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30 July 1998 Edition

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The future is under the carpet

by Meadbh Gallagher

There is a sense of a clean sweep in the processing of child sexual abuse by the Irish courts at present.

And there is a notion that when this sorry series of trials stop, that will be it, the floor will be clean, and the government, the judiciary, the churches, the professions and communities can wipe the dust from their hands and walk away.

Not that there is a conspiracy to cover up, but, as yet more priests, professionals and fathers arrive in the dock charged with abusing children, the courts are merely assuming their regular role as the clearing house for yet another ``unsolved mystery'' in Irish society.

For, like other criminal trials, not much of the truth can really be gleaned from these court appearances, and while we catch a glimpse of yet another convicted abuser being led away every week, we almost never get the help we need to explain why they did it, how they got away with it for so long and how it can be avoided in the future, never mind right now, today.

We watch these speed trials in slow motion, from the sidelines, and there is no sense of urgency in our responses to them. There are no tribunals, no millions spent, no legislation rushed through in 24 hours, no government forums. There is no DPP pushing the boundaries of the law, never mind a zealous Starr prosecutor. There is no church restructuring, there is no bible thumping or evangelical anger about these gross happenings. There are no community meetings or marches.

As yesterday's abuse is cleared through the courts, today's is swept under the carpet. And as our youngest children sing that they ``want to have sex on the beach'', their parents and priests baulk at the idea that they will be taught about penises and vaginas at school, or much more, that they will learn the self confidence to decide for themselves just what sex they want, who they want it with and how wrong the world is that tries to turn them into underage sex objects.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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