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Clerical Abuse Victims in Their Own Words

This is a selection of quotes taken directly from the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

Read the report HERE


Male witnesses

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.

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.

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! he was just cruel.

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.

I’ll never forget the cat-o’-nine-tails, 10 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.

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 .

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.

There was this man there he had … 3 dogs, he was an outsider . 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 . 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.

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.

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.

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

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 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 . 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.

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.

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….

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


Female witnesses

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 masturbate him…. I remember even telling Sr …Y (Resident Manager)… and she told me to keep the rug over my legs in the car.

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.

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.

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….

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….

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Also on Bock

Commission on Child Abuse Report Published

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Commission on Child Abuse Report Published

The report by the Commission on Child Abuse has been published. It deals with abuse in industrial schools and reformatories in Ireland, and its conclusions are truly sickening, highlighting clerical indifference to children’s welfare and the savagery with which they beat and raped young children.

The report describes the system as a Victorian model of childcare that failed to adapt to Twentieth Century conditions and did not prioritise the needs of children. According to the report, children were committed by the Courts using procedures with the trappings of the criminal law. The authorities were unwilling to address the failings in the system or consider alternatives.

These are some of its findings, taken verbatimfrom the report, except for some minor adjustments to make the post read more clearly.All of the following words were written by the Commission without any additional remarks by me. They speak for themselves.


The Christian Brothers failed to accept any congregational responsibility for the physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect that took place in institutions run by them. They were defensive in response to complaints.


In Artane industrial school, children were left feeling powerless and defenceless in the face of bullying and abuse by staff and fellow pupils. The school was so imbued with the harshness of the underlying regime, that children constantly felt under threat and fearful.

Physical punishment of boys in Artane was excessive and pervasive and, because of its arbitrary nature, led to a climate of fear amongst the boys.

Sexual abuse of boys in Artane by Brothers was a chronic problem. Complaints were not handled properly and the steps taken by the Congregation to avoid scandal and publicity protected perpetrators of abuse. The safety of children was not a priority at any time during the relevant period.

Neglect and emotional abuse were also found to have been features of Artane. The numbers of children made it impossible for any child to receive an adequate standard of care.

Many of the details of this abuse were contained in the Congregations’ own records that became known as the €˜Rome Files’


It was an inhospitable, bleak, isolated institution accessable only by car or bicycle and out of reach for family or friends of boys incarcerated there.

Physical punishment was severe, excessive and pervasive and by being administered in public or within earshot of other children it was used as a means of engendering fear and ensuring control.

Sexual abuse was a chronic problem. For two thirds of the relevant period there was at least one sexual abuser in the school, for almost one third of the period there were two abusers in the school and at times there were three abusers working in Letterfrack at the same time. Two abusers were present for periods of 14 years each and the Congregation could offer no explanation as to how these Brothers could have remained in the School for so long undetected and unreported.

Children were emotionally and physically neglected throughout the relevant period and those children who could have benefited from family contact were deprived of this because of the remoteness of Letterfrack’s location. This isolation impacted on boys and Brothers who were posted there.


St Joseph’s Industrial School. Serious allegations were outlined both in documents and in oral testimony about a Brother who was violent and dangerous over a number of years . This Brother was moved from a day school because his violence towards children was causing severe problems with their parents, and was moved to Tralee Industrial School. Such a move displayed a callous disregard for the safety of children in care. He went on to terrorise children in Tralee for over seven years.

Children were left unprotected and vulnerable to bullying by older boys and this was stated to be a particular problem in Tralee both in terms of physical and sexual abuse.

One ex-Brother, Professor Tom Dunne, gave evidence about his experience of Tralee and he described a cold hostile culture where the boys were treated with harshness: €˜It was a secret enclosed world, run on fear’.

Dun Laoghaire

Carriglea Park Industrial School. A period of near-anarchy was tackled by the imposition of a harsh punitive regime which was facilitated by the transfer of Brothers with a known propensity for severe punishment to the school.


A system of harsh and pervasive punishment existed in Glin during the relevant period. Brothers with a known propensity for sexual abuse were transferred to Glin indicating a serious indifference to the safety of children.


Violent Brothers who were moved around from one school to another continued their violent behaviour. In Salthill, one Brother, who had been described as cruel in Letterfrack, continued his severe treatment of boys in Salthill and another continued his harshness in schools he was assigned to after Salthill. Internal Christian Brothers’ Reports identified a €˜severity in attitude’ towards the boys in the 1950s and the records would indicate a concern with six Brothers who had served in Salthill with regard to physical punishment.

The Salthill report deals with a relatively recent allegation of sexual abuse against a Brother who had been transferred from Salthill €˜following a grave indiscretion with one of the boys’ in the early 1960s. The treatment of a boy who alleged sexual abuse against this Brother some twenty years later by Congregational Authorities was shameful and disturbing.


St Joseph’s School for the Deaf. It was the subject of Eastern Health Board Investigations in the 1980s which revealed disturbing levels of sexual abuse and peer sexual activity amongst boys who were resident there. These documents reveal a persistent failure on the part of school Authorities to protect children from bullying and abuse.

In addition, the documents revealed that physical punishment of these children continued into the mid-1990s and that staff were protected by management when physical abuse was discovered.

The Industrial Schools owned and managed by the Christian Brothers did not keep a Punishment Book as was required by the Rules.

John Brander

Brander taught children in the primary and secondary school sector in Ireland for 40 years. He was eventually convicted of sexual abuse in the 1980s.

He began his career as a Christian Brother and after three separate incidents of sexual abuse of boys, he was granted dispensation from his vows. This chapter goes on to describe this man’s progress through six different schools where he physically terrorised and sexually abused children in his classroom. At various times during his career, parents attempted to challenge his behaviour but he was persistently protected by diocesan and school authorities and moved from school to school. Complaints to the Department of Education were ignored. The Committee received a large number of complaints from individual national schools and the investigation conducted into the career of Mr Brander, apart from being shocking in itself, also illustrates the ease with which sexual predators could operate within the educational system of the State without fear of disclosure or sanction.


Daingean Reformatory

This was the only boys’ reformatory in the State for most of the relevant period and was managed by but not owned by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The physical abuse of boys in Daingean was extreme. Floggings which were ritualised beatings should not have been tolerated in any institution and they were inflicted even for minor transgressions. Children who passed through Daingean were brutalised by the experience and some were damaged by it.

Apart from a cruel regime of punishment, Daingean was an anarchic Institution. It was run by gangs of boys who imposed their rules on the others and the supervision by the religious Brothers and Priests was minimal and ineffectual.

Serious questions were raised about two Brothers who were in the school for long periods but in general allegations of sexual abuse were concentrated on abuse by older boys. The gangland culture fostered the development of protective relationships between the boys and these relationships sometimes developed a sexual aspect. The boy seeking the protection had little option but to comply with the demands of the older boy and the authorities were dismissive of any complaints.

The Rosminian Order

St Patrick’s Industrial School in Upton, County Cork

The Order conceded that punishment was abusive and at times brutal.

The issue of sexual abuse in this institution emerged most strikingly through material that came to the Investigation Committee’s attention following a search by the Order of material in their archive in Rome, which disclosed a considerable number of documents, 68 in all, dating from 1936 to 1968. They dealt with, among other things, 7 sexual abusers who worked in Upton. These documents provided a valuable contemporary account of how sexual abuse was dealt with.

Ferryhouse, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

the Order have conceded that there was excessive and severe punishment in the Institution. Complainants spoke of a climate of fear and of harsh and at times brutal punishments.

The extent of sexual abuse in this institution was as serious and disturbing as in Upton. Two religious members of the Rosminian Order and one layman were convicted of sexual abuse of boys in Ferryhouse. Another religious who served in Ferryhouse was convicted of a crime committed elsewhere on a boy who had previously been a resident of Ferryhouse and who was then living in another Rosminian institution. These three religious offenders served in senior positions in Ferryhouse and the layman was a volunteer there for different periods of years between 1968 and 1988.

During almost all of the period covered by the inquiry, there was at least one sexual abuser present in Ferryhouse.

The living conditions in both schools were poor, inadequate and overcrowded although conditions in Ferryhouse did improve from the late 1970s. Children were underfed and badly clothed and received poor education and training.

Presentation Brothers

Greenmount Industrial School, Co Cork

For some specific periods during its history, Greenmount operated a harsh and severe regime. The level of corporal punishment tolerated depended on the attitude of management at the time. Some Resident Managers were more severe than others.

The report into Greenmount contains a detailed analysis of an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against two Brothers who were on the staff at the time. This matter was dealt with inadequately at the time and one of the Brothers went on to abuse in other schools he was assigned to.

Food clothing and accommodation were poor in Greenmount and education and aftercare were badly provided.

Brothers of Charity

Lota Glanmire, Co Cork.

The significant element in the account of Lota was the deeply disturbing accounts of sexual abuse of vulnerable children by religious staff. In addition, the indifference of the Congregational Authorities in addressing the issue facilitated the abuse in Lota for many years. In one case, a Brother who was known by the Congregation to have abused in England and was known to the police there, was brought back to Ireland and assigned a teaching position in Lota, where he worked for over 30 years. This Brother admitted to multiple sexual assaults of boys in the school. The circumstances of his return to Ireland and the handling of allegations against him whilst in Lota are a serious indictment of the Brothers of Charity. The Brothers have admitted that abuse took place but, as in the case of other Orders, they have not accepted Congregational responsibility for it.

Sisters of Mercy

Goldenbridge Industrial School

A high level of physical abuse was perpetrated by Religious and lay staff in Goldenbridge. The method of inflicting punishments and the implements used were cruel and excessive and physical punishment was an immediate response to even minor infractions. Children were in constant fear of beatings and in many cases were beaten for no apparent reason. A feature of this school was a rosary bead industry that was operated from the school. This industry was conducted in a way that imposed impossible standards on children and caused great suffering to many of them. It was a school that was characterised by a regime of extreme drudgery, both in terms of the rosary bead making and the daily workload of the children.

Goldenbridge was an emotionally abusive institution. Girls were humiliated and belittled on a regular basis and treated with contempt by some staff members. It was characterised by an absence of kindness or sympathy for the children.

Cappoquin Industrial School, County Waterford

This institution was identified by the Department of Education Inspector as being particularly neglectful of the children in its care in the 1940s. Children were described as malnourished and underweight.

Cappoquin adapted to the Group Home system in the 1970s but it was marred by highly dysfunctional management throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Alcohol abuse and inappropriate relationships between senior personnel interfered significantly with the standard of care provided to the children. This period was marked by indifference on the part of the Community of Sisters in the convent attached to the school, which allowed a dangerous and neglectful situation to continue.


Clifden was an institution that was strongly affected by the personality of the Resident Manager who was in office from 1936 to 1969. She was described by complainants and respondent witnesses as a strict, harsh woman who ruled and dominated all aspects of life in the institution. She treated the school as her personal domain and worked a punishing schedule with little help or support. She was unable to give the children the care they needed and used harsh physical punishment not just to correct misbehaviour, but also to enforce discipline and order. A significant feature of the evidence was the culture of detachment and lack of affection that was described by both respondent witnesses and complainants.


This school repeated many of the problems identified in Clifden. It was consistently under-staffed with a heavy workload falling to the Resident Manager and much of the day to day work being done by the children themselves. Newtownforbes was severely criticised by Department of Education Inspections in the 1940s for serious neglect and abuse of children who were found with bruising that was not satisfactorily explained. Conditions improved into the 1950s and 1960s but it was a strictly regimented school that used corporal punishment to punish and to maintain order. There was a heavy emphasis on domestic chores and this together with childcare duties impeded the education of many children. Children were undermined and emotionally neglected by a regime that did not offer kindness or encouragement to children who had no-one else to look out for them.

Sisters of Charity

St Patrick’s Industrial School which was founded in 1879 accommodated 186 boys up to the age of 10. A significant feature of this school was the very young ages of the children and the large group of them all being cared for by a small number of nuns. Because they were so young when they were there, witnesses tended to remember specific episodes rather than have overall memories of St Patrick’s. Some of these incidents pointed to a regime that was harsh and unpredictable with corporal punishment the usual response to misbehaviour. Three male complainants described incidents of sexual abuse and the significant factor in each account was the child’s inability to confide to the Sister who was caring for him. Men who were employed in the school appeared to have ready access to these small boys and there was no awareness of the risks posed by this.

St Joseph’s Kilkenny

In general this was a well run institution but it was dogged at two separate periods in its history by serious instances of sexual abuse and the Congregation did not deal with these appropriately or with the children’s best interests in mind. In 1954, a handyman who had been employed in the school for the previous 30 years was discovered to have been grossly sexually abusing girls from as young as eight years old. An investigation which was conducted by the Department of Education, confirmed the abuse but the children concerned were offered no comfort and the perpetrator, although dismissed from the school, was not reported to the Gardai.

The second period in which sexual abuse arose in St Joseph’s was during the 1970s after the school admitted boys, when two care workers who were sexually abusing boys were dismissed. Both men went on to abuse again after leaving St Joseph’s and the failure of the Congregation to deal decisively with these men was a factor in this.



1.Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Sexual abuse occurred in many of them, particularly boys’ institutions. Schools were run in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff.

2. The system of large-scale institutionalisation was a response to a nineteenth century social problem, which was outdated and incapable of meeting the needs of individual children. The defects of the system were exacerbated by the way it was operated by the Congregations that owned and managed the schools. This failure led to the institutional abuse of children where their developmental, emotional and educational needs were not met.

3. The deferential and submissive attitude of the Department of Education towards the Congregations compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty of inspection and monitoring of the schools. The Reformatory and Industrial Schools Section of the Department was accorded a low status within the Department and generally saw itself as facilitating the Congregations and the Resident Managers.

4. The capital and financial commitment made by the religious Congregations was a major factor in prolonging the system of institutional care of children in the State. From the mid 1920s in England, smaller more family-like settings were established and they were seen as providing a better standard of care for children in need. In Ireland, however, the Industrial School system thrived.

5. The system of funding through capitation grants led to demands by Managers for children to be committed to Industrial Schools for reasons of economic viability of the institutions.

6. The system of inspection by the Department of Education was fundamentally flawed and incapable of being effective.

7. Many witnesses who complained of abuse nevertheless expressed some positive memories: small gestures of kindness were vividly recalled.

8. More kindness and humanity would have gone far to make up for poor standards of care.

Physical abuse

9. The Rules and Regulations governing the use of corporal punishment were disregarded with the knowledge of the Department of Education.

10. The Reformatory and Industrial Schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment.

11. A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.

12. Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment.

13. Complaints by parents and others made to the Department were not properly investigated.

14. The boys’ schools investigated revealed a pervasive use of severe corporal punishment.

15. There was little variation in the use of physical beating from region to region, from decade to decade, or from Congregation to Congregation.

16. Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable and this led to a climate of fear amongst the children.

17. Corporal punishment was often administered in a way calculated to increase anguish and humiliation for girls.

Sexual abuse

18. Sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ institutions. The situation in girls’ institutions was different. Although girls were subjected to predatory sexual abuse by male employees or visitors or in outside placements, sexual abuse was not systemic in girls’ schools.

19. It is impossible to determine the full extent of sexual abuse committed in boys’ schools. The schools investigated revealed a substantial level of sexual abuse of boys in care that extended over a range from improper touching and fondling to rape with violence. Perpetrators of abuse were able to operate undetected for long periods at the core of institutions.

20. Cases of sexual abuse were managed with a view to minimising the risk of public disclosure and consequent damage to the institution and the Congregation. This policy resulted in the protection of the perpetrator. When lay people were discovered to have sexually abused, they were generally reported to the Gardai. When a member of a Congregation was found to be abusing, it was dealt with internally and was not reported to the Gardaí.

21. The recidivist nature of sexual abuse was known to religious authorities.

22. When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the response of the religious authorities was to transfer the offender to another location where, in many instances, he was free to abuse again. Permitting an offender to obtain dispensation from vows often enabled him to continue working as a lay teacher.

23. Sexual abuse was known to religious authorities to be a persistent problem in male religious organisations throughout the relevant period.

24. In the exceptional circumstances where opportunities for disclosing abuse arose, the number of sexual abusers identified increased significantly.

25. The Congregational authorities did not listen to or believe people who complained of sexual abuse that occurred in the past, notwithstanding the extensive evidence that emerged from Garda investigations, criminal convictions and witness accounts.

26. In general, male religious Congregations were not prepared to accept their responsibility for the sexual abuse that their members perpetrated.

27. Older boys sexually abused younger boys and the system did not offer protection from bullying of this kind.

28. Sexual abuse of girls was generally taken seriously by the Sisters in charge and lay staff were dismissed when their activities were discovered. However, nuns’ attitudes and mores made it difficult for them to deal with such cases candidly and openly and victims of sexual assault felt shame and fear of reporting sexual abuse.

29. Sexual abuse by members of religious Orders was seldom brought to the attention of the Department of Education by religious authorities because of a culture of silence about the issue.

30. The Department of Education dealt inadequately with complaints about sexual abuse. These complaints were generally dismissed or ignored. A full investigation of the extent of the abuse should have been carried out in all cases.


31. Poor standards of physical care were reported by most male and female complainants.

32. Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools.

33. Witnesses recalled being cold because of inadequate clothing, particularly when engaged in outdoor activities.

34. Accommodation was cold, spartan and bleak. Sanitary provision was primitive in most boys’ schools and general hygiene facilities were poor.

35. The Cussen Report recommended in 1936 that Industrial School children should be integrated into the community and be educated in outside national schools. Until the late 1960s, this was not done in any of the boys’ schools investigated and in only in a small number of girls’ schools.

36. Where Industrial School children were educated in internal national schools, the standard was consistently poorer than that in outside schools.

37. Academic education was not seen as a priority for industrial school children.

38. Industrial Schools were intended to provide basic industrial training to young people to enable them to take up positions of employment as young adults. In reality, the industrial training afforded by all schools was of a nature that served the needs of the institution rather than the needs of the child.

Emotional abuse

39. A disturbing element of the evidence before the Commission was the level of emotional abuse that disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children were subjected to generally by religious and lay staff in institutions.

40. The system as managed by the Congregations made it difficult for individual religious who tried to respond to the emotional needs of the children in their care.

41. Witnessing abuse of co-residents, including seeing other children being beaten or hearing their cries, witnessing the humiliation of siblings and others and being forced to participate in beatings, had a powerful and distressing impact.

42. Separating siblings and restrictions on family contact were profoundly damaging for family relationships. Some children lost their sense of identity and kinship, which was never recovered.

43. The Confidential Committee heard evidence in relation to 161 settings other than Industrial and Reformatory Schools, including primary and second-level schools, Children’s Homes, foster care, hospitals and services for children with special needs, hostels, and other residential settings. The majority of witnesses reported abuse and neglect, in some instances up to the year 2000. Many common features emerged about failures of care and protection of children in all of these institutions and services.


Bock comments.

Now, if you managed to read all of that without getting sick, well done.

Here we have a catalogue of failure by the State, indifference on the part of the church, and brutality by the religious orders. We have absolute denial of responsibility by all but the Rosminians. The Christian Brothers in particular, are refusing to acknowledge their role in brutalising generations of children who were arrested, convicted and imprisoned as criminals for all manner of offences that arose directly from poverty.

The Dunleavy report on Glin, for example shows the shocking list of things children were convicted of, and imprisoned for, to be raped and beaten by the savages of the Christian Brothers:

Reason for admission Number
Destitution 111
Larceny 62
Not attending school 61
Wandering 49
Having a parent not a proper guardian 38
Parents unable to control child 12
Receiving alms 10
Being under the care of a parent with criminal habits 6
Homelessness 5
Fraudulent conversion 2
Housebreaking 2
Assault 2
Malicious damage 2
Total 362

And for all their crimes against children, do you think the clergy are making restitution?

No. They’re not. These people are still sitting smug and safe in their denial while the taxpayer foots the €1.3 billion cost, at a time when the country simply does not have the money.

The report speaks of excessive deference towards the clergy in the 1940’s but overlooks the grovelling deal struck by Michael Woods and Bertie Ahern that bailed out the clergy using State funds. Your money and mine.

How many of these abusers will be jailed? Will the head of the Christian Brothers be dragged in front of a court and forced to explain his despicable denial of what his colleagues did to these children?

These holy men and women, Christians all, beat, raped, starved and humiliated defenceless children. In some instances, they killed them.

These holy men and women are the same people who dictated to the people of this land, including our our parents and grandparents since the foundation of this State, how they should lead their lives, how they should frame their laws, what they should read, how they should arrange their sexual relationships, how many children they must have, how they should conduct their marriages.

Is there any logical reason why a bunch of priests or monks or nuns should be allowed to run any institution? Any reason at all? I can’t see any reason why men and women who are completely fucked up by sexual frustration should be allowed to control children’s welfare, or anything else for that matter.

This really is a screwed up country.


Full report and executive summary HERE

Here’s the excellent Paddy Doyle who suffered more than most at the hands of the religious orders. Read him.


Also on Bock:

Child Abuse – PR Guidance for Bishops

Oh, the Sisters of Mercy, they are not departed or gone.

Louise O’Keeffe and Sexual Abuse in Ireland

Eileen Flynn Dies

Catholic Bishops and irish Education System

What Dirt Have the Nuns Got on Bertie Ahern?

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Education Favourites

Memories of a Violent Teacher

Murray was a distant and rather slow lad who arrived into our fourth class. We were nine. He wore a black, cut-down suit. His shaven head always hung down, and he looked up at you from under his eyebrows. I don’t know what he had witnessed in his life, but though he was only nine like the rest of us, he had a grown-up’s frown. Somehow, through that strange bush telegraph that schoolchildren operate, we all learned within hours that Murray had no father. Murray’s father was dead.

Marrinan the teacher was an arsehole who used to hit us with a wooden coat-hanger. He hit me once for not drawing a map of Ireland exactly right. He wasn’t very old — perhaps still in his twenties — and he had a stock of interesting facts about scientific discoveries and Greek mythology. I learned a lot from him, because I was a quick learner, and I must admit that he told us many fascinating things when he didn’t have the urge to attack us.

I was lucky: I only got the usual arbitrary, unfair slappings. Marrinan never singled me out for the special kind of bullying, though it annoyed him that I never showed any reaction when he hit me.  Sometimes he hit me a little harder but I wouldn’t show him he was hurting me.

Murray was not smart, or quick, or alert. He didn’t have a circle of friends, and he didn’t carry the threat of some father in the background who might come to the school and smash the bully’s face in if he went too far.

One day, Marrinan drew a diagram of the solar system on the blackboard.

Murray, come up here and show me the Sun.

Murray looked up at Marrinan from under his eyebrows. Marrinan caught Murray by the ears and slammed the back of his shaven skull against the blackboard where the Sun was drawn.

Now, Murray. Show us where the Sun is.

Murray said nothing, so Marrinan picked him up again by the ears and pounded the back of his head against the blackboard, five or six times.

Show me the sun


Show me









We all saw that, and there wasn’t a single damn thing we nine-year-olds could do about it. Whatever about poor Murray, it brutalised me, and it brutalised all the other young boys in the classroom.

Murray didn’t come back after the Christmas break.

It was savagery.

Murray’s name has been changed to protect the poor devil, but Marrinan’s has not. He wasn’t a Christian Brother, and he didn’t sexually abuse anyone. He was just a piece of shit who made a habit of terrifying small people, and I’d face him down now if I ever met him but I wouldn’t hit him, even though I’d like to kick him senseless.  That would give him a reason to complain he was assaulted.

He was bigger than me in those days, the cowardly prick, but I’d love to confront the ignorant bastard now, if he’d be kind enough to make himself known to me. However, since he preferred beating children, I imagine he wouldn’t have the guts to face a grown man.

I’d be happy to testify to this under oath and no doubt I’d be able to call as witnesses some of the forty other people who saw what he did.

The prick.

Favourites Humour Religion

A History of the Christian Brothers by Roger McGough in Twenty-one Words

This is my favourite Roger McGough poem:

“It’s like hitting your head against a brick wall,” said Brother Ryan,

as he hit my head against a brick wall.