A public inquiry into child abuse in schools is vital | #childabuse | #children | #kids

The dam burst of allegations of physical and sexual abuse of pupils at some of the country’s most elite schools, by members of the Spiritans Catholic order, has caused renewed upset and anger in a country which has been profoundly shocked by the scale of religious abuse which has emerged in recent decades. Great credit is due to the two brothers, Mark and David Ryan, who participated in last week’s RTÉ radio documentary which highlighted widespread abuse at Blackrock College, a secondary school noted for its rugby culture and code of loyalty, and other Spiritan-run schools in Dublin, elsewhere in the country and in Africa.

o far, at least 233 men have made allegations of abuse against a shocking total of 77 Irish priests from the Spiritans, some of whom were serial abusers who had unchecked access to children throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Most of these children are now aged in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The majority have never revealed to family or friends what happened to them in these prestigious institutions of education. Yet, as is almost always the case, what was going on was suspected by many and known by others in authority at the time.

It is not good enough to suggest that what occurred is in the past and to reassure parents, communities and the wider country that such abuse would never occur now. That is the least to be expected. What is needed is full transparency into what happened and for those responsible who may be still alive to be held to account.

It is reassuring gardaí are investigating the allegations and all those with information — whether victims or those in positions of knowledge and authority — are strongly urged to come forward to co-operate.

However, a criminal investigation will never reveal the full extent of what went on at these schools. It is one thing to hold those directly responsible to account before the law, but the code of ‘omerta’ which was deeply engrained in a culture fostered by the religious order concerned also needs to be ripped away. When the Garda investigation concludes, a strong case exists for a wider state-led inquiry into the physical and sexual abuse of an unknown number of boys.

What is striking in this case as in so many others which have emerged in recent years in other schools around the country, as well as at reformatory schools where young boys were incarcerated, is not only the secrecy, misguided by guilt and shame maintained by victims born into an era of reverence for the Catholic church, but also how that church itself has handled the allegations to date.

So far, around 80pc of the brave men who have shared their horrific experiences at Blackrock College with the Spiritans, or Holy Ghost Fathers, have received no financial compensation, while around €5m has been paid out to the remainder. Similarly, some but not complete financial recompense has been made by the Jesuit order following revelations of abuse at its highly regarded schools.

Apologies from these orders, and from the schools themselves, are undoubtedly heartfelt and well made but the modern-day practice of some religious orders in attempting to minimise their financial exposure to compensate victims cannot continue to be tolerated.

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