Education Secretary Norma Foley has released details of a “scoping inquiry” into allegations of historic sexual abuse in schools run by religious orders.
It follows a series of allegations of abuse at schools mainly run by the Spiritans – formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers – including Dublin’s Blackrock College, Rockwell College and Templeogue College. In many cases, the allegations of abuse go back to the 1960s and 1970s.
Expected to last eight months, the scoping inquiry will be led by Senior Councilor Mary O’Toole and will involve working with survivors and experts in a range of areas including child protection and restorative justice.
It will also analyze the lessons learned from previous inquiries including the Ferns Report, the Child Abuse Inquiry or Commission and the Dublin Archdiocese Inquiry Commission. The question of compensation should also appear in the report.
The scoping inquiry will culminate in a report to the Secretary of Education with recommendations for next steps.
Ms Foley said the revelations of abuse in a number of schools were “deeply disturbing and heartbreaking” and that it was “vitally important that survivors of past child sexual abuse have the opportunity to be heard fully and with appropriate respect and empathy.” “.
“I have said that the survivors need to know that there will be a serious government response. Today, with the support of the government, I am announcing the first phase of this response,” she said.
The latest allegations of abuse followed the broadcast last November of a RTÉ radio documentary about the story of two brothers, Mark and David Ryan, who were sexually abused by priests at the school in the 1970s, unbeknownst to them.
Since then, Gardaí has collected more than 130 allegations from victims and individuals who say they have witnessed or are aware of allegations of abuse.
It prompted an apology to Spiritan victims last year and the establishment of a restorative justice program.
Ms Foley said the scoping inquiry provides an appropriate way to enable survivors to do their part, along with the views of experts in areas such as restorative justice and child protection.
She said the main purpose of the survivor engagement process is to find out what the survivors would like to see next and that no one is being asked to share their experience at this point.
“I commend the courage of those who have come forward and indeed all those who have been living with the effects of this abuse for many years.”
The process will be conducted by facilitators trained in trauma-informed practice and will likely involve questionnaires, facilitated workshops, and individual engagement.
Survivors who wish to express their interest in the procedure can find details online or by telephone (090-6483610) until April 17, 2023.
The government, meanwhile, has demanded that the Spiritan order retain all of its assets and keep all records of allegations of sexual abuse at its schools, which have been the focus of recent allegations of abuse by former students.
The move was believed to be in anticipation of the investigation and a possible victim compensation scheme.
Ms Foley said Tuesday the issue of compensation is likely to be considered by Mary O’Toole in connection with the scoping inquiry.
https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2023/03/07/scoping-inquiry-into-abuse-at-schools-run-by-religious-orders-announced/ Scoping inquiry announced into abuse at schools run by religious orders – The Irish Times