£700m for Irish Abuse Victims Oct 15 2003

By Richard Warburton
Birmingham Post [Britain]
October 15, 2003

Birmingham's Irish community will be invited today to apply for a share of ?700 million in compensation earmarked for victims of institutional child abuse.

People who moved to the city after suffering physical, psychological and sexual abuse in residential homes in Ireland could be in line for money from the Irish government and the Catholic Church.

A meeting will be held in the city tonight to find people who can prove they attended homes and orphanages in Ireland between 1920 and 1980 and discover who are eligible for compensation.

With as many as 100,000 Irish-born residents in Birmingham, the city has been targeted by charities wanting to raise awareness of entitlements to expatriots, as potentially having thousands of victims of child abuse.

The campaign has been championed by the Right of Place charity which has worked to help victims across the world, including Europe, Australia and the USA.

Its spokeswoman Caroline Dolan, who will address tonight’s meeting at the Britannia Hotel, in New Street, said it was important victims of child abuse in Ireland made applications for compensation wherever they live in the world.

“Right of Place receives a small amount of calls from around the world, including the UK from people who are vaguely aware that there is a Redress Board,” she said.

“There needs to be a much greater level of awareness and these information seminars are an attempt to connect with survivors and to make them aware of their right to counselling, education, compensation and assistance in tracing their records.”

Earlier this year a Redress Board was set up to make “fair and reasonable” awards from a pot of taxpayers’ money estimated at one billion euros (?700 million).

The reserve of cash includes more than ?90 million from the Roman Catholic Church to compensate victims of abuse at children’s homes run by religious orders.

By the end of July, the Redress Board had received more than 1,500 claims from people in Ireland but an estimate by the country’s auditor general earlier this month suggested as many as 10,800 claims will be made with an average payout of ?67,000 (96,000 euros).

Although the compensation scheme has sparked anger in Ireland because the money is being raised by the taxpayer, it was welcomed by Birmingham’s Irish community yesterday.

Pat O’Neill, chairman of Birmingham’s Irish Community Forum, encouraged individuals in the city who were abused to make a claim.

Claims made by residents in England are being handled by Birmingham-based law firm Russell Jones & Walker, which offers advice and help in making an application and has set up a free helpline on 0800 328 3537.

Individuals making compensation claims – which must be made before December 2005 – will have to prove their identity and that they were resident at one of 100 institutions on a government list as well as having evidence of their physical or mental injuries.

The scheme does not include people who allege they were abused by the Catholic Church outside Ireland.


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