Paul Williams: crime series on RTÉ

JOURNALIST Paul Williams has been accused of "tainting" all those who were detained at industrial school by comparing them to serious organised criminals in his new RTÉ documentary series.

Bad Fellas, a three-part crime series narrated by Williams that started last Monday, was watched by 409,000 viewers, but still lost out to TV3's The Apprentice, which attracted 557,000 viewers at the same time.

The Alliance Victim Support Group has criticised the journalist for tarring "with the same brush" anyone who was sent to an industrial school with serious criminals like Martin Cahill and the Dunne crime family, who also spent time at these state-run institutions.

"I nor any decent minded person could condone or support the violent criminal behaviour of people like the Dunnes and Martin Cahill that this documentary highlights. Paul Williams mentions in this documentary that criminals, like the Dunnes and Martin Cahill, were detained in religious-managed institutions in this country. This documentary fails to mention that these criminals were once vulnerable children, sent down by the courts of this land – for childhood petty crimes, such as stealing sweets from shops and truancy – to live out the remainder of their childhood years in the violent, industrial institutions that scarred the landscape of this country," said Tom Hayes, secretary of the victims' support group.

"Williams taints the thousands of us – children no older than one year old – who were taken from our families and sent down by the courts to be detained in these violent industrial institutions until our 16th birthday with the same brush as criminals like the Dunnes and Martin Cahill. "

Hayes proposed that RTÉ could perhaps produce a documentary that examines what life was like for children in these institutions and how they have coped since.

"Could we ask Williams and RTÉ to consider for their next assignment a documentary on what life was like for thousands of children detained in these violent industrial schools all over Ireland?

"Against all the odds, we struggled and obtained a high level of education, trained in professions and are responsible citizens and taxpayers in this country and our adopted countries far away from Ireland. No greater source/ research material for such a documentary as the Ryan Report."

Williams said yesterday: "We were just pointing out that a lot of these notorious criminals went to industrial schools. Of course we're not suggesting that everyone who went to an industrial school got involved in criminality. The Alliance Victim Support Group has not got in touch with us to complain."

RTÉ's three-part crime series examines how paramilitary violence led to organised crime gangs in Ireland, armed robberies led to drug trafficking, and how Irish gangs have become sophisticated.