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Commemorative garden for survivors of child abuse

Mayor Tommy Brennan unveiling the new memorial for abuse victims at Waterpark House, Ennis, which includes words from a poem by the late Brendan O’Beirne, a member of the Clare Three Legged Stool Poets. Photograph by John Kelly

A COMMEMORATIVE garden dedicated to all those who suffered abuse in childhood was officially opened this week in the grounds of Ennis Town Council’s offices at Waterpark House.
The garden, which features a central piece of sculpture by acclaimed artist Michael McTigue, was launched by Mayor of Ennis Councillor Tommy Brennan.
The sculpture depicts words from the poem Lyric number 38 written by the late Clare poet Brendan O’Beirne. The inscription reads “Confront the footsteps behind you”, with the footprints incorporated into the table-like sculpture.
Attending the launch was Deirdre O’Beirne, sister of Brendan, who said, “I think it’s fantastic that his poem has been used for this garden, he would have been so thrilled. Brendan lived in Drumbiggle in a council flat and he would be over here every week paying his rent so he often sat here. Those lines are very appropriate to this work, they can mean so much to anybody.”
Brendan’s poem was among a number of works submitted by the Clare Three Legged Stool Poets to Ennis Town Council to be considered for inclusion on the sculpture.
Brian Mooney, of the Clare Three Legged Stool Poets told us, “We published Brendan’s last manuscript Reality, the Graveyard of Dreams after he died and there has been great interest in his work. Brendan was born in Scariff but he spent 10 years living in Ennis and he worked on his book right until his death in August 2010. This quote, which has been used for this garden, is a wonderful line and very appropriate.”
Sculptor Mr McTigue commented, “I was very happy to be asked to be involved with this commemorative garden. In making this work, I used the idea of the footprints from the quotation and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.”
At the launch, Councillor Brennan outlined that the council decided to develop this area to commemorate all those who suffered abuse in childhood.
“This is a symbolic place where people can come and take some time out to reflect on their past. The space is designed with simplicity and the circular centrepiece has the inscription “Confront The Footsteps Behind You”. These words were taken from the works of a local poet, the late Brendan O’Beirne, who lived in this part of town. These words are thought-provoking and each person who comes here and reads those lines will be able to take their own meaning from them,” he said.
He commented that he hoped people would be able to sit in the area and “reflect on the past while also looking forward to a brighter future”.
“The area was originally designed for a bandstand and it is a place that people can come and relax,” he added. He also urged that the local authority would consider putting funding in place for seating in the next estimates. Councillor Brennan thanked the staff of the council for their work and complimented Michael McTigue.
Ennis Town Councillor Paul O’Shea welcomed the official opening of the memorial, which he proposed back in 2009 at a meeting of the local authority.
“The opening takes place almost two years after the Ryan Report was published. This memorial sends a clear message of how horrendous the abuse was in more than 200 institutions. It sends a message that our children, their children and generations to come will never forget.”
“I hope it may in some way give victims the satisfaction of knowing that they are not forgotten by the people of Clare,” he added.

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