The trauma of a Kilkenny man who was abused in a residential institution was recalled in the Dail during a debate on the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill by Carlow/Kilkenny Fine Gael Deputy John Paul Phelan.
“It is important to recall that many people who ended up in these residential homes in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s did so under rather dubious circumstances,” he said. “The people who were committing them to these homes and the advice that was given and taken on board as to which families and children should be taken into care were dubious, to say the least. I am familiar with a family in my community that was split up in the 1950s. I knew one of the siblings who, sadly, is now deceased. He was very traumatised for the rest of his life as a result of what he endured in one of our residential homes. Moreover, I am sure others among his siblings could have suffered a similar fate.”
Deputy Phelan said it was important to point out that not all the experts on whose advice people were committed to such residential institutions were clergy, as many were not. It also was important to emphasise the abuses that took place were not all perpetrated by members of religious orders. There was a complete abdication by the State of its role in looking after children who needed residential care and this simply was unacceptable.
He said he noted the publication of the Heads of the Children First Bill and Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s determination to make progress in respect of the Children’s Rights referendum to enshrine specifically the rights of children into the Constitution. However, legislation and rights enshrined in the Constitution were only part of what must happen.
“It really is a question of how these rights will be enforced on the ground and of ensuring a sufficient mechanism exists for such rights to be upheld into the future,” he said. “That will be the difficult part of what must be done by the Government, particularly at a time when budgets are not exactly full across the board. However, one cannot scrimp on protecting the rights of children. If one is to learn anything from what happened for generations in Ireland, it is that one must pull out all the stops with regard to protecting children into the future.”