On 1st December 2005 the Court of Criminal Appeal certified that former nun Nora Wall (Sister Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy), had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. During the course of the hearing it was revealed that a young woman was lying when she gave an eyewitness account under oath of seeing Ms. Wall help to rape a 10-year-old girl. The girl was allegedly raped by Pablo McCabe, a homeless schizophrenic man, while Nora Wall held her legs.
Patricia Phelan 32, said that in 1996 a friend of hers (Regina Walsh) told her that she had been raped by Pablo McCabe and that Ms.Wall, then a Mercy nun had held her down. Regina Walsh had already made a complaint to Gardai and asked Ms. Phelan if she would make a statement. Ms Phelan did make a statement claiming to have seen the rape. She went to the Central Criminal Court in June 1999 and gave evidence at the trial of Pablo McCabe and Nora Wall. Her evidence was crucial in securing the conviction of Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe.
Just how crucial was Phelan's evidence? Well the second major charge against the two accused was that they had raped Regina Walsh in 1990 on her 12th birthday - not an easy date to get wrong. Pablo McCabe was in Mountjoy prison on that date!! Even in the atmosphere of hysteria and lunacy that blanketed Ireland at the time, the jury might have started to doubt Walsh's credibility if it had not been for her "witness" friend. As it was, the jury found the two accused innocent on THAT rape charge but convicted them on the other.
[On 16 December the three judges of the Court of Criminal appeal gave detailed reasons for their decision. In relation to Regina Walsh they accepted that there was a failure to disclose relevant evidence to the defence. This included the fact that Regina Walsh had made but not pursued an allegation of rape in England. (This was the "black man in Leicester Square" episode - see below). There was a failure to disclose her psychiatric history - which included the fact that she had first made the rape allegations while she was in a psychiatric hospital. There was the fact that Ms Walsh had recalled alleged episodes of rape by reference to flashbacks but there was no scientific evidence adduced to explain the phenomenon of flashbacks.]
After the Court of Criminal Appeal confirmed Nora Wall's innocence, she approached Patricia Phelan with her hand outstretched. According to Irish Independent journalist Ann-Marie Walsh "Ms Phelan threw her arms around the former Mercy nun and cried loudly before leaving the Court of Criminal Appeal with her sister Sarah, tears streaming down her face."
Nora Wall's main accuser Regina Walsh was not in court to witness this scene. Neither was Pablo McCabe. He died shortly before Christmas 2002 and was buried three weeks later after no-one had come to claim his body. Pablo McCabe never knew his parents. He had been brought up in St. Michael's and regularly returned there because he regarded it as his only home. That is how he came to be accused by women who were really looking for "compensation" from the Sisters of Mercy. Unlike Nora Wall he was an "accidental" victim!
A 2.1 Convicted of Rape
On 11 June 1999 Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were found guilty of raping 10-year-old Regina Walsh in 1988. Nora Wall then Sister Dominic, had been the girl's guardian while she was in care at St. Michael's Care Centre in Cappoquin, Waterford. Sister Dominic became the manager of the new Centre shortly after it was built in the 1970s. The centre heralded a new approach to childcare, moving away from the large industrial school system to a system of smaller group homes. (It is ironic that a pioneer of this new child-centered approach was to come under vicious attack.)
Sister Dominic ran the group homes from 1978 to 1990. She left the Mercy order in 1994 and worked in hostels in Dublin and in a Romanian orphanage. After her conviction the media were to speculate obscenely about her work in these places.
50 year old Pablo McCabe was a diagnosed schizophrenic. In court he was described by his own legal team as a "vagabond and hobo". He spent his early years in the care of the Sisters of Mercy in St. Michael's and first met Nora Wall when he was trying to trace his mother. He said in evidence that he was a regular visitor to St. Michael's during the 1980s.
A 2.2 After the Conviction - The Media
After the conviction the media felt free to howl obscenities at Nora Wall in particular - "Vile Nun", "Pervert Nun", "Mercy Devil", "I was Raped by Anti-Christ". Since Nora Wall seemed to have no reputation to lose, some editors decided to go beyond obscenities and openly print lies.
On 11 July 1999, the Sunday World carried a front page "exclusive" by crime correspondent Paul Williams. Entitled "Rape Nuns Abuse Pact with Smyth", it claimed that "evil nun Nora Wall, convicted for helping to rape a ten-year old child, also secretly provided children for sick paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth. The Sunday World has learned that depraved cleric regularly visited St. Michael's Childcare Centre in County Waterford where Wall - then Known as Sister Dominic - was working". A female counsellor "who works with the victims of this horror home revealed that Fr. Brendan Smyth may have abused children there. .....[she said] 'the information is very reliable and also very disturbing'".
[A few years later Nora Wall was to win Eur 175,000 libel damages from the Sunday World. THAT news was buried by the media].
However the viciousness of the media was to have unexpected results. On 17 June Regina Walsh gave an interview to The Star newspaper in which she claimed that she had also been raped by a "black man in Leicester Square" in London. This was news to Nora Wall's defence team. Moreover the Star published the names of Walsh and her "witness" Patricia Phelan. A Kilkenny businessman read the newspaper and recognised Phelan as the woman who had made a false rape allegation against himself! After some frantic searching he tracked down a brother of Nora's and the defence came into possession of this vital evidence. It was to prove the weapon which destroyed the State's case and saved the two accused.
A 2.3 Sentenced to Life
On 23 July 1999 Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe came before Judge Paul Carney for sentencing in the Central Criminal Court. Their Counsel Hugh Hartnett sought an adjournment or a stay on any sentence. He told the court that there appeared to have been a grave breach of non-disclosure of evidence by the State. The State had not disclosed that Ms Walsh alleged she had been raped in London. Neither had they disclosed that Patricia Phelan's allegations against an unnamed man had been dismissed in judicial review proceedings.
Incredibly Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley for the State refused to accept that anything was wrong. He said that the Gardai were not aware of these matters during their investigations. He rejected the claim that there had not been full disclosure of evidence and said that these issues were not relevant to the case!!
The behaviour of Justice Carney was equally bizarre. He said that Nora Wall was the leader and had carried out a "gang rape" on the victim. He sentenced her to life imprisonment and Pablo McCabe to 12 years. He refused leave to appeal. Nora Wall was the first woman convicted of rape in the history of the State and now became the first person to receive a life sentence for that crime. Justice Carney may have had no option but to pass sentence but he knew about the undisclosed evidence. Why the thuggish comments and the unprecedented sentence?
A 2.4 Convictions Quashed
Four days later on 27 July the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed the convictions of the two accused. The application to have the convictions set aside was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Had new evidence had emerged in the previous few days? No. It was just that the DPP had suddenly realised that Patricia Phelan should not have been called as a witness at all. The Office of the DPP had given this direction in 1997, but nevertheless, though inadvertence, she had been called. The staff of the DPP had not realised their mistake during the trial. The guilty verdict on 11 June had not jogged their memory, nor the article in The Star on 17 June, which named Ms. Phelan. Hugh Harnett's setting out the undisclosed evidence on the date of sentencing had not caused them to search their memories. In fact one wonders whether they would realise their mistake even today if Regina Walsh had not given that interview. Would Nora Wall still be in jail and would Pablo McCabe have died in prison rather than in freedom?
The question remained as to whether there should be a second trial. It took the DPP another four months to decide that they would not seek to retry the case. However the Attorney General declared that neither Nora wall nor Pablo McCabe would receive an apology. On 17 November 1999 a spokesman for the Attorney General told the media that the issue of an apology did not arise because the convictions had been quashed!
There the matter rested until 1st December 2005 when the Court of Criminal Appeal finally certified that Nora Wall had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Pablo McCabe was not there to receive HIS certificate. He died shortly before Christmas 2002, his body remained in the mortuary for three weeks awaiting relatives who never came and he was buried in a paupers' grave in January 2003. In a sense he was the ultimate victim. He was accused by a woman who was really targeting the Sisters of Mercy but believed it would be more credible to name a man as the main rapist. The homeless schizophrenic Pablo McCabe became a convenient target because he was being helped by Nora Wall!
The case of Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe established a number of extra-ordinary precedents in Irish law.
The behaviour of the DPP and of Justice Paul Carney is also incredible. Throughout the trial the DPP failed to realise their "mistake" in calling Patricia Phelan as a witness. Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were convicted on 10 June 1999; Regina Walsh gave her famous interview to the Star on 17 June including the bit about her other rape experience; the Kilkenny businessman recognised Patricia Phelan and contacted the defence and STILL the DPP remained in blissful ignorance. At the sentencing on 23rd July the DPP refused the defence's application for an adjournment and denied that the new evidence was relevant! Finally in full knowledge of the new evidence, Judge Paul Carney made thuggish comments about Nora Wall and gave her an unprecedented sentence of life imprisonment.
If Ireland was an anti-Semitic society and Nora Wall was Jewish, nobody would be in any doubt of how these "mistakes" came about. I believe that our media are well aware that Nora Wall was convicted because she was a Catholic nun, in a climate of hysteria created by that media and in particular by Dear Daughter and States of Fear. [Regina Walsh made her allegations shortly after the former programme and Nora Wall was convicted one month after the latter series]. That is why there is no media campaign to punish those responsible for our very own Salem Witch-hunt.
The beginnings of the story go back to 1994 when the authorities in Northern Ireland sought the extradition from the Republic of Father Brendan Smyth who was facing a number of counts of child abuse to which he would eventually plead guilty. Because of the age of the allegations that went back 20 years and pressure of work in the Attorney Generals office there was a delay of several months while the extradition papers were being examined.
In November 1994 the Fianna Fail Government of Albert Reynolds was in coalition with Labour. Albert Reynolds had just appointed Attorney General Harry Whelahan as the new President of the High Court. Whelanan was a devout Catholic and Reynolds acted in the teeth of opposition from the Labour Party.
Reports began to circulate in Dublin that the process of extraditing Father Brendan Smyth was being deliberately delayed in response to a request made at the highest levels by the Catholic Church. Democratic Left Deputy Pat Rabbitte referred in the Dail to the possible existence of a document that would 'rock the foundations of this society to its very roots.' He seems to have had in mind the rumoured existence of a letter written by Cardinal Cathal Daly to Harry Whelehan.
In this letter the Cardinal is supposed to have interceded on behalf of Father Brendan Smyth and requested that his extradition be delayed. No evidence has been produced that such a letter ever existed. Yet as a direct result of the rumours that now swept the country, Whelehan would be forced to resign as High Court President and the Reynolds Government would fall, amidst talk of a dark conspiracy involving politicians, members of Opus Dei, the Knights of Columbanus and others. This conspiracy was allegedly seeking to cover up the activities of paedophile priests.
However that outcome lay (slightly) in the future. It quickly became clear that Pat Rabbitte's allegation was without substance. Logically this should have strengthened Albert Reynolds and discredited Rabbitte - perhaps fatally. However another factor came into play.
The new Attorney General Eoghan Fitzsimmons was trying to read himself into the job in an atmosphere marked by hysteria and lunacy. Perhaps he was affected himself. A major reason for the delay over the Brendan Smyth warrants was that because the allegations went back decades, there was a legal point over 'lapse of time' that had to be considered in an extradition case. Because there was no previous case that provided a precedent for this issue, the Fr. Brendan Smyth case required a considerable amount of legal work. This was the point that Albert Reynolds put to the Dail in defence of Harry Whelehan.
However Eoghan Fitzsimmons thought that he had discovered a precedent. The so-called "Duggan case" involved another man extradited for abuse charges going back a few years. When Reynolds was informed about this "precedent" he told the Dail that if he had known then what he now knew, he would not have appointed Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court. The Labour Party initially accepted this grovelling apology but then claimed that Albert Reynolds had known about the Duggan "precedent" earlier than he said. Dick Spring pulled out of the coalition with Reynolds and the Government fell. It was soon succeeded by a "Rainbow Coalition" led by John Briton of Fine Gael in alliance with the Labour Party and Democratic Left.
On 17 November 1994, shortly after Albert Reynolds handed in his resignation as Taoiseach, Harry Whelehan also resigned as President of the High Court. He stated that:
"The judiciary must at all times enjoy total and unquestioned public respect, and its reputation for absolute independence and integrity are of paramount importance under the Constitution.
The vindication of my own good name in the light of recent unjust attacks and the feelings of my wife and family must yield to these considerations to prevent the office of the President of the High Court being further embroiled in public controversy. I have therefore decided to tender the President of Ireland my resignation from the position of President of the High Court.
I wish to put on record the following facts:
I never read any papers nor was I ever aware of the existence of warrants seeking the extradition of Fr. Brendan Smyth until very recently, by which time Fr. Smyth had commenced to serve the term of imprisonment which had been imposed on him.
It follows from the above that I wish to expressly state that at no time was any representation made to me by any member of the hierarchy or anyone acting on their behalf, or any other person or persons concerning the extradition of Fr. Smyth.
I am not aware of any such representations being made to any other persons."
The Duggan case was not a precedent for an extradition for offences dating back decades. It has never been used in judicial proceedings or quoted in legal textbooks as a precedent.
Anthony Duggan was depicted as a former monk who was extradited in relation to paedophile allegations that supposedly set a precedent that left no grounds for the delay in the Smyth case.
In fact Anthony Duggan was not and never had been a monk. He was a teacher accused of sexually assaulting students in an English boarding school between June 1988 and January 1989. He fled to Ireland in February 1990 and the British sought his extradition the following month. The offences had allegedly occurred little over a year prior to the extradition request, so the time lapse provision in the Irish extradition law was not applicable in this instance, and Duggan was extradited.
This was no precedent for the Fr. Brendan Smyth case, as HIS offences had occurred up to 30 years earlier.
At a distance of a decade it is clear that neither Whelehan nor Reynolds were guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Irish Government fell solely as the result of hysteria. It was a unique episode in Irish political history and it set the scene for other unprecedented events.
Although only a member of a minor party (and not its leader) Pat Rabbitte pressed for a full Ministerial portfolio in the new coalition government which replaced the one he had helped to bring down. He was placated with the post of Junior Minister with enhanced responsibilities. This allowed him to attend Cabinet meetings.
Matt Russell was the senior civil servant in the Attorney General's office who had the extradition warrants for Brendan Smyth on his desk for seven months. He later explained "I did not give it special priority because I did not identify it as a case which required that priority over other priority work". He told the Dail Committee on Legislation and Security: "In dealing with the volume of work priorities have to be applied.... I worked on the Smyth file at intervals when there was an opportunity to do so." He agreed that in retrospect his judgement was wrong but he did not offer to resign. "I was not made aware of any reason that I should. Matt Russell stayed in place when Harry Whelehan resigned.
What did for Matt Russell was his failure to respond to two letters written by a solicitor on behalf of the victims of Brendan Smyth. The letters were received in November 1994 and January 1995. On the face of it they were ridiculous. They demanded compensation for the victims because of the suffering caused by the original extradition delay. In the light of the reigning hysteria Matt Russell should have taken them more seriously but he favoured the logical approach. "Furthermore...many more actions are threatened are threatened by solicitors letters than are commenced, and in view of the tenuous nature of the claim I thought this might well occur in this case."
Matt Russell was perfectly logical and perfectly correct in his view of this claim. However such considerations are irrelevant in a witch-hunt and he was forced to tender his resignation to Taoiseach John Bruton on 29 May 1995.
In the Dial on 31 May John Bruton gloated over his success in removing Matt Russell. "Compulsory retirement, although legally provided for has never been successfully achieved. Whereas Mr. Russell was not prepared to go quietly or otherwise under the previous administration, my actions have resulted in his immediate retirement from the civil service. That speaks for itself."
It certainly did. John Bruton, a decent and honourable man, was boasting about the results of a process that caused the fall of a Government, the resignation of a High Court President and the forced retirement of a senior civil servant. Unprecedented events caused by hysteria alone.
Obviously the wages of sin was NOT death. The results of an outbreak of pure hysteria totally unrelated to reality were:
Since some people may still be reluctant to attribute these events to hysteria it is useful to check on how the authorities in the UK viewed the issue. After all they were the ones who wanted to extradite Father Brendan Smyth. If there was a conspiracy between Church and State in Ireland, then the judicial authorities in the UK were the target of said conspiracy.
The following are extracts from the House of Commons Hansard Debates for 21 November 1994:
Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Attorney-General what representations his Department received from the Catholic Church in respect of Brendan Smyth; and if he will make a statement.
The Attorney-General: None. ..........
Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Attorney-General what is his policy in relation to employing members of Opus Dei in his Department.
The Attorney-General: There is no specific policy in relation to the secondment of Opus Dei members to my Department. The civil service does not discriminate on grounds of religion.
If it were not so politically incorrect, one might imagine the Whitehall mandarins being quietly amused at the antics of their ridiculous ex-colonial subjects.
"New caught sullen peoples, half devil and half child" indeed - should they ever have let us go?
Harry Whelehan and Nora Wall These extraordinary events have received rather cursory treatment from historians of modern Ireland. In particular the role of Pat Rabbitte has been air-brushed from the story. However in his book "The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000" Diarmaid Ferriter makes this significant comment:
"Some became angry when that when Harry Whelehan was questioned and denied the existence of a Catholic conspiracy within the Attorney-General's office, he felt the need to defend his right to be a practicing Catholic."
This issue had never before arisen in Irish politics. The first President of Ireland was a Protestant. During the De Valera era, Jews played a prominent role in Fianna Fail (the party most closely identified with the Catholic Church) and there had been Jewish Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork. The disgusting attacks on Harry Whelehan indicated that religious hatred was making its opening debut in Irish public life. The fact that it took the form of anti-clericalism rather than anti-Semiticism made it acceptable to many liberals.
These unprecedented events created an atmosphere that would eventually lead to the unprecedented conviction of a female religious on false charges of raping a child. However the time was not yet ripe. It was fairly quickly established that no Catholic conspiracy existed and that Harry Whelehan had done nothing wrong. This revelation created no sensation and no demands for the rehabilitation of Whelehan or the punishment of Rabbitte. However society was not yet ready for a Witch-hunt against Catholic religious.
In February 1996 RTE broadcast the documentary Dear Daughter made by TV producer Louis Lentin. It told the story of Christine Buckley and other women who spent their childhoods in Goldenbridge Orphanage in Inchicore, Dublin that was run by the Sisters of Mercy. Ms. Buckley was born in 1946. Her mother was a separated woman who had an affair with a Nigerian medical student. Christine was put into care as an infant and sent at four years of age to Goldenbridge.
The programme focused on the brutal regime which was said to have been operated by the Sisters and in particular by Sister Xaviera Lally who was in charge for a decade. One of many beatings is supposed to have left Christine Buckley with a scar that ran the length of her thigh. She was treated in casualty, she believed she received about 100 stitches and was sent back to the orphanage without being admitted to hospital. It was also alleged that young children were left in charge of babies. Babies were strapped to chamber pots. There was a furnace room - a dark dungeon of a place where punished children were locked away.
In the months that followed the Dear Daughter broadcast, people who had been in orphanages and industrial schools told their stories in newspapers and on radio. Most of the stories were negative but a number of women who had been taken care of by Sister Xaviera rushed to her defence. More typical however was the horror story told to Marion Finucane on Liveline (RTE Radio) about an 11-month-old baby who was left into Goldenbridge in 1955 while her mother was ill and her father was working in the UK. The baby died after a few days. Against the advice of the nuns the father came to see the body in St. Ultan's hospital, he found the baby's legs so badly burned "he could put two fingers right through both of them". According to the father, the nuns did not explain how the baby had died, the parents got no post-mortem results and the gardai refused to get involved.
As with Pat Rabbitte's claims in 1994 however, certain difficulties became evident with the Dear Daughter narration. It was not just that a number of girls raised by Sister Xaviera disputed the allegations. This can be explained by saying that people will interpret similar experiences in different ways. Sister Xaviera denied the allegations of serious abuse but agreed that she had been strict and apologised for any pain caused. So perhaps both sides were telling the truth?
No not really!
Testimony of Doctor Pendiville
Doctor J.B. Prendiville was a senior surgeon at Dr. Steevens Hospital where children from Goldenbridge were treated during the 1950s and was in charge of the Casualty Department. In an interview with the Sunday Times in April 1996 he said that he could not corroborate the description of the alleged assault on Christine Buckley. Prendiville said that he cannot ever recall treating a Goldenbridge child with a lacerated thigh. HE SAID AN INJURY REQUIRING SUCH EXTENSIVE STITCHING WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TREATED IN CASUALTY. Standard medical practise would have necessitated that such an injury would require extensive surgery under a general anaesthetic and a child would have been detained as a patient in the hospital.
As a specialist in soft tissue injuries and burns Prendiville said that such an injury would have been referred to him by medical staff. However he has no record or memory of any such case. NEITHER HE NOR THREE OTHER MEDICS WHO WORKED AT DR. STEEVENS IN THE 1950S, CAN RECALL ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS AMONG THE GOLDENBRIDGE CHILDREN WHO ATTENDED THE HOSPITAL WITH TYPICAL CHILDHOOD AILMENTS.
The post-mortem on baby Howe stated that she died of dysentery but the Howes have never been satisfied with the official response. Dr. Prendiville recalled that St. Ultan's was established largely for dealing with bowel complaints such as dysentery or gastroenteritis, a common illness among children at that time. He speculated that Marian Howe was more than likely admitted to St. Ultan's with a bowel complaint. "I wouldn't say that burns of that size on a child's legs would have been the cause of death. THEY DIDN'T TREAT BURNS IN ST. ULTAN'S. IF THE BABY DIED FROM A BURN, THERE WOULD HAVE TO BE AN INQUEST. But failure to communicate information is a defect in many hospitals, he said.
Christine Buckley had originally told her story to Gay Byrne on his morning radio programme in 1992. One of the people listening was Louis Lentin who went on to produce Dear Daughter and saw it broadcast by RTE in February 1996. The enormous impact of the TV broadcast was an indication of how far things had developed in the intervening 4 years. However opposing voices could still be heard and the claims of Christine Buckley could come under hostile scrutiny.
Buckley and Louis Lentin were very displeased with a Prime Time programme in March 1996 which Lentin claimed was "reverential" to Sister Xaviera and did not put the facts to her "in a strong investigative manner". In fact the allegation that a baby in her charge had died of burns was not put to her because, according to an RTE source, Prime Time could find no evidence to support it.
The difference between Gay Byrne's broadcast in 1992 and Dear Daughter four years later was the Father Brendan Smyth affair. There was a kind of muted hysteria in the air. On the one hand it was understood by 1996 that Cardinal Daly, Albert Reynolds and Harry Whelehan had done nothing wrong in 1994; however this did not lead to any re-appraisal of the grotesque charade that brought down a Government. There was a stalemate in which opposing viewpoints could be heard in the media and in society at large. Three years later Mary Raftery was to put an end to this situation and initiate the only major Witch-hunt in the history of this State.
There was a more immediate development. Regina Walsh spent two periods in St. Declans Mental Hospital in Waterford in 1996. She first made her allegations against Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe around this time and the Gardai first questioned Nora Wall in October of that year. Things were moving!
In April and May of 1999 RTE broadcast a much more extensive account of the industrial schools in the form of a three part documentary series, States of Fear, which was written produced and directed by the journalist Mary Raftery. The programmes contained much historical material which seemed to be soundly based. They portrayed the industrial schools as part of a chaotic childcare system in which grisly Dickensian conditions had prevailed for decades.
The programmes featured a series of claims by former residents that they had been physically or sexually abused by members of orders such as the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity. References were also made to a number of unexplained deaths which allegedly took place in those schools.
Raftery herself has explicitly rejected the 'bad apple' theory which seeks to explain the acts of abuse which were alleged as aberrations from a system which was essentially benign.
"Were this true it would be a valid point. However the scale of the abuse of children within the industrial schools system was so vast as to pose the most fundamental questions about the nature of the religious orders in this country ............Children were savagely beaten and treated with extraordinary levels of cruelty by their religious carers in almost every single one of the fifty-two industrial and reformatory schools which existed in Ireland for most of the twentieth century. Very large numbers of the boys in particular were sexually abused and raped by male members of religious orders into whose care they were entrusted.
It is undoubtedly the case that by no means all nuns or brothers within institutions were cruel to the child detainees. However, it is equally clear that those who did not either beat or abuse children, did not stand in the way of the often sadistic excesses of their fellow religious."
The series provoked a huge public response. As Raftery puts it, "Outrage at the crimes committed against these children was expressed continuously for the three weeks of the series, across acres of newsprint and hours of radio broadcasts all over the country."
The reaction of the government was swift. On 11 May 1999, the day that the final programme in the series was due to be broadcast, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made the following statement:
"On behalf of the State and of all the citizens of that State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and long overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue." Little more than a week later the Minister for Education, Michael Martin, announced the establishment of a Commission to Enquire into Childhood Abuse, chaired by high court judge, Justice Mary Laffoy.
THIS WAS THE ATHMOSPHERE IN WHICH NORA WALL AND PABLO MCCABE WERE CONVICTED IN JUNE 1999.
The above heading may appear presumptuous. How do I know the truth about allegations of child abuse that date back decades? Why should my word (or that of priests or religious) be preferred to that of Mary Raftery? To put things at their most basic it is impossible to "prove" a negative. Even if an individual is acquitted of child abuse charges this does not "prove" that he is innocent - only that the evidence against him is insufficient for a criminal conviction. Moreover many of those accused by Mary Raftery are dead, witnesses are either dead or untraceable and forensic evidence disappeared decades ago. So perhaps the religious orders can only be expected to produce a competing "narrative" and allow the public to make up its own mind?
Actually things are not quite as bad as that. Many of the allegations in "States of Fear" (and the follow-up book "Suffer the Little Children") are demonstrably false and some are logically impossible. Since the false/impossible accusations are closely linked to allegations of the systematic abuse of children, it is reasonable to conclude that the latter are false as well.
D 3.1 The Death of Patsy Flanagan
Mary Raftery accused the Christian Brothers of being responsible for the death of the boy Patsy Flanagan who died following a fall from a staircase in Artane in February 1951. After the publication of Suffer the Little Children, the Christian Brothers (and journalist Breda O'Brien) pointed out that Raftery's "witness" Barney O'Connell, had given three contradictory accounts of the incident to the media (one of which got the date wrong by 5 years), Ms. Raftery tried to square the circle by claiming that a few boys had died in this manner! She produced not a scrap of evidence to support this allegation.
There was an inquest which found the death of Patsy Flanagan to be an accident. Mary Raftery does not mention this in States of Fear or Suffer the Little Children. Did she not know about it or did she deliberately conceal this evidence?
In a letter to the Irish Times on 13 January 2000, Mary Raftery claimed that the death of the boy in Artane was the subject of an ongoing Garda investigation.
Later that same day on Eamon Dunphy's The Last Word radio programme, it was put to her that the Garda Press Office had confirmed that this incident had been investigated previously but was no longer the subject of investigation, and that unless new evidence were to emerge there would be no further investigation. Mary Raftery's unbelievable response to this information was: "This is complete rubbish. This is rubbish. This is rubbish."
Mary Raftery wants the Christian Brothers to have murdered a boy in order to justify her own hatred of the Catholic Church. What other explanation is there?
D 3.2 Sister Stanislaus and Sister Conception
In States of Fear and Suffer the Little Children, Mary Raftery accused Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of failing to act when she was informed of child abuse in the 1970s in St. Joseph's orphanage, Kilkenny. The social worker who is supposed to have informed her, wrote to the Irish Times to say that he himself was unaware in 1977 that sex abuse was involved and that he only became aware of this in 1995 i.e. nearly 20 years after he is supposed to have informed Sister Stan (Letters page 22 December 1999). This precisely matches what Sister Stan said after States of Fear Yet Ms. Raftery went on to repeat the accusation in her Irish Times column on 3 March 2005.
In this column she made a similar accusation against Sister Conception and the late Bishop Birch, in spite of the fact that two days previously the President of the High Court Mr. Justice Finnegan, specifically exonerated them in his judgment in the case of R. Noctor-v.-Ireland, The Attorney General and Others. (Mary Raftery did not dispute his judgment concerning this issue; she ignored it).
In States of Fear Mary Raftery also claimed that Sister Stanislaus had denounced a civil servant on the Kennedy Committee for failing to give credit to the Church for its social work. After the publication of Suffer the Little Children in November 1999, the three civil servants at the relevant meeting told journalist Breda O'Brien that no such episode had occurred. (One had written to the Irish Times immediately after States of Fear to confirm this). This is by no means the most serious allegation made by Mary Raftery. It is important because it can be easily shown to be false. And the falsehood is obviously linked to other tales told by Ms Raftery about Sister Stan and about the Catholic Church.
D 3.3 Brother Joseph O'Connor
A far uglier lie is Mary Raftery's attack on the late Brother Joseph O'Connor who was the Christian Brother responsible for the Artane Boys Band. She claims he was a vicious child abuser. She alleges that a man abused by him was so distraught that he hung around the Mater Hospital for days when Brother O'Connor was dying. He then went into the hospital and lifted the sheet from his body to confirm that Brother O'Connor was dead. BROTHER JOSEPH O'CONNOR DID NOT DIE IN THE MATER HOSPITAL. (The same question arises as with the inquest on Patsy Flanagan - did Mary Raftery not bother to check this extraordinary story or did she conceal evidence?)
D 3.4 Mary Raftery's Role and "Suffer the Little Children"
The nature of Mary Raftery's responsibility for what happened to Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe may be judged by what she said about them after the collapse of the prosecution's case. She said as little as possible but in Suffer the Little Children, it was difficult to avoid the topic.
The book Suffer the little Children was published in November 1999. This was more than 3 months after the quashing by the Court of Criminal Appeal of the guilty verdict against Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe. This was plenty of time for Ms. Raftery to digest the implications of the case. The scandal merits ONE paragraph on page 268 of the book. The ONLY reason given for the reversal of the verdict is set out in the following sentence:
"Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecution did not oppose this [reversal], explaining that a witness had given evidence whom the DPP had previously decided should not be called."
In other words Mary Raftery claims that the verdicts were reversed due to a technicality.
Among the points she neglects to mention are:
On 11 July 1999 the Sunday World published a story by crime correspondent Paul Williams entitled "Rape Nun's Abuse Pact with Smyth". The article claimed that Nora Wall had procured children for paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth. NO SUCH ALLEGATION WAS MADE AT THE TRIAL. The Sunday World thought that because Nora Wall had been convicted, they could say what they liked.
All of the above information was available at the time Raftery and her co-author Dr. Eoin O'Sullivan published their book. Why did none of it appear in the book? Could it be
(A) that Raftery is consumed with hatred for Catholic religious and accordingly
(B) has no intention of publishing anything that shows them in a good light or their accusers in a bad one?
That would explain the ludicrous allegations about Brother Joseph O'Connor and about the death of Patsy Flanagan. In fact it would explain everything that Raftery has ever said on the subject of the Catholic Church.
The years 1994 to 1999 saw a gradual escalation of hysteria in relation to the child abuse issue in Ireland:
· In the former year a Government fell because of bogus allegations of a conspiracy between Church and State to prevent the extradition of Father Brendan Smyth. On the plus side (!!) it was soon recognized that the accusations were false - not that this was any help to Albert Reynolds or Harry Whelehan.
· In 1996 vile allegations - up to and including the killing of a baby- were made against Sister Xaviera Lally. Again there was a compensating factor; the media noted that there were problems with the allegations and that Xaviera had her defenders. Thus vicious and lying accusations could be made in the public arena (only against Catholics of course) but they could also be rebutted. I have described this as a stalemate.
· In 1999 the broadcast by RTE of the States of Fear series ended any pretence of objectivity on the part of the media and hysteria reigned supreme. It was quickly established (for example by journalist Breda O'Brien), that many of Raftery's accusations were gross distortions of the truth and that some were logically impossible. It was as useless as trying to rebut accusations of witchcraft in the middle of a Witch-Hunt. This was the atmosphere in which Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were convicted.
· The situation is largely unchanged to this day. Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe had their convictions reversed due to sheer luck and the extreme idiocy of their two accusers. The media recorded the court decision and dropped the issue like a shot. Mary Raftery and her acolytes are still riding high.
1. Magill Magazine January 2000. This article by Harry McGee and Garret Brandon on Nora Wall seems to be the only detailed exposition of the case that appeared in the media and it deals solely with the criminal case. There is no enquiry into the type of society that could produce such a perversion of justice.
2. Article in Sunday Independent 1st August 1999 by Kevin Moore is probably the best of the newspaper articles which you can find by trawling the net. (It is also on www.voicesemerge.com and www.alliancesupport.org under the heading "Nora Wall and her Accusers").
3. RTE News Reports on the internet for the main trial dates are useful for "vital statistics" - 11 June 1999, 23rd and 27 July 1999, 17 November 1999, 1st December 2005. It is notable that apart from the actual trial dates there is practically nothing about Nora Wall from RTE. Any useful newspaper articles also tend to cluster around the same dates. The subject of religious hatred (where the Catholic Church is the target), seems to be taboo so far as our courageous investigative journalists are concerned. Is it the only remaining taboo subject in this country?
4.The website www.inquisition21.com has a major article on Nora Wall: "Act of Infamy - The Nora Wall Story" which takes up most of its section on Ireland. My (censored) correspondance with Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy concerning Mary Raftery is part of the article. Most of it is also available uncensored on the Voices Emerge and Alliance Support websites.
5. "This Great Little Nation" by Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan (1999) was surprisingly useful even though it is journalistic fluff about various "scandals". Though not always accurate, they write things about Harry Whelehan and Matt Russell that "serious" historians have swept down the memory hole.(pages 267-270 and 305-306). See also "Goldenbridge" on pages 132-134.
6."Ireland" by Tim Pat Coogan. This "serious" historian covers the fall of the Reynolds Government on pages 631-33. There is no reference whatsoever to the role played by Pat Rabbitte and the discussion on the Duggan case ignores the issue of its irrelevance as a "precedent".
7. "Straight Left" by Ruairi Quinn - pages 311-318 on Harry Whelahan also manages to avoid mentioning Pat Rabbitte, plays down Duggan (whose irrelevance he seems to accept) and claims he does not really know what was behind it all. So what was behind his thuggish remark to Reynolds "It's very fucking simple. We either have your head or Harry Whelehan's"? Ruairi Quinn can quote this in the sure knowledge that "liberal" historians and journalists will not question him too harshly.
8. Dail Debates 16 November 1994 is brillant on the hysteria that saw officials from the AGs office being recalled from all over the world in order to testify to the falsity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, (sorry Catholic Church Conspiracy).
See also Dail Debates 31 May 1995 - on Members Privilege in which Pat Rabbitte successfully evades facing up to responsibility for his behaviour. (There seems to be a reference to my own complaint to the Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges here also).
9.The Ex-Isle of Erin by Fintan O'Toole (1997) is useful because it is a compendium of contemporary articles. This means that O'Toole cannot just sweep Pat Rabbitte under the carpet. The references to Rabbitte on pages 201-02 and 228-29 are highly significant because O'Toole essentially justifies what he knows to be lies and snickers at old fashioned types (like Brian Cowen) who cannot adapt themselves to the modern world where "a young, highly educated and largely urban population is not prepared to accept that the exercise of power in Ireland is none of its business". (As with the Cultural Revolution in China it was the young, highly educated etc ones who were driving the Witch-Hunt and not the old fashioned, ignorant, rural types)
10. The Transformation of Ireland 1900 – 2000 by Diarmaid Ferriter
"In the same year Father Brendan Smyth’s catalogue of paedophilia came to public light north and south of the border. A request that he be extradited by the RUC remained for seven months in the office of Harry Whelehan the Attorney General and some Irish Ministers were alleged to have had knowledge of the case. The Taoiseach Albert Reynold’s determination to still appoint Whelehan as President of the High Court brought down the Government. Although Reynolds insisted "Harry did not know about the priest",perhaps through simple personal stubbornness, he refused to relent, and was in his own words "led to my execution" as accusations flew that his Ministers had misled the Dail about their knowledge of cases in the Attorney General’s office. Whelehan was also forced to resign as President of the High Court."
[This ignores the role of Pat Rabbitte and obscures the Duggan case. Phrases like "as accusations flew" could indicate that something was wrong - provided you are prepared to read carefully between the lines.]
"Some became angry that, when Harry Whelehan was questioned and denied the existence of a Catholic conspiracy within the Attorney-General's office, he felt the need to defend his right to be a practicing Catholic. Others maintained that, not only was it important for the victims’ anger to be visible, but that it should be recognised that many of those who joined clerical life were often ill suited to the priesthood, some of them victims themselves, who lacked the freedom to make a proper decision about their vocation."
[What is the logical connection between the first and second sentences of this paragraph? Is Ferriter suggesting that false allegations are understandable because there are real victims of child abuse? But Pat Rabbitte and Co. were not victims nor were they representing victims. They were making allegations against people who had done nothing wrong in order to bring down their political opponents].
11. CHRISTINE BUCKLEY: The Sunday Times article dated 28 April 1996 entitled "Medical View Inconsistent with Goldenbridge Abuse" is also on the Voices Emerge and the Alliance Support websites.
12. REGARDING MARY RAFTERY, most of the articles containing details of her lies are on www.voicesemerge.com. See also www.alliancesupport.org. The subject headings are "Mary Raftery and Sister Stanislaus", "Mary Raftery and Sister Conception", "Mary Raftery and Brother Joseph O'Connor" etc. and in particular "Mary Raftery and the Death of Patsy Flanagan. These contain detailed quotations from Raftery's articles, from "Suffer the Little Children" and from the rebuttal articles and letters that appeared in the media, many of them by Breda O'Brien, mostly for the period November 1999 to January 2000. There is a shorter version of the Patsy Flanagan article called "Barney O'Connell and the Death of Patsy Flanagan" which is also on the Voices Emerge and the Alliance Support websites.
(The former organisation speaks for those falsely accused of child abuse; the latter represents real victims but they don't like people like Mary Raftery who discredit their cause.).