Thousands of victims of child abuse in Ireland’s orphanages and workhouses who now live abroad don’t know they qualify for hefty compensation payments from the Irish government, the leader of a survivors’ group said Tuesday.
Tony Tracy is traveling to Boston and Chicago next week to lead a seminar by Right of Place, a group that provides housing, education and legal advice to former residents of Catholic Church-run institutions in Ireland.
”If you went through one of the industrial schools or orphanages, you more than likely qualify for redress,” Tracy said.
Thousands of the estimated 150,000 people who went through the now-defunct Irish system from the 1930s to 1980s settled in the United States.
But, Tracy said, few U.S. survivors know the Irish government established a board last year that has begun to pay out hefty cash awards to more than 1,600 applicants living in Ireland and Britain. Only a handful of eligible U.S. residents have applied.
”The government told us they were going to promote the redress board in America, but they have completely let down the U.S. survivors,” said Tracy, 55, who was sentenced to five years in a reformatory near the southwest city of Cork when he was 11.
Tracy said the Catholic brothers who ran the reformatory repeatedly assaulted him physically and sexually. He said one beating left him hospitalized for six weeks with a broken arm; another beating caused a perforated ear drum.
His compensation claim has not yet been processed, but fellow inmates have already received payments in excess of $220,000.
”They could pay each of us a million and it wouldn’t address what was inflicted upon us. The fact we left these institutions with next to no education was crippling in itself,” he said. ”But because of our circumstances, most of us have never had the chance to earn decent money, so a payment now will certainly make life easier.”
The government expects to pay out more than $550 million as part of a controversial 2001 deal with the church’s several major teaching orders.
The orders received a government-funded shield from lawsuits in exchange for a promise to contribute $140 million, largely in donated property.
Opposition lawmakers and victims groups have protested taxpayers, rather than the church, are footing most of the compensation bill. The government has rejected many of the properties offered by the church, which are often legally barred from sale to developers.
The government has also been struggling to maintain an independent fact-finding probe into abuse in industrial schools and orphanages. The commission’s chairwoman, Mary Laffoy, quit Sept. 3 and accused the government of sabotaging her four-year effort to gather evidence.