Expert Tells of Concerns on Sex Abuse Allegations

By Patsy McGarry
The Irish Times [Ireland]
Downloaded December 20, 2003

A consultant and specialist in disability and abuse has written to the Minister for Health and Children, Mr Martin, expressing concern "about the alleged sexual abuse of large numbers of learning disabled people" at the Brothers of Charity Kilcornan centre, Clarinbridge, Co Galway.

Dr Margaret Kennedy, who works in both Ireland and the UK, said she had "been made aware of the likelihood of up to 100 residents being sexually abused there over the years.

"Many by Brothers of Charity, many by other service users who have been so corrupted they simply copy the sexual behaviour that was perpetrated against them."

Dr Kennedy has been training staff with the Brothers of Charity in Galway for over three years in a client-protection programme.

It was set up in response to a Western Health Board (WHB) inquiry, set up 5 years ago, into allegedly large-scale sexual abuse at the centre.

In her letter Dr Kennedy continued: "The Brothers of Charity facilitated 17 residents going forward to the Laffoy commission.

"However, I am told that the Brothers of Charity 'dragged their feet over others and missed the deadline'."

She believed "this was a deliberate ploy to keep the numbers down and to avoid media and Laffoy scrutiny.

"If it is not deliberate then it certainly is irresponsible and a dereliction of 'duty of care'."

She said she was further told that these learning disabled adults "living in an impoverished and degrading institution with only 13 for 'pocket-money'" would "not be able to seek compensation from the redress board as the Galway Brothers are not on the list of organisations eligible in that process.

"This is a travesty of injustice after all they have experienced."

She noted that the Brothers of Charity director of services, Mr Patrick McGinley, had "admitted to The Irish Times (December 16th) that he was worried about the John Paul Centre (at Renmore in Galway city) as well as Kilcornan".

More generally, she called on the Government "to take steps to end the reign of terror that appears to be part of learning disabled people's lives in Irish institutions".

She said that there were indications that "learning disabled people have effectively been 'warehoused' in Ireland and largely forgotten by the community".

She said she had received a copy of the damning Kilcornan report anonymously, and sent it to the Minister.

"I have had grave concerns about residents' welfare and this report crystallised all my fears," she said.

The report was published in The Irish Times last Tuesday, December 16th.

She wondered why recommendations in a 1984 report on Kilcornan were never implemented.

"The fact there was no follow up, no accountability, no movement in the quality of life for residents ... begs the question - where was the health board/government in the scrutiny of such institutions?" she said.

Responding to Dr Kennedy's letter, Mr McGinley told The Irish Times it was he who had called in the Western Health Board to inquire into the allegations of abuse referred to by Dr Kennedy.

He said it was he who had brought in Dr Kennedy to set up a client-protection programme.

It was also he who called in the evaluation team which prepared the report Dr Kennedy referred to.

People making abuse allegations were being assisted "in every possible way".

He said at no time had the Brothers of Charity management sought to diminish such allegations, or


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