Survivors of industrial school abuse criticise inaction by State

Survivors of industrial schools have accused the Department of Education of “inaction” over a series of talks that were agreed last year which would give voice to those affected by abuse.

Survivors of industrial schools have accused the Department of Education of “inaction” over a series of talks that were agreed last year which would give voice to those affected by abuse.

Members of the Residential Institutions Survivor’s Network (RISN) went on hunger strike last year over allegations of ill-treatment by the government and the body set up to offer redress to survivors, Caranua.

Discussions between RISN and the department then took place, at which it was proposed that eight meetings for survivors of abuse in residential institutions would take place, although RISN said it believed eight meetings was insufficient and indicated it would like more meetings to facilitate victims.

However, no meeting has since taken place, prompting renewed criticism from the group.

Mark Vincent Healy, chief negotiator and direct contact on behalf of William Gorry, the founder of RISN, said prompt attention to the convening of the consultation talks was promised and reiterated on a number of occasions, but had not happened.

In recent correspondence, shared with the Irish Examiner, he wrote that the department offered eight consultations for survivors in a letter of November 17 last and that “no rhyme, reason or logic was given by the department on choosing the number 8 in delivery of that objective”.

Mr Healy raised a number of issues he said needed to be addressed and referred to the risk to participants in failing to properly plan the talks.

He said counsellors should be available to survivors of abuse, with a risk assessment for the talks also required, adding: “Risks posed in convening the talks is a responsibility of the Department not RISN”.

“RISN would welcome an opportunity of meeting with the minister to pursue as quickly as possible these matters which have languished in over 4 months of inaction,” he said.

“There is a need to gain traction in advancing matters for the sake of survivors. They simply don’t have the time to wait indefinitely as matters progress at such a slow pace. Caranua may well have been disbanded and the survey on what survivors want in services become redundant as any remaining RISF is removed before they can have their say on it.”

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Department of Education said it wanted to see progress on the issue of the talks “as soon as practicable”.

“The Department of Education and Skills has agreed to provide funding for 8 consultative meetings for survivors of abuse in residential institutions which would be facilitated by a professional facilitator but which would be led by survivors for survivors,” the statement said.

“The department has listened to the concerns raised by the Residential Institutions Survivors Network (RISN), that 8 meetings is an insufficient number. The department has suggested ways around managing this, including looking for expressions of interest or holding two sessions at the one venue and these discussions are ongoing.”

The Department also defended the role of Caranua, saying it had expended €72.5m on services for survivors to date and that recently-published statistics on the feedback they receive from survivors showed a 90% satisfaction rate in 2017.


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