Back in early 1998 I naively thought that all I needed to do was write to then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern pointing out that there was by then enough information in the public domain to justify an inquiry into the practice within the Catholic Church of moving paedophile priests onto new parishes in Dublin.
I couldn't have been more wrong -- Taoiseach Ahern was not in the slightest bit interested, telling me that the Church was not an organisation that the State could investigate and that the State could only have inquiries into matters of urgent public concern.
I remember being so disappointed that our relatively young new Taoiseach could have such a backward out-of-date reaction to an issue I was sure would never go away until it was properly addressed. Once I had gone public about my experiences as a child and had also told everyone in Ireland that I had been compensated, surely others would come forward to reveal similar experiences and demand similar redress -- I wasn't wrong about that.
I wrote to everyone I could think of then, the INTO, Amnesty International, the Rape Crisis Centre, to name but a few, asking them to write to the Taoiseach supporting my call for an inquiry. I felt, then, that as a child I had not stood up for myself, defended myself against a grown man who had abused me and his position, and as an adult I had just about enough of taking bullshit from people.
Turning things around had begun in 1991 when I found a solicitor to represent me in seeking compensation from Father Ivan Payne. This was the first step in saying that what had happened to me as a child was not okay and I was going to do something about it.
In 1994 I started to move information about my case into the public domain because I was concerned that Fr Payne was still a priest in Sutton and I also felt that other people who may have been abused by him or others were entitled to know that a precedent had been set.
That was a big step but I was becoming stronger as a person albeit starting from a very low point. Even as an adult I hadn't been great at standing up for myself in work situations, for example, and being an active alcoholic didn't help -- it further robbed me of the ability to develop good interpersonal skills and develop and mature properly as an adult.
But I was finding the strength somewhere and I liked it. In 1997 I went into recovery for my alcoholism and haven't had an alcoholic drink since.
At the same time I started writing my autobiography, Altar Boy; as child sexual abuse was being debated more publicly it was clear to me that people needed to understand what it was like to be a child going through those experiences instead of asking 'Why did the children keep going back' and they also needed to understand that it can take many years into adulthood to even begin to recover from such experiences; so telling us 'We should be able to put it all behind us now' wasn't appropriate either.
As my confidence grew, I participated in as many debates on child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church on TV, radio, and in print, as I could and in October 2002 the Primetime special Cardinal Secrets, detailing child sexual abuse by eight Dublin priests, was so shocking that the Ahern government was left with no choice but to agree to an inquiry -- I do believe it helped that Michael McDowell was by then Justice Minister. I was delighted that at last the Church would be held to account for its practice of reassigning paedophile priests which caused more children to be sexually abused. Though I didn't realise then that it would take McDowell and the government a full three-and-a-half years to set up the inquiry.
I went to many meetings in the Department of Justice offices on Stephen's Green with Colm O'Gorman and Marie Collins and I was appalled at the snail's pace of progress I observed as the Commission of Investigation, as it was to be called, was set up. I really had the impression that government officials and civil servants thought that if they dragged things out for long enough and put enough obstacles in our way we'd just get fed up and go away and everyone would forget that an inquiry had been promised.
But we persevered and eventually the Commission of Investigation started its work in March 2006. Most of the time it did its work privately, away from the glare of publicity and the only time that changed was when Cardinal Connell went to the High Court in January 2008 in a failed attempt to block the commission's access to some documentation.
For most of the last 12 months there have been reports that the commission's work was almost complete and publication of its report imminent, only for further delays to occur. So I was delighted to hear that the report had finally been handed over to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern on Tuesday of this week.
I believe this report will represent a thorough exposition of the full truth about how so many children were sexually abused by priests whom bishops and monsignors already knew were paedophiles.
The public generally have some idea that such bishops and monsignors 'covered up' but what does that mean? What do such people proactively have to do to prevent paedophiles from having access to children after complaints have been raised about their behaviour?
The answer to that question will undoubtedly be revealed in this report and that's what will shock people most -- how exactly did they cover up?
Some people may think they already know, but the details are so very important -- remember we knew for some time that children were abused in industrial schools as the States of Fear documentaries were broadcast 10 years ago -- but look at the public anger and revulsion when the Ryan report was published. That is because people were confronted by the detail -- children being abused rolls off some people's tongues these days, yet when they are confronted by what that means it's a very different thing.
I'm very fortunate. I've had financial compensation, albeit pathetically small and in no way commensurate with my experiences and their effect on my life. My abuser was tried before his peers and found guilty and appropriately punished and I've taken the opportunity to try and use my experience to educate those who haven't been abused and to help those who have.
Some abuse victims have had none of that -- look again at Ryan and Ferns, how many people were actually brought to justice? Not many. So the Dublin report also represents the only opportunity some victims have to acquire some semblance of justice and for that alone it is very important.
It is of course very, very disappointing that three of the priests named in this report have criminal proceedings under way at this time. Having gone through so much to get to this point there is to be further delay while legal advice is secured about the report's publication and how to avoid prejudicing those criminal proceedings.
I feel that some of us who have contributed to this report are having our patience, support and understanding tested to the limit as we await its publication -- but we'll get there.
Andrew Madden is author of Altar Boy, A Story of Life After Abuse