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Chapter 1 — Establishment of the Commission

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State evidence


Dr Woods gave evidence at the Emergence hearings, where he noted that Mr Boland had dealt comprehensively with the Redress Scheme in his evidence but commented briefly on the matter himself. He told the Investigation Committee that the more he became involved in the process following his appointment as Minister for Education and Science, the more he became ‘acutely aware of the issues and the problems which were faced by the victims’. Dr Woods said ‘that the early establishment of the scheme was seen as (a) greatly reducing the stress of survivors of abuse and, (b) it was to facilitate the progress of the Commission’. He said that the involvement of the Congregations was seen by the State as a desirable policy objective but stressed: as far as the State was concerned it was very firm in its decision that the State was going ahead in any event with the Redress Scheme. That it was the right way to go.


Dr Woods said that part of the Governments desire to get the Congregations to contribute was to bring about a situation where there was closure to the whole issue of past institutional abuse.

Religious Congregations’ evidence


The two major topics for the Religious Congregations at the Emergence hearings were the contributions they made to the State Redress fund of compensation to victims and the apologies that many of them issued. Contributions to the State fund posed much less of an issue or a problem for them than the question of apology. They were largely in agreement on compensation. Negotiations were carried out on their behalf by the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI), which is an umbrella organisation for the various Religious Congregations in Ireland. The agreement reached was favourable to the Religious Congregations, but the Investigation Committee was not concerned with the wisdom or reasonableness of the agreement reached.


It might have been thought that Congregations who contributed to the fund were in effect conceding that there had been some abuse in their institutions. The agreement did not require them to do so, but the mere fact of payment into the fund, in return for an indemnity in respect of any actions that might be taken, could have been regarded as an expression of some kind of admission or acknowledgement, but it was said not to be the case.


The position with regard to apologies was more complicated. Some Congregations issued apologies and some did not. Those that issued apologies used a variety of different expressions. Through their spokespersons, they testified to the good intentions that lay behind the apologies. Some of the apologies were more effective than others in meeting the needs of survivor groups.


Congregations were fearful that what they said in order to assuage the feelings of victims of abuse might be used to damage them, as they saw it. Their words might be taken as concessions or admissions as to events that were alleged to have happened. The aims of acknowledging past wrongs and assuaging feelings of victims are at odds with the desire to avoid admissions and concessions about abuse. Most of the apologies reflected tension between these objectives, and were largely unsatisfactory as a result.


The attitude of many of the Congregations was conditional. If their members committed abuse, they expressed regret for it. They did not accept Congregational responsibility for any abuse that happened. As to whether abuse had actually happened, they said they were leaving that to the Commission to establish, because that was the function of the Commission, and because they had contradictory information on the claims of complainants and in the responses of their own members.


On 31st January 2002, CORI issued a general apology on behalf of its members: We accept that some children in residential institutions managed by our members suffered deprivation, physical and sexual abuse. We regret that, we apologise for it. We can never take away the pain experienced at the time by these children nor the shadow left over their adult lives. Today the congregations with the State are giving a concrete expression of their genuine desire to foster healing and reconciliation in the lives of former residents.


The Investigation Committee at the Emergence hearings heard evidence from representatives of the following Religious Congregations that had contributed to the Redress Fund: The Rosminian Institute of Charity The Dominican Order The Sisters of Mercy Our Lady of Charity of the Good Sheperd The Presentation Brothers The Religious Sisters of Charity The Christian Brothers The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge The Brothers of Charity The Daughters of the Heart of Mary The De La Salle Brothers The Sisters of St Clare The Presentation Sisters The Sisters of St Louis The Hospitaller Order of St John of God The Sisters of Nazareth The Oblates of Mary Immaculate.


These representatives were examined as to the reasons underpinning the decision taken by the Congregations to issue an apology, if they did so, and the reasons they contributed to the Redress Fund, if they did so. The Investigation Committee also heard evidence during the Emergence hearings from representatives of Congregations involved in the management, care and control of institutions that were not the subject of its investigations into individual institutions.


The Rosminian Order operated two industrial schools, one at Upton in County Cork and the other at Ferryhouse in County Tipperary, as well as a School for the Blind at Drumcondra in Dublin. They had two post-primary schools, one in Omeath and one in Dublin. They also developed a retirement home for blind men in Drumcondra, and a centre in Cork for adults with learning disabilities.


In 1999, the Rosminians issued a public statement: The members of the Rosminian Institute are saddened and shamed that young people in our care were abused by members of our Order. We deeply regret not only the abuse but also the shadow cast on the lives of those abused. We abhor all mistreatment of children and we wish to express our profound sorrow.


Fr Joseph O’Reilly, giving evidence on 30th June 2004, said that the Order made that statement because they felt it was the right thing to do: Fundamentally we felt it was simply the right thing to do and it was something over which we had no option to do.


The Order was aware that children had been abused in at least one of their institutions in 1979: That was one of the reasons why we obviously felt that we would have to apologise.


Fr O’Reilly told the Committee that the Order contributed to the Redress Fund because: We believed it was the right thing to do, it was the just thing to do, it was the natural thing when you recognise that you have been part of something that has caused hurt and pain to people in the past, thats fairly inescapable. I think there was a recognition on our part that to go another route that seemed to be the only other route available at the time in terms of litigation and going to the High Court, we felt that that would be disastrous for all concerned.

  1. Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Initial Report on Terms of Reference, 7th September 1999.
  2. Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Report on Terms of Reference, 14th October 1999.
  3. Amendments were also made by the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002: See Section 32.
  4. Section 1 of the Principal Act, as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.
  5. Section 15(1) of the Principal Act, as amended by section 10 of the 2005 Act.
  6. Section 16 of the Principal Act as amended by section 11 of the 2005 Act.
  7. Section 4(6) as substituted by section 4 of the 2005 Act.
  8. Section 12(1) of the Principal Act, as amended by section 7 of the 2005 Act.
  9. Section 12(1)(d)(iii), as amended by section 7(c) of the 2005 Act.
  10. Section 14, as amended by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  11. Section 14(1)(a) of the Principal Act.
  12. Section 14(1)(b)–(d) of the Principal Act.
  13. Section 14(1)(e) of the Principal Act.
  14. Section 14(8) of the Principal Act, as inserted by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  15. Section 14(9) of the Principal Act, as inserted by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  16. Section 14(11) of the Principal Act, as inserted by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  17. Section 14(10) of the Principal Act, as amended by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  18. Section 14(14) of the Principal Act, as inserted by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  19. Section 14 of the Principal Act, as amended by section 9 of the 2005 Act.
  20. Section 13 of the Principal Act, as amended by section 8 of the 2005 Act.
  21. Section 1(1) of the Principal Act.
  22. ‘Dear Daughter’ was a dramatised programme broadcast in 1996 by RTE which featured Goldenbridge Industrial School.
  23. There were three programmes broadcast by RTE in 1999 in the ‘States of Fear’ series: ‘Industrial Schools and Reformatories from the 1940s–1980s’, ‘The Legacy of Industrial Schools’, and ‘Sick and Disabled Children in Institutions’.
  24. Under the terms of the indemnity agreement reached with the Religious Congregations on 5th June 2002, the Congregations agreed to make a contribution of €128 million towards the redress scheme. This was broken down as follows: cash contribution €41.14 million; provision of counselling services €10 million and property transfers €76.86 million.
  25. An organisation funded by the Congregations that provides counselling for persons who have been abused by religious Orders and Congregations.
  26. This is dealt with in full in the chapter on St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. Cork VEC – Cork Vocational Education Committees.
  29. FÁS – Training and employment authority.
  30. See Third Interim Report, chapter 4.