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False Abuse Allegations - Correspondence in Irish Independent

Irish Independent, Monday July 3rd 2006

Dr Rosaleen O'Brien has completely missed the point I was making in relation to abuses in the Irish Industrial school system (Letters, June 29).

I agree with her that all victims of institutional abuse should be compensated, regardless of the cost to the taxpayer. REAL victims, that is, not anyone posing as a victim for financial, vengeful, or attention-seeking reasons.

I would go further and suggest that the amounts paid to victims of horrific sex abuse should be vastly increased, not that any financial settlement can restore a cruelly stolen and savagely marred childhood.

I agree too that people who knew of the abuses and failed to speak out were effectively abetting the crime. And yes, Dr O'Brien's idea for a Truth Commission to get to the truth of what did or did not happen in the industrial schools is an excellent one.

But my crucial point is that the redress board system is fatally flawed in that it permits a falsely accused person to be stigmatised and gravely wronged.

Punishing the innocent along with the guilty does nothing to help the plight of abuse victims. If anything, it plays directly into the hands of abusers because it creates a perception that anyone who alleges abuse is lying or exaggerating.

We know from the Nora Wall case, and cases of a number of priests who were slandered by fabricated abuse allegations, that people are unfortunately quite capable of inventing horror stories. The motive may be financial gain, or simply to exact revenge for a past wrong or humiliation.

In recent years, falsely accused priests have had to step down from their ministries while the malicious allegations against them were being thoroughly investigated. Oddly enough, we don't hear too often of the false accusers facing justice for THEIR crime, that of destroying, or at least attempting to destroy, another human being's reputation and entire life with calculated vicious lies.

To her credit, a person who had fabricated a rape allegation in the Nora Wall case later publicly admitted lying about what she allegedly saw. Ms Wall, though completely innocent of any crime, had to endure a hell on earth of vilification and hysteria-driven hatred before the High Court declared a miscarriage of Justice in her case.

Allegations of mass graves, midnight burials, and actual murders by Christian Brothers at Letterfrack Industrial School were likewise exposed as hideous lies and fabrications.

Despite this, the British tabloid newspaper that "exclusively" reported this alleged Nazi-style carry-on by what it called "a foul sect" has yet to retract its report.

Once upon a time, in the Hidden Ireland, people looked the other way when men and women in black committed unspeakable crimes. Will we now look the other way-and descend into a similar trough of denial when frauds and chancers vilify innocent care workers?


The 'Innocent' Who Stood By

Irish Independent, 29 June 2006

I take issue with John Fitzgerald ('Redress is open to abuse', Letters June, 27) on the grounds that those innocent carers, doctors, nurses, or priests failed in their duty if they did not take action by reporting sexual assaults and neglect, and by failing to act when young children were treated worse than animals.

I have no worries about the possibility of Irish tax payers having to bear the cost of victims' claims.

Neighbours, teachers, local councillors and others should have investigated when a young child was suddenly taken from his or her home. They should have paid a visit.

Lies have been told for decades in order to protect the abusers. Now let us have the truth.

If I had any authority I would want a Truth Commission established. Those who have committed criminal offences should be named and shamed.


Redress is Open to Abuse

Irish Independent, 27 June 2006

In reply to Ronald McCartan (Letters, June 21), I want to say that I have no argument with his contention that many inmates of Irish industrial and reformatory schools were most horribly abused by the people to whose care they were entrusted.

The ill-treatment of all those victims was, and remains, a crime against humanity that all right-thinking people must accept was perpetrated in a so-called "Christian" society. There should be no attempt to minimise the effects of the abuse on its victims.

I also accept that any person guilty of committing that most detestable crime of sexual abuse should be subjected to the heaviest penalties..Where I have a problem with much of what has been broadcast and written is that it often comes dangerously close to tarring ALL careworkers who happened to serve in those archaic and unhappy institutions as fiends and monsters.

They were not.

Many of them were decent, caring, compassionate human beings who did everything in their power, allowing for the adverse social and economic circumstances of their time, to ease the plight of inmates.

Even in the cases of institutions where a number of care workers have been rightly and effectively exposed as abusers, former inmates have gone to considerable lengths to clarify that other carers, religious or otherwise, in those same institutions were blameless and have commended their stewardship. Whether a carer is nun, a priest, a brother, or a lay worker, I believe that he or she ought to be entitled to a good name and unblemished reputation unless and until convincing and compelling evidence is produced to substantiate an abuse allegation against them.

I have a serious problem with a redress system that literally permits the stigmatising of people who have not been convicted of any crime in a court of law.

A person who comes before the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) and makes an allegation concerning abuse can be taken at his or her word in the absence of third party eye-witnesses... and compensated for the alleged abuse.

The person who is the subject of the allegation, though not found guilty in a legal sense, is then inevitably perceived to be guilty of a most heinous crime, simply because another person, who may or may not be telling the truth, has been compensated for the alleged, though unproven, offence.

The Irish redress system is based on a similar scheme launched in Canada in 1984 to compensate victims of institutional abuse.

Hundreds of Canadian careworkers filed legal actions claiming they were falsely accused, and only last week newspapers reported that eleven of these have been awarded a total of $7.5 million for having been wronged by false accusers. Many other cases are in pending in the Canadian courts.

I predict that a large number of such cases will surface here in Ireland too after the redress board has completed its hearings and deliberations. And the tax-payer will be footing the bill.

So I say, with the greatest respect to Ronald McCartin: There should be no hiding place for sexual abusers . . . or false accusers.


Abuse Was Widespread

Irish Independent, 21 June 2006

Mr John Fitzgerald (Letters, June 14) indicates quotes and remarks made by men and women who as children were sentenced to serve terms of detention within the Irish industrial and reformatory system are groundless and in some cases downright lies.

Whilst I cannot make comment on events which occurred in day schools or national schools in the 1940s to 1970s I can, without fear of contradiction, remark on the outright brutality perpetrated by so-called Christian Brothers and others on defenceless children sentenced to terms ranging from as little as one year to sixteen years or more within the confines of institutions such as Artane, Letterfrack, Dangean and other such places.

One only has to read the tracts published each day, resulting from evidence given by representatives of the numerous different religious orders to the Commission to enquire into institutional Child Abuse to find acceptance of statements of survivors in relation to physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuses which occurred in these places.

Whilst Mr Fitzgerald may well have received reasonable education at the hands of similar Christian Brothers in order to prepare him for his place in society most of us confined within the four walls of these institutions were forced into manual labour at the expense of similar reasonable education.

Whereas he had a home to go to each evening we remained at the mercy of these monsters twenty four seven the whole year round.

It is apparently acceptable to renounce those who attended the Commission to Enquire and the Redress Board as fabricators of untrue stories or lies but I would remind him and other correspondents that only two people have been found to be lying out of a total of some thousands who have given evidence to crimes perpetrated against their persons by those responsible for their care. Namely, Christian Brothers, nuns and priests.

Acceptance of your religious beliefs is acceptable to me, even without positive evidence of their origins.

Acceptance of the brutality and indifference which pertained within the Institutional and Reformatory System in Ireland in those years and which has been clearly outlined in numerous enquiries and reports established by governments of different persuasions cannot be all inaccurate.


Christian Brothers were magnificent but guilty

Irish Independent, 16 June 2006

I agree 100 per cent with John Fitzgerald (Letters, June 14), the Christian Brothers have done a magnificent job in education. I attended Christian Brothers in the late fifties and early sixties. I found them great teachers. They were very strict, but fair, and handy with the hated and dreaded black leather strap. Not only those Brothers who committed terrible acts were guilty, but also those in authority who didn't take the correct actions. I would hope that all those victims who took legal actions were genuine cases.


Christian Brothers Played a Blinder

Irish Independent, 16 June 2006

The same week that the Christian Brothers ended two centuries of involvement in primary and secondary education also witnessed the bizarre barring of three boys from an exam hall for having their hair cut too short. The Brothers have endured a storm of criticism for the actions of a tiny minority, but overall they played a blinder in raising this country out of ignorance and poverty.

People like Labour Deputy Emmet Stagg may call them "savage bastards" and any other names they can think of and spit on their legacy, but when viewed through the prism of historical objectivity, their achievements will stand and be appreciated.

The Brothers turned out countless fine past pupils who went to storm the citadels of achievement with dizzying success in a wide range of professions and careers. The Order's founder, Edmund Rice, was born in Callan, Co Kilkenny (my own hometown I'm delighted to add). Another great Callan man, artist Tony O'Malley, summed up his feelings about the Christian Brothers thus: "I always stand up for them. They were tough but fair. They taught the poor when no one else bothered".

It might not be going too far to credit them also with laying the foundations for today's Celtic Tiger affluence and sense of national pride, even if, lamentably, their core values of moral rectitude and spiritual devotion to good works has to a frightening extent fallen by the wayside. Whatever their educational shortcomings, they would never have prevented boys from doing an exam for having short hair. Long hair was frowned upon at various times in many schools, but even then, the shaggiest head of long hair never, to my knowledge, resulted in a pupil being kept out of exam class. But short hair? Never a word of reprimand from the brothers for that. Praise more likely, because it was deemed clean, tidy, and respectable, as indeed it would have been in the ranks of the Garda or Defense forces.

The "no short hair" rule enforced by the Principal of Tullamore College is more in keeping with the rules and crackpot regime of the Taliban, who barred young men from studying for not having long hair and beards. The Brothers got you through the snares and pitfalls of learning.