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Chapter 1 — Institute of Charity

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Part of the reason for taking this approach was to avoid causing further distress to the former residents of Ferryhouse and Upton. During the hearings, counsel for the Order examined witnesses sympathetically, and, even when evidence was being challenged, it was done with courtesy and care. The Investigation Committee was impressed by the number of apologies that were made. The following are examples: we have learned since your statement to the Commission came in that Br Lazarro5 did sexually abuse boys, I hope you will accept the Rosminian’s apology if that happened to you. We haven’t ever suspected it of [the other Brother] and I am sorry to ask you questions about it. I am ashamed to ask you questions about what you describe about Br Valerio6 (the questioning that followed was solely to elucidate how contact was made after the boy had left the school). I don’t want to ask you much at all because the hardship you have described deserves not to be investigated in any way or questioned. We accept what you have said, we trust the truth of it completely. There is one very big thing, which you have done today. [Your evidence] is a testament to the pain you suffered and others with you.


While many witnesses found it hard to accept the apologies made by the Rosminians for the pain and hardship they had suffered, it may have helped them to find that their evidence was treated by the Order in such a sympathetic way.


This approach facilitated investigation. Counsel for the Rosminians often brought out details that might have been missed. He elicited facts about school routines, practices and conditions, in order to gain as much information as possible from witnesses. Sometimes, they were asked to fill in gaps in the knowledge available to the Order. The Rosminians were correct in their submission following the Phase II hearings by stating that: the faults and limitations of the Schools become apparent without pursuing every conflict of evidence.


The official instrument used to administer corporal punishment was the leather strap. There were two kinds: one was a single piece of leather a ¼ of an inch thick (0.63 cm). It was about 19 inches long (48.2cm), and 2½ inches wide (6.3cm), with one end shaped to form a handle. It was used to slap the palm of the hand. It weighed 5oz (147grms).


The second kind was a ‘doubler’. It was made in the shoemaker’s shop from two layers of leather approximately 2½ inches wide (6.3cm) and 22 inches long (55.8cm). The two strips were sewn together and, again, one end was shaped to form a handle. Br Antonio, who worked in Ferryhouse, confirmed that coins were sometimes inserted between the two layers of leather when this strap was being assembled. He told the Investigation Committee: And they are right what they say, because I opened the leather myself and saw there were coins in the leather strap, which were stitched in the shoe shop.


Without coins, the strap weighed 11oz (311grms).


It is likely that different straps were in use from time to time, and it is not certain that all of them contained metal or coins within them. One witness described the effectiveness of these two kinds of straps: If you are out in the yard – they carry their own straps, some of them, and it is only a small one. You wouldn’t even feel it.


The Brothers carried the leather straps on them. The heavier strap was kept in the Prefect’s office.


The Investigation Committee commissioned chartered accountants, Mazars, to examine the accounts of Upton and Ferryhouse with a view to assessing the application of state funding to the institutions, and the financial consequences for the relevant institutions as a result of caring for the children over the period 1939 to 1969. The Mazars report is in Volume IV.


Limited financial information was available. No accounts had survived from the 1940s, in respect of Upton or the Irish Province of the Institute of Charity, and only two years’ accounts, 1941 and 1947, were available for Ferryhouse. No accounts were available between 1954 and 1960 for either of the schools or for the Irish Province. The 1960s had better records for all three bodies.


It is impossible, therefore, to assess the actual day-to-day costs of running the industrial schools. Mazars’ analysis of the capitation grant, by reference to Household Income and Unemployment Assistance, would indicate that funding was adequate for both schools in the 1940s and 1950s, although Upton would have been more financially challenged because of the fall of numbers in the early 1950s. In Ferryhouse, high numbers and a farm of good-quality land should have ensured a reasonably good basic standard of living for the boys.


Once numbers of residents began to fall in the 1960s, financial problems would have arisen and, indeed, this led to the closure of Upton in 1966. By the time the Kennedy Committee reported in 1970, the capitation grant as a system of funding, which depended on high rates of committals, was clearly inadequate, and alternatives had to be found. In the case of Ferryhouse, these alternatives were not finally put in place until the early 1980s, when an annual budget based on submitted estimates was agreed with the Department of Finance. During the 1970s, however, significant increases in the State grant alleviated the position for those institutions like Ferryhouse that continued to operate.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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  4. Law Commission of Canada: + Institutional Child Abuse – Restoring Dignity Pt II Responses ‘Guiding Principles’at p 7.
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