Suffering | 

Abuse survivor calls for independent inquiry into 10 Spiritan schools

Mr Healy said news of abuse at Belvedere College had been ‘contained.’ ‘That is the way it is dealt with in Ireland; they just hope it will go away’

Blackrock College, Dublin, where young boys were sexually abused. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA© PA

Sarah Mac

A campaigner for survivors of clerical abuse at Spiritan schools has called for an independent inquiry to determine the scale of mistreatment suffered by pupils in the 10 schools run by the religious order.

Mark Vincent Healy was abused by two priests during his time at St Mary’s College in Dublin between 1969 and 1973 when he was aged between nine and 12 years old.

He said: “I want answers from the State and religious congregations about the suffering of children who attended day schools, and only an inquiry can determine the numbers affected.”

He said he had been seeking an inquiry for more than 11 years.

The first Irish male survivor of abuse to meet Pope Francis said there is “a lot more to be said and written about the lives of those who suffered so egregiously” in the country’s day schools.

He said the call for an inquiry has been loud and clear for years but “nothing has been done”.

Mr Healy said the news of the abuse of students by a Jesuit priest at Belvedere College last year should have brought about a national independent inquiry but instead the issue had been “contained”.

“That is the way it is dealt with in Ireland; they just hope it will go away,” he said.

Mr Healy also called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Education Minister Norma Foley, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman to meet him and other victims’ advocates to discuss the setting up of an inquiry.

He also spoke about the failings of the State to address the issue of the abuse of day-school students.

Mr Healy believes Bertie Ahern’s apology as Taoiseach in May 1999 was made to all children failed by the Irish State and therefore it covered day-school students.

“Why has the apology in 1999 never translated into an inquiry?” he said. “An inquiry and a redress scheme should have followed because Bertie Ahern did not categorise the apology as only to those who attended residential institutions.

“The State has a responsibility to secure the welfare of students, but day-school students have been criminally neglected.”

He added the State had been “belligerent towards people like me” and said “victims of abuse have been subjected to the rigours of the courts, criminal and civil”.

He also called for a scheme to be devised to compensate those who suffered abuse.

Mr Healy said gardaí should be examining when the Spiritan congregation learned about Fr Thomas ‘Tom’ O’Byrne’s abusive actions.

The priest was stationed at Blackrock College for 40 years between 1963 and 2003.

Separately, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said: “There is a crying need for atonement, inner healing and hope in the aftermath of the abuse scandals.”

He told a graduate class at Chancellor of Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth: “Our synodal journey is taking place at a significant turning point in the history of the church here.

“In 2029 we will mark the bicentenary of Catholic Emancipation and, as it approaches, there is a sense that we are in some ways drawing to a close a significant chapter in the life of the church here, while at the same time seeking a new vision of living faith for the future.”

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