The following excerpts are taken from The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, otherwise known as the Ryan Report, dealing with the Roman Catholic Industrial School known as Artane:
7.01 St Joseph’s Industrial School, Artane was established under the Industrial Schools Act (Ireland), 1868 by the Christian Brothers at the request of the then Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Cullen. It opened on 28th July 1870 with the aim of caring for neglected, orphaned and abandoned Roman Catholic boys, and it operated as an industrial school until its closure in 1969.
7.02 The Industrial School was located in a north-eastern suburb of Dublin some five kilometres from the city centre in an area which was, at that time, open countryside amenable to intensive farming. The application for a certificate in June 1870, to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, stated that Artane Castle plus 56 acres of land had been purchased for the purpose of setting up an industrial school. The request was approved and the School was licensed to accommodate 825 boys on 9th July 1870. From an original intake of three pupils, it quickly grew in scale, housing 700 boys by 1877, and reaching its certified size of 825 boys before the end of the nineteenth century. During its existence, approximately 15,500 boys were cared for and educated in Artane.
7.08 The Rules and Regulations of Artane were similar to those of other industrial schools and required it to provide for the physical needs of the boys committed to the School, who were to be supplied with suitable accommodation, clothing, food, and instruction. Recreation was to be provided and they were allowed to receive visitors and to correspond with outsiders. They were to receive religious instruction, a secular education and industrial training. The School was also required to develop a spirit of industry, pride and discipline amongst the children.
7.39 An unusual feature about Artane was that there was independent evidence as to conditions there. The evidence was firstly that of Fr Henry Moore, who was chaplain to Artane by appointment of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr J.C. McQuaid, from 1960 to 1967. Fr Moore was the author of a
7.46 As to allegations of physical abuse, the Congregation was also generally defensive. It maintained that this issue had to be seen in the context of the time, when corporal punishment was permitted, not only in industrial schools but in all schools, and was also common in homes across the country. Moreover, the Christian Brothers’ own rules forbade excessive punishment and encouraged a minimalist approach to the physical punishment of children. Where excessive punishment occurred, it was disapproved of, and the records of the Congregation showed that, where
THE EXECUTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Part Three The Victims
by Kobutsu Malone
From the Link: http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/
Following are some of the letters I have received to date. Most of these have been redacted and *names changed* to maintain confidentiality. Each redacted letter was edited and approved by the individual correspondent prior to posting. All correspondence received concerning this matter is held in strict confidence.
The First Letter:
From Thomas Schwarz – BC ’66
January 5, 2009 9:51:13 PM EST
Dear Kobutsu Malone,
I feel as though I am at the beginning of a long, rough, perilous, unclear trail. I hope that you can help me, and perhaps I might be able to help you.
I graduated from Bergen Catholic in 1966. Memories of my four years at B.C. have never been pleasant. As I have grown older it seems those memories come more often. Because I am contacting you I suspect that you realize already that I, too, endured abuse at B.C. I recently began Googling all the word and name combinations I could think of to let the internet retrieve information for me, but alas I have come away almost empty-handed — except for your short piece on engaged-zen.org. [A precursor to this bergencatholicabuse.com website] Your description of the Irwin brothers behavior was stunningly accurate. (Sentences redacted)
Finally, my own recollections of beatings I suffered while being “jugged” involved Bro. John P. Seibert.
Why are there no other mentions on the internet of these events? Are we the only men who recall such incidents? Are they figments of our collective imaginations? I doubt it.
I would be most appreciative if we could share information and perhaps make a collective, concerted effort to unearth and explain those sordid events.
I look forward to hearing from you.
|Brother John Peter Seibert|
January 5, 2009 10:34:01 PM EST
I am very glad we had the opportunity to speak earlier. You are the only person I know of so far who can corroborate what I wrote about Charlie Irwin’s behavior.
Would you be willing to write about your experiences with Irwin’s behavior? Would you be willing to publish it on the internet next to my account?
There were some 30 odd kids in my class room. Irwin taught perhaps five different classes a day, that means 150 kids a day could have been exposed to him perhaps 180 times a year. I have no idea how many years he was at BC, where he was before BC or even when/if he left BC. I was told by the order attorney in 2003 that Charlie Irwin had been dead for five years (1998?). His younger brother Tommy Irwin is still teaching at BC as far as I know.
That man did not just adopt his behavior only in Room 34 in 1964, everybody in that school was terrified of Irwin. Other students who had him in different classes reported the same kind of treatment. Irwin potentially terrorized and induced traumatic stress to many thousands of young people over the years.
I do not know if he was ever “exposed” or if anyone ever filed any sort of formal complaint against him, that information is hardly going to be made readily available through the alumni association or the order. I would like to hear that at some point someone in authority stepped in and took him away from teaching high school kids.
Back in ’65 I did not know the meaning of “sociopath,” now I do. Irwin was himself mentally ill and in need of supervision and care. I do not know if he ever got any care for his afflictions.
There have got to be others out there who might be willing to share their experiences if enough of us come forward. I don’t know where it all might lead, but I sense that us being in contact has something to do with us both healing. There have to be others out there with stories to tell, many may have never even realized what we were put through. Reading what two of us have written might serve to motivate others to come forward.
Telling our stories is vital to heal ourselves, motivate others, correct injustice and set the record straight.
From another man:
On Mar 19, 2009, at 11:36 AM, *Pete* wrote:
I just finished reading your article re Brother Irwin. I am speechless. I am catching my breath. I graduated from BC in 1966 (attended 1962-66) and thus was there when you were there and had much “exposure” to Irwin. My stomach is in a knot. Your description was so incredibly accurate and it instantly shot me back to those days. I am speechless. I think I want to thank you. I think I want to forget. But I think it isn’t right to just forget.
Have you heard from others?
On March 19, 2009 11:42:46 AM EDT
I responded to *Pete* and told him I had heard from others. I sent him my phone number.
On March 19, 2009 2:22:43 PM EDT *Pete* wrote:
What rapid responses! I appreciate your responses and your phone number. It is a gloomy day here and my spirits are darkened by thoughts of Irwin and the other BC nightmares. I have asked myself often why it is that I do not feel much affection for my high school days. I always attributed that lack of nostalgia to the fact that it was an all-male institution and the fact that it was a catholic school and I have become quite non-catholic. But I realize it is also issues such as this that compromise fondness for those days of youth.
Given that there have been two recent deaths in my family and that I am struggling in the process of healing and given that this realization about Irwin and his colleagues in crime is bringing me down, I am going to let this go for now.
I greatly appreciate your article and your bravery. I have your contact information and hopefully we can talk about better things someday. Meanwhile, I wish you a very wonderful life. From what I can see, you have been having one.
From a third man:
On Dec 19, 2009, at 11:36 AM, *Jack* wrote:
“I found your site and was at BC around the same time as you. You mentioned ‘for all I know Irwin is long dead’ and another alumnus clipped this from The Record in 1999 and sent it to me and for whatever reason I tucked it into the yearbook pages and so still have it.”
The summary of the obituary is as follows:
Charles B. Irwin
Born: Jan. 28, 1928 – Mount Vernon, NY
Graduated Iona Preparatory School, New Rochelle
Entered Congregation of Christian Brothers July 1, 1945
Professed First Vows September 8, 1946
Professed Final Vows September 8, 1953
Fordham University – BA Education 1953
St. John’s University – MA History 1956
Charles B. Irwin taught at the following institutions:
- St. Joseph’s Juniorate, West Park, NY
- Santa Maria Novitiate-Novice, West Park, NY
- St. Gabriel’s Scholasticate-Student, West Park, NY
- Sacred Heart Community and Grammar School, New York, NY
- Cardinal Hayes-Holy Family Community, Bronx, NY
- Cardinal Hayes-St. Helena’s Annex, Bronx, NY
- Cardinal Hayes Community and High School, Bronx, NY
- Power Memorial Community and Academy, New York, NY
- Leo Community and High School, Chicago, IL
- Bergen Catholic Community and High School, Oradell, NJ
- St. Patrick’s Provincialate Community, New Rochelle, NY
- Iona Prep, New Rochelle, NY 1979 – 1991 [Retired]
Died: October 9, 1997 – New Rochelle, NY
An anonymous individual with Photoshop skills offers some “psychological” advice:
Date: January 17, 2010 6:33:09 AM EST
Subject: Your site regarding an Irish Christian Brother
A Letter of Support:
On February 19, 2010 7:15:35 PM EST
Dear Rev. Kobutsu Malone,
After reading a report by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse which came out in 2009, I was shocked at the accounts of many of the surviving men and women who gave accurate details of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at mainly the hands of the Irish Christian Brothers and nuns who ran the Reformatory and Industrial Schools where many of these surviving victims were brought to live at a very young age. I was very affected by their accounts and one school in particular was mentioned as being “a living hell”-it was called Artane. When I read the accounts of the boys who lived there from the 1930’s to the 1960’s I was emotionally wounded for them. I cried a lot because I could not believe how much they suffered at the hands of not only the Brothers but any adult who was affiliated with the place in one form or another.
What was even more disturbing was how the government, local police, residents and family members did very little to investigate when some of the boys, at the time, turned to them for help. I can honestly say that I am not shocked however at the reaction of the Catholic Church then and now, for decades it has done “absolutely nothing” to protect the victims but everything to protect the abusers.
I came across an article you wrote, ‘The Execution of the Holy Spirit’ regarding your experience at Bergen Catholic with a Brother Irwin and a Brother Howe – first of all they do not deserve to be called brothers, they deserve to be recognized as “pedophile” and “sociopath” Irwin and “pedophile” and “sociopath” Howe and I hope that all of those young men who they tried to break realize that they are not victims rather “brave” boys and now “brave” men who did absolutely nothing wrong but everything right. The fault, as we all know, lies in the hands of those evil, cowardly fools!
I too suffered at the hands of abuse as a child, the hands of my father who physically and mentally abused me and it took me years to realize that I had nothing to do with his cruel actions-it was his issue not mine. I was compelled to write to you because I wanted to thank you for reaching out to all those wonderful men who related to your experience at Bergen and for reiterating that what happened to you and to them is “not your fault.” I believe it is good for them to hear this and to realize that no matter how hard it is to remember, it should be talked about and not repressed. They have nothing to be embarrassed of and neither do you.
I hope you continue to reach out to those who have had similar experiences at Bergen and someday fight to be heard as they are doing in Ireland, for your sake and for the sake of any future, potential victims. The Catholic Church needs to continued to be challenged until they completely take actions to rid the evil souls that still hide behind their doors.
Kobutsu please remember that you and those other individual are not victims of abuse rather survivors of abuse! 🙂
From yet another man:
On April 2, 2010, at 1:13:40 PM EDT *Ralph* wrote:
I was a couple of years ahead of you 62-65, and transferred to Xxxxxxx H.S. for my senior year. I had Irwin of course for algebra, I have a vivid memory of his running his hand down the back of my pants, down the crack of my ass, and then watching him sniffing his finger as he sat at his desk. I don’t have a clear memory of how many times he had his hands on me. There were others he liked more – egads, I especially remember a kid with long blond hair, Elvis style, he was Irwin’s favorite in my class. I’m reflecting on thinking how lucky I was that he enjoyed abusing/torturing others more than me – geeze, that is sick. There was another brother, who was also talked about, who I seem to remember left the school in the middle of the year of 1962.
Somehow once I ended up under that guy’s arm, and he escorted me into the boys locker room, but kids were there, and somehow, I got away. Never went near him again, his name started with and M or W and sounded maybe polish. After he left there was just brother Irwin to worry about.
I don’t remember his rage especially, there was a lot of that rage, odd for such a vocation? There was a Brother Ryan? who would make us take off our pants in the halls with our shoes on, if we couldn’t he would beat the shit out of you. Another lasting memory, was the brother’s seeming obliviousness to bullies. I remember a kid named Xxxxxxx from Fort Lee, New Jersey – his favorite recreation between class, at lunch or gym was picking on littler, more timid kids. It was constant and of course there were other bullies, and the brothers turned a blind side to all of that too. It’s Kafkaesque, no?
So you’re a Malone, and then you took a Zen first name? I am still a practicing Catholic, attend mass etc, despite the current/new scandals reaching to touch the Pope. Most Catholics I know have little to no respect for the Magisterium in all its majesty and hypocrisy.
“I have a vivid memory of his running his hand down the back of my pants, down the crack of my ass, and then watching him sniffing his finger as he sat at his desk.”
Charles “The Chest” Irwin greets prom attendees 1965.
And another man:
On October 22, 2010, at 12:52:18 PM EDT *Sam* wrote:
Just found your web site. I was searching for pictures of BC to show my wife. I have a similar story not of any sexual abuse but definitely physical abuse. I graduated from the class of ‘70 and rode the Fort Lee bus. Yes, that bus. I remember the bullies who picked on us very well and had a few fist fights with them myself.
The school principal was expelled as I remember and a new principal took over. I believe the principal was expelled for physical and verbal abuse.
Yes, we had brothers who were in hiding. Some were obviously sexually confused and some not so obvious. We had one brother who was referred to as Sister Mary by some of the students. I will not use his name but I remember him well . He had a mean streak and liked to slap you in the face. We also had brothers who would punch you and knock you down for chewing gum in the hall.
My brother also had the misfortune of going to BC but failed out in his freshman year. There was a Brother who was a coach there and he was cruel to my little brother.
I did not want to dissapoint my Mother so I hung in there and took the abuse. It wasn’t a healthy atmosphere for kids that already had issues. It was certainly not nurturing. My brother did well in public school and enjoyed his high school years.
Brother Howe, I remember him well but not as a sexual abuser. He was just a bully . He enjoyed it and I had many fights with him in class. Mostly he would throw erasers at me . He was surprised when I threw them back at him. I wouldn’t take his crap.
We had a history teacher. His name was Mr. Darts. Mr. Darts was a nice man who took me out in the hall one day and spoke with me as a mentor. He knew I was having problems and suggested that if I didn’t want to be there I should talk to my parents. I have never forgotten him. His were the kindest words I had ever had at BC. Thankyou Mr. John Darts.
The Infamous Fort Lee Bus. I hated it but learned to defend myself. We had two upper classman who were big bullies. I only can remember their faces. They were football players and wore their BC jackets. I only wish they were in front of me now as an adult!
Send your boys to a good public school.
Here’s a memory for you and as crazy as it sounds it is 100% true.
I had a Jesuit for some religion class. He was talking about masturbation and the dropping of the seed intentionally. Did you know that is a mortal sin and you can go to hell for that? Well being defiant I asked him what would happen if it happen unintentionally, like while you were sleeping. What happens then if you die? Do you go to hell or only purgatory? Well the stuff hit the fan. I was told to go to the office. They sent me home with a letter recommending I leave the school. Guess the tuition was more valuable because my mother’s letter saved me.
What a bunch of sick people. I feel sorry for them and forgive them their sins. God only knows what they went through as young men entering the seminary. Forgiveness is the best lesson I have learned in life and it wasn’t taught to me at BC.
If you can pass my email along to the person who rode the Fort Lee bus I would appreciate it.
PS. I did not go on stage to accept my diploma at graduation. As an act of defiance I sat in the stands without a cap and gown. It was a great dissapointment to my Mother who could never understand. Sorry Mom.
Brother Michael McElhatton
A.K.A. “Sister Mary”
And another man:
On November 29, 2010, at 6:01 PM EDT *Karl* wrote:
I was in the class of 1971.
Fortunately, I never had the horrendous experiences you mentioned with Br Irwin and Br Howe, but I remember them both and am not at all surprised. Br Smith was a religion teacher that gave me a slap across the face that left a handprint for a few minutes. He was clearly effeminate, but was intolerant of anything but undivided attention. I had great experiences with all the lay teachers. Mr Stevenson in particular was the chess team coach. My guidance counselor was also the basketball coach (Dougherty?) and he was also very helpful. I got a great education at BC, but it is disgusting what the Catholic Church allowed to happen.
Brother Joseph Smith
On March 25, 2011, at 3:57 PM EDT *Jerome* wrote:
I just read your story about Brs. Irwin and Howe. I was a member of a late 60’s graduating class. I remember Charlie Irwin. We all knew he was a “fag” as we called him them. He did not sexually bother me but I do recall him putting his hand down boys shirts. I never saw the pants action. There were a number of homosexual brothers back then. Maybe because I came a few years after you, I (we) knew a little more about them. I know “Sister Mary” as one writer mentioned. There were plenty of mean ones too. Br. Howe was nasty as were others. I did not take their crap. As a matter of fact, I do believe I slapped Br. Fish after he slapped me one day.
Another guy mentioned the Fort Lee bus. I was on the same bus at that time. The bullies were in full force on that ride. I was picked on in school. I was skinny and not a jock. Fortunately, I always had a way with words and gave it right back. I remember one guy bothering me and I punched him in the face. Of course, he was twice my size and picked me up and threw me across a row or two of desks. But that was the end of it. I did not take the bullies crap either.
On June 7, 2011, this letter was received from *Greg* at 10:40:55 AM EDT:
I was reading an editorial in this past Sunday’s New York Times by Maureen Dowd in reference to a Bishop in Ireland, who among other things, got down on his knees and washed the feet of sexual abuse victims at a mass in Dublin. The editorial went on to say how his papal colleagues in the Vatican did not look upon the Irish Bishop favorably.
The editorial brought out the old anger of 40 years ago and I did something that I have resisted for decades. I goggled Bergen Catholic sexual abuse and your article came up. As I began to read my first impression was that I had written this in some trance-like state. When I showed your article to my wife she asked if I had written it. First I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to bring out these things that many of us have tried to bury over the years.
My own experience begins with attending Xxxxxxxxxx grammar school in Xxxxxxxxx, NJ. I had gone to public school and had many happy years but my three older brothers had graduated from a Jesuit College and in my young mind I thought going to BC would give me a leg up on doing the same. From sixth thru eighth grade Brothers taught me. As with you, the terror was on a daily basis. Being slapped and hit was common but the worst for me was having to come to the front of the room and having your hand held while you were beaten with a steel ruler. I learned early that tears might diminish the amount of hits and so for me, the tears came quickly. My other recollection was to see some of my tougher friends hold out tears and piss the brothers off and receive many more hits.
Seeing your picture and knowing the dates that you attended Bergen Catholic I know I was there the same year and I am fairly sure that I was in the same algebra class with Irwin. I have forgotten most of my year at Bergen Catholic but the hell of a Brother Irwin algebra class will always be locked in my memory. I remember that his class came early in the day and that once we had gotten thru that part of our day, I personally felt a great sense of relief.
Looking back on that class I felt like that out of a class of say thirty boys, (I was maybe 5’4″ 105 lbs.) Brother Irwin gave me more heinous attention than other, bigger kids. This, coupled with a strong dislike of Math, was almost a death sentence in his class. Don’t get me wrong, everyone suffered and lived in utter fear in that class, but there were about ten that maybe fit his victims’ profile.
I do remember him marching up and down rows with his pointer and for someone like myself, who did not always do his daily homework, trying to guess when he would call on me and quickly trying to work out that problem only to have him skip a person and not know the answer when he circled back and called on me. I did not remember many of his little sick quirks that you mentioned because I kept my head down giving him no eye contact for fear of repercussions.
This is where my story gets a little more intense. A fellow classmate and I were caught cheating by Brother Irwin on the end of year Algebra final. Whether we had crib sheets that we were using or were verbally exchanging answers I don’t remember, but we were requested individually to see Brother Irwin at the end of the day. I entered his classroom at the end of the day, Irwin was seated behind the desk and he said, “I got you Mr. Xxxxxxxxx, I know you cheated, and I can fail you for the year.” I denied cheating and he continued to accuse. At one point he came from behind the desk and approached me. He did his usual neck pressure points and as I was standing there he reached down the rear of my pants. As I stood there, he took his hands and came around to my genital area. At this point I stepped back and summoned some courage and gave him a look like – “this ends now.” He stepped back and did his usual “cretin” and “retard” routine and told me after an awkward moment to leave.
I left that classroom knowing that I would never return to Bergen Catholic and it gave me a great sense of relief. I never mentioned the incident to my parents and thankfully they let me transfer to public school. The coward must have known that he might need to cover his tracks as I was given a “C.”
Over the years, I have always been thankful that I stepped back that day but I have always thought of how many other kids who fit his sick profile were put in a position were they did not have that option. There has never been any doubt in my mind that Brother Irwin, if given the right circumstance, would rape and abuse one of us. I have always wondered about the other boy who was caught cheating with me. How was he treated? He fit the same physical profile as me.
Again thank you for your initial essay as it gave me the courage, as a soon to be 61 year-old man, to express these long suppressed feelings.
“At one point he came from behind the desk and approached me. He did his usual neck pressure points and as I was standing there he reached down the rear of my pants. As I stood there, he took his hands and came around to my genital area. At this point I stepped back and summoned some courage and gave him a look like – ‘this ends now.’ He stepped back and did his usual ‘cretin’ and ‘retard’ routine and told me after an awkward moment to leave.”
On August 2, 2011 4:33:20 PM EDT *Chuck* wrote:
You were sexually abused by Brother Irwin at Bergen Catholic. I was physically abused.
I lost my algebra book (actually stolen from my locker) and Brother Irwin told me to get another one. My family did not have the money to buy a new one.
On the afternoon of Tuesday October 16, 1962 (I know this because I was removed from Bergen Catholic by my parents after this incident) Brother Irwin came down the aisle and stood towering over me at my desk. He flipped the book open and saw another student’s name, Xxxx Xxxxxx, inside the cover. He made me go to the back of the room and bent me over a desk. He was known for lifting boy’s shirts and taking three fingers together and snapping them across the exposed flesh. Before he started he said he knew something better. He took a belt from another student, Xxxxx Xxxx, and started to whip me. Forty lashes with that belt. Forty really hard lashes. Nothing like I ever experienced in my life, before and ever since. Beyond pain.
Some of the students tried to come to my aid but he threatened them all that if they did anything they would get the same. You could get all their names by going to the 1962 Algebra class records and ask each of them. They were totally intimidated by him.
After he finished beating me (I was a complete mess, crying and almost unable to walk) he made me stand up and said, Mr. Xxxxxx, you didn’t seem to like your punishment. Would you rather have had a month’s worth of detentions? I nodded “yes” and he said, “You got it” and started to write them out. Xxxxx Xxxx and several other classmates protested, it felt as if a riot was going to break out but I couldn’t care less. I was beyond pain. He stopped writing and told everyone to sit at their desks and be quiet. I lay with my head on my desk, crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. The bell at the end of the period rang. We stayed in that classroom as the teachers rotated classes.
Brother O’Sullivan was the next teacher and came in and walked up to my desk and asked what happened. I couldn’t speak but one of the students told him what happened. He left the room and came back five minutes or so later and told everyone to read quietly. After that class, several students helped me get to the bus. I still was crying uncontrollably and it took me all the way home to finally control the crying.
We lived down the street from Xxxxxxxxx Church and Father Xxxxxxxx came to the house. His response was that “*Chuck* must have done something to deserve this”. My parents had me stay home the next day and on Thursday my father took off from work and took me to Bergen Catholic and confronted Brother Kean the principal and demanded that Brother Irwin come to the office. When Brother Irwin came in my father took his belt off and tried to go after Brother Irwin but was physically restrained by Brother Kean.
I was taken out of school and started at Xxxxxxxxxx High School the next Monday.
My life was never the same.
“He took a belt from another student, Xxxxx Xxxx, and started to whip me. Forty lashes with that belt. Forty really hard lashes. Nothing like I ever experienced in my life, before and ever since. Beyond pain.”
“My parents had me stay home the next day and on Thursday my father took off from work and took me to Bergen Catholic and confronted Brother Kean the principal and demanded that Brother Irwin come to the office. When Brother Irwin came in my father took his belt off and tried to go after Brother Irwin but was physically restrained by Brother Kean.”
“My life was never the same.”
|Br. Alfred X. Kean
A.K.A. “The Axe”
|Br. Charles B. Irwin
A.K.A. “The Chest”
Another man writes:
On Aug 3, 2011, at 12:36 PM, *Dennis* wrote:
Physical and verbal abuse was so common in Catholic Schools, but *Chuck’s* account here is the most intense I ever read or heard about other than in some novel or movie.
I went to Cardinal Hayes High School. In my freshman year (1965) the most severe abuse I witnessed was during announcements at the end of one spring day. A classmate was chatting away and was spotted by one of the priest teachers from the hallway. The priest came running in, grabbed the student out of his seat, carried / dragged him to the front of the room and smashed him face first into the blackboard. The priest then threatened to do the same to any of the rest of us. The kid was terrified, traumatized – his parents eventually removed him from the school.
Cardinal Hayes High School, Bronx, New York
BROTHERS FROM HELL; 10 former Artane Boys Tell of Broken Legs, Torture and Sex Abuse.
The Mirror (UK) September 23, 1999
TODAY 10 former Artane boys tell JILLY BEATTIE their stories of life at the notorious Industrial School.
Six of them have made allegations to the Gardai as part of Ireland’s biggest child abuse investigation in which 40 Christian Brothers Christian Brothers: see John Baptist de la Salle, Saint. have been named and accused. The other four intend to do the same.
They all say their lives have been destroyed by their experiences under the guardianship of the Brothers at Artane, citing relationship breakdowns, unemployment and clinical depression as some of the problems they have had.
Two of the survivors never married, the marriages of seven broke down and one is still married.
Of the eight who did marry, only two told their wives about the abuse they suffered, and none of their children knows about their past life in Artane.
All the fathers say they have difficult relationships with their children.
Four have tried to commit suicide, four are long-term unemployed and all 10 are currently receiving counselling.
These survivors are among 250 men seeking justice for the sexual, physical and emotional abuse they claim they suffered at Artane at the hands of Christian Brothers.
In care from eight months after being conceived outside marriage
I WAS beaten and raped by nine different Brothers.
Joseph O’Connor dragged me to his room and he threw sweets on the floor. When I bent to pick them up he pulled my trousers down and thrashed me with the leather cosh.
I squealed and screamed and he kept on hitting me, all over my body and head. I suppose he stopped hitting me when I passed out.
My mother came to see me during that time and she was told I was being treated for TB and couldn’t be seen.
I still wake up screaming in the night, convinced a Brother is trying to get me, trying to drag me away.
The Christian Brothers have to pay for what they did to us as boys.
They have apologised to anyone who was hurt while at Artane but that’s not enough to let me get on with my life.
Sent to Atane with his brother for mitching school
THE day Artane burned down I thanked God. I prayed that all the Brothers who hurt me had died but most of those b*****ds are still alive.
I suffered all sorts of abuse. Most of it I still cannot talk about.
They raped me, they beat me, they humiliated me.
Sometimes when you turned up they would be abusing some other boy and you would have to watch or join in.
We were made to crawl on our hands and knees while the other boys were forced to hit you. If they didn’t hit you, they had to get down and start crawling too.
Artane was a concentration camp. Anything we arrived with was taken away from us – clothes, shoes, love, good memories, happiness and trust.
Sent to Atane for the theft of an overcoat
I WAS a tearaway as a child and eventually the Guards got sick of hauling me up and I was put into Artane.
I ran away three times after being beaten but the Guards brought me back.
After the first time I was beaten around the dormitory. I had my two front teeth knocked out and my wrist was broken.
Then I had to sit in agony as the barber – one of the boys – shaved my head for running away.
Anyone found talking to me was beaten.
I know there were boys raped and interfered with in Artane, but I never was.
The Brothers picked their victims well and chose the most vulnerable.
When I was older they used me to abuse the younger boys. They made me a monitor and I used to beat the boys too.
The Brothers were evil. They enjoyed the violence they meted out. Their favourite weapons were fear and the leather strap.
Sent to Artane for mitching school
I WAS always a quiet child and was labelled stupid because I had dyslexia
I used to mitch school because I was teased. Then I was sent to Artane.
It was the worst thing anyone could have done to me. I was the perfect victim of the abuse the Brothers favoured. I spoke to no-one.
I was raped three months after I was moved to Artane and used by three particular Brothers, one of whom, Brother O’Connor, is dead.
I was like a rag doll. They threw me about the place. I was b*****ed, forced to touch the Brothers, masturbate them and have oral sex.
When I was sick I was beaten and kicked. The sexual abuse was indescribable, but it was worse when it was coupled with physical abuse. I ended up in the infirmary seven times during my three years there.
My wife knows – but I still find it hard to hug and love her. No-one deserved what we got.
In care from three years after mother deemed unfit unfit to look after him
I HAD no-one to turn to when I needed to get away from Artane. I was put in there because the authorities said my mother couldn’t look after me and my brothers.
I was b*****ed 18 times in Artane and beaten probably every day I was there.
In the summer when some of the other boys had gone to foster families, I was left with the others and that’s when I suffered most abuse.
One night I was made to strip before I was hit and a Brother stood on my hands so I couldn’t move. The beating was started by one Brother and finished by another.
O’Connor was a depraved de·praved b*****d. He was at Artane from 1930 and he did everything he could to inflict as much pain as he could on the boys.
He ran the band and even appeared on an RTE programme dedicated to his so-called good work. That bastard sat and smiled his way through it. I dread to think how many boys’ lives he ruined. He destroyed me.
Sent to Atane with his brother for mitching school
I HAD both my arms broken by a Brother.
I still don’t know Don’t know what I did wrong but I was told not to be bold or I would suffer for it.
Then he lashed into me, I was 11. He hit me with the leather strap, then he started punching and kicking me.
I fell to the floor and he kicked me with his boots. I stopped screaming and he kept hitting me for a bit. Then he told me to pray for forgiveness.
He told me I was bad and would have to ask Jesus to stop me being bad. Two boys took me to the infirmary.
On the way another Brother said I should never be bold because God can see everything. I was terrified
If the Brothers did this to me, what would God do?
Put in care after the death of his mother and suicide of his father
I WAS separated from my brothers and sisters and sent to Artane.
Joseph O’Connor met me at Connolly Station and pushed me into a car. He ran the band and when I said I’d never been interested in music he stopped the car, dragged me out and thrashed me.
When I arrived at the school it was four days before Christmas. One of the boys in my dormitory told me we would be safe for the day. I later realised this meant that we were less likely to be sexually abused on December 25.
Joe Boy O’Connor was an evil bastard. He never raped me but he beat me until I fainted one day. When I woke up I was in the infirmary.
One day I was flogged by another Brother and made to wear a singlet which had been soaked in salt water. I believe it was to literally add salt to my wounds and make it more painful for me.
Sent to Artane for mitching school
MY earliest sex education was being forced to watch two younger boys masturbating a Christian Brother.
Then I was forced to beat them before I was fondled by the same Brother.
This happened for five nights with 10 different boys and me looking on every time.
I was never b*****ed but I know two boys who were. I was made to give a number of the Brothers oral sex.
Today I am a gay man but I’ve had problems forming relationships. I still wonder, if my first sexual experiences had been with a woman, would my life have been different.
I think the Brothers at Artane were gay and used the boys for their sexual desires.
We were abused. There’s no excuse for what they did. They violated us – continually.
The beatings were incredible. And the shaming was awful.
In care from 10 after mother died
I ended up at Artane after my mother died. I was heartbroken but sure the Brothers would understand and look after me.
I had a terrible shock. The first time I was caught crying on my second night I was beaten by the Brother in charge.
I wet myself and was beaten more. I cried and had my head pushed into a drawer and was thrashed from behind. He only stopped beating me when I couldn’t cry any more.
We were constantly told we were worthless.
I grew up quickly and realised that the beatings and the sexual abuse would not stop until the day I walked out of the doors forever.
I ran away twice and was brought back by the Guards. The first time I was beaten and had my head shaved. The second time it was worse.
I was told I was an ungrateful, worthless little b*****d. I was told I had no-one who loved me and that I would learn to appreciate the care the Brothers showed me. Then I was beaten again.
In care from six years after mother deemed a violent alcoholic
I HAD suffered violence from my mother and father at home and was glad to get out of the house to be looked after by the Brothers in Artane.
I’d heard they were tough but I thought it had to be better than at home. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was first raped when I was 12 and I lost count of the times it happened again. Every day was spent trying to avoid being hit, but it was useless.
There was the odd decent enough Brother who tried to keep me from trouble but I’ve since been told the ones I thought were OK were b*****ds to some of the other boys. Maybe they just liked me.
Boys were dragged from their beds at night, we were beaten in full view of other staff and boys and we were sexually abused in front of other boys too.
NOTE: After a three year Garda investigation and a further 7 year legal process, ONE Christian Brother was convicted of indecent assault in Artane.
ARTANE: THE REAL TRUTH – This school was a concentration camp for little children where the Brothers destroyed us and nobody gave a damn.
ARTANE: THE REAL TRUTH – This school was a concentration camp for little children where the Brothers destroyed us and nobody gave a damn.
WHEN the Artane Boys’ Band performs before the All-Ireland football final on Sunday it will strike fear into the heart of Michael O’Brien.
The band is a constant reminder of the horrific physical and sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of the industrial school’s Christian Brothers.
And he’s joining other victims asking the band to play a hymn in their honour.
It would be a symbolic gesture for the men whose lives were torn apart by the sickening regime.
But it can never repair the damage that’s been done.
The Pope, the order of Christian Brothers and the government have apologised to the Artane boys.
But for many of the boys who became broken men that isn’t enough.
Now victims are breaking their silence because they want Ireland to know what went on behind closed doors.
Michael is one of hundreds of young boys systematically abused – both sexually and violently – by some of those charged with his care.
Already 270 men have made allegations against 160 Brothers in the biggest child sex abuse investigation Ireland has ever known.
Only now, 30 years after the school was razed to the ground, has Michael O’Brien found the strength to speak out.
JILLY BEATTIE tells his story.
FROM his first day at Artane Industrial School to the moment he left, Michael O’Brien lived in terror every minute of his life.
His tormentor-in-chief was Joseph O’Connor, a Christian Brother so evil Michael can barely speak his name today.
He said: “O’Connor was the most evil, depraved b****** that ever walked this land. I pray to God that he’s rotting in Hell now.
“When he was dying a few years ago, I went to his hospital bedside and watched him for three days and two nights until he died.
“I wanted to see him exhale his last breath. I wanted to know he couldn’t do what he’d done to me again.
“I wanted to see him die. I wanted to see him dead.
“And when his body was removed to the mortuary, I managed to get in and took the sheet off his face. I had to make sure it was him.
“It gave me no relief that he was dead because I couldn’t make him pay for what he did, but I needed to know he was gone.”
At 47, Michael still wakes screaming in the night, sheets saturated in sweat and his own urine.
That is what Artane did to him. That is how deep the harrowing memories of his time under Joe O’Connor’s brutal regime have left their terrible mark on him.
Michael was only five when he was put into the church’s care.
His mother, Bernadette, was labelled unfit after a house fire which killed his baby sister, Marian.
He never saw his mother again.
At first, Michael was looked after with his brother and another sister at the Golden Bridge holding centre in Dublin. Then nuns took care of them at St Kieran’s in Rathdrum.
It wasn’t perfect but he felt safe. At just nine years old, his life changed forever.
He was taken away from his sister and brother and packed off to Artane in the north side of Dublin.
He recalls: “I was one of four of boys who went on the train. We were excited by the journey but we’d no idea where we were going. We were lambs to the slaughter.”
It was at Connolly Station he came face to face with O’Connor for the first time – a man in his early fifties, dressed all in black.
Even though he was an innocent child, Michael knew instantly the Brother was evil.
He said: “There was no smile, no welcome, not even ‘hello’.
“He told us his name and the horror I felt when he spoke to us that first time is still with me.
“I knew the moment I saw him that he was bad – strong, fierce and bad.
“He asked if any of us could sing because he was in charge of the Artane Boys’ Band – he was marking his prey.
The children were young, vulnerable and nobody cared what happened to them. They were orphans, runaways or just schoolboys who had played truant.
Their few possessions were taken away and they were given a number instead of a name.
THEY were the lost boys who had no-one to turn to for help and the Brothers were free to treat them as they liked.
Michael explained: “There wasn’t a week that went past I didn’t suffer some sort of abuse. O’Connor was a monster.
“Artane means many things to me – being beaten, bloody, b******d and bruised.
“It was a concentration camp for children and no-one gave a damn. “The Brothers took our names and gave us numbers. Then they systematically destroyed us.
“It was the closest thing you could get to a concentration camp, except the number wasn’t stamped on our bodies, it was stamped into our brains.
“I wiped that memory a long time ago. I can’t, and don’t want to remember what my number was. But most former Artane boys can. Some of them can’t forget it no matter how they try.
“We were taken to a dormitory where there must have been about 150 beds, row after row.
“A Brother had a separate room inside the dormitory and we were watched over by monitors too, older boys who also later abused us.
“At night the Brother in charge would pace around the dormitory. “You could hear the skirts of his cassocks making a swishing sound as he walked.
“He would pick a boy out, literally drag him from his bed, rape and beat him in his room. Sometimes he would even rape him in the dorm for everyone to hear.
“No-one would open their eyes, no-one would make a sound. We all pretended to sleep through the noise and screams but we all heard what was going on.
“My only consolation was when someone else was getting raped, it wasn’t me.
“Everybody I’ve spoken to since felt the same.
“My heart would bang like mad as the Brother approached my bed. I held my breath. I’d be sure he would hear my heart beating and take me out for making so much noise.
“Like all the boys, I was desperate to be left alone. Then I would feel intense relief and guilt as another boy was dragged screaming from his bed.
IT happened every night for the five years that I was there. It happened every night without fail and there were plenty of times I was the boy who was dragged off.
“We were victims from the moment we walked through those doors. We were beaten, we were battered and we were b******d.
“All the Brothers carried a leather strap which they pummelled us with.
“Some of them inserted bits of metal into the tip and sewed it up to make it harder. One of the Brothers was called The Sheriff because he carried a strap in each pocket and would produce them like two pistols before he thrashed us.
“They used any excuse to beat us. Our shoes and clothes were inspected for wear and tear. We had to hold a boot upside down in each hand and a Brother would go along the line with chalk and circle any wear that needed repair.
“In my first few months I joined a line of about 15 boys who had been singled out because their boots needed work done to them.
“We were paraded into the boot room one at a time – that was where I had my first sexual experience.
“The Brother sat down on a bench and talked quietly to me about the need to take care of my belongings.
“I thought all the talk about them being b******s might be wrong because this fella seemed OK.
“I started talking to him but then he stroked my privates through my trousers. He talked all the while, gently and quietly about the need for consideration, talking about caring for other people. He told me I could come to him at any time with any problem.
“Then he told me told me to go and not to mention what had happened.
“I was the first into the boot room that day. There was a row of boys behind me who probably got the same treatment or worse.
“I walked away confused and upset. I couldn’t understand what had happened, what he meant or what he’d done. I felt ashamed and I didn’t really know why.
“Looking back, I realise the abuse was premeditated and systematic. The Brothers tested the boys for a reaction and picked on the ones who had no parents or family outside the school to turn to. The more vulnerable the boy, the more vicious the abuse.
“The next time the Brother who had touched me in the boot room spoke to me, he told me to go to his room. Then he made me take off my clothes and he tried to arouse me. I was 10 years old.
“I was confused and shocked. I started to cry and he leathered me and told me to stop crying, then he told me to go.
“It was a test to see if I would squeal to anyone about what had happened. He had told me not to talk to anyone about it and I was so terrified and ashamed that I didn’t. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for 30 years.
“Then I was forced to help a Brother commit an act in front of another boy. I was forced to have oral sex and he told me afterwards to rinse my mouth and teeth in cold water.
“Then he grabbed me and screamed at me to pray for forgiveness for tempting him like that. He held me in his arms, he rocked me and hit me and he prayed for forgiveness. “I was just one of 800 boys in there and it was happening all the time. The terror of being called or told to report to a Brother was indescribable. I’ve lived my entire life there with a knot in my stomach.
“One of the brothers hurt me so badly that he ruptured me inside. I was 11 years old.
“The day before he had taken me into his room, made me strip naked and had tied me to his bed with belts. He gagged me and left me there, naked, crying and choking. I was terrified. “I thought I was going to die. I was sure he would come back and kill me. I prayed for help. I prayed to get away. He came back about an hour later, but it felt like he’d been gone for days.
“He untied me, kicked me and told me to get dressed and say nothing to anyone.
“I thought it was a miracle I’d survived. I was happy. But the next day it happened again – only this time it was worse.
“He took me to his room and made me undress, all the while beating me, kicking me, hitting me off the walls and the furniture. “I was screaming but no-one came, no-one helped me.
“That time he bound and gagged me, then tied me face down on his bed and assaulted me.
“It was brutal. The pain was indescribable but I couldn’t scream because I was gagged. “Then suddenly there was blood everywhere. He panicked and tried to clean me up, but shouted and screamed at me for bleeding and making a scene. “He took me down to the infirmary which was run by another Brother who cleaned me up and put me to bed.
“I stayed there for four days until the bleeding stopped. But I was given no medical care. I wasn’t seen by a doctor because he would have wanted to know how the injury happened.
“I have no way to describe the terror I felt during that time and in the hours, days and months afterwards. I find it almost impossible to explain what happened to anyone today.
“The same brother attacked me again shortly afterwards but he’d done so much damage the first time that I bled very quickly again. He was furious and battered me, screaming that I was a worthless little b******, screaming that I’d made him do this.”
After abusing them, the Brothers told the boys it was their own fault and they should pray for forgiveness.
Michael explained: “He yelled that I’d tempted him, that I was an evil little piece of s*** and that I should pray for forgiveness for making him do what he did. He told me it was my fault. I believed him. I prayed for us in the middle of tears and snotters and blood. And was taken down to the infirmary again.
“We were told that we had to ask God for forgiveness for ‘badness’ – the word they used to excuse the rapes – that they blamed us for. We had no one to turn to and we were made to feel guilty for being bad boys and tempting the Brothers.
“These brothers were our guardians, they replaced the parents we had lost or been taken away from. They were meant to look after us, care for us and prepare us for life.
“We needed to be loved and nurtured – instead we were abused and tortured. We were just little boys, we were the human equivalent of blotting paper going into that place – blank sheets with no impressions. And then all that c**p, terror and abuse was imprinted onto us. It left us destroyed bundles of nerves and pain.
“We told no one about what happened. Boys who made confessions to the priest were beaten. We were too frightened to talk about it. We believed we’d be terrorised and we were frightened God would punish us if we were caught talking about it.
“After that I became invisible. I hid inside myself and stopped talking. I thought if I was invisible I wouldn’t get hurt. I was terrified and hiding was my only protection.
“But the abuse continued. I stayed silent, I became compliant. I stopped crying because I worked out that the Brothers would hit you until you stopped crying. I still don’t cry today. I broke down once in counselling a few months ago but that has been it.”
As with many of the boys, Michael started wetting the bed as a result of his trauma – and that meant more punishment and psychological abuse.
He explained: “The stress had to come out somewhere and I started to wet the bed again. I joined the group of boys known as The Slashers, the boys who soiled their sheets.
“We were made to strip our beds every morning and carry the sheets through the school, past hundreds of boys and the Brothers to the laundry rooms.
“We were laughed and shouted at, ridiculed and hit. We were ashamed and frightened. We were separated. We were just a bunch of nobodies who p***** the bed.
“I remember desperately trying to stay awake so I would make it to the loo before I peed the bed. But of course I fell asleep and the shame and terror I felt in the morning when I realised I was lying in wet sheets was awful.
“The abuse – physical, sexual and psychological – was part of every day life at Artane.
“The shock element of it wore off after a few years. As I got older I coped differently with it differently.
“It got to a stage where I would be thankful if I got called in by a Brother who I knew would just want sex.
“The ones who were violent as well as paedophiles were a bigger problem. But Joe Boy always tracked me down. That bastard beat me until I bled, he assaulted me, he rammed my head in a drawer and abused me while he slammed it.
“If a few days went past without anything happening it was brilliant, but I would get anxious because every day that I didn’t get hurt brought me closer to the day that I would.
“It was a way of life for those b*******. One of them even kept a tin of Vaseline in his pouch. In my last couple of years at Artane, the Brothers would give me and the older boys cigarettes as a sort of reward.
“They turned us into prostitutes. I became an expert in pleasing my abusers, we all did. The quicker you got it over with, the sooner they’d let you go.”
Michael said by the time he left Artane years of torment had turned him into an emotional zombie – unable of showing or receiving real affection.
He said: “By the time I was 13 I’d just closed down. It was like flicking a switch to turn off the emotion and at the time I thought it made the sex less of an ordeal.
“But my life has been a festering sore since the day I walked through the doors of Artane, suppurating, weeping and poisoned.
“I left that place with pounds 1 in my pocket and a word of advice from a Brother not to mention anything that had gone on behind the doors.
“I couldn’t read or write. I couldn’t even tell the time. I didn’t understand how men and women had relationships. It seemed ridiculous to me, it was the sort of thing giggled about at school.
“I knew sex was painful, dirty and secret. I knew sex with other men was called ‘badness’ but I didn’t know any other way. I knew that life was about getting hit and being hurt.
“That was the education the Brothers at Artane Industrial School gave me. And I was no different to the thousands of boys who came through the place.”
“Even now I still find myself making excuses for the Brothers who abused me, all of them except Joe Boy, Brother Joe O’Connor. “Because of him I tried to commit suicide twice. I have several failed relationships behind me and years of counselling ahead of me.”
And Michael has never married or had any children of his own.
Today he lives in a smart Dublin Quays apartment where there is little hint of his tortured past until he starts to talk about his school days.
He said: “I kept what happened to me bottled up for 30 years. Like every other Artane boy, I felt terrible shame and blamed myself for what happened.”
But Brother O’Connor’s death triggered so many memories and so much pain in Michael’s life that he tried to kill himself.
Only in the last 16 months has he finally started to talk about the appalling abuse he suffered. Only now is his regret that his two suicide attempts failed beginning to fade.
He said: “Only in the last few months, since I’ve been able to talk about this, has the knot started to loosen.
“I, and possibly thousands of other former Artane boys, will never be free from this. But we have to learn how to live with what was done to us.”
He explained: “The first time I was hugged by someone in a genuine show of affection, I was 36. I didn’t know there was such a thing and today I still find it difficult to have physical contact with anyone. Giving someone a hug takes effort. It feels strange.
“That’s what those b******* did to me. They turned me into a social and emotional mess with no idea of how to sustain a loving relationship.”
Now as Secretary of the Alliance for Healing of Institutional Abuse, Michael is determined to show his abusers to the world.
He wants to make them pay for the terror he experienced during his stay between 1962 and 1967 and thousands of other boys suffered at Artane from the 1940s until the building was razed to the ground in 1969.
He said: “They can never give us back what they took from us – but we need justice. We need more than an apology for the things we suffered. I want to live now. I want a life and I can’t have it unless I get some peace of mind.”
Michael O’Brien can be contacted at the Alliance for Healing of Institutional Abuse on 01-825-2353.
A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry
One woman tells the story of her mother who was sent to a Laundry in Dublin at the age of 16 – and died there at the age of 51.
THE TREATMENT OF women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries – and the level of State involvement in these Church-run institutions – has been highlighted yet again this month. There was disappointment among survivors and relatives of those kept in the Laundries when it was announced that a State committee’s final report into the matter would be delayed until the end of the year.
To reiterate the urgency of revealing the inter-departmental findings, the Justice for Magdalene advocacy group last week distributed some redacted statements of women detailing their lives in such institutions. (The group claims that there was State involvement in the operation of the Laundries as places to send women considered to be “problem girls”, due to poverty or pregnancy outside marriage for example.)
Samantha Long’s mother Margaret Bullen was placed in Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street) Laundry c.1967 and died 35 years later, never having been released into society and her own home. Margaret died of an illness known as Goodpasture Syndrome, a disease of the kidneys and liver – one of the causes is exposure to industrial-strength chemicals such as those used in the Laundries.
Samantha made a lengthy statement to the interdepartmental committee, led by Senator Martin McAleese, about her mother’s life. Margaret Bullen had a tragic start in life: she was born in a mental institution in Grangegorman, Dublin to a mother who already had six children, Margaret being the youngest. Margaret was sent home to Kimmage to live with her siblings and father, where she remained until she was three years old. At that point, Margaret’s brother was sent to Artane industrial school and Margaret and her sister closest to her in age sent to the notorious High Park industrial school and Laundry in Drumcondra. That, as Samantha says of her mother, “was the end of her and the outside world”.
A second statement sent to Senator McAleese’s committee from a former Laundry inmate who remembers Margaret and her sister recounts how Margaret suffered fits as a young child but that they were ignored by the nuns there (then known as the Sisters of Charity of Refuge, now the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity).
Margaret appears to have been moved in her early teens to a special school called St Teresa’s in Blackrock, after she was certified mentally unfit for education, but fit for work. Her daughter Samantha says in her own statement:
She was assessed at age thirteen as being mentally challenged because on the day that they measured her, they said that she had an IQ of fifty, which I dispute after meeting her, even after all those years of institutionalisation.. And I think that if you’re hungry and tired from your slavery, your IQ wouldn’t be very sharp, or your skills on any given moment mightn’t be sharp. You would be probably just pulled into this room – “now we’re going to measure your IQ” – so even the shock of that wouldn’t, you know, you could shut down.
At roughly the age of 16, Margaret was sent to the Magdalene Laundry at Gloucester Street. The exact time and circumstances of her move there are not clear because Samantha and her sister are still waiting on full records to be supplied to them on their mother’s past.
She became pregnant – twice – with Samantha and her twin sister Etta, and later with another daughter, while officially under the care of the Gloucester Street nuns. The circumstances of these conceptions are again shrouded in mystery but Samantha says her conversations in later life with her mother when they were reunited led her to believe that Margaret had been the victim of sexual abuse and predators several times.
There was no education, no education and I, you know, I honestly believe for a long time she didn’t know how she got pregnant, she just knew that somebody hurt her once and then she had babies. I really believe that. She didn’t make that connection, I know that for sure. She was no, she didn’t have a boyfriend, let’s put it that way. And that’s the politest way that I can say that.
Some of the more harrowing details of Samantha’s testimony recount how her mother was denied society, education, wages and other basic rights for most of her life. This extract recalls Samantha and Etta’s first meeting with Margaret in the Gresham Hotel when they were 23 and had traced her as their biological mother. (Samantha and Etta were adopted by a loving couple in Dublin and later moved to Sligo in childhood.)
Margaret was only 42 at the time but looked much older. She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty, because she didn’t own anything nor did she have any money. Samantha recalls:
And, she was just lovely, and she was asking extremely innocent questions like, she, it was the first time she ever had coffee and it was very exciting for her to have coffee and she hadn’t seen brown sugar before either and obviously in the Gresham there was brown and white sugar cubes on the table and it was all very fancy to her. And she was just overjoyed to be there and absolutely wowed by everything.
She looked, she looked like a pensioner. I couldn’t believe she was forty-two, I kept looking, I kept looking into her face to find a forty-two year old and I couldn’t, because she had the face of hard work, that face that you see in so many women that have just had to work too hard and have never had a rest and have never had anyone to take care of them or tell them to put their feet up, and who have just, just worked too hard. Because, as I said on the radio a few years ago, this was slavery and I don’t use that term lightly and I’m not an emotive person but slavery is a form of work for which you get no pay and you can’t leave and these were the white slaves of Ireland and they were never emancipated. And nobody stood up for them until now, until you guys (Justice for Magdalenes) did.
Samantha Long was asked by Senator McAleese’s commission what she would like the State to do to redress any wrongs committed against the women in Magdalene Laundries. She answered:
I would like the state to apologise for keeping those young girls behind bars, literally and figuratively. I would like the church and state to apologise for forcing them to do slave labour.
I would like the church, the state and society to redress their reputations and apologise for keeping them down, for denying them education, freedom, money, their babies and their lives, all of those things.
And I would like that the circumstances that they find themselves in, through the missing pieces that the rest of us get in life, because they had no education, so how could they make it?
They were sitting ducks, keep them down, keep them unaware of their rights, keep them without money, keep the roof over their head, feed them a little bit, keep them alive, just enough for work. Give them their wages now, give them their wages.
Irish Catholic church child abuse: ‘A cruel and wicked system’
Artane industrial school former pupil says he is unconvinced report will reveal full truth about abuse in Catholic-run institutions
- theguardian.com, Wednesday 20 May 2009 05.43 EDT
In their distinctive Thunderbirds-style light-blue uniforms with red trim the Artane Boys Band are icons of Irish music. For decades, the band marched around the pitch at Croke Park, Dublin, and played across Ireland, Britain and the US.
But behind this image of boyhood wholesomeness lay a darker truth.
Until the 1970s thousands of the young men in the band were being abused, beaten and exploited at the industrial school that gave the ensemble its name.
One of those who was physically beaten on a regular basis by members of the Christian Brothers order that ran Artane was Patrick Walsh, now a businessman who lives in north London.
“The band was an extraordinary facade back then at that time,” Walsh, who played the clarinet in the band during the 1960s, told the Guardian. “It was used by the church and state to convey a bogus image of wholesomeness that did not exist in these institutions. In Artane, the brothers were men of violence. On a daily basis, I witnessed some savage behaviour meted out to me and other boys.”
Walsh added: “The boys in the band didn’t receive a farthing, the Christian Brothers pocketed the money. We did the work, they took the money. There is a word for it: unpaid labour, or slavery.
“They also had a 500-acre farm at Artane, growing potatoes and vegetables, and we, the kids, worked in the fields without pay.”
For 10 years Walsh has campaigned alongside the group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse to expose a system that allowed thousands of vulnerable children to be exploited and sexually abused while in the care of both church and state.
He has welcomed today’s publication of the report by Justice Sean Ryan. But he is not convinced that, even now, the full truth will come out.
From the mid-1920s until the early 1970s thousands of Irish children officially in the care of the state were subjected to a double regime of sexual abuse and wageless slavery. Ireland’s notorious industrial schools and orphanages – all run by Catholic orders – were home to boys and girls who had been officially declared criminals by the courts.
Some children were even sent to these institutions simply because their parents had split up: one-parent families, usually held together by abandoned wives, were regarded with suspicion in post-independence conservative Catholic Ireland.
In the last 12 years, up to 9,000 former members of Ireland’s childcare system have claimed tens of millions of euros in compensation for being either exploited, abused or both in these institutions.
The five-volume report, published by the Irish government today, seeks to address decades of clerical child abuse and state neglect. It confirms allegations from former pupils that they were used as unpaid virtual slaves, who made money for religious orders in mini factories, farms, shops and laundry services.
The Ryan commission (originally the Laffoy commission) was established nine years ago and has investigated allegations of abuse in orphanages, industrial schools and church-run hospitals across the republic. The Artane industrial school, in north Dublin, was among the institutions under scrutiny.
But Walsh said it was frustrating that the terms of the Ryan commission meant that no abusers would be brought before the Irish courts.
He said: “The victims of abuse will most likely be even more traumatised than ever to learn that, following this lengthy inquiry, there will be no criminal prosecutions brought against their abusers or against those in the hierarchy of the church … complicit in the brutal crimes against innocent children.
“It is unlikely that officials from any government department will ever be held accountable having presided over an illegal, cruel and wicked system that led to untold suffering for tens of thousands of innocent Irish children and their families since the foundation of the state.”
Walsh was “sentenced” to six years in Artane after appearing in an Irish court. His “crime” was that his father had abandoned him along with his brothers and sisters, and the Irish authorities deemed his mother not fit to look after the children.
Between 1963 and 1969, he was incarcerated alongside young juvenile offenders in the industrial school.
He said he was disappointed that the courts system that processed thousands of children and labelled them criminals simply because of situations such as marital breakdowns would not be put under the spotlight.
Both the Ryan commission and the earlier Laffoy commission refused to scrutinise the role of the Irish courts in sending children to places such as Artane or the Goldenbridge industrial school in Dublin’s Inchicore district.
Like the individual cases of paedophile priests in the early 1990s, the revelations of widespread child abuse in state-owned but church-run institutions dealt blow after blow to the Catholic church’s authority in the republic.
Yet when the final bill for compensating the thousands of victims of that abuse is counted, the cost will be shouldered, in the main, by the Irish taxpayer rather than the Catholic church.
In June 2002, under a special deal worked out between the Catholic hierarchy and the government, then led by Bertie Ahern, the church will pay only €128m (£112m) in compensation.
The overall cost, according to official figures, will be €1.3bn.