An Irish Gulag.

Today’s release of the report by Justice Sean Ryan into abuse of children in “care homes” run by the Catholic Church in Ireland doesn’t reveal anything new.
However it is a story that refuses to go away for the simple reason is that the thousands of victims have yet to receive any justice and ipso facto any closure.
The Catholic Church in Ireland in the early decades of the Irish state was, effectively, above the law.
Over the years as a social worker and a journalist in Ireland I have met many former ex-prisoners of the Catholic Church.
Only recently I was being taken home from the bus station to my home by a very personable taxi-driver. He was in his mid-sixties. He confessed-and it was a confession-that he had been an inmate of Artane boys school in Dublin.
He had told me this when he had learned-in the process of a conversation-that I had been a Team Leader in the north Dublin for the Health Board.
As soon as this man said “I was in Artane for years.” I knew immediately what that meant for him.
He had been sent there as a twelve year old for playing truant from school.
Power is only accountable when power is on the wane.
The Catholic Church was the unelected power in the Free State. It provided an educated free army of teachers, nurses and social care workers to as bankrupt state just emerging from a civil war.
It was an offer that the Free Stat’s new rulers couldn’t and dare not have refused.
Today the past is, indeed, another country.
The power of the Catholic Church has been so diminished that it is difficult to communicate this to anyone who has no experience of the country.
This is especially true of people who think they know, who think they are in touch with the modern Irish zeitgeist.
It has been fascinating to observe the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the last 15 years at close range.
I can recall the Catholic Church triumphant from my childhood summers spent in Mayo when the local clergy were feted like royalty in respectable households.
My cousins in Mayo-the boys at any rate- “benefited” from an expensive boarding school education at the hands of priests in County Galway.
My matriarchal grandmother wanted the boarding school experience for me, but my mother would have none of it.
I have that, and much more, to thank her for.
Instead I went to a boring comprehensive school that let me home after four and I sat in class with girls and boys together.
The educational experience that my Mayo cousins endured was so appallingly dysfunctional as to be criminal.
Of course my grandmother would have probably collapsed in shock had she known what was going on behind those high walls in County Galway.
People in government clearly did know enough to take action, but they didn’t.
Justice Ryan’s report today paints a picture of a submissive and deferential civil service who let the Catholic Church act with impunity.
Most great crimes in history are acts of mass complicity.
In Ireland in the days of the Free State Mass itself was a key component of people being compliant.
The alpha male of Catholic nationalism Eamonn De Valera himself bent the knee to John Charles McQuaid.
This, truly, was Rome rule.
The government of this republic still has to totally face down the Catholic hierarchy in this state.
Like with so much today the people are miles ahead of the political class.
The Irish government has previously agreed to pick up the tab for any litigation against the Catholic Church for abuse that they are surely liable for.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland Archbishop Sean Brady today apologised.
Not good enough.
As I watch him on the RTE news he doesn’t look contrite he just looks creepy.
The Catholic Church is not, in Ireland, financially liable for generations of abuse.
If the Catholic Church were in any way truly contrite then they would shut up shop on this island.
Of course they wont because they detect a need for their unique brand of snake oil that they purvey to old, the   frightened and the dying.

Today’s report will not result in any prosecutions nor will any of the abusers be named.
Consider this scenario.
A commercial provider of childcare, say, with twenty nurseries employed known paedophiles and then moved those child abusers to other crèches and day care centres within the company if a parent complained and the abuser was free –within the organisation –to abuse again.
Had that happened then the CEO of that day-care provider would be in prison.
The Catholic Church, in Ireland and across the planet, ran a gulag of child abuse facilities.
The CEO wears a funny hat he is called the “Pope” and he was once in the Hitlerjugend.
It would appear if one wants to practice child abuse with impunity then you need volume and god in the boardroom.
Today is a small step forward for the victims of Ireland Catholic gulag, but their final day of justice remains a distant objective.
Meanwhile our legislators, clearly equipped with a full irony by-pass, can bring in a blasphemy law to protect those poor souls who have an imaginary friends called Jesus yet they deny justice to those who were violated and destroyed by priests and nuns.
We are still a long way from cherishing all the children of this republic equally.

7 thoughts on “An Irish Gulag.

  1. joseph mary

    Phil, I read your comments and I am totally amazed that you feel the need to vent your spleen against the Catholic Church in such a vitriolic and personal way.You may well have a grievance against the terrible cover up over the abuse scandals, as do I. The fact I go to mass regularlyand have a very strong faith is obviously something you find intolerable. This is sad. I’m from an Irish family who came from the North of Ireland many years ago. My mothers family from Belfast and my fathers from Donegal. We are a Catholic family who are well respected in our town. We don’t have an imaginary friend called Jesus, but we do have doctors, teachers, a lawyer, an optician, managing directors, ROman Catholic priest and a Carmelite nun among our clan. We are a decent law abiding lot and we all follow the mantra my grandfather taught us… “try to get educated and travel and taste other cultures if you can before you offer an opinion on them, don’t think you are superior to anyone but always remember you are inferior to no-one.”I will say a prayer for you my friend. Don’t think faith is a sign of weakness Phil. Read the story of John Ogilvy and you will see it takes great courage to hold your beliefs against persecution and mocking.

  2. John Bulloch

    Phil – what an opportunity missed by you – you could have put a worthwhile cause to the fore but this just shows you up for the bigot you clearly are – if this was written by a Rangers fan or Protestant – you’d be all over him with the “he’s a bigot” stick so fast…you really are a sad little individual…Go crawl back under the rock you came from.

  3. pauline

    Hello Phil
    Thank you for your brilliant article, great analysis and great sense of humour. better to laugh than to cry…

  4. Damo Lennon

    They say nothing can match the hatred for the Catholic Church of a lapsed Catholic. Maybe I’m being presumptuous in thinking you are a lapsed Catholic Phil, but if you are, that is borne out totally by this article.

    Hysterical doesn’t even begin to cover it. Some perspective would be nice.

  5. Frank


    In parts this is a good article; the systematic abuse of children by the Catholic Church is abhorrent and should never have been tolerated by the Irish Government. Nor should any decent Catholic allowed it to be covered up. The suffering of these victims I cannot (and do not want to) imagine.

    However, to then insult the Catholic religion in the way you do is small minded, childish and unworthy of your usual journalistic skills. Your articles are usually particularly good because you get straight to the point in a very objective and informed manner; you have failed to do that here.

    As a practising Catholic, I personally find your atack on my religion insulting. To ridicule people’s faith is uncalled for. I realise that religion is not for every one but to ridicule me (who you have never met) for my faith in Jesus is not acceptable for an “independant” journalist. I will fully support your crusade against the abusers of the Catholic Church but would ask you to show respect to those Catholics who have never been involed in these odious acts or their cover up!

  6. adminadmin Post author

    Ad hominem attacks usually attract a red card on this site.
    Please take this posting as a mere yellow.
    Another such offering from you and you’ll have to find another place for your opinions.

    You dont know me and therefore can have little idea of my personal history.
    For example I was 25 when I received my first degree.
    At no point in the blog did I state that every child under the care of the catholic church in Ireland was “abused and violated”.
    However 35,000 were.
    the Catholic church in Ireland has largely escaped without sanction.
    You are correct to detect my pleasure in the “demise2 (your term) of an organisation that has ruined so many and had yet to be brought to book.
    In writing my book “Preventable Death” I travelled the length and breadth of the island including the North where you are.
    It was a travelogue of respectable towns and well kept townlands.
    Once more your gibe that I dont really know Ireland simply doesnt wash.
    Thanks for visiting the site and taking time to put your ideas down.
    Remember you can make a strong polemical point without attacking the other person.

  7. Louise

    Not everyone was “violated by priests and nuns” I myself enjoyed a full and extremely fruitful education at the hands of the Presentation Sisters.
    My brother was educated by Priests and claims it was them who gave him the education that has him where he is today.
    I am aware we were the lucky ones, as was all the other children our respective educational establishments. This is difficult to communicate to someone who has limited experience of my country. Someone who by admission and choice delights upon living on the fringes of “respectable” society. Being a social worker in inner city Dublin hardly brought you into contact with hard working, decent, respectable Catholic families.
    To claim “This is especially true of people who think they know, who think they are in touch with the modern Irish zeitgeist” don’t you think this statement applies to those who spent a few childhood summers in Mayo???
    There are good and bad everywhere…even in journalism.
    I remain a fully active member of the Catholic community, your obvious glee at their demise is sad to read.
    “CEO wears a funny hat” thats insulting and childish.
    Oh and I realise my response may be typecast as some aul wan! I am not 60 years old – I am a 34yr old professional female who is repelled by the decades of clerical abuse and the subsequent cover-ups. But claiming all priests are paedophiles and all nuns are abusers is the easy way out. Defending the innocent ones who did care and did educate and nuture is the hard path.
    I still attend Mass – not every week – I do actually get something out of it, mostly a sense of community, of belonging and occasionally a sense of inner calm and peace.
    Have you ever thought that if your mother had have agreed to send you to the boarding school you may have gotten your degree in your twenties, like the rest of us?

    I reckon this will never be posted but….. Am tittering away to myself and just have to ask….If you don’t like the Catholic society in Ireland…why don’t you go home??!!


Leave a Reply