Bruce Arnold

When the Murphy Report was published, the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, made his pithy but pointless remark, that ‘a collar will protect no criminal’. He also asked us to reflect on how the culture of deference to the Church came about. He did this, knowing that neither statements would be tested. He also knew that no one in power would reflect meaningfully on the culture of deference.

Within 48 hours, as the faithful rallied to support the Bishop of Limerick, it became clear that the state would play a limited role in the disciplining of the Church, through further investigation of the protection given to abusing priests, since the legal framework for this is inadequate. Nor would there be an explanation of just how the protective clerical collar, which immunised most priests and the auxiliary bishops from the laws of this State since its foundation, would do so no longer. Instead, the entire process of disciplining the Church has been left to the determined Vatican fire fighter, Diarmuid Martin.

As to any reflection on how the culture of deference to the Church came about, this too would not take place. And Dermot Ahern knew it to be the case since this vital area of reflective national shame was not part of the Murphy Report and would not be confronted.

The worst area of dereliction in the Report by Judge Yvonne Murphy and her legal colleagues, Ms Ita Mangan and Mr Hugh O’Neill derives from the Commission’s failure to address the question of how the Irish State and its people, notably its children, were subjected to legal structures that were either inappropriate (Canon Law) or demonstrably inadequate (Statute and Common Law).

The chapter on Canon Law gives a dismal picture indicating senior churchmen fumbling over how Canon Law worked in controlling abusive priests. Successive archbishops seemed ignorant of the 1922 ultra-secret Crimen Solicitationis, in controlling sexual abuse of minors. This all reads like the sixteenth-century operation of the Inquisition. As a legal measure for stopping the diocesan abuse cases it is laughable. This Canon law document operated within the state, without legal remit; the Report’s examination of this is not satisfactorily addressed.

It is easy to overstate the intrusion of Canon Law into Irish law. Canon Law was a concept affecting Ireland by influence rather than application. The influence was huge, allowing bishops and ultra montane canon lawyers to control, impose and reinforce the culture of secrecy and silence, and to resist State intrusion. It had little to do with case law so that few Irish Canon lawyers had court experience. Yet the Roman Catholic Church made sure not to follow the Church of England, where ecclesiastical law always recognised state law and acted as its agency.

On the contrary, it would consistently betray the State and its children, and investigation of that, by the Murphy Report, is in my judgement, inadequate. A crucial dimension, represented by political voices or analysis of the attitudes of the Executive and the politicians who made our laws, is entirely absent.

This State-appointed Commission ranged outside the State, using inquiries in places like Boston, though not examining Merrion Street closely. Why Boston, while the Church, decade after decade, allowed abuse to flourish and religious orders run riot in the industrial schools? Parallel feebleness is evident in the level of investigation of the Health Boards through the HSE.

Another grave area of omission is in the Report’s chapter on Irish civil law, both common and statute. Better examination of the shortcomings in legislation and the revision of laws is required. For example, why did the State omit sexual offences from the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act of 1998, following the Omagh bomb? We knew the clerical sex abuse problem was looming, historically and contemporaneously. We also knew that alternative legal remedies were flawed in respect of concealment of offence and the pernicious moving of priests from place to place.

Is it not a nonsense that this Act, in a far-reaching provision extending beyond the general scope of the legislation, makes it an offence not to disclose to a guard information believed to be of material assistance in preventing or securing the conviction of any other person for serious offences? And then to exclude any offence of a sexual nature? This was madness; but what is almost worse is the failure of the Murphy Report to deal fully with these anomalies and absurdities in our legal system.

In 1996 the Supreme Court stated that the offence of misprision of a felony still existed, making it a legal duty on citizens to disclose to the proper authorities all material facts as to the commission of a felony of which they had knowledge. Why was this not used? Why did Murphy not investigate more fully the issues involved?

Most seriously of all, why did the State, in the Criminal Law Act, 1997, abolish the distinction between felony and misdemeanour, thus making it far more difficult to sustain misprision, an effective weapon if properly re-defined? Also, why did the State, in the same Act, explicitly repeal the offence of compounding a felony? In its place was a daft provision, as far as clerical sexual abuse of minors was concerned, making it an offence ‘to accept any consideration other than making good any loss or injury suffered for not revealing information that might be of assistance in securing the conviction of a person who has committed an arrestable offence’? (Section 8 of the Act. An arrestable offence is one for which the maximum prescribed term of imprisonment is five years or more.)

In conclusion it is worth asking the question: Why, in a State where car owners may need to tell a guard who was using their car (Road Traffic Act, 1961), or where workers in financial institutions are obliged to report when they suspect a customer is laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking or other crimes (Criminal Justice Act, 1994) or where, if a firm’s accounts indicate a possible offence, auditors are obliged to report that to a guard (the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001 ), do we not have a parallel provision for concealment of child sexual abuse? Maybe Judge Yvonne Murphy will address some of these points before Murphy Part Two appears?

Irish Independent.



  1. Raymond says:

    Well Seanie, I heard the word on the radio for the first time this morning, seems one of the papers has it; of course, it’s all about the roads and the big freeze: “The Government would do well, to remember that some things the People don’t forget…..such as The Bastille….!” Things are so askew here, that revolution could come from any quarter. These days we thank our “famous people” for talking about their depression, but nobody wants to spend even one second, asking “What was going on in their lives (now or earlier) that causes their depression”. It is just a Shame that the most vile of crimes – the Abuse of Children – isn’t enough to break this over-developed concrete camel’s back. Good on you Seanie for helping so many. Raymond

  2. Charles O'Rourke says:

    Are we to wait for a letter from Ratzinger the main actor in this global criminal network?. What could he possibly say that he has not already said?. Does he believe that the sheep will passively remain in their folds as the wolves work out a plan of damage control?. He has done nothing to put right the wrongs visited on several generations of Irish children. I have said it before that the one great fear of the Emperor is a revolt by the Irish laity. Joining forces ,survivors and laity will bring real change not because they the Roman Church want it but because they have no other choice. First on the list is the disbanding of all orders investigated in the Ryan Report. I believe the word in church speak is” suppressing”. That is a minimum demand. Now Ratzinger get on to your ambassador and give him instructions. We are now using diplomatic channels as you suggested.

  3. Charles O'Rourke says:

    Sean, thank you for your bravery. It is inspiring to know of the wonderful people who write here. We have a battle ahead and bravery is needed. There is something in the air that is new and refreshing, a sense of confidence and boldness. The emperor is naked and we are to put an end to one of the most sordid chapters in our history as a people. I vote for bringing the battle to where they preach all of the nonsense they themselves do not believe in. I vote for the occupation of a church and the establishment of free dialogue with members of the laity who justly feel anger at the criminality of the Roman Church. If the laity want to reclaim their church then this is the moment to make a move. Do they honestly believe the church Mafia is about to voluntary give up their way of life. We and the laity have much in common, both have been used to further the power of this criminal group. Change, real change is not going to happen without a revolt by the laity.So therefore we should establish an alliance with those members of the laity who wish to take back their church.

  4. Thank you Raymond for your kind words, and I thank Paddy for this platform on which I could express a small portion of my thoughts and experience’s. One of the boy’s, Steve, who was in Glin with me read an article I had in the Limerick Leader and Irish Times a few years ago, he wrote to me and begged me to keep in touch as he was very disturbed from his own experience and I figured suicide was an option he considered, thank God he is still alive in London and we correspond often, his sisters committed suicide quite some years ago, they had also been locked away from society, and whatever happened there. Their crime, father and mother had died. Some of the boys and one lady whose brothers served their sentence with me, no parents either, she was sent to a convent and abused there, keeps in touch, Margaret, suffered at the hands of the nuns, one brother died from cancer, Michael, never heard an apology nor did he live to see this day. I keep in contact with some others who were unfortunates and we afford strength to each other even though we are in different countries.

    Thank you again Raymond.


  5. toby says:

    I found all the flowery tributes to Daly dispiriting. Ok, we should not speak too much ill of the dead but he was Bishop and Primate at a crucial time when the Church clearly needed to get a grip on the damage child abuse was doing. To his eternal shame, he failed miserably and I think someone should be publicly pointing that out.

    Vincent Browne told us that Daly’s motto was “Don’t funk it, face it”. Well, Daly and his colleagues funked it big time. He is even condemned from his own mouth, and the “people’s tribune” Vincenzo Browne could not even point that out.

  6. Raymond says:

    Seanie (and Anne too)

    Thank you very much for your story (here and on Dec 29th). The “extremes” of your life make it all the more poignant: to think that Primary School and Care should DRIVE you into the Special Forces; that you should suffer PTSD from your treatment as a Child, and not from your terrible experiences in Malaysia; it is so “the world up-side-down”. Congratulations again on your wonderful family and your achievements, especially now that you are helping children and seeking Justice. And good luck with the book. Let us know when it’s out.


  7. Anne, It never crossed my mind that you and the girls went through exactly the same fate as us boys, you are walking a mile in my shoe’s, and my heart goes out to you. Yes, we ate the berries on our walks, ate the sea weed in the Shannon and God help you if you were caught, as I remember of the 240 of us there was not one single boy who was thicker than a blackthorn stick. I was diagnosed with Post traumatic stress disease a couple of years ago, I could not understand why I cried at the mention of a child being hurt all my life, now I know. I always thought I was too tough, special forces, jungle fighter, paratrooper and all the frills attached to being a guy who could take it on the chin and come back at you, as I close my eye’s each night I recall and I am back again in the now demolished prison, St. Joseph’s. My heart goes out to you Anne and all of those children and may God take our failings into account as we all go to meet him. God Bless.


  8. Anne says:

    Yes Seanie I remember the pig food. I also never forget the Sunday walks and how glad we were just because we could take the berries off the trees because we were that hungry our bellies hurt so much. I remember crushing the berry’s we “stole” of the tree’s and crushing and spitting in them to try and make a jam! and I recall how we were beat around the heads when we got caught! We never had the strength for those walks did we? little children starving hungry day in day out, year after year hoping mammy would come for us.

    God bless you Seanie, may you always have peace.


  9. Imagine, just imagine if you can, no fancy idle talk, no whining, no crying and eventually no self respect, have a look into my soul, I invite you in, the tears that I have shed would raise the level of the Shannon River above my waist,the waist, (waste) of a thirteen year old gangster who stole and begged for food for a fatherless family of six, worked for pennies whilst mooching from school to do so, a family living in an abandoned butcher shop as squatters, infested with rats, sleeping on straw, and then my sentence passed by the hanging Judge Gleeson, you should be flogged, he quipped, as I was led into the hellhole called, St. Josephs Industrial School, in Glin. My memoir is at present ongoing so I will run through my experience just to remind any Bishop, Priest, Christian Brother or lay person what you have done to me, I left Ireland shortly after being released, married a proddy in a register office five years later, to whom I am still married, 53 years now, raised three fantastic children whom I did not and will not allow inside a catholic church, the six grandchildren and three great grandchildren will not cross the doors either, thank you for that, I pray in my shower every morning for the souls of those who abused me and my friends, friends that I keep in touch with even from the farthest point that I could place myself from Glin, British Columbia, Canada. I learned a couple of trades,in my new country, was accepted into University at age 50 which in itself was a miracle because I did not receive an education in Glin, I was used as a shoemaker, farm hand and a religious scholar and singer. What I did learn there was useful when I reached age 21, I had learned to survive in Glin on what they called food, gruel, rotten smelling minced meat and pig food the latter stolen as we spent our nights watching their well being and bonhams, I apologise to the pigs for that. My expertise gained in Glin allowed me easy acceptance into the elite SAS. I surprisingly survived my active service in the jungle of South East Asia even though I did not care if I did, a form of suicide gone wrong,memories are made of this when you are released from Glin, I made one more attempt with the shotgun in my mouth, alas, I remembered my lovely wife and son and am thankful I failed, thankful now to see the people held accountable for the brutal abuse, suffered by us children, being held accountable at last.
    My life went on and still does, I formed my own Investigative company looking at children being abused in many of my cases and am glad God had a plan for me indeed, I continue at age 74 and hope to see the Church acknowledge their mistakes and offer me and my surviving friends an apology.

    Thank you Paddy for allowing me a space to express my point of view.


  10. Anne says:

    Once again Barry, well said!

    With you all the way.

    Happy new year to all


  11. Hanora Brennan says:

    Anyone that can pen a leter should be contacting every member in the Dail and Seanad and be left in no doubt about your feelings. Postage is free when you write to your TD and govt. ministers – just put freepost on the envelope.
    From incarceration to final release we were used and abused in horrific circumstances. If we have courage (and I think we have it in spades) we will stop and think, turn around, raise the fists and go for it!

    We’ve slept long enough and the strength gathered from that rest should now stand us in good stead for the battle that’s ahead for us.

    Try to ensure that 2010 is remembered in the history books along with 1014 and 1066. Let this be the decade of decisive action!

  12. Raymond says:

    Thank you Bruce for your insight, your clarity and your book The Irish Gulag.

    With such minds and experience (in recording the facts) as offered by Bruce Arnold, can there not be ONE FORMIDABLE TEAM assembled to fight both this Vatican Monster (and its Officers in the land) as well as the Politicians who have all failed the Victims? At the moment, there is only one lone soldier gone to take her case to the European Courts; this is the lady who won but lost her case against her School Principal. Who is behind her? Who is helping her to expose and denounce the Irish State?

  13. Michael Hull says:

    “The chapter on Canon Law gives a dismal picture indicating senior churchmen fumbling over how Canon Law worked in controlling abusive priests.”

    I have news for them, there is no cure/control at all for paedophiles(American spelling). You either kill them or keep them locked up without access to children for the rest of their lives. Since every paedophile in creation seems to find a position in the catholic church, I’d ban the entire filthy religion.

  14. Charles O'Rourke says:

    This is the year when it must come to an end for the former prisioners of the Roman Empire. The Emporer has lost his magic and stands naked and ridiculed,His garrision troops in disaray. His princes exposed as no better than criminals.The populace may revolt although that is not certain. Such is the effects of their brain washing that the citizenry stand in shock, numbed and inactive. Therefore words no longer fill any real function anymore. You do not speak a populace out of shock by words and more words. More exposure although neccessary will only confirm what we know. This is the point where the Republic changes its course or dies. Bad as the British were they never stooped to the behaviour of The Roman Empire by ravishing Irish boys and girls.It has to be hammered into the Irish that Ireland is a colony of Rome and as such pays dues to the Emporer. Leaving them in control of vital functions of the State such as education and health must change, Lacking the political will to do so may mean the experiment is over and we would just as well re-apply to join the UK. At least we would have the benifits of a secular society.

  15. Portia says:

    Brilliant article Bruce.

    Well thought out and logical, making it crystal clear of the deliberate covering up of abuse and the law designed to make it so.

    And yes, the HSE have been doing the same covering up for abusers too- shocking as that may seem to people- it is true -will be in the media shortly.

    Only a few years ago,abused children were punished for telling the truth and their punishment was prison with ECT.

    Now why did the HSE want to keep the abuse hidden and use ECT to blank the memories of the innocent children involved?

    This proves that covering up child abuse in Eire did not exist only among the men and women of “god”.

    There are other sadistic psychopaths in positions of power and because of non accountability in HSE- once again- secrecy and cover ups continue.

    Spineless “ministers” merely obey their evil masters.