Survivors of abuse at fee-paying schools invited to come forward ‘without fear’ to scoping inquiry

Letter outlines two stages of survivor engagement process and role of trauma-informed facilitator

Survivors of abuse while children at private fee-paying schools have been written to by the Scoping Inquiry into Historical Sexual Abuse in Day and Boarding Schools run by Religious Orders to find out what they require of a planned Government investigation into their experiences.

The letter, sent to those who registered an interest in participating in the survivor engagement process of the scoping inquiry, pointed out that it “has a survivor engagement process at its centre” and “aims to find out what survivors want the Government to do” in relation to their sexual abuse in the schools.

This, it said, would be done in a two-stage process, with the intention of reaching out to survivors “in a way that enables them to come forward without fear”.

Stage one would “explore the key matters to be addressed” with survivors “invited to complete a questionnaire to identify themselves and their experiences”. They can choose to do this either online, using a secure survey tool, or by completing a questionnaire posted to them, or by answering the survey over the phone “where they will speak to a trauma-informed facilitator who will record their answers”.


At this stage, survivors will be asked about “their experiences and if they would be willing to engage further in a one-to-one conversation with a trauma-informed facilitator where they can discuss the responses they would like to see from the Government. This is in recognition of the fact that different people may have had different types of experiences and have differing priorities,” the letter stated.

It is expected that information gathered at stage one will give an indication of how many complainants there are and how survivors would like to be contacted. It would also provide details of schools attended and when, as well as the role of those they believed responsible for the abuse, and whether complaints had been reported to any civil authority.

Stage two of the process would involve more direct contact with survivors. “The scoping inquiry will arrange for trauma-informed facilitators to reach out to them and survivors will be able to select the ways in which they are willing to be contacted by these facilitators. This is to give survivors an opportunity to tell their own stories, in their own words,” the letter stated.

Survivors will also have a choice as to how they may wish to participate in this stage too; either by online interviews, telephone interviews, in-person interviews or by a written submission.

Then “the trauma-informed facilitator will agree a verbal summary of the conversation with the survivor at the end of the session to ensure that it is accurate and reflects what they want shared. Survivors will also be given a written summary of what they have told the facilitator shortly after the conversation,” it said.

Concluding, the letter said that “participants will have an opportunity to indicate whether they are happy for elements of their story to be used, anonymously, in the report of the scoping inquiry”.

It stated that the inquiry - announced by the Minister for Education Norma Foley last March - was “keen to ensure that survivors have an opportunity to outline what they would like to see happen next in terms of a Government response” and how it was “important that survivors know that they will be contributing to making Irish schools and educational settings safer for children and young people”.

Survivors with questions are invited to email or call 090 6483610 between 9.15am and 5pm. Outside those hours, they can leave a voicemail message.

Led by senior counsel Mary O’Toole, the inquiry is expected to report back to Government by November.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times