Residential Institutions Redress Bill, 2001: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

(Wexford): I wish to share my time with Deputy John Brady.

I welcome the Bill before the House and compliment the Minister on bringing it forward as a matter of urgency. There has been much talk about this legislation for some time, and the Minister is to be complimented on giving priority to the Bill.

The Taoiseach's apology in 1999 was very welcome. It was a definitive public statement that the people who suffered at the hands of those in institutions in the past should have restitution and redress. The Minister said in his contribution that the Bill was about facing up to the mistakes made in the past and providing some reasonable measure of financial recompense to people who were wronged as children. It is very much a Bill about the present also because we are talking about people who are now aged but who have suffered gravely. For many years, these people felt the Government, political parties or politicians would recognise the grave injustices carried out against them over the years. We should all be grateful, therefore, that we now have an opportunity to deal with the issue.

I have been very involved with the organisation, Right of Place, Second Chance, in Enniscorthy town. The organisation originated in Cork, but it has now spread to other towns and counties. I have been involved with a significant number of people from the south-east over the past two years, culminating in the opening of an office in Enniscorthy early this year. Deputy Howlin was also very much involved in that, and we both attended the opening of that office. Great credit is due to the people in that organisation for the time, effort and courage involved in coming forward and making a case to the national politicians and for making a definitive statement in Enniscorthy, Wexford, and in the south-east area to the effect that they are putting in place an office to which people who were abused over the years can come and discuss their problems and plan for the future.

In relation to Right of Place, Second Chance, significant funds have been allocated to the Cork organisation, which I favour, but organisations that have now set up in Enniscorthy, and other parts of the country, are not getting the same amount of funding or recognition. In fairness to those involved in Enniscorthy, led by John Barrett, they went out and probably begged for office space. That was then funded by the health board, and they were also helped by the VEC, the county enterprise boards, some politicians, the community and Bishop Comiskey to establish this office. A significant amount of money should be allocated to them on a yearly basis to ensure the office will continue to survive in the future and be able to pay for telephone, administration and staffing costs, and perhaps pay for people to come to the office from the south-east region.

Let us be honest, many of the people we are talking about are in their late sixties, seventies or eighties and are not in a financial position to pay fares to travel long distances. Some of them have travelled from England and further afield, having emigrated in the 1960s to survive and find work. It is very important that adequate funding is made available to ensure Right of Place, Second Chance is viable and can continue to deal with education, retraining, general information services, repatriation, support, social activities and rights and entitlements.

Many of the people to whom I have spoken have said the office has given them a new lease of life. I am sure the same applies to other offices. They can interact with people and access information and find out what is happening, for example, what the Minister and his Department or Right of Place, Second Chance are doing. Perhaps the Minister could encourage adult education institutions such as vocational education committees and similar organisations to give a helping hand.

The Bill is very positive and forward looking and will be of major benefit. Ordinary schools, which have not been included in the Bill, have been mentioned several times. They may have to be dealt with in future. Could the Minister clarify whether other groups, namely, people with disabilities who were placed in orthopaedic hospitals and children who were placed in foster care, will be included in the Bill? Some of these people also suffered greatly. How does the Minister envisage these groups will be dealt with in future?

Many people to whom I have spoken in my area want the Bill to be given the utmost urgency. However, we have received documents from several organisations including, Survivors of Child Abuse and Never Free, Forever Tortured, in which they expressed serious concerns about certain aspects of the Bill and called for its passage to be postponed. It is important the Minister clarifies their concerns.

I was contacted over the weekend by a number of people who were abused regarding an article inThe Sunday Tribune entitled, Order Say We Can't Pay £100 million to Abuse Fund. The matter needs to be clarified. The article states, “Nearly one year into the negotiations on the scheme the religious orders have still to make a firm offer on an amount that they are willing to contribute.” This appears to be delaying tactics on the part of orders which were involved in serious abuse. We all know the religious orders have a great deal of valuable land and property. They would not have great difficulty raising £100 million, or whatever figure is agreed, for the fund. The people expecting a contribution at the end of this process are concerned by this kind of negative publicity.

CORI regularly lectures politicians about their uncaring and unconcerned attitude to the poor. This debate is about people who have suffered greatly at the hands of the religious orders. It is very important that they are asked to make a definitive offer as quickly as possible instead of approaching newspapers and making statements on negotiations they are holding with the Minister. Will the Minister inform the House when he expects the discussions with the religious orders to conclude and when he envisages they will make a definitive offer?

Before handing over to Deputy Brady, I ask the Minister to ensure funding is made available to organisations operating under the banner of Right of Place, Second Chance regardless of where they may want to set up. It is very important that there are county offices or at least regional offices because not everybody can travel to Dublin or Cork to get the advice and support the organisation offers.

The South-Eastern Health Board has been very helpful in my negotiations with it. It is important the counselling service offered by the health boards continues and adequate funding is provided to guarantee the availability into the foreseeable future of the counselling and other services required for victims of abuse.

I commend the Minister and his officials for introducing the Bill and making a genuine attempt to address what is a very complex, emotional and disturbing issue in Irish life and society. Through the provisions of this Bill, we are attempting in a formal way to confront the dark side of ourselves as individuals and as a society.

The stated purpose of the Bill is to establish structures for making financial rewards to people who suffered injuries as a result of abuse while resident in institutions in the State. I will touch on a number of aspects of the Bill, namely, the proposed compensation mechanism, people's constitutional rights and its scope in terms of the categories comprehended by its provisions.

Whatever provisions ultimately reach the Statute Book, I stress the need for a comprehensive public information campaign not only at home, but in the UK, USA and Canada. It should involve emigrants and related voluntary organisations in those countries. Many of the victims this Bill intended to help left the country because they could not bear to stay. They felt rejected in every sense by the society which had given birth to them. They are no less deserving of redress because they choose to make their lives elsewhere.

It is important we all view the Bill in its proper historical context. The process commenced with the welcome and very necessary apology for the abuse and injury suffered by inmates of residen tial institutions during the middle part of the last century made on behalf of the State by the Taoiseach in May 1999. It is estimated that about 30,000 people born since 1930 were committed to industrial schools and reformatories until such institutions were abolished in the 1970s. Based on pending court cases and other factual evidence, up to 10% of this very large group may have suffered abuse leading to physical injury.

It is not before time for the State and society to formally and publicly recognise the wrongs done to innocent children all those years ago. Many of them are now elderly people in their sixties and seventies. There should be timely action, by way of public recompense for abuse suffered, before it is too late for many of them. The Bill sets out to provide mechanisms for as yet unspecified levels of compensation. This remedy can be only partial. At this late stage we cannot remove the blight put on innocent lives, lives which in many cases are reaching the end of their natural days. We recognise that we are contemplating an appropriate gesture of redress and that lives that have been lived and those who have lived them cannot be made fully new and fully whole.

The 1930s through to the 1960s were different times with different standards and values from those we deem acceptable and appropriate today. Society has greatly changed over the period of time that has elapsed since and we must be careful in judging past behaviour by the values of today. This is not a simple issue, it is a complex one, but the one constant is the great wrong done to individuals and the evil shadow cast on innocent lives during the decades. The times of which we are speaking were very difficult and much harder for the generality of people. There was mass emigration until the early 1960s and little wealth or prosperity for ordinary folk. A subsistence existence bred harsh values, the extent of which makes for harrowing reading in the Garda crime statistics and prison reports of the time. The crimes referred to were committed mainly by unmarried women who became social outcasts when they had a child out of wedlock.

Institutions such as those we are now considering, as well as orphanages, mental hospitals and county homes, were used to conceal society's problems from itself. That was tolerated for a variety of reasons. Society placed great store in, looked up to and heeded authority figures. It was only with the introduction of mass second and third level education, improved domestic and international communications and a measure of prosperity and individual self-confidence that a more questioning public emerged and things began to change. It is only through such developments, which in our case are quite recent, that we are able to confront the truly evil deeds and practices which remained buried for so long.

In dealing with the issue of compensation for the abused we need to maintain a balanced perspective on the role of the Church and religious orders in Irish life. The wrongs that have undoubtedly been done in institutions which were for the most part run by the religious orders must be seen in the context of the great contribution those orders have made to the formation of contemporary Ireland through the provision of education and health and social services. This contribution cannot be denied and can only be diminished or tarnished in some respects by the activities of a minority. In a different world of different values and limited opportunities many were literally forced into life-long careers they would not voluntarily have chosen for themselves.

I appreciate the concern that matters not be unduly delayed in providing compensation for the victims and that there is pressure from a number of quarters to do so as quickly as possible. I cannot support those calling for action on this front and who now seek to slow down or delay indefinitely the passage of the Bill in order that the necessary preliminary research to enable a detailed scheme to be constructed and incorporated in the Bill to enable it to be debated in the House can be completed. However, I ask the Minister to examine carefully such a mechanism to provide the House with a full and proper opportunity to debate the merits of the compensation scheme. It is appropriate to give Members some assurance on this matter on the close of Second Stage.

The second matter on which I wish to comment is the protection of the rights of the individual under the Constitution. Every citizen accused of wrongdoing is entitled to vindicate his or her good name, to due process and natural justice. There is a fear abroad, particularly on the part of the members of religious orders and others who investigate and evaluate the process, that proposals contained in this Bill will not adequately provide sufficient safeguards in this respect. It is of particular concern with investigations which require a lesser or softer burden of proof than is required in a court of law to demonstrate abuse constituting wrongdoing by a person or persons against another on foot of which compensation is to be paid. Individuals can be named as part of proceedings and subsequently identified without an opportunity to know what precisely is alleged against them or without being given a full and proper opportunity to defend themselves.

The Taoiseach had no option, but to apologise on behalf of the State after the revelations of abuse that poured into every household via a series of television programmes. The Residential Institutions Redress Bill, 2001, is an attempt to deal in some small way with this whole sorry saga which constitutes one of the most appalling and black chapters in the history of this society.

The Bill is not the one that it could have been. I assume that everybody comes into the House with the intention of playing their part in building a fairer and better Ireland and providing an opportunity for every citizen to live his or her life in the best way possible, to achieve his or her objectives and to use his or her talents. Looking back in ten years time it will be perfectly obvious that there are glaring issues which are not addressed in what the Minister has brought before us. No person in the House can, to my knowledge, speak with authority on this subject, unlike those who have been victims in the residential institutions and other locations over a great number of years. I salute the victims' real courage in being able to express, not only their feelings, but the facts as they were and are all these years later.

When one sits down and talks to one of these now grown men and he lets one inside his mind, the savagery and the appalling abuse, by what was admittedly a minority, that one discovers shames us all in the House and all who went before us who were not able to deal with it. Perhaps they did not know, but we do. The courage of the victims in talking about these issues should be responded to through flexibility on our part in the Oireachtas to do what we can as legislators. The redressing of these wrongs and an attempt to compensate should be as open and full as possible.

Every person has to live inside his or her own head. No amount of money can compensate for what any one of the people concerned has had to live with every day since these appalling incidents occurred. It is only when they explain these feelings in their own inimitable way that one can understand the real depth of frustration and hurt and the necessity for a response.

I listened to a woman speaking on the Joe Duffy programme quite recently. She was the eldest of nine children. After a family break-up, she was left responsible for eight younger than herself. These children were taken away by force and put in care. The society that allowed such things to happen and allowed children to be taken away at the age of two years to be institutionalised was horrific. When I look at my own children I imagine what it must have been like for any young child to be faced with the forbidding grey walls of an institution in which fear, hurt, discrimination, savagery and sexual abuse occurred.

One cannot tar everybody with the same brush. I was educated in Castlebar by the De La Salle brothers as a day pupil. To my knowledge, no brother in that monastery or school was sexually abusive to any boy. It was a difficult educational regime, but one that was an accepted part of Irish life at that time.

Yesterday, I listened to one of the groups giving evidence before the Joint Committee on Education and Science talking about Operation Shamrock. The Minister should allude to this in his response. Operation Shamrock involved bringing 500 German children to Ireland after the Second World War, but they were not institutionalised in the sense that the State would have known they were here. Perhaps the Minister will outline the conditions, agreements and criteria that were obviously drawn up between the Irish Government and whatever German government or agency was involved. Has there been any follow through to account for any of these survivors?

Many of the organisations now dealing with victims of residential abuse in all its forms have been formed from a conviction that something should be done for survivors. I know the Bill addresses this in part. I do not agree that this Bill should be delayed unduly, because the value of a legislature is that one can amend a Bill at any time one wishes – ignoring what is happening in respect of the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill. If the Bill is not right, the Dáil and Seanad can change it and make additions. In addition, there is the availability of ministerial orders and directives. Therefore, the Bill should proceed, but should be more open in its approach to what it is trying to address.

Many of the organisations dealing with the victims of residential abuse are very genuine in their concern about the availability of housing and the capacity of the State to give people a house who were either run out of the country, who fled because of the shame they thought was visited upon them or for other reasons. Local authorities do not accord any priority – if they reflect at all on the matter – to people who live abroad in terms of the allocation of housing in our local authority areas. Following the Taoiseach's apology on the State's behalf, if the State accepts that it owes these people something, then surely a roof over one's head is not too much to ask for.

This Administration has not had the competence to deal with people on housing lists who have been victims of any residential abuse. I would like to see the Minister, Deputy Woods, responding to this debate by saying that the organisations that have grown from a sense of conviction and belief and which are helping victims of residential abuse should be listed. There should be criteria drawn up by the Minister to say that organisations will qualify for State assistance in respect of work they are doing, provided they meet certain criteria. That should not be too hard to draw up because there are not too many of them involved.

Having spoken to victims abroad who were detained in residential institutions in this State, one can understand that the emigrants wish to be home – emigrants who had shame poured upon them and who had to leave the country not just for economic reasons but for a host of others.

The issue of victims of abuse who attended day institutions must be addressed. Such victims should be considered also because abuse is wrong regardless of where and when it occurs. There is a difference in victims in the sense that those who were locked into residential institutions had not the freedom to leave while those who were being abused in day institutions – to whatever extent – at least had the opportunity to go home, what ever kind of home that might be. Abuse is a common denominator and should be addressed in the Bill.

I came across a case some years ago of a woman who gave birth to a child out of wedlock. She suffered to a degree from post-natal depression and was incarcerated in a mental hospital for more than 50 years. That is a shame on the Irish nation as well. We have grown up in many respects. The drafting of the Bill should be broad enough to cater for all the categories I have mentioned.

The Federation of Irish Societies, the secretary of which is counsellor Sally Mulready in Camden Square, London, made a very strong plea for the inclusion of victims who worked in the Magdalen laundries. In her letter in October, she outlined the three categories of victims involved. First, there were those who were placed in Magdalen laundries as transferees from other institutions, reformatories, industrial schools or orphanages. Second, there were girls and women who were transferred between the ages of 16 and 18. They had been discharged from the first institution into society for employment and were then forcibly picked up in many cases and brought back to laundries, often under police escort and accompanied by nuns. Their legal status was never explained to them. The third category comprised those who worked in laundries over the age of 18, some of whom remained in them until the day they died. Although they may have had the legal right to leave those laundries, they were not aware of it. These three categories of women should also be included under the aegis of the Bill.

The Minister should list the organisations dealing with the victims out of a sense of conviction and benevolence. He should set out the criteria under which they can qualify for State assistance to help these victims. He should enter into discussions with housing authorities in respect of the numbers involved to make some facility available for the rehousing or repatriation of those who may have lived for 50 years under this burden and crucifixion which they have had imposed on them by this country. The public information campaign should be as extensive as possible.

As I said, one cannot tar everyone with the same brush. The point made by the bishops in respect of the acceptance of hearsay evidence is one which should be seriously looked at. We live in a litigious society. This is a small country where rumours abound and these types of libellous and slanderous remarks come very quickly to people. For other reasons completely malicious remarks or allegations might be made against people who worked, perfectly legitimately from their perspective, in an educational or residential institution. I would like the Bill to deal with this in a way in which there is an ability to respond and defend where a malicious allegation is made in the first instance.

It is getting close to the point at which the Government should state what ball park figure it will put up. What moneys will the Government put up? What other facilities will it provide for further education and counselling and further draw out and draw forward those who have had to live with this for so many years? I share the point made by other Deputies that CORI should also be able to state approximately what it will be able to put up in terms of this fund. Not every priest, brother or sister was sexually abusive. They were not all that way, but it is very easy to brand the categories as such. The public information campaign should not only be directed at the victims or their families where they have died since the Taoiseach's apology, their spouses, children and so on, but should also attempt, in so far as it can, to direct itself at the numbers involved. I would like to hear the Minister's response as to what the Government and the bishops propose.

Section 6 sets out the four conditions for an application for assistance from the board. It reads:

(a) proof of his or her identity

(b) that he or she was resident in an institution during his or her childhood,

(c) that he or she was abused while so resident, and

(d) that he or she was injured as a consequence of abuse.

One of the persons giving evidence at the committee yesterday read out a detention order, not a residency order, and twice referred to the fact that the said person was to be detained on the order of the Minister. The person concerned could prove not only that they were a resident, but that they were detained by ministerial order in an institution.

The fourth condition is "that he or she was injured as a consequence of such abuse." One should look at the fear, confusion and terror on the faces of the children in the Ardoyne as they walk a gauntlet of steel to school. Imagine what it must have been like in the darkness of the corridors and dormitories and on the stone steps of grey residential institutions where those who were abusive felt they had a God given right to carry on the way they did. It may well be that in the early stages of abuse some of the victims did not suffer physical injury, but they have to live with it in their minds and no money or compensation can pay for this.

That is the reason the Bill should be broad enough and the State big hearted and big minded enough to state it understands that of the 30,000 incarcerated in residential institutions or wherever from the 1930s to the 1970s, it can determine how many need particular counselling, attention and some State response in terms of the shame it imposed on them. In his response to the debate the Minister should look again at the Bill which needs to be amended. It is possible for the Minister to do this. In the broadest way possible we should do everything we can, as a Legislature, to redress the wrong inflicted on these courageous people, many of whom are now willing and able to tell their story.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute, however briefly, to this important legislation. I welcome that at least some form of progress has been made following the initiative by the Minister which was promoted by his discussions with many of the interested parties. I do not wish to be repetitive or dwell on any points of importance that have already been made by my party spokesperson, Deputy Creed, or other Members. I would like, however, to highlight a fairly fundamental flaw in the legislation which emanates from the Title and continues to the last section, that is, the concentration by the Minister on the residential aspect. That the Bill refuses and neglects to countenance any form of compensation for the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of persons in schools, places of education or health care other than for those in residential institutions is a fundamental mistake. I call on the Minister to redress the imbalance.

There are many victims who were day pupils and are anxious to participate in a properly structured compensation tribunal, authority or board, but cannot do so because they have been automatically excluded by the Minister in a most unfair way. I do not believe he has brought forward a coherent, logical or moral argument as to the reason a huge section of the community can, with the stroke of a pen be omitted. He should not be allowed to have his responsibilities side-tracked by ignoring persons whom he acknowledges suffered at the hands of State employees. The exclusion of persons abused at the hands of teachers in day schools is something on which the Minister has been far from convincing in his argument.

For many decades the State has, by dint of its own legislation, ensured a compulsory aspect to schooling. It gave rise to a situation where pupils attending day schools had no choice but to attend – it is the law of the land to attend primary school. The State runs primary education in this jurisdiction. They are involved in the appointment of teachers, the structuring of the curriculum and the day-to-day management of schools. If the State is involved on a fundamental basis it then has a duty of care to ensure the protection of those attending the institution or school at all times. That duty of care extends to ensuring that State employees do not engage in the type of reprehensible criminal activity about which we have seen reports in recent years.

The Minister is on record as having said one of the reasons he is not prepared to extend the compensation scheme to persons in day schools is that such action would open the flood-gates. I challenge him to repeat that assertion at the close of this debate. If the Minister does so, he shows himself up as not having any defence. To say this issue is too hot to handle or that there is too much involved or that it is too big an issue has no basis in law or morality. Until such time as this Bill ensures a form of redress for persons in day schools it is flawed legislation.

Abuse takes many forms. I am sure everyone will agree that sexual abuse is particularly reprehensible. It is an offence to which the State should exhibit an attitude of zero tolerance. We must send out a very strong message that people employed by the State who engage in this type of behaviour will have no hiding place and will have the full rigors of the law imposed upon them. Similarly, there is a corresponding duty of care to ensure that where damage is inflicted, the victims are properly counselled and have an opportunity of redress. Whatever form that redress might take, among the options should be one of compensation. This is particularly important in instances where criminal offences have been perpetrated.

It can be assumed, where abusers, teachers or otherwise, employed by the State, paid from the public purse and placed in positions of trust and confidence perpetrate criminal acts, that the State has failed to ensure the safety of the children. The State has a clear duty of care in our schools and educational establishments to ensure the safety of those obliged to attend by reason of our laws.

The Government, and the Minister when introducing this Bill, accepted the principle of compensation. The principle of compensation is contained in the legislation. How can the Minister stand here and actively discriminate against day pupils accepting as he does the fact that they have been abused and accepting as he does that the activities and crimes perpetrated upon victims were such that in some case they gave rise to court proceedings. In some cases teachers have been charged, tried, convicted and jailed yet the victims do not appear to have any form of redress. That is most unfair.

I will give a brief example of a situation that arose in a primary school in my constituency relating to a teacher who taught in Dublin and Longford in the 1950s and 1960s. There is a catalogue of abuse against him. He went on to teach in a school in County Offaly in the 1970s. Again, cases of abuse were spoken of in the area at the time. A letter was sent to the Department and the Bishop of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin in 1982 to which there was no response. Some 17 years later, when the matter was raised in this House, it was acknowledged by the then Minister for Education that no action had been taken regarding the complaint. No acknowledgement had been sent to the victim; no reply had issued to the complainant. In the meantime, the teacher was transferred from County Offaly to another school in County Kilkenny, a position procured, presumably, by dint of an appointment ratified by the Department of Education. How could this have happened? What systems have been put in place to ensure this does not happen again?

I would like to know what references were given that allowed this abuser proceed with his catalogue of abuse from County Offaly to County Kilkenny and why nobody shouted ‘stop'? It is worse than that. People obviously approved of the appointment; people provided references. If the Minister is serious about our recognising the ills of the past he should make available the files and papers in this case so we can see who provided the references for this abuser to proceed from one county to another. That teacher, when he left County Kilkenny in the 1980s took up a position in a secondary school in County Offaly where formal complaints of abuse were laid against him just before his retirement. I doubt this is the only case of that nature in the country. It is despicable that this could have happened the way it did. Clearly, this man had friends in high places who allowed him to proceed without any action on behalf of the Department or the church authorities until after his retirement when at last the Garda took action on foot of formal complaints. He is now serving a prison sentence, albeit short. It is particularly regrettable that this man's victims, like hundreds of others throughout the country, have no form of redress or compensation under this legislation.

The voluntary bodies set up to co-ordinate the campaign on behalf of the victims have, in recent times, made cogent argument in favour of not proceeding with this legislation to final stages until such time as we know more about the level and type of compensation involved. How much money is involved? A figure somewhere between £200 million and £400 million was mentioned but there are very broad parameters. What money will be provided and how will compensation be measured? I understand there may be more than 6,000 victims who suffered abuse over a long period, perhaps 50 years. If we pass this legislation without having reached a deal with the religious bodies can we compute the State's liability? It is important that we pursue these issues on the floor of the House. How will compensation be measured? What are the various headings under which that compensation might come? Will damages be awarded under headings other than pain and suffering? I assume the bulk of damages claims will be made under the heading of pain, suffering, trauma and anxiety. What about consequential loss such as medical costs and, in some cases, loss of earnings?

Many of these victims have had further misfortune visited upon them in so far as they have found it extremely difficult to engage in the normal life practices in which we engage, for example, the maintenance of a permanent job. Will compensation be payable under the heading of loss of earnings? Will there be aggravated damages in cases which might be highlighted as especially heinous? Deputy Kenny made the point about housing and I concur. What priority will be given in the housing area to victims who wish to resume what might be described as normal living? That is as far as residential victims are concerned. Daingean, one of the more notorious institutions, is in my constituency of Laoighis- Offaly. Over the years hundreds if not thousands of people were detained there.

The Bill deals with those who were resident in such institutions but those same institutions were more than residential in that there was not much of a choice. People were involuntarily detained in them. While the trauma, hardship, anxiety and hurt visited upon school students are recognised, the fact that some students were abused while in day care and in day schools under the supervision of the State and were not in residence or detained should not be a bar to an entitlement to compensation or an inclusion under the legislation. Otherwise, the State is failing in its responsibilities. The State has said that, in residential institutions, it and the Minister actedin loco parentis. While I accept that, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. or from 9.30 a.m. until 4 p.m. teachers in primary schools throughout the country act on behalf of parents. I do not accept the distinction the Minister makes.

There is a clear implication in what the Minister said that, if children in day schools had a problem, they were expected to have told their parents who might have intervened and that the difference between those in residential care and those in day care is that the element of parental intervention was not available to those in residential care. We know the position was very different. The climate of the day was such that it was not expected that children in day schools suffering at the hands of abusive teachers would complain to their parents. The likelihood was they would not receive much of a hearing at home. It is unfair for the Minister and the State to say parents of children in day schools should have had such a burden of responsibility thrust upon them and that they should have intervened to stop the abuse in the first instance. It is an argument with which I do not agree.

The intervention at the time was probably negligible in any event. I point to a case in my constituency with which I am familiar where there was an element of intervention in so far as a formal complaint was made in 1982 to which the Department did not respond and the same sorry tale can be told of the bishop of the day. It was not as though parents were going to intervene. They did not, and to say they should have is cold comfort. In the case I mentioned, it is clear there was a cover-up on the part of the Department of Education and Science. I do not say that lightly, but all the facts of the case point in that direction. I challenge the Minister to rebut my charge.

The Bill, by ignoring the claim of the non-residential victim, is unjust and immoral and adds considerably to the hurt and trauma of those victims. I accept that the process of healing must take place and I acknowledge that for many it will but it must do so for all victims and not just those detained in residential care. It is wrong that a day care victim can be treated in a fundamentally different way or as a lesser being than those detained in residential care. I welcome the recent statement by the religious orders that they will engage in the compensation process. I want to know how much. There is also a difficulty concerning a waiver clause. It would be unfair to expect someone to sign such a waiver clause without knowing the level of compensation.

The Minister is making a grave error by saying that victims who were day pupils cannot make a claim because, at the time, they were under the care of their parents when clearly they were not. While I acknowledge a measure of progress, this job will not be completed until such time as all victims are entitled to a fair measure of compensation for their loss, damage, trauma and anxiety.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. No matter what we do, we will not be able to compensate in any adequate way for what happened to so many citizens. While this measure is described as a redress Bill, it cannot give redress for what happened. People's lives have been taken away from them from an early age in institutions where they were directly or indirectly in the care of the State. We need to acknowledge that and that there will never be closure on this issue, no matter what measures are taken by the State. There will always be effects and results which cannot be addressed either through legislation, compensation or any other measure available to the House.

Nevertheless, it is our duty as parliamentarians to take whatever action can be taken. The Bill is just part of a number of measures which are a response to the extraordinary revelations in the television programme "States of Fear", books written previously and subsequently and stories told to us and many others, especially to the Laffoy commission. That these events occurred in the State in this century should make us hang our heads in shame.

We are dealing with this part of our response as a people. Inevitably we must discuss it in the context of what has happened already. The apology by the Taoiseach on behalf of the State was welcome and had to be made but is not an appropriate atonement for what happened to people. They were abused when powerless and without a champion. Their lives were taken from them because of what happened.

My involvement as a parliamentarian was mainly through the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 2000, which was among the first legislation with which I was involved as a Member. Obviously that legislation is interwoven with the Bill because people will have to make a choice between going to the civil courts or going before the redress board to try to obtain some small and inadequate financial compensation. Nevertheless, to obtain financial compensation they will have to make decisions with regard to taking the civil course or going before the redress board. In that regard, I support Deputy Shortall in the amendment she has proposed. We do not have enough information at this stage as to what will be on offer, as to what form of compensation will be available, or as to what degree it will address the issues that arise for individuals.

Many cases will not be addressed effectively under this forum. Obviously, it has advantages for some in that it takes them away from the courts of law, which may be appropriate. Nevertheless, I would like to see as many options left open as is possible. That is the reason I wrote to the Minister earlier in the summer asking that the Statute of Limitations option should not be closed to those whose time was running out and did not have enough information with regard to which option they should take. That should still be the case and the Statute of Limitations should not be pleaded by the State in cases where people's time has run out. They should still have the option of taking either route in terms of redress.

Many may still not have the appropriate information. Many are living in different corners of the world. By virtue of the fact that many were in institutions and did not get appropriate opportunities in terms of education etc., they may have personal difficulties with regard to accessing the kind of information they require with regard to the options available. This is very complex. There are a number of avenues such as the commission, this legislation and the civil and criminal courts. As many options as possible should be left open and as much advice as possible should be made available.

For that reason I compliment the various organisations which have been established to support victims of abuse on the information they have made available to those who otherwise would find it impossible to access the various avenues open to them. I agree with Deputy Kenny that these groups should be given appropriate financial support. I refer particularly to the organisation, Survivors of Child Abuse, which has been involved from the beginning. When I was involved in the legislation with regard to the Statute of Limitations, its input was extremely important. It has also called for a delay until we get the relevant information with regard to the options available.

I also support those who have spoken in favour of the right of day students to be included in this legislation. In many cases, that they were day students and went home did not, as Deputy Flanagan outlined, give them any more protection than if they had not gone home. It did not protect them from abuse. A case has been made by a group of day students who have initiated court action under the Statute of Limitations legislation. They should be entitled to take this route if they wish. There is no reason to exclude day students in general, but the Minister might consider this group in particular, if he is not willing to consider the totality of students.

As Deputy Kenny said, there is a case for those on the other side, who believe they have been falsely accused, to have an opportunity to defend themselves and state their case. This case has been made by CORI and for reasons of justice, it should be allowed. Their voice should be heard in order that people will not be accused of actions which they did not carry out. Not everybody was complicit. Many were innocent and many protested and tried to change the system. However, it was so invidious and so all-pervasive that they were not able to affect what was happening.

It is very important that, as legislators, we do not close this issue at any date or time. There are survivors of abuse for whom there will never be closure, whose lives have been indelibly changed, ruined in some cases, as a result of what the State did to them in its institutions. We need to continue to listen to these individuals, and those who represent them, and keep our minds open as to what further recompense can be made, and what further action can be taken.

I have the advantage of not having to repeat what Deputy O'Sullivan has just said. I very much agree with the practical proposals that both she and the Labour Party spokesperson on this matter, Deputy Shortall, have outlined.

I was the spokesperson on education when we discussed the Committee Stage of the Laffoy commission legislation. My recollection of that time was that the terms of reference, and the legislation, were proposed narrowly and ungenerously. I fought tooth and nail to widen them to include the full circumstances of the child's abuse. I recall clearly having to make the case, for example, that "establishing responsibility" did not just concern the responsibility of the person in charge of a building, or of a person in a particular post, but of all who had access to the child in multiple settings, and in different circumstances.

Around this time it became clear that vital files were missing from the Department of Education and Science, covering one of the most notorious periods of its neglect in relation to this matter. I have a difficulty with those who now say that this was a dark time in Irish history. The difficulty I have with this apologetic mode is that it tends not to be explicit where we must be explicit in relation to the abuse of authority involved. Children were removed from parents and placed in institutions.

I was a member of the MacBride commission and remember its hearings in Dublin. When people came before us and told us of their experiences in prison they were afraid. That was in the 1970s and is evident in the printed report of the commission. We could not use some of the material because we had not received permission to print it at the time. I was often haunted by some of the details in that report, including those concerning children collected at the railway station in Galway to be brought to Clifden to one of two institutions; details concerning children who were thumped and had chest bones broken; and details concerning people lent out to farmers. I said that the Bill that concerned the MacBride commission could not confine itself to a building. What about those responsible for taking children out to the fields, those who allegedly went camping, and those who brought children for a day out? There is no merit in simply saying that this was a dark time in Irish history. Those with responsibility claimed and abused authority, both that of the State and in the institutions concerned.

I remember when a friend, Mannix Flynn – who will not mind my mentioning his name – wrote his book,Nothing to Say. Mannix was in Letterfrack. This information has been known for quite a while. At the time of the Kennedy report an issue may have arisen between the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Education and Science. When a message came it might have been seen as doing more harm if it came out than if it did not. There was closure; a closing off of the facts and an inability to face up to anything.

The most sensitive man who appeared before the MacBride commission was a former chief attendance officer from the Dublin area. He said if we could only get them early on, the children concerned would not end up in prison, and that they were wonderful people. In the recent book,Suffer the little children: the inside story of Ireland's industrial schools, by Mary Raftery and Eoin O'Sullivan, there is an interesting point when it mentions a Department of Education and Science probation officer who reported to the Department that he had congratulated those who did their job, and many who were concerned. The probation officer's report details a brutal beating of one of the inmates, a boy from Sligo, and that he was informed of this by an attendant. The probation officer's report points out that this beating consisted of numerous punches with a clenched fist which reduced the boy to a whimpering mass. The concluding portion of this incident was witnessed by the matron and the complete incident took place in the presence of all the inmates at the time. The individual goes on to say that this was a savage, uncontrolled beating accompanied by expressions from the attendant in which the word “dirtbird” was mentioned on quite a few occasions. When this matter was reviewed and pressed it was stated that this was a violent and difficult boy. That is what gets into the Department's files.

I could go on. Another case refers to the fact that a particular person had a great reputation for keeping discipline but that, perhaps, he should be more restrained. When I was spokesperson on this issue, we heard of a person being stripped naked at midnight on the landing in Daingean, yet all the files are missing, except for two pages quoted in this book.

This is not the time for obfuscation or attempts at hiding. A total of 55,000 people, the largest number of people ever to emigrate from this country since independence, did so in 1955. How many people have gone to England? How many people with ruined lives are in England? Have they no right to come back? In all the procedures, should we not decide all the categories which will flow from the commission? People will need to come back and some will need counselling.

The difficulty in all of this is that, if it is not done properly, it will accord the greatest possible pain to people as they try to recover from their experiences. I support Deputy O'Sullivan's comments and the contents of Deputy Shortall's amendment.

Deputy Shortall also referred to another speech and there is another important context. Frances Finnegan's book describes what happened in the Magdelen laundries. When I first stood for election in 1969, I met a woman who had come out of the laundry in Galway for the first time. What about these and other settings into which people were placed?

We must not approach this issue in the manner in which we began before the commission by keeping the process as tight as possible. The correct procedure is, having looked at all the categories thrown up by way of fact by the commission, to specify how we propose to approach the issue. We will then be able to look at the quality of the legislation and the orders made by the Minister.

I reject the notion, and it is a cop out to suggest, that everything was the same in those days, that if those involved had not helped these children, no one else would have done so, and that the events took place out of some kind of misplaced charity or whatever. That is a nonsense. Our Constitution and the democratic programme of the first Dáil specified the rights of the child. Those rights were also being prosecuted internationally in conventions. There is no excuse. It is wrong to place any kind of gloss on these events which suggests that the times were bad and enables officials or those responsible to run in all directions without facing up to what they perpetrated against young, vulnerable people.

In this context, the distinction, for example, of whether the child was residential or in the school for the day is a nonsense. Can it be suggested that a person who abuses authority against a vulnerable person will make a distinction between boarders and children attending the institution on a day basis? That is a nonsense.

The Minister should at least seek to address the issue of those who had the courage to take their cases. He should try to give an assurance that no one who has been put through this awful experience will be excluded from consideration. Tens of thousands of lives have been ruined and wonderful people are trying to come to terms with, and reconstruct, their lives. If we are to assist that process, everything should be construed generously. We should provide assistance to, and encourage groups. We should not have been so mean about the legal advice and support which had to be fought for every step of the way. All of this is the test.

Are we legislating for a narrow way out of all of this by, first, painting the period as the dark period? Department officials and those who ran institutes have questions to answer. People who knew what was going on said nothing. There were those to whom complaints were made who refused to act. There were reports after reports. Most sinister of all, a senior civil servant, writing to a junior civil servant, suggested it would be better if this did not come out. The reason was that we were refusing to vindicate the rights of the child. If one is going forward after such events, it is important to be able to face up to them so that, ultimately, one may hope for some kind of closure. If one wishes for such a closure, the matter has to be faced in its fullness.

It is important, and the Minister would be supported, if he published a draft of his proposals. He should let us see what categories he proposes to redress and what distinctions will be drawn between them. How does he propose, for example, to put other non-financial mechanisms in place to seek to rebuild people's lives? What is wrong with that? However, if the Bill is passed without these changes, we will have the commission and an expert report and it will be up to the Minister to decide how to respond regarding regulations.

It is a time for generosity and including, rather than excluding, more people. No obstacles or inhibitions must be put in the way of people who may wish to come forward. Many things can be done which are not simply financial. They include institutional measures by making different State resources available.

I went to the industrial school in lower Salthill where I saw these people. They later made a good job of reconstructing their lives, but they carry the marks. We also carry the marks in that we allowed authoritarian men and women to abuse vulnerable people in such a manner.

I compliment the Minister for introducing this Bill and recognise his efforts in this area. No financial reward will ever fully compensate these victims for the humiliation, degradation and loss of self-esteem they have suffered. One such person told me that there could not be a God who allowed people to undergo such suffering. The Bill has deficiencies which have been outlined by various speakers and I hope the Minister will accept amendments tabled by Deputy Creed and others.

One individual who has attended my clinics for the past three years is seeking clarification on the issue of his being criminalised by virtue of the fact that he was committed to an institution. Deputy Creed tabled a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on this issue asking him if, in the context of the Government's proposal to compensate victims of abuse in institutional settings, his Department has given any consideration to the revocation of the criminal status of residents in such institutions; and if he would make a statement on the matter.

In his reply the Minister referred to the Chil dren Act, 2001, but gave no suggestion that the slate would be wiped clean in this case. Will the Minister consult Deputy O'Donoghue on this issue? Many of the people concerned were incarcerated for crimes which do not merit a criminal record, and many for no crime at all.

The individual to whom I am referring was born out of wedlock. His case had to go before a judge in a court who committed him under the Public Order Act. He has never committed a crime in his life and would like the matter to be examined and addressed.

Debate adjourned.