Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence

Colm O'Gorman
October 20, 2010

The following post first appeared as an article in the Amnesty International UK Magazine. It sets out the themes I will explore when I give the annual Amnesty International Lecture as part of the Belfast Festival 2010 on October 21st. More on the lecture here.

Ireland has struggled in recent years to come to terms with the horrific legacy of child abuse in institutional care. The harm done to many thousands of Irish children by those charged with their care has rocked our society to its core. The State abdicated responsibility for the welfare of its most marginalised children to almost entirely unaccountable agencies. Those children were abused and degraded on an unthinkable scale. It is made all the worse because those agencies were churches, institutions charged with providing moral guidance.

In the southern Irish context the Roman Catholic Church operated most institutions, but a number were also run by Church of Ireland agencies. After decades of silence and denial by all of us, once named, the simple stark horror of what happened in those institutions could no longer be ignored.

International law is clear about the obligations on any State to address such past human rights violations.


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