Institutional Child Abuse Bill 2009: Second Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 687 No. 4

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Deputy Charles Flanagan:Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I commend my Labour Party colleagues on introducing this Bill to the House. One gets the distinct impression that the Government would rather that the whole matter of institutional child abuse simply went away. While there has been little comment by the Government since the publication of the Ryan report, at a more discreet level there has been a vigorous initiative to fight survivors of abuse in the courts who may have missed the compensation application deadline. At least the Government is consistent in one area, namely, its willingness to use the resources of the State to fight victims, regardless of whether they are challenging the time limit regarding the redress board, challenging the Government’s refusal to acknowledge responsibility for the victims of abuse in primary schools or fighting for their child’s right to a proper education.

The Government has made it clear repeatedly that it is on the side of institutions rather than the side of the victims. The banks only had to extend a greedy hand when the Government began raining down taxpayers’ money on them. The Catholic church only had to send in a couple of nuns before an enormous indemnity deal was agreed with few questions asked and against the better judgment of all experts. However, when ordinary citizens attempt to vindicate [810]their rights, the State turns on them in a vicious manner. Where was the generosity of spirit shown to banks and religious bodies when it came to those who were abused in primary schools? Such victims remain excluded from the redress scheme and have been cast adrift. However, the Ryan report confirms these victims also suffered harrowing abuse at the hands of paedophiles and sadists.

The Ryan report describes in horrifying detail the reign of terror perpetrated by Donal Dunne in schools in several counties but in particular in my constituency of Laois-Offaly. However, his victims still are ignored by the State, which it now is known let them down badly by ignoring complaints about Dunne and by tampering with his file. Were it not for the Ryan commission, the full truth about this depraved paedophile would never have been known. However, officials in the Department of Education and Science engaged in a cover up by removing vital evidence from the file that reappeared suddenly after decades, when the Ryan commission investigated the matter. I call on the Government to change its policy on the victims of abuse in primary schools. While it may continue to avoid responsibility based on strict legal criteria, there is a moral and factual responsibility that must be accepted. For example, Members should consider the case of Louise O’Keeffe. I understand the Government intends to fight vigorously her cause of action at European level.

While I do not have time to speak in detail about the Louise O’Keeffe case, I wish to speak about another woman, namely, Nora Wall. Nora Wall has hardly been mentioned in the debate on the Ryan report. She became something of a heroine for those who mistrust the Irish courts when her conviction for rape was overturned in 1999. Since her conviction was overturned, she has been portrayed as an heroic martyr in many quarters with references to witch hunts and witch trials abounding. Six weeks ago, the columnist Kevin Myers wrote in a national newspaper:

The liberal-left lynch mob that went after poor Nora Wall a decade ago was prepared to destroy her life on the basis of lies.

Mr. Myers would do well to read the description of “poor Nora Wall” in the Ryan report. Nora Wall does not deserve the plaudits that have been directed her way since her conviction for rape was overturned. While her case may have collapsed, the Ryan report reveals graphically that Nora Wall was no saint. She exposed the children in her care to unacceptable risks by allowing male outsiders to stay overnight at the Cappoquin care centre which was in her charge. She entertained past pupils and student priests in the home and allowed them to stay overnight. A witness stated that much drinking took place at these gatherings.

There is more to this than meets the eye in respect of these social events. It has been suggested that there were frequent visits to the Cappoquin home by some clergy from Mount Melleray Abbey. Access to children may have been a key motivation for these visits. One must bear in mind that Mount Melleray was selected by the notorious paedophile, Fr. Brendan Smith, as a holiday destination or as a haven to which to escape when he was on the run from the authorities in Northern Ireland. This issue must be revisited.

There were reports that younger children in Cappoquin were abused by older children. Nora Wall allowed children to sleep in her bedroom and often shared her room with the convent superior, who was given the pseudonym of Sr. Serena in the report. The two nuns went away together, taking children with them. The report notes she went absent for days without notice, leaving a young woman in charge of up to 16 young children. It describes Nora Wall’s management of children in her care as “alarming” and “disastrous” and her behaviour there is described as “inappropriate and dangerous”.

[811]One particularly worrying aspect of the report refers to an incident where a resident of the home with an intellectual disability was sexually assaulted by a colleague in a hotel where he did part-time work. The report states that when the parents of the boy discovered the abuse, they went to the Garda and confronted the abuser, who admitted it. The boy later told his house parent that he did not want to pursue the matter. She later noticed he had a new radio and he told her that Nora Wall had given him a new radio and a new bicycle. This is quite a sinister revelation, which needs to be probed further. Issues arise in respect of the charging and subsequent acquittal of Nora Wall that should be revisited by way of investigation. It is a matter of some concern that reports of interference with witnesses and attempts to buy their silence have been made. This aspect must be investigated fully because any secret payments made by religious institutions must be fully probed and examined. It is essential that the manner in which victims and their families are dealt with is above reproach at all times.

In this context, I am concerned about the somewhat secretive nature of the Education Finance Board. The membership of this board, the budget of which is €12.7 million, is made up of former residents of residential institutions and people who broadly are from the education sector. As this is not my area of expertise I may be mistaken but to the best of my knowledge, there are no legal or financial experts on the board, which I believe to be a mistake. The board administers a large budget and concerns have been brought to my attention in respect of what some consider to be an ad hoc approach to awarding moneys. It is essential for the Education Finance Board to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts and have its activities subject to questioning.

When I spoke on the Ryan report earlier this year, I highlighted the distressing revelations in respect of how Department of Education and Science officials handled complaints regarding Mr. Donal Dunne. Attempts to highlight the danger this man posed to children were ignored and the file was interfered with at some point, with complaints being removed. The pattern is repeated in respect of Nora Wall. My colleague, Deputy Phil Hogan, highlighted in this House in April 2002 the alleged involvement of a senior departmental official in a Dublin-based child sex ring at a time he was supposed to have been investigating child abuse. That individual had investigated the home run by Nora Wall and gave it a clean bill of health at a time when there were serious problems at the home, as identified by the Ryan report.

However, the Department of Education and Science was not alone in its disgraceful behaviour. When Nora Wall was removed from her position in Cappoquin in the 1990s, a health board official gave her a glowing reference. This is exactly what happened to John Brander, otherwise known as Donal Dunne, as identified by me in this House approximately ten years ago. The health board official offered Nora Wall the job, which involved caring for a young man, despite having been informed of her earlier dismissal. Following her dismissal, the manager who replaced her found she had a close friendship with a senior social worker and the pair blocked his efforts to make changes.

I regret I do not have more time to probe these matters further but I will return to them in the autumn. It is evident from the behaviour of officials at the Departments of Education Science and Health and Children that Ireland has an endemic problem in respect of the craven deference shown to institutions and those who personify them. This deference is matched by a distrust shown to the ordinary citizen. The attitude of civil servants to victims and abusers still is reflected in the current behaviour of Ministers. The institutions must no longer be protected while the victim is trampled on. This attitude must change fundamentally.

Deputy Michael McGrath:Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Private Members’ Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Does the Deputy wish to share time?

[812]Deputy Michael McGrath:Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath With the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s permission, I wish to share time with Deputies Ciarán Cuffe, M. J. Nolan, Margaret Conlon, Niall Blaney and Seán Ardagh.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Michael McGrath:Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Bill introduced by Deputy Quinn and his Labour Party colleagues is well-intended and contains many provisions addressing key issues facing both the victims of abuse and their families at present. It is important not to be adversarial in dealing with this most sensitive and emotive issue. The reaction of all parties and Members to the Ryan report and the unanimous motion of the House on the further contributions required by the religious congregations were a reflection of the maturity of our political system.

The content of the Ryan report is truly shocking and provides many details of the experiences of victims who suffered the most horrific physical, sexual and psychological abuse in institutions for which the State and the religious institutions were responsible. People have been scarred for the rest of their lives by their experiences. It is essential to put the needs of the victims at the centre of this debate. One extract, in chapter 8 of volume II relates to an industrial school in Passage West, where I grew up. The extract sums up the Ireland of the time and the reasons the issues were not dealt with at the time. The victims want answers as to how this was allowed to happen in a democratic society. Why did no one in authority shout stop? Why was society so unquestioning of the religious orders and why did the State not hear the cries for help? The extract relates to one boy who was sexually abused at a Sisters of Mercy industrial school at Passage West:

He said he then built up courage to go to the head nun in the convent, which was separate from the School. He said he told her at the front entrance to the convent that Mr Restin [a pseudonym] was sexually abusing him. She told him to go back to the School and she would speak to somebody about it. Some time later, Sr Vita called him and accused him of spreading wicked lies and gave him a severe beating. Soon after this, Mr Restin left.

This extract sums up the horror the victims had to endure through that time. They were not believed when they had the courage to come forward and tell those charged with the responsibility of protecting and safeguarding their welfare. That they were not believed by those people is an indictment of society.

The 2002 indemnity deal agreed by the Government was not a good deal for the taxpayer. It seems that the ultimate liability will be some €1.3 billion. How the State could put a cap on the contribution of the religious orders to what was then an unknown total liability is beyond me. I welcome the initiative taken by the Taoiseach and the Cabinet to reopen the negotiations with the religious orders and to seek further contributions from them. Two meetings have been held between the Taoiseach, the members of Cabinet and the religious congregations on 4 June and 24 June with a view to the congregations providing reports on their financial resources so that how much they can afford to pay can be assessed. I welcome the fact that the Minister of State with responsibility for children will come to Government with a report dealing with the implementation of the recommendations arising from the Ryan report.

The correct approach is for the Government to continue to consult and liaise with the victims groups and continue to meet with the religious orders. This should not be on an indefinite basis. The dust cannot be allowed to settle on this. A conclusion should be arrived at quite shortly whereby further financial resources can be made available and where issues raised with the victims groups in meetings to date with the Government can be addressed in a co-ordinated fashion, rather than rushing through legislation that may ultimately be flawed.

[813]Deputy Ciarán Cuffe:Information on Ciaran Cuffe Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe I welcome the introduction of this Bill. It is worthwhile to bring renewed focus on child abuse in the State. The story is far from over. We await the outcome of the report on child abuse in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin. The revelations in that report will concentrate our minds on the major challenge to address the State and the churches dramatically failing the most vulnerable in Irish society.

I refer to the transparency of religious institutions. This is a commendable part of the Bill. For far too long, religious institutions have kept their assets away from the scrutiny of the public. We need complete transparency about the assets of religious institutions in the State. Different institutions use different mechanisms to shield their assets from the view of the public. Some religious institutions try to show this information but it should be done in a transparent manner so that we can find out what lands and buildings are owned by churches and the value of these. This would more fully inform the discussion on retribution and payments to the innocents and those who suffered in the past.

In the age of the Internet it should be possible, through Google Maps or another application, to point out that the Catholic church owns a site of more than ten acres within a mile of O’Connell Street, the Archbishop’s Palace in Drumcondra. It is equally important to know that the Church of Ireland has a substantial landholding in Rathmines, one of the inner suburbs of Dublin. These holdings should be on the public record and we should know the value of them. Where blame is laid at a religious institution, we should consider the full market value of its assets in deciding what to do.

Section 4 of the Labour Party’s Institutional Child Abuse Bill includes a commendable provision that this information should be clearly available on the public record. In the case of the Christian Brothers in Canada, assets appear to have been moved offshore and various legal mechanisms were used that are more common to tax havens in the Caribbean than to a religious institution that should be cherishing the most vulnerable in society.

I take the point of the Minister for Education and Science that it is premature to proceed with the Bill now. Perhaps we should revisit this in the autumn, by which time we will have the report on the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin. It is time to look in forensic detail at the assets owned by religious institutions, particularly those who failed the most vulnerable in the State.

Deputy M. J. Nolan:Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan It is unfortunate and disappointing that there could not be all-party agreement on an item of legislation in this area.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn There could be if Members passed Second Stage of this Bill. We could then table amendments accordingly.

Deputy M. J. Nolan:Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan Members were part of a positive debate on the Ryan report. There was all-party agreement on that, which is what I would like to see. The Minister for Education and Science will return in the autumn with something.

The Ryan report was shocking and gave a shocking insight——

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Will the Deputy give way?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy has only five minutes speaking time and this is unusual.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn If Second Stage is accepted all of the amendments Deputy Nolan wishes to provide can be negotiated.

Deputy M. J. Nolan:Information on M. J. Nolan Zoom on M. J. Nolan The Minister feels it is premature at this stage and he wants more time with it; I have to accept that.

[814]The Ryan report gave us a shocking insight into what went on in our institutions. Following on that 20 recommendations were made of which the Government has accepted 15 and an apology was issued by the former Taoiseach in 1999 to all those who suffered child abuse. I am glad to note that the victims’ groups are in ongoing negotiations with the Taoiseach and the Minister and it is good to see that the religious orders have accepted their part in this and will bring new proposals to the Government on their contribution towards the fund.

Most of the individuals are now grown up men and women and they have been scarred for life. I have met several of them and it is good to see that some restitution has been afforded to them. I hope this process will not become another cash cow for our legal profession. We saw what happened in the past with the Army deafness claims and what is going on at the tribunals, which is nothing short of scandalous. I would not like to see this dreadful situation being used by members of the legal profession as a cash cow to fill their coffers; they are not the victims and they should not abuse people who have already been abused.

While what has happened is unforgivable we should not forget that we have a part to play in it. It has three aspects: the victims’ groups, the religious institutions and the Government, which is acting on behalf of the victims. I would like to see a speedy conclusion to all aspects of it so these individuals can get on with a life which has already been scarred by what has happened.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I call Deputy Margaret Conlon and I beg her pardon.

Deputy Margaret Conlon:Information on Margaret Conlon Zoom on Margaret Conlon I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle; I thought he had forgotten about me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Conlon is ahead of time and has an extra minute.

Deputy Margaret Conlon:Information on Margaret Conlon Zoom on Margaret Conlon I am delighted to participate in this discussion and I commend Deputy Ruairí Quinn for tabling the Bill. I recognise the major effort he has made in preparing it and I agree with all speakers that our commitment to the victims, the victims’ support groups and their families is unwavering on all sides of the House.

After the Ryan report was published we debated it in the House. The Government accepted the recommendations and promised to implement them. That was not a media stunt or a sound bite; it was acceptance and realisation that the victims were let down by the people. The ordinary people want and demand that this issue be treated with the gravity that it deserves. I welcome the Government’s commitment to accept and fully implement the recommendations, and this must follow as a matter of priority.

The abuse of children in institutions happened because of failures of society but also because people in churches, schools and State institutions allowed things to happen unchecked. It was vitally important for victims that an apology was made by the former Taoiseach and that was reiterated by the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen. One can only imagine how difficult it is for any person to come forward and publically tell the story of his or her abuse. At the time of his apology, the former Taoiseach announced the establishment of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the establishment of a nationwide professional counselling service for the victims of childhood abuse and legal changes relating to taking cases involving abuse.

Since the publication of the Ryan report, the Minister of State with responsibility for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Barry Andrews, has been given the onerous responsibility of bringing an implementation plan to the Government by the end of this month. I am confident in his ability to do this. The Government will implement the recommendations which provide [815]for a memorial, the availability of education and counselling services, the continued availability of family tracing services and a review of systems to avoid future failures. This cannot and must not be allowed to happen again. The Department of Education and Science initiated a working group which includes people from the Department and other relevant Departments to consider and progress all of these recommendations. This working group will contribute to the overall implementation plan being led by Deputy Barry Andrews.

To move to the religious orders, further substantial contributions are required from the congregations — full stop. This is non-negotiable and I wish the Taoiseach well in securing extra funding from the congregations. They must step up to the plate. Two meetings have been held and it is hoped that progress has been made and many issues will be discussed including the full disclosure of their assets.

We had a unified Dail approach when passing the cross-party motion. This side of the House must oppose this Bill because the issues raised have not been fully analysed and it is obvious that legal advice will need to be sought. However, nobody in the House wants to divide on the issue.

The Bill also proposes expanding the remit of the redress board but this is prior to the Government completing its discussions with the congregations. The Government is committed to the redress scheme in advance of settling contributions from the religious congregations and this is exactly what the Bill asks the Government to do. The Bill calls for an extension of the redress scheme to allow for late applications to be accepted. To date, the redress board has received 450 late applications since the closing date, with more than 50 of these being received in the period since the publication of the commission’s report. The late applications were dealt with as follows: a total of 109 submissions were accepted by the board; a total of 177 submissions were disallowed by the board; a total of 12 applications were invalid; ten submissions were withdrawn; in 121 cases the board is awaiting further information from the applicant and 21 submissions remain to be considered by the board. Advertising prior to the closing date set by the current legislation was widespread. The redress board spent approximately €900,000 advertising the scheme on radio, television and in newspapers. The current Act makes provision for late applications in exceptional circumstances and this degree of flexibility is crucial.

In terms of the proposal to extend the age restriction to cover persons who were in institutions between the ages of 18 and 21, many Members will be aware that this matter is the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. We believe it appropriate that this appeal be heard and adjudicated on and we should not pre-empt the findings of the superior court in the land.

For far too long those people, many of whom hid in the shadows, were totally afraid to tell their story. In some cases they felt they would be isolated, shunned and not believed and some of them felt very guilty. It is wrong that victims of this type of abuse felt guilty. The victims must remain our central and key concern in everything we do in this House on this matter and the timing of the Bill does not reflect that.

Deputy Niall Blaney:Information on Niall Blaney Zoom on Niall Blaney I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on what is a very important issue for many people. I emphasise that this is an issue that is very raw among Irish people and understandably so. There are people all over this country who have been abused, are related to somebody that has been abused, or are just absolutely revolted that abuse took place by those in positions of authority and trust. Let us not make this issue a political football or one for scoring electoral points.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Nobody is suggesting that.

[816]Deputy Niall Blaney:Information on Niall Blaney Zoom on Niall Blaney I ask the Deputy to allow me to finish; I did not make any remarks towards him.

I do not believe there is an individual in this House who does not abhor recent revelations, and revelations that are not so recent, on sexual and physical abuse in Irish institutions. We are all of the same mind set on this issue; we want full disclosure of what took place, those responsible to take responsibility and those who are feeling hurt and raw to receive some peace of mind and justice at this late stage. That is where we are all at and from where we all must move forward. This issue cannot be turned into one where one political party shouts louder than the other for its own political gain. It is a sensitive issue and must be treated with sensitivity.

The Bill before us is, unfortunately, a premature one. The issues raised in it need much deeper consideration and legal advice. The Taoiseach and members of the Cabinet have met with groups representing survivors of abuse, providing an opportunity for them to voice their concerns and needs. The Government will continue to work with them to ensure that a satisfactory outcome for all involved is reached.

The Taoiseach and Members of Cabinet have also met with the religious congregations and have relayed the view of the Government and the people of the country as a whole on the requirement of further contributions from the congregations. The congregations are currently in the process of compiling reports on their financial positions, which are due to be submitted to Government by mid-July. Following that, a further meeting will be established with them. The Taoiseach has already indicated that a panel of three independent persons will be appointed to assess the material submitted. This represents continuous and meaningful efforts on behalf of all involved to address this very serious issue effectively.

The effort to move the process forward through this Private Members’ motion, while it may be well motivated, is premature. We need political unity in the House on the matter, but the motion does not provide that. It is an issue that cannot be rushed in order to have it dealt with quickly. What is vital is that it is dealt with efficiently, satisfying those who have suffered abuse.

The Bill proposes a number of amendments to the redress board. It is suggested that the definition of a “child” should be extended from 18 to 21 years in terms of the redress scheme. Members should be aware that this matter is currently the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. Therefore, any proposal in that regard is inappropriate at the moment.

Deputy Alan Shatter:Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter That is total nonsense. Must the Deputy continue to read this nonsense?

Deputy Niall Blaney:Information on Niall Blaney Zoom on Niall Blaney It has also been proposed that an extension be applied to the redress scheme to allow for late applications, even though almost €1 million was spent advertising the details of the redress scheme in the print media and on television both in Ireland and abroad. Perhaps some extension may be appropriate, but let us examine the issue in detail and collectively move forward rather than let it divide the House.

The victims of abuse have gone through all the emotions possible. The redress scheme finally provides them with an opportunity to tell their stories without fear of being disbelieved. We must now ensure that justice is achieved to enable them to move on with their lives. Much meaningful activity is taking place and much progress is being made. Let us get together as a Parliament and move forward collectively to ensure that the matter is brought to a satisfactory conclusion for victims who have already suffered enough.

Deputy Seán Ardagh:Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh We have all come across individual cases of horror and abuse that have shocked us during our lifetime, but in my 24 years as a public representative I do not [817]believe that as a nation we have ever been as shocked as we have been at the findings of the Ryan commission. We think of events like this in the past as historic events, events of war and holocausts, but these events are of our time. They are about our contemporaries, our boyhood friends, and now if these victims are not still in crisis in the UK, they are our neighbours and members of our community.

Like Deputy Ruairí Quinn, I am also a proud graduate of a wonderful education, lucky to have gone through primary school in a Christian Brother system in St. Vincent’s in Glasnevin, a school mentioned in the Ryan commission report. I have great memories of that time. I remember Brother Hennessy behind his desk in fourth class, in front of 84 students. I remember the confidence he gave me when I entered this cauldron for the first time wearing glasses. When he said to me: “Tá siad go hálainn. Go mairir is go gcaithir iad” all my embarrassment evaporated. I remember Brother Walsh who taught us the national anthem and songs such as “A Nation Once Again”. I remember waiting for my punishment from him in sixth class because he caught me smoking. He looked me in the eye and gently said “Suigh síos”. He was a smoker himself.

These good men represented the majority of the brothers and lay teachers I interacted with at school. However, I cannot understand why when the teachers of those days graduated, they were given either a leather strap or a bamboo cane as a teaching aid. Occasionally, I saw their frustration and temper being vented on some poor victim. I wonder now how much worse it must have been for victims in institutions where there were no prying eyes. The horror of what happened behind the closed doors of those institutions is now vividly outlined in the recorded testimony of so many of the former residents of those hell holes.

It is appropriate that in 1999 the Taoiseach made an apology, with an admission that the State had failed in its obligations to ensure appropriate standards of care for children in these institutions. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and a nationwide professional counselling service were established then. It is also appropriate that the Assistant Garda Commissioner has now been charged, late and all as this is, with examining the Ryan report. The Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions will have the fullest co-operation of the Government in pursuing any criminal investigation.

I wish to touch on some issues that have arisen in this debate. One of these is the issue of secrecy. Legal advice received by the Minister states that applicants should be prohibited from recounting the stories of their childhood if they mention the fact that compensation was either applied for or paid as a result of what they suffered. This is not good enough. If people recount their stories it is unlikely the Government will sue or be sued by an individual abuser. However this legal impediment to telling one’s story still exists and must be changed.

The issue of whether persons detained in reformatory schools still have criminal convictions has not been fully addressed. I am aware the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has said that any individual with a problem or doubts on such matters can write to him and that his officials will look into those concerns. This issue must be addressed in a more focused way.

On the question of a museum, I agree we should retain the records, the history, the experience and the voices of all the people who gave evidence before the Ryan commission. It is very important that these are maintained. I had the experience of visiting Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Auschwitz in Poland and Ellis Island outside New York. Of these three, Ellis Island would be more of a comparator than the others and is the type of monument I would like to see in memory of these people, neighbours and contemporaries who suffered so much during our time in office.

The question of late applications must also be given consideration. Even if an application is submitted late, it should be taken into account. The Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, [818]has now met with a number of people based in England who suffered in these institutions. I hope and understand from what he said that their late applications will be fully accepted due to the exceptional circumstances.

I thank Deputy Ruairí Quinn for bringing forward this Bill for discussion which lets us put on public record our total distaste for what happened during those awful years.

Deputy Liz McManus:Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus I wish to share time with Deputies Upton, Costello and Kathleen Lynch.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Liz McManus:Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus When the Ryan report was published, there was recognition in this House that the terrible abuse, the horrific cruelty, the unpardonable neglect meted out to children, demanded of us an exceptional response. We could not carry on in our usual way. The wording of the agreed motion reflected a united and democratic will across all the parties in the House to rise above political wrangling to make a difference in the light of the suffering of others caused by a failure by church and State to protect children from attack.

We all know we cannot undo the wrong, nor repair the damage. Every childhood lasts a lifetime and when a child is abused or hurt, the experience is burned into the psyche. However, we can and must still try to make a difference. This Bill is aimed to deal with important and pressing issues. The definition of the child needs to be brought into line with the legal definition used until 1985. This would ensure that people who have been refused redress would be included in the process — hardly a contentious issue, one would think. Nor is the proposal to extend the deadline for applications to include a small minority of people who, for whatever reason, did not apply in time — Deputy Ardagh has made this point better than I. We also propose a measure to wipe clean the criminal records relating to committal to an institution. We should not under estimate the burden that many survivors feel they still carry as a result of these court records.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Hear, hear.

Deputy Liz McManus:Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus I welcome particularly the proposal to lift the gagging order in regard to redress board applicants. Like Deputy Quinn, I have lived long enough to remember clearly the worst excesses of censorship in Ireland, but nothing compares to this order. The idea underlying it may have been to construct a non-adversarial, no-blame compensation scheme, but that did not happen. Survivors have given testimony to a very different experience and many people have found the experience disturbingly fraught and even oppressive.

That reality requires a response. One survivor, Paddy Doyle, wrote a ground-breaking book 20 years ago, “The God Squad”, about his time in an institution. I know Paddy is in the Visitors Gallery today. The tragedy is that no official action followed the publication of that book to protect children who were still at risk. At the time, Paddy’s message was prophetic but ignored. He said:

. . . the book is about a society’s abdication of responsibility to a child. The fact that I was that child is largely irrelevant. The probability is that there were, and still are, thousands of “me’s”.

If Paddy Doyle talks about that time in his life now, 20 years on, or if he goes to the European Court, which he may well do, to challenge the gagging order and talks publicly of his experi[819]ence, he could face a substantial fine and-or a period in jail. Such an obligation of secrecy offends natural justice and the Labour Party Bill offers us an opportunity to redress the balance.

These are proposals, incorporated into the legislation we have put forward, that have flowed from the public debate following on the Ryan report publication.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn And its recommendations.

Deputy Liz McManus:Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus Indeed. These issues are not major in terms of general public policy but each one of them is vital to individuals who live with their past every day, people who have had to fight their private demons as well as the public demons of ignorance, prejudice and denial.

I know of one survivor who was abused in an institution. Even though he was only a boy at the time, somehow he found the courage to fight back. He was described as out of control and impossible to manage in the report written about him at the time by the brother in charge. As a result of that report, he was incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital.

His experience was not accommodated by the redress board in the way that it would be under the criteria of our Bill. All of the measures do not go beyond this; they simply relate in some way to gaps in the system. They arise because survivors have raised them with us and I have no doubt they have raised them with Government Deputies also. This is what makes the Minister, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe’s response so disappointing. He complains about our unilateral action in bringing forward this Bill. The Government is at liberty to accept an Opposition Bill at any time and the record shows it does so when it chooses. If this issue has become a divisive one, it is because the Government and the Minister, Deputy O’Keeffe, in particular have chosen to make it so. There is nothing to stop him accepting the Bill and we could work our way through the Committee Stage to improve and tweak it as necessary.

Whatever happens, the issues that we raise will be as valid tomorrow as they are today. They will still require to be dealt with sooner rather than later. This is an opportunity for us, as a Parliament, to do the right thing. Let us take it.

Deputy Mary Upton:Information on Mary Upton Zoom on Mary Upton I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill proposed by Deputy Quinn. The very many words that have been spoken on this issue go just a little way to representing our horror and shock, the mere observers of the written reports, at the abuse that was perpetrated in the many institutions throughout the country for many years on people who had no voice. Nothing that we say will ever change the reality for the victims, many of whom, unfortunately, did not survive to hear the very small tokens of recognition of how and by whom they were failed for many years.

The Ryan report sets out in stark and graphic words the pain and suffering that was meted out to those who had nobody to speak up for them, nobody to defend them and nobody who cared enough to help them when they needed it most. These were children who were admitted to these institutions for the most spurious reasons, like stealing an apple or having a Protestant parent. On other occasions, it was just to satisfy the demands of an institutional hierarchy which wanted to keep their child labour operation running. Even the people lucky enough to suffer no abuse left these institutions with little or no education. To see the success of many of these people is a testament to their determination and courage.

In the Minister’s reply to the debate yesterday evening, he spoke about the residential institutions into which children were placed by the courts or by the health authorities. The Minister stated that the schools “were subject to State inspection and regulation” and, effectively, the State acted in loco parentis. This is a direct quote from the Minister’s speech. It is for this very statement that I believe the Minister and his Department must be held accountable. In regard [820]to financial compensation, the Minister went on to state that the Government will continue to engage with the religious congregations in regard to further contributions. This is entirely proper and correct. It is only fair and right that those who were responsible for inflicting the pain and suffering should be held to account.

I want to know why the Department of Education and its officials have not been held accountable. To quote him again, the Minister said the schools “were subject to State inspection and regulation.” In this case, the State was represented by the Department of Education and its inspectors and officials. The Ryan report is all but silent on the responsibility of that same inspectorate and its role in being complicit in the pain and suffering, deprivation, starvation and many other abuses meted out to the victims.

What exactly was the role of the inspectorate? What inspections did it carry out? What reports did it make and to whom? Did it visit these institutions and turn a blind eye to what was going on? Were the inspectors blindfolded? Were they afraid? Were they power hungry? Or, did they think what they saw was right and proper and normal treatment of children? Surely not.

What was wrong with all of them that they failed to make any significant reports on the state of these institutions and the children in them? If it is the case that they did make substantial critical reports, as I believe one or two of them did, what was wrong with the higher officials of the Department that they failed to act on these reports?

The failure of the inspectorate to report on and put a halt to the abuse does not take from the responsibility or culpability of those who managed and controlled the institutions and carried out the various abuses on a daily basis. The Ryan report, rightly, lifts the lid on their wrongdoing. However, the activities of those supposedly in loco parentis raises very serious questions not really addressed in the Ryan report or in any substantial way in the House. They have only been addressed in a peripheral way.

Why are those in the inspectorate, comprised of the same people charged with the responsibility of inspecting and reporting on the conditions in these institutions on behalf of the State, not named and shamed in the report or given a pseudonym in the same way as the church people in the report? Ironically they were Department of Education and Science officials but the recurring testimony of many of the victims is the total lack of education they received in these institutions.

Why is it that the Department of Education and Science and successive Ministers have conveniently lost files or cannot give direct answers to the many parliamentary questions I have submitted on behalf of one of my constituents to this day? Why do the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Education and Science seem unable to find the files or any evidence of corruption or abuses which took place in other State controlled institutions not dealt with in the Ryan report in replies to parliamentary questions I have tabled?

The Minister for Education and Science should note it is time to reconsider this whole sad chapter in Irish history and return to the drawing board in so far as it has been affected by the Department of Education and Science. All those who failed the children either through deed or omission should be held accountable. The religious orders stand judged guilty by the Ryan report but what has been the role of the Department of Education and Science and its inspectors? The extent of what was known about what took place in these institutions must become clear. We must know why inspectors continued to give clean bills of health to these organisations when everyone knew, at least anecdotally, that something untoward was taking place in these institutions. There must be a reckoning of the religious orders and of the Department of Education and Science regarding what took place.

[821]It was not only the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science. Many other agencies were involved, several of which in hindsight should have taken responsibility and spoken out. In many cases such people were the leaders of society. They were seen as educated and well-informed. For example medical personnel were implicated. Society overall had a responsibility and decided to turn a blind eye. None of this takes from the fact that those with immediate responsibility failed in that responsibility and still have not been brought to account.

Deputy Joe Costello:Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I thank Deputy Quinn for tabling the Institutional Child Abuse Bill 2009. Some weeks ago in the House we were appalled by the contributions detailing the contents of the Ryan report including the appalling treatment of vulnerable children put in the care of the State and religious orders. Deputy Quinn’s Bill proposes to move on the debate. The issue must not rest here and we must ensure the debate moves forward. There is unfinished business in respect of the State to which Deputy Upton referred. Inspectors in the Department of Education and Science and personnel in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform are implicated and files went missing. There is also unfinished business regarding the religious orders, which only paid a fraction of the State’s contribution in compensation. It is appropriate that there should be a full assessment of their assets and their ability to pay. The terms of their future contribution must also be dealt with. The Labour Party Bill concerns outstanding issues, what took place and how to move on the business at hand.

A major bone of contention has been the exclusion of many victims of child abuse from the terms of the redress Act. Many people have approached Members concerning their exclusion. When the legislation was passed in 2002 I was a Member of the Seanad. I recall calling for the inclusion of the Morning Star mother and baby home, the Regina Coeli hostel and Bethany House to the Schedule. I was assured by the Minister of the day that while they did not appear in the initial Schedule of homes, they would appear in a revised Schedule. However that never happened and people have been excluded despite a degree of regulation and inspection exercised by the relevant authorities for these homes.

I refer to those living abroad. Of the tens of thousands of young people who emerged from the industrial schools and reformatories a significant percentage had to go abroad to far flung parts of the world. This raises a serious issue of the timeframe and the ability of such people to submit an application before the expiry of the redress board deadline. That matter is addressed in this legislation.

As Deputy McManus stated it is unacceptable to place a gagging order on anyone who has appeared before the redress board. They should not be prohibited from retelling or relating the events which caused such grief and destroyed their childhood. That is the worst form of censorship of young children who are now adults and the Bill addresses this matter as well.

The destruction of records is outrageous. Why should any record which formed part of the testimony before the redress board be destroyed? Records should be retained at all cost and stored as a valuable historical account of what took place at a time when instead of cherishing the children of the nation, those in charge and who had these children in their care, preyed upon them. The Bill would ensure the slate is wiped clean for anyone with a criminal record who was detained in reformatories or industrial schools. This measure is essential and the Bill makes provision for it.

The Government should accept this legislation. Today, the Taoiseach indicated he would not accept it and I am unsure if the Government has changed its opinion since this morning but it should do so and it should allow all sides of the House to table amendments if required.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn They could be approved at that stage.

[822]Deputy Joe Costello:Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I am sure Deputy Quinn would be very pleased to receive any amendments. I seek an amendment regarding the immediate relatives of children who died in reformatories and industrial schools. Such people should have the right to have the remains of their loved ones exhumed such that they could be re-interred in a family plot in the local graveyard rather than where they are at present. Furthermore, any family which believes a child died in suspicious circumstances in an industrial school or reformatory while in the care of the religious orders and the State should be entitled to have that child’s remains exhumed and forensically examined to determine the exact cause of death, a reasonable request.

We must learn the lessons of the Ryan report for the sake of the tens of thousands of vulnerable innocent Irish children of recent decades. Some of the events referred to did not take place long ago. We must ensure whatever steps are necessary are taken in future. The Ryan report should be the beginning not the end of a process. Deputy Quinn has done a valuable service and has identified a way forward to deal with several outstanding issues. The final outstanding issue which must be addressed is to ensure our children in future are protected and that there is a constitutional amendment to enshrine in the Constitution protections for the rights of the child.

  8 o’clock

Deputy Kathleen Lynch:Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I refer to the demonstration held outside this building some three weeks ago. I am unsure if anyone else felt the same as I did, but the most poignant and heart wrenching moment for me was when the names of the different institutions and homes were called out. When Goldenbridge was called out three women in front of me said “Here”, when Letterfrack was called out, four men said “Here” and so on for many different institutions including Good Shepherd Convent, Cork. The lone voices in that crowd recognised for the first time that they were not alone. When these children were released or escaped from these institutions, or ran between life and death, and got out of this country in most cases, they must have thought that they were entirely alone and that they were the only people who had been in these institutions. I think it must give them some small comfort to know they were not alone. It was the saddest thing to see little groups within that big, huge mass of people, acknowledge where they spent their childhood.

I wrote a letter to the then Minister for Education and Science in November 2003. For about a year before that, I had gone to England one Saturday every month to meet a group of people at their invitation, at the Lazy Daisy café in Notting Hill, an area that became famous for something entirely different later. Every time I went there were often different groups but in the main, about 20 men and women were there ranging in age from their late 40s to their late 60s. The most striking thing about them was the sense of anger and frustration. They had escaped to a great extent — I am still fascinated as to how teenagers of 16 or 17 got through that whole maze of getting to England, getting past the pimps at railway stations and managing to survive and go on to have productive lives. I think that is a story in itself. I wonder how people with no experience of the outside world, only experience of abuse, managed to survive all that.

They felt deeply they had less right to complain because they had left Ireland. At the time the Minister was going to London and speaking to groups. It was estimated that 40% of all those detained in institutions in Ireland escaped to England and the general feeling was that the five outreach workers paid for by the Irish Government were doing a good job but there were not enough of them to cover the entirety of England, Scotland and Wales. The reason the majority of them did not come forward and still have not come forward and are now late in their applications, was the lack of education they got while they were supposed to have been in school. Therefore, even if they saw advertisements they did not have the wherewithal to make the application.

[823]I am reading details from the letter. They also felt very strongly at the time that the funding put in place by this Government for counselling services in England was given to people who were nuns or clerics and these people did not want to go to them for counselling. They felt they should have had the right to choose their own counsellors. They asked me to ask the Minister for certain things such as an extension of the freephone service to the UK as at the time it was only available in Ireland; the right to choose a therapist or a counsellor; facilities such as a fax and computer; help with the phone; a speedier response to queries; comprehensive media campaign and regular updates in the form of a newsletter. Those seven requests had not been met since requested in 2003.

I finished the letter to the Minister by writing that these meetings were quite an emotional experience and I ended the letter with the words of one lady named Mary: “I never had a Christmas. I never had a birthday. I never knew how old I was. How can they give me that back?” That woman has stayed with me all these years and I have visited several times. People talk about cherishing all children equally. This Labour Party Bill is about doing now in part what we should have done all those years ago. It is about extending the time limit, removing the gagging order. I would say to anyone listening to me: “Speak out because they cannot put you all in jail. You have at long last found your voice. Tell your story. What are they going to do to you? They have taken your childhood, they have taken your innocence, they have taken your ability to be happy, what else can they do to you? Like Mary, how can they give you that back? They cannot.”

We need to start being very serious about this and forget the platitudes. Every time I think of those people, I look at my grandsons who are now six years old. I think about how I would feel if someone took them away and did those awful things to them. This Bill, as progressive and as expansive as it is, still does not go far enough. We still have the Magdalen laundries women and we need to deal with that because they may have been put in there by their parents or the parish priest or the local sergeant or by the other institution which we have not dealt with, the ISPCC, who were complicit in the treatment of these children. Why are we not dealing with those? Why are we not dealing with the parents who are still alive whose children were stolen from them and who did not, as it is deemed in law, have the comfort of their children in their old age? Some of those people are still alive. Why are we not allowing these people to say loud and clear what they need to say to us? Why are gagging orders needed — to pretend it never happened, to pretend that these awful places did not exist? Well, they did exist. These were not just anyone’s children; they were the children of the poor because it was only the poor who could not complain and who did not have the wherewithal to fight it in court.

If we do nothing else, then above all else, we have to now start to be open and above board about this and give these people a voice. We can talk in here in this House; the church can speak; the Ministers can speak but it is the children who need to speak and they need to be listened to. The institutions that are now in talks with the Government should hang their heads in shame. What are they talking about? They know what happened; the Ryan report makes that very clear. They were as responsible as the State. They have the property, despite the downturn in the property market it is still a valuable asset. What are they talking about now? Are they still trying to cut a deal? There should be no deal. This is not about impoverishing religious institutions; it is about making them stand up and be accountable for what they did.

I will conclude with the words spoken by Mary. “I never had a Christmas. I never had a birthday. I never knew how old I was. How can they give me that back?” We may not be able to give her that back but we can give her dignity, we can give her respect and we can give her a voice.

[824]Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Barry Andrews):Information on Barry Andrews Zoom on Barry Andrews The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, set out the Government’s response to the Bill yesterday. Following the Ryan report, the Government met with the survivors and victims of child abuse. It also met with the congregations and explained to them that it would seek a substantial increase in the contribution they had previously made. As the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs, in accepting the recommendations of the Ryan report it has fallen to me to formulate an implementation plan. I take advantage of this debate to update the House on progress and touch on some of the issues raised by Deputy Quinn’s Bill and some of the comments made by Deputies on both sides.

We have set up a group in my office to draft the implementation plan and the response. There are people from my own office, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, HIQA, and the Health Service Executive. We are also getting input from the Department of Education and Science as some of the recommendations touch upon the work of that Department. We received 40 submissions. We are determined also that we will adhere to the principle expressed to us very simply by Paddy Doyle that “there would be nothing about us without us”. We have tried to adhere to the principle that we will listen to what survivors have to say, feed into their experience since the report was published and reflect that in the final outcome of the implementation plan. We have also met recently with interested parties, including legal experts.

I want to touch on one of the aspects Deputy Lynch spoke about earlier. She has obviously met survivors in the United Kingdom many times and has vast experience of that. I was not aware of all of that. As she is aware, I met some survivors on Monday last. I do not claim to have any great insight as a result of that simple meeting but it is worth pointing out, and I mentioned this in public recently, that the late applications issue is something that has some compelling virtue. In particular I was struck by the fact that so many left this country and that so many would have had literacy problems. Many of them recoiled from the Irish centres that were supposed to be the source of information about redress, compensation and the commission because they were populated by members of religious orders. Many of them were decent people but one cannot imagine how difficult it would be for survivors to approach these centres.

While a great effort was made by the Department to try to publicise redress and the commission, the publicity that followed the Ryan report is vastly greater. The commission was on the front page of The New York Times. It was on CNN and every website and media throughout the globe, and there is no question but that some genuine late applications have come to the attention of both centres in the United Kingdom and here in Ireland. Some acknowledgement of that is what we must consider in due course.

Another issue that touches on areas I have been working on is the question of spent convictions. As Deputy Quinn will know, I have done some work on legislation in that regard already and the Children Act ensures that convictions arising would be wiped clean in any case. Equally, when the spent convictions legislation comes before the House for debate, that will provide an opportunity to accommodate the principles contained in Deputy Quinn’s Bill at this stage.

I also met Lord Laming this week who is a child protection expert in the UK. It was interesting to note the great similarities in the problems the UK is experiencing in terms of child protection. The one legacy we want to leave is that what was contained and catalogued in the Ryan report was acted upon and that the voices expressed in that report did not go unheard.

Lord Laming said to me: “Whatever you do; do not do what we have done”. Its own structures are wholly inadequate, in his view. He was the author of the reports on both Victoria [825]Climbié and the Baby P tragedy but in both cases he pointed out that the inspection regimes need to be updated in the UK. Aftercare is a crucial issue.

One of the aspects that struck me was that we can say things have changed dramatically since the last century, and they have in many instances, but in some instances there is a depressing familiarity in that people with a care history tend to have to avail of the services of the justice system. They suffer from addiction and illiteracy, and that continues today. That is to our shame and that is the reason it is such an onerous task for me to try to come up with an implementation plan arising from that report. I want to underline my commitment to working with survivors throughout that preparation.

On the Bill itself, in principle there is much in it that is good. In due course we may be able to accommodate some of that but naturally we were criticised for doing the indemnity agreement too quickly, and there are some valid criticisms in that respect. Equally, it would be previous to accept all of the principles in this Bill without due consideration and without going through the processes we have already undertaken.

Deputy Joan Burton:Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I wish to share time with Deputy Gilmore.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Agreed.

Deputy Joan Burton:Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I listened last night with great disappointment to the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, rejecting, almost out of hand, the Labour Party’s modest reform proposals set out in the Institutional Child Abuse Bill 2009 but I welcome the much more accommodating tone of the Minister of State, Deputy Andrews, here this evening. Perhaps overnight there has been some change of heart on the part of Fianna Fáil.

As the Minister, Deputy O’Keeffe, spoke, one could almost feel hovering the ghosts of generations of Irish Ministers for Education and I thought of Tomas Derrig, De Valera’s Minister for Education for most of the 1930s and 1940s, who, although a teacher, seemed to lack not just understanding but compassion for the child prison system the Irish State permitted the religious orders to run. I agree with Bruce Arnold’s description that our child prison system was for many the equivalent of the Gulags.

The Labour Party proposals seek to address several issues arising from the Ryan report which are important to the children who were incarcerated in the system. The Labour Party Bill proposes measures that would, first, remove the gagging clause from the Redress Act and so restore freedom of speech to people who gave evidence to the redress process and-or were the recipients of awards; second, seek to replace the definition in the Redress Act of 2002 of a child under the age of 18 to the law at the time which deemed the age of majority to be 21; third, widen the definition of an institution to include a number of new institutions such as certain children’s homes or other institutions in which children were placed and were not covered by the commission Act or the redress Act. It must be borne in mind that covers many young, under age women who were in Magdalene homes; and fourth, ensure that the records of the commission and the bodies associated with it are preserved as important state records for personal, archival and historical research purposes.

In the torrent of debate and discussion that has followed in this House, and in the wider public debate, there has been almost universal and, I thought, cross-party agreement on these matters. I cannot understand what it is in the Fianna Fáil gene, in the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and in the Minister, Deputy O’Keeffe, that they cannot accept these proposals put forward by the Labour Party in the spirit in which they are intended.

[826]The Minister’s speech last night chose not to address these sections of the Bill. These measures would bring great comfort and vindication not just to the people who were in institutions but to their families, their children and grandchildren. I cannot understand why the Minister would have any problem with preserving essential historical records or in restoring and confirming the free speech of former residents.

The Minister’s opposition to the Labour Party Bill seemed partly based in pique that the Labour Party would dare to seek further legal remedies following the publication of the Ryan report. We made it very clear in our comments on the Ryan report that we thought there were wrongs that should be righted and as the Government has not moved to do so rapidly, we felt it was our responsibility to bring forward this Bill.

On those areas of the Labour Party Bill that the Minister addressed, he suggests that some of them require further legal consideration and he is also critical of the fact that our proposals are not fully costed. I put it to the Minister that most of the measures in the Labour Party Bill have limited, if any, costs. In respect of further restitution by the religious orders, clearly the religious orders and the Government are involved in a process of negotiation to reach an agreed sum which will be acceptable to the victims’ organisations and the survivors. Because these discussions are private to the Government, the religious congregations and the representatives of the people who were in institutions, we have consciously not intervened in that part of the process. Therefore, the Bill does not mention that part of the process. However, we believe the process needs to be widened to ensure that institutions which ought to have been included are, and we have also sought the extension of the time limit for applications for redress. We have done so, conscious of the fact that people who left for England and stayed there may have been unaware of the process until it was too late to apply, while others in Ireland and abroad may have been too traumatised until now to make an application.

There is also the continuing issue of the committal proceedings and the stain of conviction which many people believe attached to their incarceration and detention in institutions. The Government’s suggestion that people who are concerned about their records, arising from their committal or conviction, should write to the Minister or the Department of the Justice, Equality and Law Reform and that they would be dealt with, as though they were clinic cases, is insulting. No less a person that Mr. Gerard Hogan SC, who examined detention orders in respect of children, described the orders as “patently illegal”. These are the detention and committal orders which resulted in children being committed to institutions for significant numbers of years.

The tomb of Jonathan Swift in St. Patrick’s Cathedral bears the inscription saying that he lies at rest “where savage indignation can no longer lacerate his heart”. The measures in the Labour Party Bill seek to offer some additional solace to people who have suffered much. I again plead with the Government, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to accept these modest measures as a further and important legal step in vindicating the children who were incarcerated, starved and beaten, did forced labour, were sexually abused and raped and some of whom died. Sorry is not enough.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore:Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I thank my colleague, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, for bringing this Bill before the House and enabling it to debate follow-up legislation to the all-party motion which was agreed several weeks ago.

The report of the Ryan commission made for shocking reading. The systematic long-term abuse of children in institutions over a long period is a stain on the history and reputation of [827]our country. No amount of money or of saying “sorry” can undo the damage done. However, there are things which need to be done and can be done. Many of these were agreed in the all-party motion.

I thank the Members who contributed to the debate and who, on all sides, reflect our horror at what happened and a genuine resolve to deal with it fairly and in a way that recognises the suffering which took place and aims to ensure it will never happen again.

Many of us who have been Members of the Oireachtas know that in the immediate aftermath of the publication of a report — and the Ryan report is one of the most shocking I have ever seen — there is a genuine intent on the part of the House and the Government to do something about it. With the passage of time the matter slips off the order of priorities, other crises appear and the urgency gradually ebbs away. That is why the Labour Party brought forward this motion. The resolve of the House to deal appropriately with the recommendations of the Ryan commission should not ebb away. This legislation is before the House so that we can move the matter on. It must not be left as a motion which is passed by the House but which loses its drive and urgency with the passage of time.

Many things need to be done in dealing with the issue. The Minister and speakers on both sides of the House have acknowledged that the contents of the Labour Party Bill are substantially in line with the content of the agreed all-party motion. I am surprised, therefore, that the Government has not agreed to accept the Bill. A number of options were open to the Government. It could have broadly accepted the Bill and dealt with outstanding details on Committee Stage. It could have introduced an amendment to the Second Stage motion to defer the vote on Second Stage and allow the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, to bring in the proposals he has promised and which I believe he will bring forward. I am surprised the Government has decided to oppose the Bill on Second Stage.

I was particularly disappointed by the contribution of the Minister for Education and Science last night. While accepting that the Labour Party Bill is in line with the all-party motion the Minister, effectively, implied that the Labour Party was partisan or over-political in advancing the Bill at the time. That is not the case.

This morning, I asked the Taoiseach to reconsider the Government’s position and to have agreed the Bill by the time we met this evening. The Taoiseach replied that he was not prepared to do that. As is clear from Deputy Barry Andrews’ contribution, that is not the disposition of the Government.

During the course of the afternoon, the Labour Party was contacted by representatives of survivors of child abuse. Recognising that the Government was not prepared to accept the Bill, they asked us not to make a political issue of this matter and not to divide the House politically, having regard to the agreed all-party motion. There is a wish among survivors of child abuse that there should not be political division on this and that the all-party approach should be maintained.

At this last minute, I appeal to the Government not to oppose the Bill when the Acting Chair calls for a vote. I appeal to Government Members to agree Second Stage of the Bill and allow it to go to Committee where it can be debated and discussed. If they decide to oppose the Bill, in recognition of the request from survivors of child abuse I will not call a division. I will not ask Members to vote on the issue. The Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, is a constituency colleague of mine for whom I have enormous respect. I hope and believe he will introduce the proposals to which he has committed himself. If they are not introduced or if [828]they do not reflect what the Labour Party is seeking to achieve in this Bill, we will bring this proposal before this House again if the Government decides not to accept it this evening.

Question put and declared lost.


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