Residential Institutions Redress Board

Photo – by Marie-Therese O’Loughlin Sept 2012

This photo is self-explanatory to all those survivors of industrial *schools* who went before the RIRB to tell their stories regarding excruciatingly harrowing times spent long ago, and not so long ago in institutional care. This building is the last one in a cul-de-sac at Belfield Business Park, Clonskeagh, Dublin, Ireland.

I live only a stone’s throw away from the RIRB. I was meaning to go the office before it closed down – which I gather shan’t be too long. I had to pluck up an awful lot of courage to go there. Every time I passed by the outside and saw this sign in the distance, I made a mental note of going there, but it never came to fruition.

So, I took a vagary and went there in the quiet of a Sept. eve, when workers in the business park at Clonskeagh, I had perceived, would have all gone home. It was painful just thinking about it.

In order to arrive at the RIRB building I had to walk the very length of this road within the confines of the park, which lay to the right inside the tidy, neat sized Bellefield Business Office Park at Clonskeagh. The RIRB is the very last building in a long cul-de-sac. So it wasn’t easy by any means walking up this long avenue. All sorts of emotions were flying around in my head. I had even wanted to turn back at one stage because of all the reminders that were flooding and spinning and going into overdrive in the delicate grey matter.

Then I thought… that, well… maybe sometime down the road some survivors of industrial *schools* especially those living abroad in America, Australia and Great Britain might want to revisit memories of the times they physically went there, and why not get a few snaps of actual surroundings they would have driven up. For example, too, if you look at the second column, you’ll see a faint hint of deleted defunct Mahon Tribunal. That tribunal was also a very crucial one in Ireland’s history. Well, the same will be applicable with the RIRB sign. So strike while the iron’s hot was my motto. We all had free transport, courtesy of the government. So every survivor would have taken this route to the RIRB.

Photo – by Marie-Therese O’Loughlin Sept 2012

I took some photos of flowers en-route to try to distract myself from protruding thoughts. So when I finally arrived at the actual building and saw the writing on the window here, I instantaneously thought, yeah, this would be the best photo ever of the RIRB. It would epitomise the whole summing up of the building, as even the media over the years would have used this sign when discussing the subject.

Alas, I was suddenly met with ferociousness that made me feel so distraught. Hands were flailing and shouting was coming from a person inside the building telling me to ‘go away’, that I wasn’t to take photos. I suddenly felt nauseated and very anxiety-ridden given the emotion I had experienced on the journey there. I immediately was knocked for two and thus went into mental fight mode. It was like as if someone was telling a crying child to stfu, without bothering to try to empathise and discover as to why the child in the first instance was in such a distraught state.

The security man at the RIRB was extremely abrupt and quite adamantly told me not to take photos, such as the one seen above. I BLATANTLY TOOK NO HEED. I was too fired up to take a blind bit of notice because of the emotionality of the surroundings and the build up. His venting went on deaf ears completely. It didn’t bother me in the slightest bit whether he called the Gardai = Garda Síochána = Irish for police, or not. I know the gardai in general are totally sensitive and understanding to most survivors. I somehow do not think they would have liked a scene outside the redress board. I understand that the security guard was only doing his job, and that being abrupt towards me was probably normal type of behaviour from the country he hailed. I can only surmise, I don’t know at all. I tried to take that summation into consideration, as well as knowing that indeed I hadn’t any permission to take photos in the first instance, so he was well within his rights to tell me not to take them – but not in such an aggressive manner. He simply could have chided me. Well… to be perfectly honest, though, that wouldn’t have worked either given how I was feeling inside. I got the same feeling when I went to Goldenbridge, but broke down crying when a person came up to me and said in a rather unbecoming huffed voice not to take photos.

I sometimes too see bus-drivers whom I think, may come from similar countries portraying the same type of aggressive behaviour. Again, I can only guess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s alien to Irish people, it’s most definitely not, but I think that most Irish workers would be afraid of being too outspoken in a professional capacity. That’s my opinion, anyway. They would be afraid of being chastised and losing their jobs.

I remember hearing on the radio one time that aggressive behaviour from people from some particular foreign countries, may indeed be natural behaviour to them. That the aggressive tone is instinctual / cultural and that they don’t mean any harm at all. I’m speaking here on a professional working level where people have to be mindful of their manners. I don’t mean that in any derogatory way, as most survivors like me can get hot under the collar very easily because we don’t have adequate emotional / social skills to handle situations. We are distrustful and extraordinarily hyper-vigilant at the best of times. Besides, I’ve always found that those who are more outspoken can be nicer people behind it all, as they do not necessarily hide behind facades. The nastiest people can be those who have outwardly all the big pusillanimous smiles whilst simultaneously can be negatively chuckling at people underneath their chameleon-like hidden, ignorant exteriors. Behind the scenes they can also be wont to gossiping and dragging people down. In other words to put it bluntly – they can be two-faced. I always feel safer with people who are forthright and honest. You know what they’re like upfront.

Ayway, getting back to the RIRB, I thought it was kind of funny in the aftermath when I looked at the full length image of photo above, as the security man in question was as large as life in it, and came across as being terribly irate. Giving out yards, he was, from behind the thick secure panes of double-glazing glass doors. If only he knew that I was doing exactly the same kind of thing from his same power-based vantage point many years ago. Little must he have known, I thought, that if it wasn’t for people like me, he wouldn’t have been in the position of shouting at me through the glass-paned residential institutions redress windows. We created his job. Talk about irony! It stood a metre long! Not only that, but when he was balling his head off the lettering Residential Institutions Redress Board shone right over his head, as if it were a flattened halo, along with the reflection of the evening sky and they looked so ridiculously incongruously at variance and contradictory with his ranting tone. So out of synch. It was a redress board, for god sake, set up because of inhumane unspeakable despicable cruelty meted out to children of the past in Ireland’s begotten hellholes. Security guards in general should be made more cognisant of the nature of properties they’re protecting and the effects they may have on survivors. It would be unsurprising to find that I wasn’t the only survivor who decided to retrace my lonely tortuous RIRB tracks. It’s the nature of the beast.

On a tangential note. I heard that ex-soldiers from war-torn countries sometimes man city pubs. One can sometimes get real eerie vibes from the clinical frozen stares and black clothing they don, when one passes by certain aforementioned premises.  They appear oddly ambivalent, especially when one sees the joyous faces of those out on the tiles for the night. They can be scary. I abhor authority figures at the best of times. I know that most of my counterparts are very similar in that vein. They trigger so much fear, which doubtless derives from our gruelling authority-ridden past lives in our respective institutions. When people threaten us with the long arm of the law for perceived / minor misdemeanours we freak out so much, the rejection can be so hard to handle. Situations can all too simply get out of hand and become exceedingly exacerbated. Just like a person who goes into hospital with a primary illness and is dogged down by a secondary one in the heel of the hunt. I know this also happens to those who are socially ill-equipped to handle fired-on situations who have never been in institutions. They may lack certain chemicals in their brains that require people to think logically. Think serotonin. Think personality disorders that one would find in the American psychiatry manual for mental health. So we are not unique. One a personal level, I would walk away forever from a person, even if I considered myself friendly with that person if ever said person attempted to threaten me with the authorities. My trust in the person would have broken down forever, that’s how strongly I would feel, as, in my estimation the person would not be any different to the person who tells the child to stfu without trying to discover the real problem to hand.

To go off on another similar vein. With respect of the Celtic Tiger era, the scary boogey-men in black; with fixed miserable stares; and apparent histories of being soldiers in their respective war-torn countries; that became part of the Irish scenery – think specifically Temple Bar – brought with them in their wake an intense suspicion, negativity and absolute fear to some ordinary working class harmless folk that was mostly unknown in the past. Some of the same men manning these establishments appear to all intents and purposes – if one was to go by body language – are seemingly more traumatised than some of those whom they’re trying to protect Joe Public from. Yeah, they’re only doing their jobs. It can be utterly depressing walking through Temple Bar and seeing such stern alien- natured looking faces standing outside recreational establishments. They don’t blend in with the scene at all. I was less feared of Irish soldiers with guns who stood outside banks trying to protect them during the Celtic tiger. They did not have such gruesome, fearfully aggressive testerone-body build exteriors. Even the gardai – don’t display that macho image. These stern looking men remind me of the all powerful alpa-males.

Anyway, going to such place as the RIRB triggered off floods of related bad memories, and those memories, still and all have to be faced. Our demons come home to us every now and again and that is the price one pays for the past. I’m sure, if the security man knew from whence I was coming, he might have acted more kinder.

I try to be nice to people who come from foreign countries, as I’ve travelled a lot and have seen what it can be like for an Irish person in a strange country. I think of the times when Irish people and dogs were not allowed inside premises. So, I would never make a foreign person feel uncomfortable in a country that treated me and survivors of industrial *schools* like aliens. I know that the security guard has a living to make, but it would be nice if someone sat down and explained to him the nature of the people who go to the redress board. I know for a fact that the staff who work there, were given a dressing down a long time ago by Christine Buckley because of the dismissiveness of some staff members in their handling of some highly traumatised survivors of industrial *schools*. They were to be forgiven, as they knew not from whence they’d derived – given the generation gap.

It came to mind that more prominent survivors and survivors like me fought to change the mindset of how children were treated in the past and by creating a residential institutions redress board, and now here was I outside the building innocently taking photos and was being hounded out of it by a security guard who was just doing his duty.

I felt all lachrymose, as I wandered down the long avenue, and thought to myself, the story of my life and that too of all those who frequented the building to tell of the brutality in their young lives in industrial *schools* are written on the walls of the RIRB. What a shame that returning there had to be marred by a rotten security man that was only doing his job.

I was talking to Anne-Marie from a survivors group in Cork recently. She told me that Australian government officials came over to Ireland – not so very long ago – and had wanted to meet up with her. They had wanted to know all about the Irish redress board and how it fared out. She would be half the age of those who were industrial *schools* in harsh times. However, she has a real in-depth knowledge regarding the background to the redress board. As well as a wealth of experience in dealing personally with survivors of industrial *schools*. I was gobsmacked by her wealth of information. The Australian official would have been well advised whilst in her capable hands. I thoroughly enjoyed her company. We spent many hours talking about all the countries she had travelled to and made comparisons with European ones I visited. The list of countries she went to would fill the length of my arm in writing. I just couldn’t get enough of all the cultural stuff she was regaling me about the amazing amount of countries she explored. For example, she told me that the warrior soldiers in China are much smaller in reality that what she’d expected. She also said it was a myth about the Chinese being of small stature, that it depended on which part of the country one went to. Say, like, up the north, they tended towards being taller. I asked her which country would she go to again in a hurry. She didn’t hesitate to tell me Cambodia. I always loved talking to my relatives about their travels and was transported back to the good old times I had with them when AM was giving me the run-down on the customs, etc. I’m left in no doubt that the Australian government were in safe knowledgeable hands when they encountered Anne-Marie. I’d surmise that she must have kissed the Blarney stone. 🙂 The Corkonians are very chatty folk. Anne-Marie’s last words to me where that the thing that struck her hugely about survivors of industrial *schools* was the fact that they were the most vulnerable people she has ever come across in her entire young life. I second that sentiment.

*schools* = euphemism for child labour camps.

I shall place some background links pertaining to the RIRB.  

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2 thoughts on “Residential Institutions Redress Board

  1. Exactly, OB. I was absolutely gobsmacked that I should have landed upon a security guard that was so nasty. Yeah, all I kept getting were flashbacks of the systematic cruelty that was meted out to me in Goldenbridge. My mind was so overflown with sad memories of childhood, as I walked the long avenue, so you can just imagine the intensity the sadness reached as I stood right outside the RIRB building. He could have banged my head against the wall, the shock was that great. Where is the heart in security men of his ilk, I asked. It’s all a kind of power thing over people. I did wonder thereafter if it were a man, would he have been less aggressive?

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