Survivors of industrial abuse have accused the Irish Catholic hierarchy of “trying to cut us dead” in the past year and have threatened, in a protest action, to walk 253km from Cork to Dublin during the week of the Eucharistic Congress.
Survivors, Christopher Heaphy, who this week stood at the altar of a West Waterford church and called for a national day of atonement, and former mayor of Clonmel Michael O’Brien have said the ‘Bishops’ Response to Survivors Initiative (BRSI)’, which was set up in the aftermath of the publication of the Ryan Report, is being ignored by the bishops. It is 10 months since any of the bishops attended survivor meetings.
A meeting was called three months ago but, when the survivors arrived, they discovered that none of the bishops were present. Instead the diocese of Limerick’s child protection director and bishops’ conference representative Ger Crowley, a religious sister and a representative from the Catholic communications office were present.
The ‘Bishops’ Response to Survivors Initiative’ sub-group is made up of Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley, Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, Bishop of Killala John Fleming, and Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O’Reilly
“They have literally put a great wall of silence in front of survivors. At every meeting we had with them in the past three years, they just sat there in silence. They said nothing after we made presentations. And then 10 months ago they didn’t even turn up, sending a layman, Ger Crowley, instead. There is no doubt that they want to put a distance between us and them. I said this to Mr Crowley and he didn’t deny it,” Mr Heaphy said.
According to Mr Heaphy and Mr O’Brien, they have taken part in the BRSI as they want funding from the Church so survivors, who are living homeless in Britain and elsewhere, can return to this country. Mr O’Brien and Mr Heaphy have already started work on such a project in East Cork.
Mr O’Brien said: “We do not want another penny from taxpayers”.
A spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office last night said the bishops are committed to listening to “with openness, sensitivity and care to those who have been abused”.
“As part of this commitment Mr Crowley is currently meeting survivors and survivor groups on behalf of the bishops’ conference. In recent years representatives of the bishops’ conference have met with survivors — both individually and collectively — and will continue do so again.”
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