Abuse was 'human rights failure'


The abuse of thousands of Irish children, as revealed in the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports was “perhaps the greatest human rights failure in the history of the State,” according to Amnesty International Ireland.

Executive director Colm O’Gorman said much of the abuse described in the Ryan Report meets the legal definition of torture under international human rights law.

“Children were tortured. They were brutalised; beaten, starved and abused. There has been little justice for these victims. Those who failed as guardians, civil servants, clergy, gardaí and members of religious orders have avoided accountability," he said.

“The Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports tell us what happened to these children, but not why it happened. We commissioned this report to explore that question because only by doing so can we ensure this never happens again.”

He  was speaking at the launch of In Plain Sight: Responding to the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports, a report by Dr Carole Holohan and commissioned by Amnesty International.

It was launched at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin this morning by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, who said one of the causes for what had happened to children in Irish schools, clubs, churches and communities was deference.

“At every turn, Irish people kept their mouths shut out of deference to State, system, church and community. When they should have been unified in fury and outrage they were instead silenced, afraid to even whisper a criticism against the powerful,” she said.

A poll accompanying the report found 71 per cent of Irish people surveyed believed “wider Irish society bears some responsibility for what has been revealed in the Ryan, Ferns, Murphy and Cloyne reports”.

It also found 88 per cent believed “individual members of society should have demanded the State act to prevent child abuse” while 85 per cent felt “individual members of Irish society should have done more to protect these children.”

The Red C poll was conducted for Amnesty International between July 25th and 27th last. The Cloyne report was published on July 13th.

Among the report's findings is the absence of clear lines of responsibility and the failure of the law to protect all members of society equally. It noted the low level of convictions among perpetrators of the abuse outlined in the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports.

Ms Fitzgerald said the findings in these reports strikes at our very national identity. "Whatever happens to us, we Irish like to believe we are fundamentally a good people. Kind. Generous. Brave. Open-minded," she said.

Other Red C poll findings were that 58 per cent felt “helpless” at findings of the Ryan report into the abuse of children in residential institutions. It was published in May 2009.

A further 52 per cent felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what to think about findings in that report while 35 per cent found it “too upsetting to engage with.”