Ireland to erect memorial to abused children

A national memorial will be erected in Ireland for tens of thousands of children who were abused over decades in church-run institutions, it was announced today.

Children’s Minister Barry Andrews said a national day of remembrance for survivors and those who died at the hands of sexual, emotional and physical torture is also being considered.

The proposal is one of 99 in the Government’s response to the findings of a 10-year official inquiry released in May into systemic abuse in orphanages, industrial and reformatory schools.

Despite the economic crisis, Mr Andrews insisted the Cabinet has rubber-stamped the €25m plan to deal with what he branded a dark passage of Irish history.

“The Minister for Finance has accepted this plan fully, therefore there is no objection whatsoever to the implementation of this plan and all the resources that go with it,” he said.

The plan also proposes:

:: Employing 270 more social workers over the next 18 months, effectively relaxing a public worker recruitment ban;

:: More counselling services be made available to cope with a surge in referrals since the publication of the Ryan Report into institutional child abuse two months ago;

:: All residential and foster homes not currently inspected to open their doors to Health Information and Quality Authority inspectors by next year;

:: A pilot scheme for a national out-of-hours crisis social work service run by the Health Service Executive. Mr Andrews said the Government has accepted all 20 recommendations in the Ryan Report and the implementation plan would act on them.

Some €500,000 has been earmarked for the national memorial, which is expected to be inscribed with the public state apology to victims read by then taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 1999.

A committee to be set up in September will consult with survivors’ groups to decide on the location and nature of the memorial.

Mr Andrews also announced the national protection guidelines Children First, which outline how to highlight concerns about a child, would be made legally-binding.

This could allow for clauses written into the employment contracts of all professionals working with children which would oblige them to contact authorities about concerns.

But the Children’s Minister stressed that mandatory reporting of all suspicions is not being considered.

International experience showed that way of operating clogged up the system with a lot of false alerts, he said.

A review last year showed the Children First guidelines were not being consistently implemented around the country.

Mr Andrews said cuts will have to be made elsewhere to make up some of the €25m funding needed to enforce the plan.

While a Government savings report recommendation to merge the Ombudsman for Children with other agencies would have to be considered, Mr Andrews insisted there was no question of getting rid of the office.

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