Divisions among survivor groups over abuse memorial

SURVIVOR groups are divided over plans to move ahead with a €500,000 memorial to commemorate those who were abused as children in residential institutions.

A committee set up by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe in October to oversee the memorial has issued a call for suggestions on where it should be erected and on its design. The project was recommended by the report last May of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse chaired by Mr Justice Sean Ryan, and is to include an inscription of then taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s 1999 apology on behalf of the state to the victims of abuse in residential institutions. Christine Buckley, co-director of the Aislinn Education and Support Centre, said the memorial would send a clear message about how horrendous the abuse was that took place in more than 200 institutions.

“It will give a message that our children, their children and generations will never forget. I would like to see it erected in O’Connell Street, in bronze, to set it apart from other statues, and it would be lovely if it could be made by survivors because there are plenty great artists who were in those places,” she said.

But the statement issued by the committee yesterday prompted an angry response from Michael O’Brien, founder of the Right of Peace group. He claimed the majority of victims’ groups represented at a meeting seven weeks ago with senior Department of Education officials and the committee chairman had said they did not want the memorial put up until all victims had been redressed, proper counselling services were available and survivors down and out abroad were looked after. “But now they’re just going ahead anyway, they’re still not listening to us and treating us like second-class citizens like they always have,” he said.

A department spokesperson said last night the outcome of the October 29 meeting was that the committee would consult with survivor groups and that is now happening. Details will appear in newspaper ads in the coming days and will set out how these groups can submit their views on the memorial, which will have a budget of €500,000. The committee is also seeking views on a national day of remembrance. Ms Buckley said a day of remembrance would be appropriate and suggested it be held annually on May 20 to mark the date on which the Ryan Report was published and gave victims the satisfaction of knowing their stories had been believed.

* The memorial committee will accept submissions up to February 15 either by email to memorial@education.gov.ie or by post to Secretary to the Memorial Committee, Residential Institutions Redress Unit, Department of Education and Science, Cornamaddy, Athlone, Co Westmeath.


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