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Eighteen groups that were involved with the running of residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan commission have refused to contribute to the €1.36 billion costs incurred by the State in compensating people who had been abused in the institutions.  Source

Why is this thing dragging on? Why can’t the Criminal Assets Bureau step in?  Has anyone in the present government actually read the Final Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse? And if they have read it, have they read it out loud to these Religious Congregations? Here’s a few of their findings with my own comments added:

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 many complainants all their lives.

It’s high time these Congregations were subjected to ‘pervasive fear’ and ‘terror’ – Let them live with the fear that their assets will be taken from them. Introduce them to the terror of being flat broke.

Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment. Absconders were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and were humiliated.

Shaving them of their assets would be perfect justice.

The boys’ schools investigated revealed a pervasive use of severe corporal punishment. Prolonged, excessive beatings with implements intended to cause maximum pain occurred with the knowledge of staff management.

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. In some schools a high level of ritualised beating was routine whilst in other schools lower levels of corporal punishment were used. Girls were struck with implements designed to maximise pain and were struck on all parts of the body. The prohibition on corporal punishment 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. Another was when it was accompanied by denigrating or humiliating language. Some beatings were more distressing when administered in front of other children and staff.

Maximum pain must be returned to these Congregations – this is the sword they wielded on children, they lived by this sword, let them die by this sword. Never mind that this punishment will be public and humiliating: this is Justice.

The recidivist nature of sexual abuse was known to religious authorities. The documents revealed that sexual abusers were often long-term offenders who repeatedly abused children wherever they were working. Contrary to the Congregations’ claims that the recidivist nature of sexual offending was not understood, it is clear from the documented cases that they were aware of the propensity for abusers to re-abuse. The risk, however, was seen by the Congregations in terms of the potential for scandal and bad publicity should the abuse be disclosed. The danger to children was not taken into account.

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 the Investigation Committee in respect of sexual abuse in institutions, even in cases where men had been convicted in court and admitted to such behaviour at the hearings.

Any other organisation, or group of organisations, found to have endangered children in such a despicable way for so long would be shut down and their assets seized. These Congregations terrorised children. They made children feel worthless. It’s high time these Congregations were worth less …

Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools. Witnesses spoke of scavenging for food from waste bins and animal feed. The Inspector found that malnourishment was a serious problem in schools run by nuns.

Bearing in mind that the stated reason the majority of children were consigned into the ‘care’ of these Congregations was that they were children from dysfunctional families; yet here we have findings that the Congregations were dysfunctional, dangerous and utterly unsuited to caring for children. Yet the State funded them and the Congregations took the money under false pretences. It’s time these monies were fully refunded.

Clothing was a particular problem in boys’ schools where children often worked for long hours outdoors on farms. In addition, boys were often left in their soiled and wet work clothes throughout the day and wore them for long periods. In all schools up until the 1960s clothes stigmatised the children as Industrial School residents.

There was a further stigma if you absconded, at least in Ferryhouse. They made you wear short trousers – the thinking here was that you would be easily spotted if you re-absconded: Here’s a pic from Ferryhouse. See if you can count how many of the children in the pic absconded:

Ferryhouse 1960s

Their only crime was that they wanted to go home – and this was only part of the ‘justice’ the Congregations meted out to children. Time they were put into short trousers.

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 Schools were entitled to at least the same standard as that available in the country generally. Internal national schools were funded by a national school grant and teachers were paid in the same way. There was evidence particularly in girls’ schools that children were removed from their classes in order to perform domestic chores or work in the institution during the school day. When discharged, boys were generally placed in manual or unskilled jobs and girls in positions as domestic servants. Even where religious Congregations operated secondary schools beside industrial schools, children from the Industrial Schools were very rarely given 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.

It’s time to serve the needs of survivors and victims and not the sensibilities of these Congregations. The statutory objective of CAB is to target the proceeds of criminal activity to ensure that those engaged in criminal activity do not benefit from it. These Congregation were unjustly enriched by the slave labour of children.

– – – – – – – –

Realistically though all the above actions would only happen in my dreams – and they would be wild dreams. As a child I never had such dreams in anyway. Never did I dream that what I, and so many other children, were suffering should be revisited on those making us suffer. I’ve never dreamt of pushing a nun’s hands into a fire; I’ve never had the dream of battering a member of the clergy with a hurley stick or a wheel brace or a coin-embedded leather strap; I’ve never dreamt of starving or enslaving members of the Religious Orders. My dreams were more fantastic than those – fantastic, because I knew they were not going to come true; for you see I dreamt of decent and enough food on my plate; I dreamt of warm places, of running free in a meadow; of confusion explained; of childish puzzlement satisfied; of a little red bus; of loving touches; of being wanted;

And then there’s a squeeze on my shoulder and I’m released from my reverie. I sit at a big table and the Minister repeats his question:

“Would you like a bun with your coffee, Andrew?”

It’s not a religious Minister that’s asking the question but a democratically elected Minister and 18 years of an almost unrelenting childhood flashes before me:

Flashes of a loving family that soon went sour; of loving relatives who wanted to care for us; of a father’s refusal to allow that; of a final 6 weeks of being locked in a room with my sister and crippled brother, surviving on rainwater, nettles and mushrooms and sometimes milky eggs; of men in spacesuits rescuing us from the filth and squalor; of being scrubbed and washed and togged out it new clothes; of being in Court and being handed an orange and my brother; of hooded heads with faces and long dark corridors lined with statues; of children kneeling in a hall chanting ….. and all the horrors that followed.

And I’m not looking for revenge – only justice. And I can still dream.

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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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