Breda Heffernan – Irish Independent 31st May 2010
A SURVIVOR of institutional abuse has criticised in-fighting among victims groups over compensation, warning they are in danger of losing public support.
Paddy Doyle, author of ‘The God Squad’ and a former resident of an industrial school, said leaders of groups appeared to be “self-appointed” rather than elected.
He said this had given rise to feelings of mistrust among some survivors and it was now time for the Government to step in and take the lead in settling outstanding issues such as compensation.
Mr Doyle claimed that money was at the crux of arguments among the survivors’ groups, including how much the religious orders should pay and whether that money should be lodged in a trust fund or given directly to abuse victims.
He cited the example of a meeting between survivors’ groups, the Taoiseach and senior cabinet members in April which descended into name-calling.
“I said at the end of that meeting that I was fearful we were heading for a situation where the abused would become the abusers. That didn’t go down well.”
He said the Government should now take a more hands-on role to ensure that survivors’ interests are paramount.
“I think the Government has to step in at this stage and make a hard decision about how you move this thing forward because it’s not going to move forward with people fighting among themselves … that’s doing none of us any good who were in the institutions.
“We were in a situation where the public was very much on our side. I think there’s a real danger we could lose that,” he warned.
Christine Buckley, director of the Aislinn Centre, said a range of groups had “mushroomed” since the apology of then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 1999 and the establishment of the Redress Board. Ms Buckley said the priorities for the Aislinn Centre have always been education and counselling.
She said that some groups had told survivors they could get them an extra €200,000 to €300,000 in the second tranche of compensation and that some people had borrowed from money lenders as a result.
And Ms Buckley said she had been contacted by two separate solicitors who told her they would offer loans to survivors on the back of such assurances.
However, the Taoiseach has said the €110m in extra cash pledged by 16 of the 18 religious orders will be placed in a trust fund and administered by the State.