The Shame of Ireland

The Shame of Ireland

A Sad Day? Survivors Betrayed by the Government! #StatutoryFundBill has been Passed on it's Second Reading

Today I believe a Very Sad Day when Survivors have been Betrayed by the Government!

The Statutory Fund Bill has been Passed on it's Second Reading

96 Votes FOR

19 Votes AGAINST

Click this Link to Read the Second Reading of the Statutory Fund Bill

I am uncertain of the Next Step as I am unfamiliar with the working of the Irish Parliament

Can anyone answer the Question

                                                 "Does the Unless the Seanad have the Power to Over Turn this?

All the I can say on the Matter is "That IF Redress Was JUST there would be no Need for the Statutory Trust Fund Bill"

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Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 18:50

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill legislates for the provision of support for some of our most vulnerable citizens who, under the State-run institutions, suffered appalling mental, physical and sexual abuse. It left a harrowing legacy where lives were blighted and ruined, and the scars of the sadistic cruelty inflicted have never healed. The failure of successive Governments to protect the most vulnerable children and hold the abusers to account further compounded this dark and shameful period in Irish history.`

The cover-up of the religious orders and the State’s refusal to acknowledge the extent of the cruelty being inflicted within institutions that were supposed to be a safe haven for children have had far-reaching implications. The Ryan report laid bare the scale of the systematic and widespread institutional abuse that had blighted so many lives over a number of decades. What it revealed and the conclusions it came to shocked a nation that had become increasingly numbed by scandals that discredited the once unassailable power and authority of the Catholic Church and the religious orders. It was a watershed moment that vindicated the efforts of the courageous survivors of abuse who had campaigned so vigorously for the truth about what had taken place in supposed institutions of care to be revealed.

When I have met and spoken to survivors their constant criticism has been the lack of meaningful consultation with the victims of abuse and the fact that little or no effort has been made to listen to what they had to say. Despite all the rhetoric in support of victims and the spilling of crocodile tears in recognition of their plight, more often than not survivors of abuse have been kept on the margins of the decision making process, with no credence given to what they want from the process of redress. Typically, their views have been ignored or sidelined and their rights as individuals have been denied. As evidence of this, it is clear that a straightforward way of consulting directly with survivors would have been to use the redress board’s database which has the details of over 15,000 people who have previously made an application for recompense. This would have been the ideal mechanism for the Government to elicit the views of the people who suffered under the care of the State and to find out from them what they required and in what form. It would have been the ideal way to facilitate their input into shaping this legislation but, as has so often happened in the past, their views have been largely ignored and the decision on their behalf has been made without respect to their opinions or needs. This Bill is intended to provide support for a range of services, including access to housing, education and counselling, yet it does not allow for compensation to be paid directly to individual survivors who wish to receive compensation in the form of a lump sum payment.

I note the Minister’s disappointment with the offers made to date by the religious orders and the fact that he continues to pursue a 50:50 division with the management bodies involved. He has suggested transfer of the ownership of the schools’ infrastructure as one way of allowing those involved in the process the opportunity to shoulder their share of the cost. It is now incumbent on the Minister to ensure the religious orders and congregations honour their past commitments and pay their financial obligations in full. Their failure to do so to date has resulted in further hurt and anxiety for people who have already experienced too much suffering. It is clear that many of the services for which the Bill provides are already available to survivors, or they should be, as a matter of right. At a minimum, necessary procedures must be put in place so the victims of abuse can have preferential treatment when accessing health care and counselling facilities, as this is the type of enhanced provision that can make a meaningful difference.

Providing supports for children whose parents qualify under the redress Bill should be provided for in the legislation, as access to education can go some way towards enhancing an individual’s opportunities and life chances. It is also the case that education plays an important role in helping families break the cycle of inter-generational abuse and can be a platform that enhances the life chances of children whose parents were themselves the victims of abuse.

Part 4 of the Bill dissolves the Education Finance Board and transfers its functions to the residential institutions statutory fund board to distribute the remaining €12.7 million contribution provided by the congregations under the 2002 indemnity agreement. The Education Finance Board has advised that it expects its funds to be fully allocated on applications received by the end of November 2011 and that it is not therefore in a position to process any applications received after that date. I hope the Minister will be able to confirm that anybody who has benefited under the Education Finance Board will have the opportunity to complete their courses and that they will remain fully funded.

A serious flaw in the Bill is, of course, the eligibility criteria, which are currently confined to those who received an award from the redress board or compensation following a court decision or settlement. Former residents of scheduled institutions are also excluded primarily because, as the Minister has already stated, if eligibility were significantly widened, the amounts available to fund services for individuals could be greatly reduced and the effectiveness of the statutory fund placed at risk. He also went on to say that the question of reviewing the eligibility under the statutory fund could be considered following the establishment of the fund in the event of applications not resulting in a significant expenditure of the fund. What this simply means is that money is the deciding factor which will dictate who will be entitled to receive help should they need it. That is not good enough. Limiting access to redress in this way will exclude a significant number of people who for many reasons have been unable to access compensation. One difficulty with the redress fund was how best to communicate its existence to the thousands of survivors who would qualify for help but who, because they were widely dispersed throughout many countries, were unaware of its existence. It also is the case that many victims of abuse, scarred by their past experiences, left institutions with few or no literacy or numeracy skills and subsequently struggled to find gainful employment. Some turned to alcohol and substance abuse and ended up living lives on the margins of society far removed from the source of the communications that would have made them aware of the limited assistance that was being made available to them. Clearly, a newspaper advertising campaign informing people of the redress board that was restricted to a handful of countries could only reach a minority of survivors. It is wrong, therefore, that despite these flaws, the Government has sought to limit the eligibility of people who qualify for the redress fund. There also is a perception among many survivors that a significant amount of money paid through the redress board went to the legal profession to pay for fees or for people sitting on advocacy groups. It is important that every effort is made to ensure that resources made available to victims of abuse go directly to them and to their families.

Even more worrying has been the impact on people who went through the stressful and fraught process of gaining access to compensation, in which old wounds were reopened and the pain of past experiences was relived. From my own family’s experience, my first cousin, Danny Ferris, was put into St. Joseph’s institution at the age of 14 and a half years.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 18:58

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  For what reason was he put in?

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  His father was an alcoholic, his mother was dead and he was put into the institution.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  I have first-hand experience of visiting him in those institutions and at one stage seeing how his leg was broken but he did not even get hospital treatment. When he was 16 years of age, my mother took him out of the institution and he lived with us for the remainder of his teenage and early life. He has been dead for four years and he never sought compensation or went through any board because of the shame associated with what happened and what was done to him. I am told the abuser lives in Dublin. I do not know the person’s name or anything about him and thank God for that. However, I do know that for the rest of his life, my cousin carried a hidden scar in respect of what happened to him and what was done to him. Moreover, I am sure his experience mirrors those of thousands of other people who went through the same situation.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Sensitivity and care must be employed when engaging with anyone attempting to seek assistance under the statutory fund Bill. As has been stated in the past, no one wishes to see any individual deprived of his or her rights and consideration should be given to Deputy Brendan Smith’s proposal that the Government incorporate into the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill the residual functions of the redress board. Incorporating such a provision would provide a mechanism in order that the work of the redress board could be activated again should new applicants who meet the criteria arise. This would be one way to safeguard the rights of those who are entitled to redress but who have been unable to access it.

I will conclude by highlighting the plight of women and children who were placed in the Magdalene laundries and in Bethany Home, as well as the shameful refusal of the Government to provide any meaningful assistance to the victims of these institutions. One year after the United Nations Committee against Torture recommendations that the Magdalene survivors receive a formal apology from the State and proper redress, a soon-to-be-published interdepartmental report into the laundry no doubt will tell one what one already knows, namely, the women held in such institutions suffered the most degrading and appalling treatment and deprivation imaginable under the State’s watch. As the Justice for Magdalenes group recently reported in testimony gathered from survivors, inmates could not leave the laundries, the doors were locked and the windows were inaccessible. Moreover, if they did try to leave, they were returned by the Garda while others decided not to try to escape because they knew the same fate awaited them. Every single survivor confirmed they were never paid, that no inspections ever were carried out and no Government official ever came to check them out.

The irrefutable evidence of what was inflicted on the Magdalene women led to a statement made in this Chamber in 2010 by the current Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. She rightly stated that former residents of the Magdalene laundries and Bethany Home must be included in the redress scheme. She went on to state, correctly, that these institutions were, to all intents and purposes, places of detention and that residents had been held by the State for often indeterminate periods of confinement. Her justifiable outrage at the then Government’s failure to address properly this matter was echoed by another Labour Party Member, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, who in 2005 correctly identified the scandal of Bethany Home as a matter of national importance. Likewise, her party colleague, Deputy Costello, called on the Government of the day to include Bethany Home in a redress scheme. To their credit, all three of the aforementioned Labour Party Deputies regularly highlighted this important issue. However, now they are in government and in a position to right this terrible wrong inflicted on the survivors of Magdalene laundries and Bethany Home, will they live up to their previous contributions in this House? By contrast, the campaigns of the survivors of both the Magdalene laundries and Bethany Home have helped to bring irrefutable evidence of State involvement into the public domain. It is time for Fine Gael and Labour Party Ministers to step up to their worthy words by offering up an apology, redress and restitution for these now elderly men and women. The Government’s inaction in respect of both these matters is nothing short of shameful to date and until the Government acts on its own words, its members will be no better than those of previous Governments or of those who caused the hurt in the first instance.

 

 

Comment by William Delahunty on June 15, 2012 at 18:59

Not to be personal the TD that owes the tax man TWO AND A HALF MILLION GOT TO VOTE ON THIS BILL BUT THE VICTIMS HAD NO SAY. IT IS POSSIBLE HE MAY EVEN GET A JOB ON THE BOARD NICE ONE.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 19:25

Deputy Dan Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill, which provides for the establishment of a statutory fund to support the needs of survivors of child abuse in residential institutions. I note that 1,500 former residents are expected to be eligible to apply for support from the fund and every effort is being made by the Minister, who I welcome to the Chamber today, to minimise the administration involved. The fund should target resources at services to support former residents’ needs, such as counselling, psychological support services and mental health services, health and personal social services, educational services and housing services. While the Residential Institutions Redress Board provides financial compensation to those who suffered abuse while resident in the institutions, this Bill provides for a new statutory fund, which will focus on meeting specified needs which many survivors have as they struggle with the effects of abuse that may have taken place many years ago.

Following on from the last speaker’s contribution, I wish to deal specifically with the effects of child abuse and the trauma experienced by those who were in institutional care at the time. Studies examining the relationship between childhood trauma, such as that suffered by many people in institutions, and adult suicidal behaviour have reported evidence the two are frequently linked. For example, 12 of the 100 young people who were abused in children’s homes in Clwyd, north Wales, have since taken their lives. My contribution is based on consultation meetings with people who experienced industrial child sexual abuse conducted by the National Suicide Research Foundation based in Cork, which examined this issue. This consultation took place in Tralee, Limerick, Waterford, Enniscorthy, Galway and Cork and involved 90 survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. Some of the survivors had numerous insights themselves with regard to risk and protective factors for suicidal behaviour among people experiencing institutional abuse. Many refer to alcohol abuse, depression, lack of education, difficulty obtaining employment and social isolation as being risk factors. A frequently recurring theme was the belief instilled in them by those in charge of the institutions that nobody else wanted them and that they would never be successful in life. Much of the abuse took place at night in the institutions and thus many survivors find it very difficult to sleep even now, decades after the abuse.

Protective factors against suicide mentioned by survivors included relationships, children, contact with survivor groups and being able to secure steady employment and obtaining an education after they had left the institution. Survivors who had attempted to take their own lives or who had considered doing so spoke about their situation around this time. The emerging themes included not having support of their partner, feeling depressed or experiencing a sense of hopelessness, being under the influence of alcohol or having commenced counselling, thereby opening up the past. Feeling that there is nobody to talk to who will understand is also frequently mentioned as an issue around the time of suicidal ideation. Those who did not go ahead with their plans to take their own lives frequently referred to their children as being a protective factor. A large number of survivors who participated in consultation meetings had experienced the death of either a friend or a member of family through suicide.

The situation around the time of persons taking their own life sometimes reflected a detachment from the world, where a depressed individual seemed happier in the weeks running up to their suicide than they had been for some time. Redress was a particularly traumatic time for survivors who had not yet attended counselling. The experience of telling one’s story for the first time to a panel of strangers with whom one had not built up any rapport and who were only interested in the facts of one’s case was a terrible ordeal. Many survivors have experienced mental and physical health difficulties in adult life. Depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder were evident. Psychosomatic affects such as migraine and diarrhoea were mentioned by some of the survivors. Survivors are concerned about the apparent over-use of medication as a treatment, in particular by GPs. Many feel that the professionals do not understand their unique situation as survivors of institutional abuse and that greater awareness is necessary.

Transgenerational mental health issues also need to be addressed. There have been some examples among survivors who are anxious for their adult children who are perhaps struggling with addictions or appear to be depressed or suicidal. With no parenting model themselves survivors are often unsure how to deal with these issues or even what services are available for their children and how to access them.

A recurring theme at the consultation meetings was that previously survivors did not speak about the abuse they suffered because they feared they would not be believed. In spite of the extensive media coverage in recent years of cases of abuse in institutions some survivors still have not told their partners what they experienced in childhood. Reasons for not wishing to explain this part of their lives include not wanting to upset the partner with full disclosure of abuse, or being afraid that the partner will be unable to deal with the knowledge and the relationship may suffer in consequence.

Much of the abuse took place in the institutions and thus many survivors find it very difficult to sleep even now, as I stated. For that reason night time is often when they need someone to talk to and the lack of a 24 hour help line, apart from the Samaritans, was mentioned by a number of survivors. Upon leaving the institutions at the age of 16 survivors took various pathways in adult life. Many found the outside world too difficult to cope with, especially when they were used to large self-contained institutions, big dormitories and the strict routine with hundreds of other people around. As a result, a recurring theme was the return to institutional life, for example, by joining the Army.

Survivors recalled the difficulty of adjusting to life outside while trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Many went to England as there one could ask for advice about simple things such as taking a bus and excuse one’s lack of knowledge by saying one was unfamiliar with the country. Others spoke of trying to understand one had to pay for food in supermarkets or learning to go to bed at night in a room on one’s own with no noise, no other people around. Trying to fit in socially on the outside was difficult given the sense of shame of growing up in an institutional school. Survivors explained how they would invent a story to tell their new work colleagues or friends where they grew up and where their families now were. They recalled being on the outside of their circle of friends, lacking in confidence and being careful not to be caught out in their stories.

Relationships were a particularly difficult issue for survivors, given that industrial schools for older children were single-sex. Given the prevalence of sexual abuse in the industrial schools survivors did not have a comprehension of what constituted normal, consensual, sexual behaviour between adults. Furthermore, nuns made a particular point of warning girls to stay away from men, without giving them any actual sex education. For many there is a sad sense of missed opportunities for the relationships they did not get to experience in their younger days. Marital disharmony or separation arose quite frequently in discussions with survivors. For many this related back to when they told their spouses about the experience in the institution. For others it resulted from the pressures of long periods of unemployment or alcohol abuse. In addition, growing up in an institutional environment meant that survivors had a lack of experience in forming lasting relationships and had no model to learn from. Those who had children outlined difficulties in parenting without having had any role models. Some recalled giving their children everything they wanted without establishing boundaries. Others were unsure how to be affectionate with their children in an appropriate manner. Yet others felt their parenting was too regimented because the strict regime of the institution was the only parenting model they had experienced.

Finding employment was difficult for many as they left the institutions with low levels of literacy. Some spoke of being institutionalised in their employment. Frequently, concern was expressed about patients being discharged from psychiatric wards too soon. Although those concerned understand the capacity problem concerning crisis beds they believe the circumstances of some of their fellow survivors should necessitate keeping them in for observation for a longer period. Some of these people have nowhere to go when they are discharged. The Minister highlighted this point in regard to how the housing issue concerns survivors. There was some discussion about the usefulness of a nursing home or halfway house for survivors who have to leave hospital but are not well enough to return to independent living in the community.

I refer in conclusion to a professional person who identified suicidal behaviour among survivors. When she spoke about a female patient of a psychiatrist, she said:

I do not think she will ever tell him [her husband] because when he hears the [television] programmes, he says “look at all those dreadful people lying just to get money”, so of course she is never going to. “That never happened”, he says, so she will never tell him now. Well, she says she will not. So, all her life this was a piece kept away. Her deepest friends do not know .... and her husband knows nothing.

I would like to speak about the effects of child abuse. It is right that we abhor child abuse. As earlier speakers have said, it is important to understand its effects and its destructive outcomes for children. When child abuse occurs, the victim can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts and behaviours. No child is psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two year old who cannot know sexual activity is wrong will develop problems as a result of his or her inability to cope with over-stimulation. A child of five years or older who knows and cares for the abuser will become trapped between affection or loyalty for the person and the sense that sexual activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and abnormal or disordered views on sex. The child may become withdrawn or mistrustful of adults. He or she can become suicidal. Children who have been sexually abused sometimes have difficulty relating to other people other than on sexual terms. Some of them become child abusers or prostitutes or experience other serious problems when they reach adulthood.

There are often no obvious physical signs of child sexual abuse. A number of signs can be detected through physical examination by a doctor. Sexually abused children may develop an unusual interest in, or avoidance of, things of a sexual nature. They can experience sleep problems and often have nightmares. They can suffer depression and become withdrawn from friends or family. They may make statements about their bodies being “dirty” or “damaged”. They might think there is something wrong with them in the genital area. They may refuse to go to school, or become delinquent and have behavioural problems. They often become secretive. They sometimes display aspects of their sexual molestation in their drawings, games or fantasies. They may be unusually aggressive. The child may be extremely fearful of telling someone, although he or she might talk freely when a special effort has been made to help him or her to feel safe. If a child says he or she has been molested, parents and supporters should try to remain calm and reassure him or her that what happened was not his or her fault. They should seek a medical examination and a psychiatric consultation.

The initial and short-term effects of sexual abuse usually occur within two years of the termination of the abuse. These effects vary depending on the circumstances of the abuse and the child’s stage of development. They may include regressive behaviour such as a return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting, sleep disturbance, eating problems, behavioural or performance problems in school and non-participation in school and social activities. The negative effects of child abuse can affect victims for many years and into adulthood. High levels of anxiety in these adults can result in self-destructive behaviours such as alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety attacks, situation-specific anxiety disorders, insomnia, depression, attempted suicide and completed suicide. Many victims encounter problems in their adult relationships and adult sexual functioning. Revictimisation is a common phenomenon in people who were abused as children. Research has shown that child sexual abuse victims are more likely to be victims of rape or be involved in physically abusive relationships as adults.

The ill-effects of child abuse are wide-ranging. There is no one set of symptoms or outcomes. Some children report little or no psychological distress from the abuse. These children may be afraid to express their emotions and may be denying their feelings as a coping mechanism. Other children may have sleeper effects - experiencing no harm in the short term but suffering serious problems in later life. In an attempt to assess whether a child can recover from sexual abuse and to better understand the ill-effects of such abuse, psychologists have studied the factors that seem to lessen the impact of such abuse. The factors that affect the amount of harm done to the victim include the age of the child, the duration, frequency and intrusiveness of the abuse, the degree of force used and the relationship with the abuser. Issues such as the child’s interpretation of the abuse, whether he or she discloses the abuse and how quickly he or she reports it can also affect the short-term and long-term consequences of the abuse. As I have said, it is very easy and important to abhor child abuse and to establish redress boards to deal with this vital issue. It is just as important to understand the effects and destructive outcomes for children who have suffered child abuse in institutions and elsewhere.

Comment by William Delahunty on June 15, 2012 at 19:25

Now it is easy to see who wags the tail in Ireland the catholic church will always win out, as long as the party system is in force there is no justice paedophile priests are protected by men and woman in a rotten system to protect themselves, and they call themselves THE IRISH GOVERNMENT  The word Bycot comes to mind but we are all getting on and they are taking full advantage of that fact NOW THE QUESTION HAS TO BE ASKED IN THE DAIL DO THE LAST VICTIM GET ALL THE MONEY REMAINING OR DO THE GOVERNMENT GET THE LOT IT IS POSSIBLE THAT AT THE RATE IT IS GOING THEY ARE IN FOR A NICE WINDFALL??????????????????? 

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 19:55

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  I would like to share time with Deputy Catherine Murphy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  I would like to acknowledge Deputy Neville’s moving speech. He showed great understanding of and compassion for people who have been abused. I am familiar with his work in the area of suicide prevention. I am glad to have been present to listen to his contribution to this debate.

Following the publication of the Ryan report in May 2009, the congregations that managed the residential institutions were called on to make further substantial contributions by way of reparation. The word “reparation” can be associated with words like “repair” and “reparable” that involve setting things right, making amends, mending and compensating. When the Cloyne report was published, I had to read it in stages because I found it so grim and awful to read what was done and was allowed to be done by the church and the State.

Every country has had its dark moments. For the Jewish nation, it was the Holocaust. For the people of Cambodia, it was the Killing Fields. For the Balkan countries, it was the incidents in places like Srebrenica and Mostar. This country’s darkest moment was obviously the Famine, but I suggest that the systematic sexual, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual abuse which was carried out by those in authority in the church, in the State and within families is in second place.

We should not forget that some of the deaths that took place in these institutions have not yet been explained. There is a sense in which those who are abused experience a form of death, in that part of a person dies when he or she is abused. Those in positions of trust who perpetrated this abuse were responsible for vulnerable young people. There are no words to describe that betrayal of trust.

We know what happened, or did not happen, when instances of abuse was reported or mentioned to another person. When action was taken, it was often inappropriate or wrong. It involved moving the perpetrator and failing to call on the authorities along the line to take further action. We know the authorities were sadly lacking at times. There are issues regarding the involvement of the Garda Síochána.

It seems that the welfare of the abuser was the paramount concern at times. I know of a victim who has suggested that there was more of a focus on damage limitation than a genuine wish to help unreservedly.

  1 o’clock

There is so much hurt, pain, damage and distress, not just for the immediate victim but also for their families and their relationships. I know that some of those abused, in that hurt, pain and despair, turned to alcohol and drugs. We know the additional difficulties and trauma that addiction brings. There are areas, some in my constituency in Dublin Central, where we can see death by suicide or through addiction of young people in recent years having a direct link to family members who had been abused in these institutions.

I have met people who have been abused. What is common is the pain and hurt but how people deal with it varies considerably. Some, as I mentioned, turned to alcohol and drugs. Some left the country and although there was a better life for some of those, many ended up homeless and destitute. Therefore, the services are also needed for those outside Ireland. Others tried to bury the hurt and to keep the lid on. This probably saved some because not everyone is comfortable with the process of opening up and talking about what happened. In that case, the time factor is crucial because the healing process does not have a time limit.

The abuse took place over many decades and the abused heal at different paces so we cannot say the compensation moneys or the services can only be available for a certain time. It is important that counselling and psychotherapy are available when the person who has been abused is ready to avail of them. There is no “one size fits all” solution for victims of abuse.

This was brought home to me very forcibly by a person I met who had been abused and whose reaction was very different. He said he was trying to get on with his life with his family. He was a man of very simple needs and his entertainment was television and radio but when the media coverage happened, his entertainment was lost as he did not want constant reminders of what had happened. He was deprived of being able to turn on the radio and television because, at the time the Cloyne report was published and at other times, it was always there in front of him. We could all say that person needs to be in therapy but forcing somebody into a counselling or psychotherapy situation is not the answer. That man needs to know what is available to him when he is ready and when he chooses.

We have had a public consultation process in which groups representing survivors, religious congregations and others were involved. I want to acknowledge the purpose of the Bill, which is to provide for the establishment of a body to support the needs of former residents and to provide for the making of contributions by certain persons. I also want to acknowledge the principles of equity, consistency and transparency, the provision of approved services and the requirement that those services will be evaluated, which is important.

Section 8 is very clear on the range of approved services, which are all needed. These range from mental health, health, social, education, hospital and housing services and it is stated they would be provided both within and outside the State and that there is provision for further services to be added. Another positive point is the effort to ensure there are standards for those approved services.

I want to consider the process of applying and the criteria around decisions on the applications. For that, the board will take account of the individual circumstances, including personal and financial circumstances. Everybody wants the money used in the best interests of those who were abused so I was disappointed not to see, within those principles, that there would be some emphasis on respecting the dignity of the person applying. I know the board has to be fair but it sounds a very rigorous and intrusive process for vulnerable people. A lot of information is required and I particularly wonder about this when practically all of that information is known already. That section deals with individual personal and financial circumstances, assessing the likely effect of a service on health and general well-being, personal and social development, educational development and living conditions. It then specifies the “supporting evidence that may be required” and, in a rather vague phrase, refers to taking into account any other matter that the board considers is a proper matter to be taken into account.

This set off a few alarm bells because I see this as an onerous process. I can see it being difficult for vulnerable people unless there is a clear commitment to respecting the dignity of the person and that the individual needs are not lost in the layers of bureaucracy. Form-filling is hard enough for people in the whole of their health. Some of these people are so badly hurt that I am afraid individual needs will be lost or that they will not be addressed adequately.

There are concerns from some of the survivors that the application process may be demeaning. Victims of residential abuse should not be made to feel they are coming, cap in hand, almost with a begging bowl, and also with no guarantee of getting the compensation or service they need. No amount of money will ever be adequate compensation for abuse and it can only go some way. While some amounts have been given already, many of the survivors are of an advanced age so it is vital their needs are addressed soon and this is not allowed to drag on. The same can be said in regard to their health and housing needs as it is now they need the services, not in years to come. We must also ask about the records of the victims who have not come forward. Is the Department confident it has records on all those who have been in the institutions?

While this fund is not about making finance available, there are survivors who feel this is wrong. Has the Minister taken into account those survivors, whose signatures he received, who are against the way in which this fund is being administered? They say the details are with the Department and they believe it is preferable that there would be a simple system of dividing money among the survivors. I personally believe a certain amount must be reserved for services. It is sad that it took ten years for the Government to allocate €12.7 million from the education fund under the 2002 indemnity agreements, and I go back to the point about the urgency of these matters.

The children and grandchildren of survivors have been removed from the new fund but they were included by the Education Finance Board. This is where a further set amount to each named person who has been in an institution would be helpful and would be a financial support for children or grandchildren of survivors, whom we know have been affected by what has happened the abused family member - the parent or the grandparents who had been in an institution.

The board has nine members, all appointed by the Minister, four of whom will have been resident in an institution specified in the Schedule. I am stating the obvious when I say these appointments are crucial to the process. Some concerns arise in regard to the board’s finances. It should not cost any member of the board money to serve on it but we have so many examples of the expenses culture in this country, and I hope that will not happen with this board. While there are allowances for expenses, they must be relatively modest. With regard to the chief executive’s salary, again, we have examples in this country of chief executives on absolutely obscene salaries.

The board will have a staff and certain sections of the Bill cover their remuneration and superannuation. The National Treasury Management Agency will establish an investment account into which the sums will be deposited. Another section states that the agency can advance to the board sums as requested for the purpose of defraying expenditure incurred by the board and advancing other sums to enable the Minister to make a payment to an appeals officer. There will also be liaison officers.

We know the constraints that local authorities are under at present and this will make for additional pressure. While it is necessary, some issues arise. There is a need for limits surrounding all of these aspects because, to me, the money is for those who were abused in the institutions, which is where it has to go. There should be a limit on what goes from the fund towards these salaries and expenses. There is also a committee of experts to be employed by the board and, again, there will be expenses for them.

It is very unfortunate and sad that some survivors see the Bill as a massive job creation scheme, although that should not happen. The survivors have been through a redress board and the Education Finance Board so life should be becoming easier for them, not more difficult. To me, the needs of the survivors are paramount. One survivor group said “We, as survivors, did not get a say as to what way this unwanted fund should be implemented”, that “The Government consulted the so-called representative groups, who do not have an authority to speak on our behalf” and that it continued to support them. This issue has to be addressed. Are the groups speaking for all of the survivors or some of the survivors? Are there survivors who are not within these groups or represented by them? Their voices have to be heard.

The apology and the memorial must be handled in a dignified and careful manner and the voices of the survivors must be heard in that regard.

With regard to the Justice for Magdalenes group, I wish to acknowledge their work and the way they went about it. I am aware that their work and that of Professor Smith, Claire McGettrick and Maeve O’Rourke showed a respect for the dignity of individuals who worked in the laundries and provided them with a space to tell their stories. I was very struck by what some of those ladies said, that they want to be believed and to have their voices heard. We must hear them and allow them their dignity. I acknowledge the work of those I have mentioned as an example of how we can do this right. The issue is that progress is very slow on this. Many of these ladies are of advanced age. The Minister may say he does not wish to rush on this and that he wants to do it right. However, the issue has been around a long time and time is very important.

 

 

 

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 20:04

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  This is not a holistic group. The consultation proved there are a variety of different responses required by the people who suffered abuse and it is for that reason I feel we should provide the maximum flexibility possible. These were people who had a portion or all of their childhood controlled and stolen and who were not allowed any individualism. Therefore, we owe them the ability to tell us what they want and what is right for them as individuals rather than as a group. The State took control of these people’s lives and now it is taking control again. Of the nine people to be nominated by the Minister, the majority, five, are people who have not been in this situation, while four have. I wonder why control of this was not given to those survivors.

When discussing these issues, we must remember those people who broke the silence, people like Christine Buckley, for whom I have enormous respect, and the late Mary Raftery. We should never speak about this issue without remembering the service she gave and the debt of gratitude we owe her. Children who were in institutions were shunned and were always considered to have been in the institution for a reason. Some of the reasons were that their parents had died, they had missed school or something more serious. Being in an institution was not regarded as normal and as a result the children felt they had less value as people. This is an attitude that is very difficult to change as people go through life and many of these people have been hugely damaged by it.

I remember attending Goldenbridge for sixth class. Ironically, my mother thought the school I was in was too violent and she sent me to Goldenbridge. There were two schools in Goldenbridge at the time, one internal and the other the regular primary school, which I attended. There were a few “orphans”, as they were called, in my class. These were the lucky, bright ones who got the opportunity to attend the regular school. They were the cream of the crop or money had been provided for them. I was aware that those children worked before they came to school and after they finished school each day. I could see the marks on their hands from making the rosary beads, which was the work they did. We did not see into their lives in the institution and they did not see out. All I saw was the few girls in the class with me. Goldenbridge orphanage was an institution on a par with a prison and that is what we are talking about here. What we did not see came out later on and was revealed in the programmes made by Mary Raftery. What went on was horrific.

I lived near Artane as a child, before moving to the wild west of Palmerstown. In Artane people saw the lucky boys being brought out for a walk. They walked two-by-two in their grey jerseys. People crossed to the other side of the street when they saw these boys. They did not talk to people and people did not talk to them. These are the sorts of conditions we are talking about. How can we make people forget this or the abuse that went on? We must listen to these people and must provide the maximum flexibility to them to be individuals, as they were not allowed do that in their childhood. It was stolen from them and they suffered horrific abuse.

This is what concerns me in the case of this Bill. Deputy O’Sullivan has gone into detail with regard to the formality of making an application and so on. What I see happening is that the people who need it most will be the people least able to put themselves through the application process, because it is too hurtful. My main concerns are the lack of flexibility and concern for individuals.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 20:21

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  I call on Deputy Catherine Byrne, who is sharing her time with Deputies Seán Kyne and Bernard Durkan.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  I welcome this Bill and welcome the establishment of the statutory fund for victims of abuse in residential institutions. The extent of the abuse of women and children by those people entrusted with their care will forever be a stain on our nation. What these people have lost can never be quantified here. The reports we have seen, the stories we have heard and the many stories still untold represent the most awful betrayal and abuse of women and children in the history of this country. My heart goes out to those victims of abuse, but I know my words are of little comfort because in the past, nobody listened, nobody asked questions and nobody said stop.

What happened can never be allowed to happen again. Those who suffered abuse still live in society and still struggle on a daily basis to deal with simple matters. Over the past couple of days, I read the Justice for Magdalenes report that was issued by Professor James Smith of Boston College and was horrified by some of the stories. While many have told their stories openly, many stories that may be even more horrific have never been told. This process proposes to compensate victims and provide for counselling and whatever else victims may need in the future. This is long overdue.

The Bill is an important step in demonstrating support for victims of residential institutional abuse. The statutory fund will provide victims of abuse in residential institution with access to the help and support they need, through the provision of counselling, health, education, housing and other services. The Bill provides that former residents who received financial compensation from the redress board or who received an award or settlement in court proceedings and who would otherwise have received an award from the redress board will be eligible to apply for assistance from the fund. It is expected that some 15,000 former residents, whether living in Ireland or abroad, will successfully complete the redress process and be eligible to apply for services they need.

The statutory fund of some €110 million will be financed by contributions from the congregations. However, contributions of just €21.05 million have been received to date. I urge the Minister to pursue those who have not so far contributed to this fund and make sure their contribution is given now and not at a later stage.

Last year, the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established, and this will be complemented by the new child and family support agency. The new Children First guidelines were published last year and the heads of the Bill to put the guidelines on a statutory basis have recently been published, along with the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012. Preparations for the children’s rights referendum are on target. Our primary focus is to protect our children and ensure that the horrendous abuses suffered by so many are a thing of the past. We all have a duty to protect children, whether our own or others, and to act when we know that children are at risk.

The issue of the eligibility for the scheme has been raised, and I urge the Minister, Deputy Quinn, to examine whether all former residents of State institutions could be included, given that some did not manage to engage with the redress scheme for a variety of reasons. I listened to the comments of other Deputies on this subject. I have lived in Inchicore all my life, and when I was growing up, the industrial school in Goldenbridge was only 30 seconds away from my hall door. I was conscious of the fact that there were two types of school in Goldenbridge: one for local children and one for residents of the institution. I will not speak in defence of the Sisters of Mercy because I know there were horrific problems in the institution. However, I believe the Sisters of Mercy, who were surrounded at the time by vulnerable young people living in Keogh Square, contributed to the education and health of many children from Inchicore. As someone who has worked alongside many community organisations, I have seen much respect for the sisters who worked tirelessly to educate children in our community, and still do today. As in every sphere, including politics, a small number of people can affect a system so badly that everyone is labelled.

 

 

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 20:30

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne  Zoom on Seán Kyne  I welcome the publication of the Bill. The Ryan and Murphy reports investigating abuse, including that which occurred at residential institutions, were shocking in their revelations of systemic abuse of a verbal, physical and sexual nature. For many years, courageous individuals attempted to expose the despicable activities of some people who had been entrusted with the care of thousands of vulnerable children. There were many obstacles to uncovering the truth: a deep unwillingness to act on the part of religious orders, the turning of a blind eye by the State, fear among the media of the ramifications of investigating what were then rumours and, above all, a deferential public seemingly unwilling to ask questions or raise social issues.

Given all this, it is entirely appropriate that the burden of rectifying as far as possible the grave injustices and mistakes of the past should be shared by the State and the churches. Disgracefully, previous Ministers allowed their own deferential views to limit the amount of compensation payable by religious orders, leaving the taxpayer to foot the lion’s share of the bill. The revelations in the Ryan and Murphy reports evoked understandable anger from survivors, their families and wider society at the response of religious groups. Some religious orders, clearly shocked and humbled by the revelations, pledged voluntarily to increase their contributions, and the Bill will facilitate this. The legislation is a product of extensive consultation between the State, the religious orders and, most significantly, the survivors of abuse. The fund will be available to an estimated 15,000 former residents who successfully complete the application process to the existing Residential Institutions Redress Board or who separately agree settlements which would have fallen under the remit of the redress board.

The legislation also facilitates the appointment of a board to oversee the fund, and there is no doubt the board will play a significant role in determining its effectiveness, chiefly by ensuring that appropriate services, including mental health, health, education and housing support services, are in place. The board will have at least four members who resided as children in some of the institutions in question. Provision is also made to ensure the board has appropriate expertise in the keeping of accounts, fund disbursal, management and administration, and so forth. I am pleased to see that the chief executive of the board will be accountable to Oireachtas committees and that the Freedom of Information Act and recourse to the Ombudsman will apply. These detailed provisions should provide reassurance that public moneys will be spent efficiently and effectively in an attempt to rectify the serious and disturbing events of the past. It must always be remembered, however, that compensation cannot undo the theft of innocence and the loss of carefree and happy childhoods which were instead characterised by violence, abuse, intimidation and suffering.

I wish I could say I have no concerns regarding the administration of previous funds to recompense survivors, but I cannot. Unsettling matters have been brought to my attention by constituents who are survivors of abuse regarding the conduct of some organisations that were established to provide services to survivors. Serious questions have also been raised by journalists investigating organisations. It must be acknowledged that a great many organisations involved in assisting survivors do an impeccable job to the highest standards, and they must be commended for this. However, at least one organisation, Right of Place, which has offices in Galway in Cork, has had to receive extra financial support from the HSE to remain solvent and, in the very recent past, has been unable to provide satisfactory accounts detailing to whom public funds were allocated. As a result, the HSE rightly requested monthly expenditure and activity reports and quarterly face-to-face meetings with the organisation. This raises the fundamental issue of proper and prudent expenditure of public moneys. The residential institutions statutory fund must demonstrate that legislators have learned from the recent past, just as Irish society has learned from the grave injustices the system facilitated throughout the 20th century. Every cent must be accounted for and every cent must benefit survivors as they attempt to address the problems caused by the traumatic experiences of their childhoods.

 

 

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 20:39

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this Bill, which addresses issues that were rampant in this country for a long time. I compliment all those involved in the reporting of these issues when they were first brought to light. I commend them for their courage and their willingness to stand their ground, in the face of some very stiff opposition, when it would have been easy for them to stand down. Society owes them a great debt of gratitude for their resilience, their commitment and their conviction, and particularly for their actions which benefited this and future generations. It serves as a lesson to us all to remember and contemplate these events so that we can make sure we do not see a repetition of such things in the future.

While many people felt that the manner by which people were placed in certain institutions, for whatever purpose, was not always in accordance with best practice, there were few who spoke out against it at the time. Perhaps in the future some of the people who are currently in the care of the State will be the subject of reviews and examinations in view of standards that may then apply. We must remember that it was not generally recognised that the institutions were not treating their residents in the manner in which they should have. We must also remember that the State has a responsibility to those in its care, for whatever reason they come to be in that care, whether in hospitals, schools, corrective institutions, training areas, prisons or anywhere else. The State has a responsibility to uphold the rights of the individual, which means State institutions must exercise a duty of care at all times. Failure to recognise the rights of individuals will lead to similar cases in the future and the taxpayer may once again be required to come to the rescue of those who have been offended against.

I speak as someone who has met victims of institutional abuse. What these victims had in common was that they could not recall events associated with their past without becoming emotional and tearful. That was a clear indication to me that they had unhappy childhoods as a result of being put in the care of the State. That is a sad reflection on any society because it is no good to claim we were not directly responsible for how we treat those who were vulnerable. Society was responsible and we all stand condemned. Those who were asked to exercise these functions on behalf of society have to accept a particular responsibility. It is true that not everybody committed the same sins or ignored what was happening but, unfortunately, a lot of people who held responsible positions failed to act. To this day, there are exceptions to good practice and even though they may be known to those in authority, issues continue to arise that impinge on the constitutional rights and welfare of individuals. That should not be the case.

Whenever something is brought to the attention of the authorities, they have a duty to ensure any issues arising are investigated thoroughly in order to protect individuals, institutions and taxpayers in the long run. If there were no breaches of good conduct, we would not be debating this Bill. The lesson to be learned is that we must recognise wrongdoing that deprives individuals of their fundamental rights and entitlements at an earlier stage, regardless of what these individuals may have done or who they may have offended. Children and young adults were referred to institutions for venial sins. Certainly the punishment of incarceration and abuse was far in excess of what they deserved. In many cases, unfortunate families and individuals who lived in deprived social and economic circumstances found their way into institutions.

While on the one hand we must recognise the good work done by voluntary and religious orders and groups, on the other a lot happened to besmirch the good name of both State and institutions. We are now attempting to repay individuals for the physical and psychological damage that was done to them. Similar events occurred in other jurisdictions. These issues have received enough publicity over the years for us to realise the need to intervene at an early stage. We should not do this in a spiteful or mean way but on health and safety grounds. We have learned lessons but we have more to learn and I hope we do not pay the cost for further lessons in years to come.

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