(from Alliance Support website www.alliancesupport.org)
Sunday Independent, 8 February 2004 by Emma Blain
[ It is noticeable how the false allegations against teacher Patsy McGlinchy and businessman Michael Fitzpatrick mirror those against priests and religious. Both were accused in 1997 i.e. the year after RTE broadcast Louis Lentin's programme "Dear Daughter" about Christine Buckley and Goldenbridge. Nora Wall had been accused the year before; one of the main reasons for the collapse of the case against her was that Michael Fitzpatrick read a report of her conviction in June 1999 and recognised the name of one of her accusers as the woman who had accused himself! (Due to an unfortunate oversight, the prosecution failed to pass on that information to Nora Wall's defence team.)
Patsy McGlinchy was a teacher in a school for the mentally handicapped. When one mother accused him of abusing her son she touched off a torrent of hysteria until 45 of the 90 students had also accused him. When he appeared in court a mob screamed abuse at him as they did at Nora Wall. When he was acquitted, no action at all was taken against the false accusers or the mob.
Schools for the mentally handicapped resemble industrial schools in one important respect i.e. nearly all were once run by religious. I understand that almost every Christian Brother who ever worked in an industrial school has now been accused of child abuse. Those Brothers would also have worked in ordinary schools but there are only a tiny number of allegations from that source. Ordinary schools are not covered by the Redress Board and so there's no easy money there!
Nevertheless the cancer of false allegations is spreading throughout society. What began as anti-clerical hatred spewed out by Louis Lentin and Mary Raftery, has taken on a life of its own and every person in authority is now under threat.
27 May 2007]
To be accused of sexual abuse of children is to be labelled the lowest of the low. Emma Blain hears voices from the cold
THE crime of child sexual abuse is universally detested. Even fellow inmates of those convicted hate the abusers. It is also a crime where the principle of innocent until proven guilty is rarely applied outside the confines of the courtroom.
Because victims of sexual abuse often suffer from feelings of shame and would rather suffer in silence than 'out' their abusers, those who do come forward are often seen, justifiably, as courageous. Unfortunately the downside is that we tend to automatically assume that anyone who makes such a complaint must be telling the truth. And if sexual abuse is one of the most heinous of crimes, being falsely accused of such a crime must be one of the worst things that could happen to an innocent person.
THE agony in Patsy McGlinchy's face was painful to watch as he struggled to tell the story of how false allegations have affected his life in the last seven years. Though reluctant to tell the story because of the memories it provokes, Mr McGlinchy nevertheless felt he should speak out to convey what desolating consequences such allegations can have.
His nightmare began seven years ago when he was accused of abusing children in his care. As a teacher of the mentally handicapped, he had been working in the area of Special Education since 1979 and had been teaching in this particular school for the mentally handicapped for three years. In March 1997 a parent of one of the pupils accused him of abusing her son. What followed this allegation was a torrent of accusations that spread throughout the school and laid the foundations for the horrendous conditions that Mr McGlinchy and his wife would have to endure until the present day.
At one point, 45 of the 90 pupils had made allegations against him. When the first allegation was made against him, Mr McGlinchy was immediately suspended and he has not worked since.
At 7.30 on a June morning in 1997, Gardai knocked on Mr McGlinchy's door and his children saw their father being taken away in a squad car. In June 1998 he was arrested again, this time for the alleged abuse of 15 children. He says they asked him all sorts of "horrendous things", accused him of "horrendous stuff". He was questioned for 12 hours.
In 2000 he was charged with the sexual abuse of two of the 45 children who had accused him. Forced to spend the night in the sex offender's wing of the jail, he was terrified. Mr McGlinchy speaks of a scene which he says was comparable to a lynch mob when he subsequently appeared at court. He was "beaten, spat at and kicked by parents and their supporters". He remembers the screams of the people outside the court, the hatred that culminated in death threats. The trial didn't start until 2002. It lasted for 17 days and Mr McGlinchy describes it as the most horrendous time of his life. It took the jury only one and a half hours to decide that he was not guilty. He and his wife are in debt to the tune of 40,000 and both suffer from severe depression. "I was the person who was abused, my children, we were."
The ordeal that Mr McGlinchy has been through tells in every tear that runs down his face as he tells his story. He pauses, he struggles for breath and composure. He has his thumb and forefinger pressed against the bridge of his nose in an effort to curb his emotions. The pain is obvious as he tells me that the experience has "destroyed my life, my family, my heart".
But he still wants to return to teach in the school, as a way of showing his innocence which has been proven in court. "I just want the school to say I've been wronged."
Yet just last Tuesday Mr McGlinchy received news from the Redress Board that has hampered his efforts to get on with his own life even further. A letter from the Board arrived to Mr McGlinchy's door, informing him that one of the boys who accused him of abuse is to be awarded compensation by the Board.
But his bitterness is tinged with understanding. He says that while his accusers were in their teens, their mental age would be younger.
"These young people don't know that they've destroyed my life, it's not their fault."
MICHAEL FITZPATRICK (also Nora Wall)
IF it hadn't been for the support of the people in his community, Michael Fitzpatrick says he imagines he would have committed suicide. He reached such a desperate point because of the allegations made against him of the rape and indecent assault of two girls, which did not reach court after a judicial review. In 1997 the father of four was first approached by gardai about the allegations. The half-hour he subsequently spent in the Garda station making a statement was just the beginning. It took a year for the State to decide to go ahead with a case. Throughout that time he was sustained by the support from those in his area who refused to believe the claims made by the girls; he had "good neighbours" who reassured him and his wife. But when he got to the Four Courts for the judicial review the enormity of the situation struck him: "Them big pillars . . . [it was a] different kettle of fish." He won the judicial review and no longer had a case to answer.
"I would imagine a person who's guilty doesn't suffer as much as an innocent man. If you are guilty then fair enough, do something, make amends, have remorse. If you are innocent then you are asking yourself, 'Why me?'."
He has found the whole ordeal impossible to come to terms with and says that all his family have suffered.
"To the present day I haven't taken one of my grandchildren in my arms."
One of the girls responsible for the allegation against him was later involved in the Nora Wall case. She was a witness against the former nun and her earlier involvement against Mr Fitzpatrick was a vital factor in Nora's Wall's vindication.
Today, despite what they have put him through, Mr Fitzpatrick is able to look kindly on his accusers. "They had had hard lives and a difficult family situation."
FLORENCE HORSMAN HOGAN
The LOVE (Let Our Voices Emerge) group was set up last year in response to the many allegations of abuse against religious orders in this country. It is made up of former pupils of Industrial Schools, one of which, Florence Horsman Hogan, is a co-founding member, along with Mary Walsh.
The group was originally founded as a voice from those who had happy times in Industrial Schools in defence of their former carers, with the aim of providing the other side of the story. Ms Horsman Hogan attended an Industrial School from the age of six weeks when she was rescued by nuns as she was dying of starvation. She was there until she was 5 years old.
LOVE aim to support both members of religious orders and lay people who claim that they are falsely accused of abuse, until they are proven either guilty or innocent. Barrister Kathleen Leader also addressed the group and referred to the legal issues and procedures surrounding those accused. Ms Horsman stressed that "there are so many we know are not true allegations".