Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Bravery must be welcomed and understood

THE brave women and men who relive the acute emotional pain of their tragic stolen childhoods when they speak out at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry need all the support they can be given.

One of the most horrifying interviews I've ever done was in 1976, with a man who had spent his childhood at the Nazareth Lodge in Belfast.

I was shaken by his memories of the sadism, casual brutality, unending harshness, perversion, neglect and near-starvation inflicted on unprotected children.

His story went into a book written by myself and Mavis Arnold – The Children of the Poor Clares: The Story of an Irish Orphanage.

At that time, no other book had come out on the subject. No publisher in the Republic, or in Britain, would touch it until it was courageously taken on by Appletree Press in Belfast.

The silence had been breached and, in the following years, a flood of information about institutional child-abuse in southern Ireland came out but apart from individual stories, nothing seemed to be happening in the North.

The truth about the past must be told – however belated it is in coming out. Although it is too late for most – including the man I interviewed 38 years ago – I can only hope that the survivors who can bring themselves to relive the horrors of their childhoods will be treated with understanding and compassion.

HEATHER LASKEY

Co-author, The Children of the Poor Clares

Nova Scotia, Canada

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