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Irish government to build memorial to abuse victims; continued criticism of religious orders

July 29, 2009

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In response to the Ryan Commission of Inquiry’s report that chronicled the systemic abuse that took place in Irish child-welfare institutions run by religious orders, the Irish government’s minister for children and youth affairs has pledged to erect a memorial to abuse victims. The commission had recommended that the memorial’s inscription read, “On behalf of the State and of all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and long overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue.”

The pledge came in an 80-page document released on July 28 in which Barry Andrews outlined 99 steps that the government would take in response to the Ryan Commission’s report. Andrews wrotes:

The Commission found that physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions and that sexual abuse occurred in many of them. Physical abuse was pervasive and severe. Sexual abuse was particularly endemic in boys’ institutions. The situation in girls’ schools was different, although girls were subjected to predatory sexual abuse by male employees and visitors. The Commission found this to be systemic, that management of religious orders was aware of it and did not act or, in the case of sexual abuse, moved the perpetrators to other institutions even though the recidivist nature of such abuse was known. Neglect was evidenced by poor food and clothing, as well as spartan and bleak accommodation with primitive sanitation and poor general hygiene facilities. The Commission found a disturbing level of emotional abuse suffered by disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children. It noted that some religious orders admitted that abuse took place, but did not accept congregational responsibility for it. The Commission found that the Department of Education’s deferential and submissive attitude towards the Congregations compromised its statutory duty to carry out inspection and monitoring of institutions.

Echoing these comments in a Dublin press conference, Andrews said, “I believe that we have come a long way. The deference (to Church officials) that was at the core of the problem is no longer there.”


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