Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DPP out of step with abuse victims

FOR the ten victims who have made Garda complaints about the horrific abuse they endured at the hands of ‘Father B’ in Cloyne, Co Cork, the expected publication later this year of the Dublin Archdiocese report is certainly another important milestone in their hard-fought battle for justice.

The Church itself has investigated how it mishandled their abuse complaints [in the damning National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) report published two years ago]. 

And the state has also undertaken a forensic examination (the Dublin Archdiocese report) of how this abuser was enabled by the Church to continue his rampage of sexual abuse and rape. 

But nine criminal investigations into Father B’s actions hit a brick wall with a thud once they reached the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) office. A decision is still outstanding on the tenth file.

For the women who were systematically groomed, abused and raped by this supposed pillar of the local community, the DPP’s failure to take on any of these cases is not just frustrating or anger inducing, it just does not make sense. 

Top ranking gardaí who viewed the files before they went to Dublin all thought they were "rock solid", as did any lawyers involved with the cases. Yet, time after time, the same conclusion is flung at them and still Father B walks around his local town, sniggering at their hurt and anger.

In recent weeks, one of the women encountered him in a supermarket and such was her trauma that she had to abandon her trolley and flee the building as fast as she could. 

Another man, whose daughter was left a nervous wreck because of his abuse, couldn’t control himself and started to berate him when he saw the priest stroll over towards him in a North Cork shop. 

The priest’s response? "Imagine that a man can’t shop in peace?" he tut-tutted to onlookers.

"This man is not ashamed. It is disgusting and he is disgusting. He flaunts himself around the place. He is not a bit afraid of being prosecuted and he just laughs at us. It is a horror story," she said.

The victims describe him as outwardly "very charming and very funny and witty". 

It was this facade that allowed him to endear himself to young children and more importantly their families who were happy to see him spending time with their children.

"He just sucked everyone in with his gas stories, being the funny man. But really he is a narcissistic ego who has no shame whatsoever for what he did to us and how he destroyed our lives".

All of the victims contend that there is a "a lot of similarities between their cases", whether it is physical descriptions of where the abuse took place, how they were groomed, how he ingratiated himself with their families and even of the abuse itself.

"The pattern of abuse is exactly the same," one said.

The group met with state solicitor Frank Nyhan recently and even he agreed that the DPP should meet with the women to discuss their cases. They also met with Labour party justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte.

One victim, Maria, says that "every time another abuse complaint was sent to the DPP’s office, I sent in a letter reminding him of my case and the many more that have gone through his office. And every time I received the same letter that the position remained the same as outlined in previous correspondence, the position was unchanged".

Maria has received apologies for her abuse from the diocese of Cloyne, as well as compensation.

The diocese itself has sought to defrock the priest before they were forced to postpone the canonical tribunal. A written copy of a diocesan apology to one of the victims was also sent to the DPP’s office.

The extent of the evidence that the women have amassed about their abuse is astounding.

"The files were so strong. There were presents that he bought for us, diaries from that time. We remembered things about the physical environment so clearly, it was like a written photograph."

Christmas wasn’t easy for these women. The return of three more files from the DPP’s office has hurt them deeply as, every time a file is dispatched, hope is re-ignited again that they will see their abuser in court.

Last week, the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation sent its report on Cloyne to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern. It’s believed that it could be Easter before this report is published. The report has been described by people who have seen sections of it as "worse than Ferns".

However, while every report on abuse is to be championed for its efforts to shed light on the Church and state’s seedy, amoral past, for the victims, the current justice system is their latest tormentor.

Just recently, a number of the victims were at a funeral when a number of priests called them over to express their surprise that Father B was once again being left off the hook.

"We all thought Father B would be charged before Father A [Brendan Wrixon, who was convicted of assault in recent weeks]," they commented.

That’s the kind of reaction these victims meet out and about in their lives everyday. Everyone in North Cork has little doubt about what happened with this particular priest and a host of children; everyone except the office of the DPP it appears.