Is an apology enough? I don’t know. Only a person who was abused at the hands of the religious nuns, priests and brothers can answer that question. Would prosecutions help in the healing process? Yet another question I have no authority to answer.
What went before us in these institutions is a dark period in Irish history which caused untold physical and psychological damage to a generation of the nation’s children.
The €100 million report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was published this week. It found that thousands of children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades at the hands of the religious who ran residential institutions in Ireland. Cases of sexual abuse were hidden and offenders were transferred to other areas where they could abuse again.
More than 1,700 witnesses who relived their terrifying and sickening experiences for the Commission have to be commended for their courage. This abuse took place in 216 institutions, with more allegations made against the Christian Brothers than all other male orders combined.
Thousands of families have been affected. The only hope is that the report into child abuse will help in their healing process.
This was a shameful period of our past when a blind eye was turned to the suffering of these children. It must not ever be allowed to happen again.
They were failed by society, religious orders who were given authority to care for these children in the name of Jesus, and by the Department of Education. It wasn’t just the religious who were to blame. Lay staff working in these institutions also subjected the children to excessive physical punishments and beatings and regular sexual abuse. Deprived of family contact, these children were left powerless and fearful. Their lives were a living hell. In some cases they were refused permission to attend family gatherings so their bruises and injuries would not be detected.
No words can describe the depth of shame that should be felt by those guilty offenders. Lives have been shattered, maybe irreparably.
Children actually died from the brutal and disgusting violence they were subjected to. Raped by nuns. Molested by Christian Brothers. Beaten, battered, and bruised. Told their parents were dead. Scalded. Tortured.
These were brutal atrocities against defenceless children by people who ‘served’ God. Covered up internally by the same organisations.
Institutional abuse which is shocking, unbelievable, unimaginable.
One survivor said so much more has been locked away in the brains of those abused and which they could never unlock. She said the public could never understand.
Babies were not exempt.
What would you do if it was your child?
Many of these children, now grown up, cannot find their parents. From here on official records must be meticulously kept.
It is imperative that lessons are learnt. However, according to children’s charity Barnardos there is a long way to go yet as currently there are 6,500 children at risk who do not have an assigned social worker. They say neglect continues to be the primary reason why children are taken into care and there is still no comprehensive nationwide out of hours social work service. It is important now that children in care today and in the future are protected and respected. Vulnerable children deserve no less.
Toni Bourke Editor [email protected]