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Redress scheme needs time extension – Crowe

15 July, 2011 - by Seán Crowe TD

Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe last week opposed a Government Bill that went before the Dáil, which prevents victims of abuse from applying to the Residential Institutions Redress Board from the 16th of September onwards.

Deputy Crowe said:

“Sinn Féin opposed this Bill on the grounds that there are still many people who live with the lasting legacy of mental, physical and sexual abuse suffered as a result of their time in state run institutions. Of course the Redress Board was about much more than receiving compensation. It was supposed to be primarily motivated by compassion and concern for those who were abused while under the care of the State and was a public expression and recognition to victims.

“This Government’s Bill that will bar victims applying for compensation under the Redress Scheme came before the Dáil just days after the publication of the Cloyne Report into the clerical abuse of children.

“Despite the flaws within the Redress Scheme, the Government, from the 16th September will prevent victims from pursuing this route in their quest for justice.

“It took 10 years to produce the Ryan Report yet by contrast, the survivors of abuse have been given a much shorter time period in which to make an application to the Redress Board. I have serious concerns with how the closure of the Redress Scheme will now be advertised. The Bill proposes to inform victims of its closure in just a handful of Irish and British based papers.

“This measure fails to take into account the wider Irish diaspora spread across the Globe and who may well be unaware that they still have the right even at this late stage to apply to the Scheme.

“To close the Redress Board to victims of abuse at this time is wrong and in our amendments we sought its extension to 2013 in order to give them a longer time frame and the emotional space to come forward.

“Survivors of Bethany Home have been excluded from the Redress Scheme and it represents another abandonment of the State’s duty of care to the many women and children in institutions that have been left out of the scheme. It is a reminder of a time when the State regulated sectarian segregation rather than providing adequate healthcare provision in places that were supposed to be safe havens for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“In 1939 the State’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer ignored the advice of a departmental inspector who wanted a Bethany nurse prosecuted for severe neglect. Not only did the Medical Officer brush off the high rate of infant mortality with a shamefully ignorant view that ‘it was a well-known fact illegitimate children are delicate’, he then went on to declare that Bethany’s problem was that it was converting Catholics to Protestantism and on that basis on his final visit to the home it was agreed that Catholics would no longer be admitted to the home.

“The price paid by the children the State failed to protect during this time is heart-breaking. The graves of 219 children who died there between 1922 and 1949 were found in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin last year. Fifty-four of those children died from convulsions, while a further 41 died from heart failure and 25 from malnutrition.

“Governments have chosen to ignore the plight of these victims, as they have done with the women who survived the Magdalene institutions and whose suffering has also yet to be acknowledged through some form of recompense and apology. Survivors of Magdalene Laundries need a separate redress mechanism.

“There is a huge responsibility on the State, as representatives and guardians of the interests of the citizens of Ireland, to ensure that victims of institutional abuse be given every opportunity to seek meaningful restitution. The fear is that the winding up of the Redress Scheme will prevent this from happening. This was another missed opportunity by this Government to extend the closing date of applications to 2013 which would have given more victims time to come forward and have their grievances recognised.” ENDS

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