f Humanisticus: Journey of Light: An Inappropriate Monument to Clerical Abuse Victims

Monday, 30 July 2012

Journey of Light: An Inappropriate Monument to Clerical Abuse Victims

One of the recommendations of the Ryan Report, the investigation into the rampant clerical abuse and subsequent cover-up, was to erect a memorial to the victims. I fully support this idea as, although the abuse was committed by the Church, Irish society in general failed to protect these children. So plans were instigated to erect a government funded memorial. However, when the plans were unveiled during the week I was somewhat bemused and angered; the memorial was to be built at the end of the Garden of Remembrance. The Garden of Remembrance was built to commemorate those who have fought and died for Ireland during its numerous rebellions, the Easter Rising, War of Independence and the Civil War. I find it wholly inappropriate to attach another monument here, as not only does it dilute the significance of the Garden of Remembrance but it also takes away the importance of the abuse victims' memorial. Also a monument to those who died for the State and one to those who suffered because of the State should not be amalgamated.

Below is a description of the Memorial and a graphic design.

'The new geometry diverges to create a passageway through the existing podium steps and continue in line with the Irish flag to form a succession of spaces. The composition includes fossilised limestone walls and paving with a clearly defined forecourt entrance and a pedestrian crossing with semi-mature plane trees. This ensures the spirit and intent of the Parnell Square Framework Plan (2005) is respected. A universal design approach is applied to meet the needs of all users and level access is provided throughout the site for the first time.
Central to the design is the element of water which gently cascades over steel plates, symbolising the industrial schools in which many of the abuse cases occurred. The flowing of water represents a healing force for the victims and encourages calmness and contemplation in the viewer. The scale and proportion of the spaces conform to the needs of children and adults.
The State apology will be inscribed in English and Irish at a child’s eye level on the walls, and in Braille on a bronze plaque at the base of the water feature. An aperture placed below the flag directs a shaft of light to the centre of the inter-connecting space, acknowledging the ethereal sculpture above. A bronze bell inscribed on the floor recalls the conclusion of the legend - the ringing of a bell and transformation of the swans back to an aged human form. While the Children of Lir sculpture signifies rebirth and resurrection, it is simultaneously a representation of lost innocence and a vanished childhood.'

I have no issue with the memorial itself, just the location for the reasons stated above. I feel the abuse victims deserve a memorial in their own right, not just conveniently attached to the side of a pre-existing monument, however, the main reason that I have an issue with the location is due to the massive Christian cross which dominates the Garden of Remembrance. As you can see, the abuse victims' memorial leads straight through to the tip of the cross.

To attach a memorial to the victims of clerical abuse to a garden which contains a huge cross is inappropriate to put it mildly. It is inconsiderate and insensitive of the government to place a memorial/apology to the victims beside a constant reminder of their abusers. It was those brandishing the cross who abused these children mercilessly and then proceeded to systematically cover the abuse up. I do not see how any victims can visit this memorial while a Christian cross, a reminder of their torturers and abusers, dominates the grounds.
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