Industrial School Inmates claim Commission will vindicate most Religious Congregations
Let our Voices Emerge welcomes the imminent publication of the Ryan Report. This Report will give us a much better picture of the truth in industrial schools than the outcome of the seriously flawed Redress Board, which is set to cost the Irish taxpayer close to 1.5billion euro. As already had been well established by Judge Kauffman in Canada, after he inquired into a similar scheme – ‘when you put money on the table; truth goes out the window’.
Thankfully the era of industrial schools is well behind us. For many people it is remembered as a harsh difficult time – for others it is remembered with gratitude; it was not up to standard, but it was the best available. Irish Sisters all around the country gave their lives to childcare, they had little support, little money and staffing levels at roughly one twentieth of what we would have today for similar work. And now these people, as a group, have been wrongly vilified for doing their best. Yes mistakes were made, yes some sisters were not suited to the work but most tried extremely hard – and must now feel so let down by individuals and the system.
When we judge past systems and practices by today’s standards we all fail. We had corporal punishment in all schools and virtually all family homes in the industrial school era. And yet when corporal punishment was first mentioned in regard to industrial schools – it seemed as if we all went into contextual amnesia. Why don’t we just face up to the truth; virtually all children in Ireland got the odd a clip in the home and at school up to the 1970’s. And we hear about people not being educated to second level in the industrial schools?. Can we also find out what percentage of Irish children from the lower socio economic groups went to second level in the Ireland of the 40s and 50s – it was not just an industrial school issue.
In November 2003 a group of 130 former inmates of the Irish Industrial Schools banded together to form ‘Let Our Voices Emerge’ (L.O.V.E.), our aim being to highlight what we saw as the miscarriages of justice created by the Government sponsored Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) against those who cared for us in the schools. The present day definition of abuse applied retrospectively up to 60 years ago ensured all who worked in the schools could be termed ‘abusers’ and all who were cared for in the schools could claim abuse. The State funding of 15 shillings per week per child was grossly inadequate for food, clothing and the upkeep of the schools buildings.
We are now made up of carers as well as inmates, and maintain that the RIRB has caused inmates to accuse fellow inmates, some of whom had already suffered extreme abuse themselves. One of our members was proven in the High Courts to have been brutally abused in St Josephs in Kilkenny by a male childcare worker. Now this member is himself under allegation in the RIRB and states there’s no point in trying to defend himself – compensation will still be awarded. This pattern is repeated with many members. Our membership includes inmates in their 70’s, so we possess a broad range of knowledge and claim conditions in the schools when at their worst reflected the poverty in Irish society at the time.
On May 20th next, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse will publish its findings after an investigation lasting 10 years. We would like to point out that only 20% of the RIRB claimants came forward to give evidence in the Commission. The futility of the Commission inquiry running in tandem with the compensation scheme in the cause of justice is obvious.
We are confident that if Judge Ryan has taken the evidence as commensurate with the times, it will prove that the RIRB should never have been established in such generous terms. It has served Irish society, those in the Institutions, and the Religious orders poorly. We refer you to the report of Professor Kaufman in Canada and the House of Commons report in Britain when they went down a similar road. Both found the compensation system to be deeply flawed and a gross injustice to all concerned.
We now state for the record that we are confident the Commission will find the Religious performed far better than the public have been led to believe by some of our more publicly vocal inmates. Why did only 20% of the RIRB claimants offer evidence against their so-called abusers? The Commission is after all, the official investigation, and its judgement vital for all concerned.
Florence Horsman Hogan: Chairperson (L.O.V.E.)
15 May, 2009
Let Our Voices Emerge (L.O.V.E.)