Michael O’Brien and Children dancing at the crossroads

Well I know many of you in Blogland will have put this vid up on your sites but I am going to do the same because Michael O’Brien’s outburst on Questions and Answers during a panel discussion following the publication of the Ryan Report into Child Abuse in Religious Institutions was one of those rare and spontaneous television moments that caught everyone off-guard but had everyone from the presenter, the producer, the panellists, audience and, in particular, spellbound by his sheer passion, frustration and anger.

I was sitting in the backroom during the local elections doing what I usually do after a hard night’s canvass, break open a cold beer, put on some music and keep half an eye on Q & A.

As O’Brien started to speak, I looked up briefly, turned in my chair, got up, walked into the other room……and as the words tumbled out of this man, I and I am sure many others began to think maybe he will go on too long and trip up the way so many do and lose the impetus and force of the message, maybe Bowman will interrupt him and ruin the flow. But neither happened – his manner, his command of language, his sheer force carried him through and I am sure that the  many thousands of viewers mentally clapped this man on the back and cheered for him and for the courage he showed in revealing his innermost, tender, gut-wrenching nightmare under these State-sponsored gulags.     The shocked look on Noel Dempsey’s face added to the drama.

You know, if the religious orders were a cult – and in many ways they are  – men running around in black dresses, wearing strange costumes at altars on Sundays, wearing purple hats and allowing ordinary people, whom they refer to as ‘ the laiety’ to kiss their rings – I mean, as a cult exposed for the beating and raping of young girls and boys – they’d all be behind bars awaiting trial for the brutal, sadistic and sexual deviants that they are and for the way they have cowardly hid behind canon law to protect their criminals and hide their cheap and mean-spirited dirty deeds. Am I making myself clear? Oh and only for Michael Woods they’d be bankrupt.  Well they are in nearly every other way.

But of course it is easy to react this way and blame those who canvassed their political patrons for a ‘loco parentis’ role which would ensure that each unit of production would be a lucrative money spinner  for the said institution. It’s an easy way out.

Those conspiracy theorists may be forgiven for thinking that, in order to keep the heat off the State and its utter complicity across the Departments of Education, Health and Justice among others, in what were, to all intents and purposes, state-sponsored gulags, an under-handed deal was hatched.

In return for the Church taking the heat on the issue, the State would apologise and  hire expensive legal counsel to protect it (the State) against liability while the religious institutions would take the brunt of the public’s wrath in return for a lucrative compensation package,  anonymity and indemnity against criminal conviction.

Yet, it is the here and now that should concern us. Our education system runs on a similar model to the industrial schools, sorry, the child-beating gulags with Department of Education funding for teacher salaries and capitation grants per pupil while our health system is also dominated and managed by ‘out of touch’ and outmoded religious doctrines and institutions. Our politicians continue to kow-tow to these religious institutions and appear to wear a cultural straitjacket when it comes to the issue of separating Church and State in the governance of our education and health systems.

It really is time to drag this country into the 21st century and protect, promote and put children at the centre of Irish society.

Probably hard to do though considering there are more golf clubs than playgrounds built across the State.


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July 2009
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