Friday, 18 August 2017

Starvation Orders

Taoiseach Éamon de Valera’s Starvation Order. The Emergency Powers (No 362) Order, which became enshrined in law as Section 13 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act, formally dismissed deserters, stripping them of pay, pension, and gratuity rights.
De Valera’s order was draconian in the extreme, depriving those who fought with the Allies the right to unemployment benefit or from obtaining any state or public sector employment for seven years. Not only were returning Irish soldiers disbarred from many kinds of work, they could not access their British demobilisation benefits.
Condemned in the Dáil by Fine Gael deputy leader Dr Thomas O’Higgins, as “an order stimulated by malice, seething with hatred, oozing with venom”, it came into effect on April Fool’s Day, 1946.
In a fiery speech aimed at defeating the order, O’Higgins thundered: “Any one of us who reads in the papers or knows anything of the horrors of war can have some little picture of what those men went through, of their experiences and their agonies.
“Yet, when the war is over, and when they come back, hoping to come back to a mother, to a young wife and to the little children, they find the government of this State stepping in to sentence them to seven years’ starvation, seven years’ destitution, and to find themselves branded, as far as the State can do so, as pariah dogs, as outcasts, untouchables, who cannot be employed or maintained here.
“They find the government of this State sentencing them to starvation or exile not for the crime of cowardice, not for the crime of deserting this nation in a time of danger, but for the crime of going to assist other nations in what they believed was a fight for the survival of Christianity in Europe.”
Records show 4,983 personnel deserted the Irish army during the war, although Dáil debates at the time put the figure at 7,000. Whatever the total, more than 4,000 of those who deserted joined the British services. Deserters who merely absconded and did not leave Ireland or who went to Britain to work did not face the kind of penalties endured by those who joined the Allied cause. Desertion was only punished if the soldier went on to serve with the British. The penalties only applied to enlisted men and not to Irish army officers who deserted and joined British forces.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A UNITED NATIONS committee has criticised the government for its failure to undertake an independent investigation into allegations of ill-treatment at Magdalene Laundries.


A UNITED NATIONS committee has criticised the government for its failure to undertake an independent investigation into allegations of ill-treatment at Magdalene Laundries.
It said that it “deeply regrets” that the Irish State has failed to prosecute and punish perpetrators, which was a recommendation it had made previously.
Last month, Minister David Stanton told the UN Committee Against Torture that Ireland had a “strong human rights record” and hailed positive developments that have been made since the last report on the matter submitted to the UN in November 2015.
On the issue of investigations, accountability and redress in the context of Magdalene Laundries, the UN committee said that it had noted the creation of an “ex-gratia scheme that has provided over €25.5 million to 677 former Magdalene women to date”.
However, the committee also criticised the government for not undertaking an “independent, thorough and effective investigation” into the alleged ill-treatment of women and children in these institutions.
It said: “The committee is concerned at reports that the State party has not undertaken sufficient efforts to uncover all available evidence of abuses held by private institutions, nor taken adequate steps to ensure that victims are able to access information that could support their claims.
The committee is also concerned that the State party’s ex gratia payment scheme does not apply to all women who worked in the Magdalene Laundries.
The UN issued a number of recommendations to the government to address these failings.
This includes a “thorough, impartial investigation” into allegations of ill-treatment at these institutions, and ensuring that victims have the right to bring civil actions even if they’ve participated in the redress scheme.
On Mother and Baby Homes, the committee urged the government to “ensure that information concerning abuses in these institutions [...] be made accessible to the public to the greatest extent possible”.
The committee also recommended that the independence and effectiveness of the Garda Síochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) be strengthened and that efforts are made to reduce overcrowding and violence among Ireland’s prisoner population.
Recommendations are also made in the context of violence against women in Ireland, including guaranteeing that allegations of sexual and domestic violence are promptly investigated and the provision of sufficient funding for victims to access medical and legal services.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell said: “The recommendations that have come out from the Committee would definitely help to reduce the risk of harm from sexual violence for victims.
The recommendations are sensible, balanced and modest. They can be implemented if there is political will to do so.