Offaly man sets up new network for institutional abuse survivors

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Offaly man sets up new network for institutional abuse survivors thumbnailWilliam Gorry, founder of RISN, Residential Institutions Survivors Network.

AN Offaly man who last year told of his time spent in a children's home in Moate has set up a new organisation for survivors of institutional abuse.

In 1974, when he was 9, Daingean native William Gorry was placed in a residence overseen by the Health Board and run by the Sisters of Mercy.

He said he was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by male care staff and a priest.

One of 13 children, Mr Gorry said he and four siblings were sent to the Mount Carmel residential home after social services intervened following the departure of his mother to England.

He began campaigning for greater recognition of the rights and needs of survivors during 2017, but frustrated that his voice was not being heard, he went on hunger strike in late October.

He refused food for three-and-a-half weeks and positioned himself at the gates of Leinster House.

He believes his hunger strike was successful because it secured a meeting with Department of Education officials.

He resumed eating following medical advice and said he would not embark on a similar exercise again.

Speaking to the Tribune, he said: "I brought myself to nearly an end and then on the 17th of November I was told I had a matter of a day or so and if I didn't do anything about it there'd be bad news."

He has been assured that consultation talks will take place this year between the Department and the organisation he has founded, RISN, Residential Institutions Survivors Network.

Mr Gorry said that despite previous reports on institutional abuse and initiatives like the Redress Board, survivors voices still need to be heard.

"Survivors are falling into a black area," said Mr Gorry. "It's just horrific how survivors have been treated and pushed aside."

He said supports such as education and medical care are crucial for survivors like himself.

"It's not about money," he insisted. "It's about supports and services... No money will make me happy. What concerns me is my health."

He urged other survivors to contact him so their voices can be heard and the appropriate action is taken to secure effective relief and remedy to their issues of concern.

Mr Gorry has established a website,, which says the network is based on the constitutional declaration of the rights of citizens, where Article 40 says the State "guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen".

The website also contains a blog which aims to keep survivors up to date and on Monday Mr Gorry wrote that RISN was willing to work with other survivor groups.

He also said the vast majority of survivors had not applied to the redress fund.

"If you wish to help tell us what survivors want in jobs, homes, medical support, disability support, participation in local communities, education, physical and sporting community involvement, help with family matters, and end the betrayal that has been typical over so many decades, then by all means do tell. We want to know at RISN," Mr Gorry's blog says.

"RISN is not for tearing down but for building up. Building up the services and supports that ought to have been provided, long before now, to residential institutions survivors and their families.

"We're the real deal, we're authentic, we're fellow survivors and we know the heartache, the trauma, the abuse, the disrespect, the alienation, the loneliness, the depression, the anxiety caused by a society which would rather we might just go away."

Mr Gorry has also been critical of Caranua, the independent State body set up to help those who experienced abuse in residential institutions when they were children.

Caranua aims to offer support, information and advocacy to survivors and says it can pay for services or give grants to individuals.

It has listed health and wellbeing, housing, education, learning and development as areas where it can help.

Mr Gorry said Caranua has not been able to deliver on its objectives and noted that TD's like Catherine Connolly and Clare Daly had spelled out their concerns about the organisation.

Speaking in the Dail last May, Deputy Daly said Mr Gorry had contacted her about his experience with Caranua.

"He is very down. His entire life has been adversely affected by the abuse he has suffered. He has trust issues, and he says that his quality of life is so poor that he wonders why he is still alive," she told the Dail.

"We have had so many stories like that and so many people have called our office in tears, talking about their abuse and what happened to them when they contacted Caranua. Comments such as 'Couldn't you have got a cheaper hoover? You could build a mansion for that price. This isn't a sweet shop, you know'," said the Dublin TD.

"This was supposed to be a process that was a straightforward way of helping people who were hurt by our State and church. It was supposed to be part of an acknowledgement and an apology for what was inflicted on them,' she added.

William Gorry and RISN can be contacted at 085 2574737, email


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