Child abuse victims accused of false claims

Ireland Online/February 18, 2004

The Child Abuse Commission is seriously flawed, encouraging people who have not been abused to seek compensation and accuse innocent people, it was claimed today.

The Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE) group and British False Memory Society criticised the commission and claimed the scale of alleged abuse in Ireland was incredulous and caused irreversible damage to those accused.

The claims sparked fury among abuse victims who branded it an outrageous attack against all Irish people.

The Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) held a protest against the two groups as they met in Dublin and angrily hit out at claims they had conjured up defective and exaggerated memories.

Margaret Jervis, legal advisor to the False Memory Society, linked Ireland's large number of outstanding child abuse complaints to the Government's "open-ended" compensation scheme and its definitions of abuse.

"I accept many people have suffered terribly in these schools but certain allegations are very extreme," she said.

"There are different types of therapy in helping people remember their past.

"There's been a trend for people with problems in their adult lives to be made to think they had problems as a child, whether they could remember them or not."

"When you get into this process of thinking, people tend to gravitate towards the abuse excuse and start to build up very similar stories and by the sheer volume of them they are believed to be true."

She described the therapy system as "a machine for manufacturing false allegations."

LOVE promotes a positive image of religious orders in children's homes and works to protect innocent people accused of abuse.

Founder member Florence Horsman-Hogan said people were being given incentives to exaggerate and fabricate claims of abuse.

"It is fundamentally wrong for victim abuse groups to deny there are false allegations out there," she said.

"In Ireland the compensation process is seriously flawed because it encourages certain complainants to seek compensation and in doing so, to name an innocent person.

"These stories have always been accepted as fact, what we are saying is listen to both sides - there are two sides to every story."

"We believe around 30% of abuse allegations in Ireland are false which could be due to a number of things: revenge, compensation or mistaken memory."

She said genuine allegations were being tainted by those who were "deluded with self-styled memories."

Ms Jervis infuriated genuine victims when she said: "The Irish are great storytellers and many, it seems, are making extreme allegations.

"The further you go back in years with allegations of abuse, the taller the stories become."

SOCA founder-member John Kelly said he was sexually and physically abused during his two years at an Industrial School in Co Offaly.

"My memories are not false. My memories are real," he said.

"We are deeply offended that we are being accused of being genetically pre-disposed to making up such horrific allegations."

SOCA has made a formal complaint about the claims to the Equality Authority.

The Child Abuse Commission is currently investigating over 4,000 allegations.

A recent review of the inquiry warned it was likely to take more than 11 years and cost over 1bn.

Justice Sean Ryan, head of the commission, said major changes had to be made in his recent review of its workings.

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