A vigil will be held in London to remember the life of Irish child abuse campaigner, Peter Tyrrell, who tragically set fire to himself in Hampstead Heath on 26 april 1967.
Tyrrell’s efforts to expose institutional child abuse in Ireland by the Catholic Church and State fell on deaf ears.
He was ignored by the church hierarchy, Government and the media, as well as an uncaring society unwilling to face reality.
He wrote a factual and searingly vivid record of his seven years as a child prisoner in Letterfrack Industrial school, in Connemara, which surfaced 35 years later, adding to the voices of other survivors campaigning for the truth to be heard.
Almost 150 children died at the industrial school while under the care of the Christian Brothers.
Documentaries (“States of Fear”) 1999, and media coverage revealed more and more testimonies of cruelty and suffering. Finally – after decades – the first national enquiry in the world into institutional child abuse was set up.
Simultaneously, Peter’s testimony and writings were collected by academics and activists and his book ‘Founded in Fear’ was finally published in 2006.
The nine year Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, known as the Ryan Report 2009, confirmed without doubt that children like Peter were taken from poor families only to face a life of incarceration and systematic abuse.
Brutal rapes, beatings, neglect and emotional abuse were not uncommon.
None of the perpetrators were ever named or brought to justice.
The Murphy Report, also in 2009, detailed the church’s practice of covering up abuse within the Dublin diocese.
The vigil for Peter Tyrrell marks the 10th anniversary year of the Ryan Report.
“The Ryan Report was the first recognition by the State of systemic abuse within the institutions of the Catholic Church and of the lack of oversight and of collusion by the state.
The ensuing exposure of cruelty and humiliation meted out to women and children in the Magdalen Laundries, Mother and Baby homes, the practices of forced adoptions and identity theft, all of which were known for years, are all finally just beginning to be acknowledged,” said Vigil organiser, Nuala Flynn.
“The continuing campaigning of survivors, of researchers, campaigners, families for truth, justice and healing is such a courageous thing.
“Remembering and truth telling are essential for the individuals and families, but also for society. The full truth of what happened is a work in progress.
“Everyone involved acknowledges the need for full access to the records that can shed light on survivors’ questions, to know what happened to them, to know their identity, to pursue justice.”
Speakers at the Vigil will include Ryan Report “States of Fear” documentary researcher, Eoin O’Sullivan, Professor of Social Policy at Trinity College, Dublin; Conrad Bryan, a member of the Forum on Mother and Baby Homes Investigation; Nuala Flynn, Vigil organiser and campaigner.
Artist and campaigner Sadie Cramer: and a special recording of Connie Robert’s poem “Letterfrack Man” in honour of Peter Tyrrell, will also feature alongside singers, Louise Kleboe and Eamonn Flynn.
The Vigil: 7pm Parliament Hill Viewing Point, Hampstead Heath, NW5 1QR.
A silent candlelit walk to the Memorial eventat 8pm – Highgate Civic Hall, Croftdown Road, London NW5 1HB.