The Shame of Ireland
Saturday April 07 2012
I WELCOME the Bill to set up the statutory fund that will enable former residents of Irish institutions run by the Religious Orders to obtain the emotional, welfare and counselling support they continue to need as a consequence of childhood experiences.
I believe Minister Ruairi Quinn has made a very genuine attempt to secure a way forward that meets the ongoing needs of survivors.
I hope earnestly that he will appoint an independent chairperson, who will have sound knowledge and understanding of the complex needs of survivors and above all else a person who will have compassion. I am very pleased with the proposal to include representatives of survivors on the trust board.
I know the aim of the trust fund is to have a very simple administrative process.
But the needs of survivors are not simple, they are complex and the hurt and pain persists and probably will until they die.
It has, of course, affected families and their suffering has impacted on the lives of their children and their extended families.
It is really important that this is understood.
The utmost care and sensitivity is needed if the new trust fund is to succeed.
We know that a third of all survivors alive today live in the UK. Many continue into old age living out isolated and difficult lives. When they fled Ireland, they went to live some distance from Irish support and welfare organisations.
They will tell you they did not want anything to do with Ireland. As a result, they had no knowledge of their right to apply to the Redress Board, others were too ill to apply and others simply felt unable to open up that period of their lives again.
We are not talking significant numbers of people, very few in fact, nevertheless it is about them that I have real concerns.
I am disappointed about the recommendation not to include survivors who failed to apply to the Redress Board in the new Bill. They will not be entitled to make an application to the new Trust Fund.
Arguments have been put forward that this must be a simplified administrative process with some serious consideration of costs.
I have total sympathy with this view. The principal beneficiaries of the Redress Scheme were lawyers and not survivors. I understand why the minister wants to avoid this happening again.
However, excluding a small number who are so vulnerable is not the solution.
The people who will end up being excluded are amongst the most vulnerable of the survivors population.
Their failure to apply in time to the Redress Board is part of that vulnerability.
They can hardly advocate for themselves and they will continue to need support for the remainder of their lives. Whether they are excluded or not, in the end we will not abandon them.
I hope as the Bill makes its passage through the Dail, the issue of these proposed exclusions is resolved, otherwise it will detract from what is otherwise a very good Bill that offers a sensible and sensitive way forward.
• Dublin-born Sally Mulready, a prominent emigrant rights activist in Britain, was recently appointed to the Council of State by President Michael D Higgins. She spent her early life in a mother and baby home, an orphanage and, later, an industrial school in Dublin. She moved to Britain in the 1970s. She is a Labour councillor in Hackney, London.
- Sally Mulready