Still looking for answers

On 2010-02-11, in Biography, by Paddy

Maria Pepper talks to Paddy Doyle, whose horrific childhood led to a search for the truth about his past

YOU CAN understand why some people might wish Paddy Doyle would stop asking questions and just let it go. Paddy and Ann early 50sThe God Squad author, who was born in Wexford, has been searching for 20 years to find the burial place of his mother, Lil, so he can place a daffodil on her grave.

He also wants to solve a mystery about the identity of his father after spending more than half his life believing it was his mother’s husband Paddy.

He keeps asking awkward questions about the past. There have been no definite answers in two decades but he won’t give up.

He doesn’t want closure. He hates that word. But he seems to be driven by an irrepressible urge to slot the missing pieces of his personal jigsaw into place.

The puzzle is almost complete but he just can’t nail those two remaining clues. He may never find them but he is going to keep looking on the off-chance that he does.

At the centre of his search is the heartbreaking story of a little boy who was born in Wexford Hospital in 1951 and lived in a cottage in Ballymore with his parents, Lil and Paddy, and later his sister Ann.

He was happy and well cared for, as evidenced by black and white photos left to him by his uncle John Murphy, his mother’s brother, following his death.

In the summer of 1955, when the boy was four and his sister two, their mother died from breast cancer at the age of 43. Five weeks later, her husband Paddy hanged himself from a tree in the back garden.

According to the inquest report from that time, the two children witnessed the horrific episode and remained alone in the house for several hours until someone came.

When he was four years and three months old, he was brought to court in Wexford and charged with ‘not being in possession of a proper guardian’. He was sentenced to be detained in an industrial school in Cappoquin for 11 years.

He ‘served’ four years in the school but spent much of the remaining time in hospitals around the country after developing a condition called dystonia which causes severe contraction and twisting of the muscles in the body.

He was subjected to brain surgery on several occasions and may have been the victim of medical experimentation. Metal screws and bolts were inserted in his head.

By the age of 10, the boy was permanently disabled and confined to a wheelchair.

That boy was Paddy Doyle and when the adult man in the wheelchair thinks about him now, he sees the able-bodied child pictured in the tragic garden of a rural cottage as someone separate from himself.

‘The only way I can handle any of it is to move back from it’ he says in his Dublin accent. ‘I am a person looking for someone’s mother. That protects you. That is a sort of armour you put on.’

The little boy, who frequently suffered physical abuse in Cappoquin, especially when he told his big story about seeing someone hanging, grew up to be a man who used words and humour as defence mechanisms.

In the early 1970s he met his wife, Eileen, a paediatric nurse, at the National Ballroom in Dublin. The bouncers nearly didn’t let him in that night because they said he would be a fire hazard.

He remembers the retort he gave as one of his finest moments of verbal retaliation. ‘I can cope with disability but the idea of spontaneously combusting – I couldn’t handle that,’ he told them.

The couple had three sons, Shane (34), Niall (33) and Ronan (29), whose privacy Paddy is keen to protect as a matter of family policy. The campaign to highlight the damage caused by institutionalised child-abuse in Ireland is his battle, not theirs.
Paddy and Jack Charlton
They also have two grandchildren, Seán (8) and Adam (4). He got a job with CIE when he was 21 and later became involved in disability development work. He worked on projects in UCD and Trinity College. In the early 1990s, he travelled to America as a guest of the US ambassador to view disability services there. He worked as a scriptwriter for RTÉ on a Saturday children’s programme called Pago’s Junkbox.

Later, he hosted writing workshops for prisoners in Mountjoy Prison and St. Patrick’s Institution, and also for socially deprived children.

He then joined the Rehabilitation Institute and continued working there until his retirement a few years ago.

He doesn’t have a day job anymore but he is involved in the child abuse campaign and was appointed by Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe to a committee which is drawing up plans for a memorial honouring the victims of institutional abuse.

When he sat down to write the God Squad which was published in 1988, he said to his computer, ‘I’m going to tell you a story.’ The book, which was one of the first personal testimonies written about State child abuse in Ireland, became a best seller. Paddy became a celebrity of sorts and was interviewed by Gay Byrne on the Late Late. Now, when he tries to tell his grandson Seán that he’s famous, the disbelieving eightyear-old says: ‘If you were famous, you’d be really rich.’

Many people congratulated him on writing the book, but he also received anonymous letters from Wexford telling him that what he had written was wrong. This is when he was first informed that the man who hanged himself wasn’t his biological father and that his father was, in fact, another local man who has since died.

Paddy visited Wexford many times and attempted to establish the truth but says that the community he spent the first four years of his life in ‘brought down the shutters’.

He felt that he was causing trouble by raking up the past. Paddy refers to the era of his childhood as the ‘hidden Ireland’ and though many of its dark secrets have been exposed in recent years, he can’t help feeling there is still a lingering complicity of guilty silence.

He has never been able to find his mother’s grave although Paddy Doyle, the man who may or may not have been his father, is buried in Ballymore cemetery, and both their deaths are listed in parish records.

It may be that there is no one alive now who can help him prove his father’s identity.

An RTÉ documentary ‘Flesh and Blood’, which was broadcast last month, attempted unravel the mystery of Paddy and his sister Ann’s parentage, but reached no conclusions.
Paddy viewing X-Ray
Despite a claim by local man Jim Power of Thornville that their father was an individual known to him at the time, the only categorical outcome of the programme was that DNA testing showed Paddy and Ann to be full brother and sister.

Paddy, whose maternal grandparents came from Spawell Road in Wexford, was born 16 years after Paddy and Lil Murphy got married. Ann was born two years later.

The documentary gave a harrowing insight into the inhumane treatment of vulnerable Irish children in the 1950s and the lasting emotional and physical damage that was inflicted on them.

Despite everything that has happened to him, Paddy is not angry. ‘It’s a pointless exercise. If you could target it at someone or something, it might be worthwhile, but if you’re just blasting away, it’s self-destructive. I’m a great believer in what I call constructive anger. Otherwise, it’s like pointing a gun to try to kill someone but you don’t know who you’re trying to kill.’

He gets annoyed when people say that he has managed to accept his disability. He doesn’t know anyone who would willingly accept a headache but if someone has a disability, people are eager to hear the immortal word ‘acceptance’.

He is on large daily amounts of prescibed medication for his condition but is in favour of the legalisation of medical-supervised marijuana use in Ireland, an issue he has campaigned on.

‘I’m a legal drug addict. I’m on lots of medication, all prescribed by doctors, but it’s highly addictive stuff.’

In relation to Ireland’s child abuse scandal, he says people would love to be able to say all that happened years ago and doesn’t go on now.

‘The Ryan Report covered cases that happened up to the early 1990s. Wherever you have vulnerable people you will have predators. You had recent revelations about abuse of disabled people in residential homes’.

Something in Paddy Doyle’s make-up helped him survive a horrific childhood and come out shouting – but he doesn’t try to analyse what it is.

He says he has no interest in spirituality and if he could bottle the answer to the question of how he coped with the emotional and physical brutality of his early life, he would do so and he would give it to people for free.

‘It’s one of the questions I’ve been asked but I don’t have the answer. Something drives you. There are times when I almost weep with despair and say oh, feck it, I’ll leave it so. It would be easier to walk away but because it’s part of what you are, you don’t give up. I think it’s a natural, almost animal instinct to want to know who you are.’


15 Responses to “Still looking for answers”

  1. Paddy says:

    Thank you Roberta Fisher for your kind comments about my book. I’ve screen shots of a conversation between two people in which they laughed at what I’d written in THE GOD SQUAD, The same people also ‘laughed’ at the fact my Dad hanged himself. These two people laughed and said that everything I’d written was ‘fiction’. That comment hurt me more than anything that was ever written about me. Once again, thank you for your kind words, What these “Trolls” have written hurt more than anyone who made me out to be a ‘fiction’ writer. I’m not seeking sympathy, that it not something I seek. Paddy

  2. Roberta Fisher says:

    Dear Paddy, I started your book this morning and couldn’t stop reading until I’d finished it this afternoon. Your story is heartbreaking. I felt so sad for that little lost boy that was hurt so badly. You are inspirational. Well done on having the courage to tell your story. Big big hug xx

  3. Paddy says:

    The warmth and sincerity of your comment touches me deeply. “Thank you” seems and inadequate way of expressing my appreciation to you. Very warm wishes.

  4. Sandhya Rao says:

    Dear Paddy Doyle, I picked up your book to read this morning and didn’t put it down until I had finished it… it’s not just inspiring, it is also social history and a brilliant insight into the believing world of the child. I wish you great success in your battles ahead, and may your life be all joy. Warmly.

  5. Paddy,
    how selfish of me not to have read your story before now. I am so sorry to that I, an able bodied moran, should expect you to fight our fight. What a terribly sad story, I am so sorry to say, that all I could do was cry, not much help. I, LIKE YOU,EVEN NOW, SPEAK WITH A Dublin accident. I have never lived in Ireland as a free person, apart from a couple of months of winter 1959 as a homeless person in backstreets of Dublin, after my release from Artane. Oh Paddy, I know that one day your last breath, will be that? question.
    Paddy, after my parents were found by British Police, they had me well educated & trained as an ice skater, I became one of UK top iceskaters. Here in Australia as a professiponal iceskating coach, taught the impoverished and disabled ice speedskating with miraculous results, and never made a cent. GOD, it was so rewarding, to see my bunch of ill equipped, but well trained waifs compete against the wealthy, healthy Gladiators, and we waifs, won the day. You are doing a great job Paddy Doyle, and you have renewed my almost lost faith in the Irish people. No wonder the poor old English, had so much trouble.
    Twisted Oliver

  6. Hanora Brennan says:

    Could never agree with David Icke and his ‘belief’ system as to our origins! Perhaps there’s a reptile in all of us!

  7. Dove Ui Dalaigh says:

    Paddy I believe that you have to protect your Children is proof of the Cowards of the Romans. You are Celt even if you know not. No Man has stood Braver and with such Chivalry. I wish I could take it all from you. But that is what our Life Brings a future without. Be Proud as we all of you are of your valiant and success to free use all. You are the Man. A Great Protector of your own Sacrifice to Defeat the Beast. So we can All Stand to be who we are. Angels Arise fly to the Skies. Battle is Won our in the Beast Defeat.

    Thank You from us all. I feel I can say that without transgress I take on an appreciation to you for all survivors of Abuse. Throughout the World. The rest of those that represent themselves and a few. You give us all strength it runs through you.

    Never Met but King I bet. There our battles leave them unfought. No represents all. But you inspire all to represent.

    Sorry for taking up to many comments. Worse than Barries long ones. Girlie Barry. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Lifes a bit of shit when you look at it, Soooo always look on the Bright Side of Life. Thanks for a say.


  8. Dove Ui Dalaigh says:

    Here Hanora a bit of Thinking from my Faith.

    My first son removed at 10 days. My Second Son not cry because Dad and Mum recognised his as I did with first his body lanuage request. Arms Lift up he wants to be held, Arms lift up and mouth chews he wants feed. No crying for those requirements. He Spoke his first Word Oliver before a month. Spoke first sentence Oliver I love you before two months. Barely audible. He understood the Words being sang and sat when I sang Sit. Though I sang sit on your ass each time he could not stand longer. He understood the words Stand when I sang the same. He makes verbal conversation far better now. I ask his name and he says Oliver. I belive that that may be the Francinsense Murr and Gold. Body Mind and Immunity. Without crying from pain of hunger. He gets his Mum’s Milk at the times he needs to Grow. His Digestion tract and organs learn their requirements for enzyme production. He no Longer has a Placenta and umbilical Cord to Feed the Growth Stages. His not crying from incoherent Pain of Hunger and where are my protecters. Means Better Pscyhological Development of the BioChemical Brain Chemistry and would Lower the Biochemical overloads generated by the Jesus did not cry by Miricle of God so all other children Cry. But crux is from what? He does Cry but with rationality not adversity. The Mums Breast Milk provides Antibodies to back up the Child developing Immunity. Jesus was born in Barn not Hygenic. Plenty of Bacteris, Spittle from Lowing Cattle etc…. Possible research into inter Human Imune Transferral. If you can get a concentration of Immunotoxic Live Cells and inject into a body then maybe The decease may be Defeated. HIV get T-Cells and store then inject on mass into HIV Person increasing T-Cell Count may give Backup to Immune System and may help to defeat HIV. Just Thinking the way I was Born. Pscyolocically more Sturdy Mind and Peacefull Rationality. Better Body developement and better Immunity.

    Peace to All.

    Love the Dove

  9. Dove Ui Dalaigh says:

    Oh hanora Colm Translates from old latin to Dove. We where also Poets, druid. All the saints like Brigid where end of Liniege by Roman comman. We where providers. Druid Brigids familyprovided Weaving Grass and reeds for many Purposes. Our Last Ard Ri gave his Life to save our people. He is depicted in the GPO. Though normal method like americas Garroting or burnt at stake. Our God is mightier than yours. They come with arms an exclaim they are to protect themselves get close to the leaders and treaten genicide. A body was pulled from the bogs garroted. The Celts would lock up law aka lore in myths and legends. I am revalating against the Romans Snakes with their Snake Religion and Legal Profession. A vicious People with no mercy or justice. Our faith was one of the transience of Life troughout Nature. Nothing really die we are reborn again trough all things. Plants Animals, Rock and soil etc… The ever changing Wheel of Life. Solctice 2012 the Soon the Celestial Wheel of Life closes to Return. The Granges near Tara map, Built by he Founders of the Illuminaty the Tuhata De Nannan, born of the Mother and Father Gods. Father Planet and Mothe Earth. Of which extends to Prehistory the Myths where how we recorded history and advice. Jese Fingure in Fish, Oily Omega 3, Oisin burst bubble of Salmon of Knowledge. Similar troughout. To Rome world Flat Ancient Legends, Atlas caried round Planet around sun, Similar Vietnam a giant turtle. On occassion we rebirth to this Human form.

  10. Dove Ui Dalaigh says:

    Hi Hanora,
    Sadly in Thailand can not take medication here Death Penalty or Large back hander. After my Ex-solicitor and family destroyed my Healing and Closure and Life Recovery Plans I prefer Death Penalty. But like Creative writing and fantasy flight. My original Family name is anagrammed to the Dial. Our Heraldric is one Lion, the High King and Cuncillers to the Assembly of Ireland. Also Around the High Courts recognised by use of non phonetical translation of Original Calling not bastardised by transltion to English.

    Great medicine that herb, Treats many condition combined, Dystonia MS, Depression, Anxiety, Migraine and Tension Headaches, Pain to Cancer Levels and many more. Two types with hybreds Satavia give soaring inspirational high as well as medical aspects and Indica stronger and more medicianal. Some conditions need research as in MSer’s one plant helps one person while other is need by another MSer.

  11. Hanora Brennan says:

    Colm, that must be the best of ganja! I’d like that ‘trip’!

  12. Anne says:

    Barry, I have not received the posters yet??..My friend Leanne Bourke has passed on much information through her broadcasting/radio work..but I still need posters? We sent our Address in the last mail I sent you..


  13. Paddy says:

    Who’s Miss Clifford? I know of a Mr. Clifford – maybe he’s a cross dresser or something!!!!

  14. Paddy says:

    Catherine, thanks so much for your very kind comments. They are very much appreciated. Take care. Paddy

  15. Paddy you are an inspiration to all. Hope one day you will seek what you are looking for. Thank you for all the hard work you do for us survivors.