Posted on 15th February 2004February 15, 2004
Sex abuse myth ‘is rife in Ireland’
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 support 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 storytellers 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 modern child abuse witch hunts.
The closed meeting on Wednesday 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.
“t 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 alcoholism, 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 travelling to Dublin and that she felt the correspondence from Soca was “emotionally intimidating”. She added: “’m surprised at the aggressive tone of the group. It is unpleasant to be harassed in that way. What are they so worried about?”