Blighted lives laid bare

Suddenly all this talk of recession and negative equity isn’t so depressing - when compared to this week’s other news.

You might be suffering from pre-election fatigue at the moment but surely ranting and raving election candidates are a better alternative to the heartbreaking headlines hitting the news stands and airwaves this week.

It’s deeply disturbing stuff, something that surely rings true to too many families and too many individuals who have been crying out for years, their pleas ignored.

It took ten years for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse to come up with a report concluding that the abuse of boys in Artane Industrial School in Dublin and Letterfrack, Co Galway, was a chronic problem.

To imagine the desolation that those affected have gone through, the pain of fighting against the Establishment, knowing the truth and not being able to cry for help is, more than distressing.

The report concludes that the Department of Education generally dismissed or ignored complaints of child abuse and dealt inadequately with them. Minister O’Keeffe’s apologies this week on behalf of the Department of Education are laughable.

And with like issues pertaining to the Government, they are slow to take the blame full on. Not that money could make any of this better, but when a report lays claim that the safety of children wasn’t a priority for the Christian Brothers who ran the institutions, surely the Department of Education needs to put its hands up and make right its wrong-doing.

At least Cardinal Sean Brady had the humility to proclaim his shame over the report.

After the report was launched, Cardinal Brady said it documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children.

“I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed,” the Cardinal said, “that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The harrowing report says that physical punishment in Artane in Dublin was excessive and children constantly felt under threat and were fearful.

Of Letterfrack in Galway, the report says that it was an inhospitable, bleak, isolated institution in which physical punishment was severe, excessive and pervasive.

More than 100 institutions, chiefly run by religious orders, including industrial schools, institutions for children with disabilities and ordinary day schools, were examined by the commission chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan.

It is over five years since the commission's first chairperson, Judge Mary Laffoy, signed off its account of abuse and neglect endured by boys in the Catholic-run Baltimore Industrial School over 60 years ago in west Cork.

The commission's Investigation Committee held more private than public hearings.

Earlier, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the failures of the State and others charged with the care of children must be acknowledged and lessons learned.

Lessons learned? How often have we heard this phrase after tragic events? This report needs much reflection. Too much pain has gone on as adults and guardians alike turned a blind eye, and those in power brushed it all under the carpet.

These people should be disgusted with themselves, and the Government needs to think long and hard about its position in all of this.


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