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Irish Times Letters, 23rd February 2011

Madam, – Are the candidates running for office ignoring the Ferns, Ryan, and Murphy Reports and their collective indictment of this nation’s treatment of its children? It is a serious question, asked in light of the scant attention afforded the issue of church-State relations over the course of the campaign.

And, even as the economic agenda dominates the political debate, we ask whether the incoming government will complete the unfinished work of making right the abuses suffered by women and children in residential and other institutions? Simply put, does the financial crisis veto all other social and political concerns for the foreseeable future?

Before heading to the polls on Friday, we think it important to remind the electorate of the June 2009 all-party Dáil motion pledging to “cherish all of the children of the nation equally”. Were we not meant to understand by that motion that the neglect of vulnerable and/or socially marginalised children was a thing of the past? The Murphy report was published in November 2009, and one year later its full import was realised with the publication of excised material detailing the heinous abuses perpetrated by Fr Tony Walsh.

The Cloyne Diocese report will be published later this spring, in the first months of the new government. Will our political leaders have the courage finally to hold the Catholic Church accountable for past abuses, and in doing so prioritise the rights of survivors?

In November 2010, the Irish Human Rights Commission found sufficient evidence of significant human rights violations in the nation’s Magdalene laundries to recommend that the Government institute a statutory inquiry.

The outgoing Government refused to act, referring the assessment document to the Attorney General’s office for review. No action was taken. Again, our political leaders failed the most vulnerable of our citizens. In the final days of this campaign, we ask for whom does the political system work in this country?

Whoever is elected to office on Friday, our political leaders must demonstrate the political will to address the unfinished business of our nation’s past – the business of church-State collusion and complicity in the abuse of tens of thousands of our citizens. – Yours, etc,

JAMES M SMITH, Associate Professor, English Department, Boston College; Mari Steed, Director, Justice for Magdalenes; CLAIRE McGETTRICK, Adoption Rights Alliance; PADDY DOYLE, Author, The God Squad, MAEVE O’ROURKE, Harvard University Law School Global Human Rights Fellow

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