‘But what about the people who detained us?’

VICTIMS of institutional child abuse yesterday led the chorus of condemnation and anger over the findings of the report by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, on what was described as a “shameful day for Ireland”.

Founder member of the Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) group, John Kelly, described the report as “a hatchet job” that did not succeed in bringing all those responsible for the abuse to justice, or in offering closure to victims.

Child support groups and human rights organisations said the publication of the damning report bolstered calls for increased child protection measures to avoid a repeat of the abuse which marred thousands of lives.

Speaking after the publication of the report, John Kelly said: “The little comfort we have is they have acknowledged and vindicated the victims who said they were raped and sexually abused.

“But what of the people who detained them, who unlawfully detained them and denied them their constitutional rights? What about them? They weren’t inquired into.

“I am very anger, I am very bitter, I feel cheated and deceived. I would never have opened my wounds if I’d known that this was going to be the end result.”

Christine Buckley – of Aislinn, a support centre for survivors of abuse, and contributor to the Dear Daughter documentary – welcomed the report but said its recommendations needed to be implemented or “the long journey in search of justice will have been futile and we could be revisiting a similar chapter of institutional child abuse in years to come”.

One In Four executive director Maeve Lewis said the state and the Church were joined by ordinary people in having failed to protect those children who suffered over decades of abuse.

“People knew what was happening,” she said, claiming that “in those decades we abdicated our responsibility as adults to the Church.”

Ms Lewis said the people of Ireland effectively colluded with the authorities and the Church in allowing the abuse to take place, and said that must never be allowed to happen again.

“This is a shameful day for Ireland – we turned our back on these children,” she said.

The organisation’s phonelines would be jammed with calls following publication of the report she said, adding that child services in Ireland were “a disgrace” .

Ms Lewis said that ensuring today’s children are properly cared for would be a suitable memorial to those who suffered abuse in the past.

She said efforts needed to be made to ensure that those responsible for the abuse, where possible, could be prosecuted in the courts.

One of the founders of One In Four, Colm O’Gorman, said the report is “a catalogue of the greatest human rights abuses in the history of the state”.

Now executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Mr O’Gorman said: “The Government must fulfil its obligations and commitments to introduce constitutional reform in this area.”

Clíona Saidléar, policy director with the Rape Crisis Network said the Government needs to assign senior personnel to ensure the report’s recommendations are implemented.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said the report showed the welfare and protection of children was disregarded in the interests of maintaining the status quo.

“This culture of colluding with the authorities of the schools by the department and other professionals enabled the scale of abuse to continue for years,” he said.

Steps need to be taken to protect today’s children, including placing the Children First national guidelines on a statutory basis, he said.

Children At Risk in Ireland (CARI) national director Dr Niall Muldoon also said the report underlines the importance of ensuring the current generation of children are fully protected.

But Paula Kane, operations manager of Ashdale Care in Co Monaghan, said children are still not a priority for the Government and the HSE.

“Children, some as young as 12 years old, are now being advised by healthcare professionals that they can no longer stay in their placements because the HSE has no money,” she said. “These placements are sometimes ended overnight.”

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