Monday, February 2, 2004


Despite all we know, or think we know, about child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church in Ireland it is still shocking to read a report into the 'care' of children by 'Religious' which contains words like Rape, Starvation, Buggery, Deprivation, Cruelty and Brutality. And while this Commission of Inquiry still has much work to do under it's new Chairperson Mr. Justice Sean Ryan, the outgoing Chairperson Justice Mary Laffoy found the testimony of witnesses to be truthful and honest and their reasons for speaking to the Commission to be wholly altruistic.

In contrast Justice Laffoy is critical of the way the Religious Congregations look to have allegations made against them subject to strict proof of facts even where the allegation made is a matter of historical record in the Department of Education's own files. She gives a very compelling example of a Complainant to the Inquiry who alleges that she was not properly fed in an Institution in the 1940s. It is a matter of record that during the period of the Complainant's residence in the Institution, the Medical Inspector of the Department found that the food was very bad, there had been a curtailment in diet and the children had not put on any weight. Records show that the Department sought, and got, the removal of the Resident Manager of the Institution by the relevant Religious Congregation. Yet today that same Congregation, in its response to the Laffoy Commission, is requiring that details of nutritional standards of the time be the subject of expert testimony. Justice Laffoy's view is that if the Religious Congregations really had a genuine desire to co-operate then admitting to matters of indisputable fact would be the way to do so. She also points out that the if the Congregations continue as they are then there are implications for the duration and cost of the Inquiry.

Justice Laffoy is also not satisfied that since the Commission's establishment it has received the level of co-operation it is entitled to expect to receive from the Department of Education and Science and its Minister, Noel Dempsey TD. It has experienced difficulty in securing compliance with its statutory requests by the Department. On two occasions she has had to direct that the Secretary General of the Department to attend the Commission because of the Department's non co-operation. The Department, she says, has not adopted a constructive approach to its role in the Inquiry. In any Government with standards this would be enough to have Minister Dempsey spending more time with his family by now. If he were not so arrogant and self serving he would resign. But in the poor standards of an Ahern led Government, which would have the 'honest decent' (and corrupt) Ray Bourke as Foreign Minister if it could, Mr Dempsey is fit for office. It is a scandal it itself that a Minister and his Department have been found by an independent and respected High Court Judge to have failed to deliver their co-operation to this Inquiry which she is entitled, in law, to expect. And it is testament to the further lowering of standards in political life (courtesy of the party that brought us Haughey, Lawlor and Burke) that the Minister's failure has not prompted Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to immediately remove sponsorship of the Commission from Dempsey and his Department. The Government says it is listening to those victims who gave evidence to the Laffoy Commission and to the organisations who support them but everyone of those organisations, and it's not often they agree on anything, has demanded that sponsorship of this Commission be removed from the Department of Education and Science and the time for the Taoiseach to act accordingly is NOW.

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