Group to fight false child abuse allegations

A CONTROVERSIAL organisation representing people wrongly accused of child abuse is to visit Ireland next week to advise on the prevention and detection of false allegations.

The British False Memory Society is coming to Dublin in association with Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), an Irish group set up last year by former children's home residents sceptical about claims of abuse in religious-run institutions where they personally had happy experiences.

The society was set up ten years ago in support of parents wrongly accused by children who claimed to have recalled abuse from recovered memory following therapy, but it has since widened its remit to campaign for greater scrutiny of abuse allegations, particularly involving mass accusations involving childcare institutions.

It has successfully supported a number of falsely accused childcare workers in Britain and highlighted flaws in some inquiries into allegations of abuse concentrated in given geographical areas or childcare facilities.

The society's legal adviser, Margaret Jervis, who will be heading up the Dublin visit to the Arlington Hotel on Wednesday, February 18, said she believed from international experience that the no-fault nature of the compensation scheme run by Residential Institutions Redress Board here would encourage people to make spurious claims. "There are patterns of human behaviour that repeat themselves when there are certain kinds of incentives. Generally speaking, you will find that wherever there is a large amount of compensation, that's where you get the claims and when compensation is not available, you do not get the same volume of claims."

She said the society was concerned about helping genuine victims and pursuing real abusers, but the lines had been blurred because the abuse issue was clouded by emotional rather than rational debate. "I feel that Ireland needs a bit of a wake-up. It is almost like a spell cast over the country."

LOVE founder Florence Horsman Hogan said attendance at next week's private meeting would be by invitation with particular emphasis on bringing along those hurt by false allegations, a group which includes the taxpayer. "As taxpayers, we should be concerned at how the abuse crisis has taken wings of its own and got completely out of hand. As a nurse and a fundraiser for basic services for our children, I know where the money going into this crisis would be better applied."

Colm O'Gorman of the One In Four victims' group, however, warned that organisations like the False Memory Society risked hurting the genuine victims they claimed to support.

"It's very easy to bandy around words like false memory and false allegations and compensation in one sentence and, in doing so, it's very easy to undermine the very real experience of the victims of abuse.

"LOVE said last year they had evidence of false allegations and we publicly urged them to go the gardaí. That remains our view; that any citizen who has evidence of a serious crime and defrauding the Redress Board or making malicious allegations is very serious should report it to gardaí.

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