On the 10th anniversary of the state apology to survivors of abuse and the 10th Anniversary of the Ryan Report I was honoured to speak in St Patricks Cathedral at a Celebration of Surviving , Below was what I said!

Good afternoon to all of you. My name is Francis Timmons. I would like to share with you what it means to me to be here today. I often speak with people who are the survivors of many varied experiences in their lives. 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.

But what if those very scars, those hidden wounds were visible. If they could be seen, spoken about, shared – without feeling afraid, without feeling we are “different” from everyone else.

The truth is we are not different, but throughout our history we have been labelled and made to feel afraid of people finding out about our experiences – why?  Because that’s the way it used to be!

The blame was placed on those who did no wrong. Those who were never given the support, nor the understanding, nor the respect to know none of us did anything wrong,

None of us asked to be abused, to be disgraced, to be “different”.

I would like you all, to pause for a moment, and think about the film “Schindler’s List”. Now think of why there was only one red coat seen, within a black and white film. Or cast your mind to another film The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas.  Both these examples tell us something, and that for me. is very real, as to why we are different from anyone else in this Country,

None of us who survived from so many different Institutions (and those harmed and abused outside of institutions) ever wore a “Red Coat” or a star on our sleeves. Yet we were given so many engraved scars, imprinted on our souls. We were set apart, denied justice of any description. We were ignored for so many years.

Behind stone walls, we were denied the right to be truly cared for. Our label of pain, and our deep hurt, has no colour.  We who walk upon a path together supporting each other.  We who have waited so long to be seen, to be accepted, to finally be treated as equal – as all human beings should be

Above all, from birth we had a right to be treated as nothing less than Human. Truth and Justice should always be together.  Our State, the Roman Catholic Church and all of those who participated in allowing our suffering to continue must hear our Truth .

Today, they need to know that we never went away nor will we fade into a non-existence. Social Justice must never be ignored or, treated with disrespect.

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

Life is the precious gift given to us, yet so many of us were denied the right as children, as young expectant Mums, to be loved and cared for.  Many people let us down turned their backs on us, ignored us, denied us the right to express our truths. Please never be afraid of being your true self, do not allow what others did to you, to change you.  Find the real inner you, love the inner child in you, and look at yourself, and smile , because you made it.  Unlike so many many that never stood a chance.  And take a good look in the mirror and remind yourself – No longer do I need to say Mirror Mirror, on the wall Who Am I? Who do I look like? Despite, everything, I look at my own reflection and whisper to myself. I know, I have more than survived, I am alive, I have the choice to live my life, I have the right to be me.