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Archive for May 22nd, 2009

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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