the unborn should be protected and balanced against the rights of the mother”.

The two-day hearing in Geneva examines whether Ireland is living up to its responsibilities under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it signed up. It continues today.

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36,000 euro payout for Magdalene Laundries survivors


editorial image

editorial imag


Survivors of Magdalene Laundries are getting an average compensation pay-out of almost 36,000 euro (£29,000), Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has revealed.


Before a United National human rights watchdog, Ms Fitzgerald said 12.4 million euro (£9.9m) has been paid so far to 346 women who were incarcerated in the institutions.

Although some have sought a review of the amount of compensation offered to them under the publicly-funded scheme, the minister suggested it was working well.

“Women are coming to the redress scheme, are using it and payments are being made,” she said.

“There are some issues for some of the women, obviously, in terms of records and documentary evidence which can be very difficult.

“We obviously want to be as flexible and supportive as we can in terms of getting that information.”

The redress scheme is expected to cost the taxpayer up to 58 million euro (£46m).

Payments range from 11,500 euro (£9,200) for women who were kept less than three months in the Catholic church-run workhouses, up to a maximum of 100,000 euro (£80,000 for survivors incarcerated for more than a decade.

The four congregations who ran them - Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, Mercy Sisters, Sisters of Charity and Good Shepherd Sisters - have refused to contribute to the compensation fund.

Ms Fitzgerald is being questioned over two days by the UN Human Right Committee in Geneva about Ireland’s human rights standards.

Asked about the State response to the Magadelene Laundries scandal, she said legislation should be passed later this year introducing medical care for survivors.

The Minister added that work is ongoing on the setting up of a State inquiry into mother and baby homes.

Around 10,000 women passed through Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996.

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Channel Island church inquiries cost £190,000


Church of England communionThe costs to the Church of England are still mounting, according to the Dean of Portsmouth

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The Church of England has spent £190,000 handling a rift between the Channel Islands and the Diocese of Winchester, it has emerged.

The islands split with the diocese in a dispute involving the Dean of Jersey and the Bishop of Winchester about the handling of an abuse complaint.

The figure was revealed after the Dean of Portsmouth asked the CofE's ruling body how much the rift had cost.

The money was spent on two inquiries and does not include legal fees.

'A long time'

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There must be a better way to settle differences than throwing this much money at lawyers”

David BrindleyDean of Portsmouth

The Dean of Portsmouth, the Very Reverend David Brindley, said the money could have been allocated to parishes elsewhere in the country.

"Those costs haven't yet finished and don't include legal costs incurred either by the Diocese of Winchester or by the Channel Islands," he said.

"The archbishop is planning to set up a further inquiry into how the oversight of the Channel Islands is handled in future.

"Sometimes inquiries come up with answers and make a difference but at the moment I think we're taking a long time to look at this issue.

"There must be a better way to settle differences than throwing this much money at lawyers."

The Channel Islands split from the Diocese of Winchester in January after relations broke down between Bishop Tim Dakin and the Very Reverend Robert Key, Dean of Jersey.

After the split, Bishop Dakin handed temporary oversight of the islands to the Bishop of Dover Trevor Wilmott, who is based in the Diocese of Canterbury.

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An Irishman's Diary on 'Our Boys'


A nationalist version of the ‘stiff upper lip’ adventure narrative

Murphy, the perennial schoolboy

Murphy, the perennial schoolboy

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

As we consider this “decade of centenaries” marking such significant events of modern Irish history as the 1913 Lockout, the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence, there is perhaps another centenary that has its own particular resonance, this time in the realm of Irish popular culture. In September 1914, the Christian Brothers launched their version of the Boy’s Own genre, Our Boys. The purpose of this initiative was to compete with the perceived imperialist propaganda of British papers for boys. Our Boyswas a highly successful publishing enterprise which at one stage of its long existence (ceasing publication in the 1990s) outsold all other magazines combined in this country, becoming in the process a veritable institution in the process of Irish boyhood. The influence of this magazine was to extend beyond the boundaries of Ireland as it was made available to the Irish communities of England, Australia and the US, and even as far afield as India, where it was distributed through the Christian Brothers’ schools.

The mission of Our Boys in its early years was to provide “acceptable” role models for Irish boyhood to counterbalance the influence of its metropolitan rivals with titles such as Boys of the EmpireBoys of England and Pluck, whose glamorisation of the empire through stirring tales of derring-do from the “with one bound he was free” school of popular literature was much resented in Irish nationalist circles. Thus many of the historical fiction stories in Our Boys drew on such episodes in Irish history as the Penal Laws, the Cromwellian era and 1798. These tales, with a pronounced Catholic/nationalist emphasis, witnessed the triumph of brave Irish heroes such as O’Hara the Outlaw – a daring raparee whose adventures featured in the long-running serial The Child Stealers, set in Cromwellian times and dealing with the government’s efforts to capture and export Irish boys and girls for a life of slavery in the sugar plantations of Barbados.

For all its stated mission to “enlighten and entertain” with a pronounced emphasis on Irish Catholicism (the missionary was a common role model), the Irish paper also offered its readers the full range of conventional adventure stories that were available in its British counterparts. There was, however, one crucial difference in the manner in which the Christian Brothers presented this material – the heroic figure whose exploits dominated these tales was, more often than not, Irish – cowboys, detectives, schoolboys and even space explorers were all indigenous figures with whom Irish boys could identify, a nationalist version of the “stiff upper lip” tradition of British adventure narrative. Thus the deeds of Sgt Maloney of the Mounties, O’Malley, the International Detective, the perennial schoolboy Murphy (who first appeared in the pages of Our Boys in the 1940s) and Prof O’Callaghan and his fellow space explorers, offered Irish boys local heroes with whom they could identify and emulate.

Perhaps the most consistently iconic feature of the Our Boys magazine throughout its long life, and an aspect that is recalled with a great deal of nostalgic affection by its many former readers, are the Kitty the Hare stories of Victor O’D Power. These tales first appeared in Our Boys in November 1924 and may be said to encapsulate the spirit of pastoral romanticism which permeated the early years of the Free State. This series went on to become a highlight of the magazine for the next 65 years (though Power died in 1929). His fictional creation, Kitty the Hare, was a travelling woman who roamed the countryside of Munster. Each issue found her recounting a tale, either from the comfort of her own fireside or the hearth of a household she was visiting.

Many of the elements of the social, economic and cultural tenets through which the newly independent Ireland defined her distinct identity are to be found in these tales of magic and mystery, fairies and poocas. The heroes and heroines of these tales live among the hills of west Cork and Kerry. Their lives are governed by the harsh reality of existence at a time of widespread poverty, high mortality (which explains, to a degree, the number of ghost stories among the material) and mass emigration.

The advent of television in the 1960s was to usher in a new era for serial papers for children. Developments in the youth reading market – with magazines devoted to pop music and soccer – also had a major impact on sales of such weeklies as Victor, Hotspur, Bunty and Judy.

Our Boys was not immune to these commercial pressures and, though supported by funding from the Christian Brothers, was forced to bow to the inevitable and ceased publication in 1990, thus marking the end of a unique chapter in the story of Irish children’s popular culture.

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Magdalene survivors are still seeking justice



One thing that would help rectify the failings of the McAleese Report into the Magdalene Laundries would be to include them in the mother-and-baby home inquiry, writes Claire McGettrick

THE Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) on the Magdalene Laundries vindicated Justice for Magdalenes’ (JFM, now JFM Research) contention of extensive state involvement with these institutions.

However, the IDC also went well beyond its mandate and produced a report offering an inaccurate and incomplete representation of the experiences of those who were incarcerated against their will.

The McAleese Report utterly failed the Magdalene women, both living and dead, and their families.

The ‘Magdalene Names Project’ is a JFM Research initiative which examines various archives and records, including gravestones, census records, electoral registers, exhumation orders and newspaper archives.

Primarily, the project seeks to offer a narrative that honours the lives of those who lived and died behind Magdalene Laundry walls. However, the research also sheds light on other matters, not least the issue of how long women were confined.

According to the McAleese Report, 61% of known entries spent less than a year in Ireland’s 10 Magdalene institutions. Unfortunately, as the IDC chose to return records to the religious orders and destroy all copies, it is not possible to verify this assertion.

However, the Names Project’s initial findings, based on comparisons between Magdalene grave records and electoral registers, cast serious doubt on the IDC’s position.

For example, 63.43% of the women who appear on the electoral register for High Park from 1954-55 also appear on the laundry’s headstones at Glasnevin Cemetery, revealing that they spent a minimum of nine years confined and 61.43% of the women from 1955-56 were there for a minimum of eight years.

The electoral registers for the Donnybrook laundry reveal similar results when compared to information on gravestones for that institution, with 63.11% in 1954-55 incarcerated for a minimum of nine years and 67.88% of those in 1955-56 incarcerated for a minimum of eight years.

Most disturbing are the numbers of women who never got to leave. In Donnybrook’s case, the available electoral registers for 1954-64 indicate that over half of these women are buried in the graveyard at the old laundry site, while almost 30% of the women in High Park during the same time frame are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

JFM was founded in 2003 on foot of revelations about the exhumations at High Park laundry in Drumcondra.

Ten years earlier, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity sold some of their property after incurring losses on the stock exchange and successfully applied to the Department of the Environment for an order to exhume the remains of 133 women buried on the site.

After the undertakers discovered an additional 22 remains during the exhumation, the Department supplied an additional order to allow the removal of ‘all human remains’.

The Sisters told the Department that they could not produce death certificates for 58 of the women on the initial exhumation order, 24 of whom appear under quasi-religious names, denying them their birth identity.

The remains of all but one of the 155 women were then cremated and re-interred at Glasnevin Cemetery. It is unfathomable that this issue remains unresolved 11 years after Mary Raftery first shone light on it.

JFM repeatedly brought High Park to the attention of the IDC. However, the McAleese Report offers a flimsy explanation of the circumstances surrounding the exhumations, leaving more questions than answers.

The reader is expected to take the report’s analysis at face value; for example, it relies on research carried out by the religious order on its own records, research that is neither supplied in the appendices nor available in the public domain.

Incredibly, the IDC chose to accept an ‘administrative reason’ (the absence of archived or catalogued records) as explanation for the serious anomalies surrounding the exhumations.

JFM raised other issues concerning Magdalene Laundry deaths with the IDC. However, Chapter 16 of the McAleese Report ignores these aspects of our Principal Submission.

For instance, questions remain about a 30-year gap in the grave records for the Good Shepherd Laundry at Sunday’s Well in Cork. In fact, the Report makes no reference to there being any issue at Sunday’s Well and offers no explanation as to whether there is another grave location and/or if the Good Shepherd Sisters are still in possession of all records for women and girls incarcerated in their institution.

And, the Report fails to address the fact that a number of names are duplicated on different Sunday’s Well grave sites, with the same woman’s name and the same date of death — as reported in the Irish Examiner.

Perhaps the gravest failing of Chapter 16 of Martin McAleese’s Report is the exclusion of the deaths of former Magdalene women in institutionalised settings after the closure of the laundries.

The Report categorises these women as ‘nursing home’ deaths, denying in death their identity as Magdalenes, which deprived them of human dignity in life.

Moreover, it fails to quantify the extent of these deaths.

This elision may explain why JFM Research has the names of 190 women whose existence is not included in the McAleese Report.

By the same token, we remain stymied by the Report’s inclusion of 185 women from High Park and Sean McDermott Street that we were previously unaware of and whose burial place remains a mystery. This is not surprising however, considering the Report absolutely ignores the issue of unmarked graves.

The Report unquestionably reflects the information provided by the religious orders, and only that information.

JFM was founded by three adopted women, two of whom are daughters of Magdalene women, and the organisation has always been keenly aware of the linkages between the two issues. Most adopted people assume their natural mothers went on to have happy lives, and those who discover that their mothers never saw freedom experience shock, sadness and betrayal by the State.

For those adopted people whose mothers died in the Magdalene Laundries or remain institutionalised under the nuns’ charge, they deserve access to the truth. They are entitled to know the fate of their mothers. At a bare minimum, they are entitled to the location of a grave with their mother’s name inscribed on it.

The McAleese Report failed to deliver these basic entitlements to the Magdalene women and their families. There is now an opportunity to rectify this failure by including the Magdalene Laundries in the forthcoming Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation.

It is the very least the Irish State should do.

Claire McGettrick is co-founder of JFM Research and co-ordinator of the Magdalene Names Project

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A good day's work as Pope Francis expresses sorrow for the sins and crimes of clerical sex abuse



Monday last may yet turn out to be a most significant day in the Roman Catholic Churchwhere clerical child sexual abuse is concerned. That morning Pope Francis received an intense education on the consequences of such abuse and its cover-up for six adults violated as children. For the first time, he heard directly stories of innocence shattered, years of turmoil and distress, faith destroyed. He heard about lies and denial by wolves in shepherd’s clothing, and worse. He heard of how those same wolves were protected, even facilitated, by those in church authority who put protection of the institution, its assets and clergy before that of those children they so blithely sacrificed.

Pope Francis spent three hours and 20 minutes listening to such stories told by three men and three women from the UK and Germany as well as Marie Kane and Mark Vincent Healy from Ireland. Both were afforded all the time they wanted with him. Neither pulled their punches in telling about their experiences. From the language of his homily at the Mass in Santa Marta that morning, it is clear Pope Francis grasps the enormity of what has happened in his church. He asked “for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons...Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.”

As significant was an address by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin at a conference in Rome that evening. He said the church “must show unflinchingly a preferential option for those who have been victims of abuse within its fold.” Simply ensuring the safety of children was not enough. Recalling the words of Jesus about leaving the 99 to find one who is lost, he said the church must actively seek out the abused and help them, wherever they are, “as like it or not, that is precisely what Jesus asks us to do.” A good day’s work.

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Mother and Baby investigation and Children First Act among priorities for James Reilly


Some want Protestant institutions, county homes, former inmates of psychiatric asylums and fostered children to be included in an inquiry

The most delicate item in the in-tray of new Minister for Children and Youth AffairsJames Reilly will be getting the terms of reference right for the investigation into mother-and-baby homes.

Myriad groups, all deserving to have their cases heard, have made submissions for inclusion.

As well as survivors of the mother-and-baby homes, it has been argued the commission should inquire into all issues surrounding the separation of single mothers and their babies and children since 1922 including the inhumane and degrading treatment, high mortality rates, vaccine trials and banished babies.

Arguments have been made for the inclusion of Protestant institutions, county homes, former inmates of psychiatric asylums and fostered children.

Others have warned the investigation should not be too ambitious and become unwieldy.

The terms of reference are to be announced on Thursday.

On a related issue, Mr Reilly will also have to decide on reform of adoption legislation, so adoptees can access information about birth mothers.

Groups working with children last night called on the Minister to prioritise enactment of the Children First legislation, which will make it mandatory for anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare to report these to the Child and Family Agency.

The Bill is going through the legislative process but has faced opposition from some who promise confidentiality, such as counsellors, Samaritans and priests hearing confession.

Also on the Minister’s summer reading list will be briefing documents on whether to extend the free pre-school year to two years; reform of the youth justice system; funding the Child and Family Agency; regulation of creches; youth homelessness and the welfare of youths leaving State care.

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A secret history of child abuse


Man removing files from the National Archives

A major inquiry has been launched into how historical allegations of child abuse were handled. The UK's National Archives contain some appalling examples of abuse at children's homes and approved schools from decades past.

In 1952 the Home Office gave clear guidance to managers of these schools - saying they had a duty to report allegations of crimes, including "indecent practices", to the police.

But the files show that didn't always happen.

The files - dealing with cases that the Home Office was alerted to - show how abuse was not taken as seriously as today, and how at least one institution wanted to allow a convicted abuser to return to work with children after his sentence had been completed.

All of the cases in these files deal with attacks on boys at homes or schools. Approved schools - somewhere between a children's home and a youth detention centre - were disproportionately male.

Here are a selection of some of the most significant cases we have found in the files.

Westfield Children's Home, Liverpool, 1965-6
Building which housed Westfield Children's Home. Photo: Liverpool Record Office/Liverpool libraries  Westfield Children's Home occupied this building from 1953 (photo taken 1952)

Westfield was a local authority children's home with 26 children, aged six-16, mostly from "disturbed" backgrounds. In September 1965, a young housemaster was found guilty of buggery [the offence of male rape did not exist then] and indecent assault against several of the boys, and sentenced to four years in prison.

In court, the judge said "the state of affairs in this home can only be described as shocking" - and there was an outcry in the city. Many called for a public inquiry. The files show that the Home Office was not enthusiastic about this - and officials were relieved when the council decided to hold an inquiry in private, led by a QC, G W Guthrie Jones.

Guthrie Jones found that this was a "well-run home", with high household standards, regularly inspected by the Home Office, as all such institutions were.

He pointed out that the boys concerned had been involved in sexual activity with other boys in the past. The youngest boy, particularly, had been "buggered" by other boys, Guthrie Jones said. The first incident, recorded in 1962, was when he was only eight years old.

The convicted housefather had no record of homosexuality, Guthrie Jones noted. "It is plain that if a man, particularly unmarried, lives in such a community the strictest supervision is required. Indeed, it is possible that such a man might himself be in one sense the victim of boys who had already been corrupted."

Detail from file
The archive files
  • Much of the research leading to this piece was originally done by Sanchia Berg and Meirion Jones for an episode of Panorama about Mandatory Reporting and Child Abuse in November 2013: After Savile: No more secrets?
  • Some of these documents had passed into the archives under the 30-year rule
  • Some files released to the BBC after many FOI requests.

Such a comment really illustrates the difference between attitudes then and now - though the files do show there were a small number of other cases where officials and police really did try to prosecute abusers.

The "sexual behaviour" of the youngest boy at Westfield had been discussed by doctors and council workers the year before. The council had considered moving him - he'd been in care since the age of five. But they decided another children's home was out of the question, as they didn't want to "spread" such behaviour, and they couldn't find foster parents for him.

Guthrie Jones made several recommendations - for instance, that boys "known to be indulging in homosexual practices" should not sleep in the same room. He suggested better staff selection and training as well as more use of doctors and other specialists.

"This was a shocking and appalling case and the way in which it was dealt with 50 years ago is a stain on the city's child welfare record," says Councillor Jane Corbett, Liverpool City Council Cabinet Member for Children's Services. "There has rightly been a seismic shift in attitudes since then, coupled with the introduction of rigorous safeguarding policies."

The Ockenden Venture, 1965
P Moor's charge sheet
Police notes

In June 1965 Peter John Moor appeared in court in Leicestershire, and was found guilty of two offences against young boys who were resident at Donington Hall. They were refugee children, apparently aged 11 and 14. Their identities are protected - but they would most likely have been Polish or from the Baltic states.

The Ockenden Venture had been set up some years before to cater for the children of stateless families - many still living in camps years after the war ended.

If you've been affected...

  • ... the following organisations can help:
  • The police if you have evidence of having suffered sexual abuse so an investigation can be made
  • NSPCC charity specialises in child protection
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse

Moor had been a housemaster there, employed for only a few weeks. It emerged that he had resigned from two previous teaching jobs. More importantly, he had a long string of convictions for buggery, theft and indecent assault. He had first been convicted at the age of 15, in 1923, for "assault on a male". In 1957 he had been sentenced to eight years in prison for a sexual assault on a 15-year-old boy.

Moor had been able to move around freely simply by changing his name. The Home Office did hold a register of persons unsuitable to work with children - but he'd dodged that.

Officials agreed this was a "disturbing case" but felt that there was little that could be done. They reminded institutions they should always check references. "All this goes to show that no system is foolproof," wrote one senior official in the Home Office. The file makes clear that Ockenden, catering for some of the most vulnerable children in England, had been targeted before. The headteacher had called the regional inspectors directly on this occasion because of "former allegations of indecent behaviour by a housemaster in 1962".

"Ockenden has been shocked and appalled by the allegations of abuse highlighted by the media," say the trustees in a statement. "Historically, as part of its remit to assist refugees and displaced persons, the charity used to run children's homes. Having received a complaint about a housemaster at the Donington Hall children's home in 1965, the charity immediately contacted the police. The housemaster was suspended and ultimately, convicted and imprisoned. It subsequently transpired that the housemaster had obtained his position at Donington Hall by disguising his true identity and his former convictions."

St Gilbert's, Christian Brothers school, 1963
St Gilbert's, Midlands

The Christian Brothers, or De La Salle Order, ran several approved schools in England. The approved schools were the ultimate responsibility of the Home Office - children were sentenced to terms there by juvenile courts. They catered generally for boys who'd committed relatively minor crimes. Their intention was reform.

Ian McCallum was sent to St Gilbert's, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, when he was 13, after his home life became very difficult. McCallum was something of a rarity at St Gilbert's - a boy who'd passed the 11-plus.

St Gilbert's was harsh, he says. Boys were beaten so badly their backsides were black with bruising. He remembers how - soon after he arrived - he awoke to find seven of the ten other boys in his dormitory had run away. The boys were badly caned on their return.

McCallum vividly recalls the night he woke up to find Brother Maurice, the deputy headmaster, leaning over his bed. He woke up with a start - and the monk leant back, claiming nothing happened.

The files in the National Archives show that in 1963 a mother had complained to the police about the behaviour of one of the brothers. The name is redacted, but the context, and research by the BBC, indicates it was Brother Maurice. It shows that there had been earlier complaints about this monk - and the head of the order had moved him to Scotland. The order had also taken legal advice, indicating that they did not need to volunteer any information to the police.

In January 1964, Brother Maurice pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault against boys at the school. He was sentenced to three years' probation, on condition he spent 12 months as an outpatient at St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Five years later, the order wanted to place Brother Maurice back in an approved school as a teacher. He had been reinstated as a teacher by the Department for Education and Science, according to the note in the file. He would have remained on the "register" - but the order would not normally check one of their appointments against that Home Office record.

Civil servants were concerned there might be some repercussions for Whitehall if the monk reoffended. "It seems to me that the S of S [secretary of state] might be open to some criticism if [name redacted] were to have a relapse and the order could represent that the Home Office were aware of their intentions to re-employ him and had not advised against it," wrote DJ Marks, a senior civil servant in the Home Office. They decided to express their reservations by phone - there's no note of what the outcome was.

McCallum is still shocked by the lack of care and concern for the children involved.

"There's no mention of anything about the children… He got three years' probation. What's three years' probation? And a year at a hospital just discussing his problems."

The De La Salle order now stresses that it has totally changed its approach to child safety in the light of the 2001 Nolan Report and the 2007 Cumberlege Commission Report.

"The De La Salle order condemns without reservation any action or behaviour that harms young people and, in particular, that perpetrated by one of its own members or employees. It apologises unreservedly to the victims of such behaviour."

Allegations are now referred to police and any alleged abusers immediately suspended. There are regular inspections.

"With regard to the specific question about St Gilbert's School in the 1960s, no member of the order involved in that school is alive today and the order holds no documentation with regard to how any allegations dating from that period were dealt with."

St Vincent's approved school 1948-9

St Vincent's was a junior school in Kent - for boys as young as eight or nine. It was a small school - run by nuns. In September 1949 several boys complained to the cleaning lady of "rude behaviour" on the part of one of the masters. When she asked more questions it was clear he'd been abusing them.

She reported this to the police. In this instance both the police and the Home Office acted quickly. A Mr Davey from the Home Office went to the school, accompanied by a number of police officers. The very next day, police interviewed all the boys in the school and decided there was a case against one of the masters. They had evidence from 10 boys that he'd abused them - and statements from a further 11 boys who were witnesses.

The police didn't stop there. They traced boys who'd moved on to other approved schools. Nine boys said they'd been assaulted by a master who'd left the school in 1948, two said he'd raped them. Five boys said they'd been sexually assaulted by a housemaster who'd also left the school.

Charges were brought against all three masters and they were tried in early 1950. The current master confessed to five counts of indecent assault and two counts of buggery, and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. It emerged that he'd left his previous job in a remand home after assaulting boys in a dormitory. The Home Office had warned St Vincent's about him, but the headmistress had ignored it. She'd even allowed him to take boys away from the school premises for "parties".

The other men denied the charges - no adult witnesses were called in the trial and the boys were easy to undermine. The men were found not guilty.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales says: "The church, learning from its failings in the past, now has robust national guidelines and procedures for the protection of children young people and vulnerable adults. It automatically refers allegations of abuse to the statutory authorities.

"However, we should not forget that victims and survivors of abuse of many years ago - like the boys of St Vincent's School - can experience pain and trauma on a daily basis."

Danesford Approved School, 1965
Danesford school

Danesford was another school for younger boys, including many vulnerable children. The first allegation of sexual abuse came from a mother who had heard that another boy had been "the subject of minor interference" by a member of staff. "She had expressed the hope that her son would not undergo the same treatment," the file says.

The complaint was investigated, and a master questioned. It emerged that the man had previously been warned about spending too much time alone with individual boys. "There was however no reason to believe that [name redacted] had any homosexual inclinations and the warning was intended to protect the staff member from possible allegations by boys exploiting the publicity value of such charges," the file says. It's a typical comment of the time, when complaints from children themselves were often considered suspect.

In this case, the boy was interviewed, and claimed he'd been repeatedly indecently assaulted by the master. The master was suspended and interviewed by police.

"After first denying the allegations he broke down and confessed to offences against boys over a period of three years but mostly in the last few weeks," the file says.

The man became extremely agitated and the police "feared for his safety". The headmaster stepped in, offering him a room in his own house. The next day, he was driven to his parents' house. The file says he was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Six years later the Home Office were again contacted. A boy claimed that a master had "interfered" with him in the early hours of the morning. The school did not intend to call the police, believing that this was not a sexual assault. The Home Office agreed it was a minor matter - and "in the absence of any corroborative evidence it seemed unlikely the police would be able to prosecute".

"We are appalled by those who have abused the trust of the very children they should have been protecting," says a spokesperson for Action for Children. "The voices of children must always be heard - keeping them safe is our highest priority and we have robust procedures in place to do so."

The current inquiry

These files - and others that may now be uncovered - will surely be essential background reading for the new inquiry. The files reveal the attitudes of the time, particularly among government officials, responsible for the inspection of approved schools and orphanages - people who from today's perspective could have acted far more decisively to help vulnerable children.

"Child sexual abuse is a vile and abhorrent crime, no matter where and when it has been committed," says a spokesperson for the Home Office. "We are continuing to see appalling cases that show serious failings by public bodies and important institutions. That is why the government is establishing an independent panel of experts to consider whether these organisations have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse."

Why there was such an apparently casual approach to the rape of these children over decades is hard to understand. As early as the late 1940s, some officials and police recognised the problem, and tried to act. In the most striking case, a senior civil servant wanted the then director of public prosecutions to confront the governors of one school that had covered up abuse.

However, most of the files show how many in power saw abuse as an inevitable - though unpleasant - feature of the system. And as Ian McCallum pointed out, there is virtually no concern expressed for the victims.

If you've been affected, the following organisations can help:

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Former Clare teacher found guilty of assaulting 11 pupils



Friday 11 July 2014 17.16

Pat Barry found guilty of indecent assaults against 11 former pupils
Pat Barry found guilty of indecent assaults against 11 former pupils

An 80-year-old former school principal of a rural school in Co Clare has been found guilty of indecently assaulting eleven former pupils at his school over a 21 year period from 1964 to 1985.

Pat Barry of Well Road, Kilkee and a former principal of Moyasta National School in West Clare, had denied 67 charges of indecently assaulting the eleven women when they attended the school as pupils.

The eleven complainants, including four sisters, described how he used to molest them at every opportunity and practically every day.

They described how he indecently assaulted them as he sat beside them at their desks, and when he sat at a high stool and called them to the top of the class.

The accused man had denied all the charges and through his defence team claimed the allegations were untrue.

He claimed that the women had a false memory of what had happened. 

After deliberating over the past two days, the jury found Barry guilty of 59 charges.

He was found not guilty on the remain eight charges by order of Judge Gerald Keyes.

The complainants hugged each other and cried when the guilty verdicts were read out.

The court heard it was their express wish that the accused man be named.

He has been placed on the sex offenders register and the case has been put back to 28 October to fix a date for sentencing.

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Mother and Baby Homes inquiry could 'close sensitive chapter'


Group tells Minister for Children commission of inquiry must be inclusive, wide-ranging

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan was told today it was essential all relevant institutions be included within the remit of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan was told today it was essential all relevant institutions be included within the remit of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 18:25

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan was told today it was essential all relevant institutions be included within the remit of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Such a decision would allow “Ireland to once and for all face up to its past and close this very sensitive chapter in our history.”

At a meeting with the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors (CMABS), Mr Flanagan was told by group spokesman Paul Redmond that “as the largest representative body of survivors, we want to ensure that this is the final institutional inquiry.” He continued: “we are committed to our belief that no one gets left behind.”

Terms of reference for the new Commission of Investigation are expected to be announced in the Dáil next Thursday.

Mr Flanagan was told by group members that the Commission of Investigation should include all issues surrounding the separation of single mothers and their babies and children since 1922 as well as all other related matters including inhumane/degrading treatment and high mortality rates, vaccine trials, banished babies, all Protestant institutions,and county homes.

They also requested that adoption records be opened and called for “ a proper investigation of the Magdalene Laundries, fathers rights, etc.”

Theresa Tinggal, of Adopted Illegally Ireland, called for a full investigation into illegal adoptions to be included.

The group asked to be consulted on the structure and rollout of the Commission of Investigation and that an independent, international judicial chairperson be appointed to head it.

They asked too for direct input into the selection of all key personnel on the Commission and presented the Minister with a list of potential candidates who may be available.

Memorials for all Angel plots was also raised by the group, as a gesture to begin the process of healing.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors was formed last year with the purpose of preparing a complaint to the UN Committee Against Torture. Its membership is made up of Adoption Rights Now, Beyond Adoption Ireland, Adopted Illegally Ireland, the Bethany Home Survivors, the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home Group and the Dunboyne Mother and Baby Home Group. Internationally, it is connected to and supported by similar groups including the Adoption Coalition.

Speaking after their discussion with Mr Flanagan, Mr Redmond said “we welcome this positive meeting today as a sign of the Government’s commitment to addressing these issues.”

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Monday, 7 July 2014


The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation… Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps… This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls. I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons. Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.

For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realized that Jesus was looking and others the same… and they set about to sustain that gaze.

And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin. This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created. Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith. Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life long scars.

I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair. Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction. Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships.

Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide. The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church. To these families I express my heartfelt love and sorrow. Jesus, tortured and interrogated with passionate hatred, is taken to another place and he looks out. He looks out upon one of his own torturers, the one who denied him, and he makes him weep. Let us implore this grace together with that of making amends.

Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God. Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.

Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.

I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.

On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church. There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.

What Jesus says about those who cause scandal applies to all of us: the millstone and the sea (cf. Mt 18:6).

By the same token we will continue to exercise vigilance in priestly formation. I am counting on the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, all minors, whatever religion they belong to, they are little flowers which God looks lovingly upon.

I ask this support so as to help me ensure that we develop better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that these sins have no place in the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, because we are all members of God’s family, we are called to live lives shaped by mercy. The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the supreme example of this; though innocent, he took our sins upon himself on the cross. To be reconciled is the very essence of our shared identity as followers of Jesus Christ. By turning back to him, accompanied by our most holy Mother, who stood sorrowing at the foot of the cross, let us seek the grace of reconciliation with the entire people of God. The loving intercession of Our Lady of Tender Mercy is an unfailing source of help in the process of our healing.

You and all those who were abused by clergy are loved by God. I pray that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.

I am grateful for this meeting. And please pray for me, so that the eyes of my heart will always clearly see the path of merciful love, and that God will grant me the courage to persevere on this path for the good of all children and young people. Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps. We ask that he look at us and that we allow ourselves to be looked upon and to weep and that he give us the grace to be ashamed, so that, like Peter, forty days later, we can reply: “You know that I love you”; and hear him say: “go back and feed my sheep” – and I would add – “let no wolf enter the sheepfold”.


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Historic day in Vatican as Pope Francis asks forgiveness for clerical sex abuse


‘I ask for the grace to weep,’ he tells Irish, British and German abuse survivors

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi at a press conference in the Vatican yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi at a press conference in the Vatican yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 01:00

Pope Francis yesterday met with six clerical sex abuse survivors in a historic Vaticanmeeting, the first of this pontificate and one marked by the Argentinian pope’s now familiar compassionate ministry.

Pope Francis began the day by offering an apology to the six people – two Irish, two British and two German – during a homily at Mass in the Domus Santa Marta, his Vatican residence.

“The scene where Peter encounters Jesus after his terrible interrogation comes to mind . . . The eyes of Peter meet those of Jesus and he weeps . . . That scene comes to my mind as I look at you and think of so many men and women, boys and girls.

“I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.

“Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sex abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness . . . There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not.

“All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.”



The six survivors had stayed on Sunday night in the Domus Santa Marta, where they had a first meeting with the pope over dinner.


Yesterday morning they and the eight members of the Vatican’sCommission For The Protection Of Minors, including Irish activistMarie Collins, attended mass at Santa Marta.

Following breakfast with the pope, all six survivors then had a one-on-one meeting with Francis during which they told their own individual stories.

In total the pope spent almost six hours of an intense morning with the survivors, prompting senior papal spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi to comment that the meetings had been distinguished by “the pope’s usual style . . . of pastoral listening” where the survivors felt they were being “heard, received and embraced”.

“This was not a superficial listening from the pope . . . He is someone who tries hard to listen . . . he has dedicated his entire life to pastoral listening . . . This was a spiritual and profound dialogue.”


Cardinal Brady

Asked by The Irish Times about the fact that one of the Irish survivors, Marie Kane, had asked Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Sean Brady as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, Fr Lombardi declined to comment, saying that the content of the meetings was “a private matter”.


Fr Lombardi also added that yesterday’s meeting was not so much concerned about “concrete measures” in relation to the handling of the clerical sex abuse as about a highly significant gesture of compassion and solidarity.

Yesterday’s meeting had been preceded by criticism from survivors’ lobbies in bothArgentina and the US which had questioned the criteria used to pick the survivors.

The papal spokesman was asked whether, in the light of that criticism, yesterday’s meeting was not simply a PR move on the part of the Holy See.

Fr Lombardi vehemently rejected that suggestion, saying: “Time and again these lobbies fail to understand the real intentions of the pope and I am not surprised by their negative spin on this meeting.”

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Call for Protestant-run mother and baby homes inquiry


‘I was a slave all my young life. My mother was a slave to prejudice’

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan: met with members of the Bethany Survivors group

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan: met with members of the Bethany Survivors group

A meeting with Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan seeking inclusion of Protestant-run mother and baby homes in the proposed Commission of Investigation was “quite positive”, according to one of those at the meeting.

John (who does not want his surname published for family reasons) attended the meeting with members of the Bethany Survivors group.

They sought inclusion of the Bethany Home, the Magdalen Home on Dublin’s Leeson Street, the Westbank Orphanage in Greystones, Co Wicklow, and the Ovoca House Orphanage in Wicklow town.

The people who ran those institutions included Protestant evangelicals, members of theChurch of Ireland, and of the Plymouth Brethren.


‘I could not walk’

Separately, Adoption Rights Alliance and the Justice for Magdalenes Research groups have proposed jointly that the commission should focus on children born out of wedlock in Ireland since 1922, rather than on institutions.

John was born in 1946 at the Magdalen Home on Leeson Street.

A year later he was sent to another Protestant-run home in Baldoyle, Co Dublin. “In 1949 I was found to be badly malnourished with rickets. I could not walk,” he said.


Manual labour

He was fostered to a family in Carlow. “I was required to do manual labour from about the age of five or six.

“I worked before I walked five miles to school each morning, to the local Roman Catholicschool, with another foster child taken in by the family, though we were brought up Church of Ireland. The natural children of the family went to the Church of Ireland primary school.”

He and the other foster child “milked cows, collected sheep, fed poultry and generally worked as free child-labour on the farm. We were slave labour I suppose.

“The family received money for us from public funds. We were isolated from other members of the family.”

When he was 10 he was sent to a farm in Co Tipperary. “The work got heavier and heavier. At the local Church of Ireland school I was often physically abused. I was told I did not deserve to be there and taunted with the fact that I had no parents.”

There was kindness. “A small contractor took me under his wing and sometimes brought me into town to be fed. I remember he gave me hints that I might have a sister.”

At 13 he was sent to a Protestant secondary school, his education funded by a Protestant charity.

“I was treated no better. And neither were the seven or so other foster children. I was beaten twice or three times a week.”

During summers he was sent to another Tipperary family. “It was the same old routine of endless work. From bad to worse. I was treated appallingly,” he said.

“My mother sought me out when I was 21. I was told to go to Dublin, to the Wicklow Hotel, and then told, ‘this is your mother, get on with it’.”

At the age of 58 he “found out by accident when applying for a passport that I had a twin sister who was adopted into a family in Northern Ireland. Her existence was kept from me and vice versa.

“Though I made contact, time apart destroyed the possibility of a relationship between us,” he said.

“I was a slave all my young life. My mother was a slave to prejudice: forced to give birth in secret. She kept her twin children secret from all her family for most of her life, and kept her twin children secret from each other. Her family found out about me at at her funeral.”


‘State let me down’

He is 68 now. “ I married Sheila in 1971. We have twin girls and a boy,” he said. “The Irish State and the Church of Ireland were my parents. They let me down, badly.”

He tried to keep contact with the other foster children but most “took to drink and to drugs”.

Above all John wants “access to my mother’s files, that are denied to me.”

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Pope meets abuse victims in Vatican


Monday 07 July 2014 14.31
The meetings come in the wake of sharp criticisms of the Holy See by two UN panels
The meetings come in the wake of sharp criticisms of the Holy See by two UN panels

Pope Francis met survivors of clerical child sexual abuse, including two Irish victims, in the Vatican today, in the first such meetings.

They took place in the guest house inside the Vatican where the Pontiff lives. 

They followed sharp exchanges earlier this year between UN panels and the Holy See over the Catholic Church's cover-ups of many abuse scandals.

He held one-to-one meetings with six guests: a female and a male survivor each from Ireland, England and Germany.

Ahead of the meetings, he invited them to his morning mass, which was to be attended by the recently-established Vatican Commission on the Protection of Minors. 

It is understood the survivors are being supported by commission members from their own countries.

Both Irish survivors are being assisted by the campaigner and abuse survivor Marie Collins.

Speaking at the mass, the pope said the church should "weep and make reparation" for crimes he said had taken on the dimensions of a sacrilegious cult.

"For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering," he said.

"So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realised that Jesus was looking."

"I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons," he said, according to a Vatican transcript.

"Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness," he said.

The meetings came in the wake of sharp criticisms of the Holy See by two UN panels, one campaigning against torture, the other promoting children's rights, for its failure over many decades to punish abusive priests and to report their crimes to civil authorities.

One of the Irish abuse survivors who met Pope Francis today has described her meeting with the pontiff as “very important and very personal”.

Marie Kane told RTÉ’s News at One that before meeting Pope Francis on her own she attended a very moving mass in the Vatican, along with five other survivors of clerical abuse, where she prayed for "change".

She described the pope as a "very humble man, very warm" which made it "very easy to sit and to talk".

She said: "It was important for me to explain from a survivors point of view that it's important, the church needs to change.

"It can't have certain cardinals in power - or a cardinal in particular - that covered up abuse and silenced victims. It's very hard to think you could go back into a church that still has these people in power."

Ms Kane said the cover-ups in the church were "unbelievable".

She described the Murphy report as her first "vindication" but said it now "can't go higher than this".

She said she would like to think there will be change and that she thinks there are small steps taking place towards change and that more work going on to safeguard children in the church.

Ms Kane said the loss of faith was a common feeling among survivors.

Keywords: abuse, pope francis, vatican

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No mention of Institutional Abuse?

Irish abuse victim tells Pope she wants Cardinal Brady removed

Two Dublin clerical child abuse survivors met pontiff in Vatican this morning

Irish abuse survivors were among those meeting with Pope Francis today. File photograph: Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

Irish abuse survivors were among those meeting with Pope Francis today. File photograph: Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

Clerical child abuse survivor Marie Kane (43) this morning asked Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Seán Brady as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland due to his handling of a clerical child abuse inquiry in 1975.

Now living in Carlow, her abuse by a priest took place in Bray for three years until she was 18.

“It’s a big thing with me that there are still members of the hierarchy there who were involved in the cover-up. I feel personally they (Church) cannot contemplate any change happening, there will be no success,” as long as such people remained in place, she told The Irish Times this morning.

She told Pope Franci s that “cover-up is still happening and you have the power to make these changes.” There were others besides Cardinal Brady, she said, but “Ididn’t want to go into a litany.” Pope Francis responded that “it was difficult to make these changes,” she said, “but it’s a big thing with me that Seán Brady is gone.”

In 1975, while investigating allegations of child sexual abuse against paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth, Cardinal Brady swore two boys to secrecy as part of a canon law investigation process. The allegations were not reported to police and Smyth continued to abuse children before being jailed in Belfast in 1994.

On August 16th next Cardinal Brady will be 75. Under current Vatican practice he must then submit his resignation as bishop to Rome, which decides on its immediate acceptance or otherwise.

Ms Kane told The Irish Times that she had met the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin a number of times over recent years and he rang her about a month about meeting Pope Francis. She arrived in Rome on Friday evening and has been staying at the Santa Marta residence where Pope Francis himself lives.

She and another abuse survivor from Dublin, two survivors from the UK and two fromGermany, all staying at Santa Marta, attended 7am Mass celebrated by Pope Francis this morning, after which they had breakfast. Each abuse survivor then met the Pope separately, beginning with two from the UK.

Ms Kane was third survivor to meet Pope Francis and she was with him for about 20 minutes, She was accompanied by Marie Collins, also an abuse survivor and a member of the new Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors which is holding its second meeting this week in Rome. It met for the first time in May.

Also present at this morning’s meeting was the Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, another member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, who acted as translator for Pope Francis.

Apart from seeking the removal of Cardinal Brady the rest of Ms Kane’s discussionwith the Pope was “more personal” she said. She discussed the effect of her abuse and its subsequent handling by the Church on her two children, aged 18 and 14. “They have no belief in the Church in any shape or form,” she said.

It had also put a strain on her relationship with her husband Seán. They married 23 years ago and she told him very soon after they started going out together about the abuse. He had been “very supportive.” Where her parents were concerned “it (abuse) has been quite big for them,” she said.

She found Pope Francis “very, very humble. There was no standing on ceremony. No pomp.I felt very comfortable, relaxed. He seemed genuinely frustrated at what he was hearing. He listened and seemed genuine. There was a lot of empathy. There was no looking at watches. I was the one who ended it as I had said all I wanted to say.”

She had written a letter in case she might not remember all she had to say, and her daughter had written another. She handed both to Pope Francis. For her meeting the Pope this morning had been “a positive experience.”

She returns to Ireland this evening.

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Authority admits thousands of adoptions illegal



Thousands of Irish people "must have been" illegally adopted, with many taken out of the country, the Adoption Authority (AAI) has admitted.

The controversial claims clash with statements from the then children’s minister and now justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, who told the Dáil last year that every adoption carried out by the State was legal.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said she was “astonished” the AAI revealed the figures, as her organisation has campaigned for years for an investigation into the alleged practice. No audit of adoption records held by the AAI, HSE or religious adoption agencies has ever being carried out.

Illegal adoptions arise in different ways, but one of the most controversial is when a child’s birth certificate falsely states that its adoptive parents are its birth parents. It’s believed this practice often followed the forced handover of children from unmarried mothers.

The AAI says there are two groups of illegally adopted people:

- Those who’ve been told they’re adopted, even though an official adoption process never took place.

- Those who wrongly believe they were born to their adoptive parents, as this is what their birth certificate states and what their families have told them.

“There must be many thousands out there, who in their positions might not know they are [not] adopted and their registration is illegal or irregular,” AAI chief executive Kiernan Gildea told the Dáil Committee on Health and Children last week.

Mr Gildea said some people who have contacted the National Contact Preference Register, which is used by adopted people and their birth parents to contact one another, are aware of their “irregular” status.

“We have 100 applications on the National Adoption Contact Preference Register (NACPR) for those people who are lucky enough to know they have a birth certificate but they were [not] adopted,” he said in response to a question from independent TD Clare Daly.

Speaking in the Dáil in November, Ms Fitzgerald said the Australian state apology on forced adoption was due to government policies at the time in that country, before stating that every adoption carried out by the Irish State has been legal. “All adoptions which the Irish State has been involved in since 1952 have been in line with this [Adoption Act 1952] and subsequent adoption legislation,” she said.

The minister also stated last year that illegal adoptions referred only to illegal birth registrations, which meant the State was not involved as no formal adoption took place.

Ms Lohan says falsified birth certificates are “the tip of the iceberg”. “Illegal birth registrations are a small part of the illegal adoptions that need to be investigated. We also need to examine those rendered illegal as the mother was under the age of consent, where surrender forms were signed before babies had reached the legal date of six weeks, where adoptions were signed off to couples who were not ordinarily resident in the State, and where signatures were routinely forged and consent not freely given.”

The Adoption Rights Alliance discussed the need for a broad interpretation of illegal adoptions with Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan, when they met him last week about the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation. Ms Lohan said he told them he wanted a “once and for all” investigation into all of the issues they brought to his attention.

She also warned if cases where children were handed over illegally can be proved, it could lead to an onslaught of legal actions.

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Tragic Phyllis Hamilton had third child after being raped by a priest


Tragic Phyllis Hamilton had third child after being raped by a priest

The woman who took on the Catholic Church after 
living an extraordinary double life with Fr Michael Cleary had a baby girl following rape

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Calls to include Protestant orphans in inquiry



Protestant children who were sent to the Westbank orphanage in Greystones, Co Wicklow, were not told that other residents were their brothers or sisters, mainly lived on baby food and were beaten with clothes hangers and electrical cables.

The Westbank overseeing committee members are still refusing to release records to the former residents or to hand them to a state agency.

Former residents from Westbank, along with residents from other Protestant Dublin orphanages and mother and baby homes, including the Bethany Home in Rathgar, the Church of Ireland Magdalen Home (Denny House) on Leeson Street and the Nurse Rescue Society in Templeogue, are all asking that these institutions be included in the upcoming mother and baby homes’ commission of investigation.

As part of the Bethany Survivors’ submission to the Minister for Children, Charlie Flanagan, the Bethany Survivors’ group included testimony from Colm Begley who outlined how Westbank children all had their names changed with their surnames becoming ‘Mathers’, which was the surname of Adeline Mathers, the woman who ran the home.

In the submission, Colm Begley wrote that local primary school accepted these name changes but Newpark Comprehensive in Blackrock refused to.accept the surnames.

“It was only then that some children found out they were related to each other as sisters/brothers, etc. They would have found out as they entered the exam hall on the day to sit the entrance exam. Children were just told, write this new name on the top of the paper.” he said.

He described how food, clothes and toys were donated but wrote they “never saw much of the food”.

“We lived mainly on Heinz baby food, that was donated by Heinz, and similarly donated Bolands’ bread, that Ms Mathers said was for her dogs. Ironically, we were often so hungry we ate dog biscuits,” he said.

“Children were roared and shouted at, hit with clothes hangers and electrical cables. Religious people came and went unchecked and children were abused. Boys and girls were mainly kept until 18, but others stayed until their late 20s. These then sometimes preyed on the younger children and sexually abused them,” he said.

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Significant drop in Irish numbers of priests and nuns


Between 2002 and 2012, number of priests fell by 13% and nuns by 23%, Vatican publication shows

The number of diocesan priests in Ireland dropped from 3,203 in 2002 to 2,800 in 2012, a fall of 403 in the decade. Photograph: David Sleator

The number of diocesan priests in Ireland dropped from 3,203 in 2002 to 2,800 in 2012, a fall of 403 in the decade. Photograph: David Sleator

The number of Catholic diocesan priests in Ireland dropped 13 per cent in the decade between 2002 and 2012, according to new figures. The fall in the number of priests in religious congregations and orders was similar, while the number of nuns dropped by 23 per cent. The figures are contained in the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, an annual Vatican Library publication.

They show the number of diocesan priests in Ireland dropped from 3,203 in 2002 to 2,800 in 2012, a fall of 403 in the decade. Over the same period, the number of religious priests – members of congregations and orders – dropped from 2,159 to 1,888 in 2012, a fall of 271 (12.5 per cent).

For the female congregations, the drop in numbers was bigger, down from 8,953 in 2002 to 6,912 – a fall of 2,041.

The number of laymen who have taken temporary or perpetual vows also fell. In 2002 they numbered 869, but by 2012, they were down to 628, a drop of 241, or 28 per cent, in the decade. On a more positive note for the church, the number of students of philosophy and theology at diocesan and religious centres in Ireland during the same decade showed a smaller decline. It was down from 206 in 2002 to 181 in 2012, a drop of 25 or 12.1 per cent.

The decline in clergy numbers prompted the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) to seek a meeting with the bishops on June 4th last.

Writing about the meeting in his Western People column, Fr Brendan Hoban of the ACP leadership team said: “We talked to them [bishops] about the crisis in vocations. We quoted statistics from their own website. We explained in graphic terms that in 10 to 15 to 20 years time Irish priests – apart from a tiny cadre of aged individuals – would have virtually disappeared. In Dublin diocese (with 199 parishes to pastor) there are now just two priests under 40 years of age.

“The crisis is now mathematically certain. If we keep going the way we are, the future of the Irish priesthood is now unsustainable.”

The ACP proposed three strategies, he said: “(i) ordain married men of proven responsibility and virtue (there are thousands available in the parishes of Ireland); (ii) invite priests who ‘left the priesthood’ to get married to return to ministry (many would be happy to respond to the call); and (iii) to extend to women ordination to the permanent diaconate.”

However, he continued, “we knew we were pressing buttons that the bishops would prefer we left untouched. If the bishops don’t bite the bullet on this one, we will really know who is to blame. Doing nothing is not just irresponsible but a counsel of despair. Denial is no longer an option.”

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Why the challenge about Fr Michael Cleary is offensive


Opinion: ‘Michael rang me and said that Phyllis really liked me and needed a friend’

Fr Michael Cleary with Phyllis Hamilton and their son Ross

Fr Michael Cleary with Phyllis Hamilton and their son Ross


Before this public challenge I had never heard of Fr O’Neill. I never heard Michael Cleary speak of him, nor did I meet him or hear of him visiting the home where Michael, Phyllis and Ross lived on Leinster Road in Rathmines for many years.

I sent Ross a message on the day Fr O’Neill’s newsletter was published. I told him I wanted to respond in a short statement, and asked him to read it beforehand. Ross gave me the go-ahead and poignantly responded: “Thanks for standing up for me, it is heartening.”


Ludicrous and offensive

It is astonishing to me that Fr O’Neill has taken it on himself to challenge the parentage of Ross and his older brother, and he did so without contacting Ross, who is entitled after all these years to get on with his life without this kind of attempt to once again seek to deny who his father is. I will not stand quietly by and allow this man to bring more pain to Ross, who has had enough denial rained on him to last more than a lifetime. The challenge is even more ludicrous and offensive when the most cursory comparison between Ross and his father shows the startling likeness between them.


Michael Cleary was the brother of my aunt (who was married to my mother’s brother). The pure force of nature that was Michael would charge into our childhood periodically. He was wildly entertaining, irreverent, loud and opinionated, and through my child’s eyes seemed omnipotent. During my years in art college I thought at one stage I wanted to teach art, but quickly learned I didn’t have the patience for teaching during my first placement in Ballyfermot.

However, I enjoyed again meeting Michael, who lived in Ballyfermot. We had robust arguments about faith, I who had turned away from Catholicism at 16, and he who was the public voice of moral censure.

One day he closed the door of the room to speak to me. He had been diagnosed with throat cancer and was afraid. It was the beginning of many years of friendship, albeit a tempestuous one, with Michael continually urging me to submit to the Catholic code of morality.

His treatment worked, and he went into remission, despite continuing to chain-smoke. In 1985, when both my father and sister died, Michael gave me the gruff support that I needed to pull myself out of inward grieving and look to support my other siblings.

In early 1989 on an impulse I opened a restaurant in Rathmines called Bobbysox. I hadn’t seen Michael for a while and I dropped in to the house and invited him to do the opening for me. He asked if Phyllis – who at that point I knew as his housekeeper – could come.

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Inquiry's scope could go as far back as 1920s



An inquiry into issues surrounding mother-and-baby homes and the treatment of unmarried pregnant women may examine events dating as far back as the foundation of the State.

The Government will take the next two weeks to consider what precisely an investigation should look into and has promised to publish details before the Dáil breaks for summer holidays on July 17.

An interdepartmental review on the issue was discussed by Cabinet yesterday. It is expected that its scope could range from the 1920s until 1987, when laws abolishing the status of “illegitimate child” and giving rights to unmarried parents were introduced.

Children’s Minister Charlie Flanagan said people are still “living with the daily reality of these painful experiences” and his primary concern was to set up an inquiry which would address all the issues in a “sensitive and timely” way.

A range of issues are being considered in drawing up the terms of reference, including: What constitutes a mother-and-baby home; how they were run; the circumstances of mothers who entered them; the high mortality rates of children in them; burial arrangements for those babies; their use in clinical trials; and domestic and international adoptions.

Mr Flanagan has received more than 100 submissions ahead of the inquiry, and met with groups including the Adoptions Rights Alliance, First Mothers Group, Bethany Homes Survivors Group, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Calls to include the Magdalene laundries in the inquiry will be given consideration, he said, but pointed out that women in these homes have already received a State apology and compensation following the McAleese report.

He said there was “a valid question as to how inclusion of the Magdalene laundries within the terms of reference of another inquiry would be in the interest of or be of benefit to the women in question”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the commission of inquiry would be “another step” in dealing with a “sad element” of the legacy of “the domination of the people and society by the Church”.

He said the investigation will be “part of a national conversation about Ireland as a society, about its people and about what happened here”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams called for the inquiry to be given “as wide a remit as possible” so that “the broader question of the State’s attitude to women may be examined”.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins said it would be impossible to examine what happened in mother-and-baby homes without examining the relationship between the Church and State.

“A very weak capitalist State dominated by gombeens, small business owners, right-wing politicians, and so on, desperately in search of security and legitimacy, leaned on the authority of the Catholic Church for that legitimacy and ceded considerable powers that should have been democratically controlled by a democratic state to a Church institution,” said Mr Higgins.

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