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Sex Abuse Myth 'Is Rife in Ireland'

Sunday Times, 15th February, 2004, Dearbhail McDonald

AN ORGANISATION established to fight false allegations of sexual abuse in Britain claims the Irish redress system has created a "myth-making machine", with many complainants making extreme allegations about abuse.

The claim, which has fuelled a bitter row with the main sup-port group for victims of institutional abuse in Ireland, will be spelt out in Ireland this week by Margaret Jervis, a legal adviser to the British False Memory Society, which aims to raise public awareness of the dangers of using unscientific methods to recover memories of abuse.

"The Irish are great story-tellers and many it seems are making extreme allegations," she said. "The further you go back in years with allegations of abuse, the taller the stories become."

Jervis will travel to Dublin this week to meet a group of people who claim to be victims of false abuse allegations. She will address the group on the issue of "recovered memory" and modem child abuse witch hunts.

The closed meeting on Wed-nesday will be hosted by Let Our Voices Emerge (Love), a group of people with positive memories of institutional care who want to defend members of religious orders they believe have been unjustly accused of abuse.

Jervis, who compared the thousands of claims of abuse in industrial schools to the "epidemic" of similar allegations prompted by recovered memory therapy in Britain in the early 1990s, said that the scale of alleged abuse in Ireland is incredible.

"It beggars belief that it [the abuse] could have been that bad. The scale of alleged abuse must surely be connected to the open-ended compensation scheme offered by the Irish government and the very broad description of what constitutes abuse. The definition of abuse is beyond belief, and the longer it goes on, the greater the hype".

The government has defined abuse as "the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child".

The extent of the institutional abuse caseload emerged last month when the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, formerly chaired by Justice Mary Laffoy, revealed it was studying 4,128 allegations by 1,712 complainants. Laffoy resigned last September because she believed the inquiry was effectively rendered powerless by the government.

The decision by Jervis to address Love's members has sparked fury among members of Irish-Soca (Survivors of Child Abuse), a support group for victims. It claims the British adviser "knows absolutely nothing about Ireland" and has been drawn into "a nasty black propaganda war against the state's former child prisoners".

In a letter to Jervis last week, Jim Beresford, a researcher for Irish-Soca, warned that she was "dabbling in the dirtier end of Irish politics". "The BFMS seems to think that we have all been hypnotised into falsely recalling our history," said Beresford. "This pathologises us and incriminates us. The false memory society is in fact a false history society".

Patrick Walsh, the UK-based spokesperson for Irish-Soca, also wrote to Jervis last week, asking her to reconsider the engagement.

"What does she know about abuse in Ireland?" said Walsh. "She is making comments on a situation in a faraway country which she knows absolutely nothing about. It is quite extraordinary." Walsh claims members of the Irish group are "dabbling in the black arts of crypto-eugenics".

Florence Horsman-Hogan, Love's co-founder, angered abuse victims earlier this year when she stated that some former residents of state and religious institutions who received treatment for alcohol-ism, addictions, depression, and mental illness were genetically predisposed to such conditions.

"We were affected before we ever went into institutional care as our own parents couldn't or wouldn't take care of us," said Horsman-Hogan. "The usual cause was that they themselves suffered from mental illness and addictions. While environment is a factor in these conditions, they are also genetic - so had we never been in care we were programmed to go on to develop these conditions."

The debate about compensation being paid to alleged victims of institutional abuse has intensified in recent weeks.

A dispute has emerged following allegations by Tom Hayes of the Alliance Victim Support group, which represents more than 300 former residents, that institutional abuse had created a "cottage industry" of support groups.

Jervis said that protests would not deter her from travel-ling to Dublin and that she felt the correspondence from Soca was "emotionally intimidating". She added: "I'm surprised at the aggressive tone of the group. It is unpleasant to be harassed in that way. What are they so worried about?"

Child Abuse Victims Accused of False Claims

Ireland Online/February 18, 2004

The Child Abuse Commission is seriously flawed, encouraging people who have not been abused to seek compensation and accuse innocent people, it was claimed today.

The Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE) group and British False Memory Society criticised the commission and claimed the scale of alleged abuse in Ireland was incredulous and caused irreversible damage to those accused.

The claims sparked fury among abuse victims who branded it an outrageous attack against all Irish people.

The Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) held a protest against the two groups as they met in Dublin and angrily hit out at claims they had conjured up defective and exaggerated memories.

Margaret Jervis, legal advisor to the False Memory Society, linked Ireland's large number of outstanding child abuse complaints to the Government's "open-ended" compensation scheme and its definitions of abuse.

"I accept many people have suffered terribly in these schools but certain allegations are very extreme," she said.

"There are different types of therapy in helping people remember their past.

"There's been a trend for people with problems in their adult lives to be made to think they had problems as a child, whether they could remember them or not."

"When you get into this process of thinking, people tend to gravitate towards the abuse excuse and start to build up very similar stories and by the sheer volume of them they are believed to be true."

She described the therapy system as "a machine for manufacturing false allegations."

LOVE promotes a positive image of religious orders in children's homes and works to protect innocent people accused of abuse.

Founder member Florence Horsman-Hogan said people were being given incentives to exaggerate and fabricate claims of abuse.

"It is fundamentally wrong for victim abuse groups to deny there are false allegations out there," she said.

"In Ireland the compensation process is seriously flawed because it encourages certain complainants to seek compensation and in doing so, to name an innocent person.

"These stories have always been accepted as fact, what we are saying is listen to both sides - there are two sides to every story."

"We believe around 30% of abuse allegations in Ireland are false which could be due to a number of things: revenge, compensation or mistaken memory."

She said genuine allegations were being tainted by those who were "deluded with self-styled memories."

Ms Jervis infuriated genuine victims when she said: "The Irish are great storytellers and many, it seems, are making extreme allegations.

"The further you go back in years with allegations of abuse, the taller the stories become."

SOCA founder-member John Kelly said he was sexually and physically abused during his two years at an Industrial School in Co Offaly.

"My memories are not false. My memories are real," he said.

"We are deeply offended that we are being accused of being genetically pre-disposed to making up such horrific allegations."

SOCA has made a formal complaint about the claims to the Equality Authority.

The Child Abuse Commission is currently investigating over 4,000 allegations.

A recent review of the inquiry warned it was likely to take more than 11 years and cost over 1bn.

Justice Sean Ryan, head of the commission, said major changes had to be made in his recent review of its workings.

Group To Fight False Child Abuse Allegations

By Caroline O’Doherty Irish Examiner, February 2004

A CONTROVERSIAL organisation representing people wrongly accused of child abuse is to visit Ireland next week to advise on the prevention and detection of false allegations.

The British False Memory Society is coming to Dublin in association with Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), an Irish group set up last year by former children's home residents sceptical about claims of abuse in religious-run institutions where they personally had happy experiences.

The society was set up ten years ago in support of parents wrongly accused by children who claimed to have recalled abuse from recovered memory following therapy, but it has since widened its remit to campaign for greater scrutiny of abuse allegations, particularly involving mass accusations involving childcare institutions. It has successfully supported a number of falsely accused childcare workers in Britain and highlighted flaws in some inquiries into allegations of abuse concentrated in given geographical areas or childcare facilities.

The society's legal adviser, Margaret Jervis, who will be heading up the Dublin visit to the Arlington Hotel on Wednesday, February 18, said she believed from international experience that the no-fault nature of the compensation scheme run by Residential Institutions Redress Board here would encourage people to make spurious claims. "There are patterns of human behaviour that repeat themselves when there are certain kinds of incentives. Generally speaking, you will find that wherever there is a large amount of compensation, that's where you get the claims and when compensation is not available, you do not get the same volume of claims."

She said the society was concerned about helping genuine victims and pursuing real abusers, but the lines had been blurred because the abuse issue was clouded by emotional rather than rational debate. "I feel that Ireland needs a bit of a wake-up. It is almost like a spell cast over the country."

LOVE founder Florence Horsman Hogan said attendance at next week's private meeting would be by invitation with particular emphasis on bringing along those hurt by false allegations, a group which includes the taxpayer. "As taxpayers, we should be concerned at how the abuse crisis has taken wings of its own and got completely out of hand. As a nurse and a fundraiser for basic services for our children, I know where the money going into this crisis would be better applied."

Colm O'Gorman of the One In Four victims' group, however, warned that organisations like the False Memory Society risked hurting the genuine victims they claimed to support. "It's very easy to bandy around words like false memory and false allegations and compensation in one sentence and, in doing so, it's very easy to undermine the very real experience of the victims of abuse.

"LOVE said last year they had evidence of false allegations and we publicly urged them to go the gardaí. That remains our view; that any citizen who has evidence of a serious crime and defrauding the Redress Board or making malicious allegations is very serious should report it to gardaí."