The Irish Examiner revealed this month that, instead of the memorial recommended in the 2009 Ryan Report on institutional child abuse, Richard Bruton’s officials are looking at the possibility of a permanent exhibition.
The department said it was “engaging with potential interested parties” about whether an exhibition could be held in a public institution, as it says potential sites identified by Dublin City Council would not be suitable for the proposed memorial.
However, the department has also told the Irish Examiner that the committee established by ex-minister Batt O’Keeffe to oversee the process was not consulted.
The six-member group includes two representatives of institutional abuse survivors. It was formed to oversee implementation of the first recommendation of the Ryan Report, which was the erection of a permanent memorial as a reminder to future generations of what happened in industrial schools and other institutions.
However, it has not been convened since shortly after An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission in November 2013 for a memorial that had been planned to overlap with the Garden of Remembrance in inner city Dublin.
Bernadette Fahy, a former resident of Goldenbridge industrial school in Dublin, and a co-founder of the Aislinn Centre, said she suspects the committee has not been kept informed by the department as the memorial has fallen down the list of government priorities.
“They told us they would explore possible sites with Dublin City Council, but it’s nearly four years since planning was refused. We expected to hear from them, that’s where it was left,” she said.
The Department of Education said the idea of a “permanent exhibition” had not yet been discussed with the memorial committee because it is at an early stage, but any decision would be taken in consultation with survivor groups.
Paddy Doyle, the other survivor representative on the memorial committee, said he does not accept that the department was just scoping the idea first.
“They should absolutely have consulted us even before doing that, I would feel very strongly, even the courtesy of a phonecall to seek our view on this. Nobody, it doesn’t matter who they are, should ride roughshod over the committee, even if they’re only sitting down talking about it,” he said.
He and Ms Fahy did not rule out support for the idea of an exhibition, although Ms Fahy reiterated her belief that the Garden of Remembrance site would have been the ideal location.
The overturning of Dublin City Council’s grant of permission to the project hinged largely on the impact on the adjoining memorial to those who died fighting for Irish independence.
Ms Fahy said it would be interesting to know what alternative sites had been identified and why the department ruled them out.
“It’s been nearly 10 years, and there isn’t a brick laid and not a glimmer of light. What is it that they can’t communicate with a group they set up themselves, they seem to be talking to everybody else,” she said.