Memorial to pay tribute to abuse victims

It was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the State and now a memorial called Journey of Light will be built to remember survivors and victims of clerical sex abuse.

Based beside the historical Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, it will feature steel plates to symbolise industrial schools where abuse took place, with water cascading over to represent the healing process.

The State’s apology will be inscribed in the wall, in both English and Irish, at child’s eye level and separately in Braille on a bronze plaque.

The design, by Studio Negri, and Hennessy & Associates, was chosen from 32 entries and announced yesterday by Ruairi Quinn, the education minister.

He said it will serve as “a constant reminder that we must never let such horrendous crimes against children happen again”.

The memorial, he said, “will act as a testimony to one of the darkest chapters in our State’s history and what we collectively as a society allow to happen to vulnerable children”.

Christine Buckley, who has spent years seeking justice for abuse victims, said she suggested the memorial during the Ryan Commission hearings into clerical abuse.

She said the fact that the Ryan report recommended its construction demonstrates that the voices of victims had been listened to.

“I can’t wait to bring my children and I can’t wait, if I have grandchildren, to bring them there,” Ms Buckley said.

“You don’t even have to go down the road of talking about the horrors. It will be there, the apology, it’s in stone, and I think it’s terribly, terribly important for the healing process.”

Not all survivors were as happy with the memorial.

John Kelly, of Survivors of Child Abuse, believes the initiative is premature and insensitive to former residents of the Magdalene laundries who have not been included in the redress scheme.

Mr Quinn said an inquiry to examine the State’s role in alleged abuse in the laundries will have concluded by the time the memorial is built.

“These matters are being looked at. But I don’t think, quite frankly, that we should await that process for this project to commence,” Mr Quinn said.

He criticised the lack of progress being made by the Church orders in meeting their contribution to compensation for victims, which is expected to reach €1.5bn. “It is very slow and it is very unsatisfactory,” he said.

While Mr Quinn said the Government has “no wish to bankrupt” religious orders, “they do own substantial educational and health infrastructure. And they could hand over the title deeds of that infrastructure so that the State would be the ultimate owner of them.”

Planning permission for the memorial will be submitted in September, and is expected to take two years to build at a cost of €500,000.

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