As per Wikipedia, Colm O'Gorman (born July 1966) is an Irish survivor of clerical sexual abuse, from County Wexford, who first came to public attention by speaking out against those involved. O'Gorman subsequently founded One in Four, an Irish charity which supports men and women who have been sexually abused and/or suffered sexual violence. He is also a former director of that organisation. O'Gorman was a member of the 22nd Seanad Éireann, representing the Progressive Democrats (PDs), one of the smaller Irish political parties. He is currently executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland.
The son of a farmer, he spent the first eleven years of his life in the village of Adamstown before moving with his family to Wexford town in 1977. He left Wexford in 1984, living in Dublin for a few years before moving to London in 1986.
In 2002, Colm O'Gorman settled near Gorey, Co. Wexford. Later he moved to a house close to Courtown, where he lives with his partner, Paul Fyffe.They are raising two children, of whom they have joint legal guardianship.When this was revealed it generated debate on fosterships in the Irish media (according to Wikipedia - in fact it seems to have generated very little debate.)
As an adolescent in County Wexford — between the age of 15 and 18 — O'Gorman was sexually abused by Father Seán Fortune. The abuse occurred between 1981 and 1983. He became the first of Fortune's many victims to come forward and report the assaults to the Irish Police. In 1998, he sued the Bishop of Ferns Dr. Brendan Comiskey and the Dublin Papal Nuncio, who later claimed diplomatic immunity. His case against the Catholic Diocese of Ferns was settled in 2003 with an admission of negligence and the payment of damages — in April 2003, O'Gorman was awarded €300,000 damages. O'Gorman documented his lawsuit in the BBC documentary Suing the Pope. (The Vatican claimed ciplomatic immunity and were excluded from the court case; the fact that this would happen must have been obvious to O'Gorman from the beginning but it was good publicity!)
An admiring profile in the Sunday Times on 30 April 2006 states that:
It was July 1984 and Colm O'Gorman wanted to tell his sister that he had been sexually abused by Fr Sean Fortune. But the words wouldn't come. Instead, he told her he was gay and that he had been having an affair with the priest, a monstrous character who eventually committed suicide in 1999 while facing 66 charges of molesting young people.
Colm O'Gorman was 18 years old in July 1984. It is truly extra-ordinary that in order to avoid telling his sister that he was being abused by Fr Fortune, he told her that he was having an affair with him!
The Profile continues:
A few years earlier, when he was 15, and the abuse was going on, O'Gorman tried to tell his mother what was happening. Fortune was waiting downstairs in their home in Wexford, about to take him away for a weekend. It was the third such trip and O'Gorman knew what would happen, but such was the fear that the words wouldn't come on that occasion either.
An equally uncritical article in the Daily Telegraph on 20 May 2009 contains the following:
When Colm was 16, his mother decided to leave Ireland and moved to an ashram in India, taking three of her six children with her. Colm and two other siblings stayed with their father. The marriage was effectively over, and a few months later, in February 1984, Colm ran away to Dublin. He had no money and for seven months allowed men to have sex with him in return for a night's sleep in a bed and a hot shower.
His relationship with his father was equally difficult. According to a Scotland on Sunday article (10 May 2009):
His biggest vulnerability was his distant relationship with his father. Later, they would come together in what O'Gorman describes as a glorious way, but back then his father was undemonstrative and often absent. It made O'Gorman emotionally needy, looking to the world for something his father couldn't give.
The basis for the reconcilation between father and son was provided when Colm O'Gorman went to the police in early 1995 and informed them that he had been raped by Father Fortune. As the Scotland on Sunday article explains:
The conversations that followed, the coming together and acceptance of one another, shaped the rest of O'Gorman's life. "One of the greatest gifts he gave me was to talk about his feelings about what happened to me as his son. Not in a way that looked for me to say it's OK, and not in a way that was, oh I'm so upset. He apologised. He said, 'I am so sorry this happened to you.' I said, 'It's not your fault.' He said, 'I was your father.' He was taking a really lovely responsibility, a responsibility that was about love, and it was a tremendous thing because I had spent all of my life terrified of what would happen if he found out."
Colm O'Gorman established the group One in Four (London) in the UK in 1999. The organisation became a registered charity in July 2000 and currently operates nationally in the UK from its London offices. He established One in Four Ireland in July 2002; it opened its doors for services in February 2003. Based in Holles Street, Dublin, it operates nationally offering a range of services and supports to women and men who have experienced sexual abuse and/or sexual violence. ("One in Four" website)
"One in Four" is probably the most prominent of the dozen or so victims organisations which were established in Ireland and the UK following the public apology by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern to victims of child abuse in residential institutions run by the Catholic Church. Bertie Ahern issued his apology on 11 May 1999 and I am unaware of the existence of any victims organisation prior to that date.
In October 2003 Mr. O'Gorman threatened to close down the organisation on the grounds that the State had failed to come up with an additional Eur 80,000 for its counselling programme. The Department of Health denied that it had ever promised to supply this sum and pointed out that it had provided €633,000 funding to the organisation since May 2002, of which €425,000 was for One in Four in Ireland and €208,000 was for its organisation in England. It also said that counselling was provided through the National Counselling Service, at a cost to the Department of €17million since 1999. (One-in-Four also received unspecified funding from the Catholic Church counselling service Faoiseagh.) The situation was eventually resolved when the rock group U2 gave a donation of €40,000 to the organisation. Curiously Colm O'Gorman's state-funded salary as head of One in Four was €80,000 at the time (and in April 2003 he had received €300,000 compensation from the Catholic Church).
In what Irish Independent journalist Bruce Arnold described as a "highly emotional press conference" on 13 October 2003, Colm O'Gorman alleged Government discomfort with his public criticisms, and suggested these had possibly influenced the decision to call a halt to funding. This supposed relationship between Mr O'Gorman's criticisms and the organisation not getting further funding was strenuously denied by the Health Minister, Micheal Martin, in a later interview. Minister Martin said he wanted "in the strongest possible terms to rebut that inference" and expected the comment to be withdrawn. O'Gorman does not appear to have withdrawn the comment but he is something of a golden boy in official circles and the controversy was allowed to fade away.
[A Sunday Times profile in April 2006 put it delicately:
When One in Four was struggling to stay open in 2003, U2 pledged €40,000. At the time questions were raised about O'Gorman's own motives. Why, for example, was he paying himself a salary of €80,000 a year while seeking extra funds from the government? He argued that this was an appropriate salary for the director of a charity and the story died.]
Colm O'Gorman was the chief inspiration behind the Government's decision to establish the Ferns Inquiry into allegations of child abuse in the Catholic diocese of Ferns, Co. Wexford. The Inquiry reported in November 2005. The bishop of Ferns Dr Brendan Comiskey had previously resigned in April 2002 as a result of allegations in the BBC/O'Gorman documentary "Suing the Pope" that he had been negligent in his handling of the abusive behaviour of Father Fortune.
However the Report of the Ferns Inquiry makes it clear that Father Fortune did not see Bishop Comiskey as a protector. In an article entitled "On The Ferns Report" published in the Dublin Review, Catriona Crowe wrote:
The Report’s account of the diocesan response to Fr Fortune ends dramatically with his suicide. Two of his employees found him in a darkened house, lying on his bed fully clothed with a set of rosary beads in his hands. One of the employees found three letters, one titled ‘A Message from Heaven to my Family’, one to his brother, and one to the employee who discovered them. The letter addressed to her contained an instruction to give it to all the newspapers. In it, he denied all allegations against him and branded his accusers ‘a pack of liars’. He left detailed instructions about his funeral and requested that Bishop Comiskey not attend. He claimed that ‘Bishop Comiskey was responsible for all this as he had raped and buggered me’.
The recipient of this extraordinary missive did not give it to the newspapers. She gave it instead to her local curate, who kept it in a safe in the presbytery for two years and then burned it. The Inquiry, which was told about the letter by the curate, concludes that there was ‘no evidence to support the very serious allegations in that letter and [the Inquiry] does not believe them to be true’. Fr Fortune’s often-expressed threat to ‘bring Bishop Comiskey down with him’ did not succeed in the way he had imagined.
The Panorama documentary "Sex Crimes and the Vatican" was presented by Colm O'Gorman and broadcast on BBC1 on 1st October 2006. It alleged that "Crimen Sollicitationis", a secret document which sets out a procedure for dealing with child sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the Pope. According to O'Gorman the document instructs bishops on how to deal with allegations of child abuse against priests and has been used to evade prosecution for sex crimes.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, immediately denounced the BBC for sensationalism, misleading editing and prejudice. Writing in The Independent (UK) journalist Thomas Sutcliffe was disconcerted to find himself agrreeing to some extent with the Archbishop;
"I watched Panorama because, - in a grumbling, muttering, slightly knee-jerk way - I am hostile to the Catholic Church. So it was a surprising experience to find indignation at the impunity of some abusive priests mingling with a whispering disquiet at the editorial approach.
The first doubt occurred when O'Gorman broke down in tears, after visiting the site of an incident of abuse in Brazil. It certainly confirmed the deep trauma of O'Gorman's past abuse at the hands of an Irish priest. But shouldn't his qualification as empathetic victim have disqualified him from the reporting role in this case? "Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face of the BBC," notes the corporation's editorial guidelines, "they can have a significant impact on the perceptions of our impartiality." That was the problem here. Perceptions. It wasn't that O'Gorman's investigations were necessarily untrue, but it was all too easy to dismiss him as an impartial weigher of contradictory evidence.
The second doubt occurred when I actually read Crimen Solicitationis, the 1962 Vatican document which was summarised by one of Panorama's interviewees as "an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy." It took me close to an hour to get through it and at a rough guess, would take another 20 years to fully comprehend. An abstruse, legalistic document of headache-inducing opacity it lays out the procedures to be followed in the case of a specific ecclesiastical crime - solicitation or using the confessional to tempt a penitent towards impure speech or deeds.
It is much preoccupied with secrecy. But much of this furtiveness seems to derive from the fact that the evidence and accusation occur under seal of the confessional, which must somehow be preserved through the subsequent investigation. Happy as I would have been to find hard evidence of a sinister cover up by the Vatican, it simply won't bear the crude description, which, for the sake of journalistic brevity, Panorama gave it."
In early 2008 O'Gorman's expressed interest in becoming executive director of the Irish section of Amnesty International sparked a somewhat cynical article in Phoenix magazine.
..... O'Gorman first came to public attention as head of the sexual abuse victims' group One in Four, and there was some bemusement when he joined the PDs to stand in Wexford at the general election (he polled a disappointing 2,132 first preference votes). O'Gorman told the Post that he joined the party as it meant he "would not have to compromise his beliefs" and that "I didn't want to just go through the motions. I didn't want to join a party that would have made it easier for me to get elected." This hardly explains why O'Gorman first negotiated with the Labour Party before deciding to join the PDs as the prospect of taking a Labour seat in the same constituency as deputy leader Brendan Howlin were extremely remote.
Following his defeat and the PDs disaster at the general election, O'Gorman made a pitch for the leadership of the party in what Goldhawk construed as a bid to secure one of the two PD Seanad appointments amongst the Taoiseach's eleven (see The Phoenix, 27/7/07). In this period O'Gorman told The Irish Times that the urgent necessity of the PDs remaining in public life was a matter of "conviction, integrity and courage" and that he himself had carved out a reputation for "honesty and integrity, for plain speaking, but challenging what was wrong."
Having failed to get into the Seanad, O'Gorman quietly dropped out of the PD leadership race and out of the party altogether.
O'Gorman's initial attraction to the PDs as a party that would "not compromise his beliefs", are difficult to square with his claim in the Post that he "had an affinity with his new employer (Amnesty) going back 30 years". O'Gorman must surely recall how his recent party leader the then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, refused to meet a representative of Amnesty International or even accept a phone call from the same quarter after he had refused Amnesty access to Irish prisons to conduct a survey on racism. Shortly before this request in 2002, Amnesty had been granted access to prisons in countries like Afghanistan, the USA, Nigeria and Russia for similar purposes.
As justice minister, McDowell also dismissed claims from many quarters - including Amnesty International - that the US military were using Shannon Airport as a stop-off point in the rendition of prisoners. Last week, O'Gorman described the Government's refusal to acknowledge the practise of rendition through Shannon as "fundamentally dishonest and, in my view, immoral."
The publication of O'Gorman's biography "Beyond Belief" in May 2009 was followed by a flood of media articles and interviews, nearly all of were conducted in a tone of unquestioning adulation. One exception was a long discussion on the Politics.ie website entitled "Colm O'Gorman Book Release for 'Beyond Belief' ". I was not the only one to spot problems with the book and the associated interviews.
Extracts from the Politics.ie Discussion
#25 10th May 2009 Kilbarry1
..... The following is part of an interview Colm O'Gorman did with Emily Hourihane in the Sunday Independent today.
The man who faced his demons - Lifestyle, Frontpage - Independent.ie
In Beyond Belief, O'Gorman writes, bleakly, "there were two men living in our village who hurt children ... they raped and abused ... I was one of the children they hurt." When I ask him now how this could have happened, why he was not better protected, he responds, "because I was five at a time when this wasn't possible. It was 1971, child sexual abuse didn't exist. I didn't have anything like the level of understanding to know what was happening to me. And at that age, one of the things I knew was that grown-ups hurt you when you'd been bad. So my experience of adults who hurt me, was that they hurt me if it was my fault." ................
When he was seven or eight, an older boy from the area began abusing Colm, abuse which he was by then tragically inured to "accept as normal".
And after that there was Father Sean Fortune who was the FOURTH person to abuse him - at the age of 14. Most people's character and personality are well formed by the time they are 14 years old. I do intend to read the book but it seems strange that Sean Fortune and the Catholic Church should be the sole focus of O'Gorman's human right's campaign.
Perhaps it's because of the power of the Church? In an interview with John Spain in the Irish Independent yesterday Colm O'Gorman explains:
About a boy - Books, Entertainment - Independent.ie
"You have to remember the social and political power the priests had at the time." In the book he brilliantly describes the flagrant way Fortune would arrive in the house and be feted with food as he waited for Colm. In every house he visited in the area, O'Gorman remembers, people deferred to him and lavished attention on him. His own parents were no different.
But does that explain how two other men - and a youth - were able to abuse him, long before Father Fortune appeared on the scene? Why has O'Gorman's entire career been based on the behaviour of the fourth male to have abused him?
#34 12th May 2009 Utopian Hermit Monk
Did anyone else hear the interview with Colm O'Gorman on this morning's Tubridy Show?
link to audio
I caught the second half in the car, but I've just listened to the whole interview (almost 40 minutes).
I have to say that there is something about his story and/or his way of telling it that leaves me uneasy, because I find it very difficult to believe him. He went into detail about being repeatedly abused by a local old fellow when he was five. In spite of this happening repeatedly and, according to himself, having a devastating effect on him, absolutely nobody seems to have noticed that something was wrong. He explains away his parents' failure to notice anything, but he had five siblings, pals, teachers, etc. Apparently, nobody noticed a change in his personality, signs of depression, terror, confusion, etc.
Then, just three years later, as an 8 year old, he was sexually abused by another local - a teenager this time - and, again, nobody noticed.
Then, when he was 14, he had his first encounter with S. Fortune, who enticed him into bed and abused him, only for C.O'G. (after making a cup of tea for himself) to return to bed and, thereafter, allow Fortune to bully him into continuing the abusive relationship.
Later still, aged 17 and studying hotel management at Cathal Brugha Street, he supplemented his finances by working as a male prostitute (still unaware that he was gay - and this in 1984, not 1948!!).
Repeatedly, Colm depicts himself as lurching between exceptional self-possession (e.g., at 14, he decided to 'take charge' of the relation with Fortune, and even started addressing him as 'John' from the night of their first encounter) and exceptional innocence (in Dublin, several years after the Fortune episode, a man in a public toilet invites him back to his place, and Colm is innocent enough to think that there is nothing sinister about this).
Listening to him, I want to believe his account, but I find it impossible to do so. Even when he describes himself in the present as "a very happy man", I can't believe him. It just doesn't ring true. To me, listening to this interview, he comes across as a troubled individual.
At the end of the interview, I was curious to hear him speaking about himself and his partner having adopted children. Not having read the book, I don't understand the legal status of this adoption, but I would imagine it is unusual in Ireland.
Anyhow, I wish him well.
Colm O’Gorman has been Executive Director of Amnesty in Ireland since 2008. Writing in the Irish Times on 29 March 2006, he made some remarkable statements in an article headed “ “Interests of Children Must Remain Paramount in Sex-Abuse Inquiries”
Mr O’Gorman stated: “In the past few months a number of commentators have suggested that grave injustice is being done to priests falsely accused of child sexual abuse. Such suggestions rightly concern fair minded people, but remarkably, no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest that false allegations are being made or that the rights of those accused are being abused.”
Mr. O'Gorman wrote this 3 months AFTER former nun Nora Wall had received a Certificate of Miscarriage of Justice from the Court of Criminal Appeal following her wrongful conviction for child rape. There had also been a long series of child murder allegations against the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers, ALL of which had been discredited at the time O’Gorman wrote his article. This did not prevent Amnesty Ireland from appointing him their Executive Director in February 2008.
Referring to this comment Breda O' Brien wrote in the Irish Times:
Although Colm O'Gorman said recently that "no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest that false allegations are being made or the rights of those accused are being abused," there are several cases in the public domain of false allegations. They include cases of attempted blackmail of priests where threats were made that allegations of abuse would be made if money was not forthcoming.
Nora Wall was not a priest, but it is difficult to believe that she would have been the first woman in Ireland to be convicted of rape and the first given a life sentence for it if the accusation had not dated from the time she spent in religious life.
Her reference to the "attempted blackmail of priests" would certainly include the case of Father Michael Kennedy who set up a sting operation with the Gardai (police) after two brothers threatened to accuse him of child abuse unless he paid them money. Father Kennedy is related to the famous American political dynasty. Did Mr. O'Gorman never hear of that case - widely reported in the media when the two brothers were convicted in January 2006? This was just two months before he wrote his article in the Irish Times.
This was not the first time that Mr. O'Gorman had denied the significance of false allegations. On 29 October 2003 it was reported in the Irish Times
Mr O'Gorman said it was "a phenomenon surrounding sex and child abuse" that people do not want it to be so. "The reality is that false allegations are incredibly rare."
He said this in reponse to the formation of the group "Let Our Voices Emerge" (L.O.V.E.) which had just been set up (by Florence Horsman Hogan) to defend those - especially religious - who had been falsely accused.
By a strange irony, earlier that same year, "One in Four" was very much involved in a case where a false allegation was made against a priest. In May 2003 Paul Anderson claimed the priest had buggered him while giving him First Holy Communion prayer tuition more than 20 years previously. A representative of "One in Four" accompanied Mr. Anderson to Archbishops House where he made the allegation and the priest was instantly suspended. In June 2007 Paul Anderson was convicted of making the false accusation and sentenced to four years imprisonment. In the course of a victim impact statement the priest said:
"When he went with One-in-Four to Archbishop's House armed with his accusation it hair-triggered the church's guidelines - with immediate devastating effect on me and on the practice of my priesthood. I was instantly and publicly suspended from my ministry. So without any due process, my diocese, in this Guantanamo Bay reaction, had me stand aside from my work as a priest. I had to leave my home and stay with family and friends and I lost almost a year out of my pastoral work."
Sunday Independent journalist Jerome Reilly commented:
The case raises many questions - not least for the organisation One-in-Four whose good work on behalf of victims has been tainted. The organisation's unwitting complicity in championing Paul Anderson in his bid to extort money from the church has reduced its standing in the eyes of many.
Again this throws a curious light on Amnesty's decision only a few months after the trial, to appoint Colm O'Gorman as their Executive Director in Ireland.
In a recent article entitled "Amnesty's Cause Was Those Held in Dungeons for Peaceful Thought or Word -- Not Anymore", Kevin Myers wrote:
The day might yet dawn in which an RTE news bulletin does not contain the opinions of Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty Ireland. Yesterday, the issue was of "children's rights", and Amnesty's concern that children had been placed in adult mental care facilities. Not an unreasonable issue for the ISPCC to get involved in, but, once again, Amnesty led the way. For Amnesty has become the one-stop shop for the righteous: a browse through Amnesty Ireland's website is like entering a vast cornucopia of rights-based agendas. I briefly wondered if Amnesty Ireland had an opinion on civil partnership between homosexual couples. Silly me. Of course it has.
O'Gorman last year denounced the Civil Partnership Bill as "a second-class form of marriage for what the Government clearly believes is a second-class group of people". He is, of course, entitled to speak his mind on such matters -- but these words were not of his mind, but on behalf of Amnesty International. Could Peter Benenson have ever imagined that the organisation he founded 50 years ago as a response to reading about two young Portuguese who were imprisoned for toasting "freedom", would one day be demanding that same-sex couples be allowed exactly the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples? ......
Amnesty's beauty was its devotion to freedom of peaceful speech and thought. Amnesty of old, like a good lawyer, would defend prisoners with completely opposing viewpoints. But would Amnesty today campaign for the man who was imprisoned because he believed homosexuality was wrong with the same vigour that it campaigns for same-sex unions? And would it show comparable energy championing the rights of those who are imprisoned because they are Zionists?
You know the answer to both questions, don't you? Which simply means that Amnesty, as Amnesty, is dead.
(I was once a member of Amnesty myself but gave up on them a long time ago!)