ISPCC statement on announcement of inquiry into historical child sexual abuse by members of the Spiritan religious order
Since the RTÉ Doc on One series aired its ‘Blackrock Boys’ episode where two brothers courageously shared their story of child sexual abuse at the hands of the Spiritan religious order, more people have come forward with similar allegations, as is often the case. The revelation of the sexual abuse the Ryan brothers were subjected to left people with an understandable sense of shock and outrage. Children, in a place that is all too familiar to the many, a place where children are expected to be safe, and given the space to learn and grow – unconditionally – was the place where these heinous crimes took place, by people who were in positions of trust and there to care for them.
ISPCC expresses its support and admiration for all those who speak out, and indeed for those who choose that is not the road for them. Society needs to get better at asking the uncomfortable questions; seeking out the truth; and recognising when something is not right and reporting it to the appropriate authorities.
The announcement of a public inquiry is to be welcomed. It must be victim/survivor-led and address their needs today. In addition, everyone involved in an inquiry of this nature where such harrowing events are recounted and shared must have adequate trauma support made available to them.
There have been many inquiries of this nature in the recent past and every time one has completed, further revelations come out and there is need for another one.
Ireland has a bleak history of not having appropriate safeguards in place to protect children adequately; not listening to children; and not acting in their best interests at times when they should.
Victims and survivors need to have their voices heard and need to have their best interests realised and this must be done in a non-adversarial manner where they are safeguarded appropriately.
Any inquiry with the consent of those who contributed to it ought to have its findings made public and those who caused the harm made accountable. It is not good enough that victims and survivors subject themselves to re-traumatisation by telling their story if no lessons can be learned for future generations. It behoves us as a society that we learn from these inquiries and endeavour to do better for children today, and future generations.
Even now, we have survivors calling for the publication of the independent report into historical child sex abuse allegations at St John Ambulance by child protection expert Professor Geoffrey Shannon. These survivors have a right to be vindicated and must know the findings and recommendations of this report. Anything less is just inhumane. How can we expect survivors to come forward unless we lay a path that says they will be treated fairly, with dignity, that their voices will be heard, and that they will be vindicated.
We must all act to ensure that such heinous crimes are never allowed to take place again. A questioning culture and a listening culture must be upheld by our society.
A timely reminder too of the need to Garda vet any individual who works with children, and to be alive to the idea that such individuals who want to cause harm to children and abuse them often try to situate themselves in roles where such access is easy. Where alarms are raised, we must act accordingly.
All children have a right to be safe and a right to be protected and we must never be allowed to forget that.