I thank the Minister for taking this matter. I sent him some of the documents I have in advance, which I am sure he has in his pack.
I was approached by Mr. Tom Wall, who is a former resident of St. Joseph's industrial school, Glin, County Limerick, which was a notorious industrial school that featured in many publications. It featured in the Ryan report and, indeed, Tom Wall wrote a book on his experience, life and times in the former industrial school, which states:
Tom Wall was born in Limerick in 1949. At three years of age, he was detained at St. Joseph's industrial school for senior boys in Glin, County Limerick, where he was regularly beaten, bullied, left cold and hungry, and, worst of all, sexually abused. He is the only survivor from Glin industrial school who continues to live in Glin, a short distance from where the industrial school once stood.
Mr. Wall approached me recently and revealed that in 1973, when he was in his early 20s, he was brought back to work in the industrial school by the Christian Brothers who were in the process of vacating the premises. One of the duties he was asked to perform was to take all the records of all the former residents of the school and burn them. There was a file on every boy who went through the school, which contained many pieces of information in respect of each resident. He asked if he could retain his own file and he was told that he could retain whatever he wanted. He retained a significant number of documents, put them in safe keeping and held them for 40 years. That was a proactive move at that point in time because he moved to preserve those documents, which the Christian Brothers wanted to burn.
In 2015, he donated the entire collection of original documents to the University of Limerick, UL, for safe keeping and for them to be maintained and catalogued. However, the Christian Brothers acting through one of the most high profile solicitors in the country are now threatening legal action and seeking to recover the documents from UL in their entirety. Mr. Wall has engaged with the Christian Brothers in a proactive manner and has said to them that they will afford the Christian Brothers a copy of the documents but they are not getting the original documents. That is at his insistence. He feels that, unfortunately - it is with regret that I say this - the Christian Brothers cannot be trusted in regard to having exclusive possession of the original documents.
A recent report of the Committee of Public Accounts highlighted how they have not lived up to their obligations under the deal they did with the State and we also have seen what is documented in the Ryan report. It is important to realise that these documents include health reports of the former residents, referral letters from the courts service, education referral letters from the Department of Education as well as letters the boys in the schools wrote to their parents and families which were never sent by the Christian Brothers. There are different types of documents in these records. They are, in the first instance, the property of the former residents of the industrial school or their representatives and, second, the State has a claim on these papers because many of them are State papers. I do not have an issue with the Christian Brothers having a copy of these documents. However, a former resident, who is an abuse survivor and who has acted to preserve to these records, is being threatened in a high handed manner by them as they seek to recover these documents to the exclusion of everybody else.
Can the Minister intervene on behalf of the State to secure the documents? Can he take possession of the documents? I also wrote to Tusla about this issue. Would the Minister be willing to meet Mr. Wall to hear at first hand his account of this matter?