Seminars to track down Irish abuse victims in US

SEMINARS are to be held in the United States to track down potentially thousands of American-based Irish people who may be eligible for compensation and other benefits as victims of abuse in orphanages and other State institutions.

The seminars will begin next Monday in Boston and will also be staged in Chicago before being extended to other parts of America and to Europe.

Representatives of the survivors’ group, Right of Place, are to speak at the meetings to raise awareness of the entitlements available to claimants who successfully make a case to the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

According to Right of Place, at least 150,000 children and teenagers went through orphanages, industrial schools and centres for young offenders, many suffering abuse at the hands of religious and others in charge of their care.

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 afterwards quit Ireland and went abroad, with at least half believed to have gone to the US, but only a fraction are thought to be aware of the Redress Board which had only received 1,662 applications by the end of July, most from the Republic.

Tony Tracy of Right of Place said: “There needs to be a much greater level of awareness and these information seminars are an attempt to connect with survivors and to make them aware of their right to counselling, education, compensation and assistance in tracing their records.”

Survivors’ groups, however, remain split on the future of the Commission on Child Abuse, which is working in parallel with the Redress Board, after talks with Department of Education officials yesterday on the way forward in the wake of the resignation of chairwoman Justice Mary Laffoy.

The department afterwards released a statement describing the meeting as “very constructive” and advising that further discussions would be held within the next fortnight.

But the biggest of four State-assisted groups, the Aislinn Centre, refused to take part in the talks because of Education Minister Noel Dempsey’s proposal to limit the commission’s investigations to sample cases to speed up its work.

This proposal was also rejected by SOCA (Survivors of Child Abuse) UK, who attended the talks, but Right of Place and the Alliance for Victim Support agreed to consider it with their members.

Another large group, Irish SOCA, which refuses State support, is to hold a mass meeting of members on Sunday week and plans to stage a march on Leinster House on the first day of the Dáil the following Tuesday.

Tánaiste Mary Harney meanwhile said Mr Dempsey along with the Attorney General and others were working hard to put an “appropriate mechanism” in place to continue the commission's work.

Speaking in Cork the Tánaiste insisted the Government would honour its commitments to victims. "We are determined to do it,” she said, “in the most cost efficient and speedy fashion as possible.”

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