The self loathing Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Dear Mr Salvioli, When miscarriages of justice occurred in Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties was strangely silent. Contrast their behaviour to the achievements of the National Council for Civil Liberties, now called ‘Liberty’, in Britain, which has been instrumental in exposing miscarriages of justice and in the release of innocent people from jail. On the other hand, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has little work to do in Ireland and so has taken to fighting with the dead, a behaviour common in Ireland due to the nation’s cultural biases and often expressed as a national self-loathing. The actions of the ICCL border on sectarian prejudice and are nearly always exclusively aimed at the catholic church. However, the most disturbing actions of the ICCL are their arguments calling for the fundamental principle of justice and human rights to be set aside.

Recently the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes has found that many of the allegations made by and/or endorsed by the ICCL were not supported by evidence.[1] A major embarrassment one would think, but the ICCL has attempted a counterattack by writing whimperingly to you at the United Nations. Their chief weapon is the anachronistic application of human rights law to the past, a time when no such rights were protected by law. An action akin to banning cars from a city centre, and then accusing drivers who drove on those streets before the ban of breaking the law and seeking to fine them or have them arrested.

The mother and baby homes scandals are primarily founded upon the issue of historical high infant mortality rates, thus bringing into play the investigative tools of science and mathematics, tools not normally available to historians. That is specialist historians with knowledge, or at least a basic understanding of pathology, aetiology and epidemiology.

These are subjects not normally taught to historians and lawyers, yet the Irish government appointed such ill-equipped people to investigate the causes of historical high infant mortality rates. When knowledge is absent, assumptions are imperative to fill in the gaps, thus facilitating the arrival at conclusions that would be otherwise impossible.

The size of the assumption is directly proportional to the size of the knowledge gap. Accordingly, the bigger the assumption the greater the distance it is in essence from reality. Consequently, the commission has made several substantial mistakes which all fall on one side in favour of the abuse hypothesis, the same side as the ICCL. However, these errors are easily exposed using current scientific understandings.

The lawyers and the personnel at the ICCL have demonstrated time and again that they have no such specialist knowledge of vintage medicine or science and are forced to base their arguments and allegations entirely on assumptions. However, in their specialist area of law, they also astonishingly wander away from the principles of good justice.

They argue for a ‘survivor-led approach’ to the evidence, effectively urging the government and observers to dismiss evidence, and accept all allegations as fact without the slightest test for credibility. The fundamental principle of justice is that allegations can only be proven if they are supported by evidence. All allegations must therefore be tested for credibility. Many of the allegations made by the ICCL and others are reliant on historical and logical fallacies, and on ‘hearsay’, a legal term, which is tightly controlled in a court setting using the rules of evidence, because of its potential to cause injustice. Moreover, the ICCL seeks to deny the accused of their rights which are guaranteed by the Irish constitution, namely, ‘equality before the law’ and ‘the right to fair procedures’.

During a previous Irish government enquiry, when scientific tools were available to subject witnesses’ allegations to impartial credibility tests, one-third of applicants were found to have provided false testimony.[2] The commission of investigation into mother and baby homes has also encountered false testimony but has failed to publicly quantify its extent. The number of such testimonies is likely to be substantial in number, judging from the many accounts appearing in the Irish media, which rely on pushing credulity to heights never before seen. Given that there are huge sums of money on offer as compensation, it is no surprise to find a lot of people are willing to chance their luck, as there is a lot to be gained and little to be lost. As in other cases, many of the accusers work on the premise that the more exaggerated their allegations, the more they will be paid in compensation. In effect, Ireland’s legal system has a long record of rewarding dishonesty, often at the expense of genuine cases made by honest persons.

Unlike its neighbouring countries, Ireland has a compensation culture that is so pervasive and the awards so high, that the country’s insurance costs are astronomical. It has become so problematic for society, that the government has recently gotten the Irish judiciary to agree to new guidelines to reduce the amount given in financial settlement of personal injury claims.[3]

Nonetheless, the courts are full of compensations claims with a not insubstantial number of cases based on allegations that range from the mistaken to the fraudulent. There is little to mitigate against such claims, as judges are inclined to give the benefit of any doubt to the plaintiff and law firms are more than willing to advertise their services on a ‘no win, no fee basis’. The substantial financial sums on offer produces a level of temptation for people which not only outweighs or blinds them to the potential losses, through the awarding of costs against them, but it encourages a substantially higher number of people to take a chance. After all, if Johnny and Mary down the road could get €150,000 and appear to be perfectly okay after their accident, why can’t we get my hands on easy money.

Despite the allure of vast sums in compensation, many people who are former residents of mother and baby homes have testified to the commission about the many good aspects of the homes and of their good treatment. Their voices have not been heard over the cacophony of the wild and the lurid claims, which are the only type appearing almost daily in the Irish media.

Allegations like those discussed at the Irish houses of parliament where several parliamentarians stated unequivocally that women starved babies to death. First, it was alleged to have occurred at the Protestant run Bethany home and later applied to all Catholic-run homes. All allegations were reliant on an ignorant and inept interpretation of the medical term ‘marasmus’, which appeared on a small number of death certificates.

Death due to this exact cause occurred at all of the nation’s maternity hospitals in the past. Accordingly, it would be an imperative of justice that a commission of investigation be established to bring to bear scrutiny on these hospitals and also on the Irish Medical Council and on An Bord Altranais, respectively, the regulatory bodies for doctors and nurses.

If the same evidence that is used to accuse women of murder and abuse can be found at all maternity hospitals, then the singling out of Christian run institutions would in itself be a cause for concern. One would reasonably expect an organisation like the ICCL would be at the forefront in sounding the alarm about the potential for injustice and the breach of the human rights of the accused.

The ICCL citing the commission’s final report wrote that ‘babies and young children were reported to have died from malnutrition, a form of neglect.’ The Commission state:

33.5. Some commentators have concluded that infant deaths which occurred in mother and baby homes due to marasmus indicates that infants were neglected, not appropriately cared for, and/or wilfully starved to death in these institutions.

However, marasmus was a frequently cited cause of infant deaths in institutional, hospital and community settings in early twentieth-century Ireland. The Commission considers it unlikely that deaths in hospitals and family homes were due to wilful neglect and so cannot conclude that the term marasmus denotes wilful neglect in mother and baby homes. The more likely explanation is that marasmus as a cause of death was cited when an infant failed to thrive due to malabsorption of essential nutrients due to an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition.

Accordingly, this lack of balance is strong evidence that the ICCL has not the skillset to investigate matters historical not to mind matters medical, but more importantly, it demonstrates that they have no commitment to ensuring justice prevails. What about the justice for those who were falsely accused of murder, they may be dead now, but what kind of ‘rights advocacy’ organisation thrives on, and promotes injustice?

The ICCL’s arguments under the following headings are equally not supported by the evidence and were mostly dismissed by the commission of investigation.

· Arbitrary Detention · Violations of the Right to Life
· Torture and Ill Treatment · Modern slavery or servitude or forced labour
· Enforced Disappearance · Violation of Private and Family Life Discrimination

It might seem obvious to state, but the allegations made by the ICCL have been subjected to a seven-year-long investigation by a government-appointed commission, which after examining one million documents found no evidence to support most of their allegations. Consequently, the ICCL might see it as a survival imperative and to maintain their credibility have to seek to rubbish the commission’s findings. A more competent organisation might admit its mistakes and concentrate on the commission’s findings which may be close to matching their allegations, but such aptitude is hard to find in Ireland.

The Irish nation has a remark for the intellectual failings of the Irish elite which goes ‘only in Ireland’. Only in Ireland could there be a ‘human rights organisation advocating for actions which run contrary to the principles of justice, do so in the name of justice, and get away with it. The ICCL would be better renamed the Irish Council for Civil Loathing because that is their modus operandi. They, like many of their compatriots, are prisoners of cultural artefacts inherited from their impoverished ancestors, who were so deprived of social advancement, took to the denigration of others to create illusions of social superiority.

Denigration combined with the ‘colonial mentality’ has left the Irish nation with a set of self-loathing biases, which the Irish often pass off as self-deprecating humour. However, one has only to look at its malignant influences to see the real-world consequences for the nation.

No politician has to date, apologised for making false allegations of starvation against the women who managed and worked in the mother and baby homes. Not one.

Like the ICCL, many of the scandal propagating politicians have posited further scurrilous claims and continue to do so even after they were dismissed by the commission of investigation. The reason for their actions is simple, self-loathing, it is important to a large portion of the Irish nation, who use it to create illusions of social superiority and are naturally reluctant to have their notions of self-worth destroyed by evidence. Accordingly, they will support anyone who advances their prejudices and ignore those who might challenge them.

The ICCL uses presentism with alacrity to promote its agenda. Presentism is the anachronistic use of present-day perspectives to analyse past events. It usually results in the castigation of the past’s decision-makers who made wrong decisions because of not using information that belonged to their future.

The supreme irony of using presentism is that the former residents who were born or raised in institutions were the result of a crisis pregnancy and in this age, it is likely they would have been killed before their birth. Irish women produced a minimum of 181,434 unwanted children in the thirty-five-year period between 1982 and 2017 inclusive. The figure includes 15,094 children who were given up for adoption.[4]

In a corresponding thirty-five-year period, while the Tuam mother and baby home was open from 1925 to 60, Irish women produced 64,290 illegitimate children and 13,431 of these souls were lost due mainly to rampant levels of dire poverty.[5]

The number of births in both periods was remarkably similar 2,199,777 compared to 2,187,967 for the later period. Compare the sad loss of 13,431 infants to the 166,340 children who were aborted before birth and we can begin to see what period of history the baby holocaust belongs to.[6]

It is a mark of insanity to suggest that all the illegitimate children born in the early period were wanted by their mothers. It is a sad fact of life that many babies were unwanted by their mothers then and now. Witness accounts, within the commission’s report, stand as testimony to the efforts made by several mothers who self-harmed in order to cause the loss of their baby.

Moreover, when these children grew up and went in search of their birth mother, it would be the height of insensitivity to reveal to such a person that they were in reality, an unwanted child. Accordingly, and with compassionate intent, they are told that they were a wanted child, but nefarious forces made the mother give them away. It is a story that saves face for the mother and provides comfort for the abandoned child, but it is not necessarily a true version of events, no matter how much people want to believe it.

The issue of unwanted children remains very much with society today, only the method of dealing with the issue has changed. Throughout recorded history, humanity has created vast numbers of unwanted children and it continues to create such children today. Alas, thanks to an unlucky technicality, human rights lawyers are deprived of much business, due to the now commonly accepted precept that human rights only begin when a child makes it out alive from its mother’s womb. If those who are not that fortunate are counted as unwanted children, then it puts a more rational perspective on history.

All societies where poverty is high have higher mortality rates than more affluent societies. Infant mortality rates have been correlated with poverty for decades but only in the last three decades has the causal relationship been definitively established. The United Nations are very well aware of the influence of poverty on mortality rates and appears in what must be thousands of official publications and through its agencies like the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, which estimates that:

On current trends, that 56 million children under age 5 will die from 2018 to 2030, half of them newborns. […] while children from poorer households in low-and-middle-income countries remain disproportionately vulnerable to early death – under-five mortality rates are, on average, twice as high for the poorest households compared to the richest.[7]

How can the United Nations not be able to join the dots with its own information and think it can have any semblance of credibility? The Irish nation was once a deeply impoverished society with high infant mortality rates which were directly correlated to the levels of poverty. The commission has noted that infant mortality rates at their highest during the 1930s and 1940s.

The 1930s was a time of great social deprivation across the globe. ‘Hunger marches’ took place in the richest country in the world, Britain, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against their living conditions. In the 1940s, Ireland was hit by a supply crisis which caused food shortages and hit the country’s poorest people the hardest. The catholic church in Dublin provided the city’s poor people with 8 million meals per year, saving tens of thousands of lives.[8] Yet, they get no credit thanks to Irish ignorance of their own history.

In anticipation of any argument put forward to the contrary by a devotee of the ‘dismal science’, let me point out that GDP per capita is no measure of individual well-being, just ask Joseph Stiglitz et al, but is often used by the self-loathers to insinuate that things were not that bad in Ireland.

However, when wealth distribution is factored in, the true picture reveals itself. In 1931 a staggering 81% of the population of Ireland had no measurable wealth. 1% of the population controlled 59% of the nation’s wealth. The legacy of colonial rule did not disappear overnight. Post-independence, Britain placed a financial burden on the Irish nation which was greater than those imposed on the Germans due to the war reparations post WWI. These payments were known as the ‘land annuity’ and ‘RIC pensions’. In 1932 the Irish government attempted to halt the British financial drain of the Irish economy by withholding the land annuity payment. At that time, they amounted to a staggering 14% (£4,764,767) of the nation’s total tax income of £35.5million.[9]

Britain retaliated by placing tariffs on Irish goods, a time now known as the ‘Economic War’. It placed great hardship on the Irish population and in particular on the poor and infant mortality rates remained high. In 1938 the trade war ended with the Irish government paying out £10 million in a final settlement. However, only a few years later, the British again carried out an economic attack on Ireland, through the withdrawal of vital supplies, in reprisal for the country refusing Churchill’s invitation to join the war on the side of Britain.[10] As a former colony, the Irish economy was left heavily dependent on exports and imports from its former colonial masters. The British Historian Bryce Evans puts it more dirrectly writing that Britain used ‘hunger as a weapon of war’ against Ireland during the 1940s.[11]

There is absolutely no question that poverty was rampant in Ireland and that government efforts to solve it were hampered by external forces and events. There is equally no doubt that poverty was the main cause of high infant mortality rates. It is however ignored in the commission of investigation’s report due to ignorance, despite the issue jumping out from its pages.

Returning to the ICCL, Michael Feichín Hannon was convicted in 1997 on charges of sexual assault had his conviction was declared a miscarriage of justice on the 27 April 2009. The three-judge court, in granting the certificate, described the case as ‘alarming and disturbing’ and said an entirely innocent man was convicted by a jury. His accuser, a young girl, had found God as an adult and as a result, admitted to making up the whole story.[12]

In 1999, Nora Wall became the first woman to be convicted of rape in the history of the Irish state. She was also the first person (male or female) ever to receive a life sentence for rape. The rape occurred 20 years earlier at a time when she was working as a nun at an orphanage. She held open the legs of a twelve-year-old girl in her care, to facilitate her rape by a male employee of the same orphanage. It turned out to be Ireland’s first case of a conviction based on repressed memories, an entirely concocted story, made by a woman with mental difficulties. Nora Wall was released from prison after serving only four days of her life sentence. It was the fortunate result of evidence emerging into the public domain, which should have been kept hidden from public view, as stipulated by Irish law. Her conviction was certified as a miscarriage of justice in 2005.[13]

In both cases the ICCL, founded in 1976, was silent. It made no comments on what improvements might be made to the rules of evidence and/or to court procedures to protect innocent people from false accusations and propose strategies that would make such miscarriages of justice less likely to happen again in the future.

In the parlance of the UN, there is no evidence that as a result of these miscarriages of justice that the ICCL has advocated or campaigned to:

  • Prevent the recurrence of crises and future violations of human rights.
  • Promote truth and memory about past violations;
  • Reform the national institutional and legal framework and promote the rule of law in accordance with international human rights law, and restore confidence in the institutions of the State;
  • Ensure social cohesion, nation-building, ownership and inclusiveness at the national and local levels; and promote healing and reconciliation;

The ICCL not only does not live up to these ideals but has actively promoted untruths and unlike the women it attacked, or the organisation to which they belonged, it seems that they have never protected a single human right nor prevented the abuse of any person’s rights.

The ICCL press briefing on the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission dated March 2021, is chiefly remarkable for its reiteration, as fact, all the allegations which have been disproven or found not to be supported by the evidence by the commission of investigation. [14]

Just take one exemplar, the ICCL state emphatically that women were detained against their will, yet in reality, women had to apply to get into a mother and baby home. Taking my earlier point about stretching credulity, think about how many people are currently standing outside Mountjoy Jail in Dublin applying to get it.

Human rights lawyers cannot in reason or logic base their opinions on false allegations nor can false or dubious allegations be used to attack innocent people, dead or alive. Such would be representative of a significant failure in the intellectual tradition of humanity.

Dubious allegations might be easily revealed when they bear all the hallmarks of misogyny, it was women who starved babies to death, women who abused children, women who abused mothers, women who trafficked babies, women who kidnapped women, women covered up abuse, women perpetrated a holocaust against babies, ad inf.

One simple question exposes the falsity of the allegations, what benefit would accrue to these women for their actions and what would outweigh the risks. Risks like their imprisonment, castigation, dismissal and excommunication. When rational investigative questions are asked, the road to the truth begins to thaw out and the myths unravel, but why have these questions not been asked by the Irish media, the ICCL and more importantly, by the United Nations.

Irish universities have been engaged in ‘grade inflation’ for the last number of decades. That is the practice of making exams easier for students to gain higher marks, thus creating the illusion of improving standards of education. It works to fool politicians, but the multinational corporations based in Ireland are not impressed with the Irish educational system and have made their dissatisfaction known directly to the Irish government. The top executives of Google, Hewlett-Packard and Intel met with the Minister of Education, Bat O’Keefe in 2012. He was told that Irish graduates do not have the level of skill their qualifications suggest.[15] Despite promises, no corrective action appears to have been taken to date. In recent weeks the OECD has also castigated the Irish education system. Dr Andreas Schleicher stated:

Just 15 per cent of Irish 15-year-olds can distinguish fact from opinion in a reliable way. So, you know, what value is literacy, if you can’t navigate ambiguity? If we can’t manage complexity? [16]

As the output of ICCL seems to evince the same inability that afflicts young adults, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that problems unique to the Irish education system, could be a contributing factor in the apparent lack of skills and abilities at the ICCL.

Natural justice demands that the United Nations should at least subject allegations to a test for veracity rather than gullibly accepting the word of accusers, including that of self-appointed watchdogs. Notoriety seeking is prevalent among individuals today and it, along with groupthink can occur in any organisation or social group, and each malady has the potential to be one of the progenitors of injustice and human rights abuse. These malignant effects always need to be mitigated through competent evaluation of BOTH sides, especially the contrarian viewpoint which should always be sought out and given a fair hearing. Leave the one-sided arguments to the Irish, and let them engage in their time-honoured pastime of self-loathing, and not drag the United Nations down to their level.

The commission of investigation into mother and baby homes was led by a judge, a barrister and a historian. They were not wrong in all their findings, but their reports contain many errors due to inadequate controls for cultural biases, cognitive biases and a lack of expertise in statistics and medicine. Many of its conclusions will not withstand rational investigation as they are riddled with presentism, statistical fallacies and prejudice.

The Irish nation is badly served by its élite, so we would all welcome a UN investigation, but only if carried out by people with a strong commitment to impartiality, empowered with strategies to control for prejudice, cognitive bias, and has expertise in history, science, historic medicine, statistics and placing historic events in their correct historical context. On request, I can supply comprehensive details of what the commission got wrong and what it got right.

The Christian churches, supported by the Christian community, has been in the business of saving the lives of unwanted children for nearly two millennia. For all of that time, not one institution has been accused of operating a baby-killing facility or a post-natal life abortion service. Such flights of imagination can happen… only in Ireland.

It is time to wake up and smell the manure.

Finally, I provide more detail on all the arguments I used here in my new book and e-book.

The book’s epigraph is a quote by Albert Einstein:

‘Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions.’

Einstein did not have the ICCL in mind, but he provides a good explanation of what might underpin their thoughts and actions.

Eugene Jordan, BA BSc MinfoTech,
Science historian.

 

References

[1] Commission of Investigation, ‘Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation Final Report’.

[2] Broadsheet, ‘Confabulation, False Memories And Conspiracy Theories’.

[3] Correspondent, ‘New Guidelines on Personal Injury Awards to Take Effect “within Weeks”’.

[4] Jordan, The Irish Attack on Christianity.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Hug et al., ‘Levels & Trends in Child Mortality’.

[8] Bryan, ‘Rationing in Emergency Ireland, 1939-48’.

[9] Jordan, The Irish Attack on Christianity.

[10] Evans, ‘What Ireland Ate and Drank during the Second World War’.

[11] Ibid.

[12] ‘Sex Attack Case Ruled a Miscarriage’.

[13] Carolan, ‘Ex-Nun Nora Wall Settles Damages Case for Miscarriage of Justice’.

[14] ‘ICCL Press Briefing on Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission’.

[15] Flynn, ‘How Ireland Dumbed Down’.

[16] O’Brien, ‘Irish Schools Need to Modernise “20th Century” Approach to Learning, Warns OECD’.

 

Full References

Broadsheet. ‘Confabulation, False Memories And Conspiracy Theories’. Broadsheet.ie, 23 November 2016. https://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/11/23/confabulation-false-memories-and-conspiracy-theories/.

Bryan, Ciarán. ‘Rationing in Emergency Ireland, 1939-48’. National University of Ireland Maynooth, 2014.

Carolan, Mary. ‘Ex-Nun Nora Wall Settles Damages Case for Miscarriage of Justice’. The Irish Times. Accessed 26 July 2018. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/high-court/ex-nun-nora-wall-settles-damages-case-for-miscarriage-of-justice-1.2645707.

Commission of Investigation. ‘Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation Final Report’. Irish Government, 30 October 2020.

Correspondent, Jennifer. ‘New Guidelines on Personal Injury Awards to Take Effect “within Weeks”’. The Irish Times, 9 March 2021. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/new-guidelines-on-personal-injury-awards-to-take-effect-within-weeks-1.4504682.

Evans, Bryce. ‘What Ireland Ate and Drank during the Second World War’. Brainstorm – RTÉ, 25 May 2020. https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0525/1140447-ireland-emergency-second-world-war-food-drink-black-loaf-tea/.

Flynn, Sean. ‘How Ireland Dumbed Down’. The Irish Times. 6 March 2010. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/how-ireland-dumbed-down-1.633741.

Hug, Lucia, David Sharrow, Kai Zhong, and Danzhen You. ‘Levels & Trends in Child Mortality’. New York: UNICEF, 2018.

‘ICCL Press Briefing on Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission’. Irish Council for Civil Liberties, March 2021. https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Press-briefing-ICCL-analysis-of-MBHC-report.pdf.

Jordan, Eugene. The Irish Attack on Christianity – The Case for the Defence. Tafannóir Press, 2021.

O’Brien, Carl. ‘Irish Schools Need to Modernise “20th Century” Approach to Learning, Warns OECD’. The Irish Times. 22 March 2021. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/irish-schools-need-to-modernise-20th-century-approach-to-learning-warns-oecd-1.4516222.

‘Sex Attack Case Ruled a Miscarriage’. The Irish Times. 27 April 2009. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/sex-attack-case-ruled-a-miscarriage-1.839613.

 

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