Monday 1 May 2017

Christian Brothers drop threat to sue abuse survivor

Call for religious orders to place files in one central archive
'The Christian Brothers claimed ownership of the files after Wall donated them to the University of Limerick and threatened legal action' (stock photo)
'The Christian Brothers claimed ownership of the files after Wall donated them to the University of Limerick and threatened legal action' (stock photo)
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The Christian Brothers dropped a threat to sue an abuse survivor over records he took from an industrial school in Limerick after his case was raised in the Dail.

Tom Wall, who survived a childhood of abuse at an industrial school in Glin, says he was asked by the Christian Brothers to burn the records when the school closed in 1973. But he retained many of the files, including his own.

The Christian Brothers claimed ownership of the files after Wall donated them to the University of Limerick and threatened legal action. The religious order backed down after Niall Collins, the Fianna Fail TD, raised Wall's case in the Dail last Wednesday. Deputy Collins called on the State to intervene to secure the records, which he said included "contracts for sale" that showed how children were effectively "sold into slavery".

The case has highlighted concerns about the records held by religious orders on the mothers and children who were incarcerated in their institutions. Survivors have complained about the difficulties accessing the records which the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, said was "disconcerting".

Collins yesterday called for a "central register" of the records held by all religious orders to provide ease of access for people who "shouldn't have to beg" for information about their childhoods.

While religious orders gave their files on children adopted from their homes to Tusla some years ago, many organisations still maintain their own archives. Tusla has no powers to seize records relating to children but the Government is pushing through legislation to centralise records with the Adoption Authority, which will have those powers.

Mr Wall's records include contracts that stipulate that wages earned by boys on apprenticeships be paid to the Christian Brothers, and that unopened letters that children wrote to their parents were confiscated by the Christian Brothers. "Once the children got to Glin, they were completely cut off from the outside world," he said.

Mr Wall said the records of all religious orders should be in one central archive. "It should have been done years ago. But by the time the religious orders hand over their archives, you will only get what the religious orders want you to see."

The Christian Brothers, which maintains its own archive of records in Dublin, wanted the original documents returned. Following Niall Collins's intervention, the Christian Brothers contacted him to say the order was now happy to accept copies. Once the legal details are finalised, Tom Wall will give the records to the University of Limerick.

The Minister for Children is expected to publish an interim report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes this week. The report is believed to recommend a redress scheme for the mothers and children who were abused in these homes which is expected to be discussed by government ministers next week.

Sunday Independent

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