Years of abuse, decades of neglect. Now child abuse survivors want justice

It’s been my privilege over the last eighteen months to work alongside survivors of institutional child abuse in their battle for justice. Since Margaret McGuckin and others started their campaign on behalf of the children – now adults – abused in institutions across Northern Ireland, hundreds of people have come forward with personal stories of sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse.

In July 2010 I accompanied some of the survivors to a meeting with the First and deputy First Ministers where they explained their desire for a comprehensive investigation into the abuse they and others had suffered as children. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness demonstrated an understanding, empathy and unity of purpose which was impressive to behold. Northern Ireland’s political leaders listened carefully to the survivors and promised that they would not let them down.

In December the NI Executive announced its intention to hold an inquiry and established an interdepartmental taskforce. That taskforce’s consultation will end on May 23rd, after which date it will make recommendations to the Executive.

On Friday many abuse survivors gathered in Belfast to agree their submission to the taskforce and to plan the next stage in their campaign. I was asked to help talk through the draft paper – on which Amnesty had advised – which had been developed over preceding months, after listening to the wishes of many survivors, studying the lessons from similar processes in the Republic and elsewhere and looking at the pros and cons of different inquiry models.

Abuse survivors in Northern Ireland want an inquiry which will investigate child abuse allegations in all institutions, whether run by church bodies, charities or by the State itself. As well as the long-hidden truth to be finally told, they want justice, with individuals and institutions responsible for the abuse – and any subsequent cover-up – to be held accountable before the law.

The survivors and victims will this week submit their call to the taskforce, setting out in detail their demands for an independent, public, judge-led inquiry, with full powers to compel witnesses to give evidence or disclose documents.

These powers are seen as crucial to the likelihood of success of any inquiry, especially given the difficulties that many survivors have experienced in locating or accessing files about their own periods of residency in institutions. We know the PSNI has experienced similar problems in investigating historic abuse allegations.

The power to compel witnesses to give evidence to the inquiry is important given the lack of willingness of, for instance, institutions of the Catholic church, to cooperate with past inquiries in the Republic and elsewhere.

Indeed, as was revealed this week (and discussed yesterday on the BBC NI Sunday Sequence programme – at 1:04:18) the Church has even been failing to cooperate with its own child protection body, the National Board for Safeguarding Children. In the last year, more than 200 new allegations of clerical child abuse made to church authorities were withheld from the board until very recently. On Thursday, in an analysis piece of the episode by its religious affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times gave this summary, as pithy as it is devastating:

The Catholic Church is more interested in reaching for lawyers than protecting children. 

If this is indeed true, then the inquiry will need to be robust enough to deal with that particular institution … and its lawyers.


  • “to be held accountable before the law.”

    It would be nice to think that this could happen, Patrick, but the track record for holding perpetrators of all manner of violence as well as corruption to account isn’t a good one. Don’t be surprised if, on occasion, extensive cover-ups are paid for out of public funds.

  • Cynic2

    For a long time, I was prepared to give the Church the benefit of the doubt. The allegations were horrific and there had been a cover up over many years. But this also had to be seen against the timespan it took place over, the culture of Ireland in the 1960s and 70’s and an institution in denial about the conduct of a small minority of clergy.

    There also seemed to be some signs of progress. But the new figures from Ireland are startling and show that, despite all the directions from the Pope and the public hand wringing of Bishops, in large sections of the Irish Church the culture of lying and cover-up persists.


    A point has been reached when the law enforcement agencies have to treat this as a criminal conspiracy and investigate what is really going on and the state has to intervene. The Church plays too big a part in the education of children North and South not to safeguard them and ensure it is a fit and proper organisation to hold that trust .

  • Mick Fealty

    Ongoing detection (and sensitive handling) is just as crucial as dealing fulsomely with the past. The Catholic Church is author of its own misfortune in many respects, but it’s not the only one in play.

    I don’t have figures, but the overall numbers of abuse cases emanating from churches are not fair apart between CC and others here, but the relative figures are far higher in the CC.

    That represents a culture of, if not tolerance, then cover up; facilitated by an authoritarian power structure in which traditional authority has been held to be above reproach (the subsequent weakening of said traditions have been a huge loss to Irish society IMHO).

    In a funny sort of way, the weaker power structures of other churches have protected them in some respects. As well as paying greater conscious attention to victims, surely we need to be a bit more questioning of power, from where ever it emanates?

  • Nunoftheabove


    Indeed we do, we should also be asking serious questions of any state in which the public prosecutor is apparently quite so unwilling or unable to do very much in the face of very substantial evidence of serious criminal wrongdoing. It’s well past the point at which victims and their supporters should have to be doing any heavy lifting in order to get this moved forward in the face of apparent state indifference.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “which will investigate child abuse allegations in all institutions, whether run by church bodies, charities or by the State itself”

    While on face value I fully accept the scope, part of me fears the inclusion of State and Charities could risk the credibility of the process for three possible reasons.

    1. In NI we are obsessed with “balancing” the community impact of events, so criticism of the Roman Catholic Church needs balanced with criticism of the state and protestant run bodies. So the powers that be aren’t seen as one sided.

    2. The Nationalist and Republican tradition have a strong tendency to blame everything on the state, who eternally remain responsible for every crime committed in the last 800 years.

    3. It is so much easier to do reports when there is a paper trail to follow, obviously the state generates much more paper than even the Catholic Church, and it seems it is much more accessible.

    Maybe it paranoia on my part, but having seen what has happened with the narrative of the troubles I would be concerned the focus will become skewered in this instance too.

  • joeCanuck

    surely we need to be a bit more questioning of power, from where ever it emanates?

    Mick, I agree. Do you think that the CC still holds sway over the Government, or, at least, some Ministers. I’ve been away too long to know.

  • I hope the Assembly can agree on this subject and perhaps show the south how such investigations should be carried out.

    On both sides of the border there are people who suffered years of abuse and as adults were expected to show respect and courtesy to their abusers.

  • Nunoftheabove


    I agree on the obsession but the people who if anything should be shouting loudest for the catholic victims are – and let’s call them by their names – the catholic parties. Their on-the-whole apparent unwillingness to do so says a great deal for their preparedness to collude in the feelings of those within ‘their’ electorate who don’t want to face this and would just wish it would away. That’s of course if anythng moe the case in the north where the risk of further shame in the eyes of their christian ‘rivals’ is possible. Doesn’t anyone anywhere within these parties feel a sense of public duty to step outside of that paradigm and let go of the altar rails in the interests of some emblance of public morality?

    I don’t think that the state responsibility argument can hold much water other than in the sense that it has the potential to cast light across just how cosy the relationship between the state and the CC in the north was. take a wild guess who’s least keen about that being further explored ? The Claudy/Chesney epsiode provided another example of that from an entirely different context and we know how much the CC writhed at having that clam opened.

  • granni trixie

    I think that a strength of the Savia group is that they have developed a vocal leadership of people who are truely speaking truth to power. They also benefit from the experience and back up of Amnesty, a not inconsiderable factor as the group don’t have financial or legal resources other than help from networking with NGOs and individuals sympathic to the cause. The document setting out the framework for a public enquiry for instance is the prouduct of not only Amnesty but these others. It is also informed by harnessing experience in the South and lessons learnt by the 4in1 group. The support of Colm O’Gorman now working for Amnesty is also not to be underestimated.

    SAVIA are therefore more ‘politically’ aware than they might otherwise be of the necessity to keep their right to justice above party or sectarian interests. They also know to try to avoid being portrayed as just a church bashing group. They are helped by the fact that FM and DFM last Dec. made a committment to Margaret McGookin and others to set up a cross dept. Taskforce to advise FM/DFM about how to address the problem after a short consultation period,ending this week. The facts will also establish that it is not the CC alone which was/is at fault as at this point cases of abuse in institutions across the divide are in the legal pipeline. Debates about the culture of secrecy and coverup sustaining the problem is sure to prevail. Professionals such as social workers are I hope are also going to be asking questions of themselves such as why rumours of abuse were not acted upon for so long.
    Yes, the shit is about to hit the fan.Hopefully nothing can be the same now that Survivors and Victims are finding their voice. So far so good.

  • Crubeen

    A declaration of interest – I have a profoundly learning disabled child who was returned from a stay at one of these “institutions” with suspicious bruising of indeterminate date. I know of another similar child who was tied up and beaten and I saw and witnessed, almost at first hand, the dedicated cover-up that was put in place by the social workers and the investigatory and regulatory bodies.

    Let me give an example – if a vulnerable person is assaulted or abused in an institution run by or dependent on a Health Trust, there will be a Joint Protocol Investigation in which the Police will be ‘assisted’ by fully involved ‘professionals’ of the Trust. In other words, colleagues of those who committed the assault or failed to protect the victim, will be an active part of the investigation. I have visions of “Oh dear the victim cannot be interviewed or asked to identify the abuser(s) lest it be too traumatic!” … except that I don’t have visions … I know!

    A further example – if a care worker employed by a Trust or ‘charity’ dependent on a Trust for funding (the majority of them) is adjudged to have failed in his/her duty of care to a vulnerable person (but is not criminally culpable) and where disclosure of that failure would adversely refect on the Trust, that care worker will not be removed from the social care workforce but will be transferred to a different workplace.

    If a member of the public complains to the Social Care Council, the body responsible for registering the social care work force, he will ultimately be informed that the Council has no independent powers of investigation and simply acts as a rubber stamp for employers. In other words if it doesn’t suit the employer to prosecute a case against the abuser,to remover him/her from the social care workforce, there will be no prosecution.

    And if, like me, you find a loophole in the legislation that makes care providers transparent and accountable to the parents and families of the vulnerable, you’ll find the Department more than ready to close that loophole so that what goes on in care homes is not open to public scrutiny of any kind. The staff have to be protected against intrusive families.

    Every parent of every disabled child has one concern – “What will happen to my child when I am no longer there to look after him/her?” More than likely, unless they are placed in genuine caring establishments, of which there are a few, they will wind up in closed state-run or sponsored placements closed to publicand family scrutiny, where they will be amenable to abuse. That’s what happenned in the South and it is what is happening here. The only change that has been effected is that establishments are open to regulators … but the regulators have either no teeth or no will to do the job properly. In NI each establishment is to be inspected twice yearly – one announced and one unannounced visit. As one care worker told me – “We always know when the unannounced visit is due as there’s a cleaning blitz and the appearance of all sorts of equipment that we usually have to beg for!”

    And trust me on this – having investigated an instance of abuse and identified the culprits and loudly and vocally complained about them. There were no prosecutions; there were no removals from the social care work force; the ‘independent’ review (composed entirely of ‘professionals’) ignored the incident upon which it was founded; the Department had a great influence on the Review outcome though there seem to be no Minutes of a crucial meeting between it and the Chair of the Review etc etc.

    Not so long ago, with all of the people involved in that abuse still employed in the social care field … a relative of mine was accosted, by one of those people, who accused me of blighting her career prospects. Quelle tragedie! A person who fails to see and appreciate that extensive bruising and oedema, on a vulnerable child in his/her care, might indicate, at the very least, a need for prompt medical investigation, if not treatment … is deserving of a career as a professional in social care … ???!!!???

  • joeCanuck

    Very sad to hear that you have a disabled child who has appeared to have beenabused/assaulted. Even as sad to know that there apparently no remedy.

  • Crubeen


    Thank you for that. My child is safe … but others are not … and despite all of the enquiries the fundamental principle that the ultimate source of protection for any vulnerable person is that person’s family is vehemently opposed by the ‘professionals.’

    Cast public light into and onto the system – it’s cheaper and ultimately more effective.

  • granni trixie

    Crubeen: Terrible to hear from your account, lack of acountability is alive and well. I would have expected the impact of Child protection awareness to have improved systems affecting vulnerable adults and children.

    My son is dead now but I have walked the walk of a family living with someone who is disabled, in my experience another world. But it doesnt have to be if the rest of the public were less isolating (dont start me) and professionals more accountable. Needless to say, I wish for you and your family better times ahead.

  • In my opinion the worst aspect is that, once caught the recommendations invariably involve better training. Of course in the case of severely physically disabled the right way to move/carry/exercise people is essential and proper training is required. In cases of real abuse however, physical, emotional or sexual, training is irrelevant. Too often a lack of training is made the scapegoat when in fact in most cases what is missing is a lack of real, proactive supervision. Its not possible to teach and no one should need to learn how to be a caring person.

    Institutional care, be it church or state, should lead the way in the real training of carers but too often it is found to contain the worst abusers and the most sophisticated cover ups, that’s what needs to change.

  • Crubeen

    Very sorry to hear about your child I hope you have now found the right place, they are out there.

  • Crubeen


    “My son is dead now but I have walked the walk of a family living with someone who is disabled, in my experience another world”

    A special light has gone out and you and I both know just how warm that light is. The loss of any child is tragic but the loss of a disabled one is even worse, largely I think, because of the intensity of the love and support you give that child. Our ‘wee un’ has a life threatening condition and I cannot describe the feelings when, on occasion, she has teetered on the brink and, fortunately, been returned to us.

    “But it doesnt have to be if the rest of the public were less isolating (dont start me)”

    I do have to say that here, where we live in Norn Iren, the reaction of our neighbours and the public at large is and always has been absolutely fantastic.

    “professionals more accountable.”

    We have the full range on call – the Consultant Paediatrician, Specialist Nurses, the Speech Terrorists, the Occupational Terrorists etc etc and they are utterly brilliant. They listen; they consult; they take your views into consideration and, if you disagree they respect that disagreement for they understand your decision is based on factors they do not know viz.your instinctive understanding of your child.

    I you dare, however, reject the opinion and plan of a Social Worker you will be threatened with the full rigour of the law and/or dirty tricks to compell your acceptance of what they consider to be best for your child. Not just my experience … I have other horror stories!

    Thank you for your good wishes and you have my utmost sympathy in your own loss.

  • Crubeen


    “In my opinion the worst aspect is that, once caught the recommendations invariably involve better training”

    We don’t need another enquiry into abuse simply to produce the same recommendations that enquiries have been producing sine Moses was a baby. The facility, of which I am mindful (where an assault took place), was a respite unit for disabled children. The recommendation for future ‘safeguarding’ was that it should deploy qualified social workers as team leaders. Professional qualification, in and of itself, is no safeguard – those who doubt that should remember Dr Harold Shipman. So how do you safeguard vulnerable children and adults? The method is surprisingly simple: –

    You create a culture where apprehension is certain and punishment assured.

    You create that culture through transparency and accountability.

    You put families at the centre of it and you support them to protect their loved ones.

    Our wee un is safe … she’s at home … and my big gravatar would “ate the bake” of anyone who threatened her!

    Thank you for your kind wishes.

  • Starviking

    I had the misfortune of being advanced from P4 to P6 in the Christian Brothers, a long time ago. Instead of being helped to bridge the educational gap that I had just been leap over the Brother in charge of my class just beat and belittled me every day for asking “stupid questions” in class. This was very traumatic, mystifying, and left me with a low feeling of self-worth – and massive gaps in my education. I don’t know if it would qualify as abuse – though it feels like it to me. When my dad found out and asked me if I was being beaten I apologied to him for being so stupid…

    It has dogged me for four decades of my life, and not a day goes by when I don’t think about how different my life could have been if only some bright spark had not decided to jump me forward a year.

    Fair play to the SAVIA group – here’s hoping the abusers get held up to the spotlight and feel the full force of the law – and public disdain.

  • granni trixie

    Crubeen: many thanks for your sympathy. I didnt want to veer off the agenda but just wanted to convey that you are not alone in your concerns for disabled children.

    However, though you can categorise child abuse and lack of accountability in systems today with those in the past, (ie abuse of power and morality),there are more distinct political dimension to the issue of historical institutional child abuse. And the act of trying to address this ‘old’ problem will shine a light on the systems today. Certainly,when the shit really hits the fan, you would think it will be a kick in the behind for professionals and in this way improve matters for vuilnerable people.

  • granni trixie

    PS: I kid you not. The church wants to put the clock back, (they say) to reclaim Catholic identity by ‘fish on Fridays’.
    Struth, havent they little to do?.

  • Munsterview

    Relative to child care issues, I am aware of one situation in the South currently where due to the young mother’s personal circumstances, her child in in Health Board foster care. The child’s maternal grandparents have regular access of one day a week where the child is allowed to visit their family home.

    A complaint made by the child to his grandparents claiming ill treatment by his foster carers and this in turn was passed on to the gardai and Health Board concerned. The result was a damage limitation exercise all around. The case have already cost the Grandparents a considerable amount of money as the Health Board manager in overall charge simply refused to answer letters and had to be taken to the Superior Courts on a number of occasions.

    At a recent meeting with the Health Board officers concerned the Grandparents insisted in having a professional note taker present and it took a series of ‘meetings about meetings’ to get permission to have their own note taker present. The meeting dealt in detail with several complex issues, over thirty pages of notes were generated by their notetaker.

    As part of the agreed protocols after the meeting these notes taken by the Grandparents professional note taker, a qualified person had to remain in Health Board custody and anytime the grandparents, who are acting in person since they cannot afford legal costs involved from average industrial wages, or their note taker need to check details of that complex meeting they will

    a) have to apply to the Health Board officials for permission,

    b) come in to the Health Board office and access their own notes under supervision so they cannot discuss aspects of their case in privacy with third parties ( who also need prior HB approval) and

    c) ……… the Health Board as part of the protocols and agreement to the presence of a note taker also empowered themselves to actually destroy these notes in their custody, once they, the Health Board have deemed these notes to be no longer necessary.

    Once this happens there will be no official record of this protracted meeting and list of complaints and allegations made against Health Board officials other than the Health Board’s own record !

    I have been involved in assisting individuals and Families in conflict with Health Boards for over forty years. This one very small aspect of the case outlined is a prime example of how the Health Board structures operate behind closed doors against powerless people. This in my experience is also par for the course in dealing with Health Boards unchanged and unchanging in all the time I have experience of their practices.

    The complaint of ill treatment made on behalf of the child by the grandparents involve two parties, the first is the party accused of the ill treatment and the second is against Health Board officials for not correctly performing their own tasks.

    The methodologies and process of the Health Board officials concerned have allowed them to become ‘judges in their own cause’ in violation of one of the fundamentals of natural and constitutional justice.

    The only counter to this is for the Grandparents to return once more to the High Court with another constitutional case on behalf of their Grandchild. costs of this will run to an excess of €500,000, far more than their family home, their only thing of value is worth, yet the Health Board officials concerned have warned them that they will aggressively peruse costs against them to the point of bankrupting them if there is another High Court or indeed any other court case taken against the Health Board concerned.

    Muntiply this case by a few hundred such current cases all backed up with the best legal representation the HB’s can employ from their unlimited legal resources. This is the present situation, it is but a glimps of the reality of the unaccountable and unanswerable power arrogantly exercised by Health Boards….. and people are surprised then that nothing has changed ?

    This is reality folks, their reality! They have the financial and personnel and other resources to grind all opposed or questioning them into the ground and until that is changed, nothing will change. Why should it, the Health Boards have a system that works for them and they will keep it exactly as it is while it servers that purpose ?

  • Munsterview

    Lest the foregoing be in any way seen as off thread or a distraction, I unconditionally call for all church records regarding child abuse North and South to be placed in the public domain with only such restrictions of information given as deemed necessary to protect victim identity !

  • Crubeen

    This investigation will, if it is any good, shed real light on the abuses carried out in schools and homes run by the CC, Protestant Church and the state. I hope it will help to bring relief and closure to people who were terribly abused, often as a matter of routine, and who then were left to fend for themselves any way they could.

    Your own case involves a different but in many ways more dangerous area today. The severely disabled often carry both physical and intellectual disabilities. It is absolutely vital that homes for these people are managed by experienced, caring people, preferably not social workers. I’m cynical about enquiries in general. Training is vital and as far as I know is ongoing, but it cannot teach people to care.


    Sure there is nothing the Church/es would like more than for us all to return to the forelock tugging servants we used to be. Its how they managed to conceal abuse for so long.

    The first real chink in the armour was I think the resignation of Albert Reynolds, brought about by the MSM and not by independent enquiries or other politicians, although the then leader of the Labour party was instrumental in Mr Reynolds downfall. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to return to the ‘old days’!

  • Crubeen

    Good Lord! For the first time, Munsterview and I are in total agreement … just goes to prove that there’s good in everybody if you look for it … and, of course, that’s completely reciprocal … I hope!

    I don’t see us off thread here. This is about abuse of the vulnerable. It has been endemic and sadly it still is because the systems supposed to protect the vulnerable have been put in place by ‘professionals’ who are more concerned with protecting their own interests.

    There should be an enquiry to expose and bring to account the unspeakable and despicable who not only abused the vulnerable but covered it up. IMHO those who cover it up are even more detestable than the perpetrators.

    The system is reverting to that which is properly the subject of the proposed enquiry i.e. behind closed doors. the only diffrence is that it is now managed by ‘professionals’ rather than those professed to a religious life. As MV so graphically illustrates (and I know of other cases) the ‘professionals’ disdain input or query from parents or family. In our case a Trust decided on a course of action and treatment for our child which we refused. They threatened to take her into care. To make sure they didn’t have to go to Court, for they had no legal grounds, they fabricated evidence and withdrew a service provision to which we had a statutory entitlement, to ‘persuade’ our acceptance of what they wanted. And the buzzards wonder why I do not fall and worship at their feet.

    As for our politicians – I cite one to whom I wrote offering documentary evidence of failings on the part of the Regulators and a Trust – he advised me to lodge a complaint with the Trust. I cite another who failed to complain about the way a Trust was mishandling a case for fear of offending the system lest the political career be cut short. Were it not for House Rules, I’d name the scum.


    The CBs were infamous for their discipline and there were indeed a number of sadists in their congregations. I’m also ex-CBS and have to note, in fairness, that the ones who taught me were for the most part excellent teachers and good individuals. I’m saddened for anybody who has suffered as a result of abuse and back any call to bring abusers to justice.

  • Starviking


    indeed there were some fine Brothers teaching in our school – but the one who abused me would have remained undiscovered save for the fact that a dinner lady spotted my mum down the town one Saturday and told her what was happening – for whatever reason the school either was turning a blind eye to it or was seriously failing in its oversight.

    After my parents confronted the school nothing seemed to be done – though eventually the Brother was moved up to the Grammar, the power of the Catholic Church in society ensured that nothing else was done. Ironically things were so brushed under the carpet that I was assigned to my abuser’s class in Grammar by the forgetful sods. Had to move class.

  • Crubeen


    I thought about what you had written in respect of this case and though it’s off thread, I beg indulgence from our host to proffer some thoughts based on the little I know.

    The behaviour of the HSE is nothing short of disgraceful but pretty much what I expect from the ‘protectors.’

    I don’t think it is up to the grandparents to take a case; I consider it best for the child to take the case by a litigation friend. The child should then be entitled to legal aid and HSE costs, if the child loses, fall against the child … who has no assets. Furthermore I would advise the HSE that when the child is of age and the damage can be assessed the grandparents will disown the child if he/she does not lodge a negligence suit against the HSE … where there will be no anonymity. Of course, if they destroy notes, which certainly in Northern Ireland would be unlawful, they would face criminal charges for destroying evidence

    Cases have been lodged in the UK by children whose families were the objects of unwarranted interference in such hotspots as the Orkneys, Rochdale and, I believe, Cleveland sued the pants of Social Services. Indeed the High Court in England ordered some of the Social Workers to be named and refused them anonymity.

    As Ireland and England are both common law areas the Irish Courts are often guided by precedents in similar jurisdictions including England

  • Crubeen


    My memory cells are tingling. The Internet has a powerful attraction for old farts like me. Assuming you are or are round about the same stage of decrepitude as me, a couple of names come to mind … for I also was at the Grammar actually a contemporary of Gerry … though not in the same class and I don’t remember him. Needless to say I’m not for putting those names down but in my day there were a few names going around of certain Brothers who liked boys in short trousers.

  • Crubeen


    Sometimes one forgets things and sometimes one goes to one’s mailbox and finds something pertinent that one should have remembered. The following has just been published and is a timely reminder that professional representation is not essential for proceeding to Court: –

  • There are now various very good organisations for people who have been, or suspect that abuse of someone is taking place to go to. Of course the odds are still heavily stacked in favour of the ‘authorities’ but its better than it was.

    My mother was in one of the ‘old’ institutions, one of the Good Shepherd Convents… It was a long time ago but the girls there had no where to run and no one to complain to. Its better now, not good enough but much better.

  • Starviking

    Hi Crubeen,

    I was at Greenpark in Armagh – different school, same situation by all accounts.

  • During my career as a solicitor, I had extensive experience in relation to child abuse issues in that (a) I acted for children who had been abused in child protection cases; (b) acted for Defendants accused of crimes amounting to child abuse; and (c) acted for victims making damages claims both in civil actions against the perpetrator and claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board or the Compensatiion Agency.

    Since my first of such cases (back in the 1980s just after Cleveland) I have come across no end of campaigns for justice. In the early days, stories about child abuse were novel. We were getting to grips with how extensive it was. There were so many things to learn. It was as if we, who were working to deal with it, were on a crusade.

    Today, I am weary of it. No story shocks any more. Like the campaign against drug abuse, there is no ending in sight. There is so much of it that it is overwhelming. I hope, therefore, that nobody will feel too offended if I take a dispassionate view on the subject and simply talk about money.

    Of those 3 ares of legal concern over child abuse, the priority has to be protecting children, followed by bringing offenders to criminal justice. The lowest of these priorities is compensation.

    The state is not a bottomless pit of money and no amount of money that is spent on child abuse will ever be enough to satisfy demand in those three areas of legal concern.

    In my experience, not enough resources go into protecting children. The resources of Social Services are usually so stretched that protecting children is little more than a minor damage limitation exercise. It is so depressing when you come across somebody that you acted for as a child still ending up at the bottom of the criminal justice system years later and you are left wondering why you bothered trying to do any good at all.

    I have also listened to the tears of victims pursuing justice. Sometimes, they are pursuing criminal justice. Cold cases are never re-opened unless there is substantial corroboration. Forensic evidence rarely survives in an old case so corroboration merely amounts to multiple victim witnesses of one abuser. There are a small number of cases in that category and so the majority of victims in old cases stand no chance criminal justice.

    Suing the abuser for damages is one way of getting justice. Unfortunately, most abusers, even if alive and idenfiable, are impecunious and without assets. Some victims will say that it is not the money that counts. Having their day in court and getting a judgment is the important thing. Getting a judgment may or may not be theraputic for the victim but legal aid will not be available if there is little or no prospect of recovering damages from the abuser. Sometimes the confrontation that the victim desires with the perpetrator in the courts puts the victim in a worse state.

    My experience with survivors is that many of them that receive the compensation still do not manage to use it in a way which helps them to lead a normal life. I am constantly left wondering who has actually benefitted from counselling / psychotherapy. Complete recovery success stories are rather thin on the ground. Once again, they tend to be damage limitation exercises. I imagine that like me, there are many counsellors scratching their heads and feeling as though their work is just knocking their heads against a brick wall.

    I have always felt sorry for victims of abuse. They dont deserve the abuse to happen to them but when it comes to money we, as a society can only spend so much on this problem. I cant help feeling that spending money for the benefit of past victims of abuse is not money particularly well spent.

  • carl marks

    firstly may i state my support and sympathy for all the people affected by this awful tragedy that has blighted our children and also the fact that all the posters on this thread are in agreement by and large and no one has used it to score petty points bodes well for the furture.
    i went to a christain brothers school but thankfully my experience was differant from Starviking, i got many a strapping but then i was a brat of the first order and this may sound strange but i still think well of the brothers who taught me, when the storys started to appear in the news i didnt believe them but now understand how lucky i was not to be one of them ,
    a few years ago my wife suggested we apply to be respite carers for a disabled child at first i was doubtful(no experience with disabled kids) but since them tommy(not his real name) has enriched our lives and the thought of anyone never mind someone meant to protect him harming him in any way makes me very angry.
    this is a issue were we regardless of creed or politics can come stand together and make sure that the survivors of abuse get the justice they deserve those who carried it out get what they derserve and an our children get the care and love they deserve

  • granni trixie

    Carl Marks
    Well said and I think that by providing respite you are helping a whole family cope.

  • Crubeen

    Carl marks,

    Granni Trixie and I, as parents of disabled children, know what a boon and behefit it is to one family that you look after its disabled child to give them a break. We also know just how endearing and down-right calculating these disabled kids are, for the many without speech are more than able to communicate and get their wants attended to. We know you get much from it … we are always glad to share the special light of the disabled child with those who are willing to share.

    Our “wee un” used to go to respite with a lovely family but this, after a time, was not what the SS wanted so they tried to break it up by lying to us and the family concerned.

  • carl marks

    to date we have had no such problems but since we have become close friends with tommys family i would say that there is little chance of it happening. as to how down right calculating he can be his abilty to play us off against each other to get what he wants has to seen to be believed, he has no honour when it comes to chocolate

  • Crubeen


    “In my experience, not enough resources go into protecting children. The resources of Social Services are usually so stretched that protecting children is little more than a minor damage limitation exercise.”

    With due respect, this is the propaganda and spin put about by the SS to make themselves relevant and justify their seeking an ever larger slice of the cake. The care system is a total codology and it is that because it is completely inefficient, badly run and grossly mismanaged.

    There are two areas in which children can be abused – at home by family or friends OR whilst in the care of various institutions. It is entirely right and proper that children are protected from abuse though not from the misfortune, accidents and the knocks and shocks of normal life that are an essential and fundamental part of childhood as a preparation for adulthood. As Carl Marks said, he got more than a few of the proverbial “clips round the earhole” which, in his estimation were richly deserved and, no doubt, helped form him into the person who is prepared to a disabled child into his home and care for him. A “clip round the earhole” is not unlawful – it does not rank, in law, as abuse. If however you are observed by the SS administering a well-merited “clip round the earhole” to a deserving brat – you will have Social Workers descend upon you breathing fire and shite about abuse and how important they are to preventing it and protecting children. I know of two cases where this happened.

    I know of another case where the SS refused to remove a child from a home, where it had placed him, in defiance of testimony from adult witnesses that the child was being beaten and confined. I was at a meeting where the Senior Social Worker refused to take action – she had interviewed the child who denied the allegations. The witnesses universally testified that a fist was put into the child’s face by the carer who told him that if he ever squawked to the SS, his treatment would be “ten times worse.” It took a Police Constable 10 minutes to get at the truth – it took the child ten years to admit it to others.

    I know of another case where the SS descended upon a family and to establish their relevance, proclaimed that a child of that family had a mild learning disability because of the care given him by his parents. This was pure unadulterated tosh and codswallop. I advised the family to tell the SS to “Eff off! See you in Court!” A different method was used – the SS was told that it was the problem not the solution to certain short term difficulties the family had endured and self resolved. The SS duly signed off with a letter of self praise for all that it had done to save this family, which was actually doodly squat.

    I know of another case where a child taken into care was abused by foster parents and eventually put into a Children’s Home. By the age of 15 she was prostituting herself, on the basis of what I was told by a reliable source, adjacent to the entrance of that home, and to the full knowledge of staff. One her 18th birthday she went into rehab as an alcoholic. At the age of 25 she was dead.

    I can go on about this and the proclivity these people have to cover up their malfeasance – read my posts on this thread. It’s not a lack of resouces that is the problem – it’s the birdbrains running the system at exorbitant cost for what is gotten out of it in terms of protecting children. And let me illustrate that – as a disabled child, my daughter is, in law, a “child in need” entitled to statutory support. She has a life-threatening disorder for which she is reviewed every six months by one Consultant. If there is a “child In need” review there will be a minimum of three Social Workers in attendance … all a part of a lack of resources.

    It’s about time the politicians woke up and smelt the coffee where child protection is concerned.

  • Crubeen


    ROFLMAO! You know the score!

    I’m glad you are friends with that family … that was what screwed the SS when they tried it on with us.

  • The main – stream media have never finished their job, they dumped the news on the survivors, they let every single survivor down as they have not investigated what happens next, they are fully aware of the words in the Dail, Senate and especially the Oireachtas by every party especially Finna Fail.
    We must listen, hear and understand these survivor’s needs.
    Survivors of abuse are decreasing in numbers as age has caught up on them as sickness and pain.
    The past government as all parties failed their own words as decisions were made by them without seeing hearing and realizing the damage actually done and how survivors are lacking more suffering more and have special needs that need to be supported properly. Such as housing, medical, teeth, clothing, food, heating and many more personal issues.
    The redress may be a token of an apology but the buck should not stop there.
    Some survivors probably many do not need these welfare support. Maybe some may need very little, but who is to know?
    Making decisions without knowing the needs is an insult and salt on the wounds.
    I believe survivors should not have to go to the welfare offices in this country seen what happened is not their fault but as the government said they and the church are to blame.
    So what are survivor groups good for?
    Survivors are only sent to the welfare office like everyone else, not knowing how to read and write or claim their rights, most just suffer quietly.

    What should have been set up in place is a qualified / vetted out offices in every county for the survivor to go to, or contact with their needs, for housing welfare and medical circumstances.
    they should not have to feel like beggars again, most are in this condition because of no support from when they left the prison schools, with no families to go to or turn to they carried their troubled bag on their back through life’s journey.

    Did you know only survivors on welfare
    HAVE TO MAKE KNOWN THEIR REDRESS to the welfare department, discrimination or what. And decisions are made accordingly.

    No nothing has been finished yet because the government claimed only fifty% responsibility as they took over 400 million from the church and left a mean 110 million for an invented word called “STATUARY FUND” still waiting to be sorted out but meanwhile survivors are passing away possibly to an unmarked grave.

    I am still waiting for the answer to this question.
    If the government admitted responsibility in their offices broadcasted on the media for the damaged caused on behalf of the state because they failed in their jobs to look out for the children of the state by trusting the church full of unknown people who were never vetted nor qualified to look after vulnerable children and babies in their care.

    They made a decision to deal with the whole issue themselves without the survivors, they chose the redress, they chose the barristers they chose the reports they chose the redress and so on.
    They knew this would save billions by going this way, their own decisions.
    Unless they are stupid and incompetent on how to run the country’s affairs they knew the cost.
    They decided to pay the cost but now that the religious offered to help survivors more the government turned and took over four million euro and said this is for our fifty percent.

    Yet this government knew
    1. the full cost
    2. decided to save millions or even billions went a head with the reports redress and chose all offices to deal with the whole issue.



  • CATHOLICABUSESURVIVORSNI.COM——– there will be no public inquiry into child abuse in any childrens homes or parishes in northern ireland, read above site,
    why because the ruc/psni have been taking detailed statements from children from at least 1979 , the present victims group consists of 3 people aligned with conall mc davitt sdlp who do not represent all age groups in childrens homes and parishes from 1930. peter robinson and cardinal sean brady with others organised and run the 100% sham cover up with inquiry, read interdepartmental hia minutes meetings. whos at the table father tim bartlett, cardinal sean bradys advisor all the child safeguarding groups within the rcc orders e,g faoiseamh who gather information for the church, will kerr psni nothing to learn on 40 years of what was inflicted on children in nazareth lodge, rubane house kircubbin,nazareth house belfast st, pats belfast, convent of mercy newry,and other homes which some didnt close until near 1990.parish abuse is vast and widespread the psni are the only police force in europe that rate child abuse akin to a burglary not listed on their priorities. there will be no public inquiry into the child abuse scandal that didnt stop at the border, the state paid the rcc to care for children and instead abused them. many suicides are related to this abuse,the catholic church has given an open cheque book to their legal teams for at least 30 years and paying the victims as little as they can in countless civil action settlements. all top politicians , journalists, media,and police are fully aware of the minute details of the child abuse scandal 1000 times more than some of us now writing and will state it openly as manyof us have done over 33 years. you cannot have an inquiry organised controlled by all those involved, victims are silenced by the savage response from all sides and the catholic church know this only to well , go and ask direct questions, we cannot say these things in death or if you fear it.

  • granni trixie


    Its hard to know how to respond to you as you assert so many facts which are incorrect,notably that there are only 3 people in the victims group.I have seen with my own eyes that this is plainly wrong. Also, in their submission to the Taskforce (due to report back on their consultation to OFMDFM) the Group said that they want the timeframe for the Enquiry to extend to the 1920s when the state was set up,arguing that the investigastion must be inclusive of all ages of people with a case to make. Also, my understanding is that there is cross party support for the campaign,in particular with support for the FM and DFM who have committed to bring things forward.I am in the Alliance Party and know from speaking to Anna Lo and others about the Campaign that they are fellow travellers, so it is not just an SDLP project which you say it is. When the time comes, all MLAs sentiments will be tested.For now,goodwill cross
    party gives the campaign a good start and helps establish that the CC is not the only ones who have a case to answer. You also do not mention at all that the Campaign has the back up of Amnesty, a cross community NGO group with worldwide experience in human rights abuses.

    You make fair points as regards the danger of vested interests within the church investigating their own child abuse. But obviously the Survivors of insitituional child abuse are fully aware of that risk themselves so that it can be avoided.

    So overall chalet1 I think I have shown that there is reason to be optimistic for action to follow the demands for a public Enquiry into abuse in NI. The Churches etc resist this movement at their peril. I hope therefore that you rethink your pessimistic analysis and watch this space.

    we said 3 we’ll correct that to 1 if you want to be definitive.the rest victims being duped, and amnesty let them keep their shamblolic cover up in the south they dont speak for us . you avoid all the facts written by stormont on their own inter minutes its a who’s who’s of the catholic church the ones being investigated this whole outfit have refused over 18 months to reply to anyone a total sham cover more joustling from us .if you are a victim the stormont church run seen to be doing something council house, stay well clear of if it go to a solicitor and they will through a legal aided civil action get you a settlement that you are happy with the victims who go to the redress board that is comming will only give you £15000 or email us and we’ll provide you with a highly recommended solicitor. ps you can ask anna to invite the chinese goverment to northern ireland to investigate the child abuse and vilolation of human rights committed by the catholic church in northern ireland as they own the south and the usa.