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Orphans deserve our assistance

The headline on Fr Con McGillicuddy’s recent letter (Mar 13) says that “Retired religious deserve a break”.

Yes, they certainly do. Many gave their lives in the service of caring for us orphans and other disadvantaged children.

Starved by the government of the day of badly needed funds to run the schools and orphanages (industrial schools) many nuns and brothers were themselves victims of the system that they established and ran.

I know of religious who received help from their own family farms and other family outlets to help to supplement children’s meals and clothes.

Sadly, too, I know of religious falsely accused and who were subject to investigation in their later years who did not feel the support of their own religious congregations.

Many religious who thought in these industrial schools are now retired.

Many are living in communities of their own religious congregations.

Their pensions and living accommodation have been secured despite their congregations’ extra financial contributions to the government after the Ryan Report was published.

These congregations are well able to look after their own members and as we now know are also capable of challenging both the State and the system for their failures.

What I have found in the past number of years is that the religious congregations are simply incapable of accepting any criticisms, no matter how small.

What about the retirement arrangements of the many orphans who lived all of their lives in L-shaped rooms in London and many other capital cities?

Living alone, seeing the world through hazy eyes of alcohol and drugs mostly, and without the comfort of their religion, still traumatised throughout their lives as a result of time spent in these institutions?

Failed by both the State and the religious congregations to protect them. Retired now and still alone, with only social security to live on?

Let us remember them, too, as we work to try to secure help and assistance for them through the statutory fund now being established by the Government that we hope will give these poor people a better quality of life before they die.

Tom Hayes


Alliance Support Group


Co Armagh


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