Editorial: Savile horrors remind us of need for vigilance
Published 27/06/2014 | 02:30
Posing for photographs with corpses. Making jewellery out of glass eyes taken from dead bodies and sexually abusing vulnerable patients aged five to 75. Such revelations about the late British DJ Jimmy Savile, shockingly exposed as a prolific abuser never called to account for his crimes, are beyond comprehension.
Yesterday a report into 28 UK hospitals, including Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital, unveiled a sickening catalogue of sexual abuse by a single individual not seen in Britain or Ireland since the controversy over the late paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.
Just as Ireland was convulsed by the prevalence of abuse by clerics – and the subsequent handling of complaints by the Catholic hierarchy when that crisis emerged – our neighbours across the water are experiencing their own historic child protection nightmare whose reach has extended beyond Savile.
The reign of terror inflicted by the TV celebrity has been described by one leading politician there as one of the greatest failures in public protection and patient safety Britain has ever seen. It has, correctly, raised serious questions about the lack of safeguards in institutions where Savile, exalted by his fame, was able to indulge his infamy. We often seek solace in the passage of time – the past is another country where different standards and cultural understanding prevailed.
But we still have manipulative abusers like Savile, abusing as late as 2009, in our midst. As the Irish charity Children at Risk has pointed out, while Savile's activities are at the extreme end of the scale, in terms of the sheer number of offences, he shares the same features as most offenders – a pillar of the community or family. The latest Savile revelations come in a week when an Irish mother was sent to jail for sexually abusing and exploiting her five-year-old girl, a neglected infant who on one occasion was led on a dog lead before being raped by a neighbour.
The offences took place at the family home between 2004 and 2008, prompting sentencing Judge Tony Hunt to urge society never to become complacent when it comes to the abuse and neglect of children. Such is the pernicious nature of sexual abuse; we can not root it out entirely. But we must continually monitor its prevalence and create a social and legal culture where victims are not cowed into silence – the abusers' greatest legal protection.
Clarity on appointments vital for our democracy
No matter how hard people try to rid the country of political patronage, it seems an impossible task. No matter which political party is in government, this time-honoured tradition survives. Time was when ministers would appoint cronies of another minister to positions of political patronage, such as state boards, and later that minister would reciprocate, and with such a ruse they could shield themselves from the accusation of political favouritism.
It was acceptable behaviour in political circles and it has led to the situations where certain boards and even charitable institutions became the preserve of political parties. It was a situation that led to our current Minister for Communication, Energy and Natural Resources to remark as far back as 1999: "When it comes to patronage and cronyism, Fianna Fail leaves other parties in the shade." It was with some surprise, therefore, that this newspaper revealed yesterday that the Government, on the advice of Mr Rabbitte, had appointed a Labour by-election candidate Denis Leonard and a former Fine Gael TD John Farrelly to the board of Bord na Mona. This should not be seen as any slight on either man no doubt they are upstanding citizens, with plenty to offer the company.
They had the political misfortune to lose their council seats in the recent local elections. One must wonder at Mr Rabbitte's wisdom in making appointments at a time when it is widely believed that he will be one of the casualties in the government reshuffle, which is expected in the coming weeks.