Don Hennessy on systemic abuse in Ireland
This post is about social workers and the justice system taking children of protective mothers. While it focuses on Ireland, we can all learn from it because the Irish Republic is not the only country where the system is set up to favour abusers.
The Alliance of Birth Mothers Campaigning for Justice (ABC) is an advocacy group for mothers in the Republic of Ireland. ABC is advocating on behalf of mothers and children who are the victims of state abuse carried out by Tusla (Ireland’s Child Protection Agency), the Gardai (Ireland’s National Police and Security Service) and the Family Law Courts.
Some mothers who went to Tusla to protect their children from domestic violence and child sexual abuse have found themselves under scrutiny. Tusla has taken children away from abused mothers and put them in the custody of the abusers. It seems like the system is set up to enable abusers to have increased access to children. The system does not protect children, it gives security to the abusers.
Don Hennessy spoke at the press launch of ABC’s report The Triad Rules: Tusla, Family Court an Garda Siochana.
What follows is my transcription of the main things that Don Hennessy said.
[beginning of transcript]
First of all I just need to compliment you and all the other ladies who are involved in devising the report, coming up with the idea of the report. I feel in one way the report is quite amazing because it does something which is not done very often. It actually speaks to the people who are affected by what is going on. It doesn’t take an academic view. It doesn’t take a view of all the people who work in the field. It takes the view of the people who are affected.
The whole report — and it’s really sad that there are only women here listening to me — is actually about men. The problem that is generated is a problem that is generated by men. And these men are similar in style and behaviour to what we would have called the pedophile, and in their intimate relationships, and in their family dynamic they actually act worse than the pedophile. That might sound pretty outrageous, but they do.
I call them “psychephiles” because they befriend the mind of a mother and they twist the mother’s mind until she doesn’t know whether she is a mother or a partner or a wife or a slave. And she is unable to cope with the abuse and coercion and intimidation that she suffers on a daily basis. And yet, when she encounters the services, she gets the blame.
Now why does that happen? It happens for two reasons. First of all, the transfer of blame is the first step that the man does in the relationship, whereby he gets the woman to examine her own behaviour rather than his. And the second thing is that she accepts the blame and tells everybody that she is the problem.
And where does that leave us? It leaves us tidying up the mess that’s generated by men who are never met by the system, who don’t go to meetings, who don’t get called in by the social workers, who don’t get addressed by barristers or solicitors. Instead of that, these men walk the streets with their heads held high.
The reasons why they do it is that they can hold their heads high because they are never sanctioned. They live a life that is driven by entitlement and arrogance. You may well ask where does the entitlement come from? It comes from their belief that sexually they are superior to the women. That gives them the entitlement. And having reaffirmed their entitlement repeatedly, they end up being extremely arrogant.
In this arrogance they assess their rights over others. So you have Tusla [social workers], the Family Law Courts and the Gardai [police] all trying to deal with somebody who is asserting his own rights. They also are manipulated by these people. The manipulation goes on in every form of court proceedings, but it is even more damaging when it involves women and children. Whereas when these people who are entitled come before the judge for issues of false claims or fraud or anything like that, they don’t manage to manipulate the judge at all. But I’ve been in the courts — I attend the court as a McKenzie friend [click on the link for an explanation] or as an expert witness — and I have seen judges being manipulated and I’ve seen my clients being told, “Shut up! It’s all your fault!”
So if we are going to change, if there won’t be another press conference in 100 years time dealing with the same issue, what needs to happen is that we need to identify the problem. We need to take out the tumour that is causing all this angst, and causing all this difficulty. The tumour must be diagnosed, must be examined, sliced up, looked into. And saying what the hell is going on with a vast minority of the men in this country? Because what I’m talking about is rife.
So if we are to change anything, if we are to address the issue at ground level, which seems to be the only place to talk about it, there’s no point in taking it to parliament or taking it to the higher academic places, women need to get together, and we need, with the help of decent men, to protect the women and children of Ireland.
That’s the only thing that will be of any benefit to the children. Because if their mothers are not protected, the children certainly can’t be.
[end of transcript]
The woman sitting next to Don Hennessy in the video is Anna Kavanagh. Anna has recounted the experience of a mother of a newborn baby taken from the maternity hospital by Tusla social workers. [Trigger warning for the following link: this account will probably evoke painful emotions, especially for protective mothers who have been deprived of their children.] Click here to watch the account.
Further reading / viewing / listening
ABC’s Facebook page — Alliance of Birth Mothers Campaigning for Justice
Justice for Birthmothers — Song, composed and sung by John Spillane
Don Hennessy Digest — a list of all the posts about Don Hennessy at this blog