Abuse victims plan protests

WITH growing suicide rates among child abuse victims, support groups are planning widespread protests if the work of a long-awaited compensation board fails to get underway next month.

Right of Place, which has 1,180 registered members in Ireland and Britain, has lost 94 people, including 18 to suicide, since Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologised to victims of institutional abuse in May 1999. "Those are the deaths that we actually know about. I'm sure there are more, said Right of Place chairman Noel Barry.

"We want the Residential Institutions Redress Board to begin work as promised on December 2, before any more of our members die.

"If that does not happen, then we will protest outside the board's headquarters in Dublin, outside the Department of Education, and outside the Irish Embassy in London and the Irish passport offices in London and the US."

The Residential Redress Board, (the State compensation board set up to administer awards to abused residents of State and religious run schools and institutions) is due to begin work on December 2, but Mr Barry said members' patience is running out.

"I was at a meeting in London last week and members wanted to begin protests right away. There will be serious trouble if work does not begin on time. We have a letter on the way to Education Minister Noel Dempsey to warn him of same."

Christine Buckley, spokeswoman for the Aislinn Centre survivor's group, said she would support the protests if the board did not begin work on time.

"I visited the building where the board is meant to function yesterday. "It's like a building site. I got a letter this week from the chair of the board, Judge Kieran O'Connor, saying that December 2 had been set down as a preliminary date," she said.

A spokesman for the board said "every endeavour was being made for work to begin on December 23". North Eastern Health Board, Fiona Ward, said the delays in getting counselling were partly attributable the 30% increase this year in the number of referrals, which hadn't been matched by an increase in staff.

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