Sunday, September 23, 2012

Children's Referendum 2012

I warmly welcome the announcement last week of the date for the Children’s Referendum, Saturday 10th November 2012, and publication of the proposed wording of a new Article 42 A in the Constitution, titled Children.

These developments mark another hugely significant step in the progress this Government has made in advancing the agenda of the safety, welfare, protection and rights of children since the General Election in February 2011.

An excellent starting point at that time was the appointment of Frances Fitzgerald TD as our first ever Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with full executive powers. In a speech I gave to the Fine Gael National Conference in March 2010 I said that ‘A new Department of Children, with a Minister who knows what he or she is doing, is a must for any new Government interested in seriously addressing the current broken system’ so I was very happy to see Minister Fitzgerald’s appointment when the new Government was formed.

In that same speech in March 2010 I also supported the many calls that had been made for the State’s child protection guidelines, Children First, to be put on a statutory basis. Thankfully progress has also made in this regard with the publication of the Children First Bill in May of this year. The Bill is not perfect and will hopefully be enhanced during this Dáil term, particularly around the area of compliance.

With the publication of the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports members of the public were understandably repulsed at the extent to which the sexual abuse of so many children had been covered up by members of the Catholic Hierarchy and were shocked to learn that such acts of concealment, despite their horrific consequences, were not criminal offences. Thanks to the recent passing of the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act such concealment of the abuse of children would be treated very differently in the future if it were repeated, by anyone.

Another significant piece of legislation currently going through the Oireachtas is the National Vetting Bureau Bill which aims to put the vetting of people working with children on a statutory basis and, for the first time, will allow soft information to be disclosed by the Gardai to some potential employers.

These changes, at governmental, ministerial and legislative level, are the context into which the proposed new Article 42 A is brought. This is why it always amazes me to hear opponents to this proposed amendment say that on its own it’s not going to bring about so many of the changes that are necessary to enhance children’s rights and protection in this country. Most people, who have a genuine interest in this agenda, already know that Article 42 A is not on its own.

The wording for Article 42 A is as follows:

PROPOSED NEW ARTICLE 42A

Children

1. The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.

2.1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.

2.2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.

3.Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.

4.1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings-

i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or

ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

4.2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

I welcome this wording and support it insofar as it goes. When studying it I was particularly mindful of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a comprehensive agreement on the rights of children, adopted by the United Nations over twenty years ago. Ireland ratified the UNCRC in 1992.

In Section 1 of the proposed Article 42 A above The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children. For me the word ‘all’ is very important here and its inclusivity reflects Article 2 of the UNCRC which states that ‘States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status’.

In Section 2 1° above it is to be welcomed that the State shall, by proportionate means, endeavour to supply the place of the parents in such exceptional cases as where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected. I think it is wise that the term exceptional circumstances has been defined within the Section.

Sections 2 2° and 3 facilitate the introduction of legislation which will allow for the adoption of a child where it is in the child’s best interest, regardless of the marital status of the child’s parents. Section 3 also facilitates legislation allowing for the voluntary placing of any child for adoption. These Sections properly reflect Article 21 of UNCRC which states that ‘States Parties that recognize and/or permit the system of adoption shall ensure that the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration’.

Section 4 facilitates legislation allowing that in the resolution of all proceedings brought by the State for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

This Section is where the problems are with the wording of this new Article 42 A. Firstly the best interests of the child are only required to be the paramount consideration where the proceedings have been brought by the State. What about proceedings brought against the State? Or between other parties? Secondly what happened to Section 2 (iii) of Article 42 as was proposed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in February 2010 which spoke of ‘the right of the child’s voice to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, having regard to the child’s age and maturity’?

The right of a child to have their best interests as the paramount consideration in administrative proceedings affecting them is completely missing from the new Article 42 A which we are all due to vote on on 10th November next and this is, in my opinion, a significant shortfall.

The need for this right to be expressed in our Constitution has been plain for all to see for many years but was particularly well documented in A Children’s Rights Analysis of Investigations by Dr Ursula Kilkelly, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University College Cork which was commissioned by the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan and published in April 2011.

This Analysis considered a variety of investigation statements undertaken by the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman from a children’s rights perspective and revealed that with few exceptions there was a lack of awareness about the impact of public administrative decision-making on the lives and rights of children and their families. The 10 investigation statements, chosen by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children for consideration were:

1. Failure to provide appropriate housing in the case of a child with a disability.

2. Provision of school transport for 23 children.

3. The refusal by a County Council to grant tenancy of a local authority dwelling.

4. The delay in a suitable placement being made available to a young person by the
HSE.

5. Eligibility for Concessionary School Transport of a Child with Special Needs.

6. Inability by a child with autism to avail of home tuition under the July provision
scheme for 2003-2005.

7. The Administrative Actions of the Department of Education and Science with
respect to an application for a home tuition grant made by a child with Autism.

8. Investigation into HSE provision for a mother and her baby, both in the care of
the State.

9. Appropriate care for a young person who died in HSE care.

10. Provision of supports and therapeutic services and care for a child with special needs in foster care.

In her foreward to the publication Emily Logan stated that decision-making that affected children directly and sometimes indirectly was not informed by its impact on the children concerned; nor was it informed by children’s rights principles. She went on to say that the parameters of the child’s best interests and the child’s right to be heard were not used to guide administrative actions or decision-making to any great extent if at all. The procedures, and in some cases those applying them, were not aware of or sensitive to the needs or rights of children or their families.

The Ombudsman wrote that ‘Other considerations appeared to dominate over ensuring that the rights and interests of individual children are met. In this respect, the individual children appeared to be largely invisible in the decision-making process. There are examples of an excessively bureaucratic approach to public decision-making, and often a disconnect between administrative decision-makers and those affected by those decisions’.

Hard to understand why the need to have the best interests of children as the paramount consideration in administrative proceedings which affect them was not included in this proposed new Article 42 A. The UNCRC also references this matter in at least two Articles.

Article 3 states that:

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

Article 12 states that:

States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

I really do hope that a way is found over the next few weeks to facilitate a change to the proposed wording to reflect the need to have the best interests of children as the paramount consideration in administrative proceedings which affect them included.

I do support everything in this proposed wording of a new Article 42 A in the Constitution, titled Children, and I will certainly be voting YES, but there is room for improvement.

END
23 September 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

St Andrew’s Church, Bagnelstown, Co. Carlow.

Text of speech I gave at St Andrew’s Church, Bagnelstown, Co. Carlow. 10th April 2012
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I would like to start by thanking Fr. Paddy Byrne and Fr. Declan Foley for the invitation to come and speak … until I met Paddy this evening I only knew him from Twitter, where he shares a very positive message …
________________________________________________________________

There was a time as a young boy, too many years ago to say when, when I thought that standing up on an altar speaking to people like yourselves, was something I would be doing all the time when I grew up.

I used to love walking through the tree lined streets of Cabra in Dublin, carrying my altar boy’s surplus and soutane around to our big red brick church, the church of Christ The King. It was huge. And special. As a child I knew it was special because of the way adults conducted themselves there. Hushed tones, apparently due deference, and everyone in their Sunday best.

I gave many years to that Church in Cabra, first as an altar boy, then in the folk group and later doing all I could to help the parish secretary and the sacristan, writing articles in the parish newsletter and preparing the altar for Mass.

All the time thinking, I was learning some of what I would need to know, when I, myself, would one day become a priest. I could think of no better way to live my life.

My experiences of childhood sexual abuse by Father Ivan Payne, who was a chaplain to our parish in Cabra, did not impair that deep rooted desire I had to one day be a priest. At first, I had thought he was a fantastic priest; charismatic, popular, great with young people and with what seemed like a healthy disinterest in things like the Creed, and even the rosary. ‘They can say that themselves’ .. is a line I heard from him more than once.

But in time, I learned, through personal experience, of that other side to Father Payne and over time, though still a young teenager, formed the view that he wasn’t such a great priest after all. His was the busiest Mass on a Sunday morning though, standing room only if you were late for the 12oclock. I used to stand on the altar, with the folk group, and think to myself … if all those people knew what I knew. But how could they ever know? I could never tell and if I did no one would ever believe.

Of course some years later I did tell the guidance counsellor in school, I was 17 years of age and the abuse had long ended, but I was feeling its effects more and more. The guidance counsellor notified people in Archbishop’s House – people he considered to be trustworthy, and sometime later it was confirmed that Father Payne had accepted the truth of my allegations. He did of course remain a priest, though it never occurred to me, at that time, that anything else was possible.

A couple of years later I made my own application to enter Clonliffe College and was eventually, and carelessly, told that I was not a suitable candidate for the priesthood. No reason was given. I was devastated. Father Ivan Payne, known to Diocesan authorities as a child molester, was more suitable for the priesthood than I was. My relationship with God, and with what I had grown up to believe was his one true Church, was crushed.

When I reported Father Payne I thought that Catholic Church authorities would be hearing unique allegations that would utterly shock them. I had no idea that I was only one of many thousands of children that had had similar experiences and that members of the Catholic Hierarchy, around the world, were well used to hearing about them.

Some years later, 1994/5, I went public about all that had happened. I had two principal concerns at that time.

Firstly, after two years of exchanging legal correspondence, I had received a relatively small amount of compensation in a private out of court settlement, and I was advised that this payment was unprecedented in the context of child sexual abuse, certainly in the context of child sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. I considered that if I had been compensated then, others who had been similarly abused were also entitled to seek redress and they might be assisted in doing so if they knew a precedent, of sorts, had been set. I also considered that going public and talking about this subject matter, almost unheard of 15 or so years ago, would be a key step in helping myself and other victims deal with our past and seek recovery.

Secondly, and more importantly, Father Ivan Payne ….. was still a serving priest in a Dublin parish with all the access to children that such a position gave him, fourteen years after I had first reported him. How much damage had he done in that time? And how many more priests like him had Catholic bishops reassigned to positions that endangered the safety of other children?

Father Payne was convicted in 1998 for the sexual abuse of eight boys over a 20 year period. Some of those offences took place after Dublin Diocesan officials had learnt about Father Payne from my guidance counsellor in school. By then, Belfast priest, Father Brendan Smyth had also been convicted and again the same pattern of cover up had left him free to rape and sexually abuse children long after he should have been stopped.

It was at that time, early 1998, that I first sought an independent inquiry into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse against Catholic priests. Children were being sexually abused by priests already known to Catholic Church authorities to be people who should never have access to children.

The Taoiseach of the day, Mr Ahern, did not share my concerns, an inquiry of the type you suggest can only be held into matters of urgent public concern was his response. Just as shocking was the fact that his reply, moved into the public domain by me, was met with total silence the length and breadth of Ireland. The sexual abuse of children by known child molesters and rapists, not a matter of urgent public concern – shameful.

It only took another four years of good investigative journalism alongside revelation after revelation about how much Catholic bishops had known about the sexual abuse of children, before Government was forced to change its position in October 2002, following the broadcast of RTE’s Prime Time Special Cardinal Secrets, and a statutory Inquiry into the Archdiocese of Dublin was announced. Three and a half years was spent setting up the Inquiry. The Inquiry itself led to what we know now as the Murphy Report. By then we had also seen the publication of the Ferns and Ryan Reports and since then the Cloyne Report.

I was angered and saddened by the findings of these reports: The same tactics employed by Bishops for decades to knowingly, proactively conceal the sexual abuse of children in order to maintain secrecy, avoid scandal, protect the reputation of the Church, and preserve its assets.

And those tactics were not unique to the Catholic Church in Ireland. Much has being made of the 1962 and 2001 Vatican documents instructing Bishops around the world to conduct investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse in secret. But I believe that the similarity of actions of Bishops in Dioceses so far apart from each other, from Ferns to Philadelphia, from Dublin to Boston, from Manchester to Munich, demonstrate very convincingly that such practices were known about in essence if not in detail, at the highest level of Catholic Church hierarchy. This is not a problem of a few rogue Bishops. Nor is it a problem within the Catholic Church in Ireland alone.

So how has the Catholic Church responded - to the truth now being so widely known, a truth it fought so hard to hide? For me the response beggars belief to this very day and has added insult to injury.

Initially Catholic Bishops here in Ireland took some ownership of the cover up saying, in December 2009, that they were shamed by the extent of it and that it reflected a culture of cover up that existed throughout the Catholic Church in Ireland, though within days the spin had started and cover up became mismanagement, and management became failure of leadership.

In the Vatican, Pope Benedict talked about the importance of listening to victims while at the same time choosing to ignore us when we wrote to him a week before the Irish Bishops’ visit to the Vatican in early 2010. It was important to us that our views would be considered at that meeting and unlike the Bishops we were happy to publish our submission. At no time then or since has our correspondence ever been acknowledged and our views remain completely ignored.

Also in the Vatican, Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone stated that there is a relationship between paedophilia and homosexuality. This was nothing more than a reprehensible attempt to blame a small and marginalised group within society for the actions of priests who sexually abused children, in order to deflect attention away from the Church’s own role in concealing that abuse.

Secularism was also blamed, as was the media and loss of faith, one minute revelations of sexual abuse and cover up were being described as petty gossip, the next minute they were tantamount to the collective violence perpetrated by Christians on Jews over the centuries.

How different that response could, and should have looked.

To his credit Bishop Jim Moriarty got it right. I was very grateful to him for the content and tone of his resignation statement. He acknowledged that he should have challenged the prevailing culture that existed within the Archdiocese and apologised for failing to do so, this was very welcome. His acknowledgement that ‘the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities had revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian’ was also very welcome.

If other members of the Catholic hierarchy had responded in this way things might look very different in the Catholic Church today …. Renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past.

Another part of our collective response to all we have learned is what we, as a society, do to ensure today’s and tomorrow’s children live in a safer world. The Catholic Church in Ireland has the National Board for Safeguarding Children, which I welcome. I also acknowledge and welcome the hard work that many people are engaged in at parish level in implementing the Safeguarding Children Guidelines, but I am concerned that implementation is reliant only on the good will of people. What happens where such good will doesn’t exist? And how seriously can we take Catholic Church leadership on child protection when such leadership remains littered with Bishops who caused the sexual abuse of children by their own actions or inactions?

I know I’m talking to you in the context of the Catholic Church but the debate about the safety, welfare, protection and rights of children is of course much wider.

We know only too well that the State is as capable of failing children as the Catholic Church is. We’ve had Reports into the deaths of children in the care of the State, reports about the absence of proper care for separated non-Irish national children, reports about the failure by the HSE and others to comply with Children First Guidelines, reports about children being left in abusive foster care situations even though serious concerns had been expressed by teachers and members of the public.

Part of my response in recent years, to all we have learned, was to join forces with people who advocate genuinely in the best interests of children, with no hidden agenda ........., to listen to the changes they felt were necessary if we, as a society, were to properly respond effectively to all we now know about past and present abuse, neglect and failure to protect children. I also took full advantage of any opportunity I could get to ensure that people in Leinster House were listening to our voices and formulating policy accordingly.

Thankfully there is a body of work underway by Government that was long overdue and it is refreshing to have a Minister for Children and Youth Affairs who is driving that work along as impressively as Frances Fitzgerald is.

In particular I welcome...

Putting the child protection guidance, Children First, on a statutory basis. This has been talked about for years and finally it is being done with publication of the legislation imminent. Safeguarding Children, which I mentioned earlier, is compliant with Children First Guidance and after the legislation is passed we will no longer rely on the good will of anyone to ensure implementation.

The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is introducing legislation making it a criminal offence to withhold information about and arrestable offence having been committed upon a child or a vulnerable adult – all those acts of deliberate concealment of the sexual abuse of children will be a criminal offence if they are repeated ... and no exemption will, or should, be made for concealing information just because it was learned during the sacrament of confession.

Some people complain that there is too much focus on the Catholic Church with no consequences for others who have failed children just as badly. It should be noted that the HSE is to lose its management of Child and Family Support Services and those responsibilities are being transferred to the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs with, hopefully, proper lines of administrative, executive and political responsibility built into the legislaltion.

Properly enshrining the rights of children in our Constitution has also been talked about for many years, now we have a commitment from Government that it will definitely take place this year and it will be a stand-alone referendum. I very much hope the people of Ireland will give a resounding to yes to that referendum proposal when the time comes.

We need to radically enhance the monitoring and support of sex offenders living in the community, post conviction, the system, as it currently stands fails to monitor and support the offender as much as it fails to reassure the public ... and the Garda Vetting Bureau Bill seeks to address the need, amongst other things, to facilitate the passing on of soft information, as recommended by the Ferns Report 7 years ago.

Progress has been slow, but it is being made and we must never, ever, again allow any organisation, large or small, powerful or otherwise, to put self interest above the best interests of children and we must always listen to the voice of the children when we are taking decisions which affect them.

Thank you very much for your time and your attention .....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sex Offenders

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors conference is today calling for convicted sex offenders to regularly supply Gardai with additional personal information, including photographs. The system of monitoring and support of sex offenders needs to be radically improved and Gardai having photographs of convicted offenders sounds like a very basic start.

Remember it was only last July that a Donegal caretaker, Michael Ferry, who returned to work in a school where he had previously sexually abused a child, was convicted for a second time for molesting and raping four boys at the same school, while he was subject to the conditions of the Sex Offenders' Register.

The monitoring and support of convicted sex offenders in Ireland is almost non-existent. Sex offenders who have served their sentences are generally released into the community without supervision, though some are under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service. The requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 do not mean that there is any real supervision. ... and that’s not just my view, they are the words of Judge Yvonne Murphy in the Murphy Report.

There is an urgent need for changes to this system to be made ...

• There is no actual sex offenders’ register. Released offenders simply notify the Gardai of their intended residential address. A multi-agency approach to the support and monitoring of released offenders must be developed along with a more stringent regime of signing on procedures with regular personal visits to Garda stations by released offenders.

• All convicted sex offenders should be considered High Risk on release and should be monitored & supported accordingly. All such offenders should be subject to a Post Release Supervision Order which should be put in place at the time the offender is being released and not at the time of sentencing which is currently the case.

• Those responsible for monitoring sex offenders should have the powers and the resources to make regular unannounced visits to the homes of released sex offenders.

• Monitoring of sex offenders should include polygraph testing, electronic tagging, curfews and other restrictions, for example an offender who only ever abuses children after he/she has taken alcohol should have it as a condition of their release that they don’t consume alcohol.

• Parents and Guardians should be able to register a concern with authorities about any individual who has access to their children about whom they are genuinely worried and in some cases it should be possible for them to be told if such an individual is a known sex offender or not. This measure is already being rolled out in the UK, having being piloted to great effect over an eighteen month period. The pilot scheme in four counties saw one in ten calls to police uncover evidence of a criminal past. Out of 315 applications for information from concerned parents, details of 21 paedophiles were revealed, these were sex offenders known to the authorities who were putting themselves in a position of having access to children again, and they were stopped because those parents could register their concerns and access this informatiion.

Convicted sex offenders make up a very small proportion of all sex offenders but every effort must still be made to protect children from them.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Deputy Ruairí Quinn

Dail Debate on Ryan Report on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse
12:00pm, 11th June 2009.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:

As we all do, I have limited time available to speak, and no words of mine or of anybody else in the House can undo the damage, harm or hurt caused to and which continues for those people. However, the actions that we take can make some redress to them, their children and their children’s children. I appreciate the point made by the Taoiseach, which is contained in one of the recommendations, that we erect a monument containing the words of the apology that the Taoiseach uttered in May 1999 but I suggest we should go further. We should have a living monument dedicated to those people, some of whom are no longer with us, that contains their stories and memories and our records of abuse, both clerical and State, and inhuman treatment so that the walking wounded, emotionally and physically, who are the people who came to the gates of this assembly yesterday can be able to point to a permanent record of their hurt to explain in part to their children and to their children’s children why they, with their stolen childhoods, could not live full lives as adults.

My next point is more substantial and I am delighted the Taoiseach is here with his colleague and friend, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, because I have a serious set of allegations to make against both of them. The problem with the Watergate controversy was that the burglary was wrong but the cover-up was worse. We have compounded our criticism of the religious orders and the church in this regard and we have let free the horrendous record of the Department of Education and Science that continues to the present day. We have castigated in financial terms the regulators for the failure to regulate the banks but the Department of Education and Science has got away scot free in many respects and continues to do so.

I put it to the Minister that there is a continuing culture of deferment and obedience to the Catholic church and its religious orders in the Department of Education and Science that has continually frustrated getting answers to simple questions of which I will provide three examples. It is for the Minister to refute this and he knows from my persistent questioning that it is not for the want of trying on my part to establish facts free of prejudice. On 26 February I asked the Minister for Education and Science “if he [would] enter into talks with an organisation (details supplied) [CORI], some of whose members, as teaching orders, are the legal owners of many of the primary schools”. The answer I received was that he would not and that the information as to who owned what school of the 3,200 schools throughout the country was not readily available in an easily accessible format.

On 10 March I asked the Minister whether he would “identify by name, roll number, location and Roman Catholic diocese, each primary school in the ownership of a religious teaching order or a Roman Catholic bishop”. The reply stated that there are in excess of 3,200 primary schools in the country and my net point centres on the following paragraph of the reply:

Information relating to school site ownership and property details would have been received by my Department over a long number of years and the legal documents relating to the interest of the State in buildings constructed on sites not in the ownership of the State are generally held on individual files as distinct from a central database. Accordingly, the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in a format that is readily retrievable.

This is what is happening on Marlborough Street and the Minister may spend much time in Cork but I wish he would spend more time there. On 28 May in another question I named the [587]18 congregations, which the Taoiseach met this week. I will read the second part of the reply I received as time does not permit me to read it out in full but the records are there. It states:

These schools are privately owned and as such the information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in a format that is readily retrievable [The Minister does not even change the text]. The legal documents relating to the interest of the State in buildings constructed on sites not in the ownership of the State are generally held on individual files as distinct from a central database.

Either officials in the Department are members of secret societies such as the Knights of St. Columbanus and Opus Dei and have taken it upon themselves to protect the interests of these clerical orders at this point in time in this year of 2009 or, alternatively, the Minister is politically incompetent and incapable of managing the Department of Education and Science. He went from February to last week saying that the information was not readily available.

The Taoiseach met with the same religious orders. Imagine what he could have said; imagine what power the Taoiseach could have had if he could have said to the 18 orders that, for example the Christian Brothers have 97 schools, paid for mostly by taxpayers through voluntary contributions and grants, and that the Sisters of Mercy and other orders together have perhaps 300 or 400 schools — I am guessing because these guys refuse to tell me.

The legal ownership of those schools should be transferred without any contribution and in return the schools should continue for the time being under the existing patronship arrangements until such time as we democratically and collectively decide how best to do it. We are the only country in Europe — including countries such as Catholic Spain, Catholic Italy and Catholic Austria — where the primary school system is controlled by private organisations. If one thinks they are not private one should examine the court decision on Louise O’Keeffe and how the State was not responsible for the abuse she received from a primary school teacher, who was not a religious person, but that the responsibility lies with the boards of management of the private organisations.

We have to deal with this problem and this is the way we start. The Taoiseach has asked the orders to return in two weeks with an inventory of their assets. The man sitting beside him knows what they are and he is refusing to tell me, a Deputy of this House. I do not believe the Minister, Deputy O’Keeffe, is a bad man. I do not believe he is a Catholic right-wing secret obscurantist but many of the people working for him on a permanent salary — he will be gone in a couple of years — most certainly are or else they are incompetent, lazy and destructive. He can take his choice as to what the explanation is but I have given him the facts. He and his Department are concealing from us, the citizens of the Republic, information on the nature and ownership of schools. I am unable to go into it but one of the replies I received was simply a lie; it suggested that legal protocols were in existence that prevented schools from being sold off. That is not the case for the vast majority of those schools, many of which are in built up areas and were built prior to 1960 when such protocols came into existence.

Build the monument and make it a living lasting voice of what we did. This was not some era of colonial exploitation; this was not the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the country; this is what we did to ourselves for the reasons Deputy Gilmore stated. We should have not just a monument but a living museum and a permanent reminder that never again can it happen and an explanation for those who were affected and their families as to why they were the way they were.

To learn for the future we need to take these schools and our entire primary school infrastructure into public ownership. We are paying for them and funding them. We need to get the management controls that are necessary to bring us into line with every other European coun[588]try. The Government has a golden opportunity; the value of 500 schools at €2 million or €3 million each is close to €1 billion. It will go a long way in the eyes of the public towards saying that we are sorry for what happened and for our consistent denial and refusal to recognise our responsibility. It would ensure that whoever is Minister for Education and Science in the future has rational control of the infrastructure to get the best productivity from it.

The Minister, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, has a serious responsibility to either manage that Department in a modern and effective way or to root out the obstruction that is manifestly evident in the consistent replies I have received from him in the past year.

Acting Chairman:

I know the Deputy did not mean to use the word “lie”. I take it——
Deputy Ruairí Quinn:
I withdraw the word “lie” and say “inadvertently misled the House”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

APOSTOLIC VISITATION REPORT

I would like to take the opportunity to respond briefly to the Findings of the Apostolic Visitation in Ireland.

The reasons given by the Vatican for this Visitation were:

• To offer assistance to the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors.

• To contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.

• To explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims.

• To monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse.

I did not participate in this exercise because I did not believe it would serve any credible purpose. I was of the view that instead it would be used by the Vatican to maintain the pretence that the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the subsequent cover up of that abuse by Catholic Bishops was an Irish problem which it knew nothing about, and this is simply not true. Catholic Bishops & Cardinals have been concealing the sexual abuse of children for decades from one side of the world to the other and it is not believable that this was not known in the Vatican.
With this Summary Report the Vatican has failed yet again to acknowledge and take responsibility for its role in facilitating a culture of cover up which has caused the sexual abuse of so many children. Continued calls for ‘forgiveness’ are meaningless in this context.

The Summary Report also urges Irish Catholic Bishops to spend more time listening to victims. Members of the Catholic Hierarchy in Ireland and in the Vatican have repeatedly disrespected and ignored the voices and views of those who have been abused and I have no reason to believe that has, or will, change.

I said in October 2010 that the Apostolic Visitation is nothing more than self-serving window-dressing nonsense, and nothing I’ve read today has changed my mind.
END 20/03/2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mary Raftery

I wish to express my deep sadness today on hearing of the death of Mary Raftery.

Mary was instrumental in helping many of us as we sought to expose the truth about what the Catholic Church and others knew about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Ireland. Mary understood that the Catholic Church’s concealment of the sexual abuse of children was systemic but that it could best be exposed by helping survivors share personal experience and through her work provided a way for some of us to do that.

Mary Raftery has contributed hugely to helping survivors receive some semblance of justice: The Ryan and Murphy Reports are now part of the public record of this country and will remain there and continue to inform us for many years. For too many survivors, having those Reports on the public record is the only justice they have ever received.

I will be forever grateful to Mary for all she has done to help shed a light where it wasn’t wanted and I offer my condolences to her family, friends and loved ones.

END 10/01/2012

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Optimist V The Pessimist

The Optimist V The Pessimist

A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.

Just to see what would happen, on the twins' birthday their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist's room he loaded with horse manure.

That night the father passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.

"Why are you crying?" the father asked.

"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I'll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken." answered the pessimist twin.

Passing the optimist twin's room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. "What are you so happy about?" he asked.

To which his optimist twin replied, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"