Survivors of state institutional abuse call on state to cover medical expenses
Carmel McDonnell Byrne says survivors face constant anxiety over paying for healthcare and funeral costs.
The founder of the Christine Buckley Centre has called on the Irish state to cover the medical care of survivors of state institutional abuse.
Carmel McDonnell Byrne, who founded the Aislinn Centre along with Christine Buckley, (now The Christine Buckley Centre) says the trauma of the abuse suffered in state institutions has had a detrimental effect on health and well being, and survivors face constant anxiety over paying for healthcare and funeral costs.
“In the centre now, you can see the age group, you can see the illness, you can see the disability, you see people look much older than they should be for their years,” she said.
“The people who got redress money, which wasn’t huge amounts of money, some are terrified to spend it, they’re thinking about their end of life care.
“Their concerns now are if they going to be sent to another institution, that’s huge, that’s fear.
“How can they enjoy the prime of their life? They can’t, because that fear is never going to go away.”
The Centre’s campaign group say they feel survivors of state institutional abuse should be entitled to a Health Amendment Act (HAA) card, which was initially given to those infected with Hepatitis C as a result of administration within the State of contaminated blood.
The card gives entitlement to a range of services for the lifetime of the cardholder.
She said: “It prioritises these people, and we don’t have longevity on our side, we lost 10 people in nine months, that’s far too many people.
“We’re dying fast, therefore it’s incumbent on our country and our leaders and policy makers to let us have Good end of life, with good care, and no fear.
“People who come to our centre are terrified they might lose their medical card, and they’re trying to reapply, they shouldn’t have those worries.
“They’re terrified of dying as paupers, how can you be happy with those worries?
“You have to remember that as children we worked like slaves, morning, noon and night, we’ve earned that right, and a right to have our pension age reduced.
“It would give these people some empowerment, we have already lived our lives in fear.
“Empowerment is so important, in my seven years in an institution I never had a drink of water unless it was from a toilet – only from a toilet.
“Just having the freedom to have a glass of water, you can’t understand it until you walk in our shoes.”
Ms McDonnell Byrne is retiring this year after 23 years at the centre, she spent her childhood in a range of state institutions after her mother walked out and left her eight children.
She lived in St Vincent’s Industrial “School”, Goldenbridge, Inchicore, Dublin from 1965-1972, and suffered severe abuse while kept there.
“I’m full of passion and compassion, that’s what has driven me all these years,” she said.
“But Ireland is changing.
“Our young people are fantastic, they ask questions and won’t take nonsense, they stand up to everything.
“I’m very proud of our young people, there is huge hope out there, and survivors see that.”