I wonder how ‘Grace’ feels tonight, over 6 million euro richer than she was last night?
Does she know that she’s a millionaire?
Maybe she’s sitting in a room somewhere, cradling her child’s toy, unable to sleep because of the pain of her wounds. Wounds which will one day result in her death. Wounds which were inflicted by someone who was supposed to take care of her. Wounds which smashed the simple securities of her world into pieces and have left her helpless, broken and forever scarred.
Money cannot get rid of wounds. Only when justice is served does the victim feel any sense of vindication. With Grace, justice has not been served. Instead this case has been, and continues to be, a catalog of shameful failures.
The authorities failed utterly in their most important responsibility of caring for the most vulnerable. Worse still, this was not an accidental failure or a genuine mistake. This was a cover-up job which only came to light because of the tireless efforts of people who could not rest while torture was being inflicted upon a helpless girl.
Not only have the authorities failed, but we have failed – as a nation. We failed Grace because for too long we were afraid to rock the boat, to ask hard questions, to risk our own reputations, to listen to our consciences and to get involved in another person’s pain. We were afraid to be compassionate and we were afraid to get angry. And if we weren’t afraid, we were simply heartless, callous creatures.
As we raise our voices now in righteous protest against the maltreatment of Grace, let us be careful that we are not just drowning out our own consciences.
Because if we look sincerely, we will find a ‘Grace’ nearby, in desperate need of an ordinary, everyday hero.
They are in all of our communities. Maybe they aren’t suffering from such extreme abuse, but they are in pain.
They are the quiet children in our classrooms who long desperately for a friend, who suffer from relentless bullying which teachers and management never see.
They are the young people labelled officiously with a condition by psychologists and counselors, who just want someone to genuinely care about them.
They are the mentally and physically disabled people who want to be treated as human beings with thoughts and feelings, not as objects to be carelessly minded.
They are the addicts in the shadows of the night looking for solace from a needle or a bottle, hungry for a simple conversation with someone who respects their humanity.
They are the lonely, depressed, neglected introverts who are plagued by voices in their heads saying, ‘No-one care, no-one cares, no-one cares.’
Grace, 6 million euro doesn’t even begin to erase our guilt. Because in your room tonight, as you toss and turn and weep from pain, all you know is that for years someone made you suffer horrible, unspeakable pain, and for too long no-one cared enough to make them stop. And today your wounds will never heal, and your abuser still walks free.
Shame on us.