Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 19:13:58 +0100 (BST)
Ladies, Gentlemen and Scholars,
The following are two extracts from a long article which I call "The Passion of Nora Wall". The second extract is the summary at the end of the main article and it gives an outline of the argument in the full 16 pages. The extract concerns the fall of the Reynolds government in 1994 due to a fake child abuse scandal created by Pat Rabbitte. I argue that this bogus "scandal" initiated a period of hysteria which culminated in the conviction of Nora Wall.
(Around October 2005 Vincent Browne suggested that I write an article on Nora Wall which he would publish "subject to length and libel" and I think I fell down on both counts in his eyes! However a version may be published in another place soon.)
One unusual "source" for this present essay is the well known UK author Richard Webster. He wrote a book called "The Secret of Bryn Estyn" on a bogus child abuse scandal in North Wales. He included sections on similar fake scandals in other countries including Ireland. I provided him with the material on Ireland (including the 1994 episode) and than plagiarised a few paragraphs from his book. The section regarding Ireland is called "States of Fear, The Redress Board and Ireland's Folly" and can be found on his website www.richardwebster.net . (We differed on some issues but in a later essay "The Christmas Spirit in Ireland" he seemed to come more around to my point of view).
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Part 1 - Background to Hysteria
1. Pat Rabbitte and Father Brendan Smyth
The beginnings of the story go back to 1994 when the authorities in Northern Ireland sought the extradition from the Republic of Father Brendan Smyth who was facing a number of counts of child abuse to which he would eventually plead guilty. Because of the age of the allegations that went back 20 years and pressure of work in the Attorney Generals office there was a delay of several months while the extradition papers were being examined.
In November 1994 the Fianna Fail Government of Albert Reynolds was in coalition with Labour. Albert Reynolds had just appointed Attorney General Harry Whelahan as the new President of the High Court. Whelanan was a devout Catholic and Reynolds acted in the teeth of opposition from the Labour Party.
Reports began to circulate in Dublin that the process of extraditing Father Brendan Smyth was being deliberately delayed in response to a request made at the highest levels by the Catholic Church. Democratic Left Deputy Pat Rabbitte referred in the Dail to the possible existence of a document that would 'rock the foundations of this society to its very roots.' He seems to have had in mind the rumoured existence of a letter written by Cardinal Cathal Daly to Harry Whelehan.
In this letter the Cardinal is supposed to have interceded on behalf of Father Brendan Smyth and requested that his extradition be delayed. No evidence has been produced that such a letter ever existed. Yet as a direct result of the rumours that now swept the country, Whelehan would be forced to resign as High Court President and the Reynolds Government would fall, amidst talk of a dark conspiracy involving politicians, members of Opus Dei, the Knights of Columbanus and others. This conspiracy was allegedly seeking to cover up the activities of paedophile priests.
1.1 The Duggan Case
However that outcome lay (slightly) in the future. It quickly became clear that Pat Rabbitte's allegation was without substance. Logically this should have strengthened Albert Reynolds and discredited Rabbitte - perhaps fatally. However another factor came into play.
The new Attorney General Eoghan Fitzsimmons was trying to read himself into the job in an atmosphere marked by hysteria and lunacy. Perhaps he was affected himself. A major reason for the delay over the Brendan Smyth warrants was that because the allegations went back decades, there was a legal point over 'lapse of time' that had to be considered in an extradition case. Because there was no previous case that provided a precedent for this issue, the Fr. Brendan Smyth case required a considerable amount of legal work. This was the point that Albert Reynolds put to the Dail in defence of Harry Whelehan.
However Eoghan Fitzsimmons thought that he had discovered a precedent. The so-called "Duggan case" involved another man extradited for abuse charges going back a few years. When Reynolds was informed about this "precedent" he told the Dail that if he had known then what he now knew, he would not have appointed Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court. The Labour Party initially accepted this grovelling apology but then claimed that Albert Reynolds had known about the Duggan "precedent" earlier than he said. Dick Spring pulled out of the coalition with Reynolds and the Government fell. It was soon succeeded by a "Rainbow Coalition" led by John Briton of Fine Gael in alliance with the Labour Party and Democratic Left.
1.2 Resignation of Harry Whelehan
On 17 November 1994, shortly after Albert Reynolds handed in his resignation as Taoiseach, Harry Whelehan also resigned as President of the High Court. He stated that
"The judiciary must at all times enjoy total and unquestioned public respect, and its reputation for absolute independence and integrity are of paramount importance under the Constitution.
The vindication of my own good name in the light of recent unjust attacks and the feelings of my wife and family must yield to these considerations to prevent the office of the President of the High Court being further embroiled in public controversy. I have therefore decided to tender the President of Ireland my resignation from the position of President of the High Court.
I wish to put on record the following facts:
I never read any papers nor was I ever aware of the existence of warrants seeking the extradition of Fr. Brendan Smyth until very recently, by which time Fr. Smyth had commenced to serve the term of imprisonment which had been imposed on him.
It follows from the above that I wish to expressly state that at no time was any representation made to me by any member of the hierarchy or anyone acting on their behalf, or any other person or persons concerning the extradition of Fr. Smyth.
I am not aware of any such representations being made to any other persons."
1.3 Duggan a "Precedent" for Brendan Smyth?
The Duggan case was not a precedent for an extradition for offences dating back decades. It has never been used in judicial proceedings or quoted in legal textbooks as a precedent.
Anthony Duggan was depicted as a former monk who was extradited in relation to paedophile allegations that supposedly set a precedent that left no grounds for the delay in the Smyth case.
In fact Anthony Duggan was not and never had been a monk. He was a teacher accused of sexually assaulting students in an English boarding school between June 1988 and January 1989. He fled to Ireland in February 1990 and the British sought his extradition the following month. The offences had allegedly occurred little over a year prior to the extradition request, so the time lapse provision in the Irish extradition law was not applicable in this instance, and Duggan was extradited.
This was no precedent for the Fr. Brendan Smyth case, as HIS offences had occurred up to 30 years earlier.
At a distance of a decade it is clear that neither Whelehan nor Reynolds were guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Irish Government fell solely as the result of hysteria. It was a unique episode in Irish political history and it set the scene for other unprecedented events.
1.4 Rabbitte's Reward
Although only a member of a minor party (and not its leader) Pat Rabbitte pressed for a full Ministerial portfolio in the new coalition government which replaced the one he had helped to bring down. He was placated with the post of Junior Minister with enhanced responsibilities. This allowed him to attend Cabinet meetings.
1.5 The Dismissal of Matt Russell
Matt Russell was the senior civil servant in the Attorney General's office who had the extradition warrants for Brendan Smyth on his desk for seven months. He later explained "I did not give it special priority because I did not identify it as a case which required that priority over other priority work". He told the Dail Committee on Legislation and Security: "In dealing with the volume of work priorities have to be applied.... I worked on the Smyth file at intervals when there was an opportunity to do so." He agreed that in retrospect his judgement was wrong but he did not offer to resign. "I was not made aware of any reason that I should. Matt Russell stayed in place when Harry Whelehan resigned.
What did for Matt Russell was his failure to respond to two letters written by a solicitor on behalf of the victims of Brendan Smyth. The letters were received in November 1994 and January 1995. On the face of it they were ridiculous. They demanded compensation for the victims because of the suffering caused by the original extradition delay. In the light of the reigning hysteria Matt Russell should have taken them more seriously but he favoured the logical approach. "Furthermore...many more actions are threatened are threatened by solicitors letters than are commenced, and in view of the tenuous nature of the claim I thought this might well occur in this case."
Matt Russell was perfectly logical and perfectly correct in his view of this claim. However such considerations are irrelevant in a witch-hunt and he was forced to tender his resignation to Taoiseach John Bruton on 29 May 1995.
In the Dial on 31 May John Bruton gloated over his success in removing Matt Russell. "Compulsory retirement, although legally provided for has never been successfully achieved. Whereas Mr. Russell was not prepared to go quietly or otherwise under the previous administration, my actions have resulted in his immediate retirement from the civil service. That speaks for itself."
It certainly did. John Bruton, a decent and honourable man, was boasting about the results of a process that caused the fall of a Government, the resignation of a High Court President and the forced retirement of a senior civil servant. Unprecedented events caused by hysteria alone.
1.6 Summary and The View from the UK
Obviously the wages of sin was NOT death. The results of an outbreak of pure hysteria totally unrelated to reality were:
· The fall of a Government
· The resignation of a Party leader
· The resignation of a President of the High Court
· The forced resignation of a senior civil servant
· The promotion to Ministerial office of the person largely responsible.
Since some people may still be reluctant to attribute these events to hysteria it is useful to check on how the authorities in the UK viewed the issue. After all they were the ones who wanted to extradite Father Brendan Smyth. If there was a conspiracy between Church and State in Ireland, then the judicial authorities in the UK were the target of said conspiracy.
The following are extracts from the House of Commons Hansard Debates for 21 November 1994:
Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Attorney-General what representations his Department received from the Catholic Church in respect of Brendan Smyth; and if he will make a statement.
The Attorney-General: None. ........
Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Attorney-General what is his policy in relation to employing members of Opus Dei in his Department.
The Attorney-General: There is no specific policy in relation to the secondment of Opus Dei members to my Department. The civil service does not discriminate on grounds of religion.
If it were not so politically incorrect, one might imagine the Whitehall mandarins being quietly amused at the antics of their ridiculous ex-colonial subjects.
"New caught sullen peoples, half devil and half child" indeed - should they ever have let us go?
1.7 Epilogue: Harry Whelehan and Nora Wall
These extraordinary events have received rather cursory treatment from historians of modern Ireland. In particular the role of Pat Rabbitte has been air-brushed from the story. However in his book "The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000" Diarmaid Ferriter makes this significant comment:
"Some became angry when that when Harry Whelehan was questioned and denied the existence of a Catholic conspiracy within the Attorney-General's office, he felt the need to defend his right to be a practicing Catholic."
This issue had never before arisen in Irish politics. The first President of Ireland was a Protestant. During the De Valera era, Jews played a prominent role in Fianna Fail (the party most closely identified with the Catholic Church) and there had been Jewish Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork. The disgusting attacks on Harry Whelehan indicated that religious hatred was making its opening debut in Irish public life. The fact that it took the form of anti-clericalism rather than anti-Semiticism made it acceptable to many liberals.
These unprecedented events created an atmosphere that would eventually lead to the unprecedented conviction of a female religious on false charges of raping a child. However the time was not yet ripe. It was fairly quickly established that no Catholic conspiracy existed and that Harry Whelehan had done nothing wrong. This revelation created no sensation and no demands for the rehabilitation of Whelehan or the punishment of Rabbitte. However society was not yet ready for a Witch-hunt against Catholic religious.
28 December 2005 ..............................
Part 3.5 CONCLUSION: THE REASON WHY
The years 1994 to 1999 saw a gradual escalation of hysteria in relation to the child abuse issue in Ireland:
· In the former year a Government fell because of bogus allegations of a conspiracy between Church and State to prevent the extradition of Father Brendan Smyth. On the plus side (!!) it was soon recognized that the accusations were false - not that this was any help to Albert Reynolds or Harry Whelehan.
· In 1996 vile allegations - up to and including the killing of a baby- were made against Sister Xaviera Lally. Again there was a compensating factor; the media noted that there were problems with the allegations and that Xaviera had her defenders. Thus vicious and lying accusations could be made in the public arena (only against Catholics of course) but they could also be rebutted. I have described this as a stalemate.
· In 1999 the broadcast by RTE of the States of Fear series ended any pretence of objectivity on the part of the media and hysteria reigned supreme. It was quickly established (for example by journalist Breda O'Brien), that many of Raftery's accusations were gross distortions of the truth and that some were logically impossible. It was as useless as trying to rebut accusations of witchcraft in the middle of a Witch-Hunt. This was the atmosphere in which Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were convicted.
· The situation is largely unchanged to this day. Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe had their convictions reversed due to sheer luck and the extreme idiocy of their two accusers. The media recorded the court decision and dropped the issue like a shot. Mary Raftery and her acolytes are still riding high.
28 December 2005
A Note on Sources
1. Magill Magazine January 2000. This article by Harry McGee and Garret Brandon on Nora Wall seems to be the only detailed exposition of the case that appeared in the media and it deals solely with the criminal case. There is no enquiry into the type of society that could produce such a perversion of justice.
2. Article in Sunday Independent 1st August 1999 by Kevin Moore is probably the best of the newspaper articles which you can find by trawling the net. (It is also on www.voicesemerge.org and www.alliancesupport.org under the heading "Nora Wall and her Accusers").
3. RTE News Reports on the internet for the main trial dates are useful for "vital statistics" - 11 June 1999, 23rd and 27 July 1999, 17 November 1999, 1st December 2005. It is notable that apart from the actual trial dates there is practically nothing about Nora Wall from RTE. Any useful newspaper articles also tend to cluster around the same dates.The subject of religious hatred (where the Catholic Church is the target), seems to be taboo so far as our courageous investigative journalists are concerned. Is it the only remaining taboo subject in this country?
4. The website www.inquisition21.com <http://www.inquisition21.com/> has a major article on Nora Wall: "Act of Infamy - The Nora Wall Story" which takes up most of its section on Ireland. My (censored) correspondance with Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy concerning Mary Raftery is part of the article. Most of it is also available uncensored on the Voices Emerge and Alliance Support websites.
5. "This Great Little Nation" by Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan (1999) was surprisingly useful even though it is journalistic fluff about various "scandals". Though not always accurate, they write things about Harry Whelehan and Matt Russell that "serious" historians have swept down the memory hole.(pages 267-270 and 305-306). See also "Goldenbridge" on pages 132-134.
6. "Ireland" by Tim Pat Coogan. This "serious" historian covers the fall of the Reynolds Government on pages 631-33. There is no reference whatsoever to the role played by Pat Rabbitte and the discussion on the Duggan case ignores the issue of its irrelevance as a "precedent".
7. "Straight Left" by Ruairi Quinn - pages 311-318 on Harry Whelahan also manages to avoid mentioning Pat Rabbitte, plays down Duggan (whose irrelevance he seems to accept) and claims he does not really know what was behind it all. So what was behind his thuggish remark to Reynolds "It's very fucking simple. We either have your head or Harry Whelehan's"? Ruairi Quinn can quote this in the sure knowledge that "liberal" historians and journalists will not question him too harshly.
8. Dail Debates 16 November 1994 is brillant on the hysteria that saw officials from the AGs office being recalled from all over the world in order to testify to the falsity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, (sorry Catholic Church Conspiracy).
See also Dail Debates 31 May 1995 - on Members Privilege in which Pat Rabbitte successfully evades facing up to responsibility for his behaviour. (There seems to be a reference to my own complaint to the Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges here also).
9. The Ex-Isle of Erin by Fintan O'Toole (1997) is useful because it is a compendium of contemporary articles. This means that O'Toole cannot just sweep Pat Rabbitte under the carpet. The references to Rabbitte on pages 201-02 and 228-29 are highly significant because O'Toole essentially justifies what he knows to be lies and snickers at old fashioned types (like Brian Cowen) who cannot adapt themselves to the modern world where "a young, highly educated and largely urban population is not prepared to accept that the exercise of power in Ireland is none of its business". (As with the Cultural Revolution in China it was the young, highly educated etc ones who were driving the Witch-Hunt and not the old fashioned, ignorant, rural types)
10. The Transformation of Ireland 1900 - 2000 by Diarmaid Ferriter
"In the same year Father Brendan Smyth's catalogue of paedophilia came to public light north and south of the border. A request that he be extradited by the RUC remained for seven months in the office of Harry Whelehan the Attorney General and some Irish Ministers were alleged to have had knowledge of the case. The Taoiseach Albert Reynold's determination to still appoint Whelehan as President of the High Court brought down the Government. Although Reynolds insisted "Harry did not know about the priest",perhaps through simple personal stubbornness, he refused to relent, and was in his own words "led to my execution" as accusations flew that his Ministers had misled the Dail about their knowledge of cases in the Attorney General's office. Whelehan was also forced to resign as President of the High Court."
[This ignores the role of Pat Rabbitte and obscures the Duggan case. Phrases like "as accusations flew" could indicate that something was wrong - provided you are prepared to read carefully between the lines.]
"Some became angry that, when Harry Whelehan was questioned and denied the existence of a Catholic conspiracy within the Attorney-General's office, he felt the need to defend his right to be a practicing Catholic. Others maintained that, not only was it important for the victims' anger to be visible, but that it should be recognised that many of those who joined clerical life were often ill suited to the priesthood, some of them victims themselves, who lacked the freedom to make a proper decision about their vocation."
[What is the logical connection between the first and second sentences of this paragraph? Is Ferriter suggesting that false allegations are understandable because there are real victims of child abuse? But Pat Rabbitte and Co. were not victims nor were they representing victims. They were making allegations against people who had done nothing wrong in order to bring down their political opponents].
11. CHRISTINE BUCKLEY: The Sunday Times article dated 28 April 1996 entitled "Medical View Inconsistent with Goldenbridge Abuse" is also on the Voices Emerge and the Alliance Support websites.
12. REGARDING MARY RAFTERY, most of the articles containing details of her lies are on www.voicesemerge.org See also www.alliancesupport.org . The subject headings are "Mary Raftery and Sister Stanislaus", "Mary Raftery and Sister Conception", "Mary Raftery and Brother Joseph O'Connor" etc. and in particular "Mary Raftery and the Death of Patsy Flanagan. These contain detailed quotations from Raftery's articles, from "Suffer the Little Children" and from the rebuttal articles and letters that appeared in the media, many of them by Breda O'Brien, mostly for the period November 1999 to January 2000. There is a shorter version of the Patsy Flanagan article called "Barney O'Connell and the Death of Patsy Flanagan" which is also on the Voices Emerge and the Alliance Support websites.
(The former organisation speaks for those falsely accused of child abuse; the latter represents real victims but they don't like people like Mary Raftery who discredit their cause.).