RISN Consultation Talks delayed until capacity estimates ensure the welfare and safety of survivor participation

RISN has attempted to expedite matters in the most efficient and effective manner.

Negotiations between RISN and the Department of Education on the 4th December 2017 made little progress following concerns RISN raised concerning an offer of a number of consultation talks. We promised to provide our review of the number of consultation talks on the 5thDecember which we did. This was clarified on the 8th December in a call with the Department of Education.

We could not reach that Department official thereafter unfortunately. In two subsequent calls, RISN raised concerns on capacity planning in respect of how the Department estimated the number of consultation talks. RISN pointed out that it was crucial to obtain capacity estimates on the proposed talks so they could and would be managed and conducted properly with due regard to participants who were made up of the most injured community in the Irish State, not to put too fine a point on it. Try as we might to obtain any capacity estimations for the consultation talks, there was a resolute reiteration on the number of consultations rather than any engagement on the capacity estimate planning which the task required.

RISN repeatedly sought from the Department how they estimated capacity per consultation talk. This was of considerable concern to us survivors. Based on the principle of non-discrimination and inclusion declared at the 4th December meeting, we provided our position based on potential capacity as a result of three known indicators covering the 143 institutions scattered around the 32 counties:

  1. 10% to 15% participation of the known population of residential institution survivors in redress,
  2. the numbers who engaged in RISF applications through Caranua
  3. and previous CICA indicators of a survivor willingness to engage in voluntary data gathering

RISN tried to present the relevance of these but was denied any direct contact from 8th December. It appeared as though we ought to be grateful, which we were, but RISN required far more detailed planning on how estimates on the numbers of survivors envisaged in attending any particular consultation talk.

Our intelligence at RISN showed that there was no logic behind picking any number from the air in respect of the number of consultation talks. Nor was it a process that could necessarily be back ended in tagging on a number of extra consultation talks without potentially causing considerable distress to the survivor participant population already wary and weary of State engagement experiences.

With a history from the tortuously abusive childhood in residential institutions; to a redress board which was otherwise called the re-abuse board; to the actual focus of and need for the consultation talks which was the abuse, hurt and injury caused to residential institutional survivors through application for residential institutional survivor funds administered by Caranua. Indeed, roughly 13% of the number who applied in the redress scheme were willing to engage with Caranua. Perhaps potential applicants were just incapable or dissuaded from attempting to engage with Caranua because it was surrounded by a level of public outcry which terrified them.

Failing to discuss the issue of capacity per consultation talk was and is not a risk we at RISN were or are prepared to take with residential institutional survivors who in many cases have been treated appallingly at their every engagement with the State. We held that there must be better planning and estimate management required or the potential outcome in any lack of capacity estimation planning would or could hugely distress participants who weren’t planned for.


There are approximately 2,000 willing survivors who engaged with Caranua in over 6,000 applications. The figure of 2,000 represents approximately 13% of the total redress population of 15,500 where all redress survivors must be allowed to participate, though all will never engage. We know that the proportionate survivor engagement who pursued legal action to non-legal engagement is roughly 2 to 1 for non-legal account of experiences. The estimate of these, allowing for a 10% to 15% willingness to engage in consultation talks, might be 2,000, comprising some of those who availed of Caranua and some who did not, but were entitled to. If they didn’t engage with Caranua, we need to allow them tell us why in the data gathering exercise.

Without some consideration of capacity, there remained a huge potential for negative impact in the form of disappointment, non-inclusion, denied participation, feelings of deception and being duped once again. How? Well if you fail to plan for capacity, any overrun will unfortunately mean some may not be able to be given time to voice their experiences, interests or concerns defeating the purpose of the exercise. It is not an option to plan and gather this most vulnerable survivor group and turn them away or expect that they might come back another day to try again.

We know from the ‘Connecting for Life’ mental health plan 2015-2020, launched by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny on 24th June 2015, that our survivor population is noted as a priority vulnerable group in the plan’s listings. We know that over 60% of those turning up on the Self-Harming Register in our Accident and Emergency services are survivors of child sexual abuse. We know that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are 13 to 14 times more likely to suicide than the general population. We know that a significant number of redress participants despite winning their cases went on to suicide some with extraordinary clustering. Therefore, from what we know we ought to apply as much intelligence in our planning for consultation talks which are not served by plucking a figure out of the air. The capacity of any talks must review what we know and extrapolate from there what ought to be done, and done safely.

The issue of how capacity planning is not only essential but vital in the interests of safety in gathering such a known vulnerable population to consultation talks.

The number of talks is a function of capacity, and if you don’t plan for capacity even at a low estimate of between 10% to 15% participation then the outcome could not be vouched safe and RISN was not prepared to run such risks where capacity was not discussed and planned for in the task at hand.

Because the Department of Education was not prepared to review the number of consultation talks, RISN said it would be willing to agree to their number of talks but under the proviso that RISN would declare its misgivings in respect of any failure to conduct capacity planning estimates and the safeguarding of survivor participants.

As of Friday, 26th January, the Department of Education has agreed that more planning is needed around proper risk assessment of capacity issues.

There may have been unfortunate delays, however, the fullest consideration is called for in hosting, conducting and processing these proposed survivor consultation talks.

We at RISN hope to announce the very welcome news that our consultation talks will proceed as soon as possible. We hope we can make up the lost time since the 8th December 2017 in goodwill and proper planning.


RISN slogan © 2017 - designed by Mark Vincent Healy

RISN, tired of the way we survivors are treated and want to do something about it.

We at RISN are survivors. We are committed to survivors. RISN is not in it for money. However, we will ensure that Irish State support is adequately provided to survivors and their families by right as much as by the Irish State’s duty and constitutional responsibility.

Are you not tired of the way we survivors are treated and want to do something about it? That’s how we feel. We’re doing something about it at RISN.

We’d like other survivors to join in that effort if they wish. We’re tired of abuse by a State that has utterly failed us. We at RISN dare to put our head up to do something ourselves in good will and good faith. We’re survivors and know exactly what ought to be done. We don’t need others to tell us. We do need other survivors to make sure no one’s suffering or issue is dismissed or left behind. We have read how other survivor groups have been faced with difficulties of one sort or another. RISN wants to work with those groups. We’re also very aware that the vast majority of survivors have not even applied to the administrators of the Redress Fund where there have been only 6,000 applications many of them repeated. If the actual number of applicants is only say 2,000 that means only 13% of the 15,500 applicants of redress have applied for further assistance. Where are the remaining 87% of survivors? RISN wants to hear from all those survivors and asks everyone to get the word out we’re looking for them to hear their voice and have their voice heard. RISN must be from the ground up not the top down.

RISN is only starting and yet some might make out we’re like others. Well, we’re not. We believe fellow survivors can work together. Everyone else seems to say we can’t because some survivors are noted as turning their anger at anything that moves in this space. We need to build our own bridges amongst ourselves so we can get the job done that others claim we can’t. Lawyers took €160 million. Caranua has taken its generous cut. Enough! We’re better together!

Let’s be clear, RISN is about survivors ensuring survivors are heard. Everyone matters. RISN has a goal to ensure what matters to survivors is addressed, and remedy and relief is provided as it ought by moral conscience as much as a constitutional duty of the Irish State.

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.

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.

RISN says, “Enough is enough!” There are going to be different rules from now on, and we survivors are going to be the authors of those rules on how to treat residential institutional survivors with the dignity, justice and compassion that all citizens should know from the services and supports in the Irish State.

RISN is ready to work with all survivors of residential institutions abuse, openly, honestly, and for the very best interests of all, none will be left behind by us. We care about the most vulnerable amongst us, perhaps even more so.

RISN is not for squabbling as that plays into the hands of those who take advantage of division. Our slogan means what RISN means, we’re Better Together!


RISN slogan © 2017 - designed by Mark Vincent Healy


Welcome to RISN. We hope to keep you up to date on the initiatives taken to establish a survivor-led network (RISN) to better represent what is important to residential institutions survivors and give voice to our specific concerns and interests.

We hope to achieve this by listening to all survivors and learning to speak for and of ourselves.

For too long, we have been kept apart and our voice is silenced concerning our needs, or when we complain about the distress caused us when applying for funding, support or appropriate care.

A Press Statement was sought from the Department of Education for Christmas. The importance of a Press Statement was explained, not as a detailed plan of the agreed consultation talks, but as a statement of intent that such talks are in planning and are supported by the Minister, Mr Richard Bruton, so that the voice of RISN survivors will be heard which is essential in supporting their interests and concerns following the furore about Caranua in the Dáil debate on Wednesday 24th May this year and on the serious media reported failures and failings of Caranua in providing vital services to survivors and their families.

We hope by involving residential institutions survivors directly in identifying our concerns we will be able to improve less stressful access to services and supports.

Together we can ensure that changes can be efficiently and effectively achieved.