dinsdag, september 05, 2017

Ysabel Mavis Arnold, journalist 7 June 1937 - 18 July 2017


"In Cavan there was a great fire
Judge McCarthy was sent to inquire,
It would be a shame,

if the nuns were to blame,
So it had to be caused by a wire."

Dogerel penned by 
Brian Ó Nualáin (aka Myles na gCopaleen) 
Secretary to the Tribunal of Inquiry.

Marcus Williamson

Mavis Arnold was the journalist and writer whose investigative work exposed the abuse suffered by children in Ireland’s network of industrial schools. Published in 1985 as Children of the Poor Clares, and co-authored with Heather Laskey, the book was the first to show how orphaned children had been neglected and suffered in the Church-run establishments.
A central theme of the book is a fire which broke out in 1943 at St Joseph’s, an orphanage in County Cavan run by nuns. Thirty six people, including 35 girls and a member of staff, lost their lives as a result of the blaze. A report into the fire issued soon after stated that the deaths were due to lack of emergency procedures and fire-fighting training.

However, based on testimonies of survivors and rescuers, Arnold instead suggested that the nuns’ first reaction had been to keep the girls locked inside the building, so that they would not be seen on a public street in their nightclothes.
The harrowing account goes on to detail the regime of physical and emotional abuse, humiliation and malnourishment that existed – not only at St Joseph’s, but at countless other institutions across the country. Arnold had struggled to find a publisher as the fear of the power of the Church led to the book being rejected by 15 southern Irish publishers. She eventually found one in Belfast who was willing to go to print. 
Revised edition 2012
Disclosures by Arnold, and an initial drip-feed of information from whistle-blowers, soon led to a cascade of testimonies emerging in books and in film, such as The Magdalene Sisters (2002). An official commission to inquire into child abuse gave its report in 2005, but it was not until eight years later that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, formally apologised for the state’s role in running the institutions.
Ysabel Mavis Cleave was born in 1937 at Mussoorie Hill Station, near Dehradun, India, and spent her childhood in Sligo. She was educated at Dublin’s Alexandra College and Trinity College, where she obtained a diploma in social studies. At Trinity she met the English journalist and author Bruce Arnold, whom she married in 1959.
In 1969, while working as a journalist, she collaborated with Gemma Hussey to establish the Women’s Progressive Association (later the Women’s Political Association), with the aim of getting more women to run for election. 
In the early Eighties, The Irish Times revealed that the Arnolds’ phone had been tapped because Bruce’s journalism was perceived as a possible threat to national security. She quipped that those listening in would have had to endure “earfuls” of talk about the “women’s movement”.
It was around the same time that Arnold first heard about the industrial schools, which would lead to her best-known work in Children of the Poor Clares, first published in 1985 and re-issued in 2012.
Arnold later trained and worked as a psychotherapist, helping people to overcome the impact of trauma. She was been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 and latterly lived at Carysfort Nursing Home, Glenageary.
Her husband Bruce said: “Mavis and I had a great life together. We shared everything. I will always love her. Her life story lives on after her ... She was always on the side of the oppressed and disenfranchised.”

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