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Shane Griffin was a passionate advocate for Care Leavers and for children within the care system. He passed away on December 31.

'He passionately wanted to improve things for children in care' A tribute to Shane Griffin

Linda Hayden pays tribute to her friend, activist Shane Griffin, who passed away suddenly on December 31.

ON THE MORNING of the last day of 2019, Ireland lost an important voice.

It lost a voice that gave voices to vulnerable children, it lost a voice that gave voices to adults who had trauma inflicted on them by a broken system, it lost a voice that was telling us where we had gone wrong and what we needed to do to fix it.  It lost a voice that was shouting as loud as it could; but did not feel listened to.  

Shane Griffin was a man who had seen it all when it came to the care system in Ireland. 

Placed in care for the first time aged nearly seven, Shane went on to have over twenty different placements in foster homes and residential care facilities. 

He experienced abuse in the form of physical and sexual violence while in the system.

Most people would not be able to deal with the trauma of the kind that Shane experienced in care, it would have broken them.

But Shane was not most people.

Instead of going down the route of further trauma, dysfunction and addiction, which happens to so many, Shane decided instead to use his experiences to ensure that the system worked, and that no more children would become a victim of it. 

Determined to help others

Shane had a passion for improving circumstances for children within the care system, and for ensuring correct supports were in place for those leaving care.

In relation to his own life, he was trying to piece together the details of his time in care, meeting regularly with Tusla to uncover more information.

He worked with the Care Leavers’ Network and joined the Social Democrats this year, with a view to making a difference somehow.

Shane was inspirational in his way of speaking, critical and challenging of various ministers for Health and Children and Youth Affairs, and went out of his way to help vulnerable young people.

In fact, only four days before he died, Shane was aiding a young homeless care leaver, giving advice and resources to somebody who was in dire straits over the Christmas season. 

He spoke at seminars, came to town hall meetings, asked relevant questions and put young people within the care system, and those who had experienced trauma as a result of it at the forefront of people’s minds.

Shane was tireless and relentless, and managed all this while being a good father and running his own landscaping business.  

Never bitter

You’d think that given his experiences that he would be bitter or angry, but anybody who knew him would attest that Shane was the most positive and enlightened man you could meet. 

He often sent self-deprecating thank you notes to people who gave him a platform, support or who interviewed him, grateful for the opportunity to have a voice and feel listened to. 

His sense of humour and sweet nature meant he endeared himself to nearly everybody he met, however when he had something to say about the issues within the system, he was fastidious in his message.

Shane insisted there could be nobody left behind, and believed that supports should be given with early intervention to ensure that families don’t get broken up in the first place, so children aren’t put into care unnecessarily.

When Shane joined the Social Democrats in 2019, he did so because he believed that a social democracy, where the most vulnerable in society are protected, was the way that Ireland needed to move forward. 

He bore the scars of his childhood

Despite everything he did, Shane did suffer. 

He spoke openly about his mental health and the PTSD he had as a result of multiple and complex traumas he suffered at the hands of a system that was supposed to protect him and others. 

He often spoke of the hills he had left to climb and was looking at new therapies and treatments, all of which seemed out of reach to him due to their prohibitive cost.

Once again, there were no systems in place to help him, and eventually the hills became too big. 

What he wanted was on-going care and therapy for those traumatised by the system, right up to adulthood. 

He wanted early intervention so that vulnerable children and youths don’t fall into the gaping holes that exist within the areas of child protection.

He wanted Care Leavers to be protected and supported, but most of all he wanted no child to suffer as he had. 

We all have a responsibility now to carry on his work.

Ireland has lost a voice; we must ensure that the legacy of that voice lives on.

RIP Shane. 

We have set up this fund to help his family with funeral costs and to build a bit of a fund to support his daughter Haley-Ann. If you can give what you can all donations are greatly appreciated.

Linda Hayden is the founder of AASVI and Shane Griffin’s colleague in the Kildare South branch of the Social Democrats.

 If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)



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