By Patrick Brogan
A sexual assault is probably the worst act one person can commit on another human being. It’s probably worse than murder because the “victim” doesn’t have to deal with the grinding, soul-destroying consequences. Given this country’s abhorrent record with sexual abuse, many groups and people came to the fore in society to prevent these acts happening again. Like most reactionary groups, their zeal drove them too far. Many lives were ruined in the witch hunts that ensued. If a sexual assault is one the worst things one can do to another, false accusations of the same act are not far off, for this is something that sticks with a person for the rest of their life.
This article will focus on a man named Eddie Hernon and his continuing battle for justice, for himself and others. The main focus of Eddie’s task to clear his name obviously centred on the courts and the legal system, but also on one of those groups appointed to tackle sexual crimes, the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) based in the Rotunda Hospital, and the woman that ran that organisation; Moira Woods.
So, who is Edward Hernon? He was born in Dublin’s Rotunda in 1939. He grew up on Usher’s Quay and left school at 13 to become a messenger boy. After a stint in the RAF, he came back to Dublin eventually “working on the construction sites with my father, who was a scaffolder. And most of my life I have spent working on construction.” After a while, he set up his own business. “So, the business that I had, that folded because of the recession in 1983 so I diversified into manufacturing windows, doors, stuff like that. Doing alright, until I moved up to a new place just off Thomas St, this new premises. It was getting a bit difficult, but we were getting by. My two sons were working for me at the time, Tony and Stephen. And at one stage during that period, from 1977 to ’83, I had seven vans out on the road and up to twenty men working for me. So it wasn’t bad. When I moved up off Thomas St, one day two guys came in. And they picked up a television and fucked it through the plate-glass showroom windows. When he fucked the television through the window, he got a hold of me and I was going next unless I paid protection money.” Understandably, things got a bit heated here in Dublin, as a result, he moved over to London. This move would have long-lasting consequences for him and his family.
I had never heard of Eddie until he posted on our Facebook page during Easter. In the post, he detailed how Moira Woods had been found guilty “of professional misconduct in respect of 13 of 55 allegations” in relation to “fabricating false accusations of incest and child sexual abuse against a number of fathers involving 14 children.” He also pointed out that under guidelines, the Medical Council should make the entire report public, but more on that later.
After a few emails back and forth we agreed to an interview. The emails were friendly, but brief, so I wasn’t sure what type of person I was about to meet. He was kind enough to conduct the interview at his home in the South Inner-city. After our pleasantries were over, he was inquiring about my digital recorder. I got the sense of somebody that was interested in detail and also technology. He later told me he wasn’t very computer literate, but between research and trying to get his story out in the public domain, it had forced him to be. Listening back to the tapes, I’m struck by how he can recall names and dates so quickly. Eddie can remember dealing with people, where and when, without a moment’s hesitation. This might be because he has lived these stories over and over again in his head. Another impressive attribute is his knowledge of the legal system. Again, this had to be learned if he was to clear his name of these accusations. Although he is friendly, I got the impression that this all has marked him in some way. It never really goes away and is lurking under the surface and years of fighting this has also impacted on his health.
When Eddie was in London, he decided to rent a property big enough so his girlfriend Bernadette and their daughter could move over. At the time, August ’85 onwards, he was working long hours with his brother on the other side of the city. One night, he collected and put his daughter to bed because Bernadette was already asleep. Eddie explains; “The next day, I went to work as usual. When I got home that evening, Bernadette says to me when she was getting the child ready for bed she found a spot of blood on the child’s knickers and she had been to the local GP and she would have to go to the hospital the next day to get the child looked at. She went to the hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in Hackney and they looked at the child and they told her to come back in ten days. Bernadette came back to Dublin, that was on the 17th December [the first doctor’s visit], Bernadette came back to Dublin on the 27th December and when she came back here, she went to our own doctor, as a follow-up to the London thing. But, when she didn’t turn up in London for the return visit after 10 days, the hospital rang the number she had given, they were told that Bernadette had gone back to Dublin on a one-way ticket and that when she was asked about the injuries to the child, she clammed up and the hospital said, well they didn’t say much, but there was no follow-up as such. Bernadette returned to Dublin and there wasn’t much contact between myself and Bernadette until September of the same year.”
Rumours started to circulate as to why Bernadette and her daughter moved back to Dublin. They came from a member of Bernadette’s family in London. The allegations went that Eddie had “done something” to his daughter. Bernadette confronted the person making the accusations and as a way of proving her wrong, she returned to Dublin and visited her GP, Dr McNally. The GP said he wasn’t an expert but that maybe Moira Woods in the Rotunda could help. In the meantime, the doctor wrote to the hospital in London looking for the child’s records.
“Bernadette went down to Moira Woods anyway and gave her the history and everything that had happened. Woods told her to come back and Bernadette went back. Woods had a 15-minute interview with the child and then turned around to Bernadette and said the father did it and I have the videotapes to prove it. So, I knew nothing about this. I was in London. I knew absolutely nothing of what happened after she had returned to Ireland. I was still in contact with Bernadette over the Christmas, there wasn’t a word said to me. I returned to London. Then I got a call from Bernadette, would I come home. The flat we had down on Cook St had been broken into. There was damage done to the aluminium doors etc., would I come home and help her out. I said okay, I’m on my way. When I came home I was told Eddie, you can’t see your daughter. I said why not? The psychologist up in St James’ Hospital, a man called Fred Lowe, said if you had any contact with your daughter they would take out a fit person order. What the fuck was going on? Bernadette wouldn’t give me an awful lot of information. I came home. I fixed the door. I wanted to go up and tackle Woods. I wanted to tackle the social worker, Eibhlin Ni Lionsiogh. I wanted to tackle this guy, Fred Lowe. What the fuck were they on about? I went back to London and Bernadette said don’t do anything because they are going to come in and take the child away. So, I didn’t do a lot. The same year, that would have been 1987, my father got Alzheimer’s and I had injured my leg in London so I came home. I began to piece the story together, but still did not go near the people who were making the accusations.”
“The following year, 1988, my father died and I came home. Before I came home, I let Woods know I was coming and wanted to see her. I let Fred Lowe know I was coming home and I wanted to see him. So, I came back and the first person I went to see was Fred Lowe up in St James’ Hospital. He was sitting behind a desk and he had pages in front of him. I asked him what the fuck was going on? He didn’t give me an awful lot of information, but what he said was that he had received a report from Moira Woods that I had sexually abused a child. That I had been sexually abusing the child in the bath for years with my fingers and there was video evidence of the child saying these things about me. I asked to get the fucking police here now, I want this investigated. I didn’t know the extent of what was going on. He said he couldn’t do that, that it was up to Bernadette to inform the police. He asked then would I agree to carry out an investigation and there were four or five points. I said yes, I would do that. One of them was they would interview the child and try and get to the bottom of it. I said okay. I told him I would write to him from London.
“I then went down to the Rotunda Hospital to see Moira Woods. She knew I was coming that day. She came out to the door to me. I asked her what was going on? I asked for the videotape. I wanted to see this fucking video tape. Well, she said, we don’t keep them. Sometimes they are lost, sometimes they are destroyed. I said do you know what you have done? I don’t think she realised the extent of what was going to happen. She had the security called to have me put out of the hospital. I left before security came. I then went to see the social worker, Lionsiogh down here on Lord Edward St. She said from what she knew about me that she that I would never see my child again.”
At this point, Eddie is starting to find out the allegations made against him. He is not fully aware of everything that has happened, though, for two reasons. Firstly, as he was in London he was out of the loop. Secondly, Eddie could not get a hold of official records on what had gone on. According to Eddie, this was deliberately done so he would find it harder to fight back against it.
“I then got free legal aid, a solicitor called Tom Nally. We were going to court and we were getting the medical records and videotape and all that kind of stuff. So, Bernadette had to sign a consent form to release all this stuff. At this time, I still did not know what had gone on after Bernadette had come back. I wasn’t to find stuff out until much later, until 2000, 2002. Bernadette signed a consent form for all that. When the health board found out that Bernadette had signed it they called her in and said that if she didn’t withdraw the consent they would take the child into care. Bernadette withdrew her consent.”
I was a bit taken-a-back by this and maybe I didn’t fully understand. I asked Eddie why would the Eastern Health Board take his daughter away if Bernadette gave consent to the forms being released?
-“Because if Bernadette signed a consent to me getting the medical records I would begin to find out what had happened, I would begin to understand what the accusations were.”
-“So they were just trying cover that up?”
-“They didn’t want me to see nothing. I can tell you now Patrick, to this present day, that hasn’t changed. Nobody sees anything. You would have to go to a High Court to get the discovery order. If you get a discovery order from the High Court you are gagged never to disclose the content of these documents.”
The Eastern Health Board were not the only people to try stop Bernadette signing the consent forms. Her own solicitor, Frank Murphy, tried to stop her. She declined and he told the judge he couldn’t represent her because she refused his legal advice. This case was in the District Court in Dolphin House, held in camera. Woods, Lowe and Ní Lionsiogh all attended. The judge seemed a bit perplexed according to Eddie, this is likely to be because such serious accusations were made without any evidence to back them up. The judge ruled he could have supervised access to his daughter once a month. As he was still living in London at the time, this would mean coming back every month.
Around this time, Eddie’s own solicitor, Tom Nally got in contact with Moira Woods. Eddie takes it from here; “So, Nally, for whatever reason, called Moira Woods to read from this report that had come from London and she started off reading a bit of it anyway. She said that the child said that I had sexually abused her. That the child was over-stretched, that the child had drawn a snowman with a penis, that I had been battering the child for years. I had been sexually abusing her, in a bath.” No such report exists and we will get to that a bit later on. Again, Dr Woods had been tarnishing the name of Eddie Hernon without offering a shred of evidence.
Eddie set off from London for the first supervised access visit. “I came back for the first one. Over to Park House, I was there waiting about an hour and a half and I was brought into a room by the two social workers. I went into the room and on the left-hand-side, there was a little partition with like a two-way mirror and mother and child were sitting beyond there, a little playroom. I walked in; the most disgusting fucking thing I ever came across in my life. I sit there, and these two bastards sitting behind the two-way mirror observing what was going on. You have no idea what it did to me. No idea. The most degrading, filthy, dirty thing that could ever be done to anybody. You could cut the tension with a knife. Bernadette’s mother was there as well. Fred Lowe was supposed to be there, to oversee all of this. He wasn’t there. He didn’t turn up. After that, Bernadette picked up the child and ran. Then, the grandmother started having a go at the social workers, it ended up, let me tell you it was chaos. It was unbelievable.” The second meeting was more respectful.
The next visitation was to take place at St. James’ Hospital, where Fred Lowe was based. This was not the only reason this meeting was different from the other two; “Then I went back for the next one and I got a letter saying that the access had been transferred from Park House to St James’ Hospital, where Fred Lowe was. It was to be 5 o’ clock in the evening. I got back from London, it was to be myself, Bernadette and the child. Bernadette and the child were called in first. I don’t know what went on or what was said and then they called me in. Fred Lowe said Mr Hernon, there has been a big meeting and we have decided that the child is at no risk from you so we are withdrawing from the case. I stood there and I said what about the last three years and what you have done? He said forget about it and start again. I don’t know Patrick if you have ever felt like you wanted to grab someone and fucking kill them, but I wanted to get this guy Fred Lowe and choke the life out of him. But, I couldn’t do it.
-“Sorry, did they give a reason why they were dropping it?”
-“That was just it?”
Eddie could now have as much supervised access as he liked in his GP’s office without interference from the social workers. He still wasn’t happy, though. He wanted to fully clear his name. Also, there was the matter that there were files on him and he didn’t know what they contained. He wanted to re-enter the case, as was his right, and go before a judge. His own solicitor stalled, so Eddie took matters into his own hands and made the application himself. This case was attended by Lowe and Woods and a solicitor named Harry Colley representing the Eastern Health Board, the son of George Colley. Judge Hartnett was none too pleased with their antics, but he did agree to their proposal of allowing the Saint John of God‘s to investigate, they hoped that John of God’s would “question the child, do all the things and come back with a positive.” In other words, get them to try to prove Woods’ initial claims. It came to light that during the court conferences there was no evidence, nor had there ever been.
“When the business with Hartnett had finished in January, I went back to Dr McNally and I told him what had happened and he said to me, Eddie, remember before when I wrote to the hospital in London. I said yeah. Well, this is the letter I got back. It was the medical records from London and what had happened to the child. She had got a graze on her vulva and it was the child’s own manipulations. He got this back and he said, but I couldn’t give it to you. Why not? The health board had sworn him to secrecy and they had him over a barrel, but I could have it now and it was my ace in the hole, I have the evidence nothing had ever happened to the child. What good was it to me? I couldn’t produce it in the court or anything like that.
“I got rid of Tom Nally, he was useless. At the court case, I asked him, why didn’t you ask about the videotape he says to me I forgot. Okay. I changed solicitors and I went down to the law library and I looked for a barrister called Paddy McEntee. Now, Paddy McEntee was one of the best, leading criminal lawyers in this country and I sought him out down the law library. He spoke to me and he would work for me. He wanted IR£450 to represent me that morning. I said no problem. The solicitors I had at the time told me it would cost IR£1500 to get Paddy McEntee there and what have you. So we went down. Harry Colley was there. Bernadette had a new solicitor. We were getting ready to go into court and there was a lot of toing and froing between Paddy McEntee and Harry Colley from the health board. McEntee came to me and he said Mr Hernon, they are withdrawing all the accusations. We will go back into the court, but under certain conditions, but they were saying there was no evidence, there never was any evidence to warrant the fit person order in relation to the child. I sat there fucking stunned. I wanted a court case. I wanted people to know what these people had done. I was an innocent man and these people were after doing these fucking things to me, but nobody was willing to go in front of a judge.”
Taking on the State
This led to some frustration on Eddie’s part as he still didn’t have his day in court, nor get the chance to totally clear his name. He wanted to go further, but McEntee was reluctant and told Eddie “to take the matter further would be impossible against the health board, the State and to forget about it and get on with my life.” Eddie was still driven and he went to the High Court and issued his own proceedings in 1990.
The Medical Council and APAG
In the early 90s, Eddie heard of the Medical Council for the first time, fittingly, it also involved Moira Woods, this time in relation to the X-Case. He decided he would write to them and put in a complaint. They replied saying they got his letter and would look into matters further. It would be a while before he received any more correspondence from them.
He and Bernadette separated at around this time, too. The reasons why they parted were not directly to due to the allegations or cases, but the stress of all this could not have helped. He decided to join the Separated People’s Association (SPA). While there, he said; “I was very vocal. I was screaming from the rooftops, I’m an innocent man accused of a terrible crime, incest and the rape of me own child. I went to the media and some of them took it on. When I joined the SPA, I was told about another family who had lost their five children to the health board, false accusations. There was a district court judgement on that, a very important one. Then there was another family, then there was another guy. These people had been falsely accused. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
With what was coming to light, he decided to take action and set up the Accused Parent’s Aid Group (APAG) for people who were in a similar situation. “In a very short period of time, I had maybe a hundred people on the books from all over Ireland who had been falsely accused of child sexual abuse and when I say falsely accused I mean falsely accused. The thing with the Medical Council, that sat there. I wasn’t hearing much from them. I began to compile stuff and I found out there were other groups around the world about false accusations. It was unbelievable some of the stuff going on out there and where they were coming from and the involvement of the battered women’s refuge in Rathmines, the involvement of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the involvement of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and the involvement of the Irish Workers’ Party.” He even gave up his job to work on the group.
A Fire in 1994
One night when coming home from a SPA do, Eddie returned to find his flat had been arson attacked. He claimed to know the perpetrator. The Gardaí went off to investigate, and later that night, two more came back. One of them knew of the Woods’ case and what had happened. He accused Eddie of starting the fire himself and arrested him. He was in front of a court the next day and wasn’t even allowed tell his mother of his whereabouts, she lived only across the street from him. Even access to his daughter was stopped for six months. All this, after fighting so hard for years to clear his name. One Garda had put him back at square one. Again, there was no evidence to back up the claims. The case was eventually brought before a judge and then thrown out. Eddie took the matter to the complaints board and the ombudsman. Both said there was no case.
The Medical Council Inquiry
“Anyway, after issuing the complaints against the people, the plenary summons, I heard nothing much up until 1996 and the Medical Council, their solicitors, told me there was a prima facie case against Woods. I had put in seven complaints against Woods and they found prima facie evidence in five of them and they would run with the five cases. That was a big day for me. After getting that letter, I had a shower. I stayed in the shower for three hours trying to wash all the fucking shite and dirt off me that this caused. Finally, I would get justice. The Medical Council inquiry started that year. I won a public inquiry. The Medical Council, their legal advisors, they put orders for discovery on the Eastern Health Board. The Eastern Health Board wouldn’t hand over the documents and they looked for judicial review. They had the inquiry turned into a private one. Any documents involved would never be disclosed into the public domain. Never. So, the inquiry was delayed from 1996 until 2000. In 2000, the five cases were heard, one case was in private. At the end of it, Moira Woods was found guilty of professional misconduct in three of the cases.
“Now, in the course of the inquiry, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, care workers, solicitors, they were all called to give sworn evidence. To this day, nobody has seen the transcripts, there were bar orders. None of this was to be made public should it lead to who the children are. Before that, we had gone public and said we are the people involved in this inquiry. Nothing was ever done about it. During the inquiry, I fought for and I got all of the transcripts. I got discovery orders for the health board and all the rest of it. What I discovered, well, you wouldn’t fucking believe it. And what was done. It was criminal, it was absolutely criminal. Perjury! The professional people; lawyers, doctors psychiatrists and psychologists…”
As mentioned already, Moira Woods was found guilty of misconduct. An important point to make is that under Section 45 (5) of the Medical Practitioners’ Act of 1978, the Fitness to Practice Committee reports should be made public. “The findings of the Fitness to Practise Committee on any matter referred to it and the decision of the Council on any report made to it by the Fitness to Practise Committee shall not be made public without the consent of the person who has been the subject of the inquiry before the Fitness to Practise Committee unless such person has been found, as a result of such inquiry, to be –
(a) Guilty of professional misconduct, or
(b) unfit to engage in the practice of medicine because of psychical or mental disability, as the case may be.”
The Medical Council released a statement about this. As Eddie pointed out in his Facebook post on our page, most of the information that we know of what was in the report came from leaked information to Carol Coulter who then published in The Irish Times three days before a press release was issued by the Medical Council.
Whilst researching this story, I assumed that when Dr Woods was found guilty she was struck off the medical register. This isn’t what happened. She could still practise medicine but under a set of new restrictions that were;
- That you undergo a period of relevant retraining prior to returning to any form of medical practice;
- That you seek guidance from the relevant recognised training body in relation to the nature and extent of such retraining;
- That you avail of regular, continuing professional development activities for at least as long as you remain in active practice;
- That you follow the advice of the relevant recognised training body and its regional post-graduate educational supervisor as to the nature of such continuing professional development activities;
- That you should only engage in the formal assessment of children who are suspected of suffering abuse (psychological, physical and/or sexual) as part of a recognised expert specialist multi-disciplinary team;
- That you furnish the Medical Council with evidence of compliance with 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 when requested by the Council;
- That you meet any expenses incurred in satisfying these conditions.
She later withdrew from the Medical Council register, so these criteria no longer apply. She now lives in Tuscany running a B&B. As far as I can tell she is not willing to talk to anybody about what happened. She did release a statement and here is an extract from it (I will put up the entire statement on the website);
“However, I fully reject the committee’s report and I stand my judgements in the cases considered in the inquiry.
“This is not a matter of pride or defiance. No doctor is infallible. Mistakes and oversights are a daily risk for all doctors, and I am no exception. But as regards these cases, which have been under intensive review during this inquiry, I remain adamant that I had no option but to act as I did, on the evidence presented to me, and on my interviews with the children concerned.
“Regrettably, much of the media comment on the report reflected what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of what is involved in investigating alleged child sexual abuse. Those charged with this responsibility are rarely able to establish proof of abuse to a standard required for criminal prosecution. This is especially true if the children are very young, which is often the case.
“Investigation of sexual abuse is about child protection. It is beyond doubt, given all the documented cases of sexual abuse we now know about, that the medical profession in all its disciplines was found wanting in this area in the past.
“I am aware that some 50 doctors have protested to the council at the manner in which the cases brought against me were handled and the consequences of the unchecked inaccurate publicity. I very grateful to them, and to the many doctors, social workers and others who have contacted me privately to express their support and solidarity.”
Eddie was still not done with the legal system. In 2011, his own legal proceedings and that of his legal representative, Nicky Hughes, were starting to come to fruition. Hughes put the matter before his senior counsel and she said the same thing as Paddy McEntee, there was no chance of winning. The case came and it was settled out of court.
Around this time, Eddie found out that one of Moira Woods’ legal representatives, Andrew Walker, was found guilty of tampering with medical records.
Misprision of Felony
One thing that puzzled Eddie Hernon was the role of the Gardaí in all this. By right, social workers and doctors and any other professional involved in the investigation of child abuse should notify the authorities. From his own research, Eddie realised there was something wrong with the figures. Misprision of felony is when those people tasked with investigating abuse do not report it to the police. Eddie explains it in this way; “Misprision of felony is an indictable criminal offence by a €5000 fine, I think, or a five-year prison sentence for not reporting the commission of an indictable criminal offence. That is misprision of felony. In other words, there was a law on the statute books that social workers, doctors, directors of community care, all of them, there was a duty and law on them to report every case to the police. They didn’t.
“I did my own investigation and I presented in front the Minister for Justice and others the thousands of cases of misprision of felony that were not reported to the Gardaí. I got a phone call from the Gardaí to attend Harcourt Square to discuss this. Myself and another member went in and we discussed this with the police and they had said yes, the figures that I had put in were correct and a report would be sent to Nora Owen. Now, this report to Nora Owen, we never saw this, we weren’t allowed. Shortly after this, it was in the newspapers the prosecution of these directors of community care for not reporting cases to the Gardaí and all of a sudden then, misprision of felony was off the statute books, gone.”
As Eddie was presenting these figures in court he was told that misprision of felony was no longer law, Nora Owen had repealed the act they were under. “I’m getting ready to set the case and well Mr Hernon, it is like this; the act, the Accessories and Abettors Act of 1861 had been repealed by Nora Owen and the criminal offence, the misprision of felony, had been done away with. They couldn’t be fucking prosecuted. Stunned, I had never known this.”
-“Is this after you got legal proceedings going?”
-“So, Nora Owen was trying to hamper you is essentially what you are saying?”
No, no. I had time and I followed it up. Every time I picked up a newspaper 50,000 cases have been reported, 40,000 cases reported. The health board were coming out with these figures, the social workers were coming out with these figures, the ISPCC were coming out with these figures. Cian O’Tighearnaigh; false accusations are a myth, they never happen.” It was Eddie’s scepticism that led him to do his own research on the figures and his hunch was right, they were way off. If misprision of felony hadn’t been taken off the statute books to stop Eddie Hernon and APAG, or Vocal Ireland as it became, trying to clear their name why was it then?
“What that meant was that priests, cardinals that covered up and never reported, they couldn’t be fucking prosecuted. It meant the guilty abusers got to walk away free and innocent people couldn’t prosecute the bastards [that wrongfully accused them]. After that, Alan Shatter came out with the Protection of Persons Reporting Abuse Bill so that people reporting abuse could not be sued, people like Moira Woods and the social workers. Frank Fahey, well he was Minister for Children at the time and he added in a new crime, called crime of false reporting and that is still on the statute books.”
Understandably, all of this has had a deep impact on Eddie Hernon. He has a deep mistrust of the child sexual abuse investigations. “Anyone now can make up an excuse that they were sexually abused and they are believed. They are automatically believed that it happened.” This is not to say that he doesn’t believe that child sexual abuse or rape does not happen. “This does go on, I know it goes on.” His experience has led him to question these allegations and the people making and investigating them is all. Which, if the law were fair, this would happen anyway.
On commenting on the compensation he was paid out Eddie said; “It went nowhere near what the damages should have been. And a public apology was read out. Fuck all use to me. Nobody said, Mr Hernon, you are innocent. Nobody has ever said it. Nobody has ever apologised to me in person. The Department of Health, the Minister for Health, the Rotunda Hospital, the State, the Attorney General, the Chief State Solicitors’ Office, they all knew what was going on. And what they did in the background, specifically Nora Owen repealing that act and all the rest of it, disgraceful. The Department of Health knew about it in 1994 that we were all innocent, but they did nothing. The documentation is there. The story is there.”
And how can you trust in a system like that? When the very institutions that are put in place to protect us are making our lives miserable. Unsurprisingly, this has all taken a toll on his health; “Trying to fight back at them is very difficult. ’94 I think it was, I had a quadruple bypass, it had taken that much out of me. Coming to the court case in 2011, I developed COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease], got pneumonia, I was at death’s door, to be honest with you. With all that was going on, the courts and the settlement and the threats.” And his difficulties with the legal system go beyond what is just mentioned here.
“The current mood is force the Medical Council to take me to court. Open it. They won’t do it. Now, still, it frightens me, the threats from them, it still frightens me. Am I doing the right thing? They could put me in jail for contempt of court. I could get five years. What about my wife? What about my daughter and her mother? What about my other children? I have published the portion of the findings in relation to my own case.” And some of this documentation was not meant to be in the public domain. This was put on the Vocal Ireland website, with the hope it would be seen and it would open up the whole case again. “I have all the documentation. I have all the meetings that went on. I have how much money they were paid. I can tear the Medical Council asunder.”
This drive has kept him going, for both himself and the other members of Vocal Ireland that were falsely accused. Whatever reservations he has had, they have been put to one side and they have been many, including the impact this would have on Moira Woods’ children who still live in Ireland. On the top any legal proceedings, he is planning on writing three books. “One, about what happened to me. That will be called a Singularly Determined Road Block. There is a good reason for that. Steven Dodd from the Sunday Independent wrote a big piece. It was mainly about Woods; a life less ordinary. At the end of it, Dr Woods, she had a great life, but fucking Eddie Hernon; a singularly determined road block to stop her. I have used that. The second one will be what went on in the Rotunda Hospital. I have all the documentation. I have got all the Department of Health records. And the next one; The Vermin. The Vermin are the legal people. They are vermin.
There are a number of key issues here. Firstly, what role did Moira Woods’ reputation play in all this? For many, even to this day, she is regarded as something of a social issues warrior, an icon nearly. Did her words alone carry so much weight that she didn’t need to provide evidence to be believed? If that is the case, she abused this trust. What can’t be debated is she ruined lives.
Secondly, the failure of the systems put in place. The SATU in the Rotunda failed massively. They weren’t even qualified to investigate child sexual abuse, but they took it upon themselves anyway. The legal system failed, too. Eddie was told three times that taking on the State was impossible, yet he continued. Maybe the solicitors knew the politicians were reluctant to do anything about it because, frankly, they didn’t care that much about it. We saw they went out of their way to protect those in the church that tried to cover up similar crimes. The State failed Eddie, his family and many other families around the country. This wasn’t because of inertia or a lack of knowledge, various Government agencies knew of Eddie’s position, they wilfully sought to prevent justice.
How many times have we seen this happen in Ireland? One person on their own battling against a corrupt system is a speciality in this country. For all this, for all that’s happened, I don’t see how the proper procedures are in place to stop it happening again. “If the State had addressed this all those years ago and got this shit out…” Eddie trails off before finishing the sentence. It all could have been so different.
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