27th July 2011
The point I wish to raise concerns the aforementioned Amnesty International report by Dr. Carole Holohan, which was informed and reviewed by an independent advisory group and commissioned by Amnesty International, namely, In Plain Sight, Responding to the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports. At 430 pages, the report is of considerable length and obviously will take Members time to consider. It would be worth our time both to read it and to consider how best it could be debated in the House. The report acknowledges and understands what went wrong but also is working to ensure we establish a child protection system that is fit for purpose, lest we ever allow this to happen again. The “we” on which Amnesty International puts value is not simply about the church or the State but pertains to “we” as a society. In Plain Sight calls on us to acknowledge the extent to which the systematic abuse and exploitation of the tens of thousands of vulnerable Irish children in State and church run institutions was known across Irish society. The report does not purport to play the blame game. It moves beyond what has been to date a largely factual discourse about the who, what, where and when of the widespread and systematic abuse in question to a more philosophical and sociological analysis of why. To understand why it happened will help us to transform the present.
At the launch yesterday, Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International, said:
But the focus cannot be purely on the past, as if this history has no relevance for our society now. We must consider the degree to which this history reveals vital truths about the nature of our society today. The past only becomes history once we have addressed it, learnt from it and made the changes necessary to ensure that we do not repeat mistakes and wrongdoings.
Another striking and vital feature of the report is the acknowledgement that the abuse survivors endured is not only morally repugnant, shocking beyond many people’s comprehension and patently illegal, but amounts to a grievous violation of their human rights. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, launched the report yesterday and acknowledged the Government’s legislative agenda. This House needs to have a debate about that agenda. I also ask the Leader to call on the Minister to redouble her efforts to ensure the constitutional the amendment to strengthen children’s rights is held without delay, that we ensure the full implementation of the UN convention on the rights of the child in Ireland, study the report and use it to inform our policy on child protection.