Report exposes abuse 'endemic'
Updated on 20 May 2009
As a damning report is published into "endemic" abuse suffered by children in Irish Catholic institutions over 60 years, Carl Dinnen accompanies a former resident as he returns to a "reformatory school".
For decades the Irish state sent the most vulnerable children in society to homes run by Catholic religious orders.
Around 35,000 children went through this system between the 1940s and the 1970s. The scale of neglect in schools, hospitals and institutions run by religious orders became the subject of documentaries in 1996 and 1999.
In response to the documentaries, the Child Abuse Commission was set up in May 2000 by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
The scale of abuse in these places was such that the inquiry has taken a decade, with some 2,500 men and women who were abused in schools and institutions all over the country giving evidence.
Some testified to having being beaten on every part of their body with a list of weapons, including leather straps, sticks, farm implements, and even hurling sticks. Others were sexually abused, and some described being gang-raped.
The report, published this afternoon, runs to 2,500 pages and is five volumes long. But following a legal challenge made by the religious orders, it will not name any of the abusers. You can read an official summery of the report here.
Timeline of the commission's investigation:
1996: Dear Daughter, a documentary shown on state broadcaster RTE, details abuse suffered by Christine Buckley and others at St Vincent's Industrial School, Goldenbridge, Inchicore, Dublin.
April/May 1999: A second RTE documentary, the six-part States of Fear, details abuse suffered by children in care at industrial and reformatory schools, orphanages, and institutions for the physically and intellectually disabled. It was supported by the book Suffer Little Children.
May 1999: Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologises on behalf of the state to victims of child abuse and announces a commission of inquiry and a national counselling service.
May 1999: Ms Justice Mary Laffoy is appointed to head the commission to inquire into child abuse, and one year later legislation is passed to put it on a statutory footing.
October 2000: The government announces plans for a compensation scheme. The Residential Institutions Redress Board is eventually established in December 2002.
July 2001: The deadline for complaints of abuse to be made to the commission. 3,149 people ask to testify.
December 2003: Justice Mary Laffoy resigns as chairwoman of the commission amid claims of a lack of government co-operation. Sean Ryan SC is appointed a high court judge and the new chairman.
June 2004: Judge Ryan announces the commission will not name abusers unless they have been convicted.
June 2004: The Christian Brothers religious order drops legal actions against the Commission.
July 2004: The Christian Brothers testify at a public hearing that files only recently discovered in its Rome-based archive show evidence of 30 canonical trials of brothers based on proven incidents of child sexual abuse against boys in their care from the 1930s onwards.
2005/2006: Private hearings continue and a number of religious orders come forward with testimony in public.