Two of the biggest child abuse scandals to hit the UK and Ireland will be compared to see what society can learn from them at an Edge Hill University event.

Dr Tony Keating, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences will argue that there are many similarities between the high-profile cases of child abusers Father Brendan Smyth and Jimmy Savile during the Business Management Seminar on 28th November.

Brendan Smyth was a priest who used his position in the Roman Catholic Church to obtain access to his victims. During a period of over 40 years, Smyth sexually abused and indecently assaulted over 100 children in parishes in Belfast, Dublin and the United States. His actions were frequently hidden from police and the public by Roman Catholic officials. Controversy surrounding his case brought about the downfall of the government of Ireland in December 1994.

More recently, English DJ, television presenter, media personality and charity fundraiser Jimmy Savile was uncovered as being one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.  After his death, hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse and rape became public. By late October 2012, the scandal had resulted in inquiries or reviews at the BBC, within the National Health Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the Department of Health.

“The cases of Smyth and Savile raise so many questions about our culture and institutions in the UK and Ireland,” said Dr Keating. “The Savile case in Britain has caused the BBC to be cast in the same light as the Irish Church as a result of the perception that it provided a safe harbour for child abusers. Both involve such a huge sense of institutional betrayal on a national level and also make me ask ‘what kind of society are we’? They may differ in origin and the institutions but the societal, journalistic and political responses to it have marked similarities.”

His paper Managing Our Sense of Ourselves: The Brendan Smyth and Jimmy Savile Abuse Cases – An Initial Comparative Analysis of a British and Irish Abuse Scandal is a new area of research which brings to the fore many similarities.

“Both men were forceful characters and while Smyth wasn’t the economic powerhouse that Savile was, they both had the backing of institutions that hushed things up and their actions were an open secret,” said Dr Keating, whose research interests focus on censorship and intuitional abuse.

“The revelations in the Smyth case highlighted child protection issues and caused Ireland’s most powerful institution, the Irish Catholic Church, to come under scrutiny and eventually brought about the downfall of the government of Ireland. While it’s still in the early stages in the Savile case and my work is speculative, I think it could also have drastic implications if it grows. Ultimately, the example of Smyth will provide some useful markers in assessing the potential course of events that the Savile case may have on British society.”

All are welcome to attend the event on 28th November but booking is essential by emailing wallacet@edgehill.ac.uk or hoadd@edgehill.ac.uk.