The Irish Times - Monday, January 11, 2010
An order of nuns which lost out on a €40 million windfall when it was refused planning permission for a prime site in Galway is concerned that the land will be rezoned for recreational use. The Sisters of Mercy had hoped to build 126 homes on a 12-acre at Taylor’s Hill but the plan was refused by An Bord Pleanála following objections by residents.
The proposed site, surrounded by some of the most expensive houses in Galway, is a short distance from Salthill and from the city centre. Galway City Council last year passed a motion calling for the land to rezoned and developed into an amenity park, including a children’s memorial park.
Catherine Connolly, a councillor, proposed the move, stating that the land should be handed over to the city as retribution for years of abuse of children by religious orders.
Galway Independent, Wednesday, 27 May 2009, written by Marie Madden
There have been calls for the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy to work together and donate lands at Lenaboy to the city to be used as a special memorial park for victims of abuse. Since the Ryan Report into the abuse carried out at industrial schools was published last week, pressure has been mounting for the Orders involved to add to the €128 million contribution that they made to the compensation fund for those affected.
The Ryan Report revealed a reign of terror carried out by religious staff at a number of schools over a substantial period of time, including industrial and reformatory schools at Letterfrack in Connemara and St Joseph's in Salthill, both of which were run by the Christian Brothers. Another school at Lenaboy in Taylor's Hill, ran by the Sisters of Mercy, was also implicated in the report.
While the Orders have so far resisted increasing their contribution, local representatives are now calling on institutions to donate the St Anne's site at Taylors Hill, currently owned by the Sisters of Mercy, to be used as a commemorative site.
Cllr Catherine Connolly, who has closely examined the report in her role as a barrister, has said it would be obscene for the Sisters of Mercy to proceed with their application for a huge housing development in the wake of the report.
"The litany of abuse sustained by innocent children in these institutions over a sustained period of time is simply mind boggling. Even more disturbing, however. is the nature of the denial by the various orders and, in particular, the Christian Brothers right up to the publication of the report. In these circumstances, more than words are needed by way of apology and it is time for the Orders to give back," she said.
The giving over of these lands, she said, would go some way toward making amends and would be a special way of cherishing, remembering and paying tribute to those children who were so shamefully abused.
"Moreover, it would help in the healing process, by providing a safe green oasis and a place of reflection for all of us as a society who failed these children.
"It would also be a public acknowledgement by the Orders in question that the children under their care were innocent victims who did nothing wrong. The Christian Brothers must, of course, come on board with the Sisters and share in the financial loss and the cost of developing the park."
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary has apologised unreservedly on behalf of the Church, for failing to protect the victims of child abuse and asked for forgiveness.
"The abuse, suffering and harm caused to so many young children in religious run institutions is a source of deep regret and disgrace. It is deeply disturbing to hear the stories of personal pain and the indignity inflicted on the most vulnerable children in our society.
"Abuse of children when perpetrated by a priest or religious is both a terrible crime and a betrayal of sacred trust. It is good that this report offers the opportunity to many to have their story heard and believed. In this way, I hope and pray that healing may come about."
Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan stopped short of apologising for the abuse, but said that "the truth accepted will eventually set us free".
"This is a time to accept the truth of what happened in the past. It is not a time for excuses. The truth accepted will eventually set us free. If we see or hear an angry victim talking about their hurt, we need to see inside that person an innocent child whose childhood was damaged, maybe destroyed.
"The Gospels remind us that reconciliation, healing and forgiveness were at the heart of the ministry of Jesus. Reconciliation is the way forward. Jesus shows us the way. We are living a Passion experience in the sufferings of others. We are pained by the sad stories that they are recalling. We pray for reconciliation and healing that they may bring some closure to a painful past and lead all of us to knowing the power of the Resurrection, New Life and Easter Peace," he said.