May 28, 2009 / 8:59 AM / 10 years ago

Irish president says abuse report didn't come as shock

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s president said on Thursday a harrowing report into how Catholic priests and nuns had abused children had not come as a shock after her own convent school experiences.

A crow flies past the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, in Dublin, May 20, 2009. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

“I had a fair idea it was happening,” Mary McAleese said in an interview with state broadcaster RTE.

“I was educated by Mercy Nuns, my brothers went to Christian Brothers schools. Some of the stories that come through the Ryan Report would not be unfamiliar to us.”

Revelations of floggings, slave labor and rape in Ireland’s now defunct system of industrial and reform schools have shamed Irish people, particularly older generations who did not confront the widespread abuse.

The report, chaired by High Court Justice Sean Ryan, criticized the Department of Education for colluding in the silence surrounding the abuse and noted children were also preyed upon by foster parents, volunteer workers and employers.

“I had always known that culture, that ethic, that domineering authoritarianism, allied unfortunately to a culture of corporal punishment and a culture of abusive corporal punishment,” said McAleese.

“It was pretty much a landscape of our childhood.” McAleese was born and educated in Northern Ireland which was not covered by the report.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said this week that information about the abuse had been around for decades.

McAleese, a former professor of law, said abusers should be prosecuted as a result of the report.

“In so far as there are people still alive who are responsible for these criminal acts then surely part and parcel of what comes out of the Ryan report is and should be that they are brought before the proper authorities.”

The inquiry did not name abusers after a successful legal challenge by the Christian Brothers, which had been the largest provider of residential care for boys in Ireland.

A spate of scandals involving sex predator priests has dislodged the Catholic Church from its once pre-eminent position in Irish society but there is anger that many have avoided jail.

Religious orders named in the report have come under pressure to pay more compensation to victims. A 2002 deal capped their contribution to a redress fund at 127 million euros ($177 million). The total bill is expected to top 1 billion euros.

In the United States, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims in the largest compensation of its kind.

Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; editing by Robert Woodward

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