REPLY TO BRUCE ARNOLD
Reply to Bruce Arnold article in The Irish Independent.
Alliance Support Group Website - Added on February 20, 2008
Right of Reply in The Irish Independent first given and then refused.
Email to Hermann Kelly from Irish Independent on Jan 7, 2008
"Hermann: Do you want to submit a piece. Assuming all present and correct we would be happy to publish."
Email for The Irish Independent on Jan 25:
"We have decided that it would be better at this point not to publish your piece in reply to Bruce. Another format, perhaps, at a different time might be more suitable."
Both extremes have been tested - now this abuse/false allegation pendulum is coming to rest in the centre
by Hermann Kelly
The problem for many people involved in the area of abuse allegations against religious is the extremes into which they can fall. Years ago, a few people believed that no Catholic religious would ever hurt a child under their care. We all know this idea to be false. Human nature is imperfect and we are aware that a number of religious have failed and damaged children for whom they were responsible. In the second part of my book, Kathy's Real Story, I describe the great harm caused to minors by Fr Brendan Smyth, Fr Sean Fortune, Fr Ivan Payne and others such as Christian Brother Maurice Toibin who was found guilty of sexual assault on 25 different boys while in Letterfrack Industrial School.
Amongst all the good that was done, some amount of child abuse took place in Church-run institutions. However, at the other extreme of this debate, we have people like actor Mannix Flynn, who has publicly suggested that, “hundreds of children were raped and murdered. It’s a holocaust we’re dealing with. In every bit of land around Letterfrack there is a child buried.”
The Irish Independent’s esteemed columnist Bruce Arnold has occasionally made grandiose allegations in print himself. In June 2003 he claimed that “We know now that the total [number who died in Letterfrack] is much higher and boys are buried in the woods as well.” Just where is the evidence for this? It is now time for people like Bruce Arnold and Mannix Flynn to produce the hard evidence to substantiate their accusations or withdraw and apologise for making them in the first place.
In Saturday’s article, Arnold raised the term “Holocaust denier”. Setting aside the historical connotations of that term, which is utterly misplaced and inappropriate. In Nazi Germany there was a holocaust, millions of Jews and others were brutally murdered. However, there never was any “holocaust” in religious institutions in Ireland, certainly not in Letterfrack. Says who? Well, the Gardai carried out a huge investigation over two and a half years to 2002, in which seven full-time Gardai participated. They studied all files, interviewed the complainants and literally dug up swathes of ground around Letterfrack. After their search, the local Superintendent, Tony O’Dowd concluded that “there is no evidence available that would suggest that foul play led to the deaths of anybody buried inside or outside of the cemetery at the old Industrial School in Letterfrack.” There never was a “holocaust.” As I show in my book, institutional campaigners have made claims of murder or manslaughter before which have turned out to be absolutely false. Remember the accusations about Patsy Flanagan, William Delaney et al? The extremists who make these accusations of murder actually do harm to the cause of those who were genuinely abused.
Last August, it was quite surreal, watching institutional campaigners being metaphorically dragged along on the coat-tails of a convicted child-abuser. I never thought that I’d see the work of Fr Harry Moore, author of the eponymous report on Artane being lauded by Bruce Arnold and SOCA Ireland. In “Kathy’s Real Story” I fully delineate the story of Fr Harry Moore, a priest of Dublin Diocese, who in 1962 penned a highly critical report on Artane Industrial School after being part-time chaplain there for two years. “In 2005,” I wrote, “he was convicted on charges of buggery and indecent assault performed on a then 16 year old male youth between July 1984, and March 1985. Fr Moore was described in the court as an alcoholic whose father had died before he was born, meaning that as a child, Harry Moore was placed in an orphanage where he stayed until the age of 17.” The details of Fr Moore’s life are fully laid out.
I happily concede that I did not spot Bruce Arnold’s two very brief references to Fr Moore’s conviction in his high number of newspaper articles. I missed the references, they were so small and fleeting. Apologies. But here is where we differ: I believe that Fr Moore’s personal qualities and lack of qualifications as an educationalist detract greatly from the credibility of his report. Bruce Arnold does not believe this. Fr Moore’s report was rubbished by the findings of a Department of Education flash inspection at the time. It was clearly the Department of Education who thought its inspectors and appointed experts (Dr McCabe, Dr McDaid and Mr T McDevitt) were qualified and competent to do this task, not just myself.
The issue of child abuse allegations against religious has been used for years as an ideological weapon with which to beat the Catholic Church over the head and into a whimpering silence. In this climate, innocent people like Nora Wall, Fr Edward Kilpatrick, and Paul Farrell have suffered greatly, while false accusers like Paul Anderson have been jailed.
However, since the setting up of the Redress Board, it has become clear that the short step in Ireland between allegation and compensation has had lethal consequences for the reputation of Catholic religious, the vast majority of whom were and are innocent of any wrong doing.
The offer of financial compensation by the Government for those formerly resident in residential institutions, allied with a low level of proof necessary to get a payout has coincided with an exponential growth in the number of claims lodged to the Redress Board. Before 1999, the Christian Brothers received a total of 12 claims of abuse. Following the Taoiseach’s apology on behalf of the State in 1999 and the offer of compensation, there were a further 449 claims. As “Kathy's Real Story” went to press, the Christian Brothers had received almost 2,700 claims for compensation. The taxpayer will have been abused to the tune of Eur1.3 billion by the time all claimants have been paid. This scheme has become a scam.
Quite rightly, we have heard and been appalled by the true tales of abuse carried in Ireland. However, every coin has a flip side so in my book, I reveal how innocent people have been falsely accused, and rolled over by the compensation bandwagon. I believe that these people deserve a public hearing for the injustices which they have suffered. This is more than an astonishing story but a public scandal which needs to be brought out and openly discussed for the first time. A good start would be if Bruce Arnold could acknowledge the evidence that author Kathy O’Beirne was never even resident in a Magdalene Laundry, never mind abused there as she has claimed.
Irish Independent, Saturday January 05 2008 by Bruce Arnold
This year will see an attempt to conclude the long, sorry, dishonest saga of supposed recompense and healing to the thousands of men and women who suffered lifelong damage and injury in Ireland's industrial schools and reformatory institutions.
The Commission on Child Abuse, though it has reached no acceptable conclusion, will nevertheless conclude. Compensation through the Redress Board will dwindle out. The Church will escape without telling the full truth or satisfying those it has damaged.
Those who attended the schools will live out the remaining years of their lives conscious of having been repeatedly betrayed. They were betrayed as children, given false comfort as adults, and have watched the passage of the last eight years with growing despair and disbelief.
One of the stranger aspects of the unfolding story has been what one might liken to the Holocaust deniers -- those who pretend that the awful experiences within the industrial schools did not actually happen.
A leading figure in this process of denial was Florence Horsman-Hogan, who set up the LOVE (Let Our Voices Emerge) organisation in 2003, supposedly based on testimony from those in industrial schools who spoke positively of them. She claimed they "surged forward" with testimony, though on the occasions when I sought contact through Mrs Horsman-Hogan with these witnesses, the process was frustrated. She challenged the validity of victim stories such as 'Kathy's Story', 'Dear Daughter' and 'Suffer the Little Children'.
Last year, she abandoned her mission in the belief that its task had been accomplished and she closed down LOVE Continuing, she said, would be a pointless waste of energy and resources. Better, she added, "to return to domestic blitz [sic] and marital harmony".
Another effort at bringing so-called "truth" to bear was in the form of a book entitled 'Kathy's Real Story', by Hermann Kelly, which endeavoured to correct 'Kathy's Story', in which Kathy O'Beirne delivered a sensational -- and sensationally successful -- account of abuse.
Kelly's book is a detailed refutation of what Kathy claimed, and within the confines of that theme, provides an alternative version of the story, invoking, among others, Mrs Horsman-Hogan as a campaigner against the original 'Kathy's Story'.
Kelly's purpose is wider than just his desire to deal with one book. He completes this task in the first half of 'Kathy's Real Story' and then goes on to try to expose much more widely what he calls "the culture of false allegations". It is here that I find myself at odds with his so-called research.
There is always a huge danger in working from the particular to the general and Kelly falls into the trap of woefully inadequate research in respect of Fr Moore, the priest whose 'Report on Artane', carried out for Archbishop John Charles McQuaid in 1962, was obtained by me for publication last summer.
He works from only one of my articles published at that time -- on August 11 -- ignoring the other three, and he accuses me of glossing over the fact that Fr Moore, many years later, pleaded guilty to a sexual abuse charge.
The facts are that there were four articles altogether, in the first of which I dealt with Fr Moore's sexual abuse charges, summarising them again in the second. He claims that, at the time of finishing his own book, there was "nothing in the national media" about Fr Moore's conviction when in fact I had twice published the facts.
Worse still, he presents the argument: "one would have expected that any journalist writing about Fr Moore would have searched, uncovered and revealed his past because the qualifications of Fr Moore and the credibility of his report depends on it." This is precisely what Kelly failed to do.
I raised the very issue in order to argue that what Fr Moore faced four decades later had nothing whatever to do with his qualification as the chaplain appointed by Archbishop McQuaid and should not have been admitted as testimony by Judge Ryan. Nor should the judge have allowed the testimony about the department of education officers who refuted the testimony in Fr Moore's report without dealing with their qualifications.
Kelly describes them as "qualified and competent". He does not name the three. They were Dr Anna McCabe, well-known as an inspector, Dr McDaid and Mr Turlough McDevitt. One of them was guilty of a very serious offence with tragic consequences.
This was against the mother of a girl held in St Brigid's, Loughrea. He gave her misleading advice about her rights as a parent in obtaining the child's release, thus blocking it.
The law after the passing of the 1941 Children's Act required both parents to consent. This was overthrown, however, in a famous constitutional case in 1955. Though she did not know it, this cleared the mother to act independently in getting her daughter returned to her. The written advice she got from the department of education official was exactly contrary to this legal position.
Not only that, but the nuns in St Brigid's, quite illegally, informed the father, who contacted the department and successfully blocked the release, again contrary to the law. The motivation on all sides was pernicious and corrupt.
Neither the mother's nor the child's interests were served.
The episode fundamentally undermines Kelly's claim that they were "qualified and competent" and in reality makes the person responsible criminally culpable.
Worse was to come. The girl's mother never recovered her little girl and went on believing that the letter of advice, sent to her on May 11, 1961 and obtained under Freedom of Information Act, was the last word on the matter.
Some years later, in circumstances of great unhappiness and without having reached a long-desired reconciliation with her children, she took her own life. She told them she had tried. They did not believe her.
Much later, when they saw her pleading letters to department officials about obtaining her little girl, they realised, too late, that she had spoken the truth.
Yes, some people were happy in the institutions, but not many.
For most inmates, they were a cancerous growth on Irish society; punitive, cruel, neglectful and ignorant in their management, with the State playing an ignominious and shameful role, which should have been protective but was in fact collusive.
We will hear a good deal more this coming year. Brace yourselves!