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Ryan Report exposes Church & State – Child abuse!
Michael O’Brien, 23 June 09

THE RYAN Report confirmed what was widely known, that at least 18 religious orders are responsible for the systematic physical, sexual and psychological abuse of children in institutions around the country right up to the 1970s.

The names of Ireland’s gulags are well known to everybody now -Artane, Letterfrack, Cappoquin, Clonmel. Many of those affected turned out at a moving demonstration to the Dáil on the day it was meant to be discussing the content and recommendations of this report.

Scandalously this discussion was postponed thanks to a debate on a Fianna Fáil motion of confidence in the government. This Report details what amounts to a criminal conspiracy, involving the perpetrators, who were in the main priests, nuns and Christian Brothers, and the hierarchies of their orders who covered up the abuse, denied it, and moved the abusers from institution to institution.

The criminal conspiracy also extends to the state, especially the Department of Education which outsourced to these religious orders the detention of children whose only “crime” was being poor. The Gardai, the ISPCC and the judges who sentenced these children to a life of torture and abuse are also to blame. Some Gardaí and politicians from the establishment parties were accessories to the conspiracy because they refused to act on the complaints about abuse that were made at the time.

In 2002 the then Minister of Education Michael Woods signed a deal with the 18 orders limiting their share of any compensation package to €127 million with the taxpayer taking the hit for the remaining costs, which at this stage are reckoned to be in excess of €1 billion.

No amount of monetary compensation can undo what was done to children, above all those who died in unexplained circumstances in the institutions or committed suicide in later life. That said, the arrangement the government made with these orders amounts to another slap in the face for the survivors.

Such has been the public outcry that the government and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church have been forced into calling on the 18 orders to come up with more money. But these organisations cannot be trusted to act in the interests of the survivors of abuse. The Christian Brothers for example have set up trusts in an effort to protect their assets from compensation claims.

The assets of the guilty religious orders should be seized to meet the full cost of compensation and to provide support services for the survivors. The recommendations of the Ryan Report should be implemented insofar as they ensure children are not put at risk. However changing laws means nothing if resources are not provided to ensure, for example, more social workers are employed to provide a better service for children 24 hours a day. Another good reason why these Orders should have their assets seized.

End religious control of schools

Councillor Ruth Coppinger, 23 June 09

THE HORRORS of the Ryan Report have put on the agenda like never before the need for removal of religious control of education. Government whip, Pat Carey TD, said the state may now “take on its responsibilities for delivering an educational system” – an amazing statement for a minister to have to make in a developed country. Why is it that the Catholic Church still controls 92% of our primary schools, with other religions managing another 6%? 

Is it, as is continually argued, because the Catholic church stepped in to provide services the state wouldn’t? No. In fact, since the setting up of the national school system in 1831 the church repeatedly fought state involvement in education. The 1831 Act specifically proposed non-denominational education “to unite in one system children of different creeds” with “separate religious instruction”. However, the churches quickly moved to ensure exclusive control. In 1862, 54% of schools were still religiously mixed – a phenomenon described by Cardinal Cullen as “very dangerous… because its aim is to introduce a mingling of Protestants and Catholics”. 

Parents were told to remove their sons from “the lion’s den” of national schools. The Christian Brothers would tend to “sons of the better class of the Roman Catholic population”, rather than the poor.  Sexual repression, discipline, bodily shame, guilt and modesty were instilled into children – a useful social mechanism when late marriage, celibacy and emigration were key features of Irish life.

In the 1930s the more child-centred educational theories of Dewey, Montessori and others were condemned by the church “wherein… the child is supposed to be his own end”. Instead, the punitive approach of original sin and evil prevailed.
The state today pays teachers salaries but primary schools have to raise running costs. This is due once again to church interference. In the 1950s the INTO campaigned for government to pay school heating and cleaning costs. The church blocked the injection of public funds fearing the state would want more say. The Bishop of Clogher ranted that “civil servants from Dublin might come down and take control of the primary schools”. This is precisely the time when religious orders were running the gulag institutions.
Recently, the Archbishop of Dublin instructed all schools under his patronage to adopt a new discriminatory policy whereby baptismal certificates would have to be produced to gain admission due to lack of school places.

It is quite incredible that the orders named in the Ryan Report for inflicting systemic child abuse still control around 1,000 primary schools. The time is well past for a state run secular education system in Ireland. Socialists respect freedom of worship, but why should schools be the place where religious faith is passed on? Religious instruction should be provided by those who want it after school hours. Democratic boards of management should manage schools on a secular basis, with full state funding, providing a child-centred education where enquiry, initiative, tolerance, respect and creativity characterise the school curriculum.