Michael O’Brien’s Anger
A friend sent me this clip from a 2009 Irish public affairs program called Questions And Answers. The man in the clip is Michael O’Brien, then 72, a former mayor and member of the Fianna Fáil party. In the 1940s, he and his seven siblings were removed from their home after their mother died. He was put into an “industrial school” — a boarding school meant to house poor, neglected, and orphaned children — run by the Irish branch of the Rosminians, a Catholic religious order, where he was abused. He had given testimony before the Ryan Commission investigating sexual abuse by the Catholic Church. In the 2009 televised forum organized after the release of the commission report, O’Brien, in the audience, stood and lacerated the Minister of Transport — a member of his own political party — for the way the government handled the investigation. At the end of his statement, he urges the government to change the Irish constitution to defund Catholic religious orders.
Below is a transcript of what O’Brien said. But you really have to listen to the man speak in the video to understand the depth of the pain and the rage he has. This is something that a lot of people don’t really get unless they talk to survivors of clerical sex abuse. Imagine that kind of grief spread among the thousands of child sex abuse victims of priests in this country.
Here’s the transcript:
“Mr Chairman, I am surprised at the Minister now. First of all Minister you made a bags of it in the beginning by changing the judges. You made a complete bags of it at that time because I went to the Laffoy Commission and ye had seven barristers there questioning me, telling me that I was telling lies when I told them that I got raped of a Saturday, got an merciful beating after it and he then came along the following morning and put Holy Communion in my mouth. You don’t know what happened there . You haven’t the foggiest. You’re talking through your hat there, and you are talking to a Fianna Fáil man, and a former councillor and a former mayor that worked tooth and nail for the party that you are talking about now. You didn’t do it right. You got it wrong. Admit it and apologise for doing that because you don’t know what I feel inside me. You don’t know the hurt I have.
You said it was non-adversarial. My God, seven barristers throwing questions at us non-stop. I attempted to commit suicide, [turning to his wife] there’s the woman who saved me from committing suicide on my way down from Dublin after spending five days at the commission . They brought a man over from Rome – 90 odd years of age – to tell me I was telling lies and that I wasn’t beaten for an hour non-stop by two of them from head to toe without a shred of cloth on my body. My God, Minister.
[Turning to Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar] Can I speak to you and ask your leader to stop making a political football out of this. You hurt us when you do that. You tear the shreds from inside our body. For God’s sake, try and give us some peace, try and give us some peace, and not continue hurting us.
[Turning to his wife]
That woman will tell you how many times I jump out of bed at night with the sweat pumping out of me because I see these fellows at the end of the bed with their fingers pulling me into the room to rape me, to bugger me and to beat the shite out of me. That’s the way it is, and sometime, you know what, I listen to the leader of Fianna Fáil. I even listened to the apology. It was mealy-mouthed but at least it was an apology. The Rosminians said in the report that they were easy on us. The first day I went there, the first day I went to the Rosminians in my home which is Ferryhouse in Clonmel, the only home I know, he said you’re in it for the money. We didn’t want money. We wanted someone to stand up and say ‘yes these fellows were buggered, these people were robbed’.
Little girls, my sister, a month old when she was put into an institution, eight of us from the one family were dragged by the ISPCC cruelty man, put into two cars and brought to the court in Clonmel. We were left standing there without food or anything and the fellow in the long black frock and white collar came along and he put us into a scut-truck and landed us below with 200 other boys. Two nights later I was raped.
How can anyone, you’re talking about the Constitution, these people would gladly say yes to a Constitution to freeze the funds of the religious orders. This State, this country of ours will say yes to that Constitution if you have to change it.
Don’t say you can’t change it. You are the Government of this State. You run this State. So, for God’s sake, stop mealy-mouthing because I am sick of it. You are turning me away from voting Fianna Fáil, which I have done from the day I could vote.
You know me Minister and you have met me on several occasions, so you know what I am like. Remember Wexford?”
UPDATE: Reader Old West points out that this is exactly the kind of anger we ought to be seeing and hearing from bishops. That’s right! And that’s the thing that I have never, ever understood about this entire damn scandal: why we have yet to see a single bishop respond with that kind of righteous anger. I’m sick and tired of hearing them say how “sad” this is, though sad it is. If they had the slightest empathy with those children, they would react much as Michael O’Brien did. Just think of Pope Francis spoke with even a fraction of O’Brien’s conviction and passion, what it would do. It might just put the fear of God into those cretinous time-servers.