Rift Tears Open Again Among Councillors, Over Abuse Survivors Being Retraumatised by Artane Band

A motion asking the lord mayor to end her patronage of the Artane School of Music will come back before the full council next month, says independent Councillor Mannix Flynn.

In June, Flynn had agreed to try a mediation process first, as suggested by other councillors and the last lord mayor.

“I believe now that I have absolutely no confidence whatsoever in this particular process,” he said at Dublin City Council’s September monthly meeting, on Monday.

Flynn said he had been shocked and disappointed that the current lord mayor, Labour’s Alison Gilliland, had as part of the process held meetings with the Artane band that he hadn’t known about.

A meeting between Flynn and band representatives is yet to happen.

Being excluded from those meetings left him “othered” and “betrayed”, he said, as it had the survivors of Artane who he represents. “The people that I work with are furious.”

It’s important to understand how central issues of power and control have been to the experiences of survivors of sexual abuse, he said, later. “And that we as a council body don’t mirror that by using power and control to silence the needs of a victim.”

On Tuesday, Gilliland said she didn’t want to comment and preempt in any way a meeting that she planned to host at Mansion House, between the Artane School of Music and Flynn.

Flynn said that he would still be willing to meet with representatives of the band, but that he no longer trusts the lord mayor to act as the mediator.

A Long Road

Flynn had first put forward his motion to remove mayoral patronage from the band in June. But it followed earlier different motions.

Flynn is a survivor of the industrial schools, including Artane.

All this is part of a years-long campaign by the councillor to highlight the trauma felt by survivors of past abuse at the institution when they see present-day musicians troop out in the same uniform and name – and to seek changes to protect the survivors from that.

The band is still associated with the Christian Brothers, some of whose past members perpetrated and covered up horrific child sexual abuse there.

In past debates, many councillors had dismissed or attacked Flynn’s calls for the council to acknowledge the history of severe abuse at the band, and other motions calling on the band to ditch its uniform, and reform under new banners.

Two suggested it was a publicity stunt. Others ignored issues of trauma and focused their comments on the work of the band today.

At the June meeting this year, councillors took a more conciliatory approach, but suggested mediation to chart a way forward. Flynn agreed to accommodate that idea.

Then-Lord Mayor Hazel Chu, of the Green Party, said she would contact the band’s board to arrange a meeting by the end of the week if possible. “This could be back on the agenda if it is not resolved,” she said, at the time.

At Monday’s Meeting

At Monday’s council meeting, Flynn said he had been shocked and disappointed that the current lord mayor, Labour’s Gilliland, had since then held meetings with the Artane Band that he hadn’t known about.

Another local councillor had been there too, Flynn said later. (Independent Councillor Nial Ring is on the board of the Artane School of Music. He didn’t respond to a call and text on Tuesday.)

At the council meeting, Gilliland said Flynn had asked for the lord mayor to set up a meeting, and that there would be a meeting organised with the Artane band within the next two weeks.

Independent Councillor Damian O’Farrell spoke up. Flynn hadn’t asked for anything, he said.

The previous lord mayor had offered to arrange a dialogue on behalf of the council, he said. Flynn had been treated in a terrible way, said O’Farrell.

Commitments hadn’t been met. Three months had passed with no meeting, he said. “Is it not important to them?”

A spokesperson for the Artane School of Music said on Tuesday: “The Artane School of Music have had a number of constructive meetings with the Lord Mayor and Senior Dublin City Council officials.”

“While these meetings have not yet reached a conclusion it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” they said.

“The Artane School of Music remains fully committed to the musical education of our hundreds of students in the North Dublin area which we serve on a daily basis,” they said.

A day after the council meeting, Gilliland said it had taken a long time to set up the future meeting with Flynn and the band because of schedules and the summer, and that nobody was deliberately holding it up.

On Saturday, the band is set to go out to play as usual before the All-Ireland football final between Mayo and Tyrone, Flynn said.

“And my members and my friends will have to bury their heads in the sand,” he said, “turn off their phones and try and hide for a week.”

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Lois Kapila: Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's editor and general assignment reporter. She covers housing and land, too. Want to share a comment or a tip? You can reach her at [email protected]

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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