Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Ireland my one, my only love, where Christ and Caesar are hand in glove" - James Joyce

Today I was reading the Irish Times letters on line all of which were about the Ryan report. The majority of the letters expressed a belief (shared I am sure by any sane person) that the abuse of children by the church, and allowed by the state, has no place in a civilised society and called for compensation to victims. However, a number of these letters also expressed the opinion that these abusers were only a handful and that the good work of the church within the schools and hospitals needs to be acknowledged. This is were I start to have a problem.

That emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children was carried out by a minority may be true but none of these abusers were working within a political or social vaccum. They were working alongside other religious and secular people who, while maybe not taking part in the abuse, were aware that it was going on. The very fact that these children were ALL to scared to tell someone and that nobody watching the abuse stepped forward to speak of it shows that the whole of Irish society is implicated in this scandal. One letter writer pointed out that the compensation to be given to victims will work out at €400 per taxpayer, and doesn't the Irish person get off lightly.

All I can hope is that the danger of allowing one ideological system to control a state will be remembered from this harsh lesson. That a huge number of children suffered, and still suffer today as adults, needs to be acknowledged but cannot be changed. These victims need to be given an opportunity to tell their stories and rather than becoming jaded Ireland needs to continue to be outraged from each new detail that is learned but what we then do with this new information and outrage will define us as a nation.

In my eyes there has never been a clearer argument for the separation of social services and the church. It is time or the state to take control of schooling, religious orders have proved that they have no place in education. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past we will never learn at all. How right was Joyce?

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