McAleese urges vigilance to eradicate domestic abuse


PRESIDENT MARY McAleese has called on the Irish people to be “nosy neighbours” so as to ensure an end to domestic abuse of the old, the young, women and men.

She has also queried the corporal punishment of children in the home.

“Community is the one great answer to this. Being nosy neighbours, being caring neighbours is the first step to knocking down that wall behind which all sorts of wicked and weird things can happen,” she said.

‘‘We’re not the naive fools we used to be, domestic abuse is not just something that happens in the privacy of a person’s home and never escapes outside the front door. We now have information, thanks to research and to courageous people who’ve told their story,” she said.

In an interview with Woman’s Way magazine, published today, the President has spoken of how so many of the centres of gravity in Irish life “have taken quite a hit, most of their own making.”

She said: “Government, banks, churches – these were the source of deference, these were the places people looked up to and now I think there’s a righteous indignation around as the human fallibility of these institutions is revealed and they all come to terms with that.”

She hoped “that, over the next couple of years as we’re faced with the downstream consequences of these things, that we’ll have the kind of good, probing, deep and wide debate that allows us to throw into the mix all sorts of new ideas, all sorts of new distilled wisdom that will help us to come out of this much stronger, much more intuitive and in many ways, a much better society beyond this, knowing there will be – and are – casualties.’’

“I think our role is to try to minimise those casualties, to be community to each other and to use it as a really important opportunity to learn about human nature and how to counter the downside of human nature as best we can.”

She said that what “the Ryan report has helped us to understand, through the courageous people who revealed the fragments and tatters of their lives to the Ryan Commission, is what happens to little children at adulthood when you raise them in an abusive environment,’’ she said.

‘‘They were able to show us a trajectory of misery, a trajectory that creates cyclical problems that do not go away, in fact, they get worse. Thankfully, some were able to transcend their problems, but many more were not.”

She continued ‘‘what we now know about what happened in those institutions is still happening in homes in Ireland and we have an obligation to those little children who were the victims of abuse in State homes as we have to women who are victims of domestic abuse, as we have with men who are victims of domestic abuse and to older people who are victims of domestic abuse.”

She had “never heard the words ‘elder abuse’ and it would never occurr to me that it could happen, until a few years ago”. She commented “the more private these people’s lives, the easier for abuse to fester.”

Where children were concerned, she recalled that “when I was at school, corporal punishment was perfectly acceptable. I thought it was an atrocious thing because it so often was imposed in anger and for a child to see an adult angry in that way is probably a very poor example to a child. Today we don’t have it in schools but it still happens in the home.”