Institution survivor declined invitation to Papal Mass

By Aideen O'Flaherty 

A MAN who spent the first 16 years of his life in two mother and baby institutions and was fostered out nine times, declined an invitation from the secretary general of the World Meeting of Families 2018, Fr Timothy Bartlett, to attend the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park last Sunday. 

Tony Kelly (72), from Kilnamanagh in Tallaght, spent periods of his childhood in St Theresa’s in Blackrock and St Philomena’s in Stillorgan, and was fostered out to nine different families in Dublin before spending ten years with a foster family in Mayo, where he suffered “horrific abuse”.

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly (pic: Tony Ham) 

 

Mr Kelly declined an invitation to attend the Papal Mass, even though he is a practicing Catholic and a keyholder for the Holy Spirit Church in Greenhills, as he felt that there has been “no proper accountability” put forward by the church, and that survivors are “not being given any hope”.

Mr Kelly, who is one of the founders of the United Survivors Group for former mother and baby home residents, told The Echo: “I declined the invitation. Accountability is the main word in this, there’s been no accountability from the church or the state.”

Mr Kelly also cited his frustration at the Christian Brothers having not yet paid the €8.8m that they are due to pay to Caranua, the statutory fund for survivors of institutional abuse, as being another reason for his decision to the decline the invitation.

When Mr Kelly was 16 years old he moved out of the foster home in Mayo to England and worked in construction, and also became involved in the wrestling scene in Britain in 1971.

Mr Kelly took on the roles of wrestler and referee during his wrestling career, which led to regular television appearances, and he received a lifetime achievement award at the British Wrestlers Reunion in Kent in early August.

Mr Kelly said: “I was over the moon to get the award, because I knew that I had a distinguished career in wrestling, and it’s nice to be remembered by your peers.

“Wrestling was hard to get into, and the training was hard, but I was working in construction at the time so I looked after myself and that helped with my fitness.”

In 1980, Mr Kelly decided to conclude his wrestling career and returned to Ireland to find out any information he could about his family.

Mr Kelly said: “It was okay for me to leave wrestling behind because I was going into another era in my life, and I decided I was going to go back to Ireland to find out what was there for me – good or bad.”

It took 31 years for Mr Kelly to find out about his family background and his “true identity”, after struggling to secure files from the state and the church. He attended his own mother’s funeral and only found when he was in the church that it was his mother’s funeral.

Despite the difficulties that Mr Kelly, who volunteers with the Clondalkin and Lucan Homeless Hub, has experienced, he still has belief in the Catholic faith.

“I have a deep religious faith and belief in god,” explained Mr Kelly. “I decided not to go to the Phoenix Park, but to continue to work in the church and feed the homeless in Clondalkin village, and assist those who cannot assist themselves for one reason or another.”

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