Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
An extension of time was recently agreed to allow the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse to fulfil its statutory mandate to publish its report. I hope the report will be published as soon as it is completed. It will tell a terrible story of injustice in our country.
The commission has been dealing with matters of life and death, the health and well-being of thousands of citizens and a system of deplorable abuse amounting to a catalogue of crimes carried out over decades. This system of abuse claimed the lives of many children. We may never know exactly how many children died of neglect and ill-treatment in Irish institutions. Our first and last concern should be the survivors of abuse and the memory of those who did not survive. Many survivors became so marginalised and damaged from their abuse that they were never able to avail of the commission or the redress board. We know that many of them ended up homeless on the streets of London and other foreign cities. While many people have availed of the commission and redress board, others are not satisfied that they have received answers.
I want to raise one case, that of the late Michael Flanagan, whose arm was broken by a Christian Brother in Artane Industrial School in 1954. His brother Kevin is still fighting for full information about what exactly happened and, in particular, why their mother was only allowed to see her son eight days after the assault was inflicted. This was an horrific example of what went on in these institutions. The passage of time in no way erodes the importance of addressing these matters. Michael Flanagan was then only 14 years of age. A Christian Brother used a brush handle to break his arm. The boy was locked in a shed at the back of the school for a full two and a half days. The Christian Brother responsible was neither prosecuted nor expelled from the order. The order admitted to the commission in 2005 that this member had simply been moved from Artane to another school. After release from Artane, Michael Flanagan emigrated to England. He was unable to read or write because Artane was, for him and many others, a school in name only. His health never recovered and he died at a relatively young age. His brother Kevin was asked by the commission to seek the information from them through a solicitor but he has informed my office that although he has done this, he has still not received the information requested. These issues need to be resolved and I urge the Minister of State to give his full support and co-operation to the securing of same.
The second main point is about the lessons that should have been learnt about the protection of children. Have they been learnt? The recent "Prime Time Investigates" programme exposed the woefully inadequate state of our child protection services, with insufficient social workers and other front-line workers in place. The HSE knows of cases where children are in grave danger but the services are not in place to make the interventions required. The nightmare of child abuse is not a thing of the past. It is happening every day and most of this abuse takes place in the family home. If the services are not in place, then the State today will be just as culpable as it was in the past when it conspired with the church to cover up the abuse of children in their joint care.