Ireland, being a Catholic nation, tends to inbue its personalities and celebrities with an iconic status and as a nation we like to promote our image abroad. In recent times however, that image has become somewhat tarnished with the revelations regarding the Irish Catholic Church and child sexual abuse. The image of the RTE broadcaster Gerry Ryan who died following a drugs overdose also woke us from our slumbers and made us sit up and ask questions about the kind of practices that take place in some of our institutions. It was the Murphy Report that finally lifted the lid and allowed the kind of worms once regarded as unthinkable in this country to emerge into the clear light of day. And the fallout following the inquiry into Gerry Ryan’s death also caused the natives to sit up and take notice. In both cases the images presented for public consumption were false. The Murphy Report revealed the years of physical, sexual and mental abuse meted out to children in Irish schools. In the case of Gerry Ryan, years of personal abuse was exacerbated by years of personal neglect during which RTE failed to detect and deal with a situation that had far greater consequences in the long term.
The problem with people and institutions is that after a time those working for them tend to lose touch with reality. Cocooned within the arms of a national treasure they become convinced of their own invincibility and forget what it’s like to be alone and vulnerable. Gerry Ryan became so caught up in the merry-go-round that is RTE he became totally dependent on the uplift a line of cocaine had to offer. The drugs helped to steer him through his daily schedule. The drugs kept him going. The fact that RTE asked no questions is an indictment in itself. After all, it is only a matter of time before what begins as a private matter becomes open to public scrutiny- that is the nature of the beast.
RTE has not suffered financially as a result of the collapse of Celtic Tiger Ireland. If anything, times have never been better for the national broadcaster with major plans for the expansion of the premises out at Donnybrook and the scheduling of new programmes in the years ahead. Programmes such as the All Ireland Talent Show, the Late Late Show and Fair City as well as presenters Ryan Tubridy, Pat Kenny and Marion Finucane will ensure that the money keeps rolling in and judging by the salaries some of the RTE presenters and executives are paid there is no shortage of cash in the RTE bank at the present time, whatever about others. However, now that the Catholic Church in Ireland has been forced to investigate itself perhaps RTE should consider doing the same. It would be a shame if more skeletons were to emerge. A lot of Irish people were shocked to learn the truth about Gerry Ryan. One image was presented to the public while the real image sat at home.
The Catholic Church in Ireland lived in such a rarified athmosphere for so many years that it considered itself above suspicion and beyond criticism. Hence the children in its care were subjected to maltreatment at the hands of the very people charged with caring for them. RTE does not appear to feel any sense of responsibility where its employees are concerned to the extent that they failed to ask any serious questions in relation to what exactly was going on under their collective noses. No onus to inquire into what Ryan got up in or out of work. Surely the national broadcaster must bear some responsibility for the activities of its employees in the same way as the Irish Catholic Church must bear responsibility for the activities of the religious who worked in its schools?
Some form of accountability needs to be written into the rule books, otherwise we are all in danger in one way or another.