10th President of Ireland is a campaign to symbolically appoint the deceased child William Delaney as Ireland's 10th President in 2018. A one-off symbolic and embedded gesture, which might affect a collective national sentiment of healing and solidarity, in honoring the survivors of State and Institutional abuse. William Delaney was one of many children who have died whilst in the care of the State and the religious orders appointed to the management of child care in Ireland and across the globe.
Willie Delaney 1957 – 1970
He was 10 years old in 1967 when he was sentenced to six years in Letterfrack, Industrial School. Operated by the congregation of Christian Brothers, the school was opened in 1887 following the 1868 Industrial schools act which facilitated lay child care management be replaced by religious orders. Between 1869 and 1969 145,899 children were committed to industrial and reformatory schools. St Joseph's was one of many units operating in the republic of Ireland, the largest figure of 61 centres in 1898. The school received a lasting notoriety through revelation of physical and sexual abuse of the boys by some of the Brothers there, with evidence of sexual abuse and extreme physical punishments going back to the 1930s. 147 children died in Letterfrack while in the care of the Christian Brothers mainly from abuse and neglect
At the end of June 1970, William was sent home to Kilkenny to start his summer holidays two weeks before the official recess. The young boy complained of terrible piercing headaches, and collapsed at his home. He was admitted to a local hospital but never regained consciousness. He died two days later. His death was, according to the attending doctor, caused by encephalitis.
Those who lived alongside Willie Delaney in Letterfrack didn't believe that their fellow inmate died from natural causes, and recalled how the 13-year-old was knocked unconscious by a blow from a broomstick yielded by a Christian Brother.
As a result of these statements, the body of Willie Delaney was disinterred as part of a police inquiry into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Letterfrack. The initial post-mortem did not reveal conclusive evidence that the young boy died as a result of alleged head injuries.
The case of Willie Delaney is the first time that any Garda inquiry into such allegations at such an institution has resulted in an exhumation in a search for conclusive evidence of foul play. The original cause of death was upheld but the case had the effect of making public the debate around issues of memory creditability and the instrumentalisation of the victim by the media, the church, the state and the survivors.
The role Willy Delaney’s life has played in both the state appropriation of power and the victims search for justice and accountability has been unprecedented in the history of our state.
A one-off symbolic and embedded gesture, which might affect a collective national sentiment of healing and solidarity
Legal & Technical Issues
It is proposed that for a nominal period, one minute, one hour or one day, the Office of the President of Ireland would be symbolically conferred upon the life and name of Willy Delaney. From that point forward being recognized as the 10th President of Ireland.
To qualify, candidates must:
- be a citizen of Ireland,
- be at least 35 years of age, and
- be nominated by:
One citizen of Ireland, who is over the age of 35 will change their name to 'William Delaney 1957 - 1970' That citizen will never be identified. Nominations by 4 county or city councils will be sought, in order to get William Delaney 1957 - 1970 onto the ballot sheet. Once achieved the citizen will change their name back and never be identified. Once on the ballot sheet William Delaney 1957 - 1970 can not be removed and the people of Ireland will have the opportunity to vote William as the 10th President of Ireland.
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This proposal sets out a process which is relational in nature, and rather than operating as a physically permanent object the project foregoes this traditional manifestation in order to activate a dialogical, cultural and historic relationship between those that are HONORED and those who have the power to HONOR.
This campaign is an unprecedented act of acknowledgement and honor. The ramifications around the world and into the future might set an extraordinary example for redress and social healing, and to some extent begin to address the unresolved issues of state abuse and the inadequate care for vulnerable members of our society.
The most important issue, was and is an unquestioned acceptance of authority over the rights of the individual, and the welfare of the most vulnerable.
Although it might not be possible to redeem the past, this commemoration might speak of a willingness to embrace it, to acknowledge those who have suffered, to value and learn from their experience, in the resounding pursuit of a better society.
If nominated or elected, from that point forward every adult or child who opens a history book will learn of the present generation’s willingness to embrace the mistakes of the past and value those who have suffered so deeply. This is a commemoration not just to the survivors of institutional abuse, but to those who did not survive, those who have been implicated by history in their silence and failure to intervene, and to those who are brave enough to acknowledge our collective failing and move forward in a process of healing.
The Institution of the state and its citizens would acknowledge and pay homage to those who have been treated so wrongly by offering the highest accolade possible to one who suffered due to its indifference.