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Chapter 5 — Investigation Committee Report - preliminary issues

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Punishment book


The work of the Committee from late 2004 covered over 20 industrial and reformatory schools. Further modules included the investigation of the career of one abuser, who was employed in a succession of national schools. In addition to these inquiries, other areas examined included the role of the Department of Education, and the funding of the schools.


The work of preparation for the hearings was extensive and time-consuming. The steps included: Obtaining statements from the complainants. Locating respondents and obtaining responses from persons named by the complainants. Obtaining responses from Religious Congregations and Orders affected by the allegations. Inviting responses from relevant Government Departments. Extensive discovery of documents was also obtained from: the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); An Garda Síochana; the Health Service Executive; and the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC). Discovery was also obtained from: the Department of Education and Science; the Department of Health and Children; the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform; the Orders and Congregations and some dioceses; and, occasionally, from the complainants themselves.


A vast amount of material was received through this process, and over a million documents had to be analysed in detail by the legal team in order to ascertain the relevant information needed for the hearings.


Individual books of evidence and material were produced and furnished for each hearing, and circulated to the numerous parties involved in each particular case, including complainants and respondents and Congregations.


The Investigation Committee had sought to limit the number of lawyers present at the private hearings, in the belief that that would have assisted complainants giving evidence about sensitive or private matters. The Committee referred the matter to the High Court under section 25 of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, 2000 for a decision as to whether its proposal was lawful, and the court decided that it was an interference with the constitutional rights of the respondents and Congregations.1 As a consequence, it was impossible to limit the number of lawyers who attended. A typical Phase II private hearing was attended by a large number of persons at very considerable cost. For example: Chairperson and two Commissioners; Registrar; stenographer; sound engineer; senior and junior counsel and solicitor for complainant; three members of the Investigation Committee’s legal team; two senior members of the particular Congregation or Order; senior and junior counsel and solicitor for an individual respondent plus the individual respondent; the same for a second named respondent if there was one; the complainant witness.


The result was that it was a daunting experience for a witness to come to the Phase II private hearings. The Committee was conscious of this, and tried to make the occasion as informal as possible and to reduce areas of conflict. Counsel co-operated with the Committee in this respect, and the Committee was appreciative of the manner in which the lawyers for all the different interests conducted themselves in the hearings.


A small number of institutions were the subject of a more limited form of investigation than by way of full hearings. In the case of St Joseph’s Industrial School, Salthill and St Joseph’s Industrial School, Glin, both run by the Christian Brothers, the institutions themselves and the system of management and the nature of the complaints were all very similar to the matters that had been investigated in all the other Christian Brothers’ schools; and, as a result, it was unnecessary to have full hearings. Instead, the discovered documentary materials were examined for information as to abuse during the relevant period. Significant documents were sent to appropriate parties for comment, where those parties had not produced the discovered material, and any comments received by way of submission were then taken into account in the chapters on these two institutions.


A similar method was adopted in investigating Our Lady of Good Counsel, Lota. This institution was the subject of a series of six separate Garda inquiries, which were continuing while the Committee was pursuing its work. A limited number of witnesses had already been heard by the Investigation Committee prior to 2003, and that testimony, together with documentary evidence, formed the basis of the chapter on the institution.


One category of institution that was not included in full Investigation Committee hearings comprised three schools for deaf children. It was clear that members of the deaf community wanted to participate. In the consultation period that took place in early 2004, Mr Kevin Stanley and other officials of the Irish Deaf Society attended meetings and offered assistance, and were enthusiastic about their members’ desire to be part of the investigation process. The numbers of persons (109 in total) who notified the Investigation Committee that they wished to participate in its proceedings in respect of deaf schools were as follows: St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra – 65 St Mary’s School for Deaf Girls, Cabra – 23 Mary Immaculate School for the Deaf, Beechpark, Stillorgan – 21.


Unfortunately, it proved impossible to arrange full hearings for these institutions. The principal difficulty was in getting statements from a sufficient number of former residents of these institutions. There had been a protracted and unproductive correspondence between the Committee and solicitors representing the great majority of the deaf complainants about the taking of statements, and the period of time that was necessary for that purpose, and the cost of doing so. The result was that little had been achieved even by late 2005. It was impracticable to prepare all the necessary materials and to arrange hearings in these cases. Obtaining statements from complainants was only the first step in putting all the pieces together to enable full investigative hearings to take place. Since that first step was not satisfactorily completed in a reasonable time, there was no question of all the other necessary procedures being completed so as to enable hearings to take place.


The Investigation Committee had, since early 2005, been implementing a programme of interviewing witnesses who were not heard in private hearings, and decided to offer that facility to all of the deaf complainants. The Committee put in place appropriate interpretative services, and witnesses responded in considerable numbers. A total of 78 persons in this category were interviewed.


In the circumstances, limited investigation of these institutions was also carried out by way of analysis of documentary material.

The programme of interviewing witnesses


A scheme of interviews was introduced in early 2005, following the hearings into St Joseph’s Industrial School, Ferryhouse and St Patrick’s Industrial School, Upton. Selection of witnesses had previously been made in those investigations by examining the documents that had been submitted, and a proportion of the potential complainant witnesses had been called to testify. There remained a substantial body of witnesses who had the option of transferring to the Confidential Committee, but whose first choice was to contribute to the work of the Investigation Committee.


In early 2005, the Committee devised another means of including complainants in the work of the Investigation Committee: in a progress report and outline of work to be done, the Committee published on its website details of an interview process that it was introducing. It proposed to invite complainants for interview, which would be carried out by members of the legal team.


For those institutions which the Committee was not investigating by way of hearings, all the complainants were invited for interview.

  1. In Re Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse [2002] 3 IR 459.
  2. Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan, Suffer the Little Children (New Island, 1999).