State accused of ignoring abuse victims as memorial plans stall

Abuse survivor criticises Government on lack of movement on planned memorial in Dublin

The Government has been accused of ignoring victims of institutional abuse because plans for a memorial have failed to materialise.

Erecting a memorial was the first recommendation of the 2009 Ryan Report and €500,000 was ringfenced for the purpose.

The report found there had been widespread physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and neglect of tens of thousands of children in institutions run by 18 religious congregations on behalf of the State up to the 1970s.

It recommended a memorial should be erected to pay tribute to the victims as “a permanent public acknowledgement of their experiences”.



The report further added that it was “important for the alleviation of the effects of childhood abuse that the State’s formal recognition of the abuse that occurred and the suffering of the victims should be preserved in a permanent place”.

A plan to build a memorial in the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square in Dublin 1 was refused permission by An Bord Pleanála in November 2013, on the grounds it would have an adverse impact on the setting, character and function of the existing memorial to those who died fighting for Irish freedom. It was deemed that the association between the two memorials was inappropriate.

Dublin City Council approved the memorial in May 2013, despite several objections – including some from an abuse survivors' support group.

Abuse survivor Bernadette Fahy said on Wednesday the fact there has been no movement on the planned memorial since 2013 "speaks volumes". It suggested, she said, that "the Government and Ireland still wants to keep us hidden away".

Statue at Leinster House

Ms Fahy had been on the judging panel which chose the memorial rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

With the late Christine Buckley, she had also been in Dublin's Goldenbridge orphanage as a child and took part with her in the first television documentary to expose such abuses, the 1996 Dear Daughter programme.

Carmel McDonnell Byrne, who co-founded the Aislinn centre in Dublin with Ms Buckley, said “the one thing Christine pushed for, along with Aislinn, was a monument for all survivors”. She said such a memorial “should go ahead, so we never forget”.

John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca) group, said he felt wider consultation with survivors could have avoided problems with the rejected proposal. He said he believes a statue of a child at Leinster House or near Government Buildings would be a good idea "so that every member would see it as they passed by".

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who opposed the memorial proposed for the Garden of Remembrance, suggested the old Magdalene laundry on Seán McDermott Street as a potential alternative location. Regardless, she believed a memorial should go ahead.

The rejected memorial was selected following an international competition.

One entry

It attracted just one entry that the judging panel felt was up to standard. Titled the

Journey of Light

, it was designed by Studio Negri and


& Associates to integrate with the Garden of Remembrance.

A spokesman for the Department of Education told The Irish Times "the difficulties are that the winning design uses the physical features of the Garden of Remembrance site and the design cannot be created on a different site".

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times