FOLLOWING THE Ryan report “we all emerge . . . somewhat lost, unbalanced, the touchstone of our former beliefs and certainties cast adrift,” the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has said.

“We stood exposed, not as an island of charming saints and chatty, avuncular scholars but as a repressed, cold-hearted, fearful, smugly pious, sexually ignorant and vengeful race of self-styled Christians,” she said

She recalled that at the 2004 Céifin conference in Ennis, Co Clare, she had wondered “what the real us [her emphasis] actually was, the old-style pious Mass-goers, or the new-style materialists.” She continued, “I wonder even more so in the light of Ryan.”

Speaking at the Sisters of Charity Justice and the Downturn conference in Dublin, Ms O’Reilly said that after six years as ombudsman, she had come to the view “that public bodies and agencies begin to go bad when they begin to lose sight of why they are there in the first place”.

Following Ryan “‘we didn’t know’, is the constant refrain,” she said. “Certainly, very few knew of the systemic nature of the abuse, of the near unbelievable extent and depravity of the sexual abuse in particular; of the political, bureaucratic and clerical cover-ups – but no adult living in Ireland throughout the period in question did not, in broad terms, know.

“If things were hidden, they were hidden in clear sight: the crocodile lines of boys and girls that streamed out of the institutions; the certain knowledge that corporal punishment at the very least was practised therein; the incarcerated Magdalene women in their Madonna blues and whites who walked the open streets of towns and villages in church processions. Judges knew, lawyers knew, teachers knew, civil servants knew, childcare workers knew, gardaí knew. Not to know was not an option,” she said.

Noting that the religious congregations had borne the brunt of criticism following publication of the report, she said this was “no surprise”.

She continued that “the hands and fists that descended on the bodies of the children were those of the people who worked in or who had access to the religious run institutions”.

“Yet”, she said, “the forces that enabled the abuse or turned blind, indifferent eyes to it ranged way beyond the institutions’ walls, [were] present within the plusher offices of State, and the boardrooms of so called charitable institutions as well as within the dank, depressing, and frequently terrifying dormitories of the institutions themselves”.

Abuse thrives “when society remains indifferent to the abuse because it is by and large indifferent to the abused”, she said.

Looking to the present, she said “we may think now that we have got it right vis-a-vis the rights of children, or the elderly, or people with disabilities, or immigrants, because we, after all, are the best educated, most liberal, progressive generation ever – but the lived reality is frequently otherwise, despite huge improvements in many areas of the social justice landscape”.

She warned that, on its last day as an independent agency, Combat Poverty must remain “free from political and bureaucratic pressures” as it is absorbed into the Department of Social and Family Affairs. This was “crucial for the achievement of social justice in these recessionary times”.
The Irish Times 01/07/2009


5 Responses to “Abused were hidden in clear sight, says ombudsman”

  1. Hanora Brennan says:

    The Redress Board is a ‘mass grab by the lower orders’ – remember those words in your journalistic days Emily?

    When your secretary rang back on one of the 100’s of calls made to your office why did she tell me you could not be held responsible for what you wrote as a journalist now that you’re Ombudsman.

    As a legal bod. said to me THE MASK SLIPPED Emily and until such a time as you apologise to the survivors I will not let up on this subject.

    So less of the lily livered hypocrisy and let’s see some moral fibre and courage and make the apology PUBLICLY.

    Mo naire thu!!!

    Hang your head in shame woman as you’ve nothing to be proud of despite your achievements and education. You’re still a prejudiced bigot of bygone days!

  2. Martha says:

    In response to Raymond’s post:

    Since the publication of the Report, I have not yet seen or heard one single genuine heart-felt expression of Unconditional Condemnation, except from the Victims themselves,

    The Irish people, per se, including most of the survivors of the Industrial Schools, are too emotionally damaged to unequivocally denounce, i.e., “unconditionally condemn” the RC clergy.

    This failure is due to the fact that the vast majority of Irish people – whether or not they were raised in those RC Prisons for Children – are just as psychologically institutionalised as if they had been raised in such hellholes! Why do you think MOST Irish people today opt for Private Health Insurance, for example? Rather than question the motives of our so-called government, with all their Grand Plan privatisation schemes, they simply sit back and say “That’s the System, you can’t do anything about it!”. Fuck ’em, is all I have to say to those spineless cretins, who are unwilling to stand up for themselves and DEMAND to be treated like normal human beings! They deserve to be “fucked” by our our so-called government!

    Emily O’Reilly might be speaking strong language now, but she’s still a cog in the same RC machine that controls the wheels of this pathetic society of ours. She gets her paycheck from those same RC Masters. If she were to REALLY rock the boat, she’d be out of a job tomorrow!

    Words to the heat of deed do fair breath give… Off with their heads!

  3. Raymond says:

    Since the publication of the Report, I have not yet seen or heard one single genuine heart-felt expression of Unconditional Condemnation, except from the Victims themselves, and best of all from Michael O’Brien. Mary McAlese’s words are nice enough, but as she has no power, they can’t do much. But I have to admit that on the 2 occasions (the last 2 days) when I’ve seen The Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on the news, she has struck a chord with me: not only with her words, but also her stance, manner and in her eyes. I see a glimpse of Hope.


  4. Paddy says:

    Perhaps Emily O’Reilly will respond to your post Martha. There’s a chance she could stumble across this website.

  5. Martha says:

    “…despite huge improvements in many areas of the social justice landscape”.”

    And what are those, Emily, in Irish “society”?

    Ireland is not a Society, in the proper sense of the word – because it is still PSYCHOLOGICALLY dominated by Roman Catholic ideology. We are a very alienated people. We are Past Masters at playing ‘Happy Families’ (as per the dictats of Holy Catholic Ireland – old habits die hard!) but
    the truth is, very few Irish families are actually united in spirit, because of their traditional (generational) diet of RC dogma.

    NB. I am a Dubliner, born and bred (though much travelled) and I live in the southside of Dublin city – and only approx 10% of my neighbours are genuinely nice and kind to me (which I greatly appreciate) the rest are too busy being serfs to The System, i.e., shouting at their kids and driving SUV’s and “merely existing” in their posh houses.

    I perceive these “posh” people as the offspring, or rather, spawn, of parents (and their grandparents before them) who have cut themselves off from their Irish Holy-Catholic history, i.e., they have NOT examined and reflected where they are coming from. And so, they have passed their internalised DISEASE onto their own children.

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