Saturday 16 December 2017

Woman sent to care home as child can seek redress over conditions 'resembling slavery'

Tim Healy

A WOMAN sent to a children's hospital aged 13 where she cooked and cleaned from 6am to 10pm daily for two years under an arrangement described by a High Court judge as resembling "a form of slavery" is entitled to seek redress, the court has ruled.

Now aged in her sixties, the woman claimed to have been sexually abused by older male patients and by a priest at the hospital and to have witnessed abuse of patients.

She said she was sent as a resident to the hospital by her mother, was not permitted to return home at Christmas, Easter, her birthday or any other holidays and was frightened to leave "because of the consequences".

After breaking a glass water jug on one occasion, she felt she had to run away and was punished for that, she said. Anyone who broke the rules had their heads shaved and signs placed round their necks describing their wrongdoing, she claimed.

Her duties included preparing and serving three meals daily and cleaning and she was woken at 6am by a gong, she said. If she failed to get up immediately, one of the Sisters would throw herself and her mattress to the floor, she claimed.

On the morning of her father's funeral, she was "thrown out of bed" and made to wait until somebody took her to the funeral mass, she claimed.

The refusal of her application for redress arose after the Residential Institutions Review Committee found the woman was not a "resident" within the meaning of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. It took that view after finding the woman was "employed" at the hospital and was not receiving treatment or schooling there.

The woman, who cannot be named, challenged that finding in High Court judicial review proceedings and Mr Justice Iarflaith O'Neill yesterday upheld her challenge.

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