“A Journey of Light”
The proposed design reinforces the importance of State vigilance in protecting its most fragile members. It is not an attempt to find closure following the revelations of traumatic cases of child sexual abuse in Ireland. The proposal creates a fluid progression between The Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates those who died for the cause of Irish freedom, with a memorial dedicated to the young victims of abuse.
The Garden of Remembrance is composed of a sunken cruciform shape six foot below ground level with limestone walls, a large bronze sculpture of The Children of Lir on a podium and reflection pool along its main axis. The pool has mosaic patterns depicting the Celtic tradition of breaking weapons and casting them in a river to signify the end of hostilities. A cross axis links the forecourt of the Hugh Lane Gallery to the master-plan arrangement of the Rotunda Hospital.
The proposed design is an ordering principle originating where the axes intersect in the centre of the cruciform. The new geometry diverges to create a passageway through the existing podium steps and continue in line with the Irish flag to form a succession of spaces. The composition includes fossilised limestone walls and paving with a clearly defined forecourt entrance and a pedestrian crossing with semi-mature plane trees. This ensures the spirit and intent of the Parnell Square Framework Plan (2005) is respected. A universal design approach is applied to meet the needs of all users and level access is provided throughout the site for the first time.
Central to the design is the element of water which gently cascades over steel plates, symbolising the industrial schools in which many of the abuse cases occurred. The flowing of water represents a healing force for the victims and encourages calmness and contemplation in the viewer. The scale and proportion of the spaces conform to the needs of children and adults.
On behalf of the State and of all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and long overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse, for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue.
The State apology will be inscribed in English and Irish at a child’s eye level on the walls, and in Braille on a bronze plaque at the base of the water feature. An aperture placed below the flag directs a shaft of light to the centre of the inter-connecting space, acknowledging the ethereal sculpture above. A bronze bell inscribed on the floor recalls the conclusion of the legend- the ringing of a bell and transformation of the swans back to an aged human form. While the Children of Lir sculpture signifies rebirth and resurrection, it is simultaneously a representation of lost innocence and a vanished childhood.
The proposal compliments the historical setting and centripetally draws in a number of iconic sites within the context. Its auditory, tactile, visual and spatial elements offer a harmonious sensory experience which suggests a movement forward, while deeply inscribed by the knowledge of past events. Above all, it is an ethical link to the sacred ground of the State and a constant reminder that the abuse of our children must never happen again.