CLOSURE IS the last word Paddy Doyle, author of The God Squad , wants to hear in any discussion of the commission report.

“I hate that word. I don’t want to be told I have ‘closure’ now that a report has been published,” says the former resident of St Michael’s industrial school in Cappoquin, Co Waterford. “We can’t get on with our lives. It’s not that easy.”

It’s 20 years since his autobiography appeared, detailing the abuse and humiliation a small boy suffered at the hands of the Sisters of Mercy in the school.

Mr Doyle was sent to Cappoquin at age four. His mother had died and six weeks later, his father hanged himself in front of his young son. In the school, he endured a brutal and cruel regime and suffered frequent beatings. “You were beaten with a bamboo cane until you screamed, and then they believed the devil was out of you.” When he was nine, he was sent to hospital and diagnosed with “post-polio”. He was subjected to leg and brain surgery though there was no evidence that anyone was authorised to carry out these procedures.

The commission, while worthy, could have had a more confrontational investigations committee, he believes.

“There will be no prosecutions arising from any of these hearings and that cannot be.”

EVEN BEFORE the commission report had been published, Mannix Flynn was dismissing it as a “total joke”.

The playwright, artist and now election candidate was speaking yesterday from Letterfrack, Co Galway, while standing in front of the reformatory building where he spent two years in the late 1960s. Furniture-making is now taught at the college.

“The State has failed to investigate itself. You can’t look at what happened in isolation. It was part of a system that was perpetuated on a class in society.”

Mr Flynn refuses to join in what he calls the “sentimentalising” of the stories of abuse as contained in the report. The retelling of individual stories, and the use of terms such as “survivor” or “victim” are, he claims, ways of further pitying the working class and assuaging middle-class guilt, rather than tackling the problem.

Not a word in the report can be used in evidence against abusers, he points out.

On being sent to Letterfrack in 1968, he says, he was subjected to extreme violence and witnessed horrendous abuse and torture carried out by Christian Brothers and lay workers. “Society at large remained completely indifferent to the violence, the slave labour, the starvation, so you were left to the mercy of the Brothers and the various gangs that roamed the yard.

“I want to see the United Nations called in to investigate how 150,000 people ended up in this system.”
© Paul Cullen The Irish Times 21st May 2009

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