Letter submitted to Irish News on 23rd June 2012
For many years the British administration in Northern Ireland denied that there was a de facto "Hierarchy of Victims." It maintained this pretense right up to the bitter end when the facts became so obvious that the media and the people ignored their protestations. While we Catholics believed, with good reason as it turned out, that the RUC was little more than the intelligence wing of the UVF, the state insisted that every RUC officer was a glorious hero who could do no wrong. Unfortunately for the many decent men who were in the RUC the constant denial by the British that there was any collusion only made matters worse. Then when we compared this to the scant coverage given to an innocent Catholic man's death we raged in anger. Or to quote Patrick Pearse, "the fools, the fools, they have left us our Fenian dead."
Yes, there was a hierarchy of victims, and we who were at the bottom of the pile hated the British for it; the death of a Catholic man or woman did not merit a mention of the BBC news.
This week Geoffrey Shannon and Norah Gibbons launched a report into the deaths of children under the care of the HSE in the Free State. 196 children died in ten years while in the care of the state. No Prime Time Investigates, no roaring from Enda Kenny in the Dail, no six page spreads in the Independent or Irish Times. In fact hardly a mention. 196 children dead and nobody seems to care.
Why? The reason is simple. If they were in care and under the care of the state they were problem children. In all probability they were from inner city flats, poor, drug users, prostitutes, joy riders. You know the type. Possibly from those flat in the Liberties where the clothes hang over the veranda wall to dry. Not too important, at the bottom of the hierarchy of victims, just like we were in the troubles.
I can imagine some wee Dublin woman, fag in mouth, sitting at the table in her grotty little flat. "If only my son had been abused by a priest, then he would have gotten help. But he was only a druggie and we don't matter. But he is still my son"
A few weeks ago when everyone was clamoring for the head of Cardinal Brady, the front page of this paper was filled with stories of victims of Brendan Smith and how Cardinal Brady had let them down. I deliberately waited until Saturday to see if this story of 196 dead children would make the front page headlines of the Irish News. It didn't.
But don't blame the editor. His job is to sell newspapers; he knows his readership well.
The hierarchy of victims is alive and well!