President calls for 'massive debate' on abuse report


MASSACHUSETTS VISIT:PRESIDENT MARY McAleese, has called for a “massive public debate” on Mr Justice Seán Ryan’s report on child abuse and for those who bear most blame for the abuse it documents to consider if they have done enough to address the needs of the victims.

“Some people seem to think the Ryan report was designed to bring closure. I don’t know where they got that idea from. The opposite is the case,” she said.

“This report is about opening up that which had been criminally closed, outrageously closed, furtively and secretly closed. It’s about opening it up.”

Speaking to reporters in Springfield during a six-day visit to Massachusetts, the President said it would be inappropriate for her to comment directly on the 2002 compensation deal agreed between the government and religious congregations.

She said, however, that important moral and legal questions must be addressed in the light of the report.

“Insofar as we know that story now from the Ryan report, there is a big question about how now do we meet the ongoing needs for support and amendment for those who suffered. There’s a huge moral responsibility to have this debate,” she said.

“Is enough being done? Has enough been done? And what needs to be done to offer to those whose lives have been so skewed by this experience and who are still living with the consequences?

“There is a huge question to be asked about what needs to be done and how best it can be addressed, in particular by those who carry the greatest amount of culpability.”

She said the debate on the report’s findings must prioritise the needs of those who suffered in the institutions and that Irish society must determine why such abuse was allowed to continue for decades. There are clearly legal responsibilities.

There’s a catalogue at the very least of criminality identified. There’s a catalogue of waste in terms of lives that were handed over in good faith to institutions where children were entitled to expect a decent education, where they were entitled to expect a loving education, where they were entitled to expect their emotional, physical, psychological, educational needs to be met. And they weren’t,” she said.

“There are legal questions to be asked, there are moral questions to be asked, there’s that big why to be asked. And all of those are questions that we need to understand this report opens up. It doesn’t close. It opens them up for a massive public debate. And in particular, a debate that should focus the attention of those at whom the finger points in the Ryan report.”

The President said that today’s Irish society was able and willing to confront with candour the darkest parts of the country’s past, adding that the Ryan report itself embodied the contemporary spirit of openness. “The old days of false deference to authority are long, long since gone and that is absolutely no harm at all,” she said.

“Because in behind that false deference, things happened to human beings that should never, ever have happened to any human being.

“And I see an Ireland that is absolutely determined that that was the past, it is not going to be the present and it is certainly not going to be the future of Ireland.”

Yesterday afternoon, the President attended an open-air lunch in Springfield hosted by Democratic congressman Richard Neal, chairman of the congressional Friends of Ireland. She thanked Mr Neal for his support for the Northern peace process and for his efforts on behalf of thousands of undocumented Irish immigrants in the US.

“The United States has played a unique role in Ireland’s path to peace and prosperity. The leadership of Richie Neal has been central on that journey, a journey that continues on its way as we speak, a miracle of healing and durability,” she said.