Dáil Éireann - Volume 552 - 24 April, 2002

Adjournment Debate. - Child Abuse.

  Mr. Hogan: Astonishing revelations of a perceived systematic cover-up of rape, gross indecency, molestation and physical abuse of children from 1978 to 1990 is coming to light. It has been alleged that a senior figure within the Department of Education and Science was involved in a Dublin-based child sex ring while he was deeply involved in examining alleged child abuse. The man, who retired some years ago, is named in a submission to the Laffoy commission on abuse set up to investigate abuse in residential centres and industrial schools. He is named in a statement by an abuse victim who claims he had sex with the man when he was a 17 year old male prostitute in Dublin.

  This man is the link to investigations into sexual abuse at residential centres in Kilkenny city, Cappoquin, County Waterford, and Clonmel. It has been claimed that the man was with convicted murderer, Malcolm McArthur, when the two picked up the rent boy on the quays in Dublin. The youngster recognised the Department official. He had met him while he was a resident of St. Joseph's Industrial School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel. The man was the Department inspector who visited the centre.

  This man was also the person who investigated allegations of sex abuse against convicted paedophiles like David Murray and Myles Brady in Kilkenny and gave them a clean bill of health. Incredibly, he gave one of the worst offenders, David Murray, a clean bill of health and this is confirmed in statements to that court case by two different witnesses.

  This man is the golden thread weaving through a number of centres where children were in some cases tortured and forced to have sex with animals. He has never come to the attention of the Garda. His name keeps coming up when journalists speak to health board officials and others about what happened in these places. What does [1181] the Department of Education and Science know about this and what has it done about it? At the very least this man was guilty of gross incompetence, and at very worst there is something dark and dirty being hidden from public view.

  It has also been alleged that a few clerics from one of the most idyllic religious centres in the country were regular visitors to St. Michael's residential centre in Cappoquin, County Waterford. This information has been volunteered by former South Eastern Health Board officials, gardaí and others. At least 30 of the children allegedly abused at St. Michael's are taking legal action against the Sisters of Mercy, the South-Eastern Health Board and the State. The allegations of misdeeds in the centre were made to the Garda, health board officials, staff members and an official within the Department of Education and Science. A man being held on charges relating to child pornography videos and a paedophile ring in several counties is being questioned about two separate alleged rapes at the centre between 1978 and 1990. The 57 year old psychiatric nurse has already spilt the beans on other incidents at St. Michael's.

  There are major links between the centre and St. Joseph's industrial school in Kilkenny where five different paedophiles operated. Mr. Murray, the convicted paedophile, received a clean bill of health from the same Department official after allegations of abuse were made against him. It is known that these members of staff at St. Joseph's, Kilkenny, also visited St. Michael's, Cappoquin, on a regular basis. The disgraced cleric Fr. Brendan Smyth, also visited the centre while a guest at Mount Melleray. A member of staff at St. Michael's, Mrs. Eileen Power, made a signed statement to the Garda in 1995 stating that she was extremely concerned for the welfare of the children. Again, this official came down to investigate St. Michael's. Why was something not done? Was a report made to the Department of Education and Science, the Minister or someone in authority in the Department? Did anyone really care? Does anyone really care within that Department about what happened these poor youngsters who were put into the care of the State and were then sexually abused?

  It has been alleged that all the abuse took place at the time the centre was managed by Nora Wall, the former Sister of Mercy nun who was appointed in 1978 when she was 30 years old. On 10 June 1999 she was convicted of raping a ten year old girl in her care between 1 January 1987 and 31 December 1989 by a jury in the Central Criminal Court. This was later quashed in the Court of Criminal Appeal on 27 July 1999 after the Director of Public Prosecutions applied for the conviction to be set aside as a witness was called during the trial who should not have been called. The Sisters of Mercy have never apologised to any of the victims who were abused in St. Michael's. The Department of Health and Children said that it was not told of the abuse at the time it occurred. It said that an article [1182] appeared in the News of the World in late 1996 and that was when the Department first learned of the abuse there.

  This does not make sense when one considers the number of officials who were investigating these matters. The Department of Education and Science said it was making voluntary discovery of all documents relating to child care to the Laffoy Commission. This is not good enough. A senior official has been implicated by a victim in a rent boy sex ring in Dublin with a convicted killer. Malcolm McArthur killed a women in the Phoenix Park and another man immediately after that. He was later found in the home of the then Attorney General, Mr. Patrick Connolly. Something has to be done to show these poor victims that someone does care.

  I am delighted to be able to raise this matter on the Adjournment in an attempt to clear the air. Hopefully the Minister for Education and Science will be able to clarify these reports and indicate to me what action, if any, has been taken by his Department and what action he intends to take in the future.

  Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I understand the Deputy is referring to an article which appeared in a newspaper on 22 April. I note from the article that the body for which the Government official referred to worked, is not mentioned. If the Deputy has information which indicates that the official was an employee of the Department of Education at the time then I would be grateful to receive it. Did the Deputy indicate that the person concerned was a Department inspector?

  Mr. Hogan: Yes. I will clarify that later.

  Dr. Woods: Later the Deputy said it was a senior official in the Department. If he does not have such information then he does a grave disservice to the small number of officials in the Department at the relevant time who would have direct functions in respect of child safety by raising the matter in this way.

  My Department has no information on any case which compares with that referred to in the newspaper. No communication has been received from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse about any such case. The Deputy may remember I was the Minister responsible for bringing that legislation through the House and I subsequently set up that commission. Needless to say, I would be very anxious that everybody would co-operate with it. If such a communication is made, the Deputy can rest assured that my Department will co-operate fully in any inquiries. In all cases in which the commission has sought information to date, I am entirely satisfied that my Department has given it every possible co-operation and support.

  I care greatly about the victims of abuse, as does the Secretary General of my Department and the legal experts within it, which led to the [1183] Government setting up the commission in the first instance. We would be very anxious to access any information the Deputy may have and to co-operate fully with the commission. I assure the Deputy that my Department informs me that, to date, it has not received any communication from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse about any such case.

  This may be our last occasion here and I wish to thank the Ceann Comhairle for his courtesy and fair chairing of the House during his period in office. I wish him every good health and success in the future.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Thank you, Minister.

  Mr. Hogan: So say all of us.