Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Volume Three

Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Volume Three

Part 1

Chapter 1
Introduction


1.01The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Commission) was established in May 2000 pursuant to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, 2000 as subsequently amended by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act, 2005 (the Acts).1 The Commission was initially established on a non-statutory basis following a public apology on 11th May 1999 by the Taoiseach to those abused as children in Irish institutions over previous decades. High-profile media coverage of the experiences of children in Irish institutions was widely broadcast at this time.

1.02The non-statutory Commission, which comprised three members, made recommendations to the Oireachtas, including that the Commission should be put on a statutory basis. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act (the Act) was enacted on 26th April 2000 and the Statutory Commission was established on 23rd May 2000, pursuant to the Act. The Act, as amended, governs the functions, powers and procedures of the Commission. The Commission as established under the Acts consists of a Chairperson, who is a Judge of the High Court, and ordinary members known as Commissioners.

1.03The remit of the Commission under the Acts was to hear evidence from witnesses about childhood abuse in Irish institutions, as defined by the Acts, and who were less than 18 years at the time.

Functions of the Commission

1.04The Commission was given four distinct functions:

  • To hear evidence of abuse from persons who allege they suffered abuse in childhood in institutions during the ‘relevant period’2
  • To conduct an inquiry into abuse of children in institutions during that period and to determine the causes, nature, circumstances and extent of such abuse
  • To inquire into the manner in which children were placed in, and the circumstances in which they continued to be resident in, institutions during the relevant period
  • To prepare and publish reports on the results of the inquiry and on its recommendations in relation to dealing with the effects of such abuse and to prevent where possible and reduce the incidence of abuse of children in institutions and to protect children from such abuse.3

1.05The legislation provided for the establishment of two committees of the Commission, the Confidential Committee and the Investigation Committee. Details of the members of the Confidential Committee, both past and present, are set out in Appendix Two. The Commission’s functions of hearing evidence of, and inquiring into, abuse were performed through the Confidential Committee and the Investigation Committee. Members of the Commission were assigned to one or other Committee; they could not be members of both. Persons who wished to give evidence about abuse had to choose to give their evidence either to the Confidential Committee or the Investigation Committee. The Commission and its Committees were independent in the performance of their functions.4

Confidential Committee

1.06This is the final Report of the work of the Confidential Committee (the Committee), provided for in section 16 of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, 2000, as amended.5 This Report presents the oral evidence recounted by 1,090 witnesses who attended hearings with the Committee between 2000 and 2006. This report also includes information contained in the 3rd Interim Report dated December 2003.

1.07The principal functions of the Confidential Committee were:

  • To provide a forum for persons who have suffered abuse in institutions during their childhood, and who did not wish to have that abuse enquired into by the Investigation Committee to recount their experiences and make submissions in confidence
  • To receive evidence of such abuse
  • To make proposals of a general nature with a view to their being considered by the Commission in deciding what recommendations to make6
  • To prepare and furnish reports.7

1.08The mandate of the Committee was to hear the evidence of those who wished to report their experiences in institutions in a confidential setting, as defined in the legislation. The legislation provided that the Confidential Committee was to endeavour to ensure that meetings of the Committee at which evidence was being given were conducted so as to afford to witnesses an opportunity to recount in full the abuse suffered by them in an atmosphere that was sympathetic to, and understanding of, them, and as informally as was possible in the circumstances. 8

Defined categories of abuse

1.09The Committee was required to hear the evidence of witnesses9 who wished to report four types of abuse as defined by the Acts. The definitions changed in the 2005 Act and the changes made by the 2005 Act are highlighted in bold below:

Physical abuse:

The wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child.

Sexual abuse:

The use of the child by a person for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of that person or another person.

Neglect:

Failure to care for the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare.

Emotional abuse:

Any other act or omission towards the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare.10

1.10The Committee classified all reports of abuse under one of the above types, as defined by the Acts. Witness reports of abuse included all four types, and combinations of those types of abuse. The definition of abuse includes acts that occurred to children, as well as acts of omission, such as medical, social, educational or emotional neglect that ‘results, or could reasonably be expected to result’11 in having serious adverse effects on them both at the time and afterwards.

1.11Individuals applied to give evidence of the abuse suffered by them in a range of Irish institutions. The definition in the 2000 Act of ‘institutions’ includes ‘a school, an industrial school, a reformatory school, an orphanage, a hospital, a children’s home and any other place where children are cared for other than as members of their families’.12 Many witnesses were admitted to more than one institution and may have reported abuse in one or more institutions. The majority of witnesses reported more than one type of abuse.

Defined institutions

1.12Industrial and Reformatory Schools were residential institutions that admitted boys and girls during their time of operation. There were 60 certified Industrial or Reformatory Schools in Ireland during the period covered by this Report. The Schools were gender segregated with the exception of 12 industrial schools that were designated as mixed, admitting both boys and girls.

1.13For the purposes of this Report ‘Other Institutions’ is the collective term used to refer to all institutions apart from Industrial or Reformatory Schools that fell within the definition of institutions. Such ‘Other Institutions’ included: general, specialist and rehabilitation hospitals, foster homes, primary and second-level schools, Children’s Homes, laundries, Noviciates, hostels and special needs schools (both day and residential) that provided care and education for children with intellectual, visual, hearing or speech impairments, and others.

1.14The evidence heard by the Confidential Committee regarding Industrial and Reformatory Schools and ‘Other Institutions’ are presented separately in this Report.

Evidence

1.15The Report contains information given in evidence to the Committee on the demographic and social circumstances of witnesses before their admission to the institutions, their experiences and reports of abuse while in the institutions and their life following discharge from the institutions. Less detailed information was obtained in relation to the social circumstances of witnesses who, while attending ‘Other Institutions’, had remained in the care of their own family, for example witnesses who reported abuse in primary or second-level schools.

1.16The Committee was required to hear witness accounts of abuse that occurred in the past during a ‘relevant period’ as defined by the Acts.13 The Committee determined the relevant period as between 1914 and 2000, being the earliest date of admission to out-of-home care and the latest date of discharge of those applicants who sought to give evidence to the Committee14.

1.17Witness evidence included reports of both single incidents and multiple episodes of abuse over a length of time in institutional care for each individual. This Report is a comprehensive account of the information provided by witnesses about incidents and details of abuse they were able to recall and wished to report to the Committee.

1.18The Report is structured as follows:

  • Part 1
    • Chapters 1–5: Introduction, methodology and overview
    • Chapters 6-9: Record of abuse and experiences in Industrial and Reformatory Schools
    • Chapter 10: Positive memories
    • Chapter 11: Current circumstances
  • Part 2
    • Chapter 12: Introduction to Part 2
    • Chapters 13–18: Record of abuse and experiences in ‘Other Institutions’
    • Chapter 19: Concluding comments

1 See Appendix 1 and 1A for copies of these Acts. All further references in the Confidential Committee’s Report to sections of the 2000 Act shall refer solely to the section and not name the Act, e.g. section 1 of the ‘2000 Act’ shall be referred to as ‘section 1’. All references to sections in other Acts shall contain details of the section and the Act. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act, 2005 shall be referred to as the ‘2005 Act’.

2 For the Confidential Committee this ‘relevant period’ was from 1914-2000.

3 Sections 4 and 5 as amended by sections 4 and 5 of the 2005 Act.

4 Section 3(3).

5 Section 11 of the 2005 Act.

6 Section 15(1) as amended by section 10 of the 2005 Act.

7 Section 16 as amended by section 11 of the 2005 Act.

8 Section 4(6) as substituted by section 4 of the 2005 Act.

9 In the Confidential Committee Report the evidence of witnesses is generally referred to as ‘reports’.

10 Section 1(1) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.

11 Section 1(1) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.

12 Section 1(1) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.

13 Section 1(1).

14 This includes both Industrial and Reformatory Schools and ‘Other Institutions’.


Chapter 2
Methodology


2.01The following chapter describes the procedures and methods by which the Committee carried out its mandate under the Acts. This includes the procedures for dealing with applications, the arrangement of hearings, the prioritisation of elderly and infirm witnesses and the adjustments made for witnesses in particular circumstances. It also includes details of the procedures employed to protect the confidentiality of the evidence provided and the method by which witness evidence was compiled. Mindful of the statutory requirements of the Committee to hear evidence of abuse, maintain witness confidentiality, and to make proposals and prepare a final report, a method of work was established that:1

  • Ensured complete confidentiality in relation to information provided to the Committee
  • Maintained confidentiality of witnesses in relation to both their identity and their evidence
  • Provided an appropriate setting for witnesses to give their evidence in confidence
  • Established clear liaison and communication procedures
  • Was accessible to witnesses who were unable or did not wish to travel to Dublin
  • Allowed for the recording, storing, coding and retrieving of 1,090 files of evidence.

Personnel

2.02Six (6) Commissioners served on the Committee at different times between 2000 and 2008.2 At any one point there were two Commissioners conducting hearings and for a period there were four Commissioners so occupied. The Committee also employed Witness Support Officers. The role of the Witness Support Officer facilitated communication between the applicant3 and the Committee, as direct contact between witnesses and the Commissioners was restricted to the hearings. The Witness Support Officer made the arrangements for witnesses to travel to their hearings, either in Ireland, the UK or elsewhere. They arranged accommodation and offered other assistance for witnesses and their companions prior to and following the hearings. In addition, at different times between 2000 and 2008, Administrative and Research Assistants were employed. The Committee engaged various expert services for specific legal advice, database construction and software security, research, data compilation and presentation. The Committee had at all times adequate resources to undertake its work.

Undertaking of confidentiality

2.03The Acts give a commitment of confidentiality in relation to information furnished to the Committee. The Acts require that the Report of the Confidential Committee should not identify or contain information that could lead to the identification of witnesses, or the persons against whom they made allegations, the institutions in which they alleged they were abused or any other person.4 It is a criminal offence to breach the assurance of confidentiality provided by the Acts to witnesses and to the work of the Committee.5 The Acts do not permit the Report to contain findings in relation to particular instances of the alleged abuse of children.6

2.04The provisions of the Acts do not allow any person about whom reports of abuse were made to the Confidential Committee, or others connected with the institutions, to challenge the statements made. The confidential nature of the Committee’s work also means that information, documents or evidence provided to the Committee could not or cannot be disclosed to the Investigation Committee of the Commission or elsewhere.7 Exceptions to this were allowed for in only extremely limited circumstances and these are detailed below.8

2.05Before attending their hearing witnesses were informed that the hearings of the Committee were entirely confidential and that no information or material from their hearing would be transferred for use in any other forum. This was emphasised before hearings with the Committee. It is believed therefore that there could be no secondary motivation attached to a witness’s decision to report to the Committee.

2.06The undertaking of confidentiality was converted into a set of rules and protocols that applied to the Commissioners and to all members of the secretarial, administrative, executive and managerial staff of the Committee, technology and other experts, researchers and any other persons in contact with the work of the Committee. The Commission drew up a set of procedures in relation to electronic communications, which covered such matters as use of emails, passwords, storage and the copying of data and restrictions on the electronic transfer of materials. It was emphasised that the duty of confidentiality applied to the period after the termination of employment with the Commission and after dissolution of the Commission.

All members of the Confidential Committee subscribed to a protocol on conflict of interest.

2.07The location of the staff and materials of the Committee was within a secure office area, access to which was strictly limited. The offices were located in a building occupied by a number of different agencies, which provided an element of anonymity to witnesses.

Exceptions to confidentiality

2.08Witnesses who chose to give their evidence to the Committee were, subject to the following four exceptions, assured complete confidentiality and their allegations were not investigated. The Committee was legally obliged to disclose information obtained by it either where disclosure was necessary to:

  • Perform its functions under the Act
  • Prevent the continuance of an act or omission constituting a serious offence (by making a report to the Garda Síochana)
  • Prevent, reduce or remove a substantial risk to life, or prevent the continued abuse of a child by making a report to designated persons9 or
  • Comply with an order of the High Court.10

Applicants

2.09One thousand five hundred and forty one (1541) people applied to give evidence to the Committee. Individuals could contact the Commission in person, by telephone, by letter or through the Commission’s website. People who contacted the Commission were initially provided with information about both the Investigation and Confidential Committees. Application forms for both Committees were also provided. Individuals indicated which Committee they wished to attend by completing in writing the appropriate application form.11

2.10On receipt of an application form, the Confidential Committee sent more detailed information to the applicant about that Committee and the hearing process. The information was provided in the form of an ‘information pack’12 which explained how the Confidential Committee hearings were arranged and conducted. The website and information pack also contained a photograph of an informally furnished room, in which the Commissioners heard the witnesses’ evidence.

2.11The following is a summary of the general route to a Confidential Committee hearing:

  • Individual heard about the work of the Commission from media reports and notices placed by the Commission, through contact with a social or health service in Ireland or overseas, from meetings held by survivor-oriented organisations in Ireland or overseas, from a friend, family member or persons previously associated with the institutions.
  • Applicant contacted the Commission to request information.
  • Applicant obtained information about the Commission’s work and application forms.
  • Applicant selected which of the two Committees he/she wished to attend.
  • Applicant returned a completed application form to the Confidential Committee.
  • The Confidential Committee ascertained whether the applicant fell within the remit of the Acts.
  • Receipt of the application was confirmed and further information about the Committee was sent to the applicant.
  • A Confidential Committee hearing was scheduled for the applicant.

2.12Four hundred and fifty one (451) of the 1,541 applicants did not proceed to give evidence in the following circumstances:

  • One hundred and thirty six (136) applicants withdrew from the Confidential Committee process to transfer to the Investigation Committee, as provided for under the Acts.13
  • One hundred and twenty one (121) applicants applied to give evidence but later withdrew their application for unspecified reasons.
  • Ninety two (92) applicants were deemed to have withdrawn as they did not respond to any subsequent communication from the Committee.
  • Fifty two (52) applicants withdrew when appointments were made with the Committee, stating they were too distressed or no longer wished to attend a hearing.
  • Eighteen (18) applicants were withdrawn from the process due to death or serious physical or mental illness.
  • Sixteen (16) applicants indicated a wish to attend a scheduled hearing but failed to attend on the day and did not request a rescheduled date.
  • Sixteen (16) applicants were withdrawn because they fell outside the remit of the Acts for different reasons, including not having been a child of less than 18 years at the time of the reported abuse.

Transfers between Committees

2.13A number of applicants who had applied to give evidence to the Confidential Committee subsequently applied to transfer to a hearing of the Investigation Committee and vice versa. Such transfers had been envisaged and were provided for in the 2000 Act.14 Evidence given to the original Committee had to be disregarded by the original Committee once the transfer was effected. Altogether 253 witnesses transferred from the Investigation Committee and 136 witnesses transferred from the Confidential Committee.15

Witnesses

2.14The Confidential Committee heard from 1,090 witnesses who applied to give evidence of abuse they experienced as children in Irish institutions. They had been discharged from, or left, the institutions between 1922 and 2000, and were residing in Ireland, the UK and other parts of the world.

2.15A small number of third-party witnesses applied to give evidence and the Commission decided that they could be heard by the Confidential Committee for the potential beneficial effect it may provide. Sixteen (16) hearings were attended by third-party witnesses who came to report abuse on behalf of their deceased family members or spoke of their own children who had been abused in institutions and who did not seek to give direct evidence themselves. The emphasis of the evidence given by third-party witnesses was on the impact on them of their relatives’ abuse. While the evidence of adults other than persons who suffered abuse as children in institutions could not be included as evidence of abuse, the testimony of third-parties was included in consideration for the overall proposals.

2.16Additionally, it was not possible to establish prior to their hearings that the evidence of 60 of the 1,090 witnesses would fall outside the remit of the Acts, for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They were not less than 18 years at the time the alleged abuse occurred.
  • The abuse described did not fall within the meaning of the Acts.
  • The abuse described did not take place in an institution as described within the meaning of the Acts.16
  • They were unable to give a sufficiently coherent account of their evidence to meet the criteria of the Acts.

2.17The direct evidence of 1,014 of the 1,090 witnesses that fell within the remit of the Acts is presented in the following chapters. Fifty one (51) of the 1,014 witnesses reported abuse in more than one institution, 36 of those reported abuse in Industrial and/or Reformatory Schools and ‘Other’ Institutions. As a result there is some unavoidable overlap in the evidence reported in certain sections of this report.

Prioritisation of witnesses

2.18When scheduling hearings the Committee took into account the age, state of health and any other relevant facts brought to its attention in relation to persons wishing to give evidence. Priority was given to elderly witnesses and those in poor health. The evidence of prioritised witnesses was heard in the earlier period of the Committee’s hearings, between 2000 and 2003. Where necessary the Committee scheduled hearings overseas and travelled to hear evidence from elderly witnesses and those in poor health who were unable to travel to Dublin.

Hearings

2.19A Witness Support Officer co-ordinated the hearing appointments and associated arrangements. The first witnesses to the Committee were heard in September 2000. The Committee heard its final witness in March 2006. The timing of hearings were scheduled in order to maintain witness confidentiality and anonymity.

2.20The majority of hearings were held in the Commission offices in Dublin. One hundred and sixty six (166) of the 1,090 hearings were held in other locations in Ireland and in locations overseas. Witnesses who were house-bound through illness or disability who wished to be heard in their home or place of residence were facilitated. A number of hearings were conducted in hotels in provincial centres to facilitate witnesses who had particular difficulty travelling to Dublin, and the evidence of three witnesses was heard in Irish prisons. Witnesses who lived overseas and wished to give their evidence in Ireland were facilitated by assistance with travel and accommodation arrangements within guidelines established by the Department of Education and Science. A number of witnesses had not been back to Ireland for a substantial length of time. Some had never returned since their departure as young people and the Committee hearing was the occasion of their first return visit. See Table 1 for details of hearing locations:

Table 1: Location of Hearings – Male and Female Witnesses

Location of hearing Males Females Total witnesses
CICA offices 501 423 924
USA 2 0 2
Ireland 57 30 87
UK 31 44 75
Mainland Europe 1 1 2
Total 592 498 1090

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

Process of hearings

2.21The hearing of witnesses’ evidence took place over a six-year period between 2000 and 2006. Over 2,000 hours of evidence was recorded. All Confidential Committee hearings were conducted by two Commissioners except in circumstances when only one Commissioner was available; this occurred infrequently. The hearings were audio recorded where the witness consented to it; where consent was not given no audio record was made and the Commissioners present made a contemporaneous written record as required by the Acts.17 In a small number of instances the recording was subsequently discovered to be blank or incomplete due to either a technical fault or human error. In these circumstances contemporaneous notes were retained. The evidence of witnesses was recorded in the following way:

  • The audio recording discs were individually numbered and archived.
  • The archive was managed in a secure and systematic fashion.
  • Anonymous extracts from the hearings were entered into a database using a large number of pre-formulated headings (fields) that permitted observations to be made in general terms on matters specified in the Acts.18
  • The amalgamated evidence and the conclusions are presented in this Report.

2.22In the course of the hearings, witnesses recounted their experiences in their own way and the majority of witnesses were able to give a clear account of their experiences. Witnesses with communication disabilities were assisted as necessary. Some had prepared for the hearing and brought written statements and supporting documentation to assist them. Others came to their hearings prepared to speak unaided. A small number of witnesses requested that their written statement be read into the record. Others requested that their companion at the hearing speak on their behalf. The witness was required to verify the account given in these circumstances and witnesses could add to the verbal account as they wished. In accordance with the Acts, witnesses were not permitted to take notes during their hearing or otherwise record their hearing. The witnesses were not provided with a copy of the mini-disk recording of their hearing.19 The summarised report of the witnesses’ evidence with details of the abuse history was entered into the database following the hearing. This record was confirmed and agreed by the Commissioners who attended the hearing. Witnesses were offered the opportunity to come back and listen to the recording of their hearing if they wished.20

2.23Witnesses could speak as briefly or in as much detail as they wished at a hearing. Most hearings lasted between one and two hours. The Commissioners listened to and recorded the evidence provided. Witnesses were asked if they wished to make a self-directed statement or to be assisted by general questions, for example ‘Can you tell us about your family?’ or ‘What was your first memory of …named School?’ or ‘What do you want to tell the Commission about what happened to you?’ Many witnesses asked for initial assistance in the form of questions from the Commissioners. A number of witnesses reported that they had never disclosed their experiences to anyone before, either to their parents, spouse, partner, their own children, their siblings or others. In accordance with the Acts, the witnesses were provided with a sympathetic forum in which to present their evidence, unchallenged.21 Witnesses who became distressed while recounting their experiences were given time to continue their account. During the hearings Commissioners sought clarification of certain points made by witnesses where necessary, in order to fully understand the information provided. There was no requirement or provision under the Acts for legal representation at hearings of the Confidential Committee.

2.24There was no contact between Commissioners and witnesses outside the hearings. All contact was directed through the Witness Support Officers. These contacts arose in replying to letters, phone calls, forwarding information packs, arranging appointments for hearings, reimbursing expenses, liaising with counsellors and arranging for witnesses to return to listen back to their audio-recorded evidence.

Companions at hearing

2.25Witnesses could be accompanied to the hearings by a companion if they so wished. It was the witness’s choice whether the accompanying person attended the hearing or waited in a nearby waiting room for the duration of the hearing. Confidentiality bound the accompanying person. Those who wished to be accompanied by a sign language interpreter or other professional person were facilitated to do so. There was no requirement or provision under the Acts for witnesses to have legal representation at Confidential Committee hearings. The number of witnesses who chose to attend hearings with and without a companion is shown below:

Table 2: Companions at Hearings – Male and Female Witnesses

Companions Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Accompanied, at hearing 205 35 194 39 399 37
Accompanied, not at hearing 179 30 215 43 394 36
Unaccompanied 208 35 89 18 297 27
Total 592 100 498 100 1,090 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

2.26Almost three quarters of the witnesses (73%) were accompanied to the Commission. Half of these witnesses were accompanied by their companion throughout their hearing with the Committee and the other half requested that their companions remained in the waiting room while they were giving their evidence to the Committee. A noticeably larger proportion of male witnesses were unaccompanied when they attended for their hearing.

Compilation of evidence

2.27The Committee hearings generated three types of witness information from which this Report is compiled:

  • The oral evidence of witnesses recorded at the hearings
  • Points of clarification sought by Commissioners on particular matters
  • Documents, statements, letters, certificates or photographs shown to and provided by witnesses to the Commissioners.

2.28The Committee engaged a research consultant to design a detailed database template for archiving witness evidence. This database was used by the Commissioners to record the accounts of witnesses in such a manner that the information obtained could be analysed and a comprehensive report, with conclusions of a general nature, produced. Assessments were made of some information to facilitate classification of data. Examples of this are the information on parental occupation status22 and the classification of different forms of abuse as provided for in the Acts.

2.29The Committee made a decision to present the evidence reported by witnesses in a gender-differentiated way. The rationale for this was that boys and girls were segregated in the majority of institutions that were managed by different religious Congregations and Orders, State agencies and voluntary sector organisations. Further, there were some differences in the recounting of individual experiences by male and female witnesses that the Committee considered should be treated separately.

2.30In most instances information is presented in the order of frequency reported except where data for male and female witnesses is presented conjointly. In those instances the male data is presented first, as male witnesses formed the largest overall cohort.

2.31Witness evidence in relation to Industrial and Reformatory Schools and ‘Other’ Institutions covered an 86 year period, from the earliest admission date of 1914 to the latest discharge date of 2000. Thirteen (13) witness reports referred to admissions between 1914 and 1930, and 10 of the witness reports related to discharges after 1990. It was decided to arrange the evidence in four time periods to facilitate sorting. The chosen time periods were: pre-1960s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and later. Occasionally throughout the report references are made to specific decades within these time periods to reflect witness evidence. The year of final discharge was designated as the determining factor for allocation to a time period. Therefore, where reference is made to evidence pertaining to one time period the segment of evidence will include some matters that relate to a previous decade or time period.23

2.32Each witness provided evidence in their own way and each witness’s experience was unique, therefore, it is not possible to present complete and comparable data for all witnesses. For instance many witnesses reported that they had no memory of their own treatment as very young children in institutions. Reports of abuse to babies and younger children are almost exclusively confined to what witnesses reported they observed. The Report is largely silent on the abuse perpetrated on children who were too young to accurately recall their own experiences. Some witnesses also acknowledged gaps in both their specific and general recall of events, with many clearly stating that they wished to report what they actually remembered, even if it was incomplete.

2.33The Report is a summarised compilation of the evidence provided. In this context, the Report provides no further analysis beyond what was necessary to report as required by the legislation. The evidence was recorded within a fixed database and, as a result, some elements of the data presented are necessarily incomplete. In some instances aspects of the same information are presented under different headings due to unavoidable overlap between categories of abuse.

2.34It is anticipated that this Report may be read by people from a wide range of backgrounds in terms of age, belief and ethnicity and for that reason there are footnotes throughout the text clarifying the meaning of certain terms used.

2.35Readers will note that some coincidences of numbers occur throughout the Report. Where the same number appears in different contexts it should be noted that they have been checked by the Committee and are correct.

2.36In the interest of clarity, Industrial and Reformatory Schools, religious Brothers and Sisters and Children’s Homes are referred to by upper case designations to distinguish them from primary and second-level schools, children’s family homes and sibling brothers and sisters.

2.37For the purpose of compiling this volume of the Report persons referred to by the witnesses as being in charge in management positions are described as authority figures and may include Resident Managers, Reverend Mothers, Brother Superiors and school Principals.

Use of quotations

2.38Most chapters in this Report quote extensively from witnesses’ direct evidence to the Committee. The purpose of the use of quotations is to provide a representative account of the witnesses’ experiences in their own words, including colloquialisms and informal terminology, for example, many witnesses referred to Industrial Schools as orphanages.

2.39The italicised words used in the quotations are the actual words used by the witnesses at their hearing. All names and identifying details are deleted to preserve anonymity and are substituted by ellipses, a set of three dots, and anonymous references, for example X or Y. Further, for the purposes of clarification explanatory comments are included in brackets in some quotations. The choice of quotations intends to represent the range of experiences described, including those concerning family circumstances and subsequent effects on adult life.

2.40In order to preserve confidentiality, no person or place can be identified in this Report or elsewhere. 24 The source of each quotation used is anonymised and, where necessary and appropriate, the Committee has made use of neutral characters and words, for example: X, Y and Z or ‘named city’.

Documentation

2.41Witnesses were invited to bring supporting documentation to their hearing, if they wished, and a number brought copies of documents relating to their admission that they had acquired under the Freedom of Information Acts, 1997 and 2003, and other searches. Included among the documents provided by witnesses to the Commissioners were:

  • Admission records
  • Documents from institutional centres
  • Medical records
  • Birth certificates
  • Letters from the Department of Education and Science25
  • Court orders
  • Correspondence between their families, the institutions and relevant authorities
  • Letters from the gardaí and others seeking payments from parents
  • General correspondence
  • Newspaper cuttings relating to their admission
  • Personal photographs from their time in the institution.

Emergency counselling and medical services

2.42Some witnesses reported that they found attending their hearing with the Committee a daunting prospect. The National Counselling Service (NCS) in Ireland provided for a counsellor to be available on call during the time all hearings were scheduled. The Witness Support Officers liaised with the NCS and the health service at a local medical clinic in anticipation of the possible need for emergency assistance arising from the hearing. Counselling services were available through the Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy (ICAP) service in the UK to facilitate witnesses resident in the UK. Witnesses who had not previously availed of a counselling service were provided with the necessary information regarding either their local NCS office or ICAP, if they so requested.

Returning to hear evidence

2.43For a period of three months after the Committee concluded its hearings, witnesses were able, if they so wished, to listen back to their evidence that had been audio-recorded by the Committee. The listening did not constitute a hearing and witnesses could not alter, add in, or take away any written record of their evidence. The opportunity to listen to the recording of their hearing was offered for the potential beneficial effect it would provide.26 Seventy four (74) witnesses returned to listen to some or all of their recorded evidence.

Reasons given for attending the Confidential Committee

2.44The witnesses reported different reasons for applying to be heard by the Committee, which are categorised in Table 3 below. The most frequently cited reasons were a wish to have the abuse they experienced officially recorded and a desire to tell their story. The protection of children and the prevention of future abuse were other reasons frequently given for providing evidence. Witnesses stated their hope that, by reporting their own experiences and having them placed on public record the need for greater vigilance and protection for children in out-of-home care would be recognised in future.

Table 3: Witnesses’ Reason(s) for Giving Evidence to the Confidential Committee – Male and Female Witnesses

Reasons for giving evidence Males % Females % Total witnesses %
To record abuse 174 29 114 23 288 26
To tell their story 84 14 88 18 172 16
Prevent abuse in the future 111 19 97 19 208 19
Therapeutic benefit 98 17 85 17 183 17
Encouraged by others 61 10 67 13 128 12
Sense of obligation 23 4 11 2 34 3
Other reasons 31 5 31 6 62 6
Not stated 10 2 5 1 15 1
Total 592 100 498 (100)* 1,090 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

2.45One hundred and twenty eight (128) witnesses reported being encouraged by a range of people, including family members, other survivors, counsellors and solicitors to apply to the Committee. They expressed the hope that attending the Committee would help them put painful memories of the past behind them and achieve ‘closure’. A small number of witnesses reported that they had been encouraged to attend by former staff of the institutions.

2.46Witnesses also reported that there were positive aspects to their treatment in institutions that they wished to have acknowledged.

2.47Those who reported attending the Committee out of a sense of obligation often commented that they came forward to support others, especially in relation to institutions where they believed abuse was less often acknowledged.

2.48Sixty two (62) witnesses gave other reasons for attending, including some who hoped to gain a better understanding of their admission to an institution and many who, in addition to recounting the history of their own abuse, also came to speak for siblings and co-residents who had died in tragic circumstances.

2.49The following quotations illustrate the reasons stated by witnesses for giving evidence to the Committee:

I think I wanted someone to listen to me, nobody ever listened to us, nobody ever asked us how we were feeling. When our mother died we were never spoken to, we cried for a reason, nobody ever asked why, nobody ever said “if you have a problem come to me”. We did not know how to post a letter or buy a loaf of bread …(after discharge)… I wanted to be heard really.

They all said “that couldn’t have happened” but they can’t say that to 5000 of us when we all have a similar story to tell.

For all the children who died in care and cannot speak for themselves. Listening to fellows being flogged … I just wanted to forget them but I couldn’t forget them … fellows were being told not to tell their parents. I’m not interested in any compensation but there should be some official record of what happened. The most important thing is that disabled children would be educated without abuse being done to them.

Lots of others would love to come to tell their story but they can’t because their lives are destroyed with drink and drugs and everything. My story is their story too.

I know many of the others are not around to tell. To protect kids, give a double look at the guy you think is such a great guy, who offers to do things with kids, who is supposed to be a lover of kids or whatever, where you think he seems to be a sports man … look again, because, once a kid is sent down the wrong way it seems to live with them for ever. There is a … wall of silence that no one knows unless you are within the School. You need to bring things in to protect the kids.

I blame the Government, they gave the religious orders the power, they should have come and checked you, if it was monitored they wouldn’t have the power to do what they did…. Is anyone ever going to listen? I had to prove myself, everyone is entitled to have their say and now … after today … I will just burn it …(supporting documents)… in front of me, I’ll finish it.

I knew 7 people who in a space of 6 months after leaving …named School… committed suicide. … I know an awful lot of people who just cannot come forward to this day, an awful lot are dead.

I wanted to see if there is something good that can come from it, that what happened will be made public in print. When I started there was nothing about money, nothing at all about money, it’s not money. All I want is justice. … What could you do with money?

I am here today because I am not a number, I am a human being.

Why …(come forward)…? How come I am feeling this 50 or 60 years on? How come someone didn’t come and … do something about it, say “are you alright?” I grew up so emotionally bruised and battered, psychologically I couldn’t do anything. I wanted someone to tell me why it happened. From 0 till 18 I was a figure under section something …(Children Act, 1908)…. Initially I wanted to confront somebody from that bloody School and say “why did you do that to me?”

So that there will be a report which will advise social workers to monitor children in care more closely.

To record abuse, perhaps it will go some way towards stopping the belief that children won’t remember.

I want people to know it was not safe for children in those Schools…. It was a School from hell, they were dangerous people. I will never forgive them, there were people in charge they done nothing about it, you were under lock and key, you got the life kicked out of you and no one does anything about it.

It’s a must … you were allotted to listen to me, it’s going to close a chapter in my life and I’m happy to release it all.

No one was prepared to stand-up, the government allowed the religious institutions to care for children, it was out of their hands. The religious just did not know how to cope, they had no background whatsoever in childcare.

We have been quiet long enough.

It’s a report for social workers, to monitor more carefully, there should have been monitoring. If there had been more outsiders coming into the School, you know you would have got to know them. Letting the children know that they have someone to talk to, if they have a problem and … someone you could trust outside, they would have to be outside, a separate thing from the School. If I had someone to talk to, separate, that I could trust … it would have helped me. It has been a great help to talk about it.

I feel that nobody listened to us as children, and thank God someone is listening to us now.

2.50Chapter 3 provides information on the demographic profile of the 791 witnesses whose evidence was included in the abuse reports in relation to Industrial and Reformatory Schools (Schools). Evidence provided by the 259 witnesses who reported abuse in ‘Other Institutions’ is covered in Chapters 12–18 of this Report. Thirty six (36) of the witnesses reported abuse in both Schools and ‘Other Institutions’. Their evidence is recorded as it relates to either the Schools or the designated ‘Other’ Institutions.

1 Sections 4(6), 15(1) and 16 as amended.

2 See Appendix 2.

3 The term applicant refers to all individuals who applied to be heard by the Confidential Committee, not all of whom proceeded to become witnesses and give evidence.

4 Sections 4(6), 5(4), 11(2), 15(1), 16(2), 27, 32, 33, and 34 as amended.

5 Section 27(6).

6 Section 16(2).

7 Section 27(1).

8 Sections 27(2), 27(3).

9 Section 27(2).

10 Section 27(3).

11 See Appendix 3, which includes a copy of the CICA Information Leaflet and the Application Form.

12 See Appendix 4, 4A and 4B,which includes a revised edition of the Information Pack, sample appointment letter and a photograph of the Hearing Room.

13 Section 19 as amended by section 14 of the 2005 Act.

14 Section 19 as amended by section 14 of the 2005 Act.

15 These figures do not include all dual applicants.

16 Section 1(1).

17 Section 7.

18 Section 4(1)(b), as amended by section 4 of the 2005 Act.

19 Section 27(1).

20 Statement delivered at the First Public Sitting, 29th June 2000, 3rd Interim Report page 240.

21 Section 4(6)(a) and (b) as amended by section 4 of the 2005 Act. See also paragraph 2.43 below.

22 This is based on Census 2002, Volume 6 Occupations, Appendix 2, Definitions – Labour Force. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded, in so far as it was known.

23 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.

24 Section 16(2)(a).

25 Formerly the Department of Education.

26 Section 4(6).


Chapter 3
Social and demographic profile of witnesses – Industrial and Reformatory Schools


3.01This chapter of the Confidential Committee Report provides an overview of the personal details of 791 witnesses, 413 male and 378 female, who gave evidence to the Committee about the abuse they experienced in Industrial and Reformatory Schools. Industrial and Reformatory Schools were residential institutions that in Ireland were generally owned and managed by religious Congregations and were publicly funded. Industrial Schools admitted neglected, orphaned or abandoned boys and girls who were either sent there by order of the courts or, in exceptional circumstances, could be placed there on a voluntary basis by parents or guardians. Young people were admitted to Reformatory Schools by order of the courts, having committed an offence.

3.02Thirty six (36) of these witnesses, 24 male and 12 female, also reported abuse in ‘Other Institutions’. The information pertaining to witness abuse experiences in ‘Other Institutions’ is referred to elsewhere in this Report.1

3.03The reports of abuse refer to 55 certified Schools within the Industrial and Reformatory School system in Ireland between the years 1914 and 1989.2 The number of abuse reports varied in relation to different Schools and over different decades. The number of reports per School is indicated below:

  • Six (6) Schools were the subject of more than 40 reports each, totalling 395 reports altogether.
  • Five (5) Schools were the subject of 21-34 reports, totalling 135 reports.
  • Thirteen (13) Schools were the subject of 11-20 reports, totalling 193 reports.
  • Eleven (11) Schools were the subject of 6-10 reports, totalling 91 reports.
  • Twenty (20) Schools were the subject of 1-5 reports, totalling 57 reports.

3.04There were different points of entry into the School system for witnesses depending on their age, gender, family circumstances and the precipitating factors for their admission. The demographic information compiled in the following chapter was provided by witnesses from their own memory, supplemented at times by information provided to them by relatives and others, in addition to information available through official records. The following sections outline the pre-admission social and family circumstances of the 791 witnesses, reported to the Committee.

Parental marital status

3.05Five hundred and thirty six (536) witnesses (68%), 310 male and 226 female, who gave evidence to the Committee reported that their parents were married, separated or widowed, at the time of their birth.3 The following table represents the information provided by witnesses as it was known to them at the time of their hearings:

Table 4: Marital Status of Witnesses’ Parents at Time of Birth – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Marital status of parents Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Married 276 67 188 50 464 59
Single 79 19 132 35 211 27
Separated 25 6 27 7 52 7
Extra-marital relationship 9 2 9 2 18 2
Co-habiting 7 2 6 2 13 1
Widowed 9 2 11 3 20 3
Unavailable 8 2 5 1 13 1
Total 413 100 378 100 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

3.06As shown, there are notable differences in the information provided by male and female witnesses in these categories, for example: 67% of male witnesses reported that their parents were married compared to 50% of female witnesses. Two hundred and twenty nine (229) witnesses (29%) were either non-marital or extra-marital children, 88 of whom were male and 141 were female. One hundred and twenty six (126) of those witnesses reported they had siblings, most, but not all of whom were in out-of-home care. In general, witnesses born of an extra-marital relationship reported being admitted to out-of-home care as infants and had a similar pattern of institutional care as non-marital children.

3.07Thirteen (13) witnesses did not provide information or had no knowledge of their parent’s marital status.

Parental occupational status

3.08The following table indicates the occupational status or estimated skill level of the witnesses’ parents at the time of admission, as reported by the witnesses. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded.

Table 5: Occupational Status of Witnesses’ Parents – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Occupational status4 Males % Females % Total
witnesses
%
Professional worker 3 1 6 2 9 1
Managerial and technical 4 1 4 1 8 1
Non-manual 14 3 15 4 29 4
Skilled manual 23 6 22 6 45 6
Semi-skilled 50 12 23 6 73 9
Unskilled 277 67 253 67 530 67
Unknown 42 10 55 15 97 12
Total 413 100 378 (100)* 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

3.09Five hundred and thirty (530) witnesses (67%) reported that their parents were unskilled at the time of their admission to out-of-home care and a further 97 reported that their parents’ skill levels were unknown to them. There were 5% more female witnesses reporting such lack of information than male witnesses.

Siblings

3.10Six hundred and eighty four (684) of the 791 witnesses (86%) reported that they had brothers and/or sisters, some or all of whom may also have been in out-of-home care. A further 38 witnesses reported not knowing whether or not they had any siblings. For the purpose of this Report, half-brothers and sisters are included as siblings when the witness reported having lived with them as family members. The following table indicates approximate family size reported by witnesses:

Table 6: Number of Siblings – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Number of siblings Number of witnesses
0 69
1 – 5 405
6 – 10 209
11 – 15 64
16+ 6
Unknown 38
Total 791

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

3.11Two hundred and seventy nine (279) witnesses (35%) reported having six or more brothers and sisters with 70 of those witnesses being from families of 12 children or more. The average family size reported by the 684 witnesses was 6 children. The other 107 witnesses were deemed to be single children without siblings, having either stated that they knew they had no siblings or that they have never been able to establish the facts in relation to their family of origin details. Allowing for families represented by more than one witness to the Committee, the 791 witnesses represent 663 families. There were an estimated 4,139 children in those families.

Residences prior to admission

3.12The majority of witnesses reported a relatively settled history in relation to where they resided prior to their admission to a School, as shown in the following table:

Table 7: Number of Residences Prior to Admission to Industrial and Reformatory – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Number of prior residences Males % Females % Total
witnesses
%
One 312 76 261 69 573 72
Two 47 11 55 15 102 13
Three 8 2 7 2 15 2
Four 2 (0) 0 0 2 (0)
Five 0 0 2 1 2 (0)
Unavailable 44 11 53 14 97 12
Total 413 100 378 (100)* 791 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied to percentages

3.13Five hundred and seventy three (573) witnesses (72%) reported that admission to a School was their first change of residence. Approximately half of these witnesses reported being admitted to a School from their family home in the context of some crisis and consequent intervention. A further 102 witnesses (13%) reported having two changes of residence before they were admitted to the School system, many of which were placements in Children’s Homes from mother and baby homes or foster care prior to being transferred to an Industrial School. The 97 witnesses reported as unknown in this category are a combination of witnesses who did not have any information about their early circumstances or who did not provide information about their residence prior to admission. As may be observed, male witnesses reported somewhat more stability in their place of residence prior to admission to the School system, with 7% more male witnesses reporting only one prior residence.

Place of birth

3.14Witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee reported that they were born in 25 of the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland and in two of the Northern Ireland counties, in addition to England, Scotland and Wales. See the following table for details:

Table 8: Place of Birth, by County or Other Location – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

County – place of birth Males Females Total witnesses
Carlow 4 5 9
Cavan 2 3 5
Clare 7 16 23
Cork 64 37 101
Donegal 2 0 2
Dublin 188 140 328
Galway 13 20 33
Kerry 6 12 18
Kildare 3 8 11
Kilkenny 6 5 11
Laois 5 8 13
Limerick 33 22 55
Longford 3 0 3
Louth 5 13 18
Mayo 5 3 8
Meath 3 1 4
Monaghan 2 1 3
Offaly 5 9 14
Roscommon 1 7 8
Sligo 2 3 5
Tipperary 16 15 31
Waterford 10 11 21
Westmeath 5 7 12
Wexford 6 8 14
Wicklow 2 4 6
Northern Ireland: Derry 0 1 1
Northern Ireland: Tyrone 0 1 1
England/Scotland/Wales 14 18 32
Unknown 1 0 1
Total 413 378 791

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

3.15Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Tipperary were the birth counties of 314 male witnesses (76%) and 234 female witnesses (62%).

3.16A small number of witnesses were of Irish Traveller or mixed-race backgrounds and to maintain anonymity no further information can be provided.

Current country of residence

3.17As previously stated and show in the following table, many witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee were residing outside Ireland at the time of their hearing:

Table 9: Country of Residence of Witnesses at Time of Hearing – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Country of residence Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Ireland 279 68 182 48 461 58
UK 118 29 172 46 290 37
USA/Canada 8 2 13 3 21 3
Australia/New Zealand 5 1 7 2 12 2
Mainland Europe 3 1 4 1 7 1
Total 413 (100)* 378 100 791 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied to percentages

3.18As indicated, there was a significant difference between the numbers of male and female witnesses living in Ireland and in the UK. Sixty eight percent (68%) of male witnesses were living in Ireland at the time of their hearing compared with 48% of female witnesses. Most of the witnesses living in the UK reported being there since they were discharged from the Schools or shortly thereafter. Many commented on the considerable help and assistance they received, both at a personal and professional level, from health and welfare services in the UK.

Age at time of hearing

3.19At the time of their hearings 656 of the 791 witnesses (83%) were over 49 years of age, with 57 of those witnesses aged over 70 years. See Table 10 for more complete details:

Table 10: Age Range of Witnesses at Time of Hearing – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Age range Males % Females % Total witnesses %
30 – 39 years 12 3 6 2 18 2
40 – 49 years 54 13 63 17 117 15
50 – 59 years 186 45 193 51 379 48
60 – 69 years 119 29 101 27 220 28
70 + years 42 10 15 4 57 7
Total 413 100 378 (100)* 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding down was applied to percentages

3.20As the table demonstrates, 76% of the total number of witnesses who gave evidence in relation to Schools were aged between 50 and 70 years at the time of the hearing. There were some differences between the ages of the male and female witnesses, with 74% of male witnesses aged between 50 and 70 compared with 78% of female witnesses. In addition, 6% more male witnesses were aged over 70 years.

3.21Chapter 4 provides information on the reported circumstances that led to these witnesses being placed in out-of-home care as children.

1 See chapters 12-18.

2 Of note is the fact that witness reports from ‘Other Institutions’ referred to discharges up to the year 2000.

3 This percentage is based on a total of 791 witnesses who reported abuse in Industrial and Reformatory Schools.

4 The categorisation is based on Census 2002, Volume 6 Occupations, Appendix 2, Definitions – Labour Force. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded, insofar as it was known.


Chapter 4
Circumstances of admission to Industrial and Reformatory Schools


4.01This chapter describes the circumstances of admission to care of the 413 male and 378 female witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee about their experiences of abuse in Schools. Thirty eight (38) Schools were situated in rural and provincial Ireland and 17 were in cities.

4.02There were 18 junior and senior boys Schools named in evidence to the Committee. The junior Schools admitted boys up to the age of 10 years and were all managed by religious Sisters. Boys were generally transferred to senior boys Schools when they were 10 years old. However evidence was heard of boys being transferred to senior Schools as young as eight years of age and of boys younger than 10 years being placed directly in senior Schools. These Schools were managed by Brothers and/or priests and, with some variations, admitted boys between the ages of 10 and 16 years.

4.03There were 37 girls Schools reported in evidence to the Committee. A number of these Schools were certified to admit girls and boys up to the age of 10 years. In the period after the mid-1970s a number of girls’ Industrial Schools began to admit boys and girls, both individually and in family groups. As reported, girls generally remained in the same School for the duration of their admission. Eleven (11) Schools were the subject of reports of abuse by both male and female witnesses.

4.04The Reformatory Schools were all gender segregated and were certified to admit young people from the age of 12 years who were convicted of an offence.

4.05Seven hundred and nine (709) of the 791 witnesses (90%) were first admitted to residential institutions between 1914 and 1965. The remaining 82 witnesses were first admitted to an institution in 1965 or later. The earliest date of admission relating to Schools for male witnesses covered in this section of the Report was 1919. All 413 male witnesses had been discharged from the School system by 1989. The earliest date of admission for the 378 female witnesses was 1914, all of whom had been discharged from the School system by 1988. The educational, social and welfare changes introduced nationally in the 1960s and 1970s were reflected in the evidence heard by the Committee, as noted throughout the Report.

4.06For the purpose of analysis and reporting the Committee combined witness evidence into four periods by the decade of the witness’s discharge. The four periods were: pre-1960s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The breakdown for each decade is shown below.

Table 11: Number of Witnesses by Decade of Discharge – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Decade of discharge Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Pre-1960s 177 43 133 35 310 39
1960 – 1969 170 41 169 45 339 43
1970 – 1979 50 12 68 18 118 15
1980 – 1989 16 4 8 2 24 3
Total 413 100 378 100 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

4.07It is important to note witnesses discharged in one decade may have been in residential care and also reported abuse in relation to the previous decade.1

Pathways to Industrial and Reformatory Schools

4.08Witnesses who gave evidence were admitted both directly from their parents’ home to the Schools and also from various other residential settings, including:

Mother and Baby Homes. These were often either the place of birth or first residence for non-marital children. A number of witnesses reported that they remained in these homes with their mothers, for up to 3 years.

County Homes. These were also both places of birth and first residences. Some witnesses reported being with their mothers in county homes until they were up to five years old.

Foster Care. Provided for infants and young children in some circumstances prior to placement in an Industrial School. Before 1983 such arrangements were also known as ‘boarding out’ or ‘at nurse’.

Children’s Homes. These facilities admitted infants and young children. A number of witnesses reported being placed in Children’s Homes until they were transferred to an Industrial School.

4.09Witnesses who were admitted to Schools from the above facilities were most often non-marital children, frequently referred to as ‘orphans’. The term orphan was used by witnesses in relation to their own circumstances and in reference to co-residents who had no contact with any family outside the institution. Witnesses generally believed that these residents had been in institutions all their lives and either had no known family or their parents had died. Many later learned that they had lived with their mothers for the first few years of their lives and/or had been initially reared by relatives prior to placement in out-of-home care. A number of those witnesses who identified themselves as orphans reported that frequently their mothers had, for various reasons, been unable to support them. The majority of these witnesses had known little or nothing about the circumstances of their admission to out-of-home care. This lack of information included not knowing where they had been born, who their mothers and their fathers were, whether they had siblings, why their parents were unable to care for them and who decided they would be admitted to the Industrial School system. In many instances information available to witnesses through Freedom of Information legislation and other sources in later years indicated that they were not in fact orphans. Witnesses described learning that their parents, particularly mothers, had made representations to the authorities to have them placed close to where they lived. Others reported that their parents had sought to have them released before the full term of their detention and also requested information about their children from whom they had been separated. Witnesses reported that most often these requests had not received a favourable response at the time. However, for a number of witnesses access to such information facilitated contact with family previously unknown to them.

4.10Admissions to Industrial Schools were frequently by Court Order, applications for which could be made by Inspectors from the NSPCC/ISPCC and the Gardaí. Information provided to the Committee indicated that Inspectors from the Society applied for Court Orders on behalf of 120 male witnesses (29%) and 208 female witnesses (60%) who were admitted to Industrial Schools. Placements in voluntary Children’s Homes and foster care were reported to have been generally negotiated by individual arrangement between a child’s parent, guardian, public assistance boards, local authorities and Health Boards, and the operators of the respective services. Some of these placements were by Order of the Court following on application by the Health Board.

4.11‘Boarding out’ and foster care arrangements were other options for the care of a child in circumstances where the parents were unable to provide the necessary care. Records provided to the Committee by witnesses suggest that access to these placements depended on various factors, including either the ability of the mother or her family to pay, the official involvement of State agencies and the availability of appropriate residential services.

4.12In addition to reports of parental payment for foster care and other placements, the Committee heard evidence from many witnesses of the requirement for parents to contribute financially towards their children’s maintenance in Industrial Schools. Copies of correspondence, shown to the Committee by witnesses, between their parents and Department of Education officials, Gardaí and Resident Managers indicated that such payments were assiduously pursued by their officials.

I was illegitimate … I went into the orphanage …(Industrial School)…. My mother was unmarried, her mother had died in childbirth. My grandfather never saw me, my father didn’t want to know…. She was wandering the streets and there was this man a Mr …X… he was sort of in charge, an overseer, of unmarried mothers, to keep an eye on them for the Government. He got her into the workhouse … run by nuns and she worked scrubbing and cleaning … the nuns told her she had to be punished for committing a mortal sin, they were the words from my mother to me. She was there from when she was 7 months pregnant until I was born…. She was kept in the workhouse, for 2 or 3 months. Then her sister went up one Sunday to see her, and took me and her out. She then went to work … it was then I was left with …(foster mother)…. I was minded by …(foster mother)… for the first 2 years … and my mother paid that woman to mind me. It …(the cost)… became too much for her I suppose and I went to …named School… through the Courts. It was through Mr …X … I went into the orphanage …(Industrial School)…. I did not know I had gone through the Courts until I got the records, it said my mother was incapable of minding me and so I went into the orphanage.

4.13The chart below is an outline of the general pathways into and through institutional care for most witnesses who gave evidence in relation to abuse in Industrial Schools. The representation of Court intervention on the Chart is intended to indicate that it was not a necessary prelude to admission to the Industrial Schools. It is important to note that children were also admitted to the Schools without recourse to the Courts.

Figure 1: Outline of Pathways to Industrial Schools

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Court involvement – see Chapter 4.3

**Girls/Mixed Industrial Schools – Small number of girls Schools also admitted boys up to the age of 8-10 years, prior to transfer to senior boys Schools. There was no distinction between junior and senior Schools for girls as there was for boys.

***Some boys were discharged at this stage.

4.14The Committee heard accounts of older children being looked after by relatives while younger siblings went into care. In other instances babies were kept at home either with parents or relatives while the other children were admitted to care.

  • Five hundred and seventy (570) witnesses (72%), 327 male and 243 female, reported being admitted directly from parental and extended family homes to either an Industrial or Reformatory School.
  • Ninety six (96) witnesses, 29 male and 67 female, reported being admitted to an Industrial School from mother and baby homes, county homes, hospitals and hostels where they were born and where many had spent some time with their mothers prior to their admission to Schools.
  • Fifty three (53) witnesses, 22 male and 31 female, reported being admitted to Industrial Schools from foster care placements, including ‘boarding out’ and ‘at nurse’ arrangements.
  • Thirty seven (37) witnesses, 23 male and 14 female, reported being admitted to Industrial Schools from Children’s Homes.
  • Three (3) witnesses reported being admitted to an Industrial School from special needs schools.
  • Thirty two (32) witnesses, nine male and 23 female, have been unable to determine where they were prior to their admission to an Industrial School.

4.15One hundred and two (102) male witnesses (25%) were initially admitted to junior Schools as young children and transferred to a senior School at between eight and 10 years of age.

Reasons for admission

4.16Social circumstances, including combinations of poverty, illness, neglect, parental death, non-marital birth and unemployment were reported as significant factors in the admission of all 791 witnesses to the School system. Two hundred and forty one (241) witnesses (30%), 119 male and 122 female, reported parental alcohol abuse, poverty, unemployment, family violence and lack of care and control at home as contributory factors in their admission to a School.

4.17Two hundred and twenty nine (229) witnesses (29%), 88 male and 141 female, identified themselves as non-marital children, who as a consequence of the circumstances of their birth were generally in some form of institutional care for most of their childhood.

4.18One hundred and forty (140) witnesses (18%), 75 male and 65 female, reported the death of one or both parents as a significant factor in their admission to a School. Of those, the mother’s death preceded admission in 82 instances and father’s death preceded admission in 49 instances. Death of both parents was reported as a reason for admission in nine instances. The main known causes of death reported by male and female witnesses were tuberculosis, mother’s death in childbirth, cancer and heart disease.

My father died, my mother had 8 of us. She went to the parish priest, she was friendly with him, and he said “put them into an orphanage until you get yourself sorted out in your new home”. So she went to the Court, she was looking for a pound, that’s all she wanted, a pound a week. But they threw her out of Court and put us into Schools, all except the youngest of us.

4.19One hundred and eleven (111) witnesses (14%), 107 male and four female, reported that their conviction for criminal offences was the major factor leading to their admission to a School.2 The nature of the offences mainly involved theft of food, fuel, bicycles, clothing or money. There were eight reports from male witnesses of admission as a result of charges for more serious offences such as ‘breaking and entering’ and ‘attacks on the person’.

4.20Sixty seven (67) witnesses, 38 male and 29 female, reported parental abandonment as a factor in the circumstances leading to their admission. Fifty one (51) of these reports referred to fathers leaving the family home, sometimes to seek work in the UK or USA, at other times leaving the family home in the context of domestic violence, alcohol abuse or illness. Witnesses reported the remaining parent, usually the child’s mother, was unable to manage alone and by a variety of means children were placed in institutional care. Sixteen (16) witnesses reported that their mother left the family home, in circumstances similar to those reported above and with similar consequences.

I didn’t deserve the life they gave me, I was and am branded a criminal by the Courts and I did nothing wrong, all because the …X… County Council wouldn’t spend a few lousy pounds repairing our house and because they would rather give money to the …named religious order… to look after us than give my mother some help after he …(father)… left so that we could stay together as a family….

4.21Fifty six (56) witnesses were admitted to institutional care as a result of a Court Order under the School Attendance Acts. Non-attendance at school was reported by a number of witnesses to be the result of difficult circumstances at home, including poverty, neglect and domestic violence. Parental alcohol abuse was a frequent feature of these reports. Eleven (11) male witnesses reported being absent from school specifically because of learning difficulties and/or severe treatment at school.

4.22Fifty four (54) witnesses, 19 male and 35 female, reported chronic illness and hospitalisation of a parent as the main contributing factor in their admission. Twenty six (26) witnesses reported that their mothers were in psychiatric hospitals and five others reported that their fathers had psychiatric illnesses. Ten (10) witnesses reported that one of their parents had tuberculosis and the remaining parent was unable to cope alone, resulting in the more dependant children being admitted to an Industrial School. Other witnesses reported that both parents had tuberculosis.

Mum had TB, my father couldn’t look after us … he was an alcoholic. I was put in by Court Order …(with consent of parents)…. My sisters joined me, except my eldest sister, she stayed with my Nan…. I have no recollection because I was only 18 months …(old)… going there. Basically from what my sister told me I know it was 3 or 4 months after me that they came in. All my mam’s family had died of TB, she was the only one that survived, basically she was on her own. I saw my father once, I remember him coming up one Christmas. I didn’t know I had brothers until …(later years)….

Seven of us went into institutions. The baby she …(mother)… kept and an older sister as well. The house was examined, it was in very poor circumstance. I have a letter from the sergeant …displayed copy of correspondence and garda report…. My father had a disability. I remember it …(admission)… distinctly. I was going in … I was sitting on my mother’s lap, she left me and she didn’t come back and get me. … She didn’t visit until I was 5, I didn’t recognise her as my mother.

They brought us to the Court. I remember my father screaming …distressed… he was a good father. I remember him playing with us, he was a good man, he’d play with me and my sister, he did not want us to go. I remember the love my parents had for me, they were poor and my mother was another religion.

  • Thirty two (32) witnesses, 21 male and 11 female, reported being admitted to a School following family disruption through parental separation, cohabitation or as a result of extra marital relationships.
  • Twenty seven (27) witnesses, 10 male and 17 female, reported that their parents, 20 fathers and seven mothers either were or had also been in prison.
  • Five (5) witnesses, two male and three female, reported being admitted to a School because of familial sexual abuse.
  • Sixty five (65) witnesses, 57 male and eight female, stated that they have not been able to determine the circumstances of their admission to institutional care.

Admission by Court Order

4.23Six hundred and eighty four (684) admissions of 356 male and 314 female witnesses were required by Order of a Court. These included 14 admissions to more than one institution under separate Court Orders. The admissions took place as the result of a Court Order under provisions of the Children Act, 1908, as amended, and the School Attendance Acts, 1926-1967.

4.24The following chart summarises the provisions of the Children Act, 1908, as amended, and the School Attendance Acts, 1926-1967 under which these witnesses were admitted to Industrial and Reformatory Schools.

Table 12: Summary of Statutory Provisions under which Witnesses were Detained in Industrial and Reformatory Schools – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Source of jurisdiction Grounds Number of court orders males Number of court orders females
Children Act, 1908 section In need of Care/Protection where the child was under 15 years old (under 14 up to 1942)
58(1)(a) Found begging or receiving alms 10 22
58(1)(b) Found not having a home or not having parent/guardian exercising proper guardianship. 141 207
58(1)(c) Found destitute where parent/s are in prison. 3 7
133(17) Found destitute being an orphan. 3 3
58(1)(d) Having a parent/guardian who by reason of reputed criminal or drunken habits is therefore unfit to have care of the child. 15 31
58(1)(h) Found destitute and parent/s unable to support child. 30 38
Children Act, 1908 Uncontrollable
58(4) Parent unable to control the child and desires child be sent to Industrial School. 4 1
Children Act, 1908 Offender – Committal to Industrial School
58(2) Child under 12 charged with offence, where Court decides to send him or her to Industrial rather than Reformatory School. 25 0
58(3) Child aged between 12 and 14,(13 before 1942), charged with an offence, and not previously convicted, where Court decides to send him or her to Industrial rather than Reformatory School, and he or she will not exercise an evil influence over other children there. 40 1
Children Act, 1908 Offender – Committal to Reformatory School
57(1) Offender from age 12 up, but less than 17, (16 before 1942), could be sent to Reformatory School. 42 2
School Attendance Acts, 1926-1967 Non-Attendance at School
Section 17(4) Where parent has used all reasonable efforts to cause child to attend school or is convicted for second time (of failing or neglecting to send a child to school). 55 1
Others3 1 2
Total admissions by Court Order 369 315

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

4.25The section of legislation under which witnesses were most frequently admitted to the School system was section 58(1)(b) of the Children Act, 1908, under which 141 male admissions (38%) and 207 female admissions (66%) were effected. Section 58(1)(b) of the Act provides for situations where a child is found not having a home or having a parent or guardian not exercising proper guardianship.

4.26There were six witnesses admitted under section 133(17) of the 1908 Act, which specifically provided for the detention of children ‘found destitute, being an orphan’.4

4.27One hundred and eleven (111) admissions (16%) of 107 male and four female witnesses were under sections of the Children Act, 1908 that refer to offenders.Twenty five (25) of these admissions were of witnesses who were charged with offences when they were less than 12 years old and a further 41 were of witnesses who were aged between 12 and 14 years.

4.28Fifty six (56) witnesses, all except one of whom were male, were admitted to the School system under section 17(4) of the School Attendance Act, 1926. This Act and its amendments were applied to children who failed to attend school and were younger than the official school leaving age of 14 years. School Attendance Officers and gardaí generally initiated Court proceedings in these circumstances.

4.29Many witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee reported being angry that the wording of their Court Order appeared to ‘criminalise’ them for reasons such as ‘found not having any home or settled place of abode, or visible means of subsistence, or having a parent or guardian who does not exercise proper guardianship’.5 The absurdity of an infant being charged with ‘receiving alms’ was remarked upon. 6

Age on first admission

4.30The following information refers to what was known regarding witnesses’ age when they were first admitted to any form of care outside their own family. Many witnesses were admitted to Schools from other institutions where they may have resided from birth or early childhood. The age of first admission to out-of-home care for both male and female witnesses is shown in Table 13:

Table 13: Age on First Admission to Out-of-home Care – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Age at first admission Males % Females % Total witnesses %
0–5 years 133 32 244 65 377 48
6–10 years 119 29 99 26 218 28
11–15 years 144 35 35 9 179 23
16–17 years 17 4 0 0 17 2
Total 413 100 378 100 791 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied to percentages

4.31The marked difference in the age profile of witnesses’ admission to out-of-home care is demonstrated in this table. One hundred and thirty three (133) male witnesses (32%) compared with 244 female witnesses (65%) were admitted to out-of-home care in their first five years of life and 61% of male witnesses compared to 91% of female witnesses reported being placed in out-of-home care by the age of 10 years. Finally, 161 male witnesses (35%) were first admitted to care at age 11 years or older, compared with 35 female witnesses (9%).

Length of stay

4.32It can be observed from information provided by witnesses that the length of stay in out-of-home care varied depending on a number of factors including their age at the time of admission and the particular reasons for their admission. As shown in Table 13, most female witnesses were admitted at a young age and spent longer periods of time in institutions. By contrast, a higher percentage of male witnesses (39%) than female (9%) were admitted over the age of 10 years and were discharged within six years.

4.33The majority of witnesses were in care for more than six years. The average length of stay for male witnesses was seven and a half years and the average length of stay for female witnesses was 11 years. Table 14 below shows the length of stay in out-of-home care for both male and female witnesses:

Table 14: Length of Stay in Out-of-home Care – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Length of stay in care Males % Females % Total witnesses %
0–5 years 181 44 53 14 234 30
6–10 years 109 26 103 27 212 27
11–15 years 99 24 181 48 280 35
16+ years 24 6 41 11 65 8
Total 413 100 378 100 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

4.34As the table shows, 345 witnesses (44%), 123 male (30%) and 222 female (59%), were in out-of-home care for more than 10 years. Two hundred and thirty four (234) witnesses (30%), 181 male and 53 female, were in out-of-home care for five years or less.

4.35Witnesses admitted to Schools for committing an offence under sections 57(1) and 58(3) of the Children Act, 1908 were generally admitted at a later age and for a briefer and defined period of time than those admitted under section 58(1)(b). For the female witnesses brief admissions to Schools were an unusual experience and in most instances reflected admissions at a later age in the context of a family crisis or an offence.

Age when discharged

4.36Four hundred and eleven (411) of the 791 witnesses (52%), 198 male and 213 female, were discharged from the Schools when they were 16 years of age or older. With the exception of admission to Reformatory Schools, it was most often reported that court-ordered admissions were until the witness was 16 years rather than for a specified number of years. Seventy five (75) witnesses were discharged before their 14th birthday, 30 of whom were male and 45 female. Table 15 shows the age of discharge for both male and female witnesses.

Table 15: Age when Discharged from Out-of-home Care – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Age when discharged Males % Females % Total witnesses %
<10 years 3 1 11 3 14 2
10–13 years 27 7 34 9 61 8
14–16 years 315 76 243 64 558 71
17+ years 68 16 90 24 158 20
Total 413 100 378 100 791 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied to percentages

4.37Five hundred and fifty eight (558) witnesses (71%) left the School system between the ages of 14 and 16 years. Of those, 319 witnesses (40%), 130 male (31%) and 189 female (50%), reported being discharged when they were 16 years old. A further 158 witnesses (20%) were discharged up to 10 years later. Forty eight (48) of those witnesses, six male and 42 female, reported being kept on to work either within the School or for an individual or a service associated with the School.

4.38Sixty nine (69) witnesses, 19 male and 50 female, who remained in the School system after their 16th birthday, had been in institutional care since they were aged three years or younger and were regarded as orphans, having no known family contact. Thirty eight (38) male witnesses who were discharged over the age of 16 years were admitted under Court Orders that permitted their detention until they were 18 years old. Sixteen (16) witnesses, eight male and eight female, remained residents in the School after their 16th birthday to continue secondary education.7

4.39The next five chapters of the Report summarise the evidence provided by witnesses regarding family contact, everyday experiences and abuse while in the Schools.

1 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.

2 The age of criminal responsibility under the Children Act, 1908 was seven years. The age was raised to 12 years by section 52 of the Children Act, 2001. This was subsequently amended by section 129 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 which confined the power to bring criminal proceedings against children to those aged 12 and older with certain exceptions.

3 For reasons of confidentiality details regarding the provisions governing these admissions cannot be specified.

4 Section 133(17) of the Children Act, 1908.

5 Section 58(1)(b) of the Children Act, 1908.

6 Section 58(1)(a) of the Children Act, 1908.

7 With permission from the Department of Education and the consent of the parent(s) or guardian, detention could be extended beyond the residents’ sixteenth birthday (but not beyond their seventeenth birthday) for the purpose of further education or training. See section 12 of the Children Act, 1941.


Chapter 5
Family contact


5.01This chapter presents a range of information provided in relation to witnesses’ families, including witnesses designated as ‘orphans’ who in fact had living parents. The extent of information provided by witnesses to the Committee about family contact was determined by numerous factors, particularly the availability of family information to the witnesses themselves. In most instances where family information was available, witnesses generally reported having siblings or relatives and that they lived at home or with extended family for some time prior to their admission to out-of-home care.1

Prior to admission

5.02Witnesses who had been in care since birth were too young at the time to recall what happened to them. ‘I don’t know why I was there, where I was before, who sent me there … no idea what happened.’ Others were unclear about the detail of their family circumstances but remembered being admitted to out-of-home care with their brothers and sisters and at times being visited by relatives. A number of these witnesses learned subsequently that they had lived with their parents and/or relatives for some time before being admitted to care, but had no sense of being part of a family network while they were in the School system. Many other witnesses had clear memories of living with their parents or with their relatives before their admission and maintained contact with their family throughout their time in institutional care.

Siblings in care

5.03Six hundred and eighty four (684) witnesses (86%) reported having siblings, of whom 256 male (62%) and 270 female (71%), reported having brothers and/or sisters who were also in out-of-home care. A further 59 witnesses reported they did not know enough about their family circumstances to know whether or not they had siblings in care. The Committee heard evidence that 2,275 children were placed in out-of-home care from the families of these witnesses. Most, but not all, of those children were placed in Industrial Schools. A number were also placed in Children’s Homes, foster homes and other institutions.

5.04Two hundred and fourteen (214) witnesses who attended the Committee had at least one other sibling who also attended hearings with the Committee. In total these witnesses represented 86 families.2

5.05The most common pattern reported by witnesses admitted as part of a family group was of being taken to Court along with their siblings and from there being transferred to one or more Schools. Admissions of family groups generally occurred in the context of a family crisis or intervention in circumstances of illness, poverty or neglect. Most often siblings were reported to be separated, younger boys being sent to junior or mixed Industrial Schools and the girls were admitted to girls Schools. Boys over the age of 10 years were admitted to senior boys Schools.

My first memory … I was taken to …named School… with my sisters in the car. …(I was)… 4 years. … I did observe the garda car turning into the …named girls School… and I knew then that was where my sisters were going. My youngest brother stayed with my grandmother, we lived within a stones throw of the School. I started crying for my sisters and got a slap across the face, that was my first experience of …named School….

I didn’t know I had sisters until I was over 10 or so … I wasn’t even told they …(X and Y)… were my sisters, I thought they were just other girls that were in there like me. I didn’t know I had a brother. I was 2 when I went in there, he was in …named boys School… When he was 16 he came to see us. … I couldn’t believe I had a brother, there was no bond there….

Parental contact

5.06Six hundred and twenty eight (628) of the 791 witnesses (79%), 349 male (85%) and 279 female (74%), reported having resided with parents or relatives prior to their admission to out-of-home care. Although many of these witnesses reported having no memory of family contact they became aware of their family identity in more recent years through records they obtained under the Freedom of Information Acts, 1997 and 2003 and through subsequently re-established relationships.

5.07A further 110 witnesses (14%), 46 male and 64 female, reported being in out-of-home care, including mother and baby homes, foster care, hostels or county homes, since birth. On the basis of what subsequently became known to them about their admission many of the witnesses surmised that they were with their mothers for various periods of time from their birth before they were placed in the School system. Other witnesses reported that they learned in recent years that the possibility of their placement with members of their extended family was not explored at the time.

There was a space on the form… (admission documents)(which stated)… “Was the guardian informed?”…It just said “Nil”.There was no effort to place me with…named relative…She was quite clear she would have had me, had she known.

5.08Fifty three (53) witnesses (7%), 17 male and 36 female, reported having been in out-of-home care since birth. At the time of their hearing no contact had ever been made by relatives or through family tracing services and they described their past as a mystery.

Role of extended family

5.09The important role played by relatives, particularly maternal grandparents, in the lives of witnesses both before and during admission was repeatedly emphasised. Witnesses whose parents died or who were ill, hospitalised, or had abandoned their families were often cared for by grandparents, aunts, uncles and occasionally older siblings for periods of time. There were accounts heard of older children being looked after by relatives while younger siblings went into out-of-home care and of babies being kept at home either with the remaining parent or relatives while older children were admitted to an institution.

5.10One hundred and fifty six (156) witnesses (20%), 81 male and 75 female, reported that members of their extended family, i.e. grandparents, aunts and uncles, were their primary care-givers before their admission. Sixty three (63) of those witnesses, 32 male and 31 female, reported being reared by their grandparents prior to their admission to institutional care. In most instances these subsequent admissions occurred in the context of the grandparent dying, becoming ill or too frail to provide ongoing care.

5.11Fifty three (53) of the 156 witnesses, 18 male and 35 female, reported that they initially lived with a parent in the same house as members of their extended family. Many of these witnesses were extra-marital children whose mothers were supported by their parents and siblings until prevailing circumstances forced the child’s admission into out-of-home care.

5.12Another 58 witnesses, 24 male and 34 female, reported that relatives lived near the family home but were unable to assist with care-giving, for reasons including poverty, lack of adequate accommodation or having families of their own to look after. A small number of witnesses reported that relatives had been prepared to provide care when a remaining or bereaved parent was no longer able to do so but such arrangements were not put in place. A small number of witnesses reported hearing that parents had not wanted their children to be separated and sent to different relatives or that proposed placements with relatives were not acceptable to the remaining parent. Several witnesses commented on the irony of being then separated for the duration of their time in institutional care.

During admission

5.13Six hundred and eighty four (684) witnesses (86%) reported having siblings and 374 of those witnesses (47%) reported having little or no contact with any family members during their time in the Schools. As non-marital children many of those witnesses would, effectively, have had no known extended family communicating with them.

I’d just like to say that the worst thing you can do to any family is separate them. The State robbed me of my childhood and my brothers and sisters. It was bad enough to be taken away from my mother and father but terrible to be taken away from my brothers and sisters.

Contact with siblings

5.14One hundred and ninety two (192) witnesses (28%) who had siblings, 102 male and 90 female, reported losing contact with their brothers and sisters following placement in the Schools. Additionally, a number of witnesses who were non-marital children were totally unaware that they also had siblings in care. Forty three (43) witnesses, 29 male and 14 female, reported being unaware that siblings were placed with them in the same School at the time. This information was only revealed to them in later years when contact was re-established. Other witnesses reported knowing they had brothers or sisters in the same School but had little contact with them due to the regimented nature of everyday life. With few exceptions, witnesses reported that no perceivable attempt was made by the authorities to promote family contact between siblings in the gender-segregated School system in the period prior to 1970. ‘If the nuns had a Feast Day then we were all allowed sit together, all my sisters. That was the only time.’

When my father died, my mother … looked after us, but she worked. … We were taken to …named School… we were separated, my brother clung to me, I didn’t know where he went. Suddenly after all the years I met my sister … we were in the same School, they would not let us see her. About four years after I left I got to meet her. My brother was there …(in the same School)… but we didn’t interact ever as brother and sister, we weren’t together.

I was shocked … that was the first time I knew I had an elder brother. … I had an inclination that I had sisters because of the situation on the beach. We wouldn’t be allowed to cross to see them….Our orphanages was brought to …named… beach and …residents from girls School… would have been brought down the same day, but they were kept over there …(indicating a line in the sand)…. They were there and the next thing you hear “that’s my brother …X… over there”. I remember …named sibling… saying it. But you weren’t allowed have the conversation, you could look across the beach and that was it, there was a line you know … “thou shall not pass”. That line is still there, by the way, we …(siblings)… find it hard …(to communicate)… from lack of … contact as children.

The only way I knew I had a brother was they used to serve Mass on a Sunday morning and that was our only chance of getting to see them. We would all see them, but they were not allowed speak to us. We were proud of them, one was very handsome…. Later when they were older they were allowed over on a Sunday but they were not allowed in, they had to stand at the door, we could talk to them there. Usually visitors were allowed into the parlour, they weren’t.

5.15The separation of brothers and sisters from each other in the Schools was reported by witnesses to be compounded by the practice of placing siblings with different ‘foster’ or ‘holiday’ families, where contact between them could not be maintained. However, it was more often reported by witnesses discharged since the 1970s that siblings were placed together in smaller group homes or with the same ‘holiday’ families.

5.16One hundred and forty (140) witnesses (20%) reported that they were admitted to out-of-home care because of parental death and the subsequent separation of siblings was reported to have had a devastating impact on familial bonds.

5.17An exception to the frequently reported separation of siblings was the experience of brothers and sisters being admitted to mixed gender Schools where it was expected in a small number of Schools that the oldest sister would look after her younger siblings. This convention was reported by a number of witnesses to have contributed to maintaining a bond between siblings that endured into later life. However, some witnesses reported that these expectations had a negative impact on sibling attachment through placing unreasonable demands on children to assume a parental role. The Committee also heard accounts of older brothers and sisters returning to visit siblings after their discharge. ‘My brother … visited me once, he was not encouraged and was told by staff not to be in touch, but I held his address in my head and found him …(following discharge)… and we are now close.’

Parents and relatives

5.18Three hundred and seventy six (376) witnesses (48%), 173 male (42%) and 203 female (54%), reported that contact had been maintained with and by their family for the duration of their stay in the School. Witnesses reported that the most typical opportunities for contact with their siblings, parents and relatives existed through informal visiting arrangements, on monthly visiting Sundays, visits home and to relatives during school holidays, letters and parcels sent by parents and relatives and occasional phone calls. Witnesses from some Schools were allowed to go home for weekends if they lived nearby. Visits and other forms of contact were treated as privileges and could be withheld for a variety of reasons.

I got sent away for mitching from school. … I did not get harmed there, but I never got home for the 5 years …(of admission)…. I was due to go home once but I broke a window with a football and the Brothers would not let me home.

My mother came down to visit me and she was not allowed in because I was all bruised, she had to wait outside while all the others …(visitors)… were in.

5.19Witnesses also reported that visits home depended on their parents’ ability to pay the necessary transport fare, which in the case of residents at some Schools was a considerable and often unmanageable expense. Many witnesses were placed too far from home to allow for visits and that poverty and distance contributed to loss of family contact. ‘We had no visits from anyone, they were too poor, we were too far away’, ‘You could have a visit once a month, if your mother had the fare, it would be a week’s wages.’

My mother didn’t want me to go to …named School…. She wanted me to go to …named School in local town…. She lived near there, but no, I had to go to …named School….

5.20The continuity of family contact either in the form of visits home or visits from parents and other family members was reported by 71 witnesses as the only good memory they had of their time in the School. Some witnesses described their parents putting considerable effort into maintaining contact with them during their admission. A small number of Schools were reported to have provided assistance and support for parents who had to travel long distances to visit their children.

I was one of a large family. I had both brothers and sisters in separate institutions, our mother visited regularly before going to work in the UK. She spent 2 weeks of holidays in Ireland every year, week one with the boys, week 2 with the girls, nuns in …named School… (helped her).

5.21Female witnesses recalled sitting in parlours with parents and relatives who came to visit. In some Schools nuns were reported to supervise the visits directly by controlling the conversation and determining when the visit was over or by their presence in the same room while parents or others were visiting. Other witnesses reported an awareness of contact with their parents being monitored by external authorities.

My mother, she came in … to see me down the years and took me out twice, she had to get permission from the …local authorities… this is on the records …displayed copy of records…. She got permission, it was written down, that I was to be taken out on such a day, at such a time and brought back on such a day at such a time.

5.22The Committee heard reports of parents in poor circumstances being turned away or treated discourteously when they came to visit. Female witnesses reported that some girls’ Schools had a ‘poor parlour’ where impoverished parents or visitors were directed. In particular, witnesses whose parents were members of the Travelling community reported this to be a common occurrence. In a number of boys Schools witnesses were warned prior to family visits they were not to discuss what happened in the School or to talk about being beaten or otherwise abused. The visits in the boys’ Schools were not generally reported to have been overseen in the manner reported by female witnesses.

5.23The involvement of grandparents, aunts and uncles in maintaining family contact was reported by many witnesses to have provided continuing contact in the absence of parents through death, illness or emigration: ‘My mother …(who had gone to the UK)… visited once, my aunt visited every month even though she had a large family of her own.

5.24A number of witnesses reported having no contact with their parents apart from occasional visits in the early years of admission, particularly those who reported that their families had disintegrated in circumstances of poverty, illness and death. Others reported feeling abandoned when their parents went to the UK in search of work and an alternative life. Anger was expressed by a number of witnesses towards parents who did not visit or maintain contact with them while they were in the Schools and who in their view demonstrated a lack of care and concern for them in this and other ways in the process of their admission and thereafter. Some witnesses acknowledged that their parents were also victims in circumstances of poverty, illness and both rural and social isolation.

My ma came down every month. You had one visit a month, and if she couldn’t come she would send my eldest sister. She …(mother)… was very religious and if you said anything of beatings she would not believe you.

I had 3 visits in 5 years in …named School… my mother came to collect a borrowed coat I had worn in Court …(on the day of admission)…. A cousin came to tell me my mother had died; and my sister came to tell me the whole family were moving to England and would send for me when they could. I was allowed out to attend my brother’s funeral.

5.25Many male and female witnesses reported an acute awareness of the protective factor associated with having either family contact while they were resident in the Schools or external contact with concerned adults such as ‘holiday’ families or ‘godparents’. Witnesses believed that residents who had family or other visitors were less likely to be physically or sexually abused. Visitors were seen as people to whom abuse could be disclosed abuse and/or who may act independently to complain about evidence of abuse in the form of bruises or other injuries.

Following discharge

5.26Five hundred and seven (507) witnesses (64%), 247 male (60%) and 260 female (69%), reported some form of contact with parents, siblings and relatives following their discharge from the Schools as follows:

  • One hundred and eighty nine (189) witnesses (24%), 125 male and 64 female, reported that they were discharged from the School to their family home.
  • One hundred and ninety three (193) witnesses (24%), 77 male and 116 female, reported that they were subsequently cared for by extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and older siblings.
  • One hundred and twenty five (125) witnesses (16%), 45 male and 80 female, reported having no contact with their parents or siblings until recent years when, through their own efforts, and at times with the assistance of family tracing services, contact was re-established.

5.27Witnesses reported that contact with parents or relatives after their discharge from the Schools was influenced by many factors, in particular their age when they were first admitted and the extent of family contact throughout their admission.

The family was supportive and kept in contact, visits, parcels, summer holidays home. I went back home.

5.28The nature of family bonds and the strength of extended family relationships prior to admission were reported by witnesses to have influenced their connection with family when they returned home. Contact of any kind with family members while in the Schools was positively connected to ongoing relationships following their discharge. However while almost three quarters of all witnesses were admitted from the care of either their parents or relatives, fewer than one in four witnesses were discharged to the family home.

5.29Two hundred (200) witnesses (25%), 87 male and 113 female, reported that they lost contact with their extended family one way or another through the process of their institutionalisation. They stated that that being separated from parents, siblings and others with whom they had affectionate bonds was traumatic and had a devastating impact on their emotional development.

They were giving a man’s salary to the religious to keep us, me and my sister and brothers, but would not give it to my dad to keep us together. After my mother died, we were very poor. My father would be dressed so poorly when he visited us. The local TD did try to help my father and spoke to …Ministers of Government… to help my father get us, but he did not succeed…. Once we were split the link was broken, it’s hard to link back up again. We think we can be together, my sisters, but we can’t.

My mother tried to get me out when I was 15. She tried, she wrote to …the Government Minister…. Br …X…he wrote to her and said “no he is better off here”…. My mother she wrote every week, she had it hard too. We were branded as criminals when we came out just because we were poor.

My father, he tried so many times to get us back and they would not let him have us. I did not know where he was …(when discharged)… he tried really hard. I think he gave up in the end, I remember him crying from the time he came in …(to visit)… ’til the time he left …(contact had been lost)…. I didn’t even know he was dead …crying…. He always came to see us.

5.30Admission arrangements were also described as having an impact on the subsequent contact between siblings following discharge. When sibling groups were admitted to out-of-home care, sisters who were placed together in the same School were more likely to maintain contact following discharge. In circumstances where their brothers were placed in separate Schools subsequent contact was more often minimal, and frequently lost, following discharge.

We are all strangers, we don’t know each other, we were all destroyed in our heads, the family is split up, but in touch, the years of separation did too much damage.

5.31Thirty three (33) witnesses reported that they were given inaccurate information about their parents, including being told that they had no parents or that they were dead and discovering in recent years, following search and tracing, that this was not the case.

I was told about 15 years ago my mother was dead, they told me all my records were destroyed. …Then… after 47 years I had contact with my mother, I picked up the phone and she said “it’s your mum”.

5.32A number of witnesses also learned in later years that their parents had visited or written to them but that the contact was denied and letters were not passed on. Such discoveries were particularly distressing for witnesses who learned they had unknowingly lived near their parents and/or other relatives for much of their adult lives. Other witnesses reported learning about the existence of parents and relatives after their mother or father had died and experienced a double loss as a result.

The nuns told me my mother was dead, they said “do you see that star up there, well she is up there”. Then a few years ago, I got a phone call to say my mother was dead …(had just died)…. … I’m in such shock, I can’t believe it. I asked some questions and then said “it’s got to be my mother”, if only I had been given a chance to see her, to say goodbye and to say “look mum I understand and I forgive”.

5.33The upset and associated loss of secure relationships that followed separation from parents and siblings was reported by almost all witnesses, including those who had no known family. In different ways this experience of loss of family left a mark on each witness’s memory and was a background to their reports on life in the Schools. The following chapters outline the everyday routine of institutional life reported by the witnesses and the types of abuse they experienced and wished to report.

1 See chapter 4: Chart 1 Pathways to Industrial and Reformatory Schools.

2 For the purpose of compiling demographic information on the witnesses’ family background, it was necessary to include each witness’s details in the overall numbers resulting in unavoidable overlap in some categories.


Chapter 6
Everyday life experiences of male witnesses in Schools


6.01This chapter of the Report refers to the information provided by the 413 male witnesses in relation to their everyday life experiences in Schools over a period of 67 years between 1922 and 1989. Witnesses reported improvements in the physical structure and the facilities in the majority of Schools during the relevant period.

6.02There were many consistencies in the reports heard from male witnesses in relation to all the Schools over almost seven decades. Witnesses reported that staff in junior boys’ Schools were almost exclusively female, both religious and lay, with the exception of workmen in the gardens and farms attached to some Schools and convents. Senior boys’ Schools employed few female staff in the period prior to the 1970s with the exception of a small number of Schools where lay nurses and ancillary staff worked in the infirmaries, laundries, kitchens and religious staff houses.

6.03The daily routine was described as commencing with an early morning call by bell for Mass, followed by breakfast in a communal refectory. Witnesses referred to a regimented day where activities were controlled by bell ringing and whistle blowing. The main meal was in the middle of the day with evening meal provided at approximately 5:30pm. Witnesses reported going to bed at various times between 7:30pm and 9pm. Bedtimes changed with other aspects of care provision in the post-1960s period. Witnesses from different Schools gave varying accounts of how their day was structured and what they did in the afternoons, early evenings and at weekends. A mixture of work and recreation was uniformly reported with different emphasis on each in different Schools and over different decades.

6.04Clothing was made on site in many boys’ Schools prior to the 1960s, and in some instances including the 1960s. Witnesses described being allocated a set of clothes when they were admitted: knee-length tweed trousers and jacket, woollen jumper and knee socks, nightshirt and boots. The clothes were identified as theirs by number. Underwear was confined to underpants and was not provided in all Schools. Most Schools provided ‘Sunday suits’ for Sundays and special occasions. Winter coats and wet weather clothing were rarely reported as were caps, gloves or scarves. Witnesses reported that the material used for the trousers and jackets was rough tweed, made in the weaving shops, and was uncomfortable, especially when wet. Boots were described as heavy, with steel caps or hob nails to minimise wear and tear. The Committee heard evidence of improvements in the standard of clothing provided and of more appropriate clothing for winter being provided from the mid-1970s. Some witnesses from that period had new clothes bought for them which were for their own use and not shared with other residents.

6.05Personal hygiene was reported as attended to in a regimented manner using shared facilities with little or no toiletries provided before 1970. Increased provision of soap, toothbrushes, towels, toilet paper, combs and hot water were reported during the 1970s and 1980s. Witnesses consistently described sleeping in large dormitories without any privacy or space for personal possessions until individual cubicles and smaller shared bedrooms were introduced from the late 1960s in many Schools.

6.06Silence was commonly enforced in the dormitories, during mealtimes and while working. As described, silence was expected among the residents throughout most of the working day, including at times during recreation periods.

Work

6.07Work was presented by the majority of witnesses as a central feature of daily life in the Schools from a young age. Witnesses from junior Schools reported having daily domestic chores, while those from senior Schools described manual work as an integral part of their day, particularly from early adolescence. The types of work described included both indoor and outdoor work in the weaving, shoemaking, tailoring, and carpentry workshops, kitchens, staff residences, farmyards, fields and bogs, as well as day labouring for local farmers and businesses. The Committee heard reports from most witnesses about their experience of being engaged in often heavy, manual work as children for or on behalf of the Schools.

6.08There were 245 reports of farm work that involved herding and milking cows, cleaning sheds, tending cattle, pigs and poultry, saving hay, picking potatoes, collecting and spreading seaweed as fertiliser, felling trees, cutting wood, cutting and saving turf on the bog and picking stones. Use of machinery on the farms was minimal and long hours were worked in all weather.

From arrival at 12 I was assigned to the farm, I was afraid of animals. It was a big farm, only one lay worker and an elderly Brother. Boys did everything, milked morning and evening, herded animals, dropped potatoes, sowed sugar beet, turnips, hay making and harvesting. On a rote basis, we had to stay up all night with pigs who were due a litter, it was hard work, particularly in winter when no extra clothing was provided.

6.09The trade workshops were a feature of the School system in the period prior to the 1970s. There were 206 specific accounts of time spent in one or more different trade areas, referred to as ‘shops’. The most commonly reported trades were tailoring and shoemaking. The work in these settings was believed to be predominantly related to meeting the institutions’ needs for clothing, boots and leather straps.

In the shoe shop you started off as a polisher, you polished the boots for everyone. Then you became a repairer, there was top, a piece of a tyre cut to save it …(the boot)… when you were playing football. There was …number… lads doing them. Then there was the “generals” who made the shoes and then there was the head shoe boy.

Everyone worked from day one. I was assigned to tailoring at 13 …(years of age)… instead of school. I was not able to read and write. The tailoring was initially confined to making and mending boys’ clothing.

6.10Associated trade activities were darning, mending, knitting and weaving, although accounts of these tasks were less often heard. While 27 witnesses reported developing skills in a trade that subsequently led to gainful employment most reported that the skills they learned were redundant when they were discharged as the weaving, tailoring and shoemaking trades had been largely mechanised. Other witnesses reported being so badly affected by the abuse they experienced in the context of work in the trade shops that they avoided similar work when they were discharged.

6.11The kitchens were another area where residents worked, both within the School and in the adjacent religious congregation houses. There were 78 separate reports of working in the kitchens. This work was more generally favoured as it provided access to extra food and warmth. The work described included washing and peeling potatoes, carrying heavy pots, scrubbing pots, pans and floors. Kitchen work was described as undertaken by one or two residents at a time and as more isolated than other work areas. The less attractive component of kitchen work for male witnesses was that the kitchens were frequently the domain of a single Brother, several of whom were reported as particularly harsh and abusive.

6.12Witnesses generally reported that they had little choice about the type of work they were appointed to do:

Eventually I got a job in the shoe repair shop where I was not welcomed as I was left handed, I hated working there.

I was told after 2 months “it is time to start earning your keep”. I was put to work in the Brothers’ kitchen where I remained during my stay in School. This meant I missed Mass as I had to prepare for breakfast for the Brothers and missed school as I was needed in their kitchen.

6.13There were 21 witness reports relating to discharges prior to 1970 of being directly involved in commercial enterprises for the School, e.g. making Rosary beads for sale, chopping and selling firewood, tailoring, making furniture and working for local farmers and businesses.

6.14Changes were reported to have been introduced in the 1970s and 1980s that facilitated more choice, including paid work outside the institution, e.g. the local creamery, factory or hotel during the summer holidays and less work on farms attached to the Schools.

6.15There were few accounts of domestic staff being employed in the institutions; witnesses reported that the residents generally did all the housekeeping work, with the exception of the laundry. Local women were reported to be employed by some institutions, mainly in this area, but had little contact with the residents. Witnesses discharged in the late 1970s and 1980s reported the main type of work undertaken to be routine household chores that some Schools used as an opportunity for residents to earn points that could be exchanged for privileges such as home leave and outings.

Food

6.16Food was generally served in large refectories designated for residents with members of religious and lay staff taking their meals in a separate area. Most witnesses commented on the provision of food, which was generally regarded as inadequate. The standard breakfast diet described was salted porridge with or without bread and tea or cocoa. The main meal was consistently described as boiled potatoes with vegetables and some meat. The evening meal was often bread and dripping, or jam and tea or cocoa.

I worked for a time in the kitchen and used to see …(what was provided)… vegetables came from packets, once a week mince, fish once a week. All meat was boiled and streaky. We were constantly hungry and we robbed each others food, you just grabbed. Youngsters who were weak suffered.

6.17Witnesses reported that there was little or no access to extra food except what might have been obtained opportunistically by residents working in kitchens or the farmyards. Witnesses reported that cake and biscuits, jelly, ice cream and lemonade were at times provided on special occasions. Fruit was reported as an exceptional treat, most often at Christmas when witnesses reported receiving an orange. Many witnesses reported that the only eggs provided were boiled eggs on Easter Sunday.

6.18In more recent years witnesses commented that sausages, chips, eggs, cheese, fish fingers, cornflakes and milk puddings became part of the regular diet. Varying accounts were given of both the quantity and quality of the food provided with improvements noted in both areas in the reports relating to the 1970s and later.

Play and recreation

6.19The principal recreational pursuits reported by 226 witnesses in the decades prior to the 1970s were Gaelic sports, particularly hurling and football. A small number of Schools were reported to have been actively involved in competitions and games often involved travelling to outside venues. This was an attraction in itself as the games provided an opportunity to interact with ‘outsiders’, and on occasion provided access to better food. The external competitions were believed by witnesses to provide some protection and relief from physical abuse.

6.20Apart from participation in organised Gaelic team sports the most frequent reports regarding recreation were of witnesses playing in the yard and making their own entertainment. In addition, handball and boxing were reported as recreational activities by 131 witnesses and a small number competed nationally. Many witnesses discharged before the mid-1960s reported that performing drill movements and gymnastics for long periods was a common activity and was feared by those who were not well co-ordinated, due to the harsh nature of some ‘drill masters’.

6.21Indoor recreation facilities and activities were less frequently reported but included table tennis, card and board games, reading and listening to the radio in recreation halls. Witnesses described the limited availability of recreational equipment and resources. One hundred and eleven (111) witnesses reported they enjoyed attending films both within the Schools and in later years at local cinemas. Sixty-four (64) witnesses reported that long regimented walks on Sundays in silence ‘in line like a crocodile’ were less than enjoyable. Routes described by witnesses were up to 10 miles long.

6.22Six (6) senior Schools were reported to have had bands and the Committee heard 40 witness accounts of playing in the band as a recreational activity. As with some competitive sports being a band member provided opportunities to travel around the country, including trips to race meetings, regattas and other local sporting events and, in some instances, overseas. Band membership and associated activities were regarded as a privilege and provided welcome respite from the institution. As with other activities that had a public component, band performances also provided opportunities for extra food. It was reported that these privileges were counter-balanced by exceptional demands on their performance, appearance and general behaviour.

6.23In a small number of Schools summer holidays and trips to the seaside were a popular break from the everyday routine of life. Thirty three (33) witnesses from Schools situated near the sea, lakes or rivers described being taken swimming and also for holidays at the seaside.

Recreation all depended on the Brother, if he had an interest. There was one Brother who loved swimming. He brought us all the time, you could go down and dive in.

6.24Witnesses reported improvements in recreational facilities and equipment after the 1960s. These changes included the development of external links to local communities, involvement in local clubs, outings to the cinema, new playground equipment, increased availability of library facilities and more access to television and radio. A further change reported in the 1980s was of residents being divided into small groups with individual facilities for play and recreation in each group.

Education

6.25Classroom education at primary level was described as mainly provided on-site in the Schools prior to the 1970s with classrooms either located within the same buildings or on the grounds of the Schools. In the majority of boys Schools reported to the Committee primary level classrooms were segregated and not attended by children from the local area. Teaching staff were described as both religious and lay and predominantly male. Witnesses discharged up to and during the 1960s reported that generally their classroom education finished when they were 14 years old with a few accounts heard of witnesses attending either technical or secondary school during that period.

6.26All 413 male witnesses reported attending primary school for some time during their admission to the Schools. Eighty five (85) witnesses reported passing their Primary Certificate examinations. An additional 65 witnesses reported attending technical or secondary schools in the local area, mainly since the 1970s. Twenty five (25) of these witnesses received their Group, Intermediate or Leaving Certificates. Twenty (20) witnesses described the positive value of the education and training they received.

6.27Prior to the 1970s, classroom attendance in a number of Schools was described as generally confined to the morning period followed by afternoons spent working in the trade workshops or on the farms. A number of witnesses reported being removed from the classroom to work full-time. Many witnesses stated that the main emphasis in the School was on manual work for the institution with minimal emphasis on academic education apart from Irish and religion:

Education was not important. You were moved from class to class; the main aim was to get you working at 14. The teachers ran a strict regime rather than provide knowledge.

6.28Many witnesses described their time in the classroom as dominated by fear, the anticipation of being abused and that the classrooms were frightening places.

6.29Witnesses reported that there was little assistance for residents who found school work difficult. There were a small number of exceptions where accounts were heard of special arrangements being made to meet the residents’ particular educational needs. In a small number of Schools remedial help was provided for residents who had learning difficulties.

6.30Witnesses discharged during and since the 1970s more often reported that their education continued beyond the primary school level. Those who attended secondary and technical schools in the local area appreciated the benefit this opportunity allowed to have contact with the outside world. They also reported a consequent reduction of abuse and bullying from both staff and residents in the Schools. A small number of witnesses reported being sent out of the institution to mainstream boarding schools and were encouraged to do the Leaving Certificate examinations and to enrol in higher education colleges.

6.31The majority of witnesses reported finishing their classroom education by the time they were 14 years old. The following table shows the reported school leaving age of male witnesses:

Table 16: Reported School Leaving Age – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Reported school leaving age Number of witnesses
Under 10 years 2
10–12 years 29
13–14 years 260
15–16 years 100
Over 16 years 17
Not available 5
Total Witnesses 413

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

6.32Three hundred and thirty seven (337) witnesses (82%) reported that they left school when they were aged 14 years or over. There were 71 witnesses who reported that their classroom education finished before the official school leaving age and five for whom there was no information available.

Religion

6.33The practice of religious observance was reported to have brought comfort and sanctuary to some witnesses and hurt to others. There were 381 accounts of regular attendance at Mass in the 26 Schools that were reported to the Committee, with daily Mass more commonly reported by witnesses discharged before the mid-1970s. Daily Rosary, evening benediction and prayers were described as part of the regular timetable by 187 witnesses. Attendance at Mass was either within the institution or at the local parish church where witnesses generally reported being segregated from local people: ‘We sat in our own corner’; ‘We had to attend side chapel in the local parish church’.

6.34Catechism was reported by many witnesses to have been taught ‘vigorously’ in the classroom to the detriment of other lessons.

6.35Clergy from local parishes and elsewhere were reported to undertake a chaplaincy role in some Schools. Witnesses reported that these members of the clergy said Mass, heard Confessions and officiated at various religious ceremonies during the year. It was generally believed that they did not otherwise have a formal role in the operation of the Schools.

Health and medical care

6.36Provision for the assessment and treatment of residents’ health needs was inconsistent as reported among the Schools. Routine medical inspections were reported in most of the Schools and varied from cursory to regular and comprehensive. There were 327 witness reports of some attention and treatment from health professionals being available to residents. Ninety seven (97) witnesses reported having no recollection of receiving any medical or other attention regarding their health.

6.37Witnesses reported being assessed and treated for normal childhood accidental injuries and illnesses as well as physical injuries resulting from assault while resident in the Schools. Medical inspections, on-site infirmaries, immunisation and dental treatment were reported by many witnesses, as indicated in the following table:

Table 17: Types of Healthcare Reported – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Healthcare Number of reports
Infirmary available 228
Nurse available 185
Doctor attendance 115
Hospital attendance 106
Dental care 65
Immunisation 53
Medical inspection 29

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

6.38Two hundred and twenty eight (228) witnesses reported that there was an on-site infirmary in the School for the provision of medical care and attention. The infirmaries were described as varying in size from a designated 10-bed unit to a space under the stairs. Infirmaries were generally described as the domain of either male or female religious staff and, in a few instances, lay female nurses. In some Schools the infirmary was reported to be a room where the nurse kept supplies of medicines, including: iodine, bandages and cod liver oil. Residents were sent there for attention and returned to bed in their dormitory.

6.39There were 185 witness reports of availability of nursing care by religious and lay staff in the Schools’ infirmaries. Witnesses reported being sent to the nurse for treatment of ailments including: cuts, bruises, scabies, lice, ringworm, impetigo, boils and abscesses, colds, flu, and rectal prolapse. Childhood injuries, both accidental and non-accidental, were reportedly treated by the nurse and included broken bones, lacerations, and eye, ear and head injuries. Witnesses stated that there was a limited range of non-prescribed medication available and described cod liver oil, castor oil, ‘Black Jack’ and iodine being regularly used.

6.40One hundred and fifteen (115) witnesses reported being seen by local doctors while in the School and 53 witnesses reported being immunised by either a doctor or a School nurse.

6.41The Committee heard 106 witness accounts of hospital attendance while in the Schools for the treatment of accidental and non-accidental injuries in addition to normal childhood conditions such as tonsillitis, appendicitis, tuberculosis, and eye and ear infections.

6.42Nursing staff were reported to be employed in some Schools at different times and the presence of staff described as ‘nurses’ was recalled by witnesses in other Schools. Witnesses reported that unqualified staff carried out many treatments such as lancing boils, treating ringworm and other infections, lacerations and injuries without medical advice.

6.43There were 65 reports of dental treatment, which were reported by witnesses to be mainly extractions. Dentists were reported to have made routine visits to some Schools and in other instances witnesses reported attending local dentists. Among those discharged before the 1970s a number recalled having their teeth extracted without anaesthesia.

Inspections

6.44The Committee heard 145 reports of inspectors visiting the Schools. Witnesses were not always clear which government department the inspectors represented. There were 82 reports of government inspectors visiting the Schools who, it was believed, were primarily concerned with the condition of the physical surroundings. There were 29 reports of classroom inspectors, often referred to as the Cigire. Witnesses believed that these inspectors were concerned with aspects of their education and did not specifically address the individual care and welfare needs of the residents. Witnesses also reported that doctors visited for routine medical inspections.

6.45Ninety seven (97) witnesses reported that the general conditions for their care and welfare were temporarily improved for inspections, with extra food, toothbrushes, schoolbooks, better clothes and bedding reported as available for the duration of the inspector’s visits. Fifty four (54) witnesses reported that the Schools were thoroughly cleaned in preparation and 32 witnesses described being dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ or ‘going-out’ clothes when inspectors came. Twenty eight (28) witnesses reported that bedspreads were put on each bed prior to visits from a Department of Education or other inspector and were removed when the inspector left. Witnesses recalled that the leather straps were put away and residents were warned beforehand to be on their best behaviour and told that the inspector was ‘the teacher’s boss’. Forty one (41) witnesses stated that they were coached in advance about what they could and could not say when the inspectors came. Sixty four (64) witnesses stated that residents were not spoken to directly and that staff were always present.

I have no memory of anything really being inspected, we were never spoken to, we wore our Sunday clothes and had extra food. We saw them at a distance, you would see them for a moment standing and looking, they were always accompanied, you would be asked to recite a poem for them in class.

We always knew when inspectors were coming as white quilts and pillows were put on the beds. The inspectors walked around with the Brothers, they didn’t speak to the boys.

The food was always very good with chops or other recognisable meat, vegetable and dessert for the inspection. Boys were coached by Br …X (Resident Manager)… to say it was like this all the time, the inspector spoke to boys, who followed the instruction with Br …X… present and did not complain.

Official visitors and others

6.46In addition to routine inspections there were 34 witness accounts of official visitors, including a President, Taoisigh, government ministers, bishops, judges, foreign dignitaries and officials from the Gaelic Athletic Association, politicians, celebrities and superiors of religious orders. There were a further 19 witness reports of visits by priests to examine catechism in the classroom and to conduct retreats. Other visitors included parish priests, professionals and local personalities. Preparations were reported to have been undertaken prior to all visits. A number of Schools were reported to have had official visiting Sundays, usually on a monthly basis, for residents’ parents and relatives.

6.47A small number of witnesses reported being specially dressed up and shown to visiting couples understood to be prospective adoptive and foster parents, some of whom selected witnesses and/or their siblings to adopt or foster.

Once a month on visiting Sunday the place was cleaned, we all wore our best clothes, the parents were conducted around, by the priests and Brothers who monitored the visits, we were all warned to say nothing.

Volunteer workers and visitors

6.48Witnesses reported that volunteer workers and visitors were involved with many Schools in what they believed to be an informal capacity to assist with the residents’ care and recreation activities. Witnesses reported that these volunteers were generally described as members of the public, mostly male, both lay and religious. They assisted with regular activities such as homework and sport. Some befriended particular residents and took them out of the School either for day outings or overnight trips and holidays. Witnesses also reported regular visits to the Schools by clergy and Brothers who were not part of the day-to-day School staff or did not appear to have any specific role or function within the School. In addition there were reports from a small number of Schools where visiting Brothers and novices relieved care staff during summer holidays.

Arrangements for discharge

6.49Many witnesses reported that they experienced considerable adjustment difficulties when they were discharged, including feeling abandoned and unable to cope with the transition from institutional care. Their isolation from the outside world while residents of the Schools, the rural location of a number of Schools and the loss of family contact during admission was described repeatedly by witnesses. Many witnesses stated that the only preparation for their discharge was being told of their discharge date. As 232 male witnesses had been in residential care for between six and 18 years, many without any family contact, the experience of leaving the Schools was particularly traumatic. These witnesses reported that they had almost no experience of everyday life outside an institution and no experience of being on their own prior to being discharged.

6.50Male witnesses discharged before 1970 gave accounts of being given a new suit of clothes for their departure, sometimes referred to as ‘the liberty suit’. Witnesses who worked in the tailoring shops reported making their own discharge suit and in so doing were alerted to the fact of their imminent release.

6.51Witnesses reported a variety of arrangements made for their discharge from the Schools. One hundred and ten (110) male witnesses reported that they were discharged home to their families. Where parental contact had been maintained with witnesses while they were in the School the transition home was more often reported to have been positive. Having a supportive family network generally contributed to subsequent stability.

(Brothers)… they more or less told you before you left …named School… that if you talked about any of the crap that was going on there … I would be brought back for another 2 years. That I could be kept there until I was 18, for 2 more years. So when I was out I was straight on the B and I boat …(to England)…. My mother gave me the money. I went to the brother …(witness’s sibling)…. I couldn’t read and write, I couldn’t fill out a form to try for a job. I worked on the buildings.

6.52One hundred and six (106) witnesses reported that some arrangements were made for their aftercare in the form of placement in employment, with lodgings provided in many instances. The majority of the witnesses who reported being discharged to employers as live-in labourers had spent most of their lives in an institution and/or reported that they had no known family contacts. A small number of witnesses noted that the intervention of the Agricultural Inspectors was helpful in obtaining ‘back’ wages and having social welfare contributions credited where they had been denied.

6.53There were 12 witness accounts of being visited following discharge by lay or religious staff from the School and of receiving valued assistance from the religious staff when they got into difficulties. In some situations where work placements broke down alternative positions were found, mostly in better circumstances.

6.54There were a number of witness reports of employment placements that provided enduring support. Several witnesses spoke with feeling about the families they worked for who, in the words of one witness, ‘showed me the only kindness I had ever known’. Another witness stated:

I didn’t get much preparation leaving the School at 16. The family I went to helped me, they stood me in great stead and I am still in touch with them.

6.55Thirty two (32) witnesses from a small number of Schools reported receiving some post-discharge support during the 1970s and 1980s. For example, 10 witnesses reported that accommodation in a hostel was arranged for them when they were discharged and was described as ‘a halfway house for institutionalised boys trying to find their way. Conditions there were excellent’. Another hostel was reported as being helpful through its policy of not charging residents from Schools for their accommodation until they found employment. However, while witness reports of being discharged from Schools since the 1970s indicated improvements in discharge planning, and that some preparation for independent living and follow-up were provided, such improvements were inconsistent.

6.56A number of witnesses presented the Committee with copies of correspondence between their parents, Resident Managers, gardaí and Department of Education officials relating to their early release. Eight (8) witnesses reported being granted early release to their parents following such parental intervention.

6.57The aspects of everyday life described in this chapter provided the context in which witnesses experienced the abuse reported in the following chapter.


Chapter 7
Record of abuse (male witnesses)


7.01This chapter describes the nature and extent of abuse reported in evidence to the Committee by 413 male witnesses in relation to 26 Industrial and Reformatory Schools in Ireland. The 413 witnesses made 482 reports of abuse regarding the four types of abuse defined by the Acts.1 Those four types are physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse. Not all 26 Schools were reported for each of the four types of abuse.

7.02The report of abuse by a witness may either refer to descriptions of single episodes or to multiple experiences of being abused in a School. In most instances reports of abuse refer to more than one episode of abuse and more than one type of abuse. One hundred and sixty six (166) witness reports (34%) were of all four types of abuse. Sixty eight (68) witnesses reported abuse in more than one School.

7.03The chapter is divided into five parts, addressing each of the four abuse types and describing what was known about the abuse at the time it occurred. The reports of abuse compiled in this chapter refer to admissions and discharges to Schools between 1922 and 1989. Twenty four (24) of these reports refer to abuse in both Schools and ‘Other Institutions’. All the reports of abuse in relation to ‘Other Institutions’ are referred to elsewhere in the Report. 2 3

7.04For the purpose of compiling this Report, witness evidence is presented by period of discharge as follows: pre-1960s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Witnesses, who were discharged in one period, may have spent time in out-of-home care in the previous decade(s). 4

7.05As previously stated a number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School and reported abuse in more than one School. Three hundred and twenty five (325) witnesses made reports about abuse in one School, the other 68 witnesses reported as follows:

  • Sixty three (63) witnesses reported abuse in two Schools.
  • One witness reported abuse in three different Schools.
  • Three (3) witnesses reported abuse in two Schools and one ‘Other Institution’.
  • One witness reported abuse in two Schools and two ‘Other Institutions’.
  • Twenty (20) witnesses reported abuse in one School and one ‘Other Institution’.

7.06Four hundred and sixteen (416) or 86% of male abuse reports refer to senior Schools for boys.

Physical abuse

The wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child.5

7.07This section describes reports of actual incidents of physical abuse, non-accidental injury and lack of protection from such abuse given in evidence by witnesses to the Committee. The types of physical abuse reported included hitting, punching, kicking, flogging, and bodily assault with implements. The Committee heard disturbing accounts of severe assaults causing injuries that required medical intervention. Witnesses also reported being abused by being immersed in water, being burned, and subjected to what they believed to be deliberate and persistent physical cruelty.

Nature and extent of physical abuse reported

7.08There were 474 reports of physical abuse involving 26 Schools given in evidence by 403 male witnesses (98%), some of whom were admitted to more than one School. While many witnesses reported that the abuse was pervasive, they particularly wished to report extraordinary incidents from their experience. Other witnesses reported multiple episodes of physical abuse. Witnesses reported being physically abused by religious and lay staff and others including: visiting clergy, members of the general public and men in work and holiday placements. Witnesses also reported being physically abused by co-residents.

7.09The number of witness reports heard in relation to physical abuse in different Schools varied, as follows:

  • Four (4) Schools were collectively the subject of 230 reports.6
  • Four (4) Schools were the subject of 20-34 reports, totalling 111 reports.
  • Eight (8) Schools were the subject of 6-19 reports, totalling 86 reports.
  • Ten (10) Schools were the subject of 1-5 reports, totalling 18 reports.

7.10The Schools that were the subject of 230 reports accounted for 49% of all physical abuse reports by male witnesses.

7.11Physical abuse was reported in combination with the other three types of abuse. There were 166 reports of combinations of all four abuse types reported by the male witnesses. See Table 18:

Table 18: Physical Abuse Combined with Other Abuse Types – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Abuse types <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Physical, emotional, neglect and sexual 166 35
Physical, emotional and neglect 120 25
Physical and neglect 66 14
Physical, neglect and sexual 49 10
Physical 24 5
Physical, emotional and sexual 20 4
Physical and emotional 15 3
Physical and sexual 14 3
Total reports 474 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

7.12In total 249 witness reports of physical abuse (53%) were combined with reports of sexual abuse and 24 reports refer to physical abuse alone.

7.13The following table shows the distribution of witness accounts of physical abuse across the decades covered by this Report.

Table 19: Number of Physical Abuse Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Decade of discharge <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of physical abuse reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Pre-1960s 197 42
1960-69 202 43
1970-79 58 12
1980-89 17 4
Total 474 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

7.14While the largest number of physical abuse reports (202) related to the period of discharge 1960-1969, 77 of those witnesses spent the greatest proportion of their time in the Schools during the preceding decade.

Description of physical abuse

7.15Witnesses described a daily existence that involved the possibility of being hit by a staff member at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Witnesses also reported being physically abused by co-residents. It is notable that witnesses at times described daily, casual and random physical abuse as normal and wished to report only the times when the frequency and severity of the abuse was such that they were injured or in fear for their lives. Three hundred and forty six (346) of the 403 witnesses reported that they were subjected to frequent physical violence; they described a climate of pervasive fear in the Schools and provided consistent reports of generally not knowing why they were being beaten.

7.16The forms of physical abuse reported by witnesses to the Committee included punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.

7.17The locations where physical abuse was reported to have taken place included: classrooms, offices, cloakrooms, dormitories, showers, infirmaries, refectories, the bedrooms of staff members, churches, work areas and trade shops, fields, farmyards, play/sports areas and outdoor sheds.

I had a hiding in the boot room, you had to take your shirt off, you were completely naked and he …(Br X)… beat me with a strap and a hurley stick on the behind and the legs and that.

I was beaten up quite a few times for not making the bed right, I had to go to the boot room. We used have long night shirts then you know, he …(Br X)… dragged it off me, naked and whop, he knocked hell out of me, he knocked the shit out of me … he hit with a leather strap with coins in it. One Brother … he used a tyre he did, a bicycle tyre, it used to wrap around your arm. That was for wiping my nose in my sleeve, he didn’t like that, it “wasn’t a nice thing” he said.

7.18A small number of witnesses stated that Brothers were trained to beat residents and reports were heard of religious Brothers demonstrating the exercise of discipline to trainee Brothers.

One day it was …visitor’s day… they used to pick about half a dozen lads. You would be called to the hall. I was picked once and they would actually show the …visiting student Brothers… how to do the hiding. The Brother who was in charge of the playground, mostly Br …X… or Br …Y… would show them how it’s done, they would give you a hiding to show them and then they would have a go, with the black jack …(leather)… with loops of lead in it or steel.

7.19Witnesses reported being introduced to a strict regime from the moment of their arrival in the School.

We were met by Br …X… he ruled the roost, he told us about the rules, said if we ran away there was severe punishment, the second time our head would be shaved and the third time we would be sent to …named School…. He then stripped us off, told us to bend over the desk; he hit the desk with a leather strap and said, “Say the Our Father”. I could not say it. He hit me across the legs and warned me not to step out of line. He told us to get in the shower, cold water, “to scrub away your sins”, with carbolic soap. He then left and came back with clothes, comb … he hit me with the strap when I had the clothes on because I should be in pyjamas. We went to the dormitory, the boys were asleep, he said, “This will always be your bed unless you wet the bed, then you will end up with the smellies with Mr …Y…”. It was dark, there was no food. I was very upset and frightened. Then that night Mr …Y… came walking down with his walking stick, he touched my penis with the stick and said, “Don’t ever let me catch you”. Later I could hear kids crying as he lashed kids with a stick, getting them up for the toilet. That was my first night in …named School….

The day I arrived there, I was in the yard and there was all these boys, they all seemed like giants. I remember running up to this man and saying “hello Father” he laid into me, he was a very cruel man, I thought he was a priest, he said “don’t call me Father”. He laid me on the ground, he gave me a few terrible clatters and I was terrified from that moment. He was Br …X… I was terrified of him, oh Lord! …distressed… he was just cruel.

Implements of physical abuse

7.20In addition to physical abuse as the result of bodily assault by punching, hitting and kicking, witnesses reported a variety of implements were used to beat and physically abuse residents. The ‘leather’ was the most commonly reported implement with 381 witness accounts heard of its use in all 26 Schools. Witnesses described the leather strap as strips of leather sewn together, measuring about two inches wide, half an inch thick and about 18 inches long. One end was described by a number of witnesses as shaped for a handgrip. A number of witnesses reported that some of these leather straps contained metal or coins to add weight. Five (5) witnesses provided accounts of either making or seeing these embellished leather straps being made in the bootmaking workshops.

They used the leather for the least excuse. It was heavy, stitched and with waxed ends. It was very painful, you would scream in pain. As convent boys we didn’t have a chance. The other boys, the city kids who were tough, and the Brothers, all picked on us. We stuck together which wasn’t a good idea.

Some of the Brothers had different leathers, I know because I made them when I was 14, in the boot room, some of them had little tiny leads in them, some had coins, some were straight. They weren’t soft, they were hard.

7.21A witness reported that while he was being beaten the leather split apart and coins fell out. Two (2) others reported being marked by the key sewn into the end of the leather strap. Another witness reported being sent with a new strap from the workshop to a classroom, where the Brother told him to hold out his hand to test it for him. He was struck a number of times on each hand before being told it was satisfactory and that he could return to the workshop.

7.22Witnesses described other leather straps of varying dimensions: some were described as leather belts, others as longer, thinner straps referred to as whips. Two (2) witnesses from two different Schools described being beaten with leather straps with leather thongs attached to the ends, one witness discharged in 1950 referred to the strap as a cat-o’-nine-tails.

I’ll never forget the cat-o’-nine-tails, 10 tongs …(thongs)… it used to have knots across the bottom. Observing other boys stripped and the blood running down as they were being flogged across the body, it was terrible. There must have been a new rule by the Government at some stage because it happened no more.

7.23There were 232 accounts of being hit or beaten with a variety of sticks, including canes, ash plants, blackthorn sticks, hurleys, broom handles, hand brushes, wooden spoons, pointers, batons, chair rungs, yard brushes, hoes, hay forks, pikes and pieces of wood with leather thongs attached. One hundred and eighteen (118) witnesses reported being beaten with canes and 37 with hurleys. Other implements described included bunches of keys, belt buckles, drain rods, rubber pram tyres, golf clubs, tyre rims, electric flexes, fan belts, horse tackle, hammers, metal rulers, butts of rifles, t-squares, gun pellets and hay ropes. Witnesses also reported having objects thrown at them, such as blocks of wood or sliotars.

I was crying, I wouldn’t stop crying. He …(Br X)… caught me by the hair. I was down in the ground and the first thing he could lay his hand on was a hammer and he hit me and damaged me … (described and displayed mark to hand)… if you moved out of turn or something you got hit.

Br …X… flogged me on the bog. We, another fella, were messing laughing and grinning. He …(Br X)… hadn’t got his leather and he walked over to a tree and got a branch and he peeled it and said “take off your trousers”. I thought he was only joking, he got …named co-resident… to hold me and he …(Br X)… lashed me. He should be in hell now, he lashed me. I was bleeding, I was sent to the nurse.

7.24Thirty four (34) witnesses described being forced into scalding or freezing showers or baths as deliberate punishments, including a number who reported being hosed with cold water before or after a severe beating. One witness reported that his head was held under water in a sink while working in the kitchen, another reported having his head held under water while bathing.

7.25Twenty two (22) witnesses described various means by which they were physically abused by burning and scalding; all the incidents reported were isolated and included being burned with matches and cigarettes, having fingers put into electric sockets and having scalding water thrown at them while working in the kitchen. One witness who reported being scalded was so badly burned that he was hidden from sight during a subsequent inspector’s visit.

7.26There were reports from three Schools of dogs being used by staff members to assault and frighten residents, the dogs were described in some instances as pets. In other instances witnesses reported staff ‘patrolling’ with large dogs including Alsatians that were believed to be used as a threat against misbehaviour.

There was this man there he had … 3 dogs, he was an outsider …(lay ancillary worker)… I was sent over to the hay barn to stack hay as punishment, the 3 dogs were set on me and the scar is there now where they bit me, you can see the mark on that finger …(displayed scar to Commissioners)… I asked to go down to the nurse and he said “no”. Anyway, the next morning it was gone all septic and I had to go down to …named hospital… where they put all stitches in it.

There were also four references by witnesses of being threatened and intimidated by Brothers who had dogs and carried guns for hunting.

7.27Witnesses described various styles of physical punishments that were perpetrated by priests, Brothers and lay staff in different Schools over the decades. ‘You got to know every Brother’s punishment, they all had their different style of hitting.’ Witnesses from two Schools reported that particular Brothers put their leather straps into the fridge or outside overnight to freeze them. ‘They’d leave the leathers out on the window sill for the night, you know in the frost, to get it hard.’ Witnesses also reported a Brother’s practice of rubbing salt on the leather strap that he used. Methods of physical punishment were also reported to vary both between staff and Schools. For example, witnesses discharged from three Schools in the 1970s and 1980s described being locked out overnight as a punishment, referred to as ‘freezing time’. Being locked out in cold weather and left to sleep outside were reported as alternative punishments to being beaten. Another witness described the following:

One new lad came and he was covering himself getting dressed. This Brother decided he was going to make a man out of him, so he pulled off his clothes. The young fella started crying and Br …X… hung him out the window …(from a height)… by the 2 legs, we all saw it. You were always in fear of that sort of thing. Different Brothers did different things.

Circumstances of physical abuse

7.28In addition to reports of what appeared to be indiscriminate violence, witnesses reported being beaten for other reasons, including: bed-wetting and soiling, inattention in the classroom, left-handedness, stammering, not knowing lessons, disclosing physical and/or sexual abuse, absconding, ‘stealing’ food, talking in line, delay in obeying an instruction, ‘looking the wrong way’ at a staff member, attending the infirmary, complaining of feeling unwell, general wear and tear on clothing and footwear, talking at meals or in bed, talking to girls, playing soccer, losing a game against an outside team, perceived sexual thoughts or actions and not being able to carry out work tasks quickly and properly.

If you turned up late … he …(Br X)… used to do an inspection, if there was a speck of dirt, that would trigger it off. He used a leather, hand, cane on the legs, hand, arse or wherever …(he)… had a temper, you would be black and blue, you would be on the floor. He used to make you take your trousers down and he would give it to you on the behind or wherever, he did it to me a few times. You wouldn’t do anything because he had a whistle and he would call other Brothers and they would weigh in, when these guys got going you would do nothing, if they couldn’t get you one way they would get you the other, kick, hit, you were knackered.

He …(Br X)… flogged me one time, I was working in the piggery. I used to be starving, the pigs used to get the Brothers’ leftovers and one day there was lovely potatoes and I took some and I took a turnip. Br …X… caught me and he brought me up to the dormitory, he let down my trousers and he lashed me. He always wore a leather, around 18 inches …(long)… and it was all stitched with wax, his leather was very thin. It was about an inch and a half, others had leathers about 2 inches. He lashed me, he flogged me.

7.29The Committee heard repeated reports from the 403 witnesses of specific forms of physical punishment, which were described as routinely meted out for particular behaviours. The most commonly reported of these targeted behaviours were bed-wetting, soiling, absconding and schoolwork.

Bed-wetting and soiling

7.30Bed-wetting was reported to have been targeted for punishment in all 26 Schools. One hundred and twenty four (124) witnesses reported that they were harshly punished for bed-wetting, 99 of those accounts related to witnesses discharged before 1970. The punishments described ranged from being hit on the hands to being flogged naked in front of others. The persistance of bed-wetting led to physical punishment becoming a daily ritual for many witnesses. With few exceptions, the arrangements for handling bed-wetting were described as inducing fear and terror on a constant basis and, with some variations, followed a similar pattern up to the 1970s.

7.31It was frequently reported that residents who wet their bed were made to sleep in either a separate dormitory or in a separate section of the main dormitory. It was also reported that nine of the 26 Schools for boys employed a night watchman who woke habitual bed-wetters during the night to use the toilet. The Committee heard consistent reports of particular practices in relation to the management of bed-wetting, including all bed-wetters being woken, being checked for wet beds, being beaten with a stick while in bed and being forced to wait for lengthy periods in cold bathrooms to use the toilet. Witnesses also reported being hit as they stood waiting; others reported that beds were inspected each morning, followed in some Schools by an immediate beating if the bed was wet.

I was beaten stark naked for wetting the bed, 2 or 3 different people would beat me. You would be called up after breakfast by Br …X…. He was evil. He liked beating kids naked, he would put your head between his legs …(while he beat you)… for wetting the bed, and more bed-wetting boys would be there as well …(watching)… The night watchman would get you up at night with a stick, every night. He would beat you out of the bed. You’d have to bring the sheets up to be washed to the laundry and a bigger boy would beat you with a stick there, he was the senior in the laundry.

7.32One witness who was transferred from a junior to a senior School when he was eight years old described how he had wet his bed for a long time and was used to it being managed fairly sympathetically. On the first and subsequent morning’s inspection in the senior School when his bed was found to be wet, the person in charge recorded his number. He was told to bring his wet sheet to the drying room for use the following night. After breakfast he was sent to join a line of boys outside the office and when his number was called he was sent into the office and given ‘6 or 12 slaps with the leather on the hands, wrist or backside’. He reported that he did not know why he was being beaten, he had never been punished for bed-wetting before and could not understand what he had done wrong. Nobody explained anything to him. Another witness explained his experience:

Every night I was beaten for wetting the bed, the first night I said “the nuns didn’t beat me for bed-wetting”, he …(Br X)… said “you’re here now”. Br …X… would make you kneel down at the bed to pray, he would call out the boys every night …(who had wet their bed)… he would beat you with the leather, if you pulled away he would get hold of you and hit harder, if you fell to the floor he would pull you up by the chin, twist your ear, pull you by the hair. After the beatings he would play the guitar and sing …(popular)… songs.

7.33In other Schools the punishment for bed-wetting was reported to have been reserved for bedtime when those who had wet their beds the previous night were lined up to await a beating either on their hands or bare buttocks. Many of the 124 witness reported that they were beaten in the morning and again at night. Other witnesses reported being sent to ‘the office’ where punishment was meted out, usually in the form of strokes of the leather on the hands or buttocks, described by one witness as follows:

You had to fold your bed every morning. Anyone who wet the bed had to stand out. It was the fear. You were told to go to the office. Usually it was after school when they bate …(beat)… us. They never did it before school ’cos you’d be going to school crying. There’d be 20 or 30 lads all waiting to be beaten, lined up outside the office … it would only be that size … (indicated small space)… That’s where we would get our beatings. You were just so scared; you didn’t know who was doing the beatings…. You were better off not looking at the strap, it would frighten you more. It would depend who was on and the form of the Brother how many slaps you’d get. You’d be told to drop your pants and tip your toes. … The lads, my friends, would try and get me out of bed at night-time to go to the toilet.

7.34Witnesses described trying to stay awake so as not to wet their bed. The rules in some dormitories were said to preclude getting out of bed at night. In other Schools witnesses reported being reluctant to go to the toilet during the night for fear of being followed and abused by the night watchman or older co-residents. There were 43 witness reports of being beaten and sexually abused by night watchmen and older co-residents in this context.

7.35Cold showers and baths were described as a punishment for bed-wetting in the latter decades, with six such witness accounts from three Schools in the 1970s and 1980s.

7.36Witnesses also reported going to considerable lengths to swap or hide their wet sheets, acknowledging that sometimes others were punished as a result. Other residents jeered those who wet their bed and some witnesses spoke with regret about their actions as children in this regard.

7.37Soiling was reported less frequently and most often in the context of severe beatings. Fifteen (15) witnesses reported they were either beaten because they soiled themselves or soiled themselves as they were being severely beaten. Witnesses reported being publicly beaten with leather straps and hurleys and humiliated by having their faces pushed into their soiled bedclothes. Seven (7) witnesses specifically described soiling themselves as a response to extreme fear.

I soiled myself a lot there, it was after a battering in the yard, it started after that, I never done it before that. After I got a hiding in the yard, this Brother came over and caught me by the back of the neck and swung me around.

In the classroom Br …X… threw me out the window one day because I soiled myself. He was a bully, he hit me with the leather on the hands and he’d fist you as well …indicated being hit on face….

Absconding – running away

7.38Running away was a feature of life in the Schools and the majority of witnesses made some reference to either running away, thinking about doing so, or observing what happened to returned absconders. Witnesses consistently reported that residents who absconded or ran away were severely beaten and flogged upon their return to the School. The public nature and severity of the beatings were described as traumatic, and made a lasting impression on those who witnessed them in addition to serving as a caution against absconding. Reports of running away were frequently accompanied by accounts of persistent physical and sexual abuse.

I ran away a few times. He …(Br X)… was trying always to put his hand down my leg…. (On return to the School)… I was put up on rafters. There was an old shed there, it was a barn, I was tied to the rafters, he …(Br X)… had the rope over the top, I was like that …demonstrated spread out facing down… he lashed me with the leather, over the back and down the arms, that happened on 4 or 5 occasions, I ran away again after that.

7.39There were 95 witness reports from 13 Schools of severe beatings as punishment for absconding throughout the entire period covered by the Report. The most frequent and most severe beatings pertained to the discharge period prior to 1970. The forms of physical abuse reported for absconding included: public beatings partly or fully naked, hair being shaved, deprivation of food and transfers to more distant and what were believed to be more restrictive institutions. In one School there were several reports of returned absconders being forced to wear oversized clogs as a deterrent. ‘They used to give me clogs so that I wouldn’t run away, or boots that were too big you couldn’t get far in them.’ Beatings of returned absconders were not always conducted in view of the other residents but were reported to be regularly within earshot, in the Resident Manager’s office, on the stairwell or in another room routinely used for such purpose.

7.40Thirty (30) witnesses reported that they had their heads shaved as part of the punishment for absconding, six of whom reported having it done more than once. Witnesses reported that head shaving marked them as a returned absconder and therefore subject to further random beatings from both staff and co-residents.

7.41There were 18 witness reports of absconders from three different Schools being beaten and otherwise punished by co-residents following public beatings by religious staff members. It was the reported practice in one School that the returned absconders were placed in the yard and the other residents were encouraged to kick and punch them while staff watched:

I ran away when I was 12, I was caught and 2 of them …(Br X and Br Y)… would lay into you and not only the Brothers but the lads as well, especially the monitors. They were told they could not see their film because of me, I got the head shaved, a scissors and the hand clip.

One day a gang of us went for a walk into a field, we were told we could. They had farm workers out with dogs looking for us. We were caught and brought back. We were taken onto the yard, they let the dogs go …(attacking)… and the boys would line up and hit you with whatever they had in their hand, kick you, you had to run through the line. This was a punishment to let the boys know that if it ever happened again this is what would happen. That night you were beaten again, you were thrown over the bed …crying….

7.42A small number of witnesses described being forced to search for boys who ran away. One witness describes: ‘(Br X)… forced me to catch lads who were absconding, if you didn’t find them you’d get their hidings as well’.

7.43Four (4) witnesses from two different Schools reported that they were beaten on the soles of their feet with a cane and leather strap as a punishment for running away. Witnesses from three other Schools reported being made to stand or kneel in the recreation yards following their beatings and were ostracised by their peers. Two (2) witnesses from the latter Schools reported being made to kneel in the yard for several hours in their underpants in winter and were incontinent while kneeling there. The punishment for absconding in a number of Schools was reported to include being put on reduced food and being forbidden to associate with others. Witnesses described being made to walk around the yard alone for several weeks. Others reported being made to kneel in the refectory while they ate bread and water. This punishment was described as continuing for days and up to three weeks in one instance. One witness reported that when he was brought back after running away his head was shaved and he was later taken from his bed, stripped and beaten, punched and kicked by a group of six Brothers in front of other residents.

Anyway, 3 of us decided that we could not stick it …(being beaten)… anymore, every time you looked he …(Br X)… was after you. We could not take it, we ran away. We were out for about a fortnight and we were caught. I did not get flogged at the time but …named 2 co-residents(were told)… “take off your pants” and they got 25 stripes. Now, I didn’t because I was 2 years younger and only had been there a while. The 3 of us were put into the refectory, they got 3 mugs and 3 chairs and said “kneel down” and we were like that for a week…. We had to kneel on anthracite coal in the kitchen, my knees were all bleeding.

7.44A further punishment associated with absconding was depriving the other residents of watching the weekly film. This particular punishment was reported to prompt residents to abuse those who had run away in retaliation for missing out on this popular treat, as one witness described:

I was put outside …(yard punishment)… for about 3 months. Then after about 3 months they would let you go to the film but they would not let you watch it. You would have to sit with your back to the film and everybody would be watching you. It was just sheer terror really, sheer fear. Fear was the most cruellest part of it.

7.45Five (5) witnesses reported that they were transferred directly to other Schools with harsher regimes as punishment for absconding.

Classroom education

7.46One hundred and fifty seven (157) witnesses reported being physically assaulted in the classroom. Witnesses described the liberal use of the leather, cane and wooden ruler or stick on the face, palms, wrists, tips of the fingers, forearms, legs, backs of the hands, across the shoulders, back and the bottom. Learning was reported to have been dominated by the fear of punishment for various reasons including for not knowing the correct answer, being left handed, being unable to read when called upon and being unable to speak clearly, as described by a witness discharged in the 1960s:

If he …(Br X)… asked a question and you put the hand up, you got a beating if you could not …(give the right answer)…. If you were too slow with the answer you got beaten. … I got to the stage that I didn’t answer because I would get a beating. Everything operated on fear. There was one Br …X… if you done it too slow he hit you, he had 2 leathers, if he appeared on the scene there was fear. No matter what you done, you would always get it wrong. If you frowned or a flinch … he would hit you.

7.47Witnesses who have struggled with poor literacy all their lives described years of humiliation and abuse in the classroom. In four Schools, witnesses described being bent over desks, forced to remove their trousers and being beaten in front of the entire class. Witnesses described being restrained in different ways including having their heads wedged in a window and in a drawer while they were beaten on the bare bottom. The following is an additional account of abuse in the classroom:

Br …X… was a very, very hard man. In each classroom they had a special stool that you stood up on and you got it across the legs or the arse. Everything was done in public. It depended on what was going on, if there was laughing or if you threw something.

7.48Other classroom punishments reported were: ear pulling, being lifted up by the hair or cheeks, beaten on the soles of the feet, having objects thrown at the head or body and being made to stand facing the wall with arms elevated until fatigued, when a beating would ensue. Several witnesses reported having their face slapped or boxed repeatedly while their head was held steady by a tuft of hair. This practice was referred to by witnesses as a ‘jaw warmer’ or ‘rabbit punch’.

One time in the class, my arms would be black and blue, both arms, because I couldn’t read a couple of lines in Irish, he …(Br X)… beat me…. He’d put you in the corner, your hands would be up like that …(displayed arms raised)… if you dropped them you’d get the leather. He put me in the back of the class and he’d tell you to run to him, he’d put his fist out like that …(indicated fist and outstretched arm)… and you’d run into it…. It would be the kick in the shins you would get off him. As soon as you hit the deck he would pull you up by the ears for what we used to call the rabbit punch, you know, like that …indicated hand movement… with the side of his hand on the neck, he’d chop you, you’d go down on the deck. I was out …(unconscious)… that day, you’d be reeling … an 11 year old child.

7.49In addition to the consistently severe forms of physical abuse reported in the context of bed-wetting, running away and the classroom, male witnesses also reported being routinely physically abused in the process of various other everyday activities. Examples of these activities were personal care, recreation and work.

Personal care

7.50Witnesses discharged before 1970 reported the widespread practice of residents being beaten in the dormitories, washrooms and cloakrooms. One hundred and thirty two (132) witnesses described such beatings as punishment for not having washed properly or quickly enough, being last out of the bathroom, having torn or worn clothing or footwear or a missing item of clothing. Holes in socks, jumpers or footwear and tears in trousers or jackets were also described as a common cause of punishment. Witnesses also reported being beaten when they took their worn or torn clothes to be repaired and hit if they did not have them mended or clean before an inspection.

In the morning time there would be an inspection, if there was a button missing you’d get whacked. You’d get a smack in the ear with the hand.

I got such a hiding because my pants were soiled. One day I put up my hand, I wanted to go to the toilet but the Brother he wouldn’t let me go. I had to wash my underpants and then at the inspection they were dirty, I got a hiding for that.

You’d be hit if your lace was open, if your clothes weren’t clean, if your hair wasn’t combed. They’d come up at you from behind or from the side and hit you at full force – you wouldn’t see it coming.

7.51Random beatings in bed at night were also described. Night watchmen were reported to have patrolled the dormitories during the night in nine Schools. Both the night watchmen and religious staff are reported to have checked that residents lay in a particular way in their beds, reports of this experience vary over the years and between the different institutions. Witnesses from some Schools consistently reported being beaten if they were found lying with their hands under the bedclothes, others were beaten if they did not have their arms and hands crossed over their chest in a particular way. Witnesses believed the reason for this enforced practice was to avoid what religious staff referred to as the ‘sin’ of masturbation.

You couldn’t sleep on your back, your ass would be so sore …(after a beating)… you’d want to sleep on your belly, but they wouldn’t let you sleep, you had to sleep in a particular way, on your back.

7.52Showers were reported as locations of abuse in six institutions. The most commonly reported reasons for being beaten in the showers were not washing properly, ducking out of unbearably hot or cold water or attempting to avoid sexual assault. Religious and some lay staff were reported to supervise the showers, usually alone. Some residents described being checked as they left the shower area and were pulled aside for punishment if not considered to be properly washed, at other times it was reported that they were randomly struck with either a leather strap or a stick as they were showering or as they filed past the supervising staff member. A specific complaint about these beatings was the pain of being beaten on wet skin and the humiliation of being beaten while naked.

Showers were too cold or scalding…. All the time you had to steel yourself, some of my worst nightmares are of the dormitory and the showers, they were a nightmare. Someone, Br …X… would turn it …(water)… on, it was too hot or too cold, you jumped out and suddenly you would see this black figure, and you would see a strap coming at you and you would be leathered, you would hear this series of screams all along the cubicles as another …(co-resident)… got it. The worst for me was you were trapped, you could not hide in the cubicle. They were the danger times, you couldn’t disappear in the shower.

7.53Witnesses also reported being physically abused when they were sent to the infirmary for treatment of an injury or ailment. Four (4) Brothers who were in charge of the infirmaries in different Schools were identified as beating residents who were sent to the infirmary. One Brother was named by seven witnesses as abusive in this manner. It was reported that some lay nurses were also harsh, including one who was reported by seven witnesses: ‘she was cruel, vicious, would pour a bottle …(of iodine)… all over you if she was in a bad mood, in your eyes, burn your scabs’.

7.54Eight (8) witnesses reported being beaten in the context of religious practice, including the performance of their duties as altar boys, being late, falling asleep or being inattentive at Mass, and forgetting to say prayers in the refectory.

Recreation

7.55One hundred and sixty five (165) witnesses reported being physically abused while involved in recreational activities. Recreation areas including yards, playing fields, gyms, recreation halls and music rooms were described as places where it was necessary to be alert and to avoid staff who took advantage of opportunities to abuse residents. There were reports from a number of Schools of drill in the yard being routine, under the supervision of lay drill masters.

7.56Witnesses from all Schools described being physically abused by religious staff in the course of playing football and hurling. Among the methods of abuse described was a practice of excessive use of force in play by certain priests and Brothers and putting less able residents or those selected for punishment between the goal posts as target practice for hurling and football.

7.57In six Schools witnesses described being beaten for winning a game or a point against a Brother and/or being punished if the team lost a match against an outside team. This threat of punishment was described by one witness as making them ‘ferocious opponents with a reputation for being hard’.

In the sports Br …X… was involved in hurling and football, if you weren’t up to scratch, particularly hurling, a fist would come out of nowhere and he would hit you. You’d be walloped …(by Br X)… on the field.

Br …X… and Br …Y… were like 2 bruisers going around, you wouldn’t mind the regular punches and belts as they were passing any day, but Br …X… beat the shit out of me like I was a punch bag in front of all the others at a football match. … He picked me up, head butted me, kicked me and left me in a terrible state to show me and all of us who was boss. I got the worst hiding ever … beaten with the leather and stick. I had cracked ribs, my face was bruised and swollen, I was kicked in the head and stomach.

7.58Playing soccer was reported as forbidden in a large number of Schools, with 10 witness accounts of being beaten when caught.

Another time I was caught heading the ball, you were not allowed play soccer you know, by Br …X…. He said “I warned you”. He caught me and brought me around to the toilets. He had this tyre like you’d have at home, off a pram you know …(witness described being beaten with a rubber tyre)… . He left me …crying…. God, the fucking swelling that came up …crying… you’d try and pull away and he’d hit you on top of the head and hit you with his fists.

7.59Music practice rooms and gymnasiums were also reported as locations for physical abuse in many of the Schools reported to the Committee. These discrete locations were reported to also allow opportunities for boys to be isolated. Twenty five (25) witnesses from a small number of Schools reported severe physical abuse in the context of band activities. These reports were most often connected to the specific staff member in charge of the activity. In general, reports of physical abuse in these locations were routine and frequently associated with sexual abuse.

It was 7 nights a week practice …(band)… until you were 16, 7 to 10 at night. The other lads would be playing soccer or watching TV. He Br …X… he would know straight away who was playing a false note. The first one who played a false note he would clatter with his hand he would just lift you up, catch you by the hair like that and lift you off the chair and clatter you as you were going down.

7.60A small number of Schools were reported to have had boxing clubs. Nine (9) witnesses reported being abused in the context of boxing activities, including being pitted against older, stronger residents as a punishment. One witness reported that he was ordered by a Brother to join the boxing club, but he refused as he had no interest in boxing. The witness reported that for a week afterwards he was taken from his bed each night and beaten with a strap by the same Brother. He eventually agreed to join the club and was forced to spar with other residents who were more experienced, he was repeatedly beaten in the ring. The witness believed these beatings in the boxing ring stopped when a lay staff member threatened to go to the gardaí. Witnesses also reported being made to box in the ring as a punishment for fighting amongst themselves:

If you were caught fighting you were made …(by Br X)… to put on gloves and fight the other boy involved. It could be you were picked on by a bigger boy in the first place, who then got permission to beat you properly.

7.61Other witness reports regarding boxing included being made to fight regardless of fear, being forced to participate in a boxing competition for the entertainment of visiting Brothers and being forced to fight naked.

Work

7.62One hundred and forty eight (148) witnesses made 197 reports of being physically abused in the context of work, including being hit, kicked, punched and beaten. Farm work, trade shops and kitchens were the most frequently reported areas of work associated with physical abuse, particularly among those discharged before 1980. Witnesses reported that particularly harsh religious and lay staff were in charge of work in these areas in a number of Schools. The conditions under which residents were at times required to work were also reported as abusive in certain Schools. Witnesses stated that the relative seclusion of work areas from the main thoroughfare of activity in the Schools further increased the risk of abuse – for example kitchens and farm sheds where residents were often reported to have worked in isolation with a single staff member.

7.63There were 97 reports of being physically abused while working on the farms, in the farmyards, tending farm animals and in the fields attached to the Schools. There were a further 19 reports of being abused while working on the bogs. Witnesses described physically punishing work such as picking and breaking stones, cutting turf, pulling beet by hand from the ground, turning hay by hand, pulling trees from the ground, cutting timber and manually compacting silage. In addition to being abused while they worked, witnesses also described physically punishing work:

They used to get the tractor to cut the grass, to save the hay. They used to get a line of us along one end of the field and bend over and physically scrape all the grass with our hands…. Named lay ancillary worker… used to be there with a big stick and if you stood up you got a smack of it across the back of the head or the back. We used to have to pull the trees and the stumps up out of the ground with chains and move big rocks with a chain. Your hands would be blue….

Br …X… I learned to hate, he was the most evil …. Any dirty job I would get it, he took a dislike to me. I always got the job of staying up when the little piglets would be born, up all night. One day the sow had lain on top of the piglets and some of them were dead. That man he was evil, you’d think I had shot somebody the hiding he gave me. … I was horse whipped with the leather, beaten to a pulp … crying and screaming and wet myself … when he stopped he said “now pull up your trousers and go and feed those pigs”.

I couldn’t lift the buckets …(working on the farm)…. He, Br …X… had a big long stick, he was whipping you across the legs, across the arse like he would a cow. I couldn’t lift the buckets.

One time when I was learning how to milk, the cow put her hoof in the bucket and Br …X… lifted me by the ears, the skin come off under his nails, and threw me on the ground,. He gave me a few digs and boxed me in the ribs, just hit you anywhere he liked. The next morning I fell off the stool and the same thing happened again, my ears were bleeding.

7.64There were 41 reports of being physically abused while working in the kitchens, mainly those attached to the Schools where food for the residents was prepared and served. Eleven (11) reports were from one School and almost all referred to one particular Brother. There were nine reports from a second School where the kitchen was also the domain of a Brother reported to be particularly harsh. Witnesses reported being abused in many ways, including being beaten, having their heads plunged into sinks of water, locked into fridges, and deliberately scalded as punishments for dropping crockery, saucepans of food, taking food, not working quickly enough, and burning food.

He Br …X… used to run the kitchen, he had this habit of waving his big leather strap … and any time he felt like it he would just hit you. You would get a couple of clatters for no particular reason. … He was wired to the moon.

7.65There were 26 witness reports of physical abuse in the weaving, tailoring, shoemaking, darning and painting workshops. They reported that these areas were under the charge of staff, most of whom were lay ancillary workers, who in some instances punched, kicked and beat and threw objects at residents. Physical abuse in this context was mainly reported to occur in relation to specific work tasks.

7.66Many other reports of physical abuse in work contexts included: working in the laundries, infirmaries, making Rosary beads and other religious objects, chopping sticks, carrying turf and coal, emptying latrines, cleaning boots and shoes, scrubbing and polishing floors, building, cleaning toilets and pulling grass.

My job at one time was to hand out clean laundry to other boys. One day I remember one boy did not get clean underwear for some reason and Br …X… got 2 boys to hold me across the bed. He pulled down my pants and beat me across the bare backside with his leather strap. I got 10 to 15 lashes from him for this incident.

7.67Three (3) witnesses reported being physically abused when sent out to work for local farmers and others while resident in the Schools.

Specific practices used in physical abuse

7.68In addition to the forms of abuse described above, witnesses reported that staff at times employed certain practices that intensified the experience of being abused. The most frequently reported were flogging, delayed punishment and being beaten by more than one person.

Severe beatings and flogging

7.69The Committee heard evidence from 78 witnesses in relation to 13 Schools that they were stripped, and severely beaten. Forty seven (47) of those witnesses from nine Schools reported being beaten in public. These beatings were most commonly reported to have been with a leather strap, sometimes a cane, and administered by more than one staff member on the naked back and buttocks. The beatings were described as ‘fiercely brutal’ and ‘unmerciful’ and were frequently referred to as floggings, and were associated with particular staff members. Eleven (11) witnesses from one School reported being beaten naked. In another School, 14 witnesses reported being flogged, 12 of whom were naked or partially clothed. Twelve (12) witnesses from two other Schools gave accounts of being beaten naked themselves or witnessing co-residents being severely beaten while naked.

7.70These beatings and floggings were reported to have taken place most often in the recreation yards, the boot rooms, the refectories and the stairwells. Witnesses described at times being made to bend over desks, stairs, benches, vaulting horses or to bend over with their fingers under their toes to be beaten on their bare back and buttocks. Forty eight (48) witnesses reported that they were beaten or kicked to the ground and that the beating frequently continued while they were on the ground. Witnesses commenting on the public floggings said that some residents ‘couldn’t stand at the end’ and recalled, ‘the beating went on until they … (Brothers)… were exhausted’.

They had what they called the public floggings, where you would be brought out in the middle of the …(yard)…. If they wanted to make a real example of you they would have all the other lads there and you would have to kneel down. I was flogged by 4 of them …(Brothers)… one time. … I was lashed…. They used to flog you at night time, you would be bruised all over, you would be sore at night, you wet the bed.

7.71Witnesses reported being flogged and severely beaten for many reasons, including: disclosing or reporting abuse, absconding, speaking to visiting girls, riding a visitor’s bike, refusing to clear blocked toilets, taking food, fighting, delay in lining up, not washing properly or having torn clothes.

When I was there 3 blokes …named co-residents… they ran away and when they were brought back, they were flogged, on one of these vaulting horses. We were all there. Br …X… said “I’m going to make an example of these boys”, and one by one they came out, no trousers on them … naked from their waist down, each one individually over the vaulting horse, he flogged them. Well you could see their backsides going red blue, red blue, the whole School watching.

7.72Twenty three (23) witnesses described injuries to their genitalia as a result of being kicked or flogged. Eighteen (18) witnesses described being hosed with cold water or having cold water thrown on them prior to, or in the course of a severe beating. A witness gave the following account of a severe beating when he was found in the company of co-residents who had been talking to some girls visiting their brothers in the School:

Br …X… met the boys coming up from talking to the girls, he sent them down to the washroom, he told me to go too, but I wasn’t with them. He told the 3 of us to get into bathing togs. He went out and got the leather strap, like the cut-throat razor, he came in, took off his coat and his collar and I never in all my life seen anything like what he done. He started beating us, saying we were talking to the girls … he took off his shirt … he didn’t beat me so much as the others. One of the lads started soiling themselves, he beat them so much, grabbing himself saying, “I’ll give ye girls”, rubbing himself. One of the lads was in bits, they were in a terrible state.

7.73Witnesses reported being filled with terror as religious staff appeared to lose control when they were administering physical beatings or floggings. It was reported that such beatings frequently resulted in injury or, in 22 reported instances, rendered the resident unconscious. Eight (8) of the 22 witnesses reported that they passed out while being beaten and woke up in bed unable to move. There were 36 accounts of witnesses being unable to sit or lie on their back for some days after being beaten, and a further 28 accounts of being unable to walk following a beating or flogging.

I remember another boy who would not cry. I remember one day he got 50 slaps on one hand and then 50 on the other and then another 50. This Brother got so mad that he …(co-resident)… would not cry. He, Br …X… kicked the legs from under him and kicked him to the ground and kicked him until he went unconscious. He was just lying there with his eyes staring up to the sky.

7.74Eleven (11) witnesses reported that the flogging or beating they received was so severe that they thought they were going to be killed. Five (5) witnesses from two Schools reported that named co-residents were never seen again following a severe beating.

I remember this one Brother. The boys would be crying in the morning going into class. He’d start with sums, always an awkward division. I remember one boy in the class …named co-resident…. He was asked a question this time, he made the awful mistake of saying he knew the answer but couldn’t get the answer out, and with that this Br …X… went absolutely berserk…. The brutality of that man, he hit him everywhere, with the leather. He …(co-resident)… was trying to avoid being hit. I never saw him …(co-resident)… again. I often did think about him, whether he went blind or not, I don’t know. I never saw him again.

7.75Five (5) witnesses reported being locked in a dark room in solitary confinement for a number of days after a severe beating. Witnesses from a number of Schools reported that there were rooms where residents were left for days after severe beatings. A witness reported that he and others dropped bread through the window bars to a co-resident who was locked in that room. Other witnesses reported spending days or weeks in the infirmary following a severe beating or flogging.

Delayed punishment

7.76Witnesses from six Schools reported an extensive practice of the delayed administration of physical punishment, which was described as ‘a double punishment, waiting to be beaten and the beating itself’. Experiences of delayed punishments described by witnesses were: kneeling on the floor in the classrooms, refectories or in the yards and standing in their nightshirts at night for long periods in the dormitories, waiting to be taken to the boot rooms, washrooms or stairwells to be flogged. Witnesses who wet their beds described the misery of waiting to be beaten each morning or evening in a routine fashion, in dormitories, offices or elsewhere. Returned absconders and others who had infringed a rule reported a component of the punishment was waiting to be beaten. They described being unable to sleep at night in anticipation of being taken out of bed for physical punishment. Witnesses also described being taken out of bed unexpectedly to be beaten for unknown reasons, making the possibility of being beaten a constant threat.

You did not know when it was going to happen, they …(Brothers)… would leave you until you were nice and snug, you’d think you were safe. I don’t remember their names. One of their favourite habits was to wait until you nearly fall asleep, and then they would bring you down the marble stairs. You would be in … like a grandfather’s nightshirt, with nothing else underneath, and they would lift that up, and have you bent over the stairs. They would whip you then with this strap.

7.77Witnesses described the psychological distress and physical pain of being made to stand facing a wall for lengthy periods, with arms raised waiting for a beating. They stated that they were hit if they moved or dropped their arms and were terrified as they waited, not knowing what form the physical punishment would take or when it would happen:

The worst abuse was being put …(standing)… and you would be there for about 3 hours and you would be waiting. Then they would send you to the boot room and give you a hiding. Sometimes they wouldn’t give you a hiding that evening but the next day and you would have all that day to think about it and stuff, it would do your head in. …The wall was the length of the dormitory and your toes would have to toe the wall, tight to the wall, and if you moved there were monitors, they used to watch you and they would report you to the Brother. … You stood with your hands behind your back, your nose, your head on to the wall. …You’d have to stay there until the lights were dimmed and then you would be taken to the boot room for the hiding. I think that was the worst thing of all.

7.78The practice of lining residents up to await punishment was described as a punishment in itself as witnesses believed it was intended that they hear the cries of their co-residents in advance of their own punishment.

Br …X… was an awful man, he was in charge of …(recreation)… I got a lot of hidings off him. He had a strap about 2 inches thick and he would take down your pants and sometimes he’d say “come down to my office after” and there would be about 6 or 7 fellows there queuing up. You could hear the fellow inside. There would be crying and they would be shouting and you would be terrified outside. You’d be next in then, you’d be frightened, very, very frightened, the screaming, it was awful. The hidings was for everyday carrying on, you know kids like. We were all afraid.

Abuse by more than one person

7.79Fifty nine (59) witnesses reported episodes of being physically abused by more than one person simultaneously. Of those reports there were 42 witness accounts of two or more religious staff coming to the dormitories at night and removing residents from their beds. Witnesses reported being brought to either cloakrooms, boot rooms, showers and bathrooms or the rooms of religious staff members where they were stripped and placed across a table, bed or chair and beaten by more than one priest or Brother. The Committee also heard reports of residents being held down by co-residents under the instruction of a Brother. A small number of witnesses reported being held with their head between the thighs of one of the priests or Brothers while another priest or Brother beat them on the bare bottom with a leather strap. Witnesses also reported being severely beaten as part of a group for various reasons, for example when no one admitted to talking during silent periods or when a staff member wanted a resident to admit to a misdemeanour. Many witnesses described the involvement of more than one religious staff in the episodes of severe beating or flogging, and the assault being so severe that they sustained an injury.

You would get it …(the leather)… on the back of the leg, on the arms, on the back on the head, anywhere. This guy …(Br X)… had a temper he had a severe temper, like a horse. You could end up down …(on the ground)… kicked, hit, leathered, you’d be black and blue I was hit to the floor, you would be black and blue, bleeding. I got quite a few with my trousers down and leather. … He had a whistle and there were religious staff near by, they would weigh in, 3 or 4 of them, you daren’t react to these people. If they were physically abusing someone else you daren’t do anything or you would be for the high jump yourself.

One fella …(co-resident)… called my mother a bastard. I hit him a box. … They …(Brothers)… told me to get into my togs and go up to the shower. After the cold shower the 2 of them …(Brothers)… got 2 sally rods and they beat me, God did they beat me. You would feel the welts on your legs, I mean real dents on your skin.

Named School… ruined my life. Night-times were the worst; if you weren’t taken out of bed and beaten you were listening to it happening to someone else. You could hear the screams all over the whole building at night it was so quiet. Up to 4 Brothers would come and take a boy out of bed on some pretext and give him a hammering, make you take off your nightshirt, they would do what they wanted. They were like a pack of hunting animals.

At night-time you’d be in your nightshirt, 2 of them would hold you down, you could be asleep or on the mark of going asleep, it was always at night time. Three of them would come in. Two of them and the third one would do the beating. The strap … (standing up demonstrating hitting)… it was done in frenzy, like they did not want to be caught….

7.80There were five accounts of boys being tied down before being beaten; in one circumstance a witness described being tied to a bench and beaten. Another witness reported that a Brother sent him to the office, where he was told to take his clothes off, two Brothers took turns beating him on his body and hands until ‘I thought I was going to be killed’. The witness further reported his legs were swollen with open lacerations.

7.81A witness, who reported he was wrongly accused of stealing from another resident, described being told by the Resident Manager ‘to take your punishment like a man’. He was then taken to the office and beaten by two Brothers, on the face, buttocks, hands, wrist and arm until the witness confessed to something he had not done. In a number of Schools the Resident Manager was reported by witnesses to be involved directly in the physical punishment of residents along with other religious staff and in other Schools there were reports of the Resident Manager being called on to agree a punishment.

Injuries

7.82Witnesses reported a catalogue of injuries to themselves and co-residents as a result of physical abuse by religious and lay staff members in the 26 Schools reported to the Committee. Two hundred and twenty four (224) reports were heard of injuries including: breaks to ribs, noses, wrists, arms and legs, injuries to head, genitalia, back, mouth, eye, ear, hand, jaw, face and kidney. Sixty four (64) witnesses reported being left unable to walk, sit, stand or lie down as a result of those injuries. Other injuries included burns, dog bites, lacerations, broken teeth, dislocated shoulders, injuries to the soles of feet, and burst chilblains. Chilblains were a common ailment in the pre-1970s period and male witnesses reported experiencing severe pain after being struck on hands and legs with chilblains. Witnesses reported that at times they were beaten until their chilblains burst and bled.

I suffered from chilblains. I had poor circulation, really festering sores, your fingers as white as sheets, I had to dress my own. I couldn’t get my feet into shoes. One morning after very heavy rain the ground was water-logged, I didn’t want to go over and get my feet wet and aggravate the condition …(chilblains)…. He …(Fr X)… caught me up in his arm and took me across the yard, walked me across … on sore feet on the wet ground … and dropped me in the hall. … He took his revenge out on me, he walloped me with his stick, he walloped me for a full quarter of an hour or more.

He …(Br X)… went around all the beds, you had the clothes, blankets and stuff rolled back and if you made one mistake, whack right across the legs. If you couldn’t get the right answer or recite the Our Father or Hail Mary, all in Irish, he would whack you across the soles of the feet with a bamboo cane. I saw boys there who couldn’t walk the next day. You were supposed to learn while you were in bed and recite it for him.

7.83Many witnesses reported more than one injury, which included the following:

  • One hundred and eighty six (186) witnesses reported being marked, bruised or swollen with welts.
  • Seventy one (71) witnesses reported blood being drawn.
  • Sixty (60) witnesses reported eye and/or ear injuries.
  • Forty four (44) witnesses reported head lacerations.
  • Thirty two (32) witnesses reported injuries to their hand, three of whom reported permanent damage.
  • Twenty eight (28) witness reported broken ribs, arms or legs.
  • Twenty three (23) witnesses reported injury to their genitalia.
  • Twenty two (22) witnesses reported receiving injuries that left them unconscious.
  • Twenty two (22) witnesses reported being scalded or burned.
  • Twenty (20) witnesses reported broken noses.
  • Twenty (20) witnesses reported split lips or broken teeth.
  • Seventeen (17) witnesses reported injuries to their face or jaw.
  • Thirteen (13) witnesses reported injuries to their feet.
  • Eight (8) witnesses reported injuries to their back.
  • Four (4) witnesses reported suffering kidney damage.
  • Three (3) witnesses reported being stabbed with farm and kitchen implements.

7.84There were multiple injuries reported in relation to particular Schools and staff members, for instance 126 witnesses from three Schools reported injuries including broken bones, fractured limbs, head injuries, broken teeth and being left bleeding and bruised. Six (6) witnesses from one School named a particular Brother as the perpetrator of severe injuries, including broken noses and facial injuries:

I lost my 2 front teeth because of a whack like that …demonstrated strike of the hand… out in the yard. If you got too near him…(Br X)… he would just whack you, he’d flatten you. … A few days later I was sent to the doctor because my mouth was all up. … He sent me on to the dentist in …named town….

7.85Twenty five (25) witnesses reported being hospitalised for different non-accidental injuries, as described above. Six (6) of these reports referred to one particular School. Others described co-residents being hospitalised for treatment of their injuries following physical assault by a religious or lay staff member.

Fr …X… laid me out cold for talking; he walloped me so fast I couldn’t see it coming. He broke my nose, I had to go to hospital. He knocked me clean out. I had 2 big black eyes and the nurse sent me to the hospital.

The 2 years I had there I did not get over it for many, many years. I was shattered. … I suffered fierce violence there. I saw one boy …named co-resident… battered on the bog, he got such a beating from Br …X… that his back was broken and he was shifted off to hospital in …named town….

7.86Witnesses reported that in a number of Schools a member of the religious staff or an older resident accompanied them to the hospital and in most cases spoke to the hospital staff on their behalf. Witnesses reported being warned by the person who had beaten them and by other staff to tell the doctor the injuries were caused accidentally.

One day I was on the farm and we were messing, me and …named co-resident… squirting milk at each other. There was a Mr …X (named lay ancillary worker)… there and he told Br …Y…. He …(Br Y)… came over and dug his nails into the back of my ears and then he hit me with his clenched fists on the jaw and of course I went down. I was in the infirmary myself for 6 or 7 weeks after that because they smashed my jaw, my gum was all gone, inside of my face was all ripped. Br …Y… took me to …named hospital… he done all the talking and he said “if anyone asks you, you have an abscess on your gum”. I was back in the infirmary, the treatment I was getting was hot salty water. It started getting a bit easier for me after that.

7.87Nineteen (19) witnesses reported being treated by a nurse in the School for injuries, including broken bones and lacerations following physical abuse. There were 12 further reports of non-accidental injuries being treated by a visiting doctor and another 10 reports of witnesses spending lengthy periods of time in the infirmary while they recovered. Witnesses at times reported such treatments were abusive in themselves.

My bed was near the medicine cabinet, there was this thing called horse iodine that they put on cuts the pain of it was unbelievable. … I saw these 3 boys lining up and Br …X… he painted their backside and legs with this stuff. I will never forget them jumping around and screaming in pain, it was just terrifying.

Mr …X…, lay worker, he was staying there …(in the School)…. He’d stay for a few days and then he’d come back. He hit with something like half a board and a cane, beaten all over. He used a board on the soles of my feet and I couldn’t walk after it. I had to drag my feet and try to walk, it was that sore.

Reported abusers

7.88The 474 reports of physical abuse heard by the Committee identified 556 individuals by name as physically abusive, 110 of whom were also reported as sexually abusive.7 Witnesses reported being physically abused by a variety of personnel including religious and lay staff who were in positions including Resident Managers, teachers, and care and ancillary staff. It should be noted that Resident Managers or their designated deputies were authorised as Disciplinarians, as regulated. Witnesses also reported being physically abused by older co-residents. Seven (7) witnesses reported being physically abused by members of the public including visitors to the Schools and the employers on work placements.

7.89In addition to those named by witnesses there were 30 reports of physical abuse by religious and lay staff and co-residents who were not identified by name. A number of witnesses who made reports of physical abuse to the Committee stated that they either did not wish to name the person who abused them or had no memory of the name of that person.

He …(Brother)… gave me a hiding. I don’t remember who that was, I didn’t know his name. It’s only the ones that really hurt you are the ones that stuck in your memory.

7.90For the purpose of this Report the term ‘care staff’ is used to describe religious and lay staff whose main contact with the witnesses was in the context of their everyday care. Those described in the table below as care staff were reported to have been in charge of the dormitories and most activities of daily living such as personal hygiene, bathing, dressing, meals and recreation. Witnesses reported the increasing presence of trained childcare workers from the 1970s onwards in a number of Schools. The main distinction made between care and ancillary staff was that those described as care staff had a supervisory function while the ancillary workers were reported to have had designated tasks such as night watchman, working in the laundry, kitchen or on the farm. The following table shows the positions reported to be held by named physical abusers in, or associated with, the Schools:

Table 20: Position and Number of Reported and Named Physical Abusers – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Reported position held by named abusers <th “=”” scope=”col”>Males <th “=”” scope=”col”>Females

Religious
– Authority figure including Resident Manager 65 9
– Care staff 227 21
– Teacher 49 7
– Ancillary worker 53 2
– External priest 5 0
Lay
– Care staff 6 7
– Ancillary worker 42 5
– Teacher 27 8
Work placement provider 3 0
General public 4 0
Co-resident 15 1
Total 496 60

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

7.91As may be seen in the above table, 394 of those named by witnesses as physically abusive (71%) were male religious staff within the Schools, a further 39 named abusers were religious Sisters. Ninety five (95) lay staff, 75 male and 20 female, were named by witnesses as perpetrators of physical abuse.

Religious (staff and others)

7.92Witnesses identified 399 male religious, 378 Brothers and 21 priests by name as physically abusive. As well as staff of the School, these included five priests who provided a pastoral service to the residents, members of a religious order on holiday and visiting religious staff who assisted with sport, recreation and other activities. The number of reports of physical abuse in relation to particular religious staff varied considerably, as follows:

  • Two hundred and eight (208) male religious were named once each by single witnesses.
  • One hundred and thirty four (134) male religious were each reported as physically abusive by between two and nine witnesses.

7.93Sixteen (16) Brothers in four particular schools were identified by name as physically abusive in 244 witness reports and a further 53 male religious were identified in multiple reports by witnesses from those Schools.

7.94The religious staff identified as physically abusive were reported to have been engaged in all areas of the Schools, including the classrooms, dormitories, kitchens, workshops, farms and recreation areas.

Br …X… he went over and got an ordinary leather … and he started beating me. I was so frightened, he had the door locked, it was inside in the refectory. He beat me for a long, long time. … I had marks on my legs, marks on my back. I was terrified with the beating I got. … Another young fellow …named co-resident… I seen the same Brother one day in the kitchen picking up a big iron poker and giving him a ferocious belt across the head.

7.95Sixty-five (65) of the named male religious staff reported as physically abusive were identified by witnesses as being in positions of authority, including Resident Managers within the Schools. The remaining 329 Brothers and priests named by witnesses were reported to be care, teaching and ancillary staff within the Schools. Witnesses described some of the religious staff having different roles within the School and at times were not clear whether the ascribed role was in fact the individual’s dominant function within the institution. For example, witnesses referred to religious staff in authority as the Superior, Reverend Mother, School Master, Officer in Charge, Head Brother or Sister, and Brother or Priest in Charge.

He …(Br X)… reported me to Br …Y (Resident Manager)…. He used deal out the punishment for the running away or any trouble in the yard. Br …Y… he told me to get into …named location in School… that was where all the punishment was dished out. I was made face the wall in there for maybe half an hour or that. He made me sit down, there was a school bench…. Br …X… came in and the other one …(Br Y)… got the other side and he grabbed me arms, made me put me arms over the bench so you couldn’t get your legs out. They pulled me trousers down, he had … they used to call it a black jack, it was like the rim of a pram that was broke, the rubber rim, they used get that behind on you, they used hit you with that. The pain off that was unbelievable that day …distressed…. I got about 10 of them that day. Then I was put back on the wall, they came back after about an hour and they done it again, no Br …X… did it, but the 2 of them was there.

7.96There were 39 religious Sisters named as physically abusive by witnesses. The reports of abuse by Sisters refer to five junior and mixed gender Schools. Nine (9) Sisters were identified as Resident Managers, one of whom was named by five witnesses.

I was messing around … and this nun Sr …X… was her name she got a hurley, a plastic hurley, she lashed me out of it with this hurley. There was another Sr …Y… she was teaching me the clock and she used to hit me on the face when I didn’t understand it.

7.97Ninety four (94) Brothers and five priests were named as both physically and sexually abusive by witnesses.

Lay care and ancillary staff

7.98There were 95 lay staff, 75 male and 20 female, identified by name as physically abusive by male witnesses. A further 34 lay staff were identified by their position, but not by name, by male witnesses.

7.99Forty two (42) of the lay staff who were reported as physically abusive were ancillary staff employed as night watchmen, drill masters, farm workers, maintenance and trade workers. Witnesses reported that contact with lay ancillary staff was mainly in the dormitories, showers or in the context of work activity on the farm, in the kitchens or in trade shops where they were in constant contact with the staff who abused them.

They had a large shower area. We had one shower per week. The showers were back to back. The person in charge of the baths, he was a lay person, if he wasn’t happy he used to examine boys. To his reckoning if the boys weren’t clean enough, he’d examine you, he would poke and hit you with a stick. I was walloped … quite a few times, you’d cower in the shower, he would wallop you, in the genital area and on the posterior.

7.100Three (3) particular lay staff were identified by name in the evidence of 35 witnesses and a further 13 lay staff were identified by name by between five and nine witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee.

He was cruel …named lay ancillary worker…. He was an animal, he was a giant of a man. We were only kids. If you done something out of line you would get a toe in the arse, or a whack of a stick, whatever he had in his hand. You’d be out in the field, you would think you would be running around playing, no such thing, you were there to work.

7.101Twelve (12) watchmen were identified by 30 witnesses as physically abusive. The night watchmen were employed to supervise the dormitories during the night and were reported to attend to residents who wet their bed. The main reports of physical abuse by night watchmen occurred in that context.

This man had the job of walking up and down the dormitory all night. One night I woke up and this torch was shining in my face. … He told me to get up and he took the walking stick and he gave me 10 whacks on one hand and then he gave me 10 more. He left me standing there while he did his rounds and then he came back and he gave me 10 more, I was shaking. I wet myself …distressed…. He went around again and he came back again, at this time I don’t know what to do, I am shaking. I wet the floor, he gave me 10 more on each hand. I got 60 whacks of a cane, a little boy for waking up when a torch was shone on his face. Then he said “go back to bed”. I didn’t know what to do, I cried, totally bemused at this savagery. That was the start of 4 years, night after night after night he would walk around, I would pray “don’t stop, O God please don’t stop. If I’m seen to be awake what will I get?” I saw him hit many boys. One time when he was walking around the dormitory, I could hear him and I …(soiled)… myself, now how frightened can you get?

7.102Twenty seven (27) male lay staff reported as physically abusive were classroom and other teachers employed in the Schools. They were generally described as harsh disciplinarians who dispensed punishments for schoolwork and perceived misbehaviour.

The PE teacher beat us with his fists and boots for coming last in the race, for smiling at the wrong time.

There were lay teachers, I don’t know about qualification or anything like that. One of them was alright, he tried to help us. Mr …X… was sadistic, he took his belt off to me once and took my trousers down, oh it makes my heart run faster when I talk about him. It was terrible, terrible …distressed…. He was the one who would use whatever he got hold of and he used put you over a chair and he also would cane the soles of your feet.

One of the school masters …(lay teacher)… during the first year I was there, the first year, was a very sick man. … One winter’s morning we were all lined up and told “say the Our Father”, not in English but in Irish. We started off and said … we just knew the opening and the first 2 words. We couldn’t get any farther, how could we? We were not taught it and because we could not get any farther we got …demonstrated being hit… on our hands with a strap. A strap with rivets in it because it was held together with little nails.

7.103The 20 female lay staff who were reported as abusers included teachers, care and ancillary workers. Five (5) infirmary nurses were among the female lay staff reported by witnesses as abusive. Witness reported being abused by beatings and by the harsh treatments they applied.

Named lay ancillary worker… she was a lay care worker, when she was away on holidays I never wet the bed, but when she was there I got hammered for wetting the bed. If she spotted you … taking bit of bread from another lad … she would tell you you were going to get hammered the following morning. You didn’t get it there and then, you would be worried about it and you would get it the next morning. … But she …named lay ancillary worker… was unreal…. You got up at half 6 or 7 o’clock and you would have to hold on to the iron bed with one hand and holding up the nightshirt with the other, and she would get one of the prefects to hold you … she would hit you with a hurley or whatever she could lay her hands on, a broom handle, it could be 10 to 20 strikes. You would be polishing floors after that on your knees and you could get it again, you would not be able to sit down.

Nurse …X… enjoyed hurting kids, she had no sympathy. You would rather put up with pain than go to her. All the boys were afraid of her; she was very brutal.

7.104Eleven (11) male lay staff who were reported as physical abusers were also the subject of sexual abuse reports.

Co-residents

7.105Thirty eight (38) witnesses reported that pervasive bullying was associated with physical abuse by older co-residents in the Schools. There were 16 reports of co-residents identified by name as physically abusing witnesses and 22 other accounts that referred to groups of unnamed older residents as physically abusive. Witnesses reported that in some Schools older residents were appointed by religious staff as monitors and it was said that they used the opportunity to exert their authority in various ways, including beating younger co-residents.

I will never forget the brutality that went on in that place. … I have got to tell someone before I depart this earth. We were constantly beaten with ash wood sticks by the senior boys left in charge of the playground. This amounted to extreme cruelty as little boys, only 6 or 7 years old…. They were allowed to carry sticks and they could do what they liked. … In the yard they would be in charge, no one ever supervised that and they could do what they liked. I could never understand that. They were in charge of the dormitories, and the way they got you up with the stick, like, it was unbelievable.

7.106Evidence was also heard of residents being directed by religious staff to attack, kick and beat their co-residents. Witnesses reported it was their belief that certain older residents were known to be favoured by those in charge and therefore had the freedom to behave as they wished without fear of reproach.

I answered back in a sort of a cheeky way, and he …(Br X)… said “wait a few minutes” and went out. I didn’t know what he had in mind, he came back with a couple of older boys and he said something like “teach him a lesson”. You see you have to remember in …named School… at the time each of the Brothers had their own little flock, he had his own little pets. In later time I learned these boys used to work on the farm. Anyway Br …X… he urged these lads on, they started punching and kicking me, I was in … a corner trying to hide my face from the kicks. Well I was left with blood coming from my eye, from my lip and from my eyebrow.

7.107Physical assaults by older residents were sometimes reported to have occurred in the context of sexual abuse and witnesses reported being physically intimidated by older boys in this way as a warning against reporting sexual abuse.

Other reported abusers

7.108Witnesses reported being physically abused by named individuals who were neither staff nor residents in the School. Three (3) witnesses reported being physically abused when they were in external placements for work or holidays that had been arranged by the School. Two (2) other witnesses reported being physically abused by male lay members of the public and an additional two witnesses reported being abused by ex-residents who they remarked had the freedom to return to the School and associate with residents unsupervised.

Sexual abuse

The use of the child by a person for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of that person or another person.8

7.109This section summarises the evidence provided by witnesses of sexual abuse ranging from contact sexual abuse including rape and associated physical violence to non-contact abuse such as enforced nakedness and voyeurism. Witnesses were generally distressed when describing their experiences of sexual abuse. They spoke in as much or as little detail as they wished. Some witnesses provided detailed and disturbing accounts of sexual abuse, other accounts were sufficient to clarify the acute or chronic nature of both contact and non-contact sexual abuse.

A priest sexually abused me. … It’s not very easy to talk about it…. There is things there but I don’t know how to get them out. I’d love to be able to come out with them, but I just can’t…. There’s no easy way of saying things like that.

Nature and extent of sexual abuse reported

7.110Two hundred and forty two (242) male witnesses (59%) made 253 reports of sexual abuse in relation to 20 Schools.9 Eleven (11) witnesses reported sexual abuse in relation to two separate Schools. Witnesses described their experience of sexual abuse as either acute incidents or multiple episodes that, for some, occurred throughout their entire admission in the School. Witnesses reported being sexually abused by religious and lay staff in addition to other adults, most of whom had some association with the Schools. Witnesses also reported being sexually abused by co-residents.

7.111The frequency of sexual abuse reports varied widely between Schools:

  • Four (4) Schools were collectively the subject 156 reports.10
  • Five (5) Schools were the subject 10-17 reports, totalling 67 reports.
  • Eleven (11) Schools were the subject of 1-6, totalling 30 reports.

7.112One School was the subject of 29% of all sexual abuse reports heard by the Committee.

7.113Sexual abuse was reported to occur in combination with other types of abuse as shown in the following table:

Table 21: Sexual Abuse Combined with Other Abuse Types – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Abuse types <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Sexual, emotional, neglect and physical 166 66
Sexual, neglect and physical 49 19
Sexual, emotional and physical 20 8
Sexual and physical 14 6
Sexual, emotional and neglect 2 1
Sexual and neglect 1 (0)
Sexual 1 (0)
Total reports 253 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

7.114One hundred and sixty six (166) reports were of all four types of abuse and constituted 66% of the sexual abuse reports. In 249 instances (98%) witnesses reported both sexual abuse and physical abuse.

7.115As with the other abuse types, sexual abuse was most often reported by witnesses who were discharged during the 1960s. The following table shows the distribution of witness accounts of sexual abuse across the decades covered by this Report: 11

Table 22: Number of Sexual Abuse Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Decade of discharge <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of sexual abuse reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Pre-1960s 88 35
1960-69 119 47
1970-79 37 15
1980-89 9 4
Total 253 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

7.116There are some proportional differences between the sexual abuse reports and the combined abuse reports for each discharge period. For example, there were 203 reports of abuse from 177 witnesses discharged prior to 1960, and 43% of those reports were of sexual abuse. By contrast, there were 60 reports of abuse from 50 witnesses discharged in the 1970s of which 62% were reports of sexual abuse.

Description of sexual abuse

7.117Witnesses described contact sexual abuse including: inspection of genitalia, kissing, fondling of genitalia, forced masturbation of, and by, an abuser, digital penetration, penetration by objects, oral and anal rape and attempted rape, by individuals and groups. Witnesses also reported several forms of non-contact sexual abuse including detailed interrogation about sexual activity, indecent exposure, inappropriate sexual talk, voyeurism, and forced public nudity. Some witnesses gave accounts of isolated incidents of sexual abuse and others reported being sexually abused on many occasions, over a period of months or years. The Committee developed a classification of the different forms of sexual abuse described by witnesses, which are shown in the following table:

Table 23: Forms and Frequency of Sexual Abuse Reported – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Forms of sexual abuse <th “=”” scope=”col”>Frequency reported <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Inappropriate fondling and contact 183 32
Forced masturbation of abuser by child 89 16
Use of violence 88 16
Anal rape 68 12
Masturbation of child by abuser 50 9
Oral/genital contact 30 5
Non-contact abuse including voyeurism 25 4
Attempted rape 14 2
Kissing 12 2
Digital penetration 6 1
Total 565* (100)**

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Witnesses reported more than one form of sexual abuse

**Some rounding up/down was applied

7.118The most frequently described form of sexual abuse was inappropriate fondling of which there were 183 reports. In 50 instances inappropriate fondling was combined with reports of masturbation of the witness by the abuser. Forced masturbation of the abuser by the witness was reported by 89 witnesses, 30 of whom reported being coerced and physically assaulted while being subjected to masturbation and oral/genital contact.

7.119Sixty eight (68) witnesses reported being anally raped. There were a further 14 reports of attempted rape and six reports of digital penetration. Many of these reports were associated with violence, of which there were 88 reports in total, including 23 reports of injuries to genitalia by beating with a leather and kicking.

7.120Reports of non-contact sexual abuse included 15 accounts of witnesses being questioned and interrogated about their sexual activity and knowledge and 10 reports of voyeurism and indecent exposure.

7.121The secretive and isolated nature of sexual abuse was frequently described. Many witnesses reported that the fear of severe punishment and the threat of either them or their siblings being sent to a more restrictive institution inhibited them in both resisting and disclosing sexual abuse. Witnesses further reported that the culture of obeying orders without question, the authority of the abuser and the experience of not being believed and being severely beaten after they reported abuse, rendered them powerless to stop the abuse.

Circumstances of sexual abuse

7.122Sexual abuse was reported to have occurred mainly in private and occasionally in the company of other residents and staff members. Witnesses reported being sexually abused in many locations, including: dormitories, sleeping quarters and offices of staff members, cloakrooms, churches, sacristies, classrooms, workshops, kitchens, infirmaries, showers, toilets, outside sheds and farm buildings, fields, recreation areas, motor vehicles, private homes, commercial premises, and other off-site locations. Witnesses stated that particular areas of activity such as kitchens, farmyards, infirmaries and music rooms provided opportunities for staff members to isolate residents without fear of disturbance.

7.123Sexual abuse was also reported to occur off-site when residents were taken out of the institution for holidays, outings or work placements, by individuals who sexually abused them. Witnesses reported that sexual abuse was often preceded by physical violence that they believed was intended as an intimidating threat. Others described receiving special attention and experiencing friendly encounters over periods of time that they welcomed, as many of them experienced no other kindness or affection, an example of which is described below:

One night I was lying in bed and I was woke up by …(Br X)… he said “I’m not going to harm you or anything, don’t be afraid”. At that time I thought he just wanted to chat, I thought it was a normal thing. The next thing he sat on my bed, he said “don’t be afraid, I’m not going to hit you”. The next thing he took hold of my hand, put my hand on his privates, I took my hand away and with that he slapped me, he slapped me quite a few times and I was crying and he left. He came back later, he opened his trousers and took my hand and put it on his privates, out of total fear I obeyed. He instructed me in what to do and that amounted to masturbation and that continued over the time I was there.

7.124Witnesses repeatedly stated that co-residents who had no family contact were the most common victims of sexual abuse. They referred to these co-residents as orphans and ‘conventers’ and many witnesses remarked that they considered themselves lucky not to be selected for sexual abuse.

There were 2 different types of boys, the outsiders who had parents and the orphans. The orphans were always on the lookout for danger, learning to survive. They had no one to look out for them. It was a constant struggle to survive, you would make no eye contact, you would keep your eyes down in order to avoid punishment. You were thinking “there’s no way out”. You blamed yourself.

Anytime he got the opportunity he got access, he …(Br X)… used to masturbate himself over me and make me do the same to him. It stared when I was 10 and a half or 11 and it went on ’til I was 14. He used to swamp me with gifts, sweets, money. He said it was our secret. He stopped me going to my godparents, he was afraid I would tell. It was mainly the orphans who were abused bad, they had no one to turn to. I had no one. I was 2 years there before I ever went out. There was no one to tell.

Violence

7.125There were 88 witness reports of sexual abuse and associated physical violence, 15 of these reports related to one School. Many of the reports heard were of witnesses being beaten while their abusers masturbated, or of the witnesses being beaten on their bare buttocks while they were held against the abusers’ genitals. Witnesses described physical abuse perpetrated in the context of sexual abuse as serving to both enforce compliance with the sexual assault and as a means of securing the silence of the witness concerned. Witnesses who reported being sexually abused, including being anally raped, named Brothers about whom the Committee heard a number of reports of sexual abuse:

He was a very bad man, a very dirty man, he used to keep me back after school and do things to me, not very nice things. He used to lock the doors and put books up against the window, tell me to take off my clothes. He touched me, made me touch him, then beat me so that I wouldn’t tell anyone. He made me clean up after him. He hurt me very badly, forced himself on me. Then, when you’d go to school next day you’d wonder who is it going to be today? … Other boys were kept back too.

Br …X… came and pulled me from my bed into his bedroom, he turned his wireless up to full volume and said “take that nightshirt off, you can scream now as much as you like, you little bastard”. He masturbated himself with his left hand while he was hitting me with his strap…. He just brought the strap down on me and kicked me with his boots on, that is all he was wearing…. He threatened that if I told anyone the same would happen again.

One particular morning he …(Br X)… put me up against the wall because I was left handed, he put me hands up against the wall like that …indicated arms stretched above head… he started flogging me with the leather strap. This particular session I lost all control and soiled myself, he took me by the ear straight out, around to the showers. He wanted me to strip off and get into the shower, the water was freezing. … It’s very hard for me to tell this … but I want to tell it anyway … I was crouched down in the corner, he grabbed me by the hair into the cubicle, dragged me up off the floor, on the lats you know, lats for the seats and he buggered me again, and told me to shut up, I was screaming, I was in sheer pain you know. He had done it before in my bed and he made me bleed, he tore the skin you know. It could be once a week and then he mightn’t come near you for a month. It lasted for all the years I was there.

7.126Sexual abuse associated with violence was also reported to be accompanied at times by serious threats of physical harm, including risk to life, for the perceived purpose of instilling fear and enforcing compliance. For example, witnesses reported being threatened that if they ever told anyone what happened to them they would be ‘drowned in the slurry pit’, ‘sent to a worse place’, ‘killed’ or in one instance, ‘cut up and buried in a bag in the bog’. This latter threat was issued by a lay ancillary worker who the witness reported challenged him with a knife.

7.127Witnesses reported being beaten or exposed to harsh treatment by co-residents in advance of sexual abuse episodes and made frequent reports of severe beatings culminating in a violent sexual assault.

The damage that they, boys, done to boys was unbelievable, what was going on. They …(co-residents)… were after beating them so much … they were beaten and beaten until they done it …(sexual abuse)…. They were beaten into submission.

Abuse by more than one person

7.128There were 16 witness accounts of sexual abuse being perpetrated by more than one religious staff simultaneously, generally in association with physical assault. Witnesses described being sexually abused over a period of time by a number of Brothers who also severely physically abused. Some witnesses believed that they were subsequently abused by other Brothers who became aware that they were the victims of ongoing abuse. The reports refer to six separate Schools, with 11 witness reports made in relation to two of those Schools. Sexual abuse associated with severe physical violence involving more than one staff member was generally reported as having occurred at night. Witnesses reported being taken from their beds and brought to staff members’ bedrooms, bathrooms or other areas, where they were abused by two or more Brothers and/or priests.

7.129In relation to one School, four witnesses gave detailed accounts of sexual abuse, including rape in all instances, by two or more Brothers and on one occasion along with an older resident. A witness from the second School, from which there were several reports, described being raped by three Brothers: ‘I was brought to the infirmary…they held me over the bed, they were animals….They penetrated me, I was bleeding. Another witness reported he was abused twice weekly on particular days by two Brothers in the toilets off the dormitory:

One Brother kept watch while the other abused me …(sexually)… then they changed over. Every time it ended with a severe beating. When I told the priest in Confession, he called me a liar. I never spoke about it again.

I would have to go into his …(Br X’s)… room every time he wanted. You’d get a hiding if you didn’t, and he’d make me do it …(masturbate)… to him. One night I didn’t …(masturbate him)… and there was another Brother there who held me down and they hit me with a hurley and they burst my fingers …displayed scar….

Grooming and inducements

7.130Witnesses reported that sexual abuse was frequently preceded by the abuser’s attempts to win their trust by expressing concern for their welfare or giving them small treats such as comic books, extra blankets, chocolates or fruit. ‘On your birthday you got a bottle of orange but you would have to … you had to go up to the Brother and sit on their lap….’ Witnesses also reported being taken away from the School for outings and being sexually abused while they were out.

This Brother used to follow the band around, Br …X… introduced me to him. He wasn’t from our School, he was a fully fledged Brother from another School. He got friendly with me, over friendly you know, he used to take me out. He took me to …named town… he told them …(Brothers)… he was going to stay with his sister. He booked us into a hotel, and he touched me and things, rubbing and kissing me, he assaulted me, he did not have anal sex. I did not know anything about sex. I felt I had done something wrong. … I went to Confession about it and the priest said “don’t worry about it” and he gave me a prayer to say as penance. I thought he would do something about it, you know, that he would put a stop to it, but nothing happened.

Br …X… he had a kind way with him and you would be kinda looked after, if other Brothers were at you he would have a go at them. … One day he called me into this little room … he was saying to me “you are doing very well here, you are really coming along very well”. After a while he said “you are such a good looking boy you know, I have plans for you, we are going on a trip…”.. I thought “Well, he was just being nice”. … Well after a while he took my hand and he placed it on his private parts you know, so he said to me “don’t be afraid”, things like that and at the same time I was shaking, and as he was talking he kept on rubbing my hand up and down his privates. The next thing was, he was opening his buttons, his trousers, you know … and he told me to …crying… take down my trousers …cryingwitness described anal rape….

7.131A number of witnesses reported being sexually abused while working in the kitchens where access to extra food served as an inducement, prior to being sexually abused. The kitchen was identified as a location for sexual abuse due to its relative isolation from the rest of the School. As previously reported the kitchens in some Schools were described as the domain of a particular Brother with few intrusions by either staff or residents.

I was sexually abused by a Brother, he used to fondle me, he used to masturbate himself over me, it happened mainly when I was helping in the kitchen, in a room at the back. The sexual abuse always happened outside the sight of everybody.

7.132Staff whose sleeping quarters were adjacent to the dormitories were reported to employ various excuses for having residents in their rooms. Witnesses reported being sent to the priests’ or Brothers’ rooms to light fires, make beds, tidy up or clean the rooms. At times witnesses reported being invited to listen to the radio or music in a Brother or priest’s bedroom as a special treat. At other times, witnesses remarked that their expressed interest in some topic or sport provided the Brother or priest with the opportunity to engage them on an individual basis, as a prelude to inappropriate sexual contact.

I was playing basketball one day and Br …X… came over to me and said to me, says he “I have some sweets for you upstairs…”. …(He told me)… to come up to his room. I genuinely thought I was going to get some sweets. He went into his room and came out naked, he told me take off my clothes, he rubbed some oil on me and he buggered me, I was in a bad way after that. He took me into his room and locked the door, and it was oral sex and all of that. … I don’t like talking about it.

7.133Witnesses reported that in some Schools residents who were selected for sexual abuse by religious staff at times received special treatment. A number of witnesses who were sexually abused described being known as ‘specials’ of a staff member and reported that being selected as ‘special’ protected them from physical abuse, to some extent. They described the associated disadvantages attached to this position, particularly being isolated from their peer group whom they believed did not understand the price they were paying for perceived privileges. A small number of witnesses in such circumstances acknowledged having conflicted feelings about being sexually abused, especially in situations where the sexual abuse was not associated with violence.

Br …X… he was brutal, he was a pig. … They would call him a paedophile nowadays, he had his favourites, we called them “oh that’s so and so’s …(pet)…”. He …(Br X)… would be holding this little fella’s hand and that kinda thing. I was not sexually abused, I’d be telling a lie if I said I was, but I saw them.

Voyeurism and other non-contact abuse

7.134Witnesses described as sexually abusive the manner in which certain staff members supervised the areas of personal care. The practice of communal showering and bathing was reported as commonplace and not in itself abusive. However witnesses reported lone male staff staring at residents as they showered and subjecting them to intrusive examinations of their genitalia and other body parts. Reports of such violations of personal privacy were frequently accompanied by reports of physical abuse and subsequent sexual assault, including rape, in the shower areas.

7.135Three (3) witnesses reported being watched by a Brother as he masturbated while they showered. Other witnesses described Brothers examining their bodies with particular attention to their genital area on the pretext of inspecting if they had washed thoroughly in the shower. A further form of voyeurism was reported by three witnesses who were forced to spar naked in the boxing ring while being watched by a number of Brothers and visiting clergy.

7.136Fifteen (15) witnesses reported being questioned and interrogated in different ways about their sexual activity and awareness of sexual matters. Witnesses from two Schools reported that these interrogations were conducted in a methodical manner and focused on sexual activity between residents. Residents and witnesses were subsequently punished as a result of what was told. Witnesses from two Schools also described being required to keep a diary of their sexual thoughts that they had to give one of the Brothers to read and that they were then questioned about. Witnesses described being distressed by the interventions and that ‘you never knew what they wanted’. Other witnesses reported being questioned about their contact with girls or boys prior to admission or during holidays that they believed was, at times, a means of determining how susceptible they may be to allowing sexually inappropriate behaviour. Such interrogations were also described as opportunities for inappropriate sexual talk.

He …(Br X)… came into the recreation hall one night and said “come here a minute” and brought me up to his room. He started talking about something and then he started on sex, he started talking about sex. He asked me “have you ever had sex with a girl?” I said “no”, he kept at me and at me saying “you did, you did, come on tell me the truth…”. He threatened and he said “I’ll bring up Br …Y…”. He was real evil … sometimes you couldn’t sit down you, would be so sore after a beating. So I said to myself I’ll have to say yes. So I said “yes”, and he said “how do you do it?” and I haven’t a clue….

Reported abusers

7.137Two hundred and forty six (246) lay and religious staff and others were reported as sexual abusers by male witnesses. One or more reports of sexual abuse were made against each of those identified as sexual abusers. Witnesses identified 186 perpetrators of sexual abuse by name, 110 of whom were also named by witnesses as physically abusive. A further 60 unnamed perpetrators were identified by their position or occupation. It is possible that there is some overlap between those identified by name and those who were not named. The abusers’ identity was often protected by the reported practice of abusing residents at night when ‘you only saw the cloak’. Witnesses gave accounts of being warned not to turn around as they were being raped, which they believed was to preclude them from identifying the abuser.

He told me to lean over the desk and pull my pants down. I didn’t know what he was going to do …crying…. I felt something rubbing up and down against my backside. I tried to look around but the way he had me pinned down on the desk I couldn’t move, and the next thing I felt this sharp pain … it was so severe. I never felt anything like it…. After he finished he told me “you be a good boy now go out and play with the other boys” and after that I decide that I had to get out of here, and I absconded and I was brought back and I got another beating.

7.138Those reported to the Committee as sexual abusers included male and, to a much lesser extent, female religious staff who were in positions of care and authority including Resident Managers, teachers and ancillary workers. Lay care and ancillary workers, teachers, visiting professionals, volunteer care givers providing holiday and work placements, adult friends and relatives of staff and volunteers, ex-residents and co-residents were all identified as perpetrators of sexual abuse. The Committee heard evidence of sexual abuse by religious staff from 15 of the 20 Schools where witnesses reported being sexually abused. Evidence was heard of sexual abuse by lay staff and others from all 20 Schools. The following table shows the positions understood by witnesses to be those held in or in association with the institutions by reported sexual abusers:

Table 24: Position and Number of Reported Sexual Abusers – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Position of reported sexual abusers <th “=”” scope=”col”>Males <th “=”” scope=”col”>Females

Religious
– Authority figure including Resident Manager 23 1
– Care staff 87 3
– Teacher 24 0
– Ancillary worker 17 0
– External priest, Brother or other clergy 8 0
– Clerical student 1 0
Lay
– Care staff 6 6
– Teacher 2 0
– Ancillary worker 11 0
Weekend or holiday placement carer 1 0
Work placement provider 1 0
Visitor and volunteer workers 9 0
Local workmen, general public or others 6 0
Ex-resident 1 0
Co-resident 37 2
Total 234 12

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

7.139As indicated, the majority of sexual abuse reported was perpetrated within the Schools by religious staff with 151 (65%) of all those identified as sexually abusive being male religious staff, 139 Brothers and 12 priests. Altogether 180 religious and lay staff within the Schools were identified as sexually abusive.

Religious (staff and others)

7.140Witnesses reported being sexually abused by 151 male and four female religious staff in 15 Schools where sexual abuse was reported. Five (5) witnesses also reported that they were sexually abused by external clergy and Brothers who were visiting the Schools or others to whom witnesses were sent to work. As previously stated external clergy included priests and others of higher rank. These visiting religious were described as either friendly with religious staff or visiting the School in a pastoral role. There were also four reports of sexual abuse by either a clerical student or visiting members of the congregation in relation to four other Schools. In all but one instance sexual abuse by external clergy and Brothers were described as isolated occurrences. The forms of sexual abuse reported included anal rape, oral/genital contact, masturbation, kissing, inappropriate fondling, indecent exposure and voyeurism.

I always thought there was someone coming for me. It’s only when I think back now they …(Brothers)… were so clever. I don’t know if you get what I’m saying to you, with regards paedophilia if you know what I mean, they had a knack of it. …The sexual abuse or the physical abuse wouldn’t start straight away, but don’t forget you’re 11 years of age, you’re lonely, you have nobody. The next thing the Brother would put his arms around you or he would be nice to you. It was somebody to hold on to, then after a while the sexual abuse would start. … To this day it kills me, I tried to please them. I tried to please them for a hug, somebody to put their arms around you. You were constantly told “nobody wants you, you’re not wanted”…. He’d bring you into a room and put the arm around you and giving you a sweet and then hands would drop down and eventually he would bugger you. I thought I was a bad boy and that …(sexual abuse)… was your punishment. When they’d get fed up with you they would start hitting you. After the sexual act you would get a box in the mouth off him…. It started after 2 weeks there, new comers were like new meat.

7.141Six (6) Brothers were each reported by between 10 and 21 witnesses as having sexually abused them. These six Brothers were identified by a total of 89 witnesses and came from two particular Schools. These Schools had both the largest number of staff reported as sexually abusive and the most reports of sexual abuse made about particular staff members.

Br …X… sent for me, I had to go to his room and he said “kneel down and close your eyes”. … He put his penis in my mouth …crying and distressed… and I opened my eyes and he boxed me in the eyes. You couldn’t do anything if they came to abuse you, they would hit you a box or anything like that.

7.142Among the religious Sisters, Brothers and priests who were reported as sexual abusers 24 were believed by witnesses to be Resident Managers or officers in charge of the Schools. Ninety (90) religious staff, including three religious Sisters and three priests, identified as abusers were in care roles and 24 were in teaching roles. Seventeen (17) religious staff identified as sexual abusers were occupied in an ancillary capacity on farms, in kitchens, laundries and infirmaries. Religious ancillary staff were described as having control over their area of work, particularly kitchens, farmyards, and infirmaries, where they were identified as sexually abusing many witnesses.

The first job I had was in the laundry, after a few weeks he …(Br X)… called me in to the office and said “if you ever have any problems don’t hesitate to come to me”. He had his arm around me at this stage, he put his other hand down inside my trousers…. I pulled away and wouldn’t allow him to do it, he hit me a box in my face with his fist and told me to get out of his office. … Twice I had to masturbate him …(Br X)… in the hospital …(infirmary)…. The hospital was the place where they would give the boys medication. … He’d bring you in and he’d pull across the curtains. … He’d …(Br X)… have his Cassock up underneath the band, the belt, and he’d get me to rub him.

While working in the kitchen I was kissed by Br …X… regularly and the boys who witnessed it ridiculed me. … Br …Y… made me fondle him and rubbed himself up against me.

7.143The four religious Sisters identified as sexually abusing male witnesses were attached to different Schools and were each the subject of single witness reports. In three instances they were described as inappropriately fondling and exposing themselves to the witnesses in the context of personal care activities. In the other instance a witness reported that a religious Sister sexually abused him by fondling and masturbation in the company of both male and female lay care staff.

7.144As previously reported, 94 Brothers and five priests were named as both physically and sexually abusive by witnesses.

Lay care and ancillary staff

7.145Witnesses identified 19 male and six female lay staff as sexually abusive. The main occupational group identified were lay ancillary staff of whom 11 were named by 21 witnesses. These staff were mainly night watchmen and farm workers employed by the Schools. The most frequently reported form of sexual abuse perpetrated by male ancillary staff was anal rape and masturbation. Two (2) lay teachers and trade instructors were reported by a small number of witnesses as sexually abusive. The other lay staff who were identified as sexually abusive were both male and female care staff. Reports of sexual abuse in relation to these staff refer mostly to those discharged in the 1970s and 1980s and the forms of abuse generally reported were inappropriate fondling and masturbation.

There was a number of lads in the dormitory …who wet the bed. … I was one of those. I never wet the bed before going to …named School…. …Named lay ancillary worker… knew exactly who to take out …(to the toilet)…. There was this night watchman who got the boys out of the bed…. One particular night I was told to stay back when the other boys went back in. The first instance I had I was in the cubicle and I was told to take my pyjamas down and he fondled my privates and he told me to do the same to him. This went on for a couple of nights, then one particular night…. Same again, I was the last one back in and the same again, and then it got worse. … The next time it was totally different …witness described anal rape…. I screamed but he put his hand over my mouth, I don’t know how long it went on for and was told to go back to the bed and say nothing. I got back in to bed, wrapped myself up in a ball as small as could be. It was different, I was crying. The next thing I woke up and the sheets were destroyed with blood.

7.146One witness, discharged in the 1970s, reported that he was repeatedly sexually abused by a male lay care staff member under the pretence of being physically abused or punished, which the witness believed a female religious staff member condoned. The witness described the abuser warning him that he could avoid further beatings if he co-operated with the abuser’s sexual demands. The witness reported that he saw other residents beaten in public for complaining about sexual abuse by this particular lay care worker.

7.147As reported elsewhere, 11 male lay staff who were reported as sexual abusers were also the subject of physical abuse reports.

Co-residents

7.148There were 39 reports from witnesses of being sexually abused by co-residents in all the Schools referred to by witnesses and across all decades about which reports were made. ‘It was the older boys. Basically they would drag your trousers down and masturbate you.’ Seven (7) co-residents were identified by name. The largest number of reports of sexual abuse by co-residents related to four of the Schools identified. Included in the 39 reports were two reports of sexual abuse by fondling and inappropriate contact by female co-residents in two different Schools during the 1980s. Reports of sexual abuse by older co-residents were most often associated with physical abuse and reports of bullying.

There was an older boy there he was the teacher’s pet, his name was …X…. He sexually abused me and most of the boys in the School. He was a right bully.

(On admission)… I was taken into the washroom …(by)… the Brother and a young fella, he was about 16 years old. First they got me the clothes, the School clothes. They were taking me to be washed. I had to strip off in front of the young fella, the Brother went off. The young fella washed me and then when he was drying me he started to interfere with me, I knew what he was doing. I started to scream. The Brother came back in and said “what’s happening?” …(The)… young fella said “he won’t let me wash him”. …(I said)…”he gave me a slap on the face”. …(Brother said)… “I’m not asking you.” I was only in the School for an hour.

7.149The Committee heard 19 witness reports of sexual abuse by older residents in a number of Schools. In most instances the reports of sexual abuse by co-residents were of aggressive assaults by more than one co-resident resulting in masturbation or anal rape. Witnesses reported being waylaid by older co-residents in the toilets, yards and corridors where there was little supervision. Some witnesses stated that being sexually abused by older co-residents offered them a measure of protection from physical abuse by other residents and that at times the experience of such sexual activity was consensual. Seven (7) witnesses reported that they sexually abused younger residents or engaged in consensual sexual activity with a co-resident.

There was things …(sexual abuse)… going on, between the lads, and I was absorbed into it. The way we behaved with one another, it was all based on fear. The physical violence … it was the way the whole thing was held together. … You had the strongest to the weakest boys, the strongest can pick on anybody, the strongest do it to the weakest boys and the darkness is handed out back along.

7.150In a small number of Schools, witnesses reported being sexually abused by older residents who had a disciplinary role and were known as monitors. There were six reports from four different Schools of sexual abuse by co-residents being observed by religious staff and another 19 reports from witnesses who believed that such behaviour was either condoned or actively encouraged by the religious staff.

Some of the senior boys were rapists themselves. My way of looking at it now was they were institutionalised themselves because the School was mixed, you had juvenile offenders, you had kids from broken homes, you had orphan kids, they never saw a woman around the place. All you seen was guys. I was …(sexually)… abused by a lot of these older boys. Within the first 3 months I was there, the older boy who was on my table, he was in charge … he seemed to get on very well with the Brothers. He was always well treated by the Brothers. He abused me in a garden shed with another boy and a Brother. … They subjected me to being raped, and I was threatened that I would be thrown in the slurry pit. The Brother, Br …X… raped me in front of the boy…. That was the only time where there was a boy and a Brother together.

Visitors and volunteer workers

7.151There were 11 reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by nine male individuals who were described as visitors and volunteer workers visiting the Schools. These reports referred to five Schools. In most instances the individuals were identified by name and were described as having some link with the School through individual members of the religious staff. The sexual abuse reported in relation to these male visitors and volunteer helpers included fondling, masturbation, kissing, and anal rape.

7.152The Committee heard reports of sexual abuse by visitors and volunteer workers from seven witnesses in relation to one specific School. These men were members of the general public, each of whom was believed to be known to religious staff. The witnesses described being collected by car and taken to men’s homes, the cinema or on trips to the seaside or country. Four (4)) witnesses reported being taken with co-residents on a regular basis, one by a group of men overnight and the other three witnesses by a man in a van who bought them sweets and ice-cream and sexually abused them by fondling or masturbation, either in the van or in his home. Four of the 11 witnesses reported being taken alone for overnight excursions where they shared rooms and beds with identified abusers in their homes, guesthouses or other accommodation. Witnesses described these outings as apparently spontaneous.

The man who took you out on your own, I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know how you were chosen, the Brother came out in the yard and would say “who wants to go?” If I had been street wise I could have avoided this, I didn’t know “bent” or “gay”. The School band had been up and down the country for engagements, one Sunday we were in …named town… this guy arrives up … I was called to the office, the next I know is, “Mr …X… is going to take you out for the day”. The next thing I knew was this guy was getting me into the car … and I knew this was different because we were driving out to the country, I knew by the signs. I knew … we would not get back for 9 o’clock…. We drove to a country town, it was a quiet town. … There was no stopping for tea or chips or anything like that. The next thing we were in his house, and it was straight into the bedroom. I see this framed photograph of myself on the mantelpiece. He shows me the bedroom and says “this is where we are going to sleep”. … But I had no pyjamas, no overnight things or anything, and he says “we are going to bed” and I thinks to myself, “where is my bed?” and the next thing he takes off his clothes and is naked. I had never seen a man completely naked before. I think to myself “well, I’ll keep my jocks on, I’ll keep my socks on”. … My mind is completely racing, I don’t know what to think, I think “what will I keep on?” … I have a memory of him trying to muster some words “it’s a bit of fun” or something … “I’m not going to hurt you”. He was physically trying to touch me, the rest is a blank, I don’t remember anymore.

7.153One witness reported that having told the priest in Confession that he had been sexually abused by a male visitor, he believed the priest informed a Brother who subsequently beat him for ‘…taking the good name of a decent man who is sacrificing his home for the sake of a guttersnipe like you’.

7.154A small number of witnesses from two Schools reported having extended contact with visitors and volunteer workers who they remarked were friendly with the female religious Resident Managers and appeared to have free access to the Schools. These visitors helped residents in various ways, including with their homework and took them on outings and for holidays. A witness reported that he was sexually abused over a three-year period by one such visitor. Another witness gave the following account of being sexually abused and raped by a male visitor:

She …(Sr X)… introduced a personal friend of hers called …named male visitor…. He was not employed by the Sisters or the Health Board. He started to come once a week, maybe twice a week, and then it was building up. He was there a lot of the days in the evenings after work … and most of the weekend. Now …named male visitor… was the person who sexually abused me while I was in …named School…. He was very close to Sr …X…. He took an interest in me. I thought it was brilliant because for the first time someone was taking an interest in me. … He came in to say good night to us. He went around to everybody and said goodnight … and then he came and sat on my bed and told me he loved me and I was a great boy and he started tiddling …(tickling)… me. This was all very gradually. He started putting his hands in my pyjamas, very touchy, now I didn’t mind and it was our secret and that sort of thing. Then he got permission to bring me to his house … and he would abuse me there and he brought me away for a weekend sometimes and he abused me.

Work, weekend and holiday placement providers and others

7.155Five (5) witnesses gave evidence to the Committee that they were sexually abused in external placements while still a resident of the Schools. The witnesses were abused while placed with families either for holidays, weekends or to work. Two (2) witnesses reported being sexually abused by male members of the general public while they were on leave from the School. One of those witness stated that he was sexually harassed and raped over a period of months by three local men who he stated knew he was from an Industrial School and took advantage of his circumstances to intimidate and abuse him. The witness reported being afraid of the repercussions of telling anyone what was happening to him. The second witness was raped by two men he encountered in the vicinity of the School as he was returning from a visit. Another witness reported that he was sexually abused by the male relative of a family he went to for holidays. One witness reported being sexually abused during admission to a local hospital from the School and another witness reported being molested by the man he was sent to on licence for work.12

Neglect

Failure to care for the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare.13

7.156This section summarises witness accounts of general neglect. Descriptions of neglect refer to all aspects of the physical, social and emotional care and welfare of the witnesses, impacting on their health and development. Neglect refers to both actions and inactions by religious and lay staff and others who had responsibility and a duty of care for the residents in their charge. It also describes other forms of neglect that are regarded as having a negative impact on the individuals’ emotional health and development, for example a failure to protect from harm and failure to educate. As the reports of neglect refer to systemic practices, this section of the Report does not identify individual abusers.

Nature and extent of neglect reported

7.157Three hundred and sixty seven (367) male witnesses (89%) made 408 reports concerning the neglect of their care and welfare in 22 Schools.14 The frequency of neglect reports by witnesses in relation to individual Schools varied, as with the other types of abuse.

  • Five (5) Schools were collectively the subject of 260 reports.15
  • Six (6) Schools were the subject of 10-26 reports respectively, totalling 106 reports.
  • Eleven (11) Schools were the subject of 1-9 reports, totalling 42.

7.158Five (5) Schools were the subject of 64% of all neglect reports to the Committee.

7.159As with the other types of abuse neglect was reported in combination with all four types of abuse in 166 instances.

Table 25: Neglect Combined with Other Abuse Types – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Abuse types <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Neglect, emotional, physical and sexual 166 41
Neglect, emotional and physical 120 29
Neglect and physical 66 16
Neglect, physical and sexual 49 12
Neglect and emotional 3 1
Neglect, emotional and sexual 2 (0)
Neglect and sexual 1 (0)
Neglect 1 (0)
Total 408 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

7.160As shown, 401 reports of neglect were combined with physical abuse.

7.161As with the other types of abuse the extent of neglect reports varied according to the relevant discharge period. Table 26 shows the distribution of witness accounts of neglect across the decades covered by this Report: 16

Table 26: Number of Neglect Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Decade of discharge Number of neglect reports %
Pre-1960s 178 44
1960-69 172 42
1970-79 47 12
1980-89 10 2
Total 407 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

Areas of neglect

7.162This Report categorises neglect of care under the headings of food, clothing, heat, hygiene, bedding, healthcare, education, supervision and preparation for discharge that were referred to by witnesses with varying levels of detail. There was inevitable overlap between the different categories of neglect and other types of abuse, as outlined in other sections of the Report. Witnesses described the impact that the neglect they endured had on their social and emotional welfare, including effects on later life.

Food

7.163There were 379 witness reports of food provided to residents being inadequate in both quality and sufficiency. The reports referred to 21 Schools. Three hundred and forty nine (349) reports of poor and inadequate food were made by witnesses who were discharged before 1970. Some witnesses reported having so little to eat that at times they were starving. The Committee heard many reports from witnesses of attempts to satisfy their hunger by ‘raiding’ the garden, orchard and kitchens for extra food, eating grasses, dandelion, hawthorn, sorrel leaves and wild berries found while out on walks and while working in the fields. Witnesses also reported taking food from slop buckets, potatoes and other feed prepared for pigs, skimmed milk for calves and dried animal feed in the farmyards. Bread dipped in dripping and shell cocoa described by one witness as ‘unsweetened sludge’ was a standard part of the diet recounted by witnesses discharged in the years before the 1960s.

In the morning you got 2 cuts of bread and dripping, the dripping was put on the night before. The food was terrible there, you were hungry, it was rationed even though the place was self-sufficient. They had their own tomatoes and orchard too, but we never got them.

Hunger was extreme, we stole cattle nuts and mangels and the hosts from the altar because we were so hungry.

You were hungry all the time, all the bloody time. We got bread and dripping, it would be rock hard by the time you got it. … I was always hungry, there was never enough. … I worked in the kitchen and you stole for your friends, if you were caught, you were terrified.

7.164Throughout all decades reported to the Committee witnesses noted differences between the quality and quantity of food available to them and that which was provided for the religious staff, as observed by witnesses who worked in kitchens preparing and serving food for both residents and staff.

I had to serve breakfast for the Brothers, as you got older you used to serve breakfast. I couldn’t believe the breakfast they had…. I can’t believe what we get and what they get. One day I nicked an orange, they get a whole orange! There was a woman there. She cooked breakfast for them.

7.165Many witnesses said that although there were large farms attached to their Schools the produce from the farms was generally not provided for the residents. Witnesses from six Schools described preparing potatoes and other vegetables for sale and being involved in the distribution of various types of farm produce for sale outside the School. Witnesses who were prescribed special diets or extra milk and eggs reported that the recommended food was not always provided for them although they stated that in some Schools it was available for sale.

The food was poor and scarce, I was always hungry, the boys harvested the produce from the farm but it was not provided to them, the Brothers’ kitchen was separate and their food was much better.

We used go to the farm and rob spuds, they used to cultivate the farm in fields out the back … the veg they grew they used to make money, string beans and all … used be sold, I used to see them.

7.166In addition to reports about the inadequate amounts of food provided to residents, witnesses also reported that the lack of supervision in the refectories meant that in several Schools the youngest or most recently arrived residents were dependant on older residents leaving enough food for them to eat in the rush for what was provided. Witnesses reported being frequently left without any food:

I was always cold and hungry, smaller and weaker boys missed out in the general grab for food which was not supervised or was supervised and condoned by the Brothers … and in the refectory it meant older boys ate most of the food.

You had a loaf of bread between 4, and you would have a tin saucer, you would put a cross on it and you’d spin the knife …(to see who got the largest share)… it was never even.

7.167Witnesses said that extra food was at times provided for favoured residents or for those who did labouring work for the School:

The food was very poor. We were always hungry but when we were working building … (new buildings) … the work crew got a fry up breakfast, for extra strength.

7.168Witnesses reported improvements in both the quantity and variety of food provided in most Schools during the 1970s and 1980s. There were, however, seven reports of inadequate provision of food from witnesses who were discharged in the 1980s. These reports referred to Schools that had consistently been the subject of reports of dietary neglect during the preceding decades. Improvements in dietary provision during the 1970s and 1980s were often reported to be related to the presence of certain staff members:

The food was terrible, we never had enough. Lumpy porridge, glue and lumpy potatoes, stew sometimes, bread and cocoa. The boys traded for food. We were told to tell the …inspector… that we got better food than we actually did. Everything improved after Br …X ... (Resident Manager)… left.

7.169Lack of access to drinking water was also described and deprivation of any form of liquid from mid-afternoon was reported as a standard method of addressing bed-wetting.

Clothing

7.170There were 275 witness reports of inadequate provision of clothing and footwear in relation to 19 Schools. Two hundred and thirty six (236) of those reports (86%) refer to witnesses discharged from 16 Schools before 1970. The most common reports made were of poor quality and ill-fitting clothes and shoes. Witnesses who were discharged during the 1940s and 1950s reported that their clothing and boots were most often made in the School. Shoes and boots were described as ill fitting, often mended and re-mended and uncomfortable.

Misfits clothes, like hand me down clothes, and the boots clattering, they were too big, we would be like the German army.

We had no underwear, that changed in the 70s. You were in …pants and … shirt, they were all made in the School too, shoes, boots the lot, they were all made there. Anyone who had a hole in their sock at the inspections got a beating for that too, the boots were too big or too small.

7.171It was generally reported that witnesses’ own clothes were removed when they were admitted, to be replaced with what were at times inferior quality clothing. Skin irritation and abrasions caused by rough material rubbing on bare skin, referred to by witnesses as ‘ire’, was frequently reported. ‘You wore this tweed, you got a red mark on your leg, it would itch, it was sore’ and ‘The clothes were very bad, particularly the trousers, very bad. Whatever the material it was something like bulls wool, it irritated the skin…’. This problem was considerably worse for those witnesses who wet or soiled themselves, as replacement clothes were frequently unavailable. Many witnesses who wet their beds were not given clean or dry clothing. In addition to the discomfort this practice caused, the resulting malodour led to witnesses being shunned by other residents.

7.172Witnesses also commented on the lack of warm and adequate clothing for cold and inclement weather. The lack of an outdoor coat or jacket was commonly reported and witnesses who worked on the farm or on the bogs had no provision made for suitable protection for either the weather or work conditions.

7.173The lack of underwear and the humiliation of being seen poorly dressed in public was consistently described:

The clothes were brutal I wore short pants and no underwear until I was 14, even while attending the local secondary school. The clothes came from a general …(communal)… pool and marked us out as from the orphanage …(Industrial School)….

7.174Witnesses reported being forced to spend periods of time out in the recreation yards in all weathers or sheltering in sheds during wet weather, without coats or suitable clothes. Witnesses described the ‘absolute misery’ of being routinely compelled to stay outdoors in cold weather and being too cold to play or move around:

We were in a big shed with seats all around, it was cold, there was nothing in it, you wouldn’t put a cow in it.

7.175Special clothing, often described as ‘best clothes’, was available when inspectors and others visited. In some Schools good clothes and shoes were also provided for Sunday walks and special occasions. By contrast to the usual clothing provided, witnesses who were members of School bands reported that the clothes provided for public performances were of a high quality and well maintained.

7.176A further concern for witnesses regarding their clothing was the expectation that their clothes and footwear be maintained without defect. Weekly inspections were conducted and reported to arouse fear in anticipation of a beating, for worn, torn or missing items of clothing.

Heating

7.177The lack of adequate heating was reported by 265 witnesses from 11 Schools that were the subject of neglect reports. Two hundred and thirty five (235) reports of inadequate heat and warmth relate to witnesses discharged before 1970. The 30 reports of inadequate heating from witnesses discharged since 1970 represented 39% of all neglect reports for that period.

7.178The system of heating most commonly described in Schools prior to 1970 was of a solid fuel-fired boiler that supplied hot water for washing and for radiators that were located around the School. In a number of Schools witnesses reported that prior to the 1960s there was no heating in the dormitories, which were generally described as large rooms with high ceilings, bare windows and no floor covering. Chilblains were commonplace during winter months and were reported to be a cause of constant pain and discomfort. In the earlier decades many Schools had open fires in the classrooms, which were generally described as warmer than other parts of the School.

Hygiene

7.179Two hundred and seventeen (217) witnesses discharged before 1970 reported poor hygiene practices in relation to 16 Schools, and varied throughout the years reported on. Witnesses discharged before 1960 reported that bath and lavatory facilities were of a basic standard with many reports of dry toilets, no toilet paper and no facility for hand washing.

We were on straw mattresses on the floor, the rats would go for you if you had any food…. They were as hungry as we were. I got bitten on the ear, another fellow got bitten on the mouth. … There were dry toilets, the boys cleaned them out. I never did myself, I avoided it. … The clothes were very, very rarely washed. You’d have to go for a swim to wash.

The toilet situation was abominable, there were old toilets with no doors and you could not sit down on them, nobody cleaned them. You would prefer to go out to the field if you got a chance.

7.180Daily personal hygiene practices were not often recounted by male witnesses, but accounts were heard of queuing up for face and hand washing and teeth-brushing at communal sinks. The sharing of wet towels or sheets to dry off after a shower or bath was commented on by many witnesses. Most Schools had regular baths or communal showers, with the exception of a small number of Schools that were described as having communal baths like swimming pools. The routine for bathing varied from School to School over the decades, witness reports ranged from weekly to seldom.

There was a big trough, you got into that with a togs on you to wash, that was the bath. You took off the togs then and gave it to the next guy, the water was never changed for the whole lot of the lads.

7.181Witnesses from Schools with shower facilities reported that the water was most often scalding hot or freezing cold. Strict and severe discipline was imposed if residents attempted to avoid the discomfort of extreme water temperatures. ‘In the shower if the water was too hot or too cold and you pulled out you were hit with the leather by Br …X…. He lined you up and leathered you naked.’

7.182Provision for toileting at night was reported as basic in a number of Schools for witnesses discharged before the 1960s. Evidence was heard of chamber pots or buckets being shared between many residents and that emptying chamber pots was regarded as a punishment. Washing facilities were inadequate, especially in the period before 1970 and residents who wet and soiled themselves were easily identified by their odour. Witnesses reported that mattresses were not replaced and sheets and nightshirts were dried without being washed and witnesses consistently described the overwhelming odour of urine in the dormitories.

7.183Those witnesses discharged between the 1970s and 1990 reported improved hygiene practices, with toilet blocks built in many Schools and communal showers converted into shower cubicles. However, the inadequate provision of clean, dry sheets and bedding for witnesses who wet and soiled their beds, and of appropriate washing facilities, was reported to the Committee by witnesses in relation to all decades.

7.184Despite the inadequate provision of hygiene facilities, witnesses reported that they were expected to be clean and tidy at all times. The daily or weekly personal inspections were feared events, leading to a beating if the required standard was not met.

Education

7.185The neglect of education was reported by many witnesses who referred to the lack of adequate teaching and support for learning. Witnesses consistently reported that the fear of abuse, having to work for the institution and lack of attention to their learning difficulties contributed to the overall neglect of their education.

7.186Sixty nine (69) witnesses reported being illiterate when they were discharged from the Schools and many others acknowledged that poor literacy and numeracy skills had been a serious impediment in their subsequent lives. Two hundred and sixty three (263) witnesses (64%) reported that they were discharged from the School system without sitting for their Primary Certificate.

7.187The Committee heard evidence from witnesses that their education was neglected as a result of having to undertake work that they believed contributed to the functioning and productivity of the particular School. Fifty three (53) witnesses were taken out of class to work on farms and in trade workshops without any further education when they were 13 years old. Another 31 witnesses were removed from the classroom to work full-time between the ages of eight and 12 years old, two of these witnesses were placed working full-time before they were 10 years old. Witnesses reported working both within the School and at times being sent out to work for local farmers and others who they understood had some association with the priests and Brothers in charge of the Schools.

7.188Witnesses also reported being deprived of education due to a lack of protection in the classroom; 79 witnesses described their time in the classroom being dominated by fear and the anticipation of being either physically or sexually abused, resulting in them being unable to learn.

7.189Witnesses with learning difficulties and speech impediments reported being the target of sustained abuse and criticism in the classroom. ‘In school I was picked out and made stand out in front of class with a dunces cap on my head. “You’re a dunce” was wrote on my cap.’ The Committee heard 17 reports of witnesses being ridiculed and constantly punished as a result of their difficulties.

He’d say, “You’re an imbecile, an idiot, that’s what you are…. What are you? What are you?” I’d have to say “I’m an imbecile, Brother” or he wouldn’t stop. … I didn’t even know what an imbecile was.

Bedding

7.190Witnesses discharged before 1970 made 156 reports of poor bedding in relation to 16 Schools. The main neglect reports about bedding concerned the poor quality and lack of adequate blankets and clean bedding provided to the residents. In particular, witnesses who wet their beds frequently reported that their mattresses and bedclothes were neglected and constantly smelled of urine.

7.191Witnesses from one School, where all aspects of care were reported as neglected, described the beds as ‘filthy’. Mattresses were described as rotten from urine, sheets were rarely changed, blankets were thin and lice infested and bedding was changed infrequently, in advance of inspections. Witnesses discharged from three other Schools before 1960 reported that the mattresses were lice and flea infested and that checking blankets for fleas was a regular task. Witnesses from these Schools had to make their own mattresses, filled with straw, cocoa fibre or dried husks.

7.192Witnesses from three Schools who wet their beds reported having to sleep directly on rubber sheets. Witnesses from two Schools reported that co-residents who soiled their beds were forced to sleep on straw mattresses that were placed directly on the floor. Others described mattresses that were made of hessian sacks filled with straw. Canvas ‘stretcher beds’ were reported from another School in the 1950s and 1960s, and iron beds with metal springs in most Schools for all periods. Improvements were reported in the 1970s and 1980s.

Healthcare

7.193Sixty six (66) witnesses gave accounts of inadequate medical attention including being ignored, punished or ridiculed when they complained of being unwell or injured. Accidental injuries and childhood illnesses were reported by many witnesses to have been left untreated. Witnesses in a number of Schools reported never seeing a doctor or that the doctor was only ever called to see someone who was ‘really ill’. One witness who reported his finger and thumb were broken when he fell off a cart in a farm accident, had to continue working and received no subsequent treatment, ‘it mended by itself’. The Committee heard reports from three Schools of weekly and/or monthly visits by the local doctor. In one School a local doctor’s regular visits were described to be like ‘troop inspections’, where he walked past rows of residents and asked if everyone was ‘alright’.

7.194The area of neglect in healthcare most frequently reported by witnesses was the absence of investigation into the cause of non-accidental injury to residents. Witnesses reported being attended by visiting doctors and nurses attached to the Schools’ infirmary, as well as attending doctors’ surgeries and local hospitals with injuries received as a result of abuse. In the majority of instances witnesses stated that the doctors and nurses who treated these injuries failed to make inquiries as to the cause of the injuries and most witnesses reported being returned to abusive environments without investigation or an assessment of risk. The Committee heard reports of various ‘treatments’ including ‘splints’ and bandages being applied, as well as ointment, iodine and caustic soda being administered to the residents by the infirmary nurse following physical abuse or injury.

7.195Most Schools were reported to have had an infirmary, some of which had a nurse in attendance. The infirmaries in four Schools about which there were many reports of abuse to the Committee were described by witnesses as places to be avoided due to the fear of abuse by members of religious and nursing staff in charge. Nurses were generally remembered as non-committal about non-accidental and other injuries. Repeated wounds from beatings were reported to have elicited no query from most nurses as to their cause, while some were sympathetic but unable to intervene on the residents’ behalf: ‘what could she do, they employed her’. One witness stated that in recent years he met a School nurse who had treated his injuries following a particularly severe beating. She remembered the incident and told him she ‘could do nothing about it’, as she had been sworn to secrecy. In one School witnesses were attended by a nurse who ‘did not want to know what happened when boys turned up badly beaten’.

7.196A number of witnesses reported that their parents brought them to hospital while they were at home on leave, two of whom had their broken arms examined and treated. Their injuries were sustained as a result of physical assault in the School by religious staff. Both witnesses said they had not received any treatment at the time of the initial injury in the School. Another witness was hospitalised while on weekend leave for treatment of abscesses that had been neglected in the School.

7.197Three (3) witnesses reported the death of boys who they described were ignored or neglected when they complained of being sick. One witness reported his belief that a co-resident died as a result of eating poisonous berries. Two (2) witnesses reported being hospitalised following suicide attempts in the context of abuse episodes. They were transferred back to the institution without psychological assessment or treatment.

Supervision

7.198Witness accounts of inadequate supervision and lack of appropriate care and protection were heard in relation to all decades. Witnesses described supervision ranging from ‘patrolling’ yards with sticks and the regimented use of a whistle, to young children being left in the care of older residents without any supervising adult staff. ‘If the babies were crying some boys would be designated to get up and have a look, I remember turning them around or moving them. What were they doing letting an 8 year old boy do that?’ Large numbers of residents were routinely under the supervision of a single staff member or other co-residents in areas including classrooms, trade shops, farms, bogs, dormitories, refectories and yards. ‘I recall only 2 Brothers being in charge of 200 boys; the bullies were given a free rein.’

7.199One hundred and thirty eight (138) witnesses reported that the lack of supervision of religious and lay staff by managers facilitated opportunities for physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

I was in there for 4 years, Fr …X (Resident Manager)… was in charge. I only saw him 5 or 6 times in the 4 years…. Lack of supervision by priests who were in charge meant that prefects had a free hand and when I reported …(the abuse)… to Fr …X… he wouldn’t hear of it.

7.200Similarly, witnesses reported that the lack of supervision of older residents provided opportunities for bullying and abuse among co-residents. Forty (40) witnesses from 10 Schools stated that the absence of supervision led to bullying of younger or more vulnerable residents by co-residents. ‘Bullying thrived in the absence of supervision … and was condoned by religious staff.’

7.201Night watchmen were reported to have been employed by nine of the Schools referred to by witnesses. There were 43 separate reports of physical and sexual abuse by these men, who had responsibility for residents in the dormitories during the night. Three (3) night watchmen were consistently described as drunk while on duty, patrolling with a stick that they used freely both to waken witnesses to use the toilet during the night and to punish them if they had wet their beds.

7.202Staffing levels were commonly reported by witnesses to have been inadequate over substantial periods of time. The Committee heard a small number of accounts where former residents remained on as staff. It was believed they had no contact with their own family, were not trained, and were engaged as live-in staff. These staff were involved in supervising residents and were frequently described as emphasising order and discipline in a harsh and abusive manner.

7.203The Committee also heard reports from witnesses that changes of staff and Resident Managers could have a noticeable impact on the atmosphere in the School, increasing or decreasing the risk of further abuse for residents: ‘The peaceful life of the School was shattered when this Brother came. He was brutal and went berserk. He enjoyed beating us and took every chance to do it’.

7.204The lack of adequate supervision and follow-up was reported by witnesses who were placed by the Schools with ‘foster’ and ‘holiday’ families or on work placements while still under the age of 16 years. A witness who had been placed with a farming couple without follow-up or supervision when he was 10 years old had to work hard from the day he arrived and being told by the ‘foster’ father:

We gave the nuns £10 and a box of chocolates for you, if we had bought a pair of suck calves they would be worth more to us now.

He was never paid, but had been ‘fed well and not been beaten’. This witness also reported being sexually abused by local men who he believed were aware he had come from an Industrial School.

Preparation for discharge

7.205One hundred and ninety seven (197) witnesses (48%) reported that there was no planning or arrangements made for their discharge or aftercare. Witnesses consistently stated that they were not adequately prepared for independent living, felt they belonged nowhere and to nobody, and that the transition to the outside world was traumatic. These reports referred to discharges in all decades. The areas of neglect most frequently reported in relation to preparation for discharge by male witnesses were the following:

  • Lack of acknowledgement regarding separation and loss
  • Lack of preparation and training in basic life skills
  • Lack of assessment, supervision and follow-up of placements
  • Lack of opportunity to develop social and relationship skills.

7.206The most common report regarding discharge was of residents being given a day’s notice that they were leaving the School and given the fare either home or to other destinations. For many witnesses who had been reared in institutional care since birth and who had no known family, no knowledge of or links with the outside world, this lack of preparation and opportunity to say goodbye to siblings, co-residents and staff was often catastrophic. In these circumstances a number of witnesses stated that they were subsequently imprisoned, homeless or in emotional turmoil in the immediate years after their discharge from Schools.

There was no aftercare; I got long pants for the first time and let go … I was lost, I wanted to go back.

When I left on my sixteenth birthday, I got nothing, no job, no advice, nobody said goodbye. I walked down … to get the bus and it was the loneliest day of my life.

There were some of them …(co-residents)… who didn’t even get the correct fare for where they were going to, it was just “welcome to the world”. They got nothing.

7.207The institutional regime, the abrupt nature of their discharge and the lack of any training in basic life skills such as handling money, budgeting, using public transport or of participating in any social network left witnesses and residents unprepared for integration with the outside world. Many witnesses reported not being given any advice or assistance to help them cope with everyday living away from the institutional life to which they had been accustomed.

7.208Sixty eight (68) witnesses described discharge arrangements ranging from being given a name and address on a piece of paper and the train or bus fare, to being sent directly as live-in workers to farmers and shop owners whom they had never met before. Witnesses reported that in their opinion the lack of assessment of these placements and follow-up supervision of the care provided led to a number of those witnesses being abused physically and sexually when placed by the School. Thirteen (13) witnesses were sexually and/or physically abused by their employers and others in work placements following discharge.

7.209One hundred and twenty five (125) witnesses (30%) reported that they were discharged home to their families. Many arrived at their family home to find that their parents had not been notified of their return, or that they no longer lived there.

The day before my sixteenth birthday I was dropped in the city centre with 10 shillings by Br …X… I did not know where the family was – they had been re-housed.

7.210A number reported being unable to settle at home, that they felt misunderstood and out of place. They could not talk about what had happened to them while they were in the Schools and many witnesses reported having no idea how to relate to others, including their own families, without being either frightened or aggressive.

7.211A number of witnesses reported having no experience of trusting relationships prior to their discharge. They said that the culture and fear of abuse to which they had become accustomed was such that following their discharge they were unable to form any attachments and had little idea about how to cope with relationships.

7.212Twenty one (21) witnesses discharged during the 1970s and 1980s reported that preparation for their transition to independent living was inadequate and that they received no aftercare or support from the Schools or other health or welfare services when they were discharged. Others reported improved planning and aftercare arrangements during this period.

Emotional abuse

Any other act or omission towards the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare.17

7.213This section describes witness evidence of emotional abuse by deprivation of family contact, personal identity, secure relationships, affection, approval and a lack of safety and protection. These deprivations impaired the social, emotional and physical functioning and development of witnesses and were identified by them as generally disturbing both at the time and in the subsequent course of their lives.

7.214Emotional abuse described by witnesses frequently referred to practices that were part of the Schools’ routine and that failed to recognise the individual needs of children and provide adequate care. Practices such as the separation of siblings, regimented routines and enforced isolation were reported as part of the culture of the institutions. A further component of emotional abuse described by witnesses referred to the constant physical and sexual abuse that engendered an atmosphere of fear. Emotional abuse was described as pervasive and systemic and was generally not ascribed to individual staff members. For this reason the following section does not include a list of reported abusers as has been outlined in previous sections.

Nature and extent of emotional abuse reported

7.215The Committee heard 327 reports of emotional abuse from 293 witnesses (71%) in relation to 23 Schools.18 Thirty four (34) witnesses reported emotional abuse in more than one School. The frequency of reports of emotional abuse varied between Schools.

• Three (3) Schools were collectively the subject of 155 reports.19

  • Five (5) Schools were collectively the subject of 101 reports.
  • Fifteen (15) Schools were the subject of 1-11 reports, totalling 71 reports.

7.216Three (3) Schools were the subject of 47% of all emotional abuse reports and, by contrast, 15 other Schools were together the subject of 22% of reports.

7.217Emotional abuse was reported to occur in combination with other types of abuse as shown in the following table:

Table 27: Emotional Abuse Combined with Other Abuse Types –Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Abuse types <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Emotional, neglect, physical and sexual 166 51
Emotional, neglect and physical 120 37
Emotional, physical and sexual 20 6
Emotional and physical 15 5
Emotional and neglect 3 1
Emotional, neglect and sexual 2 1
Emotional 1 (0)
Total 327 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

7.218As previously shown, 166 abuse reports were of all four types combined. In all but six instances (98%), witnesses reported emotional abuse in conjunction with physical abuse and in 291 instances (89%) witnesses reported both emotional abuse and neglect. There was some inevitable overlap between the reports of emotional abuse and the other three abuse types given in evidence.

7.219The following table shows the distribution of witness accounts of emotional abuse across the decades covered by this Report: 20

Table 28: Number of Emotional Abuse Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>Decade of discharge <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of emotional abuse reports <th “=”” scope=”col”>%

Pre-1960s 134 41
1960-69 137 42
1970-79 45 14
1980-89 11 3
Total 327 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

7.220As noted with other abuse reports almost 45% of the reports relating to those discharged in the 1960s refer to witnesses who spent the majority of their time in the Schools during the 1950s.

Description of emotional abuse

7.221Witnesses reported a daily existence in the Schools that was dominated by fear, humiliation, loneliness, and the absence of affection. Fear was strongly associated with the daily threat of being physically and otherwise abused and seeing co-residents being abused. Constant apprehension about the next abuse to which they would be subjected was also a feature. Witnesses reported being humiliated and denigrated in many ways, both deliberately in the presence of others and, less directly, in the way they were spoken to and treated. The rejection, hostility and criticism of staff was consistently described by witnesses as a cause of great distress. The isolation of witnesses from their parents and other family members was traumatic. The most frequently reported areas of emotional abuse are summarised and include: deprivation of affection, personal ridicule, deprivation of family contact, the denial of identity, being given false and/or inaccurate information regarding their background, and witnessing others being abused, the associated guilt and constant apprehension.

Even when I was in the dormitory you used to hear the frock, the thing they …(Brothers)… used wear. I’d hear them walking down and you’d be hoping they would not stop at you. I remember in the bed praying to God they would take somebody else instead of you, and then would say “thanks God for saving me”. You’d feel guilty about that…. The screams of the fellas being abused, everyone could hear it…. I was actually terrified.

Deprivation of affection

7.222One hundred and ninety four (194) witnesses described the lack of physical and verbal affection shown to them throughout their time in the School system. They reported receiving minimal emotional support, encouragement or comfort in the course of their childhood in institutional care. ‘There was a belief that you were on your own as a child or young person with no one to talk to about worries, fears, abuse or family.’ The rigid and harsh structure of institutional life excluded the development of affectionate attachment or any close relationships. Demonstrations of physical affection were described as specifically discouraged by staff.

I remember the loneliness. You’d be in bed at night and you would be wondering, why didn’t mam come or why didn’t dad come? There was no one to hug you. I was not physically harmed there. It was emotional, nobody would come to you, it was just an emptiness, nothing to latch onto. I don’t understand how they didn’t see it. You’re lonely, unloved, unwanted.

7.223As the circumstances of admission for many witnesses involved separation from their parents and siblings, witnesses described the subsequent deprivation of affection as a particularly serious and traumatic loss. News about their parents and family members was cherished information that a number of witnesses reported was routinely withheld for various reasons. One witness said that following his mother’s death a Brother whom he had beaten in a game on the playing pitch said: ‘Well here’s one game you’re not going to win, your mother died 3 weeks ago’.

7.224Thirty (30) witnesses specifically reported on the unavailability of any person to confide in, which led to the belief that there was nobody who cared for or about them: ‘the worst thing was having no one to talk to, no one said a nice word to you. It was clear no one cared if you lived or died’. ‘Orphans’ and other witnesses who had been in care since early childhood, were particularly affected by the deprivation of any affectionate attachment or emotional bond.

He, Br …X… told to get my clothes on me …(following public beating)… told to get out and head back down to the yard. You tried to get yourself together, tried to sit down. I was marked, I was cut…. There was this bench along by the wall…. I don’t think I ever heard anybody ever asked …(ask)… “were you alright?” The other kids come around you, laughing at you, jeering, they were just saying “glad it wasn’t me”. You looked after yourself.

Personal ridicule and public humiliation

7.225One hundred and sixty nine (169) witnesses reported that they were personally ridiculed and denigrated on a regular basis during their time in the Schools. Being verbally abused by staff was reported as a feature of everyday life in the dormitories, classrooms, refectories and other areas. Verbal abuse was frequently described as associated with physical abuse and part of the daily pattern of communication: ‘we were made to feel constantly ashamed’. Ridicule in class was described as a routine experience by 21 witnesses who had learning or associated difficulties. Nine (9) witnesses described being ridiculed in class because they had a stammer and of being repeatedly told there was no point in educating them.

I had a very bad stammer when I was there, didn’t have it before. Had to go to …named hospital… to get it remedied. … I suffered quite a lot because of that, in the classroom and so on. I was not able to get an answer out in the class. If I put my hand up, you’d get a beating for that. Most of my life there operated on fear, of beatings and adults. It got to a stage with the stammer that I just didn’t answer questions, that was quite frightening. Some of the Brothers were quite sadistic.

7.226As previously reported, witnesses were routinely humiliated by the methods used to punish residents for bed-wetting. Fifty two (52) witnesses described the humiliation associated with having to wear wet sheets on their head and in other ways endure public embarrassment. Twenty three (23) witnesses said that they were constantly ridiculed when called offensive names by staff, such as ‘slasher’ and ‘smelly’.

7.227Other witnesses reported being forced to carry out certain tasks intended to punish and humiliate both themselves and other residents. Examples of such tasks were being made to watch steps for three hours ‘so as to be sure they were still there’, kneel in their underpants in the yard for hours, being forced to run into a wall and injure themselves in front of co-residents and to repeatedly shift a load of potatoes from one side of a shed to the other over an entire day. Another witness described a co-resident’s punishment for giving him extra bread:

He …(co-resident)… had to carry the food down to the turkeys and then he had to kneel in with the turkeys and have his bread and water in there. That was his punishment for 3 weeks.

If you did a job like bring in the coal, there might be some extra food. You’d stand with your plate at the end of the table …(in the refectory)… and waiting to be called. There would only be a few pieces of food and you wanted to make sure you got a bit. He’d …(lay ancillary worker)… call you up and then when you were half way up he’d say “false alarm” and you’d have to go back with nothing. They do that to small children. … These are the things that stay in you, it happened so many times.

7.228Four (4) witnesses reported that as native Irish speakers they were ridiculed about their poor spoken English. Others with speech impediments reported being made to read aloud in front of others and were both ridiculed and punished for their lack of fluency. Witnesses who had a disability described being subjected to additional ridicule; for example a witness who had a physical deformity described being made the target of ridicule by staff during communal bath time. Witnesses remarked that while children in day schools may have suffered similar ridicule, those in the Schools lived with it all the time.

Exposure to fearful situations

7.229One hundred and twenty (120) witnesses reported being constantly afraid. They described a range of circumstances in which they were in fear for their own and others’ safety. In a number of different Schools witnesses described their experience as a ‘living hell’, ‘pure terror’, and ‘mental torture’ referring to being beaten, the anticipation of being beaten and the sight of others being beaten. Eleven (11) witnesses reported the fear and threat of harm being so extreme that they feared for both their own lives and for the safety of their co-residents. Five (5) witnesses reported co-residents were never seen again following particularly severe beatings. All five believed that these residents, three of whom were from the same School, may have died.

There were some Brothers there who were A1. … Then there was …crying… …Br …X…, nasty bastard. The man doesn’t deserve to be called Brother. I was only 5 feet away the day it happened …crying…. He had a habit, every day … he’d walk up and down the refectory, that was his ritual. If he walked in everyone was on edge…. I’m not sure why but this evening he Br …X… walked straight down the passage way and he dragged …named co-resident… out of his chair …crying… and he gave him an unmerciful beating, an unmerciful beating. I’m telling ye he did not stop with that leather strap. Now all the Brothers used to carry the leather strap, but I’m telling ye, you wouldn’t beat an animal the way he beat …named co-resident…. To this day it haunts me, the whole place was full and he was left lying. Br …X… cleared the place out, you all had to get out of the refectory, I was even told to get out of the kitchen. That was the last time, the very last time, I seen …named co-resident…. I think it was 3 days afterwards I heard he was dead…. It has haunted me. After that Br…X… quietened down for awhile. I think he knew anyway….

You were in constant fear, you were terrified all the time. There would be a sudden explosion of punishment as the poor souls were thrashed or whacked. In class I would be so fearful I would be shaking as the Brother passed, who might hit you for no reason. … In the first 4 years … I was filled with fear and terror, for yourself and for the next one to you. I would shut myself down and make myself invisible, I must not be seen or heard. You could be punished for anything at anytime and for nothing at anytime…. I resented someone exploding and beating someone senseless just because they were in a bad mood.

Fear is what we were ruled by and every day you lived in fear, as those so called Brothers, lay staff and older boys, either appointed or self-appointed head boys, could do what they liked to you for even the slightest wrong and you had no one to turn to. You just had to try and keep your head down and get on with it.

Everything operated on fear, you suffered, and you suffered big time, some physical, some mental. You could be put facing the wall for 2 hours, you would have your nose touching the wall, and if you moved at all, you’d suffer, it was mental suffering as well. You also had to put your fingers touching the wall, whoever …(Br X)… was on rec…(supervisory duty in recreation area)… would watch you and if you moved you’d have to go to his office later and be leathered … it was an inhuman way of treating people.

7.230A cause of considerable fear that was recounted by 59 witnesses from nine Schools was the prospect of being stripped to be beaten or having to watch co-residents being beaten without their clothes. Such beatings were frequently in front of co-residents and staff and in public areas such as the dormitories, refectories and recreation yards.

One boy tried to abscond, it was Br …X’s… class. There was an incident and he …(Br X)… got the whole class to come to the classroom, there were 2 other Brothers there too. This Br …X… took his tunic off, and he had a striped shirt with, not a collar but a half collar on it and he had braces on. I will never forget, I can see it to this day. They took this boy’s pants off and put him over a form, a type of stool, you know a long stool, and he beat the living daylights out of him. He got the biggest hiding of his life with a leather strap with coins in it, you could see the track of them on his skin. Br …X… threw water on him. A lot of the boys watching got sick, listening to the screaming like that, no pants on, you know, it was like watching Mutiny on the Bounty. That boy was not able to walk for a month.

7.231Witnesses described the staff and others who abused them as creating an atmosphere of fear to augment control that they reported was reinforced in many Schools by the use of military-like regimentation. Examples of regimentation included: marching in formation, using whistles in place of verbal commands, public punishments, placing boys on a ‘charge’ for misbehaving and patrolling the yards and dormitories with sticks.

Br …X… he was brutality personified. The moment he came out into a yard of 150 boys playing, cheering, laughing there was silence. When you just saw him in his long soutane, silence, he marched in, blew the whistle and you would automatically line up in your lines of 12. If he …(Br X)… blew the whistle, within 10 seconds you would not hear a sound, 150 boys were in line within ten seconds or otherwise you knew you were in for punishment. … When he was in charge the life of every boy went into a depression, he was that cruel. Every day at 4 o’ clock on the dot we were lined up in the yard and the punishment names were called out, those boys would have to line up in front of the others, roll up their sleeves and get their beating for bed-wetting.

7.232Witnesses reported being particularly fearful at night as they listened to residents screaming in cloakrooms, dormitories or in a staff member’s bedroom while they were being abused. Witnesses were conscious that co-residents whom they described as orphans had a particularly difficult time:

The orphan children, they had it bad. I knew …(who they were)… by the size of them, I’d ask them and they’d say they come from …named institution…. They were there from an early age. You’d hear the screams from the room where Br …X… would be abusing them.

There was one night, I wasn’t long there and I seen one of the Brothers on the bed with one of the young boys … and I heard the young lad screaming crying and Br …X… said to me “if you don’t mind your own business you’ll get the same”. … I heard kids screaming and you know they are getting abused and that’s a nightmare in anybody’s mind. You are going to try and break out. … So there was no way I was going to let that happen to me…. I remember one boy and he was bleeding from the back passage and I made up my mind, there was no way it …(anal rape)… was going to happen to me. … That used to play on my mind.

7.233In addition to the constant fear of being beaten or watching others being beaten, 15 witnesses reported that following a severe beating they were left with the threat that the beating would continue at a later time. Anticipating further abuse and the dread associated with the uncertainty was described by witnesses as particularly distressing.

You are standing up against the wall for hours and then you are told to come back the next night and the following night and you knew damn well you were going to get the hiding of your life.

7.234Five (5) witnesses from two Schools described the terror they experienced when threatened with guns by staff. As previously reported, seven witnesses from three Schools reported being set upon and injured by dogs handled by religious and lay staff, some of whom also handled or threatened them with guns. One witness described a gun being discharged by a religious staff member who was pursuing him across a field. Another witness who had been previously assaulted was further terrified when his abuser carried a gun;

Once, I had been there about 3 months, it was the autumn, and Br …X… who assaulted me when I first arrived. He called me and he had a shot gun, he gave me an axe. He took me off to the woods and he made me take my trousers down, he took out his penis and he tried to rape me but I ran away and found my way back to the School. Later I met him and he gave me a half crown.

7.235The allocation of age-inappropriate tasks on farms, operating machinery and tending livestock were reported at times as exposing the witnesses to frightening situations, as this work was often performed by them on their own, unsupervised or under the direction of particularly harsh staff.

Denigration of family of origin

7.236Twenty eight (28) witnesses reported being subjected to ridicule about their parents and families, most often in public in the course of being abused. The sons of lone mothers, ‘orphans’ or ‘conventers’ were reported as particular targets for such abuse, being told that their mothers were ‘sinners’, ‘slags’ and ‘old whores’ who did not want them or could not care for them. Others reported hearing their families described as ‘scum’, ‘tramps’ and ‘from the gutter’. Witnesses admitted to institutions in the context of family difficulties reported being subjected to the constant denigration of their parents. Witnesses recalled being constantly told their parents were ‘alcoholics’, ‘prostitutes’, ‘mad’ and ‘no good’. Seven (7) witnesses reported being verbally abused and ridiculed about their Traveller and mixed race backgrounds. ‘Br …X… called me a knacker and said my parents didn’t want me, I felt worthless and degraded.’

It was a very tough place for me, one nun locked me in a closet, beat the hell out of me with a leather strap. She didn’t like blacks, she called me Baluba, every time the Irish soldiers were attacked in the Congo she attacked me.

Deprivation of contact with siblings and family

7.237Sixty seven (67) witnesses reported being deprived of contact with their parents, brothers and sisters while they were in the Schools. They also reported being actively denied information about their parents and siblings. Some witnesses commented that they were too young when they were first admitted to know who their brothers or sisters were and were never told. The deprivation and loss of contact with parents and siblings was reported to be a matter of deep distress, grief and anger that led to the fragmentation and loss of family networks by the time many witnesses were discharged from the Schools:

We were all split up and we still are, 5 of us were in 4 different Schools. One brother, I did not know of his existence until I was 13 …(years old)….

I found out after 50 plus years that I had a brother, my brother was looking for me for 20 years and he couldn’t find me. He was fostered out, he had a better life. He knew he had a brother. I was never sure but he was younger than me. It made an awful difference to me to meet him, it is brilliant like, it’s a great thing. Why, why did they break us all up? Why didn’t they leave the 2 of us together? They didn’t have to break us up. They should have told us about each other.

7.238Forty four (44) witnesses described how contact with their siblings was actively discouraged or denied. They reported being separated from their sisters and brothers while in the Schools and being denied contact with them. Witnesses also reported being punished if found attempting to communicate with their siblings who were in other sections of the same School. Some witnesses reported that their brothers were transferred or discharged from the School without them being told or having an opportunity to say goodbye and as one witness remarked: ‘in time I forgot I had brothers’. Twelve (12) witnesses reported learning as adults that they had spent several years in the same place with a brother without ever knowing he existed, and others spoke of their loss of contact with sisters who were in nearby Schools. A witness, whose sisters were in the local girls Industrial School reported:

I was absolutely devastated, when I discovered my sisters were down the road in …named School…. I know them now, but I don’t know them, we never were meshed, we have occasional contact. I never met them while I was in …named School…. At 13 years I met my sisters, someone said “they are your sisters”. I didn’t know what a sister was.

I remember talking to a boy in …named School… who asked me my name and said he thought we were brothers, he then left. I now know it was my brother, and I have discovered not long ago that I have 3 other brothers and sisters.

I didn’t find out I had 3 sisters until I was 21 years of age. … I didn’t know if my father was alive or not, I didn’t know my mother. I ended up in a place I didn’t know, I was 4 years …(there)…. … I met my grandmother and she said to me “it wasn’t for the want of trying” …(that contact was not maintained)…. She told me none of my family were allowed to have any information about where anyone of us were. I had 2 brothers, they were there with me. I have no family recollection. …(When discharged)… I left for England and never wanted to come back.

7.239A small number of witnesses reported that personal and family information was deliberately denied and withheld by failure to inform residents of their family details. Eighteen (18) witnesses reported being told that their parent or parents were dead or that they had no family and learned as adults that this was not the case.

They told me that my mother was dead and that it was no wonder as I was a bad boy, that it was my fault. I grew up thinking I had killed her somehow. Recently I discovered that she only died …(a few years previously)… and that for most of our lives we lived quite near each other.

7.240The Committee heard reports from four witnesses of their siblings being adopted while they were in the Schools. Witnesses from a small number of Schools described being lined up and viewed by visiting couples who they believed selected a child for adoption. A small number of witnesses reported that their siblings ‘disappeared’ and they discovered later they had been adopted. Witnesses consistently reported that they got no further information and there was no further contact once their sibling left. One witness reported he was the only member of his family who remained in the School:

One day he …(witness’s brother)… was there, the next day he was gone. It was like a slave market, you were all lined up, people walking up and down, they picked him out and left me. … The family were separated forever on the day we went into care.

7.241A small number of witnesses reported not being told when parents or close family members died and of not being allowed to attend their funerals. They commented that they were often given this information some time after the event. A witness who represented his School in boxing competitions reported that the news of his mother’s death was withheld for three months ‘so as not to take my mind off boxing’, hesitated: ‘they tried to break your spirit there’.

7.242Twenty three (23) witnesses reported being denied visits home for holidays and that letters were withheld as punishment.

The morning the boys were going home it was a nightmare …(for those deprived of home visits as punishment)…. They would get up, have their cup of tea, then they would be down in the hall with their little suitcases or whatever. We would be up in the dormitory looking out the window at them going up… to the bus. I never heard so many children screaming in all my life …distressed…. I lost my privileges once, I was caught smoking. My mother tried to intervene with the Minister for Education, but he said no you have to do it according to the rules or whatever. I lost my holidays over it.

7.243Circumstances surrounding the denial of contact with parents, withholding family information and the provision of false information about parents were reported by witnesses to be the cause of profound and unresolved upset and anger.

What kills me to this day is why they did not give me my belongings when I left …named School…. My things, who my mum was and where I was born and where she was from. I felt hurt, I had to wait 50 odd years to see an ad in …English newspaper…. Why the Brothers did not give me that …information… who my mum was …crying …. I talk to her friend now and she …(mother)… always tried to find me. She used to look at the kids going up to school and she used be always talking about what age she thought I ought to be. She always spoke about me when she seen the kids and she wondered whether I was alive or whether I was dead. Why was I not given that information? Why was I not told? I made inquiries, but I had nothing to go on.

Bullying

7.244There were 99 witness reports of bullying by co-residents from 16 Schools. The practice of bullying in this section refers mainly to the intimidating and aggressive behaviour reported by witnesses in relation to co-residents. Threats of physical violence, intimidation and bullying by religious and lay staff while also referred to is described in more detail in the context of physical, sexual and emotional abuse reports. Explicit and implicit threats of physical harm were the most frequently described demonstrations of bullying by male staff. Witnesses reported being forced to behave as they were instructed by the threat of punishment or physical abuse.

7.245Bullying by co-residents with the perceived permission and encouragement of the School staff was reported to be a regular feature in eight Schools. The playgrounds and yards, in particular, were described as frightening places by many witnesses who were exposed to bullying by older residents. Witnesses reported a practice of staff punishing individual residents by sending them out to the yard to be ‘charged’, kicked and otherwise assaulted by their peers or set up to fight them in the boxing ring. ‘He …(Br X)… would get 2 older lads to bully you, they would get cigarettes from him.’

7.246Physical and sexual abuse were core components of the bullying reported by witnesses. Older residents were reported to congregate in unsupervised gangs in particular Schools where bullying was most frequently reported. The gangs fought amongst themselves and were also reported to target certain residents for bullying and sexual abuse. ‘Orphans’, new residents and others who did not have visitors or older brothers to protect them were described as particularly vulnerable to being bullied in these circumstances. Witnesses further reported that residents who were sexually abused by religious staff were at times identified as ‘Brothers’ pets’ and targeted by co-residents for bullying.

I wasn’t a hard man. I came from a convent, I was an orphan. It was terrible for us, we got a terrible time, we got bullied by the kids as well. They would take your food off you, you wouldn’t dare tell on them, they would batter you.

It was a very, very cruel place, there was no sense in it or need for it, it was especially bad for the orphans, we were treated differently. … The Brothers promoted bullying especially of the orphans. I done a lot of crying when I was in …named School… I wouldn’t let anyone see me but I would curl up at night in bed and cry.

7.247Witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee were of the opinion that bullying by older residents was used to maintain control in some Schools with the knowledge and support of those in charge. In other Schools witnesses described poor supervision and staffing, with consequent bullying by older residents who were assigned the task of maintaining order.

Bullying, you would see other boys crying, you’d know what had happened. But to go to the Brother, the bullying would only get worse and nothing was going to get done about it. I was fearful every place, the whole environment will haunt me for evermore.

7.248In five Schools older residents were described as monitors in positions of delegated authority. Reports were heard from three Schools of monitors patrolling the recreation yards, sometimes with sticks, and the apparent authority to beat co-residents at will, as described:

Supervision by Fr …X… and his successor was non existent. … Monitors and bullies had a free rein with younger boys and were abusive. The …(priests and Brothers)… knew what was happening and turned a blind eye.

Witnessing the abuse of others

7.249Witnessing the abuse of co-residents was reported as disturbing at the time and as contributing to life-long distress. Fifty eight (58) witnesses from nine Schools reported they saw co-residents beaten and flogged; some of these witnesses were forced to hold down co-residents. Those who witnessed public beatings described the experience as distressing and traumatic and many were distressed as they gave their evidence of such beatings. They reported that seeing others being beaten and hearing their screams was often worse than being beaten themselves. This experience was particularly disturbing when they had to watch their own sibling being beaten. Witnesses reported that screaming did not lessen the beating and believed that the screams were intended to be heard as a warning to others.

You’d hear the echo. … You could hear the cries. … It would sort of echo through the building. You’d hear the boys crying when they’d be getting a beating, and then they would come back into their bed and they would be crying. You couldn’t go near their bed to comfort them, you’d be wanting to, but you couldn’t because you would get it yourself.

You could not hear or talk of the pain …(to other residents)… when they were beating you. If you did you might feel it too and you couldn’t carry that extra burden, each one had to carry his own pain alone.

7.250A number of witnesses described being made to watch as co-residents were beaten or flogged to the point of severe injury or unconsciousness.

We were marched up to a room … we were put sitting around the gymnastic table, we called it … the horse, we were put sitting around, from the youngest to the oldest boy. We watched 4 Brothers walk in with 3 boys …named co-residents…. I know one of them, within a year of leaving he had hung himself … they were stripped naked while the Brothers held their hands and their legs and this Br …X… removing his soutane and his collar dramatically began to flog these guys within an inch of their life. Observing excrement coming out of the boys’ behind and blood flowing down their legs, I literally trembled and I know kids all around us trembled in silence, some were crying for the poor boys. Their screams for mercy were seared into your very brain.

7.251A large number of witnesses reported the continuing traumatic impact for them of being gathered together to watch co-residents being beaten:

A Brother beat this kid for a half hour. We were all crying. His brother was crying, he was in bits. Mr …X (lay ancillary worker)… stood there and watched that and never lifted a finger. Them things stay on your mind …(the memory of it)…. You don’t have to think about it, it’s there, you’d be lying in bed and it would come to you.

(Named co-resident)… was a lovely lad. He used to sing and we would sit around listening, he always knew all the words. He and another boy decided to run away, we were all punished, there were no films and we all went to bed early, we cursed them. They were gone for a week and eventually brought back. We were all lined up and they were battered, then 4 Brothers took them into a room, with hurling sticks and leathers, we could hear them screaming, when they came out they were unrecognisable, purple ears, totally closed up eyes, backside totally out of shape, I’ll never forget it. You heal, but it takes months and you’re never the same again after it. I never heard him singing after that.

Isolation

7.252Thirty two (32) witnesses reported being ostracised by their peers or were otherwise isolated while resident in the Schools. This was a practice for punishing returned absconders in a number of Schools. Witnesses also reported being physically isolated in the infirmaries following a severe beating while their bruises and injuries healed. They reported being confined to bed for days or weeks without contact with their peers or co-residents. A small number of witnesses reported being locked in animal sheds and outhouses as punishment for perceived misdemeanours.

7.253Isolation from the ‘outside world’ was frequently described by witnesses, especially those who had lived at home and been part of a community, attending school, playing and having the freedom to associate with others. Many commented on the fact that the Schools themselves were so isolated that they rarely ever saw anyone apart from their co-residents and staff members. A large number of witnesses emphasised the painful experience of loneliness as a result of both the physical isolation and the regime in the Schools, which kept residents silent for long periods, frowned on the normal rough and tumble of play and forbade or discouraged friendships and contact between siblings.

7.254The Committee heard evidence that residents were regularly reminded of the possibility of further isolation by being sent away to a more restrictive institution as punishment. They understood that there were harsher and less physically accessible Schools where boys were sent when they got into trouble. The disappearance of co-residents who had been severely beaten contributed to the sense of fear reported by witnesses in this regard.

One afternoon we were all sitting at our desks and about 6 Brothers came in, they pulled out this boy and they beat him, kicked him, punched him and they used to have big straps at him…. They carried him off somewhere…. This little boy was as hard as nails, he couldn’t cry we knew that, he had no tears, you wouldn’t go against him, he would flatten you. I never did know what happened to that boy, he just vanished poor devil. I never saw him again. You see in School you don’t say nothing, you mind your own business, you don’t even look, like that, you use your eyes, nothing else.

7.255Eight (8) witnesses reported that they themselves were transferred to other institutions when they were returned after running away or following altercations with staff. Six (6) of these transfers occurred without prior notice and, in three instances reported to the Committee, witnesses believed they occurred without the appropriate legal arrangements being made or parents notified. One witness reported being severely beaten by a nun on a daily basis, and was threatened that if he told anyone about being abused he would be beaten more severely and separated from his peers, a threat that was ultimately carried out: ‘I used get so angry with the beatings I got from her, I broke a … bottle and she …(Sr X)… sent me to …(the)… psychiatric hospital’.

As punishment for running away Br …X… used to have me kneeling on my knees on concrete until we went to bed at night. … I had a hard time there, the physical abuse was brutal. Every chance I got I ran away I would be brought back and I would get a hiding from Br …X…. We …ran away…. We were brought back and I got a hiding off Br …X…. We were brought into Court in …named town… the next day. We were remanded and we were brought back to …named School…. The following week then we went into Court and I was sent to …another named School….

Deprivation of identity

7.256Witnesses reported that the experience of living in the regimented School system contributed to a sense of having no individual identity. The use of an allocated number instead of a name was reported by 25 witnesses and many others stated that they were either not spoken to individually or were only ever referred to by their surname. Ordinary daily activities were ordered by bells and whistles, and for witnesses discharged prior to the 1970s most of those activities were conducted in large groups. Witnesses who had spent most of their childhood in institutions and/or had no family contact described an accompanying sense of being ‘nobody’. Additional components of the deprivation of identity were a lack of recognition of witnesses’ birthdays and the denial of sibling relationship, even when brothers or sisters were in the same School. Witnesses reported being discharged without any information regarding their date and place of birth and that the subsequent search for this information was not always fruitful. Two (2) witnesses who spent their entire childhoods in institutions reported being unable to apply for passports because they have never been able to establish a birth record or obtain a birth certificate.

You had your number on the clothes. You were called by number or they would say “you, you”. Some of them would call you by name.

We came to Ireland…(to get passport)…because we wanted to go to Spain, but my birth was not registered so I could not get it.

You never remember anybody there because you never knew anybody by names, you were just there as a number….

I got some bits of paper off the Department of Education that gave me some idea, because before that I hadn’t got a clue. I just thought I was born and got put away.

Knowledge of abuse

7.257Due to the generally public and frequent nature of the physical and emotional abuse inflicted on residents, witnesses stated that staff and co-residents were unavoidably aware of its occurrence. Witnesses also reported disclosing abuse to their parents, relatives and people in authority, both within the institution and outside, including to gardaí and other professionals. The Committee also heard and was presented with documentary evidence of correspondence between parents and the Department of Education regarding complaints of abuse. Witnesses stated that the response to their disclosures of abuse ranged from being punished and further abused, being ignored or to being protected from harm. In a small number of instances witnesses stated that they were aware that some investigation took place following disclosures of abuse.

Abuse observed by others

7.258Witnesses reported that the abuse they experienced and the injuries they sustained in the course of being abused were observed by others within the School on a daily basis and on occasion by the general public. The following is a list of religious and lay staff identified by witnesses as having observed residents being abused:

  • Care staff 250 reports
  • Authority figures 133 reports
  • Ancillary staff 93 reports
  • Teaching staff 87 reports
  • Resident Managers 61 reports.

7.259Those described as care staff and ancillary workers were both lay and religious. The 133 reports that refer to authority figures relate to religious persons described as ‘in charge’ without reference to their particular role, such as Superior, Reverend Mother, or Sister, Brother or Priest in Charge. The experience of observing others being abused and the frequent failure of staff to intervene in these circumstances was reported by witnesses to be a cause of distress and is described in more detail elsewhere. ‘You’d be black and blue and the teachers would never ask you …(what had happened).’

7.260The Committee heard reports that on occasion Brothers had to physically restrain other religious staff who were thought to be in danger of seriously harming a resident. There were occasional accounts heard of staff intervening to terminate an incident of abuse or to rescue a resident from assault by another staff member and move them to safety.

He started beating me. I was so frightened, he had the door locked, it was inside in the refectory. He beat me for a long, long time. There was another Brother, an old man, and he tried to get in. He started shouting out in the hall. I had marks on my legs, marks on my back.

He …(Br X)… caught me … and he threw me into the piggery…. I was told to stay there, it was locked from the outside. Another Brother came along and he got me out.

7.261Witnesses stated that their abuse was at times evident to members of the public and external professionals who observed them on walks and other activities in the community or who may have tended their injuries when they were brought to local hospitals and surgeries. A number of witnesses reported being treated sympathetically by members of the public on occasion and believed it was in response to awareness of their abuse.

Disclosing abuse

7.262One hundred and forty six (146) of the 413 witnesses (35%) reported that they told an adult they were being physically or sexually abused, 42 of them reported disclosing abuse to more than one person. The disclosures were to adults in positions of perceived trust and authority both within and external to the Schools. The following table lists the positions witnesses understood were held by the adults to whom they disclosed their abuse while still resident:

Table 29: To Whom Abuse Disclosed while Resident – Male Industrial and Reformatory Schools

<th “=”” scope=”col”>To whom disclosed abuse while resident <th “=”” scope=”col”>Number of reports

Parents or relatives 62
Religious
– Staff 32
– Resident Manager 26
– Non-staff 13
Lay
– Staff 20
External professionals
– Medical staff 19
– Garda Síochaána 14
– Social workers 2
Total 188

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

7.263As can be seen, the largest number of disclosures was made to parents or relatives. Collectively, there were 78 reports of disclosure to religious and lay staff including care, teaching and ancillary staff. Those described as religious non-staff were priests in the Confessional and other religious Brothers, clergy and nuns who were not members of the School staff, but were associated with the Schools either by their proximity or some visiting arrangement.

7.264Witness accounts of disclosing abuse to external professionals refer to medical staff seen while attending hospitals for the treatment of injuries, doctors who attended the Schools to treat injuries and social workers. Many witnesses expressed enduring anger about the inaction of people they perceived to have the necessary authority to intervene and protect them.

I remember Dr …X… from the town stitched me up once when I had my lip split open by Br …Y…. But I was warned to tell the doctor I had fallen or he …(Br Y)… would get me.

7.265A number of witnesses reported being threatened that if they told anyone about the abuse they had experienced there would be more severe repercussions. Five witnesses stated that members of the religious staff visited them or their parents at home to reinforce their warning not to report or disclose their abuse.

One time I had to go to hospital …following severe beating…. Fr …X… came down to my mother’s house, and he begged my mother, on his knees on the floor in my mother’s house for forgiveness for what they done. They beat me so bad they got worried. My mother forgave them, he wouldn’t go out of the house until she did. She told me this in later years.

Br …X… followed me up to …home town… and went up to my mother’s house, and he brought me over to a guest house and …described sexual abuse…. At that time he threatened me that if I opened my mouth I would go back and do the time …(remaining period of Court Order)… even in years to come, and at that time we were used to being told these things.

7.266Disclosing abuse to Gardaí was reported to have occurred generally in the context of being returned to the School after absconding or when parents accompanied witnesses who were on leave to the Garda station to make a formal complaint. In a small number of instances witnesses reported their own abuse to Gardaí. In separate instances, four witnesses who absconded told the Gardaí who was returning them to the School that they expected to be badly beaten by the Brothers. The witnesses believed the Gardaí made some inquiries about this and as a result they escaped the usual beating meted out to returned absconders. Another witness reported that his mother told the Resident Manager she intended reporting the fact that he was being abused to the Gardaí; he stated his mother was pressurised into not contacting the Gardaí and subsequently the abuse stopped.

I was marked …(following beating)… after I ran away…. I wasn’t let out for 3 month after that, all the black and blue marks were gone there were just orange marks left …. When I went home I told me mother about the hidings and she took me down to …named… police station. When I told the police he said “what School are you in?” and I said …named School… and he said “what are you there for?” I said “not going to school” and he said “come on are you joking me or what?” I said “I’m there for not going to school” and he started laughing. My mother got a bit annoyed at him laughing at us, and they more or less kicked us out of the police station. After that I never told anyone, you wouldn’t trust anyone after that.

Outcome of disclosure

7.267Witnesses reported that disclosing abuse elicited varying responses including being ignored, punished and not believed, in addition to having the reported abuse investigated and abusers being dismissed or transferred from the School. Witnesses stated that the strict regime within the Schools, together with the harsh enforcement of rules and the constant threat of physical abuse left them feeling powerless and unprotected.

Two fellas went to Confession and told the priests what was happening about the beating. The next day we were all brought up and they were beaten, severely beaten and we were told “whatever happens in here stays here”.

We ran away, made it to …named town…. The police car stopped us and asked us where we were going, and where we had come from … and he said “why are you running away?” My brother told him about the beatings … we didn’t want to say anything about the sexual…. He …(garda)… brought us back to …named School… and told the nun what we were saying. They really tortured us after that. There was a man …named lay care staff… and there was another woman and there was Sr …X…. They beat us with whatever come to hand. That time you couldn’t say anything against nuns or priests or anything like that….

Afterwards I met Br …X… going down the stairs, he beat the crap out of me. “You know to keep your mouth shut” he’d say “you know what you’ll get if you don’t keep your mouth shut”…. It was complete fear, I couldn’t tell anyone, the fear you know.

7.268Fifty seven (57) witnesses reported that when they disclosed abuse or it was evident by their injuries that they were being abused they were ignored and the abuse continued, leading them to believe that aggression and violence was part of the culture of the School. A number of witnesses stated that it was their belief that both religious and lay staff knew that residents were being abused and were at times sympathetic but were powerless or unwilling to change anything.

He …(Br X)… tried to rape me every chance he got…. He nearly killed me in the hay barn, he got me up this ladder sitting on top of the hay, he was mucking about with me, at first I thought it was just horse play, he was trying to get my trousers down….I screamed and he put his hand over my mouth. Mr …Y (lay ancillary worker)… heard the scream and he came in, he was only there for a few seconds, he saw that Br …X… had his hands over my mouth. I threw myself down the bottom, I was lucky it was 12 or 14 foot down, and I ran out and said to him “don’t you ever touch me again”. He said he would kill me if I ever opened my mouth, he never touched me again after that.

He …(Br X)… beat me up, my lip was busted, my eye was swollen and all my face was red. Nobody asked me what happened. None of the other Brothers said anything…. No Brother entered the domain of another without knocking and getting permission first.

The …(Resident Manager)… knew what was happening. They …(Brothers)… were sadists, they were evil and cruel. Of course they knew what was happening … to say they didn’t is like saying you were standing by a motorway and saw no traffic.

7.269Many witnesses reported that the risk of being deprived of family visits or being prevented from going home on leave deterred them from disclosing abuse. Others reported that when they did tell someone they were being abused they were either ignored or not believed and as a result they learned to remain silent, believing that nobody would listen to them. A witness who told a priest in Confession about being sexually abused reported that he was told to ‘keep your thoughts to yourself as you could hurt so many people’. Another witness who told his parents that he had been sexually abused reported that:

My mother and my father came up to visit me and I told them what had happened …(sexual abuse)… they confronted Br …X…. He had a story, told them I was sick and I was hallucinating and they believed him.

7.270Forty four (44) witnesses reported being severely beaten in the context of disclosing both physical and sexual abuse and that the prospect of further beatings was generally sufficient to maintain silence. Witnesses reported being beaten when they told others including staff members, priests in Confession, police and visitors or their parents or relatives that they had been beaten or otherwise abused. Witnesses described an atmosphere of fear that prevented talking about being abused due to the risk of further abuse, as witnesses described:

Br …X… punched a boy in front of all the staff … to make him retract his story of sexual abuse against Br …Y… and to make the boy tell everyone he had engaged in sexual activity with another resident. You learned that talking only led one way … to a beating.

He …(Br X)… asked me what had happened, and there was a rule in …named School… that you did not tell on another Brother because he would beat you up. So I could not tell him and he kept me in the dormitory for a few days and the same thing happened again …(the sexual abuse continued)….

7.271A witness who disclosed being sexually abused by a Brother while on an outing reported the consequence for him:

The next morning I told …co-resident (about physical and sexual abuse)… and he took me to Br …X (Resident Manager)… and he said I was talking “badness”. I told him exactly what had happened, and he gave me a hiding, he punched and kicked me. He used a short stick, blackjacks we used to call them. He used to bend you over the bench, sometimes a monitor used to hold you or sometimes another Brother. But this time he took me to the hall to give me the hiding.

7.272Thirteen (13) witnesses who disclosed their experiences of abuse to their parents reported being discharged home or granted early release following representations to the Department of Education and other authorities. In some instances these representations were made directly to the Minister, also through local politicians, and by writing to the Department. In most reported instances the representations were made by the witnesses’ parents. There were three reports of early release being facilitated by external professionals. There were six further reports of representations being made to external authorities for the witnesses’ early release that were denied. One witness reported that his mother attempted to obtain the services of a solicitor, without success, in her effort to report abusive behaviour and obtain early release. Another witness reported being offered early release in return for his silence:

After I was raped and got a terrible beating by 2 men, they beat the shit out of me. Their faces were distorted. I couldn’t see who they were. I barely crawled to the door, the nurse sent me to …named… hospital. … After I came out of the hospital Fr …X… he was director at that time, he called me in and said … “if you say you weren’t beaten up we will let you out of here in a few days”. I was just trying to get home, like, so I said I wasn’t beaten. He called all the Brothers in, there was a garda there and everything. He …(Fr X)… said “now … tell them what you told me”. So I said I wasn’t beaten. All I wanted to do was get home, so I got home.

7.273A number of witnesses reported positive responses to disclosure, including 20 reports of the abuser being removed or transferred and 17 accounts of the abuser being reprimanded in some way. These witnesses reported being most often aware of positive outcomes of their disclosure by a cessation of abuse and a belief that their abuser was disciplined. Such outcomes followed eight reports to Resident Managers or others in charge, by the witnesses or their parents.

7.274There were isolated accounts heard of positive outcomes as a result of the assertive intervention of parents, relatives, professionals and members of the public following disclosures of abuse by witnesses. For example a witness reported that when he absconded following a beating he was given a lift by a member of the public to whom he disclosed details of his abuse. This person treated him kindly and convinced him to return to the School where he spoke to the person in charge regarding the alleged abuse. The witness reported that he was not subsequently punished or beaten and that the person returned some time later to check on his welfare.

7.275The Committee heard isolated reports of lay staff members being dismissed. In one situation a lay teacher was reported to the Resident Manager by a group of residents after an incident of sexual abuse. Other witnesses reported being moved to a different dormitory as protection from the negative attentions of a night watchman. Less frequent beatings from a care worker followed an intervention by one witness’s grandfather.

7.276Witnesses recalled that Brothers ‘disappeared’ from time to time and it was assumed there had been complaints about them. The Committee heard a small number of accounts of Brothers leaving in the wake of a particular incident of abuse. Most often the reports were of a Brother’s absence noticed in the belief he had been ‘sent away’ as a witness described:

…he was evil, you would never know when he would come up behind you. He was taken out the back way one afternoon and he was never seen again, thanks be to God.

7.277While 25 witnesses reported that disclosing abuse to their parents resulted in a positive outcome where the abuse ceased and they were either protected or released, 12 witnesses reported that their parents were unable or unwilling to believe that religious staff were abusive. Some parents were reported to regard the witnesses’ abuse as justified punishment for misconduct, believing ‘the Brothers could do no wrong’.

I told my father what was going on …(sexual abuse)…. I told him what Br …X… was doing to me, and the father thumped me and said “how dare you say anything like that?” There was nothing physical for him there to see, if I had cuts or bruises he would have believed me.

Witnesses response to abuse

7.278Three hundred and eight (308) witnesses reported that fear was their predominant response to the abuse they both observed and experienced and that on occasion they feared for their own and others’ lives. Eleven (11) witnesses reported fearing that they would be killed. Witnesses also described harming or attempting to harm themselves in the context of being abused. They reported wishing that the physical or sexual abuse they were subjected to would cease and being unable to trust that anyone would help or believe them if they disclosed what was happening.

We never told anyone what was happening. We thought they had the right to do what they were doing, to beat us. Why would we tell anyone when they would only beat us more? We were terrified of those men in long trousers, we were just little fellas in short trousers. The worst part for me was the dormitory and the bed-wetting …(and the beatings)…. I still wet the bed and hate going away anywhere because I am so embarrassed about it. I tried to kill myself there.

7.279Ninety five (95) witnesses reported absconding and another 28 reported that they tried to run away in order to escape the environment of fear and repeated physical and sexual abuse, including flogging. Resisting sexual abuse was reported to generally result in physical violence and further sexual abuse. There were 14 witness accounts of sexual abuse ceasing following gestures of resistance and avoidance. In a number of instances these witness reported subsequently becoming the target of routine physical abuse.

One day in the laundry he …(Br X)… was coming up behind me, I knew what he wanted …(sexual abuse)… and I just freaked. I picked up the first thing that came into my hand, I hit him and knocked his glasses off. He kicked me up the arse and that was it, I was out of the laundry …(where witness had been working)…. He was always at me after that, every chance he’d get he would have me down on my knees in the yard as punishment for something.

He, Fr…X…, would take out 6 or 7 for walks and would sexually abuse you, you know. If you protested well then he would not bring you the next time …(out for walks)…. I got punished when I protested, I got punished after that for no reason.

The farmers …(residents who worked on farm)… were always the last in to the showers. It …(sexual abuse)… only happened when you were clean. Other times you would stink and they wouldn’t touch you, so I used let myself really stink.

7.280Two hundred and eight (208) witnesses described not knowing what to do in response to being abused. They reported feeling helpless and defenceless and under constant threat of further abuse.

Very seldom, boys did fight back, they had great courage. … God did they have courage those who fought back. I always regret I didn’t fight back …crying…. You knew from the day you arrived no one was going to help you, there was no one.

7.281One hundred and forty six (146) witnesses who had been threatened or punished following disclosure of abuse reported that they subsequently withdrew emotionally and isolated themselves as they felt powerless and did not trust that any protection was available. Other responses included screaming, crying, suppressing anger, bed-wetting and soiling. Of those who reported a history of bed-wetting while in the School a large number reported that they did not wet their bed prior to admission. ‘I became a very bad bed-wetter I had never been a bed-wetter before. … Every night I was there for 5 years there was a list called out of those who had wet the bed.’

I lived in terror and fear. I started wetting the bed, I never did it before. You would stand at the end of the bed for the punishment … slaps with a leather strap all over. … I tried not to sleep I’d try and hide the stain, so as not to be punished. It became a way of life. Some boys could take a hundred slaps and would not cry, others would be screaming for mercy.

But even when you weren’t being hit, you could hear this echo, in this big dormitory like a hall, and you could hear the crushing sound, and the blow, and the screams, night after night after night. I used to do this …demonstrated rocking motion… to take me away from it, the beatings and the screaming and the fear. I wanted to stop it, I would dream about getting a gun and shooting them to stop it.

7.282Eighteen (18) witnesses reported that they attempted to commit suicide and actively harmed themselves during their time in the Schools, most frequently in the context of being sexually abused or being consistently physically abused. Attempts at self-harm included throwing themselves from heights, ingesting objects, overdosing on veterinary medication, self-mutilation, attempted drowning and self-inflicted burns. Others described having suicidal thoughts or a wish to die or hurt themselves.

I cut myself, overdosed, swallowed pins. I was ashamed and embarrassed. … I ripped myself apart, cut myself, legs, arms. I mean seriously, I was admitted to hospital….

I tried to kill myself in the time I was there. I locked myself in the bathroom and I was running against the wall trying to injure my head on the wall. I think there was an awful lot of fellas who did commit suicide. You had nobody, absolutely nobody. You couldn’t turn to anybody, you never felt safe, the kitchen, the dormitories, the farmyard. I used to go into a cupboard and cry.

I went down and got a piece of glass and cut my hand. I didn’t care what happened, I just wanted to get out of the School. I just thought that by cutting my hand I’d be taken up to the hospital and could tell someone there. The nurse saw my hand cut and asked me what happened and I told her …(about being severely beaten by Br X)…. I was terrified they …(Brothers)… would know I’d told her, she created murder and told Fr …Y…. But he did nothing.

When I was in bed I used to cry and wish I’d die. I’d think “I don’t want to wake up”. Whenever you were in the dormitory you knew there was something going to happen to you. You’d want to be dead instead of waking up.

7.283In addition to the witnesses who reported harming themselves, a number also reported that they contemplated harming lay and religious staff who were abusive and in five instances described actively doing so.

7.284In summary, this chapter has provided an overview of abuse reported to the Committee by 413 male witnesses in relation to Industrial and Reformatory Schools. The reported abuse was differentiated by type: physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse presented accordingly. Where possible, the chapter sections have been illustrated with direct quotes from witnesses, some of whom were recounting their experiences for the first time to a third party. While describing their experiences witnesses also gave accounts of the circumstances in which the abuse occurred and the traumatic impact of their experiences both at the time and as they are recalled. In addition, the information provided about the position and occupations of those who were reported abusers is included with witness accounts of who they told, and what they believe was known about the abuse they experienced at the time.

7.285The following two chapters will provide similarly detailed information about the general conditions and everyday life experiences in the girls Schools together with reported abuse experiences of 378 female witnesses.

1 A number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

2 ‘Other Institutions’ – includes: general, specialist and rehabilitation hospitals, foster homes, national and secondary schools, children’s homes, laundries, Noviciates, hostels and special needs schools (both day and residential) that provided care and education for children with intellectual, visual, hearing or speech impairments and others.

3 See chapters 12-18.

4 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.

5 Section 1(1)(a).

6 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.

7 A number of witnesses reported being abused by more than one abuser, therefore, the number of reported abusers is greater than either the number of witnesses or the reports of abuse.

8 Section 1(1)(b).

9 A number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

10 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.

11 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.

12 See sections 67 and 70 of the 1908 Act which allowed for residents to be placed for employment outside the School, under an extension of their court order.

13 Section 1(1)(c), as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.

14 Note – a number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

15 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.

16 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.

17 Section 1(1)(d), as amended by the section 3 of the 2005 Act.

18 A number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

19 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.

20 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.


Chapter 8
Everyday life experiences of female witnesses in Schools


8.01This chapter summarises the information provided by the 378 female witnesses about their experience of education, work, health, recreation and other aspects of everyday life in Schools over a period of 74 years between 1914 and 1988. All the Schools referred to by female witnesses were managed by religious Sisters.

8.02There were many consistencies in the reports heard by the Committee from female witnesses in relation to all the Schools. Witnesses reported living in large unheated buildings with communal dormitories and poor hygiene facilities, as part of a strictly controlled regime that allowed little time for recreation and was largely isolated from the outside world, including their family. Witnesses reported their time was occupied between work, school and recreation with varying emphasis on each in different Schools and over different periods of time.

8.03In relation to admissions prior to the 1970s, the most common features reported by witnesses were descriptions of the daily routine, including an early morning call by bell for Mass followed by breakfast in a communal refectory. Meals were routinely provided in large refectories at fixed times, the main meal being in the middle of the day and a light meal provided at approximately 5.30pm. Witnesses went to bed at various times between 6pm and 9pm, with more flexibility in recent years.

8.04Clothing and footwear was reported by many witnesses to have been of inferior quality and generally distributed from a stock of donated second-hand items that were kept in a central clothing store. Reports regarding clothing and personal care varied between Schools over different periods of time. A number of Schools employed someone to make and mend clothing. In other Schools older residents and lay staff were reported to have made the clothes and taught the younger residents how to do so. Many witnesses reported knitting jumpers and socks for themselves and co-residents. Many witnesses reported that they never owned a new pair of shoes. There were a few reports of winter coats being provided on an individual basis but more commonly that they were shared for use as needed. Witnesses discharged during the 1970s and 1980s reported being more often allowed to select their own clothes and no longer having to share clothing and footwear.

8.05Personal hygiene was attended to using shared facilities with little or no toiletries or sanitary protection said to be provided in the majority of Schools in the period before the1970s. Witnesses reported increased provision and availability of hot water, soap, towels, toothbrushes, sanitary towels, toilet paper, combs and hairbrushes in later years. Since the mid-1970s, accommodation was reported to have improved with residents moving to smaller units, either adapted or purpose built, with modern facilities. These units catered for smaller groups of children with trained care staff in some Schools in the late 1970s and 1980s. Other changes reported included attending primary and second-level school and other activities outside the institution.

8.06A consistent feature reported in most Schools prior to the 1970s was the code of silence that was enforced during many activities, particularly while working, in the dormitories and during mealtimes.

Work

8.07The Committee heard evidence from 337 female witnesses of being involved in work and physical labour during their time as residents in the Schools. Work was described as graded according to age and it was reported that residents from some Schools were expected to work from the age of seven years. A small number of witnesses reported that they started working at five years of age. Most witnesses spoke about the lack of staff available to do domestic work and of the priority given to the completion of allocated work to the exclusion of education or play, as one witness said: ‘We cared for them, they did not care for us’. The work described by witnesses included domestic tasks in the Schools, kitchens, convents, local presbyteries, the homes of local families, and on adjoining farmyards. Work of a commercial nature including laundry, Rosary bead and rug making, embroidery, and knitting were also described. Many witnesses reported that residents received no payment for this work.

8.08Work in some Schools was described as beginning before breakfast and continuing until class commenced, to be resumed after school. General cleaning chores such as sweeping, scrubbing and polishing were reported as work tasks by 337 witnesses. Residents were responsible for their own bed making and dormitory cleaning, in addition to cleaning and polishing corridors, staircases, chapels, classrooms and associated convents, and other buildings. Witnesses reported being made to clean or polish the same area a number of times until the desired standard was reached. Witnesses reported that in nine Schools the residents were also required to clean or work in the kitchen of an affiliated boarding school, hospital or nursing home.

8.09One hundred and forty seven (147) witnesses reported working in laundries both for the institutions and convents, and on a commercial basis for external institutions including hospitals, hotels, boarding schools and people from the local town. Many gave accounts of receiving no payment for the work. Witnesses reported having to wash, starch and iron nuns’ habits, clerical vestments and altar linen, sheets, shirts and table linen. The work in the washrooms and laundries was described as laborious, without the aid of washing machines or other equipment in the period prior to the 1960s. Witnesses recalled standing on boxes as small children to reach into laundry troughs and washing nun’s sanitary cloths in cold water with bare hands.

8.10It was the practice in most of the girls Industrial Schools to accept admissions of female infants, and a number of Schools also admitted male infants. The work of providing care for these children was reported to be mainly undertaken by the residents. The ongoing care of babies and very young children, including siblings, was reported by 123 witnesses. This work included feeding, dressing, washing and toileting the children who were often referred to by witnesses as their ‘charges’. Witnesses reported that in a number of Schools they shared their beds with their young ‘charges’. Other witnesses were required to get up at night to feed babies who slept in cots beside their beds. Many witnesses described the overwhelming nature of the childcare task, including eight witnesses who described having to assist toddlers with rectal prolapse.

I distinctly remember the babies would be on potties for a long time and sometimes the older children would lift them up and with a cloth push this thing …(rectal prolapse)…. I didn’t know what was going on at the time.

8.11Witnesses reported that there was little or no adult supervision as they performed their childcare tasks. A number of witnesses described the difficulty they experienced caring for young children without the benefit of being well cared for themselves. As a consequence some witnesses acknowledged that at times they treated their young ‘charges’ harshly. A small number of witnesses stated that they were so hungry that they helped themselves to food provided for the babies, replacing milk with water in the babies’ bottles.

8.12Most Schools and convents had residents assigned to answer the doorbell and do other jobs similar to those of a parlour maid. Twenty four (24) witnesses reported being sent as housekeepers to local clergy and families, 13 witnesses reported receiving payment for this work and others reported that they believed payment went directly to the religious congregation.

8.13Kitchen duties and work in the attached bakeries were reported by 121 witnesses. Descriptions of this work in 14 Schools included: washing dishes and pots, scrubbing floors, foraging for firewood, lighting and stoking fires, lifting large pots of boiling water and peeling large quantities of potatoes and other vegetables. Many of the witnesses reported that this work provided access to extra food and warmth, it also involved long hours and was arduous. Work in staff kitchens was seen as particularly advantageous as there was access to better quality food. Some Schools had both commercial and domestic bakeries where residents worked, and in some instances continued on a full-time basis on completion of their education.

8.14Commercial contract work was described as a significant activity in four Schools by 84 witnesses and included piece work in the form of making Rosary beads, scapulars and other religious items. In one School it was reported that young residents made novenas for which it was believed financial donations were received by the School. The majority of witnesses stated that no payment was received for this work.

8.15Working in the farmyard, fields, gardens and on the bogs were described as routine activities in both urban and rural Schools. While it was reported that the female religious congregations generally employed lay male ancillary staff to work on their farms, 97 witnesses reported being involved in farm work including haymaking, saving turf, churning butter, sowing and picking potatoes, milking cows and feeding animals. Weeding gravel driveways, convent graveyards and plucking the convent lawns by hand were other outdoor tasks reported by witnesses from several Schools.

8.16Witnesses reported what they regarded as unsafe practices related to cleaning and fire lighting in five different Schools. In two Schools residents had to clean high external windows with one resident holding the ankles of another resident who was cleaning the windows. Five (5) Schools were reported as having residents light fires and furnaces in the early hours of the morning for the School heating, laundry and cooking systems. Carrying turf and coal and keeping the furnaces fired was part of the work described by witnesses.

8.17Thirty two (32) witnesses described a distinction being made in the work allocated to residents who had families and those regarded as ‘orphans’ who described themselves as at times allocated particularly unpleasant tasks such as clearing drains and unblocking and cleaning toilets. Other witnesses said they observed ‘orphans’ frequently undertaking demeaning tasks.

8.18Sewing, knitting and decorative needlework were regular semi-recreational activities; several witnesses reported making clerical vestments, as well as socks, jumpers, dresses and school uniforms for co-residents. Specialised needlework and knitting was also undertaken for what witnesses understood was the commercial market and a number of witnesses reported being regularly occupied knitting Aran sweaters, making rugs, embroidering tablecloths, vestments and other cloths for shops and church use.

They used to have these huge tablecloths and I used to have to do embroidery on it and do the designs, I used do the crochet. I used do the vestments, the nuns used give them as gifts to the priests. I used to have to do all the sewing for the girls plus all the knitting during the school’s holidays. Remember I was 14 years old at the time.

8.19Witnesses reported that mending clothes was a regular occupation in 16 Schools, others gave accounts of lay staff being employed in sewing rooms. In five Schools it was reported that residents darned socks and jumpers for local boys’ Industrial Schools and fee-paying boarding schools.

8.20Other assigned tasks included residents both making and ‘teasing’ their own mattresses. Mattress teasing was reported as a regular summer activity by 18 witnesses from five Schools. This was described as hard and unpleasant work, ‘teasing and re-stuffing the mattresses was our summer holiday’.

8.21The following account of a typical day was given in evidence by a witness who reported she was removed from the classroom at the age of 12 years to work full-time in the Industrial School:

There was no electricity in the laundry and it was steam mechanised. Myself and …named 2 co-residents… were told we had to work from Monday morning. Three of us, we used to have to go down and light the furnace that heated the whole school part. On Monday we got up at 6 o’clock in the morning, we lit the fire, then 3 of us took it in turn to keep shovelling the coal in to keep the steam up in order that the machinery in the laundry … would keep going. On the Tuesday we had the ironing to do … we had …(a large number of)… nuns in the convent and we had to do their ironing and the white things had to be starched. I had to get up at 7 o’clock and there was a round boiler thing. We, 3 of us had to light that and as soon as it got red hot you put the old fashioned irons around it, between 20 and 30 irons. The older girls, there were 8 senior girls, were given the job of ironing all the white things for the nuns. On Wednesday that was the baking day…. On Thursday we would go out and weed the garden … or … in summer if there was turf coming in, the lorry would just leave the turf there and the nun would come in and say “you, you and you go out and throw in that turf.” On Thursday the 3 of us used to have to go down and clean that big boiler out, clean the ashes and set it again for Friday and the laundry. On Saturday then we would do odd jobs, go over to the convent and did “blocks” … polish the floors with these big block things to get up a shine on them.

8.22Witnesses reported changes in relation to work practices in the later years covered by this Report. The commercial contract work and the practice of residents undertaking work external to the School was no longer routine. However, three witnesses reported caring for babies and young children in the 1970s and 1980s and that the practice of doing household chores continued.

Food

8.23The inadequate provision of food was widely reported by witnesses. The standard diet described by witnesses for the years prior to the 1970s was porridge, bread and dripping and tea or cocoa for breakfast. The main meal was consistently reported to be of boiled potatoes with vegetables and on occasion some meat or fish. The evening meal was most often described as bread and jam and tea or cocoa. Witnesses reported that there was little or no access to extra food except what might have been obtained opportunistically by residents working in kitchens and elsewhere.

The nuns’ bins would be lovely, you would eat the bread out of their buckets, you would get it as you were walking along the path in the garden going down to the work in the fields, you’d pick out the bread.

8.24Varying accounts were given of both the quantity and quality of the food provided with noticeable improvements reported after the 1970s. Witnesses reported that in more recent years sausages, chips, vegetables, eggs, cheese, fish fingers, cornflakes and milk puddings became part of the regular diet.

8.25Special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, First Holy Communion and saint’s feast days were reported to be at times celebrated with cake and biscuits, jelly, ice cream and lemonade. Many of the convents had orchards, glass houses and kept poultry; however witnesses stated that fruit and eggs were rarely provided, with the exception of Christmas and Easter when oranges and eggs were reported as traditional treats.

Play and recreation

8.26Witnesses reported that play and recreation were described as peripheral to everyday life for the Schools’ residents, particularly for those discharged before the 1960s. Toys, books and play equipment were largely non-existent in most of the Schools during that period. Witnesses reported playing in fields and ‘making our own fun’ and described making small dolls and balls from scraps of cloth. In a number of Schools voluntary organisations brought presents to the residents at Christmas; it was frequently reported these were locked away and never used. Fourteen (14) witnesses described having toys and books given as presents taken from them to be locked away in a toy cupboard and taken out when visitors came. In a small number of instances, witnesses believed that these toys and books were given away by the Sisters to their own relatives. The lack of any place to keep personal possessions made it difficult for residents to retain a doll, toy or book given as a gift or sent by their family. Witnesses reported that a small number of Schools provided film shows for the residents.

8.27Witnesses reported that most Schools had recreation halls that were described as places to congregate in wet weather or in the wintertime, often in enforced silence. Recreation halls were also used for school concerts and plays held at Christmas and for visiting dignitaries. There were accounts from a number of Schools of residents competing in Irish dancing competitions and playing musical instruments at the Feis Cheoil. Accounts were heard also of a number of Schools having bands and/or choirs that performed at these competitions and various local events.

8.28While sport was a less common feature of life in the School system for girls than it was for boys 153 witnesses reported that they played in the yard or surrounding fields in all weathers and were forced to spend long periods outdoors. Eighty (80) witnesses described the regular long Sunday walk with pairs of girls walking ‘like a crocodile’ for up to 10 miles with religious staff or older residents in charge. One witness described how they spent time at recreation:

We used to have a spinning top and put coloured things into it and we used to play hopscotch. We had basketball. There is no use telling a lie, we had a shed and we used to play among ourselves.

8.29Day trips to the seaside and swimming were reported by 47 witnesses as a treat during the summer months in particular Schools.

A couple used come and they would take us to the seaside, take us to the beach. We used to be in this bus, we had buckets and spades, the whole lot of us went. You’d be so excited. We had plastic cups and loads of sandwiches. I remember them buying us all a ball and buckets.

8.30Witnesses from 11 Schools reported on improvements in recreation facilities during the 1960s, including the provision of swings, merry-go-rounds and slides in the play yard and board games, skipping ropes, radios, gramophones, television and books in the recreation rooms. Further improvements were reported in the 1970s and 1980s with increased involvement in cultural, recreational and social activities including music and choirs in the local area. Visits to the cinema and in some instances activities with children of local families were also reported. Other improvements described by witnesses included the opportunity to be involved in outdoor sports, games and competitions including basketball, volleyball and tennis.

Education

8.31Most Schools for girls had their own primary level classrooms attended solely by the residents. A small number of Schools were part of larger establishments that included primary and secondary schools attended by both children from the local area and residents from the Industrial School. Reports were also heard of local children, frequently referred to as ‘outsiders’, attending class within the Industrial School setting.

8.32Three hundred and seventy six (376) witnesses reported attending classes at primary level for some period of their time in the Schools. The majority of witnesses, 220 (58%), reported having completed their education by 14 years of age, when most reported that they commenced working full-time in or for the institution. The following table outlines the reported school leaving age of female witnesses:

Table 30: Reported School Leaving Age – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Reported school leaving age Number of witnesses
Under 10 8
10–12 34
13–14 178
15–16 129
Over 16 22
Unavailable 5
No schooling 2
Total witnesses 378

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

8.33As the table indicates, two witnesses reported that they received no schooling and never attended class. Eight (8) witnesses stated that they were taken out of school to work full-time before the age of 10 years and a further 34 witnesses reported not attending school after 12 years of age. The majority of these witnesses reported that they worked in the Schools or related areas instead of attending class. One hundred and twenty nine (129) witnesses reported that they remained in school until they were 15 or 16 years old, 105 (28%) of whom attended secondary or vocational school in the local community or, in a small number of instances, attended boarding schools.

8.34Forty one (41) of the 105 witnesses who reported receiving secondary level education were discharged from care in the 1970s and 1980s.

8.35Some witnesses reported having done well in school and enjoyed learning but were not allowed to continue their education as they were competent domestic workers:

During the summer holiday they said “you are not going back to school”. They had me making vestments for the priests, for the first year I did not get paid, the second year they put a small bit in a post office book that they gave me and I going. I was good at maths and science I got 100 once and they said I had copied, you know they put you down, you were no one, you were no use. I loved school, when I was taken out I cried, I loved the science in the secondary I would have loven …(loved)… to be a nurse, I could have done better if I had done my Inter, I have a big gripe about that. They took me out because I was good at sewing they wanted me for the vestments. Others who had a mother were kept in school I had no one to say you can’t take her out. When I was 16 I wanted to be going and they said you can stay and train someone in, so I had to stay for a year and trained in another girl.

8.36Many witnesses reported that their education was inadequate, particularly for those discharged before the 1970s. Changes regarding access to education and the active encouragement of religious staff to continue their education were noted by witnesses discharged in the 1970s and 1980s. A number of witnesses were supported to attend technical and secondary schools and commercial colleges and an increased number reported taking part in State examinations.

The nuns were very kind they sent me to …named… college in the evenings to study shorthand and typing…. I still wanted to be a nurse, one nun used to encourage me and the other would say “no she is too delicate, she would never last”…. I left at 18 and went straight to England to be a nurse. The nuns helped me …(with fare and application)….

Religion

8.37Mass and Rosary were described by witnesses as standard features of daily life in the institutions. Witnesses attended Mass early in the morning, before breakfast. Some witnesses described a routine of saying three rosaries a day while kneeling on wooden or stone floors. The recitation of litanies while residents were preparing for bed was also reported. In some Schools the Rosary accompanied work tasks and witnesses reported that any slacking in responses could lead to punishment. Catechism was reported to have constituted a large segment of the educational activities in several Schools in the decades prior to the 1970s, with witnesses reporting: ‘all they cared about was religion’ and ‘we ate, slept and drank religion’.

8.38Witnesses reported that the notion of the ‘devil’ as a force of evil was emphasised by the religious staff. A large number of witnesses stated that they were constantly told they were sinners as a result of their parents’ behaviour. Residents reported being prevailed upon to pray for their own and their parents’ forgiveness and be grateful for the care they were receiving.

8.39The Committee heard witness accounts of religious feast days being strictly observed; Lent, the months of May and November and the feast days of the Sisters’ patron saints generally necessitated particular practices, which were both penitential and celebratory. Witnesses reported that the clergy were accorded particular respect and were attended to diligently by the staff and residents. Chapel choirs were a point of pride for some Schools especially when members of the public were in attendance.

Health and medical care

8.40Three hundred and twenty five (325) witnesses described some form of healthcare provision including medical attention, inspection or immunisation for themselves or other residents in the Schools.

8.41As with the male witnesses, female witnesses reported being assessed and treated for normal childhood accidental injuries and illnesses as well as non-accidental physical injuries while resident in the Schools. Table 31 describes the types of healthcare available:

Table 31: Types of Healthcare Reported – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Healthcare Number of reports
GP attendance 176
Hospital attendance 152
Infirmary available 135
Dental care 85
Medical inspection 67
Immunisation 62
Nurse available 52

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

8.42One hundred and seventy six (176) witnesses recalled the attendance of a doctor during their time as residents, which included being seen by the local doctor either in their surgery or, more commonly, in the School and the doctors’ attendance at routine medical examinations in the School. Visits by medical inspectors were reported. Witnesses from one School reported the local doctor conducting a bi-monthly inspection of residents. Immunisation and the testing of residents for tuberculosis were reported as routine components of some medical inspections. In other Schools routine examinations of weight and height were the only medical attention reported. A number of witnesses reported changes to their diets and other aspects of their care following inspector’s visits.

8.43One hundred and fifty two (152) witnesses reported attending hospital for in-patient and out-patient treatment of conditions including: tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, appendicitis, rheumatic and other fevers, surgical treatment of ear, nose, throat and other complaints. Twenty three (23) witnesses reported being hospitalised for treatment of accidental injuries and 33 others reported receiving hospital treatment for non-accidental injuries. Witnesses reported attending hospitals and clinics for investigations both in their local area and to specialist centres. Attendance at a specialist clinic or hospital was more commonly reported after 1970, with witness reports of attending specialist appointments for eye, ear and skin ailments as well as child and adolescent mental health services.

8.44One hundred and thirty five (135) witnesses described infirmaries in 18 Schools; other Schools were reported to use the dormitories as infirmaries. In most accounts infirmaries or dormitories were described as isolated, lonely places that were rarely supervised. Witnesses reported the rule of silence in the infirmary and dormitories increased the sense of isolation as did the absence of staff dedicated to the care of residents who were ill.

8.45Nursing staff were employed in some Schools at different times and the presence of staff described as ‘nurses’ was recalled by witnesses in other Schools. Other witnesses believed that the nursing function was performed by untrained staff. Witnesses reported that unqualified staff carried out many treatments such as lancing boils, treating ringworm and other infections, lacerations and injuries without medical advice.

8.46Witness accounts of dental care indicated that dentists attended regularly in some Schools and in others when requested. In most instances the reported dental treatments were extractions, with or without anaesthetic.

Inspections

8.47The Committee heard 219 reports of inspectors visiting the Schools. Witnesses were not always clear which government department the inspectors represented. There were reports of government inspectors visiting the Schools who, it was believed, were primarily concerned with the condition of the physical surroundings and reports of classroom inspectors, commonly referred to as the Cigire. Witnesses believed that these inspectors were concerned with aspects of their education and did not specifically address the individual care and welfare needs of the residents. Sixty seven (67) witnesses reported the visits of medical inspectors, who conducted routine physical inspections, including evaluating height, weight, hearing and sight.

8.48While witnesses reported they were generally not spoken to by the visiting inspectors, in the period prior to 1970 one inspector was mentioned by 49 witnesses, including six who specifically reported being spoken to directly: ‘There was a nice woman Inspector, she would speak to us, we were coached in what to say though.’

8.49The majority of witnesses reported advanced knowledge of the forthcoming inspections and the Committee heard 123 accounts of special preparations being made, including cleaning, polishing and, in some instances, painting the School prior to the visit. Others reported being hidden during the inspectors’ visits because they were bruised or injured. Witnesses from one School reported that newly renovated bathrooms were opened for inspectors’ visits and were immediately relocked and not used again after they left. In another School residents were moved to a new building for the duration of the inspector’s visit. Witnesses reported that special provisions were made available to residents for the period of the inspection including special clothing, extra bedding, improved food and the provision of toiletries. One hundred and sixteen (116) witnesses reported that special clothing and bedding was provided to them prior to inspections and 109 witnesses described having better and more plentiful food while the inspection lasted. ‘A man walked around with 2 nuns. He did not speak to the children. Table cloths and china was put out for the visit, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste was out as well and taken back after the visit.’

8.50In the period prior to 1970 toilet paper and toiletries such as soap and toothbrushes were provided for the duration of inspections in most Schools:

We were told to be on our best behaviour, we were all lined up, I’d be dying to say something but knew I would get into trouble. The floors were polished, new towels and bars of soap would be put out, but you couldn’t touch them. When they left everything was put back.

8.51In addition to the physical preparations, 62 witnesses reported being coached and warned about how to behave and what to say to the inspectors’ and that staff were present for the duration of the inspection. ‘We were all done up, afraid to blink an eye, we were schooled in what to say, you knew you’d get punished.’

8.52The Committee heard witness accounts of preparations that involved rehearsing songs, poems and Irish dancing to perform for the inspectors who, apart from these appearances, were described as mainly seen at a distance, accompanied by staff. The majority of witnesses who recalled the inspections were clear that when the inspectors left all changes were reversed and life returned to the way it had been. Exceptions to this were a small number of witness reports of improvements in care and conditions following medical inspections.

Officials, dignitaries and other visitors

8.53Witnesses reported that many official visitors and dignitaries visited the Schools over the years, including: a President, ministers for education, bishops and other clergy, and local or national figures. Other visitors recalled were members of charitable boards, commercial organisations, voluntary groups and others whom the witnesses could not identify. Advance preparations for such visits were reported.

8.54Witnesses described visits to the Schools by members of the public who were reported to provide holiday placements for residents at weekends and during school holidays and were referred to as ‘holiday’ families, ‘godparents’ and ‘foster’ families. Witnesses from a number of Schools who had no known family contact, many of whom described themselves as orphans, reported being sent regularly to the homes of these families. Another category of visitor described by a small number of witnesses was prospective foster and adoptive parents who they stated visited the Schools to select a child to foster or adopt. Witnesses described being dressed for the occasion and ‘paraded’ with other residents in front of these visitors hoping to be selected.

8.55Witnesses stated that they were usually not spoken to by visitors and were warned against speaking to them:

Visitors came, we always thought this was our chance to tell someone what was happening, but we never got near them, the place was lovely, food, clothes, all changed until they left.

Arrangements for discharge

8.56Witnesses who had spent most of their childhood in institutional care reported a sense of displacement and bewilderment when discharged from the Schools. Many reported that the transition from care provided an opportunity for freedom, but was also a time of disappointment and loss. Three hundred and twenty five (325) female witnesses were in residential institutions for between six and 18 years and many had only ever known life in an institution.

8.57One hundred and eighty (180) witnesses reported being discharged home or to the care of older siblings and extended family. Those witnesses who had been able to maintain contact with their parents, siblings and relatives through visits and holidays during their admission generally reported a more positive outcome when discharged home. Others commented on the difficulty they experienced reintegrating with families from whom they had been separated for a number of years.

My mother turned up the day before I was 16. I had not seen her for years. I was handed over to her and we couldn’t relate; I found it very hard to get on with the life and left for England.

8.58Witness reports about their discharge ranged between Schools who provided ongoing support and follow-up to others where witnesses reported being discharged without any discussion or plans, as discussed elsewhere. Forty six (46) witnesses reported being placed directly in employment by School staff when they were discharged. Many expressed ambivalence about the arrangements made for their aftercare. While the stability of accommodation and employment was valued, many reported that the lack of preparation for leaving, including the opportunity to say goodbye, was traumatic.

I found a bed-sit myself, I had to leave school as I had no way to feed myself, a teacher found a job for me in a local shop.

8.59A number of witnesses reported that live-in work arrangements were helpful, providing a place to stay and some security in the absence of family or the necessary skills to live independently. Nineteen (19) witnesses described their first employer as their ‘salvation’ in that they were kind, treated them well and encouraged them to socialise and in some instances to pursue further education or training. A small number of witnesses reported that they remained in their original place of employment for many years and a number have maintained ongoing contact with their former employers.

8.60Twenty nine (29) witnesses reported that when they found themselves in difficulty following discharge, they received help and support from the religious staff in a number of Schools that maintained an informal open-door policy for ex-residents. Three (3) witnesses reported being assisted by religious staff when they became pregnant and were without other support.

8.61Witnesses from a small numbers of Schools reported that they were allowed to live in the School for a period when they were first working while they were getting established. Others reported being offered temporary employment and lodgings at their former School when work placements were not satisfactory and reported being found jobs where they were able to train and prosper.

8.62The Committee heard several reports from witnesses that former co-residents provided them with a place to stay and assistance with finding work when they were discharged. The women provided a substitute family network for witnesses who reported that they would otherwise have been alone in the world. The witnesses also reported that for some this network of former co-residents has remained a significant support throughout their lives.

8.63Fourteen (14) witnesses reported that they returned to the School for annual summer holidays, in part because they had nowhere else to go, did not know how to make alternative arrangements for themselves and did not want their work colleagues to know they had no family.

8.64Nine (9) witnesses reported being discharged to their ‘holiday’ or ‘foster’ families where they found safety, stability and, for some, life-long support. Other witnesses reported that these families assisted with finding them work and supporting them to become independent following their discharge.

8.65Some changes in practice and procedures for aftercare were reported by witnesses who were discharged during and after the 1970s, with a small number of Schools establishing group homes on the grounds of the old institutions and others providing supported semi-independent living in associated hostels. The Committee heard 12 witness reports of places in hostels or transition houses being found for witnesses when they were discharged. Five (5) of these reports related to discharges after 1970. Other Schools provided practical and financial support for residents to continue education and training.

8.66Four (4) witnesses reported being granted an early discharge to their parents following representations made to various authorities. Two (2) witnesses remained at home, without formal consent, following disclosure of abuse to their parents. Others became aware through records they obtained under the Freedom of Information legislation1 that their parents had made written representations to various authorities seeking their early release. Witnesses who had previously felt abandoned gave accounts of being comforted by this information.

8.67Witness evidence of abuse experienced in the Schools is summarised in the following chapter, much of which was reported to occur in the course of day-to-day life as described above.

1 Freedom of Information Acts, 1997 and 2003.


Chapter 9
Record of abuse (female witnesses)


9.01This chapter summarises the nature and extent of abuse reported to the Committee by 378 female witnesses in relation to Schools in Ireland that admitted girls. The 378 witnesses made 389 reports regarding four types of abuse specified by the Acts.1 They are physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse. Not all Schools were reported for each of the four types of abuse.

9.02The report of abuse by a witness may either refer to a single episode or multiple experiences of being abused in a School. In most instances reports of abuse refer to more than one episode of abuse and more than one type of abuse. One hundred and twenty three (123) witness reports (32%) were of all four types of abuse. Eleven (11) witnesses reported abuse in more than one School.

9.03The chapter is divided into five parts that address each of the four abuse types and what was known about the abuse at the time it occurred. The reports of abuse compiled in this chapter refer to admissions to Schools between 1914 and 1988. Twelve (12) of these witness reports refer to abuse in both Schools and ‘Other Institutions’. The reports of abuse in relation to ‘Other Institutions’ are referred to in Chapters 12-18.2

9.04For the purpose of compiling this Report, witness evidence is presented by period of discharge as follows: pre-1960s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Witnesses who were discharged in one period may have spent time in care in the previous decade(s).3

Physical abuse

The wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child.4

9.05This section describes witness evidence of actual incidents of physical abuse, non-accidental injury and lack of protection by failing to prevent such abuse, given in evidence by witnesses to the Committee. Witnesses described being abused by many means including being beaten, punched, bitten, kicked, slapped and bodily assaulted by hand and by implements, being force fed, physically restrained, burned and subjected to deliberate physical cruelty. The Committee heard disturbing accounts of severe assaults causing injuries.

Nature and extent of physical abuse reported

9.06There were 383 reports of physical abuse given in evidence to the Committee by 374 witnesses (99%) involving 39 Schools. Witnesses reported being physically abused by religious and lay staff and other adults who were associated with the Schools. Witnesses also reported being physically abused by co-residents. The number of witness reports heard in relation to physical abuse in different Schools diverged widely:

  • Three (3) Schools were collectively the subject 144 reports5
  • Eight (8) Schools were the subject of 12-18 reports, totalling 119 reports
  • Nine (9) Schools were the subject of 6-10 reports, totalling 74 reports
  • Nineteen (19) Schools were the subject of 1-5 reports, totalling 46 reports.

9.07In most instances, reports of physical abuse were combined with reports of other types of abuse. The following table illustrates the combinations of abuse types and the frequency with which the different combinations were reported by witnesses:

Table 32: Physical Abuse Combined with Other Abuse Types – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Abuse types Number of reports %
Physical, emotional and neglect 226 59
Physical, emotional, neglect and sexual 123 32
Physical and neglect 20 5
Physical and emotional 8 2
Physical 3 1
Physical, emotional and sexual 2 1
Physical and sexual 1 (0)
Total reports 383 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

9.08One hundred and twenty three (123) witness reports (32%) were of all four types of abuse. With six exceptions every report of abuse made by witnesses included reports of physical abuse and, as indicated, physical abuse was most often reported in conjunction with emotional abuse and neglect (59%). In 126 instances (33%), physical abuse was also reported with sexual abuse and the Committee heard three witness reports of physical abuse only.

9.09As with male witnesses, the largest number of reports made to the Committee relates to witnesses discharged during the 1960s. Table 33 shows the distribution of witness accounts of physical abuse across the decades covered by this Report:

Table 33: Number of Physical Abuse Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Decade of discharge Number of physical abuse reports %
Pre-1960s 132 34
1960-69 175 46
1970-79 69 18
1980-89 7 2
Total 383 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.10Physical abuse was a component of the vast majority of abuse reported in all decades and 46% of physical abuse reports refer to witnesses who were discharged from Schools between 1960 and 1969. It is noted, however, that approximately 50% of the witnesses discharged in the 1960s were in institutional care for most, if not all, of the previous decade.

Description of physical abuse

9.11The forms of physical abuse reported by witnesses ranged from being smacked on the hand to being beaten naked in front of others. They described being hit, slapped, beaten, kicked, pushed, pinched, burned, bitten, shaken violently, physically restrained, and force fed. The Committee also heard reports of witnesses having their heads knocked against walls, desks and window ledges, being beaten on the soles of their feet, the backs of their hands, around their heads and ears, having their hair pulled, being swung off the ground by their hair, and made to perform tasks that they stated put them at risk of harm and danger. The locations where physical abuse was most frequently reported to have occurred included dormitories, refectories, landings, corridors, classrooms, churches, offices, kitchens, work areas and recreation halls.

(We were)… beaten everywhere, bang your head off the wall, pinch your cheeks, beat you with a cane…. She …(Sr X)… would grab you and hit you.

I remember once I got a big yellow blister on my hand, it was really painful…. Normally when you got a beating from someone you had to hold your hand out for a slap like that … (demonstrated outstretched palm)… not always of course, some of them would hit you anywhere on the legs or anywhere. … She … (Sr X)… said “Why are you holding your hand out like that? Give me the other hand”….You have to have 10 on that hand and 10 on the other. I couldn’t part with this hand, it was yellow and throbbing it was, and she forced it open and slapped it. The blister burst, I’ll never forget the pain.

9.12Further forms of physical abuse described by witnesses involved being made to kneel for hours on hard surfaces, both indoors and in outside yards, being locked in confined and dark areas such as coal houses, furnace rooms, animal sheds, broom cupboards and fridges, made to stand for lengthy periods and being doused and immersed in cold water.

9.13The physical abuse described by the majority of witnesses included both detailed accounts of particular beatings and more generalised accounts of the daily experience of being hit and otherwise physically abused or witnessing others being abused.

Implements of physical abuse

9.14The most commonly reported implement used to physically abuse a resident was some type of a wooden stick. One hundred and sixty six (166) female witnesses reported being hit or beaten with wooden sticks, blackthorn sticks, rulers, pointers, window poles, wooden spoons and other kitchen implements, chair legs, wooden crutches, hurley sticks, cricket bats, coat hangers, towel rollers and sally rods. A further 77 witness reports were heard of being hit or beaten with bamboo canes. ‘They would hit you anywhere, the nuns, with a wooden spoon, a silver spoon or a cane. I remember I had the stripe of the cane on my leg, the mark.’

I remember getting the spoon, the wooden spoon. Sr …X… was running after me and I was running from her, you would be all stinging and raw where she hit you. You would be sore.

9.15Ninety nine (99) witness accounts were heard of being beaten with leather straps, including cinctures, some ‘with strings attached to them’ and thin straps on occasion referred to as whips. In addition there were a further eight accounts of witnesses being hit with large Rosary beads and crucifixes that nuns wore at their waist.

9.16There were 37 witness reports of being beaten with brushes of various kinds, including hand brushes, sweeping brushes, hairbrushes and yard brushes.

Once she … (named lay care staff)… came into the dormitory and another girl and I were talking, she went and got a wooden hairbrush and she came and pulled down my pyjamas and she whacked me on the bottom. She whacked me so hard it was impossible to sleep afterwards, and the next day it was still sore.

9.17Having objects such as a wooden statue, metal tray and knives thrown at them was reported as a physical abuse by a small number of witnesses.

9.18In addition to being hit, witnesses reported that, at times they were burned, had water thrown over them or were held under water, as described:

  • Nineteen (19) witnesses reported being put into cold or scalding baths or showers.
  • Twelve (12) witnesses reported having water thrown over them, five of whom were scalded with hot tea or water.
  • Eight (8) witnesses reported having their heads held under water, including two whose heads were held under a cold running tap.
  • Five (5) witnesses reported being burned with hot pokers or by having their hands held to a fire or on a hot stove.
  • Two (2) witnesses reported having their fingers held to electric sockets.

One of the girls she was very sick. I let her come into my bed one morning, she was very, very ill. They brought me down to the shoe room, they stripped me off, they threw cold water over me … (prior to severe beating)…. It was the shoe room you know where all the shoes were, even now if I get the smell of shoe polish, the feeling of enclosement, it was awful.

9.19Six (6) witnesses gave accounts of nettles being used by nuns when punishing residents. They described being pushed into patches of nettles, hit on the legs with them, and, in one instance, their bed being full of nettles. ‘Sr …X… put nettles in the bed of the girls who wet the bed.’ Other witnesses described being pinched with pliers, jabbed with a knitting needle, hit with shoes, a shovel, wet dishcloths, bunches of keys, serving spoons, scissors, electric cord and the treadle belt from a sewing machine.

Circumstances of physical abuse

9.20Witnesses described being beaten and otherwise physically abused for many reasons and for no reason at all, which created an environment of pervasive fear. They described physical abuse in the context of being punished for some misdemeanour, real or perceived, or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. ‘No reason was needed, I was hit because I could be hit.’ Witnesses who had little or no family contact, those who were described as orphans, were reported to be most vulnerable to harsh physical discipline.

9.21The most commonly reported circumstances that precipitated beatings were: bed-wetting, rule breaking, ‘stealing’ food, perceived failure at work or educational tasks, soiled or torn clothing, disclosing abuse to others, talking, untidiness, answering back, running away, left-handedness, indiscipline, being cheeky, talking to boys, appearing to engage male attention, having fun and refusing to eat. Other behaviours for which witnesses reported being physically abused included: perceived misbehaviour of younger siblings, babies in their care crying, being sick, linking arms with another resident and not getting up in the morning when called. As one witness said: ‘I suppose I was bold, but how bold can a child of 9 be?’.

9.22There were consistent reports from witnesses of particularly harsh and humiliating methods of physical punishment and abuse for certain behaviours, for example bed-wetting, running away, school work and not meeting the required standard for hygiene and personal care.

Bed-wetting and soiling

9.23One hundred and seven (107) witnesses (28%) reported being beaten and otherwise physically punished for bed-wetting during their time in Schools. The Committee also heard a small number of accounts of physical abuse for soiling. There were accounts heard of severe abuse for bed-wetting and soiling by witnesses discharged in all decades up to and including the 1980s. It was reported as routine for residents to have their beds inspected in the morning and those with wet sheets were punished. Witnesses reported being beaten for bed-wetting in the morning and/or in some Schools again at night, either on the hands or bare buttocks, with a cane, strap or wooden brush. Witnesses described the usual procedure for managing wet bedclothes was to take the wet sheets from the bed and either carry them to the laundry or to a drying room. Twenty three (23) witnesses reported standing with their wet sheet on their head or shoulder outside the Sister’s office, often that of the Resident Manager, waiting to be beaten. Twenty seven (27) witnesses also reported being made to wear their wet sheets during breakfast, to the classroom or while saying the Rosary.

If you wet the bed, Sr …X… made you stand out at the bed with the sheet over your head, if you fell asleep she would come out with the stick. She hit you on the back and then you would be so sore you couldn’t sleep.

You’d be hammered, I used to get killed for it …(soiling the bed)…. Sr …X… with a cane she used to call me into a small room, she’d be pacing up and down, she would lay into me.

Every night you …(bed-wetters)… would have to stand at the end of your bed, holding on to the bed, she …(lay care staff)… would tell you to face straight ahead, in your nightdress, she would hit you with a steel coat hanger, other staff would hold up the nightdress. If you got into bed and cried you would have to get out and the same would happen again.

I started wetting the bed. I don’t remember wetting the bed before I was about 6 or 7. There were about 30 of us in the dormitory, only a handful of us wet the bed. We had to stay with the younger ones until we stopped wetting the bed and in my case that was about 10 or 11…. We had long brown mackintoshes … (rubber sheets)… under our sheets, I remember pulling the sheets off so you wouldn’t wet the sheet, if you wet the mackintosh maybe nobody would notice. We had to bring our wet sheets to the girl in charge who would swipe you across the face with it and bring you in to the dressing room for a flogging. I remember trying so hard not to wet the bed…. I remember sitting on the toilet and falling asleep, going back to bed and still waking up soaking wet.

9.24Witnesses described the distress they experienced observing their younger siblings being physically punished for bed-wetting. Many described protecting them from beatings by any means, including pretending that they had wet the beds themselves and taking the punishment instead of their siblings. They also described hiding wet sheets and trying to dry sheets in advance of an inspection. In some instances witnesses reported swapping their sibling’s wet sheet with that of another resident who was then punished instead.

The girls who wet the bed got beaten. I never wet the bed but my sister did and my older sister and I used to get up early and make sure her bed was dry so that she didn’t get hit, the babies who wet the bed got beaten. We would change her bed. I know it’s a horrible thing but we would change the bed with someone else, so that she did not get hit and if we didn’t get time we’d change her with our own bed and we’d take the beating. We just didn’t want her to get hit, she was only a baby. The punishment was, beaten with a leather strap all over. The nun used to get a big girl to go around and check what one was wet, what one was dry. You couldn’t save everyone you know.

9.25Other methods of punishment described for bed-wetting in a small number of Schools were being locked in a cupboard, put into cold baths, beaten with nettles, and put into clothes dryers and other confined spaces. Six (6) witnesses from one School reported being made to spend the night outside in the pig sty or locked under the stairs as punishment for bed-wetting.

Classroom education

9.26The Committee heard evidence from 58 witnesses of being physically abused in the classroom. They reported being hit on the back of the legs, knuckles, backs or palms of hands with sticks, canes, rulers and straps. Witnesses stated that the precipitants for punishment included, not giving the right answer, academic inability, talking, ‘being cheeky’, inability to speak Irish, left-handedness, and making mistakes, for instance in needlework or playing a musical instrument. Witnesses who attended ‘outside’ school in the local area frequently stated that they were beaten for being late and not having homework done as a result of the competing demands on them to do domestic chores in the School.

There was one nun, a teacher, who beat me black and blue, there were lumps and bruises on the back of me hands. All this beating was over Irish lessons which I never used since.

I was left handed, they used to tie my hand. You were told to pick your stick, you were told to pick out your bamboo …(to be beaten with)…. The more you screamed the more you got beaten…. If you pulled back your hand you got an extra beating.

9.27A number of witnesses reported being beaten every day in class because, due to learning difficulties, they were unable to learn.

I had an awful problem in the classroom, I had a problem reading. The more you made mistakes … it was terrible … she …(Sr X)… would humiliate you, and it stays with you. Sr …X… used hit me with this long belt, they used to have this long belt, they didn’t care where they hit you it was just wallop, wallop.

Work

9.28Forty seven (47) witnesses reported being physically abused in the context of work activities in the Schools. They described being required to work, both inside and outside the Schools, in many areas, in the kitchens, laundries, bakeries, workrooms, gardens, farms, bogs, convents and residences of clergy, from as young as five years of age. Witnesses reported being beaten as they worked scrubbing and polishing the floors of corridors, dormitories, refectories and staircases, and being beaten for not working fast enough or to the satisfaction of whoever was overseeing the work.

There was the scrubbing, the drying, the polishing and if there was one speck you would have to do it all over again, she … (lay care staff) … would then hit you. She had total control, the nun just passed through, they were in the convent, they had nothing to do with us. I hated 3 o’clock in the afternoon because I had to go back to the work and they … (town children) … were going home … from school, you were going back to her. You got beaten for nothing, she had free rein. Sometimes it would be a wooden brush, hair brush or a wooden spoon from the drawer. She also had a leather with a buckle she would hit you with it, but not with the buckle, the other end of the belt.

We would be put down in the dining hall, a massive big room, down on your knees, this would be a punishment, scrubbing, constantly on your knees. That was a punishment, you couldn’t get up out of there until it was all clean, clean.

9.29Witnesses reported being physically abused in the performance of other domestic tasks such as not getting fires lit in time to heat water, scorching clerical vestments and religious habits, cutting themselves while slicing loaves of bread, dropping crockery, not chopping enough sticks or carrying enough coal, getting their clothes dirty while carrying coal, dropping trays while serving visitors in the parlours and burning bread in the bakery.

9.30It was consistently reported that residents in charge of younger co-residents were punished for any perceived transgressions committed by the children for whom they were providing care. Witnesses reported being punished if their ‘charge’ wet their bed, wet or soiled their clothes or in other ways failed to do what they were expected to do.

The older girls, we would have “charges”, would be in charge of the younger girls. We would have to get up in the night and take them out to the …toilet…. If they happened to wet the bed you would get beaten for it. They couldn’t help wetting the bed, but you got beaten for that…. If your charge was found with lice in their hair you would be punished for it, you were supposed to keep one another’s hair clean.

9.31The Committee heard evidence that some work activities involved safety risks for the residents, for example being given responsibility for lighting and maintaining furnace fires, carrying heavy pots of boiling water and food, cleaning windows on upper floors and being sent alone to work for people who were unknown to them. Other witnesses reported that being taken out of class and being deprived of recreation was punitive. Certain work tasks were considered physically abusive in themselves; for example, four witnesses reported having to clear blocked drains and toilets with their bare hands on a regular basis as physically abusive.

I was seldom allowed out to the yard to play with the other kids. I remember that I was washing nappies, doing the washing, servile work, out in the … yard, breaking sticks, I was about 9 or 10 maybe. The working continued until I left. I remember being out in the … yard, and to the best of my memory they were like floorboards, piles of old floorboards, like from old buildings and we had to chop them up into small sticks for the fire. I was in possession of a hatchet, I remember hitting it off the concrete and watching the sparks fly, thinking maybe I’d like to be hitting something else. We’d be out there hail, rain or snow. I’d be burned in the summer and soaked in the winter.

At 12 years I was taken out of school to work. I got the 9 toilets to do …(cleaning toilets)… then I had to work in the kitchen…. Then there was the chickens we used to have to put the head of the chicken under the handle of a brush and twist its neck, you know, then it would be dead and we used to have to put it in a bucket of hot water to pluck the feathers. I never saw the chickens after that, I don’t remember ever eating chicken. I used to see other girls … (when working)… and I’d see them in the summer holiday, and they would be typing but I didn’t, I didn’t get that chance. … I don’t know why.

Personal care

9.32One hundred and thirty three (133) witnesses cited various aspects of personal care as the focus of physical abuse. Torn or dirty clothing was reported to provoke punishment, as did losing hair clips, shoe buckles, hair ribbons and handkerchiefs. Witnesses also reported being beaten if they failed an inspection for cleanliness following bathing or washing. Others reported that they were beaten for not having their socks pulled up properly, poor posture, for wearing a bra and for having long, untidy or lice infested hair.

We washed our feet at night time in very, very cold water, it was out in a back yard…. There would be a couple of old towels there to dry them. You then went in and had to kneel down for the inspection. There was this lady there …(lay care staff)…. If there was one speck on your feet, she whipped you across the legs with a cane and you were put out again. If there was a speck on your sheet the Reverend Mother would come up and you were lined up for a thrashing…. She had a certain way of doing it. She’d get the lady to hold your hand and she’d beat you until she was tired and then she’d beat the other.

One lay member of staff …X… she was cruel, she was absolutely cruel. There was one punishment she gave me that I will never forget it in my life. She used to say “hold your head up”, she was very nasty. She got my hair and she tied it and she pulled my head back like that … (demonstrated hair being tied to belt at back holding head up in fixed position) … and she got a string and she tied it up. Oh the pain of it. So my head was up like that, held like that for a couple days, that is why I will never forget it. The nuns knew of it but they gave her a free hand.

9.33Thirty seven (37) witnesses reported being beaten for having soiled sheets or pants and/or seeking sanitary protection when menstruating. Facilities for managing menstruation were widely reported as poor and witnesses described being fearful of asking for sanitary protection. This fear inevitably led to clothes and sheets being soiled, and consequent punishment. The lack of toilet paper and washing facilities were reported by witnesses to contribute further to soiled underwear.

Queuing up for your underwear once a fortnight, I always dreaded it. They would check your underwear and if they were soiled you would get whacked for it with a hand brush, 21 times. It was …named lay care staff… who done it. … So on Wednesday night you would wash it and wear it wet so that you wouldn’t get hit.

The washroom was known as the most fearful, there was no escape…. If the toothpaste was all gone by the end of the year you got beaten. Then there was the underwear, you all had to undress in front of everybody and then you would have to walk up to her …(lay care staff)… with your underwear, if it was stained you had to wear it on your head and stand there and then you got beaten by her.

9.34Head lice and scabies were reported as contributing to the risk of physical abuse in the form of head shaving, hair cutting and ‘body-painting’ with white emulsion. The manner in which these treatments were undertaken was the source of many witness reports of physical abuse. The emulsion caused skin irritation and was reported to have been applied in a rough manner with large brushes.

9.35Fourteen (14) witnesses who were discharged prior to 1970 reported having teeth taken out without any anaesthetic. Witnesses reported that crying when teeth were being extracted led to physical abuse by accompanying staff members in a number of instances.

Rule breaking

9.36The Committee heard evidence of witnesses being physically punished for rule breaking. Examples of rule breaking were talking during ‘silent periods’, running in corridors, entering places that were out-of-bounds, fainting or coughing in church, getting out of bed at night, being in another resident’s bed, talking to boys and being thought to seek male attention and talking to town children. Examples of being punished for rule breaking included the following witness accounts:

It was a cruel harsh place…. It was illegal to go out. … Our letters were always opened and read, she …(Mth X)… asked “who posted this letter you wrote to your mother?” She came into the dining hall where we eat our meal. … I knew I was in deep trouble. Sr …Y… came right up to me and told me “you posted the letters, why didn’t you own up?” I said I was afraid, she said to me “you go right up to Mth …X…”. She was outside walking, I told her I posted the letter, she drew out and she hit me across the face several times and “now”, she said, “go down and stand up on the table in the refectory and when I go down I will deal with you”. I went down and took my shoes off and stood up on the table. She came down and told me to go up to her room. She sent …lay care staff… to get the cane, she beat me and beat me and beat me, it went on for weeks every time she would pass, she would be walking, she beat me on the legs with a cane. Once when I felt faint I went to pass out, they said I was as white as a sheet, I heard her say “it’s not my fault I didn’t do anything to her”. … It was Mth …X… she was the one who would do all the beatings, after that she began to ease off on me, she got …lay care staff… to help, if …lay care staff… wasn’t around she did it on her own too.

Well this night she …co-resident… was having fits and I was frightened and I got into the bed of another girl. The nun come up in the morning and found us, she made us sleep on the concrete floor, locked in the cloakroom for 3 nights for getting into the bed of another girl. We didn’t know what we had done wrong.

9.37Rules of silence were enforced in most Schools at some part of the day. Witnesses discharged in the period up to 1970 reported in many Schools it was routine for work and most day-to-day activities to be conducted in silence, as described:

The silence was terrible, we suffered in silence, hours and hours of silence, worked in silence and got a severe beating if caught talking.

9.38Witnesses described how as children they were forced to lie in their beds in certain positions including: on their backs with their arms crossed over their chests, on their right side, arms crossed and facing the chapel or with their arms crossed on top of the bedclothes. Inspections were carried out and children woken and, in some instances, physically punished if found not lying correctly.

You had to sleep with hands out like this …(demonstrating position)… and your fingers touching you shoulders it was like that and it was very uncomfortable, if you moved you got a beating.

9.39Witnesses reported that they were punished for answering back, being assertive, defending others or attempting to intervene on their behalf in the course of a beating. These behaviours were described as frowned upon and heavily sanctioned.

9.40Refusing to eat was another reported precursor to punishment as it was generally expected that all food would be eaten. Witnesses described nausea, distaste and illness as reasons for refusing to eat. Forty one (41) witnesses reported being forced to eat, frequently by having their heads held and mouths prised open. Seven (7) witnesses reported being beaten for refusing to eat and eight others reported being physically forced to eat regurgitated food.

I remember sitting at the table and, excuse me now, but being forced to eat my own vomit because you were not allowed leave the table until you eat, if you didn’t eat it I would get a slap for retching. Sr …X… hit on the head. They used to hit with the ring they had on their finger or with the knuckles on the head or with a steel comb. The food would be there the next day and it would be left there until you eat it, you would be days without eating and there would be mould on it, so you would have to eat it.

9.41Taking food from the kitchen, pantry, fields, gardens, scrap buckets and animal houses was regarded as rule breaking and punished accordingly. Twenty two (22) witnesses reported being beaten for ‘stealing’ food. All reported that they took the food because they were hungry or in some instances because it was irresistibly appetising as in the case of scraps from the convent kitchen or the priests’ breakfast tray.

I was hungry, I took an apple. … I took it off the ground, one of the nuns caught me … and she gave me a slap on the face … and she said “when you come in I want to see you”. I was kind of afraid, I was kinda confused. I said to myself “will I get over the railings or what will I do?” … Anyway they called me out and 6 nuns held me and they cut my hair …crying…. I just can’t believe that some people would do that to me. I don’t know why they done that, if I had done something, I don’t know why they done it, I did nothing wrong, I was hungry.

Absconding – running away

9.42Twenty one (21) witnesses reported running away for reasons including physical and sexual abuse. Eleven (11) witnesses who ran away reported being severely beaten when they were returned to the School. Nine (9) of these witnesses were returned by the Gardaí and described often being greeted warmly on their return and later beaten by one or more Sisters when the Gardaí had left. Five (5) witnesses reported being beaten in a small room separate from the other girls.

9.43Witnesses consistently reported that residents who absconded were severely beaten in a small number of Schools either naked or partially clothed when they were returned. The public nature and severity of the beatings were described as traumatic, serving as a caution against absconding and leaving a lasting impression on those who witnessed them.

The police took us back, it was the second time I ran away. I was stripped to my knickers, Sr …X… was supposed to hold me and she started beating me as well as Sr …Y…. I was 13 years, I was beaten in the rec in front of everybody, it did not happen in that way again.

9.44Other punishments for absconding reported by witnesses included three witness accounts of being locked in small rooms and given bread and water or cocoa for several days after running away. Other witnesses described seeing co-residents following such beatings with their heads shaved, bruised and marked. A number of witnesses reported having their hair cut or head shaved as a punishment for running away.

They cut my hair … they had this big thing, a blade, you know like an old man shaving, one of the nuns just had this thing on my head like a man for shaving himself.

I suppose we were about 9 or thereabouts, 3 girls from the orphanage got out, they ran away and got about 12 miles…. They were caught by the Gardaí and brought back. Not that night but maybe the next night, we were all brought to this inner parlour. … There was tiered seating in each parlour … we had to sit and watch. They …(Sr X and Sr Y)… were there, and Sr …Z… was brought over from the convent, this was all planned, she was to beat these girls who ran away. Sr …Z… she was really, really cruel we were terrified of her, Sr …X… and Sr …Y … and she took out the leg of a chair, it was the leg of a chair, that’s as true as I’m sitting here sitting looking at your face, she took it out from under her garb, and she lashed into these girls and we were all terrified. We were spectators, an exhibition was made out of them and she beat those girls into pulp for running away. She took the leg of a chair back to the convent with her because they did not want us to see it. That has stayed with me, to this day I have nightmares about it.

Specific practices used in physical abuse

9.45Witnesses reported that staff at times employed severe practices that increased the traumatic impact of the physical abuse to which they were subjected. The most frequently reported such practices were ‘thrashing’, delayed punishment, being beaten by more than one person and in front of others.

Severe beatings and thrashing

9.46Reports were heard of witnesses being severely beaten, the reason for which was not always clear to them. A number reported being severely beaten following disclosures of abuse, running away, and rule breaking. Other beatings were reported to be unpredictable and generally attributed to a small number of the named religious and lay staff. The most severe forms of such beatings were attributed to nine nuns. These beatings were generally referred to as ‘thrashings’, ‘whippings’ or ‘floggings’ and were described as physical assaults that were often administered in front of others.

9.47The Committee heard 69 witness accounts of beatings by more than one person in relation to a small number of Schools, including nine that referred to witnesses more recently discharged in the 1970s. Such beatings were by two or more staff beating the witness simultaneously or one beating the witness while others, including co-residents, held them down. The role of the second person was either to hold the child being beaten or to participate in the beating. The public nature of these beatings was described by witnesses as a further component of the abuse that had a lasting traumatic effect. Twenty eight (28) witnesses reported being stripped of all their clothing to be beaten and another 41 witnesses reported being beaten partially naked either privately or in front of co-residents in areas including the dormitories, refectories or classrooms. Witnesses also reported being restrained to be beaten; for example, seven witnesses reported that their wrists were tied to the frame of the bed that they were lain across, either naked or with their nightdress pulled up.

9.48Others described being made to bend over chairs or other furniture to be beaten on their bare bottom, backs of their legs and backs. Attempts to escape from the beating resulted in being beaten more severely. Witnesses reported that severe beatings at times caused injury, drew blood and generally left the witness marked with bruises, welts or red marks. One witness described her bottom looking ‘like a plaid skirt’ after a beating.

She … (Sr X)… brought me upstairs, she’d throw you on the first bed inside the dormitory door, she put me across the bed naked, it was always naked, herself and Sr …Y… and tied me to the bed with a sort of a tweedy rope. She had this thing of tying you to the bed, an iron bed, you know, and you couldn’t move then… She would beat you with the leather strap and count to 100 as she was beating. Then she’d say “get up and go down and do your homework”. I know I was beaten often with a strap but I was beaten like that 5 or 6 times. If you cried you got worse so I learned not to cry.

She …(Sr X)… literally took off your underwear and got one of the bigger girls to hold your hands and another held your legs and literally walloped you until you were bleeding and you were hot and sticky and you went to bed and slept that off if you could. … (It would)… leave bumps on you.

If you did something bad during the day you would be laid across the table in the refectory, you would be beaten on the behind with the cane and anywhere else if you used your elbow to protect yourself. I was sent to the middle of the room, with all the children standing around so they could see. The other girls would be in the refectory, you would be beaten on the behind, your skirt lifted up. She …(Sr X)… would have them there watching you, some of them would be crying, they would be scared.

After school I was told to go and wait at the top of the stairs, to a small room where Sr …X… and Sr …Y… would make you kneel with your knickers down. They would beat you on the bare backside with a stick, sometimes you would have to hold each other down. If you were on your own they would hold you by the hair … 6 severe whacks with a stick, if you jumped around you would get more.

9.49The Committee heard evidence from 31 witnesses of what they believed was a loss of control by staff to the point where other residents or staff intervened to protect a resident. They described the person beating them as ‘in a lather of sweat’ and ‘out of control’. In relation to the most severe beatings witnesses described nuns being very angry and being in a rage. A small number of witnesses described being beaten to the point that they feared for their own lives and/or thought that the person beating them would collapse or suffer a heart attack.

I remember her putting that cane in water and then whacking us, the cane had a crook and she would catch us around the neck. Mth …X… she would loose control her eyes would roll, she would really flip, she would be in a sweat, her face would be so red.

Delayed punishment

9.50Witnesses from a small number of Schools stated that at times the more severe beatings were administered in a deliberate and planned manner. They described being made to wait, sometimes overnight for beatings by the Resident Manager or other religious staff. In a number of Schools it was reported that the Resident Manager publicly called out the names of residents who were to be beaten, at a later time, by another Sister. They reported that being sent to wait in a particular place generally indicated a more severe beating. Witnesses variously reported being ‘sent to the office’, to ‘wait by your bed’, ‘stand on the landing’, ‘stand in the refectory’ and ‘wait outside the chapel’. Fifteen (15) witnesses reported being left waiting for lengthy periods of time, sometimes in the dark, naked or in their nightdress, to be physically punished. Others described waiting with co-residents for their turn to be beaten. Some witnesses described the waiting as often worse than the beating.

She … Sr …X… would hit you with a cane in public, but she would hit you in private too. She would make me go to the dormitory and wait by my bed, I knew then it was going to be a bad one. … I’d have to get into my nightdress, and wait and when Sr …X… would arrive I’d have to take it off. She’d beat on the bare bottom, she’d work up such a sweat I thought she was going to get a heart attack. She’d … be breathless, no matter how you yelled you were sorry, you weren’t sorry enough I guess.

She …(Sr X)… had cuffs in her pocket, she’d take the cuffs out, we used make them, things you know you would put them up over your sleeves to protect whatever they had. She pulled the skirt up, they had a big wide skirt you know, and she’d pin the veil back over her shoulder like hair. She was getting herself ready, and she took her time doing it eyeballing me all the time, then she’d take out the strap, all rolled up in her pocket she carried it with her all the time on her, the keys were on a strap, she’d hit you with them, big huge keys too.

Injuries

9.51Witnesses made 136 reports of sustaining injuries as a result of physical abuse. Many witnesses reported more than one injury and 109 (80%) of the reports refer to admissions prior to 1970. The injuries included broken bones, head injuries and damage to eyes and ears, lacerations that required stitches as well as injuries to their backs, legs and arms. Thirty three (33) witnesses reported that they attended hospital with injuries received following physical abuse by religious and lay staff, eight of whom said that no questions were asked about how their injuries occurred.

  • Fifty seven (57) witnesses reported bleeding and/or being marked with welts and bruises following physical assaults.
  • Nineteen (19) witnesses reported receiving injuries to their head, four of whom lost consciousness.
  • Eighteen (18) witnesses reported being attended by a local doctor for treatment of their injuries, including witnesses who had partially severed earlobes reattached.
  • Thirteen (13) witnesses reported being left untreated following physical assault and injury.
  • Thirteen (13) witnesses reported receiving eye or ear injuries following assault with a strap, stick or brush.
  • Sixteen (16) witnesses reported broken noses or bones in their hands or arms.
  • Ten (10) witnesses reported being scalded, burned by a hot poker or having their hands held over a fire.
  • Nine (9) witnesses reported that as a result of beatings they were unable to sit, walk or move a limb for a time.
  • Six (6) witnesses reported injuries with knives, in some instances requiring stitches.
  • Four (4) witnesses reported treatment for infections caused by imbedded splinters and brush bristles as a result of beatings.

My wrist broke, it was a nun broke it with a hurley … (while beating witness)… there was metal bands around them. She whacked me, she caught me there … (indicated spot on arm)… oh the pain it was awful, I was cheeky or something. When it’s going to be bad weather it hurts.

She …(Sr X)… had a pointer stick, you would have to put out your left hand and then your right. One time, after a beating from her I had to go to the infirmary and …(Sr Y)… she put iodine on it …(injured arm)… for me and I had to wear a sling on my arm, she made a timber sling from wood for me.

Two nuns …Sr X and Sr Y(beat me)…. I was in bits, Jesus Christ, it was just awful. They left me all night, it was cold there …(shoe room)… the next morning they took me out, I was in bits I was all black and blue…. They took me to the infirmary and the nun there said “my God we are going to have to get her to hospital”, they said “no”. They left me in the infirmary.

9.52The Committee heard from a number of witnesses that they were denied visits from their parents or were kept in bed, out of sight from visiting family members and inspectors, including seven witnesses who gave evidence of being hidden from visiting inspectors, because they were bruised or otherwise injured following beatings.

9.53There were 16 reports from witnesses of injury in one particular School, including three accounts of being unable to walk following a severe beating and four accounts of head injury. One witness reported being unconscious following a beating by two Sisters and then being hidden from the visiting doctor. Another witness reported the following experience of being severely beaten in the same School:

Sr …X… she took me by the top of the uniform and pulled me into the kitchen she gave me 16 of the best across the knuckles with the pantry roller…. At first I couldn’t feel the pain because I was after being in such pain with the chilblains. Then she said “16 on the back”…. She didn’t get to finish the 16 on my legs the sweat was running off her so much. It was only when I went to move I collapsed, I couldn’t move with the pain, my knees were twisted…. She called in 3 girls to help me up to my bed and there I stayed for almost 3 months. I couldn’t move with the pain in my hands and my legs and I never even got a tablet. She told me not to open my mouth or if I did I’d get worse. I was warned to keep it to myself, I had an accident that was it.

9.54Five (5) witnesses from another School reported injuries, including two who gave accounts of hospital admissions for head injuries in the 1960s. There were no injuries reported in any other period for this School. It is of note that in both this School and the School mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Resident Managers at the time were identified by witnesses as the perpetrators of many reports of severe beatings and abuse.

Reported abusers

9.55Three hundred and seventy four (374) witnesses identified 354 people by name as physically abusive. Witnesses reported being physically abused by a variety of staff, religious and lay, who they understood were engaged as Resident Managers, teachers, nurses, care and ancillary staff. It should be noted that Resident Managers or their designated deputies were authorised as Disciplinarians, as regulated.

9.56In addition to reports of physical abuse by both religious and lay staff, there were a small number of adults not employed as staff, but associated with the Schools who were named as physical abusers. Witnesses also reported being abused by co-residents. In addition to those named as physically abusive by witnesses, there were six religious staff, 20 co-residents and 11 lay staff who were identified by their position but not by name.

9.57The following table lists by position held those reported as physical abusers by witnesses:

Table 34: Position and Number of Reported and Named Physical Abusers – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Position held by named physical abusers Males Females
Religious
– Authority figure including Resident Manager 0 54
– Care staff 0 130
– Teacher 0 42
– Ancillary worker 0 15
– External priest or other clergy 4 0
Lay
– Care staff 0 50
– Teacher 0 14
– Ancillary worker 2 15
Weekend or holiday placement carer 1 2
Work placement provider 0 2
Co-resident 0 23
Total 7 347

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.58As Table 34 shows the majority of those reported as physically abusive were female religious staff, reflecting the staffing profile in institutions in the period up to the 1970s. The witnesses described the different staff by name and according to their understanding of the staff person’s position and role within the School.

9.59The term ‘care staff’ is used for the purpose of this Report to describe religious and lay staff whose main contact with the witnesses was in the context of their everyday care. Those described above as care staff were in charge of the dormitories and activities of daily living such as washing, dressing, meals and recreation. Care staff were described as having a more supervisory function and the ancillary workers were described as having designated tasks such as working in the laundries, kitchens or the Schools’ grounds and farms. Witnesses generally believed that care staff employed in the Schools prior to the 1970s did not have professional training and reported that a small number were ex-residents of the Schools. Authority figures were generally religious staff who held what were perceived by the witnesses to be positions of authority. They were described as ‘in charge’, Officer in Charge, Sister in Charge, Reverend Mother or Resident Manger. The external male clergy who were described as physically abusive were reported to be priests and others of higher rank who at times provided a pastoral service to the School.

Religious (staff and others)

9.60Witnesses named 241 religious Sisters and four members of the clergy as physically abusive. The Committee heard evidence about a small number of Schools where named religious staff were reported as physically abusive by many different witnesses and in other Schools single witness reports were heard about many named abusers. For example, three Schools were the subject of 144 (38%) physical abuse reports, 72 of which were made in relation to two Sisters.

  • Four (4) Sisters were named as physical abusers by 125 witnesses.
  • Seventy six (76) Sisters were named as physical abusers by between 2-9 witnesses.
  • Five (5) Sisters were named as physical abusers by between 10-20 witnesses.
  • One hundred and sixty (160) religious, 156 Sisters and four members of the clergy, were named as physical abusers in single witness accounts.

9.61Among the 241 religious Sisters reported as abusive, 54 were identified as authority figures or the Resident Managers in charge of the Schools and 130 were described as care staff. In addition, 42 Sisters were described as teachers and 15 as ancillary workers occupied in the kitchens, laundries, sewing rooms and on the farms. The four members of the clergy identified as physically abusive were reported to have pastoral and other roles within the Schools and were described by witnesses as physically abusing them in different circumstances. A witness who was constantly punished for bed-wetting reported that she prayed and asked for guidance to stop bed-wetting. She reported the following consequences:

I went to one nun and said “I had this dream that I saw God coming off the cross and he won’t let me wet the bed anymore”. I got a belt with her hand across the face. So she marched me down to the priest, made me go to Confession, I was to denounce the devil and all my sins. … When I went in to make Confession I knew something was going to happen. I said “I saw God and he said I wasn’t going to wet the bed anymore”. I was made make a Confession, it was the same priest as said Mass every day. He brought me into the …room… and he said “denounce the devil or you will go to hell”. … I said “but Father, I did see God and he said he won’t let me wet the bed anymore”. He made me bend over on a chair it was like a bishop’s chair, and he lashed me. He made me take down my underwear. … Next day I told them that it was a dream, I had told her it was a dream.

Lay care and ancillary staff

9.62Witnesses identified 79 female and two male lay staff as physically abusive. As indicated in Table 34, 50 of the female lay staff were described as care workers and 14 were teachers. In a number of girl’s Schools the title of ‘teacher’ was ascribed to lay staff who were not involved in a formal educational role.

9.63Ten (10) of the named lay care and ancillary workers were described by witnesses as former residents who it was believed were reared in the Schools and had spent their lives in the institution. Many witnesses expressed sympathy and understanding for that group of staff, who were employed in both care and ancillary roles within the Schools. Nine (9) female lay staff, including some former residents, were the focus of 70 witness reports and were recalled as extremely harsh in their dealings with witnesses and other residents. ‘She was a lay worker Miss …X (lay care staff)… used to hit us with the big keys, she was kind of a supervisor. I thought I was never going to get out alive.’

When you got older you were allocated the task of looking after her …(named lay care staff)…. You would have to go into her room and tuck her into bed and then you would sometimes have to sleep in her room in the other single bed and you would be terrified that your breathing would waken her. You’d have to dust her room, mind her make up, and bring her tea in bed if she ever took a day off. I used to live out my life wondering how will I escape a beating, how will I escape being sent to bed without anything to eat? It could be a random outburst, somebody getting a beating for raising your eyes, for getting your hat wet.

9.64Two (2) men employed as tradesmen and general handymen in the institutions were reported to have been physically abusive, one of whom was reported to have assisted a religious Sister, at her request, to beat a witness.

Co-residents

9.65Witnesses reported that in a small number of Schools there was pervasive bullying and in many instances it was stated that bullying occurred with the knowledge and awareness of staff. Fifty three (53) witnesses reported being beaten or otherwise physically abused by co-residents, 23 of whom were identified by name. There were another 30 reports heard by the Committee of physical abuse by older co-residents who were not identified by name.

Two girls …(co-residents)… hit me with a broom and cut my eye, I’ve got scars to prove it…. I thought they were going to kill me. I went to the hospital, I remember the doctor, Dr …X…. He asked me what had happened but I was too scared to tell him in case I’d get beaten again, I told him I fell because you’d be scared. I had stitches …(displayed mark to Commissioners)…. No one ever said anything about it, the nuns were never there…. I mean I was covered in blood and my sister asked me what happened, my sister took me to the hospital.

An older girl …(named co-resident)… she made my life hell …crying…. She got the sweeping brush one day, she brought me up to where the turf was and she said “I am going to beat you until you tell me you are afraid of me”. Oh, she used beat me so much. She’d say “you get me bacon, eggs and sausage” and she knew well I could never get that …crying…. I used get into the little hole, you know where the chickens get in, at least I would have eggs for her …crying…. I was so afraid, she was cruel.

9.66Witnesses reported that older residents were supported by the staff to maintain discipline and that they were also involved in administering punishment. In the absence of staff supervision in some Schools older girls were described as having the task of caring for co-residents in the dormitories and recreation areas. Many of the beatings by co-residents reported by witnesses were in the context of older girls being left in charge of babies and young children whom they physically punished for bed-wetting and various perceived misdemeanours. Older girls were also reported to be involved in beating younger residents while working alongside ancillary care workers.

Other reported abusers

9.67Witnesses also reported being physically abused by individuals who were neither staff nor co-residents while in holiday or weekend placements. It was a commonly reported practice in a number of Schools that the Resident Manager or those in charge made arrangements for some residents to spend holidays with or work for local families. The Committee heard three accounts of witnesses who were hit or beaten when on weekend or holiday leave with such families.

The families we were sent out to, the first one, her husband was a nice man. One time she was hitting me and her husband said “you can’t be doing that”. … I remember my time there being very, very unhappy, every time I was due to go I would always be sick. From the time we would arrive there she would talk to Sr …X…. When she …(Sr X)… would be gone she …(the ‘foster’/‘holiday’ mother)… would hide my sister and tell me she was gone, I was 6 or 7, even younger than that. I used to feel sick and start getting sick, then she would let my sister out and she would tell me it was only a joke. One time I got sick and left a bit of vomit on my hair, she clattered …(hit)… me for that.

9.68Two (2) other witnesses reported being beaten by employers in work placements, the witnesses had been placed there during the school holidays. In each instance the witnesses reported being hit as a reprimand for unsatisfactory work.

Sexual abuse

The use of the child by a person for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of that person or another person.6

9.69This section summarises the evidence provided by witnesses of being sexually abused for the gratification of others while a resident of the Schools. The reported abuse ranged from contact sexual abuse, including vaginal and anal rape, to non-contact abuse such as enforced nakedness and voyeurism. Recounting sexual abuse to the Committee was described as a difficult experience for witnesses, who spoke in as much or as little detail as they wished when describing the abuse they experienced. Some witnesses struggled to find words to express the details of what happened to them while others were able to provide full and at times disturbing accounts. The descriptions provided were sufficient to clarify the acute or chronic nature of both contact and non-contact sexual abuse.

Nature and extent of sexual abuse reported

9.70Reported abuse ranged from inappropriate fondling and touching to oral/genital contact, vaginal and anal rape. There were 128 reports of sexual abuse from 127 female witnesses (34%).7 One witness reported that she was sexually abused in two different Schools. Witnesses described their experience of sexual abuse as either acute or chronic episodes occurring throughout their admissions in the Schools. Witnesses reported being sexually abused by religious and lay staff in addition to other adults, the majority of whom were understood to be directly associated with the Schools. Witnesses also reported being sexually abused by co-residents.

9.71The frequency of sexual abuse reports varied widely between 35 Schools:

  • Two (2) Schools were collectively the subject of 37 reports.
  • Seven (7) Schools were the subject of 5-8 reports, totalling 43 reports.
  • Twenty six (26) Schools were the subject of 1-4 reports, totalling 48 reports.

9.72One hundred and twenty three (123) reports were of all four types of abuse combined, as shown below:

Table 35: Sexual Abuse Combined with Other Abuse Types – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Abuse types Number of reports %
Sexual, emotional, neglect and physical 123 96
Sexual, emotional and physical 2 2
Sexual, emotional and neglect 1 1
Sexual and neglect 1 1
Sexual and physical 1 1
Total reports 128 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

9.73There were no reports of sexual abuse alone and, almost all reports were of sexual abuse combined with physical abuse, neglect and emotional abuse.

9.74The following table details the distribution of sexual abuse reports, according to the witnesses’ discharge period:

Table 36: Number of Sexual Abuse Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Decade of discharge Number of sexual abuse reports %
Pre-1960s 22 17
1960-69 64 50
1970-79 35 27
1980-89 7 5
Total 128 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

9.75Sixty four (64) reports (50%) of sexual abuse were made by witnesses discharged from Schools in the 1960s. It is important to note that approximately half of the witnesses discharged in the 1960s were in institutional care for most, if not all, of the previous decade. It is also of note that a higher proportion of the abuse reports by witnesses discharged in the 1970s and 1980s were of sexual abuse; for example there were eight reports of abuse from witnesses discharged in the 1980s, seven of which were of sexual abuse. By comparison there were 178 reports of abuse from witnesses discharged during the 1960s, 64 of which were of sexual abuse.

Description of sexual abuse

9.76The secretive and isolated nature of sexual abuse together with witnesses’ experience of having their complaints disbelieved, ignored or punished contributed to the environment in which sexual abuse was reported to have occurred. Witnesses reported that the culture of obeying orders without question together with the authority of the adult abuser rendered them powerless to resist sexual abuse. Witnesses further reported that the fear of punishment, the threat of being sent to a more restrictive institution or their siblings being removed to another School also inhibited them in resisting, reporting or disclosing sexual abuse. Some witnesses spoke for the first time about being sexually abused during their hearings with the Committee.

9.77Witnesses reported sexual assaults in the forms of vaginal and anal rape, oral/genital contact, digital penetration, penetration by an object, masturbation and other forms of inappropriate contact, including molestation and kissing. Witnesses also reported several forms of non-contact sexual abuse including indecent exposure, inappropriate sexual talk, voyeurism and forced public nudity. Witnesses gave accounts of being sexually abused both within the Schools and in other locations while in the care of the authorities in charge of the particular institution. They reported being sexually abused in many locations, including: dormitories, schools, motor vehicles, bathrooms, staff bedrooms, churches, sacristies, fields, parlours, the residences of clergy, holiday locations and while with godparents and employers. The Committee developed a classification of the different forms of sexual abuse described by witnesses that are shown in the following table:

Table 37: Forms and Frequency of Sexual Abuse Reported – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Forms of sexual abuse Frequency reported %
Inappropriate fondling and contact 102 38
Enforced nakedness/ voyeurism 52 19
Vaginal rape 27 10
Forced masturbation of abuser by child/mutual masturbation 22 8
Attempted rape and associated violence 15 5
Kissing 14 5
Vaginal penetration by objects 10 4
Digital penetration 8 3
Oral/genital contact 7 3
Indecent exposure 6 2
Anal rape 3 1
Other 8 3
Total 274* (100)**

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some witnesses reported more than one form of sexual abuse

**Some rounding up/down was applied

9.78Vaginal and anal rape, forced masturbation, oral/genital contact, various forms of vaginal penetration and attempted rape with associated violence accounted for 92 of the witness reports made to the Committee. Five (5) witnesses reported that they sustained injuries as a result of the sexual abuse to which they were subjected.

9.79One hundred and two (102) other witnesses gave accounts of what was recorded as inappropriate contact including touching and fondling of breasts, genitalia, and buttocks.

9.80The application of white lotion for the treatment of scabies was reported by 10 witnesses as a form of sexual abuse. The witnesses described both religious and lay female staff applying the lotion, paying particular attention to their genital area and breasts and passing derogatory remarks about their bodies. Four (4) witnesses reported being forced to wash the breasts of female religious staff.

9.81Thirty five (35) witnesses from 16 Schools reported the practice of being stripped naked to be beaten as sexually abusive and stated that this happened most often in view of others but occasionally in private. Two (2) witnesses reported being observed by a workman and a priest in the course of naked beatings.

She …(Sr X)… would lay you across the bed and give you unmerciful beatings. I remember one day she had hit me on this side so much that I had to move and turn around, there was this priest there, and I looked around, and he was smiling.

9.82Non-contact sexual abuse also included enforced nakedness that witnesses considered voyeuristic. Seventeen (17) witnesses described the manner in which they were made to stand in line without clothes waiting for a bath while being observed by staff and co-residents as sexually abusive. This practice was reported consistently from four Schools for both pre- and post-pubertal residents.

9.83Six (6) witnesses reported being subjected to indecent exposure by men including clergy who visited their Schools and men in families where they were sent to work or for holidays. The other form of non-contact sexual abuse reported by eight witnesses included being exposed to inappropriate sexual conversation and adult sexual activity.

Circumstances of sexual abuse

9.84Witnesses consistently reported that sexual abuse occurred in an environment of fear and secrecy. Sexual abuse was also described as prevailing in circumstances where special relationships of trust existed between the abusers and those responsible for the welfare of those they abused. In particular witnesses commented on the relationship between religious Sisters and clergy. One witness stated ‘He …(Fr X)… was always around the School, morning, noon and night, including bath time and bedtime. He was in the School for all meals’. Witnesses who had little or no family contact formed the majority of those who reported being sexually abused among the female cohort. These witnesses were believed to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of harsh discipline. Sexual abuse was also reported to have occurred in the absence of appropriate supervision, particularly in holiday and work placements in the community, and when adults from outside the School, understood to be in positions of trust, were given unsupervised access to residents.

9.85The culture of fear engendered by persistent physical abuse, affectionless discipline and inadequate supervision provided circumstances where witnesses reported being sexually abused without recourse to protection or appropriate intervention. The following sections describe particular features of the circumstances in which female witnesses reported being sexually abused.

Threats

9.86Fifty three (53) witnesses described how abusers forcibly coerced them to comply with and remain silent about sexual abuse by means of verbal threats and actual violence. In the most extreme instances witnesses reported that their lives and the lives of their siblings were threatened. One witness described being taken down to the furnace room when she was a young child by a workman and told he would put her in the fire if she told anyone their ‘secret’. A witness who reported being raped, by a named lay ancillary worker, on a number of occasions was silenced by threats:

He …X… got us back to his house, said he had a sandwich for us. After that he used to follow me around the place, the nuns would have to be blind not to see this. He threatened to burn down the School and threatened to kill my sisters, so you went to bed at night petrified, thinking he was going to break in and burn down the School. You were just petrified, so if I didn’t go to his house, this is what he would do, burn down the School and kill my sisters. He …(witness described anal rape)… several time over years …crying…. It stays with you, it sticks in my mind, and the threat to burn down the School.

9.87Another witness reported that she was frequently sexually abused by a visiting external child welfare professional who threatened that her sibling would be placed for adoption if she told anyone about his abuse of her. The Committee heard evidence from three witnesses of sexual abuse by this man.

Mr …X… he sexually abused me, we used to have to go and see him, we had a sick room for children who were sick, we used to have to go in there …crying…. He used make, you know, make me …crying… take off all my clothes and used to make me lie on the floor …crying…. It started happening, um, it seemed quite a long time after my First Holy Communion and then it stopped then when I got my period. He was always on his own. I think Mth …Y… was probably somewhere around. … He probably used to come and go as he pleased, he used bring me chocolates. He used to say “this will be our little secret, if you do tell anyone we will send …witness’s sibling… for adoption”. I was frightened to death, I never ever said anything. It happened more than once.

9.88Thirty seven (37) witnesses reported being sexually abused by men in families where they were placed for holiday or to work. Many reported that the fear of being returned to the Industrial School, sent to a Reformatory School or transferred to a laundry or psychiatric hospital was the most common experience. Many witnesses reported that it was generally known there were ‘worse places’ where girls were sent when they were thought to have disclosed abuse or misbehaved. The threat of being ‘sent away’ was a potent incentive to which several witnesses reported they responded by enduring the abuse to which they were subjected.

Abuse by more than one person

9.89Twelve (12) witnesses reported being sexually abused in what they believed was a deliberate manner by more than one person simultaneously. Nine (9) of those accounts referred to abuse within the Schools, eight of which referred to combinations of male or female lay staff with religious staff. The other report was of abuse by a priest and a Sister. Three (3) reports referred to abuse by other adults that occurred while in the care of, but external to, the School, on work or holiday placements.

9.90Five (5) of the above witnesses reported being abused by being molested and digitally penetrated by combinations of religious and lay staff, both male and female. Three (3) of those witnesses reported being sexually abused on different occasions by two religious Sisters, a member of the clergy and a lay male care worker. The other two witnesses reported being sexually abused on a number of occasions by pairs of female lay care workers. One witness also reported that episodes of sexual abuse perpetrated by two female lay staff were associated with physical violence during which she was stripped of her clothes and beaten. Another witness reported being restrained by two male ancillary workers in a farm shed while she was sexually assaulted. The men were employed by the Sisters as farm workers. Another witness gave the following account of being sexually abused by a lay care worker:

I was sexually abused by a nun and a carer … (lay care staff)…. He was supposed to be in charge of the boys section. He had no business over with the girls. There was a nun with him …Sr X and lay care worker… she would come into the room with him. You didn’t need a nun to wash you at 13 years of age, but she did, she would fondle you in the bath and examine you and get you ready for him …. He used then collect me from boarding school and he used do it … touching, fondling and then you would have to masturbation…(masturbate)… him…. I remember even telling Sr …Y (Resident Manager)… and she told me to keep the rug over my legs in the car.

9.91Two (2) witnesses reported being sexually abused by lay female staff members and other adults, one by lay female care workers and their female friends, the other by a lay female care worker and an older male resident in the institution. Two (2) witnesses reported being raped and otherwise sexually assaulted by pairs of men while they were placed by the School with ‘holiday’ families. In one instance the men were farm workers employed by the particular family where the witness was placed. In the other instance the men lived locally and were known to be aware that the witness was from an Industrial School. They threatened her that she would be sent back to the institution if she told anyone that they had abused her. Another witness described being sent to work for a family during school holidays where she was sexually abused by two female members of the family. She reported being molested and forced to witness the sexual activity of adults.

Inducements

9.92There were 11 accounts of witnesses being given inducements or bribes in return for either compliance or silence following incidents of sexual abuse. Money and sweets were the main inducements reported by witnesses. Pennies, sixpences, half-crowns and ten-shilling notes were received from two local priests, two workmen and a doctor. One witness reported being so worried about being asked where she got the money that she threw it away before she returned to the School. Another witness reported being given a gift by the person who sexually abused her which she treasured as it signified some kindness to her and was her only personal possession. Another witness was given items of clothing by a man who abused her over a period of time. She described how good it felt to own nice things that were both new and fashionable. The witness remarked on the fact that none of the staff questioned how she had obtained these items.

Reported abusers

9.93One hundred and twenty seven (127) witnesses identified 188 people about whom there were one or more reports of sexual abuse in relation to 35 Schools. One hundred and thirty two (132) of those individuals were identified by name. The other 56 reported abusers were not identified by name but by what witnesses understood to be their position in the institution and they are included in the total number of sexual abusers described below. It is possible that there is some overlap between those identified by name and those who were not named.

9.94Those reported to the Committee as sexual abusers included: religious and lay staff, adult friends and relatives of staff, external clergy and professionals, ex-residents and co-residents. Also reported by witnesses as perpetrators of sexual abuse were adults to whom witnesses were sent for external holiday placements and other adults in work placements or associated with work placement providers. The following table lists by position held those reported as sexual abusers by female witnesses:

Table 38: Position and Number of Reported Sexual Abusers – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Position of reported sexual abusers Males Females
Religious
– Authority figure including Resident Manager 0 4
– Care staff 0 10
– Teacher 0 1
– External priest or other clergy 14 0
– Novice and clerical student 1 1
Lay
– Care staff 2 12
– Ancillary worker 15 0
External professional 4 0
Family member 9 0
Weekend or holiday placement carer 23 0
Work placement provider 17 2
Associate of weekend or holiday provider 14 0
General public 10 0
Ex-resident 2 1
Co-resident 8 38
Total 119 69

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.95The above table shows that 144 (77%) of those identified as sexual abusers were non-staff members, 79 of whom were external to, but associated with, the Schools. They included holiday and work placement providers, relatives and friends of people in those placements, external clergy and clerical students, professionals, and ex-residents. Nineteen (19) other individuals were identified as members of the general public and witnesses’ family members who abused them while on leave from the School.

  • Twenty nine (29) named abusers were reported by 37 witnesses from two Schools.
  • Sixty five (65) other named abusers were each reported by between five and nine witnesses from 10 Schools.
  • Thirty eight (38) named abusers were each reported by between one and four witnesses from 19 Schools.

Weekend, holiday, and work placement providers

9.96The most frequently reported group of adult sexual abusers were members and relatives of families to whom residents were sent from the Schools for either a holiday, weekend or work placement. These were known as ‘holiday’, ‘weekend’ or ‘foster’ families or ‘godparents’. There were 42 men and two women identified by the female witnesses as sexually abusive in these circumstances. It was consistently stated that the religious Sisters in charge of the Schools arranged the placements, visits or holidays, most often without consultation with the resident being placed. It was stated that these placements were generally arranged for residents who did not have their own families to visit during the school holidays. Witnesses consistently reported that there was little or no supervision or follow-up by staff from the Schools in relation to these placements.

9.97Twenty three (23) witnesses reported being sexually abused by the fathers of families to whom they were sent for weekends or holidays. The Committee heard 13 reports of witnesses being sexually abused, by male relatives in seven instances and by sons of the families with whom they were placed in six other instances. Two (2) witnesses reported being raped by both the adolescent son and a friend in their holiday placement. In both of these instances the witness was less than 12 years old at the time.

I remember going back in the car, he …(father in holiday family)… stopped and said to me “if you tell anyone …(about sexual abuse)… I will tell the priest it was your fault”. This is the hold they had over you, you were petrified. The nuns wouldn’t believe you. I told Sr …X… once and she beat me black and blue with a hand brush, she said “you are a terrible liar” and what a good family they were. O God, I can’t even talk about it, I feel sick …distressed…. I couldn’t sleep at night it was on my mind for a long time. I went to that family every month until I …(left the School)… even after I had told Sr …X….

9.98Thirteen (13) witnesses reported being sent by School staff to particular weekend and ‘holiday’ families where they were repeatedly raped or sexually assaulted, despite a number indicating to staff that they did not want to go. Some witnesses complained to the religious Sisters in the School that they did not like going to a particular family where they were being sexually abused and reported that they were not sent again. Other witnesses were told they should be grateful to the family for their kindness and continued to be sent.

9.99Witnesses also reported the practice of residents being sent by staff in the Schools to mind children and do housework for families during school holidays and being sent out to work for local families and clergy in the afternoons and at weekends. Twelve (12) men, including one member of the clergy, were identified as sexually abusive by witnesses in this context. All the witnesses reported being less than 16 years old at the time they were abused. The abuse reported included rape and attempted rape, digital penetration, molestation and genital exposure. One witness reported that she was hospitalised having taken an overdose of tablets in the context of repeated rape by the father of the family in her work placement. The family were professionals and made discreet arrangements for her to be hospitalised, following which the sexual abuse ceased although she continued to be sent to the family. She reported she had told the religious Sisters she did not like going to this family but they insisted she continue.

I think they were very, very stupid, the people in the care home. We were very unhappy going out and they should have known that. I feel very, very angry with them.

9.100Two (2) witnesses reported being sent at different times as the live-in housekeeper for a local member of the clergy who was identified by name. They both described being fondled by him, bringing him breakfast in bed and being forced to observe him washing and dressing himself. One witness refused to go back to his house after she woke to find him standing over her in bed one morning. Witnesses said that this member of the clergy had a reputation for inappropriate sexual behaviour and he was named in three other witness accounts of sexual abuse.

9.101Five (5) witnesses reported being sexually abused during the night by male employers in work placements, two of whom reported being raped in these circumstances. Others described attempted rape or did not describe the sexual abuse in detail.

I was working looking after the children. One time the mother had gone away. She was very nice, he… (work placement father)… was horrible…. One time she left me looking after the children. I was in bed he …(work placement father)… came to me in to bed, I was asleep and he woke me up, and took me to his room …crying…. I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what he was trying to do, he tried to rape me…. I was so scared, I was terrified. I couldn’t tell anyone, there was this threat of being sent to …named laundry….

Religious (staff and others)

9.102There were 31 male and female religious, including a clerical student and a novice, reported as having sexually abused witnesses during their time in Schools. Twenty seven (27) named Sisters and clergy were each identified by individual witnesses as perpetrators of sexual abuse, four others were named by more than one witness. The Sisters were all members of the Schools’ religious Communities. The clergy included priests and others of higher rank from the external community who had contact with the Schools in various capacities. The types of contact sexual abuse reported included vaginal and anal rape, oral/genital contact, masturbation, kissing and inappropriate fondling and touching.

9.103Witnesses reported being sexually abused by 16 nuns, 10 of whom were named. The abuse included contact sexual abuse such as kissing, fondling and vaginal penetration by an object. Sexual abuse by religious Sisters was most often reported to have occurred in collaboration with another person, either religious or lay staff, in the context of personal care and preparing for bed. Four (4) witnesses also described separate instances of inappropriate fondling by Sisters. ‘At night she would come to the bedroom, stroke my breasts, and then give me a packet of biscuits and say something like it was all temptation from the devil.’

9.104Fourteen (14) clergy, 11 of whom were named, were reported by 23 witnesses to have sexually abused them. The reported abuse ranged from inappropriate touching and fondling to vaginal and anal rape. Two (2) of the clergy were each named by five witnesses as perpetrators of sexual abuse, both of the witnesses and their co-residents. One of the priests was described as ‘thinking he owned the convent and us girls’ as a witness described:

He was always there …(Fr X)… when we were getting a bath, he was there all the time. I could see what he was doing to other girls, touching them. Nobody wanted to bring his breakfast in, none of the girls. We used say it to Sr …Y… she was a nice nun, she would have protected us from the other nuns, she was a lovely nun. But she couldn’t see past Fr …X… because he was a priest. We said to her what he was doing and she said “but he is a priest, he is just being friendly”. I rebelled against him then when I was I2 or 13, I fought him and wouldn’t let him go near me. He beat me then with a leather, a belt from his trousers … on the legs, on the hand and the back of the hands.

9.105Six witnesses reported being sexually abused when they were serving breakfast to visiting priests in the parlour. One priest was reported to have his breakfast in the parlour and ‘sent for girls every morning’. A witness described the priest as sitting her on his lap, where he fondled her, kissed her on the lips and gave her money saying ‘you’re a good girl’. This witness reported that the priest was attended at mealtimes by residents ‘who he fondled constantly’, kissing, and touching them. Other witnesses provided the following accounts of being sexually abused by local and visiting priests:

The parish priest used to be always around at the time, around the convent. He used to pick me up in the grounds or if you went in to him with his breakfast, he would put you sitting on his knee and give you a kiss on the mouth. He would put me sitting on his …(genitalia)….

There was a visiting priest, Fr …X… he used to come in holiday time and say Mass. I had the job of polishing the sacristy, I had to peep in to see if he was gone. He called me in. He was a tall man, he called me over, I had to kneel next to him, the next thing I could feel his hand up under my underwear. I nearly died, I thought “Jesus what will I do?” I couldn’t tell anyone. They were Gods, the priests were God, no one would believe you. I was about 11.

9.106Three (3) female witnesses reported being fondled and kissed by a clerical student and a Novice who were on placement in their respective Schools.

Lay care and ancillary staff

9.107Witnesses reported 29 lay care and ancillary staff, 17 male and 12 female, as sexual abusers. Fourteen (14) of those reported were lay care staff, including childcare workers and 15 were ancillary workers. The 14 lay care staff were identified by name; 12 were female and two were male. Six (6) of the female care staff were described as former residents of the School who had been retained as live-in care staff.

9.108Twenty five (25) lay staff, 11 care staff and 14 ancillary workers, were the subject of single witness reports of sexual abuse. Four (4) other lay staff were each the subject of more than one report; one care staff member was reported as sexually abusive by six witnesses and two others were each reported by two witnesses. One ancillary worker was also reported by two witnesses.

9.109The most commonly reported form of sexual abuse described in relation to this group of lay care staff was masturbation and fondling. Witnesses reported at times being taken out of their beds to warm a staff member’s bed, where they were then sexually abused. Others reported being inappropriately fondled on the pretext of checking if they had wet their beds. One witness reported that she was sexually abused on a regular basis by a childcare worker as he drove her to school. The abuse involved fondling and forcing her to masturbate him. The following account refers to one witness’s abuse experience during the 1980s:

Every night he …(lay care staff)… used to come up to the room, there were 3 girls in it, and he used to come up to the room every night and absolutely insist that he would put Sudocreme on us. There was absolutely no reason for it, down with the knickers and all, he insisted on doing it to every one of us.

9.110Witnesses reported 15 ancillary workers as sexually abusive, 12 of whom were identified by their occupations and three others were identified by name. Witnesses reported the ancillary workers as farm workers, gardeners, tradesmen and caretakers employed by the religious staff on the grounds of the Schools. The forms of abuse described were vaginal rape, oral/genital contact, masturbation and inappropriate fondling. As described, the abuse generally occurred in sheds and work areas used by the abuser and most often under threat not to tell anyone. Three (3) witnesses from different Schools reported being sexually abused by ancillary workers who lived on the Schools grounds.

I … used to go out to the garden, there was this man in the fields there … (lay ancillary worker)…. He’d say “howya”. … I said “hello” but I didn’t have anything to do with him. He brought me into a room, it was kinda like a little house and locked the door and … he raped me, he just took every thing off me and he kept saying, “you tell them and I’ll kill you”, I was only about 14. I felt dirty and to this day I feel dirty.

There was a man there, he worked as the…lay ancillary worker… there. He had a shed, he would get you in there and feel your breasts and your privates, feel you all over, he was just …ugh… he used to do it to all the girls. You’d know because all the girls would be talking about it. You daren’t tell the nuns they wouldn’t believe you, they all liked him.

Co-residents

9.111Reports of sexual abuse by co-residents were concentrated in particular Schools at particular periods of time. There were 46 witness accounts of sexual abuse by male and female co-residents, 38 of those reports related to abuse by older girls and eight reports were of abuse by older boys. Two (2) male co-residents who were identified as abusers were described as having learning difficulties. The most frequently reported circumstance of co-resident or peer sexual abuse was of witnesses being abused over a period of time by residents who were understood to have been given some authority over them and who threatened to beat or otherwise physically abuse them if they did not comply. A small number of witnesses reported extreme threats including of being killed, or that their siblings would be beaten, abused or sent away. Accounts of abuse included being taken into an older girl’s bed and fondled, forced to participate in mutual masturbation, and fondled in the process of bathing or providing personal care.

She …(older co-resident)… used take me to the boiler house and make me fondle her. She used not do it to me but make me do it to her. She was cruel, I told …named lay care staff… she told me not to be bothering her. The nuns did nothing about her, they weren’t blind, they saw what was happening.

9.112Most witnesses reported being between seven and 12 years old when they were abused by co-residents and in some instances it was reported that the sexual abuse progressed to become consensual. Witnesses reported that there was minimal supervision in the dormitories or sleeping areas at night in those Schools where sexual abuse by co-residents was identified.

9.113Of note is the higher proportion of reports of co-resident abuse from witnesses discharged during the 1970s and 1980s. Twenty seven (27) reports (59%) of co-resident abuse was reported by witnesses discharged since 1970. A particular feature of peer sexual abuse reported by witnesses discharged after 1970 was the number of accounts of abuse by groups of co-residents. Five (5) witnesses reported being regularly abused by groups of older girls, and in one instance older boys, using coercion to force compliance. The witnesses reported being locked in toilets or taken to isolated rooms and fields where they were sexually abused and personally degraded. One witness reported that she was beaten so badly in the course of such an assault that she had to be taken to a local doctor for stitches. The lack of adequate supervision was consistently reported in the context of peer sexual abuse.

Family members – relatives

9.114Six (6) witnesses placed from their families in institutional care reported being sexually abused by their family members to whom they were sent for weekends and holidays or into whose care they were discharged from the Schools. Two (2) witnesses reported being raped by their fathers to whom they were discharged despite, they believed, there being a known history of violence and incest. One witness reported being sent to an uncle’s house for holidays where she was sexually abused and molested by both her uncle and two male cousins. Another witness reported being fondled and otherwise sexually abused by her grandfather when on holiday leave; she reported another family member was aware of the abuse at the time.

Professionals

9.115The Committee heard evidence from witnesses of abuse by four professionals who were not members of staff, but provided a service to the residents in the School. These individuals were described as taking opportunistic advantage of the witnesses’ circumstances to sexually abuse them.

9.116The professionals identified by witnesses as sexually abusive were three doctors and one external professional with responsibility for child welfare associated with the Schools. The doctors were reported to have fondled and masturbated witnesses in the course of physical examinations. The professional person was reported by three witnesses to have sexually assaulted and raped them.

The …external professional… he was worse than the nuns, Mr …X … even the thought of him makes me cringe. We would go in one at a time in the parlour. … I hated him. … Oh, he was horrible, horrible, ugh, the thought of him …distressed…. Nobody liked seeing him, being sent to him. He’d have papers, I suppose you’d call them files … he seemed to be there a lot, nobody liked him. The nuns were never there, they would knock on the door and put their hand on your back and push you in. Nobody liked him, nobody liked going to him …distressed…. I remember the door opening and that was it.

Members of the general public

9.117Ten (10) members of the general public, all male, were identified by seven witnesses as having sexually abused them by vaginal and anal rape, molestation and inappropriate contact. The witnesses remarked that these men were aware they came from an Industrial School. Those reported as abusive included public service workers, visitors and others whom the witnesses encountered in the course of some everyday activity in association with the School. The consistent theme with these reports of sexual abuse was the lack of due care and protection provided to the witnesses by those responsible for them.

On the way to …named city… for an eye appointment in the ambulance, there was nobody with me there or back. The driver, he made me masturbate him, he put his fingers in me, on the way there and again on the way back. I told another girl, she told the nuns, 4 of them … (Sisters)… beat me.

He… (visitor)…asked us to cane him on the bare bottom with the cane. He wanted to take girls out of…named School…to be nice, I got a packet of Aeros…(sweets)…You never came back saying that…(sexual abuse) …happened.

Ex-residents

9.118The Committee heard reports of sexual abuse by ex-residents who witnesses stated were allowed to return on a casual basis to two Schools following their discharge. Three (3) witnesses described the ex-residents as being friends or having special relationships with staff members; they were said to have unsupervised access to the School and its residents. In one instance the reported abuse occurred over a period of years and continued until the late 1980s:

I was abused …(from)… the age of 6 ’til I was 14. He was kind of a past pupil. … He was friends with the staff. There was a room where past pupils used to sleep, he would come into the room at night, he used to tell me, “you tell anyone and your …family members… will be moved and you will be on your own”. I didn’t eat for a year, I went silent for a year, I went from minding myself to nothing. He was always there. I seen school as my escape…. I’d fall asleep in the class because of all the abuse I was going through at night time. I was afraid to sleep at night but I felt safe in school, one teacher was my first good memory. Someone should have asked what was happening….

Pregnancy

9.119Among the 27 witnesses who reported being raped, four reported pregnancies while still in the care of the School. The witnesses reported that three of those pregnancies proceeded to full term and one miscarried. One witness reported she was sexually abused by a labourer on the farm attached to the School and she became pregnant at 15 years of age. Another witness reported that she was discharged by the School to the care of a male relative when she was 15 years old. She became pregnant as a result of rape by this man and the child was placed for adoption. This adoption was reported to be facilitated by the Resident Manager of the School where she had been a resident.

I had a child then … I will never get over that, that will never go away from me. … You can ask the hospital …named hospital…. I had a little child. I went and told them …(Sisters)… about rape, and they killed me. I told 2 nuns, they put me into …named psychiatric hospital…. I told them, 2 nuns, they said, “no, no, he would never do that”. They killed me, they said, “you are filth, you are filth”. I will never forgive them. I often thought of going out and telling the guards …(Gardaí)… but I was afraid, I was terrified. They said I broke a window, they said I was mental. … After that even the doctor said “I don’t know what you are doing in hospital”…. The doctor said I didn’t need to be there, I went to …named mother and baby home….

9.120A third witness had been sent as a live-in housemaid to the relatives of a Sister from the School. A visitor to the house was reported to sexually abuse her on a regular basis when the family were absent. The witness became pregnant and her child died at birth. The fourth witness reported that she became pregnant as the result of being raped by the father of the family where she was sent to work; she reported that her pregnancy miscarried and that she had to deal with the physical and emotional consequences on her own.

Neglect

Failure to care for the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare.9

9.121The following section summarises witness evidence of general neglect. Descriptions of neglect refer to all aspects of the physical, social and emotional care and well-being of the witnesses, impacting on their health and development. It also describes other forms of neglect that are regarded as having a negative impact on the individuals’ emotional health and development, for example a failure to protect from harm and failure to educate. Neglect refers to both actions and inactions by religious and lay staff and others who had responsibility and a duty of care for the residents in their charge. As the reports of neglect refer to widespread institutional practices, this section of the Report does not identify individual abusers.

Nature and extent of neglect reported

9.122Three hundred and sixty seven (367) female witnesses (97%) made 374 reports of neglect of their care and welfare in relation to 39 Schools.9 Neglect was not reported in all Schools in all decades. Many forms of neglect were reported and include neglect of care, health, education and welfare. The frequency of neglect reports in relation to individual Schools varied, as with the other types of abuse.

• Three (3) Schools were collectively the subject of 141 reports.10

  • Seventeen (17) Schools were the subject of 6-17 reports, totalling 189 reports.
  • Nineteen Schools (19) were the subject of 1-5 reports, totalling 44 reports.

9.123Neglect was reported in combination with three other abuse types in 123 instances. The reports of neglect were principally combined with reports of physical and emotional abuse as shown in Table 39:

Table 39: Neglect Combined with Other Abuse Types – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Abuse types Number of reports %
Neglect, emotional and physical 226 60
Neglect, emotional, physical and sexual 123 33
Neglect and physical 20 5
Neglect and emotional 3 1
Neglect, emotional and sexual 1 (0)
Neglect and Sexual 1 (0)
Total reports 374 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

9.124The following table details the distribution of neglect reports according to the witnesses’ discharge period.

Table 40: Number of Neglect Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Decade of discharge Number of neglect reports %
Pre-1960s 131 35
1960-69 170 45
1970-79 67 18
1980-89 6 2
Total 374 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.125The distribution of neglect reports for the decades of discharge are similar to those reported by witnesses for physical abuse. Ninety six percent (96%) of reports of neglect by female witnesses were in conjunction with physical abuse.

Areas of neglect

9.126This Report categorises neglect of care under the headings of food, clothing, heat, hygiene, bedding, healthcare, education, supervision and preparation for discharge, all categories that were referred to by witnesses with varying levels of detail. As throughout the Report, there was inevitable overlap between the different categories of neglect and other types of abuse. Witnesses described the impact of the reported neglect on their social and emotional welfare, and many reported the particularly vulnerable position of orphans and those who had little family contact.

The girls from the workhouse …(orphans)… they were treated worse, they suffered worse. … When we were out for a walk we would bring them back bits of chewing gum and haws that we found on the hedges and on the ground, we were all so hungry and they didn’t get out. … (Orphans)… clothes were different, big patched knickers, boots with no soles in them.

Food

9.127Hunger, together with the inadequate provision and poor quality of food, was the area of neglect most consistently reported by witnesses. There were 335 witness reports of the food provided to residents being of poor quality and/or inadequate quantity. These reports referred to 37 Schools across all the decades from which there were neglect reports. One hundred and sixty eight (168) witnesses (46%) described being constantly hungry, and at times ‘starving’, while resident in the Schools. The constant state of hunger led to witnesses attempting to supplement their diet in whatever way they could. ‘If you saw anybody eating anything you just went up and grabbed it, we were always hungry.’

A cup of cocoa and one slice of bread for breakfast. Lunch was cold soupy type thing, lumpy potato, you were so hungry you’d eat it. Then in the afternoon it was scraps, bits of stale bread … we’d be killing each other to get as much as we could, trample each other. We were all like vultures, like dogs eating off the ground to get as much as we could. We were so hungry. … You were always looking out for a bit of food, the teacher’s dining room, you’d run in and grab what was left…. Or you’d get the key of the pantry and go in you were so hungry.

9.128Prior to the 1960s many Schools had bakeries associated with the kitchens. Working in the bakeries and kitchens allowed access to the pantry, extra bread and leftover food. Seventy (70) witnesses described taking food, if and when they had the opportunity, as a means of survival. Witnesses reported taking food from the kitchens and pantries and also reported taking fruit and vegetables from the nun’s kitchens, orchards, glasshouses and vegetable gardens. They recalled ‘stealing’ apples and sweets from shops in the town, ‘stealing’ lunches from day pupils and fruit from local orchards. In addition to food taken in this manner 53 witnesses said that they foraged for leftover scraps and took animal food and slops intended for the farm animals or from ash pits in the gardens where kitchen refuse was dumped. Witnesses described fighting with co-residents for the contents of the scrap bucket from the nun’s kitchen. One witness remembered with gratitude a staff member who worked in the School’s staff kitchen:

I never had enough, I used to eat from the bins. There was a nun in the kitchen, she was an angel, Sr …X…. I can honestly say she was an angel, she used to throw food away in such a way that it didn’t get …pause… contaminated you’d say now. She threw it away in such a way that we’d get it, she put it in a place she knew you would get it. She was very good, she’d leave apple skins and something that was nice…. A boiled egg, I used to love, but we got them very rare. I was always hungry. If you were punished you were put starving anyway. I used to be caught picking food out of the bins and you would be put starving, for 2 or 3 days, you wouldn’t be given anything, all meals …(were stopped)… for a couple of days.

9.129Twenty seven (27) witnesses provided reports of seeing and preparing more plentiful and appetising food in the Sisters’ kitchens and dining rooms. Serving food to clergy, staff and visitors in the parlours allowed illicit access to some of this food. A small number of witnesses recalled being sent to post food parcels to nun’s relatives at Christmas time and of potatoes and other food being given to visiting professionals to take away with them.

I was hungry all the time. I was caught robbin’ bread and they were all told not to talk to me. … I was working in the kitchen and you’d see the carved roast for the convent but you never got it. You might get the leftovers if you worked in the kitchen.

9.130Witnesses said that poor supervision by staff during meals resulted in older residents taking food from younger and more vulnerable co-residents. It was also reported that some witnesses took the food and milk provided for infants and younger residents they were looking after in the nurseries.

9.131Twenty two (22) witnesses provided accounts of eating grass, leaves and berries. They reported that they ate field crops including oats, ‘crows’ bread’, ‘bread and cheese leaves’, ‘sally grass’ and juice from rose stems, hawthorn berries and apple cores, orange peels and chewing gum from the pavement. Others reported eating flowers, eggshells, candles, glue and, in the reports of two witnesses, the pink ointment used to treat boils.

I was always going around looking for food. If I was down the town and someone threw away an apple core I would pick it up off the ground and eat it.

9.132Twenty six (26) witnesses reported on the lack of access to drinking water, and stated that drinking from the toilet bowl was their only means of obtaining water. They described being given nothing to drink except what was provided during their mealtimes. This practice was reported in relation to 10 Schools and to have continued in some Schools until the 1970s.

You’d be more thirsty than anything else, we’d drink water out of the toilets, there would be little worms in the water, the older girls would show us how to spit them out like that …demonstrated…. But you weren’t afeared …(afraid)…. It was the nuns you feared.

9.133Reports regarding food from witnesses discharged in the 1970s and 1980s were more concentrated on the type of food than the quantity of food provided. Witnesses said they were expected to eat food they did not like and were not offered any choice in what they had to eat. They also reported that access to food was strictly limited to meal times.

Hygiene

9.134The Committee heard 277 witness reports of poor facilities for the provision and maintenance of personal hygiene in 35 Schools across all the decades, with particular emphasis on those discharged prior to 1970. Many of the hygiene practices were described as primitive and degrading.

9.135The use of communal and shared baths was reported to be a common practice. A small number of Schools were reported to have large communal baths where many residents were bathed together. Others had regular bathtubs that were shared by more than one resident at a time and consecutive groups used the same water. ‘You would line up naked, you would be with your own age group but your dignity was taken, the same bath, same water for everyone.’ Bathing was reported to take place at the end of the week, usually on a fortnightly or monthly basis, and coincided with the distribution of clean underclothes. There were several reports from witnesses discharged before 1960 where baths were provided infrequently in tubs with water carried from the kitchens. Cold-water baths were reported as routine in one School in the pre-1960s period unless the laundry was in operation. In other Schools, cold-water baths were reported as punishment for bed-wetting: ‘Cold bath if you wet the bed, otherwise you had to put on this frock going into the bath in front of others’. Witnesses said that the furnace was lit to provide hot water for the laundry and residents were then bathed in laundry tubs. Witnesses had to dry themselves with large sheets and towels shared by many co-residents. In one School residents were bathed in tubs in an outside building and waited in line without clothes in the open air. By contrast, in other Schools modesty was closely monitored when bathing, residents in those Schools had to wear a chemise when they were in the bath. Older residents were reported to wash younger co-residents under this garment and great care was taken to keep one’s body covered at all times.

You got in to the bath with the chemise and there were 2 nuns holding a big sheet so you got out and went into the toilet to dress, still in the chemise.

9.136Witnesses discharged prior to 1960 reported that in some Schools residents shared toothbrushes, other witnesses reported having no toothbrushes and cleaned their teeth with their fingers dipped in salt. The majority of witnesses had no individual toiletries, including toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, which they reported were put in the bathrooms before inspections and later removed.

9.137Ninety one (91) witnesses reported that arrangements for the management of menstruation were poor or non-existent in relation to almost all Schools across all decades covered by this Report. Witnesses from four Schools stated that there were no sanitary towels provided for their use. Residents were obliged to use newspaper, rags and whatever suitable material they could find as substitutes. In a number of Schools witnesses described being provided with reusable sanitary cloths. In the period up to the 1960s it was commonplace for residents to hand-wash their own sanitary cloths, the adequate provision of which was frequently problematic as they were carefully rationed. Witnesses from 13 Schools reported that in addition to their own, they also had to hand wash nun’s personal garments including sanitary towels. Witnesses stated that the poor facilities for bathing and the changing of personal garments led to considerable discomfort, chapped skin, rashes and offensive personal odours.

And the periods, queuing up for sanitary towels, you got 2 that was it. It was horrible, you would smell. You would wash them out and put them back on wet.

9.138Four (4) Schools were reported to have dry toilets prior to 1960; these toilets were outside and unlit. Cleaning toilets and clearing blocked drains was a work task reported as given to residents without protection for their hands and minimal washing facilities. At night time chamber pots were provided under beds for residents of all ages in most Schools prior to the 1960s. In one School a witness reported that ‘a bucket in a cupboard was the only toilet for 50 girls locked in the dormitory overnight’.

The toilets were always overflowing, it was terrible, we kept …(cleaned)… them, the girls, you had to keep the toilets the same as the floors, we unblocked them. The stench was terrible.

I had charge of the toilets downstairs and they were … filthy, you had to clean them. There was no toilet paper or anything, oh God, they were awful.

9.139Five (5) Schools were reported as getting new indoor toilet and bathroom facilities in the 1950s. Witnesses from more than one of these Schools stated that they were not allowed to use the new facilities for some time after they were installed. They reported that these new facilities were opened for use before inspectors or visitors came but otherwise remained unused.

We had a lavatory room as they called them, but we weren’t allowed use them. When inspectors came there was a towel on every sink and a bar of carbolic soap. There was new bathrooms, but we never used them.

9.140Forty eight (48) witnesses from 12 Schools reported infestations or infections with some or all of the following: head lice/nits, scabies, thrush, ringworm, impetigo and fleas. Witnesses who had head lice commented that the treatment was at times to cut the infected residents’ hair. Witnesses from two Schools reported that they manually picked the lice from each other’s hair. Other treatments included the application of undiluted Jeyes Fluid, paraffin, treatment lotion and fine combing. ‘When we got there …(when first admitted)… we were put into the care of 2 helpers who put us into a Jeyes Fluid bath, who cut our hair, steel fine combed our hair.’ Staff in three Schools were reported to deal with scabies infections by painting residents with a white or purple solution; witnesses reported that they stood in line naked for this treatment and that the same brush was used on many residents. Witnesses reported that spraying residents’ heads and beds with DDT was the treatment for fleas and head lice in six Schools in the pre-1960s period.

There was about 26 beds in each room. The beds were full of fleas, they used to put DDT on the bed. Sometimes it was entertaining, we’d watch it jump and say “look at this one, look at this one”.

Clothing

9.141There were 272 witness reports of insufficient and poor quality clothing in relation to 37 Schools. The reports referred to witnesses discharged in all decades up to and including the 1980s. Witnesses consistently reported that their clothes and footwear were old-fashioned, ill-fitting, uncomfortable and unsuitable for cold and wet weather.

9.142Witnesses generally reported that their own clothes were removed when they were admitted and replaced with clothes that were, at times, of inferior quality. This was a reported practice in the Schools regardless of the condition of the witness’ own clothes. The loss of personal items of clothing was described as traumatic for some witnesses who had been specially dressed for the occasion in new clothes, or their First Holy Communion and Confirmation clothes. The clothes provided were described as uniform and were reported to have often been made in the institution, especially in the period prior to the 1960s. There were a small number of reports from Schools where flour sacks were used to make clothes and underclothes.

9.143Seventy seven (77) witnesses reported having to wear pre-worn, ill-fitting footwear to which many attributed long-standing problems with their feet. A small number of witnesses reported being bare-footed at times when no shoes or socks were available. These reports were from witnesses discharged prior to 1960 when witnesses rarely reported having new shoes. There were 36 reports of bags of second-hand clothes being periodically thrown out on the floor and residents being left to scramble for what they could find.

9.144Before 1970, several institutions were reported to have had ‘Sunday clothes’ including coats and shoes. These clothes were worn when visitors and inspectors came and whenever the residents went out, for example for Sunday walks, to perform in competitions, to attend hospital or to see a doctor. Witnesses also reported that their clothing was generally not adequate for inclement weather and many described being forced outdoors in winter for recreation periods without appropriate clothing, such as coats, rainwear, hats, gloves or scarves, being provided.

9.145Witnesses described underwear garments as loose and shapeless with limited availability of bras for residents in many Schools prior to the 1970s. It was frequently reported that during the early years witnesses were supplied with bodices that were worn tightly bound to flatten their breasts.

I went with a bra on me, and there was an older girl there and she said Mth …X… said “take off that bra” and she gave me this thing …(bodice)… and it had strings on it. It was to flatten me…. I used to be in agony, but they made me wear it.

9.146For witnesses discharged in the 1970s and 1980s clothing continued to constitute reports of neglect and many described being embarrassed by old-fashioned and second-hand clothes that identified them as ‘industrials’ or orphans in the outside world. Nineteen (19) witnesses discharged in the 1970s reported that they did not have clothes of their own and that everything they wore was communal property.

One nun, she was teaching us, I remember her saying we were being stigmatised going to school outside and they would have to do something about it …(get new clothes)…. She used to say it was not nice, she was in the convent and she couldn’t go against them … (Sisters in charge of residents)….

9.147Nineteen (19) witness accounts were heard of the best clothes being given to residents who were regarded as ‘pets’ of staff members while others fought for something that would fit them.

Heating

9.148There were 241 witness reports of poor heating in relation to 35 Schools across all decades. Witnesses described enduring memories of being cold, a particular feature of which was the pain of chilblains on the hands and feet. Chilblains were a common ailment in the pre-1970s period and witnesses reported that the pain experienced after being beaten on chilblained hands and legs was extreme.

9.149The heating arrangements described in Schools during the years before the 1960s were mainly of open turf and coal fires in classrooms and some recreation areas. Witnesses reported that the furnaces used for heating water for the laundries supplied heat to the refectories, classrooms and dormitories in later years and a number of witnesses reported that heating was limited to times when the furnaces were lit for the laundries. Dormitories were generally described as large cold rooms with bare wooden floors and windows. Witnesses also reported that inadequate clothing and bed-coverings contributed to being cold. Reports regarding heating from witnesses discharged in the 1970s and 1980s were mainly concerned with being poorly clothed for cold weather and having to spend long periods outdoors in cold and wet weather.

Supervision

9.150One hundred and ninety five (195) witnesses reported poor or inadequate supervision by staff leaving them unprotected from harm and exposed to abuse. Orphans and those with little family contact while resident in the Schools were reported to have been particularly affected by the lack of supervision. Witnesses stated that ‘orphans’ did not have the protection afforded by visits from parents or relatives or older sisters to defend them from abusive staff and co-residents. The three most frequently reported consequences of poor or inadequate supervision were:

  • Bullying and physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse by staff and co-residents
  • Compromised care of babies and toddlers.

9.151Twenty nine (29) witnesses reported that supervision at play times was inadequate and that bullying by co-residents was a frequent occurrence. Components of the bullying behaviour reported by witnesses included being sexually and physically abused, in addition to being exposed to less direct forms of abuse such as being reported to staff for punishment, forced to do unpleasant tasks and being deprived of food. Supervision in the refectories and dormitories was generally described as minimal, with, in some Schools, as many as 100 residents routinely reported to be supervised by one staff member. Witnesses stated that the lack of supervision in the refectories allowed older residents to have first pick of the food or simply take it from younger residents, who were generally left to fend for themselves.

There was fighting among the girls, there was no supervision at all. On Saturday there would be no staff and the beatings by the older girls … they were terrible, terrible.

9.152The Committee heard 71 witness accounts of negligent care where residents were left in charge of younger co-residents without support or supervision. Witnesses from a small number of Schools reported that residents from the age of eight years were left in charge of babies and toddlers. Some witnesses reported that minding babies was their exclusive occupation and that they were taken out of class for this purpose; others reported being rostered to mind the babies, including getting up at night to feed them. Some were so tired the next day they fell asleep in the classroom. Witnesses reported that staff checked to see that residents had fed, dressed and changed the infants, otherwise there was no ongoing supervision of the ‘charges’ care.

I used to have to look after the babies. I used to have to wash them, feed them and clean them, get them ready for bed. They were like little babies…. You learned, the older girls would show you. I was about 11 or 12 … there were about 6 or 7 babies.

I remember my brother and his girlfriend coming to visit me, he heard he had a sister. I remember it because he brought a cake. They wanted to take me out for an ice cream and they said “no”. I was minding the babies. … I was only a child myself. I used to have to sleep in the nursery with these babies and there was a row of all these babies and you would have to get up in the night, if they cried, or to go to the toilet, or that. You did it a week at a time, there was only one consolation the next week you were allowed to have a lie on….

9.153Twelve (12) witnesses reported being so hungry that they either ate the babies rusks and dried food or took their milk, substituting it with water in the babies’ bottles. Several witnesses expressed regret about their own harsh treatment of babies and commented on feeling conflicted about resenting the infants they were obliged to look after when their own care was neglected. Others felt sorry for the infants and developed close affectionate bonds with those they had cared for over an extended period of time.

9.154Witnesses reported that there was poor supervision in the absence of staff in many of the Schools over different periods of time. Residents from three Schools were locked in dormitories overnight in the absence of a staff member. Witnesses also reported that there were few domestic staff employed and as a result the residents were required to do the housework, including working in the convent and other areas. This work was reported as generally checked by older residents or lay staff.

9.155Most Schools employed some lay staff who were generally believed to be untrained for the task of providing care for children. Witnesses reported that there were some residents retained when they were 16 years old by the nuns to work as lay staff, many of whom were believed to have been in the Schools all their lives. Witnesses expressed some understanding for the frequently harsh behaviour of these staff: ‘They treated others as they were treated themselves’. Witnesses said that lay staff including the former residents received no specific training for their work with children until the 1970s and 1980s when it was reported that staff from certain Schools were trained as childcare workers:

The workers were the same age as ourselves like, if we were 15 they were 18…. They started training when I was there; they used to tell us one day a week that they were going for training.

9.156Witnesses also reported that tradesmen, gardeners and farm workers were employed in most Schools and there were isolated reports of these male ancillary staff being inappropriately involved in the care and management of residents.

9.157A further area of neglect identified by witnesses in the context of poor supervision related to external placements. Witnesses reported being sent to families they had not previously met and were not visited by any staff from the Schools while they were there. In addition to those sent to families for weekends and holidays others reported being placed alone in work settings at an inappropriate age. For example, girls ranging in age from 10-13 years were sent to housekeep for local families, shopkeepers or clergy. Twenty nine (29) witnesses placed with families for holidays or to work reported being sexually and physically abused in such situations where they were vulnerable and unsupervised.

Education

9.158Educational neglect was described by many witnesses both in terms of the standard of education provided and, for some, receiving no education at all. One hundred and eighty seven (187) witnesses reported leaving school with poor literacy skills and no qualifications. Sixty three (63) witnesses reported long-term literacy problems. Witnesses reported that their education was neglected through the competing demands of domestic work, excessive emphasis on religious instruction, fear of punishment in the classroom and being discriminated against as children from an Industrial School. Other witnesses reported that they received no assistance for their learning difficulties and were significantly disadvantaged in later life as a result.

If you weren’t bright they didn’t help you and anyway you couldn’t learn with the beatings. I only learned how to clean and cook. Mth …X… used to say to me “you think you will be a star but you won’t be, the way your mother turned out”. …. When I was leaving Sr …Y… said “don’t turn out like your mother” …(mother had been in laundry)…. I did not know what she meant….

My days were reduced to the laundry and cleaning and scrubbing. You would be getting younger children up and cleaning them and potties …(chamber pots)… etcetera. Then it was cleaning, polishing and scrubbing, cleaning corridors, folding clothes and the laundry…. I left not able to read and I was always embarrassed of my writing, it’s very childlike. Even taking down a message in my job I practice it a hundred times. There was an awful lot of work and no education which is something I always regret. Only a very selective few were sent out to school.

You were constantly told you were a misfit, I had a problem no one could understand, I couldn’t write. There were pets, they got special help with their classes, good looking, sweet little angelic looking girls, they were the pets. I got no help, I asked for it but I wasn’t a pet.

9.159One hundred and seventy eight (178) witnesses (58%) reported that they completed their classroom education by the age of 14 years, of whom 34 reported that they did not attend class after 12 years of age. Eight (8) witnesses stated that they were taken out of class to work full-time before the age of 10 years, including two who reported no memory of ever attending school.

We had some sort of education up until about 7 …(years old)… after that I had no education. After that it was decided who would go to school, outside school …(local primary school)…. I put up my hand, Sr …X… said “you aren’t going anywhere”.

9.160In a number of Schools the strenuous nature of the work, rising early for kitchen or laundry duties, and caring for younger co-residents at night left witnesses tired and unable to benefit from education. Ninety eight (98) witnesses reported being kept from attending class to work in and for the institution when their stated wish was to continue their education. Forty five (45) witnesses reported that they were at times called away from the classroom or came late to class because of chores they had to do beforehand. Others reported being routinely kept out of class on a rotating basis to work in the kitchens and other parts of the institution. Six (6) witnesses reported that they attended class only for the day of the inspector’s visit and that they were otherwise occupied with domestic chores. In the main these reports related to witnesses discharged before the 1970s:

I was a very intelligent child. I would soak up knowledge and really resent not having had the chance to have a really good education. … (I was)… pulled out at 11 and a half or 12 and worked in the orphanage. … Work in the orphanage prevented me studying. I got highest marks in Primary Certificate in the whole school …(local primary school)…(and was)… sent around to the whole school with the certificate.

I was in the secondary school one day, I was there for 6 months, she …(Sr X)… came in and called me out and she said …“Y(named co-resident)… is going today, she is 16 and you are now taking her place”. I was going to work in the kitchen. I was so shocked, I really wanted to stay in school. … I had to go to the kitchen and then I was moved to the farm.

9.161There were reports heard of 17 Schools where residents and local children shared the same classrooms either within the Industrial School or in the local community. In 13 Schools residents were reported to attend class in the local primary, secondary or technical schools and in four other Schools the classes were attended by both School residents and local children. Twenty five (25) witnesses reported educational discrimination and neglect in these circumstances either in the classrooms attached to the Schools or in the local schools. They reported being discriminated against in different ways, for example reporting that they were not allowed to play with or speak to children from the town and often had to sit together at the back of the class. Witnesses also reported that they were referred to collectively by teachers as ‘the industrials’, ‘the orphans’, ‘the house children’ or similar terms. They reported having to wear clothes that distinguished them from the other pupils and being treated as part of a separate group. Witnesses from three Schools reported that as residents of the Industrial School it was their task to clean the local schools’ classrooms and in another School to clean and work in the secondary school’s boarding house.

9.162Many reports were heard of co-residents being given preferential treatment in relation to school attendance, particularly from Schools where residents attended external primary, technical and secondary schools. Witnesses frequently remarked that they were not allowed to go out to school because they were not favoured as ‘pets’ of the religious staff. Forty two (42) of the 83 witnesses who reported attending second level education did so in the period before free secondary education was introduced.

They used to say to us, “3 children would be picked” to go for education. I was bright I wanted to get ahead, I wanted to go to secondary school. I didn’t get the opportunity. Three girls were picked, they were … (pets) ….. I think it was a bit of class distinction, if they came from a better background, or if their aunt was a nun they would be picked.

9.163Witnesses reported that at times their educational opportunities were denied by not having their own school books or the facilities or encouragement to do homework in the evenings. Many reported being denied the opportunity to participate in extra curricular activities and that, having been reared and educated in an institutional setting, the adjustment to attending second level schooling in the local area was a considerable challenge. As a witness said: ‘I didn’t know how to act with people outside the School when I went to the tech …(technical school)’.

Bedding

9.164The quality of bedding provision was reported as poor by 185 witnesses, the majority of whom emphasised being cold in bed. These reports were in relation to 31 Schools across the decades. Poor bedding also referred to lumpy mattresses, insufficient blankets, sheets changed infrequently, mattresses and bedding smelling of urine and no provision made for seasonal variations in temperature. Rubber sheets were reported to be used in place of a cotton sheet in some Schools for residents who wet their beds and were described as being cold and uncomfortable to sleep on. There were reports from three Schools of all residents having to sleep on rubber sheets. Others had to carry their wet cotton sheets all day and sleep on them that night.

9.165Witnesses from a small number of Schools reported having to share their bed with either a sibling or a younger co-resident. For some witnesses there was a comfort in this arrangement; for others it was regarded as unpleasant especially in the context of bed-wetting.

We slept 2 to a bed. I would be up all night clapping the sheet, trying to dry the sheet to avoid a beating for my sister and blowing on it. I never had my own bed. Later I shared a bed with another girl.

Healthcare

9.166One hundred and thirty eight (138) witnesses reported that when they were ill or injured their healthcare was neglected and necessary treatment was not provided. Forty nine (49) witnesses reported being punished, not believed or ignored when ill. Witnesses stated: ‘I got better by myself’ and ‘The nuns always thought we were pretending or were looking for notice, it was a crime to be sick’.

9.167A large number of witnesses reported that ‘no heed was taken unless you were very ill’ and gave accounts of being hospitalised with infections, appendicitis, ulcers secondary to chilblains, rickets, anaemia, and failure to thrive. Ten (10) witnesses reported suffering with severe headaches and episodes of fainting that were ignored by staff. Sixteen (16) others reported having recurrent earaches that were untreated, resulting in infections and perforated eardrums. Six (6) witnesses reported they suffered permanent hearing loss.

9.168A further area of healthcare neglect reported to the Committee by witnesses in the period prior to the 1980s was the lack of investigation by medical and nursing staff who observed or were involved in treating non-accidental injuries in the School, local clinics or hospital settings. Eighteen (18) witnesses reported being attended by a doctor in the School for treatment of an injury, including suturing following assaults, and they were neither questioned about how the injury occurred nor was any intervention made to protect them from further abuse.

9.169A small number of witnesses reported that medical advice was not acted upon and that prescribed medical treatment was discontinued in the School. One witness stated that she was hospitalised with tuberculosis while resident in a School. At her hearing, she provided copies of her medical discharge reports containing specific recommendations to the Resident Manager. The medical report advised that she should be moved to a more protective environment and receive better nourishment; she said that neither recommendation was followed.

9.170The availability of staff to assist and supervise children who were ill was reported to vary over the decades and between different Schools. Twenty six (26) witnesses said that they were put in the dormitories, left alone and unattended while they were sick. In a number of instances witnesses reported being locked into dormitories and infirmaries during the day while they were ill.

9.171One hundred and fifty two (152) witnesses reported attending hospital for treatment, a number of whom were admitted for reasons including childhood accidents and illness such as fevers, tonsillitis, ear infections and lacerations. As previously reported, 33 residents were admitted for injuries following physical abuse.

I went to hospital …(with a broken wrist following beating)…. I had to walk to the hospital, it was 3 quarters of an hour to walk, another girl came with me.

9.172Two (2) witnesses reported they developed osteomyelitis, which they believed was due to the delay in receiving medical attention when they were first symptomatic. In one of these instances the witness reported that the hospital surgeon who saw her as an adult commented on the contribution of avoidable delay to the final outcome of the osteomyelitis in her foot and the need then for surgery. Another witness reported she had part of her hand amputated following an accident with a bread-slicing machine in the School kitchen.

9.173A number of witnesses reported that improvements in health care provision depended on changes of staff and the attitude of the Resident Manager: ‘I was looked after in a kind, loving way if I was sick until I was 12 and then with a change …(of Resident Manager)… it all changed’.

9.174An additional form of neglect reported by witnesses was the failure to provide medical records to them when they were discharged. Twenty two (22) witnesses reported that the absence of any information on their medical history has been a significant problem in adult life. A number of witnesses reported that their medical care was compromised by this lack of information and led subsequently to an avoidance of doctors and medical treatment, as they did not wish it to be known that they were reared in an institution.

Adolescent development

9.175Preparation for puberty was specifically reported by 36 witnesses as an area of neglect through misinformation, lack of education and discussion of all sexual matters. The onset of menstruation was described as a particularly distressing experience for many female witnesses due both to their own lack of understanding about what was happening and the response of staff to their circumstances. Witnesses reported that adolescent development and menstruation were not discussed and that in many instances their attempts to seek advice and reassurance were harshly sanctioned. Witnesses reported feeling that normal bodily changes were faults of some kind. A witness reported that when she started to menstruate, she was sent for by the Resident Manager who gave her a lecture about being dirty, calling her a ‘filthy devil’.

There was absolutely no sanitary facilities for a girl at a certain time of your life, you had to make do yourself. We got no advice at all, we learned from older girls…. We used talk among ourselves. When it …(menstruation)… first happened to me I hadn’t the courage to go up and ask, we were very much afraid to ask …(for sanitary protection)….

After I had my period the nuns kept telling me “you can now have a baby if a man touches your hair”. So when this foster father began touching my hair I thought I was pregnant.

9.176In addition to the distress associated with menstruation in these circumstances witnesses reported being humiliated and abused in response to any appearance of physical development. They reported feeling embarrassed and ashamed of their breast development. Witnesses reported that an aspect of the neglect experienced in this regard was being forced to wear inappropriate garments for the purpose of concealing normal physical development.

When we started to grow breasts, we couldn’t ask the nuns anything, you weren’t allowed grow breasts, I was told my breasts were ugly. … I was friendly with an outside girl and she gave me a black bra, you know … brassiere, we were not allowed wear them. Well she, Sr …X… caught me and she threw me into a room and she beat me black and blue. We were not allowed wear them you know.

I was obviously growing up by now and I had quite big breasts. Sr …X… would come up to me get hold of my breasts and squash them as hard as she could, she would then order me to “flatten them down and stop encouraging” it … “flatten them down, flatten them”. She would scream at me. So I would just try and hold myself in ’til she left me alone. … Then one day she got hold of me and told me she had got me a “roll on”, I thought I was going to get some nylons …(stockings)… and felt very grown up. She said “this will help to keep you in”. … When I put it …(corset)… on she made me haul it up over my breasts to flatten them down, I could hardly breathe and I had to wear this over my breasts for months.

9.177Witnesses reported having little or no knowledge of intimate relationships and being misinformed about basic details regarding sexual matters. Some witnesses, including three who stated they were unable to read, described being handed a book on the facts of life when they were discharged. Others reported receiving minimal education in relation to sexual matters during the 1970s and 1980s. Witnesses frequently stated that they received no sex education and that sexual matters were never discussed by the staff. The absence of open discussion and information and the culture of silence, fear and denial that witnesses described regarding sexual matters in the Schools were reported to have contributed to neglect and abuse on several levels. A witness who was discharged after 16 years in the School, without any preparation for outside life or relationships with men, reported being raped and abandoned on her first date. Other witnesses said: ‘the facts of life were never discussed, I knew it … (sexual abuse)… was wrong but we had no language to tell’.

We didn’t know anything about getting a period. There was nothing about a period only, “if you sit beside a man you get pregnant”. I remember getting a period, I thought something was wrong with me. I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid, I thought “I’ll get into trouble”. There was no one to tell.

We had no sex education, the only sex education we had was about 10 minutes, from the priest. He did a thing on the blackboard to the whole class.

Preparation for discharge

9.178Witnesses reported that with little or no preparation for independent living their discharge from the Schools and transition to life outside the institution was traumatic and, for some, overwhelming. Areas of neglect most frequently reported by female witnesses in relation to their discharge were:

  • Lack of preparation and training in basic life skills
  • Lack of assessment, supervision and follow-up of placements
  • Lack of opportunity to say goodbye to siblings and friends
  • Lack of personal information and related documentation.

9.179A large number of witnesses who had spent most of their childhood in institutional care reported a profound sense of displacement and bewilderment when discharged from the Schools. It was reported as common for residents to be informed they were being discharged on the morning of their departure or the previous evening, without any prior discussion. Most witnesses stated that they left the Schools with few possessions, some reported they were given a suitcase or brown parcel containing a change of clothing, and others described leaving with ‘the clothes we stood up in’. Reports of poor preparation for discharge were heard from witnesses in relation to all decades, including the 1980s. ‘You were shown the door and put out, none of us had anywhere to go. The door was open and you were out with 2 suits and your underwear.’

9.180Most witnesses stated that they left the Schools without necessary life skills, including the ability to handle money, shop, budget, cook, pay bills, use public transport or to participate in the social world beyond the institution. They reported not being given any advice to assist them cope with living outside the institutional life to which they had been accustomed.

After I left I used to sleep in the mart in …local town… for about 2 weeks. I had nowhere to go and so I said I’d go to England. When I went over, you know, I couldn’t give the right change, I just didn’t know …(how to handle money)….

9.181A witness from one School reported that a bequest was made by an ex-resident to the institution to allow each resident to receive a small amount of pocket money each week to foster independence. The witness reported that residents lined up to get the money each week. It was immediately taken back and the residents were informed it was being saved for them. This witness reported that she asked for it when she was being discharged and was told it had been used to buy her clothes.

I didn’t know anything about money. … You don’t know how to go into the shop and ask, you never done daily things, you never done your own washing, so you had to find out …by … trial and error. I remember going into …(department store)… and the girl there helped me, she was great. I had never bought clothes before. I had to learn all this, pay your rent, pay your light …(electricity bill)… and all this, even when you were leaving they should have told us, or got us ready, given us some information but they gave us nothing, we had to apply for everything and then it was different to what you were told in the School.

9.182A number of the 64 witnesses who were discharged to their family home commented on the difficulty they experienced reintegrating with families from whom they had been separated, in some situations with little contact for a number of years. Witnesses described being dropped on their parents’ or older siblings’ doorstep without prior notice or any further contact, follow-up or aftercare. Among the circumstances which confronted witnesses were impoverished living conditions, homelessness, sexual abuse and rejection by families who had become strangers.

9.183Witnesses reported being placed directly in employment without consultation as to what they wished to do. ‘I was still in their grip, they took me, they told me without asking me. They took me to …named city… and put me to work in hospital.’ The limited information provided about where they were going and what work they were expected to do was reported repeatedly by witnesses. They reported not being given any practical advice or reassurance about what their new situation might entail or who to contact if they experienced any difficulties. Witnesses described being handed a train and/or boat ticket, with the address of a prospective employer or relative and left to make their own way to Dublin, London or another city in the UK. The Committee heard a small number of reports of witnesses wandering aimlessly when they arrived until ‘rescued by the Police’ or some kind-hearted person who assisted them in getting to their destination.

9.184Sixty one (61) witnesses reported being abused in work and holiday placements, many of whom emphasised that the lack of adequate assessment and supervision of aftercare left them vulnerable to abuse. Twenty eight (28) witnesses reported being abused in various ways by employers following their discharge, often under threat of being returned to the Schools if they resisted or disclosed their abuse. The types of abuse reported by witnesses in these circumstances included physical and sexual abuse, not being paid and working excessively long hours.

We used to go on holidays and from the first day I hated it. He was all right, the father….. She …(mother in the holiday family)… wanted me to look after the kids and do the work, she was cruel. She made me …(work)…. I was in secondary school for one year, and then I went to the holiday family and at the end of the summer, the School used to phone up and say to come back, this time they did not phone so … the family phoned and the nuns said “will you not keep her, is there not a school there that she can go to?” So they kept me and did not send me to school, I was a skivvy. I was only about 14 and got no more school….

9.185Fourteen (14) witnesses reported being transferred to laundries when they were discharged, with no recollection of any formal transfer procedure. One witness reported being transferred to a laundry as punishment for having a boyfriend; others reported being transferred as punishment for what might be described as assertive behaviour.

I’m pushed up against the wall and they …Sr X and 3 lay staff… had me in on the wall beating the head off me, beating me unconscious. I put me hand out to save myself…. I knocked Sr …X’s…veil off, it was accidental I did not strike that nun. I’m put into this room, it was out in the yard, there was no light in it and I was there until next day. Then I’m taken out by a Miss …Y… a lady she was, a real lady she was a lovely woman, and she told me I was being sent down the country, I was being transferred. She put her arms around me and said “I’m sorry”…. I went down … early in the morning and never got a chance to say goodbye to my sisters…. (Sent at 13 years to work in laundry)

9.186The lack of planning and involvement of witnesses in any discussions about discharge resulted in them having no time or opportunity to say goodbye to siblings and friends. This abrupt ending to their years in care was reported by witnesses to be traumatic. ‘No great goodbyes from what had been my home for 9 years’. Discharges in these circumstances were particularly distressing for witnesses who were leaving younger siblings behind whom they knew were being abused. Others reported that the loss of friendships was distressing, both at the time and in subsequent years, as they never regained contact.

It was the day our …witness’s sister… left, I were sitting on the swing. I were crying, my sister, she just said goodbye to me. I just heard that she was gone for good, she didn’t know herself where she was going. She …(Sr X)… gave me a backhander because I was crying. I split my head. I told them …(in the hospital)… I fell, the nun was there beside me you couldn’t say anything or you’d get worse.

9.187Another witness who had spent several months in hospital following a leg injury was 16 years old when she was ready to be discharged. The witness reported that the Resident Manager of the School where she had previously resided for many years refused to readmit her or offer any further assistance. She was discharged from hospital to the local county home and reported ongoing medical problems that required several subsequent operations.

9.188Many witnesses reported that there remained a consistent lack of preparation for independent living and little aftercare provided by Schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Others reported that there were some improvements and changes in practice and procedures since the 1970s, with planned discharges and some preparation for independent living.

Sr …X… said “it’s time for ye to leave”. I said “what?” She said “I’m going to give ye a few days now, you can finish your Junior Cert and then you have to go”. We …(witness and co-resident)… thought, “what on earth are we going to do, where are we going to go?” We had nothing. Within a couple of days we had found a flat, the 2 of us, we found it ourselves and we left out the door with a couple of suitcases. I had to leave school, I would have liked to have stayed on. I did alright in my Junior Cert, but I had to leave. A teacher in the school phoned up and explained the situation and got me a job.

When I left I wanted to do …training… she …(Sr X)… was giving out about the funds …(cost)…….named lay care staff… persuaded her to let me go. I remember I was brought up to a big city, a place I hadn’t a clue of where we were, I was put into a B&B by Sr …X… and Sr …Y… and she …(Sr X)… gave me a cheque for £200 and I had to find a flat for myself, I had no pots, no pans, nothing, I was on my own. There were times when I was there when I was hungry, a friend from School would give me soup and bread.

9.189Most witnesses who had been in institutional care for an extended period of time reported that when they were discharged they were given little information about the terms of their admission or discharge, their medical history or any of their formal documentation such as educational or birth certificates. The Committee heard 15 reports of witnesses being provided with incorrect information regarding family circumstances, for example being told that their parents were deceased or that they had no siblings. For many of these witnesses such misinformation has continued to be a cause of great distress and unresolved anger:

I applied for my birth cert after I left the School and discovered that my mother wasn’t married. I had been told all my life … (in named School)… that she was dead and that my father died when I was 2. It was a shock, I went looking …(for information)…when I was getting married and the priest put me off…. Since then …(in recent years)… I got the details off the social worker, she arranged for me to meet her … (witness’s birth mother)…. When I met the poor lady, she was a lovely woman, she didn’t want me given up, she was supposed to be paying for me. They …(Sisters)… had her name and details all the time and she lived near, and none of this was told you before you left. They should have talked to us, you had to deal with it all yourself, it …(the information)… was coming through the post, in a flat, on your own, finding out she was alive all the time.

Emotional abuse

Any other act or omission towards the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare11

9.190This section of the Report describes witness evidence of emotional abuse by deprivation of secure relationships, family contact, identity, affection and approval, and by both a lack of safety and a lack of protection from harm. Such deprivations impaired the social, emotional and physical functioning and development of witnesses and were identified by them as disturbing both at the time and in the subsequent course of their lives.

9.191Emotional abuse described by witnesses generally referred to routine practices that failed to recognise the individual needs of children and provide adequately for their care. Practices in relation to personal care, the separation of siblings, and enforced isolation and silence were reported as part of the rigid institutional system. A further component of emotional abuse described by witnesses referred to the constant physical and verbal abuse that engendered a culture of fear. Emotional abuse was described as pervasive and systemic and was less often ascribed to individual staff members. Therefore, while some staff were identified by witnesses, the following section does not include a list of reported abusers.

Nature and extent of emotional abuse reported

9.192The Committee heard 364 reports of emotional abuse by 356 witnesses (94%) in relation to 40 Schools that admitted girls.12 There was a wide variation in the number of reports made in relation to each School.

  • Two (2) Schools were collectively the subject of 115 reports.13
  • Seventeen (17) Schools were the subject of 6-20 reports, totalling 198 reports.
  • Twenty one (21) Schools were the subject of 1-5 reports, totalling 51 reports.

9.193Emotional abuse was reported in combination with each of the other abuse types, physical, sexual and neglect, as shown in the following table:

Table 41: Emotional Abuse Combined with Other Abuse Types – Female Industrialand Reformatory Schools

Abuse types Number of reports %
Emotional, neglect and physical 226 62
Emotional, neglect, physical and sexual 123 34
Emotional and physical 8 2
Emotional and neglect 3 1
Emotional physical and sexual 2 1
Emotional 1 (0)
Emotional, neglect and sexual 1 (0)
Total reports 364 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.194Emotional abuse was reported in combination with all three of the other abuse types in 123 instances. Three hundred and fifty nine (359) reports (95%) of emotional abuse were combined with physical abuse and 126 reports (35%) combined emotional abuse with sexual abuse.

9.195Table 42 below details the distribution of emotional abuse reports according to the witnesses’ discharge period.

Table 42: Number of Emotional Abuse Reports by Decade of Witnesses’ Discharge – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Decade of discharge Number of emotional abuse reports %
Pre-1960s 123 34
1960-69 168 46
1970-79 66 18
1980-89 7 2
Total 364 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.196It is of note that 20% of the emotional abuse reports were made by witnesses who were discharged after 1970, which was similar to those of physical abuse and neglect .

Description of emotional abuse

9.197The main forms of emotional abuse identified by witnesses included: humiliation and ridicule, deprivation of contact with siblings and family, rejection, loss of identity, lack of affection, threat of harm and deliberate exposure to frightening situations. Other forms of emotional abuse included a punitive emphasis on religion, public humiliation and personal ridicule, denigration of family of origin, isolation, criticism and verbal abuse, and the unreasonable imposition of responsibility. There is some unavoidable overlap between the different forms of emotional abuse and between emotional abuse and other types of abuse, particularly physical and sexual abuse.

Personal ridicule and public humiliation

9.198The most consistently reported form of emotional abuse described by female witnesses was humiliation and ridicule. One hundred and ninety seven (197) witnesses described being humiliated and ridiculed by a variety of means including name calling, being humiliated about personal hygiene, being subject to constant criticism, being made to publicly beg forgiveness for alleged misconduct, being made to stand or kneel to eat meals at a penance table, having attention called to physical disabilities or impairments, being forced to stand naked in front of others and having soiled underwear exhibited for ridicule.

9.199The most frequently cited occasion for public humiliation was in the management of bed-wetting. Witnesses who wet their bed described having to carry wet mattresses and walk with wet sheets over their head and shoulders through the School and across the yards to drying rooms, the laundries, or while sitting in the refectories. In three Schools it was reported that witnesses had to drape wet sheets on their shoulders in classrooms shared with local children. Eight (8) witnesses reported that the Resident Manager of a particular School forced those who wet their beds to wear their wet sheet or pants on their head or shoulders as they walked as far as the School gate. Others reported being forced to stand in the refectory with the wet sheet on their back while they ate breakfast or while watching others eat.

9.200Witnesses also reported being humiliated regarding their dress and general appearance. For example, a witness reported being punished by being forced to wear a dress made from a flour sack, which was removed in advance of an inspector’s visit. Others described having to wear ragged clothes to school in the company of children from the town and being teased about their poor attire. Another witness who needed glasses and had been recommended by the doctor to sit in front of the class reported that the Sister ridiculed her in front of the class saying ‘we would not like to look at this ugly girl all day, would we girls?’ Witnesses reported being mocked by staff about their personal appearance and humiliated by having attention drawn to adolescent changes:

One time my sister brought me a bra. Sr …X… made me stand up in the hall in front of the whole school and made me take it off and said “who do you think you are?”

9.201Twenty three (23) witnesses reported enforced public nakedness as a cause of distress and humiliation. They described being beaten naked in front of others, being made to stand in line without any clothes and being bathed with others. Witnesses described the humiliation of being beaten on their bare buttocks and being forced to remove their skirts and pants, or pull up their nightdresses, having to bend over a chair or a desk or being held down on a bed or across a table to be beaten. The humiliation and shame of being observed while being physically abused in this manner was commented on by witnesses:

You got blamed even if you didn’t do it. She …(Sr X)… took my knickers down once …(in front of co-residents)… “let this be a lesson to you all” she said, she put me across her knee. I would have been about 8, and she beat me and beat me with a whip, a whip type stick until I cried.

I’ll never forget that beating, all the girls watching. The worst thing was not the beating but your naked bottom being seen by all the girls, it was so embarrassing.

9.202Fifty four (54) witnesses reported being called derogatory names and being subjected to derisory comments. Others reported being treated with hostility and told they were not liked by anybody. The classrooms and dormitories were the most frequently cited locations of such ridicule, which focussed on academic difficulties, their parent’s impoverished circumstances, their personal appearance and hygiene.

The emphasis was on making you submit, cower, creep, crawl, we were beaten if we were sad, “take that glum look off your face” and if you were happy, “why are you smiling? I’ll take you off your high horse”.

9.203Name-calling by lay and religious staff was reported as a common occurrence and included: ‘devil’s handmaid’, ‘tar babies’, ‘shawlies’, ‘Baluba’, ‘pauper’, ‘tinker’, ‘trash’, ‘dirty stinking trollop’, ‘illegitimate’, ‘slut’, ‘sinners’, ‘bastards’, ‘idiot’, ‘dunce’, ‘thick’, ‘liar’, ‘bandy legs’, ‘wet the bed’, ‘Dublin nobodies’, and ‘street kids’.

9.204One hundred and twenty four (124) witnesses gave accounts of being personally ridiculed, which most commonly involved being ridiculed about soiled bedding and underwear in public by religious staff including Resident Managers. The public demonstration of soiled bedding and clothing was humiliating and a source of great distress. Many witnesses described having their underwear inspected on a regular basis and being punished and publicly ridiculed if they were soiled.

It’s so hard, we had no toilet paper, you would have to stand naked. If your knickers were dirty, as they would be after 2 weeks, you would be beaten, by …Sr X and Sr Y….

Every week we used have to hold up the gusset of the nicks … (pants)… and show it off, if it was marked you used to have to stand out in front of the class. I was so terrified … (that)… I used hold up my clean ones and wear the old ones for weeks.

9.205Witnesses reported that the humiliation of having their soiled pants displayed in public was compounded during adolescent years as signs of menstruation were treated as a grave transgression. Witnesses also reported being called derogatory names in relation to matters of personal hygiene and being subjected to comments that attracted the derision and criticism of others.

9.206Twenty nine (29) witnesses who attended school with children from the local town, frequently referred to as ‘townies, reported being the subject of ridicule and constant criticism in front of their peers. For example, a witness who was a talented musician and was chosen to perform music in public described the confusion associated with being expected to perform well and then being punished for her success.

Mth …X… hit me across the face with her hand and said “don’t get above your station”. You were expected to play …(musical instrument)… well and you were punished if you played well.

9.207The humiliation of being segregated in the class by religious staff, some of whom were reported to have a dual role as carer and teacher, and of being identified as ‘orphans’ was described as being the cause of enduring distress and anger by a large number of witnesses. ‘Orphans go down to the back of the class’.

Sr …X… gave us orphans a dog’s life. It was a living nightmare. She called us the scum of the earth, she refused to teach the orphans …described being excluded from a school pageant….

We were kept separate from the townies, they were warned we could steal. We had a special entrance and were not allowed mix with them.

We sat together, we knew we were different, we were told we were different. Sr …X… said “don’t forget where you come from”. … You were the scum of the earth…. “Get back to the orphanage where you belong.”

9.208Witnesses described being targeted for personal ridicule in many ways, including being made to stand in the classroom wearing a hat with ‘dunce’ written on it or with signs around their necks with ‘liar’ and ‘stupid’ written on them.

9.209There were accounts from five Schools of witnesses being required to kneel down, kiss the floor and beg the Sisters’ forgiveness for perceived transgressions. This punishment was reported to be carried out in front of the assembled residents.

9.210A witness who had been sexually abused within her family described the Resident Manager of the School where she was placed when she was 10 years old telling her co-residents that she was ‘morally dirty’ and that they were not to speak to her or play with her.

Exposure to fearful situations

9.211One hundred and forty-three (143) witnesses described regular, and at times constant, exposure to frightening situations. In the words of one witness: ‘It was pure fear, you would wake up every day and wonder “what’s going to happen to me today?”’. Witnesses described a pervasive fear of being hit and never knowing what might happen next and being constantly apprehensive about the next episode of abuse.

Always screaming, wailing, you would be hearing it as you would be going through the corridor, you would hear the screaming, and you would say “Jesus Christ who is getting beaten today?”

You lived in appalling fear, the most appalling fear, you would be terrified. You did not know at what time you would get a beating. I couldn’t explain to you the fear, it was terrible. There was this nun … she was a very, very wicked woman…. She beat you whenever she felt like it.

9.212In particular witnesses described hearing the screams of girls locked in cupboards and isolated rooms, having to watch young babies being beaten and being themselves locked outside in yards, sheds or in animal houses. For some witnesses the environment of fear was reinforced by death threats against them and/or their siblings particularly in the context of disclosing abuse. Witnesses described the Schools as places with many locked doors and staff who walked around carrying large bunches of keys. The threat of being locked away in isolation in a cupboard, under the stairs or in a room was a daily reality.

There was this girl …named co-resident… she used wet the bed…. Sometimes the girls would have to put her up on the table in the dining room, and they would put this big nappy on her in front of all the girls. She …lay care staff… said she would make an example of her, it was terrible, all the little ones would be crying. At night time we would be told to take her …named co-resident… out to where the coal was. … It was a very small space with no light and we would have to lock her in. She would just go in like a dog, she was so beaten down, and she was left there all night …crying…. I almost get sick now when I think of it, that I sometimes turned that key and locked her in …crying…. It was hard, in your head you were screaming “stop, leave her alone”, you were in such fear …crying…. She would just pick you out of the line and you had to do it, you’d be beaten, you literally lived in fear for you life.

9.213Fifty one (51) witnesses reported being subjected to the explicit and implicit threat of being ‘sent away’. They reported knowing that co-residents were sent to other more restrictive institutions, including psychiatric hospitals, laundries and Reformatory Schools, often behind a veil of secrecy.

If you did anything wrong you would be told the black van will come for you, you lived in fear of being sent away in the black van. Sr …X… would threaten you if you didn’t go to school or whatever, the black van would come for you. I don’t know … where they all went, they all went missing. I know one girl is up there in …named psychiatric hospital…. I went to see her myself, she is there to this day. Sr …X… said she was mad in the head, and all she used to do was sit in a corner and play the tin whistle. She was sent away in the black van, and then you would say “where is …named co-resident… gone?” You would be told “she is gone away in the black van”. … If you did something, like steal the nun’s fresh bread, you would be after doing something you shouldn’t have done or one time a girl set fire to a bin. They were sent away in the black van.

You saw the same atrocities being committed and you could do nothing about it, you tried to do something about it but you were afraid of what would happen to you. I worried in case I would not get out of that place alive, there was a point when I thought “be careful”. There were some girls and you didn’t know what’s happened to them.

9.214A small number of witnesses reported that co-residents who had been ill or who were injured following a severe beating were also among those who disappeared and it was not known whether they had been hospitalised or had died. The fear of being sent away was reinforced by the overnight disappearance of co-residents who were discharged without having the opportunity to say goodbye to their sisters, friends and co-residents. Witnesses described older siblings ‘disappearing’ in this manner and not realising what had happened to them until years later. One witness described her own departure:

They told you very quietly you were going, just going now! I got a brown case. You kinda didn’t want to go …crying…. You couldn’t say goodbye to your friends. Sr …X… wrote to the family …(work placement)… and told them not to let me pal with other girls from the School…(also placed locally).

9.215The particular fear associated with these threats of being sent away was the belief that those who were transferred to other institutions were then never released. ‘We suffered the fear of being sent to …laundry… that was the fear that hung over you. … I saw many a girl go there, I can name them …named co-residents…. We never saw them again.’ One witness reported that a co-resident was accused of stealing a small amount of money from a local member of the clergy, as a result of which she was subsequently sent to a psychiatric hospital.

There was a room, it was my nightmare that room, I was never sent there. She …(Sr X)… would send them there, some girls, the ones who fought back, and you would hear them screaming, the screams! And you would never see them again, they would be sent away. I was terrified my sister would be sent to a laundry because some of them girls were.

9.216In addition to the fear of being sent away many witnesses believed they could be retained in the School indefinitely. This belief was partially reinforced by the fact that in many Schools there were former residents who had stayed on in the institution and became part of the staff group. Those regarded as orphans, who had no contact with their own family, described being particularly fearful of this outcome.

9.217Witnesses also described as frightening the experience of being given responsibility for the care of babies and young children without appropriate assistance and supervision. Witnesses described the distress experienced by being made to provide care for their younger siblings and being held responsible for their conduct and behaviour, as one witness remarked ‘I was only a child myself’. They described feeling guilty when their ‘charges’ or younger siblings were punished. The allocation of age-inappropriate tasks such as fire-lighting, ironing, the operation of laundry equipment, and kitchen work were all reported as imposing a risk to safety and unreasonable expectations on a child.

9.218Witnesses described a variety of fear inducing situations that were specific to certain staff, for example several witnesses reported being terrorised by staff who dressed up as ghosts and other figures for the purpose of frightening young residents. Others reported that staff had pet animals that they used in an intimidating manner with residents who were frightened of them.

Sr …X … she used set the farm dogs on us, you were petrified, wherever you hid the dogs would sniff you out, you would have to climb the fence to get away from them.

Denigration of family of origin

9.219One hundred and seven (107) witnesses reported that their mothers, fathers or entire families were openly denigrated by both religious and lay care staff in the Schools. In most instances the denigration took the form of verbal abuse and criticism of a witness’ mother, parents or family in the course of being berated or physically abused for some misdemeanour. ‘They would make me feel I was a nobody. They would say “you are ruined, you are ruined like your mother”, Sr …X… and Sr …Y… they never stopped.’ Forty (40) witnesses reported that their single mothers were the subject of specific denigration by religious staff. Witnesses stated that the severity of a beating or other physical punishment was regularly associated with remarks about the child’s mother. This was particularly so for witnesses who were non-marital children and had been in institutional care since birth. They recalled being told as they were beaten that it was for ‘the sins of your mother’ and that they would ‘end up in the gutter like your mother’.

And in the month of November we used to have to pray for our mothers and fathers who died, we had to pray for them to get out of purgatory but the orphan girls, they were treated worse. They would be told “your mother is burning in hell, you will be punished for the sins of your mother, you workhouse girls”. Then one girl, she was a bit older than me, she was from the workhouse, I remember her being told by the nuns “your mother will never get out, she will be in hell, because of what she did”.

I had ear infections and was told I did not deserve any treatment. Sr …X… told me I was a spawn of the devil and I didn’t deserve any treatment. “You are the spawn of the devil, every decent person who meets you will know you are the spawn of the devil.”

9.220Witnesses described being told their mothers were ‘sinners’ or ‘filthy prostitutes’ and that they were in the School as a result of their mother’s sins. Hearing it said that their mothers were sinners was a cause of great distress to many witnesses, who described feeling responsible for the fact that their mothers were ‘so bad’.

If you stepped out of line she …(Sr X)… was always insulting my mother and my father, she’d say “your mother is a woman of the streets”, and every night I used be in turmoil in bed and worried about my mother on the streets. I didn’t know what she meant…. We were considered the dregs of society…. My mother was a different religion. We were made to feel so dirty and so low.

9.221Twenty (20) witnesses described being told that their parents had rejected and did not want them, usually in the context of being punished and in conjunction with being criticised. Witnesses described this form of abuse as particularly disturbing.

One day, this nun said “if you had a wish what would you wish for?” And I said, without hesitation, it just came out, “I want to find my mother”. “What?” she said “your mother gave you away, she wouldn’t have anything to do with you” she shouted. I ran out and ran to this huge big hallway. I remember sitting there and saying “what have I done, why doesn’t my mother want me?” I was so upset…. I cried myself to sleep. You had nobody … to talk to.

She …(Sr X)… would tell us to get dressed up, that our mother was coming up, and we’d all go up and she’d come along laughing and say “what are you smiling at? Your mother is not coming, she doesn’t want you, she doesn’t love you, she has another family”. She’d show us a photograph of our mother with a family she was working for in the town, she’d say “your mother doesn’t want you”.

9.222Seventeen (17) witnesses reported that their mothers’ ethnicity and religion were denigrated by religious staff. Witnesses of mixed race reported being referred to by derogatory names relating to their skin colour and, along with their mothers, being subjected to racial slurs.

I used to pal with …named co-resident…. Sr …X… used put her into a bath because she was coloured, she used to tell her there was a smell off her. No money would ever, ever, ever compensate her for what she suffered.

9.223One witness reported that derogatory comments were initiated by the Sister in charge and taken up by other staff and girls. Her mother was described as ‘a useless English Protestant’ and when the witness was in trouble it was ascribed to her ‘Protestant blood. Another witness reported being constantly taunted by the Sister in charge about the fact that her mother had left her and her sibling and returned to England:

You lot are being kept by us, cleaning for you, feeding you, caring for you, educating you while your mother … is in England enjoying herself and does not even bother to write to you.

9.224A small number of witnesses further reported that their parents were humiliated when they came to visit, either by being shown into what was described as ‘the beggarsparlour’ or being made to wait outside while their child was called. ‘The nuns told me my mother was a prostitute…. They wouldn’t let her in the gate.’

9.225Seven (7) witnesses reported being verbally and otherwise denigrated because they were members of the Travelling community. They described being told that they came from the roadside and other residents were actively encouraged to jeer at them.

Deprivation of contact with siblings and family

9.226As reported elsewhere, a large number of witnesses commented on the fragmentation of their families as a result of the deprivation of contact with their siblings and relatives. This separation and loss of contact led to difficulties reintegrating with their family after they were discharged and was reported by many witnesses to be a cause of distress and anger for them, both at the time and in their subsequent lives.

9.227Fifty five (55) witnesses reported that their parents and relatives were either forbidden or discouraged from visiting them, 28 gave accounts that family members were turned away when they arrived at the School. Witnesses who were marked from physical abuse were often not allowed visitors. Others reported that their parents were sent away if deemed to be intoxicated or otherwise unsuitable to be seen. Deprivation of family visits was reported as a routine punishment for alleged misconduct in a number of Schools.

I was in there for all the 40s. There was terrible cruelity …(cruelty)… terrible cruelity. I was writing a letter to my aunt, to tell her of the beatings. They found the note…. She …(Sr X)… put me across that bed and gave me a terrible beating . … I never recovered from that beating. I had to take down my clothes and take off my knickers. Oh, that beating …distressed…. That hurt me very much. I got over the physical, but I often wondered why did they beat me like that? That was hard for me …crying…. I had to live with that, it affected me terrible. I was not let go on holiday to my aunt that year …crying….

9.228Following her mother’s death, one witness reported that she and her siblings were placed in the local Industrial School despite, what she believed, was her father’s wish that they remain at home. He did odd jobs in the School for the Sisters and the witness reported not being allowed to speak to him while he was there. She described watching him through a window as he was working and hoping he would look up to see her.

9.229Eighty three (83) witnesses reported that knowledge about their brothers and sisters was withheld or denied by those in charge of the School. The Committee heard evidence that prior to the 1970s, with few exceptions, no attempt was made to maintain contact between siblings in separate institutions or to keep witnesses informed of their siblings’ whereabouts following admission or transfer to different institutions. Some witnesses reported that they never saw their brothers or sisters again after they had left the Court on the day they were placed in the Industrial School. Others reported that information about brothers and sisters who were placed in the same institution was also withheld. Witnesses reported being denied contact with brothers who were in nearby institutions and in a number of Schools the existence of siblings was not acknowledged.

He …(witness’s brother)… came over every Sunday. She …(Sr X)… didn’t like that. She used to try and find work for me so that I wouldn’t see him. I remember one Sunday the others asked me to get the ball, I climbed up on the scullery roof. She tied me to the stairs for this and when my brother came she sent him down to embarrass him to see his sister tied up. She then sent him up and made him wait and wait, in the end she let me up to see him when she knew he was gone. I was bitter about that.

9.230Some older siblings reported knowing that they had family in the School but that through the arrangement of facilities, with older children separated from younger ones, they lost contact with their own siblings. ‘They separated the brothers and the sisters, if something came up that they had to tell us then you would meet them, you would be lined up.’ Other witnesses said that the practice of referring to residents by their allocated number contributed to loss of contact with their own brothers and sisters as their family name was not used. Alternately witnesses who were admitted to a School at a very young age frequently had no memory of older siblings who may have been with them and then left the School.

9.231The Committee heard three witness accounts of twins being separated. In one instance twins who had been together throughout their lives were separated by the removal of one twin to another School. The separation was instigated by misbehaviour and the Resident Manager’s belief that one twin would be ‘better off’ without the other. The emotional consequences of this trauma were reported to have been enduring.

9.232Thirty five (35) witnesses reported being either given misleading information or denied any information about their parents. One witness was not aware that she had living parents and learned of their existence when told by a Sister that her Confirmation photo would be sent to them. This Sister was reported by another witness to have refused her mother permission to visit and refused to give the witness parcels from home. The Committee heard 47 accounts of letters and parcels being withheld by those in charge of various Schools.

We …(witness and co-resident)… were supposed to be sisters, we were told we were sisters up ’til 11, and then they told us we weren’t and then they split us up…. It was terrible, terrible sad because you thought you had a sister and then you discovered you hadn’t, you were cut away from her…. I didn’t know that my brother and 2 sisters were taken away from my mother and sent to …named Schools…. I got all that …(official records)… back about a month ago…. On the files it says my mother wrote to the convent and asked them could she take me back, and some TD, I don’t know what his name is, said “no” and then he said “yes she can go home to the mother”. Then the nuns said “no it wouldn’t be good, the mother would make her go out to work and take the money off her”. I always thought my mother didn’t want me, she had married … and wrote to the convent…. It had an awful effect on me, that she didn’t want me, but she had tried to get me home to her…. When I read them papers it threw a different light on it, she did try. It was the nuns that were stopping it. The communication went back to when I was about 12 or something, she wanted me back, I have the files.

9.233In addition to the reported trauma associated with loss of contact with parents, relatives and siblings, a small number of witnesses also reported the distress of being removed from weekend and ‘holiday’ families where they had developed strong attachments. Other witnesses recalled being told they were getting ‘too close’ to the family and their placements were terminated.

I had one really, really lovely experience with …named ‘foster’ family…. They wanted to adopt me …crying… they were lovely, I loved them so much. I would have been educated and been part of a family …crying… but they weren’t allowed…. I had to go to another family, most of them were awful.

Deprivation of affection

9.234The Committee heard 119 witness reports of emotional abuse in the form of deprivation of affection. Witnesses reported a constant and basic absence of affection and approval during their time in the Schools and that this loss had a lasting impact. Lack of affection was described as the absence of a kind word, praise or encouragement, any gesture or demonstration of affection or the acknowledgement of pain and upset. The lack of an attachment figure and secure relationship left many witnesses feeling disconnected and insecure. Witnesses who were in Schools from a young age reported this absence with particular emphasis. ‘You wouldn’t know what love or sympathy looked like.’

It takes me a long time to trust people…. I know I suffered in my head when I was there, I had a lot of anxiety. … There was never any contact … no hug or anything like that…. I don’t ever remember any contact with anyone as a small child.

9.235Several witnesses described being deprived of objects that they were attached to at the time of their admission, including, pictures, dolls and soft toys. This deprivation extended to pets that some witnesses became attached to while they were residents of the Schools.

We were not allowed animals…. I was an animal lover, there were wild cats and kittens going around starving, I used to sneak them into the dormitory. I had a kitten. She, this nun, called me one night, I won’t mention her name, if I do it will make me feel sick. … She said “you see that kitten you have there” … she got me out of my bed by the hair, and brought me down, they had one of those Aga stoves she said “that cat you have there” … I can still see the stove that you put coal in the top, she said take “that top off”. I had to go up on my knees, she said “take the top off”, I had to do what I was told. What I had to do next was the killer …distressed…. I had to put the cat in there and put the lid on it … and the screams…. Then she…Sister… said “go back to your bed”. The next morning … she got me out of my bed and she made me rake that fire out … and I had to pick that up …crying… and she said “never again bring a cat into this dormitory” … That’s the worst thing that ever happened to me in …named School… I think I was about 12 at the time.

9.236The majority of witnesses reported that religious and lay staff actively discouraged commonly used forms of affection, including hugs and words of comfort or approval both between residents and from older girls towards the younger residents in their care. A number of witnesses described the pleasure they obtained from looking after babies and young children for the opportunity it provided to both give and receive affection. They reported that although affectionate attachments were not condoned, they were discreetly maintained. Witnesses recalled not understanding why they were punished for demonstrating their affection to co-residents and friends.

Sometimes if the baby cried they would lift it up by its feet and wallop it. You couldn’t have a pet, you were not allowed to show loving towards any little baby. When you were minding …(babies)… you were not allowed pick it up if it was crying…. You’d have to pick them up and put them on pots, the bigger girls would show you. I remember being put on the pot myself by the older girls.

We were standing in a line for Confession, we were 3 in a line about 20 of us, and you know the way your pal wants to be your partner …(linking arms)… you want to be hers, you know, like friends. Mth …X… came along, she just dragged me out of the line by the head and brought me into the store room. She took a big scissors and she …crying… cut my whole head in pieces, she cut the hair in lumps. She left me there on my knees the whole day, when I would hear her coming, I would be on me hunkers and I would start kneeling. I was kneeling from 12 o’clock until 6 o’clock that evening.

Witnessing the abuse of others

9.237One hundred and six (106) witnesses reported that observing other residents being beaten or otherwise abused was a most disturbing experience that endured in their memory. The public nature of physical abuse, as previously described, led to many residents being routinely exposed to the trauma of watching and hearing their co-residents being abused.

I saw her once, this girl was in it …(bed)…. Mth …X… came up with that cane and pulled out the bedclothes …crying… she walloped her …crying… in front of all of us, she walloped her until she was tired …crying…. That poor girl she suffered, they were very hard on her, the …lay care staff members… who worked there, punishments were severe.

We witnessed it …(sexual abuse of co-residents by external clergy)…. But we couldn’t do nothing. He used put his hand up and down her skirt. One of the girls, she was abused terrible by him, she spent years in a mental hospital, she was one of the gullible ones.

We used to have a cook. She was very slow, she couldn’t talk right, he …(external priest)… used go to her room at night-times …(and sexually abuse her)…. We used to hear her cry, her room was beside our bathrooms. All the girls, we didn’t know exactly what he was doing to her, we used hear her cry, she was an old woman but slow, she cried all the time in the kitchen.

9.238Having to observe others being punished was regarded as being a deliberate strategy to deter residents from whatever behaviour was being sanctioned. Witnesses described the particularly harsh treatment to which returned absconders were subjected as an example of punishments being used as a deterrent. Some witnesses reported that watching others being beaten was worse than being beaten oneself, particularly when the resident being beaten was a younger resident or one’s sibling.

9.239Twenty seven (27) witnesses reported watching their own brother or sister being beaten, including at times being forced to assist by restraining their hand or limb while they were being hit. Other witnesses, who were themselves immature, had responsibility for caring for younger co-residents, including siblings, described the distress they experienced when their ‘charges’ were beaten.

Some of the kids …(charges)… used wet the bed they used to have to clean their own bed up and they would be hit. They used to have to clean the faeces and everything, that was not fair, that’s …(soiling)… a nerves thing. I used to feel sorry for them. I remember a nun beating a child up because he wet his nappy or something, she slapped him with her hand over and over. I said “you shouldn’t beat him”.

I was like a mother hen to them, I loved them and was afraid of anything happening to them. I’d hug them and mind them, I can’t do it now …(to own children)…. My mind was full up of watching my 2 sisters …(being beaten)…. I was never able to say to my children I …(love you)….

The girl who was in charge of you …(older girl)… would have to wait by you while you were being beaten, and then they would take you away and clean you up, and stay with you until you were OK..

My sister … was making her Holy Communion, I was 5 and she was 7 at the time …crying…. I was waiting for her to come down with her dress on…. You know the way you were not supposed to eat before Holy Communion? I was waiting and the next thing she was tumbling over the banister, because she ate a sweet. She was thrown over the banister, by Sr …X…. They were saying, “she ate a sweet, she ate a sweet”, that was totally against the rules you know. I could hear the nun screaming at her, she hit her and she put her over the banister there was kind of a long stairs. I saw blood, I saw her on the floor, that’s my first memory of …witness’s sister… and I don’t remember anything after that, all I remember is her lying there. I just wanted to see her in her dress. I still have nightmares of that.

9.240Many witnesses reported that they preferred to be beaten themselves than watch others being beaten. They reported that they intervened with staff when possible if a younger or more vulnerable child or sibling was being beaten. The Committee heard three accounts from witnesses who were transferred to more restrictive institutions following such altercations with staff.

Isolation

9.241Eighty two (82) witnesses gave accounts of being isolated, ostracised and segregated from their peers. They reported being locked up by religious and lay staff under stairs, in broom cupboards, fridges, washing machines, coal sheds, toilets, furnace rooms, outhouses and in sheds with animals, as punishment for various behaviours. There were many reports of some of these locations being infested with mice and rats.

The cubby hole … was the worst, if you were bold or wet the bed they put you in there, in the dark on your knees and you daren’t come out. Sr …X… said before she put me in “mind you don’t get eaten by the rats”. There were brushes in there and polish, I can’t forget that smell. There was someone in there daily…. A lot of my punishment was because I wasn’t eating.

9.242Witnesses also reported being separated from their co-residents for periods of time in bathrooms, on corridors and staircases and alone in dormitories. Reports of isolation included being confined in these places in the dark, which exacerbated the distress experienced. Witnesses described hearing the Sister turning the key in the locks of doors and cupboards and walking away. Seven (7) witnesses reported that they were forgotten about and were rescued by others in response to their screams. Four (4) witnesses from one School reported being made to spend the night in an outside shed with the pigs. Another witness reported being locked into an outside toilet by religious staff and that her cries were heard by a man passing on the street who came in and drew attention to the fact she was there. She was released by one of the Sisters who berated her for being silly enough to lock herself in to the toilet and causing everyone to worry about her.

9.243In addition to reports of being physically isolated, a number of witnesses reported being ostracised by co-residents on instruction from religious staff. Witnesses reported being made to sit apart from co-residents in the classroom and refectory and being ostracised in the playground:

The priest was told that I was bold and that no one was to talk to me, they were all told not to talk to me…. There was no one to talk to, no one knew what you were feeling, there was no one to say “you’re alright”. You would be mortified, the whole School would know, you would be called out for robbing …(food)… or talking. The others would be told not to talk to you, it sounds silly now but it was the fear …(of being ostracised)…. It was all you had, the cha cha …(chit chat)… with the others, and then they would be afraid to talk to you. It was awful, you would be isolated, it was awful.

When it came to Sunday they used go out for a walk, I was locked in there … (small room)… as a punishment. There was no toilet, no chair to sit on, no running water, if you needed to go to the bathroom you couldn’t.

Deprivation of identity

9.244Forty one (41) witnesses reported being deprived of their individual identity in various ways, including being called by a name other than their own, by an allocated number, or by their surname. Witnesses reported being told when they were admitted to the School that they would be called by another name because there was already a resident with their name or because their name was not a recognised saint’s name. ‘Sr …X… called me …Y(not own name)…. My name wasn’t saintly, so she gave me a different name.’

Reverend Mother never called me my own name, I was …X…. She said because I reminded her of a girl who had been there and had left there. I was supposed to be the living picture of her, so my name was changed from …X… to …Y…. She called me her name.

I was always called orphan, the “orphans” this and the “orphans” that. I was never called my name, I never knew when my birthday was. One time …on birthday… Sr …X… called me and said to me “now you see it, now you don’t.” She dangled this, a bracelet, in front of me and said it was my birthday. I didn’t know, she took it back.

9.245The use of a number to identify residents was regularly reported prior to the mid-1960s. The allocated number was put on the residents’ clothes and was reported by some witnesses to be the most frequently used form of identification. ‘I was called by …number…. It took away who I was, I was never called anything else.’

9.246Witnesses also reported being punished for certain personal attributes and characteristics, for example being left-handed or having red hair, which they stated were referred to as ‘signs of the devil’ by some Sisters. Witnesses said that at times they were punished simply for the way they looked, and for what was perceived as vanity by religious staff.

I was hit for … having red curly hair, for nothing … you were not allowed have curly hair, you had to have straight hair like Our Lady. Another girl … she was battered for having curly hair. I was beaten mercilessly for that, Sr …X… was a monster, she beat me for it. … She’d drag you into the office and take her long cane and just beat you and beat you, she was monster in her heart, she beat me black and blue. She had a bamboo cane 4 foot long, she beat me into pulp. She’d be frothing at the mouth anywhere she could get me, she wouldn’t stop. She’d say “you curled your hair last night” and when I’d say “yes, I curled it” she’d stop. I can still hear the cane swooshing, she would hit you anywhere she could get a lash at you, face, head, hands, back … because I had curly hair. She would call me before I’d go to school, she had castor oil, she would press it into my head, to make it …(hair)… straight, my face would be swollen from the beatings, the oil would be running down your face. … You couldn’t have curly hair.

9.247Witnesses reported that not being told they had brothers and sisters in the same or adjacent Schools, in addition to the lack of family contact, contributed to a sense of having no real identity and of being ‘nobody’. This feeling was compounded by being called by number rather than their name and having no sense of being part of a family network.

9.248Many witnesses who had no family contact reported never knowing basic facts about their own history such as their correct birth name, when their birthday was and where they were born. Birthdays were reported to have been rarely acknowledged for residents in the Schools before the 1970s and many witnesses reported being discharged without any information or record regarding their date or place of birth. They reported being forced by circumstances in later years to search out the necessary records in order to register their marriage, to apply for a passport and for other reasons.

It took me years of writing before I found out my own background … after years and years of searching and negative responses. I have found out my own family … it was 25 years of looking. My names are wrong on the paperwork, my mother had registered me under …family name…. I have been writing various letters to different departments, even to Government Departments to find out my own family. I learned last year that the nuns in …named School… knew that I was not …allocated family name…. I was …actual family name…. We all went in …(to the Schools)… for different reasons, I know there was poverty in Ireland…. When I found the records, from the Courts through the Freedom of Information, I have been dealing with …Government Department… for years and they never told me about my records being wrong, even though they had the information, they just did not tell me. I found out my mother had been paying for me and had contact, then I was moved to …School some distance away and contact was lost….

Punitive aspects of religion

9.249Fifty three (53) witnesses reported that punitive aspects of religious conviction were emphasised at considerable emotional cost to them as young people, while they were isolated from all forms of reassurance and affection. Puberty, menstruation and adolescence provided the context for abuse reported by witnesses around religious themes. Fear of the devil, hell, eternal damnation and being told that they were innately ‘bad’ and ‘sinners’ were described as powerful means of emotional abuse. For example, a witness reported that a nun burnt her with a hot poker so that she would ‘know what the fires of hell were like’.

9.250As previously remarked, witnesses who were left-handed or had red hair reported being persecuted by certain nuns in a small number of Schools. There were reports of witnesses being stigmatised and being told they were ‘the hand of the devil’, that they were evil and would burn in hell because they were left-handed. Others reported that their red hair was the subject of criticism and contempt, that it was cut short and at times kept covered.

She …(Sr X)… told me I was the devil’s child …(because of red hair)… and put me into this room …(furnace room)…. She said “you are the devil’s child, see those flames, you are like the devil”. I thought it was the devil, and she left me there for ages. It was dark, and I definitely thought I was going to die. It was the most frightening thing I ever saw …crying….

The worst thing was my period…. When she’d …(Sister)… beat me, she’d say “I’ll knock the devil out of you if it’s the last thing I do, your mother is a whore, she is a prostitute”. When I got my period I thought this was it, it was the devil coming out. When I got my period, I had to queue, my knickers were all stained and wet. Well, what she …(Sister)… did, she took me down to a room, where the younger kids were, all the girls were sitting there she lifted my dress up and said “you see this, this is the devil coming out of her, this is what happens when you are like …surname of witness…”. Those kids would not play with me. The following time it happened, I was so afraid, I hated it so much that I robbed knickers from someone else and flushed my own down the toilet.

Bullying

9.251Ninety six (96) witnesses reported being bullied by older girls who were co-residents in the Schools. There was a tradition described in the majority of Schools of the ‘older girls’ being in charge and, at times, having premature responsibility for the care of co-residents. These older girls were often reported to be about 15 years old and soon to be discharged. They were often believed to be favourites of the Sisters and known to have special privileges in some Schools. These particular residents were described as having the freedom to bully younger residents without fear of reprimand. Some were also described as kind and often had favourites of their own. They were described as left in charge of groups of children at different times, including: Sundays, evenings, night and play times, without any supervision by staff.

The older girls, along with the teachers from outside the school were put in charge of that …(dormitories)… and life became unbearable. The older girls had to do the laundry and because I wet the bed every night, when the nuns were gone into pray, we were flogged. We were beaten with sticks, legs of chairs, twigs, planks, anything, by the older girls and the teachers …(lay care staff)… who had to supervise the dormitories, they didn’t teach in classrooms, we had lovely teachers there. We were beaten, called all sorts of names, had the hair pulled out of our heads…. We were threatened when we screamed with pain, with bars of soap stuck in our mouths and towels tied around our mouths so that the nuns couldn’t hear us screaming whilst they were praying. … The older girls would count up to 20 and if you weren’t in bed you got beaten, and they would count to 20 again and if you weren’t asleep they would beat you again. I would do anything to avoid these punishments and they used to say “I will let you off the flogging if I can have your 2 slices of bread and dripping”…. The older girls were sort of bullies, they used to have dresses of their own, they would wash them and you used to have to dry them under your sheet with the heat of your body and have them dry by morning and you got beaten if they weren’t dry in the morning. There was no heating in the dormitory we used to have to heat their beds and then get into your own cold one.

Knowledge of abuse

9.252Knowledge of the abuse experienced by residents in Schools was reported as established by various means. Witnesses reported disclosing abuse to their parents, relatives, and people in authority both within the institution and outside, including to Gardaí. A number stated that their parents made written complaints to the Department of Education about the neglect and abuse of their children. Witnesses also commented that awareness of abuse arose from direct observation of abuse as it occurred generally in the presence of staff, co-residents and others. A number of accounts were heard by the Committee that witnesses were treated by external medical and nursing staff for injuries resulting from abuse. The outcome of abuse disclosure ranged from disbelief to investigation, witnesses being punished, perpetrators being moved and being protected from further harm.

Abuse observed by others

9.253Three hundred and sixty nine (369) witnesses reported that staff and co-residents observed the abuse in the Schools, although not all incidents of abuse were directly observed. Relatives as well as staff and co-residents were considered to be aware of abuse by the observable injuries incurred by residents as a result of being beaten or assaulted. A number of witnesses described staff members, relatives and external professionals being visibly shocked by the injuries and deprivations to which residents were subjected. They reported that, in some instances, protective action was taken as a result.

Mth …X… she never liked me. … She threw the jug of hot water over me over my face. I started screaming … and this nun, Sr …Y…, she was very nice, she was a lovely person, came along and she took me by the hand up to the infirmary and Sr …Y… looked after me. She put something cool and white on my face, she took care of me, she was a nurse.

9.254Several witnesses reported overhearing nursing and medical staff discussing both their injuries and their neglected circumstances when they attended hospital for treatment. A witness recalled that a nurse in casualty treating her injury following a beating did not believe her when she said that she had fallen out of a tree. The witness was accompanied by one of the Sisters. She had been threatened and was afraid to tell the hospital staff that she had been beaten.

9.255Witnesses reported that the abuse they experienced and the injuries that they sustained were observed by others within the Schools on a daily basis. The following is a breakdown of those who witnesses reported as having observed the abuse

  • Care staff 160 reports
  • Authority figures 146 reports
  • Ancillary workers 91 reports
  • Resident Managers 48 reports
  • Teaching staff 48 reports.

9.256Those described as care staff and authority figures were religious and lay staff including care staff and ancillary workers in what witnesses understood to be positions of authority. Those referred to as Resident Managers refer to officers in charge and Reverend Mothers, understood by witnesses to be responsible for the management of the Schools.

9.257The failure of staff to intervene when a resident was being abused was most often ascribed by witnesses to the culture of the School that allowed abuse to be an accepted part of life. This failure on the part of both religious and lay staff to exercise their authority and fulfil a duty of care and protection to the residents in their charge contributed to enduring anger, described by a number of witnesses. Two (2) witnesses reported that Sisters in charge of their School observed the sexually inappropriate behaviour of a local parish priest and advised them that this priest’s company should be avoided; the priest said Mass in the School and involved himself in the activities of the residents on a regular basis.

Disclosing abuse

9.258One hundred and fifteen (115) witnesses (30%) reported that they told someone, either a parent, relative, staff member, other adult or co-resident about being physically or sexually abused while they were resident in the Schools. These reports relate to 27 Schools identified to the Committee. The following table shows those to whom witnesses reported disclosing abuse during their admission. It indicates the number of reports made to each of the identified groups by the 115 witnesses.

Table 43: To Whom Abuse Disclosed while Resident – Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

To whom disclosed while resident Number of reports
Parents and relatives 50
Religious
– Staff 32
– Resident Manager 10
– Non-staff 1
Lay
– Staff 18
External professionals
– Medical staff 7
– Garda Síochána 7
– Social worker 2
Co-residents 21
Total 148

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

9.259As indicated, while the largest number of witness reports of disclosure were to parents and relatives, the Committee heard 61 reports of abuse being disclosed to the combined categories of religious and lay staff. In addition to the above information 21 witnesses reported telling co-residents about their abuse. One gave the following account of what happened following her disclosure:

My uncle came in one day. I told him I was beaten, he complained to the authorities and they contacted Sr …X…. She came into the class one day and that was my first public beating. She took my clothes off except for my knickers and my shoes and my socks. She said “can anyone see marks on this child?” and everyone said “no”, and then I got my first public beating. That became my punishment, a public beating … with a stick.

9.260Fourteen (14) witnesses gave accounts of the authorities in the School being spoken to and challenged about the abuse following disclosure to parents and relatives. As a result they were subsequently punished either by being beaten, denied family visits or ostracised from their peer group. Six (6) other witnesses gave reports of written complaints about the abuse being made by relatives, four of whom were granted early release from the School. The Committee heard accounts of other parents threatening legal action, including reports to the Gardaí or other authorities. In two instances parents did not return witnesses from weekend or holiday leave and no further action was taken. The Committee heard isolated accounts of parents being berated, placated and denigrated by religious staff whom they confronted with allegations of abuse.

9.261Many witnesses reported being deterred from disclosing abuse for reasons including: threats of harm to themselves, their siblings or family, general fear and fear of further punishment, threats of being transferred to a more restrictive institution, the authority of an older person, bullying and the anticipated disbelief of others. ‘I couldn’t tell anyone, no one believed you, you were told to shut up.’ Forty nine (49) witnesses reported being told not to tell anyone about the abuse they experienced and were threatened with further abuse, or on occasion death, if they did.

I remember her …(mother)… saying “are they good to you?” Sr …X… was outside the door and she came in and said “you have to go Mrs …Y…”. I knew not to say …(anything about being hit)… you would be beheaded, you would be afraid of your life to say what was happening to you.

9.262Witnesses frequently described the prevailing climate of secrecy and denial in the Schools that acted as a further deterrent. A witness who had been sexually abused reported that she had never disclosed her abuse, in the belief that she would be sent to a laundry, as a co-resident had been. Witnesses who were sexually abused also reported that the threat of condemnation, being blamed for the abuse and the associated humiliation and shame were powerful disincentives to disclose abuse.

9.263Witnesses discharged in more recent years reported that there were more opportunities to talk to external professionals and other adults about what was happening in the Schools, although they were not always believed and the subsequent interventions did not always have positive outcomes. Two (2) witnesses who were discharged by the mid-1980s said that their abuse was addressed by social workers. In one instance, following written representation by her grandmother, the witness was eventually moved to a different School by a social worker, where she reported she was happy. Another witness said that despite intervention by their social worker the abuse continued:

I saw many social workers over the years, they were no help. The first one arranged to meet us in groups every 2 weeks, the first time we spoke about what was happening it went back to the nuns, something was said to them by the social worker and we got a beating. Subsequently we were seen with the nun present. I have seen the social work record, they took what nuns said as gospel, everything was from their perspective.

Outcome of disclosure

9.264Witnesses reported different responses to their disclosures of abuse including being ignored, punished, disbelieved or protected. Positive action was also reported as taken by Residents Managers and others who investigated reports of abuse and in a number of instances dismissed or transferred staff who were found to have been abusive.

  • Sixty eight (68) witnesses reported that their complaint received no response, that abuse was seen as part of the culture of the institution, was concealed, and continued.
  • Thirty six (36) witnesses reported being beaten for disclosing that they were being physically or sexually abused.
  • Thirty four (34) witnesses reported that their disclosures were dealt with in a positive manner and the abuse ceased.

9.265The 36 witnesses who reported being punished for disclosing abuse described various means by which their disclosures were dealt with. In certain instances protective action was taken in addition to being punished, while in the majority of instances reported to the Committee punishment was the only known outcome of disclosure.

I told another girl …(about sexual abuse)… she told the nuns, 4 of them beat me, they said I had to go to Confession. I had to say it so loud so that she would hear me confess my sin, then she knew that I had confessed and they …(four nuns)… said a chant over me. They decided a time and place to beat the devil out of you, they didn’t do it straight away, they made you wait. I always remember her saying … “you’re a filthy Communist”, it was the time Kennedy …(US President)… died. The priest didn’t give me any penance.

9.266Other witnesses reported being removed or sent home following disclosure of abuse without any acknowledgement of what had occurred.

I tried to escape once to tell the police what was going on. They locked all the shutters, they locked me up and told me “I’ll tell your mam to come and get you”. I wasn’t allowed eat with the kids for 3 weeks. I wasn’t allowed talk to the other girls. Then they made arrangements for me to go to my mam. They brought me to the airport. … Sr …X… and Sr …Y… and she said “you mustn’t say anything about the School”.

9.267A small number of witnesses reported that when they disclosed abuse by a religious person they were warned against identifying the abuser and forced to name another person. One witness reported that following a beating by a nun, who ‘always had a cane hanging out of her’, her hands were so swollen that she was unable to play the piano. The witness told her music teacher who was a member of the religious staff about the beating and the nun replied: ‘“She …Sr X… didn’t, don’t ever say that. It was one of the older girls wasn’t it?” I was not let resume practice until I said it was an older girl’.

9.268Positive outcomes of disclosure fell into two main categories: removal or admonishment of the reported abuser and protection of the witness from further abuse. ‘She …(Sr X)… was taken out of there, then the beating stopped.’

There was a Sister there and she caught me eating the butter, I was so hungry. She caught my head and she banged it and banged it off the churn, and I remember putting my hand up and there was blood. The next thing I know was I woke up in bed and all the nuns were coming to see me and bringing me fruit, an apple and an orange, that I had never seen before. After that I got an easier time, and that nun was sent away. I never saw her again.

9.269Eighteen (18) of the 38 witnesses who reported telling their parents that they were being abused and 17 other witnesses who reported abuse to authority figures within the Schools reported that their disclosures instigated positive and protective responses including the dismissal of abusive staff. Witnesses reported that disclosures of abuse to parents was more often believed, but that parental intervention did not always lead to a cessation of abuse.

I did not get out of the bed for nearly 3 months …(following severe beating)… and when I did I found it very hard to walk. The Reverend Mother came up to me after about 2 months and she said “…X… I know who did this.” I said “I’m not going to tell”. She said “I’ll say the name and then we’ll see about it, you don’t have to tell.” … Sr …Y…was gone out of the home after that, she was gone … for a certain period … she disappeared.

9.270Following their disclosures of abuse 10 witnesses reported being protected from further abuse either by being moved to a different area in the School away from the reported abuser, being transferred from the School to a safe environment or being discharged. Two (2) other witnesses reported that less severe beatings from religious staff followed an intervention from their parents. One witness, who told a hospital nurse about being abused, had her hospital admission extended over the Christmas period.

There was a change with a new Reverend Mother, she took a liking to me and I was like a pet, she took me in the parlour and gave me cake, it …(sexual abuse)… all stopped then.

9.271Four (4) female witnesses from one School made reference to the positive intervention and kindness of a member of the clergy who recognised the difficulties they experienced; he was trusted by the residents and listened to their concerns. The witnesses said that they were not punished as a consequence of confiding in him. In their view he facilitated changes that were appreciated; for example he arranged for residents to participate in recreational activities in the local area and for them to be provided with more fashionable clothes. This member of the clergy was also reported to have helped several witnesses by arranging supportive holiday families and employment placements for them, where they thrived. Witnesses said that his intervention protected them from further abuse.

9.272Sixteen (16) disclosures made to Resident Managers and external professionals resulted in abusers being either admonished or removed, or the resident being moved. A witness told a local priest that she was being sexually abused in her work placement and was moved from the house the following day and protected from further abuse. In seven instances witnesses reported Gardaí became aware of their abuse and in some instances investigated the reports made to them. Four (4) reported running away after beatings and were returned to the School by Gardaí, who were generally sympathetic. One witness’s father went to the Gardaí and she was returned to the School on the understanding that she would not be beaten again. The witness said that she was treated better subsequently. Another witness presented herself to the Gardaí and told them she had been abused; they returned her to the School and were critical of the religious staff for failing to report her absence. A witness from a different School having disclosed abuse reported the following outcome:

One day I was called to the parlour and Sr …X (Resident Manager)… was there and there was a Garda there, he had a hat under his arm, he said to me “I don’t want you to tell me about anything else just …Y (ancillary male lay staff)…”. You see I had started to tell him about Mr …Z (holiday family father)… who had …(also)… abused me. He said “I don’t want you to tell me about that, I only want you to tell me about …Y…”. I told him everything that happened. I never saw …Y… again.

9.273Witnesses stated that they believed lay care staff and ancillary workers in a number of Schools were aware that residents were being abused, and that at times they indicated sympathy and expressions of comfort. However, these lay staff were described by a number of witnesses as powerless to act as their livelihood depended on the goodwill of the religious Sisters. In other instances witnesses believed that abuse was part of the culture of the institution and that residents were powerless to change anything by disclosing mistreatment.

9.274Seventeen (17) witnesses reported being severely physically abused when they disclosed that they had been sexually abused by either priests or other members of the clergy, men in families to whom they were sent for weekends, holidays or to work and members of the general public. A witness said that she was told ‘wash out your dirty mouth’ when she disclosed being sexually abused by a priest. When a witness disclosed sexual abuse by a ‘holiday’ father she was told ‘you are making this up about the good people taking you out’. Witnesses reported being compelled to maintain their silence about abuse they experienced from adults held in high regard by the religious Sisters.

9.275There were six reports of witnesses being beaten and punished for other forms of disclosure including telling inspectors that preparations had been made for their visit and sending a letter of complaint regarding abuse to a relative. Other witnesses said they were punished for telling priests that they were abused, one of these disclosures was in Confession. A further witness stated that she was punished for telling the Resident Manager about a religious Sister who had beaten a resident.

9.276Following their disclosures of abuse a small number of witnesses reported being ostracised and isolated from both staff and co-residents, three others reported being transferred to a more isolated School.

Sr …X… she beat me inhuman, she tore me hair out, a big tuft of hair. I picked the hair up and put it underneath the stage and got out through the window and headed to my father. I said “Dad please help me I can’t take anymore”. … The policeman come knocking at the door. He …(witness’s father)… showed the hair to the policeman and the bruises all on my body…. he said “how can anyone do that?” …The policeman said “you bring her back on your word” to my father …(who lived nearby)…. He brought me back…. When I went back in she Sr …X… told the girls my father was dirt and he was this and that, none was to speak to me. … So I was like a hermit, done me chores, went to bed in the dormitory and no one could talk to me.

Witnesses response to abuse

9.277Witnesses reported a range of personal responses to being abused, often reporting more than one response:

  • Two hundred and eighty five (285) witnesses reported fear as their main response to being abused; 251 of those witnesses specifically described staff using their status and authority to intimidate and bully the residents.
  • One hundred and ninety three (193) witnesses reported that they did not know what to do and felt powerless to act, with no one to talk to or protect them.
  • One hundred and forty six (146) witnesses who reported becoming withdrawn or mute in the context of ongoing abuse stated that they were afraid of telling anyone what was happening to them. Witnesses described ‘trying to be invisible’ in order to avoid the attention of anyone who might hit or otherwise abuse them.
  • Forty three (43) witnesses reported that they ran away or absconded from the School generally in the context of being severely physically and/or sexually abused. A further 16 witnesses attempted to run away but were either caught or prevented from doing so.
  • Seventeen (17) witnesses reported having suicidal thoughts, 12 of whom reported actively harming themselves while they were resident in the Schools. All attempts of reported self-harm followed episodes of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Most accounts of suicidal thoughts or wishes related to situations where witnesses described themselves as hoping the abuse would end, not being believed and feeling fearful and helpless. Forms of reported self-harm included taking an overdose of tablets, attempted drowning, refusing to eat, ingesting objects and poisonous substances, jumping from heights, and self-harm by mutilation or burns.
  • Eight (8) witnesses reported that they developed eating disorders or feigned illness, which in some instances led to hospitalisation.

One day I thought I would poison myself. … I sat down one day all on my own …crying… and I got a bundle of haws and started putting them in my mouth and I said “maybe God will take me” …crying…. … It didn’t work. In the month of the poor souls I always prayed that someone would come and take me …(wishing would die)….

Sometimes the window would be open, and I’d say “I’ll jump out the window if you touch me again”. One time I said “I’m going to drop down to the concrete and kill myself if you touch me”. I got 3 weeks of beatings for that.

One day … I got a beating. I thought I’m going to end up killing myself, I can’t take any more, I wanted to kill myself. We went out and walked along by the railway tracks and walked along waiting for the train to come to throw myself under it. If I seen a train … I’d be ready for a coffin….

9.278Other responses to abuse described by witnesses included: bed-wetting, self-blame, suppression of anger, crying and becoming withdrawn. ‘I went into myself after that …(severe beating)… sort of gave up, never talked to anyone, went into myself. I stopped talking.’ Many witnesses reported that they had not bed-wet prior to their admission and considered bed-wetting to be a response to being abused.

I was getting terrible lashings. Sometime it would be 2 nuns, sometimes it would be one, you got the stick, the cane. I did not know why they were lashing me and then I realised it was for wetting the bed…. I had started to wet the bed…. There would be nights I wouldn’t sleep for fear I would wet the bed.

9.279A witness who had experienced consistent abuse in a School reported that she deliberately remained in contact with the staff and residents after she was discharged and continued to visit the School where she had been placed for many years ‘to keep an eye on things for the younger kids’.

9.280Ten (10) witnesses reported that they intervened to protect another resident, sometimes their sister or brother, from being beaten and others described instances of spontaneous assertion in retaliation to being abused, including both physically and verbally challenging their abuser. Assertive responses resulted at times in protection from further beatings and at other times witnesses were punished, isolated or transferred to other institutions. Some witnesses described feeling relief when they stood up for themselves.

I stood up for myself, I had to fight back or I wouldn’t have come out alive.

They put me into a kind of detention room after that …(confrontation with religious Sister)…. For a week I was on my own…. I said to myself maybe it’s me causing the trouble. I kinda went in on myself after that.

I just rebelled and I tore off her veil and called her a bloody old bitch. She dragged me off by the hair, she said “that’s the last of you”. She ran off up the corridor and I knew I was in for it then, she always threatened …(that)… she would get rid of me and she did. She sent me off that night to …named laundry….

9.281In summary, this chapter has provided an overview of abuse reported to the Committee by 378 female witnesses in relation to Schools over a 74-year period between 1914 and 1988. The reported abuse was differentiated by type and presented accordingly with direct quotes from witnesses, some of whom were recounting their experiences of abuse for the first time. Witnesses also gave accounts of the circumstances in which the abuse occurred and the traumatic impact of their experiences both at the time and as they were recalled. In addition, the information provided about the status and occupations of those who were reported abusers is included with witness accounts of what they believe was known about the abuse they experienced at the time.

9.282The following two chapters will provide information on positive memories and experiences in the Schools and the current life circumstances, including the enduring impact of abuse, reported by the 791 male and female witnesses.

1 A number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

2 ‘Other Institutions’ – includes: general, specialist and rehabilitation hospitals, foster homes, primary and second-level schools, Children’s Homes, laundries, Noviciates, hostels and special needs schools (both day and residential) that provided care and education for children with intellectual, visual, hearing or speech impairments and others.

3 For example: as witness evidence is presented according to the decade of discharge, a witness who spent 12 years in a school and was discharged in 1962 will have been included in the 1960s cohort although the majority of that witness’s experience will relate to the 1950s.

4 Section 1(1)(a).

5 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.

6 Section 1(1)(b)

7 One witness reported sexual abuse in more than one School.

9 Section 1(1)(c) as amended by the section 3 of the 2005 Act.

9 A number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

10 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.

11 Section 1(1)(d) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.

12 A number of witnesses were admitted to more than one School, and made reports of abuse in more than one School, therefore the number of reports are greater than the number of witnesses.

13 In order to maintain confidentiality further details regarding the numbers of abuse reports in these Schools cannot be specified.


Chapter 10
Positive memories and experiences – male and female witnesses


10.01In addition to reporting abuse many witnesses wished to emphasise positive aspects of the care they received in Industrial and Reformatory Schools. They commented that memories of kindness remained with them for many years.

Details of good memories

10.02Accounts of care, kindness, attention and support provided by individual religious and lay staff were given in evidence by both male and female witnesses. Such experiences included incidents and encounters both within the School and in the wider community.

Kind staff

10.03Two hundred and eighty four (284) witnesses, 168 male and 116 female, recounted the kindness of individual religious and lay staff. The witness description most often reported was the absence of physical abuse, ‘He did not hit’ and ‘she didn’t hit girls or scream at them’ were typical of remarks by witnesses regarding kind members of the religious staff. Other acts of kindness by religious and lay staff reported to the Committee included being given extra food, spoken to kindly, shown affection, having a blind eye turned to behaviour others would report, creating a positive environment and being called by one’s first name rather than by a number or surname. Another kindness was being allowed to have pets particularly cats and dogs as occasionally reported. Other witnesses commented on the special attention they received from individual staff that continued over a number of years and was of lasting benefit.

Br …X… he seemed to have an understanding of us, he was the best one I met in my life. I felt safe with him, he didn’t wear the strap like a 6 gun, ready to shoot everyone, compared to the others he was kind. He was able to help with my reading and he would put a mark saying “well done!”

One very, very kind person, she was Sr …X… she was old, a lovely person. I have great memories of her. She would come in to call us, open up the curtains and she would be singing in the morning. She was lovely to us, she wasn’t long there.

The kindest thing that ever happened to me was a nurse, she was called …Ms X… we were all around saying the Rosary and she put a sweet in my hand, one sweet. I didn’t want to eat the sweet I wanted to hold on to it, somebody gave me something, somebody was kind. It became a regular thing about once a week, one sweet. I began to look forward to it….

10.04Witnesses also reported that kind religious staff offered protection by assigning them chores in areas where they were less likely to be hit and rescuing them from beatings by other staff. Other positive memories described by witnesses were of religious staff interacting with residents in a friendly manner and demonstrating concern about their distress and injuries.

10.05There were several religious Sisters and Brothers mentioned with affection by witnesses from different Schools. One Brother who was named by eight witnesses was reported to have supervised the residents on Sundays and encouraged them to talk to him. He was described as often giving sweets to those who were crying or upset and speaking kindly to them. Six (6) female witnesses from one School recalled a Sister who had been caring and kind throughout their time spent in the institution. It was remarked that acts of kindness were generally demonstrated in private. Words of encouragement and praise were remembered warmly by witnesses as rare experiences and were usually reported to have been associated with particular named staff members.

One Brother was kind and used to give me a bit of a boost, when playing football he’d say “you’re good”.

Sr …X… who worked in the laundry was kind, if I got coal for her she would say “you’re a good girl” and “thank you”, such was the level of deprivation that one word of kindness was remarkable. Sr …Y… who worked in the kitchen was also kind, she gave bread dipped in gravy.

One nun she was absolutely lovely, I am a nurse today because of her, she was the nun in the infirmary, she would get you something and say “don’t say a word”.

They were not all bad – there was one Brother he was an old man, he was. When he got his food he would take it out of his pocket and give it to us, bread and butter it was lovely it was. He was a lovely old man.

It was kinda safe around him, I used to like going for walks with him; no one else could touch you when you were out with him.

A nun would call girls over and give them food out of her pocket and say “there creatureen, run”.

10.06Sixteen (16) witnesses reported enjoying kind treatment from lay and religious staff when they were ill. Being treated gently and with consideration was noted by witnesses in contrast to the more familiar experience of staff as critical, unfriendly and frequently abusive. Witnesses from a number of Schools recalled the kindness and attention they received from lay female nurses. One nurse was mentioned by several male witnesses as a trusted confidant to whom residents could talk without fear and who, at times, acted as an advocate on their behalf.

10.07Witnesses identified 98 lay staff as kind, attentive and helpful including teachers, nurses, care staff and ancillary workers. Witnesses particularly commented on the positive influence of those lay care staff and ancillary workers who lived outside the confines of the School. There were numerous reports of these staff members inviting residents to their homes and introducing a lighter atmosphere to the everyday routine and work environment. Witnesses also commented on a sense of safety that existed when these lay staff were around. Four (4) male witnesses said that the spouses of lay staff provided extra food and were kind to residents when the opportunity arose. One female witness stated that contact with these lay staff ‘Let you believe life could be different’.

10.08The encouragement and kindness of some lay classroom teachers was recalled with appreciation by 41 male and 17 female witnesses. These reports referred both to teachers within the Schools and others who taught residents attending local primary, secondary and technical schools in the community. ‘Teachers who treated us without prejudice were a joy’.

The lay teachers encouraged you to do homework, they had hope in you, they wanted you to do well.

10.09Particular lay care staff, including some who were former residents of the School, were described by 25 female witnesses as kind and protective: ‘she understood, she would not report you’. However, witnesses also remarked that kind staff did not stay long or that they changed their behaviour and attitude as they were assimilated into the culture of the institution. Witnesses discharged from the mid-1970s increasingly described lay staff as promoting changes in the conditions in the Schools and attempting to offer protection from abuse.

Some lay staff were a good team, they used to fight …(for residents)…. I heard them fighting on the phone with Sr …X (Resident Manager)… for better things for the kids.

10.10Fifteen (15) male and 16 female witnesses from different Schools reported that a change of Resident Manager or other person regarded as being in a position of special authority led to a decrease in abuse and an improvement in the general routine and care. Witnesses remarked on the relief experienced when new Resident Managers changed practices of communal bathing and showering and made provision for residents to have more privacy. Six (6) of those reports related to the period prior to 1960. Improvements reported in the 1970s included increased contact between siblings and family members, less physical punishment, a change from dormitories to small cubicles with more privacy, better hygiene practices, attending schools in the local town and being part of activities in the local area. All of these changes were described as having positive benefit.

They took down our names and date of birth. My older sister told them my birth date, she knew as older sisters would. My birth date was written “unknown”. “Anything about this child known?” It was written down “unknown”. I was being treated for a heart problem before I went … it was written down “unknown”. I was given a number … and there I was given a name I didn’t know. The head nun changed after a year and a half and she looked through the records and noticed I didn’t have a name or anything and got my birth date and my name, I had had no name for a year.

Community contact

10.11Eighty five (85) witnesses described their involvement in local activities such as attending school in the local town, Feis Cheoil and sporting competitions, Irish dancing, choir practice, music, outings and seaside holidays. The benefit of seeing the world outside the institution and having the opportunity to make friends with peers who were not part of the institutional system was emphasised by many witnesses.

10.12Film shows were reported as a regular and popular pastime in the boys Schools with 109 witness accounts of either watching films in the School or attending local cinemas. Films were described by witnesses as providing a welcome escape from the daily reality of institutional life and respite from being hit, especially in Schools where the film shows were also attended by local townspeople. Both male and female witnesses also commented on the positive experience of holidays and day trips to the beach from the Schools.

10.13Nineteen (19) male witnesses reported positive memories of playing in the School band and/or singing in School choirs. They stated that, in addition to developing valuable skills, this involvement contributed towards a more positive self-image. Witnesses reported opportunities to travel for performances, at times meeting families who treated them kindly and exposed them to different ways of life.

10.14Christmas activities were described by a number of witnesses as memorable. The provision of better food, presents and the experience of a more relaxed atmosphere were all remarked on as good memories of Christmas by both male and female witnesses. Witnesses from a small number of Schools reported that considerable effort was put into arranging festivities and entertainment, usually in conjunction with organisations from the locality. Occasions when there were inspections or special visitors were also mentioned as enjoyable and memorable because of the availability of extra food and a festive atmosphere.

10.15The kindness of local people was remembered by 20 witnesses. Some local shopkeepers were mentioned for giving residents sweets or ice cream. One witness stated that when one of the Sisters sent her to the local shop to get a dozen new canes the shopkeeper broke the canes on his knee in front of her and told her to tell the Sisters he had none left.

10.16The kindness of external clergy from the local community was remembered by a small number of witnesses and left a lasting impression. One member of the clergy was reported by several witnesses to use his influence to modify conditions for residents within the School and attempted to ensure their protection.

The priest, who used to come in …(to the School)… he came up and gave me 10 shillings, and a word of kindness. I don’t know how he knew I was going …(being discharged)… and he didn’t want anything for it. It was such an act of kindness, the nuns gave me 2/6 pence and no word of anything. The bus fare was 4/6 pence, had it not been for him, he probably changed a lot of lives by his act of kindness. I knew there was someone in the world who had been kind, just …(that)… one act of kindness.

Weekend and holiday families

10.17Seventy five (75) witnesses, 28 male and 47 female, reported on the positive experience of regular visits to weekend and ‘holiday’ families, also known as ‘foster’ families and ‘godparents’, which were facilitated by those in charge of the Schools. Witnesses reported that visits to these families provided an experience of family life, with appropriate care and attention that in many instances has lasted to the present day. Contact with ‘godparents’ and ‘foster’ and ‘holiday’ families were regarded by some witnesses as protective as they had access to someone outside the School.

10.18The positive experience of becoming involved in family life, forming attachments and having relationships outside the School in a non-abusive environment was commented on by many witnesses. Further positive memories of ‘holiday’ family contact included the experience of respect for privacy in matters of self-care, being given new and fashionable clothes, receiving Christmas and birthday presents, and having better and more plentiful food. ‘Godparents’, ‘holiday’, work placement and foster families were also reported by a number of witnesses as acting as advocates for them and as challenging punitive decisions made by the religious staff concerning witnesses. Twenty eight (28) witnesses described being treated as a member of the family and reported being given assistance to pursue further education and training.

My first job, the people …(work placement family)… were very nice, they were very good to me. Br …X… fixed up all that, they took me everywhere. They took me out for meals. They were like a mother and father….

Going out to “godmother’s” family opened my eyes to how life could be, they were very kind and fought to keep the contact when the nuns stopped it because they thought I was spoilt … they saved my sanity.

Family contact

10.19Seventy one (71) witnesses, 32 male and 39 female, reported that contact with their own parents, siblings and relatives was a positive experience that was greatly valued. Annual holidays spent with family at Christmas or summer as well as visits from parents, grandparents and other family members were regarded as something to look forward to and were reported by witnesses to be a protective factor against beatings. Further, ongoing family contact after admission was consistently emphasised by witnesses as having a positive influence on reintegration with their families after discharge. The positive value of letters, parcels and other chance contacts such as meeting and seeing brothers and sisters while out walking or in the church were also recalled as positive memories by witnesses.

The family was supportive and kept in contact, visits, parcels, and summer holidays home. I went back home.

10.20Efforts made by parents and relatives to visit and stay in contact with witnesses, following admission to the Schools, were also retained as good memories. A number of witnesses were aware during their stay in the Schools that their parents and/or relatives made considerable efforts to maintain contact with them and support them while they were there. Others became fully aware in recent years of the efforts made in this regard.

Mam always came to visit us during school holiday, Christmas and Easter and that. She was working in London.

Response to disclosure

10.21Eighty (80) witnesses, 46 male and 34 female, reported that when they disclosed abuse, their complaints were dealt with in a positive manner and generally the abuse ceased. Disclosures of abuse were made to parents, relatives, siblings, external professionals, gardaí, religious and lay staff including Resident Mangers and others in positions of authority. The relief of being listened to and believed was described by witnesses as a turning point in their experience of being in the Schools. Positive responses to disclosures of abuse included being moved from the situation where the abuse occurred, having reports of abuse taken up formally by parents and relatives through written representations to the Department of Education and confronting religious staff in charge of the Schools regarding the reported abuse. Further positive responses to these interventions included early discharge from the Schools, the dismissal or admonishment of abusive staff and the cessation of further abuse.

I told my mother about a lot of the abuse. She wrote in to the Minister and she conveyed my complaints and she got a letter back to say “in view of the circumstances I am releasing …witness… to the custody of his mother”.

10.22At times positive outcomes were reported to have occurred as a direct response to the disclosure and in other instances witnesses reported that they were initially punished but that subsequently the abuse ceased, their abuser left or they were granted an early discharge. One witness reported that she was regularly beaten by the lay teacher in the outside school she attended. She reported that the Resident Manager visited her classroom and successfully confronted the teacher, following which the abuse stopped.

Friendship

10.23Forty nine (49) witnesses, 18 male and 31 female, reported that friendships with co-residents were an important and positive experience for them during their time in the Schools. Many described establishing strong friendship bonds with co-residents that are maintained to the present day. Some witnesses who had no known family contact described these friends and former co-residents as their ‘real family’. Twenty three (23) witnesses also described the importance of friendships with boys and girls from the local towns who were in class with them or who they met through sport or other activities. They recounted positive memories of classmates who were friendly towards them in the playground, invited them to their homes, to attend birthday parties and who gave them comics, sweets and small gifts.

10.24Thirty one (31) female witnesses from eight Schools gave varying accounts of ongoing friendship networks including some who meet regularly and support each other through life crises. A number of witnesses were accompanied to the Committee by women who had been their childhood friends and others who provided support to them when they were first discharged from the Schools many years ago. Witnesses described the importance of their friendships with men and women who ‘really understand what it was like to have been there’. Other witnesses described the enormous sense of loss they experienced when discharges precluded the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends.

Never being able to say goodbye to your friends, that is my real tragedy, it haunts me to this day. All these years wondering what has happened to them are they alive, are they dead? We were so close, we were as close as sisters.

Work

10.25A number of witnesses described the experience of working on the farms and in the kitchens as a positive memory. Twenty (20) male witnesses reported that farm work was a sanctuary for them as they were left alone and enjoyed the work. A number of the witnesses described the farmyards and fields as places of safety ‘away from the battering’ that also provided access to extra food.

Potato picking was not too bad because there was a big fire at the end and you could cook the potatoes, we did it for local farmers and got half a crown at the end of it.

10.26Other aspects of work were reported by witnesses as positive experiences. For example, one witness enjoyed ploughing with workhorses kept on the School’s farm and another had a particular talent for handling animals. Witnesses commented on the pleasure they got from working alongside kind staff in these areas. One witness described looking forward to the days when she worked on the School’s farm:

She …(Sr X)… gave me extra eggs and potatoes and I always remember the good feeling I had …(working with her)….

10.27A number of female witnesses mentioned caring for young children as a valued opportunity to relate affectionately to another person. In this context 14 female witnesses recalled with fondness older girls who cared for and protected them when they were young and in a small number of instances reported maintaining contact with them in the years since.

Post-discharge

10.28In addition to routine assistance received from staff when they were being discharged, seven male and 29 female witnesses reported receiving further assistance from religious and lay staff when they got into personal or employment difficulties after leaving the School. The witnesses emphasised how important this help was to them and remember with gratitude the assistance they received. A number of witnesses reported being rescued from homelessness and were offered temporary accommodation in the School. There were a number of reports of alternative employment being found for witnesses by the staff in such circumstances where their first job was not satisfactory.

Following discharge… We had to write back to them, report back to them, and if we were in need of a job we had to report back to them again. We had no other place to turn, the only place we could turn was back there. I finally wrote back to Mother …X… and told her the situation. “Come back” she said “you could probably do with a couple of days, come back. You can stay here and we’ll have a chat about a job” she said. I gave in my notice and went back, for 6 months I think. They were very nice to me when I got back and she said “what kind of a job would you like?” … (Placed by religious staff in satisfactory alternative employment)

This man…(named priest)… approached me, he said “have you got a job?”…he said “I run a boys’ hostel”, he took us to the boys’ home and he made a phone call. Then he called us and put us on the bus and the first stop was the General Post Office in London. He took us in to the post office and he had a word with the manager, he… (manager)… called us in one by one and said “you just have been released from the Free State Army… what time would you like to start?” I said “what shifts have you? I’ll take the one at night time. I’ll start tonight. He said “you’re not in the country a day yet”…The priest got all 12 of us jobs…5 bob a week in the hostel, all meals threw in. I stayed 2 and a half years.

10.29Three (3) witnesses who had early unplanned pregnancies reported being given shelter and support by the Schools while their babies were young. One witness reported that, shortly after her discharge, she and her family were given financial assistance to return to Ireland from poor circumstances in the UK. Others reported being assisted to find employment in the local area when they could not settle further away. A small number of female witnesses reported having maintained contact with individual religious Sisters over many years, receiving gifts when they got married and being assisted to finish their education and pursue careers. ‘The staff were kind to me on the whole. They sent me a cheque when I married.’

Care and education provided

10.30A small number of witnesses were appreciative of the staff that cared for them even though they wished to make clear that they also experienced abuse in the Schools. ‘They gave children a great life, they did not mean what they did, no matter how cruel they were, where would I have been without them?’ Some witnesses expressed the view that the religious and lay staff in charge of them probably did the best they could under difficult circumstances and four witnesses said that in retrospect, they appreciated the sense of security provided by being contained in an institutional environment when they were young.

10.31Witnesses discharged since the mid-1970s more frequently commented on having positive experiences during their stay in Schools. Some witnesses reported on general improvements in the standards of care and assistance received from staff. Examples of improvements in the standards of care included the establishment of group homes on the grounds of some Schools and the increased likelihood of siblings being admitted and remaining together. There were nine witness reports of the positive experience of living in a small mixed group in the care of trained lay care staff. Witnesses from some Schools reported other positive changes in the way they were prepared for discharge, including access to ‘pre-leaving’ care groups, which were designed to train residents for independent living, for example learning how to budget, cook or pay bills.

10.32Twenty male (20) and 32 female witnesses commented on the positive value of the education and training they received in the classrooms and trade workshops from lay and religious teachers. In later years there were more frequent reports of support for regular school attendance and further education that was also appreciated.

The education was good there, I’ve got to be honest. It depends on how you are yourself. What I mean by education … you had the opportunities there, you had day school and night school…. You had the carpenters shop there, you had the shoemakers shop there, the garden and the farmers, there was a tailors shop there too.


Chapter 11
Current circumstances


11.01The Acts allowed the Committee to hear both evidence of child abuse and the continuing effects on the witnesses.1 This chapter refers to the adult life circumstances of the 413 male and 378 female former residents of the Industrial and Reformatory Schools who reported to the Committee regarding their experiences of childhood abuse. It summarises the information provided by witnesses during their hearings about a range of life experiences including relationships, parenting, family contact, occupational status, accommodation, health status and enduring effects on family and personal life.

Relationships

11.02Many witnesses stated that their childhood experience of abuse and emotional deprivation inhibited their capacity to form stable, secure and nurturing relationships in adult life. However, despite the emotional difficulties described by both male and female witnesses, a high proportion of them reported being married or in long-term relationships that were described as mostly happy, often enduring despite severe difficulties.

11.03At the time of their hearing 388 of the 791 witnesses (49%), 203 male and 185 female, reported being married, 343 of those marriages were reported to be of between 20 and 60 years’ duration. An additional 70 witnesses, 40 male and 30 female, reported being in stable non-marital relationships, including 10 same-sex partnerships, seven of which were male and three were female. See the following table for details:

Table 44: Status and Duration of Witnesses’ Relationship at the Time of Hearing – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Duration 0–19 years 20–39 years 40–59 years Total %
Status of relationship Males Females Males Females Males Females
Married 11 34 144 128 48 23 388 49
Single 16 16 38 24 36 2 132 17
Separated 26 36 9 7 0 0 78 10
Co-habiting 34 27 6 3 0 0 70 9
Divorced 16 25 9 15 0 1 66 8
Widowed 16 32 3 5 0 0 56 7
Unavailable 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 (0)
Total 119 170 209 182 84 27 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

11.04When reading the above table it is of note that at the time of their hearing 401 witnesses (51%), 240 male and 161 female, were aged over 60 years, and a further 298 witnesses (38%), 131 male and 167 female, were aged between 50 and 60 years.

11.05Many witnesses reported that they got married within five years of being discharged from the School, often to their first boyfriend or girlfriend. Witnesses described their partners providing a sense of connectedness and stability they had not previously experienced and showing them the first real kindness they had ever known. ‘I was grateful someone wanted me, no one had before’. A large number of witnesses talked about their good fortune to have married partners whose families were supportive and kind, including them in a family network for the first time. Many witnesses acknowledged being difficult to live with but that their partners’ support and understanding allowed their relationships to be maintained.

11.06One hundred and eighty two (182) witnesses (23%), 107 male and 75 female, reported being unable to express their feelings to their partner. In addition to the abuse experienced by witnesses, the negative attitudes to normal physical and sexual development experienced during their childhood was described as having a detrimental impact on personal relationships. Some witnesses reported that, not having experienced any demonstrations of affection as children, they were now unable to show affection but had partners who understood or accepted this difficulty.

11.07Seventy two (72) witnesses, 19 male and 53 female, reported sexual difficulties as a significant problem in their experience of close relationships. Sixteen (16) witnesses, six male and 10 female, stated that their childhood experiences of being sexually abused contributed to confusion about sexual orientation.

11.08Witnesses were frank in their descriptions of themselves as unprepared for marriage and family life. They reported on their difficulties dealing with emotional demands and the expectations of physical affection and sexual intimacy in the absence of any previous experience of affectionate attachment. Many male witnesses who married described the ‘wilderness’ of relationships with others, in particular with their spouse and subsequently with their children and extended families:

The worst thing was not being able to relate to others, not knowing how to give and receive love. I didn’t know what love was.

When I came out …(discharged)… I was 16, I was really one year old. I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t handle it. I know where it all went wrong, emotionally I’m a cripple.

11.09Eighty (80) witnesses, 19 male and 61 female, reported having unhappy or, at times, ‘disastrous’ first marriages followed by happier, more stable and complementary partnerships in later years. These witnesses often reported that they married at a young age and acknowledged being too immature to cope with the demands of commitment, family life and intimacy. Many also acknowledged that poor partner choices reflected their immaturity, lack of supportive networks and their overwhelming desire for a companion. A female witness stated: ‘I got married for something to call my own…. I knew once you were married they couldn’t get you back’. Many female witnesses said that they married in the context of unplanned pregnancy and ten witnesses reported marrying before they were 20 years old in such circumstances.

11.10Seventy eight (78) of the 413 male witnesses described being in long-term relationships that were marked by difficulties related to their own behaviour and personality traits such as the need to be alone, difficulty expressing affection, physical and verbal aggression, sexual difficulties, moodiness and an inability to provide materially for their families:

It’s a darkness that they gave me. I live alone, my family don’t come near me…. My children don’t know me. … I couldn’t relate in a normal context to my family. I didn’t know when I married my wife that I wasn’t capable of being a husband, I was 19. … I knew I was not good enough…. I was no father at all. I remember asking “why, why did this happen to me?”

I have 2 families… (children with 2 partners)…I find it hard to stay in the relationship. That’s it, that’s the problem. I can’t seem to settle down for long, you want to be on your own a lot. Some nights when I’m home I stay in my room a lot, I like to be on my own. I never talk about it I keep it all to myself. I never see anyone from the school, it would remind you too much of it. I do get depressed at times.

11.11One hundred and forty four (144) witnesses, 60 male and 84 female, reported that their marriages had broken down. Domestic violence, combined with emotional and sexual difficulties, was cited as a precipitating factor in most of these instances. Seventy eight (78) of those witnesses, 35 male and 43 female, were separated and the other 66 witnesses said that their marriages had ended in divorce.

11.12Violence was reported to be a significant feature in the relationships of both male and female witnesses. Sixty seven (67) male witnesses stated that their relationships were dominated by their physically abusive behaviour towards their partners, and 49 of those witnesses stated that their violent behaviour was associated with alcohol abuse. Thirteen (13) other male witnesses reported that their marriages, either current or previous, had been marked by their violent behaviour but that time and intervening circumstances had facilitated change and that their relationships had improved.

11.13Sixty four (64) female witnesses reported being in relationships where there were ongoing difficulties related to domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and issues related to control and authority. Some witnesses described their own contribution to these violent relationships through their tendency to be angry, quick-tempered, and verbally and physically aggressive. Thirty (30) female witnesses reported being physically aggressive or violent towards others, including their partners. Others described marrying men who controlled their lives, who taunted them about their background in an institution and perpetuated the type of abusive relationships they had previously experienced. Twenty (20) of the female witnesses who remained in violent relationships said they were accustomed to a level of aggression; as one witness commented: ‘You think everyone is going to hit you’. Many female witnesses reported that they regarded being hit as an unavoidable feature of interpersonal contact. Female witnesses who remained in unhappy marriages reported doing so for many reasons, including a sense of responsibility to provide their children with more stability and security than they themselves had experienced in childhood.

11.14A number of male and female witnesses said that they were in long-term relationships but were unable to make a commitment in marriage, fearing they would be ‘trapped again’ as they felt they had been in the institution. Witnesses stated that other reasons for avoiding the commitment of marriage were a fear of being exposed as ‘illegitimate’ and as having been reared in an institution. Witnesses spoke about being able to maintain a veil of secrecy about their background as a single person, which they feared losing if they married:

I made all kinds of excuses as why I didn’t want to get married … the truth was it meant I would have to show my birth certificate and I was ashamed of that … anything rather than he find out I was illegitimate, because he was a nice middle class …(professional)….

11.15One hundred and thirty nine (139) witnesses, 83 male and 56 female, reported life-long isolation and loneliness, often describing themselves as ‘married loners’, despite being in long-term relationships and having children. The inability to form or sustain intimate, trusting relationships was described as the inevitable result of affectionless and often violent childhoods. The wife of one witness who attended the hearing with her husband said that she lived with a ‘stranger’ and never really knew her husband. Other companions described the isolated lives some witnesses led, for example:

It’s the middle of the night he …(witness)… wakes up with these mad screams. … He spends the greater part of his life in his room, he comes down and brings his meals up, if he falls asleep the children can hear him scream.

11.16There were 132 witnesses who were single at the time of their hearing, of whom 72 males and 36 females reported having never married or formed any stable relationships. A number of male witnesses reported outwardly successful lives that they maintained by moving around while avoiding attachments. Others, both male and female, reported living quiet, isolated existences that suited them, having struggled for years to fit into a more mainstream life: ‘they locked me up inside myself and threw away the key.

11.17A further 32 male and 26 female witnesses described themselves as having been in relationships for periods of time but were unable to sustain a commitment to their partners. A small number of male witnesses described living a nomadic existence, working on farms and building sites. Some married for a short time but could not sustain the commitment and reported abusing drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for painful and intrusive memories:

The skills I had honed in …named School… how to hide and not show feelings, were a disadvantage in adult life outside. I could not sustain relationships, express my feelings. I was closed off.

11.18Both male and female witnesses reported that the past had been locked away until media publicity in the 1990s forced memories back into awareness. Thirty nine (39) witnesses, 18 male and 21 female, reported that they had never disclosed details of their abuse to their partners or told anyone about their past until their hearing with the Committee. Disclosure to spouses, partners and family members in recent years was reported to have had varying effects on family relationships. Witnesses reported that talking about their traumatic childhoods allowed some of their families to understand their troubled and at times disturbed behaviour. Spouses and adult children who attended hearings as companions often stated that it was easier to cope with aggressive or withdrawn behaviour when they had some understanding of the witness’s background. For other witnesses the public reminder of their past increased pressure on already fragile relationships. A number of witnesses stated that the open acknowledgement of their abuse made everyday life more difficult as it reactivated feelings of pain and anger. A number of companions acknowledged a history of disturbed family relationships that had a traumatic effect on their own lives:

He would have terrible violence with the drink. He would always provide for us, we never went without. My dad had a problem with alcohol, my dad beat me and my mum, he was very violent. He loved me but he didn’t know how to show it.

Parenting

11.19The amount of information provided about family life and parenting varied considerably among the male and female witnesses. Many witnesses spoke frankly about their experiences as parents while others did not provide much information about this aspect of their lives. Six hundred and fifty three (653) male and female witnesses (83%) reported having parented and/or reared children. This number included witnesses’ own biological children and non-biological children who were reared as their own, including a number of fostered and adopted children.

11.20Three hundred and nineteen (319) male witnesses (77%) reported having children, with family size varying between one and 11 children. Fifty (50) witnesses reported having six children or more and the average family size reported by male witnesses was four children.

11.21Three hundred and thirty four (334) female witnesses (88%) reported having children. Family size varied between one and 15 children, with 31 witnesses having six children or more. The average family size reported by female witnesses was three children.

11.22The Committee were told that in total, 653 witnesses parented 2,158 children. These include both non-biological children raised by some witnesses and biological children who were raised without the witnesses’ support, some of whom were adopted or placed in out-of-home care.

  • Forty three (43) female witnesses reported rearing their children as lone parents.
  • Thirty six (36) female witnesses reported placing children for adoption shortly after birth. The witnesses reported that 42 of their children were placed for adoption. Twenty seven (27) of the reported adoptions were of children born to women within three years of their discharge from the School system.
  • Sixteen (16) children of nine female witnesses were reported to have been placed in out-of-home care, either with extended family members or in residential or foster care.
  • Nine (9) female witnesses reported having an unplanned pregnancy between the ages of 14 and 16 years.

11.23Aspects of the parent–child relationship described by 653 male and female witnesses who had children are shown below, in the order of frequency reported:

Table 45: Relationship with Own Children – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Relationship with children* Frequency reported by male witnesses Frequency reported by female witnesses Total witness reports % Total witness
Reported normal 115 106 221 34
Overprotective 63 116 179 27
Unable to show affection 80 92 172 26
Harsh 73 52 125 19
Varied between children 26 49 75 11
Abusive 24 17 41 6
No comment 25 16 41 6

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

n = 653 (319 male and 334 female)

*Witnesses could give more than one answer

11.24Two hundred and twenty one (221) witnesses (34%), 115 male and 106 female, described having ‘normal’ or good relations with their children. Many witnesses described the pleasure they derived from having children of their own and being able to provide them with the love and security they had not received themselves. Relationships between witnesses and their children were described as influenced by their own childhood experiences, which many said left them ill-prepared for the role of being a parent. ‘I worry about them and I’m proud of them but I can’t tell them’.

You forget you have a soft side. It’s good to be soft but I don’t think I showed it enough to my kids, I regret that now.

11.25One hundred and seventy nine (179) witnesses, 63 male and 116 female, described themselves as overprotective of their children to the point that it created difficulties between themselves and their partners as well as with their children. For some witnesses the fear of their children being harmed or getting into trouble and consequently being placed in out-of-home care was difficult to tolerate and resulted in excessive vigilance and control. This was described by witnesses as contributing, in some instances, to an authoritarian approach to parenting and to being overprotective. These parent–child relationships were often characterised by overindulgence and separation anxiety. For many female witnesses having their own child was described as a pivotal life experience and as one witness said: ‘gave me something of my own for the first time in my life’.

11.26The inability to be affectionate with their children was reported by 172 witnesses (22%), 80 male and 92 female, as a general feature of the parent–child relationships: ‘I can’t cuddle my own kids’. Witnesses reported that having not experienced affection themselves they found it difficult to be physically demonstrative. Sixty five (65) of the witnesses, 29 male and 36 female, who described themselves as harsh or abusive in relation to their children also reported their inability to demonstrate affection as a significant feature of their relationships:

I had no maternal instinct at all. No, I didn’t want them when they were babies. I did what I had to do, it was my duty…. My …husband… would bring them up on his knee, he’d hug them and kiss them. I pushed them away, I wasn’t able to do it. I’d eat the face off them. I always said to them “you’ll get what I never got”. I done my best for them I encouraged them all the way. … I can do it …(be more affectionate)… with the grandchildren.

I never gave my daughters or my sons a hug. I associate touch with sex, I could not put my arms around them. I am always wary if I bump into someone. I am always saying “sorry, sorry, sorry”. … I feel so dirty, afraid. … I was very strict with my boys. I’d follow them anywhere. I was terrified they would end up…. I know they were hurt. I was lucky. My wife, I can never stop apologising to her, I put her through hell…. She’s like an anchor.

I don’t know how she …(wife)… put up with me, not being able to relate to my wife and my children. I can bark orders at them. I bitterly regret that. My wife does the emotional bit because I am not able to do it, I so regret that.

11.27One hundred and twenty five (125) witnesses (19%), 73 male and 52 female, reported themselves as harsh in their treatment of their children, many of whom described carrying a burden of guilt in that regard. Forty one (41) witnesses, 24 male and 17 female, reported abusing their children including episodes of serious harm and neglect to the point where the children were placed in out-of-home care. Some witnesses lost contact with their children in the context of poor relationships in the early years of family life, others were able to overcome the difficulties and reported that relationships with their children improved over time:

They took my kids off me when they were younger because I couldn’t cope, they went to fostering, I had a breakdown. After a while I got them back….

I was kinda sick parenting them…. My sons didn’t have it easy either, I remember thinking …(of ending own life)… and thinking of the 2 boys that I would bring them with me as well. They got involved in drink and drugs…. One got into treatment … he’s doing fine now.

11.28Six (6) male witnesses described being physically abusive, which resulted in serious injury to their wives and/or children. A number of witnesses reported a sense of guilt about how they may have contributed to their children’s difficulties resulting, in some instances, in drug abuse and/or early deaths:

I was very hard on my kids. It got so much that my kids ended up hating me. I always had a problem with drinking that was my downfall and my aggression regarding my kids. I had a good wife and she stood by me and my sons and my daughters, I can go to any of them but I can’t live with them. I lost…children through drugs, the drink was my downfall.

11.29Five (5) female witnesses reported that their partners had sexually abused their children, two of whom were reported to have received custodial sentences.

11.30Seventy five (75) witnesses, 26 male and 49 female, described having variable relationships with their different children, some finding one or other of their children more difficult to relate to and acknowledged being excessively strict as a result. A number of witnesses described being harsh on their older children and being much closer to their younger children. Other witnesses said that the relationships with their children improved as they got older and they were able to talk to them about their own childhood experiences. A large number of both male and female witnesses reported having more affectionate, close and rewarding bonds with their grandchildren than they had with their own children:

I would love to have said the word “mum”. … When my daughter says it and when I hear my grandchildren say it, it’s lovely. … My joy today is my grandchildren, they’re lovely.

I stopped it …(hitting children)… because … I said it is not the right thing to do. When I had my second child I stopped. My first child thinks terrible of me because I hit her. It does affect them too you know. I used have them cleaning all the time, that’s the way I was brought up. I should never have hit them, I feel a lot of guilt in myself for doing this to them. I was a terrible mam, I was. We get on all right now.

11.31A number of adult children who accompanied witnesses to hearings described the shock they experienced when they first became aware of the abuse and deprivations their parents endured as children. Some stated that learning about their parents’ childhood experiences helped them to understand and accept the hardship of their own traumatic childhoods with parents who were excessively punitive and critical or unable to show affection. The daughter of a witness attending as a companion reported:

My father never spoke to us, you got hit. He’d hit me mammy, he’d hit me, he’d hit my brothers. He was aggressive, he was violent, none of the rest of his family are like this. He has mellowed, he is not like that now, we can talk for hours. The difference with the grandchildren…. He was very good to us material wise, he was a good father that way.

11.32Forty one (41) witnesses, 25 male and 16 female, made no comment about their relationship with their children.

Occupational status

11.33Since their discharge from the School system 509 witnesses (64%), 279 male and 230 female, spent the majority of their working lives in paid employment. Two hundred and fifty (250) of those witnesses (32%), 151 male and 99 female, reported being in paid employment for more than 30 years. A further 90 female witnesses worked full-time in the home caring for their families for 30 years or longer. The following table shows the witnesses’ employment status at the time of their hearing:

Table 46: Witnesses Employment Status at Time of Hearing – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Employment status Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Employed 116 28 148 39 264 33
Retired 106 26 71 19 177 22
Disability 87 21 61 16 148 19
Unemployed 61 15 38 10 99 13
Self -employed 31 8 10 3 41 5
Defence Forces 4 1 0 0 4 1
Volunteer 1 0 3 1 4 1
Working at home 7 2 44 12 51 6
Unavailable 0 (0) 3 1 3 (0)
Total 413 (100)* 378 (100)* 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

11.34The above information needs to be considered in the context of the witnesses’ age. At the time of their hearing 152 witnesses (19%), 102 male and 50 female, were aged 65 years and over and a further 504 witnesses (64%), 245 male and 259 female, were aged between 50 and 65 years.

11.35Among the 148 witnesses (19%) who were on disability benefit at the time of their hearing, 27 were aged 60 years or older and 45 were on disability benefit for more than 20 years.

11.36Female witnesses who were discharged before the mid-1970s reported that their working lives were generally influenced by marriage and parenthood, with 42 of the witnesses who married and had children during that time reporting they did not work outside the home until their children were grown up. Seven (7) male witnesses reported that their partners were the main income earners in the family, a number of those witnesses chose to work at home to avoid the pressure they had previously experienced in the work place. They described this arrangement as providing a feeling of control over their day-to-day circumstances that they could not achieve in open employment situations.

11.37Self-employment was reported by witnesses to have been a constructive response to managing authority and a desire for independence. Several male and female witnesses described themselves as ‘workaholics’ some of whom reported building up successful businesses that allowed them to keep busy and take their mind off their traumatic past. Others reported a liking for solitude and self-motivation, which favoured self-employment.

I can’t hold a job, I can’t focus, I can’t work with anyone. I walk off a job when people start to show authority, I walk away. I struggle. I have had …(many jobs, now works alone)… which I find the best I don’t have to answer to anyone.

I loved the freedom of being able to do things…(working for self)… and not being chastised…

11.38Many male and female witnesses described the detrimental effects of a poor education on their work lives. Poor literacy, combined with the stigma of having been in a Reformatory or Industrial School, led to many witnesses ‘keeping their heads down’ to avoid criticism or the shame of being ‘found out’ as having been in an institution. They found it difficult to progress beyond unskilled labouring, factory or cleaning work and had poorly provisioned retirements. They described their working lives as a constant struggle to survive without drawing attention to their perceived shortcomings, both educational and social.

You were put down a lot, if anyone says “where are you from?” Well you have nowhere, have you? If you say Dublin, then they say “where?” and you just can’t say, it’s that stigma. I thought people would judge me badly.

When I came out … the lack of education hit me. I was unskilled, I was terrified, I couldn’t put …(name of School)… on the form. I couldn’t go back into education because, what is education? It is beatings.

I go haywire when anyone gives me an application form to fill out…I haven’t got the confidence, I know what my writing is like, I know what my spelling is like…

I was in …named company…for 25 years and they said you’ll have to learn it…(computer)…I was terrified I would show myself up. I can’t go over the boss and say “can I have…?”. I can’t go up and approach him. It’s not because of him, it’s because of me…I’m terrified. Then they…(work colleagues)… say to me “you should go for that”, if they only knew the truth, I don’t want anyone to know my background…instead of moving up in work I’ve moved down. I couldn’t say I want more because I’d be afraid.

11.39One witness whose life was, like many others, a catalogue of jobs with varying levels of responsibility, always on the move, afraid of being found out as being from an Industrial School and having no family stated:

I had the capacity to find a cosy corner somewhere, settle in and keep to myself and then the day would come when I would feel comfortable and give my opinion about something and they would all wonder where that came from, I’d show myself as someone with a brain. Then I would have to move on again, afraid I’d be discovered …(to have been in an Industrial School)….

I work nightshift, which suits me grand because they leave me alone, nobody bothers me. I can just get on with my work, they know I’m a good worker. I always keep busy myself, that’s how I cope.

11.40Table 47 below shows the highest education level attended, but not in all instances completed, by both male and female witnesses:

Table 47: Highest Level of Education Attended – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Highest level of education Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Primary 327 79 249 66 576 73
Secondary 52 13 83 22 135 17
Third level 34 8 44 12 78 10
No schooling 0 0 2 1 2 (0)
Total 413 100 378 (100)* 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

11.41Two (2) female witnesses reported never having attended any form of classroom education. All other witnesses reported attending class for some period during their childhood, a number of whom reported attending only prior to their admission to the Schools.

11.42With little or no preparation for open employment and life outside the institution the initial experience of being discharged was described by the majority of witnesses as a shock. As noted previously, aftercare provision and follow-up, with the exception of job placement, was reported as minimal or non-existent for the majority of witnesses and those who had spent most of their lives in an institution and had no family contact reported severe difficulties adjusting to society when they were discharged.

I found it very difficult moving into a different society, I found it very, very hard. I was very shy, felt everybody was looking at me…. When I was 16 I got a job in a … shop. I could not get used to farthings and 3-halfpence and things like that. They threw me out. … I felt all the girls were laughing at me…. I was good for nothing at that stage.

Jobs I found very hard. I worked in Dublin for 3 years, the longest job I had. I had to work to pay my rent, when you’re not living with family…I used to think everybody was looking at me. I used to get red in the face. Getting a job…(in a public service area)…I was looking and learning and listening to how people behaved and copying them. I wasn’t asked questions, I was there on my own…I was in charge…I got confidence.

11.43The pattern of emigration from Ireland to the UK seeking employment was a feature of witnesses’ lives in the period, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time of their hearing, 290 witnesses (37%) were living in the UK. Casual labour, factory and domestic work were commonly reported employment options in the lives of witnesses discharged up to mid-1970s both in Ireland and the UK. The following table shows the occupational status of witnesses on the basis of their main form of employment, as reported at the time of their hearing:

Table 48: Occupational Status of Witnesses – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Occupational status Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Semi-skilled or unskilled 298 72 262 69 560 71
Non-manual 29 7 56 15 85 11
Skilled manual 63 15 19 5 82 10
Professional 7 2 22 6 29 4
Managerial/technical 16 4 9 2 25 3
Unavailable 0 0 10 3 10 1
Total 413 100 378 100 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

11.44One hundred and seventy (170) of the 791 male and female witnesses (21%) reported being placed directly into live-in jobs, including with farmers, shopkeepers, hotels, hospitals, and members of religious orders, when they were discharged from the School system. Many of those witnesses described being paid a minimal rate, sometimes not regularly or at all and were allowed little more freedom than they had in the School system. The employment placements were generally either in the vicinity of the institution from which they had been discharged or in Dublin. As reported previously, 27 witnesses reported being physically and sexually abused by their employers and by others in the context of their work setting in the years immediately following their discharge. In several instances the abuse was described as continuing over a long period of time. The witnesses routinely reported that they felt powerless to protect themselves and stop the abuse.

11.45Thirty eight (38) male witnesses reported being sent to work for farmers when they were discharged from a School. Thirteen (13) male witnesses reported being treated as family members and although they worked hard were happy to do so in exchange for the kindness they experienced. At the time of the hearings four witnesses were still living, or in regular contact, with the family they had been sent to many years previously. Less positive accounts were also heard of witnesses being ‘treated like slaves’, made to sleep in out-houses, eat meals separately from the employer’s family, sometimes outside the house, and were expected to wash in the yard or out-houses. Witnesses who had spent many years in an institution reported the experience of living and working with a family as alien and that they did not know how to behave or understand what was expected of them. A number reported that they worked hard but did not have an aptitude for farm work; others enjoyed the work to which they had become accustomed while in the Schools.

11.46Twenty nine (29) male witnesses reported being placed by the School in trades; for seven of the witnesses these work placements developed into ongoing careers. The jobs were reported to draw on the trade skills acquired in the Industrial School. Tailoring was the most frequently reported trade, with 15 witness reports of being placed in jobs in the clothing industry. Nine (9) witnesses reported being placed in the shoemaking industry; five others reported being sent to work as bakers and carpenters.

11.47Nine (9) male witnesses reported making careers in the music industry following their experience in the School bands. Some of the witnesses became professional musicians; others were music teachers or involved in related careers. Music was reported to be an important part of the lives of most of those witnesses and an acknowledged positive outcome of their experience in the institution.

I done a bit of music and a bit of folk singing in sessions, there was a lot of drink around too, then I done drugs. I overdosed…Then things came right, my head got clear and things came right in the music.

11.48Seventy one (71) male witnesses joined either the Irish Defence Forces or overseas armies at some time during their life. Many witnesses described the Army as providing security, shelter and a structured regime in addition to career opportunities and the possibility of travel. Twenty-two (22) male witnesses had substantial and positive careers in the Army, 10 of whom spent the majority of their working lives there.

The Army was another way, a lot of the lads joined the Army. It was the same as…named School…but you got paid for it. You had the rules and regulations, you had punishment but you got paid.

11.49Sixty one (61) male witnesses were unemployed at the time of their hearing, 46 of whom had been unemployed for more than 20 years.

11.50One hundred and three (103) female witnesses (27%) reported being sent to work for families or religious congregations on a live-in basis when they were discharged from the Schools. Forty six (46) of these witnesses reported being placed in these positions without any prior discussion. As with the male witnesses, female witnesses had routinely never met their new ‘employer’ before the day they were collected, sent or brought to their new place of employment. Witnesses who were sent to work for religious congregations became live-in housekeepers or cleaners in hospitals, Schools, boarding schools, presbyteries, nursing homes and laundries. The majority of witnesses reported that these work placements were like an extension of their experience in the Schools, with less abuse. The accounts of such placements were varied. Approximately a third of the witness reports were positive in that the families, nuns and clergy employing them were kind and treated the witnesses well. A number of witnesses reported that their employers encouraged them to socialise and, over time, helped them to pursue further education or training, for example doing commercial courses or nursing training. Fifteen (15) female witnesses reported maintaining contact with these initial employers up to the present day.

11.51Another 163 female witnesses (43%) reported that following their discharge they found themselves jobs in domestic situations for the first couple of years. At least half of the female witnesses who were employed in domestic service in the early years after their discharge remained in similar occupations for the rest of their working lives, either on a live-in basis as priest’s housekeepers, hospital domestics, nannies and housekeepers or as cooks, cleaners, laundry workers, seamstresses and care attendants. Many witnesses stated that they were trained primarily to clean and, as a result, have been much in demand as housekeepers and cleaners.

11.52Female witnesses discharged since the 1970s increasingly reported being placed in clerical and other positions, for which some had received secretarial training in the School. Thirty two (32) female witnesses reported having trained as nurses, mainly in the UK. Those female witnesses who were not initially employed in domestic or clerical occupations reported being occupied in a variety of areas including a number who returned home and assisted their mothers in caring for younger brothers and sisters.

11.53One hundred and ninety six (196) witnesses, 102 female and 94 male, described chaotic work lives; many were periodically employed but were unable to stay in the same job for long. The majority of the female witnesses who were casually employed reported working as housekeepers, waitresses, cleaners and factory workers, while the male witnesses in this category worked as construction workers, farm labourers, taxi drivers and factory workers. All cited their lack of education and poor literacy skills as impediments to a more stable work life.

11.54Male and female witnesses also described the difficulty they experienced getting on with work colleagues and dealing with work place authority. Male witnesses reported that the lack of education, the effects of alcohol abuse, aggressive behaviour, lack of trust and poor self-esteem had a negative influence on their work lives. Female witnesses frequently reported that in addition to their lack of education, a fear of authority and of making mistakes led them to avoid positions of responsibility in the work place and deterred them from seeking promotion; a number of male witnesses also reported this experience. Many male and female witnesses said that their experiences in the School system left them with a tendency to be excessively anxious and suspicious, creating subsequent difficulties in both their work and home lives.

When I started work it was tough. If someone came in to the restroom I would run in to the loo and lock myself in, I was terrified in case they spoke to me….I feel so stupid at work,…they do…(record)… minutes and everybody takes turns…I was going to say to them “I’m not good at that” but I thought they’d ask “why?”

If anyone annoys me I start a row. I have to be on my own, I can’t get on with people. I have done every job under the sun. I’ve worked hard but move a lot. It’s hard to trust anyone and I was unpredictable.

In England I would love to have been on the buses …(working on the buses)…. But, I couldn’t fill in forms…. Even when you went out with a boyfriend you thought you weren’t good enough for him, you weren’t good enough for anyone really. You were with friends but they were better than you. … The girls that you were with you’d always be afraid you’d let something slip, in case they’d say “oh she came from …named School…”. But in England there was no one watching you, no one knows anything about me. …(I was)… always told by nuns “you are the rubbish of Ireland”. … In England nobody knows me….

11.55Thirty one (31) male and female witnesses reported being unable to sustain regular employment as a result of serious mental health difficulties.

11.56It is of note that 56 female witnesses were in non-manual occupations compared with 29 male witnesses. Twenty two (22) female witnesses and seven male witnesses reported having completed university degrees as mature students and were in different professional occupations. Twenty five (25) witnesses, 16 male and nine female, were employed in senior managerial or skilled technical occupations for which they had received specialised training.

I left here… (Ireland)… because of…(discrimination)…I was frustrated with Ireland. I said “to hell with this, I’m getting out of this country”. I went to …(university abroad)… I have never been unemployed… I put Ireland behind.

11.57Eleven (11) witnesses, six male and five female, reported that they joined religious communities when they were discharged from the Schools. The majority of these witnesses reported they left the communities before completing their training.

11.58Reports of long-term unemployment among male witnesses were associated with reports of time spent in prison. Fifty nine (59) male witnesses (14%) reported having spent time in prison in either Ireland or the UK, and a number in both jurisdictions, since their discharge from the School system. In most instances the first period of detention was within five years of being discharged, and this experience established a pattern followed for life for many of the witnesses. Larceny, public order offences, serious assault, grievous harm and other criminal offences were reasons given by a number of witnesses for their prison sentence. Three (3) male witnesses reported being charged with the sexual abuse of minors.

Accommodation

11.59Most of the 413 male and 378 female witnesses reported stable current accommodation arrangements and almost half the witnesses reported owning their own home. Many witnesses described the importance of having a home to call their own and described the sense of security they felt on achieving this.

I had to work to buy my house, my house comes before everything, that’s mine, no-one will take it off me…I will work all the hours until my mortgage is paid. That’s what I learned in …named School…. What I have is mine…I had no home for so long, I had nothing…, I worked a good bit of overtime to buy a house…I have my privacy and I have my independence, no-one will take that off me.

11.60The accommodation circumstances reported by witnesses at the time of the hearing are shown in Table 49 below:

Table 49: Accommodation of Witnesses at Time of Hearing – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Accommodation Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Owner occupiers 163 39 184 49 347 44
Local authority/council housing 153 37 135 36 288 36
Private rented accommodation 41 10 31 8 72 9
With relatives 18 4 4 1 22 3
Sheltered housing 14 3 5 1 19 2
With friends 7 2 6 2 13 2
Hostel 3 1 2 1 5 1
Institution 4 1 0 0 4 1
Information not available 10 2 11 3 21 3
Total 413 100 378 (100)* 791 (100)*

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

11.61Accommodation referred to as sheltered housing included group homes and supported facilities in the community provided by social and mental health services. Accommodation described as institutional included psychiatric hospitals and prisons.

11.62Homelessness was a reported feature in the earlier years following discharge of 22 of the male witnesses and 40 of the female witnesses who spoke to the Committee. A small number of male witnesses reported ongoing periodic homelessness in recent years.

I slept in down and out places where it was really cheap. … I was thinking would I come back …(to Ireland)… but you can’t come back, you know nobody. I slept rough because I had nowhere to stay, I used to sleep in the park. I met …named ex co-resident…. I got a job in …named establishment… where all the boys used go. But, I had nowhere to stay and I used to be standing up nearly falling asleep during work. I got a place in …named city… but we …(former co-residents)… got thrown out of that because we couldn’t pay. I then got a job as a labourer, it was a job, it was just there, nobody asked questions, you didn’t have to fill a form up or anything. I was there for 12 years. … I felt ashamed, I didn’t want people to know who I was.

Health

11.63Male and female witnesses provided information about their current physical and mental health status and wellbeing, either directly or in the context of discussing their adult life circumstances. Many witnesses reported multiple health concerns, currently and in the past. For the purposes of writing this Report, witnesses’ health status was categorised as good, reasonable and poor based on the information witnesses provided either directly or indirectly about their past and current health history in the course of their hearings.

Physical health

11.64The following table outlines the physical health status described by male and female witnesses at the time of their hearing:

Table 50: Current Physical Health Status – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Physical health status Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Good 163 39 131 35 294 37
Reasonable 148 36 170 45 318 40
Poor 101 24 77 20 178 23
Unavailable 1 (0) 0 0 1 (0)
Total 413 (100)* 378 100 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

11.65The information provided by 294 witnesses (37%), 163 male and 131 female, indicated that they enjoyed a good level of physical health and well-being, notwithstanding the fact that they may have some health problems currently or in the past. Three hundred and eighteen (318) witnesses (40%), 148 male and 170 female, described having reasonable physical health. The most common feature of this group of witnesses was that they reported having physical health problems either currently or in the past, which continued to have an impact on their lives. They generally regarded their physical health problems as being manageable and often age-related. There were 178 witnesses (23%), 101 male and 77 female, who gave a history of poor physical health. The fact that poor health was reported by 25% of male witnesses compared with 20% of female witnesses may be in part related to the older age profile of the male witnesses.

11.66The most frequently reported physical health complaints for both male and female witnesses were cardio-vascular problems such as heart disease, angina and hypertension. One hundred and forty (140) witnesses (18%), 76 male and 64 female, reported various combinations of these conditions including a number who had suffered strokes or had heart surgery. Eighty nine (89) witnesses, 45 male and 44 female, described having gastric conditions including ulcers and gall bladder problems in addition to kidney and liver disorders. Seventy four (74) witnesses, 49 male and 25 female, reported respiratory problems of various kinds including asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Sixty seven (67) witnesses, 31 male and 36 female, reported suffering with different forms of arthritis and rheumatism all of which negatively affected their mobility and sense of well-being.

11.67Certain health problems were more frequently reported by either male or female witnesses; for example 17 male witnesses, compared with three female witnesses, reported that their health problems were directly linked to their alcohol abuse. Thirteen (13) female witnesses reported having had hysterectomies and 10 also reported having osteoporosis. Eleven (11) male witnesses reported having hip, knee or other joint replacements and operations compared with four female witnesses. Twenty three (23) witnesses, eight male and 15 female, reported being diagnosed and treated for cancer. Twenty two (22) male witnesses reported being treated for diabetes and gout, compared with seven reports by female witnesses of treatment for diabetes. Eleven (11) witnesses, five male and six female, reported being treated for tuberculosis as adults.

11.68Three (3) male witnesses reported being HIV positive and a further three male witnesses reported having hepatitis.

11.69Finally, the Committee heard 60 reports of multiple health problems from female witnesses compared with 47 similar reports from male witnesses and male witnesses generally reported being less inclined to seek medical advice than female witnesses.

Mental health

11.70The following table provides an overview of the mental health status of the witnesses as described by them, either directly or indirectly, in the course of their hearings. Good mental health was less frequently reported than good physical health:

Table 51: Current Mental Health Status – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Mental health status Males % Females % Total witnesses %
Good 117 28 74 20 191 24
Reasonable 183 44 181 48 364 46
Poor 112 27 123 33 235 30
Unavailable 1 (0) 0 0 1 (0)
Total 413 (100)* 378 (100)* 791 100

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Some rounding up/down was applied

11.71One hundred and ninety one (191) witnesses (24%), 117 male and 74 female, described good mental health and well-being. These witnesses reported being reasonably happy and did not feel that their personal or social relationships were markedly affected by emotional or psychological difficulties. There was a notably larger proportion of male than female witnesses who reported good mental health, 28% compared with 20%.

11.72Poor mental health was indicated by a constellation of current and debilitating mental health concerns including suicidal thoughts and attempts, depression, alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders and treatments including psychiatric admission, medication and counselling. One witness gave the following description of the enduring effects of his childhood abuse;

I used to sleep rough and I’d have to ask a garage “Can I clean your cars?” I tried to get back my dignity that I lost, I can’t get it back. They broke me, they did…the problem is still there when you wake up. I’m on tablets for the best part of my life, I’m in and out of hospitals, I took overdoses, I tried to hang myself. All the pressure builds up. I’m kinda seeing psychiatrists all my life. Doctor…named psychiatrist…is very good, I talk to her. Counselling was very disturbing for me. I couldn’t take any more of it …I should not have been on medication all my life. There’s times I sat in my bedroom for 2 to 3 days without coming out.

11.73Substance abuse was reported by 22 witnesses, 12 male and 10 female, who reported poor mental health and 10 other witnesses of this group, four male and six female, reported ongoing eating disorders.

11.74Witnesses described as having reasonable mental health were differentiated from those who were described as having poor mental health by the degree to which they reported their lives to be currently affected by depression, alcohol and substance abuse. Many remarked that memories of past trauma were not easily forgotten and that they abused alcohol at times in their attempts to cope with painful memories and intrusive thoughts. A number of witnesses reported being assisted by mental health and other support services during stressful periods of their lives. Mental health indicators are shown in the following table:

Table 52: Mental Health Indicators in Adult Life – Male and Female Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Mental health indicators* Reports by male witnesses % Reports by female witnesses % Total witness reports %
Psychiatric admission 86 21 84 22 170 21
Suicidal thoughts & attempts 197 48 210 56 407 51
Counselling required 204 49 217 57 421 53
Alcohol abuse 217 53 90 24 307 39
Substance abuse 59 14 31 8 90 11

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

*Witnesses could report more than one mental health indicator

Alcohol, substance abuse and self-harm

11.75Alcohol abuse was reported to be a dominant feature in the lives of 307 witnesses (39%), 217 male and 90 female. One hundred and thirty eight (138) of those witnesses reported a history of alcohol abuse combined with suicidal thoughts and attempts. Of the 86 male witnesses who reported having been admitted to psychiatric hospitals for treatment, 63 also reported a history of alcohol abuse. There were 84 female witnesses who reported having been admitted to psychiatric hospitals for treatment, 35 of whom reported a history of alcohol abuse.

By 17 or 18 I was an alcoholic. It …(alcohol)… blocked it off for me, the orphanage …(Industrial School)…. I’ve had 5 operations on my arm and the doctors say it is muscle damage from the beatings, the one with a brush. I have 5 scars …(scars on arm shown to Commissioners)…. I have been in mental hospitals and tried to kill myself. The psychiatrist asked me what am I keeping in my head? I said “I can’t tell, you wouldn’t believe it”. You would be afraid to tell, the fear is still there. I am now in counselling and it took me an awful long time to say it …(to describe abuse)…, a long time.

I went to England, I think I was about 34, not working, just drifting. I had a job on building sites but lost that through the drinking. I went to a lot of places for the drink, drying out, I’m still attending group therapy. I’m not working at all, I’m on disability because of health problems. I just drink away the day…The doctor says it has to do with what happened…(childhood abuse).

11.76Substance abuse was a less common feature, with 90 witnesses (11%), 59 male and 31 female, reporting that either they were using or had used illegal substances or abused over-the-counter or prescription medication. Reports of substance abuse, both legal and illegal, were strongly associated with reports of alcohol abuse, in 47 instances for male witnesses and 22 instances among female witnesses.

11.77Four hundred and seven (407) witnesses (51%) spoke about their own suicidal thoughts and/or attempts and the death by suicide of their friends and siblings. Forty three (43) of the 407 witnesses who reported a history of suicidal thoughts also reported having made one or more suicide attempts. ‘I tried to commit suicide a few times … terrible depressed, no one knows about it.’ A further five witnesses, three male and two female, reported episodes of ongoing self-harm. One witness stated that 17 of the 39 co-residents in his class photograph had committed suicide over the years since they were discharged. Many others said they were prompted to speak to the Committee on behalf of a sibling or friend who had died by suicide and who shared the witnesses’ childhood experience of abuse in institutions.

Impairments

11.78Fifty one (51) witnesses, 29 male and 22 female, who gave evidence of abuse in Schools reported having disabilities that affected their overall health and impaired their functioning as follows:

  • Thirty one (31) witnesses, 15 male and 16 female, were hearing impaired.
  • Twelve (12) witnesses, seven male and five female, were physically impaired.
  • Nine (9) witnesses, six male and three female, were visually impaired.

11.79Many of the witnesses with impairments stated that their respective difficulties were the result of either illnesses or injuries in childhood that were neglected while residents in the Schools. Reported physical impairments included partial limb amputation, kidney damage and back injuries that, in one instance, necessitated the use of a wheelchair. Seven witnesses presented medical reports at their hearing that suggested their physical impairments were the result of childhood trauma. Other witnesses gave accounts of receiving medical treatments since they were discharged, including surgery, for conditions that they believed were associated with childhood abuse.

I was an outcast because I couldn’t read or write, I couldn’t read because I couldn’t see the blackboard. I was always put back to the back of the class. I could never understand why they did not pick up that I had very bad sight. When I went to …named city… I asked for my eyes to be tested I went to the eye and ear hospital… and the doctor said to me “where were you until now?” and I told him and he said “they have an awful lot to answer for”.

I have discovered … from the files, from a year old the ear was weeping … no treatment. I have a perforated eardrum. When I was an adult it started weeping. They brought me into hospital and they have tried to dry it up, they brought me down to theatre but the doctor said the wall is broken down and surgery could cause more damage. It is constantly at me. … It drives me scatty … things annoy me. I don’t know where that came from, whether it is from being slapped all the time.

Effects on adult life

11.80Most witnesses reported life-long negative effects and damaging physical, psychological, and social consequences of childhood abuse in Schools. The legacy of alcohol abuse, depression, physical and verbal aggression, anger, lack of trust, and social isolation was evident in the accounts provided by many witnesses about their adult lives.

11.81The negative effects reported are not mutually exclusive and were not prioritised by witnesses, who could report more than one effect. Table 53 lists the difficulties experienced by the 413 male and 378 female witnesses in their adult lives, in order of frequency reported.

Table 53: Reported Effects on Adult Life – Male and Female Witnesses Industrial and Reformatory Schools

Male witnesses Female witnesses
Effects on adult life* Number of reports % of male
witnesses
Effects on adult life* Number of reports % of female
witnesses
Lack of trust 233 56 Lack of self-worth 250 66
Loner 224 54 Lack of trust 242 64
Alcohol abuse 213 52 Counselling required 217 57
Anger 207 50 Suicidal feelings or attempt 210 56
Counselling required 191 46 Abuse not easily forgotten 180 48
Lack of self-worth 157 38 Anxious and fearful 172 46
Abuse not easily forgotten 155 38 Feeling isolated 171 45
Depression 152 37 Loner 159 42
Suicidal feelings or attempt 151 37 Depression 140 37
Feeling isolated 145 35 Anger 136 36
Aggressive behaviour – Physical 126 31 Feeling different to others 135 36
Nightmares 121 29 Nightmares 121 32
Aggressive behaviour – Verbal 116 28 Tearfulness 120 32
Withdrawal 116 28 Withdrawal 118 31
Unable to show feelings to partner 107 26 Overprotective of children 117 31
Feeling different to others 102 25 Post-traumatic effect 116 31
Unable to settle 102 25 Sleep disturbance 101 27
Post-traumatic effect 93 23 Unable to show feelings to children 92 24
Sleep disturbance 84 20 Alcohol abuse 90 24
Unable to show feelings to children 83 20 Feelings related to being a victim 81 21
Feelings related to being a victim 75 18 Unable to show feelings to partner 75 20

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

n = 413 men and 378 women

*Witnesses could report more than one effect. Answers under 18% not shown

11.82The majority of witnesses reported multiple effects, as Table 53 indicates. A high percentage of both male (56%) and female (64%) witnesses reported being unable to trust others. There were some gender differences between the negative effects most frequently reported. For instance 50% or more male witnesses reported abusing alcohol, feeling angry, and being a loner. By contrast 56% or more female witnesses reported experiencing lack of self-worth and contemplating or attempting suicide and 24% reported abusing alcohol. In addition to the above-mentioned negative effects on their health and personality, 408 witnesses (52%) reported that they attended counselling either currently or in the past, and many commented on the beneficial effects they had experienced. A large number of these witnesses reported attending counselling through the National Counselling Service, which was established by the Government in 2000. The service was committed to working with adults who had been abused as children in Irish institutions.

I won’t even go into the house some days. I was a right bastard …(as a husband)…. She’d …(witness’s spouse)… find me facing the wall, she’d wake up in the morning and find me standing facing the wall …crying…. It’s smashing to talk about it and the counselling is free.

I’ve had a stable life, but male pride stops me from saying I’m depressed. I get down, am a loner, don’t mix, have been on the drink in the past, but counselling has helped.

You can knock the walls down but can’t ease it from …distressed…. I carried it in the pit of my stomach all my life.

11.83Three hundred and twenty seven (327) witnesses (41%) gave evidence that the memories of the abuse they experienced remain with them to the present day.

I wish I could get rid of all this, it’s in my head all the time. I used to have terrible nightmares, the only one I could see was this nun who used to hit me all the time. I did take an overdose, I did try to end my life. I was very confused. I never knew who I was.

He …(Br X)… haunts me, I can smell him, I can see his gait … not a week goes by, but I think of him.

The sexual abuse … that’s irreversible. It’s the sexual behaviour that separates me from my family. I can’t work, I can’t go out, I’m nothing. Every day I want to kill myself.

I was not able to go to …(children’s)… parent-teacher meeting because I didn’t feel I could talk …crying…. I didn’t think I was able to speak like another …(parent)…. I wasn’t like another because of the way I was reared. I often cried when they were at school and he …(husband)… at work…. I was afraid that if I told people, I was afraid I’d be locked up. I was afraid they would send me away. I always feel sad.

The other thing is, not being able to read and write was my downfall…. I didn’t tell my family until about 2 years ago. … It can be very lonely … even at Christmas time with my family there. I get lonely like remembering all the times I was on my own. I do have to go out for walks, I have to be on my own.

Thinking about it after I often wondered had we a right to complain, but we had no one to complain to.

Loss is the most significant word in my life. I lost my mother … my childhood, my education and nothing will ever get them back.

11.84Two hundred and nine (209) witnesses (26%) reported suffering from the effects of trauma and described themselves as constantly vigilant and anxious, having disrupted sleep and nightmares with little respite.

I was going to take my own life, one of the other girls did, she took her own life. You are suspicious … all the time, it’s always there, it will be there ’til the day I die…. You can’t put the clock back…. I’d like to have a childhood but I never knew what a childhood was…. That will be a nightmare ’til the day I die, I will bring that to the grave with me.

I hate anyone standing behind me, I still feel as if someone is going to go for me because I was beaten around the head a lot.

I was terrified with the beating I got. My ould mind went a bit that day I’d say. To me, I was never the same young fellow after that, I wasn’t the same young fella that went home. I wasn’t mental but when I went home I’d be looking under the bed and like that. I couldn’t be happy for years and years. I was squeamish and frightened everywhere I went.

11.85One hundred and eight two (182) witnesses (23%) described themselves as having difficulty expressing affection or emotion to their partner and 175 witnesses (22%) stated that they had difficulty showing feelings to their children.

11.86There were distinct differences between the reports of male and female witnesses regarding aggressive behaviour. One hundred and twenty six (126) male witnesses (31%) reported being physically aggressive compared with 30 female witnesses (8%) who reported being physically aggressive to others.

I can be very aggressive, my children seen it, I should never have been a father. I can’t hug or show affection or anything.

I used to smack them …(own children)… as kids, thinking it was the right thing to do, we were beaten all the time. I was bringing my kids up the way I was brought up. I was hit all the time.

11.87Two hundred and thirty four (234) witnesses (30%) described themselves as withdrawn and also stated that they had difficulty relating socially and felt different to others. Many described feeling isolated, frequently moving home, and feeling generally disconnected.

You had to survive on your own, always on your own.There was nobody to back you up. It’s been like that and I will die like that because I can’t change what happened. I can’t change my personality and the way I am. It’s been like somebody put you in a prison and you are expected to change when you come out. Unless there are services there to help you, and there’s nothing, you are not going to change. You are still going to have the mentality of being a loner and keeping people at a distance and being very anti-establishment.

I never had the equipment to survive any type of close relationship. I never had the ability to survive any close relationship, I couldn’t give enough of myself.

11.88Two hundred and forty two (242) witnesses (31%) reported experiencing nightmares and associated sleep disturbance.

It stays with you, it sticks in my mind. You still have the nightmares, they still go on, they haven’t left me yet, I still wake up in the middle of the night…. You went to bed at night you couldn’t move or couldn’t breathe …(not knowing when)… you would be hit with the hand brush.

11.89Sixty seven (67) witnesses, 42 male and 25 female, reported problems with substance abuse. Thirty nine (39) witnesses, 10 male and 29 female, reported having eating disorders.

11.90There were a range of other adverse effects reported in smaller numbers, by both male and female witnesses. For example, between 75 and 150 male and female witnesses reported significant difficulties with parenting, sexual relationships, and feelings of being powerless and disadvantaged.

When I went home I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I couldn’t sit at the table with the family. I used to eat with the chickens out the back, I did not know how to get on with people, I didn’t know what to do…. I only knew beatings. I went off to England, they told me they didn’t want me either, never to come back. I ended up inside …(in prison)… many times, and tried to hang myself.

11.91A small number of witnesses, both male and female, reported having difficulties as adults establishing their personal and family identity. The evidence reported to the Committee included accounts of having no official record of their birth place or birth certificate, names on birth certificates were found to have been changed by School staff, and requests for clarification of personal and family identity were withheld by religious and State authorities. The witnesses presented correspondence at their hearing that they reported having obtained under the Freedom of Information legislation in relation to these matters. Witnesses reported that they experienced difficulties when applying for passports or pensions in later life and when seeking to trace their parents or family of origin.

I had been searching for her …(mother)… and searching for her, it was my one wish in life to find her. I have done so much trying to search for my family. I had been trying to trace her, that was the sad part … there was a brick wall every time. I have no certificate, this is what really got me.

11.92A small number of witnesses described being contacted by representatives of the Schools or religious organisations by telephone, personal visits, and through arranged meetings in recent years. Some witnesses reported feeling threatened and intimidated by such contact that they described as being for the purpose of character references for forthcoming court proceedings, offers of compensation and apologies for past abuse. One male witness described a chance encounter in the following account:

I met Br …X…. I saw this man and he said “I know you”, he said “I remember you, you were a Mass server, you were quite good in school”, and he said “I gave you a terrible time in school. I am so sorry, I gave you an awful time and I’m sorry for all the times I hit you, I beat you around the place”. …distressed and crying… I could have killed him, I felt like killing him, he said “I am so sorry. If it’s any consolation to you, I am sorry for what the School done”. I said nothing to him.

11.93Thirty eight (38) witnesses, 28 male and 10 female, described being thankful for the good lives they have now. Nineteen (19) witnesses, 15 male and four female, reported they experienced no long-term negative effects as a result of their childhood experiences in Schools. Many of these witnesses described their good fortune to have met people who helped them when they left the Schools. Others described the abuse they experienced as an isolated component of their time in institutional care, aspects of which had been positive.

Religion now practised

11.94Two hundred and ninety three (293) witnesses (37%), 156 male and 137 female, stated that they are practising Catholics and 11 others are practising members of different religious denominations.

11.95Many witnesses described themselves as ‘lapsed Catholics’ who had disengaged from the Church, but whose belief in God was unchanged. Witnesses described the continuing anxiety associated with encountering members of religious congregations. ‘I cannot serve a nun now where I work they …(colleagues)… call it “nun alert”.’ Others reported they avoided entering buildings associated with religious congregations, such as churches and schools, for fear of reactivating memories of their abusive experiences.

11.96One hundred and twenty (120) witnesses (15%), 62 male and 58 female, described themselves as having completely rejected the idea of religion. Sixty three (63) witnesses did not comment on their religious practise.

11.97The following chapters present the evidence of 259 witnesses who reported abuse in ‘Other Institutions’ including 36 witnesses who also reported abuse in Industrial and Reformatory Schools.

1 Sections 1(1), 4(1)(a) and 16 as amended by sections 3, 4 and 11 of the 2005 Act.


Part 2

Chapter 12
Introduction to Part 2


12.01The following six chapters contain evidence given by 259 witnesses to the Confidential Committee in relation to experiences of childhood abuse in a range of day and residential institutions and services. The Acts identified a number of settings and services that children attended, or in which they received out-of-home care. For the purpose of the work of the Commission and its Committees the Acts defined an institution as:

a school, an industrial school, a reformatory school, an orphanage, a hospital, a children’s home and any other place where children are cared for other than as members of their families.1

12.02Accordingly, in addition to Industrial and Reformatory Schools, witnesses applied to give evidence of their abuse in Children’s Homes, hospitals, primary and second-level schools, foster care, services for children with special needs, and other residential facilities for young people. The evidence related to abuse experienced when the witness was less than 18 years of age.

12.03The Industrial and Reformatory Schools were all funded by the Department of Education and managed by religious Congregations and Orders. The 161 services, schools, hospitals and other facilities reported in the following chapters were funded and managed by various statutory, private and voluntary agencies. These agencies included the Departments of Education and Health, religious Congregations and Orders.

12.04Two hundred and fifty nine (259) witnesses made 289 reports of abuse in relation to institutions and services other than Industrial and Reformatory Schools. The evidence related to a period of 81 years, between 1919 and 2000, being respectively the earliest year of admission and latest year of discharge of witnesses who reported childhood abuse in these ‘Other Institutions’.

12.05Among the 259 witnesses who gave evidence in relation to ‘Other Institutions’ 51 reported abuse in more than one institution. The majority of witnesses reported more than one type of abuse. Thirty six (36) of the 51 witnesses reported being abused in both Industrial and/or Reformatory schools and one or more of the other institutions or services. Ten (10) witnesses reported abuse in more than one type of service, for example in both a Children’s Home and a hospital, and 18 witnesses reported abuse in more than one facility within the same type of service, for example in two primary schools.

12.06There were 161 different out-of-home care facilities identified in evidence by the 259 witnesses. The details from those reports are presented in the following six chapters, categorised by type of institution or service:

  • Residential and day services for children with special needs
  • Children’s Homes
  • Foster care
  • Hospitals
  • Primary and second-level schools
  • Residential laundries, Novitiates, hostels and other out-of-home settings.

12.07The Confidential Committee’s functions, procedures and method of work outlined in chapters 1 and 2 of this Report apply to all 1,090 witnesses. The general social and demographic profile of those witnesses is reported collectively in chapter 3 with more specific detail regarding the 259 witnesses included in chapters 13-18 as they apply.

12.08The following chapters are arranged in a form similar to the earlier chapters relating to Industrial and Reformatory schools, with some notable exceptions. The Committee decided to aggregate information in a number of instances in order to maintain anonymity and confidentiality. This was in part due to the fact that there were both smaller numbers of witnesses in each category and more easily identifiable services. Male and female witness reports were not segregated for similar reasons. When there were notable differences, numbers for each gender were identified, otherwise they were reported collectively.

12.09Another difference is that witness reports in relation to services in chapters 13-18 refer to more recent decades than the Industrial and Reformatory schools’ reports. At the time of writing, services in the categories reported in chapters 13-18 continue to exist, unlike those reported in the preceding chapters, most of which had ceased operation by the 1970s.

12.10There was considerable variation in the length of time witnesses spent in hospitals, primary and second-level schools, Children’s Homes and other out-of-home placements. A number of witnesses reported abuse that occurred in the course of brief admissions and isolated incidents of abuse perpetrated by one individual. Many of those witnesses did not wish to comment on other aspects of the service in which the abuse occurred. Other witnesses gave evidence of being abused by several people on a frequent basis over a number of years and provided detailed accounts of their life in the residential facilities.

12.11While there were many similarities between the reports made by witnesses in relation to abuse in Children’s Homes and Industrial and Reformatory Schools there was less uniform information available to the Committee regarding the other services reported in the following chapters. Consequently, the information presented in chapter 14 more closely resembles the reports in chapters 3-11. All other chapters have less detailed information about witness demographics, everyday life in the institutions and the witnesses’ current life experiences.

12.12For the purpose of compiling this Report persons referred to by the witnesses as being in charge in management positions are described as authority figures and may include Resident Managers, school Principals, Matrons, Reverend Mothers and Brothers in Charge.

1 Section 1(1).


Chapter 13
Special needs schools and residential services


13.01This chapter of the Confidential Committee Report presents witness evidence of abuse in schools and residential services1 providing care and education for children with special needs as a result of learning, physical, visual, hearing or speech impairment and disability. Some of the schools also had facilities for children to attend from home on a daily basis. A number of the services were formerly known as schools for the mentally handicapped and for deaf and blind children.

13.02Arrangements were made by the Committee to ensure that each witness was afforded the best possible opportunity to place their experiences on record. Witnesses could be accompanied by a companion or professional person to provide support and any necessary assistance during their hearings. Some intellectually disabled witnesses chose to be accompanied by social workers, care workers or other professionals, without whose presence and support a number of witnesses would otherwise have been unable to attend. Commissioners and witnesses were facilitated during some of the hearings by Irish Sign Language (ISL) and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters. As reflected in the Report, a number of intellectually disabled witnesses attended to give evidence regarding specific incidents of abuse and gave no further information about their current lives, personal history or everyday experience in the facilities where they resided as children. A small number of hearings were conducted in or close to the witnesses’ place of residence.

Witnesses

13.03The Committee heard 59 reports of abuse from 58 witnesses, 39 male and 19 female, in relation to their time in 14 different special needs schools and residential services, which were all managed by religious Congregations. One witness reported abuse in two different special needs schools. Nine (9) of the special needs day and residential facilities were gender segregated and five were mixed gender facilities for at least some period of their operation.

  • Thirty seven (37) witnesses reported abuse in day and residential schools and services for intellectually disabled children.
  • Nineteen (19) witnesses reported abuse in day and residential schools and services for children with sensory impairments2.
  • Two (2) witnesses reported abuse in schools and services for children with physical disabilities.

13.04In addition to the accounts of abuse in special needs schools and services that are summarised below, four witnesses also reported abuse in Industrial Schools, foster care and a Children’s Home, the details of which are covered in the relevant chapters of this Report.

13.05This Chapter refers to a 58-year period, with the earliest admission to out-of-home care being in 1935 and the latest year of discharge being 1993.

13.06Ten (10) of the schools and services were located in Irish cities and the other four were in rural and provincial locations.

Social and demographic profile of witnesses

13.07Varying levels of detail were provided to the Committee by witnesses regarding their background and social circumstances. A number of witnesses reported knowing very little about their family of origin or the circumstances of their admission to the schools and services. Details regarding family of origin, place of birth, current residence and other aspects of the witnesses’ lives are, therefore, not always complete. They are differentiated by gender when there are notable differences. The age profile of witnesses at the time of their hearing is shown in the following table:

Table 54: Age Range of Witnesses at Time of Hearing – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Age range Males Females Total witnesses
20–29 years 2 1 3
30–39 years 2 2 4
40–49 years 10 8 18
50–59 years 15 7 22
60–69 years 9 1 10
70+ years 1 0 1
Total 39 19 58

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.08The majority of witnesses were aged less than 60 years at the time of their hearing. Compared with the age profile of witnesses reporting abuse in other settings a notably high proportion of witnesses reporting abuse in special needs facilities were in their 20s and 30s.

13.09Thirteen (13) of those who reported being abused in special needs services were discharged during the 1980s and 1990s. A further 36 witnesses were discharged during the 1960s and 1970s. The remaining nine witnesses were discharged prior to 1960.

13.10Thirty five (35) witnesses, 29 male and six female, reported being born in three Irish counties. The remaining 22 witnesses were born in 12 other Irish counties, the UK and elsewhere. There was no information available regarding the birth place of one witness. At the time of their hearings 52 witnesses were living in Ireland and six were residing in the UK.

13.11Forty three (43) witnesses, 27 male and 16 female, reported being born into two-parent families. Eight (8) witnesses were the children of single mothers, and six witnesses did not know or did not provide information about their parents’ marital status, as outlined in the following table:

Table 55: Marital Status of Witnesses’ Parents at Time of Birth – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Marital status of parents Males Females Total witnesses
Married 27 16 43
Single 7 1 8
Widowed 0 1 1
Unavailable 5 1 6
Totals 39 19 58

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.12The occupational status of witnesses’ parents at the time of their admission was not always reported to the Committee, and was at times unknown. Table 3 indicates the information provided by witnesses regarding their parents’ occupational status:3

Table 56: Occupational Status of Witnesses’ Parents – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Occupational status Males Females Total witnesses
Professional worker 0 1 1
Managerial and technical 0 1 1
Non-manual 4 3 7
Skilled manual 5 2 7
Semi-skilled 4 1 5
Unskilled 14 8 22
Unavailable 12 3 15
Total 39 19 58

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.13Fifteen (15) witnesses did not report or did not know their parents’ occupational status at the time of their admission, further reflecting the fact that many of the witnesses had little or no information about their family of origin.

13.14Forty two (42) witnesses reported having siblings, including 17 who had brothers and sisters in out-of-home care, some of whom were in special needs schools as a result of disability. Altogether the 17 witnesses reported having 38 siblings in out-of-home care. Thirty three (33) witnesses were from families of five or more children and nine witnesses reported having between one and three siblings. Twelve (12) witnesses provided no detailed information regarding their family of origin and four witnesses reported that they had no siblings.

Circumstances of admission

13.15The admission circumstances reported by the 58 witnesses varied but were principally related to the perceived educational and treatment needs of children with specific impairments or disabilities, for example hearing and sight impairments and learning disabilities.

13.16Thirty seven (37) witnesses reported being placed in a special needs school from their family home following assessment of their particular learning or treatment needs. Six (6) of those admissions were reported to have occurred in the context of family breakdown occasioned by parental death, serious illness or marital separation. Six (6) of the 37 witnesses reported that they had started attending local primary schools where their learning difficulties were first recognised. In most instances the witnesses were the only members of their family to be placed in an institution.

13.17The other 21 witnesses reported being placed in special needs schools for a variety of reasons, 17 had more than one previous placement and had been in residential facilities since early childhood. Eight (8) of these 17 witnesses reported that they were born to single mothers and had been in residential institutions since birth, five of whom were admitted to special needs services from Industrial Schools or Children’s Homes and three were admitted from mother and baby homes or county homes. Six (6) witnesses did not know or were unable to report on the circumstances that led to their placement in residential facilities; in three instances accompanying care workers confirmed that nothing was known and no records were available regarding the witnesses’ early life history.

13.18The following table indicates the age at which witnesses were first admitted to out-of-home care including admissions to other facilities prior to a special needs service:

Table 57: Age on First Admission to Out-of-home Care – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Age of first admission Males Females Total witnesses
0–5 years 15 13 28
6–10 years 14 2 16
11–15 years 9 3 12
16+ years 1 1 2
Total 39 19 58

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.19Twenty eight (28) witnesses reported being admitted to a residential facility for the first time before the age of six years and 30 witnesses reported being in residential facilities for more than 10 years, as the next table indicates:

Table 58: Length of Stay in Out-of-home Care – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Number of years in care Males Females Total witnesses
0–5 years 6 1 7
6–10 years 16 5 21
11–15 years 11 12 23
16+ years 6 1 7
Total 39 19 58

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.20The length of time witnesses reported spending in school and residential services varied. On the basis of information provided this variation could be understood to have been influenced by the witnesses’ age when first admitted, the different reasons for their admission and their family circumstances. The average length of stay in residential care reported by the witnesses from special needs schools and services was 11 years. It is important to note that not all of the time indicated was spent in special needs facilities, it also included time spent in mother and baby homes, children’s homes and other residential services.

13.21While more than half of the witnesses were admitted to the schools and residential services from their family homes, and had living relatives, they reported having spent most of their childhoods in institutions. The majority of specialist facilities and treatment services were centrally located during the period covered by this Report. At the time it was common for both children and adults from rural and provincial areas to travel long distances for specialist treatment. Care and residential services were, consequently, a practical necessity. As the following table shows, almost half of the witnesses reported being over 18 years of age when they were discharged from those residential facilities:

Table 59: Age when Discharged from Out-of-home Care – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Age when discharged Males Females Total
witnesses
<15 years 8 1 9
16 years 6 2 8
17 years 6 7 13
18+ years 19 9 28
Total 39 19 58

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.22Twenty five (25) of the 28 witnesses who reported being discharged when they were over 18 years of age also reported having remained in supported accommodation placements for most of their adult lives. In many instances these accommodation facilities were provided by the same organisations who managed the special needs services where the witnesses had been admitted as children. The accounts of abuse included in this report occurred when the witness was under 18 years of age, in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Record of abuse

13.23The nature and extent of abuse reported by witnesses varied, and reports included descriptions of single incidents of abuse and accounts of multiple experiences of being abused over long periods of time.

13.24Most of the facilities were the subject of more than one witness report:

  • Nine (9) special needs facilities were each the subject of 4–12 reports, totalling 54 reports.
  • Five (5) facilities were each the subject of a single report.

13.25Forty one (41) witnesses reported abuse over a 35-year period prior to 1970 and the remaining 17 witnesses gave evidence in relation to their admissions throughout the 1970s, 1980s and the early 1990s.

13.26Witnesses reported the four abuse types as defined by the Acts4: physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse. Abuse reports included single incidents of abuse and combinations of abuse as follows:

  • Forty eight (48) witnesses reported physical abuse.
  • Thirty six (36) witnesses reported sexual abuse.
  • Twenty five (25) witnesses reported neglect.
  • Twenty four (24) witnesses reported emotional abuse.

13.27Combinations of the four abuse types were reported in the order of frequency shown below:

Table 60: Abuse Types and Combinations – Male and Female Special Needs Schools and Residential Services

Abuse types and combinations Number of reports
Physical and sexual 13
Physical, neglect and emotional 11
Physical, sexual, neglect and emotional 9
Physical 9
Sexual 9
Physical, sexual and neglect 2
Physical, sexual and emotional 2
Physical and neglect 1
Physical and emotional 1
Sexual and neglect 1
Neglect and emotional 1
Total 59

Source: Confidential Committee of CICA, 2009

13.28As shown, the most frequently reported abuse combination was physical and sexual abuse, of which there were 13 reports. There were a further nine reports of physical and sexual abuse combined with emotional abuse and neglect. In all, 26 witnesses reported being both physically and sexually abused in facilities for children with special needs.

Physical abuse

The wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child.5

13.29This section describes reports of physical abuse, non-accidental injury and lack of protection from such abuse given in evidence by witnesses to the Committee. The forms of physical abuse reported included hitting, punching, kicking, beating, bodily assault with implements, and immersion in water. The Committee heard accounts of assaults that were so severe that injuries were caused which required medical intervention.

13.30There were 48 reports of physical abuse from 32 male and 16 female witnesses in relation to 13 of the 14 special needs schools and facilities reported in this category. Twenty eight (28) reports related to experiences in schools and facilities for children with intellectual disabilities. Nine (9) facilities were the subject of between two and 10 reports, totalling 43 reports. Five (5) facilities were each the subject of single reports.

Description of physical abuse

13.31Witnesses reported that while attending special needs services they were physically abused and assaulted by various means including being hit with leather straps, canes, spade and broom handles, various types of sticks and brushes, kitchen implements, wooden coat hangers and rulers. They also reported having their heads held under water, being put into cold baths, having their hair cut and pulled, being forcibly fed, and being locked in outhouses, sheds and isolated rooms. Witnesses with sensory impairments described the particular fear and trauma associated with being physically abused when they could not see or hear abusers approaching them.

13.32Other forms of physical abuse and assault reported by witnesses included being punched and kicked, pinched, slapped across the face and ears, held by the throat, lifted by the hair and ears, and having their left hands or both hands tied behind their back to prevent use.

There was a whole load of them… (religious and lay staff)… who’d slap me across the face or with the strap on my legs …. I didn’t feel I was a trouble maker but I was active, they just picked on me … they just kept slapping me the whole time and they all said I was a trouble maker, they gave me a bad name.

13.33Witnesses reported being severely physically punished for certain behaviours, in response to particular occurrences and frequently for no reason that they could understand. Among the events reported to have been so punished were: running away, bed-wetting, talking to co-residents, not completing chores, disclosing abuse, being forced by violence to carry out sexual acts, taking food, making mistakes in the classrooms or workshops, using sign language, not using disability aids properly, losing or damaging disability aids, wear and tear on clothing, walking out of line, having soiled sheets or underwear, and being out of bed. Several witnesses reported that using sign language and writing with their left hand was forbidden.

The first time I was hit, a crowd of us used to queue to get our hair combed. The Brother in charge …(named religious) … said to me “you are going without getting your hair combed”. I wasn’t, he beat me then…. He put me over his knees and hit me with his hands, I was totally puzzled, I couldn’t figure out why I was hit. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I hadn’t been hit at home even though I had done things wrong…. That was the first of many times being hit … It was Br …X…. He invented excuses for hitting fellas, such as he invented this thing that …younger co-residents… could not talk to …older residents…. He’d beat you for a lot of things with the leather, your trousers would be down, it … (the beating)… could be over the stool or over his bed. One of the things was I got beaten for putting polish on my socks, you’d get beaten if you didn’t have Rosary beads with you, they used have Rosary every night. If a fella had a hole in his jumper, if it turned into a hole before I realised it, I would be beaten.

Br …X… would bring the bed-wetters into his room and flog them. He’d make them have a cold bath whether it was winter or summer and you could hear the screams, the screams, he was very violent. He was a big strong fit man, I was petrified of him, it came back to me in dreams, the dreams of it returned.

There is the whole issue of… (mannerisms)…, people have sort of mannerisms maybe, shaking backwards and forwards, you’d be beaten for that.

We were punished for signing. … It was very, very difficult to control. … It was our language, it was the way we communicated. It was natural for us to use gestures, we were deaf.

13.34The random nature of some beatings was described by witnesses. One said he was severely beaten after the residence he occupied was accidentally flooded. He was not there when the accident happened, but was blamed nevertheless. Another witness described how a particular staff member would: ‘beat you wherever he could get you, I got used to being beaten up, I didn’t care’. Others commented that they did not know why they were being beaten as nobody explained anything to them. They accepted physical abuse as part of life in the institution.

13.35Witnesses said they were physically abused in many locations but most often in the classrooms, dormitories, stairs and corridors, staff bedrooms, and in the external playing areas. Five (5) witnesses reported being held down across furniture by older residents to be beaten on their bared bottoms by religious and lay staff.

Injuries

13.36Ten (10) witnesses reported receiving injuries as a result of the physical abuse they experienced, including five accounts of receiving wounds that bled and four accounts of extensive bruising. There were separate accounts of injury to one witness’s arm that the witness believed resulted in permanent disability and injuries to another witness’s head and ears, which were believed to be the cause of subsequent hearing loss. Another witness stated that she required sutures to her arm following a severe beating with a broom handle. Both religiou