By Diana RuskIrish News
THE publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, detailing the shocking scale of the abuse of children in homes run by clergy, has encouraged many more victims to come forward.
Fr Patrick McCafferty, who was sexually assaulted at the hands of a priest and who now helps other abuse survivors, said the report published last month had empowered victims to tell their story and find help.
In 2003, after decades of silence, the Belfast-born priest spoke publicly about his ordeal, to encourage the many hundreds of other victims to find the strength to deal with the horrors of their past.
He said the report – known as the Ryan report – into the abuse of children in institutions run by Catholic religious orders in the Republic had “reawakened a lot of trauma”.
“People who didn’t feel empowered have been given the courage by the stories of others told in this report to tell their own histories to someone who they trust and someone who can help them,” he said.
“I have had people coming to me and speaking about their abuse for the first time because of the publication of the Ryan report.
“We saw that happening after the Ferns Report [into clerical sexual abuse in Co Wexford published in 2005] and we’ll see it again after the [upcoming] Dublin report.”
However, Fr McCafferty said an investigation still needed to be carried out into the beatings, humiliation and sexual assaults meted on children in institutions run by religious orders in Northern Ireland.
He specifically highlighted three places: Rubane House, a boys home in Kircubbin, Co Down, and St Patrick’s Home in west Belfast, both run by the De La Salle Brothers, and Nazareth Lodge children’s home in east Belfast, run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
“In the north there hasn’t been as much focus,” he said.
“People were abused sexually and physically in Rubane House, Nazareth House and St Patrick’s Home on the Glen Road, which is demolished now.
“I have received calls from people who were in those institutions in the north and just today I received a text message from someone who was brutally sexually abused by a Christian Brother in a primary school in Belfast.
“There needs to be an inquiry into abuse in institutions in the north and all the books should be open so that there is an objective investigation.
“Inquiries into child abuse should apply to the diocese of Down and Connor as much as to Ferns.”
Fr McCafferty said he had also been contacted by people from Northern Ireland in recent weeks to talk about the abuse they had suffered in institutions in the Republic.
The report by the commission headed by High Court judge Mr Justice Sean Ryan found that abuse including sexual molestation and rape was “endemic” in more than 250 Church-run children’s homes.
Evidence was collected from more than 1,000 people – many now pensioners – who spoke about their childhood of terror and intimidation.
Fr McCafferty said those who completed the difficult process of exposing the pain buried in their past must be shown the same leadership from those in authority.
“We don’t need nice words from the bishops anymore,” he said.
“‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t stitch up a wound. We need transparency and openness and cooperation with criminal investigations.”