Survivors of abuse at the hands of Irish clergy and religious met with the full house of the Irish Bishops’ Conference at Maynooth on Wednesday, asking that they ensure restitution is made to all victims.
The meeting was the first between the bishops and representatives of the survivors of abuse, a press release from the Archdiocese of Armagh reports.
Survivors outlined the impact of child abuse on individuals and their families and condemned what the Archdiocese of Armagh described as “vile” acts of abuse.
Speakers at the meeting were Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group, John Kelly of the Survivors of Child Abuse Ireland, Tom Hayes of the Alliance group and Christy Heaphy of the Cork-based Right to Place group.
Kelly said the representatives had given a full account of their experiences to the bishops, saying the accounts must have been “difficult for them to listen to.”
He said there had been a “thundering silence” from the Irish hierarchy when the issue of contributions to the victim reparation scheme was raised. He asked that the bishops make the religious orders meet their full responsibility.
O’Brien said he was happy the meeting had taken place.
The victims’ representatives asked the bishops to set up a subcommittee to begin a discussion with the groups as they seek resolution on the issue. He also asked the bishops to intercede with the government to see that survivors who lived in England and did not go to the Redress Board have the opportunity to do so.
After the meeting the representatives spoke to the media along with Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.
Cardinal Brady said that the groups’ initial contacts with the bishops during the summer led to the meeting. He said the meeting marked the first of many steps and thanked the representatives for giving their vision of the way forward.
Archbishop Martin said the meeting was the most significant gathering of the hierarchy he had attended.
"It was extraordinary," he commented. "We had particularly good discussions about survivors in England, many of whom are old and homeless and discussed how resources could be made available to help them."
Hayes said the meeting was “an historic day for all of us.”
In May 2009 Ireland’s Child Abuse Commission released its report on the physical and sexual abuse inflicted on thousands of children over the past 70 years at the hands of religious and lay staff of institutions caring for disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children. The inquiry produced findings against 216 facilities.