Two sides of the same Story
The Irish Times front page story, 10th. August 2017 was “Priests turn to suicide as workload and isolation increase. As many as eight Irish priests have died by suicide over the past decade” Sadly again The Irish Times runs a front page story about our abused, overworked and now suicidal Priests, deeply unhappy and depressing, who are likely to commit suicide. Yes that’s sad, anybody who intentionally reaches so low as to take their own life. But let’s put this story into context, yes many of the Children upon released from the Irish Catholic Institutions committed suicide, for a variety of reasons, not able to cope in their new environment, with life outside the Religious Institutions, mental disorder, depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, stress, financial difficulties, relationships, and from been raped and brutalised by the Religious Orders in the Religious Institutions the children were confined to.Thousands of the Children as Adults upon released from the various Religious Institutions perished by suicide, within a few years of their release.The number of committed suicides was larger than that of attempted suicides.The most common motives of suicides were depressive reactions; anxiety, somatic illnesses, the threat of death; emotional motives; loss of emotional support; beatings, rape and tortures. The most common methods of committing suicide by the Survivors were hanging, poisoning, cutting one's veins, and drowning.
As we now know today, the living conditions in Religious Institutions, like the Industrial Schools, The Mother and Baby Homes and the Magdalene Laundries, were harsh and often than not inhumane, leading many children to commit suicide. Sadly we have no data for my research, but some preliminary data from many sources, like the Ryan Report, and the few Survivor’s Organisations that support Survivors both in Ireland and the UK. The Data clearly shows that the incidence of suicide in the Irish Religious Institutions could be up to 60 times higher than the general population. Most of the suicides of Survivors were committed within the first year or two years of their freedom, and the method employed of the suicide most commonly used was hanging, followed by alcoholism and drugs although other methods included cutting blood vessels, poisoning, starvation, were also used.
The possible motives for suicides or self-destructive behaviours among Survivors would include feelings of shame of their rapes as children at the hands of the Irish Religious Orders, emptiness, alone, no family nor friends. Committing suicide outside the Irish Religious Institutions was a common practice, although precise data may be impossible to obtain.
Survivors are generally more likely to commit suicide than other people, because of a sense of abandonment and hopelessness, specially now, the older Survivors who live alone, again abandoned by both society and their government. Suicide was more frequent in those Survivors who suffered the cruelest of abuses, in the Religious Institutions, suffering from a variety of mental torments and diseases, forced to participate in illegal medical experiments, the suicides generally take place in Autumn and the Winter. Also it is known now, that the Religious Orders that ran these despicable Institutions covered up the murdered children in their Institutions as suicides, and reported them as such, including any medical records if the dead or dying child had to be taken to a nearby hospital, rather than they report a child had been murdered by one or more of their members of the Religious Institutions.This was a common practice, and who was to question them, in nearly all cases the death of child in any of the Religious Institutions was never reported to the Irish Police and if it was, the Irish Police didn’t want to know.
The Religious Orders and the Irish Catholic Church preferred to cover-up any murder to avoid any scandal; and in all cases, data was incomplete, mainly because the Irish Religious Orders destroyed all documentations they had in their Religious Institutions Archives, and especially when the Institutions closed down. In all the Irish Religious Institutions in Ireland, living conditions were primitive and harsh and the children were completely isolated from the outside world. In all these Religious Institutions, there was constant cold and hunger, most of the Institutions buildings were overfilled, and crumbling, all had insufficient hygiene, with very poor sanitation, and add to that, bad nutrition lead to illness and epidemics. Infectious diseases, malnutrition, and hunger were rife in these Irish Religious Institutions. Something else the Irish Catholic Church encroached upon the jurisdiction of the civilian authorities in Ireland on all matters pertaining to the running of these Religious Institutions, and the Irish civilian authorities allowed them to do so.
Another question I ask myself, why did the ordinary Priest, Religious Brother or Sister commit atrocities in the the Religious Institutions?, the simple answer was they simply could. 800 children flushed into a septic tank was easy for the frazzled Nuns who ran the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway. It can be hard for Irish People today to even try to understand how this was possible in Catholic Ireland. We might assume that ordinary Irish citizens were so terrified of retribution from the vicious local Priests that they reluctantly and willingly went along with the abuses by the Irish Clerics. But the truth is far more disturbing than that. In fact, thousands of Irish people, who had lived side by side with these women and girls as neighbours for generations, were quite willing to turn on them and become part of a programme of informing any and all imaginary transgressions, committed by the girls and women, locally, becoming more then nosy neighbours.
In truth, the Irish Religious Orders atrocities against the unwed mothers and their children and the disabled children and other undesirable groups in their care, shows that there was nothing that marked the Irish Religious Orders out as sadistic enablers, but decent local boys and girls with ambitions to work in Holy Orders and serve their religion with sincerity and misguided piety. It’s a fact ordinary people wanted to commit atrocities, and more so when they had the cover of their religion. The Religious Orders of Clerics were made up of ordinary local boys and girls, from some of Ireland’s great families. Like the Nazis 'Just following orders’ the Irish Clergy played their part in the atrocities committed in the Irish Religious Institutions, and all said that they had no choice but to follow orders of their religious leaders. I have yet to find a single case of any Cleric being threatened for refusing to take part, sadly as is now known that even when given a choice to opt out, the Irish Religious Orders went on to commit such atrocities, as torture, rape, brutal beatings, even murder in these Catholic run Institutions, all the Irish Clerics were made up of ordinary men and women from decent families, most were from the middle classes. Although some Irish Clerics were prosecuted for some of their crimes committed in these Catholic run Institutions in the Irish Courts, many perpetrators were never investigated. The sheer number of Clerics involved made it logistically impossible to prosecute them, specially after the Ryan Report in which immunity was given to all the Clerics. The Irish Government authorities spent less and less time pursuing perpetrators, even after the Ryan Report, much less the Irish Police who were reluctant and unwilling to investigate, even actively hindering ongoing criminal activities and investigations of the Irish Clerics. Owen Felix O’Neill