People of the Year 2009
We always knew Judge Yvonne Murphy's report into the handling of child abuse allegations in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin over a period of nearly four decades was going to be shocking, but few could have predicted just how devastating its findings would prove to be.
The 700-page report details 320 children's allegations of rape, molestation and sexual assaults against a representative sample of 46 priests between 1975 and 2004. The commission found that one priest raped or molested more than 100 children, while another admitted abusing children every two weeks for more than 25 years. Astonishingly, when church officials, or the police, learned of abuse allegations, they failed or refused to investigate, and successive archbishops of Dublin were found to have a "Don't ask, don't tell" attitude to child abuse. Instead of rescuing and protecting children, church authorities covered-up abuse and shelved investigations in an effort to protect the image of the church.
Ironically, their efforts have left the reputation of the Irish Catholic Church in tatters. Following publication of the Murphy Report, Fr Michael Canny, the spokesman for the Derry diocese, told the Irish Times, "There is no good in saying other than the truth: the Church at this state has no credibility, no standing and no moral authority."
We would never have discovered the extent of the conspiracy exposed in the Murphy Report without the tireless hard work of those victims and survivors who pressed for a full investigation, over many years, against intense resistance and opposition.
Marie Collins and Andrew Madden, pictured at a press conference following the publication of the Murphy Report, are two of the most outspoken and courageous campaigners for truth and justice to have emerged in Ireland for many years. They have become the faces and the voices of so many others who experienced abuse and then further abuse at the hands of priests and those who protected those priests. Marie, who was abused in the 1960s by a chaplain in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, identified in the Murphy report as Fr Edmondus, says she now feels vindicated by the report after what has been a "long road" for her and other campaigners. Andrew's decision to go public about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Fr Ivan Payne precipitated Judge Murphy's investigation.
Their dignity in the face of stonewalling, deception and misrepresentation is breathtaking. One cannot imagine the emotional price they have paid because of their courageous determination to speak truth to power. And one can only stand in awe of their ability to speak the truth with such clarity and grace. Every Irish person concerned about truth, justice and the protection of the vulnerable owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.
The BBC Will & Testament people of the year title for 2009 goes to Andrew Madden and Marie Collins.