'They don’t want the world to know what really happened': Industrial school abuse survivor seeks documentation

'They don’t want the world to know what really happened': Industrial school abuse survivor seeks documentation

John Feighery now lives in Mayfield, but continues to be haunted by the 11 years he spent between Letterfrack and another industrial school in Salthill.

A SURVIVOR of industrial school abuse has compared his suffering at Letterfrack to that of a “prisoner of war” amid repeated calls for the release of personal documentation.

John Feighery now lives in Mayfield, but continues to be haunted by the 11 years he spent between Letterfrack and another industrial school in Salthill.

The Tullamore native said he wants to be able to pass down the records from his time there to his children and grandchildren. Mr Feighery said he hopes future generations of his family can know how hard he fought to survive.

The records of the Ryan Commission and various institutional abuse redress boards are currently sealed for 75 years, as proposed in the Retention of Records Bill.

However, Mr Feighery emphasised that this dark period should not be erased by history, drawing parallels between industrial abuse survivors and prisoners of war.

Mr Feighery had been cared for until the age of five-and-half before being taken by people he describes as “bounty hunters”.

Nonetheless, he said the only crime he committed was coming from a poor family. 

This is supported by files detailing the reason for his incarceration as “having a guardian who does not exercise proper guardianship”.

As well as a pardon for himself and other survivors, Mr Feighery is looking for the 75-year seal on records from the Ryan Commission and institutional redress boards to be lifted. He stressed that this is extremely important for both his grandchildren and for Irish history. 

“They want to keep them for their own benefit, but the truth hurts,” he said.

“We will get our documents. This is history for us as well as our children. We know that by the time these documents are released we will be dead and buried. We are not going to live forever. I don’t want to frighten anyone by saying that but it’s reality. They don’t want the world to know what really happened. Things happened in there that were unbelievable and heartbreaking. 

"I will never forget what the Government did to us. There are people who are on medication for the rest of their lives who will never be the same as a result of what happened to them.”

He said the treatment was similar to the experience of prisoners of war and should be acknowledged in history books. 

“Quite a few years ago I spoke to a survivor who went on to join the British Army. He said he served time as a prisoner of war and was treated better there than he was in the school. That’s something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

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