Child-abuse victims 'cheated of justice'

Victims of the horrific child abuse inflicted in State-run institutions feel empty and cheated by the nine-year inquiry, they said today.

Victims of the horrific child abuse inflicted in State-run institutions feel empty and cheated by the nine-year inquiry, they said today.

Organisations criticised authorities for failing to probe why thousands of children were unlawfully detained and sent away for years for minor offences, or simply because their parents could not care for them.

Victim John Walsh, of leading campaign group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca), called the report a hatchet job that left open wounds gaping.

“The little comfort we have is that they acknowledged and vindicated the victims who were raped and sexually abused,” said Mr Walsh.

“But what about the people who detained them, who unlawfully denied them their constitutional rights in the court.

“They weren’t inquired in to. The State refused to do it.

“If children were not unlawfully detained they wouldn’t have been abused anyway.”

Mr Walsh was 13 when he was sent to a “hell hole” in Daingean, Co Offaly, for two years for taking a chocolate bar two friends had stolen.

“I was flogged naked there,” he continued.

“All types of abuse happened to me in that institution. They were run by beasts. The State didn’t care.”

Now aged 57, the Dubliner “ran to England for sanctuary” and did not return home until the Government apologised for the abuse.

But he said victims expected the abusers, the hierarchy in the church and the Department of Education to be made accountable in the report.

“I’m very angry, very bitter, and feel cheated and deceived,” he continued.

“Our wounds are open. We were encouraged to open our wounds. We opened them and they left them gaping open without healing them.

“I would have never opened my wounds if I’d known this was going to be the end result.

“It has devastated me and will devastate most victims because there is no criminal proceedings and no accountability whatsoever.”

Maeve Lewis, director of support group One in Four, said everyone was to blame for the abuse, adding it was incredible inspectors from the Department of Education failed to see what was going on or take action.

“These children were not invisible,” said Ms Lewis.

“Many ordinary people had contact with them and must have been uneasy at what they saw. Children tried to tell but were not believed. We all colluded by our silence with a reign of terror and abuse.

“This is a day of great shame not just for the church and the Government, but for every Irish person.

“We allowed these children to be abused without raising a finger to help them.”

Thomas Sweeney – who staged a 22-day hunger strike in 2004 over his treatment by the Residential Institutions Redress Board – said he carried the abuse with him throughout his life, taking it out physically on his own children.

The 60-year-old spent four years in two industrial schools, where he was repeatedly beaten and raped.

“I was physically abused in Artane so I broke out seven times and went back to my parents,” said Mr Sweeney, who lived in Dublin city centre with his eight brothers and three sisters.

“I was severely punished for that and sent to Salthill in Galway.

“There were people there sexually abusing boys and I was there for three years.

“There’s no justice at all here today.”

Kevin Flanagan from Ballymun, north Dublin, spoke out in support of his brother Mickey Flanagan who died 11 years ago still carrying the pain of the abuse he suffered in Artane Industrial School.

The teenager sparked a Dáil debate in 1954 when his arm was broken while in care.

The case was dismissed as “an isolated incident”.

“After Mickey left Artane he lived in the UK for the rest of his life,” said Mr Flanagan.

“I’m not embarrassed to say he lived in squalor because of the suffering he went through.

“He hated the Christian Brothers but would still never talk about what happened.

“He carried the suffering with him all the time and still won’t be able to rest after this.”

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