Proposal

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 honouring 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.

Technically although exceptional, with the support of the people of Ireland, the outgoing President Michael D Higgins, the council of state, and 20 members of the Oireachtas (the national parliament). It is proposed that, as in the case of retirement or impeachment of the president etc, the Presidential commission might fulfil all duties of the office of President whilst William Delaney is symbolically appointed the 10th president in name alone.

The Candidate

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.