Survivors of abuse at Christian Brother schools have accused organisers of a Christian Brothers commemoration event this weekend of attempting to muzzle them by not allowing them to speak.
Former President Mary McAleese and Sen Martin McAleese are set to join past pupils of Christian Brothers schools at an event at Dublin’s Convention Centre today to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Edmund Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers.
Survivors of child abuse at Christian Brother schools were invited.
Tonight’s event is part of a year-long initiative to raise funds for international work being carried out in the spirit of Edmund Rice.
Keynote speakers on the night will be Mrs McAleese, president of St Patrick’s College and John Hope prize-winning academic Dr Dáire Keogh, and social affairs activist and author Fr Peter McVerry.
Despite requests, Christopher Heaphy, the chairman of Voices of The Existing Survivors, will not be permitted to speak at the event.
“Unless Irish society is prepared to listen to us there never will be closure,” said Mr Heaphy.
“We can be preached to from the pulpits and talked down to by the ‘great and good’ but we need to be invited to speak for ourselves.”
“After over 50 years of silence we are quite capable of speaking about our own personal experiences. A ‘wall of silence’ built by Church and religious to hide behind, will founder. Maybe then God’s light and love will find a place in their hearts and we will be listened to.
“Our only sin was pov-erty, needing alleviation not exploitation. But exploitation is what we got in the schools delivered under a tsunami of brutality designed to dehumanise and traumatise, and which shell-shocked us into a condition where many were incapable of developing into loving, talented, and caring people we were meant to be”.
Mr Heaphy and his two brothers were kept at Greenmount Industrial School in Cork, which was run by the Presentation Brothers.
Eight chapters of the Ryan Report are devoted to the Christian Brothers as it was the largest provider of residential care for boys in the State. The order was found guilty of “excessive and pervasive” physical punishment of boys and at Artane in Dublin, there was a “chronic” problem of sexual abuse.
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