How the State Betrayed its Innocent Children: by Bruce Arnold Gill and Macmillan, 351pp, €16.99

BRUCE ARNOLD is no stranger to the heavy hand of the Irish State. In the 1980s his phone was illegally tapped by a Fianna Fáil government. Many of us have read his articles about the residential institutional scandals, the church/State culpability, and the subsequent cover-up of crimes against helpless children. In his new book, The Irish Gulag: How the State Betrayed its Innocent Children, the journalist catalogues overwhelming and damning evidence that the Irish State was engaged in unlawful acts of such momentous proportions as to send shockwaves not only throughout Irish society but throughout the world.

Arnold reveals the history of residential institutions and the involvement of the Catholic Church. He chronicles how the State encouraged this process and incarcerated generations of children, condemning them to inhumane torture and slavery – and how they were stripped of any rights whatsoever. What emerges is the State’s deliberate neglect and abandonment of its child citizens, while purporting to be concerned about their welfare and needs. It demonised the natural parents of the children while, in fact, it was the demon.

This is a political work that will give people everywhere an understanding of what was happening in Ireland under a regime of brutality and fear. Chapter after chapter deals with how this terrible legacy began to emerge into the public domain. From the early rumours of abuses through to the States of Fear and Dear Daughter documentaries, the State’s apology and the setting up of commissions to inquire into residential institutions, it is all here.

One would imagine, given the sheer volume of the evidence now brought forward, that the Irish State might step up to the mark and deliver us natural justice, but this book gives the opposite view.

Indeed it reveals how the State and the church were working hand in glove; how their pact was designed to involve the State in the protection of the church. For example, when discussing the broad remit of the Ryan commission, Arnold notes that the key issue, “of Government responsibility for allowing the system to run and for allowing a non-stop supply line of children to troop into their places of misery and damage, was not to be investigated. Nor was it.”

The State here stands accused of astonishing incompetence and mendacity. As Arnold documents, it “made no provision for controlling church assets and freezing them in respect of legal obligations over crimes of the most serious kind. It did the least it possibly could do in preventing the destruction of documents, or the transfer of money, belonging to the religious orders, out of Ireland. There were no penalties against individuals or organisations cited in the Redress Act for possible abuse. All they get are indemnities. The religious are indemnified for their very existence, for all but a small proportion of their expenses, and against any calumny whatever.”

The Irish Gulag will further alarm the public. And with good reason. For rest assured that romantic Ireland is truly dead and gone. This volume will place the Irish State up there with the most oppressive in history. Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany will now have the company of the Irish Church State, a brutal regime that perpetrated acts of unimaginable horror on its most vulnerable children.

But the final chapters of this story have yet to be written. While Nazi Germany and its henchmen were dragged before the Nuremberg trials, and while the legacy of Joseph Stalin has been exposed, the Irish State and church is still largely intact and protected. Let us not forget that none of the evidence gathered by the State in the Ryan report can be used as evidence in any court of law.

Reader, your elected Government – your democratic State – defended itself and the church against the consequences of their hands in barbarous acts. And in realising how members of an elected government conspired to elude justice at the expense of democracy and accountability, we can understand just how controlled a people we are. The truth, they say, will set you free. Unfortunately, the truth of Arnold’s work will send you into shock and anger at just how devious the apparatus of a democratic State and government can be. The shock of this book will come when the public learns how far this State, its agents and servants, tried to pervert the course of justice. In conclusion: there is no conclusion, there is no closure, there is no healing. Not yet. The State has now insulated itself and the church against any wrongdoing; in doing so it victimises further not only those it incarcerated but the nation. Indeed, it will take generations to heal and understand this trauma. The Irish people will suffer for a long time to come.

It is important to know that in the coming time everything will be offered by the church and the State that money can buy. Heads will roll, and sacrifices will be asked for from all. They will beg for forgiveness in the hope that they will get away with the crimes committed.

At this very moment more money is being offered; it’s important to know that this money is being offered as a charitable gift and carries no liability of guilt. If the State accepts this money, it is an attempt to bribe yet again the people out of lawful justice. This in any democracy is a gross debauchery reprehensible to the spirit of the human being and should be condemned immediately. The Irish peoples’ reputation will be eternally damaged by this.

As victims, each of us must own our own hurt – our own personal history. As Arnold writes: “The abused remain on the legal fringes of our society, their legal status often in limbo, still looking, still waiting for the modest recompense that most of them would settle for if it were to be given in the right spirit.”

As Irish citizens we must all take ownership of the hideous public history now being written so honestly and courageously by one of Ireland’s finest journalists. Go raibh míle maith agat, Mr Arnold, your work brings us forward to a truth that will set us free.

Mannix Flynn is a writer and artist. He is artistic director of Farcry Productions, an elected member of Aosdána and a former board member of Imma


15 Responses to “SOCIETY: MANNIX FLYNN reviews The Irish Gulag:”

  1. Pat Doyle says:

    it was i might add a video – plus the shooting gallery

  2. Pat Doyle says:

    Hi Mannix – for my degree show at wexford art and Design i did an installation on abuse in the industrial schools. It was a five minute video – a shooting gallery using catapults to reek revenge on the abusers (ashmen with dark glasses and a collar. And another part was done as a grave a memorial to Peter Tyrell. The show goes on until 4pm this friday and it’s at the Old Vocational School near Selskar abbey. If you have time i would like you to come and give me some feed back. I will be showing the video at the Kilmore Key film festival near the end of september and would like to get out the message about the horrific way in which our children were abuse by the Systm Pat Doyle

  3. mary c johnson says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth. I was a day pupil at the Mercy Convent and orphanage.
    Although only 12 years old I suspected the orphan children were suffering. Chilblains on their very thin hands.

    Looking forward to reading the Irish Gulag when it comes to my local library in Santa Rosa California.

    God Bless Kathleen & Bruce for bringing these abuses to light.

  4. Libertygirl says:

    Kathleen I believe our families knew each other many moon’s ago in Bridge Street, I am sure it is you who played with me and my sister among others when we were all very young before we were sentenced and detained in the child prisons. We lived almost next door we were the wild ones,.A long time ago ,even though we were poor we were never hungry ,In the Industrial child Prison we were starved. It is amazing how you picked yourself up and achieved so much We are all proud of you. Keep up the fight for justice. Well Done. I have just bought your book will read it tomorrow as it’s now 4am .

  5. Kathleen O'Malley. says:

    “Don’t hold your breath.
    Yes indeed’ the Lawyers should return a large % of their earnings as most of the work carried out was repedative. I had the distinct impression as time went on, their attitude towards the Survivors was indifference, they were really just tolerating us. We were treated like “Legal Aid” subjects. (the poor people) Meanwhile their Bank Balance was growing by the second.

    Kathleen O’Malley. Author.

  6. Paddy says:

    Thanks for that Kathleen. It was clear from the very outset that the lawyers were going to make a fortune on the backs of people who had been abused. Now that the religious orders are hinting at making more money available to survivors of abuse, it is my belief that we can dispense with the lawyers. If anything, we should be asking them to give back some of what they earned for doing very little work. Frankly, it was ‘handy money’ Paddy

  7. Kathleen O'Malley. Author. says:

    Why was it necessary for us to have to prove the Truth.
    It was the Courts, Judges, N.S.P.C.C., religious, and Government who were the Slave Traders. Why then did we have to have Lawyers to prove what their representatives had actually dictated. Who were the winners financially, both the religious and the Lawyers.
    May I suggest to all Survivors that they contact the N.S.P.C.C. (Cruelty Man)or I.S.P.C.C. and demand an apology.
    The Irish Taxpayer should question why their hard earned money was squandered in this matter.
    Kathleen O’Malley. J.P. Author. “CHILDHOOD INTERRUPTED”.

  8. Martha says:

    “Arnold reveals the history of residential institutions and the involvement of the Catholic Church… What emerges is the State’s deliberate neglect and abandonment of its child citizens, while purporting to be concerned about their welfare and needs. It demonised the natural parents of the children while, in fact, it was the demon.”

    Quote, Mannix Flynn.

    Yes, but the VAST MAJORITY of Irish citizens – that is, Irish parents themselves – went along with this barbaric Church & State policy of kidnapping children to fill those profitable Roman Catholic Child Gulags with. And of course there were parents who did all they could, but could not protect their own offspring from this terrible fate – but the fact is, MOST Irish parents and guardians of children did not care about their own offspring, such is the power of religious ideology on destitute people. Soup Kitchens spring to mind..

    If I can’t make my own soup, what is the point of my life?

  9. Martha says:

    The Irish people themselves need to wake up and realise they are ruled by their own home-grown greedy fools and have been since the so-called Free State was formed!

    How many Irish people question their own parents participation in this Banana Republic of ours? VERY FEW.

  10. Kathleen O'Malley. says:

    I am the Author of “Childhood Interrupted”.
    Many Survivors like me have written and told our stories over the years,
    Indeed the Irish People definitely must learn to ask questions open their ears and minds and not believe everything they are told. I and others have for many years repeated that the Religious benifited financially from using us as “Child Slaves” therefore they should have called to account and paid the market rate. Slave labour must be paid for. Slave Masters must be recognised as such.
    When will the People of Ireland wake up and smell the coffee.

    The British had their failings but they had their Regulations. When Ireland gained its Independence, it abandoned the Rule Book.
    Punishments were never recorded, they ignored rules and Sadism thrived. Had the State done its job effectively we would not be in this situation.

    At least the Rosminians kept a “sample”punishment book.
    No one monitored what the religious were up to.
    For those who took solemn vows of POVERTY, CHASTITY and OBEDIENCE , the Lust for Money has been proven to be all to apparent.
    Kathleen O’Malley. Author of Childhood Interrupted.

  11. May Cornish -Henderson says:

    Dear Paddy
    The religous or the Irish Goverment only apologise when they are found out. Justice will only be done whenthe convictions we received as infants are expunged

  12. Andrew says:

    As victims, each of us must own our own hurt – our own personal history. As Irish citizens we must all take ownership of the hideous public history.

    Well said that man.

  13. Lilith Barrett says:

    How true this is.

    Bruce has the courage to speak truth just like you Paddy.

    Church and State and judicial system- family law still work hand in glove.

    Still the same secret gulag courts where the law is not obeyed by those purporting to serve Justice.

    It is Just Us in truth.

    I want to state here for the history record that in 1995, these family courts were still trying to drag innocent children off to their institutions for being too strong willed and telling the truth.

    Not only that, but Electric Shock Therapy was ordered by the HSE.

    So, we need to shed a light on these secret courts who still order women home to obey violent husbands.

    And just like yester year and all the abuse, naieve Irish people think it does not happen in their country.

    Well, it did and it still does.

  14. The Redress Board. What Redress? The Irish State,the ISPCC, the Religious, the Courts (and it’s Judges)back in 1959 (13 March) when I as a young 2 year 11 months and 3 weeks old child was subjected to unimaginable injustices by means of a collaboration of the aforementioned parties in ensuring by denying my Irish Constitution 1937 Rights, my Human Rights under The International Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (as amended)a certain conviction under the 1908 Children’s Act (Lacking Proper Guardianship) by means of Purjury. Yes, Purjury. Basically, the Religious (Daughters of Charity) lied to the courts when they agreed I was without proper Guardianship, a lie – I was in their (loco Parentis) care 3 weeks prior to my Court appearance after my Grandmother asked for help in raising me due to an enlarged family. I have a letter from my Grandmother to the Daughters of Charity asking “how little Martin is?” – she had no idea that I had already been to Court and wrongfully been convicted.

    The ISPCC lied in their submissions to the court. Even as they lie to the court in documents, they are well aware of the terrible fate that awaits me when the Religious get theirr hands on me Illegally through the courts. The ISPCC (a spin off from the NSPCC) are the very people who porport to protect children, are actually in collaboration with others in ensuring I am abused, in complete contradiction to their remit.

    The Courts (Mullingar District Court Judge)again in collaboration with the above parties were party to the injustice perpetrated against me and thousands of others, and how. No one can tell me that the various District Judges throughout Ireland who signed Detention Orders under the guise of the 1908 Children’s Act did not know they were in breach of the rights the child was entitled to, by not ensuring they had legal representation, but worse, by not themselves questioning the lagality of what they were being asked to be party to. Their failure, through their knowledge of the legal system and their failure to ensure fair play is testement, and proof of their being in collaboration with all other parties aforementioned.

    Why was all this done. Well it is so simple, money. The 1926 Charity Act allows such people as Judges and Religious to be members of charitable committees. With a constant supply of financial means (in the form of innocent children) and all the aforementioned benefiting from that financial “Gold Pot” why not just carry on, after all, the Irish State is benefiting too, by having a Social Prooblem taken out of their “lazy-good-for-nothing-hands” with all parties happy, save for the poor unnfortunate child, destined to be kicked, punched, starved, and worked to a skeletal state of being for years, all sanctioned by a set of self serving money grabbing inhumans.

    Challenge – The Redress Act 2002 is not your legal cop out. No sir, you can forget hiding behind that Act. How about I can show you were acting illegally in your convicting me and others!! I can quite simply. You (all of you) say that we were never seen as criminals, well, if you don’t see me as a criminal, why are you in touch with the “Probation Service” in England months before I leave Ireland? should you not have been in touch with Social Services? after all, you were writing to the Probation Service even as I am still only 11 years old, or was it younger? Anyway, that is your first mistake.

    Your second mistake is in the Redress Act 2002 itself. You see, that Act only covers the time I spent in an Institution. Until my Court appearance I am not yet Institutionalised, it is only on conviction by Order of Detention that I become a member of an institution. If you recall, you were acting as Loco Parentis up to my conviction, after my conviction I now belong to the state as a convicted felon, conveniently for you, don’t you think?

    Anyway, back to the challenge. I am willing to speak quite frankly to anyone who will listen about how not only did the aforementiond parties collaborate in my conviction, but as if to add insult to injury my legal representatives M E Hanahoe got in on the act by collaborating with all the aforementioned parties when they answered my question just as