The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was established in 2000 with functions including theinvestigation of abuse of children in institutions in the State. It was dependent on people givingevidence which they did in large numbers. The Commission expresses its gratitude to all thosewho participated and contributed with their testimony and documents. The witnesses who cameto the Confidential and the Investigation Committees ensured that the Inquiry had sufficientinformation to investigate the difficult issues that it was mandated to explore. The Commissionwas impressed by the dignity, courage and fortitude of witnesses who endeavoured to recallevents that had happened many years ago.
This Report should give rise to debate and reflection. Although institutional care belongs to adifferent era, many of the lessons to be learned from what happened have contemporaryapplications for the protection of vulnerable people in our society.
The expression “abuse” is defined in section 1(i) of the Principal Act, as amended by section 3 ofthe 2005 Act, as:-
the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to preventsuch injury to, the child,
the use of the child by a person for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of that personor another person,
failure to care for the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result,in serious impairment of the physical or mental or development of the child or seriousadverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare, or
any other act or omission towards the child which results, or could reasonably beexpected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health ordevelopment of the child or serious adverse effects on his behaviour or welfare,
and cognate words shall be construed accordingly.
The Commission Report
The Commission Report consists of 5 Volumes:
The Investigation Committee Report on Institutions
The Department of Education; Finance; Society and the Schools;Development of Childcare Policy in Ireland since 1970; Report onWitnesses Attending for Interview; Conclusions and Recommendations
The ISPCC, Expert Reports, Commission Personnel and Legislation
contains a general introduction to the Commission and its terms of reference. It explains
the task it was required to do and how it set about doing it.
Chapters 2 and 3
trace the historical background to the Industrial and Reformatory school system.
They describe a Victorian model of childcare that failed to adapt to Twentieth Century conditions
and did not prioritise the needs of children. Children were committed by the Courts using
procedures with the trappings of the criminal law. The authorities were unwilling to address the
failings in the system or consider alternatives.
sets out the Rules and Regulations for Certified Industrial Schools, which detailed what
the Schools were required to do in terms of physical care for the children. These rules set out
standards in respect of accommodation, clothing, diet, education and industrial training. They also
set down strict guidelines for punishment that could be imposed by the Managers of residential
This chapter also sets out fully the Department of Education Rules and Regulations regardingcorporal punishment, which were contained in the 1933 Rules and Regulations and in variouscirculars issued by the Department over the years. They all emphasised that physical punishmentwas to be a last resort and that it should be kept to a minimum.
The Investigation Committee Report on Institutions
The period covered by the Investigation Committee Inquiry, ‘the relevant period’, is from 1936to the present. However, the complaints come mostly from a period during which large scaleinstitutionalisation was the norm, which was, in effect, the period between the Cussen Report(1936) and the Kennedy report (1970).
In early 2004, the Investigation Committee engaged in a process of consultation with religiouscongregations, complainants and legal representatives seeking to establish procedures that wouldenable it to complete its work within a reasonable time.
Investigations were conducted into all institutions where the number of complainants was morethan 20.
outlines some preliminary issues with regard to the Investigation Committee Report,
including the ways in which the investigation was conducted and the oral hearings were organised.
This chapter also deals with the possible contamination of evidence and the impact of factors such
as lobby groups, Statute of Limitation amendments and length of time had on the investigation.
On the question of anonymity, the Commission took the decision to give pseudonyms to allrespondents and potential respondents in the Report, including respondents who had been foundguilty of offences in criminal trials. The identity of all complainants was also protected by the useof pseudonyms and by removing any identifiable biographical details.
Chapters 6 to 13
contain the reports on the Institutions owned and managed by the Congregation
of the Christian Brothers. This Congregation was the largest provider of residential care for boys
in the country and more allegations were made against this organisation than all of the other male
gives an overview of the Congregation, including its foundation, its organisation and
management and its funding. It also looks at the vows taken by religious Brothers and the impact
of these vows on the care they gave to children in their Schools. The Chapter examines the
Congregation’s own Rules regarding corporal punishment and discipline in its schools and outlinesthe strict limitations imposed by the Authorities on its members in the way they could administerpunishments in their schools.
This Chapter also looks at the attitude of the Congregation to allegations of abuse and theapologies it issued. These apologies acknowledged that some abuse had taken place but failedto accept any Congregational responsibility for such abuse. Finally, this chapter examines theCongregation’s engagement with this Commission which was co-operative in terms of productionof documents but defensive in the way it responded to complaints. Chapter Six covers a numberof issues that were common to all of the Christian Brothers’ Institutions that were examined inChapters 7 to 13 of Volume I.
Each of the individual school chapters follows a similar format. The School is described in generalterms outlining its size, physical buildings, numbers of boys’ resident, and numbers of staff. Thechapters then go on to look at allegations under the headings of Physical, Sexual, Neglect andEmotional abuse. The report firstly examines the documented cases of abuse that werediscovered to the Committee by the Congregation and then looks at the allegations made bycomplainants to the Committee.
deals with Artane Industrial School in Dublin. Artane was founded in 1870 and was
certified for 830 boys. This was almost four times the size of any other school in the State. The
size of Artane and the regimentation and military-style discipline required to run it were persistent
complaints by ex-pupils and ex-staff members alike. The numbers led to problems of supervision
and control, and children were left feeling powerless and defenceless in the face of bullying and
abuse by staff and fellow pupils. Although physical care was better than in some schools, it was
still poorly provided and so imbued with the harshness of the underlying regime that children
constantly felt under threat and fearful.
All of the witnesses who made allegations against Artane complained of physical abuse. Thisabuse is outlined in full both from the documents and the evidence of witnesses. Conclusions onphysical abuse are contained at Paragraph 7.311 of Volume I and state that physical punishmentof boys in Artane was excessive and pervasive and, because of its arbitrary nature, led to aclimate of fear amongst the boys.
Paragraphs 7.312 to 7.548, investigate sexual abuse. Many of the details of this abuse werecontained in the Congregations’ own records that became known as the ‘Rome Files’ This chapterlooks at these allegations and how they were handled in respect of Brothers who had beenassigned to Artane at any time during the relevant period. The Committee heard evidence fromex-residents who alleged abuse and from Brothers and ex-Brothers, some of whom admittedsexual abuse.
The Conclusions on sexual abuse which are outlined at Paragraph 7.549 were that sexual abuseof boys in Artane by Brothers was a chronic problem. Complaints were not handled properly andthe steps taken by the Congregation to avoid scandal and publicity protected perpetrators ofabuse. The safety of children was not a priority at any time during the relevant period.
Neglect and emotional abuse were also found to have been features of Artane. The numbers ofchildren made it impossible for any child to receive an adequate standard of care.
The chapter on Artane contains an analysis of a 1962 Report written by Fr Henry Moore who wasa chaplain in Artane in the 1960s. Fr Moore gave evidence to the Committee and much of itconfirmed evidence of complainants who were pupils there.
A report by Mr Ciaran Fahy, consulting engineer, is appended to the Artane chapter and describesthe physical layout and structures of the Institution and contains some photographic records ofthe school.
deals with another Christian Brothers’ school, Letterfrack, County Galway. The school
in Letterfrack was founded in 1885 and was situated in a remote hillside location in Connemara,
miles away from Galway or from public transport. The remoteness of Letterfrack was a common
theme of complainants and of Brothers who had worked there. It was an inhospitable, bleak,
isolated institution accessable only by car or bicycle and out of reach for family or friends of boys
Physical punishment was severe, excessive and pervasive and by being administered in public orwithin earshot of other children it was used as a means of engendering fear and ensuring control.
Sexual abuse was a chronic problem. For two thirds of the relevant period there was at least onesexual abuser in the school, for almost one third of the period there were two abusers in theschool and at times there were three abusers working in Letterfrack at the same time. Two abuserswere present for periods of 14 years each and the Congregation could offer no explanation as tohow these Brothers could have remained in the School for so long undetected and unreported.
Conclusions on Sexual Abuse in Letterfrack are outlined at Paragraph 8.461 of the Report.
A decision in 1954 to reduce numbers in Letterfrack to a bare minimum had serious repercussionsfor the physical welfare of the boys. Children were emotionally and physically neglected throughoutthe relevant period and those children who could have benefited from family contact were deprivedof this because of the remoteness of Letterfrack’s location. This isolation impacted on boys andBrothers who were posted there.
contains the report into St Joseph’s Industrial School, Tralee, Co Kerry. This School
was established in 1862 and was certified for 145 boys. Serious allegations were outlined both in
documents and in oral testimony about a Brother who was violent and dangerous over a number
of years (Paragraph 9.46). This Brother was moved from a day school because his violence
towards children was causing severe problems with their parents, and was moved to Tralee
Industrial School. Such a move displayed a callous disregard for the safety of children in care. He
went on to terrorise children in Tralee for over seven years.
Children were left unprotected and vulnerable to bullying by older boys and this was stated to bea particular problem in Tralee both in terms of physical and sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse by staff was not as persistent a problem in Tralee as in Artane or Letterfrack,although one Brother was cited by complainants and by Brothers who had been on the staff inTralee as ‘behaving inappropriately’ with the boys. He was on the staff for 20 years and hisbehaviour was known to at least three Superiors who did not attempt to stop it.
One ex-Brother, Professor Tom Dunne, gave evidence about his experience of Tralee and hedescribed a cold hostile culture where the boys were treated with harshness: ‘It was a secretenclosed world, run on fear’.
deals with Carriglea Park Industrial School in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. This School
was established in 1894 and closed in 1954. The Investigation Committee did not receive many
complaints about this school which had closed early in the relevant period but the documents
and the limited evidence from complainants and ex-staff members give an important insight into
management practices within the Christian Brothers. A period of near-anarchy was tackled by the
imposition of a harsh punitive regime which was facilitated by the transfer of Brothers with a known
propensity for severe punishment to the school. There was some evidence of a more enlightenedapproach towards education and aftercare in Carriglea particularly in the preparation of boys forPost Office examinations. There were substantial surplus funds in the School accounts when thisSchool closed in 1954.
Chapters 11 and 12
deal with Glin and with Salthill Industrial Schools respectively. Both schools
were the subject of a documentary investigation by the Investigation Committee but were not
included in the Schools designated for oral hearings by the Committee.
Glin was a large Industrial School in Co Limerick with a population of over 200 boys during asubstantial part of the relevant period. It was the subject of two detailed reports commissioned bythe Christian Brothers and these were used to provide background information about the school.
The documents revealed that a system of harsh and pervasive punishment existed in Glin duringthe relevant period. The documents also revealed that Brothers with a known propensity for sexualabuse were transferred to Glin indicating a serious indifference to the safety of children.
Salthill in Co Galway was the only Christian Brothers’ Industrial School to survive beyond the mid-1970s. The Congregation handed over management of the School to the Western Health Boardin 1995. The documents showed that violent Brothers who were moved around from one schoolto another continued their violent behaviour. In Salthill, one Brother, who had been described ascruel in Letterfrack, continued his severe treatment of boys in Salthill and another continued hisharshness in schools he was assigned to after Salthill. Internal Christian Brothers’ Reportsidentified a ‘severity in attitude’ towards the boys in the 1950s and the records would indicate aconcern with six Brothers who had served in Salthill with regard to physical punishment.
The documents implicated five Brothers, one care worker who was a former resident, and anotherex-resident who returned after discharge, in sexual abuse allegations. In particular, the Salthillreport deals with a relatively recent allegation of sexual abuse against a Brother who had beentransferred from Salthill ‘following a grave indiscretion with one of the boys’ in the early 1960s(Paragraph 12.63). The treatment of a boy who alleged sexual abuse against this Brother sometwenty years later by Congregational Authorities was shameful and disturbing.
deals with the final Christian Brothers’ School investigated by the Committee, St
Joseph’s School for the Deaf, in Cabra. This was not an Industrial School but was a residential
school for boys from the age of eight who were profoundly or partially deaf. This school was also
investigated on a document only basis. It was the subject of Eastern Health Board Investigations
in the 1980s which revealed disturbing levels of sexual abuse and peer sexual activity amongst
boys who were resident there. These documents reveal a persistent failure on the part of school
Authorities to protect children from bullying and abuse.
In addition, the documents revealed that physical punishment of these children continued into themid-1990s and that staff were protected by management when physical abuse was discovered.
It is significant that the Industrial Schools owned and managed by the Christian Brothers did notkeep a Punishment Book as was required by the Rules.
looks at the career of a serial sexual and physical abuser, given the name of Mr John
Brander, who taught children in the primary and secondary school sector in Ireland for 40 years.
He was eventually convicted of sexual abuse in the 1980s.
He began his career as a Christian Brother and after three separate incidents of sexual abuse ofboys, he was granted dispensation from his vows. This chapter goes on to describe this man’sprogress through six different schools where he physically terrorised and sexually abused children
in his classroom. At various times during his career, parents attempted to challenge his behaviourbut he was persistently protected by diocesan and school authorities and moved from school toschool. Complaints to the Department of Education were ignored. The Committee received a largenumber of complaints from individual national schools and the investigation conducted into thecareer of Mr Brander, apart from being shocking in itself, also illustrates the ease with which sexualpredators could operate within the educational system of the State without fear of disclosure orsanction.
reports on Daingean Reformatory, Co Offaly. This was the only boys’ reformatory in
the State for most of the relevant period and was managed by but not owned by the Oblates of
The physical abuse of boys in Daingean was extreme. Floggings which were ritualised beatingsshould not have been tolerated in any institution and they were inflicted even for minortransgressions. Children who passed through Daingean were brutalised by the experience andsome were damaged by it.
Apart from a cruel regime of punishment, Daingean was an anarchic Institution. It was run bygangs of boys who imposed their rules on the others and the supervision by the religious Brothersand Priests was minimal and ineffectual.
Serious questions were raised about two Brothers who were in the school for long periods but ingeneral allegations of sexual abuse were concentrated on abuse by older boys. The ganglandculture fostered the development of protective relationships between the boys and theserelationships sometimes developed a sexual aspect. The boy seeking the protection had littleoption but to comply with the demands of the older boy and the authorities were dismissive ofany complaints.
deals with Marlborough House Detention Centre in Dublin. Boys were remanded to
Marlborough House either pending sentencing or whilst waiting for transfer to an Industrial School
or Reformatory. The boys were left for long hours with no recreation facilities, no schooling and
no proper supervision. It was managed by the Department of Education who appointed a lay
supervisor to the role of Manager.
Volume II continues the Investigation Committee Report into individual institutions and begins withan investigation into the two institutions owned and managed by the Rosminian Order.
looks at the founding and organisation of the Rosminian Order and its involvement in
residential care in Ireland. The Rosminians adopted a different approach to the Commission than
other Congregations. They sought to understand abuse, in contrast to other Congregations who
sought to explain it. They accepted that abuse had occurred in their Institutions, that the
Institutions in themselves were abusive and that the Order itself must bear responsibility for
deals with St Patrick’s Industrial School in Upton, County Cork which was certified for
200 boys. Included in the documents discovered by the Rosminians were two Punishment Books
for this school. One related to the 1889-1893 period and the other related to the period 1952 –
1963. This latter book contained clear documentary evidence of a harsh regime in Upton. The
Order conceded that punishment was abusive and at times brutal.
The issue of sexual abuse in this institution emerged most strikingly through material that cameto the Investigation Committee’s attention following a search by the Order of material in theirarchive in Rome, which disclosed a considerable number of documents, 68 in all, dating from1936 to 1968. They dealt with, among other things, 7 sexual abusers who worked in Upton. Thesedocuments provided a valuable contemporary account of how sexual abuse was dealt with.
covers Ferryhouse, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, which was the second Industrial School
owned and managed by the Rosminian Order. It opened in 1885 and was certified for 200 boys.
There was no punishment book made available in respect of Ferryhouse and no documented
evidence as to the severity of the regime there, although the Order have conceded that there was
excessive and severe punishment in the Institution. Complainants spoke of a climate of fear and
of harsh and at times brutal punishments.
The extent of sexual abuse in this institution was as serious and disturbing as in Upton. Tworeligious members of the Rosminian Order and one layman were convicted of sexual abuse ofboys in Ferryhouse. Another religious who served in Ferryhouse was convicted of a crimecommitted elsewhere on a boy who had previously been a resident of Ferryhouse and who wasthen living in another Rosminian institution. These three religious offenders served in seniorpositions in Ferryhouse and the layman was a volunteer there for different periods of yearsbetween 1968 and 1988.
During almost all of the period covered by the inquiry, there was at least one sexual abuserpresent in Ferryhouse.
The living conditions in both schools were poor, inadequate and overcrowded although conditionsin Ferryhouse did improve from the late 1970s. Children were underfed and badly clothed andreceived poor education and training.
deals with Greenmount Industrial School, Co Cork, which was owned and managed
by the Presentation Brothers. This school was founded in 1874 and closed in 1959 and was
certified for 235 boys.
For some specific periods during its history, Greenmount operated a harsh and severe regime.
The level of corporal punishment tolerated depended on the attitude of management at the time.
Some Resident Managers were more severe than others.
The report into Greenmount contains a detailed analysis of an investigation into allegations ofsexual abuse against two Brothers who were on the staff at the time. This matter was dealt withinadequately at the time and one of the Brothers went on to abuse in other schools he wasassigned to.
Food clothing and accommodation were poor in Greenmount and education and aftercare werebadly provided.
deals with Lota which was a residential school for boys with special needs run by the
Brothers of Charity in Glanmire, Co Cork.
The significant element in the account of Lota was the deeply disturbing accounts of sexual abuseof vulnerable children by religious staff. In addition, the indifference of the CongregationalAuthorities in addressing the issue facilitated the abuse in Lota for many years. In one case, aBrother who was known by the Congregation to have abused in England and was known to thepolice there, was brought back to Ireland and assigned a teaching position in Lota, where heworked for over 30 years. This Brother admitted to multiple sexual assaults of boys in the school.
The circumstances of his return to Ireland and the handling of allegations against him whilst inLota are a serious indictment of the Brothers of Charity. The Brothers have admitted that abusetook place but, as in the case of other Orders, they have not accepted Congregationalresponsibility for it.
Chapters 6 to 16
of Volume II cover 8 Industrial Schools run by Orders of nuns which catered
mainly for girls, and boys under eight years. The largest providers of care to these children were
the Sisters of Mercy, who ran a total of 26 Industrial Schools in the State during most of the
looks at the foundation and organisation of the Sisters of Mercy and looks at the
personal vows taken by Sisters and the impact these had on the standard of care provided to
children. It is a feature of the structure of this organisation that during the relevant period it was
not a homogenous body but was made up of a number of separate convents each of which was
independent of the other. It did not become a unified Congregation until the 1980s.
deals with Goldenbridge Industrial School which was located in Inchicore in Dublin and
was certified for 150 girls. Boys under eight were admitted in the late 1960s. Goldenbridge was a
controversial institution and had been the subject of television and media discussion from 1995
onwards when the ‘Dear Daughter’ programme had been broadcast on RTE. Allegations of a
severe, cruel regime were made where discipline was unrelenting and severe.
Unlike the Christian Brothers and to a lesser extent the Rosminians, the Sisters of Mercy retainedalmost no records of complaints or allegations against the School, or even any reports of internalinspections or reviews. The Goldenbridge report relies heavily on the oral testimony of witnessesboth complainants and ex-staff members.
A high level of physical abuse was perpetrated by Religious and lay staff in Goldenbridge. Themethod of inflicting punishments and the implements used were cruel and excessive and physicalpunishment was an immediate response to even minor infractions. Children were in constant fearof beatings and in many cases were beaten for no apparent reason. A feature of this school wasa rosary bead industry that was operated from the school. This industry was conducted in a waythat imposed impossible standards on children and caused great suffering to many of them. Itwas a school that was characterised by a regime of extreme drudgery, both in terms of the rosarybead making and the daily workload of the children.
Goldenbridge was an emotionally abusive institution. Girls were humiliated and belittled on aregular basis and treated with contempt by some staff members. It was characterised by anabsence of kindness or sympathy for the children.
considers Cappoquin Industrial School, County Waterford which was owned and
managed by the Sisters of Mercy. It was certified for 75 boys up to the age of ten. From 1970, it
was allowed take girls as well as boys.
This institution was identified by the Department of Education Inspector as being particularlyneglectful of the children in its care in the 1940s. Children were described as malnourished andunderweight.
Cappoquin adapted to the Group Home system in the 1970s but it was marred by highlydysfunctional management throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Alcohol abuse and inappropriaterelationships between senior personnel interfered significantly with the standard of care providedto the children. This period was marked by indifference on the part of the Community of Sistersin the convent attached to the school, which allowed a dangerous and neglectful situation tocontinue.
This chapter also deals with Passage West Industrial School Co Cork, in the context of anallegation of sexual abuse against a lay care worker who worked in both Institutions and who wassubsequently convicted of abuse of children in Cappoquin.
deals with Clifden, another Sisters of Mercy Industrial School in Co. Galway. It was
certified as an Industrial School in 1872 and catered for up to 140 children.
Clifden was an institution that was strongly affected by the personality of the Resident Managerwho was in office from 1936 to 1969. She was described by complainants and respondentwitnesses as a strict, harsh woman who ruled and dominated all aspects of life in the institution.
She treated the school as her personal domain and worked a punishing schedule with little helpor support. She was unable to give the children the care they needed and used harsh physicalpunishment not just to correct misbehaviour, but also to enforce discipline and order. A significantfeature of the evidence was the culture of detachment and lack of affection that was described byboth respondent witnesses and complainants. Although there was a large community of nuns inthe convent in the grounds of the industrial school, these Sisters had no contact with the childrenin care and appeared unable to help in the chronic under-staffing which was a problem in thisschool until the 1980s when numbers were reduced.
deals with Newtownforbes, a Sisters of Mercy school located in County Longford
that catered for up to 175 girls from infancy to 16 year olds. It repeated many of the problems
identified in Clifden. It was consistently under-staffed with a heavy workload falling to the Resident
Manager and much of the day to day work being done by the children themselves. Newtownforbes
was severely criticised by Department of Education Inspections in the 1940s for serious neglect
and abuse of children who were found with bruising that was not satisfactorily explained.
Conditions improved into the 1950s and 1960s but it was a strictly regimented school that used
corporal punishment to punish and to maintain order. There was a heavy emphasis on domestic
chores and this together with childcare duties impeded the education of many children. Children
were undermined and emotionally neglected by a regime that did not offer kindness or
encouragement to children who had no-one else to look out for them.
considers Dundalk Industrial School which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in
1881 and was located in the centre of town of Dundalk in Co Louth. It was certified for 100 children
but for most of the relevant period it had no more than 40 or 50 children and this had a
considerable impact on the atmosphere in the school. Although like other Sister of Mercy Schools,Dundalk came in for criticism in the 1940s, conditions improved in the 1950s and 1960s andsignificantly there was some evidence that it did not depend on physical punishment to maintainorder. Indeed it appeared to keep corporal punishment to a minimum and although there wereindividual accounts of severe punishment, in general it was not an abusive institution. It was,however, seriously understaffed and supervision and physical care was affected by this lack ofstaffing. It was not an ideal institution but it was a more benign place than many other suchschools.
gives an outline of the foundation and organisation of the Sisters of Charity who ran
two Industrial Schools in Kilkenny, St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s as well as a review of its response
to allegations of abuse that have arisen.
deals with St Patrick’s Industrial School which was founded in 1879 and
accommodated 186 boys up to the age of 10. A significant feature of this school was the very
young ages of the children and the large group of them all being cared for by a small number of
nuns. Because they were so young when they were there, witnesses tended to remember specific
episodes rather than have overall memories of St Patrick’s. Some of these incidents pointed to a
regime that was harsh and unpredictable with corporal punishment the usual response to
misbehaviour. Three male complainants described incidents of sexual abuse and the significant
factor in each account was the child’s inability to confide to the Sister who was caring for him.
Men who were employed in the school appeared to have ready access to these small boys and
there was no awareness of the risks posed by this.
deals with St Joseph’s Kilkenny which was founded in 1872 and catered for 130
children. The Sisters of Charity were unique in that they sought out training and guidance in
childcare and introduced innovations into their two schools in Kilkenny that were unusual at the
time. In particular, they recognised the value of the group system which they introduced to St
Joseph’s in the late 1940s.
In general this was a well run institution but it was dogged at two separate periods in its historyby serious instances of sexual abuse and the Congregation did not deal with these appropriatelyor with the children’s best interests in mind. In 1954, a handyman who had been employed in theschool for the previous 30 years was discovered to have been grossly sexually abusing girls fromas young as eight years old. An investigation which was conducted by the Department ofEducation, confirmed the abuse but the children concerned were offered no comfort and theperpetrator, although dismissed from the school, was not reported to the Gardai.
The second period in which sexual abuse arose in St Joseph’s was during the 1970s after theschool admitted boys, when two care workers who were sexually abusing boys were dismissed.
Both men went on to abuse again after leaving St Joseph’s and the failure of the Congregation todeal decisively with these men was a factor in this.
Chapters 15 and 16
are brief reviews of documentary evidence in relation to two schools that
offered residential care to deaf girls: St Mary’s Girls Cabra which was run by the Dominican Order
of Nuns and Beechpark run by the Daughters of Liege. Oral hearings were not conducted into
these schools and there was not a significant amount of documentary material discovered to the
Committee. Most allegations of abuse referred to the harshness with which the policy of oralism
was imposed on children who were deaf and who instinctively used sign language as well. Whilst
the wisdom of imposing oralism was a separate matter and one which the Committee could not
comment on, the methods of enforcing it were at times too severe.
In general however, the standard of care in these schools was good and particular efforts weremade to ensure that the children received the best possible education.
In general, girls’ schools were not as physically harsh as boys’ schools and there was no persistentproblem of sexual abuse in girls’ schools although there was at best naivete´ and at worstindifference in the way girls were sent out to foster families. A number of girls did experiencesexual abuse at the hands of ‘godfathers’ which they were either unable to report or weredisbelieved when they did report it.
There was a high level of emotional abuse in girls’ schools, which was a consistent feature ofthese institutions.
Confidential Committee Report
The Confidential Committee heard evidence from 1090 men and women who reported being
abused as children in Irish institutions. Abuse was reported to the Committee in relation to 216
school and residential settings including Industrial and Reformatory Schools, Children’s Homes,
hospitals, national and secondary schools, day and residential special needs schools, foster care
and a small number of other residential institutions, including laundries and hostels.
reported abuse to Industrial and Reformatory Schools and 259 witnesses reported abuse in the
range of other institutions.
The 1090 witness reports relate to the period between 1914 and 2000, of which 23 refer to abuseexperienced prior to 1930 or after 1990.
describes the methodology used by the Committee. The majority of hearings were
conducted in the CICA offices in Dublin. There were 166 hearings held in other locations in Ireland
and overseas. 396 witnesses lived overseas, of whom 328 travelled to hearings in Dublin.
Witnesses who attended hearings with the Confidential Committee chose to give their evidence
in confidence and their evidence was uncontested. The work of the Confidential Committee was
bound by strict rules of confidentiality and the Committee’s report does not identify or contain
information that could lead to the identification of witnesses, or the persons against whom they
made allegations or the institutions in which they alleged they were abused, or any other person.
The most frequently cited reasons given by witnesses for attending to give evidence to theConfidential Committee were to have the abuse they experienced as children officially recordedand to tell their story. Most witnesses expressed the hope that a formal record of their experienceswould contribute to a greater understanding of the circumstances in which such abuse occurs andwould assist in the future protection of children.
addresses the social and demographic profile of witnesses from Industrial and
Over 75% of witnesses to the Confidential Committee were from two-parent households; theremaining witnesses were the children of single mothers or had no information about their familyof origin. Most witnesses had lived with their parents or extended family members for some periodprior to their admission to out-of-home care and came from families where there the averagefamily size was 6 children. The majority of witnesses reported their parents’ occupational statusas unskilled.
77% of witnesses were aged over 50 years and 3% were under 30 years of age when they gavetheir evidence to the Confidential Committee. More than 50% of witnesses who were in out-of-home care placements for substantial periods of their childhood were first admitted when theywere less than 5 years old and their average length of stay in out-of-home care was 9 years.
Chapters 7, 9 and 13 to 18
set out the Confidential Committee abuse reports.
Witnesses reported being physically, sexually and emotionally abused, and neglected by religiousand lay adults who had responsibility for their care, and by others in the absence of adequatecare and supervision. Many of the 216 named settings were the subject of repeated reports ofabuse. In excess of 800 individuals were identified as physically and/or sexually abusing thewitnesses as children in those settings. Neglect and emotional abuse were often described asendemic within institutions where there was a systemic failure to provide for children’s safetyand welfare.
Witnesses gave evidence of abuse they directly experienced and also of abuse to others whichthey witnessed. A number of witnesses stated that they wished to report abuse in senior schoolsonly as they had general but no detailed recall of abuse in their junior schools. Other witnesseswished only to report memories of extreme abuse.
More than 90% of all witnesses who gave evidence to the Confidential Committee reported beingphysically abused while in schools or out-of-home care. Physical abuse was a component of thevast majority of abuse reported in all decades and institutions and witnesses described pervasiveabuse as part of their daily lives. They frequently described casual, random physical abuse butmany wished to report only the times when the frequency and severity were such that they wereinjured or in fear for their lives. In addition to being hit and beaten, witnesses described otherforms of abuse such as being flogged, kicked and otherwise physically assaulted, scalded, burnedand held under water. Witnesses reported being beaten in front of other staff, residents, patientsand pupils as well as in private. Physical abuse was reported to have been perpetrated by religiousand lay staff, older residents and others who were associated with the schools and institutions.
There were many reports of injuries as a result of physical abuse, including broken bones,lacerations and bruising.
Sexual abuse was reported by approximately half of all the Confidential Committee witnesses.
Acute and chronic contact and non-contact sexual abuse was reported, including vaginal and analrape, molestation and voyeurism in both isolated assaults and on a regular basis over long periodsof time. The secret nature of sexual abuse was repeatedly emphasised as facilitating itsoccurrence. Witnesses reported being sexually abused by religious and lay staff in the schoolsand institutions and by co-residents and others, including professionals, both within and externalto the institutions. They also reported being sexually abused by members of the general public,including volunteer workers, visitors, work placement employers, foster parents, and others whohad unsupervised contact with residents in the course of everyday activities. Witnesses reportedbeing sexually abused when they were taken away for excursions, holidays or to work for others.
Some witnesses who disclosed sexual abuse were subjected to severe reproach by those whohad responsibility for their care and protection. Female witnesses in particular described, at times,being told they were responsible for the sexual abuse they experienced, by both their abuser andthose to whom they disclosed abuse.
Neglect was frequently described by witnesses in the context of physical, sexual and emotionalabuse in addition to accounts of inadequate heating, food, clothing and personal care. Neglect ofa child’s care and welfare occurred both by actions and inactions by those who had a responsibilityand a duty of care to protect and nurture them. Witnesses reported that the failure to provide fortheir safety, education, development and aftercare had implications for their health, employment,social and economic status in later life. The neglect reported by witnesses referred to the actionsand omissions of individual staff and the organisations within which they operated. Untreatedinjuries and medical conditions were reported to have caused permanent impairment.
Emotional abuse was reported by witnesses in the form of lack of attachment and affection, lossof identity, deprivation of family contact, humiliation, constant criticism, personal denigration,exposure to fear and the threat of harm. A frequently identified area of emotional abuse was theseparation from siblings and loss of family contact. Witnesses were incorrectly told their parentswere dead and were given false information about their siblings and family members. Manywitnesses recalled the devastating emotional impact and feeling of powerlessness associated with
observing their co-residents, siblings or others being abused. This trauma was acute for thosewho were forced to participate in such incidents. Witnesses believed emotional abuse contributedto difficulties in their social, psychological and physical well-being at the time and in thesubsequent course of their lives.
Knowledge and disclosure
Parents, relatives and others knew that children were being abused as a result of disclosures andtheir observation of marks and injuries. Witnesses believed that awareness of the abuse ofchildren in schools and institutions existed within society at both official and unofficial levels.
Professionals and others including Government Inspectors, Gardai, general practitioners, andteachers had a role in relation to various aspects of children’s welfare while they were in schoolsand institutions. Local people were employed in most of the residential facilities as professional,care and ancillary staff. In addition, members of the public had contact with children in out-of-home care in the course of providing services to the institutions both at a formal and informallevel. Witnesses commented that while many of those people were aware that life for children inthe schools and institutions was difficult they failed to take action to protect them.
Contemporary complaints were made to the School authorities, the Gardaı´, the Department ofEducation, Health Boards, priests of the parish and others by witnesses, their parents andrelatives. Witnesses reported that at times protective action was taken following complaints beingmade. In other instances complaints were ignored, witnesses were punished, or pressure wasbrought to bear on the child and family to deny the complaint and/or to remain silent. Witnessesreported that their sense of shame, the power of the abuser, the culture of secrecy and isolationand the fear of physical punishment inhibited them in disclosing abuse.
Children with special needs
Children with learning disability, physical and sensory impairments and children who had no knownfamily contact were especially vulnerable in institutional settings. They described being powerlessagainst adults who abused them, especially when those adults were in positions of authority andtrust. Impaired mobility and communication deficits made it impossible to inform others of theirabuse or to resist it. Children who were unable to hear, see, speak, move or adequately expressthemselves were at a complete disadvantage in environments that did not recognise or facilitatetheir right to be heard.
Chapter 11 and Sections of Chapters 13 to 18
deal with the effects of abuse on later life. The
Confidential Committee heard evidence both of childhood abuse and the continuing effects of
such abuse on witnesses. The enduring impact of childhood abuse was described by many
witnesses who, while reporting that as adults they enjoyed good relationships and successful
careers, had learned to live with their traumatic memories. Many other witnesses reported that
their adult lives were blighted by childhood memories of fear and abuse. They gave accounts of
troubled relationships and loss of contact with their siblings and extended families. Witnesses
described parenting difficulties ranging from being over-protective to being harsh and commented
on the intergenerational sequelae of their childhood abuse. Approximately half of the witnesses
reported having attended counselling services, either currently or in the past.
Witnesses also described lives marked by poverty, social isolation, alcoholism, mental illness,sleep disturbance, aggressive behaviour and self harm. Approximately 30% of the witnessesdescribed a constellation of ongoing, debilitating mental health concerns for example; suicidalbehaviour, depression, alcohol and substance abuse and eating disorders, which requiredtreatment including psychiatric admission, medication and counselling.
Many witnesses stated that their childhood experience of abuse and emotional deprivationinhibited their capacity to form stable, secure and nurturing relationships in adult life. They
described a continuing sense of isolation and inability to trust others. However, a high proportionof male and female witnesses described marriages or long-term relationships that endured despiteoften severe interpersonal difficulties.
70% of witnesses received no second-level education and, while many witnesses reported havingsuccessful careers in business and professional fields, the majority of witnesses seen by theCommittee reported being in manual and unskilled occupations for their entire working lives.
and Sections of Chapters 13 to 18
deal with positive experiences. Among the
positive experiences reported by witnesses was the kindness of some religious and lay staff in
the schools and institutions, including a number who provided support in times of difficulty after
they were discharged. Many emphasised the enormous difference that just a kind word or gesture
made to their daily lives. Family contact was greatly valued. Friendships and contact with kind
‘holiday’ families sustained some witnesses at the time and in later life.
In conclusion, the Confidential Committee heard evidence that children were severely abused andneglected by those with responsibility for their safety and welfare. Those in care without familycontact and with special needs were most at risk. Witnesses reported that the abuse experiencedin childhood had an enduring impact on their lives.
Chapter 1 The Department of Education
The Department of Education had legal responsibility under the Children Act 1908 for all childrencommitted to the Industrial and Reformatory Schools. The Minister had the power to grant andwithdraw certification, and when certified the institution had to accept the Rules and Regulationsset out by the Department. They defined the standards that were acceptable for accommodation,clothing, diet, instruction, training, visits by family and home visits, and the time of discharge. TheDepartment’s inspectors had the duty of ensuring these regulations were complied with.
The Minister also determined the amount of money paid for the upkeep of the children. Theamount was negotiated periodically with the Congregations.
This chapter examines the extent to which the Department ensured its Rules and Regulationswere upheld by the institutions, and the basic standards set for the children taken into the care ofthe State were being met.
The Department had too little information because the inspections were too few and too limited inscope. If the Department had been in possession of better information about the Schools, it wouldhave been in a stronger position to exercise control. The officials were aware that abuse occurredin the Schools and they knew the education was inadequate and the industrial training wasoutdated.
The Department of Education should have exercised more of its ample legal powers over theSchools in the interests of the children. The power to remove a Manager given to the Departmentin 1941 should have been exercised or even threatened on more than the handful of occasionswhen it was invoked, which would have emphasised the State’s right to intervene on behalf ofchildren in its care.
The Department was lacking in ideas about policy. It made no attempt to impose changes thatwould have improved the lot of the detained children. Indeed, it never thought about changingthe system.
The failures by the Department that are catalogued in the chapters on the schools can also beseen as tacit acknowledgment by the State of the ascendancy of the Congregations and theirownership of the system. The Departments’ Secretary General, at a public hearing, told theInvestigation Committee that the Department had shown a ‘very significant deference’ towardsthe religious Congregations. This deference impeded change, and it took an independentintervention in the form of the Kennedy Report in 1970 to dismantle a long out-dated system.
Chapter 2 Finance
It was the responsibility of the Department of Education to ensure adequate funding for theprovision of minimum standards of care for children in the care of the State. This chapter examinesthe system for funding the schools, the sufficiency of funding, the way the funding wasadministered and it looks at the relationship between the Department of Education, the ResidentManagers and the Department of Finance.
The system was based on the capitation grant, with the State paying a sum for each child in aninstitution. An important question is why this capitation system persisted in Ireland long after itsabandonment in England after it was shown that a budget system was more efficient and ofgreater benefit to the children.
The adequacy of funding to provide for the care of children to the standard required by theregulations is examined in the Mazars’ Report, prepared for the Investigation Committee, and inthe responses to it by the Congregations.
Broadly, the Committee concluded that large, mainly boys’ schools with big productive farms,industrial training geared to the needs of the school and sufficient numbers to allow economies ofscale to apply, were well resourced. These schools should have been able to provide a goodstandard of care. However, the evidence indicates that the children in these schools were someof the most poorly provided for.
The Committee also concluded that some schools struggled valiantly to survive, some did not, yetthe negotiations with the Department of Education made no distinction and the larger boys’schools dominated the debate. The Department of Finance could see that not all schools werethe same and sought to distinguish those in genuine need. The Resident Managers Association,however, did not co-operate and thereby condemned many children in the less well resourcedInstitutions to needless poverty.
Chapter 3 Society and the Schools.
This chapter by Prof David Gwynn Morgan of University College Cork, discusses the social,
economic and family background of children in the schools; other institutions for children in care;
facts and figures about the system; independent monitoring; family links and the closure of the
Chapter 4 Residential Child Welfare in Ireland 1965 - 2008
Dr Eoin O’Sullivan of Trinity College Dublin, prepared a report outlining the policy, legislation and
practice in residential child welfare in Ireland, from the Kennedy Report to the present day.
This paper provides a review of the evolution of policy, legislation and practice in relation to childwelfare, with a particular emphasis on residential childcare from the mid-1960s to the present. Itdelineates a number of the key shifts in the organisation of child welfare in Ireland that have ledto the current configuration of services. The paper focuses on the specifics of residential childcareand by utilising the archival records of the Government Departments centrally concerned with thisarea of public policy, the Departments of Health and Education, supplemented by a secondaryliterature, outlines the intent and shifting concerns of policy makers, policy activists and serviceproviders during the period under review, in particular the period between 1965 and 1975.
Chapter 5 Report on Interviews
A large number of witnesses who did not proceed to oral hearing were interviewed by members
of the Investigation Committee legal team and their untested evidence has been summarised in
this section of the Report. Apart from Industrial Schools and Reformatories, evidence was heard
in relation to orphanages, hospitals, national schools, special schools and other institutions that
provided out of home care for children.
Chapter 6 Conclusions of the Commission
These Conclusions are included at the end of this Executive Summary.
Chapter 7 Recommendations of the Commission
These Recommendations are included at the end of this Executive Summary.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC)
The primary purpose of the ISPCC was the protection of children. Two of its basic duties were:
To prevent the public and private wrongs to children, and the corruption of their morals.
To take action for the enforcement of the laws for their protection.
Throughout most of the relevant period the Society appointed inspectors, usually recruited fromretired police and army officers, who were answerable to a local committee of volunteers. Knowncolloquially as ‘cruelty men’, they dealt with problems in their area arising from social andenvironmental deprivation.
The Committee examined the evidence for the allegation that too many children were sentneedlessly to the Industrial Schools by the ISPCC. It concluded:
The extent of the ISPCC involvement in committing children to industrial schools cannotbe accurately ascertained but it can be stated as significant.
The lack of documentation available has rendered it impossible to determine precisely thenumbers of children who were committed to Industrial Schools by the Society.
The stated philosophy of the Society was to keep families together and committal to anindustrial school was seen as a last resort, but there was no proper monitoring orsupervision of Inspectors, so Inspectors may have been overly zealous in sending childrento industrial schools.
The Psychological Adjustment of Adult Survivors of Institutional Abuse in Ireland
This Part contains the report on the research survey on institutional abuse that was announced
at the first public meeting of the Commission in June 2000 and was carried out by Prof Alan Carr
and his team from University College Dublin.
Gateways to the Institutions
This Part presents statistical information and analysis in relation to the committal of children to
Industrial and Reformatory Schools researched by Prof David Gwynn Morgan of University
Health Records of Children in Institutions
This Part is a research paper by Prof Anthony Staines of Dublin City University and his team into
health records of children in Institutions and it is followed by responding submissions.
Review of Issues of Historical Context.
This Part is a review by Prof Diarmaid Ferriter, University College Dublin that considers the issue
of institutional abuse from a historical perspective.
Residential Childcare in England,1948 – 1975: A History and Report.
A review of developments in England in relation to residential childcare by Mr Richard Rollinson.
The remaining parts of the volume list the Commission Personnel 2004 – 2009 and theCommission to Inquire into Child Abuse Acts 2000 – 2005.
Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Sexual abuse
occurred in many of them, particularly boys’ institutions. Schools were run in a severe,
regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and
even on staff.
The system of large-scale institutionalisation was a response to a nineteenth century social
problem, which was outdated and incapable of meeting the needs of individual children.
The defects of the system were exacerbated by the way it was operated by the
Congregations that owned and managed the schools. This failure led to the institutional
abuse of children where their developmental, emotional and educational needs were not
The deferential and submissive attitude of the Department of Education towards the
Congregations compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty of inspection and
monitoring of the schools. The Reformatory and Industrial Schools Section of the
Department was accorded a low status within the Department and generally saw itself as
facilitating the Congregations and the Resident Managers.
The capital and financial commitment made by the religious Congregations was a major
factor in prolonging the system of institutional care of children in the State. From the mid
1920s in England, smaller more family-like settings were established and they were seen
as providing a better standard of care for children in need. In Ireland, however, the
Industrial School system thrived.
The system of funding through capitation grants led to demands by Managers for children
to be committed to Industrial Schools for reasons of economic viability of the institutions.
The system of inspection by the Department of Education was fundamentally flawed and
incapable of being effective.
The Inspector was not supported by a regulatory authority with the power to insist on changesbeing made.
There were no uniform, objective standards of care applicable to all institutions on which theinspections could be based.
The Inspector’s position was compromised by lack of independence from the Department.
Inspections were limited to the standard of physical care of the children and did not extend to theiremotional needs. The type of inspection carried out made it difficult to ascertain the emotionalstate of the children.
The statutory obligation to inspect more than 50 residential schools was too much for one person.
Inspections were not random or unannounced: School Managers were alerted in advance that aninspection was due. As a result, the Inspector did not get an accurate picture of conditions inthe schools.
The Inspector did not ensure that punishment books were kept and made available for inspectioneven though they were required by the regulations.
The Inspector rarely spoke to the children in the institutions.
Many witnesses who complained of abuse nevertheless expressed some positive
memories: small gestures of kindness were vividly recalled.
A word of consideration or
encouragement, or an act of sympathy or understanding had a profound effect. Adults in their
sixties and seventies recalled seemingly insignificant events that had remained with them all their
lives. Often the act of kindness recalled in such a positive light arose from the simple fact that the
staff member had not given a beating when one was expected.
More kindness and humanity would have gone far to make up for poor standards of care.
The Rules and Regulations governing the use of corporal punishment were disregarded
with the knowledge of the Department of Education.
The legislation and the Department of Education guidelines were unambiguous in the restrictionsplaced on corporal punishment. These limits however, were not observed in any of the schoolsinvestigated. Complaints of physical abuse were frequent enough for the Department of Educationto be aware that they referred to more than acts of sporadic violence by some individuals. TheDepartment knew that violence and beatings were endemic within the system itself.
The Reformatory and Industrial Schools depended on rigid control by means of severe
corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment.
The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successivegenerations of Brothers, priests and nuns. It was systemic and not the result of individual breachesby persons who operated outside lawful and acceptable boundaries. Excesses of punishmentgenerated the fear that the school authorities believed to be essential for the maintenance oforder. In many schools, staff considered themselves to be custodians rather than carers.
A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated
most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of
not knowing where the next beating was coming from.
Seeing or hearing other children being beaten was a frightening experience that stayed with manycomplainants all their lives.
Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment.
Absconders were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and werehumiliated. Details were not reported to the Department, which did not insist on receivinginformation about the causes of absconding. Neither the Department nor the school managementinvestigated the reasons why children absconded even when schools had a particularly high rateof absconding. Cases of absconding associated with chronic sexual or physical abuse thereforeremained undiscovered. In some instances all the children in a school were punished because achild ran away which meant that the child was then a target for mistreatment by other children aswell as the staff.
Complaints by parents and others made to the Department were not properly investigated.
Punishments outside the permitted guidelines were ignored and even condoned by theDepartment of Education. The Department did not apply the standards in the rules and their ownguidelines when investigating complaints but sought to protect and defend the religiousCongregations and the schools.
The boys’ schools investigated revealed a pervasive use of severe corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment was the option of first resort for breaches of discipline. Extreme punishmentwas a feature of the boys’ schools. Prolonged, excessive beatings with implements intended tocause maximum pain occurred with the knowledge of staff management.
There was little variation in the use of physical beating from region to region, from decade
to decade, or from Congregation to Congregation.
This would indicate a cultural understanding within the system that beating boys was acceptableand appropriate. Individual Brothers, priests or lay staff who were extreme in their punishmentswere tolerated by management and their behaviour was rarely challenged.
Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable
and this led to a climate of fear amongst the children.
The regulations imposed greater restrictions on the use of corporal punishment for girls. Schoolsvaried as to the level of corporal punishment that was tolerated on a day-to-day basis. In someschools a high level of ritualised beating was routine whilst in other schools lower levels of corporalpunishment were used. The degree of reliance on corporal punishment depended on the ResidentManager, who could be a force for good or ill, but almost all institutions employed fear ofpunishment as a means of discipline. Some Managers administered excessive punishmentthemselves or permitted excesses by religious and lay staff. Girls were struck with implementsdesigned to maximise pain and were struck on all parts of the body. The prohibition on corporalpunishment for girls over 15 years was generally not observed.
Corporal punishment was often administered in a way calculated to increase anguish and
humiliation for girls.
One way of doing this was for children to be left waiting for long periods to be beaten. Anotherwas when it was accompanied by denigrating or humiliating language. Some beatings were moredistressing when administered in front of other children and staff.
Sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ institutions. The situation in girls’ institutions was
different. Although girls were subjected to predatory sexual abuse by male employees or
visitors or in outside placements, sexual abuse was not systemic in girls’ schools.
It is impossible to determine the full extent of sexual abuse committed in boys’ schools.
The schools investigated revealed a substantial level of sexual abuse of boys in care that
extended over a range from improper touching and fondling to rape with violence.
Perpetrators of abuse were able to operate undetected for long periods at the core of
Cases of sexual abuse were managed with a view to minimising the risk of public
disclosure and consequent damage to the institution and the Congregation. This policy
resulted in the protection of the perpetrator. When lay people were discovered to have
sexually abused, they were generally reported to the Gardai. When a member of a
Congregation was found to be abusing, it was dealt with internally and was not reported
to the Gardaı´.
The damage to the children affected and the danger to others were disregarded. The difference
in treatment of lay and religious abusers points to an awareness on the part of Congregational
authorities of the seriousness of the offence, yet there was a reluctance to confront religious who
offended in this way. The desire to protect the reputation of the Congregation and institution was
paramount. Congregations asserted that knowledge of sexual abuse was not available in society
at the time and that it was seen as a moral failing on the part of the Brother or priest. Thisassertion, however, ignores the fact that sexual abuse of children was a criminal offence.
The recidivist nature of sexual abuse was known to religious authorities.
The documents revealed that sexual abusers were often long-term offenders who repeatedlyabused children wherever they were working. Contrary to the Congregations’ claims that therecidivist nature of sexual offending was not understood, it is clear from the documented casesthat they were aware of the propensity for abusers to re-abuse. The risk, however, was seen bythe Congregations in terms of the potential for scandal and bad publicity should the abuse bedisclosed. The danger to children was not taken into account.
When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the response of the religious authorities
was to transfer the offender to another location where, in many instances, he was free to
abuse again. Permitting an offender to obtain dispensation from vows often enabled him
to continue working as a lay teacher.
Men who were discovered to be sexual abusers were allowed to take dispensation rather thanincur the opprobrium of dismissal from the Order. There was evidence that such men took upteaching positions sometimes within days of receiving dispensations because of seriousallegations or admissions of sexual abuse. The safety of children in general was not aconsideration.
Sexual abuse was known to religious authorities to be a persistent problem in male
religious organisations throughout the relevant period.
Nevertheless, each instance of sexual abuse was treated in isolation and in secrecy by theauthorities and there was no attempt to address the underlying systemic nature of the problem.
There were no protocols or guidelines put in place that would have protected children frompredatory behaviour. The management did not listen to or believe children when they complainedof the activities of some of the men who had responsibility for their care. At best, the abuserswere moved, but nothing was done about the harm done to the child. At worst, the child wasblamed and seen as corrupted by the sexual activity, and was punished severely.
In the exceptional circumstances where opportunities for disclosing abuse arose, the
number of sexual abusers identified increased significantly.
For a brief period in the 1940s, boys felt able to speak about sexual abuse in confidence at asodality that met in one school. Brothers were identified by the boys as sexual abusers and wereremoved as a result. The sodality was discontinued. In another school, one Brother embarked ona campaign to uncover sexual activity in the school and identified a number of religious who weresexual abusers. This indicated that the level of sexual abuse in boys’ institutions was much higherthan was revealed by the records or could be discovered by this investigation. Authoritarianmanagement systems prevented disclosures by staff and served to perpetuate abuse.
The Congregational authorities did not listen to or believe people who complained of sexual
abuse that occurred in the past, notwithstanding the extensive evidence that emerged from
Garda investigations, criminal convictions and witness accounts.
Some Congregations remained defensive and disbelieving of much of the evidence heard by theInvestigation Committee in respect of sexual abuse in institutions, even in cases where men hadbeen convicted in court and admitted to such behaviour at the hearings.
In general, male religious Congregations were not prepared to accept their responsibility
for the sexual abuse that their members perpetrated.
Congregational loyalty enjoyed priority over other considerations including safety and protectionof children.
Older boys sexually abused younger boys and the system did not offer protection from
bullying of this kind.
There was evidence that boys who were victims of sexual abuse were physically punished asseverely as the perpetrator when the abuse was reported or discovered. Inevitably, boys learnedto suffer in silence rather than report the abuse and face punishment.
Sexual abuse of girls was generally taken seriously by the Sisters in charge and lay staff
were dismissed when their activities were discovered. However, nuns’ attitudes and mores
made it difficult for them to deal with such cases candidly and openly and victims of sexual
assault felt shame and fear of reporting sexual abuse.
Girls who were abused reported that it happened most often when they were sent to host familiesfor weekend, work or holiday placements. They did not feel able to report abusive behaviour tothe Sisters in charge of the schools for fear of disbelief and punishment if they did.
Sexual abuse by members of religious Orders was seldom brought to the attention of the
Department of Education by religious authorities because of a culture of silence about
When religious staff abused, the matter tended to be dealt with using internal disciplinaryprocedures and Canon Law. The Gardaı´ were not informed. On the rare occasions when theDepartment was informed, it colluded in the silence. There was a lack of transparency in how thematter of sexual abuse was dealt with between the Congregations, dioceses and the Department.
Men with histories of sexual abuse when they were members of religious Orders continued theirteaching careers as lay teachers in State schools.
The Department of Education dealt inadequately with complaints about sexual abuse.
These complaints were generally dismissed or ignored. A full investigation of the extent of
the abuse should have been carried out in all cases.
All such complaints should have been directed to the Gardai for investigation.
The Department, however, gave the impression that it had a function in relation to investigatingallegations of abuse but actually failed to do so and delayed the involvement of the properauthority. The Department neglected to advise parents and complainants appropriately of thelimitations of their role in respect of these complaints.
Poor standards of physical care were reported by most male and female complainants.
Schools varied as to the standard of physical care provided to the children and while there wasevidence from many complainants that conditions improved in the late 1960s, in general no schoolprovided an adequate standard of care across all the categories.
Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in
Witnesses spoke of scavenging for food from waste bins and animal feed.
In boys’ schools there was so little supervision at meal times that bullying was widespread andsmaller, weaker boys were often deprived of food.
The Inspector found that malnourishment was a serious problem in schools run by nuns in the1940s and, although improvements were made, the food provided in many of these schoolscontinued to be meagre and basic.
Witnesses recalled being cold because of inadequate clothing, particularly when engaged
in outdoor activities.
Clothing was a particular problem in boys’ schools where children often worked for long hoursoutdoors on farms. In addition, boys were often left in their soiled and wet work clothes throughoutthe day and wore them for long periods.
Clothing was better in girls’ schools and some individual Resident Managers made particularefforts in this regard but in general girls were obliged to wear inadequate ill-fitting clothes thatwere often threadbare and worn.
In all schools up until the 1960s clothes stigmatised the children as Industrial School residents.
Accommodation was cold, spartan and bleak. Sanitary provision was primitive in most
boys’ schools and general hygiene facilities were poor.
Children slept in large unheated dormitories with inadequate bedding, which was a particularproblem for children with enuresis.
Sanitary protection for menstruation was generally inadequate for girls.
The Cussen Report recommended in 1936 that Industrial School children should be
integrated into the community and be educated in outside national schools. Until the late
1960s, this was not done in any of the boys’ schools investigated and in only in a small
number of girls’ schools.
Where Industrial School children were educated in internal national schools, the standard
was consistently poorer than that in outside schools.
National school education was available to all children in the State and those in Industrial Schoolswere entitled to at least the same standard as that available in the country generally. Internalnational schools were funded by a national school grant and teachers were paid in the same wayas in ordinary national schools. The evidence was however that the standard of education in theseschools was poor.
There was evidence particularly in girls’ schools that children were removed from their classes inorder to perform domestic chores or work in the institution during the school day. In general,Industrial School children did not receive the same standard of national school education as wouldhave been available to them in the local community. This lack of educational opportunitycondemned many of them to a life of low-paying jobs and was a commonly expressed lossamong witnesses.
Academic education was not seen as a priority for industrial school children.
When discharged, boys were generally placed in manual or unskilled jobs and girls in positionsas domestic servants. There were exceptions, and particularly in girls’ schools in the later years,some girls received the opportunity of a secretarial or nursing qualification. Education usuallyceased in 6th class, after which children were involved in industrial trades, farming and domesticwork with very limited education thereafter. Even where religious Congregations operatedsecondary schools beside industrial schools, children from the Industrial Schools were very rarelygiven the opportunity of pursuing secondary school education.
Industrial Schools were intended to provide basic industrial training to young people to
enable them to take up positions of employment as young adults. In reality, the industrial
training afforded by all schools was of a nature that served the needs of the institution
rather than the needs of the child.
This was a problem that had been pointed out by the Cussen Commission in 1936 and continuedto be a feature of industrial training in these schools throughout the relevant period. Child labouron farms and in workshops was used to reduce the costs of running the Industrial Schools and inmany cases to produce a profit. Clothing and footwear were often made on the premises andbakeries and laundries provided facilities to the school and in some cases to the general public.
The cleaning and upkeep of girls’ Industrial Schools was largely done by the girls themselves.
Some of these chores were heavy and arduous and exacting standards were imposed that weredifficult for young children to meet. In girls’ schools also, older residents were expected to carefor young children and babies on a 24-hour basis. Large nurseries were supervised and staffedby older residents with only minimal supervision by adults.
A disturbing element of the evidence before the Commission was the level of emotional
abuse that disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children were subjected to generally
by religious and lay staff in institutions.
Witnesses spoke of being belittled and ridiculed on a daily basis. Humiliating practices such asunderwear inspections and displaying soiled or wet sheets were conducted throughout theIndustrial School system. Private matters such as bodily functions and personal hygiene wereused as opportunities for degradation and humiliation. Personal and family denigration waswidespread, particularly in girls’ schools. There was constant criticism and verbal abuse andchildren were told they were worthless. The pervasiveness of emotional abuse of children in carethroughout the relevant period points to damaging cultural attitudes of many who taught in andoperated these schools.
The system as managed by the Congregations made it difficult for individual religious who
tried to respond to the emotional needs of the children in their care.
Witnesses from the religious Congregations described the conflict they experienced in fulfillingtheir religious vows, whilst at the same time providing care and affection to children. Authoritarianmanagement in all schools meant that staff members were afraid to question the practices ofmanagers and disciplinarians.
Witnessing abuse of co-residents, including seeing other children being beaten or hearing
their cries, witnessing the humiliation of siblings and others and being forced to participate
in beatings, had a powerful and distressing impact.
Many witnesses spoke of being constantly fearful or terrified, which impeded their emotionaldevelopment and impacted on every aspect of their life in the institution. The psychologicaldamage caused by these experiences continued into adulthood for many witnesses.
Separating siblings and restrictions on family contact were profoundly damaging for family
relationships. Some children lost their sense of identity and kinship, which was never
Sending children to isolated locations increased the sense of loss and made it almost impossiblefor family contact to be maintained. Management did not recognise the rights of children to havecontact with family members and failed to acknowledge the value of family relationships.
The Confidential Committee heard evidence in relation to 161 settings other than Industrial
and Reformatory Schools, including primary and second-level schools, Children’s Homes,
foster care, hospitals and services for children with special needs, hostels, and other
residential settings. The majority of witnesses reported abuse and neglect, in some
instances up to the year 2000. Many common features emerged about failures of care and
protection of children in all of these institutions and services.
Witnesses reported severe physical abuse in primary schools, foster care, Children’s Homes and
other residential settings where those responsible neglected their duty of care to children.
The predatory nature of sexual abuse including the selection and grooming of sociallydisadvantaged and vulnerable children was a feature of the witness reports in relation to specialneeds services, Children’s homes, hospitals and primary and second-level schools. Children withimpairments of sight, hearing and learning were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Witnesses reported neglect of their education, health and aftercare in all residential settings andfoster care. No priority was given to the special care needs of children who were placed awayfrom their families.
Children in isolated foster care placements were abused in the absence of supervision by externalauthorities. They were placed with foster parents who had no training, support or supervision. Thesuitability of those selected as foster parents was repeatedly questioned by witnesses who werephysically and sexually abused.
Many witnesses described losing their sense of family and identity when placed in out-of-homecare, they reported that separation from siblings and deprivation of family contact was abusiveand contributed to difficulties reintegrating with their family of origin when they left care. Witnessesreported emotional abuse in institutions, foster care and schools when they were deprived ofaffection, secure relationships and were exposed to personal denigration, fear and threats of harm.
When witnesses left care the failure to provide them with personal and family records contributedto disadvantage in later life. Many witnesses spent years searching for information to establishtheir identity.
The failure of authorities to inspect and supervise the care provided to children in hospitals andspecial needs services was noted as contributing to abuse which occurred in those facilities. Theabsence of structures for making complaints or investigating abuse allowed abuse to continue.
When opportunities were provided for children to disclose abuse they did so.
Witnesses reported that the power of the abuser, the culture of secrecy, isolation and the fear ofphysical punishment inhibited them in disclosing abuse.
Arising from the findings of its investigations and the conclusions that were reached, theCommission was required to make recommendations under two headings:
To alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse on those who suffered
To prevent where possible and reduce the incidence of abuse of children in institutionsand to protect children from such abuse
(i) To alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse on those who
A memorial should be erected.
The following words of the special statement made by the Taoiseach in May 1999 should beinscribed on a memorial to victims of abuse in institutions as a permanent public acknowledgementof their experiences. It is important for the alleviation of the effects of childhood abuse that theState’s formal recognition of the abuse that occurred and the suffering of the victims should bepreserved in a permanent place:
On behalf of the State and of all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make asincere and long overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collectivefailure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue.
The lessons of the past should be learned.
For the State, it is important to admit that abuse of children occurred because of failures ofsystems and policy, of management and administration, as well as of senior personnel who wereconcerned with Industrial and Reformatory Schools. This admission is, however, the beginning ofa process. Further steps require internal departmental analysis and understanding of how thesefailures came about so that steps can be taken to reduce the risk of repeating them.
The Congregations need to examine how their ideals became debased by systemic abuse. Theymust ask themselves how they came to tolerate breaches of their own rules and, when sexualand physical abuse was discovered, how they responded to it, and to those who perpetrated it.
They must examine their attitude to neglect and emotional abuse and, more generally, how theinterests of the institutions and the Congregations came to be placed ahead those of the childrenwho were in their care.
An important aspect of this process of exploration, acceptance and understanding by the Stateand the Congregations is the acknowledgement of the fact that the system failed the children, notjust that children were abused because occasional individual lapses occurred.
Counselling and educational services should be available.
Counselling and mental health services have a significant role in alleviating the effects of childhoodabuse and its legacy on following generations. These services should continue to be provided toex-residents and their families. Educational services to help alleviate the disadvantagesexperienced by children in care are also essential.
Family tracing services should be continued.
Family tracing services to assist individuals who were deprived of their family identities in theprocess of being placed in care should be continued. The right of access to personal documentsand information must be recognised and afforded to ex-residents of institutions.
(ii) To prevent where possible and reduce the incidence of abuse of children in
institutions and to protect children from such abuse
Childcare policy should be child-centred. The needs of the child should be paramount.
The overall policy of childcare should respect the rights and dignity of the child and have as itsprimary focus their safe care and welfare. Services should be tailored to the developmental,educational and health needs of the particular child. Adults entrusted with the care of childrenmust prioritise the well-being and protection of those children above personal, professional orinstitutional loyalty.
National childcare policy should be clearly articulated and reviewed on a regular basis.
It is essential that the aims and objectives of national childcare policy and planning should bestated as clearly and simply as possible. The State and Congregations lost sight of the purposefor which the institutions were established, which was to provide children with a safe and secureenvironment and an opportunity of acquiring education and training. In the absence of anarticulated, coherent policy, organisational interests became prioritised over those of the childrenin care. In order to prevent this happening again childcare services must have focused objectivesthat are centred on the needs of the child rather than the systems or organisations providingthose services.
A method of evaluating the extent to which services meet the aims and objectives of the
national childcare policy should be devised.
Evaluating the success or failure of childcare services in the context of a clearly articulated nationalchildcare policy will ensure that the evolving needs of children will remain the focus of serviceproviders.
The provision of childcare services should be reviewed on a regular basis.
Out-of-home care services should be reviewed on a regular basis with reference to bestinternational practice and evidence-based research. This review should be the responsibility ofthe Department of Health and Children and should be co-ordinated to ensure that consistentstandards are maintained nationally. The Department should also maintain a central databasecontaining information relevant to childcare in the State while protecting anonymity. Included insuch a database should be the social and demographic profile of children in care, their health andeducational needs, the range of preventative services available and interventions used. Inaddition, there should be a record of what happens to children when they leave care in order toinform future policy and planning of services. A review of legislation, policies and programmesrelating to children in care should be carried out at regular intervals.
It is important that rules and regulations be enforced, breaches be reported and
The failures that occurred in all the schools cannot be explained by the absence of rules or anydifficulty in interpreting what they meant. The problem lay in the implementation of the regulatoryframework. The rules were ignored and treated as though they set some aspirational andunachievable standard that had no application to the particular circumstances of running theinstitution. Not only did the individual carers disregard the rules and precepts about punishment,but their superiors did not enforce the rules or impose any disciplinary measures for breaches.
Neither did the Department of Education
A culture of respecting and implementing rules and regulations and of observing codes of
conduct should be developed.
Managers and those supervising and inspecting the services must ensure regularly that standardsare observed.
Independent inspections are essential.
All services for children should be subject to regular inspections in respect of all aspects of their
care. The requirements of a system of inspection include the following:
There is a sufficient number of inspectors.
The inspectors should talk with and listen to the children.
There should be objective national standards for inspection of all settings where
Unannounced inspection should take place.
Complaints to an inspector should be recorded and followed up.
Inspectors should have power to ensure that inadequate standards are addressed
Management at all levels should be accountable for the quality of services and care.
Performance should be assessed by the quality of care delivered. The manager of an institution
should be responsible for:
Making the best use of the available resources
Ensuring that staff are well trained, matched to the nature of the work to be undertaken
and progressively trained so as to be kept up to date
Ensuring on-going supervision, support and advice for all staff
Regularly reviewing the system to identify problem areas for both staff and children
Ensuring rules and regulations are adhered to
Establishing whether system failures caused or contributed to instances of abuse
Putting procedures in place to enable staff and others to make complaints and raise
matters of concern without fear of adverse consequences.
Children in care should be able to communicate concerns without fear.
Children in care are often isolated with their concerns, without an adult to whom they can talk.
Children communicate best when they feel they have a protective figure in whom they can confide.
The Department of Health and Children must examine international best practice to establish themost appropriate method of giving effect to this recommendation.
Childcare services depend on good communication.
Every childcare facility depends for its efficient functioning on good communication between all
the departments and agencies responsible. It requires more than meetings and case conferences.
It should involve professionals and others communicating concerns and suspicions so that they
can act in the best interests of the child. Overall responsibility for this process should rest with a
Children in care need a consistent care figure.
Continuity of care should be an objective wherever possible. Children in care should have a
consistent professional figure with overall responsibility.
The supervising social worker should have a detailed care plan the implementation of whichshould be regularly reviewed, and there should be the power to direct that changes be made toensure standards are met. The child, and where possible the family, should be involved indeveloping and reviewing the care plan.
Children who have been in State care should have access to support services.
Aftercare services should be provided to give young adults a support structure they can rely on.
In a similar way to families, childcare services should continue contact with young people after
they have left care as minors.
Children who have been in childcare facilities are in a good position to identify failings and
deficiencies in the system, and should be consulted.
Continued contact makes it possible to evaluate whether the needs of children are being met and
to identify positive and negative aspects of experience of care.
Children in care should not, save in exceptional circumstances, be cut off from their
Priority should be given to supporting ongoing contact with family members for the benefit of
The full personal records of children in care must be maintained.
Reports, files and records essential to validate the child’s identity and their social, family and
educational history must be retained. These records need to be kept secure and up to date.
Details should be kept of all children who go missing from care. The privacy of such records must
‘Children First: The National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children’ should
be uniformly and consistently implemented throughout the State in dealing with allegations
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