Archbishop defends abuse inaction

Mon, Jun 8, 2009, 01:00

THE ARCHBISHOP of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said he did not do more about concerns he felt 40 years ago about Artane industrial school because his role “as a seminarian in my 20s was in helping those young people to integrate into society”.

At the time, he said, “social workers, health boards and the diocese were trying to reform and eventually close down the institutions . . . Consensus soon emerged that the best – and indeed the only – option for Artane would be to close it down, which happened in 1969.”

He was responding to queries prompted by remarks he made in an article published in The Irish Timeson May 25th.

There he wrote: “The Ryan report shocked me. But it did not totally surprise me. I was ordained 40 years ago today and at my ordination and that of a friend we had a group of former residents of industrial schools: people of our own age, great people and friends of ours.

“As students we had worked in a hostel in Dublin for former residents of industrial schools, especially Artane. Later I worked in a centre in London for ex-prisoners, a large proportion of whom included generations of Irish industrial school residents.

“The stories they told then were not radically different from what the Ryan report presents, albeit in a systemic and objective way which reveals the horror in its integrity.

“Sadly, the Ryan report came so late.

“Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time.

“The information was there.

“A chaplain to Artane (Fr Henry Moore) had put much of it in writing. A few courageous and isolated journalists like Michael Viney spoke out. When the first efforts were made to reform Artane, it was patently evident that the only change possible was to close it down.”

Responding to queries arising from the article as to why he hadn’t done more at the time, he replied:

“In the mid-1960s with others, I worked in a hostel established by Archbishop McQuaid in 1961 for children leaving industrial schools, especially Artane, and other young people in need of shelter.

“Children left industrial schools at 16 and were very often entirely on their own.

“We did consistently hear stories of severe physical abuse and Dickensian conditions there. There was no mention of explicitly sexual abuse.

“The situation was referred by Archbishop McQuaid to the Department of Education.

“This information was common knowledge at that time to those involved in social work with young people.

“The well-known report of the chaplain to Artane was commissioned at that time. Few articles began to appear in the press,” Dr Martin said.

He continued: “It was sad to see talented young people whose talents had not been fostered. I never met one Artane pupil who had entered secondary education though many of them would have done well there.

“More striking was meeting older former Artane pupils in Britain where they were very much the ‘forgotten people’.

“There was a very high proportion of former residents of Irish institutions in prisons, very often because they had received no support. Again this was common knowledge in prison care and aftercare circles.”