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Ó Caoláin welcomes Institutional Child Abuse Bill 2009

7 July, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the Institutional Child Abuse Bill 2009 as a ‘logical and necessary follow-up to the Ryan Report’ and called for all the recommendations of the report to be implemented. Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Government needs to go further than the Ryan report and address the need for truth and justice and recompense for those abused in institutions, both residential and non-residential.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “The measures in this Bill are a logical and necessary follow-up to the Ryan Report. The Bill addresses a range of outstanding issues that were crystallized by the Ryan Report and that have been clearly articulated by the survivors of institutional child abuse both before and after that publication. These measures are essential if justice is to be done for those so cruelly wronged by the State and by the Church.

“All the recommendations of the Ryan Report should be implemented. They focus on alleviating the effects of abuse on those who suffered in the past and preventing abuse of children in care today and tomorrow.

“As I said during the Dáil debate on the Ryan Report, the Government needs to go further. It must address the need for truth and justice and recompense for those abused in institutions, both residential and non-residential, not covered by the Ryan Report. This Bill attempts to do just that.

“Justice must be done for former residents of Finglas Children’s Centre, Scoil Ard Mhuire in Lusk, Trinity House, Trudder House and Madonna House. I would also include the Magdalen laundries and institutions established after 1970. In the case of Trudder House, where many Traveller children were abused, there was one successful criminal prosecution. In the case of Madonna House, there was one prosecution and an inadequate investigation but no proper support for the victims. No survivor or victim should be left behind or left out in the cold as Marie Therese O’Loughlin was for many months outside the gates of this House.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s contribution follows:
(Check against delivery)

I very much welcome this Bill and commend the Labour Party for framing it and introducing here in their Private Members Time.

The measures in this Bill are a logical and necessary follow-up to the Ryan Report. The Bill addresses a range of outstanding issues that were crystallized by the Ryan Report and that have been clearly articulated by the survivors of institutional child abuse both before and after that publication. These measures are essential if justice is to be done for those so cruelly wronged by the State and by the Church.

All the recommendations of the Ryan Report should be implemented. They focus on alleviating the effects of abuse on those who suffered in the past and preventing abuse of children in care today and tomorrow.

As I said during the Dáil debate on the Ryan Report, the Government needs to go further. It must address the need for truth and justice and recompense for those abused in institutions, both residential and non-residential, not covered by the Ryan Report. This Bill attempts to do just that.

Justice must be done for former residents of Finglas Children’s Centre, Scoil Ard Mhuire in Lusk, Trinity House, Trudder House and Madonna House. I would also include the Magdalen laundries and institutions established after 1970. In the case of Trudder House, where many Traveller children were abused, there was one successful criminal prosecution. In the case of Madonna House, there was one prosecution and an inadequate investigation but no proper support for the victims. No survivor or victim should be left behind or left out in the cold as Marie Therese O’Loughlin was for many months outside the gates of this House.

We should also acknowledge that abuse in institutions run by religious bodies was not confined to the Catholic Church. Derek Leinster has highlighted the abuses he and others suffered in Bethany House, Rathgar, which was run by the Church of Ireland.

As I mentioned during the Ryan Report debate, a former civil servant, Loretta Byrne, who worked in the Department of Education tried to blow the whistle on abuse in the Finglas Children’s Centre but was ignored. She states that she brought these concerns to the attention of at least three prominent members of the Dáil but nothing effective was done. These are very serious allegations that need to be rigorously investigated.

I want to welcome in particular Section 1 part (f) of the Bill which would lift the gagging clause contained in the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. This attempts to prevent those whose cases have been before the Redress Board from speaking publicly about their experiences.

It is deeply ironic that legislation that is supposed to aid the survivors and to make recompense to them should prevent them from speaking out. Telling their story is a very important part of recovery for these survivors. For some that may involve writing accounts of their experience, creative writing, film documentaries or other creative work. The attempt to gag these survivors should be abandoned now and the offending section should be deleted as proposed in this Bill.

The stigma of criminalisation has followed many of the survivors throughout their lives. All trace of this stigma and all doubt in respect of the law needs to be removed and therefore the Government should also accept Section 1 (g) of this Bill which wipes the slate clean and also prevents discrimination against people on the basis of having been in an institution.

Another major element of the Bill relates to the records of the Redress Board and the need for their preservation. This is hugely important and is in line with the resolution adopted unanimously by the Dáil in response to the Ryan Report.

The Bill seeks to ensure that any amendments to the indemnity deal between the Government and the 18 religious orders are subject to approval by the Houses of the Oireachtas. This is essential given the underhand way the original indemnity deal was done.

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that children in the care of the State and children denied care because of State neglect continue to be at risk today. Everyone here should read the minutes of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health & Children of 30 June which heard from the Children’s Ombudsman and from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan expressed concern that hundreds of children continue to be at risk of abuse due to the lack of independent inspections of residential centres and hostels which house vulnerable young people. She pointed out that the majority of almost 130 separated children seeking asylum stay in private hostels which are not subject to independent monitoring. These children do not have access to an independent guardian, and many separated children did not have regular access to a social worker directly allocated to them.

There are still hundreds of children with intellectual disabilities in residential centres that are not subject to any standards or inspections.

I raised at that meeting the deaths of at least 20 children in care during the past decade, deaths which are now the subject of an internal HSE inquiry. The Children’s Ombudsman has called for a child death review mechanism and I fully support that.

The Government must also implement the first recommendation of the Monageer Report and establish a 24/7 social work service. Nothing less is acceptable or safe.

In conclusion I urge the Government not to oppose the passage of the Second Stage of this Bill. Let it go to Committee Stage and let the Government debate it in detail.

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