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'The abuse we suffered due to our skin colour is being airbrushed from Irish history'

Mixed Race Irish is asking for the Government to recognise the abuse they suffered in State-run institutions.

Image: religion via Shutterstock

IN A EMOTIONAL appearance before an Oireachtas committee, mixed race survivors of institutional abuse in Ireland have called on the Government to recognise the suffering they endured.

The group, Mixed Race Irish, believe the alleged racist abuse they experienced in these institutions is being “airbrushed from Irish history”. They say that few, if any, records exist of mixed race Irish in any State institutions.

“Our research suggests this racism was endemic throughout all the institutions attended by our community,” co-founder Rosemary Adaser told the Justice Committee.

“The nuns showed us films of missionaries going to tame the ‘savages’, and we were told, ‘look at that, they are savages, that’s what you are’,” she said.

Co-founder Carole Brennan said that parish priests “would single out mixed race children and abuse them.”

“We believe we were treated differently, resulting in inequality, in these systems due to one simple fact – the colour of our skin,” she said

PastedImage-75232 Members of Mixed Race Irish before the committee today. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Other experiences revealed by the group included being doused in talcum powder so that they appeared white, and being forced to clean blocked toilets as their “skin was the same colour”.

Committee chair David Staunton said the full details of these events were “very, very disturbing”, and described the group as one of the most impressive he had seen

The deputy added that the evidence presented to the committee will be passed on to the Minister.

Many members of the Mixed Race Irish, which consists of over 70 individuals in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and China, have experienced issues around mental health, integration, and substance abuse, as well as continued racist abuse later in life.

“Employers told me outright that they wouldn’t employ a n****r because it would scare them,” Carole Brennan said.

Some members have taken their own lives, and Adasar said that others may be experiencing post-traumatic slavery syndrome.

The group said that many members have worked their entire life to overcome the effects of being placed in State institutions as children.

“It has taken us many years to reveal the depth of our suffering and pain,” Carole Brennan said, saying that the abuse left ‘lasting wounds that may never heal’.

The group is now seeking some form of redress scheme to facilitate counselling services.

The group has carried out extensive research into the experiences of mixed race children in State institutions. A survey carried out of members of Mixed Race Irish revealed:

  • 11% had died young, between the age of 22 and 45
  • Seven had taken their own life
  • 44% said they were sexually abused
  • 35% had debilitating mental health issues or suffered substance abuse
  • 9% of young men had been incarcerated.

The group said that there have been issues in seeking support to the lack of awareness of what mixed race Irish people endured in the institutions.

“We are bringing this to your attention because we can no longer tolerate the racial suffering being airbrushed from Irish history,” co-founder Evon Brennan said.

“How do we overcome the inherited belief our fathers were savages from the jungle? And our fathers were of low intelligence?,” co-founder Evon Brennan said, “To later discover that our fathers were students in law and civil engineering, and contributed to Irish society?”

She added that for many members, the question “where are you from” can cause flashbacks.

Being here is the beginning of our recovery.

Labour TD Anne Ferris said mixed race children faced “an extra layer of discrimination” in State-run institutions, and said it was another aspect that should be included in all future investigations.

The beginning of the Committee’s meeting was also delayed by 40 minutes after three Technical Group TDs were expelled from the Dáil.

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Nicky Ryan

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