Monday, October 23, 2017

Are There Very Few False Allegations of Rape and Child Abuse? [2]

Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland

This is a follow up to my original article
Are There Very Few False Allegations of Rape and Child Abuse? [1]
(The first two paragraphs below are adapted from the original article. )

Colm O'Gorman and the Insignificance of False Allegations.

Colm O'Gorman is dismissive of the idea that false allegations of rape or child sex abuse, constitute a significant problem.  He wrote in the Irish Times on 29 March 2006 that:
In the past few months a number of commentators have suggested that grave injustice is being done to priests falsely accused of child sexual abuse. Such suggestions rightly concern fair minded people, but remarkably, no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest that false allegations are being made or that the rights of those accused are being abused.”

At the time, Colm O'Gorman was head of the child abuse victims' organisation "One In Four" which he had founded. Two years later, in February 2008 he became Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland a post he still holds. Evidently Amnesty is in agreement with his views on the non-importance of false allegations!

In response to O'Gorman's March 2006 article,  I wrote a letter to the Irish Times. It wasn't published (I didn't expect it to be) but here it is anyway.

Irish Times

9 April 2006

Writing in the Irish Times on 29 March last, the director of "One in Four" Colm O'Gorman made some remarkable statements in an article headed "There is no evidence to show that the rights of those accused have been abused".

Mr O'Gorman stated: "In the past few months a number of commentators have suggested that grave injustice is being done to priests falsely accused of child sexual abuse. Such suggestions rightly concern fair minded people, but remarkably, no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest that false allegations are being made or that the rights of those accused are being abused."

Did Mr. O'Gorman never hear of the case of Nora Wall, formerly Sister Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy?  In 1999 she became the first woman in the history of the State to be convicted of raping a child AND the first person to get a life sentence for rape. She was also the first person to be convicted on the basis of "Recovered Memory Syndrome". (This kind of evidence is very rare in Ireland but has a long and infamous history in the USA).

Nora Wall was convicted on the word of two women Regina Walsh and her "witness" Patricia Phelan, BOTH of whom had made a string of allegations against other people (mainly relatives and boyfriends). The case started to collapse when they sold their story to The Star newspaper and one of the men who had been accused by Patricia Phelan read it and contacted Nora Wall's family. In December 2005 in the Court of Criminal Appeal, Patricia Phelan finally confessed publicly that she had lied.

In the same newspaper article Regina Walsh stated that she had also been raped by a "black man in Leicester Square". Again it was the first the Defence had heard of this allegation.

At the trial Regina Walsh claimed that one of the rapes occurred on her 12th birthday. She said that Nora Wall held her down while Pablo McCabe raped her. Pablo McCabe was in Mountjoy Prison on that date!! When this was pointed out to the jury they acquitted the two accused on that charge but convicted them on the other allegations. I believe that the only reason for this incredible decision is that Nora Wall had been a nun.  Does Colm O'Gorman have an alternative explanation?

Mr. O'Gorman might like to look at the Judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal on the Nora Wall case. It is dated 16 December 2005 and is readily available on the Internet.

But perhaps the Nora Wall case is just an aberration? Consider the following.

There are  wild claims that the Christian Brothers and other religious have murdered up to 'hundreds' of the boys in their care. (For example an interview with Mannix Flynn about Letterfrack Industrial School in the Sunday Independent on 22 December 2002). Gardai at Clifden, Co Galway, investigated claims that there were bodies of boys who had died as a result of foul play buried in the grounds of Letterfrack. Early in 2003, the Gardai reported that they had found no evidence to back this up. Superintendent Tony O'Dowd said: "There was no evidence available that would suggest that foul play led to the deaths of anybody buried inside or outside of the cemetery at the old Industrial School in Letterfrack." He added: "There was no evidence of a mass grave."

Then there was the case of former Letterfrack resident, Willie Delaney. His body was exhumed in April 2001 because of claims that he had died as a result of head wounds inflicted by a Christian Brother. The subsequent autopsy revealed that he had died from natural causes and that there was no evidence of a blow to the head.

The list goes on. Patrick Flaherty, who spent some years in the Holy Family School in Renmore, Co Galway said he made two allegations against members of the Brothers of Charity because of 'false memory syndrome'. He later withdrew the allegations. He has also said that while attending a public meeting of the Laffoy Commission in 2003 he overheard other former residents discussing among themselves whether or not to accuse a particular Brother. Some in the group said the Brother had never abused anyone. Others said he should be accused anyway.

The evidence of Patrick Flaherty was not widely reported in the media (I saw it in the Irish Independent on 1st November 2003 and nowhere else). However as head of "One in Four", surely Colm O'Gorman should be aware of it?

 There is no way that Mr. O'Gorman can have missed the allegations about the "killing" of Willie Delaney. The media screamed obscenities at the Christian Brothers. About 20 April 2001,  Evening Herald posters were all over the streets of Dublin proclaiming "Now it's Murder Enquiry". Then the autopsy report was published and the entire media dropped the story like a shot. Yet this was a Blood Libel against the Christian Brothers which was no different from Nazi Blood Libels about the Jews.

Did Colm O'Gorman have anything to say at the time? Will he say something now? How can he possibly maintain that "no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest that false allegations are being made or that the rights of those accused are being abused."

Yours etc.

Rory Connor

(1)  I was so sure that the Irish Times would not publish this letter that I sent it to Mr. O'Gorman on the same day saying that I did not expect publication and requesting his comments. Maybe he would care to give them now?

(2) I forgot to include the case of Waterford priest Fr Michael Kennedy. In January 2006 i.e. only two months before O'Gorman's statement, two brothers were convicted of trying to extort money from the priest by threatening to make false allegations of child abuse against him.

Colm O'Gorman and the Catholic Church

There was a discussion on the website in May 2009 at the time Colm O'Gorman published his biography 'Beyond Belief'. Naturally I contributed!

In reply to a comment that "It's hard to be very critical of someone who has suffered like that, even when you disagree on the most basic point, as you always have some sympathy", I wrote

I am not so sure about that. The following is part of an interview Colm O'Gorman did with Emily Hourihane in the Sunday Independent today [10 May 2009] - entitled 'The Man Who Faced His Demons'

In 'Beyond Belief', O'Gorman writes, bleakly, "there were two men living in our village who hurt children ... they raped and abused ... I was one of the children they hurt." When I ask him now how this could have happened, why he was not better protected, he responds, "because I was five at a time when this wasn't possible. It was 1971, child sexual abuse didn't exist. I didn't have anything like the level of understanding to know what was happening to me. And at that age, one of the things I knew was that grown-ups hurt you when you'd been bad. So my experience of adults who hurt me, was that they hurt me if it was my fault." ................

When he was seven or eight, an older boy from the area began abusing Colm, abuse which he was by then tragically inured to "accept as normal". 

And after that there was Father Sean Fortune who was the FOURTH person to abuse him - at the age of 14. Most people's character and personality are well formed by the time they are 14 years old. I do intend to read the book but it seems strange that Sean Fortune and the Catholic Church should be the sole focus of O'Gorman's human right's campaign.

Perhaps it's because of the power of the Church? In an interview with John Spain in the Irish Independent yesterday [9 May 2009] - entitled 'About a Boy' Colm O'Gorman explains:

"You have to remember the social and political power the priests had at the time." In the book he brilliantly describes the flagrant way Fortune would arrive in the house and be feted with food as he waited for Colm. In every house he visited in the area, O'Gorman remembers, people deferred to him and lavished attention on him. His own parents were no different."

But does that explain how two other men - and a youth - were able to abuse him, long before Father Fortune appeared on the scene? Why has O'Gorman's entire career been based on the behaviour of the fourth male to have abused him?

Colm O'Gorman and Fr Sean Fortune

Comment by 'asset test'
Yes it is strange that the other abuse happened also. The fact that O'G doesn't refer to this much is again, because those people did not have a worldwide protectorate around them like the clergy did. Maybe he now sees that as a one off travesty. However the ability of priests in any parish to do the same with impunity was rampant (not all did of course, but could have).
Institutional cover up is probably the reason for his focus on Fortune.

My Reply to 'asset test'
I wish I could be more charitable. The following is from a Profile of Colm O'Gorman that appeared in The Sunday Times on 30 April 2006 - entitled Profile: Champion for the abused valiantly joins political fray - Times Online

It was July 1984 and Colm O’Gorman wanted to tell his sister that he had been sexually abused by Fr Sean Fortune. But the words wouldn’t come. Instead, he told her he was gay and that he had been having an affair with the priest, a monstrous character who eventually committed suicide in 1999 while facing 66 charges of molesting young people.  ......When his sister Barbara tracked him down [in Dublin] in 1984, he had found a job in a restaurant and a place to stay. Even though he couldn’t tell her the truth, just telling someone he was gay helped. He became part of the gay scene in Dublin. Previously, when confused about his sexuality, he had thought of himself as “something sick and wrong and evil”, but now this changed. “I will never forget the first time I walked into a meeting and realised, ‘My God, all these people are like me’,” he has said ........

[In London] Things improved in 1994, after he trained as a physical therapist and, for the first time, began to think deeply about his teenage experience.

Word reached him that Fortune was going to celebrate a family wedding, so he didn’t attend. But the priest, according to his sister, was surrounded at the event by a crowd of teenagers. The news triggered O’Gorman into action. He went home, told his father what had happened, and then walked into Wexford garda station and made a statement in March 1995. That action triggered an investigation into Fortune’s activities and led to the uncovering of the widespread sexual abuse in the diocese of Ferns and elsewhere.

Colm O'Gorman was 18 in 1984. According to this article, he was too ashamed to tell his sister that he had been raped by Father Sean Fortune so instead told her he was gay and had an affair with the priest. Am I the only one to see something strange about that scenario? My suggestion: Colm O'Gorman was gay and had been having an affair with Father Fortune!

When O'Gorman denounced Fr Fortune in 1995, the latter was in no position to tell the Gardai that he had been having a sexual affair with O'Gorman prior to 1984. After all, that would have been statutory rape!

This may also explain why Colm O'Gorman finds it so difficult to acknowledge the fact that false allegations of child abuse are a significant problem in Ireland today.

Colm O'Gorman and the Power of the Catholic Church in 1980s Ireland

I wasn't the only one in the discussion to find something strange about Colm O'Gorman's narrative. The following is a comment by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'

Did anyone else hear the interview with Colm O'Gorman on this morning's Tubridy Show? [12 May 2009]link to audio

I caught the second half in the car, but I've just listened to the whole interview (almost 40 minutes).

I have to say that there is something about his story and/or his way of telling it that leaves me uneasy, because I find it very difficult to believe him. He went into detail about being repeatedly abused by a local old fellow when he was five. In spite of this happening repeatedly and, according to himself, having a devastating effect on him, absolutely nobody seems to have noticed that something was wrong. He explains away his parents' failure to notice anything, but he had five siblings, pals, teachers, etc. Apparently, nobody noticed a change in his personality, signs of depression, terror, confusion, etc.

Then, just three years later, as an 8 year old, he was sexually abused by another local - a teenager this time - and, again, nobody noticed.

Then, when he was 14, he had his first encounter with S. Fortune, who enticed him into bed and abused him, only for C.O'G. (after making a cup of tea for himself) to return to bed and, thereafter, allow Fortune to bully him into continuing the abusive relationship.

Later still, aged 17 and studying hotel management at Cathal Brugha Street, he supplemented his finances by working as a male prostitute (still unaware that he was gay - and this in 1984, not 1948!!).

Repeatedly, Colm depicts himself as lurching between exceptional self-possession (e.g., at 14, he decided to 'take charge' of the relation with Fortune, and even started addressing him as 'John' from the night of their first encounter) and exceptional innocence (in Dublin, several years after the Fortune episode, a man in a public toilet invites him back to his place, and Colm is innocent enough to think that there is nothing sinister about this).

Listening to him, I want to believe his account, but I find it impossible to do so. Even when he describes himself in the present as "a very happy man", I can't believe him. It just doesn't ring true. To me, listening to this interview, he comes across as a troubled individual.

At the end of the interview, I was curious to hear him speaking about himself and his partner having adopted children. Not having read the book, I don't understand the legal status of this adoption, but I would imagine it is unusual in Ireland.

Anyhow, I wish him well.

There followed an exchange of views between 'wexfordman' and 'Utopian Hermit Monk'

Comment by wexfordman
Yes, because in the 70's everyone was an expert in spotting children who were victims of abuse, sure you cold spot them a mile away, thats why we were so quick to react to protect the victims and punish the perpetrators

Reply by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'
wexfordman, I think there is an elaborate mythology about how benighted and innocent Ireland was back in the 70s. I am older than Mr. O'Gorman, and I can assure you that, from an early age, my schoolmates and myself were well able to spot a dodgy teacher, priest, neighbourhood pest (or even older schoolmate!). Any suspicious behaviour did not pass without comment. By the 1970s, Ireland had been well exposed to the 50s/60s 'youth culture' of sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, etc. Whatever about 'the older generation', a more or less normal teenager would have to have been suffering from sensory deprivation not to be aware of the birds and the bees, and most variations of bird/bee behaviour. It was on TV, in cinemas, in song lyrics, books, magazines, etc., etc.

Comment by wexfordman
Of course he allowed him, sure did;nt all 14 year olds know how to tackle yer basic pervert priest in the 80's, it was part of the school curriculum.

Reply by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'
I have seen several photos of Fortune, and I can assure you that if a weird looking creep like that had looked sideways at me when I was 14, I would have been fully aware of the appropriate reaction!

Comment by wexfordman
Ah, I heard differently, perhaps we both need to listen again, cos one of us got it wrong...

Reply by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'
I am listening again, just to be clear. He agrees with Tubridy's depiction of himself as 'a farm boy' (= 'innocent'?) in Dublin. He spent a few weeks with a student friend, freeloading, and then lived on the streets on and off for six months, "either on the streets ... or I'd get picked up". One night he was sleeping in an underground toilet cubicle in O'Connell Street, and a man asked him if he wanted "to do business", and he agreed (to do business) in order to have a place to sleep. He said he never made much money because "I was a bad prostitute", because he had no business sense. Well, my own recollection of coping with student penury is that there was no shortage of ways to earn a little extra income from part time jobs in bars or restaurants, etc. The best source of information on part time work was fellow students. Had Colm O'Gorman's no friends whatsoever at Cathal Brugha Street? Perhaps his book explains why not?

Comment by wexfordman
WITH REGARDS 1984 V 1948, things were not as different as you think, ffs, condoms were still prohibited, never mind homosexuality.

Reply by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'
I beg to differ. I think things were VERY different indeed. For goodness sake, this was 20 years (!) after The Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Dylan, Late Late Show, etc., etc. By the 1980s, even Ireland had been well exposed to the best and the worst of what the post-60s world had to offer. Even the stuff that was still officially banned was available via late night British TV channels. How anyone could have remained 'sheltered' from all of that is beyond me.

Comment by wexfordman
He has a partner, a family, kids, a home of his own ...

Reply by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'
I just wondered about the legal status of his children. I am not an expert on adoption procedures or criteria in Ireland, but I haven't heard of other legal adoptions by either single men or gay couples.

Comment by wexfordman
... why should he be happy, having come from where he once was....

Reply by 'Utopian Hermit Monk'
I may be mistaken, and I going strictly on the content and tone of that one interview, but his profession of happiness does not ring true for me. My impression (it is no more than that, since I know very little about the man) is of a troubled individual.

Exchange of Views between Myself and 'Wexfordman' during Debate

I had several exchanges with 'wexfordman' and supporters of his during the discussion on - these included a threat of violence by one of the supporters. I reproduce part of the discussion below - but excluding the physical threat. [I also corrected some spelling errors]

Comment by 'wexfordman' on 12 May 2009
No kilbarry, you have said that o'gorman was having an affair with fortune and as such made false allegations against fortune, you further qualified your statement by inferring that that is the reason he has difficulty acknowledging false allegations, by virtue of the fact that he made one himself.

Now apart from the vileness of the suggestion that a 14 yr old is capable of having an affair with an adult in his late 20's or thereabouts, apart from the fact that you claim fortune is guilty of nothing more then than statutory rape, I would suggest you retract it i the interet of the dgds rule!!

My Reply to 'wexfordman'
A 14 year old male is certainly capable of having an affair with an adult - as distinct from being violently raped by an adult - but the actions of the adult are still illegal. The same applies to a 14 year old girl who has consensual sex with a man of 30.  That is why there is an offence of "Statutory Rape" distinct from Rape. A 14 year old is not a helpless infant.

Colm O'Gorman has certainly made a false allegation by stating that "no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest that false allegations are being made or that the rights of those accused are being abused" and it is NOT a minor issue.

That does not fill me with confidence in relation to other allegations that he has made.

Reply to Me by 'wexfordman' on 12 May 2009
Really, you were in the room, and can verify that he made a false allegation that what heppened to him was against his will ? I think if you beleive he made a false allegation, you should report it to the authorites immediately, you are after all it seems concerned very much with those who do make them, and you have stated as fact that he has done so himself. I suggest you report this to the gardai immediately

Comment by 'wexfordman' on 14 May 2009
Have you reported the false claims you allege cog made re fr fortune to the authorities yet kilbarry?

My Reply to 'wexfordman'
Many people have been found NOT guilty of child abuse by the courts over the past decade and more, but few accusers have been convicted of making false allegations. It is a very difficult thing to prove - unless the accuser actually confesses and maybe not even then. One of the two women who slandered Nora Wall  admitted years later that she had lied and was duly forgiven by the former nun. The Gardai and the DPP took no action against her. (Having prosecuted and jailed Nora, they would have looked a bit foolish going after their own witness.)

Strangely enough (or not so strangely) O'Gorman's organisation "One in Four" was involved in one of the few cases where a false accuser was convicted. This was Paul Anderson convicted in June 2007 of falsely accusing a priest of buggering him while giving him First Communion prayer tuition more than 20 years previously. Anderson had been sponsored by "One in Four".

Comment by 'wexfordman' on 16 May 2009
Kilbarry, why dont you come out from behind the anonymous veil you have and make your allegations against a public figure publicly ?

My Reply to 'wexfordman'
I have discussed this kind of issue in public on other websites and in public fora. However where other parties use aliases, so do I. My letter to the Irish Times (see contribution no 15) was of course sent under my own name. Also I was so convinced that the Times would not publish that I sent it to Colm O'Gorman on the same day (9 April 2006). So he knows my name.

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