Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ireland's Shame - Someone Should Have Spoken Out

The following is a post which I wrote a few weeks ago and appears on my other blog, JOURNEYS THROUGH TIME written under my real name, Ann Brien, actor. The reason I want to include it here is because, as Ann Brien I have never spoken about my painful past so therefore readers of that blog post will have no indication that its author has also suffered at the hands of those responsible for her care.

It is for that very reason I had to express my intense sadness and condemnation of what happened to those poor children and also because I could so easily have ended up one of them. The first two and a half years of my life were spent in hospitals and foster homes until I was then adopted by people, who sadly through no fault of their own as I now realise, inflicted on me physical and emotional suffering which to this day still haunts me. Years of therapy eventually helped me deal with the pain but above all, it gave me the strength to forgive. The anger I once felt towards my adoptive parents has long since been replaced by an immense sense of gratitude for their decision to adopt a small, scared little girl who at two and a half years of age could neither walk or talk. Had it not been for my parents desire for a child I too could have been placed in one of those houses of evil. Bad and all as my treatment was it could have been so much worse. Reading that Report has made me realise just how lucky I am.

Here is that post:

"As an Irish citizen and Roman Catholic I feel compelled to voice my overwhelming anger at the horrific atrocities carried out in our Industrial and Reformatory Schools across Ireland over a period of nearly sixty years. The perpetrators of these evil acts of mental and physical torture were not WW2 concentration camp guards but men and women of God, namely priests, nuns and Christian Brothers. Those were the people supposedly responsible for the welfare of these vulnerable children some of whom were placed in the institutions simply because a parent had died. What God in Heaven could have allowed this to happen? I never thought I'd hear myself ask that question.

The very houses set up in the mid-nineteenth century as places of refuge were to become akin to prisoner of war camps, their staff inflicting such appalling abuse to their young charges that words fail to describe. Punishments is not the term I'd use in this case as the children did no wrong but the acts of violence include; rape, horrific beatings, starvation, not allowed a drink of water from mid-day onwards so forced to drink from toilets, humiliation. The list is endless and far too harrowing to describe in detail.

Although the physical scars may have long since healed the horrendous emotional abuse these unfortunate children suffered at the hands of those bastards will surely have left them with scars no amount of counselling may ever heal. For them, the recent so-called heartfelt apologies by the representatives of both the clergy and state must have served to drive the dagger even deeper into their wounds. Words are cheap. Justice is what these people need in the form of acknowledgement of and apology for the wrong doings directly, where possible, by those personally responsible followed up by appropriate financial assistance from the religious orders concerned. The men and women who carried out these atrocious acts should be named, shamed and brought to justice regardless of their seniority.

What also disturbs me is the fact that our State has no plans to clear the "criminal" records of those youngsters sent to Reformatory Schools whose only crime was petty theft. What kind of mentality could continue to impose such cruelty on these unfortunate individuals? Has their suffering not served many times over as their sentences?

I feel I should point out that there were also acts of kindness by members of staff towards the children. One woman recalls being given a sweet once a week by a nurse. These kind souls it appears were also terrified of their evil colleagues as the gestures were made in secret.

My heartfelt admiration goes to Christine Buckley and all the other victims of abuse who have so courageously brought this litany of evil into the public domain where it is now in a five-volume Report, evidence that their stories are real, they were not imagined as some people cruelly insinuated.

For all those who suffered in the dark I pray their stories will light the way towards a brighter and safer world for our children and those yet to be born.

Should you wish to read the Report it can be viewed here The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse"