Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 18 — Residential Laundries, Novitiates, Hostels and other settings

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Current circumstances


This chapter of the Confidential Committee report presents evidence from witnesses about a range of other settings that were outside the main groupings already covered in this Report. These included residential laundries, hostels, Novitiates, short-term residential services for children and adolescents, and other residential settings. The facilities were generally funded and managed either by the State or by voluntary agencies.



Twenty five (25) witnesses, 12 male and 13 female, made 26 reports of abuse in relation to 15 facilities, including five Novitiates, four residential laundries, and three hostels over a period of 52 years between 1948 and 2000. Sixteen (16) witnesses were either discharged, or left the settings of their own accord in the 1960s and four in the 1950s.Five (5) witnesses were discharged between 1970 and 2000.


Eight (8) of the reported facilities were located in Irish cities and seven were in provincial towns or rural areas.


Sixteen (16) witnesses reported that they had also been admitted to other institutions, including Industrial and Reformatory Schools, hospitals, and Children’s Homes, 13 of them reported abuse in the other institutions. Six (6) witnesses reported that they had been in more than one Industrial School.


Family of origin, place of birth and current residence details will be differentiated by gender when there are notable differences, otherwise they are reported collectively. Nine (9) of the witnesses who reported abuse in residential work and other out-of-home settings were born in Dublin and the remaining 16 were from 10 other counties in Ireland.


At the time of their hearings six witnesses were over the age of 60 years, 15 were between 50 and 60 years and a further two were between 40 and 50 years. Two (2) witnesses were under 30 years of age.


Table 112 illustrates the marital status of witnesses’ parents at the time of their birth, the majority of whom were reported to be married:
Marital status of parents Males Females Total witnesses
Married 11 8 19
Single 0 4 4
Separated 1 0 1
Co-habiting 0 1 1
Totals 12 13 25


Seventeen (17) witnesses reported the occupational status of their parents at the time of admission to out-of-home placement as unskilled. Four (4) witnesses reported their parents as occupied in managerial, clerical or skilled manual positions. Information is not available regarding the occupational status of the remaining four witnesses parents.1


All 25 witnesses said they had siblings, 11 of whom had brothers or sisters in Industrial or Reformatory Schools and two others had siblings in Children’s Homes.


Witnesses gave accounts of a range of social circumstances prior to their admission, including being in the care of their parents or in out-of-home care. The average age of admission to the institutions was 14 years. Three (3) witnesses were admitted under 14 years of age. I was being abused by my step-father. When I approached my mother, she went to the priest and the nuns and it was decided that I was the one to be sent off.... I was put into the laundry, I was only 10. The people there were horrified, they would say “what are you doing here, sure you’re only a child?” The nun said “it’s best you don’t talk about this, your family will be disgraced”. I was to forget about it...(sexual abuse)... and it wasn’t to be discussed.... I came down with my case, it was tied with twine, and I was put into a laundry van. My mother said “why is she going in a laundry van? She is definitely going to get educated?” They told her I would get an education.


The typical length of stay in these institutions was relatively brief, compared with admissions to Industrial and Reformatory Schools and other facilities. The average length of admission was two years. Five (5) witnesses reported they were resident for less than one year. Witnesses reported being aged between 14 and 22 years on leaving the residential facility as shown. It should be noted that the accounts of abuse included in this report occurred when the witnesses were less than 18 years of age, in accordance with the provisions of the Acts. Seven (7) witnesses were 15 years or under. Four (4) witnesses were 16 years. Seven (7) witnesses were between 17 and 18 years. Seven (7) witnesses were between 19 and 22 years.


Ten (10) witnesses, one male and nine female, said they had been transferred from Industrial Schools to these settings and others had subsequent admissions to Industrial or Reformatory Schools. Two (2) other witnesses were transferred from a hospital and a Children’s Home.


Three (3) female witnesses said they were transferred to residential laundries from Industrial Schools following confrontations with religious staff whom they challenged about abuse of themselves or of their co-residents. Another female witness stated that she was transferred to a laundry at 13 years to work. She stated that she was told by the Sister in charge that she was being sent to work in order to compensate the Order as her mother had been unable to meet the required payments for her keep in the Industrial School.


Nine (9) witnesses reported being placed in residential settings from their family home by or with the support and consent of their parents or other family members. Five (5) male witnesses stated that they entered Novitiates with their parents’ support in circumstances of financial hardship. They said that they learned about the opportunity of a religious life and receiving an education when members of particular religious Orders visited their primary schools to recruit boys to join their community. Four (4) female witnesses stated that they were placed in residential laundries or other work settings with the knowledge or support of parents or relatives in the context of poverty, death of a parent and personal or family crisis including familial abuse. Two (2) of these witnesses stated that they or their relatives were told, prior to admission, that they would receive an education that never materialised as they were involved from the outset in full-time work within the institution. Me Dad died and we were that poor me mam went off to England to get a living, you couldn’t get a living around there...(local area) I was with an aunt, we were at school but you had to buy everything and there wasn’t the money. I was working in the fields, trying to help out, that’s what I was mostly doing. A priest came by and he said I wasn’t doing good at school and he said he would find me a good place. He rang my mother up in England and she was delighted, you know, a convent ...crying... she was grateful. My mother agreed to it, she said the nuns were so holy, they done good in there, I would get a good education and be well looked after. • My mother and father would have wanted the best for me. I was happy as Larry, I’d be down the fields playing football. I’d have my lessons done because they said I was bright.... There was a lot expected of me.... The Brothers came around to the school, 4 of them came round, and sure when I seen the pitches,...(pictures of facilities in Novitiates)... the hurling and football I thought this was great. ... The only one in the school that was picked ... (selected to join Noviciate)... was myself. My mother and father were very poor, they sold a sow and a litter of bonbhs to kit me out.... I was reminded in the school that they were short of money and that really and truly I should be very grateful I was there. I was told that by Br ...X.... Going back that time to have someone... (in the family)... in the religious was a big thing. I was 13.


Twelve (12) male and 13 female witnesses gave evidence of 26 reports of abuse in 15 institutional settings. One witness reported abuse in two institutions in this category. Witnesses reported all four types of abuse: physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse, as defined by the Act. Thirteen (13) witnesses, five male and eight female, also reported abuse in Industrial and Reformatory Schools, in Children’s Homes and hospital. Witness accounts of abuse were descriptions of single incidents of abuse or multiple episodes of abuse experienced over a period of time.

  1. The categorisation is based on Census 2002, Volume 6 Occupations, Appendix 2, Definitions – Labour Force. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded, insofar as it was known.
  2. Section 1(1)(a).
  3. Section 1(1)(b).
  4. Section 1(1)(c) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.
  5. Section 1(1)(d) as amended by section 3 the 2005 Act.
  6. The categorisation is based on Census 2002, Volume 6 Occupations, Appendix 2, Definitions – Labour Force. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded, in so far as it was known.