MARY RAFTERY, SISTER CONCEPTION AND BISHOP PETER BIRCH
On 8 March 2005 the Irish Times published a letter from Sister Una O'Neill , Superior General of the Sisters of Charity in response to Mary Raftery's column of March 3rd entitled "Piling Insult Upon Injury". Sister Una described this as:
"The latest example of [Mary Raftery's] use of selective quotations and innuendo to portray the Sisters of Charity in the worst possible light.
In reply Mary Raftery writes; "I neither stated nor implied that the Sisters of Charity knowingly employed paedophiles as childcare workers in St. Joseph's, Kilkenny. I neither stated nor implied that Bishop Birch was aware that boys at St. Joseph's were being sexually abused."
The following is an extract from Mary Raftery's article:
"The change in attitude towards poverty sweeping the rest of Kilkenny passed St. Joseph's by. Its old industrial school culture remained largely untouched. Behind the high walls where its small inhabitants were incarcerated, we now know that the nuns employed at least three paedophiles to look after a group of about 30 boys.
Several of these children, as young as four, were subjected to over a decade of continuous and savage abuse both physical and sexual. We know that a number of them told adults of the torture that they were suffering. We know that a number of prominent individuals, including the local bishop, Dr. Peter Birch, and Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, were made aware of some of the allegations of abuse. We know that for the children concerned little or nothing happened as a result of their complaints."
SO MS. RAFTERY, THIS DOESN'T IMPLY THAT BISHOP BIRCH KNEW THAT BOYS WERE BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED?
Mary Raftery deliberately omits a great deal of relevant information. Edward Murphy was the social worker who, allegedly told Sister Stanislaus that children were being sexually abused in St. Josephs in the 1970s. On 22 December 1999, Mr. Murphy wrote to the Irish Times to say that he did NOT tell Sister Stan about sex abuse because he himself was unaware at the time that sexual abuse was occurring. It was in 1995/96 that he became aware that children had been sexually abused in 1977. This was nearly 20 years after Mary Raftery alleges that he told Sister Stan. WHY DOES MARY RAFTERY NOT REFER TO EDWARD MURPHY'S EVIDENCE?
He was only 13 when he told Sr Conception that another of the subsequently convicted paedophiles (David Murray) was "at the boys". It was an act of extraordinary bravery for the child."
Mary Raftery again manages to omit vital information. The following is an extract from the judgement of Mr. Justice Finnegan in the case of R. Noctor-v.-Ireland, The Attorney General and Others. It concerns the claim by Raymond Noctor that he informed Sister Conception of sexual abuse.
"The Plaintiffs evidence is that he informed Sister Conception on a number of occasions that he was being subjected to sexual abuse by Mr. Murray. Sister Conception acknowledges that the Plaintiff called to her on one occasion but that his complaint then was not specific. He told her that Mr. Murray was "at him". She understood this to refer to physical abuse. I accept that the Plaintiff intended to make clear to Sister Conception that he was being sexually abused but the words used I am satisfied did not adequately communicate this to her.
Further the Plaintiffs evidence is that he attended on Sister Conception with Sergeant Tuohy and Sergeant Geraghty on which occasion an explicit complaint of sexual abuse was made. Both Sergeant Tuohy and Sergeant Geraghty deny that any such meeting took place. I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that such a meeting took place. Both Sergeant Tuohy and Sergeant Geraghty were members of An Garda Siochana and I am satisfied they would have taken any such complaint very seriously indeed but if the Plaintiffs recollection is correct surprisingly no action whatsoever was taken. Sergeant Tuohy took the initial statement from the Plaintiff in relation to his sexual abuse in January 1995 and there is no mention in that statement of the meeting. Sister Conception had no recollection of any such meeting. Having regard to the manner in which she dealt with the complaint against Mr. Brady in 1977 he being immediately confronted and resigning it would be surprising if she did not take similar action had she been made aware of Mr. Murray's conduct.
The Plaintiff further gave evidence of a meeting at which he made a complaint of sexual abuse and attended by Dr. Birch, Sister Conception, Sergeant Tuohy and Sergeant Geraghty. Sister Conception, Sergeant Tuohy and Sergeant Geraghty denied that any such meeting took place. Dr. Birch is deceased. Dr. Birch had an interest in St. Joseph's and was instrumental in having the children educated in outside schools. Having regard to this interest I am not satisfied that he would have ignored, a complaint of sexual abuse brought to his attention. For the like reasons which I have given in relation to the alleged meeting with Sister Conception, Sergeant Tuohy and Sergeant Geraghty I am not satisfied on the balance of probability that any such meeting took place."
MY OPINION OF MARY RAFTERY