Child-Abuse Report Judge Praises Courage of Victims
Irish Independent, Monday August 24 2009 by John Cooney
THE JUDGE behind the damning report into systematic abuse of thousands of children in State institutions has warmly praised those who told him their stories, thereby bringing to light "events which were shrouded in darkness for so long".
Mr Justice Sean Ryan, making his first public comments since publication last May of the shocking report, acknowledged the "courage and fortitude" of the survivors. He was speaking at a weekend ceremony in Ballina, Co Mayo, after receiving a special award presented by Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume, patron of the Humbert School.
Accepting the award on behalf of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse which he chaired, Judge Ryan said its report "says a lot about our society, institutions and our systems in the past that these events happened.
"It will also say a lot about our present situation as to how we respond to the disclosure of these events."
Asked by the Irish Independent if he had expected the report's conclusions to receive such a response of shock and revulsion by the nation, he said: "The honest answer is no.
"We hoped that there would be discussion, debate and reflection on it and undoubtedly the scale of the response was more than we would have thought."
Judge Ryan said he accepted the Humbert School award "with great humility and he was conscious of the enormous contribution of colleagues.
"This is the best report we could make," he said. "It is for others to do justice to those who suffered abuse in the past -- and to decide what can be done to ensure that such events do not happen in the future."
A second award was also presented by Mr Hume to three representatives of former residents of institutions, Michael O'Brien of the Right to Peace group, Tom Hayes of the Alliance group, and Dolores Rooney of Soca UK and Ireland.
Mr O'Brien accepted the award "on behalf of everyone who as a child went through the institutions".
"Justice Sean Ryan, today I bow to you and I thank you for the momentous work you and your team have done," he added.
As regards the religious congregations, Mr O'Brien said: "I will forgive when I know that these people mean it when they say 'we are really, really sorry'.
"I don't want silly apologies. I want to see repentance."
Addressing the Humbert, Sr Marianne O'Connor, secretary general of Cori, the Conference of Religious of Ireland, said this was "the first public forum to which religious have been invited since the publication of the Ryan Report. "I am here, first and foremost, to apologise," she said. "To say: 'We are sorry' and to confirm our commitment, as in individuals and as congregations, to do whatever we can to make reparation. We religious are asking for forgiveness ... without forgiveness one is stuck, unable to move forward".
Sr O'Connor pledged that the religious congregations would provide money for reparation.
"But we must do much more than provide money. We must listen and learn, to the degree survivors will permit us, to journey with them as they discover what they need."
A third award was presented to journalist Mary Raftery for her documentaries into clerical child abuse.