Abuse survivors criticise minister over proposed memorial

ABUSE survivors have criticised the Education Minister for appearing to push ahead with controversial plans for a memorial to victims.

Cheyenne O'Connor. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30344011)
Cheyenne O'Connor. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30344011)

Last week Deputy Jeremy Maçon said that he had been listening to survivors who were not involved in the Citizens’ Panel, which recommended following publication of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry’s report in 2017 that a memorial be constructed.

He said he hoped the plans would ‘move into the next phase after Easter’.

However, when putting himself forward for Education Minister last autumn, Deputy Maçon told the States that if he was elected ‘the statue proposal will not proceed’.

He said that the money set aside for the project should instead be used to fund a training scheme for care leavers.

Paedophile-hunter Cheyenne O’Connor, who has been speaking to survivors and led a protest against the planned memorial in October, said that the Deputy ‘has not spoken to the facilitators, any of the survivors or the Citizens’ Panel’ and that the memorial should not move forward until a collective decision had been made.

The memorial, which is planned for the Weighbridge, has become a controversial topic, with some Islanders arguing it could serve as a traumatic reminder for those who had suffered abuse. Last year it was announced that £200,000 was to be set aside for the project, which led to a further backlash and the launch of a petition – signed by nearly 3,000 people – calling for the decision to be reversed.

Ms O’Connor said that the Deputy’s recent comments contradicted his previous stance on the issue and had caused ‘a lot of upset’ among survivors.

‘Even if it’s just a case of bad wording, he has still upset a lot of people by saying it,’ she said. ‘He has specifically told survivors that he doesn’t want the memorial to go ahead and then has gone straight back on his word without having a discussion with anyone.’

She added that it was ‘sickening’ that the Deputy had ‘caused survivors to feel this way’ and said that he needed to issue a public apology to those who had been upset by his comments.

An abuse survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, said that last year Deputy Maçon had told him that there would not be a memorial.

In an online conversation – seen by the JEP – purportedly between the survivor and the Deputy last November, the survivor thanked the politician for speaking against the memorial and told him that he had ‘given light to many’.

Speaking to the JEP, the survivor said he was ‘shocked’ to hear the project could move into the next phase later this year.

Another survivor said she was ‘furious’ with the Deputy’s comments, and that it felt like the survivors’ voices ‘didn’t matter’.

When asked for a response, Deputy Maçon issued a statement saying that a memorial was still a possibility.

Education Minister Jeremy Maçon. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30379086)

‘I have publicly stated that any memorial needs to be considered in the broadest of terms. While this could be a statue or a sculpture, it could take alternative forms, including a training scheme for survivors, those working with children or some form of therapy, which I strongly favour. However, this is not a decision for a minister alone. That is why I have committed to work with the Citizens’ Panel to achieve a final memorial which responds to the views and experiences of survivors as part of the overall Legacy Project.

‘After survivors raised concerns about the shortlisted care memorial designs in the autumn, I instructed officers to pause this project to ensure we had taken time to listen to all those who were not part of the Citizens’ Panel, in order to re-examine this project. Consultation with survivors and with the facilitators is ongoing and, after Easter, I hope to be in a position to discuss the outcome of these discussions and the next steps, which will allow us to move forward together.

‘The legacy we are dealing with is difficult, sensitive and – for all the survivors – something that has had a profound effect on them. To those who were upset or confused by my previous statement, I apologise.’

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