Sunday, 25 September 2011

Freeing of the Lockerbie Bomber

When on the night of December 21, 1988, a part of the debris from the explosion aboard Clipper Maid of the Seas, Pan Am Flight 103, landed on their home at 16 Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie, Kathleen Flannigan (nee Doolan, aged 41 years), her husband, Thomas (44) and their daughter Joanne (10) were killed instantly. Sadly, no remains of Kathleen or Thomas were subsequently recovered. Their younger son Steven (14) was at a neighbour’s house where that neighbour was kindly checking out the new bicycle Joanne was to get as a Christmas present. From the neighbour’s garage, Steven saw the fireball that engulfed his home. After what seems to have been a serious fall out with his parents, Steven’s older brother, David (19) had left home a few weeks earlier to stay with a friend in Blackpool. However, some sort of reconciliation had been achieved and his mother had told her friend that David was coming home on Boxing Day. Both boys both later died in unfortunate, indeed, tragic circumstances.

This family were the sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephews of a good friend of mine, Peter Doolan, during my schooldays at Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell. They were also the daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and grandsons of a teaching colleague at St Aidan’s High School, Wishaw. Unfortunately, I did not get to know Lawrence Doolan as well as I would have liked because he was on sick leave when I joined the staff in January, 1980, and only returned briefly before retiring when the school broke up for the summer holidays.

I would hope that it would be accepted that I am hence anxious that justice be done for and on behalf of all the victims of that dastardly act, but what has long concerned me is not the guilt or otherwise of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. No, what I would like to know is this: Why did Her Majesty’s Government − the real one, the one with its head office in Downing Street – not intervene to prevent the Scottish administration freeing Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds?

Why did Her Majesty’s Labour Government not insist that barring a decision by the Scottish justiciary to free him, he must remain in prison? And, and just as important, why did none of the Opposition, particular the Tories, demand that they do?

In all that has ever been discussed in the print media, on TV and the Radio as well as at both Westminster and Holyrood, both before and after Megrahi was allowed to return home, it has been taken as a given that any decision to release him from Greenock Prison could only be taken by the Scottish administration. And that is perfectly correct. But only in so far as it goes.

Under the devolution disposition, in relation to legislation ALL matters concerning national security, foreign policy and foreign relations are reserved to Westminster. Similarly, in relation to executive action ALL matters concerning national security, foreign policy and foreign relations are reserved to Whitehall.

Megrahi’s arrest, detention, trial, imprisonment and then, finally, the decision to set him free on licence intimately involved all elements of that oft times unholy trinity: national security, foreign policy and foreign relations.

At all material times Megrahi was a Foreign Service officer of the Libyan State Security apparatus, acting on instructions of his government. As far as I know, he remains one; although, obviously, now on sick leave. His actions, whatever they may have been, were for and on behalf of that government. Even his surrender to the Scottish authorities was done under instruction of that government.

Innocuously enough styled Head of Airport Security, since Megrahi’s normal activities would have impinged on our national security then surely even prior to the heinous crime which brought him to world attention he, his activities and his professional associates would have been of interest to the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, and, in all probability, to the Security Service, MI5?

It seems self-evident that in anticipation of the possibility of Megrahi’s release it would have been obvious to those in Downing Street, Whitehall and Edinburgh that any decision to release him would hazard serious implications for our national security and our foreign relations. And, indeed, as to the latter our relations with the USA were severely damaged.

Predictably so since the deal to have Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah put on trial was negotiated by the Foreign Office who gave assurances to our most cherished foreign partner that there would be no question of parole if convictions were secured. Life would mean life.

Presumably for both the Blair and Brown administrations there was some foreign policy imperative which made breaking that promise, and the deterioration in relations with the United States that would, and duly did, ensue acceptable to Downing Street and Whitehall.

But why should I think that Downing Street and Whitehall could have prevented Megrahi’s release?

Consider this, those apprehended in Scotland in relation to the bombing at Glasgow airport were interrogated and put on trial outwith the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts. This was also true of the accused arrested in Scotland. He was removed from the jurisdiction for reasons of national security. Elish Angiolini, the Lord Advocate, graciously acceded to the request from Downing Street and Whitehall.

Had she been daft enough not to so accede it would have been pointed out to her from south of the border that the courts, even the Scottish courts, would not have supported her as the constitutional arrangements put in place for devolution to go ahead made it clear that national security, as also foreign relations, trumped delegated powers in all areas.

And that includes the control of prisons and prisoners. Her Majesty’s Government, the real one, both avoided and evaded their responsibilities for national security and foreign relations by not instructing the Scottish administration not to free Megrahi and, had they demurred, then taking them to the Court of Session. I am no lawyer, but I cannot envision that a recourse to the Supreme Court in London would have been necessary.

It was Denis Healy who said that the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion was the thickness of a prison cell wall. Those who evaded their responsibilities by allowing Megrahi’s release should remember that omission is as much of a sin as commission.

The Cloyne Report

An Éamon de Valera, or a Sean Lemass, or, even, a humble Jack Lynch, he ain’t.

Enda Kenny was born in 1951, third of the five children of Ethne and Henry Kenny, an All-Ireland Gaelic footballer (1936, Mayo), Fine Gael TD, and Parliamentary Private Secretary who died shortly after being diagnosed with cancer in 1975. Henry’s election was entirely due to his prominence in GAA circles, neither he nor any of his antecedents were politicians.

After reading the Holy See’s response to the Cloyne Report and associated matters, it could be argued that neither is his son.

When Henry died, the party wanted one of his sons to stand in the by-election and the ticket went to Enda, then just turned 24 years and a nascent primary school teacher. He became the youngest TD in the 20th Dail and is today, apart from being the Prime Minister (Taoiseach), the Father of the House, the longest serving member elected to the 31st Dail.

Kenny the younger’s accession to high office is testament to endurance and not to intellectual ability, political acumen, oratorical skill, or charisma. He was in the wrong queue when such gifts were on offer. That notwithstanding, he has secured for himself a place all of his own in Ireland’s long, glorious and oft’ times harrowing history as a Catholic country. And for a most unsavoury reason which curiously for modern-day Irish politics didn’t even involve bribery and corruption, let alone tax evasion never mind jobs for the boys.

Unless the boy involved is his speech-writer.

On Wednesday, July 20, just before 2 pm he rose in the Dail to launch a vicious, nasty and wholly unjustified, and unjustifiable, attack upon the Church IN as well as OF Rome, and of Rome’s representatives to the Republic of Ireland, successive Apostolic Nuncios.

Scathing from the outset, Kenny opined: “(F)or the first time in this country a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’.”

It couldn’t get any worse? It did!

For he then went on to witheringly observe: “Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s ‘ear of the heart’ the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”

A nasty picture did he indeed paint of the Vatican and all its works. Or, rather, did the aforementioned speech-writer. The only problem is that it bears no resemblance to the truth. Unless, of course, you consider that Bishop John Magee and Msgr Denis O’Callaghan ARE the Vatican.

And when the Leader of the Opposition, Fainna Fáil’s Michael Martin, rose to second the Taoiseach’s motion — an unusual occurrence designed to emphasise the unity of the House — distortion, exaggeration and half-truth were again preferred to fact. This was also the case with subsequent contributors to the debate. In Ireland as else- and everywhere, sticking to the facts seldom leads to the laudatory headlines from which votes are cast.

Mr Martin stated as “undeniable facts” that “the Church’s leadership in the diocese and in Rome showed a callous disregard for (the) safety and the rights of the most vulnerable members of its flock.” Last year he had warned the Papal Nuncio that “the Irish State expected the Vatican’s full co-operation in the investigation into abuse in the Cloyne diocese and in all other investigations. Its defensiveness and focus on the institutional interests of the church rather than those of the children abused by its clergy and shielded by its leaders will continue to cause great damage.”

Next up was Dara Calleary, TD for Mayo: “… the strongest message should be directed at those who covered it up in Cloyne, the Vatican and elsewhere … (who) in full knowledge of the horrendous impact of abuse arising from previous commissions of inquiries, cases and disclosures and in full knowledge of the fact that it was either happening within their own organisation or in their area, proceeded with contempt for survivors and victims, contempt for their own Church and the members and colleagues who serve it, and contempt, IN THE CASE OF THE VATICAN, FOR THE LAWS OF AN INDEPENDENT NATION STATE with, ultimately, a shared contempt for the truth” (emphasis added).

The leader of parliamentary Sinn Féin, TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, then rose in indignation to confess: “While Sinn Féin supports the motion, we would have preferred to see the stronger language contained in a previous draft employed. The motion expresses how the House deplores the Vatican’s intervention which contributed to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the State and Irish bishops. Previously, the motion expressed condemnation. We in Sinn Féin still express condemnation of this scandalous intervention.”

So what was this allegedly “scandalous intervention” to which Enda Kenny had adverted earlier, the Holy See’s alleged attempt “to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago”.

In the following day’s Irish Times it was claimed that the Taoiseach had no specific incident in mind as the basis for this reference to “three years ago”. This is being economical with the truth, to say the least. To create oratorical effect Kenny’s speech-writer had placed “three” in counterpoint to “three decades” when in fact the matters adverted to had occurred thirteen or fourteen years ago.

The Cloyne report highlights a letter sent in 1997 to the members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference by the then Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, the late Archbishop Luciano Storero. His Excellency wrote at the request, and under direction from, the Congregation for the Clergy, then headed by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos.

The letter concerned a document which after publication was originally referred to as “The Green Book”. Its correct title was in fact “Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response” and had been drafted by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious.

This Committee was established in 1994 under the Chairmanship of the Most Rev. Laurence
Forristal, then Bishop of Ossory, now retired, and was tasked to identify guidelines for dealing with instances of allegations of, or suspicions of, child sexual abuse by a priest or other religious. The members of the Committee were drawn from the hierarchy, the secular clergy, religious orders and various relevant professions — Psychiatry, Paediatrics, Law, Canon Law; the world of Communications was also represented.

On December 23, 1995, the Committee faxed a copy to the Congregation for the Clergy, with which it had been in contact throughout. It seems likely that copies would have also been made available to other relevant dicasteries for their consideration. One would imagine that this would have involved: the Secretariat of State; the Congregations for Faith, Bishops, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; the Sacred Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura and the Sacred Roman Rota, the three Tribunals of the Roman Curia; and, the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. The list is neither inclusive nor exclusive, merely a personal expectation of who might have been involved.

The document and the Vatican’s response to it have suffered because of the simple fact that no-one has paid any attention to the document’s correct title, its origin and, and most importantly, why it was sent to the Vatican. Or perhaps they have merely, wilfully or otherwise, misinformed themselves about it.

Whilst the Episcopal Conference were entitled to ask that all members adopt the recommendations contained in the report, to become an official document of the Conference, CANONICALLY BINDING on all members and those under their jurisdiction, it had to be ratified by Rome, in accordance with universal Church law and procedure and as provided for in the Conference’s constitution. Drafted by a mix of laity, religious (male and female), clergy and prelate, it had to be adopted, adapted if necessary, into the corpus of the Canon Law and for that scrutiny by the relevant dicasteries in Rome and the adoption of any suggestions they might make would not be enough. “Recognitio” would have had to be sought, and granted, from the Congregation for Bishops: this was never done by the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

In any case, as a result of that scrutiny, Archbishop Storero wrote to the Irish Bishops and informed them that in the considered opinion of the Congregation for the Clergy, no doubt advised by other dicasteries, the document contained “procedures and dispositions which appear contrary to canonical discipline and which, if applied, could INVALIDATE THE ACTS OF THE SAME BISHOPS WHO ARE ATTEMPTING TO PUT A STOP TO THESE PROBLEMS” (emphasis added).

In other words, the Congregation for the Clergy were concerned that if the Irish Bishops implemented the proposals, and they WERE NOT PROHIBITING THEIR IMPLEMENTATION, they might in fact not help to deal with the problem because errant priests could appeal firstly, at diocesan level and then, secondly, to Rome. So, instead of decisive action we would have uncertainty and delay.

In one of the Dublin cases, when the matter was referred on appeal to Rome, by Papal authority the prelate auditors, the judges, of the Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota were asked to handle the case. They wisely ruled that it would be far better to retain the errant priest as a priest under the canonical authority of the ordinary (the bishop) of the Archdiocese of Dublin with the proviso that that authority direct him to a cloistered and monitored life in a monastery under discipline.

This way, there would not be, or, at the very least, there shouldn’t have been, the opportunity of further contact with children and the consequent opportunity to offend. In time, it is believed a period of no less than ten years was envisaged, the offender priest might have become, or might have been induced by treatment to become, safe to return to the wider community, with restrictions and under continuing supervision, either still as a priest or otherwise.

This brilliant decision was attacked in Ireland, and furth of Ireland, by what can only now be described as “the usual suspects”. Un-cloistered and unmonitored by Church or State, this danger to children remained at large, free to offend again, and again. And that is exactly what he did.

The nuncio concluded his letter to the Irish Bishops by spelling out the problem: “in the sad cases of accusations of sexual abuse by clerics, the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must be meticulously followed under pain of invalidity of the acts involved if the priest so punished were to make hierarchical recourse against his Bishop.”

This is of absolutely no relevance to the civil criminal law! Such an appeal might, and hopefully could only, be launched from within a prison cell.

All the Nuncio is spelling out is that if you get the technicalities of enforced laicization (defrocking) wrong then the offender priest can drag it out. Yes, doing damage to the “image” of the Church, but far more importantly increasing the suffering of the victim and prolonging the anguish of his family and his friends; as also the anguish of the family and friends of the offender priest. And the parishioners involved.

And it must be remembered that often the latter might not be all that the priest and victim have in common, for they may very well share family and friends.