We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Catherine Connolly speaking in the Dáil today

Govt's plan for industrial school survivors 'ignores every recommendation' made by committee

Independent TD Catherine Connolly accused the Government of not listening to survivors or the Oireachtas Education Committee.

THE GOVERNMENT’S PLANNED range of supports for survivors of industrial schools ignores the wishes of survivors themselves and the recommendations of the Oireachtas Education Committee, the Dáil has heard.

During a debate on the measures, independent TD Catherine Connolly noted that the Government’s plan ignores “every single one” of the committee’s 10 recommendations.

These recommendations were devised after consultation with survivors, and echo recommendations made by a consultative forum composed of people with lived experience.

Under the Government’s plans, people who have received compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) Scheme, or a similar court settlement, will be entitled to a number of health and educational benefits.

The package was agreed last summer after it was announced that Caranua, the State body set up to help survivors, would be formally wound up as it exhausted its funds.

The RIRB was set up in 2002 to give compensation and support to people who, as children, were abused while resident in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions.

A number of survivors, some of whom were part of the forum, recently told The Journal their wishes are being ignored.

“They’re trying to save money and wait for all of us to die,” Maurice Patton O’Connell said.

All 10 recommendations ignored

During pre-legislative scrutiny of the Government’s plan, the Oireachtas Education Committee published a report in December 2023.

Connolly listed all 10 recommendations from this report during the Dáil debate this afternoon, noting that none were being implemented.

DAIL The Dáil chamber was largely empty for today's debate

The first of the committee’s recommendations was that all survivors of residential institutions should have equal access to the supports outlined in the legislation, regardless of whether or not they received a previous settlement.

The committee also recommended that all survivors receive access to the Health Amendment Act (HAA) card, which gives people access to more services than the enhanced medical card.

The inter-party group said the proposed €3,000 one-off payment for survivors living overseas is “insufficient” to cover people’s health needs.

The committee also recommended that the Department of Education should liaise with the United Kingdom’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure that if survivors received one-off payments under the scheme, this money should not be taken into account if the person was to be means-tested for social welfare benefits in the UK.

Another recommendation was that the legislation should contain provisions for a Contributory State Pension for all survivors to “acknowledge their years spent working in residential institutions without payment”.

Connolly said the Government should have learned lessons from controversial redress schemes for survivors of Magdalene laundries and mother and baby institutions – both of which were roundly criticised.

In a report published in 2017, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said the Magdalene Restorative Justice scheme was mal-administered and some survivors were wrongly refused access to compensation.

The redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby institutions, which opened for applications in March, has also been heavily criticised. It’s estimated that around 24,000 survivors are excluded from this scheme, including people who spent less than six months in an institution as child.

Many survivors of institutional abuse have also criticised how they were treated by Caranua – the body established in 2012 to manage the funds pledged by the religious orders in whose institutions children were abused, prior to it winding down.

‘We keep doing the same bad things’

“It is extremely difficult to watch each piece of legislation and each scheme perpetuating the abuse for the survivors,” Connolly said today. 

She said the new scheme does what the country “spent a century doing” in reformatories, industrial schools, mother and baby homes and other institutions – namely, dividing survivors. 

“And now we copper-fasten it,” she said, adding that this approach is “utterly wrong”.

I despair that we keep doing the same bad things in the guise of the patriarchal, patronising system. ‘This is good for you’, when we know well it’s very bad for you.

Connolly continued: “This scheme is not going to help the families of survivors, it’s not going to help the children or the grandchildren, even though the trauma is intergenerational, over and over.”

hilde Hildegarde Naughton defended the plan today

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Health, defended the scheme.

She told the Dáil: “Nothing can ever make up for the pain and the suffering which was endured by survivors.”

Naughton thanked the consultative forum for their “work and commitment”, saying Education Minister Norma Foley met them on “a number of occasions”.

Their insights and experience have helped to shape the package of supports which was approved by the Government last June.

She said survivors will get an enhanced medical card which will give them access to a range of health supports through the HSE including home nursing, home help, psychotherapy and physiotherapy.

Naughton said this is “consistent with the approach taken in respect of the Magdalene laundry and mother and baby institution schemes”, as is the €3,000 one-off health support payment for survivors living abroad.

The junior minister also noted that contact has “already been made” with officials in the UK in relation to concerns over means-testing for social welfare payments there. However, she added “it will ultimately be a matter for the UK authorities to decide how to treat relevant payments”.  

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.