Eighteen religious groups that were involved with the running of residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan commission have refused to contribute to the €1.36 billion costs incurred by the State in compensating people who had been abused in the institutions.
Why is this thing dragging on? Why can’t the Criminal Assets Bureau step in?
Has anyone in the present government actually read the Final Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse? And if they have read it, have they read it out loud to these Religious Congregations? Here’s a few of their findings with my own comments added:
A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from. Seeing or hearing other children being beaten was a frightening experience that stayed with many complainants all their lives.
It’s high time these Congregations were subjected to ‘pervasive fear’ and ‘terror’ – Let them live with the fear that their assets will be taken from them. Introduce them to the terror of being flat broke.
Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment. Absconders were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and were humiliated.
Shaving them of their assets would be perfect justice.
The boys’ schools investigated revealed a pervasive use of severe corporal punishment. Prolonged, excessive beatings with implements intended to cause maximum pain occurred with the knowledge of staff management.
Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable and this led to a climate of fear amongst the children. The regulations imposed greater restrictions on the use of corporal punishment for girls. In some schools a high level of ritualised beating was routine whilst in other schools lower levels of corporal punishment were used. Girls were struck with implements designed to maximise pain and were struck on all parts of the body. The prohibition on corporal punishment for girls over 15 years was generally not observed.
Corporal punishment was often administered in a way calculated to increase anguish and humiliation for girls. One way of doing this was for children to be left waiting for long periods to be beaten. Another was when it was accompanied by denigrating or humiliating language. Some beatings were more distressing when administered in front of other children and staff.
Maximum pain must be returned to these Congregations – this is the sword they wielded on children, they lived by this sword, let them die by this sword. Never mind that this punishment will be public and humiliating: this is Justice.
The recidivist nature of sexual abuse was known to religious authorities. The documents revealed that sexual abusers were often long-term offenders who repeatedly abused children wherever they were working. Contrary to the Congregations’ claims that the recidivist nature of sexual offending was not understood, it is clear from the documented cases that they were aware of the propensity for abusers to re-abuse. The risk, however, was seen by the Congregations in terms of the potential for scandal and bad publicity should the abuse be disclosed. The danger to children was not taken into account.
The Congregational authorities did not listen to or believe people who complained of sexual abuse that occurred in the past, notwithstanding the extensive evidence that emerged from Garda investigations, criminal convictions and witness accounts. Some Congregations remained defensive and disbelieving of much of the evidence heard by the Investigation Committee in respect of sexual abuse in institutions, even in cases where men had been convicted in court and admitted to such behaviour at the hearings.
Any other organisation, or group of organisations, found to have endangered children in such a despicable way for so long would be shut down and their assets seized. These Congregations terrorised children. They made children feel worthless. It’s high time these Congregations were worth less …
Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools. Witnesses spoke of scavenging for food from waste bins and animal feed. The Inspector found that malnourishment was a serious problem in schools run by nuns.
Bearing in mind that the stated reason the majority of children were consigned into the ‘care’ of these Congregations was that they were children from dysfunctional families; yet here we have findings that the Congregations were dysfunctional, dangerous and utterly unsuited to caring for children. Yet the State funded them and the Congregations took the money under false pretences. It’s time these monies were fully refunded.
Clothing was a particular problem in boys’ schools where children often worked for long hours outdoors on farms. In addition, boys were often left in their soiled and wet work clothes throughout the day and wore them for long periods. In all schools up until the 1960s clothes stigmatised the children as Industrial School residents.
There was a further stigma if you absconded, at least in Ferryhouse. They made you wear short trousers – the thinking here was that you would be easily spotted if you re-absconded: Here’s a pic from Ferryhouse. See if you can count how many of the children in the pic absconded:
Their only crime was that they wanted to go home – and this was only part of the ‘justice’ the Congregations meted out to children. Time they were put into short trousers.
Where Industrial School children were educated in internal national schools, the standard was consistently poorer than that in outside schools. National school education was available to all children in the State and those in Industrial Schools were entitled to at least the same standard as that available in the country generally. Internal national schools were funded by a national school grant and teachers were paid in the same way. There was evidence particularly in girls’ schools that children were removed from their classes in order to perform domestic chores or work in the institution during the school day. When discharged, boys were generally placed in manual or unskilled jobs and girls in positions as domestic servants. Even where religious Congregations operated secondary schools beside industrial schools, children from the Industrial Schools were very rarely given the opportunity of pursuing secondary school education. Industrial Schools were intended to provide basic industrial training to young people to enable them to take up positions of employment as young adults. In reality, the industrial training afforded by all schools was of a nature that served the needs of the institution rather than the needs of the child.
It’s time to serve the needs of survivors and victims and not the sensibilities of these Congregations. The statutory objective of CAB is to target the proceeds of criminal activity to ensure that those engaged in criminal activity do not benefit from it. These Congregation were unjustly enriched by the slave labour of children.
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Realistically though, all the above actions would only happen in my dreams – and they would be wild dreams. As a child I never had such dreams in anyway. Never did I dream that what I, and so many other children, were suffering should be revisited on those making us suffer. I’ve never dreamt of pushing a nun’s hands into a fire; I’ve never had the dream of battering a member of the clergy with a hurley stick or a wheel brace or a coin-embedded leather strap; I’ve never dreamt of starving or enslaving members of the Religious Orders. My dreams were more fantastic than those – fantastic, because I knew they were not going to come true; for you see I dreamt of decent and enough food on my plate; I dreamt of warm places, of running free in a meadow; of confusion explained; of childish puzzlement satisfied; of a little red bus; of loving touches; of being wanted;
And then there’s a squeeze on my shoulder and I’m released from my reverie. I sit at a big table and the Minister repeats his question: “Would you like a bun with your coffee, Andrew?” It’s not a religious Minister that’s asking the question but a democratically elected Minister and 18 years of an almost unrelenting childhood flashes before me:
Flashes of a loving family that soon went sour; of loving relatives who wanted to care for us; of a father’s refusal to allow that; of a final 6 weeks of being locked in a room with my sister and crippled brother, surviving on rainwater, nettles and mushrooms and sometimes milky eggs; of men in spacesuits rescuing us from the filth and squalor; of being scrubbed and washed and togged out it new clothes; of being in Court and being handed an orange and my brother; of hooded heads with faces and long dark corridors lined with statues; of children kneeling in a hall chanting ….. and all the horrors that followed.
And I’m not looking for revenge – only justice. And I can still dream.