NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
The Celtic League has been at the forefront of attempts to extend the Goddard inquiry into historical child abuse to include events at Kincora Boys Home in the 1970s. We have also highlighted institutional abuse in the military cadet forces of the UK.
Over the past two decades the scale of child abuse across the British Isles has become more apparent.
Recently in an article for the Manx Nationalist Party (Mec Vannin) the DOI in his role as a member of the Nationalist Party questioned why Manx people believe the Isle of Man was immune from this problem. The Article is set out below:
“THE ISLE OF MAN AN OASIS OF CHILD CARE ENLIGHTENMENT?
One of the truly tragic episodes of the history of the British Isles over the last 60+ years is the extent of physical and sexual abuse suffered by children in homes and institutions.
Stories first circulated in Ireland embroiling the Roman Catholic Church and then spread to the UK and beyond. However any perception that this phenomenon of systematic child sexual and physical abuse was confined to the Catholic Church swiftly dissipated as homes and institutions across the British Isles all threw up new horror stories.
Eventually even institutions such as the BBC and the UK Health Service were involved and most recently it was revealed that Gordonstoun Public School, where the future English King had been educated, had allegations swirling around it.
As this maelstrom of revelations unfolded one place uniquely seemed to ‘buck the trend’, the Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man it appeared was immune from this ‘latter day curse’ of allegation and revelation – ‘nothing to see here move along’.
But hold on the Isle of Man historically hasn’t been noted for it charity or benevolence towards children.
After all this was a place that caned and birched children long after it had gone out of fashion elsewhere.
In 1952 for example a ten year old was given three strokes of the birch for stealing a school satchel the same year another thirteen year old was given three strokes for stealing a £1. In 1957 the theft of a bottle of milk could get you two strokes of the birch while five years later two individuals were given corporal punishment for running away from the Douglas Children’s Home. I wonder what they were running from?
It is important to recall today that the Isle of Man in its ignorance tends to believe that the birch and cane was only given for serious violent crime. It is more reassuring to our historical senses than the truth that it was invariably given for offences of petty larceny. It’s also significant that the type of person doling out these sentences were also the type of worthies charged with ensuring the Children’s Home and the Remand Home were well run. Oh! Iforgot to mention the Remand Home well that’s because the Island didn’t really have one they just kept the children in rooms above the old police station and Court House in Athol Street. Strangely some children ran away from there in this period also. Yes they were birched.
Well lets leave the open institutionalized child abuse of birching and caning and get back to that which was hidden.
Eventually two months ago the Isle of Man was touched, albeit briefly, by the controversy over hidden child abuse when it was revealed that there were a number of abuse allegations involving the Island in a report released by the Methodist Church.
Coincidentally, six years ago before that in May 2008 the Celtic League had written to former Chief Minister Tony Brown suggesting that in light of the UK and Irish allegations not to mention concerns about children’s homes in the Channel Islands a retrospective audit of child care on the Isle of Man was needed. The League said:
‘Given the revelations in adjacent jurisdictions and now in the Channel Islands has the Isle of Man government taken any steps to facilitate a confidential conduit of communication for children who were in care in the Isle of Man, particularly in the distant past (i.e. thirty, forty or even fifty years ago) so that they can air any concerns or reservations that they have about their treatment.
I am sure you will agree that regulatory regimes in all the jurisdictions cited above were found to have been wanting 30-40 years ago and therefore it would be prudent for authorities here to double-check that the systems that the Isle of Man had in place shared no such deficiencies.
An initial step that government could take is to place prominent notices with the Island media assuring that anyone with concerns can discuss issues confidentially.’
It was almost three months before Mr. Brown responded (August 2008) and then he emphatically rebutted the League’s suggestion saying:
‘I have sought the advice of the Department of Health and Social Security on the concerns that you raised on behalf of the Celtic League. The Department is of the opinion that the procedures presently in place in the Isle of Man in this regard are appropriate and adequate in that the referrals of adults who may have been abused years ago when they were children are currently dealt with by the staff within the Public Prosecution Unit of the police force. This Unit has the training, knowledge and experience necessary to deal with highly sensitive and complex information. The members of the Unit work very closely on a daily basis with social workers and their managers and joint investigations would be undertaken if a complaint was received. If members of the Unit were of the opinion that an individual required more support than they were able to offer, they would be pro-active in seeking appropriate support.
As you will appreciate it is extremely important that any possible criminal investigation is not compromised by information being disclosed or evidence being contaminated. For these reasons the Department would be concerned that the setting up of a permanent confidential facility for adults who may have been abused as children, to allow them to report this abuse, is unnecessary.’
So are the six (still mysterious and little explained) cases the Methodist Church picked up the full picture or the tip of the iceberg?
There had been rumours for years about abuse in institutions here in the mid 1950s, but as with all small communities it is always difficult for those who may have suffered to come forward. It is now also better understood that abusers chose their victims carefully so those most vulnerable and least able to speak out would be targeted. Because of their treatment and the damage caused in later life these are people least likely to put their trust in ‘the authorities’.
I mean let’s put this in perspective at that time, the 1950s, the Police (the body whom anyone abused at the time would have to put their trust in today) were happily dispensing the sentences of birching dished out by the courts. I mean they were abusers themselves albeit State sanctioned.
The main Children’s Home here in the 1940-60 period was the austere Children’s Home on Glencrutchery Road. Parents it’s said used to chasten their children with tales that they would be sent there if they misbehaved. Perhaps it was a well run model institution (those two birch victims I mentioned above certainly didn’t think so) and as almost most other similar establishment throughout the British Isles had their scandals it uniquely stood out as an oasis of child care enlightenment.
Are we as a community right to believed that this was a haven isolated from sexual and physical abuse of children when it was rampant in every other urban and rural community in the British Isles? Or are we deluding ourselves!
President Mec Vannin”
A link to the full on-line edition of Yn Pabyr Seyr can be found here:
Links to Celtic League News articles on Kincora and the military cadet scandals can be found here:
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.
The Celtic League was established in 1961and has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues