Up to 1,500 survivors are still alive and many have spoken of the inferiority complex they hold as they believed they were branded criminals by the courts system that placed them in the homes — often due to poverty or parental neglect.
Submissions to the Ryan Commission spoke of anger at having “a criminal record” as a result of attending the school.
Survivors groups were told that some individuals had been refused employment because of their time in the schools, even though many were sent there under section 58 of the Children’s Act.
To rectify this misunderstanding, Barry Andrews, the former children’s minister, offered to issue certificates clarifying that the State doesn’t regard them as criminals and “that no criminal conviction is recorded by virtue of detention” in the school.
Pick-up has been poor and just a handful of survivors have sought the certificate.
One survivor who obtained a cert was Tom Cronin, who was at Greenmount Industrial School in Cork City. He refused to accept it, however, when he saw that the letter, signed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, wasn’t on headed paper from the Department of Justice.
“I had been waiting for that certificate for a long time and when I opened it, felt like I could have typed it up myself. I still cannot understand to this day why something so important was not on the minister’s headed paper. It didn’t look official and when I got it, it felt like the final insult,” he said.
Mr Cronin has been a vocal critic of the redress scheme, which he believes “sold out” the survivors to the benefit of the religious orders.
The Department of Justice has since replaced the original certificate which was on vellum paper with a replacement on the preferred headed paper.
A spokesman for the department said it was never their intention to cause pain to survivors and that vellum certificate was chosen over headed paper as it was considered a “high-grade paper”.
“The position here is that Mr Cronin was initially issued with a certificate on special vellum paper signed by the minister. The certificate was accompanied by a personal signed letter to Mr Cronin on headed paper. This has been the standard procedure,” he said.