I came by your website while entering "Madonna House, Dublin" into Google, and in particular an article in your "news & updates" dated February 6, 2008. I am a former resident of Madonna House, and I stayed there from 1975 to 1980. I feel sad that the care worker (Ann Quinn) feels the way she does, and i agree with her, that it is wrong that she and others like her be stigmatised because of somebody else's actions.
My memories of Madonna House are possibly the happiest memories of my life. I was minded by a woman there, whom I only know as "Sarah-Jane", she was and still is the closest thing I have ever had to a mother, because essentially that is what she was for those 5 years. Leaving Madonna House and Sarah Jane especially was extremely traumatic for me, and even on the day of leaving I can remember noticing a change in Sarah-Jane, which although I did not understand it at the time and only sensed it, I can now comprehend as sadness. Not only had I bonded with her, but she too had bonded with me, as Im sure many of the staff did with the children in their care.
Recently, the creator of "Wonderly Wagon" died, and its ironic because while I stayed at Madonna House, i can remember going to a "Wonderly Wagon" Live show held specially for all the children in Madonna House. Although I knew and even liked the maintenance man at Madonna House according to records written about me at the time, I was never abused by him, and perhaps i would feel different if I had been a victim, but alas, as I have said, my thoughts of Madonna House and the staff there are only good, happy thoughts, and up to now, my only sad thought about it was leaving but after reading Ann's Letter I felt compelled to write this for Ann and the many care workers at Madonna House, for whom caring for children was not just a job, which they did so well, but a selfless act of caring for children who it must be remembered were there because their own families could not care for them.
Added to www.alliancesupport.org on February 6, 2008
[ Madonna House which was run by the Sisters of Charity closed down in 1995 amid a torrent of allegations about child abuse and demands for "compensation". I think that only ONE person was ever convicted of a criminal offence there - a maintenance man. ]
(A) Letter to Irish Times, 11 January 1999
I am at present a third-year mature student of social care in the Dublin Institute of Technology, Rathmines. While studying law last year, I observed the McColgan family in court during their brave trial. I have just finished reading Susan McKay's book Sophia's Story. I admire Sophia for telling her story and I feel remorse, anger and sadness at what happened to all of the McColgan family.
I myself worked in Madonna House, Blackrock, Co Dublin, for six years and the tragic abuse which took place there is mentioned on page 184 of Susan McKay's book. She mentions that "Madonna House, a residential care centre in Co Dublin, was closed down in 1995 because of the sexual abuse of children by staff". I feel that her statement about the staff is far too open and generalised. There was one man convicted and sentenced (a maintenance man and not a care worker) so why did she not just name him? What happened to the children was horrific and criminal but 99 per cent of childcare staff were committed to the children and not to blame. We gave love and security to hundreds of children who passed through Madonna House over the years. I have kept in contact with many children who are now happily fostered and I know they have fond memories of the kindness and support given to them by the childcare staff. I feel as a childcare worker that our names were never cleared and have always been stigmatised since Madonna House closed down in 1995.
Thankfully I am now in a permanent position with a social care agency in Dublin, but many of my former colleagues have never been employed since.
Many staff gave their whole working lives to Madonna House. Some lived on the premises. It was never easy, working long shifts and sometimes up to 10 or 11 days in a row without a day off. We respected every child for their individuality and tried our best to facilitate them in a homely, caring environment. The staff should be admired and congratulated for achieving such good relationships with the children in such inadequate working conditions. We were in vulnerable positions with sometimes little support or back-up.
I do understand that one or two staff were accused of abuse, but 99 per cent of the childcare staff are innocent and such broad statements should not be published.
Dodder Valley Park,
(B) Criticism Of The Abridged Report on Madonna House
by Patsy McGarry Irish Times, 19 June 1996
THE Irish Association of Care Workers (IACW) has strongly criticised the abridged report, published recently, on allegations of abuse at the Madonna House children's home in Dublin.
The association says the published report "serves least the interests of the children, the innocent staff members at Madonna House and care workers in general who continue to labour under the cloud of suspicion by association".
The IACW statement yesterday expressed fears that "more confusion now exists in relation to the issue of abuse in Madonna House than prior to the publication of the report".
The IACW accepted the Minister had no option "in the present legal context" but to publish the abridged version, however, it called for the immediate overhaul of laws which prevented the report being published in full.
The statement said the IACW "failed to understand" why if it was possible to state in the abridged report that the allegations "relate to a relatively small number of children", it was not also possible for a similar reference to be made about staff there.
The association was "appalled" that only two out of 41 care staff at Madonna House had professional qualifications, and "strongly recommends" that new staff training procedures are put in place.
The IACW expressed concern at the "very high turnover among junior staff" and "the lack of staff involvement, consultation and sharing in decision making", while it noted "inertia among older staff".
It regretted that the issue of registration for care workers "does not emerge from the investigating team's deliberations" and queried the time scale envisaged by the Minister for implementing the report's recommendations.
The association felt the report did not give "the necessary emphasis to a co ordinated set of procedures for all health boards that are similar, well defined, and speedily expedited where allegations of abuse occur".