Light 'shone into darkest corners in history of the State' - Cowen

 

THE RYAN commission report on child abuse is one of the most important reports “and almost certainly the gravest ever published in the history of the State”, Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil.

It “has shone a powerful light into probably the darkest corner of the history of the State. What it has revealed must be a source of the deepest shame to all of us.”

Opening the two-day debate on the report, which investigated the systematic abuse over decades of children in institutions run by 18 religious congregations, Mr Cowen repeated the apology to abuse victims made on behalf of the State by his predecessor Bertie Ahern in 1999.

He described the report as a “searing indictment of the people who perpetrated that abuse, of the religious congregations who ran the institutions in which it took place and of the organs of the State which failed in their duty to care for the children involved”.

He stressed that “all of us in Ireland, including the general public, must reflect on what this report has said about how vulnerable children were treated in Ireland in the past and resolve that from this shame and evil we will make Ireland a model because of the way we treat our children”.

In his address Mr Cowen said the report made “grim reading. The catalogue of horror and terror that was visited over many years on children in the care of religious congregations placed there by the State, is appalling beyond belief.

“It is made even more appalling, if that is possible, by the fact that those who perpetrated the abuse had promised to uphold and practise the gospel of love and belonged to congregations founded to serve the very noblest ideals. It is worsened too by the repeated failure of the State, which placed the children in these institutions, to inspect or regulate the conditions in which they were held or the treatment to which they were subjected.”

He highlighted that an entire volume of the report was devoted to the role of the Department of Education, including how rules on using corporal punishment were disregarded with the knowledge of the department.

Mr Cowen asked: “How did the State in whose name and through whose courts, police and laws, children were consigned to institutions which were funded, regulated and inspected by the State, preside over such conditions for so many decades? How could religious communities, founded on the highest ideals of service and compassion for the poor, so completely turn their claimed vocation on its head and inflict such suffering and neglect almost as a matter of policy?”

Each story in the report “involves a child. I cannot pick out one child above another, or elevate the sufferings of one above those of another. And to be frank, no mother or father, nor grandparent or brother or sister, no human being with a shred of feeling, could read this report without constant and intense loathing and revulsion.”

The Taoiseach said the Government would “ work with representatives of the survivors to implement the recommendations relating to them”. A plan to come before Government by the end of July for implementing all the recommendations would be “a major priority”.