Diary 16 May 1985
Reform School Closes
THE DEPARTMENT OF Education seems determined to follow the Department of Justice in repeating the mistakes made in the treatment of young offenders in the sixties and seventies.
The decision to close one of the few open reformatories that has actually weaned young boys away from a life of crime and towards a better understanding of themselves and their environment is inncomprehensible but not unnexpected.
Scoil Ard Mhuire in Lusk was established by the Obblate Fathers in 1974 with an emphasis on child care and building up family type relaationships for the kids referred there by the courts. When the Oblates pulled out in August last year the child care staff in the centre which has a capacity for sixty chilldren were informed that they would now be under the direcction of the management of Trinity House, a closed prison on the same campus.
The Oberstown Youth Centre comprising of' both institu tions was established and immediately the Departtment of Education through' their Board of Management began to rationalise the operaation.
Staff were asked to treat Scoil Ard Mhuire as an exxtension of Trinity House, to adopt the same shift arrangeements and to accept the philosophy of punishment inherent in the "secure unit". This was unacceptable to the staff, all members of the ITGWU, and rather than conntinue to negotiate, the closure was announced last month.
Trinity House which opened in August 1983 has a history of violence, escapes and riots that did not appeal to the Scoil Ard Mhuire staff who disagree with the "short, sharp, shock" approach to child-care.
Last November in a widely publicised incident, eleven boys escaped on to the roof of Trinity House to be sieged by a force of warders and gardai with four boys finally escaping across the fields.
A number of other boys have absconded since, reachhing the nearby railway line and heading for Dublin or crossing fields under cover of darkness.
In a recent reply to a question in the Dail, Minister for Education Gemma Hussey confirmed the riots and escapes and stated that sevennteen out of eighty-eight staff have resigned since Trinity House was opened to replace Loughan House.
Despite the top security, two way radios, padded prootection rooms and rubber covered leg and arm resstrainers it seems the boys have discovered numerous loopholes in the system.
So much so that local farmers who have sought extra security measures for the prison refer to the place as the "sieve". As the result of their pressure a siren has been placed on the roof allthough tests of its audibility have not been impressive according to locals.
Although there are a range of courses taught at Trinity House the routine is not unnlike that of an adult prison and like their predecessors
Letterfrack and Daingean it seems to be little more than a preparation course for Mountjoy.
Ostensibly the reason for the closure of the open unit, Scoil Ard Mhuire, was an overrcapacity at such open centres around the country.
However, the opening of Spike Island indicates a direcction of government policy toowards the punishment of young offenders rather than their treatment for family, psychological and other diffiiculties that has led them to rob cars, break into houses or run away from home.
Whereas Scoil Ard Mhuire, for more than ten years, has tried and tested a sympathetic approach successfully that is now to be rejected for reasons of expediency and obstinacy on the part of the Department of Education.
Frank Connolly and Anne Marie Hourihane
AS THE END OF THE Kerry Babies Tribunal appproaches (touch wood) the runners and riders are lining up for the Kerry Babies Book Stakes. This is a handicap race over hurdles, many of them legal. Early declarations were heavy but the field' seems to have sorted itself down to a few seasoned runners.
As the first few weeks of the inquiry dragged by in Tralee the most compelling question among the journaalists covering the case were: a) was the baby born in the field or in the house; b) was the umbilical cord broken or cut; c) was there one baby or twins; d) by far the most important, who was going to write The Book?
First into the starting gates was John O'Donoghue. Howwever, as the Tribunal dragged on he was less in evidence. He doesn't yet know if it will work out. He won't be running in the Kerry Babies Book Stakes, though he may in the longer term write a book on issues arising from and relating to it.
So the question remained, who was going to write The Book? In the early days of the Tribunal, when the daily reporting was excellent, the Irish Press team of T.P. o 'Mahony, Isabel Conway and Fergus Black were kickking the idea around Benner's Hotel in the wee hours when the drink flowed and the free mussels were passed around. Then the team broke up when the Tribunal moved to Dublin and that was the last that was heard of that.
Deirdre Purcell, whose weekly reports for the Sunday Tribune have been the best analysis of and guide through the many layers of allegation and innuendo which have mounted day by day, was approached by a publisher but declined. (The book on the Ethiopian famine which she produced along with Pat Langan last year has already earned more than £25,000 for Concern, with more to come. Some copies still availlable from Magill.)
The most likely candidate for a book was Don "The Workers' Friend" Buckley who, along with Joe "Slowwhand" Joyce, first broke the story in the Sunday Indepenndent. Buckley has been coverring the inquiry for the Pat Kenny programme. Joyce is apparently taking a rest from bookwork after last year's labours on "Blind Justice".
Buckley will be slow leavving the starting gate as he is currently shaking hands and kissing babies on the campaign trail in Dublin in an effort to win a seat for Labour in the local government elections. He is seeking an international publishing deal for his book as he believes the Irish readding public has already been saturated by the story, whereeas foreign readers have reo ceived just sufficient detail to make them interested.
Buckley is definitely in the starting gate. Beside him is Gerry Colleran of the Kerryyman, who along with Marese McDonagh has in that paper been producing the most accuurate and comprehensive record of the evidence given. Colleran has teamed up with Michael O'Regan of the Irish Times.
They are well advanced in the writing and are determined to 'be out first. Their book will be published by The Kerryyman.
Wearing the RTE colours, Barry O'Halloran of Today Tonight is also well advanced in his writing. He has yet to make a deal with a publisher but he has acquired a compuuter to give him that little extra burst of speed in the finish.
Peeking over the next stall we can just see the curls of Nell McCafferty, who has been commissioned by Attic Press. McCafferty - who, as the controversy raged about where exactly Joanne Hayes' baby was born has been heard to bemusedly mutter "5/4 the house, 2/1 the field" xis concerned not so much with the strengths and weakknesses of the garda perforrmance as with the social immplications of the case. While most of the attention has been on who turned on the lights and when and were there two switches or one and who knew where the switches were and what are the implications for our sysstem of criminal justice, MeeCafferty has taken the opporrtunity to go poking around the previously-dark corners to find out what all this tells us about women and men and doctors and the clergy and sex and child birth.
Buckley's investigation is likely to be the deepest and if he cracks the international deal the time element won't matter. McCafferty will be coming at the thing from her own angle and her book will be worth reading whenever it appears. The only speed commpetition will be between Colleran/O'Regan and Barry O'Halloran. It is possible that the market will sustain two lengthy explanations of the case but more likely that the second onto the shelves will have a job recouping costs.
Given the importance of the case, the befuddled nature of the Tribunal and the abysmal daily reporting over the past few weeks the record badly needs straightening and in terms of information the various books promise to be useful, though whether there is a market to sustain them all is something else.
THIS REPORTER ATTENNded the Trinity Ball last Friday night. He did not see anything sensational.
He did not see any students getting sick all over their tuxedos. He did not see any students pouring beer over each other. Nor did he see anyone taking pills or immbibing illegal substances of any kind. No students were noticed having sex on the cricket lawn in the middle of the night. In fact the most unusual thing this reporter saw was the unreal sight of Paul Cleary and The Blades playing to a load of diamante dripping debutantes with blo wdried accents and Ib Jorgensen dresses.
Which is just as well.
Because when this reporter approached one David O'Sulllivan, press officer for the
Trinity Ball, he was told that, "we really don't like this sensationalist reporting - you know, students getting sick all over each other etcetera."
This reporter explained that Magill was the kind of magazine that reported the facts. Undaunted, the press, officer continued, "well, we've told all the journalists - if any of that kind of thing appears the publication innvolved won't be invited again. I mean, we don't want to censor the press but . . . we've made it clear the kind of pieces we want."
This reporter is glad that he didn't see any of these decadent activities. Otherwise Magill wouldn't be invited to the Trinity Ball next year.
"IN 1982 A DREAM CAME true: A group of gay men and women gathered in San Franncisco from around the world, to participate in a memorable event - the first international Gay Games." So begins a five minute slide show, being shown world wide, to proomote interest in the Gay Games II, to be held in San Francisco in 1986.
Paul Mart visited Dublin last week to encourage Irish men and women to travel to the Games. Mr Mart, a "half Hopi Indian, half French Catholic Arizonian" is 61, an ex-stunt man, and was World Champion Saddle Bronc in the 1970s - a belt he wears with pride. The crowd who had gathered to listen, in the Hirschfeld Centre, were perrhaps more bemused than ennthused. They were interested to hear though, that the Irish 1982 team of five constituted the biggest European represenntation, and that Irishman, Oliver Murphy, won five medals, including the gold in the Decathlon.
Mart stresses that the commpetitive element is not important at the Gay Games. "We don't want anyone to be champions. Fun and love is what it's about." The official handout of the games Triumph promises the games will address issues "that plague all communities: sexism, racism, and ageism." To this end the games operate age groupings, 18-35, 35-50, 50 and over.
Dr Tom Wadell was one of the prime movers behind Gay Games I. A US physiician, he was himself an Olympic Decathlon champion. He had felt the need for such a happening for a long time, and in 1981 began to orgaanise the event. Paul Mart became involved at that stage, and with 400 volunteers, and half a million dollars, gave 1,500 people "the chance to meet, and compete, in a happening based on love and understanding. "
The first Gay Games aroused considerable interest and controversy. Media attenntion was on an international scale - Japan, though sending no team to compete, did send a complete television crew.
Controversy came in the form of an injunction from the US Olympic Committee, on the use of the word "Olympic". The committee won their case initially, but an appeal from the Gay Games organiisers has recently succeeded. The latter say they will fight on, to the Supreme Court if necessary .
The organisers hope to attract 5 ,000 competitors in 1986. There is even a possiibility of entrants from the Soviet Union. The 1986 event will be bigger and better, they say. Tina Turner was the biggname star in 1982. For 1986, in Paul Mart's words, they are "dickering" for Bette Midler, the Pointer Sisters, Boy George, Liberace, Johnny Mathis, and Prince! A nummber of US Senators and Conngressmen attended in 1982. In 1986 the President and Vice-President will be invited.
Paul Mart's crusade will continue, self financed, until he has spread his message as far as possible. A religious man, he compares himself to one of Jesus' disciples - "The Christians were fed to the lions. It didn't stop the Chriss.tians, "
LAST WEEK THE LAW REEform Commission published its report on recognition of foreign divorces and legal separations. It is a short, shallow and reactionary docuument. It starts with a token recognition that the subject raises "difficult issues of social and legal policy." Not one of these is discussed. Instead, the present Law is summarised and eighteen proposals are then made in a four-page chapter called "Proposals for Reform". No reasoning is given, but it seems clear that the object of the proposals is to ensure as far as possible that people habitually resident here should not be able to get a recognised divorce abroad, even if they both desire it.
The most useful part of the report is the summary of the present Law. A perusal of this shows just how good an opportunity for construcctive reform the Commission have missed. The Constitution prohibits the State from enacting any Law providing for the dissolution of marrriage. It then goes on to provide that:
"No person whose marriage has been dissolved under the Civil Law of any other State, but is a subsisting valid marrriage under the Law for the time being in force in (Ireland) shall be capable of contractting a valid marriage within (Ireland) during. the life time of the other party to the marriage so dissolved."
This somewhat complex provision is vital to the Commission's report. The Constitution does not prevent Irish Law from recognising any foreign divorces: it gives power to the Oireachtas to decide what divorces, if any, it will recognise. The Oireachhtas has never considered this question at all, so that the Law which had effect in 1937 when the Constitution was adopted, still applies. This is that a divorce granted in a foreign country to people both of whom are domiciled in that country will be recoggnised.
"Domicile" is a complex and somewhat outmoded nootion which the Commission prefer to replace with a concept of "habitual resiidence". They propose:
a) That no divorce be reecognised if at the date of the application for it both parties were habitually resident here.
b) If a person habitually 'resident here goes abroad "for the primary purpose of obbtaining a divorce" he or she should be seen in Irish Law
'as still habitually resident 'here. This means no recognition for the divorce.
There are many other reecommendations fundamentall'ly supportive of these two. Basically, it is proposed that a Convention called The Hague Convention on Recognition "of Divorces and Legal Separaations, with as many reservaa'tions as that document allows for, should govern Irish Law on the recognition of foreign divorces.
The above two provisions, however, are the provisions which will affect 90% or more of Irish people and they would effectively exclude these people from any prosspect of getting a recognised foreign divorce. Only the very rich or those with highly portable skills could hope to qualify, and that only at the cost of an enforced exile of indefinite duration. Nothing is said about the position of hundreds or thousands of Irish people who already have foreign divorces, many of whom have remarried. Even for the few who could commply with the Commission's requirements, the "primary purpose" clause would lead to immense uncertainty and the ever present threat of litigation. For how long, pre-, cisely, does one have to be out of the country to avoid being considered to have left "for the primary purpose of obtaining a foreign divorce "'!
Why do the Commission consider these proposals neecessary? There is no argument or justification in the report. The Introduction contains a suggestion that they want to "give effect as far as possible (my italics) to divorces obbtained abroad while at the same time having regard to the Constitutional Law of the State which precludes the grant of a dissolution of marriage. "
This phrase contains two suggestions which seem to me less than completely honest. The first is that the present proposals constitute the widest possible recognition of foreign divorces - that it would be impossible to go further. It then suggests that the reason - or a reason Øfor this impossibility is the "no divorce here" provision in the Constitution. This, with due respect, is utter nonsense. The same article of the Constitution which bans a divorce law gives full power to the Oireachtas to decide what foreign divorces will be recognised here. The Oireachhtas has, it seems, an unfettered discretion in this regard.
The fact that it is possible to recognise foreign divorces here does not of itself imply that we should do so. Here, indeed, there is scope for the examination of "difficult issues of social and legal policy". The report does not examine them, preferring to rely on an imagined Constiitu tional difficulty to impose a conservative set of propoosals and to avoid the necesssity of justifying them by argument.
This result, unfortunately, will not come asa surprise to those who have studied the output of the Law Reform Commission since its incepption in 1975. Of the Commmission's twenty-seven publiications, including six annual reports, fifteen have been wholly or mainly concerned with the areas of family law.
It is not, I feel, unfair to say that the attitude to matriimonial law contained in them is a radical/conservative one. For example, the Commisssion while advocating the abolition of the ancient and anomalous tort of criminal conversation, also advocated its replacement with a "family action for adultery" whereby a spouse or child could take legal proceedings for damages against a person who had alienated either parent's affecction. It may also be signifiicant that, as revealed in a Sunday Tribune article last year, certain of the Commisssion's output bore a considerrable resemblance in detail to material on similar topics appearing in a religious pubblication.
It is only fair to say that some of' the Commission's other output and notably its paper on Administrative Law, has been widely recognised by lawyers as being of a very high standard.
It was widely rumoured recently that the Governnment's attitude to the conntinuation of the Commission was less than enthusiastic. It is noteworthy that while Section 3 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 proovides that the Commission shall consist of a President and four other members. and provides for the filling of vacancies "as soon as may be" after they are notified, at present there are only two Commissioners and, as far as
I know, that situation has continued without remedy for some time. If the Commission is to continue and make a useful contribution, it would perhaps be as well to bring its membership up to strength «. and in doing so appoint nomiinees of a kind that will ensure representation of an approopriate diversity of view in relation to the so cio-moral type of issue with which the Commission has been so largely concerned.
THE BOARD-ROOM BUSTTup at the Irish Press has shown up publicly a steelledged decisiveness in the leadership of Dr Vivion de Valera for the first time. Blocking potentially explosive moves to smash print union opposition to immediate inn-troduction of new technology with direct input by journaalists, 'Major Minor' came up against his own chairman, Donal Flinn. The latter addmitted defeat on Monday of last week, resigning along with his key supporter and fellow director Sean MacHale.
The words of the stateement placed by management in the daily paper two days later make clear that a battle was fought and won by the founding dynasty. Alongside the announcement - as if to rub salt in the wound - was the news of the appointment of solicitor Elio Malocco, husband of Dr de Valera's cousin, to the board. This was the final straw - a symmbolic snub to Flinn and MacHale's aspirations and a reassertion of the almighty authority of the de Valera family.
Staff - many of whom had doubted Major Minor's nerve - did not conceal their admiration: "He's gained resspect since the news - he's shown he has guts," said one Burgh Quay union official. "It's the final nail in the coffin of Flinn's startegy ," said another - "It corisoli- dates the de Valera interest in and commitment to the papers. "
The drama has more sub plots than a Tolstoy epic. All agree that the main issue was whether to fight the Irish Print Union now and risk a shutdown - a policy that closed the London Times for a year - or handle the demise of compositors made redunndant by "cold metal" once the system was up and runnning.
Flinn's determination to cut through barriers to a maximum exploitation of direct input and massively reduced costs frightened many - not just in the unions. Some of the opposing direcctors may have shunned Flinn's methods on pragmatic grounds a' shutdown or dispute would have dimiinished hard-won savings made by delaying pay increases and selling property, and thrown away recent sales advances achieved by the daily paper.
But besides this there were other objections that speak volumes about the Press and its politics. Senior F ianna Fail sources were claiming this week that they had had wind of Flinn's intentions to reestructure the company trust in Delaware USA that prootects the de Valera family grip on the traditional party organ. Asked by Magill this week whether this threatened upheaval was an issue, Sean MacHale was cautious: "It's not at this point. It was sugggested. The capital structure is something that will need to be addressed."
Part of the intricate tangle is that the company needs more liquid cash. It has already sold for some £800,000 - its prestigious O'Connell Street premises, and ploughed it into the new technology package, even though unions feel its prooceeds had been earmarked for long-frozen wage rises. Those taking redundancy now fear they may not see this before retiring. To get more cash through a new share issue would almost certainly mean opening up the control of the company - and unlocking the grip of the trust.
The precarious state of the company half way into new technology without final agreement on operating connditions - "Like being in a rocket thirty feet off the ground," says one union officer - means banks would be nervous of shoring up an operation at risk of paraalysis from a major dispute. On the de Valera side this has to mean avoiding unnnecessary risks. Even so they are not relenting in their pressure to get unions to agree to terms before the now revised technology changeeover date of May 21. With the result of the print union ballot on pay and conditions for the new system not exxpected by then, that date must be optimistic. "We've no indication that there's been a shift in policy," said a wary Bernard Rorke of the IPU to Magill this week.
Negotiations are not helped by the illness of Fintan Faulkkner, the personnel director curren tly undergoing heart byypass surgery. He is seen by union officers as one of the few management figures with foresight of the problems of changing the production of a whole newspaper group at one stroke. Complicating mattters is the question of posssible demarcation feuds over which unions will handle dissputed tasks like "marking up copy" under the new system - giving instructions about how raw stories are laid out in the paper.
The exit of Flinn and MacHale will remove one area of uncertainty - the future poliitical affiliation of the paper. Though Sean MacHale dissmissed this as an area of conntention, it has been widely noted that the departed pair had more than a passing connnection with forces outside the Fianna Fail establishment.
Flinn is also a director of the Fitzwilton group (and Aer Lingus) and thereby linked to Tony O'Reilly, who is also a major power there. MacHale (who is also chairrman of NET) is associated with Seamus Brennan through the former's business consulltancy. With Brennan being in turn linked to Des O'Mallley, there were rumours of plans to swing the Irish Press Group behind a new party led by the expelled FF dissiident.
Grass on, says Judge
THE DECISION OF JUSTICE Carswell to continue with the Kirkpatrick Supergrass trial, despite an admission by Kirkkpatrick that he had consulted with senior prosecution counnsel during an adjournment for illness will come as no surrprise to 0 bservers of the North's legal system. One defence counsel critical of Carswell's decision to prooceed regardless of this breach of judicial standard went so far as to accuse the prosecuution of schooling their prize witness, not a new allegation in these informer trials. '
Defence Counsel Philip Mooney has had problems with Judge Carswell in the past. Carswell actually phoned the Catholic QC to apologise for a particularly vitriolic attack on one occasion. Carsswell is regarded even in Conservative legal circles as "bitterly sectarian".
Carswell is also a memmber of the Freemasons' Lodge of Good Counsel - an innstitution that has embraced many of the North's most eminent citizens in the business, judicial and media world. A protege of J. Hanna's, another mason and former unionist Minister for Home Affairs, who appointed himmself as a county court judge on his resignation from the Ministry, Carswell ironically presided over the only Superrgrass trial by jury.
This was the contract killling case in which Texas McBrien was acquitted by the jury after Carswell gave the statutory warning to the jury on the danger of relying on uncorroborated evidence.
Many of the relatives of those held on the word of informer Kirkpatrick - who, it is said, has been given a guarantee that he will serve only four years of his four life sentences - are fearful that Carswell may not take his own warning to heart as did the jury in that case.
As someone who has actec as advisor and counsel tc crown solicitor Nelson, Cars, well appears committed tc the Supergrass strategy more than most.
The Beginning of the Rainbow
"IF A NEW POLITICAL formation of the Left deveelops in this country as a result of this coalition, then so be it." So stated the president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Matt Merrigan, when he addressed a recent public meeting of the newly formed "Rainbow Coalition".
The "Rain bow Coalition" which includes trade unionists, _ unemployed groups, tenant and resident organisations, last week called for a vote against all councillors and candidates in local elections, who supported the imposition of the local authority charges.
At a public meeting orgaanised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, the speakers - Matt Merrigan of the ICTU, the leader of the Association of Combined Residents' Assoociations Tony 0 'Toole, Matt Larkin of NATO (the Tenants' Organisation), Noel Hodgins of the Unemployed Alliance, and the secretary of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions Sam Nolan - stressed the need for a coalition of all those working for the underprivileged and oppressed to bring pressure on the poliiticians to act on the unemmployment issue and to abolish the local authority service charges.
The organisers hope to hold more meetings in the future, culminating in a naational conference to be held before polling day for the local elections, to coordinate a campaign of political lobbyying of candidates about their demands.
At the recent meeting Matt Merrigan stated that the "Rainbow Coalition" was a political lobbying force to get politicians to take immediate action on social issues. He said that it would be a poliitical 10 bby which will ally with any group that fights for the oppressed.
"We have been conned for too long by the doubleedealers in Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and to a lesser extent Labour," he added.
Another speaker, Matt Larkin of NATO, said that service charges must be a key issue in the local elections and candidates must be connfronted with this issue on the doorsteps. People who had not paid the service charges have been harassed and intiimidated and had been reemoved from local authority housing transfer lists, he claimed.
Both himself and Tony O'Toole of ACRA called on people to show their opposition to these service fees by not voting for councillors or candidates who supported the imposition of the local authority charges.
Noel Hodgins - a spokessperson for the Unemployed Alliance - said members of his organisation were not preepared to be condemned to permanent unemployment. He outlined the history of the Unemployed Alliance, and said that they will shortly be expanding by setting up branches outside Dublin.
At the conclusion of the meeting the organisers reiteraated that the "Rain bow Coaliition" was a pressure group to forcefully lobby and not a political party. There were several requests from the floor for more information and for speakers to address meetings in different areas of the city which will be organised by local groups in the coming weeks.
On the Record
"I HAVE NO HESITATION in recommending that the Minister re-esta blish a special task force. I am very ill at ease in recommending that that task force should also be armed. What in the name of all that is good and holy is the point of sending two unnfortunate gardai out to a road stop armed with a biro and a flash lamp," Deputy Jim Tunney, Fianna Fail, on the Serving of Prison Sentences motion, May 7.
"When will legislation be introduced for the setting up of the new lottery? Have the government decided whether the .new or the old wing of
Fine Gael will get this star prize?" Deputy Albert Reyynolds, Fianna Fail (Question on the Order of Business, May 8).
"It was not just a once off effort, but for three or four consecutive weeks there Was open house in Buswells Hotel with lunches and chats with senior people from Aer Lingus for every member of this House, and presumably also for every Senator. Needless to say, there was the best of food and wine, and hang the expense, in order to get their point across," Deputy Des O'Malley, Air Transport Bill, May 1.
"Can we not broaden our view to see that the national interest is more than just one company;: A company has not the right to assert, as they have done here through Depuuties' contributions, that> its corporate welfare is the only thing that matters and that that is the same thing as the national interest. It clearly is not," Deputy Des O'Malley on Aer Lingus (Air Transport Bill, May 1).
"Even Hitler showed films to his prisoners in the prisoner of war camps," Minisfer for Justice, Michael Noonan,deefending Spike Islal1d\ .faciliities during the Cork, City Crime Debate, May 1.