Councillor tells fellow survivors “never be afraid of being your true self”

by Padraig Conlon
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This month marks two very significant events for survivors of institutional abuse.

May 11 is an important date for them as it was on that day in 1999 that then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern issued an apology to survivors on behalf of the state.

It was also in May 2009 that the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report) was published.

Survivors of abuse in residential institutions gathered last Saturday in St Patrick’s Cathedral for a celebration of music to mark 20 years since the State apology.

The Christine Buckley Centre and Friends hosted the gathering which celebrated survivorship with an afternoon of socialising and song.

Local Councillor Francis Timmons, who spent the first few years of his life at Madonna House in Dublin, an institution run by the Sisters of Charity, was a guest speaker on the day.

Two years ago he discovered that he was a participant in two trials in the 1970s, one for a diphtheria tetanus pertussis (DTP) vaccine and a “Plain New” vaccine as part of the Trivax study for similar diseases.

Drug company GlaxoSmithKline Ireland wrote to the Clondalkin Councillor informing him he received the two injections alongside 18 other children living at the Madonna Baby Home.

Speaking on Saturday, Cllr Timmons told those gathered in St Patricks what it meant to him to be there with them.

“I often speak with people who are the survivors of many varied experiences in their lives,” he said.

“Some are still learning what it means to be a survivor, how our past creates our present and our future.

“How different aspects of our lives have deeper and very significant meaning to us, and most of all how we allow those experiences to influence our lives today.

“We say we are surviving together, but do we really reach out and help each other?

“Do we really understand what it is like, to go through life with scars so well hidden, we can pretend to ourselves that they have faded away and no longer need to be acknowledged by us.”

He went on to share some of his own story and his thoughts on finding peace.

“I, and so many like me, should have a mirror that reflects our true identity,” he said.

“In the case of my mother’s heartache, of what she endured, in her own country, by her own people, I stand strong, now, in knowing where I came from, my gene pool, my heritage.

“My mother was Mary Timmons, a beautiful young woman, who dearly loved her children, all she ever wanted was to care for us and love us.

“My Mother was denied the relationship nature had given her.

“My sister Linda Timmons did not survive. 

“So many years I searched unsuccessfully to find where my sister’s grave is.

“Did my sister not count? Did she not have the right to survive?

“My mother fought so much to overcome the injustices that we each endured in different ways.

“Be proud of yourselves. 

“For your inner strength, for your ability to live your life.”

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