Thousands of people gathered at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin this afternoon to take part in a silent march in solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse.

The march got under way at midday and proceeded in silence past the GPO to the Dáil.

A petition of solidarity was presented to the Conference of Religious of Ireland and representatives of the 18 religious orders who signed the indemnity deal.

Demonstrators left children's shoes at the Dáil entrance to symbolise the loss of innocence of abuse victims.

The scandal of the abuse was described as Ireland's mini holocaust by several campaigners today.

Survivors want the abuse recognised and many want proper redress. They say the Residential Institutions Redress Board is a further example of abuse.

The march organisers met the Taoiseach and Minister for Children Barry Andrews this evening.

A petition gathered in recent days was given to Brian Cowen during the meeting.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny met the demonstrators outside the Dáil earlier.

Elsewhere, hundreds of victims of institutional abuse have been invited to Áras an Uachtaráin by President Mary McAleese.

John Kelly of Survivors Of Child Abuse announced at the end of the protest that the President was to meet them on 28 June.Christine Buckley

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland before the protest, Christine Buckley of child abuse survivors' group, the Aislinn Centre, said she wants a trust fund set up and all cases that were given an award at the Residential Institutions Redress Board revisited.

She said the level of money people had received was appalling and in line with what the religious thought of the abused.

Ms Buckley described the Redress Board as another form of institutional abuse in that it was silent and behind closed doors.

Bishops tried to extend deal for victims - Martin

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said he believes church authorities tried to extend the indemnity deal done with the Government to include survivors of child abuse from day schools.

Diarmuid MartinSpeaking on RTÉ's Six-One News, Dr Martin also said he would like to see independent verification to ensure that promises made by religious orders were met.

Dr Martin said this process should be objective and external.

Reacting to today's march of abuse survivors, Archbishop Martin said it was the victims' day and he was delighted for them.

Archbishop Sean Brady has said the Irish Bishops Conference is ashamed, humbled and repentant that members of the clergy and other religious strayed so far from their Christian ideals in abusing children as highlighted by the Ryan Commission Report.

Archbishop Brady said the bishops have invited survivors to engage with the church to see how they can assist those who have been abused.

He was speaking after the summer general meeting of the Irish Bishops Conference.

A statement released by the Catholic Bishops after the three-day summer meeting said: 'Heinous crimes were perpetrated against the most innocent and vulnerable, and vile acts with life-lasting effects were carried out under the guise of the mission of Jesus Christ'.

Anyone who has been affected by abuse in a State-run institution can contact the HSE'S Dedicated Afterhours Helpline on 1800 235 235.

It runs from 6pm to 10pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

A separate 24-hour service is also being run by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 77 88 88.