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"

Views: 937

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 20:49

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill 2012. Before I speak on the details of the Bill I express my solidarity with and understanding of the plight of all victims and survivors of sexual and other abuse. Their suffering can never be forgotten but we will never be able to compensate them for the loss of their childhood. If this House wants to be serious, we must put compassion, truth and justice at the top of our agenda. Failure to act in this manner would be another crime against the survivors of abuse. Good practice, quality child safety provisions and top-class legislation must be part of the solution. Vigilance is also a part of the child protection agenda to ensure this abuse is not repeated.

I commend the survivors on the courage and dignity they have shown but let us not forget the victims who were left adrift because they were unable to speak out. Children with intellectual disabilities are the forgotten victims because they did not have the mental capacity or wherewithal to come out of the dark tunnel of abuse. I urge the Minister to be creative and sensible in dealing with this issue.

Following the publication of the Ryan report in 2009, the congregations which managed the residential institutions and which were party to the 2002 indemnity agreement were asked to provide further contributions by way of reparation. The Government agreed to proceed with legislation establishing a residential institution statutory fund in order to support the victims of abuse. It is important to note that the decision received cross-party support in the Dáil. This Bill was prepared following a process of public consultation with groups representing the survivors of residential institution child abuse, religious congregations and other interested parties. The fund will be financed by the cash portion of the offers from the congregations, which totals approximately €110 million. To date, contributions of €21.5 million have been received for the statutory fund. These, and the remaining contributions to be received, will be invested in an investment account to be established by the NTMA. Those who received an award from the redress board or an award or settlement in court proceedings, and those who have otherwise received an award from the redress board, will be eligible to apply for assistance to the fund. I welcome that. It is likely that some 15,000 former residents will successfully complete the redress process. In response to applications from eligible residents, the fund can make arrangements for the provision of improved services and may pay grants to assist former residents to avail of approved services.

Looking beyond the details of the legislation, the Education Finance Board was established on a statutory basis in 2006 and is funded through a contribution from the religious congregations of €12.7 million under the 2000 indemnity agreement. It is specifically earmarked for educational support for former residents and their families. It has almost completed the performance of its functions. The Education Finance Board will be dissolved and its staff will transfer to the statutory fund, which will assume its functions in respect of the remaining moneys available. That is the background to the legislation.

I welcome Mr. Paddy Doyle to the Visitors Gallery. He is a long time campaigner for people in institutions and on the broader issue of disability. I met Paddy when my daughter was born. She has an intellectual disability and he was one of the first people to influence me about disability rights and civil rights for people with disabilities. I thank him for his work on this issue.

When talking about the rights of children who came out of these institutions, we must remember they were the invisible children for many years. Children who find themselves in tough situations are often not afforded the care and protection they deserve. Historically, the State has shirked its responsibility for vulnerable children, allowing organisations like the church to fill gaps in services. The Kilkenny incest investigation in 1993 was the first report to outline the gaps in Irish law causing grave problems for children. Many subsequent reports regarding children, such as the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports, reiterated these concerns. There has been much outcry but, unfortunately, little concrete action has been delivered. We must watch this in respect of further debate in the House and the children who have suffered abuse.

Over a decade after the publication of the Children First national guidelines, we do not have enforceable child protection law in Ireland. The vetting of individuals working with children remains voluntary and the law continues to discriminate against certain children on the basis of the marriage status of their parents. I am pleased the Minister is in the House. We should be radical and creative. Things that were done in the past are often positive. It is not just a case of having so many points in the leaving certificate if one wants to work in the education service. People also need other skills. Many years ago, when applying for teacher training colleges, people had to undergo an in-depth interview as well as having academic qualifications. When I turned up at St. Patrick’s College, psychologists, others involved in education and those with an interest in children were in place and all students were vetted after the call to training. We were all given a hard interview.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 20:56

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  How did Deputy McGrath get through?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  It was my skill and determination, I hope. I always remember that interview because they were selecting people who were suitable to work with children. The interview was important as well as academic qualifications.

According to a HSE report, one child in ten in foster care has no allocated social worker. Last year, 120 children with mental health difficulties were admitted to adult psychiatric units. Since 2000, 500 children have disappeared from State care and 90% of those have never been found. We must monitor disadvantaged children in particular. Children remain virtually invisible in the Irish Constitution. They continue to be seen and not heard, even though the ISPCC has been vocal in its call for reform as far back as 1989. Up to 2,000 children remain in legal limbo because the Constitution makes it impossible for them to be adopted into long-term foster families, even after years of little or no contact with their birth parents. There are proposals on the table to deal with the issue and I will support them when they come on the pitch.

If we want to lay the ghost of past failures to rest and learn from the mistakes highlighted in the Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports, children need to be listened to and provided with a safe environment in which to grow up. I commend and thank the foster parents of this country for their magnificent work. The vast majority do an excellent job, provide safety for children and a public service for many families. They also prevent children getting into difficulty later in life by providing stability in the home. I thank all foster parents in the country on behalf of all Oireachtas Members. They do an excellent job but that does not mean we do not have to be vigilant in respect of that issue.

There is a sense in Ireland that something is not right with the system dealing with our children. A series of traumatic headlines and reports have driven home the message that the State and society has been guilty of turning its back on children in this country. We must face reality. The general acknowledgement is accompanied by a sense of confusion about the issues at play. People are immediately suspicious of overly legalistic language and there is a general sense that the sins of the past are in the past. This reflects a worrying trend that the people of Ireland do not recognise children’s rights as an immediate priority in light of the current economic crisis.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  They will have the chance when we hold a referendum.

Deputy Information on Finian McGrathFinian McGrath:   Zoom on Finian McGrath  

Yes, and I am part of all-party support for the referendum because it is important.

Campaigners for children have been met with genuine surprise when we tell people that child protection guidelines have not been put on a statutory footing. Inequality between children of married and unmarried children provokes surprise and a strong reaction. There is a fear that more rights for children means fewer rights for parents, reflecting the public’s impression of rights as a zero-sum game. The Irish people also have an emotional connection to the Irish Constitution. Urgent and compelling reasons must be provided to change the status quo, which is why we need an open, honest and positive debate. The Irish public are very sophisticated and will make up their mind based on the evidence. They deal with the issues and the facts and then vote.

Historically, Ireland has a weak position on the rights of children. Many people say Ireland, the State and the church has failed these children. For too long, the voices of our children have been silenced.

 

 

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:06

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Will Deputy Finian McGrath be clear in his support for the referendum? Will he come out early in favour of it, unlike the last referendum?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I have already met the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and she is well aware of my position. I also met a cross-party group and many children’s organisations. I will say “Yes” if it is sensible; otherwise, I will say “No” and I will always challenge something if I have concerns about it.

Urgent problems face children in this country. The State must respond in a proportionate manner when vulnerable children are at risk. The necessary resources are not being delivered. I understand the resource issue but we must be on the ball and positive where vulnerable children are at risk. Irish law continues to treat families with married parents differently to parents who are cohabiting or single. There are serious knock-on effects for children. There are gaps in the legal system and, because of legal loopholes, it is almost impossible to adopt children placed in State care if they were born to a married couple. Up to 2,000 children live in a state of limbo, unable to be adopted by their long-term foster parents. I will be supporting the legislation.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Limbo got the heave-ho in Vatican II.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  It is still around and still on the agenda. Regarding constitutional loopholes, the Constitution is virtually silent on the rights of the child outside the traditional family unit, which has a negative impact on the welfare of vulnerable children. I raise these issues because we need to discuss them today and because they are relevant to the broader debate on this issue. There are concrete solutions to deal with the problems that arise. As an Independent Member, I not only challenge but also put forward solutions, as I have mentioned.

The changes recommended in the Ryan report implementation plan must be made to ensure the litany of abuse visited on our children can never recur. After-supports for children leaving the care system must be provided. We must deal with this important issue. If children who leave the care system do not have supports, they will end up in more trouble and difficulties.

The visibility of children in the Constitution must be increased. Legislation must be put in place to standardise good practice in child protection work, and the Children First guidelines must be given legal force. I emphasise the need for good practice. I know from experience that there are excellent examples thereof. That said, we need to ensure excellent services are provided to all children. Some service providers on the front line claim there has been a change over the past ten or 15 years. I note from my experience of intellectual disabilities services that many young care workers are involved with IT, independent living and personal development, but they are also top of the class with regard to child protection and safety. Prosper Fingal service in Swords is excellent and there are other such services doing an excellent job.

The Government must offer leadership and commit to reforming the child protection and welfare systems. If it does so, it will get my support. If it drags his feet, it will be challenged.

Section 8 stipulates the board can determine the approved services to be provided from the following classes of services - mental health services relating to the care and treatment of a person suffering from a mental illness or a mental disorder, counselling services and psychological support services; and health and personal social services, including general practitioner, hospital treatment, pharmacy and nursing services and services to assist in the maintenance at home of a former resident who is sick or infirm. These provisions are important because we must provide supports for the 15,000 survivors. Section 8 also refers to educational services and housing support services, including for the adaptation or improvement of real property but not including financial aid for the purchase, mortgage or charge of real property.

On the issue of protecting children, we need a rights-based approach to monitoring child and youth well-being. Understanding the gap between child and youth policy development and implementation is required. We need to rethink the culture of youth justice in respect of research, rights and reflections on practice. We must consider supporting educational achievement in areas of social deprivation, supporting the mental health of children and youth in respect of prevention in mental health services, and securing youth civic engagement. There are many ideas to deal with this issue.

We must ensure that the former residents of institutions are afforded the maximum support in the services they receive from day to day. Society and the State owe them this because a grave injustice was done to them.

Section 14 deals with the functions of the chief executive. According to the explanatory memorandum, it provides:

[...] that the chief executive shall manage and control generally the administration of the Board and perform other functions determined by the Board; that the chief executive is accountable to the Board and may make proposals to the Board; shall provide such information to the Board as the Board require and also provides for the delegation by the chief executive of any of his or her functions to a staff member subject to the approval of the Board. Provision is included for the designation of a staff member, with their agreement, to perform the functions of the chief executive in the absence of the chief executive.

Section 15 deals with accountability. There ought to be clear accountability. Accountability of the chief executive to the Committee of Public Accounts is an important standard provision. Accountability may be routine for many but accountability to the Committee of Public Accounts on this issue is to ensure that any money spent will be spent in a sensible way.

The agenda must involve truth, justice, compassion and support, which are important.

I welcome section 19 on the annual report and information.

I welcome the debate. I urge all involved, regardless of political party or their independence, to be supportive. I urge Members to support the rights of children, the referendum and any proposals that will improve the rights of children.

Comment by pauline jackson on June 15, 2012 at 21:12

Well with the church and the state backing each other up things just wont change. The very very well paid jobs in the irish government are safe . as long as thay manage things in such a way that thay and thiers are doing well and that no matter what happens the church will keep thier power. none of them sound sincere. i think that between the two powers offering studies to aged people it is to keep thier jobs. a pension for the elderly survivers who worked should have been taken into consideration. . the industriel schools have been renamed reformatory schools but its not the same thing.we werent arrested for anything at all except destitution or being abandoned. we were found guilty by the courts. this is an important part of the same story. some were  babies in the arms of police women. some never saw thier siblings for the rest of thier lives. this distruction of lives is the worst kind of abuse as it touched all of us. and now others decide what we need as if we couldnt tell them ourselves. since mattie mc grath mentions christine buckley i suppose she will be on the board.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:14

Deputy Paul J. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I am sharing time with Deputies Fitzpatrick, Anne Ferris and Feighan.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak on this very important Bill. The Bill aims to provide for the establishment of a statutory fund to support the survivors of institutional child abuse. The Bill is necessitated by the long-standing failure of the State to take proper care of its most vulnerable citizens. For decades, the well-being of children deemed to require care was delegated to religious institutions. The statutory fund, which is the subject of the Bill, will be financed by the contributions from religious congregations. This fund is but one element of the State’s response to the litany of horrific abuses exposed in recent years. The first and most important element of the response is to put in place a structure to ensure best practice is followed in every setting where children are found to ensure their safety and well-being. Abuse survivors will agree with me that is the first step in any form of redress. I agree great strides have been made in that respect across State institutions in recent years, but a huge volume of work remains to be done.

The second step in achieving redress involves ascertaining the damage done, if the depth and extent of such damage can ever be properly assessed. To this end, over 14,000 awards have been made to abuse survivors.

The third element of address involves this Bill by way of taking care of the longer-term needs of the survivors. To this end, the statutory fund provided for in the Bill is only available to those who receive an award from the Residential Institutions Redress Board. However, unlike that board, the statutory fund will not make financial awards to former residents; instead, it will seek to provide approved services or grants to allow people to avail of such services.

Many Members on all sides of the House have received representations from former residents of residential institutions now located overseas. It is important that their voices be heard also. It is no wonder that many former residents of institutions left Ireland’s shores as soon as they possibly could given the treatment meted out unfairly to them at the hands of those in the Government appointed to look after them. Thus, it is especially important that such people be taken care of through services they will need in the coming years.

The making available of educational services to both former residents and their children was an important role of the Education Finance Board. Proper education can never take place in an environment full of fear. For people whose place of education was also the scene of their abuse, there could never be a love of education. Increasingly, a lack of education proves to be a barrier to well-paying jobs. It was imperative that the cycle of poverty was broken. Educating former residents and their children was a key tool in tackling a monstrous wrong. However, in creating the present fund, some survivors have expressed the belief that the fund available should be confined to former residents. Thus, it was decided that only former residents would be able to avail of the statutory fund. Disenchantment was expressed by some correspondents in regard to groups representing survivors of abuse. They cited a lack of accountability and a lack of a mandate for such groups. In 2011, the Department funded five groups representing survivors in Ireland and three in the United Kingdom. Last year, the Department of Education and Skills spent over €42,000 funding groups in Ireland and over €227,000 funding groups in the United Kingdom.

The wrong done to the children in question can never be righted. The fear, dread and foreboding of their childhoods can never be eroded. Their negative memories can never be replaced with positive ones, and the trust, so utterly shattered for them, can never be rebuilt. However, exposing the wrongs done to them in the State-run institutions or those run by religious orders appointed by the State was only ever a first step in telling the horrific stories. The longer-term care of the former residents is the focus of this Bill. The services offered through the statutory fund will prove invaluable to the 15,000 former residents of the Irish institutions, wherever in the world they may find themselves.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:19

2 o’clock

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick  I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill, which provides for a statutory fund to support the survivors of residential institution child abuse. This Bill establishes a residential institution statutory fund board, which will oversee applications for assistance and make arrangements for the provision of approved services or grants to former residents. The fund will be entirely financed by contributions from religious congregations. Those who receive an award from the Residential Institutions Redress Board will be eligible for the funds, as will those who receive equivalent court settlements.

The Bill also provides for the dissolution of the Education Finance Board and the transfer of its functions to the residential institutions statutory fund board. The fund will be entirely financed from the cash contributions of up to €110 million offered by the religious congregations who were party to the 2002 indemnity agreement. They agreed to further contributions following the publication of the Ryan report in 2009.

To date, contributions of over €21 million have been received from the congregations to the fund. The fund’s aim is to support the needs of survivors of the residential institution child abuse, as well as providing for a range of health, welfare and other services. The fund will not make financial awards but the statutory fund board will arrange for the provision of a range of approved services. The latter will include mental health, health and personal social services, GP and hospital treatment, nursing, education and housing supports for adapting or improving properties. Housing support services do not include financial aid to buy a property.

The board will comprise nine members appointed by the Minister and there will be an equitable gender balance in so far as that is practical. Four of the members will be former child residents of the institutions specified in the schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. Among the other five board members, the Minister must ensure that some have expertise in or knowledge of keeping financial accounts and disbursement of funds, management and administration of an organisation, and provision of approved services.

Section 32 provides for the dissolution of the Education Finance Board, while section 33 provides for the transfer of its functions, properties and employees to the new board. The board’s functions include: paying grants to former residents of the institutions and their relatives; assisting them to avail of educational services; providing information on education services, for which grants are payable; and determining and publishing criteria for the payment of such grants.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:27

Deputy Anne Ferris: Information on Anne Ferris  Zoom on Anne Ferris  While I welcome the opportunity to discuss this Bill, the history leading to it is one that I wish had never occurred. It is a history of abuse, which was systemic, endemic and covered up. Many thousands of men and women, who were boys and girls then, suffered at the hands of a church and State that clearly did not give a damn about their welfare.

They had a responsibility to them, a duty of care, which was often ignored or discharged corruptly. The church and State still have a responsibility to them, which is the reason for the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill. The Bill is welcome and offers a much needed fund to support the education, health, housing and welfare needs of survivors of residential child abuse.

The cost of responding to this abuse is now estimated to exceed €1.36 billion.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is €1.5 billion.

Deputy Anne Ferris: Information on Anne Ferris  Zoom on Anne Ferris  So it is even more. I certainly believe that this should be shared on a 50-50 basis between church and State. I was surprised by the outcome of the original indemnity deal negotiated in 2002. There is still some mystery as to why the church was limited to providing €128 million in cash and property, especially when it would seem that the Department of Finance had suggested otherwise.

The most important outcome of this Bill is that victims will receive any and all assistance that they need. It is incumbent on me to say, however, that those who were at fault should bear full responsibility for their actions. Certainly, the original indemnity deal could in no way contribute fully to this responsibility.

To this end, I support the Minister, Deputy Quinn’s calls for further substantial contributions as a way of making reparations that are sorely needed. The Minster has called for the school infrastructure that the congregations possess to be transferred to the State at no cost. I would endorse this call as a helpful approach as it would allow a further shouldering of the costs while permitting schools to operate under the ethos they choose.

It has been reported that 17 religious orders have an asset base of around €2.6 billion and therefore the feasibility of offering more to the overall fund is not beyond their means at all. The end result of this process must be that victims’ needs are adequately met. It is also important that mechanisms are put in place that will prevent something like this from recurring.

For that reason, I also welcome the Government’s commitment to place the Children First guidelines on a statutory basis. That measure, along with the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012, will also help in this regard.

There is something very wrong at the heart of a church, of which I am a member, that would allow this abuse to happen. It is clear from report after report that the violence suffered by children was horrific and was made worse by being covered up for so many years.

There is also something wrong on wider issues concerning many of the church’s teachings, its dogma and rhetoric. They appear to be sadly at odds with what the general public feeling. An interesting poll was taken on behalf of the Association of Catholic Priests, which showed that three quarters of the population believe the church’s teaching on sexuality has no relevance to them. The poll also demonstrated that a large majority thought priests ought to be allowed to marry, and that women priests should be ordained - God forbid.

The poll also showed strong disagreement with the church’s teaching on homosexuality. All of this demonstrates a wide disconnect with the people but I wonder, and worry, whether this is properly recognised.

I commend the survivors who bravely came forward to highlight the abuse they experienced. I would like to mention Christine Buckley in particular. I was a pupil at Goldenbridge and while I was lucky not to have experienced abuse, hearing the awful stories that came out of that institution really brought the issue of abuse home to me. It is very brave of her, and all the others who came forward, to bring light on a dark chapter of our history.

I am glad the Government is taking some of the necessary steps to do something about addressing past wrongs. There is still a way to go, however, and more work is required to ensure that some measure of justice is achieved for all those who have suffered.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:33

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  I welcome the Bill and thank the Minister, Deputy Quinn, for bringing it before the House. When the Ryan report was published it met with a huge outcry over how this could have happened. It happened because church and State acted in collusion to brush all these unfortunate incidents under the carpet. The church should never have been invited in to run our State, and the State should never have been tied hand-in-hand with the church. It had a corrosive effect on the State and on the Catholic church, of which I am a member. In the past ten or 15 years, both church and State have gone their own ways, which is beneficial for both. The church has moved towards a more liberal attitude in the past 15 or 20 years, and I welcome that.

The events the Bill seeks to deal with should never have happened, however. The State neglected some 15,000 people who were also neglected by the church which ran these facilities for the State. I know from those who attend my constituency clinics that they are angry and feel let down. Deputy Connaughton rightly pointed out that the minute they were able to leave these institutions they took the boat to get away from this country, which turned its back on them.

When the Ryan report was published, for once, we could not blame the British. This was of our own making. The situation was an Irish solution to an Irish problem. We called ourselves Christian and caring. We did not care for the vulnerable young people in these institutions. There were so many tiers in our society then, with people either belonging to a particular political party, group or the church. We must now ensure that everyone is equal and is given the same opportunities.

The €128 million deal agreed was not in the interests of this State. I believe the State got a very raw deal and that the church should come up with more funding. I believe it will do so. I am not here to criticise the church, which has done much good work down through the years. Unfortunately, however, there was no vetting procedure in place therein, which allowed people with no interest in Christianity to infiltrate its ranks and undermine young innocent children. We must now ensure that systems are put in place to ensure this does not happen again.

The fund must provide for counselling, mental health, education and housing services. I am glad that the Bill provides that further services can be prescribed because despite that everything has been done to contact those involved, there are still people living outside of this country who do not know to what they are entitled and who have not availed of these services. I welcome that it has been provided in the Bill that further services can be prescribed.

It is important we ensure that the fund is spent on front line services rather than on administration. I welcome the Bill. I believe the Ryan report was the line in the sand in terms of how this State deals with this abuse. We have grown up and are a lot more open. Unfortunately, however, the 15,000 people who endured this abuse are still angry, and rightly so.

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:40

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I commend the Minister and Government on bringing forward this Bill at this time. The Government has received much criticism in regard to the publication of Bills. However, I welcome that we are today discussing this long promised and badly needed legislation. While this issue has been the focus of many people, there are many who were shocked, alarmed and concerned about the findings of the Ryan report, which it has been mentioned cost €1.5 million. However, cost should not at this stage be a factor. No money will ever compensate for the horrible atrocities and barbarities perpetrated on those involved. Regardless of how slight the abuse, it should never have happened. Ireland was a different place at that time. It is easy to be wise after the event. However, I do not condone that abuse in any shape or form.

Deputy Finian McGrath spoke earlier about the people with intellectual disabilities who knew no better because of their profound difficulties. Those who were institutionalised in educational facilities at least knew, regardless of the type of education they were receiving, what was right and what was wrong. I, too, would welcome implementation of the Children First guidelines. I believe they will be a game-changer.

There has been much reference to previous efforts in terms of negotiations with the church, of which I will not be critical. The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill 2012 is being introduced in the context of over a decade of different State responses to the issues of abuse in residential institutions. It provides for the establishment of a fund to support the victims of abuse in residential institutions. The fund is to be financed by contributions agreed with the religious congregations, which is important. The policy aim of the fund, which will be administered by the residential institutions statutory fund board, is to support the education, health and welfare needs of survivors of residential child abuse. That is vital. We can never lose sight of that. I know that the Minister is keen to ensure we do not. As I stated earlier, money will do no good if it is not channelled in the right way.

I welcome also that people will be assessed so as to determine what service is appropriate to them, that these services will be approved services and that grants will be paid to former residents of this State so that they may avail of an approved service. We must be very careful and ensure these services are approved services, ones which will benefit the unfortunate victims and ensure the best value for the State. I am not being crude in terms of saying we must ensure best value for the State but it is important we do not only throw money at this problem, as has been done in the past. Through my office, I have been involved with at least ten people who suffered abuse. While they received some financial redress, it was no good to them. It simply went like snow off a ditch. They were given no meaningful counselling. We must ensure that this funding is channelled to the appropriate places and that appropriate training is provided.

As I stated earlier, people end up in many different situations. People in every walk of life change their minds. I was accused of doing so in this House this morning. However, I would like to draw the attention of the House to a particular situation in Clonmel, where some of the Rosminian Brothers were found guilty of some heinous crimes. The brothers also did much good.

The people of Clonmel are confused. A high profile gentleman - I will not mention any names - a former resident of a Rosminian institution and Mayor of Clonmel, once held a civic reception for the Rosminians. He also praised them at many public events in respect of the treatment he received in that institution. He gave them the highest accolade a town could give, in terms of giving them a civic reception, and was supported by the council in doing so. He stated time and again at a number of public events how good they were and how he would not have become an urban town councillor or Mayor but for the Rosminian Brothers in Ferryhouse. Everyone believed him and accepted that. We all know that the Rosminian Brothers have done great work. However, this man, who once attacked local media people for printing an article about charges being brought against some of the Rosminian Brothers, later had a change of mind - I accept everyone has the right to do so - and has now become one of the leading advocates on this issue. He has gained national notoriety on television - I understand he was on television last night - in this regard. It is bizarre that he has made a complete turnaround and is now attacking the same people to whom he, when Mayor of Clonmel, gave a civic reception on behalf of the town.

 

 

 

Comment by jack colleton on June 15, 2012 at 21:56

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I apologise for interrupting the Deputy, but I must inform him that regardless of whether he names a person, where such a person becomes clearly identifiable, it is dangerous to be making critical remarks against that person when he or she is not present to respond to them. The Deputy needs to be careful.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  Go raibh maith agat. I will try to be cúramach. Some of these people do outstanding work. Christine Buckley and others have been mentioned. It is bad enough that awful crimes were perpetrated but if any seeds of doubt are shown by these survivors and their organisations, and some of them have been very disappointed, it can throw a bad light on the situation so we must be careful because we cannot have this.

Survivors have come to my office to say they were very unhappy with what unfolded and how locally the money was channelled through a particular office. We must be careful. The heinous crimes committed were bad enough and we cannot have the State fund being abused. I am pleased that on this occasion it will be channelled through the Department of Education and Skills for counselling and other services required not only for the victims but also their families. I have to put on the record that people in Clonmel and South Tipperary are confused and I am also confused. People can change their minds but there is no room for double standards, a total change of heart or jumping on the bandwagon. This cannot be accepted. I know it is not by the vast majority but unfortunately I had to say what I did with regard to this case.

I commend the survivors like Christine Buckley who have been champions and brought these cases to the fore. They do great work and this work should not be diminished in any way. They have also done great work in encouraging other victims to come forward and tell their stories and gain what hope and future they can for themselves and use the support services to be provided by the fund. Other survivors have carried it silently for decades and will probably continue to do so. Many of them are abroad, which is sad. It is easy to be wise after the event and people live with this hell every hour of their lives.

I wish to mention a family very close to me whom I know well who provided foster care before it was popular and remunerated. They worked with approximately 28 different children, some with whom I socialise with now. They have been transformed. They came from the most awful cases and lived with this family who did tremendous work. I am dealing with the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, because not only did the family not get a shilling from the State for taking the children, one of whom did £25,000 worth of damage to the house in one night in a psychotic incident because of what had happened that child, they also cannot receive a pension because they have neither the credit nor the stamps. This case must be examined. The 28 human beings they cared for have gone on to get married and have led all types of lives. I could see the transformation in them. I did not know the background at the time but it is wonderful to think where they are now. I am sure there are many such families who also did not receive any payment because they did what they did out of human interest, kindness, compassion and a desire to help those less fortunate.

Children ended up in institutions for many reasons such as accidents, suicide, poverty or criminality. State-supported institutions contacted this family to take various children because it was known the family could deal with them in a particular specialised manner in a home setting and friendly therapeutic environment. I am not diminishing in any way the fund of €1.5 billion but some cognisance must be given to these families. I have spoken about one particular family but there are probably a number of others who gave of their time voluntarily and worked to make wonderful men and women of the people who now take part in life as near to normally as they can. They still need a little support after the traumatic events they went through. We cannot look at this coldly. We must be able to look after the families who cherished these people and gave them a life. I am not looking for anything magical, I am looking for recognition of the valuable time they spent. One cannot place a monetary value on it but some support should be in place for them.

I thank the members of religious orders, particularly those in education. A small number of politicians have damaged the reputation of people in the House. People across the board have been found guilty of awful activities and besmirched the good name of many and varied institutions, such as FÁS. The religious orders did outstanding work. At this point I am trying to support myself. I am on a voluntary board limited by guarantee to establish an adolescent drug treatment centre and we are negotiating with a religious institution on the use of the most spectacular building, which I often visited and in which I often had tea. We are trying to get a voluntary contribution from the State. This morning a situation in Sligo was discussed. I do not know anything about it but the Minister had to respond on it. Facilities exist and good work was done. I was involved with Sister Veronica in establishing the Aislinn project in Ballyragget and good work was done there. One could not get better people to head up an organisation than religious sisters or brothers because they have no other ties or demands and are normally well-educated. They are driven by the ideals of a religious background, compassion and humanity to work on such a project. We cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater and attack them all, because they have done tremendous work.

I remember the first time I saw the Artane Boys Band march at a match. They put on a great show at various all-Ireland finals. I am 53 years of age and little did any of us believe that what was happening behind those walls could have happened. One has a public image and a public face. We have a different Ireland now. It is easy to be wise in hindsight. We now have Garda vetting. I am involved in child care through a community group. I do not knock the Garda Síochána, but the vetting system is too cumbersome and slow. It is nothing like it used to be. Previously Garda vetting involved a phone call to the local garda who knew every family in the parish and 99% of the time the garda was right. Now in County Tipperary the service is centralised in Thurles and the gardaí do not have a clue who they are talking about. Often I wonder whether it is worth the paper it is written on. I am not being callous or cold, I am stating it is difficult to give a reference and we must be very careful it is fit for purpose. We cannot make these mistakes again.

We see cases all the time. Recently I was shocked to learn of a case in my home county. I could not believe it. I knew the person, and worked and socialised with him. It was shocking. I do not know what desires and bizarre thoughts are in the minds of those who commit these heinous crimes. People can be totally taken in and not even suspect. It is a very sad situation. It will always be with us so we must be mindful of it. However, we cannot attack the institutions because while awful things happened much good was done too. The education system in the country would be far poorer were it not for the excellent work and contributions of the sisters and brothers throughout the country. I have sat on boards with them. I have seen religious and lay schools amalgamated and the contribution made by the members of religious orders. I have sat on interview boards and done everything one can think of with religious people and their contribution has been immense. They feel hugely let down by the actions of a minority. We must always remember this and be conscious of it.

Now that they are being removed we can see the cost of providing education. It is unbearable and we cannot do it. Where would we have been as a fledging State but for their work and how they brought education to people through night classes? I do not knock the VECs which also did this. We are not talking about that today - we are talking about the situation in the education system, which we can never forget. I will never forget it and it cannot be said enough here. Too many people are too quick to denounce everything else that went on.

I ask the Minister to be very cautious when setting up the board. I know that he will rightly appoint four of the survivors. In light of my earlier remarks, he needs to be certain that the people he appoints are there for the right motives. While 99.9% of them are, I felt obliged to say what I said. I will not say much more, a Cheann Comhairle, because I do not want to identify people here. However, it does not sit easily with me or with many of my constituents that a certain individual may be portraying a double life.

The Bill has been well researched and documented. Money will be channelled to the places it should go. Since 2001 the Department of Education and Skills has spent €8 million to support the provision of information and referral services by support groups for former residents. As with many other areas in life, money can naturally get gobbled up in setting up groups. However, in the delivery of the service the victim cannot be sidelined in any way at any time. The victim is paramount and we must ensure that every cent spent goes into the proper services.

Case conferences about children or other people often involve 15 officials of different ranking sitting around a table. While many or all of them are there for good reasons and doing their best, it is impossible to do anything in such a situation. I have sat on boards with 15 or 20 people and it is impossible for a survivor to have to face such a stressful situation. Regardless of their present situation, they may have suffered over the long term. While they may have an advocate with them, nonetheless it is too bureaucratic with too many people involved. It should be kept slim and trim with the right people with the vision, passion and understanding, and it needs to be dealt with as sensitively as possible. We cannot have scope for the heavy hand of the State or any institution dealing insensitively. An inappropriate word or a syllable could be enough to frighten the person sitting across the table and make him or her feel bullied, threatened or intimidated. We must remember they have been through horrific attacks on their being and they have been nurtured to come out of it. Christine Buckley and others are doing great work in getting them out there.

We must be awfully careful that the money is channelled in the right way and that every cent is spent to restore them their dignity, humanity, individualism and their good name so that they can be helped to live the best life they can. We also need to try to reach out to those who have gone abroad and gone into hiding in some cases, which is the most difficult of all. I wish the Minister well and commend the Bill to the House.

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