2 Jun 2011

Two years after Ryan report on systemic institutional abuse still no prosecutions Irish gov tells UN torture committee

Irish Times   -   May 30, 2011

No charges two years after Ryan report into child abuse

by JAMIE SMYTH, Social Affairs Correspondent

NO ONE has been prosecuted over the discoveries made by the Ryan report into child abuse in residential institutions, which was published two years ago, the Government has revealed.

In a written submission to the United Nations Committee on Torture, the Government says 11 files have been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to prosecutions on the basis of evidence provided by the Ryan report.

The DPP has directed no prosecution in eight of these abuse cases and decisions are still pending on the remaining three case files.

The report found “sex abuse” was endemic in State-run children’s institutions over a period of five decades. It was published on May 20th, 2009, following a 10-year inquiry.

In the wake of the report’s publication, the then government and President Mary McAleese said the report could be used to bring perpetrators of child abuse to justice.

One in Four, the campaign group which works with victims of abuse, said yesterday it was very disappointed at the lack of prosecutions arising from the report.

“It is very disappointing and distressing for the survivors of abuse who have been waiting a long time for justice. One of the main reasons some of the survivors gave evidence to the Ryan commission was in the hope that it would result in successful prosecutions of abusers,” said Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four.

Ms Lewis said the lapse in time since the abuse took place, a lack of witnesses and a lack of evidence probably hampered the ability of the State to take prosecutions.

No information is provided in the Government’s submission to the UN on why no prosecutions have so far been sought in relation to the files sent to the DPP. But the submission says a further five files will shortly be forwarded by the gardaí to the DPP.

A Department of Justice spokesman said it had “nothing to add at this juncture” about the lack of prosecutions.

Speaking in May 2009, Mrs McAleese said: “Insofar as the Ryan report catalogues acts of criminal neglect or violence that were perpetrated by people who are still alive, then I think we have to say, absolutely, without any fear of contradiction that they remain amenable for those crimes”.

Then minister for justice Dermot Ahern urged people with evidence of abuse to come forward to help secure convictions.

New evidence has also emerged about delays to the State’s multimillion-euro plan to respond to the Ryan report and “a lack of clarity” on spending on measures by the HSE.

The Department of Health has strongly criticised the HSE for mis-reporting the amount of money it spent in 2010 on the State’s plan to respond to the Ryan report.

In late 2010 the HSE told the department it had spent €14.27 million of its €15 million allocation for responding to the report. In 2011 it told the department it spent €4.68 million on Ryan report measures.

“It is important that we have clarity and consistency as to the position with regard to the application of development funding for this specific purpose,” wrote Michael Scanlan, secretary general of the Department of Health, in a letter to HSE chief executive Cathal Magee in March.

The misreporting of spending occurred because the executive initially included money spent on recruiting social work staff on an agency basis. This occurred due to delays in the recruitment of 200 additional full-time social workers, as promised under the Ryan implementation plan in 2010.

The plan also promised to provide funding for counselling services for victims of abuse. But One in Four said yesterday it had to wait until January 2011 – 1½ years after the Ryan report was published – for the promised funds.

The Children’s Rights Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 NGOs advocating on behalf of children, said it was “extremely concerned” about the misreporting and “disappointed” with the Government’s fulfilment of the Ryan report implementation plan.

This article was found at:


Dublin Archbishop says Irish church not indoctrinating enough children, secular society advancing

The untold story of abuse in homes run by Sisters of Nazareth in Belfast and Londonderry

Government inquiry into child abuse in Northern Ireland institutions announced after pressure from clergy abuse survivors

Irish government rejects calls for Murphy Commission to investigate every diocese in Ireland for child abuse

Murphy report reveals Vatican and Irish bishops enabled Dublin priest to rape hundreds of boys for decades

Previously censored chapter of Murphy report showing shocking abuse and cover-up by Irish clergy to be published next week


  1. Asylum seekers in Ireland languish in the Magdalene laundries of our time

    by Gavan Titley, The Guardian October 3, 2012

    A key conceit of Ireland's "Celtic tiger" boom involved reading economic growth in cultural terms. The "boom" was attributed not only to the genius of exceptional political leadership, but also to a fundamental shift in values among the wider population. Neoliberalism and the liberalisation of society were in harmony, and if this didn't quite signal the end of history, it marked a definitive break with a past often represented as a long dark night of conflict, emigration, and the suffocating hegemony of the Catholic church.

    As society in Ireland continues to be forced to pay for the consequences of boom-time speculation, it may well be that it is the present that is more of a foreign country.

    However, as the renewed public focus on the systemic abuse of the Magdalene laundries indicates, the conceit of a "past" transcended was as ideologically self-serving as the elite desire to represent the property bubble as proud proof of national arrival.

    Last week, a Sinn Féin private members motion in Dáil Éireann urged the government to issue a long-overdue apology to the survivors of the Magdalene laundries, an act that would allow them to draw pensions and access a reparations scheme. The government argued that it was obliged to wait until the end of the year for the final report of the inter-departmental committee investigating state involvement with the laundry system, and the motion was defeated.

    In reacting to what was widely regarded as another stalling tactic – by a state that has cynically sought to extract itself from responsibility for these "private institutions" – the survivor advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes noted the injustice of needlessly prolonging the wait of a diminishing group of elderly women. They are entitled not only to restitution for their incarceration in a brutal system, but recompense for their labour, having been exploited and enslaved in washing the clothes of a society where they were hidden in plain sight.

    The implacable callousness of the state has at least served to refocus attention on the nature and scale of the unlawful imprisonment imposed on "deviant" populations. The Journal.ie published an account by Samantha Long of a meeting with her mother Margaret Bullen, who, when she met her at the age of 42, "looked like a pensioner". Sent to Gloucester St Magdalene Laundry at the age of 16, she died 35 years later, after a life deemed worthy of little else than hard labour and abuse. In The Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole drew on Eoin O'Sullivan and Ian O'Donnell's book Coercive Containment in Ireland to place the laundries in the context of a highly organised "shadow system of confinement" that also encompassed industrial schools, psychiatric hospitals and "mother and baby homes", and where "at any given time between 1926 and 1951 … 1% of the entire population" was incarcerated.

    Given the acute testimonies of suffering and the sheer scale of the systemic abuse, public debate has sought parallels and allusions in other histories. The Labour TD Michael McCarthy described the Magdalene laundries as "our own Holocaust". With far less exaggeration and more analytical precision, O'Toole described it as an "Irish gulag system".

    continued in next comment...

  2. continued from previous comment...

    Historical resonances are important, but there is a danger in replicating the stark division of Irish history into a benighted Catholic past and a better, liberal present. Ireland continues to produce and confine "problematic" populations, only now it is not "fallen women" and the problematic working class locked up by a patriarchal church and state, but the "human waste" of a fragile global economy, migrants locked up by states committed to stemming human mobility while tapping the mobility of capital.
    At present, approximately 6,000 people live in direct provision accommodation centres in Ireland while their asylum claims are processed. Originally introduced as an "emergency measure" in 1999 to speed up asylum determination procedures, over a third have been in this system for more than three years, and waits of seven or eight years are not unheard of. Unable to access education, employment or frequently even to cook for themselves, asylum-seekers are accommodated and fed, and granted an adult weekly allowance of €19.10 (rates that have not changed in real terms since their introduction over a decade ago). For this other population, also corralled and controlled outside of society, it is unsurprising that anxiety, depression and ill health are widespread.

    No comparison should obscure the particular forms of violence and suffering that mark different experiences. But the parallels are politically important. Ill health scarred the lives of children in industrial schools – a recent report has documented the appalling conditions and health problems of the children of asylum seekers, who constitute one-third of the population of the direct provision system.

    According to O'Toole, thousands of people died each decade in the neglectful conditions of psychiatric hospitals – in September Emmanuel Marcel Landa became the latest person to die in the direct provision system, and as Sue Conlon of the Irish Refugee Council noted, "the impact of long delays, lengthy residence in direct provision accommodation and the real threat of deportation may well have been a contributory factor in Mr Landa's untimely death". The forced separation of the wrong type of families mocked the Catholic emphasis on the sanctity of the family – today a hugely costly and ineffective deportation system separates families, and deports children born in Ireland to "home countries" they have never been to.

    It is an easy argument that "we must look after our own", especially in an acute recession. However, the history of the "Irish gulag" illustrates the thinness of any such national fiction. Further, the system of direct provision, introduced during the "boom times", must be understood primarily as a politicised system of deterrence and control. It is this systemic violence that unites the wasted lives of the "immoral" and "deviant" subjects of the past, and the "bogus" and "undeserving" of the present.

    In one of her last pieces on a system she did so much to investigate, the late Mary Raftery noted that "Irish society was deeply complicit in the incarceration of women and girls in the laundries". There are faint but hopeful signs that contemporary Irish society may recognise its complicity in the abuse of asylum-seekers, and organise to support and defend them.