What is truth?

Posts tagged ‘Tom Kitt’

Independent Senator Shane Ross

Independent Senator Shane Ross is to contest this year’s general election in the constituency of Dublin South as a non-party candidate after turning down an approach from Fine Gael.

“To my own surprise I’ve decided that I’m going to run for the Dáil as an independent candidate for Dublin South in the forthcoming election,” he said.

Mr Ross confirmed Fine Gael had attempted to recruit him but he called them last week and told them he would only run as an independent. He said he did not intend to be an “insignificant backbencher” and hoped a large number of people would “take the same line as me”.

He said he had talked last week and would be talking this week to around six groups who were thinking of running candidates.

“I think you’re going to see in this election a huge number of similar independents who want to put an end to cronyism, who want to see a change in the political system, who want to put an end to Civil War politics in Ireland, who want to see an end to the kind of tribal politics we’ve got, who are going to stand in the election as well,” he told The Saturday Night Show  on RTÉ Television.

In February of last year, former Fine Gael TD George Lee resigned the seat he won in the Dublin South byelection brought about by the death of former Fianna Fáil minister Séamus Brennan.

Fine Gael has two sitting TDs in Dublin South, Olivia Mitchell and Alan Shatter, have been selected in the five-seater. Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan holds a seat in the constituency, while Fianna Fáil deputy Tom Kitt is stepping down.

source : http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/0116/breaking16.html

“elf and safety”

MIRIAM LORD’S

Cowen’s fightin’ talk; indignant Ivor; Groucho gaff; Jason drops in; a last mailshot; elf and safety

Deputies easily impressed by battling Biffo 

AS BRIAN Cowen prepares to lead his queasy troops over the top to election carnage, a slight air of madness is taking root in Fianna Fáil. Following a few energetic Dáil and media performances this week, some deputies and Senators are daring to dream that Biffo can make it better again.

He might not be a very good Taoiseach, but when backs are to the wall he’s a powerful man to have in a scrap. The front rank of the Soldiers of Destiny is coming around to the idea that their peacetime liability could be a wartime asset.

If the awe-struck guff uttered in recent days about our “revitalised” Taoiseach proves anything, it is that the pundits need to get out of the House more. Where Cowen is concerned, the general public is in no mood to swoon over yet another bout of raised decibels and fightin’ talk.

His more easily impressed parliamentary party seems heartened by this latest reawakening, which indicates that they too need to get out of the House more. Granted, that could be a bit dangerous at the moment.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey – no slouch himself in the pugnacity department – was so taken by his leader’s performance on Prime Time he has posted an internet message to party supporters, urging them to spread the word. “This week, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke with passion about the actions he has taken as leader of this country, and what he is doing to get us back on track. His interview on RTÉ’s Prime Time speaks for itself . . . Watch it, and spread the word.”

The pair must have made up since Noel was embarrassed over being sent out to deny the bailout. He continues: “Assertions have been dressed up as facts over the past two years. We need to have a debate based on facts, and not the false claims of the Opposition and their cheerleaders.”

Meanwhile, amid talk of a rift between the Taoiseach and his Minister for Finance, the two men lavished praise on each other during Thursday’s meeting of the parliamentary party. Then Cowen thanked deputies who announced they will be retiring before the slaughter. There were some raised eyebrows when he paid effusive tribute to Dublin South’s Tom Kitt. Kitt has been one of his most prominent critics in recent months, but the Taoiseach just stopped short of giving him a gold watch.

The departure of solid vote-getter Kitt from the five-seater has sparked speculation that either Mary Hanafin or Barry Andrews will be persuaded to run in the constituency, as there won’t be two Fianna Fáil seats in Dún Laoghaire next time out.

However, it has also been whispered that Conor Lenihan, who labours under the shadow of Charlie “Mr Tallaght” O’Connor in Dublin South West, might fancy filling Tom’s shoes. “There’s already talk of building barricades on the border,” giggled one Dublin South stalwart yesterday.

One of the more bizarre moments of the meeting happened when someone remarked that former minister Michael Woods had celebrated his birthday the previous day. Suddenly, the entire room burst into a rollicking chorus of Happy Birthday.

“There was something mad about the whole scene. The roof nearly came off the fifth floor with the noise. Woodsie got up and made a speech. He normally takes about 25 minutes, but he was mercifully brief.” Interestingly, he wouldn’t say whether or not he will run again.

According to an incredulous colleague, 75-year-old Woodsie is “all on for contesting the seat again”.

Callely returns to the moral high ground 

A highly indignant Ivor Callely took up the cudgels on behalf of his embattled party leader in the Seanad on Thursday, speaking with the wounded air of a man who knows what it’s like to be targeted by a braying mob.

Callely’s emotional intervention came after Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer declared he was unconvinced by Cowen’s return to form.

“There is a spring in the step of Government members having witnessed the Taoiseach being reincarnated, while the Fourth Estate is ecstatic,” scoffed Buttimer. “However, the leader of the Government needs to explain why he presided over and participated in a Government which got us into the economic mess we are in today . . . Is this about him upping his performance to appease parliamentary party members or is it about the people?”

Whereupon Ivor gathered up his skirts and hiked up to the moral high ground. “Listening to Senator Buttimer, one would think the political leadership of the country equates to the political leadership of the globe. He should take cognisance of what is happening around the world in places such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy . . . If the Senator had his way, he would be one of those in the mob shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ We know how wrong they were,” he quivered.

“Senator Callely has some neck to lecture me about morality,” bellowed Buttimer.

Ivor the Driver got down off his cross and declared: “I believe in looking at the glass half full and always try to have a positive attitude and ensure the best solution is found to every problem.” So what solution will he find to his Christmas card problem? Ivor’s cards are legendary. Will he send them from Dublin or west Cork? Will the setting be Clontarf or Bantry? Will he send any at all?

. . . but you can’t fool Seanad record keepers 

The same Jerry Buttimer was in good voice all week. He should thank those kindly souls who compile the official Seanad record for sparing his blushes after he got a little confused during Wednesday night’s confidence debate.

Butsy was in full flight: “I do not have confidence in the Minister’s party in Government. I am mindful of the words of Groucho Marx in this regard: that it is possible to fool some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” On and on he went, delighted with himself.

We note, however, that good old Groucho hasn’t made it into the Seanad record – the clever public servants who spend their time polishing the oratorical gobbets dropped by Leinster House’s finest have corrected Jerry and attributed the quote to Abraham Lincoln.

Been there, done that, got the blueshirt 

Former newspaper social columnist and part-time crooner Jason O’Callaghan has thrown his trilby into the ring in Dublin South Central and will be seeking a spot on the Fine Gael election ticket at Thursday night’s selection convention.

O’Callaghan, who could never be described as a shrinking violet, has left journalism and property investing behind and is now training for a degree in psychological oncology while working as a research assistant at Tallaght hospital.

“My allegiance is to the people I grew up with,” says local boy Jason, adding that a lot of people in the constituency are suffering badly now that the economy has taken a downturn. “I’m not doing this for money or fame – I’ve been there, done that.”

Jason still does his popular Rat Pack gigs: “That’s my hobby at the weekends. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m a good Blueshirt.”

Also hoping to join sitting TD Catherine Byrne on the FG team are councillors Rory McGinley and Colm Brophy. They are sure to have a lot of support at the convention in Crumlin and it’s unlikely O’Callaghan will be successful on the night.

However, having already done a number of interviews with the honchos at party headquarters, we suspect Jason may be pinning his hopes on acquiring a parachute from on high.

Mary sends a big thank you 

Christmas cards are thin on the ground around Leinster House. There’s very little ho-ho-ho about the halls what with all the talk of ho-ho-hausterity.

This is no bad thing. Cards from politicians bring out the worst in people at the best of times. Electioneering funded by the taxpayer is the most common complaint.

You couldn’t accuse Mary Upton of indulging in that practice. In September she announced her intention not to stand for re-election as Labour TD for Dublin South Central. The decision was widely publicised at the time and Mary received well deserved tributes for her diligence.

But just in case anyone missed it, Upton has sent out letters announcing her resignation, along with a thank-you to voters in South Central. (Swaddled in Oireachtas envelopes, of course.)

We happened upon some ungrateful drinkers in Fallon’s pub on Dean Street during the week who were mightily unimpressed by the gesture. “Jaysus, she sent me a thank you note and I have to pay for it,” snorted one Labour voter.

Has Mary started a trend? At the current rate of attrition, this could become a major drain on the exchequer. Fine Gael Senator Paul Bradford, a former deputy for Cork East, was the latest to announce he is quitting national politics. News that the youthful Bradford – who is engaged to Dublin South East TD Lucinda Creighton – will not be running was a major talking point in FG.

What will be the cost to the country if the swelling flood of departing souls come over all sentimental and start sending “goodbye, thank you and good night” notes? Speaking of which, there is a certain Fianna Fáil deputy in the southern end of the country who is a noted and prodigious sender of self-promoting literature. One of his colleagues, with only the slightest smile, told us yesterday how this TD is experiencing a surge in returned post.

“One letter came back to him the other day and when he opened the envelope, do ya know what was written on it, in big capital letters? ‘F*** off you fat b******.’ That’s the way things are going for us now.”

Stories are coming back to Leinster House from deputies and Senators experiencing a lot of hostility from members of the public. This weekend’s post-Budget clinics will be torrid affairs. A veteran Dublin-based Government TD told us he is experiencing “a barely concealed hint of menace” on the doorsteps.

Meanwhile, a Labour deputy who met a Fianna Fáil colleague at a funeral described him as being “in a paranoid state and complaining how he’s finding it hard to go for a pint in the constituency without getting dog’s abuse”. Be careful out there.

Barking up the cheap tree 

Ireland’s new best friend, British chancellor George Osborne, the future Baron of Ballentaylor in the County of Tipperary and Ballylemon in the county of Wexford, regaled House of Commons journalists this week with his tale of the Christmas tree, the civil service mandarin and the tyranny of health and safety laws.

It began simply with Osborne deciding that, in this age of austerity, he didn’t want the taxpayer paying £875 (€1,045) for a tree when a perfectly adequate one could be purchased from B&Q for £40. He soon found himself embroiled in a Yes, Minister saga as e-mails started flying and civil servants retreated behind a wall of bureaucracy.

Exchequer Partnerships, the company responsible for maintaining the UK treasury – and charging £875 for doing the job in the past – objected, asking how the tree would be brought in, who would water it, who would get rid of it after Christmas and who would put up the decorations.

The company declared that looking after an “off-contract” was not part of its deal with the treasury and warned it would have to carry out a health and safety check upon the tree, particularly if civil servants were going to indulge in the death-defying task of putting up the fairy lights.

Osborne persisted. The company eventually offered a tree for free, but only the treasury’s most senior official, Neil McPherson, was cleared to place the star on top.

The permanent secretary had to stand on a chair to do it because the company refused to loan a ladder due to health and safety concerns.

Or as the Christmassy chancellor put it: “elf and safety.”

Thinking of dumping Cowen Lads ?

A number of Fianna Fáil backbenchers have again called for Brian Cowen to step down as leader of the parliamentary party.

The calls come after the publication of a new poll, showing further decline in support for the party.

Speaking earlier today, former minister Mary O’Rourke described the poll findings as “awful” and expressed concern the party might be wiped out in the forthcoming general election.

According to the Red C poll on the state of the political parties, support for Fianna Fáil has fallen to its lowest ever and putting the party in fourth place behind Sinn Féin.

The poll shows support for the party has dropped 3 per cent to just 13 per cent while support for the Taoiseach is at 8 per cent.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny  show on RTÉ radio earlier today, Ms O’Rourke said the party faced a “virtual wipeout” if the figures stayed at the same level going into an election.

“How can you envisage a general election with a leader at that percentage?. I don’t think it will stay at that percentage but that’s small comfort to us,” she said.

Ms O’Rourke said she thought Mr Cowen must be reconsidering his position and wondering if it was in his best interests to continue as leader of Fianna Fáil.

Other Fianna Fáil backbenchers called on Mr Cowen to resign as party leader before the election, which is due to be held early next year.

Speaking on the same programme, former Fianna Fáil whip and minister of state Tom Kitt said while he was convinced the party would regain support and overtake Sinn Féin, he believed a new leader was necessary.

“I have been arguing within the party that firstly, we stick to our task of getting the budget through and the four-year plan but I’ve also argued for a change of leader,” said Mr Kitt.

“Time is running out but I still think that it would be possible in January with him (Cowen) continuing as Taoiseach but not as leader of Fianna Fáil. It would be unchartered territory but it is constitutionally possible and it could be done.”

“What I’m hoping is that we would get a change of leader, (and) that we would be able to connect again with the public, which I think is something we’ve lost unfortunately,” Mr Kitt added.

Cork TD Noel O’Flynn, who has been one of the most vocal critics of Mr Cowen said the poll results reflected the level of anger the public felt towards the party.

“People have decided, in my view, that Fianna Fáil are not the party to lead the country after the next election and I think that what you are going to find is that between now and the day the election is called, you’ll find that more and more people within the parliamentary party, including ministers, will announce their retirement.,” he said.

“The busiest department now in Dail Eireann is the one-stop shop where people are going in to make an appointment and find out about their entitlements and pensions,” Mr O’Flynn added.

Another one of Mr Cowen fiercest critics, Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy said the Taoiseach had failed to connect with the public and should therefore be replaced.

“His difficulty is that he has not unfortunately connected with the public and the public no longer see him as credible. In the future interests of Fianna Fáil we do need a new leader once the budgetary issues have been passed and are out of the way,” he said.

Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath meanwhile said the party under the leadership of Bertie Ahern and then Brian Cowen, had become too arrogant.

“The people just don’t trust Fianna Fáil any more. We didn’t engage with them openly and honestly when we got into the economic crisis. The public should have been consulted. They are angry now and the only chance they are going to get is when the election comes,” he said.

“We’re just too long in Government. We got arrogant and disconnected and we wouldn’t listen,” Mr McGrath concludedsource http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/1203/breaking50.html

Comment :

This is all about entitlements and pensions now

“The busiest department now in Dail Eireann is the one-stop shop where people are going in to make an appointment and find out about their entitlements and pensions,” Mr O’Flynn added.

The next government must put a stop to this gravy train and all those entitlements and pensions must be capped at the national pension available to the ordinary citizens we cannot have a situation where the citizens have to pay through the nose for the incompetence of the exiting Dail TD’s

Every Td’s going for the new Dail must agree to these cost saving measures

the public will not tolerate these leaches sucking us dry any longer

Related Articles

Dail debate (part2)

Martin Mansergh
(Minister of State with special responsibility for the Arts, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Tipperary South, Fianna Fail)

What is documented in the Ryan report was a catastrophe, above all for the inmates of industrial schools and reformatories but also for the religious orders concerned, church, State and society. Systematic cruelty leaving lifelong scars, aggravated in some cases by appalling paedophile abuse, took place. Redress by way of apology, financial compensation or other forms of help and counselling or memorial, though all these are necessary, are bound to be pathetically inadequate.

We should be careful to describe what happened accurately. I deprecate Nazi death camp analogies or even Soviet gulag ones where large numbers were executed or perished. Nevertheless, there were a number of unexplained deaths in the Irish situation. How could these things happen in a country both Christian and that had recently won its freedom? Where was the gospel of “suffer the little children” or the proclamation’s ideal of cherishing the children of the nation equally? What happened to the spirit of Pearse’s indictment of teaching methods under British rule which he called the “murder machine”? How could these things happen and how could denial, cover up and suppression last for so long?

Michael O’Brien, even if mayor of Clonmel, confessed that these things could not be talked about unless one wished to be treated as a social outcast and ridiculed and I believe him. Intellectual and religious minorities, with rare courageous exceptions, kept their heads down. It has often been said that the church is not a democracy but this is perhaps also an exemplification of Lord Acton’s dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It was a lack of accountability that allowed this to happen and fester for so long.

Unfortunately, Christianity for much of its history has been punitive and repressive and more old than new testament in its severity. Very different to what we are familiar with today, at that time those in religious orders did not value the worth of every individual or regard everyone as God’s creatures or have a special care of the marginalised or give people the affection and love that they need. The sexual abuse is incomprehensible in the terms of vocation and religious rules. One cannot but contrast the severity of punishment for things like bed-wetting with the mild reproof and sidelining of people who were caught or known to be involved in very serious acts of sexual abuse, even crimes. The tragedy for the church has been compounded through the mishandling of these cases until relatively recently though we should acknowledge that the spirit and ethos today is almost wholly different.

The compensation deal negotiated in 2002 was at best a first step but inadequate today. Assets not worth as much as they were a couple of years ago are still very substantial. Moral responsibility requires in this as in many other cases going much further than minimal legal obligation. The role of the churches in teaching and caring institutions is much attenuated and more residual than in the past. Like in situations of disaster that have befallen Christianity in other times, many people remain attached to their religion and church and are conscious of the much good that was done in other spheres and that can still be done.

This is also a failure of State and society. The country was poor and the social conditions for the majority of people 50 years ago were bad, even very bad. There is less documentation about the level of abuse outside of institutions but it undoubtedly occurred. State and society were content to abdicate their responsibilities and did not really want to know about sharp divergences from the ideal society or what was going on behind closed doors. Concerns were expressed privately, including by Archbishop McQuaid, and some actions taken but only very occasionally publically and then swept under the carpet.

I remember being told by a senior member of my party – not the leader – as late as the mid 1980s that two institutions one should never criticise were the church and the Garda. A strong authoritarian ethos discouraged questioning about allegations seen as improbable, implausible and defamatory and much of the evidence was mislaid or destroyed. As a sometime historian I regard the deliberate destruction of papers as an abomination that should not be tolerated no matter what the legal pretexts, even if they have to be held back. Any whistleblowing legislation that is introduced should contain a clause attaching severe penalties to the unauthorised destruction of documents other than of the most routine character.

It is interesting reading back on the history that the approach of EEC membership in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to the winding up of many of these institutions; it underlines, which is still relevant today, the benefits of international norms that do not, of course, have to be accepted uncritically. Most countries have events, periods or episodes of which they are rightly deeply ashamed. Institutional abuse was not confined to this country but our slowness in reacting appropriately to it and recognising that it was taking place is our shame. We must be extremely vigilant to ensure we allow nothing equivalent to develop.

Reading this report one is tempted to say, with Kant, that out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight can be made but having fallen down we must pick ourselves up again or, as Christ said, rise, take up thy bed and walk. A combination of the two would be as the philosopher Gramsci said, “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”.

Tom Kitt
(Dublin South, Fianna Fail)

Those Members who read the Irish Examiner yesterday will be aware that at the march of solidarity to Dáil Éireann on Wednesday boy No. 117 met boy No. 146. They had not seen each other for 40 years and they recalled their memories of St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Salthill, County Galway. I read the moving report of that meeting by the journalist, Caroline O’Doherty, yesterday and thank her for writing about this encounter because I know survivor No. 117 who lives in my constituency and is now 59 years of age.

In their exchange of memories boy No. 117 said he remembered when boy No. 146 took his last bit of bread. Boy No. 146 told boy No. 117 that he remembered him having got such a beating from the Brothers he thought he was dead. Sadly, after 40 years these two men do not feel comfortable in making their identities public. Boy No. 117, as he says himself, was born out of wedlock. He had been cared for in a loving environment in Drogheda by the nuns as a tiny child but was treated brutally and savagely when he went to Salthill. When he left that institution at the age of 15 he inquired about his mother and was told by the Christian Brother, “You are a bastard. Your mother does not want you”. Those words still affect him psychologically. He did meet his mother and he was rejected as he refused to go to London with her. He was placed in a psychiatric hospital. He went on, at the age of 17, to work on a farm at Roscrea College where his life, as he said, turned for the better. He said that his crucifixion had ended but he has suffered ever since.

I join with Deputy Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and all Members in apologising to boy No. 117 and all the children who were horrifically abused in this State during the dreadful dark period of our history covered by this report.

The report highlights societal attitudes of the time towards illegitimate children and single mothers. Illegitimate children were not to be spoken of but hidden away. I feel a sense of shame, having lived through that period as a young boy. That so-called Christian Brother who told boy No. 117 that he was a bastard has sullied the name of many good men and women of the Church whom I have met and known in my lifetime, especially the many selfless missionaries I came to know in Africa and elsewhere overseas during my time as Minister with responsibility for overseas development aid.

This is an historic debate. We must hope this report puts an end, once and for all, to that era of denial where blind loyalty to the Church superseded everything else, even the infliction of pain and suffering on vulnerable children. We must kill off forever a view that even suggested these were events of their time. Out of respect for all of those who suffered in these institutions, we must ensure we will never again turn a blind eye to the abuse and suffering of children whether it happens here or anywhere throughout the world.

We must create structures that will provide a safe environment and systems of care for our children and allow and encourage people in authority, at whatever level, to speak out if there is a threat to the safety and well-being of those under their care. The children in these institutions had nowhere to turn when they were abused. They had no parents to which they could turn. They were truly alone.

It is clear from this debate, and we have had an honest conversation in this Chamber, which I listened to throughout the day yesterday, that there is no doubt about our determination and ability to monitor abuse and negligence in our institutions in the future. There is no doubt about our ability to legislate and regulate to ensure there is accountability to the Oireachtas. The people on the streets have spoken, and in this Chamber the Parliament has responded with a comprehensive agreed motion.

Society is now prepared to believe what we are being told. The Ryan report allows us to take collective ownership of this history, yet society is constructed in such a way that money seems to be the only way to acknowledge people’s hurt and pain. We must examine broader societal issues in the course of this debate, something we might do in the months ahead.

It was the society of the time that sent young women to Magdalene laundries and other institutions. We now must implement, with a sense of determination and urgency, the recommendations of this commission, which are comprehensive. We must deal with the genuine concerns of the victims regarding the redress board. My constituent, boy No. 117, felt he was still being treated as a number when he engaged with the redress board. I share the views of Deputy Burton and other colleagues on the gagging order.

We must deal with the issue of repatriation. Many of the abused fled the country for fear they would ever meet their abusers on the street. We should establish an annual day of remembrance and atonement, with events organised throughout the country from Artane to Salthill and from Tralee to Letterfrack. We need to revisit those locations to celebrate the fact that these victims have survived the pain and to commit ourselves to not letting it happen again. My hope is that in Salthill we could shout out from the rooftops the names of boy No. 117 and boy No. 146.

I thank Mr. Justice Ryan and his predecessor, Ms Justice Laffoy, the members of the commission and their staff for their work. We must now get on with implementing the recommendations while continuing to engage with the people and the organisations. I refer to people like Christine Buckley and others who marched and spoke with such dignity outside Dáil Éireann on Wednesday. We owe it to them to do everything possible to protect our children, not just here in Ireland but throughout the world.

I am a former Minister with responsibility for overseas development aid. We have an Irish Aid budget which is rightly supportive of organisations dealing with child protection, child labour and child prostitution internationally. It would be fitting if a section of that aid budget dealing with the protection of children and their human rights abroad would be dedicated to the memory of those children who suffered here in our institutions over such a long period of time.

Phil Hogan
(Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

I wish to share time with Deputies Catherine Byrne, Frank Feighan and Kieran O’Donnell.

Brendan Howlin
(Wexford, Labour)

Agreed.

Phil Hogan
(Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

We could offer sympathy to the survivors of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse outlined in the Ryan report. We could say we found the abuse to be disgusting, unbelievable or use any one of numerous other adjectives but such an approach would be inadequate.

Individually and collectively, we must ask for forgiveness for our failures to do much more to prevent this abuse and our failure to listen properly to the evidence put forward in earlier times. We must humbly applaud the courage of those who have spoken out and listen to them as they outline their experience of the full spectrum of this appalling abuse.

The desire for vengeance is understandable. Where prosecutions are warranted they must be taken. Prosecution of the perpetrators is one thing but we must also consider what action should be taken against those who looked the other way and who failed to carry out the responsibilities for which they were being paid. People who failed to act on evidence of abuse are just as guilty of abuse as those who pulled down the pants of young boys and girls and raped them. They too must be held to account.

As a schoolboy I knew many boys who were in residential care. At one time Kilkenny had the largest orphanage in the country. In 1979 there were 115 children in St Joseph’s orphanage in Kilkenny. It included a nursery for pre-adoption babies. St Joseph’s was about three times the size of the next tier of centres. There was a general sense of pride at this caring institution in our midst. How innocent we were. Local people gave financial support, and many local families took children into their homes at holiday time. Our home in Kilkenny was one of them.

Apart from their hairstyles and the quality of clothing there was nothing to distinguish the boys, who played with us during the summer holidays. There was no outward sign of abuse. We did not understand emotional abuse and we certainly had no knowledge, much less any understanding, of sexual abuse. It was not until the 1990’s that the whole area of sexual abuse, including clerical sexual abuse, came into our consciousness.

The befriending scheme, which had widespread support among local families, also had it darker side. The Ryan report deals with the case of a girl who was released to two people, known in the report as Mr. and Mrs. Lacey. They seemed quite old to her and they were introduced to her as her uncle and aunt. She went out for day trips initially and then she spent a couple of weeks over Christmas before going to stay with them permanently. She testified to the commission that, when she was released into the care of the Laceys, things changed. She was sexually abused by Mr. Lacey. He built a corrugated shed in the garden which he used solely for the purpose of raping her. He told her it was a playhouse. She believed Mrs. Lacey knew what was going on as, after being raped, she told her to have a bath. It happened two or three times a week in various places, wherever they were living at the time. They moved around the country to various counties and outside the country in England and Wales.

She now knows that the Laceys were not in fact married. They were of different religions and, although one of the conditions for them to be allowed to foster her was that they would protect her religion, they never brought her to mass or church when she was with them. I believe that none of the local people, who were involved in befriending, knew or suspected that such actions were even remotely possible. The survivors to whom I have spoken have very pleasant memories of their annual holidays with local families. Many of them have maintained enduring friendships.

There has been a good deal of debate about physical abuse. Many people have tried to compare the corporal punishment they endured in their school days with the hardship and abuse meted out to children in residential care. It is like comparing the waves which hit the Cliffs of Moher with the tsunami which hit Indonesia and killed up to 170,000 people. There is simply no comparison.

It is accepted that over the years many children were put into residential care because of neglect, poverty, poor housing,disability , parental separation, desertion, parents’ inability to cope and abuse. This does not tell the full story. Some children were transferred to psychiatric institutions which were never investigated by the Ryan commission and should be. Not all children were neglected or abused. “Cruelty” officers of the ISPCC took some children into care. Reflecting back on their work some would acknowledge that rather than protecting children from cruelty they were often used to enforce the moral code of the Catholic church. Children were taken away from unmarried mothers and from widows who had begun to establish a second relationship. The message to the wider community was that children were being rescued from cruel and incompetent parents. It was portrayed as a caring and charitable service for children in need. It was also a reminder, to others, of the need to adhere to the prevailing moral code.

Many children in the orphanage in Kilkenny were from other counties. As Kilkenny had become their home many continue to live locally. As a public representative I meet some of these people regularly. Many are people I got to know in childhood. Even when they had grown into adulthood and had taken up employment victims did not have the vocabulary or the courage to disclose the abuse they endured. While in care they had quickly learned to keep their emotions in check and that they could not trust any authority figure.

Like many other people they occasionally asked public representatives to make representations on their behalf regarding housing or other matters that might be termed as ordinary issues. When they talked about their childhood experiences, as some occasionally did, they did so in whisperings. Like a friend who whispers something in one’s ear there were certain norms attached to these conversations: they were not to be repeated; the information was not to be attributed to the teller; and they were a sign of friendship and trust. In hindsight many of them were a plea for help or at least a plea to be believed.

A substantial amount of the Ryan report deals with events between the 1930s and 1970s. I would like to refer to the abuse which continued into, or which emerged, in the 1990s. In early 1993 graphic accounts of a court case involving incest appalled the nation. An inquiry was set up jointly by the Minister for Health and the South Eastern Health Board. Its recommendations were accepted and the process of implementation began immediately including implementation of the Child Care Act. This put a statutory obligation on the health board to promote the welfare of children in its area who were not receiving adequate care and protection.

As a health board member I became well acquainted with child care issues. New policy proposals came before the board almost on a monthly basis. There was some external resistance to change. While the opposition to the introduction of the “Stay Safe” programme had, by then, largely gone away there was some lobbying in opposition to other policy proposals. One which comes to mind was the opposition to the plan to reduce the number of residential places from 120 to 40. This involved the closure of a number of centres. It was in the course of discussion on this proposal that information on abuse in residential care began to emerge. I and other board members quickly learned of the horror of child abuse in residential centres and of the need to prioritise family support schemes as an alternative method of addressing problems.

One of the recommendations of the incest investigation report was that there should be much greater liaison between gardaí and health board staff. In 1994 during discussions between gardaí and health board staff regarding children abused by a clerical person in the county it transpired that there was a possibility that some children who had been in residential care in St. Joseph’s may have been at risk because of contact with this person. At an earlier stage I had made contact with the diocese regarding this person’s behaviour which was of concern to people in his parish. Gardaí interviewed a large number of people who had been in St. Joseph’s. Information emerged regarding abuse which took place between 1972 and 1990. Hundreds of witness statements were taken. Eventually three former staff members, two men and a woman were given lengthy jail sentences for the abuse.

It is to the eternal credit of the some of the local gardaí in Kilkenny that they believed the victims and carried out such a painstaking investigation which was followed by a successful prosecution. Sergeant John Tuohy, and gardaí Eddie Geraghty and John Dirrane are the names which come to mind. There had been few, if any, similar investigations prior to this and not many since that time. At about the same time as the Garda investigation into St. Joseph’s was taking place, an investigation by health board staff revealed evidence of systemic abuse in Cappoquin, County Waterford. A nun in charge of the centre was the focus of this investigation. The matter was reported to the Garda. The main allegation was that children in the centre had been made available to local men. Aspects of this allegation have been dealt with in the Ryan report.

I have taken a continued interest in this case and others. I raised matters relating to the role of the State in these matters as far back as 24 April 2002. In a motion on the Adjournment I sought an investigation by the then Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Michael Woods, into the role of the head the inspectorate of reformatory industrial schools in giving a clean bill of health to some housemasters and convicted paedophiles like David Murray and Myles Brady in Kilkenny. The Department of Education and Science was at the centre of the matters that were coming to the attention of public representatives and officialdom in the Garda Síochána. It stood idly by while this individual was allowed to roam free. The response I got from the then Minister for Education and Science was a request for me to give him more information rather than to investigate the complaints I had made. I agree with Deputy Rabbitte. I also met Loretto Byrne, a Department official from Dublin, who was treated as a crank and dismissed. However, the officials from the Department of Education and Science involved at the time were promoted.

Tag Cloud