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Dark secrets of childhoodMedia power, child abuse and public scandals$
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Fred Powell and Margaret Scanlon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447317845

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447317845.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 25 June 2022

The public child

The public child

(p.55) Two The public child
Dark secrets of childhood

Fred Powell

Margaret Scanlon

Policy Press

The aim of this chapter is to provide a critical perspective on the public debates surrounding the Kilkenny case, an area that has hitherto been largely overlooked in academic research. A central issue is whether the inquiry team, the media and key stakeholders attributed responsibility for ‘why action to halt the abuse was not taken earlier’ to the individual practitioners involved in the case (doctors, police, social workers) or to the system and structures within which they operated. Comparisons will be made with the UK, where a number of high profile inquiries ascribed responsibility for professional ‘failures’ to individual practitioners, who were subsequently pilloried in the media. The chapter also consider the controversy surrounding the sentencing of the abuser. While the focus of public anger in high profile child abuse scandals is often on social workers and child protection, in the Kilkenny case much of the initial outrage was targeted at the judge and the criminal justice system. Finally, the chapter will explore the ‘emblematic’ features of the case – what appeared to be the wider implications of the Kilkenny case for Irish society at that time?

Keywords:   abuse within the family, response of social services to abuse, Kilkenny incest inquiry

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