The Sunday Times November 2, 2003 by Dearbhail McDonald
A FORMER resident of an orphanage run by the Mercy sisters in Dundalk has claimed that some former inmates plotted to make false allegations of abuse in order to get compensation.
Kathleen McShane, 59, a retired nurse from Dundalk who attended St Joseph’s orphanage in the town between 1948 and 1960, is a member of Let Our Voices Emerge (Love), a support group set up to offer support to priests, brothers and nuns who are being falsely accused of abuse.
Love, comprising people with positive memories of their time in institutional care, says it has proof that former residents of church-run institutions have lied or exaggerated in order to get compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB). McShane is the first member of Love to publicise such claims.
She claims to have been verbally abused by former inmates of the orphanage after speaking out in defence of the Mercy nuns. She wants the government to establish a fraud hotline — similar to that run by the Irish Insurance Federation — to expose former residents who make fraudulent or exaggerated claims.
“I know that false claims are being made,” said McShane, who some years ago encountered a group of women who were discussing filing false abuse allegations. One former resident told her to “keep quiet and let the girls get their money”.
McShane said: “I would stare each one of them down and challenge them on their claims that they were abused. They simply weren’t. People in Dundalk are horrified by the way in which the nuns have been treated.”
McShane publicly defended the nuns on local and national radio following the broadcast of States of Fear, an RTE documentary which detailed the abuse suffered by children in industrial schools and orphanages.
She claims that past pupils of state-run schools “ran in their droves” to make claims to the RIRB, which is paying out compensation to those who were abused, following a media campaign inviting submissions.
Claimants get an average €80,000 each and do not have to go through the courts. The number of claims already exceeds the original government estimate and are still coming in at the rate of 50 a week.
The RIRB is understood to have referred a small number of of bogus claims to the gardai for investigation. One in six claims is being turned down by the board.
Survivors’ groups have reacted angrily to Love’s appeal for others to expose fraudulent claims. Soca has referred Love’s founder, Florence Horsman-Hogan, to the data protection commissioner. Colm O’Gorman, founder of One in Four, dismissed Love’s allegations as “dangerous and inappropriate”.