Unacceptable silence

It’s been a little like the elephant in the room for me all week. Since I first heard of the fire in Omagh, I’ve checked Slugger every day to see what is being said. I am pretty amazed that it was never mentioned or covered by the site.

While I appreciate that much is, and remains speculation at this point in time, we are still potentially dealing with one of the most serious examples of domestic violence seen in Northern Ireland ever. For those who remain unaware of the situation, a family of 7 people died in Omagh last week in a house fire. It was fairly evident from early in the story that things were neither simple nor pleasant. It has since transpired that the father of the household, Arthur McElhill was on the sex offenders register. He has subsequently been depicted as an alcoholic and suffering from depression. It is alleged that McElhill set fire to his home, killing his wife and 5 children.

Northern Ireland seems to have spoken of little else in the past week, and the story has moved from fire officers extolling the virtues of smoke alarms to a deafening silence from those whose job it is to protect the innocent. It really isn’t good enough to dismiss this as a private affair. The safety and welfare of a family were at stake and were not protected. This has moved from being a personal tragedy to a matter that deserves public scrutiny and attention to ensure that the authorities can and must recognize and attempt to prevent such mass family murders in the future.

  • stephen

    I understand that this is a very important and emotive issue. i have worked in associated fields for quite a while and whilst I accept that men are invariably the childkillers in a family, and that men are far more likely to be of the “if i can’t have them nobody will” mindset, it is very important to wait untill an official inquiry is conducted.

    This is a massive tragedy and the loss of a whole family is to me unimaginable, but even if the whole community “knows” what happened, you have to wait. With time comes certainty and proof.

    Our thoughts and prayers should be with all those left behind and with those who are now at peace.

    An inquiry should bring evidence and the direction for improvement for the agencies that have to try and address these problems. This is not an easy job to do and those who try to do it should be supported, we offer precious little financial support to social services and then scrutinise their failings when they appear to let us down.

  • dodrade

    It’s a bit unfair of Miss Fitz to imply this tragedy could and should have been foreseen.

    Sometimes bad things happen which cannot be predicted or prevented, however much we wish we could.

  • Turgon

    Miss Fitz,
    A fair comment up to a point. What is there to say about this sort of tragedy? It is too mind numbingly awful to imagine.

    What can we do, however. This man went to prison for sex offences. He was allowed out (too early maybe but he was always going to get out at some time). Presumably he promised his partner he would not do anything again. She must have taken him back. I do not criticise her; she showed forgiveness in response I am sure to contrition.

    Then it seems that this man committed a great evil. I do not know what else one can do. Presumably we cannot say that once convicted of a sex offence one must never be allowed out of prison. Presumably we cannot force all sex offenders on release to live on Rathlin or such like (that is not meant to sound flippant but what can we as a society do?)

  • The Penguin

    Maybe those with any feelings at all are waiting until the wider families at least have buried their loved ones before going into Nolan, Sun and Sunday World mode.

    Just a thought.

  • IJP

    Thoughtful thread – both the original and the responses.

    I think the reason I haven’t given much thought to it is that we just don’t know what the situation is. It might be appalling domestic violence, it might be to do with mental health issues – but then it might not be.

    As a broad point, we are really bad in this society at dealing with people with mental health problems. Our idea seems to be: 1. package all mental health problems into a ‘syndrome’ and then set up lots of organizations to promote awareness of these ‘syndromes’; and/or 2. put people with mental health problems in jail, let them out, put them in again, let them out again…

    The solution now being suggested is a nice ‘all-island centre’ or some such, no doubt so that middle-class people can be paid big money by the ‘State’ to do ‘research’ that, frankly, has probably already been done elsewhere.

    This is a classic case of an area of our society where other countries do a lot better than we do. We need practical political action, not research institutes.

    I have to add that I have some sympathy with Turgon‘s point too. I am a Liberal, I believe in freedom – but that also means people should be free from having to share streets (and houses) with people who are frankly unsafe. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do.

    But I have no idea whether any of these points is relevant to the Omagh case, and we’re probably best not to speculate.

  • Rubicon

    Miss Fitz, you may be completely convinced that the father is guilty of a terrible crime but is all you have to go on that which you posted? Do you have further evidence?

    I’m tempted to think you’re attempting to start a kangaroo court here on Slugger that starts with the man’s guilt and then goes on to criticise public policy which – had it been better – would have prevented this tragedy. What policy change? Castration and a full term of life imprisonment of all male sex-offenders?

    Can’t we wait to see if the evidence currently being collected and examined demonstrates the man’s guilt?

    I see little point in piling one injustice on another and this thread seems to invite just that. Just because the man is dead and can’t sue Slugger doesn’t mean he should be pronounced guilty of a dreadful crime before the evidence is known.

    But, perhaps you are in possession of that evidence Miss Fitz?

  • Jarni

    I was just about to post on this when I saw that Rubicon had said much the same as I intended. For all we know it was the mother who sprinkled the petrol and set fire to the house. To say anything else without evidence is to be guilty of purveying tittle-tattle. We’ve already had UTV say that Lorraine McGovern was pregnant which the post-mortem showed to be untrue. Facts, please.

  • stephen

    It is very interesting that this kind of debate elicits less response from the more overtly conflict related.

    However, it is important to remember as some posters have already said that we cannot apportion responsiblility untill a full enquiry has taken place.

    Finally, as a father of two I cannot imagine what would allegedly bring a man to such a state, but I have felt low and useless and depressed in my time and know how that can seriously effect your judgement. Do not get me wrong, I do not know the issues in this case and do not know the convictions and otherwise of the man involved; but I do know that most familial crime is more sad and pathetic than bad.

    As I said before, let’s remeber in our thoughts and prayers all of those who have perished and been affectewd by this terrible event

  • me

    I think all our emotions moved with this story, from shock at first, to sympathy with the relatives, to horror that it may have been the father, to absolute revulsion at him when it was revealed about his past. that part was truly sickening!

    The social services have an awful lot of questions to answer in this case. Why was a man, convicted of a sex crime not monitored within that family.

    Surely someones head must roll over this?

  • DC

    Writing from a personal viewpoint on this one, I agree but appreciate the legal aspect here. But I am with you on this one.

    What I wasn’t so impressed with was at the time when a Mr Cully shot his wife dead because he was told by her that she was leaving for someone else. On Slugger it was deemed a tragedy and indeed very sad, but deep down there is never an excuse for a man to lift a gun, or torch the house in response to something a wife wishes to do of her own free choice or because of an inherent problem with that man.

    We can also go on to the deadly silence, although from a different gender view, on the incident of the Newtownabbey police officer, a female officer, who shot her police colleague, a male, because he was moving on to different things without her involvement. The political response was of lip service but at the end of it all you just don’t go fucking firing off hand guns who ever you may be.

    Is it really too much to say that you just don’t go doing these things. It seems a bit bizarre to say that the IRA must disarm and have this amplified in the media whenever horrendous murders happen, only for sensitive issues amounting to the same level of abhorrance to end up going out like a light, hush hush style and swallow hard possibly because it strike a raw nerve.

    It’s all about attitudes and right to life in the end.

  • Rubicon

    DC – you’ve a point re the Quinn murder in that we are all perhaps too ready to rush to judgement. When we do, I think it reveals prejudices that most can’t admit. In this particular case (the Omagh fire) there exist a few differences:

    1. Paul Quinn was murdered – no doubt about that.
    2. Those accused (Lord Laird apart) have not been individuals.
    3. There were survivors of the Quinn murder – though not Paul himself.

    Discussion of this issue based on the guilt of the father may be equivalent to discussions of the Quinn murder – but they’d need to start with alleging Paul Quinn was guilty.

    Perhaps there are some out there that think that – some 15 to 20 anyway. I doubt even the trolls on Slugger would scrape that barrel though. So – why do it to Arthur McElhill?

  • DC

    I think the debate should be over the hypothetical related to a set of circumstances revealing several possibilities around this situation, which is what happens in life no matter how much we dislike it. A good example the McCanns but still the thought was provoked and society challenged many issues raised from such accusations each with their own vast array of responses.

    Of couse we should not rush in and blame him, I am not in that context, I am saying that, reference the other issues, when abhorrances from other humans to other humans happens in a non-explicit political sense re the Jaffas and Huns context, much is left unexplained in that environment.

    Everything pretty much is a social construct of which politicians derive their powerbase and we need to look why people feel that such actions are a way out to particular problems that can be resolved another way perhaps with more difficulty to the perpetrators in terms of putting in the commitment to change.

  • Rubicon

    DC – social constructs also had a lot to do with the “troubles” – but I think I get where you’re coming from.

    The Sunday Life article Miss Fitz links to suggests a very serious failure occurred in placing a vulnerable child in the care of this family. I can’t understand how Social Services thought this appropriate but it may just be possible that they thought the father was excluded from the home?

    But, I’m getting in to speculation here. Yet – I cannot understand how a vulnerable girl could be placed in the home of a man on the sex offenders register. Assuming the Sunday Life have got their facts right, it would seem that Social Services screwed up big time. Had it not been for the police the death toll would have been eight – but – it’s not the body count that matters.

    I can think of no circumstances where a child should be placed in the home of a sex-offender. It’s a pity Miss Fitz brought the two issues together – the guilt of the father in (allegedly) burning his home and family – and the issue of Social Services placing children in dangerous environments.

    It is outrageous that the consideration given the unnamed girl that the police rescued was not afforded to Caroline (13), Sean (7), Bellina (4) Clodagh, (19 months) and baby James.

    Arthur McElhill was twice convicted for indecently assaulting young girls. These convictions are enough to persuade me that he was not fit to be in charge of the care of his own children – or others.

    I’ll let the forensic teams, police and coroner conclude on the evidence of what caused the fire. That aside, it does seem that Social Services have much to answer. They usually hide behind a shield of confidentiality – it’ll afford them little protection this time. This service has too long escaped public accountability.

    Beyond Social Services there is the issue of dealing with sex offenders once they are released. Personally, I believe they should be subject to severe restrictions and should not be resident in a home environment that their illness raises the risk of re-offending or aggravating their condition.

    This is a very difficult issue. It raises issues of fundamental freedoms that we should not set aside easily.

  • jone

    I’m really not sure what would have been gained by a load of ill informed web-monging.

    When a supposedly professional operation like UTV completely lost the run of themselves I doubt very much whether half baked opinions based on scanty facts would have been very edifying – see for example, the McCanns.

    Will there be questions to answer for social services down the line? – very probably.

    Will there be long pieces of over written cod psychology in the posh papers? – almost certainly.

    Will there be any apologies for lurid and inaccurate journalism? – don’t hold your breath.

  • stephen

    it is obvious to all that the placing of children in the home of a convicted child molester is wrong. It therefor stands to reason that this is not the whole story, social workers are not evil or immoral so lets wait and see what happened.

    this event is in no way connected to other discussions on this site and to try and score points by doing so is wrong.

    Children have passed away, let’s remember that and leave the point scoring for another day

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m with jone here.

    I didn’t touch the story: one, because I’ve probably been much less affected by the huge emotional impact of the local media coverage since I see a lot less of it than most of our readers/bloggers; and two, the verifiable facts of the case are sketchy to say the least. I’m not sure how much people can legitimately comment upon, until and unless more of the facts/context emerge.

    There is a lot of stuff to say about the coverage of the McCanns too, but I’ve personally taken the decision that the moment for that should come later rather than sooner and have deliberately decided not to write about it, either here on Slugger, or elsewhere.

  • DC

    “Children have passed away, let’s remember that and leave the point scoring for another day”

    I don’t really see how anyone is scoring points it is this sympathetic response to a very complex issue that often mitigates the agencies and individuals involved through linking thought towards sympathy rather than looking at the motives therein.

    I think people have the right to respond to what arises in the press based as facts and this is as good a conduit as any to display converging or diverging views.

    Leaving the personal issue aside we must look at why men feel the need to sex offend, what is it at large which does cause a good lot of men to do that, espeically those of which are severely non-consensual type of an aggressive nature leading to fatality in some cases.

    Sympathy may buy you a knee jerk response of ‘true-true’ but many other children deserve answers to these ongoing questions in society at large, as I have said, of which politicians build their nest.

  • me

    ”social workers are not evil or immoral so lets wait and see what happened”

    No but they are human and mistakes can be made. It’s a truly awful story, whatever the outcome lessons must be learnt by us all.

  • Rubicon

    Stephen – quite right, “social workers are not evil or immoral”. They are very moral, have a moral code (that they’ll not put in the public domain) and have very moral determinations (that they’ll not put in the public domain or even share with those they accuse).

    Yes, social workers are very moral. Pity they’re not able to update their morality in the light of evidence or share their views in family court. Sure – I agree – they’re not evil – they just seem to do wrong.

    The social workers I’ve met I believe were very moral with intentions to do good. It’s a crying shame that their procedures, intellect and personnel reach just above the standard of that guy in Corn Market with the sandwich board and megaphone that howls at women passers by as being the harbingers of sin.

    This isn’t point scoring – it’s quite legitimate to consider whether our moral police are up to the job. It’s also legitimate ask if we afford enough protection to the vulnerable.

    My point has been – and remains – to let the evidence demonstrate the father’s guilt or innocence for the fire.

    Social Services may have screwed up and our legislation may be inadequate regarding Social Services and sex-offenders. It strikes me as a bit faux to call for remembrance as an alternative to the scrutiny these issues urgently need. They are not alternatives and your “point scoring” innuendo seems an attempt to distract and delay.

    I can live with “delay”. Let’s see what the very moral and right doing social worker(s) were doing here. I’m in no hurry – the more evidence the better.

    BUT – we are just moments away from Social Services claiming confidentiality. On this occasion I don’t believe they’ll get away with it – all the people they’d need to claim they were protecting are dead. Allowing the evidence of Social Service’s operations to come forward may have just required such a dreadful tragedy.

    The moral and good-doing Social Service is going to have to do a little more than flap wings in offering an angelic pretence.

  • George

    We don’t know if he set the fire.

    If he did we don’t know if his alcoholism, which was mentioned here, was a relevant factor.

    We don’t know if his depression, which was mentioned here, was a relevant factor.

    We don’t know the presence of his name on the sex offender’s register, which was mentioned here, was a relevant factor.

    And we most certainly don’t know if this was “murder”, which was mentioned here.

    You don’t protect the innocent by reaching judgments without knowing all or at least enough facts.

    Scrutiny is one thing, jumping to conclusions is another.

  • Dawkins

    Miss Fitz,

    Thank you for confronting the elephant in the room and starting this thread. There are many serious issue involved in the case.

    I’ve been called away but will return later to read the comments. I have to say though that it’s a little rich of some posters to suggest some of us are jumping the gun on this. After all, jumping the gun is hardly a new phenomenon on Slugger O’Toole.

  • DC

    “You don’t protect the innocent by reaching judgments without knowing all or at least enough facts.

    Scrutiny is one thing, jumping to conclusions is another.”

    And the alternative is to do nothing and pressurise no-one even though a collection of circumstances likely to lead to a suggestion of under-performance across various agencies should be met with sympathetic acquiescence.

    This isn’t a witch hunt it can’t be; however, it is a lifting of the lid on agencies which have been left without appropriate public scrutiny while other more prominent murders and collection of murders have taken primacy.

    It’s about the right to life and attitudes, I can say no more. The right to life no matter who was to blame in a seemingly deliberate action has been extinguished. What can you say about that? Let legislation run its course and by that time another something horrible has happened to which we shouldn’t scrutinise because no-one knows the full facts, ad infinitum.

    Let’s debate whether improvements to the system can be made in circumstances which seem to suggest they can.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was wondering when we would see a thread on this matter. I found the story horrifying, but found the sickening exposee tabloidish approach favoured by media such as the Belfast Telegraph to be more so. The BT used to be a decent paper, but every time I pick it up now it looks more and more like The Sun.

    I read somewhere that there will be a wider public enquiry into this once the police investigation has been completed; that enquiry could take many months to complete. At this point, much of what is circulating is poorly-substantiated conjecture and rumour. It will take time before this is clarified into facts; it’s too early right now to start pointing blame at people.

  • Harry Flashman

    *I accept that men are invariably the childkillers in a family*

    Absolutely not true at all, there are countless cases of mothers killing their children. The difference being that a mother who does that is invariably treated as ‘sick’ or ‘depressed’ or suffering from ‘Munchausen’s by proxy’ or some other completely made up ailment whereas the man is invariably described as a disgusting, vile monster who should be strung up by his testicles by Daily Star reading lynch mobs.

    *Why was a man, convicted of a sex crime not monitored within that family.*

    Presumably because he was convicted, served his time and there was no evidence to show he had committed another offence.

    What sort of ‘monitoring’ do you suggest? CCTV’s in every room? A policeman checking the bedrooms every night? Should this apply to every person with a criminal record who has a family? For instance if someone has a conviction for murder, a much, much more serious offence than what this man did, should they be monitored too?

    Actually horrendous while this case is, fundamentally it is a private affair, we cannot allow this to be used as an opportunity for yet more state control of our family lives. It’s a tragedy but unless you propose execution for anyone convicted of any criminal offence and the refusal of family life to people suffering from mental or alcohol problems then we can only grieve for the dead, accept that it is a tragic consequence of living in a relatively free society and move on.

  • Rubicon

    Dawkins – your point of jumping the gun being typical here is superficial. This thread was started with an assertion that a specific named individual was potentially guilty of, “one of the most serious examples of domestic violence seen in Northern Ireland ever.”

    Many GROUPS have been accused on Slugger for being responsible for specific murders. I don’t remember any thread started on Slugger before that starts with a position citing a named individual as “potentially” responsible. Perhaps such examples will be pointed out to me but I can’t remember any and I believe it a cheap shot to make such an accusation (and publish it) because the target has no recourse to the law.

    Have fun on what you’ve been “called away” to. When you return you might point out to me where LIVING individuals have been linked to have “potentially” been the perpetrator of a mass murder?

    The elephant in the room Dawkins is your willingness to speculate over the corpse of a man who’d be presumed innocent if still alive.

    Miss Fitz does raise other issues worth debate concerning Social Services and the protections the law affords sex offenders.

  • DC

    “Actually horrendous while this case is, fundamentally it is a private affair, we cannot allow this to be used as an opportunity for yet more state control of our family lives.”

    Well I can see your justification based on rationalisation of the fact that such horrendous incidents are rare and we can put up with them on a rarity basis. Until the next time, perhaps 12 years down the line then, let’s settle for that. No?

  • Harry Flashman

    *Until the next time, perhaps 12 years down the line then, let’s settle for that. No?*

    Yes, I’ll settle for that.

    You cannot legislate danger out of a free society, tragedies happen, don’t allow the state to manipulate such tragedies in order to gain more control over you and your family.

    Nanny doesn’t always know best and nor does she always have your best interests at heart.

  • TAFKABO

    A friend of mine once, as part of his studies, worked with social services in a part of the USA. He told me a story of being shocked in one case where a father had been imprisoned for sexually abusing his children, and that as part of his release programme he was slowly being reintroduced to his family, at that time by phone call contact only.
    What shocked my friend was the reaction of the children to the scheduled phonecalls, their excitement at once again having contact with their father whom they missed dearly. They were doubly abused, once by their father, and again by the removal of their father from the family home, they were wee girls and they missed their daddy.

    Social services do a difficult job, for little to no thanks. Whilst we have the luxury of making simple black and white pronouncements about what is and isn’t right, they have to deal with issues in the real world, highly complex issues.
    We simply don’t know what happened in this case, and even when all the investigations and inquiries take place, we still wont know the complexities of that family dynamic.
    It’s understandable to be angry and hurt at a tragedy of this magnitude, but looking for scapegoats isn’t the way to deal with it.

  • DC

    “You cannot legislate danger out of a free society, tragedies happen, don’t allow the state to manipulate such tragedies in order to gain more control over you and your family.

    Nanny doesn’t always know best and nor does she always have your best interests at heart.”

    Okay then Harry why comment. Why bother? Fuck off to your free society and free-out then. Night night don’t write back.

  • Harry Flashman

    *Fuck off to your free society*

    Thanks I will and I won’t let state loving, sheeplike fools like your good self dictate when and where I can comment.

  • Rubicon

    Bullshit Harry! This is not “fundamentally a private affair”. Your kind of response just might increase the sale of smoke alarms at B&Q;but little else.

    You are objecting to the issue of appropriate management of a mental illness being discussed. The mental illness (or criminality) that drives some individuals to harm children and vulnerable people is well worth discussion. Sometimes they murder but more often they ruin lives.

    Is it only a “private affair” when children, wives and pensioners are raped or killed by very sick individuals that legislation gives us no power to control? Is it right that NI – unique in the UK – dismantles the sentences handed down by our judiciary? Is it right that social workers operate without public scrutiny?

    You Harry are one very naïve individual. If you had the wisdom to shut up I’d let it pass and hope you lived a life that accorded with your ignorance. I’d not wish you knowledge of these things.

    This is not a “private affair” – whatever caused that fire I want to know what Social Services were doing in placing a vulnerable child in this home and I want to know what measures Social Services had in place for the protection of the integrity the children had a right to – you know – those children that died in this “private affair”.

  • DC

    I wasn’t focusing on statehood but on attitudinal views spread throughout society, such views which usually constitute a sense of right and wrong and what actions can be delivered by the people to limit the likelihood of such actions in future.

  • Pete Baker

    When there is some actual detail to report, rather than what we’ve had so far – which is emotionally driven wall-to-wall editorialising in the place of reporting, along with some staged political concern, in which every possibly consideration has already been aired – then, and only then, would I consider blogging this particular story.

  • Dawkins

    Rubicon,

    Thanks for wishing me fun. I was actually on an errand of mercy which I assure you was no fun at all. Odd that you reprimand me for speculating and promptly speculate yourself.

  • Danny O’Connor

    It is hard to know where to start ,It appears that this catastophic event may been avoided if thihgs had been done differently -but nothing I can say will bring these wee children or their mother back-Yes an investigation is needed to see if there were any indicators that this tragedy could have been avoided-but for the moment my heart goes out to those who are left behind to try and make some sense of all of this amid the grief and suffering that they are surely experiencing

  • runciter

    I accept that men are invariably the childkillers in a family

    Nonsense.

    Most “childkillers” are female:

    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm04/table4_5.htm

  • getthefacts

    The worst child abuser a friend of mine ever came across in a lifelong professional career in NI was a woman.

  • gram

    Harry >>You cannot legislate danger out of a free society, tragedies happen, don’t allow the state to manipulate such tragedies in order to gain more control over you and your family.

    Nanny doesn’t always know best and nor does she always have your best interests at heart.<< I agree with you first paragraph but not all of you second paragraph. Ignoring what went on in the house, because we don't know yet, what we do know is a convicted sex offender was able to purchase a house next door to a primary school. We have to rely on the state to act as a "nanny" to ensure such offenders aren't allowed such free access to young children.

  • missfitz

    There are some facts available in this case.

    7 people died in a fire in Omagh.

    The Police are treating it as murder.

    They are not looking for a suspect outside the home.

    I purposely chose the label of domestic violence, because it is uncomfortable. I was amazed at the stance of other Bloggers who would report on paint drying, but are unable or unwilling to confront this massive social issue.

    I sometimes work with male and female victims of domestic abuse, and I strenuously object to it being labeled as a ‘private affair.’ Violence and abuse are wrong, whether perpetrated by a stranger or by a lover.

    It is an issue where it is unacceptable to be silent, and a light must be shone into those dark corners.

  • jone

    So we’ve had a bit of discussion about social services and their placing of a child with the McElhills.

    Alas that appears to have come from the Niall Donnelly school of journalism; here’s what the Western Trust have to say:

    “The Western Health and Social Care Trust cannot breach patient/client confidentiality. However, following an outrageous allegation printed on Sunday 18 November 2007, The Western Trust can categorically state that it has never placed a child with the McElhill Family.”

    As I understand it a child was staying at the house on an informal basis and once the social services found out about it they put a stop to it.

    Facts please.

  • The Dubliner

    “…we cannot allow this to be used as an opportunity for yet more state control of our family lives.” – Harry Flashman

    Spot-on. And that is all the more timely a caveat when NI is currently debating a Bill of Rights that certain parties are seeking to interject social and political policies into under the guise of ‘human rights’ and when you have a devolved Administration that is itself a spawn of a Nanny State (whose purse is filled with free money courtesy of the UK Exchequer) and is bound by its consensus format to reach only populist decisions. The NI phrase “the politics of the last atrocity” is relevant here, too. If you at the aftermath of the 911 atrocity, you’ll see how a dynamic aberration can be used by states to introduce repressive legislation that restricts the rights of the individual and increases the power of the state, and all done with the full approval of the individual who agrees to his own repression as a trade-off for an alleged greater good and consolidation of his existing rights (albeit with the false belief that only the rights of the guilty have been curtailed). Sans the extreme examples, public hysteria over aberrations is never a reliable guide to law, policy, or social practice.

  • getthefacts

    I purposely chose the label of domestic violence, because it is uncomfortable. …I sometimes work with male and female victims of domestic abuse…It is an issue where it is unacceptable to be silent, and a light must be shone into those dark corners.

    Missfitz I agree BUT

    If the ‘suspect’ had been Lorraine, a woman, the press would have been a little more circumspect about their speculation. Arthur, simply because he was a man, is considered by sections of our warped media to be fair game. Extreme feminists believe in mitigating circumstance for a woman but never for a man – and a big slice of the press goes along with that view.

    As long as the feminist movement and Government policy continues to treat domestic abuse as being really about “men beating up women”, i.e. a gender issue, we will continue to struggle to have a fair and open debate about it. This issue is too important for that sort of treatment – exploitation of it by the feminist movement is a disgrace and should be exposed for what it is, political abuse of both abused men & their children and abused women & their children.

    Research and Statistical Bulletin 5/2007 published by the NIO on 5 July 07 states –

    “..that 65% of NICS respondents who claimed to be victims of domestic violence were females aged 16 and over and 35% were males aged 16 and over.”

    When the much larger under reporting by men is applied to these figures it is clear that domestic abuse is probably a 50/50 issue. Let us get on and deal with the real issue of domestic abuse and leave the warped feminist agenda behind – that would be the best memorial ever to this tragic event for all concerned.

  • The Dubliner

    [i]Most “childkillers” are female:

    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm04/table4_5.htm

    – runciter[/i]

    That’s an interesting link. It shows how the public perception that child murderers in the family are more likely to be male is wrong. In fact, the the mother is more than twice as likely as the father to be the murderer. The false public perception of the gender of the murderers is due to the misinformation of Women’s Libbers, no doubt.

    Perpetrator Relationships of Fatalities, 2004
    Mother Only 307
    Father Only 141

  • Billy Pilgrim

    The thing about this case is that, if indeed Arthue McElhill did set the fire, it’s simply too awful for most of us to contemplate.

    Miss Fitz and a few posters here have made efforts to attribute some sort of blame for this tragedy (“somebody’s head has got to roll”) but this, I think, just demonstrates how uncomfortable we are with the idea of acceptance.

    (It’s something that, I think, is very common in the western world generally, and brings with it both a can-do attitude and extreme self-centredness.)

    It was the tsunami of a couple of years ago which set me off thinking about this idea of acceptance. Obviously that was a very different situation to this, but what I found interesting was the sheer effort people went to – from politicians and media to bar-room pundits – to find someone, anyone, to blame. What if more flood fortifications had been built? What if the Indonesian economy wasn’t so dependent on marine industries, so more people could live inland? What if global warming played a part? And so on.

    But it struck me that the one thing no-one could actually bring themselves to say was this: there was nothing we could have done.

    The McElhill case – again I stress that there’s a huge IF in all this speculation – seems like another instance of this, though of course it’s a profoundly different set of circumstances. We base our laws, indeed we build our society around the assumption that parents will love and protect their children, and it is proper that we should do so. With all but one parent in a billion, this is the case. We do not expect that every mother will be like Medea, because they are not. We do not expect that every father is liable to do what it has been suggested Arthur McElhill has done. Of course we don’t.

    But if Arthur McElhill did do what he has been accused of doing, it seems to me like another of those difficult times when we must try to accept the hard reality that there wasn’t anything anyone could have done.

    (With the possible exception of Arthur McElhill.)

  • I Wonder

    …2 posts in a row, on a serious topic, sniping at “Women’s Libbers” and “extreme feminists”…for a moment there I thought I was in a episode of “Life on Mars” with its enlightened, perceptive, sensitive 1973 male perspective.

    As for conflating “extreme feminism” with the press PoV – gimme a feckin’ break! Yeah, guys, its the feminists that insist on the big tits on your page 3. As for any possibility that there’s a link between objectifying women and rape statistics (how many women rape men, again?)…oh give over luv, away and make us a cuppa tea…

  • PaddyReilly

    One thing I must say is that in every fatal fire I have personal experience of, alcohol abuse has been a factor. In a two storey house like this there should be no problem escaping through the windows. As none of the family did so, this suggests they were drunk or already dead.

    As the police apparently are treating this as murder, and not looking for a suspect outside the family, then I cannot see that speculation as to the identity of the killer can do any harm. Perhaps it was him: perhaps it was her. As both are deceased, neither can go on trial, so neither can have their right to a fair trial denied by this prejudicial speculation.

  • Dec

    In a two storey house like this there should be no problem escaping through the windows. As none of the family did so, this suggests they were drunk or already dead.

    Sorry, are you suggesting the children were drunk?

    As the police apparently are treating this as murder, and not looking for a suspect outside the family, then I cannot see that speculation as to the identity of the killer can do any harm.

    Presumably you’re not a member of the immediate family who aside from grieving and making funeral arrangements for 5 children, has to put up with the barrage of vile press speculation (The Sunday World’s headline yesterday setting a new low.

  • PaddyReilly

    Sorry, are you suggesting the children were drunk?

    While technically possible, this is the least likely scenario. Possibly they were not drunk, but being merely children lacked the wit to get out of the windows, while their parents were drunk. But the obvious conclusion is that the police have got the events right, that murders have taken place, and they were not committed by someone outside the family.

    immediate family… has to put up with the barrage of vile press speculation

    The right to a fair trial is an accepted human right. Libel is a recognized tort. But you cannot libel the dead. In some jurisdictions (in the US) the relations of those deceased in messy accidents have prevented the publication of photographs by threatening to sue for emotional damage caused by said publication.

    But speculations as to the cause of death in a crime/accident scene comes, I believe, under the heading of legitimate public interest. We wish to prevent such disasters befalling our own family. We need to know why and how they befell others. Do we install fire alarms, join the pioneers, go to counselling to defuse marital disputes, or start some nationwide anti-paedophile campaign?

  • PaddyReilly

    I sometimes work with male and female victims of domestic abuse, and I strenuously object to it being labeled as a ‘private affair.’ Violence and abuse are wrong, whether perpetrated by a stranger or by a lover.

    Judging by what I hear from policemen who are called out to deal with ‘domestics’ , the state wisely shies away from taking sides in marital/emotional disputes as far as is possible.

    What women want is often very strange. Ian Huntley gets loads of fan mail. Charles Manson too. A particular class of women is only turned on by violent, even murderous men. Having secured her murderous, paedophilic lover, the female absurdity then thinks she can control him by calling the police when necessary. Never works, usually makes him worse. Volenti non fit injuria, as we say in Ballyjamesduff.

  • Dec

    While technically possible, this is the least likely scenario. Possibly they were not drunk, but being merely children lacked the wit to get out of the windows, while their parents were drunk.

    If I wasn’t an atheist, i’d probably be employong a phrase such as “dear God” or “Jesus wept” at this juncture. Unfortunately I am, so I’ll just throw random words and phrases such as “5am”, “half-asleep”, “disorientated”, “petrol” and “inferno” at you.

    “But speculations as to the cause of death in a crime/accident scene comes, I believe, under the heading of legitimate public interest. ”

    But we’re not talking about that. We’re referring to the half-truths, speculation and innuendo which the press here have employed with such gusto.

  • PaddyReilly

    We’re referring to the half-truths, speculation and innuendo which the press here have employed with such gusto.

    So speculation doesn’t come under speculation? Amazing. Unfortunately we can’t legislate against innuendo and half truth, which is why these rhetorical devices are used.

    But I note that one of the words that you choose to throw at me is ‘petrol’. Either you are stating that this family negligently stored petrol within the house, or you are implying that this was an act of arson. I don’t think that you can get much worse than that.

    I don’t think that this is a gratuitous defamation of the dead. A pattern is emerging of a disfunctional family, or at the very least of a disfunctional parent, who has let things slip. This final disaster is the result of years of downward slide.

    There are several maxims we should adopt if we wish to avoid a similar fate:-

    1) Curb your anger
    2) Bridle your lust
    3) Treat your spouse with respect and patience
    4) Do not abuse alcohol
    5) Do not reproduce if you’re not prepared to give your all for your children
    6) Get a job

  • The Dubliner

    [i]If I wasn’t an atheist, i’d probably be employong a phrase such as “dear God” or “Jesus wept” at this juncture.[/i] – Dec

    Great one-liner.

    (Saved for future use)

  • Dawkins

    I’ve also been criticized because of my speculation. If the forensic investigation shows that I’m a million miles from the truth, I’ll freely apologize here.

    But I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. So here goes.

    Arthur McElhill’s case follows a depressingly familiar pattern. He violently assaulted two minors and was given a ludicrously lenient sentence. This happens time and again, not only in NI but in the whole of the UK. It’s almost as if the judiciary were on the side of these depraved men. Personally I find it all very suspect.

    McElhill followed the pattern of the bully in that he managed to find himself a pliant partner, seemingly lacking in self-confidence, who was willing to accept his unnatural behaviour. Instead of running a mile from him, she remained with him. It’s well known that a wife beater will eventually kill the spouse or partner when provoked. This he apparently did in the most horrific manner possible. Whether he meant to kill himself will never be known. Again, the pattern is usually one of the murder of the spouse, who threatens to leave, followed by suicide, the coward’s way out. Bullies are generally cowards.

    Miss Fitz focuses our attention on the shortcomings of our social services and the inability of the authorities to protect women and children from such monsters. This is long overdue yet I fear it will never happen. Sex crimes are still regarded in the UK as being of less importance than, say, property crime. It seems to have escaped the notice of those who should know better that sex crimes such as incest, child rape and violence to women have a devastating effect on society. They destroy lives, kill the human spirit of the victim, and perpetuate similar behaviour in generation after generation.

    I don’t accept that Arthur McElhill was mentally ill. His “depression” does not seem to have been clinical. Rather I believe him to have been evil rather than ill. This too is the pattern of the wife beater and sex criminal.

    There are way too many Arthur McElhills in our society. We must guard against them, deal with them appropriately whenever they’re apprehended, and safeguard our children from them. But having seen the time it’s taken to abolish 50% remission in the case of serious sex crimes (I give you the case of Ian Magill) — and that it will inexplicably not be abolished until next summer — I don’t expect these issues to addressed anytime soon.

  • TAFKABO

    It’s well known that a wife beater will eventually kill the spouse or partner when provoked.

    I stopped reading at this point.

  • Dawkins

    TAFKABO,

    A little too raw for you?

  • PaddyReilly

    He violently assaulted two minors and was given a ludicrously lenient sentence

    He ‘indecently assaulted’ a 17 year old when he was a 24 year old. I think the minor description is a bit of an exagerration. Is this relevant to last week’s events? MissFitz seems to think it is.

    Personally I would say that the punishment was more part of the build-up than the crime. When you spend three years in jail—for a sex-crime—the softer side of your nature, if there ever was such a thing , is worn away.

    Problem number two was his abuse of alcohol, possibly adopted to help him forget problem number one. This would have led to mood swings, arguments, god knows what.

    Problem number three was unemployment. Granted, it is probably hard for an ex-offender in Omagh to find a job that will pay enough to support seven persons. Impossible, even. When I suggest that married men with children to support should be prioritised for employment, I am told I am some sort of dinosaur. It may be that the very people that protest the loudest about this sad event are part of the problem that brought it about in the first place.

  • Dawkins

    Is this thread closed? I can’t post any more.

  • Dawkins

    Ah! Now I can. Here goes…

    PaddyReilly,

    “He ‘indecently assaulted’ a 17 year old when he was a 24 year old. I think the minor description is a bit of an exagerration. Is this relevant to last week’s events? MissFitz seems to think it is.”

    Let’s see. Here’s how The Guardian exaggerates it:

    “But one of his victims, a 31-year-old woman who had been sexually assaulted by him in 1993, said this weekend that she had always been concerned for his family. ‘When I heard the news I felt sickened. It is horrendous. He was capable of it… I’m so sad for the lady and the children,’ she said.”

    And the Belfast Telegraph:

    “Speaking about her ordeal on the day he attacked her, the [same] woman, who did not want to be named said that she believed her life was in danger.

    “My cousin saved me after I called out for help. It was the last chance I had to call out. I knew I was in real danger. He was trying to suffocate me. The punches were getting really, really bad and I blacked out for a while. He was so violent. I was so young,” she said.

    “The woman added: “I was afraid of him all my life. Since he came to live in Omagh I met him a few times and he scared me.”

    So please don’t come to me with your euphemistic “indecent assault”. By her own account, this was a particularly nasty and cowardly attempt to murder a young girl, and a savage rape. I wonder if you have the imagination to put yourself in her place. I hope you do. No doubt we shall learn in due course the details of the second attack.

    “When you spend three years in jail—for a sex-crime—the softer side of your nature, if there ever was such a thing , is worn away.

    Wrong, wrong, wronkety wrong. When you spend three years in a UK jail for a sex crime, it doesn’t at all compare with a spell in, say, the “Bangkok Hilton”. You’re placed amid your own kind, who give you helpful hints on the black arts of child abuse and rape. You’re among fellow-travellers who assure you you’re normal and actually not such a bad peep after all. You emerge even more deviant than when you entered. Because guess what: deviant sexual proclivity can’t be altered, despite well-meant claims to the contrary. Ask any victim of a recidivist sex offender.

    “Problem number two was his abuse of alcohol, possibly adopted to help him forget problem number one.

    And possibly adopted because he was a weak-willed little shit who chose the path of least resistance. The problem was of his own making. All he needed to do was say “no”. But like the pathetic George Best he said “yes” every time. And his family suffered as a consequence. This scenario is played out daily the length and breadth of Ireland. Shame that alcohol abuse is so accepted here.

    “This would have led to mood swings, arguments, god knows what.”

    Probably. By mood swings you doubtless mean he didn’t get his way when he wanted and either sulked or blew his top. He could have dealt with this as we grown-up men have learnt to. By “arguments” do you mean the sort of selfish bursts of self-pitying tantrums immature drunkards engage in and subject their families to?

    “Problem number three was unemployment.”

    My heart bleedeth. Odd then that the thousands of women who can’t find employment and must go on benefits to support their children don’t decide to immolate themselves and their family.

    Maybe one needs cojones for that.

    Keep up the good work, Miss Fitz. Good to see that at least one Slugger blogger is taking a position on this.

  • getthefacts

    Dawkins “It’s well known that a wife beater will eventually kill the spouse or partner when provoked.”

    Well known?

    will eventually?

    Evidance please?

  • Dawkins

    Getthefacts,

    Here’s a good place to start:

    After that you can live up to your monniker. Off you go.

  • getthefacts

    Dawkins

    Thanks for confirming that you have no evidence for your ridiculous claim.

  • Dawkins

    My goodness, getthefacts, you’re a fast researcher. It took you no time at all to follow up that lead I gave you. I’m impressed!

  • PaddyReilly

    So please don’t come to me with your euphemistic “indecent assault”. By her own account, this was a particularly nasty and cowardly attempt to murder a young girl, and a savage rape.

    Fraid I shall have to. Unless the Belfast Telegraph has got it wrong, that is the charge on which he was convicted. Presumably, he was not charged with rape, because, as Miss Victim’s account states, her cousin saved her before he could accomplish this. So there was not, as you seem to think, a savage rape. Equally, there was no murder, nor was he charged with attempted murder. It was a violent attack: his intent was to subdue her, not to kill her.

    So I would invite you to consider the possibility that the Judge, in sentencing, got it exactly right. Judges sometimes do, you know. He did have the benefit of hearing all the facts.

    Because guess what: deviant sexual proclivity can’t be altered, despite well-meant claims to the contrary

    Maybe not, but the deceased was not that much of a deviant. He fastened on a woman 7 years younger than him, but over the age of consent. The last decade he managed to spend without reoffending. In other words he learnt to say please. Or he found someone who would say yes.

    That person was Miss McGovern, deceased. Inconveniently, she seemed to find him attractive, and bore him more than her quota of children. For her sake, and for their sake, society needed to go easy on Mr McElhill. It would have helped if a job could have been found for him, to help him support his brood. By all accounts, he was poverty-trapped.

    My heart bleedeth. Odd then that the thousands of women who can’t find employment and must go on benefits to support their children don’t decide to immolate themselves and their family.

    I have two objections to this. Firstly, that you are convicting him on prejudice, in advance of discovery of the facts. This is not the only possibility: I can think of a case of a woman who beat her alcoholic husband to death and then hanged herself.

    Secondly, it isn’t true. Poverty trapped women do commit suicide, in significantly higher numbers than happy ones. In my experience, they do not take their children with them, but my experience is limited. As the figures quoted above show, women kill more children than men. In all fairness, this is because they are more often left to care for them, but it is still a fact.

    My theory is that you have some hate figure in your own life, whose negative characteristics you are mapping onto the deceased, whether they fit or not.

    I can’t see that hatred or condemnation do any good in this matter. The McElhill/McGovern ménage was a fact of Omagh life: it is more useful to debate ways in which their lot could have been improved, than to fix on one member of this family with predestinarian gloom and decide that he was such a limb of Satan that this catclysm was inevitable.

  • Dawkins

    PaddyReilly,

    Keep on building your scatomas, fine by me. You evidently know very little about rape and I’m glad you’ve never experienced it. And if ever someone attempts to half strangle you to death while sexually assaulting you, be grateful if a judge hands down a sentence to fit the crime, as happens in the United States.

    FYI, I don’t have a “hate figure” in my life. It’s simply that I’m disgusted my some of my fellow men, those who bring my sex into disrepute. I’m also disgusted by men who fail to deal with such monsters in a fitting way. It sends out the wrong message, and heaven knows how it makes the victims and potential victims feel.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we are debating the issue now, thanks to Miss Fitz’s blog. I’ve said my piece and I stand over everything I’ve written.

  • getthefacts

    Dawkins

    You have every reason to be impressed; I am a really bright guy!

    However, on this occasion, the simple explanation is that I have been researching this issue for a number of years and have yet to find any evidence to support your claim. Certainly, some male abusers and some female abusers “…eventually kill the spouse or partner when provoked” – but that is not what you said. My concern is that exaggerated and inaccurate statements about domestic abuse do not help deal appropriately with the issue. Hype is for the tabloids, not for those who have to deal with domestic abuse on a personal or professional basis every day. Real life experience hurts enough as it is.

    A Pastor friend of mine recently likened helping hurting people to the care required when handling a beautiful cut glass bowl. Any carelessness, intentional or otherwise, can have disastrous results. That “carelessness” can be the played out by any one in Society – and that includes any one of us here, including me.

  • PaddyReilly

    It’s simply that I’m disgusted by some of my fellow men, those who bring my sex into disrepute.

    Yes, but the problem is that a significant section of the female population does not share this disgust. I have already mentioned the fan-mail received by Ian Huntley, which does not come from men. How much fan-mail do you receive?

    Miss McGovern deceased was such a one. If women go round selecting violent men as their partners, natural selection will lead to a proliferation of violent men. However, in this case, fire seems to have interrupted the process.

    we are debating the issue now, thanks to Miss Fitz’s blog

    No, I am debating how the McElhill/McGovern family’s lot could be improved. You are debating how this family unit could be prevented from coming into existence, by taking the male party out of circulation for ever.

    And if ever someone attempts to half strangle you to death while sexually assaulting you, be grateful if a judge hands down a sentence to fit the crime, as happens in the United States

    Alas this is not the case. Bear in mind that I am genuinely male: Paddy does not stand for Patricia. Sexual assault of males with accompanying demi-strangulation does occur all the time in American prisons. Seldom prosecuted, the victims just have to learn to put up with it, or at least to avoid it. As the perps are already serving long sentences, the threat of further sentences does not deter them.

  • Dawkins

    PaddyReilly,

    “I have been researching this issue for a number of years and have yet to find any evidence to support your claim.”

    Then you’ll know the work of Dr Clint Van Zandt. The final paragraphs of this page are enlightening and useful for the protection of women and children.

    It’s simply that I’m disgusted by some of my fellow men, those who bring my sex into disrepute.

    “Yes, but the problem is that a significant section of the female population does not share this disgust.”

    On the subject of the abuser and his victims: I’d recommend Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple. I won’t quote extensively from it here — I’ve already imposed enough on Mick’s bandwidth — but here’s a relevant passage:

    “[W]hy does the woman not leave the man as soon as he manifests his violence? It is because, perversely, violence is the only token she of his commitment to her. Just as he wants the exclusive sexual possession of her, she want a permanent relationship with him. She imagines — falsely — that a punch in the face or a hand round the throat is at least a sign other than sexual intercourse she is ever likely to receive in that regard. In the absence of a marriage ceremony, a black eye is his promissory not to love, honor, cherish, and protect.”

    And there’s plenty more like that. Dalrymple left England to live in France partly because he despaired of the failure of the justice system to deal adequately with wife batterers.

    “How much fan-mail do you receive?”

    A great deal. I have thousands of fans. Thank you for your interest.

    Your point about debating is odd and misguided, and I fail to see the relevance of your final paragraph. Not unless you’ve been half throttled and buggered in a US prison, in which case I withdraw my comment about your lack of imagination regarding rape.

  • Dawkins

    Apologies, too many typos in that passage I quoted. It should read:

    “[W]hy does the woman not leave the man as soon as he manifests his violence? It is because, perversely, violence is the only token she has of his commitment to her. Just as he wants the exclusive sexual possession of her, she wants a permanent relationship with him. She imagines — falsely — that a punch in the face or a hand round the throat is at least a sign other than sexual intercourse she is ever likely to receive in that regard. In the absence of a marriage ceremony, a black eye is his promissory note to love, honor, cherish, and protect.”

  • missfitz

    I was at a conference in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, and listened to a brilliant presentation by the Head of the Crime Reduction Unit.

    While ‘dishonesty’ crimes are plummeting, the ‘not for profit’ crimes such as violence and domestic violence are going through the roof. He spoke of domestic violence becoming accepted as a norm in society, and I guess that is my main message or thrust in starting this thread, to give voice to those silenced by domestic violence.

    In the past year, I have attended 3 women who have been doused with lighter fluid or other flammable substance as a prelude to an attempt at murder. In addition, I have had women and men who have suffered physical or severe psychological injury at the hand of their partner.

    I don’t work in the field of domestic violence, so my experiences are really quite extraordinary.

    I don’t agree at all that DV is a private crime, and I think that the acceptance of violence in the home is a precursor for violence in the streets and in society. If it is acceptable to see someone being beaten at home, there are no boundaries or behaviour being established.

    Partners stay in abusive relationships for all sorts of reasons. What I note from my practice and experience is that women may be forced to leave once a child is threatened, but it is often not easy or impossible financially to do so. Even when I can offer a haven or financial assistance, there are complex reasons why some women stay behind.

    I dont think we can generalise or state that ‘most’ abusers go on to murder their victim. Sadly, it is a chronic co-dependant relationship that ends in a whimper.

    Finally, Dawkins, Slugger is a broad church and each of the contributors have their particular interests and areas of concern. I apologize to Mick for any unintended slight over posting this thread, I did not mean to cast aspersions on his integrity or expertise.

  • Dawkins

    Miss Fitz,

    Trust me, I didn’t intend to suggest that most abusers go on to murder the victim. This would be downright silly. There are on average two women murdered by a violent partner every week in the UK, in itself a ghastly and unacceptable statistic. But given the number of wife batterers there are in these islands, if most went on to kill then there’d be hundreds if not thousands of female corpses turning up each week.

    What I actually said was, “It’s well known that a wife beater will eventually kill the spouse or partner when provoked.” This is equivalent to saying that a dog trained to kill will turn on its master when provoked. Some do, most don’t. I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer.

    I was also a little harsh on Mick (football) and Pete (fossils). I apologize as well for that, as I know full well they’re both highly principled guys who don’t shrink from robustly tackling important issues.

    Put it down to my anger and frustration that so little is being done to deter the “men of violence”. As I said earlier, they reflect badly on my manhood and that of all decent men. There’s no place for them in Europe anno 2007.

  • getthefacts

    missfitz “…crimes such as violence and domestic violence are going through the roof.”

    I care passionately for anyone, man or woman, who has been subjected to domestic abuse and support any appropriate action which is taken to help them.

    However, I cannot let this statement pass unchallenged. I am unaware of any objective evidence from anywhere in the UK and Ireland to support it. I am sure that the Head of the Crime Reduction Unit made that statement believing it to be true but I would like to know the source of his/her evidence. A similar statement was made by the Minister for Health etc in June 07 when he described domestic abuse here in NI as an “epidemic”; I have yet to see any evidence to support that description when subjected to anything other than superficial examination.

    A much more reliable and interesting glimpse of the position in NI is to be found in the NIO Experience of Domestic Violence: Findings from the 2005 Northern Ireland Crime Survey Bulletin 5/2007 published on 5 July 2007 “The findings suggest that victimisation rates in Northern Ireland are consistently lower than in England and Wales. [28%] of females and 17% of males in England and Wales claimed to be victims of intimate partner abuse during their lifetime compared with 15% of females and 10% of males in Northern Ireland.”

    Hyping an issue may get ‘good’ press headlines but it corrupts a proper understanding of the real issue and the implementation of an appropriate policy which really meets the needs of the abused.

  • This tragic case of what happened in Omagh has been turned into a political football in this discussion. If we thought that the woman was responsible, would we be having the same debate? In cases where a depressed woman has taken her own and her children’s lives, people rightly treat the whole issue with compassion and do not heap blame upon her. Why could the same dignity not be afforded to this family in this case?

    What does it say about our society that we are willing to castigate a dead person on speculation, seeing that the full facts are not known? Why has society automatically assumed that it must be the man who was responsible?

    In reply to Dawkins:

    You refer to “the “men of violence”, saying that “they reflect badly on my manhood and that of all decent men”. Does that mean that women who commit domestic violence or who have sex with underage boys reflect badly on the average woman’s womanhood and that of all decent women?

    You refer to wife – beaters and violent men, but you make no reference to women who commit domestic violence. Why is this, seeing that the combined results of the five two sex studies that have been carried out in The Republic of Ireland in the last ten years by The National Crime Council, The Department of Health, Accord, MRCS and Trinity College indicate that men and women initiate and perpetrate domestic violence at similar rates? By trying to maintain that men alone are responsible for domestic violence, you are blackening men which is particularly unacceptable given the present level of male suicide in this country.

    It is very well documented internationally that women also initiate intimate partner violence and that domestic violence also occurs among lesbian couples. For example, journalist and writer Melanie Phillips, in her book “The Sex Change Society: Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male”, states: “Moreover, there is now considerable evidence that women initiate severe violence more frequently than men. A survey of 1,037 young adults born between 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, found that 18.6% of young women said they had perpetrated severe physical violence against their partners, compared with 5.7% of young men. Three times more women than men said they had kicked or bitten their partners, or hit them with their fists or with an object.”

    The survey Ms Phillips is referring to was carried out by a team of researchers under the guidance of Ms Terrie Moffitt, a professor in The Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin. Ms Moffitt is also Professor of Social Behaviour and Development at the Institute of Psychiatry in the University of London. She has served for several years as Associate Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit at the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand, which has conducted a 26-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1,000 individuals. This study is described in her co -authored book ‘Sex Differences in Antisocial Behaviour: Conduct Disorder, Delinquency and Violence in the Dunedin Study’, Cambridge University Press, 2001. The findings of this study are outlined in detail on the US Department of Justice website at: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/170018.pdf

    Professor Linda Kelly (Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis) published a major document entitled “Disabusing The Definition Of Domestic Abuse: How Women Batter Men And The Role Of The Feminist State” in the Florida State University Law Review Vol.30: 791 (P 791 – 839). The full text of this report can be found at: http://www.papa-help.ch/downloads/kelly.pdf . In the introduction to this document she states (when she refers to “violence” in this quotation, she means “domestic violence”): “Over the last twenty five years, leading sociologists have repeatedly found that men and women commit violence at similar rates. The 1977 assertion that “the phenomenon of husband battering” is as prevalent as wife abuse is confirmed by nationally representative studies, such as the Family Violence Surveys, as well as by numerous other sources. However, despite the wealth and diversity of the sociological research and the consistency of the findings, female violence is not recognised within the extensive legal literature on domestic violence. Instead, the literature consistently suggests that only men commit domestic violence. Either explicitly, or more often implicitly, through the failure to address the subject in any objective manner, female violence is denied, defended and minimized.”

    (continued below – out of space)

  • quietattheback

    In reply to Dawkins continued:

    Furthermore, if you are genuinely concerned about women who suffer domestic violence, why do you not mention lesbian women? On October 24th , 1999 in The Sunday Times News Review, Melaine Phillips stated: “In any event, the idea that women are never the instigators of violence is demolished by the evidence about lesbians. According to Claire Renzetti, violence in lesbian relationships occurs with about the same frequency as in heterosexual relationships. Lesbian batterers “display a terrifying ingenuity in their selection of abusive tactics, frequently tailoring the abuse to the specific vulnerabilities of their partners”. Such abuse can be extremely violent, with women bitten, kicked, punched, thrown down stairs, and assaulted with weapons including guns, knives, whips and broken bottles.”

    There is plenty of literature written by women on the subject of domestic violence within lesbian relationships. This includes: “Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships” by Professor Claire Renzetti, “No More Secrets: Violence in Lesbian Relationships” by Janice Ristock, “Naming the Violence: Speaking Out About Lesbian Battering”, by Kerry Lobel, “Intimate Betrayal: Domestic Violence in Lesbian Relationships”, by Ellyn Kaschak and “Woman – To – Woman Sexual Violence: Does She Call it Rape?” by Lori B. Girshick. A review of Ms Girshick’s book can be found at: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~upne/1-55553-528-3.html.

    If women can initiate and perpetrate violence in lesbian relationships, then obviously they can also do so in heterosexual relationships. So why are you ignoring all of this evidence and instead only referring to “violent men” ?

    In reply to Ms Fitz:

    You state “I was at a conference in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, and listened to a brilliant presentation by the Head of the Crime Reduction Unit.

    While ‘dishonesty’ crimes are plummeting, the ‘not for profit’ crimes such as violence and domestic violence are going through the roof”.

    Well, the Head of the Crime Reduction Unit seems to have a very different opinion than Erin Pizzey, the founder of the domestic violence refuge movement in The UK. Ms Pizzey is the author of two books on the subject (“Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear” and “Prone to Violence”) and was a guest of The Queen at a special luncheon in Buckingham Palace in March 2004 in honour of her services to victims. In her article, “Domestic Violence is not a Gender Issue”, (http://www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2006/0719pizzey.html), Ms Pizzey states in relation to the hysteria surrounding domestic violence: “A gigantic hoax has been perpetrated and unsubstantiated statistics have been produced to feed a damaging and disastrous political ideology”.

    Erin Pizzey is absolutely spot on in her analysis, but unfortunately the damaging and disastrous political ideology that she has spoken of is in full swing. The domestic violence hoax is about two things: demonising men so that they can be separated from their children and secondly destroying the married family. These are the two key aims of radical feminism and it is radical feminists who run the domestic violence industry.

    One question – how come in my local GP’s surgery there are more posters (five) on the walls about domestic violence than about cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined?

  • Dawkins

    Quietattheback,

    Nice try. But I remain unconvinced. Odd, given your stories, that prison populations worldwide comprise overwhelmingly male criminals, and that those appearing in courts worldwide for violent behaviour are men.

    Odd too that football hooliganism and vandalism is largely a male preserve. And there aren’t too many female burglars, rapists, joyriders, muggers, paedophiles, armed robbers, serial killers, and the rest of the world’s effluent.

    Even odder is the fact that wars are waged overwhelmingly by men. When you get the international news from TV, do you observe that those foreigners waving guns and screaming blue murder are nearly always men?

    Does this not suggest a pattern to you? Now do you understand why I’m ashamed of my sex’s history of violence? What should we do about this?

  • quietattheback

    In reply to Dawkins:

    You clearly have not read and digested all the material I presented in my two posts, yet you say “I remain unconvinced”. You then say”given your stories”, as if all of the research documents I presented were my stories. These are not my stories, these are international sociological research documents presented by The US Department of Justice, The Irish National Crime Council, The Irish Department of Health, Trinity College Dublin, Professors Linda Kelly and Terrie Moffit and the internationally respected founder of the domestic violence refuge movement in the UK, Erin Pizzey. So to refer to them as “your stories” and to write such a superficial reply within twenty five minutes of me posting this detailed material shows that, rather than giving it due consideration, you do not want to engage in a proper debate and discussion but are instead just interested in a superficial point scoring exercise.

    You do not answer any of the questions I have asked you, nor do you address any of the weaknesses in your previous arguments which this material exposes. Instead you seem besotted with blaming men. You then go on to end your post with a comment that begins “Now do you understand….”

    Well I don’t understand why you’ve replied to my post and dismissed the material I presented without reading it properly – you couldn’t possibly have read all those articles in twenty five minutes. I also don’t understand why you won’t answer the questions I asked you or why you won’t admit that both men and women perpetrate domestic violence and why you are so keen to blame men for every ill.

    Do you believe that men and women are equal? If you do, do you agree that in order to be equal they would have to be equal in both vice and virtue? You have listed some of what you consider to be men’s vices. If men and women are equal, then women must have an equal amount of vices to men – otherwise they’re not equal. So therefore, if men are as bad as you say,then women must be equally bad – otherwise the genders aren’t equal but instead women are superior and men inferior. This indeed appears to be what you are saying ie., that men as a gender are inferior to women because you are claiming that men are much more violent than women. I don’t believe this is true. I believe men and women are equal in both vice and virtue.

    So, maybe in your next post you could address the questions I asked you in my previous post.

  • Dawkins

    Miss Fitz,

    For reasons best known to himself, Mick Fealty has attempted to bar me from Slugger. In his charming footie jargon he’s given me a “red card”.

    Why, you may ask. But you’ll never know because he’s deleted the exchange between him and me, which showed me asking a simple question, i.e. why he removed this line:

    LOL @ MissPiggy

    He consistently refused to answer, and when I returned early this morning I couldn’t gain access in the usual way.

    I do, however, suspect that Mick’s hissy fit was related to my comments on thisthread and that he was simply waiting for a pretext to still my voice.

    Very well. I’m happy to leave. I only lock swords with those who play by the rules of gentlemanly conduct, those who don’t delete an exchange that might show them in a bad light. For a “sporting” gent to behave as Mick has done is, in my book, unacceptable.

    So farewell, brave Miss Fitz. I salute you as you plough your lonely furrow here. But you seem to be more than able to fight the good fight alone, and to tackle the truly important issues your male counterparts shy away from.

    Finally, a quiet word to “Quietattheback”.

    There are lies, damned lies and statistics. This is a truism. For instance, the average number of legs possessed by a human being is one. Yet the evidence of your eyes tell you it’s two.

    Now try applying this principle to male violence. In other words, rely on the evidence of your own senses. I believe you’ll find that the male is by far the more violent sex.

  • The Dubliner

    Excellent and fascinating post, quietattheback. The part about domestic violence in lesbian relationships being equal to the incidence of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships knocks the myth that the man is the instigator of violence in relationships firmly on its head. I wonder if the incidence of domestic violence in homosexual relationships is lower, greater or equal to the incidence of domestic violence in lesbian relationships?

  • The Dubliner

    Strange post, Dawkins. I hope you return to Slugger when your ban is lifted. I’ve enjoyed reading your insights into various topics.

  • uupobserver

    quietattheback

    Interesting debate from the other side of the pond.

    http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/2007/11/26/media-matters-censors-inconvenient-facts/