'Shame on you, Government and Church'

 

THE COMMENT was stark in its simplicity.

“I listened. I heard. I believe you,” a Dubliner wrote in one of the books of solidarity being signed at the Mansion House for victims of abuse yesterday.

Several hundred people filed into the Dublin lord mayor’s residence to add their signatures and comments to one of seven books in use. Lengthy queues formed at the weekend as hundreds more waited in line. More than 3,000 people signed the books at the weekend, according to mayor Eibhlin Byrne.

The public was initially invited to come on Saturday and Sunday, but because of the huge numbers arriving, the books are being left open until Friday.

The Mansion House has also received many requests from abroad for an online book of condolence, particularly from Britain and the US. A spokeswoman said the mayor would see if this was feasible. Some callers have said they will travel from abroad specifically to sign the books.

While Dubliners accounted for most of the signatures so far, comments have been left by people from almost every county and by people with addresses in countries such as Britain, Sweden, the US and Australia.

The books are heavy with poignant comments from victims, relatives and shocked members of the public.

One victim from Co Meath wrote: “I am one of the many of the abused. Now we will be heeded. Thank God.”

A person from East Yorkshire described himself as a fellow survivor and wrote: “I hope you come to know healing.”

Another said he was “an almost escapee of sexual abuse at the hands of three Christian Brothers”.

One writer told how he was a victim for 17 years and was admitted to an adult mental hospital at the age of 15.

Relatives and friends of abused children also left their messages. “Remembering Paddy” wrote one Dubliner. Another wrote simply, “For my father”.

And a Dublin 14 resident added: “Peter, we always believed you. Ireland will believe you now.”

One writer remembered “my sister who hung herself” and all the victims who had not lived to see the commission report, or had spent their lives in hospitals and homes.

Anger was palpable in many of the comments, with remarks such as “Lock them up”, and “Rome, stand up and name those who hurt our children”, and “Shame on you, Government and Church”.

Feelings of guilt were also evident. One woman wrote: “We lived so close to Artane but were not aware of what was going on or how we could have helped. We were children of the 50s and 60s.” A person from Crumlin wrote “my heart is broken”.

Some people used just one word to convey their reaction. “Sorry” was the most frequent message, often coming from families. “Horror” came from an address in Dublin’s Mount Merrion.

One visitor pointed to the biblical passage Mark 10:14 which refers to Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” The writer asked: “How could such a vision turn so depraved?”

Other injustices were also highlighted by visitors. “Dozens of child asylum seekers have disappeared while in State care. Where is the outcry?” asked a person from Dún Laoghaire.

Yesterday’s callers were young and old, arriving alone and in couples. Joanna Travers, a staff member at the Mansion House, said there had been a constant stream of visitors all day. “There have been a lot of people very upset coming in.”

One woman let a large sigh as she leafed through a book of solidarity. “I just don’t know what to say anymore,” she said to the man beside her. He nodded silently.