Perpetrators still 'amenable for crimes' - McAleese


PRESIDENT'S REACTION:PRESIDENT MARY McAleese’s declaration yesterday in the United States that those guilty of abuse in religious institutions should be brought before the court is in line with State policy, the Government confirmed last night.

Responding to questions in Boston, the President said: “Well. we have had a number, quite a number, of convictions over recent years of people who did exactly these things, of abusers.

“Some of them I suppose have gone to their graves and have had to answer to their god because they were not made amenable to a court. But 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.”

However, she expressed understanding for the Ryan commission’s decision not to name any of the abusers listed in the five volumes of reports, believing identification would have scuppered subsequent prosecution. “If we look at what the Ryan report was trying to accomplish. think it did a very good job in accomplishing what it was asked to do,” she told journalists on the final day of her US visit.

“But, the story of the names, the naming of names – the lawyer in me says, that if, for example, the report had named people who were still alive, and who are culpable, that was a surefire way of ensuring that they would never be prosecuted because of course it would impact very grievously in terms of prejudicing any future prosecution. But I don’t think there would be any stomach among the Irish people for running away from the question of criminality. Quite the reverse, I would have thought,” she said.

Mrs McAleese’s remarks, though unusual, perhaps, in their frankness during a foreign visit, are entirely in line with remarks made by members of the Government in recent days. Last night, a Government spokesman said her remarks were “exactly what the Government has been saying. No matter how long back in the past, these matters will be investigated in whatever way is possible.”

On May 26th, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said: “These children were placed in institutions by the State and the State had a duty of care to them. The victims were betrayed by the State and we must ensure that this can never, ever, happen again. Those orders whose members committed the abuse must too face their moral responsibilities.”

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern urged those with evidence of abuse to come forward – no matter how many years have passed, if their efforts could help secure prosecutions. “I would urge as many people as possible to co-operate in helping convict perpetrators who have yet to face justice . . . I know it is very difficult for them but the gardaí are there to help and build evidence for future prosecutions.

“There are some who witnessed evil being done and who may have vital information to offer. Their help even at this late stage could prove pivotal in grounding future prosecutions.” Fully agreeing with the President, Mr Ahern said the abuses were so enormous they could not be swept away.

“As a nation we must try and come to terms with it but, from a legal point of view, there are procedures and there’s a court system.”

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has asked a senior officer Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, to review the Ryan commission’s report to see if it could be used to initiate prosecutions.