February 28, 2003
"Ancestor" by Rob Jones

Let them not deceive us
with this as a modern phenomenon
we have ancestors
who are also survivors.
They had no words in their time
for what they suffered.

They too were spirits
struggling to live in their bodies,
they took another path
and retreated into their minds,
dreaming of the day they would die
and their spirits would be
re-united with their souls.

This was the only way they knew
now we know that life
is the manifestation of spirit in flesh
and our souls are essentially sensual

An ancestor, a survivor
by the name of Satiamyth
wrote the following in the first century AD:

"I couldn't live with who I was
and so I did dream of a land far away
where my particular circumstance
did not exist. I was free and me
again before the shame.
There, in that world, I had a life
and a woman I did love bore me a child.
I saw that child grow and saw
its spirit sparkle and glow in his
eyes and his smile.
But the dark clouds grew
deeper than before
and although I was sad
and jealous of his life
I never let my hurt turn bitter,
I let him be free.
I saw how he radiated love
and changed the world around him,
as he became a man.
I basked in that warm affection
and it gave me life.
When I became old and the day came
when I would once again be re-united
with my spirit my son came to me
with his smiling eyes.
He held my hand
and told me to look in my soul.
I didn't think I had one
but I looked and there
in my soul I found my spirit
and I was one again.
I was happy.
He told me that my spirit
had returned all those years ago
when I had allowed one of Gods' spirits
to become what it would.
I had allowed life in then
and I didn't know it.
I was dead no more from that time.
So now at the edge of life
I am meeting death
and for the first time
I realised I was alive.
This death didn't seem
like the dying I had known,
there was a peace to it.
I managed to speak some last words
to my son,
"why did no one tell me
my spirit had returned?"
He replied,
"No one can tell you when
your spirit returns,
you have to find it for yourself."
He held my hand and
looked into my eyes
and as I slipped away
our eyes said all the love
our words would never capture
and then came the darkness.
When I opened my eyes
I looked upon my dead self
and I was with terrible grief.
I saw I was holding my hand
and then I remembered
that my world was a dream
but in my dream
I had lived my whole life
I had died and been born."

This is the earliest known record
of recovery from sexual abuse.
Others followed his legacy
and dreamed his dream
and began to believe they too
could have life before death.

We follow on now in this tradition
and it gives us hope
that there are people
who have gone before us
who have died
and come back to embrace life
and who have lived.

Posted by Colm at 05:35 PM
"behind bars" by Ti

i am three and a half tender years
you are not
i am in my cot
you are not
i am innocent
little did i know
you were not

i am of many years
you are many more
i can not breathe deeply
your seething
i can not focus
your mucus
i can not touch my body
your feeling
i can not reach my stomach
your sick pit
i can not listen
your whispering

you shredded me to pieces
with your perverted thesis
i exist like diahorea
running, running
body and mind
splattered behind the cot bars

i hate rythm
there was no reason
i have pleaded to the skies
i have skurried on the ground
Jesus let me find the key
from these semen bars

Posted by Colm at 10:21 AM
February 24, 2003
Criticisms of Laffoy Commission Adverts

Support group anger at Laffoy ads

From RTE News Online

A group representing victims of institutional abuse has criticised the Laffoy Commission's decision to begin placing advertisements asking people who had positive experiences of industrial schools and reformatories to come forward.

The Aislinn Centre claims the Commission has no remit to invite what it calls 'privileged people who were treated as pets in these institutions' in preference to the majority who were treated otherwise.

Former Goldenbridge resident Christine Buckley, who speaks for Aislinn, says she and other survivors are concerned that the Commission's investigation is no longer giving them a fair hearing.

She says the Commission ceased accepting submissions from former residents alleging abuse a long time ago and defeated a High Court application from a late applicant to have the closing date reviewed.

Ms Buckley says the Commission is now issuing an open invitation to others, including those in the pay of the religious orders or those Government officials whom she accuses of colluding with them, to come forward with evidence in favour of the religious.

She says it is doing so following the Government's decision to seek 'substantive changes in the remit of the Investigation Committee'.

Over a week ago the Commission placed advertisements asking people to come forward who had a positive experience in Our Lady of Succour Industrial School, Newtownforbes, County Longford.

It also invited those who worked in the institution or who had any professional dealings with it to come forward.

Ms Buckley says she has been told by the Commission that more similar advertisements are to follow.

Posted by Colm at 07:25 PM
February 22, 2003
Ahern clarifies remark on abuse victims

By Arthur Beesley in The Irish Times

The Taoiseach has "clarified" a remark he made yesterday after he was criticised for saying he hoped "thousands" of cases would not emerge in the controversial compensation scheme for abuse victims.

After Opposition figures said Mr Ahern was attempting to place limits on the number of people seeking compensation, a Government spokeswoman said he was merely seeking to correct "unrealistic figures" cited by some critics of the compensation deal agreed with the Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI).

Mr Ahern said earlier yesterday: "I hope we don't run into thousands of cases," and added: "I quite frankly don't believe that there were thousands of people that have suffered these abuses over the years."

This prompted the Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, to say he was questioning the integrity of victims, despite apologising to them on behalf of the State.

Labour leader Mr Pat Rabbitte said Mr Ahern had effectively acknowledged the deal was bad for the Exchequer "and his solution now is to crudely limit the number of claims".

Mr Ahern denied this. "At the time the agreement with CORI was approved, the estimate was that there would be 3,000-5,0000 cases.

"At present we can't know exactly how many people will lodge claims but we still anticipate that they will be in the region of 3,000 to 5,000. To date less than 3,000 people have lodged claims but this figure could increase."

A Government spokeswoman said the implication in Mr Ahern's earlier comment was that he did not expect the number of victims would rise above 5,000. "The point that he was making earlier is one that he previously made in the Dáil and he wanted to clarify this.

"Some people have been talking about unrealistic figures." The spokeswoman said Mr Ahern had heard a total cost figure of €1 billion "bandied about".

She said: "The point the Taoiseach was making was that it was preposterous to suggest that every single person who attended an instititution was abused."

Disquiet about Mr Ahern's comments followed new data which has emerged, indicating that the €128 million limit on the contribution by the religious orders was just above the minimum recommended by officials in the Department of Finance.

Files released under the Freedom of Information Act to RTÉ and another newspaper showed that officials advised the State to seek a contribution of £150 million (€190.5 million) from CORI but not to settle with the orders for less than £100 million (€127 million). Thus the €128 million promised in the final deal was only marginally above that figure.

The Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy, was revealed in correspondence to have said: "The package offered is quite inadequate and effectively leaves the State to bear virtually the full costs of the redress scheme."

Earlier this month, the Government refused to release to The Irish Times more than 140 documents, including valuations of church property, some of which will be transferred to the State under the scheme.

It is understood that the Dáil Committee of Public Accounts has been advised by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, that it would be unable to initiate an immediate examination of the scheme. This was because the committee's remit is confined to retrospective expenditure.

It is expected that the Dáil Finance and Public Service Committee has been asked to examine the scheme by the Labour TD Ms Joan Burton. It is thought, however, that the Committee on Education and Science also wants to examine it.

Posted by Colm at 11:35 AM
Ahern under fire over institutional abuse remarks

By Carl O’Brien in The Irish Examiner

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern sparked outrage yesterday when he said he didn’t believe that thousands of people had suffered residential abuse.

He said a national advertising campaign was encouraging more claims but said he believed the State's overall liability would not be enormous.

"I hope it doesn't run into thousands of cases because I frankly don't believe there were thousands of people that would have suffered these abuses over the years," Mr Ahern said.

Support groups for victims of institutional abuse, along with opposition leaders, responded angrily to the Taoiseach's comments.

One In Four spokesman Colm O'Gorman said Mr Ahern's position was out of step with Government policy and called on him to clarify his comments: "If this is proven to be Government policy, it would certainly suggest that instead of looking at how they can come to a better deal with the Church, they're trying to minimise the amount of financial compensation that might have to be paid."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said it was disturbing that the Taoiseach was questioning the integrity of abuse victims after he publicly apologised to them in 1999.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said Mr Ahern's comments were an effective acknowledgement that the Church deal was a bad one and he was now crudely seeking to limit the number of claims.

Meanwhile, former Education Minister Michael Woods who signed the deal rejected suggestions that the Government ignored warnings that it would leave taxpayers with an enormous bill.

He was speaking after documents published in the Irish Examiner showed how the Department of Finance warned that the deal was unfair to the State before it was signed.

Mr Woods said details of the deal were debated in the Dáil in February 2002, before it was signed in June of that year.

However, an inspection of the records reveals key details of the deal were not made public at this stage.

These details relate to the indemnity clause which covers the Church for any civil action suits. This means a victim could refuse to go through the redress scheme and sue in the courts, which would leave the State responsible for fighting and paying for all of these actions.

Records from a debate in February 20, 2002, show Mr Woods said these "details remained to be worked out" and did not expand on how wide the State's exposure would be.

Following the publication of internal Government records in yesterday's newspaper, Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said they untangled Mr Ahern's spin over the deal's impact on taxpayers.

"It is all the more difficult to understand how this deal could have been approved by the Government given clear warning from the Department of Finance," he said.

Posted by Colm at 11:13 AM
Ahern 'does not believe' sex abuse numbers

by Paul Melia in The Irish Independent

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern last night sparked anger by saying he did not believe "thousands" of people suffered abuse over the years in religious institutions.

Opposition parties joined support groups for victims of institutional abuse in calling on Mr Ahern to clarify comments he made regarding numbers of people who suffered the abuse.

Speaking to a group of journalists in Swords, Co Dublin yesterday, the Taoiseach said: "There are a lot of cases, and as advertisements are run in the newspapers and on the radio it's obviously stimulating more people to put in their cases - and they obviously have to be looked at over time.

"I hope we don't just run into thousands of cases because I quite frankly don't believe there were thousands of people that would have suffered these abuses over the years."

But opposition parties and victim support groups accused Mr Ahern of "shifting Government policy", adding his comments were an "acknowledgment" that the compensation deal reached between the State and religious congregations was bad for the Exchequer.

"We know from Government-sponsored research undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons that 27pc of Irish people will have been sexually abused in childhood," Colm O'Gorman of the One-in-Four support group said.

"If we use an estimate of between 20-30,000 people who spent time in the State's industrial school system, it is by no means an exaggeration to conclude that many thousands of those were seriously sexually abused.

"If the Taoiseach's comments are confirmed in their meaning, Mr Ahern's statement would represent the most fundamental shift in the Government's position on dealing with the consequences of child sexual abuse. A retreat from its responsibilities by this Government would represent the gravest backward step for the thousands of victims of sexual abuse in this country."

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte claimed the Taoiseach's comments acknowledged that the deal reached between the State and religious congregations was bad for the Exchequer.

"His comments make it clear the Government still has little understanding of the effects of the deal which it signed in the dying days of the last term," he said, calling on Mr Ahern to clarify his comments. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said last night it was "disturbing" that the Taoiseach appeared to question the integrity of victims of institutional abuse given that he had already publicly acknowledged the State's culpability.

Mr Ahern was also criticised by Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) over his remarks.

The Government Information Service later clarified the Taoiseach's comments, saying Mr Ahern did not know how many people would lodge claims for compensation and that "some people" had been talking about "unrealistic figures" in terms of recompense.

Mr Ahern added it was "preposterous" to suggest every person who attended a religious institution was abused.

Posted by Colm at 11:04 AM
February 20, 2003
Alleged clerical abuse: application referred

From RTE News online

A court in Wexford has been told that the current caretaker Bishop of Ferns and his predecessor have not complied with an order for discovery of Church documents.

An application for discovery of files, relating to alleged cases of child sexual abuse by a priest in Wexford in the late 1980s, has now been referred to the High Court.

Fiona Gahan, who made her confirmation in 1988 when she was 12 years of age, is suing the former Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey, and its present Caretaker Bishop, Dr Eamonn Walsh, the Minister for Justice, and Attorney General.


It is alleged that the late Parish Priest of Monageer, Fr Jim Grennan, sexually abused her and other girls during a pre-confirmation ceremony.

In a previous court hearing last July, Bishops Comiskey and Walsh were ordered to make Church files available under discovery and were given eight weeks to comply.

Counsel for Ms Gahan, Stephen Lanigan O'Keeffe, BL, told Wexford Circuit Civil Court today that neither had made discovery.

He also said that the pending High Court case would be a 'substantial' action, adding that legal action was being pursued against the State because no Garda file on the investigation reached the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Judge McCartan said he would refer the case to the High Court.

Meanwhile, an organisation representing victims of clerical sexual abuse has accused the majority of the country's Catholic bishops of breaching their own guidelines by failing to support vicitms.

Colm O'Gorman of the One in Four organization says the episode exposes the seven year-old guidelines as a cynical public relations exercise.

The guidelines, published in 1996 and still in force today, say that "each bishop or religious superior should appoint a support person to be available to those who allege that they have suffered abuse and their families.

The One in Four organization says it understands support people exist in only five of the 26 Irish dioceses.

So far there has been no reaction from Church authorities to the One in Four Statement.

Posted by Colm at 07:19 PM
Press Release 20 feb 2002

One In Four condemns Catholic Bishops’ serious failure to meet own guidelines for support of abuse victims
- Guidelines exposed as cynical PR exercise, says O’Gorman

The abject and total failure of the Catholic Church to meet its own guidelines for support for victims of clerical sexual abuse has been strongly condemned by the victims’ support organisation, One In Four in a strongly worded statement this evening (Thursday). One In Four also says that a 7-year old set of guidelines drawn up by the Bishops are nothing more than a cynical PR exercise.

Director of the organisation, Colm O’Gorman said: “It now appears that The Archdiocese of Dublin and many of the Catholic dioceses of Ireland have again failed to follow even their own Guidelines on Child Sexual Abuse. The Dublin Archdiocese has failed to put in place the support systems for victims required by the guidelines. It appears that all but 5 of the Catholic Dioceses of Ireland have failed to follow this essential component of their own policy.

Mr. O’Gorman said it was important to put back on the public record the specific commitment and measures the Catholic Bishops committed themselves to delivering on 7 years ago viz:

Section 3.14
Each bishop or religious superior should appoint a specific person – the Support Person- to be available to those who allege that they have suffered abuse and their families. The role of this person will be to assist those wishing to make a complaint of child sexual abuse, to facilitate them in gaining access to information and help, and to represent their concerns on an ongoing basis. In larger dioceses and religious congregations there may be a need to have more than one person available to act in this capacity.”

Reference: Extract from Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response (Published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious 1996)

The One In Four spokesman added: “What is once again abundantly clear is that despite the often expressed care and concerns for the welfare of victims, the Catholic Hierarchy has failed to show credible intent of providing real and meaningful responses to the experiences of people who have been raped and abused by its clergy. That they have failed to follow even their own internal procedures exposes yet again the abject and total failure of the Hierarchy to demonstrate the integrity, commitment and competence to respond to the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. What is once again clear is that the Church’s response is nothing more than a botched attempt to protect itself and its public image: that its guidelines have little to do with the protection of children and the welfare of adult victims but instead are part of a cynical PR exercise.

“It is finally time for everyone to accept that the Catholic Church is incapable of and unwilling to appropriately address this issue. Instead we must focus on the need for legislation that will ensure than every institution in Ireland is required to put in place child protection procedures that are laid down by statute. If we are ever to have faith and confidence in our ability to protect children and respond to people who have been abused we must ensure that we require minimum standards of child protection: standards that are formed ion legislation and enforced by the State. In the final analysis it must the State that acts to protect its vulnerable citizens.”

Posted by Colm at 07:14 PM
February 15, 2003
"I’m SICK! (please don’t tell anyone)" by Pat

I’m SICK of being brave,
of being told “You’re coping really well”,
and of the memories I hadn’t faced,
until now.

I’m SICK of the word “abuse”,
in every paper,
on every radio,
on the telly,
even at mass and in every bar-stool conversation.

I’m SICK of pretending to be strong,
And of people getting their strength from ‘mine’,
sapping my weakness still further.

I’m SICK of my loss of innocence as a child,
and my loss of innocence as a man.
(I worry about touching my daughter,
in case I’m just like him.)

I’m SICK of feeling guilty,
about what I did,
before facing up to how my abuse affected me,
about what I’ve done since,
using my abuse as an excuse,
about what I let him do to me,
and about wanting to dance on the bastards grave.

But, to go back to the way I was,
with all the comfort
of self-deceit,
of secret hurting,
and of the delusions,
that I was well, okay and well-adjusted?

I tried it once, it didn’t work,
before I grew up,
and faced my past square-on,
and my future with hope,
for the first time ever.

if I did go back
to the way I was before,
then I guess
I really would be

Posted by paul at 06:14 PM
Cork doctor fails to halt indecency trial


from The Irish Times

A Cork doctor has lost his High Court attempt to prevent his trial on more than 200 counts of indecent and sexual assault of some 42 women patients.

Dr James M.Barry was given leave in November 1997 to seek, in judicial review proceedings, an order to prevent the DPP taking any further steps in the prosecution against him in Cork District Court.

He also got leave to seek an order prohibiting the district judge dealing with the case from taking any further steps in relation to it.

In a reserved judgment yesterday, Mr Justice O'Neill rejected the challenge on all grounds advanced and refused to grant the orders sought. That refusal may be appealed.

Among other arguments, Dr Barry had contended that the delay in making the complaints had prejudiced his right to a fair trial.

Outlining the facts, the judge said Dr Barry was arrested on November 30th, 1997, and charged with 237 counts of indecent assault and sexual assault alleged to have been perpetrated against 42 complainants.

On that date, he was taken to the District Court and charged accordingly. He was released on bail.

The events leading to Dr Barry being charged began in May 1995 when a formal complaint was made to gardaí by a young woman to the effect that she had been indecently assaulted by him and that he had made video recordings of her nude or semi-nude on a number of occasions.

On June 4th, 1995, a warrant was obtained from the District Court authorising a search of Dr Barry's premises. On June 6th, 1995, his house, clinic and consulting rooms were searched.

During the search of Dr Barry's house, a number of videotapes were discovered which showed the complainant as she had described and also other naked female patients. In October 1995 a newspaper published a report to the effect that a Cork doctor had had a number of videotapes seized from his surgery.

At that stage, Dr Barry was not named.

Subsequently, civil proceedings were taken in Cork Circuit Court and an injunction claimed to freeze his assets.

As a result of those proceedings, it appeared Dr Barry's name emerged into the public domain as the doctor in question.

The judge said he had no doubt that the media attention which had focused on Dr Barry was distressing and caused him a great deal of anxiety.

But there was no evidence whatever to suggest to him that, unpleasant as the media attention was, it in any way inhibited him in dealing with the Garda investigation and subsequent events, apart from a period of about three months when he left the jurisdiction to avoid the media.

Mr Justice O'Neill said he was satisfied that the considerable publicity which had attached to Dr Barry could not be blamed on any culpable misconduct of the gardaí.

The judge said he was satisfied that Dr Barry, so far as the lapse of time from the commission of the alleged offences to the date of the reporting of them was concerned, had failed to demonstrate that there was a real risk of an unfair trial.

Posted by Colm at 02:20 PM
"Listen to me" by Christy

I am tall no longer small, I fear you not.
Listen to me, listen to me.

I am sane, I feel no pain, I’m not afraid.
Listen to me, listen to me.

I’m feeling well I want to tell, it’s my time.
Listen to me, listen to me.

I am strong, to tell their wrongs, I’m free.
Listen to me, listen to me.

Posted by Colm at 02:00 PM
February 14, 2003
Former GAA star jailed for sex assaults on boy scout

by Ralph Riegel in The Irish Independent

A FORMER GAA star who forced an 11-year-old boy to have sex with him on scout camps was jailed for three years yesterday.

Father-of-two John O'Leary (42), now a GAA coach, told Cork Circuit Criminal Court his "heart was broken" over the consequences of what he had done as "an immature, stupid young man" over 24 years ago.

Judge Patrick Moran agreed to suspend the final 18 months of the sentence.Mr O'Leary revealed that fall-out over his case has been so bad his wife now refuses to leave the family's Blackrock home.

The shame and embarrassment over the case has devastated his wife and two children. His wife was too embarrased to go out and insisted on doing the weekly grocery shopping on the internet. One of his children has struggled to sit the Leaving Cert amid the publicity and shame over his conviction.

"I don't really care what happens to me," he admitted. "I've lost everything except my family. They are all I live for now."

The former scout master - who rose to become a scout commissioner in Cork - admitted he still can't believe what he did as an 18-year old to the victim, who was then aged 11 years.

"To hear what the boy then, the man now, went through is absolutely horrifying," he added.

"To this day, and to the day I die, I won't understand how I could have behaved like that."

Judge Patrick Moran heard that O'Leary's indecent assaults on the young boy in the 1970s while he was a scout leader had left the victim feeling "stained for life".

O'Leary of Clontarf Estate, Blackrock, Cork, pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault against the boy at a scout hall, a disused quarry and a scout camp during the late 1970s.

The assaults started when O'Leary climbed onto the boy's bunk while ghost stories were being told on a scout camp.

O'Leary then performed oral sex on the child. In an emotional statement to the Court, the victim - who cannot be named - said the abuse had left him feeling that sex was "repulsive and dirty".

He added: Because of the abuse, I suffer from bouts of depression and lack of self-esteem.

"This day has been a long time coming."

The victim, now in his early 30s, admitted he found it particularly traumatic to explain what had happened to him and his family and that a garda prosecution was pending.

Referring to the scout tradition of telling ghost stories on camps, he said: "It all seems so sinister now."

The court heard that, since his admission, O'Leary has been asked to step down from all GAA coaching and has also lost his job. He has raised a total of €30,000 to pay compensation to his victim.

Posted by Colm at 05:26 PM
February 11, 2003
Top cleric criticises Church's 'casual' attitude to sex abuse


by Grainne Cunningham in The Irish Independent

A LEADING cleric has denounced the Catholic Church authorities for being more concerned about the image of the institution than the protection and welfare of innocent children.

Fr Sean Fagan, Secretary General of the Marist Congregation in Ireland, said committed Catholics are rightly outraged that Church leaders, from the Vatican to the local bishops, should be "so casual" about it all.

He said the sex abuse scandals were "the most serious calamity" to befall the Church in recent centuries and said it was difficult to understand how men appointed to be good shepherds should be so unfeeling as to allow "this cancer in the Church to go unchecked".

And in a hard-hitting attack on the Vatican, for which he once worked, the Marist leader said most of today's bishops were appointed during the present Pope's reign "for their 'safe' views and their attachment to Rome".

Fr Fagan said it was "official Vatican policy" to avoid scandal with little reference to the protection of victims.

Chastising bishops as the Pope's "civil servants", he said many members of the laity feel that bishops represent nobody.

"Their ordination is simply linked with a particular job in the Pope's civil service and they may spend most of their life at a desk," said Fr Fagan in an article published in 'Doctrine and Life'.

Fr Fagan criticised the papacy as "a deeply flawed institution" and said apart from the personal immorality of individual popes, the institution was guilty of persecuting the Jews and other non-Christians, opposing democracy and burning books and witches.

Posted by Colm at 12:39 PM
Church deal on abuse is immoral

In The Irish Times

It is obvious that the deal on the payment of compensation to the victims of abuse in industrial schools which Michael Woods concluded with Catholic religious orders is a disaster for the State. What has not been said with sufficient clarity is that it is also a disaster for the Church, writes Fintan O'Toole

Last June, the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Sean Brady, spoke about the abuse of children by a small number of priests. He told a press conference announcing the establishment of the Church's internal audit of abuse cases that "only when we establish the truth, acknowledge our failures, ask pardon for the wrong that has been done and implement the recommendation of the audit, can we hope to receive the mercy of God and the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters".

This is an admirable summary of what constitutes a basic moral response to the knowledge that you have done wrong. You face the truth, acknowledge your failure and ask for forgiveness.

Yet the Woods deal comes down, from the point of view of the Church, to a statement that it was all somebody else's responsibility. After 2,000 years of Christian history, we are left with the morality of Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything."

This has become increasingly clear as the Conference of Religious of Ireland has sought to defend the deal. Sister Helena O'Donoghue of CORI has been on Saturday View and Morning Ireland over the last few days telling us that the deal is "just and moral". She has seemed to suggest that the orders are really doing us a favour by making a small contribution to the overall cost of compensation.

There is no acknowledgement of institutional responsibility on the part of the congregations who ran the industrial school system. She admits that "wrongdoing of a very serious nature was done by a small number within those congregations". But almost in the same breath she distances the orders from any blame for allowing children to be enslaved and abused.

Even the small amount of money and property which CORI agreed to hand over is not an admission of any responsibility. "It was a voluntary contribution. It wasn't commanded or demanded By making the contribution, no fault is by that contribution attributed to people who never had fault anyway." Aside from the gross misuse of public money, the deal is scandalous because it validates this evasion of responsibility.

The State has owned up to its part in the terrible story of the industrial schools and ought to bear a significant part of the financial burden. But let's remember that the State didn't torture or rape or enslave children.

IF THE orders do not now accept that they have a collective responsibility for what was done by their members, why did they issue all those apologies?

Why, in November 1998, when Brother Jack Kelly admitted 53 charges of sexual assault and gross indecency on boys, did the Christian Brothers as a whole apologise to all his victims?

Why, when he was celebrating the bicentenary of the founding of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers, did Cardinal Connell feel it necessary to acknowledge the crimes of some of their members and apologise for "the most unspeakable harm and suffering caused to their victims and the grave scandal that has resulted"? Why have other orders issued collective apologies if they do not accept collective responsibility?

By signing a deal which contains no acknowledgment of fault, CORI has undermined all of these apologies and pleas for forgiveness.

It has also, disastrously, undermined itself. Over the last 20 years, CORI's Justice Office, under Sean Healy and Brigid Reynolds, has gained great moral credibility by its sustained championing of the poor and the marginalised. It has engaged in a detailed argument about economic justice and the choices which have to be made in public spending. At a time when the Church as a whole has been in deep trouble, this voice has reminded us of the other side of the Catholic story.

Yet the money which the religious orders are saving through the Woods deal will almost certainly come from State funds which would otherwise go to the poor and weak. The Government's record suggests that these are the areas in which expenditure is optional. At a conservative estimate, the extra cost to the Exchequer from the Woods deal, as opposed to a fair 50/50 arrangement, is at least €250 million. Whatever way you argue it, that's a quarter of a billion euros which will be taken from the most needy people.

This is, quite simply, immoral. It is morally wrong to evade responsibility for a terrible wrong that has been done. It is morally wrong to protect one's own interests at the expense of the poor. A church which wanted to restore its credibility after a decade of trauma would be saying these things itself, not hiding from them.

Posted by Colm at 12:35 PM
"I’m hurting…" by Mandy

I’m hurting…
Not for the me in the ‘here and now’…
But for that beautiful, innocent little girl who was used and abused…
Used to satisfy the lust of a dirty old man with a very sick mind…
Abused, and no-one heard her silent cries for help…

I’m angry…
Angry at the world for being such a horrible, dangerous place in which to live…
Angry at my so-called mother for not protecting me…
Angry because I don’t believe there’s any such thing as justice in this country…

But most of all I’m Angry at him…
For all the heartache that he caused…
The never-ending heartache…
And the pain that never goes away…
The lost opportunities…
The shattered dreams…
The good times that should’ve been but never were…
The broken family…
The unshed tears…
Is there really no end to the pain that he’s caused?…

I’m scared…
Knowing that I have to deal with this pain when it hurts so much…
Scared of what the future holds…
Hoping beyond hope that I can get through this ok…
But no longer truly believing that I can…

Posted by Colm at 10:00 AM
February 10, 2003
Diocese criticised over letter to victims of abuse

Bishop Eamonn Walsh

By Joe Humphreys in The Irish Times

Victims of abuse in the Diocese of Ferns have accused the church body of "callous and inappropriate" behaviour by sending letters to their homes claiming they would "suffer most" from certain media coverage of the issue.

The director of the One in Four support group, Mr Colm O'Gorman, said the diocese had breached confidentiality in posting the correspondence to the victims' family homes instead of their legal representatives.

This, along with the content of the letter, had caused "huge distress" among a number of the recipients, said Mr O'Gorman, who was one of several boys abused by Father Seán Fortune in Co Wexford in the 1980s.

The letter, posted the day after last week's broadcast of the BBC documentary Suing the Pope, was signed by Sister Helen O'Riordan, who was appointed in November as the diocese's "support person" for victims of abuse.

It read: "Bishop Eamonn Walsh and all of us who work in the area of child protection in the Diocese of Ferns are very conscious of the effect that last night's BBC programme will have on you.

"The major hurts and abuse of the past will once again be made public and I know that it is people like yourselves who will suffer most as a result."

The letter went on to explain the nature of the diocese's "outreach facility", and included contact numbers for Sister O'Riordan.

Father John Carroll, a spokesman for the diocese, admitted the letter was "probably a cold way of introduction".

However, he said, "it has been said that the church never communicated with the people affected, and it's within that spirit that this went out". He denied the letter sought to blame the television programme. "There is nothing more to this than an effort to be present for people at a time when things are raised in public. There have been different reactions to it, some positive, some not so.

"Certainly, we will take cognisance of what people have communicated back, and it will be factored into how we go from here."

However, Mr O'Gorman said the letter showed a "reprehensible lack of awareness" on the part of the bishop and diocese.

"People feel invaded and disrespected again. They did not seek this contact with the bishop and they did not want it. To me it shows absolutely nothing has changed in terms of attitudes in the past 12 months."

Another victim of abuse, who did not wished to be named, told The Irish Times the letter had "knocked me back to square one".

He said he had only come forward about his abuse last year after the broadcast of an initial version of the documentary in which Mr O'Gorman was profiled. "This letter seems to be saying: 'had it not been for Colm and the programme, we would not have any problems'. How am I meant to take that? The film gave me hope."

Posted by Colm at 01:36 PM
Storm grows over sex abuse deal

by Senan Molony, Political Correspondent, in The Irish Independent

PRESSURE grew on the Government last night to outline the legal advice it received before doing a deal with the Catholic Church about funding compensation for victims of abuse in Church-run institutions, after suggestions by two ministers that the State was "totally liable" for what took place.

There were calls for the publication of information brought to the Cabinet by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, who was then Attorney General. He was legal adviser to the Government when the Catholic Church was given an indemnity for claims arising from abuse in residential institutions.

Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy said last night that the Government's legal advice was that the State was 100pc liable for claims arising from the abuse suffered, since it had placed young people in the care of the Church-run institutions.

His view was echoed by Transport Minister Seamus Brennan, who was not in the Cabinet when the decision was taken to indemnify the Church in return for a contribution which was the equivalent of €128m.

The State's exposure to legal action has been estimated at between €500m and €1bn. If the Residential Redress Board is bypassed for court action, the cost to the taxpayer could rise to €2bn, according to some claims.

The Ministers' comments suggest the Government is preparing to resist calls to renegotiate the deal, arising from public anger at the taxpayers' exposure.

It has also emerged that the religious orders involved had previously taken out insurance against abuse claims and stand to benefit by up to €6m from insurance companies.

This also suggests that the insurance industry takes a different view from Ministers as to whether "total" culpability lies with only one side.

Mr Brennan said on Saturday that the State had "let down" the young people who were placed in the institutions and the State was responsible for them.

Cabinet colleague Charlie McCreevy went further, declaring last night: "There is a legal view that the State is totally responsible for all of the costs there. The State put the people there."

If a deal had not been reached whereby the Church paid €128m in full and final settlement, "the alternative would have been that the religious orders could have walked away totally from the deal - without any contribution at all," he said.

Mr McCreevy added: "It was the State that committed those children to those institutions after they said they would look after them. The evidence suggests the State didn't do a very good job in policing the area. I'm giving you what the advice available to the Government for a long period of time was," Mr McCreevy said on TV3.

The Green Party yesterday called for the release of documents relating to the deal, which indemnified 18 religious congregations against future compensation claims.

Labour leader Par Rabbitte asked: "Why can't the Taoiseach say whether or not the then Attorney General and his office were involved in the negotiating and drafting of this extraordinary indemnity?"

Posted by Colm at 12:31 PM
So it's not my fault....? by Colm

I struggled for a very long time to get past my feelings of shame and guilt...so ofetn in vain. I just felt like it was my fault...the abuse, my responses to it, actually anything bad was pretty much my fault. I wrote this piece in 1998, three years after I had first disclosed my abuse. I had started to work with other people who had also been sexually abused and had realised that we all did this...that we all struggled with shame and self-blame...


I hear so much in my work with people who have been abused about the deep shame and guilt that they feel about their "role" in their abuse. On a personal level I spent 25 years beating myself up, blaming myself for the abuse I suffered. I always believed somewhere that I was responsible for what had happened to me...it was all my fault, no one else's. Once I started to talk about the abuse and seek help so many well-meaning people worked very hard to show me that I was wrong that I wasn't to blame. I can still remember the reaction inside me as I listened to them. I would nod, look grateful and say, " I know...it wasn't my fault".

I was so convincing everyone thought I was great! I never quite managed to convince myself though...deep inside I still believed I was wrong and bad and to blame. I tied myself up in knots...here I was getting help and I couldn't even do that right! I knew that they were right...at least in relation to everyone else in the world that had been abused and raped, not to me though. I was too scared and too afraid of confronting the depth of my self-blame to ever question this. I didn't want to offend the good (so much better than me) people who were trying to help me. I owed it to them to do it right...I agreed with them.

So, once again I abandoned myself; I disregarded how I felt. I left myself alone in that place of self-blame...cold and miserable and beyond redemption. One thing was certain, I had to hide it...it seemed so important to everyone that I realised I was not at fault. I had no right to deny them this. If I did then I would only prove myself right...I would be wrong and they wouldn't want to know me. I would offend and hurt them and I couldn't do that. I made myself acceptable to them...I gave them what I perceived they wanted from me. I was strong and I coped...I was good and did it "right".

The thing is this that reaction in me was not solely based on my misconceptions of what was expected of me. There was, and I believe still is, a tremendous amount of pressure on those of us who have been raped and abused to be well, to "heal", to become "survivors". To find happiness and be all OK! Well, sometimes it just isn't like that. Sometimes the reality is a long, long way away from OK! The reality can be so deep in shit that there doesn't seem too much else there. All there is, is the smell, the taste, and the memory of it. Yet all around people are saying its OK, you can heal. It's not your fault.... Sometimes there is so much encouragement that there is no room left for the shit, no place for the pain and hurt and blame. No sign of any desire to connect with the reality that I was stuck in. Everyone wanted to see me as OK, as strong and coping. As brave and beautiful, that was what I felt was expected of me. So that was what I gave them. After all I had learnt to give people what they asked of me, that was my role in life. That was what I learnt at five years of age lying on my belly with my face in a pillow being raped by a grown man...I knew how to give people what they wanted. So, once more I gave it to them...

Now, I know that they were right...I appreciate the truth that they tried to show me. I had to find it for myself though. It made no difference to me if they all said I was not to blame, it really didn't help me that much. It didn't change the fact that I believed I was guilty. The depth of their desire to get me to see my innocence ultimately meant that I couldn't allow myself to confront my feelings of guilt, there just wasn't the space for that. The pressure of their desire to see everything being all better didn't give me the freedom I needed to face me, my truth, my feelings and experiences. I knew, and still believe it to be the case, that they were not ready to face the feelings that I had buried deep inside me, that would have been too much.

The crunch truth here is that in order to help someone who has been raped and abused the helping has to allow the truth of that person to emerge. If there is self-blame there is self-blame. If there is self-harming, self-mutilation, despair and loathing then that's the reality of that person and it needs to be respected and explored. It needs to be held and understood. It's not crazy, wrong or bad. It is simply that person's unique desperate effort to deal with what happened to them and IT MATTERS. It must not be argued with or dismissed. This is that person, this is you and I as we try and try to come to terms with what was done to us. This is the only way we know how...it may be flawed, it may hurt us but it's all we had it is what got us through unimaginable pain and despair and IT MATTERS.

If we are to find our way through it must be our way. Each person's way is unique to them. We have much in common, so much in common. This can be a source of great comfort and support, it can inspire us to keep going, to know we are not alone can give us so much. It must not however demand that we do it in any one way; there can be no dogma. If we are to be free then it is through our truth that we will set ourselves free. Our truth...no one else's. If we can have this...if we are given the space to be really, truly us - guilt, blame, shame and all, then we can and will do it. We will be free.

Colm O'Gorman. 1998.

Posted by Colm at 12:10 AM
February 08, 2003
Three years' jail for seeking child for sex

From The Irish Times

A Garda sergeant who paid a prostitute £100 to find him a seven to 10-year old girl for sex has been jailed for three years by Judge Frank O'Donnell at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Kieran O'Halloran picked up the woman (21) on Blackhall Place in Dublin and they went to a flat on James's Street. He said he was looking for a young girl and told her he did not see it as sexual abuse because he was willing to pay for the service.

She took down his mobile telephone number and said she would meet him on the south side of the city but, instead, she contacted the gardaí. At one point O'Halloran broke down in tears and said he was a monster but the woman reassured him that he wasn't.

Once O'Halloran was identified, the gardaí obtained a search warrant for his home in Drogheda where they seized two computers.

Pornographic material was recovered from one, showing a number of pictures of children engaged in naked poses and sexual activity. A newer model had a number of images deleted but gardaí were able to access various child pornography websites which he had previously visited.

O'Halloran (41), a married father of one, pleaded guilty to soliciting a woman to procure a child for the purpose of her sexual exploitation on December 6th, 2001, and to possessing child pornography on December 8th, 2001.

Judge O'Donnell asked before passing sentence to see some of the recovered pornographic images which he described as very offensive and he placed the crimes in the very serious category. He commended the woman for bringing the matter to Garda attention.

"She put her credibility on trial because of her circumstances, but anyone like her should not be deterred from coming forward and their evidence will be heard. The court does not prejudice a person's credibility," the judge said.

"This case may appear to be less serious than others because there may be no victims but there are parents on the streets of Dublin who would be only too willing to offer their children for sexual exploitation and it's on this basis that I cannot ignore the link between the possession of child pornography and the solicitation."

Judge O'Donnell suspended the last year of the sentence because O'Halloran had suffered greatly but imposed a 20-year term of post-release supervision from the day he got out of jail.

Det Insp John McMahon told Mr Brendan Grehan, prosecuting, that the prostitute rang the Bridewell and gave them O'Halloran's mobile number. O'Halloran answered and the call was quickly terminated. They were able to track him down because of phone records, the registration of his car, which the woman took down, and CCTV footage of him withdrawing money at a cash machine to pay for the child.

Det Insp McMahon said the woman made a detailed statement of her dealings with O'Halloran.

When gardaí called to his home they seized the two computers, some credit card documentation and his mobile phone which he had thrown in his wheelie-bin.

They located a programme on the newer computer called "evidence eliminator". They also discovered the computer had been cleansed the morning after his encounter with the prostitute. O'Halloran took full responsibility for all materials found on the computers but denied throughout that he had solicited the woman to find him a young child.

Det Insp McMahon agreed with Mr Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, that O'Halloran was a competent garda and was well-respected. He also held a command post for 12 months in Croatia while working for the UN.

O'Halloran was suspended from the force after his arrest and resigned before his guilty pleas last November. His marriage was deteriorating before his arrest but this was the last straw and he now lived away from the family home.

Dr Patrick Walsh, director of the Granada Institute, said he had been treating O'Halloran for the past year. He had received more than 200 hours of therapy and his progress was good. There was a low risk that he might reoffend.

Dr Walsh said O'Halloran was brutally raped in his teens which was consistent with sexual tendencies he now showed. He had a serious drink problem and often entered child pornography sites late at night when he was drunk. He said sexual abuse victims often sought to avenge their wretched childhoods by downloading child pornography but only a quarter intended to perpetrate any crime on children.

Posted by paul at 04:51 PM
State has put the interest of the Church ahead of victims' needs

By Colm O'Gorman in the Irish Times

It is time that we achieved some clarity in the debate about the shared culpability of Church and State over the abuse of children under the care of religious-run institutions.

On May 11th 1999, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, issued a very public and very profound apology to those who had been subjected to abuse while in institutional care and to abuse committed by clergy from the Catholic Church, for which Mr Ahern accepted that the State was clearly culpable.

It seemed that hundreds of our fellow-citizens, condemned as children by the State to horrific abuse, might at last get the justice they so deserved. However, as we approach the fourth anniversary of that historic apology, it would appear that, for most of those abused in industrial schools, justice still seems a very long way off indeed.

So much has been promised: the Laffoy Commission, prosecutions, redress. Yet it would appear that little of substance has actually happened.

The Laffoy Commission seems to be bogged down in a quagmire of legal challenge and counter-challenge. It has had its timescale extended once already and many now doubt whether the commission can deliver any real justice for victims of abuse.

Prosecutions have proved difficult, with many cases not even getting past the Director of Public Prosecutions, and many others thrown out by the courts because of the age or ill-health of the alleged offender or the time which has elapsed since the offences occurred.

Now the main focus of public debate seems to be on the cost of this whole scandal to the public purse rather than on providing real and just responses to abuse that we, as a society, have a collective and clear responsibility for.

It is time that we achieved some clarity in the debate about the shared culpability of Church and State over the sexual abuse of children under the care of religious-run institutions. No one should underestimate the State's own liability for institutional sex abuse or its responsibility for redress to the victims.

In regard to abuse suffered by children who were put in the care of religious institutions, the responsibility for this rests between the religious orders who managed these institutions and the State itself - acting in loco parentis - which had a duty to ensure that the rights of those children were fully vindicated and protected.

In the first instance, it is necessary to restate that responsibility for abuses carried out by members of the diocesan clergy in parishes across Ireland rests solely with the Catholic Church and that the criminal and civil liabilities rest with the perpetrators and the Church authorities.

The settlement approved by the High Court in Dublin in favour of Mervyn Rundle last week is just such a case.

There have been and will be other such judgments over time where the burden of compensation will be borne solely by the Catholic Church.

What is relevant to the current debate on institutional abuse redress is the scale of that award, which is in line with the scale for the most serious cases to be heard by the Institutional Redress Board.

There have been suggestions that this award goes beyond this scale: it does not. The Redress Board can make awards up to €360,000 and, in exceptional cases, where the impact on the victim has been catastrophic, it can make awards above that limit.

In discussions with solicitors making applications for victims of institutional abuse to the Redress Board, it would appear that there are a significant number of such "exceptional cases".

There has already been a settlement on a similar scale to the Mervyn Rundle case relating to abuse in institutional care. That such settlements are possible is a cause for hope; that they have taken so long to achieve is a disgrace.

The State, through the Minister for Education, came to an agreement with CORI as to how liability for institutional abuse would be shared between Church and State. In doing so, it established the Institutional Redress Board to evaluate claims and decide on appropriate levels of compensation for victims.

In relation to redress, there is considerable and justifiable disquiet about the agreement reached. Fuelling this are suggestions that a contribution of about €128 million by the religious orders to the final cost of compensation, which some sources put at €1 billion, may turn out to be a small fraction of that sum.

THERE can be little doubt but that the Catholic Church, through the CORI deal, has managed to negotiate a minimal apportionment of financial responsibility vis-à-vis the State.

This alone is already a cause for public scandal, and the inevitable debate has focused on the money aspect to the exclusion of other issues. It is regrettable that we are losing sight of the very considerable human suffering in these cases.

The fact is that, as the legal and investigative processes continue at a tortuously slow pace, many more victims will have died or given up without ever achieving any real sense of justice or acknowledgement.

However, there are other aspects of the CORI deal which give rise to an even greater scandal.

It is of the gravest concern to One In Four that the CORI/State agreement appears to allow the Church to escape much financial liability and all moral responsibility while still being allowed to hold the power to challenge or dispute cases.

This is being foisted on victim claimants while the Church and its organisations, operating under all-embracing immunity, are free to unleash all their legal forces on the compensation process, to gain access to all statements of claim and to challenge any claims made.

It is disgraceful that while the legislation provides for punitive action against any victim who might make an invalid claim, there is no such sanction that would apply to an alleged or actual offender or institution which withholds information or which provides less than the whole truth in rebuttal of any claim.

It is completely understandable that survivors of abuse in industrial schools feel that Church and State have colluded once again to deny them justice and, in the process, have abused yet again. Frankly, I find it difficult to disagree with that view.

That this is being done with the agreement of the State is the greatest scandal of all.

Having presided over the abuse of individual citizens while children, and having atoned publicly for the gross neglect of the duty they owed them, it is clear that little has been learnt and that the State has once again put the interest of the Church ahead of the needs of victims.

In meeting the costs of making redress to the victims of institutional abuse, the Catholic Church must pay its fair share, whether through the courts or through other forums.

But so, too, must the State, and that ultimately will impact the public purse and taxpayers' pockets.

The wrong done by the State to victims of institutional abuse was a wrong done in all our names. And setting it to right will cost us all as a society.

It's a challenge we must face.

Posted by paul at 04:41 PM
February 06, 2003
What blew the bishops' cover?

by Mary Raferty in The Irish Times

Bishop Bill Murphy of Kerry has described 2002 as an annus horribilis for the Catholic Church in Ireland. However, bad as 2002 may have been, the real annus horribilis for the hierarchy was in fact seven years previously, 1995. New revelations of paedophile priests emerged almost weekly. And now we discover that in the middle of all this the bishops' insurance strategy to protect their assets against victims fell apart. It is no accident that the two developments occurred simultaneously.

That the Catholic Church in Ireland is insured against the child sexual abuse of its priests is not surprising. Insurance has been a prominent feature of the clerical child-abuse landscape in both Britain and the US. However, what is of considerable interest is the timing. The bishops took out their first policies, with Church & General, in 1987. This date is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is very early in the time-line of unfolding revelations of clerical child sexual abuse in Ireland - the issue of priestly paedophilia had not yet publicly surfaced here.

Secondly, the church's decision to insure itself in this way coincides directly with the first set of guidelines on child sexual abuse to be issued by the State. This was a key development in the recognition of the extent and gravity of the problem in Irish society.

The Department of Health guidelines emphasised that the sexual abuse of a child was a crime, and indicated that the local health board should be immediately notified of suspected cases. It would in turn inform the Garda. We now know the Catholic Church paid scant heed to these guidelines. What we discovered yesterday was that, instead, its primary response was to insure itself against risk. It is highly revealing that the bishops should at this early stage have been both sufficiently aware and concerned to embark on such a course.

However, this was not an awareness they conveyed to their flock. Quite the opposite. Throughout the 1990s, as the scale of clerical abuse of children began to emerge, the bishops repeatedly stated that their earlier inadequate responses had been based on a lack of knowledge of child sexual abuse generally. Dr Jim Moriarty, then an auxiliary bishop of Dublin, went so far in 1995 as to tell parishioners of Sutton, where Father Ivan Payne was ministering at the time of his exposure as a paedophile, that even Freud believed that people who claimed to have been sexually abused as children were fantasising. A number of parishioners took strong exception.

LAST October, Cardinal Desmond Connell himself repeated the line about church ignorance of child sexual abuse in his letter to Dublin parishioners, delivered in anticipation of the RTÉ Prime Time programme Cardinal Secrets. He made no reference to the fact that the hierarchy had had enough knowledge of the problem 15 years before to allow it to secure through insurance the protection of church assets against victims. He also refused to answer questions put to him by Prime Time on the current insurance status of the Dublin diocese.

It is significant this information has been obtained in the wake of the Mervyn Rundle case. In the wake of the largest settlement of its kind in the State's history, parishioners are becoming increasingly alarmed that money from the collection plate is being used to compensate victims of abusing priests.

Back in 1995 the collection plate money also became the focus of attention. As Dr Connell was emphatically stating that he had never paid out compensation for clerical abuse, it emerged that he had lent paedophile Father Ivan Payne €27,500 from diocesan funds to compensate one of his victims, Andrew Madden. In an attempt to limit the enormous damage of this apparent contradiction, the cardinal insisted the funds for this compensation had not come from the collection plate at Mass, but from some unspecified administration fund to which he personally made donations. Insurance was not mentioned.

The cardinal also stated at the time that he had no precedents to guide him in his decision to lend money for compensation. However, as we now know, there was a detailed, very specific insurance policy in place. A number of claims against various dioceses had already been quietly settled out of court. And the diocese of Limerick had also made a similar loan to a priest.

This then was the background against which Church & General in 1995 withdrew its cover to various dioceses against child abuse claims. The key question remains as to what the company discovered which led it to take such a drastic course.

What we know is that 1995 was also the year that Mervyn Rundle reported his abuse at the hands of Father Thomas Naughton to the Garda. As reported in this newspaper last week, the Dublin diocese referred Father Naughton for psychiatric treatment in 1986, but had not informed the psychiatrist of their own knowledge of the full extent of Father Naughton's abuse. Misled by Father Naughton, the psychiatrist stated that the priest did not have a serious problem, and Father Naughton was permitted by the diocese to remain in active parish work. Any insurance company discovering this would be alarmed at its exposure in the face of such clear negligence by the diocese.

That alarm may have turned to panic when the company discovered the reference made by this same psychiatrist to several other cases of paedophile priests, of which the diocese was aware, who had long histories of similar episodes. These cases have yet to come into the public domain. It is likely that we will have to await the proposed State inquiry to discover the full extent of what caused Church & General to take such fright in 1995.

Posted by Colm at 10:49 PM
Did bishops provide full information to insurers?

by Sam Smyth in The Irish Independent

WERE the Irish Bishops economical with the truth when they took out policies to cover lawsuits for clerical child abuse? Did they tell the Church & General insurance company all they knew about allegations of abuse by clerics when they sought cover from 1987?

When these questions were asked of a spokesman for Church & General yesterday he confined the answer to: "Serious legal issues arose between the two parties."

And if the insurance company did discover that the Church did not reveal all the information in their possession, would the insurers have been legally entitled to refuse to pay out?

The policies covering their legal liability arising from acts of child abuse were written by the insurance company for most dioceses between 1987 and 1990. But in 1995 "serious legal issues" arose between the Bishops and Church & General regarding the operation of the policies and their entitlement to indemnity in respect of civil claims arising out of clerical child sex abuse.

In 1996 the insurance company paid out €4.32m and three years later a further €6.3m was made available to the Church. It begs the question: What circumstances brought about "serious legal differences between the two parties?" and why did the insurance company make a €10.62m settlement with the Church?

It also became known yesterday that the Church made information about allegations of child abuse by priests available to the insurance company in 1995 - the same information that was deemed too sensitive to be seen by the State.

After the scandal of the Church's knowledge of Father Brendan Smyth's paedophile activities over 40 years became known in 1994, the insurance company would have been remiss if it had not asked the full extent of the Church's information about child abusing clerics. If the Church had not revealed their full knowledge to the company they would have been in breach of their obligation tell the full truth and to notify their insurers of every case.

It now seems that their €10.62m settlement was a shrewd deal for the insurance company when it now appears the State's liability could cost the exchequer as much as €1bn.

Church & General have been providing insurance cover to the Catholic Church in Ireland for more than 100 years, and would be reluctant to upset their prized client.

The possibility of the Church being economical with the truth in its dealings with its insurers comes in the wake of other explanations for their sheltering of child sex abusers and Jesuitical explanations about Canon Law and the rights of accused clergy.

And whatever about curious dealings that cost a commercial insurance company €10.62m, the taxpayers of this country face an open ended commitment for the Church's scandalous self-interest in avoiding financial responsibility for child abusing clergy.

Posted by Colm at 10:39 PM
State deal orders remain silent

by Ben Quinn in The Irish Independent

RELIGIOUS orders which are signed up to a controversial deal with the State to cap pay-outs for abuse compensation refused last night to say whether they were insured against such claims.

Sister Elizabeth Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Conference of Religious in Ireland said the relationship between individual orders and their insurance companies was governed by client confidentiality.

However, the Department of Education said it "is not aware" that congregations covered by the State deal hold insurance to cover claims arising from sexual abuse.

Under the terms of an agreement reached in 2001, a number of religious orders will provide €128m to compensate victims of abuse, with the remainder of the bill to be paid by the taxpayer.

A new spotlight fell on the congregations yesterday, however, after it was revealed that dioceses obtained separate insurance policies from Church & General against the "eventuality of legal liability" arising from acts of sexual abuse.

A spokesperson for one of the congregations, The Dominican Friars' Order of Preachers, confirmed yesterday it had taken out standard public liability insurance.

No insurance funds were used to pay £150,000 in compensation to the victims of a member of the congregation who was convicted in 2001.

Posted by Colm at 10:34 PM
Insurance deals expose 'gross dishonesty'


By Michael O'Farrell in The Examiner

REPRESENTATIVES of those abused by the clergy have accused the Church of gross dishonesty and deception.

Colm O'Gorman, of victim support organisation One In Four, said he was furious at the callousness demonstrated by the Church: "In 1987 they had enough awareness to act to protect the Church and that unveils the absolutely barefaced lie they have often repeated over the last 15 years.

"It finally exposes the Church's real priorities and the gross dishonesty of its protestations of the past 15 years that it had little awareness or understanding of clerical sexual abuse."

On Tuesday, a statement issued by the Bishops Conference revealed that most Catholic dioceses took out insurance policies as far back as 1987 to cover future liabilities arising from clerical child abuse.

However, the statement said serious legal difficulties arose between the Church and insurers in 1995 about the entitlement of the dioceses to indemnity payments for claims arising from clerical sexual abuse.

It is understood this dispute arose with an upsurge in the number of allegations of abuse against clerics.

Following negotiations in 1996, Church and General paid the Church 4.3 million to cover liabilities arising from before 1996. An additional and final payment of 6.3m was paid out in 1999 after further negotiations.

Each diocese then took out new policies with Church and General to cover abuse compensation payments arising from after 1996.

These policies are still being renewed on an annual basis. No payments have yet been made from them, a Church and General spokesman confirmed.

However, the 10.6m fund for pre-1996 cases, has already been significantly diminished and will not be sufficient to cover compensation payments, Bishops Conference spokesman Fr Martin Clarke said yesterday.

Mr O'Gorman said the behaviour of the Church in protecting itself before victims amounted to gross individual failure on the part of the hierarchy and the Church in general: "This shows they always acted to protect their wealth.

"It demonstrates the bare-faced contradiction of the Church which, while publicly talking about support and compassion for victims, was all along just acting to protect its own interest.

"The Church has always acted to protect its own interest. The public face of showing any level of compassion is now totally unmasked."

John Kelly of support group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) renewed a call for the resignation of Cardinal Connell: "This situation is completely at odds with statements and pronouncements over the past four years that the Church was unaware of the extent of abuse by priests throughout Ireland," he said, comparing the behaviour of the cardinal and Church to an insurance loss adjuster.

Mr O'Gorman said the Church had continually fought compensation cases in a callous manner showing no regard for the victims concerned.

"As an institution, it remains wholly unconcerned about the devastating impact that this approach continues to have on victims of abuse, their families and on the Church itself," he said.

Fr Clarke and Church and General, last night declined to comment as to why the original insurance deal to cover abuse payments had been renegotiated.

Both parties also refused to reveal how much existing policies are worth.

However, a spokesman for Church and General said all its combined dealings with all Church policies, including abuse-centred policies, accounted for less than 1% of the company's business.

Church and General said it would be happy to co-operate with any State inquiry that sought reasons for the renegotiation of its original policy covering abuse payments.

Fr Clarke said criticism of the Church was not justified, since it had specifically put the insurance policies in place to allow for compensation payments to victims:

"There is a difference between awareness and understanding. People were not aware of the issue of abuse to some extent in the 1980s, but the understanding of it is something that has grown over the last 16 years.

"The more an understanding of the damage caused to the victims became clear the more the church has responded to that."

Posted by Colm at 01:35 PM
Victims of priests angered

By Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent, in The Irish Times

Mrs Marie Collins, who was abused by Dublin priest Father Paul McGennis, has reacted angrily to news that 16 years ago the majority of Irish Catholic dioceses had insurance cover against claims arising from clerical child sex abuse. "They knew enough to protect themselves financially, but not enough to protect children," she said last night. It was "very hard to be involved with people who can be so devious", she said.

At a meeting after Christmas with Cardinal Desmond Connell and Bishop Eamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin and Apostolic Administrator for Ferns diocese, Mrs Collins agreed to assist with a review of the church's guidelines on clerical child sex abuse.

To date she has met the bishops' Child Protection Officer, Mr Paul Bailey, and Mr David Kennedy, chairman of the Dublin advisory panel on clerical child sex abuse.

Her qualified belief, that by becoming involved she could help victims - "not to bolster the church" - had taken "a couple of knocks", she said.

There was "the very legalistic apology" by Cardinal Connell to Mr Mervyn Rundle, read in the High Court last week, and Mrs Rundle's disclosure that since 1996 no one from the archdiocese had come near her family.

"And now this. I don't know how you can work with people like that," she said.

"How can you say they learned anything? It's the whole mindset. It's about self-protection and protecting the institution at all costs. Their claims that they didn't know anything about it [clerical child sex abuse] is totally at variance [with their arranging insurance cover], while leaving children in danger."

Mr Colm O'Gorman of the One in Four group, which assists victims of childhood sexual abuse, said disclosure about the bishops' insurance arrangements "finally exposes the church's real priorities and the gross dishonesty of its protestations of the past 15 years that it had little awareness or understanding of clerical sexual abuse."

It demonstrated "beyond any doubt that the Catholic Church callously acted in the face of such clear knowledge of clerical abuse to protect its financial wealth and did nothing of substance to protect abused and vulnerable children," he said.

It was clear "that far from acting in isolation, the Irish bishops have had a joined-up, collective policy of responding to and dealing with clerical sexual abuse in Ireland for almost 16 years. It is finally clear beyond any doubt that the scandal of clerical sexual abuse is a scandal of institutional rather than individual corruption," he said.

Mr John Kelly of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) expressed shock at the bishops' admissions.

The situation was "completely at odds with statements and pronouncements" over the years "that the church was unaware of the extent of abuse by priests throughout Ireland".

Calling once more for the resignation of Cardinal Connell, Mr Kelly said the archbishop "has lost all moral authority to continue in office". The behaviour of the church over recent years, in its treatment of people like Mr Rundle and others, could be likened to that of an insurance loss adjuster, he said.

Posted by Colm at 01:31 PM
February 05, 2003
Institutional scandal of the Church’s behaviour finally clear

The revelation that in 1987 the Catholic Church saw fit to take out insurance cover against liabilities arising from clerical sexual abuse shows that as an institution it had a clear awareness and understanding of the reality of clerical sexual abuse and a clear awareness of its unique liability for that abuse, according to the victims’ support organisation,One In Four. In a statement today (Wednesday), the organisation’s national director, Colm O’Gorman said: “It finally exposes the Church’s real priorities and the gross dishonesty of its protestations of the past 15 years that it had little awareness or understanding of clerical sexual abuse.

“This now demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Catholic Church callously acted in the face of such clear knowledge of clerical abuse to protect its financial wealth and did nothing of substance to protect abused and vulnerable children.

“The fact that in final settlement with their insurers, Church and General, the Catholic Church set up a collective fund, administered by the four Archbishops of Ireland, also lays bare the often expressed lie that there has not been a concerted “whole Church” approach to this issue. It is clear that far from acting in isolation, the Irish Bishops have had a joined-up, collective policy of responding to and dealing with clerical sexual abuse in Ireland for almost sixteen years. It is finally clear beyond any doubt that the scandal of clerical of sexual abuse is a scandal of institutional rather than individual corruption.

“In finally demonstrating that the Church faces sole financial liability in these cases, it is now clear why the Church, through its barristers and legal teams and in direct contradiction of their public expressions of care and concern for victims, continues to respond to civil litigation by victims in a callous, vindictive and punitive way. As in 1987, the Church continues to seek to protect its wealth and privilege at all costs. As an institution, it remains wholly unconcerned about the devastating impact that this approach continues to have on victims of abuse, their families and on the Church itself. “

Posted by Colm at 09:38 PM
Church insurance covers sex abuse claims


By Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent, in The Irish Times

Most of Ireland's Catholic dioceses had insurance in place as far back as 1987 to cover liabilities likely to arise from clerical child sex abuse, The Irish Times has established. It has also emerged that since 1999, the bishops have had in place a €10.6 million fund to cover such claims.

In a statement last night the bishops confirmed that "between 1987 and 1990 most dioceses obtained separate insurance policies from Church & General against the eventuality of legal liability accruing to a diocese from acts of child sexual abuse by priests". The cover does not apply to abuse by members of religious congregations.

The Church & General insurance company was formed by the bishops at the beginning of the last century and they still have a "nominal" share in the company. The Allianz company is now the major shareholder.

In a statement issued generally last night following detailed queries from The Irish Times e-mailed last Thursday, the bishops said "the policy cover, which did not provide protection to alleged perpetrators, was subject to strict financial limits and policy conditions." Mr Michael Nolan, Claims Director with Church & General, said last night the financial limit was £200,000 per case (€253,947), including legal costs.

He was not prepared, however, to discuss the "serious legal issues" which the bishops said arose in 1995 between them and the company "regarding the entitlement of dioceses to indemnity in respect of civil claims for damages arising from clerical child sexual abuse, under the policies of insurance then in place".

In 1996 a resolution to these "issues" was agreed on terms which "included the payment [by the company] of a single sum of £3.4 million (€4.3 million) for division among the dioceses". The bishops put the money in a trust fund, called the Stewardship Trust. It provides finance to bishops to cover legal liabilities arising from abuse claims. The trust also funds child protection and other victim response initiatives undertaken at national level by the bishops.

Trustees of the fund are the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Seán Brady, Cardinal Desmond Connell, the Archbishop of Cashel, Dr Clifford, and the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Neary. Applications to the trust go for adjudication to independent committee with a lay chairman.

In 1999 there were further negotiations between the bishops and the insurance company which resulted in Church & General agreeing "in full and final settlement" to pay the bishops "additional sums up to a maximum of £5 million (€6.3 million)" towards the cost of such claims.

No diocese is covered for child sexual abuse liabilities which accrued prior to 1996. Since 1999, each diocese is covered for incidents which took place after 1996.

Mr Nolan agreed last night that claims in such cases were handled with strict confidentiality and by a small number of senior people on both sides. This was due to the sensitivity surrounding the issue of clerical child sex abuse, he said.

He also said that it was a fairly normal condition of cover in all cases that there would be a full and open statement to the insurer of a client's known exposure to claims.

Posted by Colm at 08:29 AM
February 03, 2003
Open Evening

We will be holding our first Open Evening at the new offices on Thursday 6th February from 7pm to 8:30pm.

This is not an official opening night but more of an opportunity for people to gather in an informal way. Open evenings will be held weekly for the foreseable future on Thurdays at the same time.

This gathering is non-facilitated and unstructured and is intended to offer a space that does not demand discussion, work or thought but simply a space to be free to connect with others in similar circumstances.

In simple terms this night is really a space to come and have a cup of coffee and a chat with others in similar circumstances.

There is no charge for these drop-in groups

We are really looking forward to meeting you all..in your own time...

The office is at No. 2 Holles Street, Dublin 2. The nearest Dart Station is Pearse Street. We are at the Merrion Square end of Holles Street opposite the National Maternity Hospital. The entrance to the office is down Holles Lane, directly opposite the entrance to the Hospital.

If you need further directions or information do give us a call on 01 662 4070.

Posted by Colm at 02:18 PM
February 02, 2003
PDs say taxpayers will face E2bn abuse bill

by JEROME REILLY in The Sunday Independent

State 'highly culpable' for abuse suffered by children in institutions

THE Progressive Democrats are seriously concerned that the indemnity deal protecting the Catholic Church's money and land was too generous and will leave the taxpayer with a possible E2bn bill.

The Sunday Independent has learned that before the indemnity was agreed by Cabinet, and signed on June 5 last year, there were fears expressed by senior figures in Government that the State and taxpayers had been short-changed.

However, reservations that the Church had achieved a sweet deal during the negotiations were allayed by legal advice that suggested the State was "highly culpable" for the abuse suffered by children in institutions and was, therefore, more liable than the religious orders for the crimes of priests, brothers and nuns who terrorised children.

The Cabinet was also aware that there was substantial documentation which proved that the State was aware of the abuse that was occurring in many of Ireland's residential institutions at the time it happened, but did not take action.

Ministers were also informed that the various religious congregations were running the institutions at the behest of the governments of the day and for the State's benefit, and this added another element of culpability.

However, senior politicians from both Government parties but especially the Progressive Democrats now believe the legal indemnity given to the Church is too extensive and leaves the State exposed.

Original Department of Finance warnings that the Exchequer would have to find between E300m and E500m to fund the generous indemnity deal given to 21 Catholic congregations seriously underestimates the State's potential liability.

A note of a conversation between an official in the Department of Finance and Sandra Hogan, Clerk to the Committee on Finance and the Public Service, seen by the Sunday Independent, reveals that the Government had no idea of the level of exposure the indemnity deal would bring. According to Labour Finance spokeswoman Joan Burton, the potential cost is now so great that special provision will have to be made in budgets over the next number of years.

The memorandum states: "The likely exposure of the State cannot be positively assessed until the average level of award and the number of qualifying claimants become clear eg, estimate 2,000 claimants @ E100,000 each = total E200m; @ E150,000 = total of E300m."

With many thousands of application forms already sent out and the terms of the redress scheme covering everything from serious sexual abuse to emotional and physical neglect, the estimate of just 2,000 claimants appears low given that 50,000 boys and girls were sent to institutions.

A figure of more than 20,000 claimants may be more realistic.

The memorandum also states how the final negotiations were concluded.

"The initial negotiations with the religious institutions were conducted by a group consisting of officials from the Departments of Education and Science (Chair), Finance and the Office of the Attorney General; however, the final negotiations and agreement in principle were concluded by the then Minister for Education and Science Michael Woods," the note states.

Claims by Education Minister Noel Dempsey and senior Church figures that last week's E300,000 to E400,000 High Court award to abuse victim Mervyn Rundle was not an indicator for future cases involving the institutions are simply wrong, senior legal sources told the Sunday Independent last week.

The legal deed of indemnity signed by Minister Woods on behalf of the Government not only covers awards made by the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) the State's fast-track compensation scheme but also existing and future actions taken in every court in the land that relate to the institutions.

Since the Rundle judgment, there has been heavy TV and radio advertising of the compensation scheme offered by the RIRB.

Under the scheme, those former residents who accept the award made by the Board, or by the Review Committee on review, must agree in writing to give up any right to bring a claim for damages in the courts for the abuse and injuries covered by the award.

However, if they not accept the award made by the Board, their right to bring a claim for damages in the courts is not affected in any way.

Under the terms of the indemnity, the 18 religious congregations provide E128m and everything else is paid for by the taxpayer.

So far about E41m has been handed over, with the rest promised in land transfers and other assets.

The problem for the Government following last week's judgment is that people may now go through the redress board process and if they believe they have not been awarded enough will then gamble on a court action attracted by the huge sum awarded to Mr Rundle following his abuse by Fr Thomas Naughton.

Posted by Colm at 09:14 PM