Thursday, 11 June 2009
Ryan Report on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse: Motion (Resumed)
Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
I thank the Leas Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on the Ryan report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. This is a horrific report. When one reads chapter 7, particularly paragraphs 7312 to 73458 on sexual abuse, chapters 13 and 14, and, in volume II, chapters 1, 2 and 3, the evidence and facts contained therein speak for themselves. It was hell for these young boys and girls and it made my blood boil to see the nightmare of child sexual abuse.
I have friends who were abused and have met many others who were abused over the years. I am annoyed that even this week the State let them down by delaying the debate in the Dáil. Many of the survivors were hurt further by this. It is up to all Deputies to ensure the survivors get truth, justice, compassion and, above all, practical support. We owe it to the victims and survivors, and to future generations of children, to ensure they are protected with proper safeguards and support. Today in the House, I met Paddy Doyle and some other survivors. I now pledge them my total support. I welcome the statement made by the Taoiseach in the House and welcome the fact he met the survivors here face to face.
A particular aspect to the child abuse debate is the abuse of children with a disability. Page 14 of the executive summary deals with special needs and describes clearly the nightmare of these young children. Children with a learning disability, physical and sensory impairments, and children who had no family contact were especially vulnerable in institutional settings. They described being powerless against adults who abused them, especially when those adults were in a position of authority and trust. Impaired mobility and communication deficits made it impossible to inform others of the abuse or to resist it. Children who were unable to hear, see, speak, move or adequately express themselves were at a complete disadvantage in environments that did not recognise or facilitate their right to be heard.
Chapter 11 and sections of Chapters 13 to 18 of the report deal with the effect of abuse on people in later life. The confidential committee heard evidence both on childhood abuse and the continued effects of such abuse on witnesses. The enduring impact of childhood abuse was described by many witnesses who, while reporting that as adults they enjoyed good relationships and successful careers, had learned to live with their traumatic memories. Many other witnesses reported that their adult lives were blighted by childhood memories of fear and abuse. They gave accounts of troubled relationships and loss of contact with their siblings and extended families. Witnesses described parenting difficulties, ranging from being over protective to being harsh, and also commented on different issues related to child abuse. Approximately half of the witnesses have attended counselling services, either currently or in the past. Witnesses also described lives marked by poverty, social isolation, alcoholism, mental illness, sleep disturbance, aggressive behaviour and self harm. Approximately 30% of the witnesses described ongoing mental health concerns, suicidal behaviour, depression, alcohol and substance abuse and eating disorders, which require treatment - including psychiatric admission, medication and counselling. These are the realities for people who were abused.
On a more positive note, it is refreshing that in recent days we have seen some of the survivors and victims elected to Dublin City Council. I refer in particular to Councillor Damian O'Farrell, an independent councillor in my area, and to Councillor Mannix Flynn. It is refreshing that the survivors of abuse now have two voices on Dublin City Council and in City Hall. It is great that people here support them. It is important that people who lived through that bad experience have had massive public support to get elected to Dublin City Council. I commend both Damian O'Farrell and Mannix Flynn on their bravery in going forward, entering public life and declaring the background to their issues.
I give my commitment and support to all the survivors and victims of child sexual abuse. I say to them that the Independent Deputies of this House will give them their full support.