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Real justice still elusive, say child abuse victims in Ireland

THE thousands of victims of Ireland's child-abuse homes spent decades just trying to get the public to believe them. But even after a mammoth investigation proved the horrors of their youth, many say they are no nearer to real justice.

A nine-year probe into child abuse by Ireland's Catholic religious orders painted a damning portrait of a system that shielded child-molesters from justice and trapped generations of Ireland's poorest children to misery from the 1930s to the 1990s.

Irish President Mary McAleese yesterday denounced what she called an "atrocious betrayal of love" by Catholic clergy toward these children. She praised the victims for demanding the truth, despite Irish Catholic society's desire to look the other way.

"My heart goes out to the victims of this terrible injustice, an injustice compounded by the fact that they had to suffer in silence for so long," McAleese said. "This report utterly vindicates their determination to break that silence."

But the victims, now mostly in their 50s to 80s, said Wednesday's 2,600-page report, despite its unprecedented scope and detail, did not make public what matters most - the names of their abusers.

That's because a religious order at the heart of the abuse charges - the Christian Brothers - successfully sued the investigators to keep the identities of all their abusive members secret.

The Christian Brothers indicated they would continue to protect the identities of rank-and-file brothers accused of abuse - men who were never reported to police, and instead were allowed to change jobs and keep harming children.

"I do genuinely believe that it would have been a further step towards our healing if our abusers had been named and shamed," said Christine Buckley, 62, who spent her first 18 years in a Dublin orphanage run by Sisters of Mercy nuns.

Buckley, the daughter of an unwed mother, said the orphanage was closed to the outside world and the children inside lived a life of slave labor manufacturing rosaries.

She said there was no way to escape the ritual humiliation, beatings and rape regardless of whether the children achieved their quota of producing 60 rosaries per day or not.

She didn't track down her parents, an Irish mother and Nigerian father, until her 40s, when she became one of the first to demand justice for her stolen youth.

"I didn't have a childhood," said Buckley, who recalled being constantly cold, hungry and thirsty as the nuns denied children water to keep them from wetting their beds. She was severely beaten by a nun for trying to smuggle out a letter detailing the abuse, she said, which included being forced to have a "date" with a pedophile on the staff.

The report - even in a country hardened by 15 years of revelations about sex-predator priests - has shocked and sickened the nation.


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