Key findings of Amnesty report into child abuse
In Plain Sight was commissioned by Amnesty International Ireland to uncover why thousands of children suffered decades of horrific sexual and physical clerical abuse.
Its five key findings were:
- No clear lines of responsibility make true accountability impossible. The abuse of children continued unchecked, with no system in residential institutions. State authorities also failed in their duty to monitor residential institutions, or to act when abuses by agents of the Catholic Church in communities came to light.
- The law must protect and apply to all members of society equally. Children who were placed in residential institutions were branded as criminals as a result of the court committal process, while the majority of perpetrators of abuse have not been held to account by that same criminal justice system.
Very few perpetrators were convicted and no charges have been laid against those in positions of authority in the Catholic Church who concealed crimes.
- Recognition of children's human rights must be strengthened. Amnesty said the abuses in the reports can be categorised as torture, under human rights law. They also demonstrated children's rights to private and family life, the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from slavery and forced labour were contravened, as was their right to education and to physical and mental health.
- Public attitudes matter. Individual attitudes matter. Fear, an unwillingness and an inability to question agents of the Church, and disbelief of the testimony of victims until recent times indicate that wider societal attitudes had a significant role to play in allowing abuse to continue.
- The State must operate on behalf of the people, not on behalf of interest groups. The reports showed how the State had a deferential relationship with the Catholic Church. The complaints of parents, children and lay workers about problems and abuses in residential institutions were dismissed by officials, while the reputation of religious orders was defended by Ministers and TDs in the Dail.
Political actions must have at their core the best interests of the wider population and not sectional interests, Amnesty added.