Orders collectively express shame for the first time

Sat, May 30, 2009, 01:00

CHILD ABUSE REPORT:THE 18 congregations which signed the redress deal with the State in June 2002 have for the first time as a group expressed shame and asked forgiveness for the systematic brutality of children in institutions managed by them and as recounted in the Ryan report.

In a joint statement following their meeting in Dublin yesterday, the 18 said: “Children were abused and not listened to, and we are ashamed that many of us failed them in different ways. We once again deeply apologise to those who were abused and ask for their forgiveness.”

Former Cori president Sr Elizabeth Maxwell, leader of the Presentation Sisters Northern Province, which is one of the 18 congregations, said last night that there was “still dismay, still shock’’ among them at what was revealed in the Ryan report. “We are asking forgiveness. It has gone beyond apology,’’ she said.

In their statement the 18 said they were available to meet the Taoiseach “to explore the most effective and most appropriate ongoing response to former residents of institutions’’.

They were “committed as individual congregations to make contributions which can offer further support and assistance to former residents. The details of what is required will be discussed at our meetings with An Taoiseach and his representatives,” they said.

They were also “examining the findings and recommendations of the Ryan report in its challenge to the deficiencies which existed generally and especially in our failures in our duty of care to children. We are currently, and we will continue to examine, this fundamental issue in the context of the past, the present and the future.”

Of the 18, five congregations managed institutions investigated by the Ryan commission and, while all signed the 2002 redress deal, not all were able to contribute to it in proportion to the number of allegations made against members. Those that could not do so were assisted by others among the 18 who could afford it.

In another development, there is to be “a march of solidarity’’ with residents of the institutions run by the congregations in Dublin on June 10th. It will coincide with Dáil debates on the Ryan report.

Organised by a newly-constituted Survivors of Institutional Abuse Ireland (SOIAI) group, involving Christine Buckley of Aislinn, John Kelly of SOCA Ireland,Noel Barry of Right of Place, and Michael O’Brien, former mayor of Clonmel, it will leave the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square at noon that day.

It will proceed past the GPO to the Dáil, where it is planned to hand a petition to Sr Marianne O’Connor, director general of Cori, together with representatives of each of the 18 religious congregations which participated in the 2002 redress deal. An invitation to accept the petition has been extended to the congregations through Cori.

The survivors hope that those who can join in the march will each wear a white ribbon “to symbolise the lives shattered in these institutions”. The silence of the march will be broken only when 216 survivors intone the names of each of the 216 relevant institutions as the petition is handed to representatives of the congregations.

The survivors will then lay three wreaths, two white and one black, outside the Dáil “in memory of the living and dead” of those institutions.

The wording of the petition, which will be available on a website to be set up next week, will read: “We the people of Ireland join in solidarity and call for justice, accountability and restitution for the unimaginable crimes committed against the children of our country by religious orders in 216 institutions.’’

Meanwhile, a nun who is a member of a congregation which is one of 137 affiliated to Cori but is not among the 18 which signed the 2002 redress deal, has protested that neither she, her congregation nor any of its membership was consulted in advance about Cori’s involvement in facilitating the 18 relevant congregations in negotiating the redress deal.

Sr Majella McCarron of the Our Lady of Apostles congregation said yesterday that neither she nor her congregation was “afforded any debate about the matter, at any level’’. Speaking for herself, she said she “would want attention drawn to this’’.