The Government May hold the Lock, but Survivors Hold the Key! I have my Statement!

We have a culture of not listening to abuse survivors

The Ryan report, published 10 years ago this month, was based on the testimony of over 1,000 people who told the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse about their suffering as children in Irish institutions. To speak out, after decades of being silenced, was a courageous act.

As survivors spoke to the commissioners of their experiences, they did not know what the outcome would be, they had to trust that their words would be listened to, they had to hope that this time they would be believed.

Perhaps this is the report’s greatest achievement: the validation and authentication of the testimony of a social group who had been marginalised for so long.

Given their bravery, it seems unconscionable that individuals are now blocked from accessing their own witness statements

The process of giving testimony is often fraught, and the commission process was not an exception.

While the confidential committee held private meetings to hear and record survivor testimony, in contrast the investigation committee convened adversarial proceedings, during which survivors were cross-examined.

Extreme stress

Unsurprisingly, survivors reported extreme stress and negative impacts following giving testimony to the committee of investigation.

These effects were compounded by the process for participation in the Redress Board, which required survivors to sign a confidentiality agreement to receive financial compensation.

The negative psychological effects of this illustrate the significant cost to the survivor of acting as a witness. That this group of people continued despite this difficulty, demonstrating a bravery and resilience beyond many of us, shows not only their determination to be heard, but their generosity in speaking out so that we might all know the truth of our national history.

The Retention of Records Bill, proposed legislation to seal the records of the commission for an unprecedented 75 years, has been deplored by many survivors. Given their bravery, it seems unconscionable that individuals are now blocked from accessing their own witness statements.

Seal the testimony

Moreover, though significant lessons remain to be learned from both victim and perpetrator testimony, we will have to wait for that full knowledge beyond our lifetimes. The decision to seal the testimony is, obviously, a complex one.

Many survivors do not wish their statements to become public. Many survivors have died and cannot grant retrospective permission. In those cases, it is clear that testimony should remain private.

But the blanket application of a 75-year seal is highly detrimental, to both survivors as a group and, more generally, to national history. As Catriona Crowe (head of special projects at the National Archives of Ireland) has asked: “What other sets of records exist to which the State would prefer its citizens not to have access?”

It has been my privilege to meet many survivors over the past few years and, most recently, to record some of their memories as part of the UCD survivors’ stories project (funded by the Irish Research Council).

We began this project, in collaboration with the Christine Buckley Education and Support Centre, and the National Folklore Collection to record and preserve some of this important history and to mark the anniversaries of the report’s publication, and the first apology to survivors in 1999.

In setting out to include survivors’ voices in the National Folklore Collection, Dr Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh and I simply wanted to address the gap in the national records. We did not anticipate what a profound experience it would be.

Terrible experiences

The people who chose to share their testimony with us told us of terrible experiences of loneliness, neglect, and dehumanising abuse. Yet their humanity shone through despite this personal history.

Some had positive memories of friends, family or staff who had helped them. Some were still angry; some had forgiven those who hurt them. All of them gave witness because we asked them to.

We talk so often in Ireland about a “culture of silence” around abuse. This suggests that those who have been abused are not speaking out, not giving testimony. It is time to recognise that we don’t have a culture of silence, we have a culture of not listening.

In reality, survivors are continually breaking the silence, continually taking on the labour of explaining their abuse to an audience, continually acting bravely. The failure is not theirs, but ours.

Granting access to testimonial records should be the first step in accepting survivors’ experiences as part of our national cultural inheritance. The next step – more meaningful still – would be to include institutional history on the curriculum for second level students.

That would represent a way of not only listening, but witnessing, this important part of our history.

Dr Emilie Pine is associate professor at the school of English, drama and film, UCD. Survivors’ Stories is part of the Industrial Memories project at UCD, funded by the Irish Research Council

The only thing the Catholic Church is Sorry about is that the paedophile Brendan Smyth was found caught out!

This is a knife in the heart’ – shock at church tribute on anniversary of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

The parish priest for a Co Down Catholic Church which recognised the anniversary of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth has said he has no idea how the tribute found its way into a memorial book and pledged it would be removed immediately.

The daily listings at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Newcastle included ‘Fr Brendan Smyth 1997’ for August 22 – the same date the evil cleric died in prison.

When the Belfast Telegraph alerted Fr Jim Crudden yesterday, he said: “I don’t know how that’s got into there so I’ll just check that now and take it out.”

He said that after removing it, he would look into how it found its way there.

He added: “I just didn’t see that in there, I don’t check that book. That shouldn’t have happened.”

Campaigner Jon McCourt from Survivors North West called it a “knife in the heart” for victims of Smyth and other abusers.

He said: “I think it’s disgusting. I mean, good God, how insensitive do they have to get? It’s the best way I can put it, insensitive is like a very mild word.

“He (Smyth) should have been defrocked, his title should have been taken away from him. They actual buried him with ‘Father’ on his gravestone and they covered it with concrete to make sure nobody could get at it.

“That guy should have been literally written out altogether and to think that they are memorialising him in that way in the Church – look, okay, lost souls deserve prayers, but I think there’s a special exemption that should be given to people like Brendan Smyth.

“I knew some of his victims and the lives that have been destroyed as a result of what he was involved in. They’ll never be repaired.

This is not a slap in the face, this is a punch in the mouth and a knife in the heart of surviving victims and survivors.

“In absolutely no way should the Church be giving any kind of special status or any kind of tribute – if you’re going to give a tribute or status to anybody it should be the victims of Brendan Smyth.

“If the Catholic Church was to recognise the trauma and the hurt of victims and survivors of historical abuse in the same way that they’re recognising the anniversary of Brendan Smyth maybe we could somewhere. This is just compounding hurt upon hurt.”

The DUP’s Jim Wells, MLA for the area, said: “Mention the name Brendan Smyth and everybody’s stomach churns in south Down. He was perhaps the most notorious paedophile priest ever, certainly in Northern Ireland.

“His activities are stomach churning and the famous picture taken of him being led into court and even the very face is one that is chiselled with evil, it’s a picture that no one will ever forget.

“I’m hoping this is an oversight and I welcome the fact that the parish priests says it’s going to be removed and I hope that somebody will check to make certain that has happened because nobody in Newcastle or south Down wants to commemorate Brendan Smyth.

“The pain and anguish that he wrought on the community is absolutely horrendous and we’ll never know the true extent of it, but even that which is revealed in the court was a litany of the most sadistic and evil child abuse imaginable.”

The MP for the area – Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard who was reported last year to be holding clinic in the church’s parish hall – was also contacted for comment but his party’s Press office did not take up the opportunity.

Smyth, a serial child abuser, is widely viewed as one of the most heinous examples of a paedophile priest.

The infamous image of him leering into a camera lens as he prepared to face justice for his crimes compounded his notoriety and public contempt for his evil deeds.

Belfast-born Smyth was eventually convicted of dozens of offences against children over a 40-year period, and the scandal of his sickening acts rocked the Catholic Church across the island of Ireland.

Despite allegations being previously investigated by Church officials, including former Irish primate Sean Brady, as far back as 1975, it was almost 20 years before he was jailed.

Cardinal Brady found himself under pressure in 2010 after confirming he was at meetings when two alleged victims of a paedophile priest signed an oath of silence. Instead of taking action against Smyth, a member of the Norbertine order, the Church moved him between parishes, dioceses and even countries where he preyed on victims who were as young as eight.

As a priest in the Falls Road area of Belfast, he targeted four children from the same family. It was their courage in reporting the abuse to the police that led to his first conviction.

In 1991 he was arrested and released on bail, before spending the next three years out of the reach of police in Northern Ireland by hiding out at his order’s Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan in the Republic.

His case led to the collapse of the Republic’s Labour/Fianna Fail coalition government when it emerged there had been serious delays in his extradition to Northern Ireland in 1994.

When the priest finally appeared before a Belfast court, he was convicted of 43 charges of sexually assaulting children in Northern Ireland and was sentenced to four years in prison.

He was later found guilty of another 26 charges and given a three-year sentence to run concurrently. Upon his release from prison, Smyth was immediately arrested and extradited to the Republic.

In 1997, the convicted paedophile again appeared before a judge – this time in Dublin – where he admitted to 74 charges of child sexual abuse over a 35-year period. He had assaulted children in a hotel, a cinema, a convent and other venues across nine different counties.

Smyth – born John Gerard before changing his name to Brendan – died of a heart attack in prison in August 1997, just a month into his 12-year prison sent

€100m for Higher Education, but nothing for Survivors of Ireland’s Industrial schools?

No €100m for Survivors of Ireland’s Industrial schools.

What about the education that was denied to survivors? We didn’t even get a basic education, a beaten yes, but education no.

We feel that we are only worthless scum, our lost lives mean nothing, our struggling misery of a future means nothing, our children mean nothing, we are only dirt on the government shoes.


The State has approved €100m for five large higher education building projects.

The funding is part of ongoing investment in the sector through Project Ireland 2040 and a fund known as the Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund (HESIF).

The Department of Education said the funding has been approved “in principle” to help support up to 14,000 new places for students in higher education institutions.

Maynooth University has been approved €25m for a new Technology Society & Innovation Building. 

IT Sligo will get €6.6m for its Central Campus Project. 

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the awards would significantly enhance the capacity of the sector in advancing Ireland’s national and regional ambitions.

Mr McHugh said a key objective of the Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund was to encourage non-Exchequer investment in the sector, with the five projects in this round also expected to leverage more than €400m in non-Exchequer co-funding.

Between 2017 and 2030, the number of full-time students enrolled in higher education is projected to increase by more than 38,000 to a total of more than 222,000.

The Department of Education said the five projects were selected following a detailed application and assessment process and based on the capacity of the projects to deliver on the objectives of the Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund.

The objectives of the fund include the provision of additional student places consistent with current projections.

The department said the projects selected are at different stages of development and, in most cases, significant planning and design work is still required to bring the projects to tender stage.

The projects will be subject to ongoing economic and financial appraisal, and a further approval will be required by the Higher Education Authority before a project proceeds to tender.

State approves €100m for education building projects

Question for Irish Government!

Who gave the Irish Government permission or authority to sign the 2002 indemnity deal with 18 religious congregations, Under the deal the congregations paid €128 million in return for a State indemnity against all future actions by people who, as children, had been in institutions run by them?

I wasn’t consulted with by anyone regarding the signing of 2002 indemnity deal? The government acted outside of all survivors knowledge, permission and authority.

indemnity deal was ‘a blank cheque’, says Michael McDowell

Religious congregations indemnity deal was ‘a blank cheque’, says Michael McDowell

The State “effectively signed a blank cheque” in agreeing the controversial 2002 indemnity deal with 18 religious congregations, the then attorney general Michael McDowell has said.

Under the deal the congregations paid €128 million in return for a State indemnity against all future actions by people who, as children, had been in institutions run by them.

Compensation so far has cost the State more than €1.4 billion.

In a new RTÉ documentary, Rome v Republic, to be broadcast next week, Mr McDowell says he and senior ministers were kept out of the negotiations.

In the same documentary former president Mary McAleese recalls how senior clerics in Rome had said to her that “the devil works through children” abused by priests. It was “a preposterous thing to say,” she comments.

Presented by Mr McDowell, and tracing the history of the Catholic Church in Ireland from the late 18th century to the present, Rome v Republic will air next Thursday.

Describing the deal agreed during the “dying days” of the 2002 Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats administration, Mr McDowell said then minister for education Michael Woods effectively capped the liability of the religious orders.

“The simple fact of the matter is that the result was that the State effectively signed a blank cheque which cost us €1.4 billion in the end, in exchange for a promise of a contribution of €128 million from the religious orders,” he says.

Redress board

In October 2001, Dr Woods announced the setting up of the redress board to compensate people who had been in the institutions.

Lengthy and difficult negotiations took place with the 18 congregations that had run the orphanages, reformatories and industrial schools concerned, concluding in January 2002 with the € 128 million indemnity offer.

The church “wilfully turned its back on the laws of the land” when faced with the child sex abuse scandal, preferring “to use its own secretive canon law precepts instead”.

“This was something I discovered during my own time in government,” Mr McDowell says, adding: “No church is entitled to say to the Irish State: ‘Our law is superior to your law.’” He will appear on tonight’s Late Late Show.

In the documentary, Mr McDowell recalls how he lost confidence in the authority of the Catholic Church in 1968 after the publication of the Humanae Vitae encyclical which copperfastened the church’s ban on artificial contraception. He was a pupil at Gonzaga Jesuit College at the time and well informed on religious matters.

Mr McDowell remembers learning of it at a FCA training camp in Duncannon in Co Wexford. He heard the news while “queuing at a chipper, on a transistor radio. That day in my mind the whole authority of the Catholic Church disappeared in an instant.”

Meanwhile, former President Mary McAleese says the then Vatican secretary of state Angelo Sodano was attempting in 2003 to secure an agreement with Ireland that it would not access church documents.

During a State visit by her to Italy, he raised the matter of reaching a concordat with Ireland. “I asked him why and it was very clear it was because he wanted to protect Vatican and diocesan archives. I have to say that I immediately said the conversation had to stop,” Ms McAleese says.

Saying that she was “really quite shattered, that this was the number two [after the pope] in the church I belonged to”, Ms McAleese says: “There was nothing about him that was holy. There was nothing about him that was godly.

There was nothing about him that was admirable. Everything about him I found horrifying.”

Dr Woods, who retired from politics in 2011, has frequently defended the 2002 deal, saying it was the best that could be done, since the majority of abuse cases were not the responsibility of the State alone.

“That was the right decision for the people of Ireland . . . here were people dying who were quite elderly and they had had a very bad time,” said Mr Woods, in a 2011 interview.

Religious congregations yet to meet redress commitments made in 2002 and 2009

So far, the 18 religious congregations who ran the orphanages, reformatories and industrial schools have yet to fully fulfil the terms of the 2002 indemnity deal and of later offers they made to the State.

Of the €128 million they agreed to pay at the time, €4.21 million (3 per cent) is still outstanding. Negotiations over the handover of remaining properties is continuing.

More significantly, following publication of the Ryan report in May 2009, all 18 congregations were called in by the government of the day and asked to increase their contributions to redress costs.

It followed a recommendation by Mr Justice Seán Ryan in his report that the congregations pay half the costs of redress, with the taxpayer paying the rest.

Combined, the congregations offered a further €352.61 million, of which €103.17 has been paid over (in cash and property), or 29 per cent. Negotiations are continuing over the transfer of ownership of nine properties.

The redress scheme has cost the taxpayer €1.5 billion with 15,579 people, who had been in institutions managed by the 18 congregations as children, receiving awards which averaged €62,250 each.

57 victims of abuse take own lives in five years.

AT least 57 survivors of residential institutions have taken their lives in the past five years.

That’s according to a survivors’ group which is to press for enhanced counselling services for people dealing with the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

A man who apparently threw himself into the Liffey in Dublin last week is believed to have been the latest survivor of the industrial school system to take their own life.

A state-funded organisation set up to help and support survivors of institutional abuse, said there had been 76 suicides since 1999 and at least 57 in the past five years.

Describing the figures as “shocking”, he said that the organisation would be raising the issue during a meeting with the Redress Board on Friday. “We feel that the line of questioning might be a bit harsh on certain people and maybe it has an affect on them,” he added.

Our organisation had documented 19 suicides by adults who had been in residential care.

However, groups representing survivors say there has been a surge in the number of deaths in the past five years and point to the “cumulative affect” of possible childhood trauma and pressures later in life.

Some working in the area also have concerns about the personal pressures which many very vulnerable survivors feel in relation to the compensation they receive, or hope to receive, through the Redress Board.

The average size of awards being paid to victims is currently ?78,000 and the Redress Board anticipates it will receive between 7,500 and 8,000 claims when the three-year period for applications to the scheme closes on December 15.

Anthony ‘Mousey’ Delaney, a former resident of St Joseph’s Industrial School in Letterfrack, Co Galway, is believed to have taken his own life last Tuesday by throwing himself into the Liffey.

Mr Delaney had visited a drop-in centre run by the National Office for Victims of Abuse (NOVA) that day.

Legislation prevents the Redress Board from commenting on individual cases. However, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said counselling services were available for survivors through the state-funded NOVA.