Abuse claim is smear, says campaigner [Ireland]

Repoirt by Dearbhail McDonald: THE founder of Let Our Voices Emerge (Love), a charity that represents priests and nuns wrongly accused of abuse, is being investigated for child neglect. Florence Horsman Hogan, a paediatric nurse and mother of four, has been accused of neglecting her two youngest children, aged 6 and 10. An anonymous caller to the East Coast Area Health Board (ECAHB) claimed the outspoken activist had left her children unattended in their south Co Dublin home. Hogan, a former industrial school pupil, has angered abuse victims because of her defence of religious orders and has received threatening calls to her home in the past. She believes she is the victim of a smear campaign by former inmates of residential institutions. “I have done nothing wrong, I am a sitting duck for them,” said Hogan, who works at Temple Street Children’s hospital, Dublin, and has denied neglect during recent interviews with health board social workers. The complaint is the second abuse allegation levelled against the Hogan family this year. Another family member was quizzed by officials over an allegation of child molestation of a young schoolboy, but this complaint was later withdrawn. “The last few weeks have been hell on earth for me and my family,” said Hogan. “I have cried non-stop and I haven’t slept. Every allegation of child abuse must be investigated, but false allegations ruin families and reputations and, once made, the presumption of innocence is thrown out the window. “Once word of a complaint gets out, that is it, you are labelled and can’t escape the stigma. I am a paediatric nurse and a well-known children’s rights advocate. For me to be accused of child abuse is like calling Mother Teresa a pervert or the Pope a Protestant.” Last year Hogan, who spent five years in an industrial school run by the Mercy nuns in Galway, formed Love to promote a positive image of religious orders in children’s homes and to protect people falsely accused of abuse. Abuse support groups rounded on Love after Hogan persuaded the Christian Brothers to release a statement denying that there had been systematic sexual abuse in residential institutions. Hogan also claimed the child abuse commission was flawed and encouraging people who were not abused to seek compensation awards of up to €80,000 by accusing innocent members of religious orders. Hogan, who believes more than a third of abuse allegations are false, caused another controversy after claiming that children held in industrial schools were genetically defective and programmed to become alcoholics, drug addicts and mental depressives. Love was reported to the Equality Authority by Irish SOCA, a support group for victims, over Hogan’s remarks. Victims groups have denied that they are behind the neglect allegation. “Florence has upset a lot of people in the past,” said John Kelly, a spokesperson for Irish SOCA. “But I don’t think anyone would go so far as to deliberately make a false allegation against her. We wouldn’t like to see anyone falsely accused of abuse.” A neighbour said: “Florence has a big heart, and she has done a lot of good work for schools and the greater community. Her two younger children are happy-go-lucky and she is a devoted parent. The allegations are groundless, and the person who made them is gutless.” Hogan said she would not be deterred by the “set up”. “It won’t stop me doing the good work that I do, despite these sleepless nights.” The ECAHB said that all reports of abuse are fully investigated, including those based on anonymous tip-offs. “The nature of the investigation depends on each case,” said a spokesperson. “Every effort is made to contact the complainant. We don’t just barge in accusing parents of child abuse without due concern for the welfare of the child.”

Sunday Times – Ireland

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