Letters to the Editor: Blackrock College survivors’ plea for support 

Letters to the Editor: Blackrock College survivors’ plea for support 

November 7, 2023, marks the first anniversary of RTÉ’s broadcast of its radio documentary, 'Blackrock Boys', driven by the courageous testimony of survivors David and Mark Ryan amid efforts by a small group of Blackrock alumni and survivors to extract a public apology from the Spiritans. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

I grew up in five boarding schools, from the age of six to 17, during the 1960s and 1970s. I am a survivor.

November 7, 2023, marks the first anniversary of RTÉ’s broadcast of its radio documentary, Blackrock Boys, driven by the courageous testimony of survivors David and Mark Ryan amid efforts by a small group of Blackrock alumni and survivors to extract a public apology from the Spiritans.

The Carrigan report of 1931, commissioned by the Irish government, indicated the scale of sexual abuse of children across the country at that time. That report was suppressed.

Close to a century of suppression (of the true scale of the problem of sexual abuse of children) maintained by both Church and State has caused unspeakable harm.

Because of public outrage in response to the Blackrock Boys documentary, the Government was impelled to commit to carrying out a public inquiry, which survivors of boarding schools and day schools had been calling for decades. Those delays cost lives.

The Government set out a scoping inquiry to record the testimony of a small sample of survivors, be presented to Government today, to help define the terms of reference and the powers of that public inquiry. The term used was ‘a survivor-led process’.

The team collating that evidence has requested more time to analyse that evidence and draft a report that accurately reflects the meaning and importance of that evidence. They have been granted an extension to June 2024.

Today, as I write, we survivors have no materialised support for our most immediate needs let alone our long-term end of life needs, as vulnerable as we are, as we approach the process of a public inquiry. We humbly and respectfully request that the State meets those needs now, before it’s too late.

Please lend your ear and heart to our voices when we ask that our unmet needs to be met.

Please support all survivors, in a meaningful material and determined fashion.

We deserve no less.

Corneilius Crowley, by email 

Cannabis is less harmful than drink 

Gareth O’Callaghan’s words on cannabis help no one. They wildly distort the facts and create a completely false understanding of a drug that, for 99% of people, 99% of time, is benign.

The evidence supports this, showing that the rate of ‘mental and behavioural problems’ related to alcohol consumption is six times that related to cannabis.

Nothing is 100% safe and any psychoactive substance can contribute to mental health problems but cannabis is one of the safest. We would live in a healthier, happier society if more people chose cannabis rather than alcohol.

Peter Reynolds, Knocknagoshel, Kerry 

Mick Clifford spurs us to compassion 

Mick Clifford once again challenges us to look at how we care for people with serious mental illness (‘Blind indifference to human suffering’, Irish Examiner, on Saturday, November 4).

The image of two men with mental illness confined together to a prison cell that led to the death of one of them in the cell in 2019 is shocking.

We constantly hear about how well we are doing as a country in so many areas of public life. Have we progressed at all in our care for people with mental health problems? Large psychiatric hospitals were closed and how we welcomed that move. ‘Community care’, much lauded at the time, never materialised.

Mick Clifford writes: “There is a long tradition in this country of shoving behind high walls that which is inconvenient to society”. This we know from reading about our recent history of industrial schools, Magdalene laundries etc. Things haven’t changed much have they, as is clear to see and are not likely to any time soon.

Prison has become the catch-all centre for many of our problems. These problems should be addressed at a much earlier stage but can only be done if adequate resources are made available to help people living in poverty get the treatment and care they deserve.

Our well of compassion runs low at times and can only be rekindled when reminded, as Mick Clifford has just done. Long may he continue to shake us up.

Alice Leahy, Director of Services, Alice Leahy Trust 

Flood mitigation 

I am consistently concerned by the attitude of Galway City Council and Galway County Council towards flood defences, with possibilities suggested in local reports recently including, but not limited to, sea walls, road raising, and tidal gates. This comes following Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments last week that “adaptation to climate change would be the most effective response”.

Whilst some of these measures are more than likely required for storm surges and should have been proactively sought out decades ago by previous local governments, we must be cognisant not to disregard the importance that mitigation measures can have to reduce flooding impacts.

For every degree centigrade the earth warms, the atmosphere can hold 7% more moisture. Rapidly moving to cleaner energy production, reducing the necessity of vehicular transport, and reducing agricultural emissions in Ireland, and around the world, is essential.

Maintaining and ensuring permanent green spaces in our city should be a priority. We need more trees, shrubs, plants, and overall green spaces which can hold moisture and prevent some levels of flooding.

Ireland’s land use requires a rapid transformation, from overgrazed fields populated by ruminant agriculture to land for carbon sequestration, wildlife proliferation, and soil and nutrient restoration.

We have the solutions to tackle the issues exacerbated by climate change. The science is settled and unequivocally clear.

However, none of these changes will occur with the current government parties in action, nor without severing the idea that “business as usual” ever had a place on our fragile planet.

Criodán Ó Murchú, Climate committee member, An Taisce 

Ethnic cleansing 

For decades now, EU leaders in Brussels have regaled us with talk of ‘Western’ and ‘European’ values, suggesting a claim to some kind of moral superiority over the rest of the (non-white) world.

However, in his seminal work The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, the renowned Jewish Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, places the ongoing displacement of the Palestinians (their ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe) within the framework of European history, and European colonialism, in particular.

In this context, Israel’s clear intent to drive the Palestinians ‘to hell or to the Sinai (desert)’ has a particularly poignant resonance for Irish people.

As we go about our business today and tomorrow, the horrible dance macabre in Gaza goes on and on — 24 hours a day, every day for weeks on end now.

Defenceless men and women, teenage boys and girls, and children of all ages, are made to run the gauntlet backwards and forwards in fruitless attempts to escape their attentive tormentors in the sky. The latter are as cowardly and pitiless as their European forebears.

Zionism is a European ideology, born in Europe and implemented by European ideologues in the land of Palestine. Today’s ethnic cleansing of these indigenous peoples from Gaza and from the West Bank is no more than the latest instalment of Europe’s horrible histories.

Billy Fitzpatrick, Terenure, Dublin

No peace as long as extremists rule 

No one can but be appalled by the bombing by the IDF of the civilian population in Gaza. This is overkill, pure and simple. To see so many innocent people, including children, being pulled from the rubble of their homes is soul destroying. But I am also appalled at the senseless killing of innocent people in their kibbutz or at a peace festival by Hamas and their jihadi extremists.

I see demonstrations on behalf of the Palestinian people even in my hometown but I don’t see one demonstration on behalf of those who were slaughtered by Hamas. One has to ask why.

Recent statements by Hamas officials show a total disregard by them for the civilian population.

Mousa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas official, when interviewed, stated that the hundreds of miles of tunnel systems under Gaza “were to protect Hamas fighters from airstrikes, not civilians” and that “it is the responsibility of the UN” to protect them. This total disregard for the civilian population by the organisation elected to protect them should say all that needs to be said.

Ghazi Hamad, another senior Hamas official/terrorist, told Lebanese TV his organisation was determined to repeat the massacre of October 7 and promised that there would be “a second, third, a fourth” and that Hamas was hell bent on the annihilation of Israel.

How can there ever be peace when extremists on both sides want to annihilate each other, no matter the consequences to the civilian population?

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister murdered by a Jewish zealot at a rally in 1995, who shook hands with his Palestinian rival Yasser Arafat in 1993 on the White House lawn after the Oslo accords were signed, stated: “We say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears, enough” 

Christy Galligan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

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