When I read Christine Buckley’s letter in the Irish Times on Friday 11th April I was a bit taken aback. Ms Buckley was fulsome in her praise of Bertie Ahern for his apology to survivors of institutional abuse in Ireland.
I remember being very angry when Ahern made that apology. I felt he made the gesture, not because of the suffering of the abused but because it was politically expedient to do so and also formed part of a strategy to save his beloved Catholic Church from further damage.
The subsequent Redress Board set up by Ahern’s government is, in my opinion, a bullying monster that operates under Soviet style regulations and secrecy.
I didn’t respond to Ms. Buckley’s letter partly because she herself is a victim of the Catholic Church holocaust of abuse so I was happy when another victim did write in response.
Both letters are reproduced here.
In recent days the pivotal role of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in changing Irish life for the better in vital areas such as the peace process and the economy has been rightly recognised. However, there is another and no less significant act for which the Taoiseach shall be forever appreciated and admired by those to whom it meant so much.
In 1999, Bertie Ahern gave an unreserved apology to the survivors of institutional abuse in Ireland. In doing so lifted the veil of secrecy, stigma and injustice which had dogged our lives and impeded our futures. His apology touched our hearts profoundly, because it was clear that he had listened to survivors with a depth of commitment unequalled by any other politician, apart from the then minister of education, Micheál Martin.
This became evident in the swiftness with which he followed up his words with actions that supported the healing process for all of us who had endured the regimes of the various institutions that had destroyed our childhoods.
Despite all his recent troubles, Bertie Ahern will always hold a special place in the hearts of abuse survivors for his compassion and courage in standing with us, his efforts to bring about redress, the respect he gave us all as individuals and organisations. On behalf of all survivors, I thank him.
CHRISTINE BUCKLEY, Aislinn Centre, Jervis Street, Dublin 1.
Christine Buckley (April 11th) lavishes praise on Bertie Ahern for his management of the economy, for his role in the Northern peace process and his apology to those of us who were institutionalised and abused by various organisations of the State and by members of religious orders, all in the name of childcare.
Ms Buckley seems to forget that the apology given by Bertie Ahern was not something he gave willingly. It was brought about by the revulsion of people who watched the States of Fear programmes on RTÉ.
His apology came about just before the screening of the third programme in the series, when the government and the religious orders were being shown to have covered up the most horrendous abuse of innocent children.
As Taoiseach, Mr Ahern and various members of his Government were aware before the screening of States of Fear that institutional abuse of children in the care of the State was widespread.
My own book, The God Squad, highlighted this issue 20 years ago, yet not one single member of any government or religious order ever apologised to me, or indeed to the many thousands of children who were served with “Orders of Detention”, rendering them criminals.
Perhaps before he leaves office and fades into the background of Irish politics, the Taoiseach will rescind those orders of detention served on children as young as one year and who today are in effect branded as criminals under the 1908-1941 Children’s Act.
According to Ms Buckley, Mr. Ahern’s apology “lifted the veil of secrecy, stigma and injustice which had dogged our lives and impeded our futures. His apology touched our hearts profoundly, because it was clear that he had listened to survivors with a depth of commitment unequalled by any other politician, apart from the then minister of education, Micheál Martin”.
Mr Ahern’s apology did not touch my heart. It didn’t touch the hearts of many thousands of people who were abused while in the care of the State. The “veil of secrecy” to which Ms Buckley refers was lifted long before Mr Ahern uttered a word of apology. There is no evidence I know of that Mr Ahern listened to survivors? I hold the view that, were it not for the sterling work of journalists such as Bruce Arnold and Mary Raftery, no apology would ever have been forthcoming from Mr Ahern.
I can only surmise that the “swiftness with which he followed up his words with actions that supported the healing process for all of us” is a reference to the Redress Board, set up to “compensate” people who had been detained in industrial schools around the country and treated brutally in every sense of the word.
As one who appeared before the Redress Board, I’d like to elaborate on its secret proceedings; but to do so would see me being fined €2,000 in the first instance. Were I or anyone else who appeared before the board to speak about what went on behind its closed doors a second time, we would face a fine of €25,000 and/or two years in prison.
Surely Ms Buckley can’t regard what I view as a perversion of natural justice as being in any way a “healing process for all of us”.
PADDY DOYLE, Ardagh, Co Longford.