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Clerical abuse in Ireland tantamount to torture: report

A study into the Ferns, Murphy, Ryan and Cloyne child abuse reports criticises the lack of prosecution against child sexual and physical abusers and those who concealed that abuse.

Image: GirlReporter via Creative Commons

A NEW REPORT says that some of the acts of abuse revealed in the reports on clerical abuse in Ireland amount to torture.

The In Plain Sight report, commissioned by Amnesty International and compiled by Dr Carole Holohan, found that the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children covered in the Ferns, Murphy, Ryan and Cloyne reports “can be categorised as torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under human rights law”.

It recommends making the rights of children explicit in the constitution.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald is launching the report this morning in Dublin. Also attending the launch are Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Dr Carole Holohan and Colm O’Gorman.

Low level of prosecution

The report also criticises the deferential treatment apparently shown to members of the clergy by gardaí, saying that the law did not protect members of society equally.

Despite the severity of crimes outlined in the child abuse reports, very few of the perpetrators have been convicted. The report notes that no criminal charges have been brought against members of the church who concealed abuse or allowed abusers continued access to children after complaints were made against them.

Although the abusers and the Catholic Church are responsible for the abuse against children in their care, the state failed in its duty to monitor those institutions effectively and to act when allegations of abuse were made against church agents.

Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O’Gorman said that the “abuse of tens of thousands of Irish children is perhaps the greatest human rights failure in the history of the state.”

He said that the study’s research showed that the “true scandal is not that the system failed these children, but that there was no functioning system”:

The Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports tell us what happened to these children, but not why it happened. We commissioned this report to explore that question because only by doing so can we ensure this never happens again.

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.

Public anger

A poll released alongside the report shows that 89 per cent of respondents said the Ryan Report had made them angry at the people who abused those children, while 84 per cent said they were angry at the failure of wider society to act on that abuse.

Eighty-three per cent said it made them angry at the state, while 35 per cent said they found the subject too upsetting to engage with.

Almost nine out of ten respondents said that individual members of society should have demanded that the state act to prevent the abuse outlined in the Ferns, Cloyne, Murphy and Ryan reports. Half said they believe wider society is prejudiced against children in state care today and think it would prefer to turn a blind eye to child abuse.

Nearly 90 per cent said they believe children who have been abused by members of the clergy or their families should be a government priority.

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