The Victim Who Opened the Floodgates on Our Nation's Darkest Secret

By Gemma O'Doherty
Irish Independent
May 23, 2009

Gemma O'Doherty talks to Andrew Madden

He was the man who broke the wall of silence. A crushed, lonely figure who took a radical leap of courage which would, one day, tear the mask off seven decades of child torture by Irish priests and nuns.

Andrew Madden knows he will probably always be remembered as the first Irish victim of a paedophile priest to go public. His unprecedented fortitude in coming forward and revealing the vile weekly abuse he suffered at the hands of Fr Ivan Payne played a vital part in bringing the country to the devastating milestone it reached this week.

His dignified bravery led to a surge in testimonies by hundreds of other victims whose childhoods were annihilated by the Catholic Church -- the same testimonies which were sealed in a 2,600-page legal document by the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse on Wednesday.

Sipping a glass of Coca-Cola in Dublin's Front Lounge that afternoon, Andrew fields calls from the world's biggest TV networks. CNN, CBS, the BBC -- they all want a piece of his story, a soundbite from the man who opened the floodgates on modern Ireland's darkest chapter.

"Someone once asked me how I felt about being famous for being a victim of child abuse," he says. "I don't see it like that. I'm just well known for what I did about it.

"My objective in coming forward has always been to make sure what happened to me didn't happen to other children, to campaign for higher standards of child protection, but also to try to help others understand why the children kept going back and why they didn't tell anyone."

Arms folded tightly against his chest, the 44-year-old takes his mind back to a bright summer's afternoon in 1977 and the day when the darkness began. It was the moment when he could have run and changed the course of his life, but gripped by fear, he felt his only option was to stay.

In casual clothes and a fast car, Ivan Payne had arrived in the north Dublin parish of Sutton earlier that year. Andrew was an 11-year-old altar boy with a burning ambition to become a priest. Payne took the boy under his wing, choosing him above others as his gardener and asking him to do cleaning and household chores on Saturday afternoons.

"The first thing I ever noticed was on a hot summer's days when he passed a comment. He looked at me and said 'you're probably only wearing barely enough clothes to cover yourself'.

"That always stuck in my mind. It seemed a very inappropriate thing to say. It was a verbal crossing of boundaries.

"From then on, it started after I'd finished my duties in his house. He would put his arm around me when we were watching television. Then it progressed to moving down to my genitals but still outside my trousers. It was all surreptitious, the sort of thing that could be explained away if I complained. Once he realised I hadn't, he progressed it further."

Almost every weekend for two and a half years, Payne sexually abused Andrew. "There was a couple of times when he tried to get me to do the same thing to him but that didn't work. He realised he had crossed another line and that wasn't going to happen so he never attempted it again.

"When I look back now, my coping mechanism as a child was not even to acknowledge to myself what was going on. I know why I went back to that house though. The Catholic Church was my life. I wanted to be a priest. I had made a little life for myself in the Church. I didn't now what the implications of me telling would be.

"Could I still be an altar boy? Who would I tell? What words would I use? I knew what he was doing was of a sexual nature, but as a 12-year-old schoolboy in the 1970s I wasn't going to go running to my parents to discuss something like that."

Payne had chosen his victim carefully. "When he saw me, he saw vulnerability and a quiet child. I wasn't the captain of a football team with a big gob on me who would have shouted everything from the rooftops."

But one day, Andrew found the strength to reveal their wretched secret. He confided in his teacher, Ken Duffy, who was outraged and went to the Archbishop's House in Dublin to tell Payne's superiors. Some time later, the priest was moved on to a job counselling married couples, but the gardai were never told.

When he was 18, Andrew applied for the priesthood, but his petition was rejected. "I had a vocation," he says. "Even after I was abused, I still had it, so I was thoroughly crushed when they told me I wasn't suitable. They knew Fr Payne had abused me. He was suitable for the priesthood, but I was being told I wasn't. When we were growing up, God and the Catholic Church were one and the same. So in my mind, I decided that if they would rather Ivan Payne over me, I would have nothing to do with God or his Church ever again."

For the next 13 years, Andrew's life spiralled down a path of destruction. He turned to drink, suffered from profound anxiety and started to feel suicidal. He trusted nobody. It was also a time he came to a realisation that he was gay.

In 1993, he decided to sue for compensation, receiving ?27,500 (35,000) from Payne, but was forced to sign a confidentiality clause. When the payment was disclosed by a Sunday newspaper, the Church denied it.

Deeply angered, Andrew decided to go public, a process which culminated in Payne being convicted of abusing eight boys aged between 11 and 14, and sentenced to six years in prison in 1998. He was released in 2002 and lives in Wales today.

"My one consolation is that he is in a country which takes child protection very seriously, unlike this one. The Granada Institute in Dublin, where he went for treatment, said he took the honours course and passed with flying colours, but he dragged out the legal process as much as he could and did everything to have his conviction quashed -- so I don't think he's wrapped up in remorse for his actions.

"I only think about him occasionally now. A tabloid rang recently to say they were doing an expose on the fact that he was living near a school in Wales. They were going to publish the details. But that's not very sensible as he would only have to move, and will be living near another school sooner or later so you haven't achieved a whole lot. If you did that with every paedophile they would stop signing the register and just disappear.

"I don't have a lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key attitude. They must be punished for their crimes, but you're dealing with a human being who is coming back into society and needs support. Isolated sex offenders are the most dangerous ones."

Today, Andrew, who is a recovering alcoholic, works as a project manager for a community computer training programme in Dublin. His focus now is the release of the next report into child abuse, that of the Dublin Diocese, which is expected in June.

"This will be the third report on child abuse after Ferns and this week's on the institutions, and I'm not expecting to find anything different in the Dublin one. There was the same widespread knowledge about what priests were doing to children and the same emphasis on protecting them and the Church at all costs.

"Some people say we need these enquiries for closure. For me, it's not about closure, but ultimately about improving child protection.

"There's a perception that children are safer today. Maybe they are not quite as vulnerable because offenders are more likely to be caught -- but the State's child protection guidelines still have no statutory basis.

"The idea that our children's safety is in the hands of the HSE is sick. They can't do anything right, and social workers have already made it clear that they don't have the resources to do a fraction of the work they are meant to be doing to protect the hundreds of children whose files they never get to.

"Only two dioceses have been investigated so far. We still don't know what happened in the other 24 or even if the facts that came out this week are firmly in the past."


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