23 May 2009

Irish Times Editorial - 21 May 2009

The savage reality of our darkest days

THE REPORT of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is the map of an Irish hell. It defines the contours of a dark hinterland of the State, a parallel country whose existence we have long known but never fully acknowledged. It is a land of pain and shame, of savage cruelty and callous indifference.

The instinct to turn away from it, repelled by its profoundly unsettling ugliness, is almost irresistible. We owe it, though, to those who have suffered there to acknowledge from now on that it is an inescapable part of Irish reality. We have to deal with the now-established fact that, alongside the warmth and intimacy, the kindness and generosity of Irish life, there was, for most of the history of the State, a deliberately maintained structure of vile and vicious abuse.

Mr Justice Ryan’s report does not suggest that this abuse was as bad as most of us suspected. It shows that it was worse. It may indeed have been even worse than the report actually finds – there are indications that “the level of sexual abuse in boys’ institutions was much higher than was revealed by the records or could be discovered by this investigation”.

With a calm but relentless accumulation of facts, the report blows away all the denials and obfuscations, all the moral equivocations and evasions that we have heard from some of the religious orders and their apologists. The sheer scale and longevity of the torment inflicted on defenceless children – over 800 known abusers in over 200 institutions during a period of 35 years – should alone make it clear that it was not accidental or opportunistic but systematic.

Violence and neglect were not the result of underfunding – the large institutions, where the worst abuse was inflicted, were “well-resourced”. The failure of the religious orders to stop these crimes did not result from ignorance. The recidivist nature of child sexual abusers was understood by the Brothers, who nonetheless continued deliberately to place known offenders in charge of children, both in industrial schools and in ordinary primary schools. At best, this represented what the report calls “a callous disregard for the safety of children”. At worst, it was an active protection of, and thus collusion with, the perpetrators of appalling crimes.

Nor did the abuse continue because of secrecy. Again, the very scale of the violence made it impossible to keep it sealed off from either officialdom or society at large. Contemporary complaints were made to the Garda, to the Department of Education, to health boards, to priests and to members of the public. The department, “deferential and submissive” to the religious congregations, did not shout stop. Neither did anyone else. Indeed, perhaps the most shocking finding of the commission is that industrial school inmates were often sexually exploited by those outside the closed world of the congregations, by “volunteer workers, visitors, work placement employees, foster parents” and by those who took them out for holidays or to work.

The key to understanding these attitudes is surely to realise that abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system. Terror was both the point of these institutions and their standard operating procedure. Their function in Irish society was to impose social control, particularly on the poor, by acting as a threat. Without the horror of an institution like Letterfrack, it could not fulfil that function. Within the institutions, terror was systematic and deliberate. It was a methodology handed down through “successive generations of Brothers, priests and nuns”.

There is a nightmarish quality to this systemic malice, reminiscent of authoritarian regimes. We read of children “flogged, kicked . . . scalded, burned and held under water”. We read of deliberate psychological torment inflicted through humiliation, expressions of contempt and the practice of incorrectly telling children that their parents were dead. We read of returned absconders having their heads shaved and of “ritualised” floggings in one institution.

We have to call this kind of abuse by its proper name – torture. We must also call the organised exploitation of unpaid child labour – young girls placed in charge of babies “on a 24-hour basis” or working under conditions of “great suffering” in the rosary bead industry; young boys doing work that gave them no training but made money for the religious orders – by its proper name: slavery. It demands a very painful adjustment of our notions of the nature of the State to accept that it helped to inflict torture and slavery on tens of thousands of children. In the light of the commission’s report, however, we can no longer take comfort in evasions.

* * *

Almost unbearable though it may be, it is important that everyone who can do so should read and absorb this report. We owe that especially to those victims who first broke the silence on the RTÉ documentaries Dear Daughter and States of Fear and to those who came forward to tell their stories to the commission. It is to be hoped that, in spite of the failure of the religious congregations to take full responsibility for what happened, those who have suffered have found some comfort in that process and in a report of such unflinching lucidity.

Most importantly, though, we owe it to all who are vulnerable in today’s Irish society. For their sakes, we need to know what happens when institutions acquire absolute power over defenceless people and when the State and society come to believe that it is better to collude in crimes than to challenge cherished beliefs. Mr Justice Ryan suggests the erection of a monument to the victims of abuse with the words of the State’s 1999 apology inscribed on it. That should happen, but the real monument will be that we inscribe on our collective consciousness as a society the two words “Never again”.

22 May 2009

the o'conner chronicles#2

Sorry folks. I am not going to let up on this.

They have 'installed' the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nicols, which makes him sound a bit like a new boiler.

It comes a little rich from the outgoing encumbant Cormack Murphy O'Connor who, as one of the leaders of the biggest transnational paedophile ring in history (with personal form -remember Michael Hill?) - sais now that the inability to believe in god is the greatest of all evils, greater than sin itself.

Dear readers, you know how evil I am don't you? For your very souls sake you should stop reading at once and seek forgivness for clicking on clodhopper and reading his vile, bigoted, corrupt and evil posts.

Esther asks 'why do I get so worked up about this'? I will tell you. Because I am sick and tired of, as my friend Philip puts it - "this constant bullying, this constant insinuation that I am a bad person, that I am beneath contempt in the eyes of my fellow human beings."

His words hold echoes of the inquisition - the witch hunts, the torture and burning of heretics. The brutal contempt for those of good hearts who cherish all living things yet are damned to the torments of an eternity in hells fire because of an 'inability' to believe. In a way he is of course correct about belief. As MJ put it "Hitler did not believe in Santa Claus and look what he did". He did however believe in god and his cosy concordat with the catholic church. And now you will want to mention Stalin won't you? Well the whole point about him is that he set himself up as a god on this earth and learned from and adopted the same techniques and tactics as the church I.E. you will believe it, or you will die.

So in the week where it is revealed that 35,000 children in Ireland have been subject to systemic abuse in catholic institutions what would you suppose would make the front page of the Catholic Herald? Well, here are the headlines -

Archbishop calls for new dialogue in Britain

Government to allow vote on assisted suicide

President Obama is heckled at Notre Dame

Papal spokesman: Judge Pope on teaching, not soundbites

State-funded agency insults opponents of gay adoption

......and if you look really hard you find, in small print......

Archbishop: 'We didn't know child abuse was a crime'

I really am lost for words at this point.

Deliver us from Evil might be a good start.

17 May 2009

the o'conner chronicles

I just had to write to Cardinal Cormack Murphy O'Connor this weekend. He is the head honcho of the cult of misery (aka the roman catholic church in this country). He said in a radio broadcast recently that people without a sense of 'the transcendent' (by which he means god), in their lives, are not fully human. Apart from wanting him to clarify for me why I am not fully human I just needed to remind him that other figures in history have used this terminology as a prelude to genocide, extermination, slavery or other types of behaviour a tad on the discriminatory side.

He really really orta know better than that, don't ya think?

the big wide world

They all enjoyed a morning outside in the sun for the first time in their little lives. Constant vigilance against prowling cats was required.

10 May 2009

home corner

I set up a corner of the cellar for the chicks as things were getting a bit messy upstairs and they needed more room to romp around in.

They are contained by a bass guitar case and 2 x 100watt speaker cabinets laid end to end. They have an lamp heater but you don't really need it when you can snuggle up under mum's wings to keep warm.

There's a few bits and pieces in there for the chicks to explore to make life a bit more interesting.

When I find out what sort of music they like I might plug the speakers in.

09 May 2009

Our MP

I would like at assure my constituents that all my expense claims have been made entirely within the rules which we made up ourselves in order to spend your money wisely in our your best interests so that I am better able to represent your wishes in parliament. It is essential that MP's continue to receive a second shed allowance while they are perched in London on parliamentary business and £12k on padded bum warmers is a small price to pay for true democratic representation.

06 May 2009

First Days

I'm happy to tell you the chick survived and though still a bit wobblier than the others, she is eating and drinking well and a slight wound on her right flank is healing up nicely. I would have cried if she had died.

For a northerner I am such a soft git!

05 May 2009

Su Chi Ping

When I got back from work at 11 last night the last chick was hatching but she was having a hard time getting out. By midnight she was giving up the struggle and I decided to help her along a bit by gently pealing away some of the outer shell while being very careful not to pull away the inner membrane which is still closely attached to her skin, so thin that it will tear all too easily and she will bleed to death. I thought we'd lost her but I saw the faint fluttering of a heartbeat; though she was exhausted and had given up moving or making any further effort to get out. For the next two hours I held her in my cupped hands and breathed warm air in to keep her body temperature up. By 3am she began to stir and I heard her first 'cheep cheep'. Another hour on and she was cheeping for england, fluttering her little wings and trying to stand on legs that wouldn't quite work yet. At this point I put her back under mum and went to bed for what was left of the night hoping for the best. You can't win them all, but maybe she has a bit of a chance now if mum and brothers or sisters will only be gentle with her for the next 12 hours or so. The others are doing fine now and looking like your classic picture postcard chicks. I'm probably going to bore you to death with chick pics now....so sue me!