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Archive for May, 2009

The house of hell at Letterfrack – originally told to Tuairim – a UCD group inquiring into child care institutions in Ireland. Tuairim ignored Noah’s statements. Forty-two years later they wish ride on the back of his pain.

NOAH Kitterick was clearly a troubled man when he wrote to the Superior of Letterfrack Industrial School in 1953. He had been a former resident of the institution from 1924 to 1932 and his childhood in Letterfrack had been far from happy. In his letter, Mr Kitterick made serious – potentially criminal – allegations against three named Christian Brothers whom he had encountered in his years in Letterfrack – Bros Piperel, Corvax and Perryn.

“…these men were a disgrace to the Christian Brothers,” he wrote. “Piperel and Corvax were tyrants. Br Perryn who was in the cook-house and refectory took great pleasure in beating boys for no reason, he was a sadist; for beating us he used a piece of rubber motor tyre.

“Almost daily we were flogged by one or other of these Bros. Dozens of times I left the dining room with my hands bleeding…

“On several occasions after a meal, I was taken to the pantry… by Br Perryn. He would lock the door and make me undress. He would then sit on a stool and would put me across his knee and then flog me savagely. He would then pinch me until I was unconscious.”

Two days after his first letter, Noah Kitterick wrote again to the Superior of Letterfrack, telling him he wished to see the industrial school closed until improvements were made and the perpetrators of abuse brought to justice.

He never received a reply to either letter.

Mr Kitterick’s allegations would not have come as a surprise to the Superior of Letterfrack. At least one of the three brothers whom he named – Brother Perryn – had a proven history of physical and sexual abuse in Letterfrack and other institutions. Indeed, of the many monsters that were unleashed on the children of Letterfrack, Perryn appears to have been the worst. The Christian Brothers’ own inspector stated in the Visitation Report of 1941 that there had been a very serious case of sexual abuse involving Perryn. The inspector demanded immediate action:

“Br Perryn has charge of the boys’ kitchen. He is dirty, untidy and repulsive… It is alleged that his relations with the boys are immoral, and if the statements that I have got from the boys and which I now submit to the Br Provincial are true, he has been living a most depraved, unclean and gravely immoral life for years. So bad are the charges that I could not conscientiously allow him to remain with boys any longer… I have got statements from the boys with whom he is alleged to have had immoral relations. They are so shockingly obscene, revolting and abominable that it is hard to believe them.”

Perryn had been in Letterfrack for most of Noah Kitterick’s eight years in the institution. Incredibly, this inveterate child abuser had been removed from the school in 1919 after a complaint was made about his “notorious” severity towards the boys, yet he was allowed to return in 1927, spending the next 14 years inflicting an unimaginable reign of terror on boys as young as five and six.

Noah Kitterick had right on his side when he made his allegations about Perryn in 1953. And he knew it. So, too did the Christian Brothers who choose to ignore his letters. Yet Mr Kitterick was not to be dissuaded. Having left Letterfrack in 1932 he had joined the British Army and had, perhaps, developed a sense of confidence to do what no other former resident had done up to then – to blow the whistle on Letterfrack’s hidden hell.

In 1957 Mr Kitterick travelled to Dublin to meet with the Provincial of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers. He got short shrift. A letter from the Provincial to the Brothers’ solicitors offers a revealing – and sickening – insight into the undisguised disdain with which the Brothers viewed former residents like Noah Kitterick.

“This evening I had a ‘gentleman’ named Kitterick – ex-British army – to see me. He said he was an ex-pupil of our industrial school in Letterfrack and that the doctors said that all his troubles were due to the hardship he got whilst in Letterfrack. I took it that he was on the blackmail ticket and after listening to him for some time I gave him your name and address as our solicitor. I know you will know how to deal with him if he approaches.”

So much for Christian charity and justice. Noah Kitterick was sent on his way with a farewell letter that dripped of contempt and lofty arrogance. The Brother Provincial knew his organisation was untouchable, and that sense of absolute impunity cascaded all the way from the Christian Brothers’ headquarters in Dublin to the remote industrial school of Letterfrack on the distant Atlantic seaboard.

Ironically, Letterfrack was a school that should never have been founded. Our British masters of the nineteenth century – so often the bogeymen of Irish history books – initially resisted the establishment of Letterfrack Industrial School. Originally built by a wealthy Quaker couple who moved to Letterfrack from England in the dying days of the Famine in 1849, the school was used by the children of the locality until 1884 when it was sold to the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr John McEvilly. The archbishop purchased the property, which included nearly 300 acres of land that was mainly bog and mountain, from the proceeds of a legacy bequeathed for charitable purposes. He immediately applied to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Earl Spencer, for permission to open a boys’ industrial school, claiming such a facility was “so sadly needed in that district”. But the Lord Lieutenant begged to differ.

“In a wild remote district like Letterfrack it is very improbable that there would be any genuine cases for committal, the children there do not beg. There is no one to beg from. They all have settled places of abode – they live with their parents; are not found wandering, and though no doubt very poor, are not destitute: they do not frequent the company of thieves – there are no thieves in districts like Letterfrack in Ireland – the people are very poor but very honest.”

Those words were to haunt Letterfrack Industrial School in the years after its establishment in 1885. The Christian Brothers – even to this day – attempt to portray the young residents of Letterfrack as juvenile offenders who were in need of regimental discipline. One Brother told the Commission of Inquiry:

“Well, it was a pretty strict place and I think that the children who came had a carefree life before coming. It was necessary to discipline them and unfortunately they had to be disciplined otherwise we couldn’t run the place.”

But an analysis of the committals to Letterfrack in 1954 – the year after Noah Kitterick wrote his first letters – would tend to confirm the views of the Lord Lieutenant 70 years earlier. Of the 171 boys in the school, 71 were committed on the grounds of destitution; 48 were cases of parents or guardians not exercising proper guardianship; 22 were public assistance cases; five were under the school attendance act; 10 were for being uncontrollable; 13 were larceny cases; two were for receiving alms and four were voluntary admissions.

Therefore, out of a total of 171 children in Letterfrack in 1954, only 13 had committed an offence punishable by penal servitude if perpetrated by an adult. In truth, the only offence committed by the vast majority of the children in Letterfrack was to have been born poor or neglected.

The story of Letterfrack is merely a 100-page chapter in an epic report from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ryan Report) that stretches to 2,600 pages and many millions of words. The unspeakable horrors endured by children who were committed to institutions like Letterfrack are almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend: the entire report is simply too much to take in.

The Christian Brothers’ own documents – obtained by the Commission through various discovery orders – reveal a never-ending cycle of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at Letterfrack.

The Commission concludes that sexual abuse was a “chronic problem” in the institution with paedophiles present for two-thirds of the period under investigation (1937-1974).

While some young residents may have managed to miraculously escape the evil intentions of the paedophiles, there was no escaping the physical violence that was a constant feature of Letterfrack. The Brothers’ own documents reveal some truly horrifying examples of the types of punishments meted out to young, defenceless boys – punishments that involved horse-whips, hurleys and other ‘weaponry’.

There was a culture of punishment at Letterfrack that hung like a heavy cloud over every boy. The Commission asked one former resident if it was possible to avoid the beatings. He replied: “Not really, you couldn’t. Not in Letterfrack, you couldn’t. Not from certain brothers, you could not.”

The punishment beatings were as arbitrary as they were frequent. One Brother openly admitted to the Commission that he had a bizarre prejudice against boys from Limerick, another Brother would engage in widespread unprovoked beatings if his native county lost a GAA match.

Readers of a certain generation will, perhaps, argue that it was not just in Letterfrack that physical punishment was been meted out by those in authority: schoolchildren the length and breadth of the land were feeling the wrath of religious and lay teachers.

But the Commission makes a very pertinent point in response to such claims. Letterfrack was not just a school for these boys; it was their home. While most put-upon schoolchildren could at least find solace each evening in returning to a loving family environment, the boys in Letterfrack had no such escape. This was their only world: every hour of every day of their formative years were spent in this indimidating, hate-filled place.

The State had put these boys into the charge of the Christian Brothers for the provision of proper care, education and security; what they received was physical violence, sexual abuse and ritual humiliation. One Brother admitted to the Commission that he had once forced a young resident to eat his own excrement after the boy had soiled his bed at night. Other former residents recalled the public nature of beatings, especially at night-time when boys would be brought from the main dormitory into an adjacent washroom to be beaten. The screams would echo through the dormitory long into the night.

“You nearly preferred to get it yourself,” recalled the resident, “because listening to somebody getting bashed, in a sense it is worse than getting it yourself.”

It was the knowledge that other young boys were continuing to suffer in Letterfrack that prompted Noah Kitterick to continue his campaign for its closure. His unsuccessful meeting with the Brother Provincial of the Christian Brothers in 1957 must have made him realise that his efforts to get the religious order to clean up its own house were futile. Therefore, he focused his campaign elsewhere, sending letters to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Charles McQuaid, the Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael Browne and to the then President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera. Although he received no replies the message could not have been clearer: ‘Official Ireland’ did not want to know the terrible truth about institutions like Letterfrack.

Even District Court Judges were unable to loosen the extraordinary stranglehold on institutional power enjoyed by religious orders like the Christian Brothers. In 1954, the Brothers proposed that Letterfrack should become the main centre in Ireland for ‘juvenile offenders’. The plan was opposed by District Justice McCarthy, who presided over the Dublin Metropolitan Children’s Court, because he believed the isolated location of Letterfrack made it unsuitable as a school for young offenders. His protests fell on deaf ears and the Brothers pushed ahead with their plans. The Department of Education capitulated as it had always done in its dealings with the religious orders. If a District Justice could not succeed in his attempts to close Letterfrack, what hope was there for poor Noah Kitterick?

Ten years after his meeting with the Provincial of the Christian Brothers, Noah Kitterick took his own life by setting fire to himself in London. His tortured past had clearly become too much to bear.

In the same year – 1967 – six boys attempted to escape from Letterfrack; five were aged 13, the other was 14. A year earlier an eight-year-old and a ten-year-old had made their break for freedom.

But the remote location of the industrial school in Letterfrack meant it was almost impossible to escape. And the Brothers had a particularly cruel form of punishment for those who were captured – a fate that befell two boys who absconded at a time when there was heavy snowfall in the area. On their return to the school the youngsters were put up against a wall, hosed down with fire hoses and made to stand in the freezing cold in their underpants.

There were 129 boys in Letterfrack Industrial School in 1967, the highest number of residents in 15 years. Indeed, the figure was not dissimilar to the population of the school in the 1930s when depraved sadists like Brother Perryn were inflicting unspeakable horrors on Noah Kitterick and the other young boys in their charge; plundering their innocent childhood and leaving them tortured for life.

But, in a peculiar twist of fate, Letterfrack went into terminal decline after 1967, the year of Noah Kitterick’s tragic death. Numbers plummeted at an unprecedented rate and, by 1972, there were only 41 boys left in the school. In 1974 this house of horrors closed its doors for good.

Noah Kitterick, the troubled man who had vowed not to rest until Letterfrack Industrial School was consigned to history, had got his wish at long last. Maybe in death he had finally met someone who would listen to his terrible tale of injustice, finding in Heaven the Christian God whose gospel of love and charity was so grievously defiled by those godless Christian Brothers who roamed the corridors of the hellish home they called Letterfrack Industrial School.

¦ Due to a court action by the Congregation of Christian Brothers’, only pseudonyms can be used in identifying those Brothers convicted or accused of physical and sexual abuse at Letterfrack. ‘Noah Kitterick’ is also a pseudonym; the man’s real name was Peter Tyrrell and he was a true hero who showed immense courage at a time in Ireland’s history when heroes were few and far between. Like so many other victims of institutional abuse in this country, Peter Tyrrell was vindicated on May 20th when the Child Abuse Commission published its damning report.

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St Joseph’s Industrial School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, (‘Ferryhouse’).

Physical abuse – Conclusions on physical abuse

1. Corporal punishment was the option of first resort for problems. Its use was pervasive, excessive, unpredictable and without regulation or supervision and for these reasons became physically abusive.

2. Frequent corporal punishment was the main method of maintaining control over the boys and it created a climate of fear that was emotionally harmful.

3. The system of discipline was the same as in Upton and the Rosminians accept that there was excessive corporal punishment in Ferryhouse.

4. Young and inexperienced staff used fear and violence to assert authority. Severe punishments were inflicted for a wide range of acts and omissions.

5. Rules and regulations governing corporal punishment were not observed and a punishment book was not maintained. The rules were regarded as merely guidelines, with no provision made by the Department of Education for sanctions and reprimands being issued to schools that ignored them. They were therefore ignored with impunity.

6. Excessive, unfair and even capricious violence did lasting damage to many of the boys in Ferryhouse.

7. For most of the period under review, boys were punished for bed-wetting and were subjected to nightly humiliation, degradation and fear.

Sexual abuse – Conclusions on sexual abuse

1. Sexual abuse by religious was a chronic problem in Ferryhouse throughout the relevant period but the full extent cannot be quantified. Some of the abuse is verifiable by contemporary documents or admissions.

2. During most of the years between 1952 and 1988, there lived and worked in Ferryhouse a member or members of the Rosminian Order who at some time were found to have engaged in sexual abuse of boys. In more than ten of those years, there were at least two abusers present and in at least two different years there were three abusers there.

3. Complainant witnesses from every era, from the early 1940s onwards, testified about the sexual abuse of children in Ferryhouse. The Rosminian Institute acknowledged that not all of those who were sexually abused have come forward as complainants, whether to the Commission, to the Redress Board, or to An Garda Si´ochana. In their Final Submission to the Investigation Committee they wrote, ‘We know that some boys were sexually abused who have made no complaint to the Commission or otherwise, but have spoken to us about it’.

4. The Rosminian authorities discovered that some members of their Order had been abusing children, but their response was wholly inadequate. When sexual abuse was detected, the Order sought to cover up the situation by removing known abusers and transferring them to other institutions.

5. It was only when the Gardai´ had already become aware of allegations that the Rosminians reported abuse to the Gardai´ in 1995.

6. At no stage did the Rosminians query whether other boys had been abused when a known abuser was discovered.

7. The impact of sexual abuse on the boys themselves was not a consideration on the part of the Rosminians.

8. The Department of Education did not act responsibly when an allegation of sexual abuse was made to it in 1980 and distanced itself from the allegations, seeking to minimise the publicity and scandal which might arise for the Department and the Order.

9. The approach taken by the Department was an ad hoc one. There was no clear policy on the management of sexual abuse.

Neglect and emotional abuse – Conclusions on neglect and emotional abuse

1. Ferryhouse was a large institution and would have received adequate funding to provide a reasonable level of care for the children for most of the relevant period. In addition, it operated a farm and had trades such as tailoring and boot-making that provided for the needs of the boys.

2. The boys were poorly fed. For much of the period, the food was of insufficient quantity and quality.

3. Poor hygiene and overcrowding were serious problems in the School, and these conditions placed the health and well-being of the boys in danger.

4. The boys were poorly clothed and looked different from children outside the Institution.

5. The accommodation was unsuitable, unhygienic and badly maintained.

6. Family contact was not encouraged or maintained. Boys became cut off from their families and friends.

7. The aftercare was minimal and often non-existent. Young teenagers unprepared for the outside world were thrown into it and had to fend for themselves.

General conclusions – Physical abuse

1. Corporal punishment was the option of first resort for problems. Its use was pervasive, excessive, unpredictable and without regulation or supervision, and was therefore physically abusive.

2. Corporal punishment was the main method of maintaining control over the boys and it created a climate of fear that was emotionally harmful to the boys.

3. The system of discipline was the same in Ferryhouse as in Upton. The Rosminians accept that there was excessive corporal punishment in both institutions.

4. Young and inexperienced staff used fear and violence as a means of asserting authority. Punishments were inflicted for a wide range of acts and omissions. The severity of punishment was entirely a matter for the staff involved.

5. Rules and regulations governing corporal punishment were not observed.

6. Excessive, unfair and even capricious punishment did lasting damage to many of the boys in Ferryhouse.

7. Boys were punished for bed-wetting and were subjected to nightly humiliation,
degradation and fear.

8. The regime placed excessive demands on the few men who did the bulk of the work

Sexual abuse

9. Sexual abuse by Brothers was a chronic problem in Ferryhouse and it is impossible to quantify its full extent.

10. Complainant witnesses from every era, from the early 1940s onwards, testified to the Investigation Committee about the sexual abuse of children in Ferryhouse. The Rosminian Institute acknowledged that not all of those who were sexually abused have come forward as complainants, whether to the Commission, to the Redress Board, or to An Garda Siochana. In their Final Submission to the Investigation Committee they wrote, ‘We know that some boys were sexually abused who have made no complaint to the Commission or otherwise, but have spoken to us about it’.

11. The succession of cases that confronted the authorities must have alerted them to the scale of the problem, and to the need for a thorough ongoing investigation as to how deep the problem went among the Brothers and staff in Ferryhouse. Such an investigation did not happen. Instead, each case was dealt with individually, as if no other case had occurred. The Order was aware of the criminal nature of the conduct, but did not report it as a crime.

12. Sexual abuse was systemic. When it was uncovered, it was not seen as a crime but as a moral lapse and weakness. The policy of furtively removing the abuser and keeping his offences secret led to a culture of institutional amnesia, in which neither boys nor staff could learn from experience.

13. The extent and prevalence of sexual abuse were not addressed although the Order had some awareness of its impact on children.

14. Once placed in posts, priests and Brothers had complete autonomy, and there evolved a convention of not interfering with what other people were doing.

15. The Department of Education did not act responsibly when an allegation of sexual abuse was made to it in 1980

Neglect and emotional abuse

16. Living conditions in both schools were poor, unhygienic, inadequate and often overcrowded.

17. Boys were hungry and poorly clothed in circumstances where funding was sufficient to provide these basic needs.

18. Education and aftercare were deficient.

19. Family contact was not encouraged or maintained.

20. As their submission to the Cussen Commission reveals, the Rosminians knew the detrimental consequences of the industrial school system, but did nothing to ameliorate them. They could have changed the regime, but they did nothing until the 1970s.

The attitude of the Rosminians

21. The Rosminian Institute of Charity is to be commended for its attitude to the Committee. The Rosminians’ refusal to take the conventional adversarial approach, their sympathetic questioning of the witnesses, and their proffering of apologies to the witnesses at the end of hearings, all contributed to an atmosphere very different from that of other hearings.

22. The Rosminians used the memories of former residents to add to the Order’s knowledge of life and conditions in their schools. The witnesses became a source of information and, by tapping into it, the Rosminians helped the Committee’s inquiry.

23. The Rosminians’ attitude to the allegations evolved before, during and after the hearings. They were the first Order to apologise publicly in 1990. They sometimes modified their approach during the course of a hearing, and they issued a final submission that was a balanced and humane response to the evidence they had heard.

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State of Shame

The State stood idly by as thousands of children were subjected to a horrific litany of physical and sexual abuse in institutions run by religious orders. The damning report by the Ryan Commission published yesterday found the Department of Education did nothing to prevent a cycle of abuse spanning more than half a century. But the findings failed to satisfy many victims, who criticised the report for concealing the identities of abusers. The report found government officials were aware of widespread physical, emotional and sexual trauma inflicted on children by Catholic priests, Brothers and nuns. But instead of tackling the problem, complaints were not properly investigated by the department. The €60m report follows almost 10 years of work by the commission, which dealt with complaints from former residents of predominantly Catholic institutions dating back to 1936. More than 200 institutions and 1,800 reports of abuse were examined by the commission, chaired by Mr Justice Sean Ryan.

But the inquiry was hampered by the unexplained disappearance of files on almost three-quarters of the children admitted to the institutions under investigation.

The report found:
– More than 25,000 children were sent to 55 industrial and reformatory schools in the years between 1937 and 1978.
– Files relating to 18,000 children sent to these schools and other Church-run institutions are missing.
– Sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ institutions. It was identified as a “chronic” problem in industrial schools in Artane, Dublin, and Letterfrack, Co Galway.
– Corporal punishment was widespread at institutions.
– The “deferential” and “submissive” attitude of the department towards religious orders allowed the abuse to continue.
– The most vulnerable children – the poor, the abandoned, the neglected – suffered “disturbing” levels of abuse.

The launch of the report was marred by chaotic scenes at a Dublin hotel, where some of the victims and groups representing them were denied access. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre described the handling of the event as “shameful and disgraceful”. Christine Buckley, co-ordinator of the Aislinn Centre and a victim of abuse at Goldenbridge Industrial School, was also critical of the report’s failure to name those responsible for the abuse. Taoiseach Brian Cowen said last night: “We are all agreed that it is appalling the vista that will emerge, in respect of a bygone day that is no longer with us, thankfully.”

He said the recommendations would need to be taken on board by the State, with relevant departments given time to consider the findings. He added: “While the Government can put in place procedures and measures for the protection of our children, we all in society must be alert to the dangers that exist and be vigilant to what is going on in our communities and have the courage to intervene when the welfare of a child is put at risk.” Reacting to the report, Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe vowed the State would learn from the mistakes of the past.

The Christian Brothers, which had more allegations against them than all of the other male orders combined, last night said they were “deeply sorry for the hurt caused” and for covering up abuse allegations.

Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The commission found the harshness of the regime in these institutions was ingrained in the culture of the schools and corporal punishment was the option of first resort for breaches of discipline. “Prolonged, excessive beatings with implements intended to cause maximum pain occurred with the knowledge of staff management. Individual Brothers, priests or lay staff who were extreme in their punishments were tolerated by management,” the commission found, also that instead of investigating complaints, the department “sought to protect and defend the religious congregations and the school”. Documents uncovered by the commission found that sexual abusers were often long-term offenders who repeatedly abused children. When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the response of the religious authorities was to transfer the offender to another location.

The Conclusions
– Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions.
– The congregations’ failure to manage schools led to institutional abuse.
– The “deferential” and “submissive” attitude of the Department of Education towards the congregations compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty to monitor schools.
– Financial “commitments” made by the religious congregations allowed the industrial school system to thrive.
– More kindness and humanity would have gone far to make up for the poor standards of care.

Physical Abuse
– Regulations regarding use of corporal punishment were disregarded.
– Industrial schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment to survive.
– Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.
– Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment.
– Complaints by parents and others made to the Department of Education were not properly investigated.
– Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was “pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable”.

Sexual Abuse
– Sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ institutions.
– Long-term offenders repeatedly abused children wherever they worked.
– When confronted by evidence of sexual abuse, religious authorities responded by transferring the offender to another location where, in many cases, he was free to abuse again.
– Congregational authorities did not listen to or believe people who complained of sexual abuse in the past, despite extensive evidence to the contrary.
– Older boys sexually abused younger boys and the system did not offer the abused boys protection.
– A culture of silence prevented sexual abuse by members of religious orders being brought to the department’s attention.
– The Department of Education dealt inadequately with sexual abuse complaints.

Neglect
– Poor standards of physical care were reported by most male and female complainants.
– Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools.
– Children went cold because of inadequate clothing.
– Accommodation was cold, spartan and bleak. Sanitary provision was primitive.
– The standard of education in industrial schools was consistently poorer than in outside schools.
– Industrial training served the institutions’ needs rather than the children’s.

Emotional Abuse
– Disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children were subjected to disturbing level of abuse.
– The system made it difficult for individual brothers, priests and nuns who tried to respond to emotional needs of children in their care.
– Witnessing the abuse of other boys and girls had a harrowing effect on children in the schools.
– Separating siblings and other restrictions on family contact were profoundly damaging for family relationships.

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THOUSANDS OF children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades in residential institutions run by religious congregations, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has found.

The report published yesterday describes how children lived in “a climate of fear” in the institutions and finds that “sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ institutions”. Cases of sexual abuse were hidden by the congregations that ran the institutions and offenders were transferred to other locations where they were free to abuse again, the report says.

The commission, which was chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan, heard from more than 500 witnesses who said they had been sexually abused.There were also many reports of injuries, including broken bones, lacerations and bruising.

Eight chapters in the report are devoted to the Christian Brothers, the largest provider of residential care for boys in the State. More allegations were made against the Christian Brothers than all other male orders combined.

The report sharply criticises the Department of Education for failing to carry out proper inspections. “The deferential and submissive attitude of the Department of Education towards the congregations compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty of inspection,” the report says. The commission, which was set up in 1999, investigated industrial schools, reformatories, orphanages, institutions for children with disabilities and ordinary day schools. It heard evidence covering the period from 1914 to the present but the bulk of its work addressed the period from the early 1930s to the early 1970s.

More than 1,700 men and women gave evidence of the abuse they suffered as children in institutions, with over half reporting sexual abuse. Accounts of abuse given in relation to 216 institutions are detailed in the report, which runs to nearly 3,000 pages.

More than 800 priests, brothers, nuns and lay people were implicated. The final cost of the commission may be over €100 million.

Responding to the report, the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady said he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways”. He added: “Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Reacting to the report, Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe said “the wrongs of the past” could not be undone. “However, as a responsible and caring society, we must fully face up to the fact that wrong was done and we must learn from the mistakes of the past.” Mr O’Keeffe extended his “sincere and profound sympathy” to those who were abused.

Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government would “carefully study the findings and recommendations”. He acknowledged the report would show the “great failings of the State and many others in the care of children. . .”

The Christian Brothers, who are severely criticised in the report, also issued an apology. “We are deeply sorry for the hurt caused. We are ashamed and saddened that many who complained of abuse were not listened to . . .” they said in a statement. “We appreciate that no healing is possible without an acknowledgement of our responsibility as a Congregation for what has happened,” they added.

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev Diarmuid Martin, said the stories of abuse were “stomach-churning”. All church organisations mentioned should seriously examine how their ideals had become debased by systematic abuse, he said.

There was a mixed reaction from victims groups. The One in Four organisation, which offers support to victims of abuse, said publication of the report marked a “shameful day” for Ireland. Chief executive Maeve Lewis said: “We all turned our back on the children who were so shamefully treated in these institutions.”

Child welfare organisations called for a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the child. Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardos, said: “We must guarantee that the voices of children are never silenced again.”

The report recommends an overhaul of the inspection system for childcare services to include unannounced inspections and objective national standards. It also proposes the erection of a memorial to victims of abuse in the institutions.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is separate from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which has received some 15,000 applications. It is expected the total cost of awards by the board will exceed €1 billion, of which €128 million has been contributed by 18 religious congregations.

PAUL CULLEN and PATSY McGARRY Irish Times

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Industrial School Inmates claim Commission will vindicate most Religious Congregations

Let our Voices Emerge welcomes the imminent publication of the Ryan Report. This Report will give us a much better picture of the truth in industrial schools than the outcome of the seriously flawed Redress Board, which is set to cost the Irish taxpayer close to 1.5billion euro. As already had been well established by Judge Kauffman in Canada, after he inquired into a similar scheme – ‘when you put money on the table; truth goes out the window’.

Thankfully the era of industrial schools is well behind us. For many people it is remembered as a harsh difficult time – for others it is remembered with gratitude; it was not up to standard, but it was the best available. Irish Sisters all around the country gave their lives to childcare, they had little support, little money and staffing levels at roughly one twentieth of what we would have today for similar work. And now these people, as a group, have been wrongly vilified for doing their best. Yes mistakes were made, yes some sisters were not suited to the work but most tried extremely hard – and must now feel so let down by individuals and the system.

When we judge past systems and practices by today’s standards we all fail. We had corporal punishment in all schools and virtually all family homes in the industrial school era. And yet when corporal punishment was first mentioned in regard to industrial schools – it seemed as if we all went into contextual amnesia. Why don’t we just face up to the truth; virtually all children in Ireland got the odd a clip in the home and at school up to the 1970’s. And we hear about people not being educated to second level in the industrial schools?. Can we also find out what percentage of Irish children from the lower socio economic groups went to second level in the Ireland of the 40s and 50s – it was not just an industrial school issue.

In November 2003 a group of 130 former inmates of the Irish Industrial Schools banded together to form ‘Let Our Voices Emerge’ (L.O.V.E.), our aim being to highlight what we saw as the miscarriages of justice created by the Government sponsored Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) against those who cared for us in the schools. The present day definition of abuse applied retrospectively up to 60 years ago ensured all who worked in the schools could be termed ‘abusers’ and all who were cared for in the schools could claim abuse. The State funding of 15 shillings per week per child was grossly inadequate for food, clothing and the upkeep of the schools buildings.

We are now made up of carers as well as inmates, and maintain that the RIRB has caused inmates to accuse fellow inmates, some of whom had already suffered extreme abuse themselves. One of our members was proven in the High Courts to have been brutally abused in St Josephs in Kilkenny by a male childcare worker. Now this member is himself under allegation in the RIRB and states there’s no point in trying to defend himself – compensation will still be awarded. This pattern is repeated with many members. Our membership includes inmates in their 70’s, so we possess a broad range of knowledge and claim conditions in the schools when at their worst reflected the poverty in Irish society at the time.

On May 20th next, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse will publish its findings after an investigation lasting 10 years. We would like to point out that only 20% of the RIRB claimants came forward to give evidence in the Commission. The futility of the Commission inquiry running in tandem with the compensation scheme in the cause of justice is obvious.

We are confident that if Judge Ryan has taken the evidence as commensurate with the times, it will prove that the RIRB should never have been established in such generous terms. It has served Irish society, those in the Institutions, and the Religious orders poorly. We refer you to the report of Professor Kaufman in Canada and the House of Commons report in Britain when they went down a similar road. Both found the compensation system to be deeply flawed and a gross injustice to all concerned.

We now state for the record that we are confident the Commission will find the Religious performed far better than the public have been led to believe by some of our more publicly vocal inmates. Why did only 20% of the RIRB claimants offer evidence against their so-called abusers? The Commission is after all, the official investigation, and its judgement vital for all concerned.

Florence Horsman Hogan: Chairperson (L.O.V.E.)

PRESS RELEASE
15 May, 2009
Let Our Voices Emerge (L.O.V.E.)

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