Open Letters To Our Past Selves



It was many years ago yes, but the scars are still raw today. They're mostly invisible by now, but they weren't at the time. We all wore them, we all accepted them, and just like our parents before us, we did it in blind faith. We took them on their word when they said:

'You give us the boy, and we'll give you the man...'

Sad to realise all these years later that the man-child is still hurting inside: all the beatings, the thrashings, the getting lifted up by the ears, tossed to the floor, and kicked into the corner like a terrified puppy. And that was likely a good day. They said back then that this was about discipline, a sense of order, a Catholic pecking order. We were at the bottom and they were on top. These hollow men, their hollow words falling on our confused and doubting ears that were then slapped and reddened to remove any sense of anger or respite. Or doubt in the words of the baby Jesus.


We mostly thought of how much worse off we might be. Like the little black babies on the Trocaire boxes who looked close to death, half starved and bellies swollen with stomach acid trying to break down the bark of the trees they ate yesterday. I knew it was all too real. I had a second uncle who was Catholic missionary who served in Mombasa in Kenya for many years. He only ever came home to marry our relatives, or else bury them. In this way, every time I ever met the man and looked into his eyes, I could see that even he knew this was all wrong. This was no way to raise or educate children. With a strap of leather or a long cane to beat the information into them? Surely not, he must have thought. Surely we were safer and better off than the bush babies he went to care for? Weren't we? Or were we?

You know, those leather straps didn't sew themselves together. The canes were even more primitive but they didn't need to be manufactured: a stick from a cot bed would do the trick, and do it for free too. But those leather straps? Somewhere in Ireland, there's a man who's life work was creating these devices - to hurt children with. Please: just take a moment to stomach that? Think about who that man was, how he ended up with such a bizarre trade skill? Did he have a factory? Or did he produce them from his garden shed? What was he thinking when he sealed up another box full of torture instruments made for the children? As he tied it up with baling twine and stamped it forward at the post office? Did he sleep well at night? Had he a good appetite? Had he kids himself? Who knows? I know I don't and I doubt any of us ever will. But what we DO know is how much it stung. Cane or leather - they both broke the spirits of children in equal measure. We look and them both today and think how god-awful a society we must have been to need or want such gruesome items.

But then the lights switch on inside our heads as we slowly begin to realise that neither the stick nor the leather did the damage. The real damage was done by the man holding the weapon. And let's be clear here: they were weapons, actual weapons of massive destruction. We were conditioned to be frightened, too scared to stand up to the brothers and even more terrified of telling our parents lest they ask what we did to deserve our numbed and swollen fingers - and a hundred lines of apology still to write with a biro pen?

It broke us. Just like it was designed to. There was no way out of it either, the church had us all like rabbits in the headlights. Frozen to the spot in dread and fear, too scared to say sorry and far too confused to know what we were supposed to be sorry for. Talking to the guy beside you? Forgetting to dot those I's and cross those T's? Pea-shooting your mate in the back of the neck? Arriving late without a good excuse?

They really battered us for those minor infractions? Really? What kind of man enjoys punishing a child for being childish? What kind of animal bastard grins to himself when the child hits the floor in tears and panic? Should we blame our own parents for letting it happen? Surely they knew? Surely they went through it all too? Or were they just as confused and blinded to the reality of things as we were?

There was a boy in my class. His name is Derek, but that's not what he was called: he was known as 'Spacer', and the reason why was simple. He was simple. An exceptionally innocent 'special' child who was terrified of his own shadow, let alone what he had to endure every day. The lay teacher's name is John Sullivan. A Trinity College graduate sent out to deal with the knackers of Ballyfermot. That's you, me, yours, and mine. He singled Derek out for special treatment: every day of the week at half-past two, he'd send Derek up to the head of the class. Then whichever of us was chosen had to join him. The rules were simple, like the boy: you could use only your left arm, your right hand stayed in your pocket. You were encouraged to batter the kid senseless with your one good before he did the same to you with both hands and both feet flailing about, the poor terrified kid only trying to defend himself. And the only way he could save himself from a beating was to fly into an hysterical rage and fuck you up before you hurt him. He was an innocent, a simple-minded kid who loved to smile and laugh - if you took the time to chat with him. Derek took his beatings every day with an ever-growing rage deep inside like a cancer. Betrayed by the teachers, and betrayed by his class mates. All through my youth I saw him suffer. The tears would drop from his eyes and he'd get another clatter in the ears to stop them.

I met him again maybe ten years ago. He was out for the night with his Dad at the Bluebell Club, which my Mam went to for her club nights. I spotted him across the room and my heart was in my mouth. He sat very still. He stared straight ahead, trying to avoid anyone's eyes. I felt that same anger rise up inside me and I wanted to scream:

'look? Look what you did to this angelic little soul? He's still in agony.
How could you let this happen? What base kind of God allows for this to
happen to a special child, and angelic little boy? If there is a God up
there - then I fucking hate you. You, your church, your foot soldiers, your sticks
and leather straps, and the gold and silver on your altar,
I reject you, absolutely: I'll go my own way..'

And so I became the man I am today: an outspoken atheist and spiritual vigilante with a long list of names. When I approached Derek that night in Mam's club, he immediately smiled that boyish smile of his. We shook hands. He introduced his Dad to me and I my Mam to him. I asked Derek if he remembered me. He did. I asked what he remembered of school and his eyes quickly darkened. He looked at me with great sorrow, and we both knew why. I was chosen one day to batter him to a pulp at the head of the class for Sullivan's daily entertainment. Except when I went up, I put both hands in both pockets and let him beat me to the floor. I couldn't for the life of me raise a hand to him. So I refused point blank and out came the stick to finish off what Derek started. My hands were flayed, six of the best to both of them from the most patient sadist I ever met: he'd toy with us, bring the stick whooshing down while staring into your eyes. Except he'd deliberately miss and then laugh at your fear. He'd keep tapping the knuckles beneath the upturned hand to keep it at a prime whacking position. Move your hand? Jerk it back in panic? You got extra whacks for each one. Then he'd make you say 'thank you, Sir' and send you back to your desk trying not to weep or whinge. He'd have you back up in a second if you made even a whisper.

I could see the hurt in Derek's eyes and realised that he hadn't let any of this go either. Like me, he was still trying to process what he went through, and like me, his moral compass was broken. All these things he spent years trying to forget came back for him as they did for me. Most of the conversation was silent: arms folded in dejection, we just stared at each other. I went home that night with my Mam and in the taxi I tried to explain to her why I had tears in my eyes.

But I couldn't then any more than I can now. Last night, a close friend bared his soul to to. He sang it like I felt it, like we all did. No need for rhyme, no need for major chords: minor chords of blue and sadness, of hurt and rage, of sorrow and regret, and for the hope that no more children have to endure such brutality and hate from the men of the cloth who took our souls from us with a pitch-fork and buried them beneath the GAA pitches and the dried out ink wells on the desk top.

'Give us the child, we'll give you the man' is right.

Except the men they delivered out the other end of their meat grinder were all broken inside. The child driven out along with the hope, the wishing, and the praying to a deaf, dumb, and blind God who never explained. They took the boy in me and beat him to a pulp. By the time I left their prison cells, I was as messed up and angry as the lads on the street corners who gave up trying at all. Instead, they turned to drink, drugs, violence, theft, assault, and even rape. Should we point our fingers at them and blame them? Or should we think: 'there, but for the grace of nature....'?

I can't forget it. I won't forget it. And I won't let any of you forget it either. Because when you give in and fall at their feet, that's the man they're trying to make of you: an indentured slave, a broken spirit, an unquestioning mind that's filled with torment and pain. If they can break you like that, then they have their happy slave. But I wasn't born to serve any master other than my Mother, the highest authority in my life.

Those hollow men? I promise you, if I can find the graves they're buried in then I'll dance
a merry jig on their heads before tramping the dirt down so hard that they can never rise again.


I've reacted to what I've read in Mowl's OP, with a facepalm icon. I used that one because none of the others seem to fit. I don't mean it as a "'doh...!!", I mean it to depict myself putting my hand to my closed eyes, unable to believe what I've just read and horrified at every word.

To believe that such torture existed is way beyond my experience. But I believe every word of it because too many such tales have emerged in recent years for it to be outside the realm of belief..... which I wish it were. I can't begin to imagine what every day must have felt like, to awake in the morning knowing that you have to face another day of savagery at the hands of sadists.

We had nothing like this in England and my experience in a Catholic Primary School was..... well, little different to what it would have been in an ordinary Primary school within the State system. Except, of course for the form of worship. We had corporal punishment, for sure. The cane, the strap and the slipper. Infant school children (5 year olds, for Chrissake..!!) could be slapped with a bare hand across their legs. For me, this took "In loco parentis" too far. And even parents smacking a child is wrong in my opinion. For us, to smack our child would be a sign of failure as parents. Even though there have been times when she's been a little sod, we've had our own ways of dealing with bad behaviour but none of them involved physical or mental torture. And if parents won't physically abuse their children, why should the state be allowed to do it..?

Corporal punishment in state schools in England was abolished in 1986, but it took a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights to do it. The ruling stated that corporal punishment could not be inflicted without parental consent. The ruling had to go further, to state that a child could not be suspended from school if the parent refused to give consent. The State quickly realised that if one parent had signed the consent form and that child and another, whose parents had not consented, were caught in the same offence at the same time, one child might be caned and the other not. This would open up a whole new can of worms and Parliament could see the Human Rights lawyers sharpening their pencils. The government jumped that shark by abolishing the whole damned thing.

Independent schools were different. Corporal punishment was not abolished for them until 1998..!! Some private schools, Eton included required parents to sign the consent form as a condition of acceptance. No consent Mr Johnson..? Then there's no place at Eton for little Boris...!! Other private schools though, soon dropped the consent requirement as parents voted with their feet and sought out schools where such consent was not a condition. Ruinous levels of applicant decline soon changed the minds of school governors who, initially, refused to countenance giving up their rod or strap.

Not surprisingly, given the sort of country Britain is descending back into under the current regime, murmurings are starting to surface of a return to corporal punishment. In truth, it has never really gone away.

A headmaster's caning of a 13-year-old schoolboy at an English grammar school in 1987—five strokes for poor exam results—left "severe bruising", and, according to the family doctor, five separate weals. The teacher who gave the punishment was cleared of the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, with the the judge commenting "If you get a beating you must expect it to be with force."

Prior to the ban in private schools in England, the slippering of a student at an independent boarding school was challenged in 1993 before the ECHR. The Court ruled 5–4 in that case that the punishment was not severe enough to infringe the student's "freedom from degrading punishment" under article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The dissenting judges argued that the ritualised nature of the punishment, given after several days and without parental consent, should qualify it as "degrading punishment".

A case brought in 2005 (Williamson vs Secretary of State for Education) was an unsuccessful challenge to the prohibition of corporal punishment contained in the Education Act 1996 by several headmasters of private Christian schools who argued that it was a breach of their religious freedom.

In response to a 2008 poll of 6,162 UK teachers by the Times Educational Supplement, 22% of secondary school teachers and 16% of primary school teachers supported "the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases". The National Union of Teachers said that it "could not support the views expressed by those in favour of hitting children".

As an educator myself, I would never countenance striking a child in any way, shape or form. For sure, the little darlings can test my patience....... and boy, do some of them push it to the max..... but the thought of corporal punishment fills me with horror. I have only come across one teacher who advocates its return. But others are out there. Shortly after I started teaching, a supply teacher remarked that he wished he could just give one particularly unruly 14 year old (who isn't unruly at 14..?) a "quick whipping across his fingertips" That'd sort him out. He would soon learn his lesson.

Could have heard a pin drop in the staff room.

He realised we were all staring at him, slack-jawed. I was completely lost for words and that doesn't happen often. Thankfully (for him), it was close to the end of the lunch break and there wasn't time to fully get into, what surely would have become a heated topic.

I can't do anything about what happened to Mowl or any of the other thousands upon thousands of children who have been beaten in times gone past. All I can do........ and this is a promise that I would make to Mowl with one hand on a stack of whatever books he considers sacred, and the other on my beating heart, that I would do all I could to challenge and prevent such a thing ever coming back wherever I may be in a position to influence such a thing.

I am so sorry for your experience, Mowly. It makes for horrific reading, but I think you're incredibly courageous and strong to be able to share such an experience. It makes me realise that things I've had to endure (for other reasons) pale in comparison. You have touched my very soul with your message and steeled my resolve never to allow this to happen ever again. I'd pull the fucking stick out of the bastards hands and snap it over my knee (better still, over their head) rather than allow him or her to use it on a child, and to hell with the consequences.

Never again. It must never happen again.


I understood that, and thanks. It's been a rough thirty-six hours: I'm exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I can't stop looking at our first holy communion shot. Half the kids in it are in the ground now. My childhood friend Terry-Lee, Martin K, the adopted coloured boy we all looked out for. Big Robbie with his hand on Martin's shoulder just makes me well up and spill out. We tried so hard to protect him, but they were too strong, too violent, and the fear sometimes took the heart of me and I couldn't act even though I knew I should have. The innocence in our faces hardly belies what we endured later on in primary school.

That's when they got their fingernails right under his tan skin. His wide-eyed wonder and confusion about the world he was in written in the sadness in his big doe eyes. Beaten, battered, buggered, bastardized. I can't forget it. It's a part of me that I try to contain every passing day. But some hurts are simply too deep to heal. Like Derek's little face: full of expectant wonder, that life was going to continue to be a barrel of laughs rather than the paltry and bare existence he was instead given. To say that they ripped the hearts out of us is testament to the trust and hope in our eyes.


Mrs White, our junior school teacher, a truly wonderful and gentle lady who adored us and made us all feel included and happy and excited about every new day. My Mam adored her too, and they'd often chat when Mam came to collect me. I'll always remember her dressed in white too: I vaguely recall her dressing in white most days, and I have an image of her in a pale blue blouse with a finely-knitted grandma style cardigan in white, and she smelled like fresh cut grass: inviting and captivating, as sweet as could possibly be.

Sadly, she was one of a kind: what came later destroyed us all - hence most of those pictured now being in the ground.

I'm just one man, but not the only one. I realised this last night reading personal messages from old friends. Yet they all know what I'm trying to do and they still call me Mowl, and The Mowl. That's just too sweet really. I thought I was the most discreet and deliberately forgettable kid, always trying to dodge attention of any kind. But that's not how they remember me: most of them are very grateful for what I've done and am trying to do still, that they're aware of me at all after all this time is something of a shock, culturally speaking. Decades in time and thousands in miles, and still they remember everything. Most details just too horrid to put out there, but in time, the healing will take forbearance over the hurt.

But right now I feel like I'm standing beneath an avalanche that's waiting to fall, all it needs is a few decibels of screaming children to shift it.
The twisted psychology. There were always two invasions in our history, Mowl. One physical and the far more damaging one walked down a gangplank in the 6th century.

We're still in recovery from both quite frankly. But the invasive desperately dark and gothic form of mental illness that came as a flea on that 16th century black rat has plagued the Irish mind for 1400 years since to varying degrees.

Rarely worse though than in the second half of the 20th century. We're nowhere near seeing the extent of the damage.
There's a gentleman called Andrew or Andrew1 who posts around occasionally on Irish forums. Most often saw him on one of the forums in particular. I got to know his story over the years as we found ourselves battling the ethical knackers of the catholic church over issues around the institutions and the complete mentalists out of the seminaries empowered by our distorted society.

One of the rare few who came out of the institutions background and went on to live as normal a life as you would imagine. Married with a couple of kids, working, very intelligent and lucid fellow who patiently spent ages in the face of intense provocation from the scummier members of said cult on the subject of what Ireland was like for an 11 year old kid whose family fell apart and who ended up at that age holding his younger sister's hand as they appeared in a courtroom before a judge, to be tried for being poor and unfortunate in life. The charges appeared to be in that area, although not elucidated.

Can you imagine the traumatic effect of two children, at the age of 11 and 7 being made to stand in a courtroom after their family fell apart and being looked down upon by one of the overflattered bumpkin appointment to a District Court bench of the day.

Those kids will have assumed the family break up was somehow their fault. No one explained otherwise to these kids. Catholics love playing with guilt. Their own and everyone else's too. All part of the twisted psychology.

Andrew is a survivor, physically and psychologically. But in his story is the real cruelty of it all and a desperate insight into the sort of damage this twisted psychology along with our post-colonial attempts to ape what happens in other countries while hiding our 'little problems' away- also intensely irish-catholic as a psychosis.

The butcher's bill for one invasion is largely known in cemeteries up and down the land, memorials and monuments and in the history books. The scale of the damage done by an invasive cult in Ireland over 1400 years is a butcher's bill much bigger a stain on our country than any bondholders or finance ministers could ever arrange for the nation.

It won't be long before the chapter on the 20th century in Ireland hits the secondary school curriculum. That will be interesting. To see how much the cultural battle between the gothically mentally unhygienic old graspers of captive Ireland and those who want an end to it is actually mentioned in the state's officially sanctioned school history books.

They will try to get away with minimising the effect of the cultural war. In case it might offend a nun. The only thing the brave patriots of Ireland are terrified of, apparently.

An elderly nun and her capacity for offence. If only the British had known they could have hired a different regiment of black and tans altogether more effective than the sweepings of their jails stuffed into paramilitary attire.
Q. What do Micheal Martin, Enda Kenny and Sean Brady have in common?

A. They all walk past the Garda station with the names of children abused in their pocket instead of going into the station. Brady, at the time a highly educated ethicist (yup) is known to have done so with a list of the names of those actively being abused in his pocket. Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny on the subject of institutional abuse and the 'dark and twisted psychology' have had a good forty years each at senior level in Irish politics and been a part of every deliberately failed attempt at holding the orders and catholic church to account for its crimes.

They do come from the social group which was very much the fellow-traveller of the cult in Ireland. Neither politician have ever successfully been involved in any coherent attempt to hold said cult to account. Both have been members of government at cabinet level when said governments have done nothing but evade, obfuscate, operate a 'delay till they die' policy towards the cult's victims.

The Sean Brady psychology. Trained to hell and back in ethics and nonplussed when it comes to anything that might adversely affect their careers. Ethical cowards all.

Two Devouts and one Nervous.
I wonder would it be possible to set up awards ceremony in Ireland like the Razzies for the Oscars. You could have a website detailing members of the Catholic Church Academy.

'This year's Obfuscator of the Year Award' goes to Roddy for his epic delivery of hours of complete bullshit in the Dail which bore no relation whatsoever to the actual law'.

Well done Roddy. Now let us turn to the awarding of our Failed Nun Called Mary of the Year Award, usually given to a simpering female twat in Irish politics who has an obvious unadmitted desire to be a nun all her life but prefers politics for the money.


There's a gentleman called Andrew or Andrew1 who posts around occasionally on Irish forums. Most often saw him on one of the forums in particular. I got to know his story over the years as we found ourselves battling the ethical knackers of the catholic church over issues around the institutions and the complete mentalists out of the seminaries empowered by our distorted society.

I remember him well, Andrew49, he used a three-toned litho-print of Mick Jagger as his avatar?

His tales were generally brutal, and I felt for the man many times when he'd spill his heart out online. He was frequently to be found on PW.Org trying to put his case across and I supported him as best I could when we met there. He was given shocking abuse from some of the old hacks on Politics.ie, the religious fuckers prevalent back then are now finally muted: creeps like Dangler, Clamprickard, Vengeful Glutton - vile catholic vermin in the worst sense.

For every tear that man cried publicly about the ruination of his life from boy to man, they were met with snorting derision from those catholic Nazi fuckers and I wanted to gut the lot of them. Jesus fuck, I mean when a guy who's been battered and buggered senseless throughout his younger life at the hands of the RCC, how the likes of those cunts could gather the nerve to dismiss him and call him a liar and a sponger looking for a handout made me seriously ashamed to be Irish. In fact, that hasn't changed at all - and if there's one more good thing to be garnered from toppling both GPO and having PIsh delete everything - then it has to be muting those two particularly vile priestly cock-suckers: Gerhard Dengler and Clanrickard.

In fact - let me say this now: lads, I'm coming for the both of you. I have your names, your locations, and more besides. If you think what I did to Dan was shocking, then just wait until you see what I have in store for you two cancerous, poisonous, useless fucking bastards. Naming and shaming you two will be another adventure altogether. And what's more? I'm not the only one coming for ye - there's more people after your guts than you realise, you scum-sucking rapist apologizers. I'm going to drag you both over the coals and fuck your lives up in every way I can. You won't forget me - that's for sure. I'm not forgetting either of you hypocritical rats with your cowardly and two-faced threats to the owner of this site.

Dengler: that time when you printed the telephone number of the mother of our host here onto PIsh? And then asked if he was 'crystal clear' regarding your implied threat against his Mam? It wasn't my Mam, granted - but anybody who'll stoop to the lows a filthy sewer-dwelling scum-bucket like you did with your pathetic little dose of authority mistaken for power? I'm going to make you relive that threat every day for the rest of your paltry existence. And when your time on this planet is up and you have to face your God - I know in my own heart that he'll banish you to your eternal fire - right were you belong. I hope you die slowly, painfully, alone, with a degenerative disease that eats through what's left of you until your worthless life is over.

Same with you, Clamp: your high horse is now limping along, looking for a quiet and dark place to die - alone. You too will feel my wrath, you too will get to relive your fundamentalist-catholic Nazi, Jew-loving triple-faced horribleness every day and night until death takes your wizened and worthless self away from actual humanity. You are scum, cancerous, malignant, and highly contagious. I'll stamp on you like the little bug you are, like the cowardly scum you are, like the worthless waste of bastard's seed and whore's ovaries that bore you. You'll never forget me, fucker - I promise you.

Your fowl little sidekick Vengeful Glutton? I'm going to become both of those to you: vengeance AND gluttony. I'm going to take my time and work on you slowly. There'll be no fast opt-out for you like Dan was given. You're going to have me on your back, in your face, all over you like a rash. And I won't quit until you're begging for mercy, until you're offering me money to stop.

Your families will all know who and what you are, and exactly what you've been up to in your fetid little basements where you hide like the yellow streaks of piss you are while taking pot-shots at the very people who suffered the worst of your church and the animals that roam its halls.

You guys think that because PIsh took one in the nuts that you get to scamper away clean?

Forget that: it's never going to happen - not while I'm still alive.

Take that as a warning, boys: best dig in deep, I'm getting closer by the hour.
First letter of Sea Chieftain Con O'Sullivan to Ensign (2dn Class) Con O'Sullivan.

(1) I have sent you a list of names under separate cover and Admiralty seal. Under no circumstances have anything to do with the women named within. Memorise and burn the list immediately.

Is mise le meas and yours boatingly etc and so forth,

Sea-Chieftain Con
New letter to past self.

'Dear Lord Admiral,

Don't leave the iron on the morning of 24th June 2017 whatever you do,

Is mise le meas



Staff member
The Irish Gulag

Beatings, rape, slave labour, inadequate food and medical care...a day in the life of Letterfrack Industrial School, run by the CBS. Were the Christian Brothers an army, the goings-on at such institutions would surely be considered war crimes. Yet it was not against enemy combatants such sadism and cruelty was carried out against, but innocent children - many of whom were stolen from their parents by an Irish State which deemed them unfit to care for their young.

"Instead the money was siphoned off by the religious orders and the children were kept in conditions that were beyond Dickensian. They froze in winter, were covered in lice and had little or no amusement apart from prison like yards and gardens. Where did the money go? We still don't know because the orders always refused to make their accounts available.

As Arnold says, the institutions were actually juvenile slave labour camps operated in Gulag style in the service of the religious orders, instead of industrial 'schools'. At Letterfrack the boys knelt and used their spread-out fingers as hoes on the 400-acre farm. In addition to the utter deprivation, of course, there was the sexual abuse and the floggings, the injuries and the deaths (Artane even had its own cemetery and no one knows how many battered children who subsequently died were buried there)."


Brother Maurice Tobin, found guilty in 2003 of sexual abuse against 25 boys at Letterfrack.

Been referring to these mad types and their fellow travellers as the O'Taliban for years. The Murphahideen is another one...
12 years, out in 8... 25 boys sexually abused. And they would be sample charges for a character like that. I'd be in favour of hanging such people.


Back in the day when he was still drinking and doing drugs, myself and Mannix Flynn had some wild nights out on the piss and other dope. One Valentine's night we were walking along Suffolk Street towards the lower gate end of Trinity. A wild wind was blowing and the trees were dancing around in the darkness. A branch of a tree fell from above and landed out on the road, so Mannix grabbed it and started dragging it down the street. His then lady lived above a pub on the corner by the gate. He dragged this huge branch up the stairs and into the flat she lived in. Then he dragged it across the floor and squeezed it up against the corner so its branches all splayed out across the ceiling.

She woke up and came in, saw the tree in the corner and me and Mannix sitting under it rolling spliffs.

She went mental, so I got up and left, still laughing at the look on her face when she asked what the fuck the tree was all about. Mannix told her that he had no money left to buy her flowers for Valentine's Day and that this was his offering instead. Hilarious situation, yes: but kind of upsetting too.

Mannix was sent to Letterfrack. Mostly for being poor but on one other occasion for nicking a bicycle. The judge gave him five years. They beat him, battered him, abused him, drove him insane, and when he finally got out he hit the bottle pretty hard. Like Patrick Kavanagh, he was barred from most pubs in the city. He was an angry drunk, but sometimes I'd be able to talk him back down to earth. On the occasions I couldn't I'd leave him to do his own thing. Most mornings he woke up in the tank.

Years passed and he was a notorious wild man, but I liked him: he had stories to tell. Happy people have no stories. The rest of us have to fill in the silences. What I didn't know was that he was writing, constantly filling standard jotters with stories about his childhood. The physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, spiritual abuse. He eventually gathered all of his nightmares together and had them published in his first book called 'Talking To The Wall'.

He eventually got off the drink after many failed attempts. When I finally met a sober Mannix, that's when the real truth hit me like a hammer. His writing was terrifying, visceral, the smell of warm blood, of nicotine stained fingers and damp sheets in a ward full of frightened boys. Boys who stole apples from orchards for fun. Who ate the sweets in Woolworth's without paying for them. Who were poor. Who came from broken families. Whose parents and grandparents were trying to keep the tuberculosis at bay. The same Dublin my Mam's side of the family came from. Poverty, dozens of kids in the bed. Coddle simmering away for days on end. No shoes on their feet. Real hard times.

Mannix decided to turn the book into a stage show. The first night was at the DA Club, where I worked as house artist, DJ, and house band manager. He came in in the afternoon while I was packing up my gear from the previous night. He wanted to try a read through onstage to get his bearings. I packed up my stuff and went to the lighting desk and switched on a spotlight above him, then a spray of dry ice. He looked like Black Jayzus himself standing there, his face half-bathed in light making his eyes disappear and his mouth forming the words like the ballerina in Beckett's 'Not I'.

We found a pulpit in the store room so I put that on the stage under the spotlight for him to stand behind. It wasn't planned but it worked. Then he started the read through. I was the only person in there with him and he pinned me to the chair with his rage. The sheer anger, the hurt, the roaring and shouting. He was dragging all of his ghosts out and exorcising them in a rage. All the clatters and digs. The eating of his dinner off the floor. All the buggery, the oral rape, the violence, the fear, the sheer terror. All right there - in his eyes, in his words, in his broken self that outside stood tall and menacing, he was at once terrifying and piteous. He broke my heart. I cried for him. For his pain, his hurt, and the vast empty places in his soul where all the rage had burned a hole through his very being.

The show opened that same night and he asked if I'd set everything up just as we did earlier in the day.

I did, and stayed on for the performance.

He nailed his audience to the floor, you could hear a pin drop between his short bursts of rage and anger. He twisted and turned their hearts and nobody dared move in their seat. Silence. The kind of silence that even with a hundred and twenty people sitting there daren't make as much as a whisper. He stood under the one spotlight at the lectern and told his story slowly and with dry ice drifting through the air. It was hypnotic. Stunning. Arresting. But not in a good way. Everything he said I could connect with. He was telling our story too, of our childhoods in Ballyfermot. He helped us all come to terms with our own ghosts. It changed my life, it changed me. I started to write myself, but always with the same end result: once it was down on paper I tore it up and burned it, hoping it would take it all away from me in a flickering fame that died in moments.

But no, it doesn't work like that. It's like taking your finger out of the dyke. It flows out so fast and so hard you can't block it up again. It spills out and starts to rise, like being water-boarded, like drowning, gasping for breath. It takes a lot of courage to confront a horrible childhood. It takes even more to exorcise it. You can try, but it'll never really be gone, because it's part of who you are.

Some people think life is meant to be all happiness and light, but those of us who came from the gutter know better.

We weren't allowed an innocent childhood, and even with the age difference between Mannix and I, I could still relate; he was of my Mam's generation, the ones who survived the tuberculosis rife in the Dublin tenements around Mercier Street and The Coombe. I knew where he came from. I knew what he went through. And I saw it happen all around me in my own childhood - one cut short by evil in its most condensed form.

I never saw the inside of the gulags, but I did fourteen years with the De La Salle.

They 'educated' me.

They made me the man I am now.

I watched Mannix do something I had been too terrified to even speak about, but he did it live on stage and turned an auditorium into a confessional box. I'll always be grateful to him. I'll never forget that first night, him standing there in his trademark black Crombie overcoat, his grey hair slicked back across his head exposing the lines on his forehead. The grit of his teeth as he vomited up the horror of repeated rapes and beatings. The courage that that must have taken has always stayed with me. I still see him standing there, his fingers gripping the edge of the pulpit and his knuckles pure white with the tension.

They took the boy in him and destroyed him.

The man he became?

They'll never forget him now, not after his life's work in slamming the doors closed on that kind of mundane horror.

Yes, politics became his focus, he's a working local counselor and he does well in the polls.

But Mannix the politician and Mannix the boy?

Two different people - from the very same place.


Staff member
And yet, this is the kind of Ireland which the likes of Hans, Dengler and The Field Marshal want to return to.


And yet, this is the kind of Ireland which the likes of Hans, Dengler and The Field Marshal want to return to.

This is why I want Dengler's guts in a bucket. This is why there's still so much hate and loathing. This is why I do what I do: so that no child ever has to witness - never mind suffer, the hurt put onto us and into us to break us and shape our future selves. I get where these cunts are coming from. Just as I read on Pish yesterday, these are the kind of men who will try to insinuate that I too was raped as well as beaten. They try to goad me by suggesting that I must have been raped, how else could I be so angry? They tell me that I deserved it, because I don't believe in their god, so they say that I deserved a raping, that I deserve to feel the hurt and shame, and that their priests are good men because they rape non-believers.

If I had the chance, I would tie Dengler to a chair and read to him, all of my stories, all of my own experiences. Make him listen, staple his eyelids wide open, spit in them, pour boiling hot tea into his lap. Slap him. Pull his ears until they tear. Shove the pages of his bible one by one into his mouth and watch him suffocate. Wait until he's about to pass out and expire - then slap him on the back to make the pages fly back out again. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat, until there aren't any bibles left to choke the vile bastard with.

The Field Mouse is a fucking idiot, a joke, a long-running re-run of an old series of The Riordan's on whiskey and stout. I don't take that twat in any way seriously. But Dengler? When I finally have him full in my sights, I'm going to take my time with him. Work on him slowly but steadily. Keep at it until he breaks down and falls apart. Then ram a copy of The Book Of Leviticus up his fat arse for him.

Hate comes from knowing that there are scum like him in the world.

Hate has to start somewhere - and I know where mine begins and ends.

Dengler will know too, in time.
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