The Shame of Ireland

The Shame of Ireland

Letter Sent to Minister for Education All TD's All MEP's and Senators on Behalf of Tom Cronin

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DRAFT – TO BE APPROVED BY TOM CRONIN

 

Mr Richard Bruton

Minister for Education and Skills

Department of Education 

Marlborough Street

Dublin 1

 

Cc: All TDS, all Senators, all Irish MEPs

 

 

20th July 2016

 

Re: Survivors of Institutional Abuse and State Agency Cara Nua

 

Dear Minister

 

  1. I am instructed by Mr Tom Cronin, who is a survivor of institutional abuse and comes within the ambit of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012. Mr Cronin is entitled to be, and is, a service-user of Cara Nua, a body for which your department has overarching responsibility.  Mr Cronin is acting as co-ordinator and spokesperson for a group of his fellow Survivors (“the Survivors”).

 

  1. As you will be aware the purpose of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 is to provide for the establishment of a body to support the needs of former residents [of residential institutions].

 

  1. Your department may be aware that difficulties have arisen in the interaction between some Survivors, including my client, and Cara Nua.  It is a matter of public record that this point has been raised in the Dail by way of parliamentary questions.  A number of Survivors understand it to be the position of Cara Nua that it has completed its obligations to them: that they have ‘had their share’.   They believe that their dignity has been affronted by Cara Nua and that emotional distress has been inflicted upon them by the manner in which the Fund is being applied to them. 

 

  1. The survivors for which Mr Cronin is acting as co-ordinator, and Mr Cronin himself, would like Cara Nua to be dissolved as a matter of urgency and to see its functions taken over by a department within the civil service with the requisite experience and skills to meet their needs. Very importantly, the structure of a civil service department includes senior managers with the authority to exercise discretion and plenty of relevant experience. The CEO of Cara Nua has no real authority to exercise discretion. 

 

  1. The Survivors do not understand why some very basic needs cannot be addressed within the Fund, for instance:-

 

  1. a washing machine to launder their clothes;
  2. a fridge;
  3. certain medical expenses; 
  4. special shoes;
  5. the assurance before they die that they will be given a decent burial in a marked grave. 

 

  1. Most of us would probably take the items listed above for granted. The survivors do not:-

 

  1. The Survivors remember being forced to launder the clothes of others in vile conditions;
  2. The Survivors remember being starved;
  3. The Survivors remember the beatings and the abuse;
  4. The Survivors know that their parents were interred in unmarked graves, the location of which remains unknown in many cases.

 

  1. You will appreciate that the Survivors are vulnerable, individually and collectively. With cause, they are afraid of those in authority and are afraid generally.  They feel that the Fund established to support them in fact is failing them badly.  They are entitled to hold that perception and it must be accepted.

 

  1. The present situation is most unfortunate as the CEO of Cara Nua, Mary Higgins, is a very dedicated and experienced advocate who my client believes is doing all she can within the parameters set. That seems to be the cause of the disquiet: the parameters.  It seems that a crucial part of the problem may flow from the legislation itself.  The clearly-stated purpose of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 enshrines the ‘support of the needs of former residents’ and yet the legislation then proceeds to limit the approved services that can be supported.  The reliefs provided for in the Act are useful but they are based on a conceptual analysis of what the Survivors need, not on actual lived experience as a Survivor. My instructions are that there is a hierarchy of needs for Survivors and, at this late stage of a battered, abused and deprived life, the basics such as shoes, medical needs and basic household items rate ahead of a third-level education for many of them. 

 

  1. My client and his fellow Survivors live daily with the emotional pain and residual physical harm and damage inflicted on them by the institutions. In his and their eyes, his and their perceived failure of the functioning of the fund in meeting its purpose is yet another kick from those in authority.  They are utterly distraught and devastated at the obstacles that impede their access to the Fund that is supposed to exist for their benefit. 

 

  1. My client has a range of legal options open to him, as do his fellow Survivors for whom he acts as co-ordinator. Sadly, the battering inflicted upon them by the institutions could mean that they do not have the same lifespan as a non-abused person. The Survivors are determined to access the Fund established to support them and will take any and all necessary steps to achieve their objective.  They do not and will not accept the prevailing ‘let-them- eat-cake’ situation caused by the very narrow approach taken in the legislation, which approach has severely diluted the very purpose of the Act.   

 

  1. The urgent nature of the situation may provide the impetus for the Survivors to petition the European Parliament on the ground that Ireland is in non-compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It is for this reason that I have been instructed to copy this letter to each of the Irish MEPS. One could easily envisage a huge surge in names being added to such a petition from around the world from people in some way impacted directly or indirectly by the abuse inflicted by the institutions, and indeed in a show of solidarity for the past and enduring suffering of the Survivors. 

 

  1. However, if the current Government acts swiftly then possibly such drastic action could be avoided.  That decision rests with you Minister. Section 10 of the Act provides that the Minister may give a direction to Cara Nua requiring it to comply with such policies of the Government as are specified in the direction. Accordingly, the solution to the present highly unsatisfactory situation is very simple. No new legislation or legislative changes are required. You, as the Minister responsible, simply need to get Government approval for suitable and realistic policies that will meet the needs of the Survivors and direct Cara Nua to implement them.  My client and his fellow Survivors would wish to be consulted on such policies. They are available immediately for such consultation, including with any existing or new cross-party/ non-party committee that you may establish for this purpose. 

 

  1. I would be obliged for your response within 14 days of the date of this letter setting out the steps that you propose to take.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Eugenie Houston BL

 

This is the Response on behalf of the Minister

From: Minister for Education & Skills a href="mailto:MINISTER@education.gov.ie" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">MINISTER@education.gov.ie>
Date: 5 August 2016 11:44:40 IST
To: "'eugenie@eugeniehouston.ie'" a href="mailto:eugenie@eugeniehouston.ie" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">eugenie@eugeniehouston.ie>
Subject: Re: Letter on behalf of Survivors of Institutional Abuse re State Agency Cara Nua


Ms. Eugenie Houston
Direct Access Barrister
Ground Floor
1 George's Quay Plaza
Dublin 2
PLEASE QUOTE REF NUMBER ON ALL CORRESPONDENCE
Our Ref: 1603888KM
Dear Ms Houston,
The Minister has asked me to respond to your recent letter concerning the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund and Caranua’s administration of the funds.
In response to the issues raised, I have been asked to make a number of points.
Caranua’s customer charter sets out its standards and if as your letter suggests, they fall short in meeting those standards, there is a complaint mechanism in place which includes provision for making a formal complaint. If people feel that their dignity has been affronted by Caranua, it is open to them to bring a formal complaint to Caranua.
The Board of Caranua which has 4 survivor representatives on it was very conscious that people who owned their own houses were benefitting disproportionately from the Fund at the expense of people in rented accommodation. Recent changes to services have been introduced which mean that survivors in rented accommodation can purchase white goods such as fridges and washing machines. Survivors can also continue to avail of orthotic footwear. Because help towards Funeral expenses was considered to be such an important element, these have now also now been introduced.
The introduction of a ceiling on the amount of funding that is available for an individual survivor is an attempt to distribute the fund on an equitable basis. As more information becomes available on how the fund is being distributed, it should be possible to project accurately at what rate the fund will be exhausted based on the number of applications and on the amount of funding allocated.
It is, of course, open to individuals to exercise their Fundamental Rights of Petition to the European Parliament and the Minister doesn’t propose to comment further on this.
It is intention of the Minister to carry out a review of Caranua and to consult with survivors but to do so, will require the use of external contractors and there is a procurement process which has to be complied with.
I hope this answers some of the issues you raised in your letter.
Yours sincerely
Derek Newcombe
Private Secretary

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Will do cheers :-)

Has anyone Signed the new guidelines for the Application part 2

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