Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 14:10 to 15:40 Download Poster

A perverse state: Ireland's disavowal of torture - past and present

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Ms. Aisling Hearns ( Spirasi - Ireland )


Disavowal – “to disclaim knowledge of, responsibility for or association with”. Ireland’s history is marred by the scandals related to the Catholic Church and their role in child abuse. Ireland’s governance and laws have always been heavily intertwined with the Catholic Church. This has led to a culture of secrecy, denial and disavowal. Ireland is still raw and licking its wounds from the backlash of this scandal; still paying off the victims and actively silencing others. It is well known that history tends to repeat itself.


Currently, Ireland is doing just that with how it treats victims of torture who present on our shores. We have replaced the Magdalene Laundries with Direct Provision. We may not be the torture perpetrators in this cycle of history but we are failing in our attempt to provide the rehabilitation we have sworn to uphold for these new victims. This presentation will explore the role of disavowal in Irish society and how it impacts the government’s hesitation to acknowledge and act on rehabilitating victims of torture in Ireland. This will be done through a Lacanian psychoanalytic analysis of the concept of disavowal in relation to Ireland’s past failings with victims of clerical abuse and how it is impacting its current failings with victims of torture who arrive seeking asylum. It will be in keeping with the ethics outlined by the Psychological Society of Ireland and the Association for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in Ireland.


This presentation will conclude that the Catholic Church in Ireland, and the role of power and secrecy associated with the Catholic Church, has been deep-rooted within Ireland’s mindset and has had devastating effects, not just for the victims of the past, but for all victims of torture who happen to seek asylum there. It will conclude that this has had a knock-on effect for torture rehabilitation services, like Spirasi, who are under-funded and remain relatively unknown. Ireland's disavowal presents a challenge for ‘advocacy and communications approaches to hold governments to account for delivery of torture rehabilitation services’.

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I declare that this work is ethically sound and no one is providing funding which may influence the contents.

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