What we learned

Abuse was the defining characteristic of the Industrial School system for children in modern Ireland. Children in these institutions experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse: they were beaten and raped; they were neglected and malnourished; they were deprived of education.

One survivor testified to the Commission: 'They all said “that couldn’t have happened” but they can’t say that to 5,000 of us when we all have a similar story to tell.'

What We Learned
What We Learned

How hidden patterns were revealed

Digital representations show us hidden patterns in the Report, illustrating the system of abuse in action. By tracking transfers through the Report we reveal the systemic response at the root of the abuse of children, and its cover-up.

The Transfer Graph
The Transfer Graph

Across society, people knew

We applied data analytics to create a map of who knew about the conditions in the schools. Using our tools, you can see that it was not only the Catholic Church that were involved: the State was a central player, with extensive knowledge of the system, from the Gardaí, to legal representatives, to the Department of Education and politicians. These were the people who knew.

Network Maps
Network Maps


Beyond the data, the patterns & the big picture of a state-supported industry of abuse, this project was about prioritising the experience of the survivor. By listening to their voices, by exploring the spaces they were held in as children, we can glimpse a small part of their history, and act as witnesses to their experiences.


Re-Reading the Ryan Report: Witnessing via Close and Distant Reading

Article on witnessing abuse using data analytics, by Emilie Pine, Susan Leavy and Mark T. Keane

Éire-Ireland 52.1 & 2 Spring/Summer 2017


Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

The official digital record of the Child Abuse Commission, published 2009 (commonly known as the Ryan Report)