To protect all vulnerable people including children, the elderly and people who are homeless, we must protect whistle blowers. Must end dehumanizing management culture in Health, Social and Homeless Services also being pressed on voluntary sector.
Alice Leahy, Director & Co-Founder, TRUST
(Addressing special event to mark 800th Anniversary of Founding of the Franciscans)

Alice Leahy, Director and Co-Founder of TRUST, has called for new legislation to protect whistleblowers, and under lined the urgency of creating a culture where speaking out is the responsibility of everyone in the health, homeless and social services. All vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and people who are homeless are in danger of institutional abuse unless action is taken to introduce human rights based management approaches in all areas in the state and voluntary sectors, Alice Leahy said, reminding her audience that for evil to triumph it only requires good people to remain silent.

We must not see human rights as legalistic concepts but a very practical way of ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect, Alice Leahy said, emphasizing that if we want to change the nature of society we are going to have to stand up for peoples’ rights in our communities, work places and in all areas of society. “If we see everyone as unique and entitled as of right to be treated with dignity and respect we would change the nature of society overnight. Therefore, when we talk about human rights based management approaches these are simply ways of gauranteeing that those responsible for running services ensure that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, are treated with dignity and respect. And if we want a different kind of Ireland we have to protest when we witness any person’s rights being violated.”

Describing her own experience in working with people who are homeless, Alice Leahy said that anytime she sought to expose problems on behalf of people who could not speak up for themselves she was seen as the problem. “In Ireland the management culture works assiduously against the ‘whistle blower’ to ensure that anyone who speaks out knows that will be fatal in career terms. All the more reason that we must pass strong legislation to protect and support those with the courage to act,” she said.

The only protection against child abuse, and to avoid a repetition of the brutal crimes against children as exposed so comprehensibly in the recent Ryan Report, is to encourage a culture where speaking out against breeches of basic rights is not only actively encouraged, but seen as a primary responsibility for everyone, which is not the case today, ALICE LEAHY said.

Addressing a special event at the Franciscan Abbey in Multyfarnham to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan Order, Alice Leahy went on: “We must end the culture in the management of the health, social and homeless services which appears to suggest that the institutions exist to serve those who manage them rather than the people they are supposed to serve. Worst still, and the reason for real concern, is the fact that the same kind of performance indicators and benchmarks, more suitable for a manufacturing environment that have helped to make the services so unfriendly, especially towards the vulnerable, are now being imposed on the voluntary sector that accept state funds. We must stop this dehumanizing management culture before it is too late. And there is only one way that a real culture of caring can be adopted, and that is by adopting human rights based management approaches which must be made mandatory in all sections of the state and voluntary services.”

Human rights should be of concern to everyone, Alice Leahy said and deplored the way in which these concerns have been allowed to become almost elitist and something only lawyers are supposed to comment about. In that sense, we have all failed she said, and accepted that as a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission a lot of work has to be done if it wanted to be taken seriously as a real force in protecting and advancing rights in Ireland, especially of the most vulnerable.