Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Ordeal of Paddy Jackson and the Antics of Senator "Amadan" O'Riordain

Paddy Jackson (Inset) and Senator Aodhan O'Riordain
'Amadan' means 'Fool' in the Gaelic language

The offending tweet 

While I have substituted 'Amadan' (Gaelic for 'Fool') in Senator Aodhan O'Riordain's first name there is nothing amusing about the way he slandered Paddy Jackson and the other three defendants in the Belfast Rape trial. After a trial lasting nine weeks (concluding on 29 March)  the four were acquitted unanimously by the jury in less than four hours. Given that the 11 jurors had to decide on a total of 6 charges against 4 defendants, they can't  have done much more than set up the voting procedure and  say "Not Guilty" several dozen times. 

So how did Senator O'Riordain come to believe that the jury got in wrong? After all he has served as Minister of State in a number of Government departments - including Justice and Equality  in 2014 where he had special responsibility for Equality! I note from his website that he is currently Labour Party spokesman for Education and that;
" I believe in a more tolerant, more equal, and more diverse Ireland. I am ambitious for our country and I want to continue to champion the ideas that I pursued as a Minister of State."

I have already written about the manner in which our current Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan had slandered Nora Wall (and the Cistercians of Mount Melleray) in 2009 and how - in the same year - Alan Shatter demanded an investigation into claims that the Catholic Church had been involved in the unsolved murder of 10 year old Bernadette Connolly in 1970. Both were Fine Gael TDs (ordinary Members of Parliament)  when they made their false allegations of child abuse and child murder respectively and both went on to become Minister for Justice and Equality. 

Fine Gael was founded as a Conservative and Christian Democratic Party and the antics of people like Shatter and Flanagan  once used to surprise me - although not in recent years. The Labour Party has had a radical and anti-clerical wing for several decades but Senator O'Riordain's public slandering of Paddy Jackson and Co on the basis of their being "smug well-connected middle-class boys" is something new. Now that the influence of the Catholic Church has been eliminated in Ireland, it looks like our "radicals" are  re-orientating themselves from anti-clerical hatred towards the Class variety!  (Of course feminist hatred of men is part of the toxic mix).

"Radical" Politicians Started by Slandering the Clergy - But They've Moved On!

Starting from the 1990s there are a number of cases where anti-clerical politicians (and journalists) targeted Catholic clergy and religious but ordinary people ended up as "collateral damage". I am thinking of
(1)  Pat Rabbitte slandering Cardinal Cahal Daly in 1994 but former Attorney General Harry Whelehan and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Albert Reynolds resigned as a result of the firestorm of hysteria that Rabbitte ignited. 

(2) Homeless schizophrenic Pablo McCabe who was accused of rape in 1999 along with former Sister of Mercy Nora Wall. The accusers intended to extract large sums of money from the Sisters of Mercy BUT prior to 1999 no woman had been convicted of rape in Ireland so the penniless McCabe was dragged in to make the accusation look more credible.

(3) An unnamed retired senior official in Department of Education who was slandered by Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan in 2002 and by then Fine Gael TD (now Minister for Justice) Charlie Flanagan in 2009 - each time under the protection of Dail Privilege. The official had inspected the Sister of Mercy home in which Nora Wall worked and given it a clean bill of health - which presumably, is the reason for their allegations.

(4) In June 2009 Labour Party TD Ruairi Quinn said in the Dail that "Either officials in the department are members of secret societies, such as the Knights of St Columbanus and Opus Dei, and have taken it upon themselves to protect the interests of these clerical orders at this point in time. . . or, alternatively, the [Fianna Fail] minister is politically incompetent and incapable of managing the department".  

The Catholic Church no longer has any influence in Ireland but this kind of poisonous hatred has not disappeared but found other targets - including male authority figures like Paddy Jackson and his colleagues in the IRFU.   

(1) Pat Rabbitte and Cardinal Cahal Daly

The late Richard Webster was a cultural historian - and agnostic - who wrote a lot about the hysteria surrounding allegations of sexual abuse in the UK. His main focus was on the effects on lay teachers and child-care workers in the UK but he also wrote about the Catholic Church and about Ireland. This is from his on-line essay "States of Fear, the Redress Board and Ireland's Folly" itself an extract from his book "The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt"

"Another country which has developed a particularly intense and dangerous crusade against child abuse is the Republic of Ireland. Here, as in almost every modern instance, the collective fantasy which has been progressively developed has a core of reality. 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, a Catholic priest who was facing a number of counts of child sexual abuse to which he would eventually plead guilty. It would appear that he had previously been protected against allegations by his own Norbertine order, which had moved him from parish to parish as complaints arose, and failed to alert the police. 

"Perhaps because of the age of the allegations, which went back twenty years, there was a delay of several months during which the Irish attorney general took no action in relation to the extradition request. Unfounded reports began to circulate in Dublin that the process was being deliberately delayed in response to a request made at the highest level by the Catholic Church. An Irish opposition deputy, Pat Rabbitte, then referred in parliament to the possible existence of a document that would ‘rock the foundations of this society to its very roots’. He apparently had in mind the rumoured existence of a letter written by the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Cathal Daly, to the attorney general in Dublin. In this letter the Cardinal had supposedly interceded on behalf of Father Brendan Smyth and requested the delay in his extradition which had in fact taken place. [My emphasis]

"No evidence has been produced that any such letter ever existed. Yet, as a direct result of the rumours which now swept the country, confidence in the ruling establishment was undermined and the Fianna Fail government of Albert Reynolds fell, amidst talk of a dark conspiracy involving politicians, members of Opus Dei, the Knights of Columbus and others. This conspiracy was allegedly seeking to cover up the activities of paedophile priests...."

Pat Rabbitte was then a member of a small anti-clerical party Democratic Left. We can assume that Cardinal Cahal Daly was the main target of his fantasy but former Attorney General Harry Whelehan was not just collateral damage.  As a practicing Catholic, Whelehan would also have been in Pat Rabbitte's sights and perhaps the left wing TD actually believed in his Catholic Conspiracy Theory. 

In his book "The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000", Diarmaid Ferriter makes this significant comment about the affair:
"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."

Democratic Left later merged with the Labour Party, did a reverse take-over and Pat Rabbitte himself was Labour leader from 2002 to 2007. He never apologised for his leading role in Ireland's worst political witch-hunt.

(2) Pablo McCabe and Nora Wall (formerly Sister Dominic)

Nora Wall - formerly Sister Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy - was subjected to a barrage of obscene media abuse in June 1999 when she and Pablo McCabe were convicted (and briefly jailed) on charges of raping a 10 year old girl Regina Walsh in 1987 or 1988 at St Michaels Home in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. Wall was alleged to have held down the girl while McCabe raped her.  "Vile Nun", "Pervert Nun", "I Was Raped by Anti-Christ" were some of the headlines at the time. Both had originally been charged with raping the same girl on her 12th birthday on 8 January 1990 but the Defence were able to show that Pablo McCabe could not possibly have been in Cappoquin on that date. The jury simply found the two Not Guilty on that charge but convicted them on the other rape count - in respect of which Regina Walsh could not specify the exact date or even the year.

Kevin Myers was the only journalist to publicly dissent from the media consensus and defend Nora Wall. It's not entirely surprising that he himself later fell victim to a different type of media witch-hunt. (See my article Kevin Myers and the Age of De Valera and McQuaid). More typical of the reaction of the great and the good in Ireland, was that of the director of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Olive Braiden, who welcomed the imposition of a maximum sentence, and said it would ensure that Nora Wall would be monitored for the rest of her life to prevent recurrence.

The rape convictions were quickly reversed following a huge stroke of luck for the accused. On 17 June 1999, a week after the convictions, Regina Walsh gave an interview to journalist Barry O'Keefe of The Star newspaper claiming that she had also been raped by a "black man in Leicester Square" in London. This was news to Wall's defence team. Moreover, The Star published the names of Walsh and her "witness" Patricia Phelan for the first time. A Kilkenny businessman read the newspaper and recognised Phelan as the woman who had made a false rape allegation against him, and the defence came into possession of this evidence. Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were released after spending 4 days in prison. Eventually in December 2005 the Court of Criminal Appeal issued a Certificate of Miscarriage of Justice to Nora Wall. Pablo McCabe had died three years previously aged 53. He was almost the same age as Nora Wall but his health had been broken down by years of homelessness and alcohol abuse.

Although there were two persons accused of rape, the media focused almost exclusively on Nora Wall. An exception is the detailed account of the case by Breda O'Brien in the Irish Quarterly Review 'Studies' entitled: "Miscarriage of Justice: Paul McCabe and Nora Wall". O'Brien quotes the words of Linda Loman in Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman', about her husband Wille Loman enduring humiliation at the end of his career:
"I don't say he's a great man... His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."

'Studies' is a prestigious publication but it's significant that it is published by the Irish Jesuits - and Breda O'Brien is a Catholic journalist. No secular journalists seem to have taken an interest in the fate of a homeless schizophrenic man savagely  treated by anti-clerics who aimed to discredit the Catholic Church and extract large amounts of "compensation" from the Sisters of Mercy. Prior to June 1999,no woman had ever been convicted of rape in Ireland so the penniless McCabe was included in the allegation in order to make it appear more plausible! 

(3) Phil Hogan and Charlie Flanagan say Senior Official in Dept. of Education was in Paedophile Ring

The allegation was first made by Phil Hogan TD in the Dail (Irish Parliament) on 24 April 2002 when Hogan himself was Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party. See my blog article Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Former FG Chair Phil Hogan Vs George Hook and Nora Wall and in particular the full text of the Irish Times article dated 25 April entitled  "TD Cites Retired Official in Child Sex Abuse Allegations" that I quote in the Comments section. Hogan's allegations were extremely lurid  involving a paedophile ring, convicted murderer Malcolm McArthur, children being tortured and forced to have sex with animals, the unnamed retired senior official in Dept of Education, and of course Nora Wall. It is clear that Hogan was basically targeting Nora Wall and the Sisters of Mercy and accordingly the Dept of Education official was "collateral damage" - because he had inspected the residential center where Nora Wall worked and given it a favourable report.  Note the following from the Irish Times article:
Mr Hogan said the official was linked to investigations into sexual abuse in residential centres in Kilkenny city, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, and Clonmel.......He said it was alleged that all of the abuse took place at the time the [Cappoquin] centre was managed by Nora Wall, a former Sister of Mercy nun whose conviction for rape of a 10-year-old child was quashed by the court of criminal appeal in 1999.
The media did little more at the time, than quote what Phil Hogan had said in the Dail. Deputies cannot be sued for what they say in parliament and the same presumably applies to journalists who quote their words without specifically endorsing them. So Irish journalists understood in April 2002 that Phil Hogan was talking nonsense. Why then did Charlie Flanagan T.D. repeat the same allegations seven years later?  

This is an extract from a Dail Debate on the Institutional Child Abuse Bill 2009 on 8 July 2009, Deputy Charles Flanagan speaking

.......The pattern is repeated in respect of Nora Wall. My colleague, Deputy Phil Hogan, highlighted in this House in April 2002 the alleged involvement of a senior departmental official in a Dublin-based child sex ring at a time he was supposed to have been investigating child abuse. That individual had investigated the home run by Nora Wall and gave it a clean bill of health at a time when there were serious problems at the home, as identified by the Ryan report. .....I regret I do not have more time to probe these matters further but I will return to them in the autumn. It is evident from the behaviour of officials at the Departments of Education Science and Health and Children that Ireland has an endemic problem in respect of the craven deference shown to institutions and those who personify them. .......

Deputy Flanagan did not repeat his colleague's 2002 claim about children being forced to have sex with animals but he did add a new allegation against the Cistercian monks of Mount Melleray - presumably because their Abbey was not far from the Sister of Mercy home in Cappoquin.

(4) Ruairi Quinn Claims Dept of Education Officials are Members of "Secret Societies" like Opus Dei and Knights of Columbanus

Labour Deputy Ruairi Quinn's claim about Education officials was not as vile as that of Fine Gael's Phil Hogan or Charlie Flanagan but it was made in June 2009 at the same time that the latter was accusing a former official of being a member of a paedophile ring. It also echoes Richard Webster's observation about the events of 1994 precipitated by Deputy Pat Rabbitte when "the Fianna Fail government of Albert Reynolds fell, amidst talk of a dark conspiracy involving politicians, members of Opus Dei, the Knights of Columbus and others." 

Ruairi Quinn was leader of the Labour Party from 1997 to 2002 - prior to voicing his fantasies about Opus Dei in Education - and went on to become Minister for Education himself from 2011 to 2014. Now in retirement, Quinn gave an interview to Kathy Sheridan of the Irish Times which was published on 22 February 2016, entitled "Not retiring quietly, Ruairi Quinn has harsh words for critics"  
....There is no shouting now either, more a deep frustration, disappointment and the sadness of a man first elected nearly 40 years ago, now facing into retirement amid unprecedented levels of abuse and venom. He blames media coverage and intolerance, and a general drop in standards. “People feel they can blackguard each other. .....

Irony is definitely not the former Education Ministers's  strong point. There is no hint that Quinn's own brand of thuggish rhetoric had anything to do with the "unprecedented levels of abuse and venom" in public discourse. In fact Catholic clergy, the Gardai (police) - and lately the stars of Irish rugby - are far more likely to be targets than Labour Party politicians. However it's true that any public figure can be targeted by hate-filled fanatics and Ruairi Quinn  certainly didn't like the share of venom he got when he was in power. It was much safer to be on the  opposition benches, dishing it out!


To give Senator Aodhan O'Riordain his due, his denunciation of the "smug well-connected  middle class boys" who had been falsely accused of rape, was NOT as vile as the behaviour of the two Fine Gael politicians who are currently serving as EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Minister for Justice and Equality respectively.  O'Riordain's tweet was not on the same level as accusing a senior Education official of being a member of a paedophile ring (Phil Hogan and Charlie Flanagan) or nuns forcing children to have sex with animals (Phil Hogan alone). Actually you could make a similar judgement about the antics of retired Labour politicians Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn; they also failed to descend to the gutter levels of their FG counterparts.

 It is strange that the once conservative and Christian Democrat-style Fine Gael party can produce  people like Hogan and Flanagan but Labour isn't quite as bad. Perhaps part of the explanation is that Paddy Jackson and his IRFU colleagues are entirely secular - they are not even "collateral damage" for people whose main interest is in demonising the clergy. For the time being, rugby stars and other prominent secular types do not attract quite the same level of venomous hatred. However in the moral vacuum left by the decline of the Catholic Church, I would not expect this situation to continue. Future witch-hunts are likely to to be aimed at male authority figures like the police and the IRFU and I predict they they will turn out to be as vile as anything that Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe experienced.