It will be one year on 20 May since Mr Justice Sean Ryan published his long-awaited Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Report. Time then to reflect and see what has happened to survivors and victims from that time onwards.
On the evening that the report was published, 1,732 people accessed the Alliance Victim Support Group's website. The resulting emails and telephone calls were such as to have all four family members involved on a rota basis for over four days.
The report was more shocking than was expected. Missing was the major part played by the judiciary, and no mention was made of those many children who were transferred from the various institutions to asylums and forgotten by both state and religious. But for those of us who had spent so long in institutions many questions were answered. I read about St Joseph's Industrial School, Glin, Co Limerick (where I had spent eight years from 1954 to 1962), on the train from Dublin to Belfast and was appalled by the revelations.
Over the past year we have seen the government's limited attempt at addressing the issues in the report. It has not always been successful because it is attempting to impose solutions on survivors rather than properly listening to them before making decisions. The religious too have abdicated their responsibilities towards the very vulnerable people still seeking their support. It is not enough that they claim to have offered the government large amounts of money and real estate to close the gap on their original agreement as outlined in the indemnity agreement. They must support, in a meaningful way those that they were, and continue to be, responsible for in earlier years.
The government has failed to properly support those of us involved in victim support by limiting allocated funds to groups. We must not allow a dependency culture to develop which stifles individual actions and development by closing those so-called education and healing centres that after 10 years have not produced the desired results. Counselling too has failed and we must look to other remedies such as holistic therapies for more meaningful solutions.
While education was often seen as the key to development through which many former residents could pass, the results show that only 17% have taken this up, mainly because of the ages of people who are now into their 70s and 80s. The Alliance Victim Support Group will continue to work with the Catholic church through the various diocesan bishops with the continuing help and support of Cardinal Sean Brady. We will continue to hold the government and the religious congregations to account for all welfare issues for former residents while trying to empower victims to integrate fully into society.
If we are to bring closure for these vulnerable people then we must satisfy their limited needs in every way we can while ensuring that responsibility remains with those who failed them in earlier years, mainly the state and the religious congregations.
Secretary, Alliance Victim Support Group,