Citizens wait patiently to express solidarity with victims of abuse

 

BOOK OF SOLIDARITY:MEMBERS OF the public queued for over an hour yesterday to sign a book of solidarity in Dublin’s Mansion House for the victims of abuse.

For much of the day, the queue stretched up to St Stephen’s Green as ordinary citizens waited patiently to express their solidarity with the victims.

The signing was scheduled to end at 4pm but had to be extended past 6pm because of the numbers arriving.

By tea-time, more than 4,500 people had signed the book.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny were among those who signed over the weekend, but the throng included many former residents of institutions and their children.

For some, it was an emotional occasion; one woman approached Mr Kenny as he went to sign the book and broke down in tears as she recounted her story of abuse.

“I can’t believe the stories I’ve heard here over the past 24 hours,” said Lord Mayor Eibhlín Byrne, who was on hand to shake hands and talk to people as they left. “The reaction is not anything like I expected. I thought people would come in, sign the book and go. I didn’t expect the awful, raw emotion that was to go with it.”

One woman told her how her father took her to England aged 12 to be used in prostitution; a man described how he was sent to an institution in Kilkenny at the age of 18 months on the orders of a judge who ruled that he was “wandering the streets”.

A doctor described how his practice was almost destroyed after he spoke out against abuse in 1968 and was “spoken against” from the altar, Ms Byrne said.

Conor O’Brien, from Ballyfermot, said it was time for the Catholic Church to “put their hands up” and “stop hiding behind the law”.

“I’m shocked at what I’ve read over the past week, horrified by the extent of the institutional abuse. The church has to reinvent itself after this; they have a lot to answer for.”

Mr O’Brien said he witnessed some physical abuse as a pupil in his Christian Brothers school, but most of it was directed at boys who lacked parental back-up. “If they did something to me, they knew my mother would be down to talk to you, but those boys, they had no one to talk up for them.”

In spite of the revelations of the past week, he said his faith remained unaltered. “I’ve had a good experience of being a Catholic but I can understand how others haven’t.”

Rachael Minch said she came to the Mansion House to show solidarity with the abused: “It’s little enough, but it’s the least I can do to show I care.”

An annual day of commemoration would be a more appropriate way to mark the suffering of those abused rather than the erection of a memorial, she suggested.

Some who signed the book expressed annoyance at the presence of Ms Byrne, a Fianna Fáil candidate in the European elections. “They should keep politics out of this,” one woman said.

Ms Byrne said nobody had said this to her. “That’s a cheap shot, but people tend to do that now. This is about much much more than elections.”

She said she had made sure none of her canvassing vans were anywhere nearby.

In fact, her election car was parked outside St Anne’s Church on Dawson Street.

“Ireland’s greatest shame,” was the reaction of Hazel Cathcart to the Ryan report. “But I wasn’t surprised,” she added.

“Anyone who opened their eyes to it at the time knew that this was going on.”

She called for the provision of free, professional counselling services to help survivors overcome their trauma.

Patrick J Brady, from Cavan, wrote a poem on the subject, relating how:

Many souls were shipwrecked by Church and State/now it’s Mother Church’s time to repent/If it’s not too late.

His poem concluded: We hope some day that all the hatred will be driven hence/Allowing our hearts and souls to recover that once radical innocence.