Child abuse, Archbishop McQuaid & Bunreacht na hÉireann

This blog has previously visited the issue of the vast extent of child abuse perpetrated and covered up by representatives of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

More of the truth – of widespread rape of children and a subsequent blanket of lies to conceal those crimes – was revealed today with the publication of the Irish Government-commissioned Murphy Report into abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese (summary and links to full report here on RTE).

The report tells a tragic tale of the abuse of hundreds of children at the hands of priests. The child rapes may have been carried out by individual priests but the cover-up was systemic, carried out by the institution of the Church, over a period of decades and under the direction of a series of Archbishops from John Charles McQuaid in 1940 to Desmond Connell, who retired as recently as 2004.

While the Church may have been criminally responsible for hiding the crimes in order to protect its wealth and privileged position in Ireland – sacrificing the innocence of hundreds of children on the altar of money and power – it was the Irish State which permitted the Church to get away with the crimes and collusion.

The State is now – belatedly – helping to bring the Church to account for its sins of the past, but it owes the children of the present and future the constitutional protections which it denied those who came before.

John Charles McQuaid – subsequently Archbishop of Dublin – famously influenced then Taoiseach Éamon de Valera in the drafting of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, which gave "special position" to the Catholic Church. Amnesty is today reiterating its call for a change to that Constitution to put in place children's rights protections that would make impossible a repeat of the sort of abuse outlined today and in previous investigations.

As Irish Section director Colm O'Gorman put it today: "Unless our most fundamental law demands that we put children’s rights at the heart of the decisions we make they will remain targets for abuse and neglect."

Colm also went on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this evening to talk about his own experiences as a teenage victim of clerical child abuse who went on to sue the Church and campaign for truth and justice for the victims. It is a shocking, amazing and inspiring interview – a tale of triumph of humanity over heartlessness. For the next week you can listen again here (9mins 40secs into the programme) on the BBC iPlayer.

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