Commission to Investigate Child Abuse
Sir, – Problems with the report of the 2009 Commission to Investigate Child Abuse (CICA, the “Ryan Report”) go beyond inflating numbers detained in industrial schools and reformatories, from approximately 40,000 to over 170,000 (see Irish Times, 26, 27, 30th November). As acknowledged officially, I alerted CICA last May to the error, first recognised publicly by Eoin O’Sullivan in 2015.
The Commission report is also unclear also on how many abuse testimonies, in total, were heard. Hence, The Irish Times is itself unsure. Simon Carswell wrote on November 30th that the Commission “heard evidence from almost 2,000 people”. An editorial comment the same day has, “a total of 2,490”.
CICA’s Confidential Committee reported hearing evidence from 1,090 former residents. Investigations Committee lawyers appear to have spoken to 493 witnesses, giving a total of 1,583. Various figures can be found scattered in different parts of the 2009 Report. It is unclear if any double counting is involved. In addition to its inflated numbers I alerted CICA also to errors of omission. Its report said nothing about a matter I am researching, the extent of abuse in Protestant ethos Smyly’s orphanages.
It appears that few (if any) Smyly’s victims spoke to CICA. They thought it, as reported to me, a “Catholic thing” or “for Catholics”. Why don’t we know for sure? Testimony given to CICA was not broken down by institution. Institutional case studies were based on receiving testimony from 20 or more residents of particular institutions, 19 Roman Catholic, one state. However harrowing the experiences detailed, this self-selection methodology is not the full story.
Within a state-licensed sectarian system of welfare provision, one side of the sectarian fence was ignored. Consequently, confirmed persistent abuse in Smyly’s institutions did not (and does not) feature in media reports. Protestant communities are largely unaware of it. Fate has smiled on Smyly’s, if not on Artane, Goldenbridge and Letterfrack.
The problem is replicated in the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB). Though Protestant-ethos abuse victims spoke to the RIRB, it too refuses to provide an institutional breakdown for the 15,581 people the RIRB compensated. The RIRB refuses also to state how much compensation, per institution, was paid to victims. As a result, we do not know how much Smyly’s abuse cost the taxpayer.
Furthermore, unlike Roman Catholic Religious Orders, the Church of Ireland ethos institution did not contribute to the state’s controversial abuse compensation fund. The entire budget of Caranua, that helps abuse victims, is drawn from that fund. Some of those assisted are from Smyly’s.
It is unknown how much RC money was used to attempt restitution of Protestant-ethos abuse. That is because Caranua, too, refuses an institutional breakdown.
The government should instruct, with necessary funding, CICA, the RIRB and Caranua to provide the essential statistical information outlined here. It should never have been denied in the first place. This initiative should be in addition to reversing plans to close off research on abuse files, as proposed in the Retention of Records Bill (see Letters, 4th December). – Yours, etc,
Dr NIALL MEEHAN,
Journalism & Media,
Griffith College Dublin.