Friday 15 November 2019

Irish children ‘tortured’ in state and church institutions – scathing report

Sarah Stack

THE ABUSE of thousands of innocent children in State and church run institutions in Ireland amounted to torture, a scathing report from Amnesty has found.

Youngsters suffered decades of inhuman and degrading treatment by being brutalised, beaten and starved, the human rights watchdog said.

The horrific details of neglect, physical abuse and rape were revealed in recent years in four sickening State ordered reports - Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: "The abuse of tens of thousands of Irish children is perhaps the greatest human rights failure in the history of the state.

"Much of the abuse described in the Ryan Report meets the legal definition of torture under international human rights law.

"Children were tortured. They were brutalised, beaten, starved and abused.

"There has been little justice for these victims. Those who failed as guardians, civil servants, clergy, gardai and members of religious orders have avoided accountability."

Mr O'Gorman - a survivor of clerical abuse - said the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports told what happened to children, but not why.

Amnesty International Ireland commissioned a new report, carried out by Dr Carole Holohan, to explore why it happened to ensure it never happens again.

In Plain Sight was launched by Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald in the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin.

Mr O'Gorman continued: "This abuse happened, not because we didn't know about it, but because many people across society turned a blind eye to it.

"It is not true that everyone knew, but deep veins of knowledge existed across Irish society and people in positions of power ignored their responsibility to act.

"Attitudes to poverty at both the public and political level, were also significant factors.

"Society judged and criminalised children for being poor rather than address the underlying factors that condemned their families to poverty."

- The Cloyne Report, published in July, revealed former Bishop John Magee - a one-time Vatican aide and papal envoy - deliberately misled authorities and failed to report clerical abuse allegations as recently as three years ago.

- In November 2009 the Murphy Report found four successive archbishops in Dublin had covered up allegations of abuse and did not report claims to gardai for decades.

- Six months earlier the damning Ryan Report shocked the nation with revelations tens of thousands of children were neglected and suffered physical and sexual abuse for decades in orphanages, industrial schools and residential institutions run by religious orders.

- And the Ferns Report, published in October 2005, revealed more than 100 allegations had been made against 21 priests over 40 years - with hierarchy putting the interests of priests before children.

Mr O'Gorman said Amnesty's research reveals the true scandal was not that the system failed children, but that there was no functioning system.

"Instead children were abandoned to a chaotic, unregulated arrangement where no one was accountable for failures to protect and care for them," he added.

"The legacy of this for today's children is obvious, with our current child protection system itself being described as dysfunctional and not fit for purpose."

An Amnesty International/Red C poll also found the vast majority of Irish people believe wider society should have done more to protect children from abuse.

Mr O'Gorman said: "People realise that this is not just about the crimes of the clergy or the failures of the state, but is a much bigger problem: the institutionalised lack of accountability in the Irish state.

"Attempts to achieve real reform in how this State functions will be meaningless unless we learn from what must be our greatest collective failure, one which resulted in the abuse and torture of tens of thousands of children."

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