From rural Ireland, Tomás has spent most of his turbulent life abroad. The detritus left behind included intermittent employment, a failed marriage, effective abandonment of his children – now adults themselves, years of serious drug abuse, confused sexuality and promiscuity, and serious bouts of life-threatening illness.

A conversation with his ex-wife one night offered clues about an underlying trauma. Then, he began to tell his story of brutal sexual abuse by a local priest over a sustained period, and less serious sexual abuse by another priest who also was a teacher in his secondary school.

Peers of his had also been victims of the first priest. One later died by suicide. Others got on with lives seemingly as turbulent as his own. But on one matter Tomás was very clear: He did not want his story told. Nor did he want it reported to the Garda or the Catholic Church. He did not want the focus, the attention or the embarrassment – even if he was no longer in Ireland.

I want to know the answers, and if they’re going to be locked up for 75 years my children will most likely not see them

He didn’t want his name in public – Tomás is a pseudonym – as he made clear when first speaking to this reporter in 1998. Yes, he appreciated it was not his fault; he was a child. But he still felt ashamed. He could not bear the idea of people looking at him and thinking of what his main abuser had done to him. He preferred to be seen as the man others perceived him to be, however unfavourably.

Today Tomás’s view hasn’t changed. His abuse took place in a setting outside of the scope of State-backed inquiries into historical child sex abuse so his story was never documented. But, like a good number of the abuse survivors who testified to those bodies, he would be horrified at the thought of a future historian opening up a file about him in years to come.

This week an Oireachtas committee considered what exactly to do with two million documents from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan, the Residential Institutions Redress Board, and the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee.

Approximately 1,400 former residents gave evidence to the Ryan commission’s investigation committee, and a further 1,090 to its confidential committee.

Speaking of the need to honour commitments given to witnesses, Mr Justice Ryan told The Irish Times last May: “From the survivors point of view, they gave their evidence on the basis of legislation of 2000 and 2005 that has, as far as possible, absolute protection.



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