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Daingean Reformatory Open Day Angers Abuse Survivors

Irish Independent, Friday April 28 2006 by Lorna Reid

THE doors of Daingean Reformatory will open for the first time in 33 years tomorrow to give the public a glimpse of what went out behind the high walls of the Co Offaly institution.

The notorious industrial school generated new controversy yesterday amid claims that Junior Finance Minister Tom Parlon had invited newly declared PD candidate Colm O'Gorman to speak at the open day.

Members of Irish SOCA (Survivors of Child Abuse) were incensed that the Minister would ask Mr O'Gorman, the founder member of One in Four to speak at the open day and immediately fired off a series of protests to the PD minister's office.

John Kelly of SOCA who spent two years in Daingean said that he was upset that Mr O'Gorman would have been invited by the Minister to speak at the Open Day.

"Colm O'Gorman was never in an institution, I was, and I was in Daingean for two years where I was physically and sexually assaulted" Mr O'Kelly said.

But last night a spokesman for the Minister said that Mr Parlon had never invited Mr O'Gorman to the Open Day or to speak at the function.

"This is an Open Day, there are no specific invitations" the spokesman said. He added that the premises was currently being used by the National Museum as a storage facility and the Office of Public Works had agreed to open the complex in response to representations from a local historical society.

"The property has been the object of mystery and intrigue for many people, it is being opened on a purely historical context, it was a former British Army garrison, then a jail and later an industrial school" the spokesman added.

"The Open Day is nothing to do with Child Abuse, people are welcome to come and see the building" the spokesman added.

Last night Mr Kelly said that he had been contacted by the Minister and accepted the Minister's assurances that Mr O'Gorman had not been invited to speak at the Open Day. "But I am still going myself, I have been back before and it caused me terrible trauma, but I am going with 12 other former inmates of that institution" Mr Kelly said. He added that if he had his way a memorial to children should be built at Daingean.

He said he spent two years in Daingean from 1965 to 1967. The institution was eventually closed in 1973 following recommendations in the Kennedy Commission Report.