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Paddy Doyle: We need to know if we were used as guinea pigs

By Paddy Doyle

Irish Independent, Friday August 27 2010

I can still smell iodine and surgical spirit as if it was under my nose as I write these words

IN recent weeks, new investigations carried out by the Irish Independent have raised the question of whether or not children placed in industrial schools were subjected to vaccine trials by multinational drug companies.

This issue has been put to one side since the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, under the chairmanship of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, was prohibited from including it in its original terms of reference.

Following a successful court hearing taken by doctors named as having taken part in the experimental vaccination, the issue was allowed to fade into the background.

I was 'sentenced to be detained' in St Michael's Industrial School for Junior Boys, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, in 1955, following the deaths of both my parents within a five-week period of each other.

My memories of St Michael's are vivid.

Everything about it -- the smells, the beatings, the deprivation, as outlined in my book 'The God Squad', and, 20 years later, in the 'Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse', or the Ryan Report -- is as live to me today as it was in 1955, when I walked through the front door under a granite slab with the inscription 'Suffer the Little Children' carved into it.

During my time in Cappoquin, myself and many of the other boys were taken to "the dispensary" -- a small room filled with a variety of mainly brown bottles and other bits and pieces one associates with doctors and medicine.

I can still smell iodine and surgical spirit as if it was under my nose as I write these words. The dirty brown stain of the iodine is also as clear to me today as it was back in the 1950s.

I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I was subjected to experimentation by vaccine.

What I can say is that the nuns in whose care I was placed by the District Court in Wexford were willing participants in assisting the doctor who visited St Michael's to administer injections, just as they were willing to tell me and the other boys: "Stop crying like a baby just because you got a little needle."

The recent publicity concerning vaccine trials carried out on children in industrial schools is a cause of major concern to all of us who were given injections or "nice medicine to swallow".

Questions abound as to what these injections were for and what was that "nice medicine"?

Were we, as children, being subjected to experimentation that might benefit a multinational drug company and would most certainly benefit the Sisters of Mercy -- in that they undoubtedly would have received payment for allowing drugs to be administered to children in their care?

It is time now for the Department of Health to say clearly whether or not small children were used as guinea pigs.

It is also imperative we know what these drugs were and what, if any, short or long-term side effects one was likely to have experienced as a consequence of their administration.

The Sisters of Mercy and all religious orders who managed industrial schools have a duty and a moral as well as an ethical obligation to give an absolute assurance that they did not aid or abet in drug trials or that they have not, over the years, withheld information from those of us who were in their care.

They must also assure us that multinational drug companies did not pay them for 'providing' children to be used in vaccine trials.

Our Government too has a duty to release any documentation in their possession that shows children were experimented on without the consent of parents or without the consent of those acting in loco parentis.

Were the people charged by the State with the care of children paid to allow drugs to be administered to children without questioning?

What long-term effects might these drugs have on the children or indeed on their children?

There is something chilling in the final paragraph of the trials published in the 'British Medical Journal' 1962 that reads: "We are indebted to the medical officers in charge of the children's homes. . . for permission to carry out this investigation on infants under their care."

A report compiled in 2000, 'Report On Three Clinical Trials Involving Babies and Children in Institutional Settings, 1960/61, 1970 and 1973', names the various places where these drug trials took place.

But I take the view that, if drug trials were carried out in institutions that are named in the report, what about institutions where drug trials may well have been carried out but have not yet been identified?

I find it difficult to believe that the three known clinical trials that were carried out on children in the 1960s and 1970s are the whole story.

We know all too well that abuse of children in institutional care was systemic in practically every industrial school in the State.

Can we be expected to believe that children's homes referred to in the 'British Medical Journal' were the only places where drug trials were carried out? I find that hard to believe.

What I do know is that abuse in all its sordid ways thrives on secrecy, whether that abuse is physical, psychological, sexual, emotional or carried out at the behest of drug companies -- who identified children in institutions as being an 'easy target' for them to use without having to get parental consent.

Whatever the truth is regarding vaccination trials, it behoves the drug companies, the religious orders and the Government to investigate this matter urgently and to cease what many of us see as yet another cover-up involving religious orders and the abuse of children.

Those of us who were in industrial schools and who might have been subjected to experimentation would be indebted to the drug companies, the religious orders and the Government if they were to let us have the truth of what really happened.

Nothing but the truth, the whole truth, will suffice.

- Paddy Doyle

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

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