Goldenbridge was the subject of television and radio programmes and of a great deal of media coverage generally. Experiences of ex-residents of Goldenbridge featured in a number of publications, and some ex-residents were prominent in the campaign for redress. The programme ‘Dear Daughter’ was a dramatised documentary that featured this Institution, and Goldenbridge was also referred to in the television series ‘States of Fear’. The screening of the third and last programme of that series provoked a huge public reaction and was followed by the Taoiseach’s apology. Measures were announced that included the establishment of this Commission.
Public meetings that were intended to generate support for the campaign for recognition and redress provided occasions for former residents to come together and share experiences. The Sisters of Mercy expressed concern at the possibility that people were being influenced by what was said at these meetings.
The Investigation Committee held both public and private hearings in respect of Goldenbridge. Sr Helena O’Donoghue, Provincial Leader of the South Central Province, gave evidence to the Committee in a public session on 15th March 2005. Her evidence was based on a detailed Opening Statement submitted in advance of the hearing.
Evidence was heard from witnesses in private hearings from 18th March until 28th April 2005. A total of 40 complainants gave evidence at this time. A further four former residents gave evidence, at the request of the Sisters of Mercy, to provide positive accounts of their experiences of growing up in Goldenbridge. All complainants who wished to give evidence did so; in addition, four respondents and two expert witnesses gave evidence.
The Committee had heard evidence from three complainants and two respondents in March 2002.
In the third stage of the inquiry into Goldenbridge (Phase III), a public hearing was convened on 15th May 2006 at the Herbert Park Hotel, Ballsbridge, and Sr Helena O’Donoghue once again gave evidence on behalf of the Congregation. This session focused on issues that arose as a result of the private hearings and the documentary material produced to the Committee.
Documentation was furnished as part of the discovery process from a number of sources, namely the Sisters of Mercy, the Department of Education and Science, An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Archbishop of Dublin, and the medical records of some complainants.
The Sisters of Mercy furnished Submissions on 20th June 2005. These Submissions were made in the aftermath of the evidence heard at oral hearings and the documentary evidence which emerged during the course of the inquiry. Establishment of Goldenbridge The Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin in 1831.
In 1855, Cardinal Cullen invited the Sisters of Mercy to provide a rehabilitation service to women who had been incarcerated in Mountjoy jail, by educating them and preparing them for final release. Cardinal Cullen originally rented the premises at Goldenbridge and paid the rent for a five-year period. The convict refuge was opened in 1856. The Sisters continued with this work until 1883.
In 1858, within two years of commencing this mission, the Sisters of Mercy had established a convent, a national school for the poor of the area, and a commercial laundry on the premises originally acquired by Cardinal Cullen, as well as the rehabilitation service for prisoners. These projects were funded by the mother house, which was then in Baggot Street, Dublin.
In 1880, a building within the complex was certified as an industrial school for girls, with a certification for 50. It was called St Vincent’s Industrial School and it opened with an initial intake of 30 girls.
In 1883, the convict refuge was converted into the Industrial School. Dormitories, a dining hall, workrooms and extra accommodation were added over the subsequent two years, at a cost of some £2,000. Within five years, the School had increased its certification from 50 to 150.
From 1885, the number of children accommodated in the School remained steady, although there was a significant increase over the 1950s and 1960s, up to a high of 193 in 1964. At the time of its closure in 1983, there were 46 pupils in Goldenbridge.
There were 10 Resident Managers in Goldenbridge Industrial School during the period under review (1936–1983). These Managers were appointed by the Superior General in Carysfort in Dublin. Goldenbridge convent, to which the Industrial School was attached, was a branch house of the Carysfort house, which was the mother house of all the Dublin Mercy Communities.
The Superior General of Carysfort appointed the Reverend Mother and assigned Sisters to Goldenbridge convent. From the records, it appears that the Reverend Mother also officially held the title of Resident Manager of the Industrial School. In reality, the Reverend Mother had very little involvement with the day-to-day running of the School. Her role consisted of interacting with the Department of Education. The actual management of the Industrial School was left to two nuns – the Sister-in-Charge and, from 1942 onwards, her assistant.