29 Oct 2010

Irish priests beat, raped children: Report

The Vancouver Sun - May 20, 2009
'Places of fear, neglect and endemic sexual abuse'

By Padraic Halpin and Carmel Crimmins, Reuters

DUBLIN - Priests beat and raped children during decades of abuse in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland, a report said on Wednesday.

Orphanages and industrial schools in 20th century Ireland were places of fear, neglect and endemic sexual abuse, the report said.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, established by the government in 2000, blasted successive generations of priests, nuns and Brothers for beating, starving and, in some cases raping, children in Ireland's network of industrial and reformatory schools between the 1930s and 1990s.

"A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys," the report said.

"Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from."

The five-volume report, published after a nine-year investigation into institutions now closed down, also slammed the Department of Education for its deferential attitude to the religious orders and its failure to stop the abuse.

The Commission interviewed 1,090 men and women who were housed in 216 institutions including children's homes, hospitals and schools.

Many of the children were sent into church care because of school truancy, petty crime or because they were unmarried mothers or their offspring.

Tom Sweeney, who spent five years at industrial schools including two years at one where the report said sexual abuse was a "chronic problem", said the Artane Industrial School continued to haunt its former residents.

"Anybody that came into Artane did not come out a happy person and unfortunately there are a lot of people that have committed suicide, there are a lot of people that have ended up in hospitals and they have been forgotten about.

"You didn't forget about Artane and you never forget about it."

Revelations of abuse, including a string of scandals involving priests molesting young boys, have eroded the Catholic Church's moral authority in Ireland, once one of the most religiously devout countries in the world.

The inquiry, conducted at a reported cost of $110 million, was announced in 1999 by then Prime Minister Bertie Ahern after he apologized to victims following revelations made in a series of television documentaries.

It recommended that a memorial should be erected to all the victims of abuse in institutions and recommended that national childcare policy be reviewed on a regular basis.

In the United States, a sexual abuse scandal was uncovered in 2002 and involved mostly abuse of teenage boys by priests.

The religious orders investigated in Ireland include the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge who ran Dublin's Magdalene Laundry — the subject of the 2002 film 'The Magdalene Sisters'.

Also investigated were the Christian Brothers, who delayed proceedings through a successful court action defending their members' right to anonymity.

The action led to the commission dropping its original intention to name the people against whom the allegations were made and only those who have already been convicted can be mentioned in the report.

The commission, originally set up for two years, was also delayed by what it described as the "adversarial and legalistic" approach of religious orders and by the resignation of its first chairwoman Justice Mary Laffoy a year later after a clash with the Department of Education.

The full report can be downloaded at:


An executive summary of the report in a pdf document can be read at:

Summary of findings from the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse (105Kb)

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