Redress board queried about repeated denials

 

A SOLICITOR who has represented former residents of State institutions for children has said she queried with the redress board as far back as 2003 why it continued to accept repeated denials by the Christian Brothers of any abuse in institutions they had managed.

Gort, Co Galway-based solicitor Eileen McMahon has also accused the provincial of the Christian Brothers in Ireland, Br Kevin Mullan, of not being sincere in his recent apology to former residents of the institutions.

Ms McMahon has dealt with approximately 250 cases at the redress board, mainly involving clients now living in the UK. She referred to letters sent to the board by Br Mullan which denied any abuse by the Christian Brothers and which were published in this newspaper on June 3rd last. One was lodged with the board by Br Mullan on May 15th, five days before publication of the Ryan report.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms McMahon called on Br Mullan to write a letter of apology retracting the denials to each of the approximate 5,000 people affected, or that he take out newspaper advertisements in the 12 relevant countries containing such an apology. Otherwise, “he should stand down with immediate effect”, she said.

“In 20 years of litigating cases I have never seen a defendant organisation take such an arrogant and ill-advised stance,’’ she said. She added: “I concluded that there was a regime of abuse [at Christian Brothers-run institutions] shortly after starting this work in 2003. I queried this with the solicitor to the board back in 2003 and asked why the then chairman Mr Sean O’Leary, now deceased, had allowed these documents [letters denying abuse] in a no-fault scheme.”

Ms McMahon said: “These documents caused my clients distress, anger, hurt, grief, pain and on occasions they contemplated suicide.”

She said: “We must remember that they were invited to apply for redress. They did not sue the congregations personally because it had already been accepted in 1999 [with the then taoiseach’s apology] that they had been wronged. It is hypocritical for an organisation to sign up to an indemnity agreement and then deny that the abuse complained of happened when applicants presented their cases.’’

The denials “which clearly say that the abuse did not happen or that Br X would not behave in such a manner, signed by Br Mullan, have left my clients feeling they are not believed or listened to.’’

In a statement on June 3rd, the Christian Brothers said their letters to the redress board predated the publication of the Ryan report “which highlighted the shocking nature and extent of abuse that occurred”.

It added: “The Brothers’ subsequent apologies reflected their shame that as recently as five days prior to publication of the report their responses were still shamefully inadequate and hurtful. Since publication of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse, the congregation has accepted its culpability as well as recognising its moral obligation to former residents and to present and future generations of children.”