Members of the group Mixed Race Irish appeared before Ireland’s legislature yesterday to call for government recognition of the abuse they endured in Irish schools and other institutions.
Ireland’s Journal reported that the group called attention to how few existing records there are of mixed race Irish in state institutions, and referred to the abuse they experienced in these institutions as “airbrushed from Irish history.”
In the emotional appearance, group co-founders Carole Brennan and Rosemary Adaser recalled specific abusive experiences at the hands of parish priests and nuns, saying that they were singled out and abused regularly.
“The nuns showed us films of missionaries going to take the ‘savages,’ and we were told, ‘look at that, they are savages, that’s what you are,’” Adaser said. And she said their extensive research suggests racism was “endemic throughout all of the institutions attended by our community.”
The group outlined various other disturbing accounts, such as being doused in talcum powder to appear whiter, or being forced to clean blocked toilets because “their skin was the same color,” the Journal reported.
The group, which consists of 70 individuals in Ireland, the UK, US and China, said it has taken many years to reveal the pain they’ve endured, and are now seeking a redress scheme to facilitate counseling services for help to overcome their years of suffering.
Committee chair David Staunton said the full details of these events were very disturbing and described the group as one of the most impressive he’s seen speak before the legislature.
The group conducted extensive surveys within the Irish mixed race community about experiences as children in state institutions; statistics revealed that 11% died young (between ages 22 and 45), seven took their own lives, 44% were abused sexually, 35% had debilitating mental health or substance abuse issues, and 9% of the men had been incarcerated at a young age.
“How do we overcome the inherited belief our fathers were savages from the jungle? And our fathers were of low intelligence?” co-founder Evon Brennan said, “to later discover that our fathers were students in law and civil engineering, and contributed to Irish society?”
The group said they have had trouble finding support for the lack of awareness on the very grave issue, and that calling this to the government’s attention is just the beginning of their recovery.
Parliament member Anne Ferris said, “mixed race children faced an extra layer of discrimination” in these institutions, and that it should be included in all future investigations.
The deputy said that the evidence presented to the committee will be passed on to the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald.