Alliance Support Group


Children in Irish Industrial Schools - Failed by both Government and Religious

Added on February 20, 2017


1868  Irish Industrial Schools Act 

Industrial schools were established to care for 'neglected, orphaned and abandoned children.' They were run by religious orders, both Catholic and Protestant, and funded by the public.

1900 This was the peak of industrial schools with 8,000 children in 71 schools.

1908  The Children's Act 

This act, also known as the Children and Young Persons Act, was a piece of government legislation passed by the Liberal government as part of the British Liberal Party's liberal reforms package. The Act was informally known as the Children's Charter. It defined reformatories as responsible for feeding, clothing, housing and teaching young offenders and instigated annual visits by an Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools.

'The expression "industrial school" means a school for the industrial training of children, in which children are lodged, clothed and fed, as well as taught.' (section 44 of the Children Act, 1908) This was used as a mission statement in many of the schools.

1924 The new state's Department of Education noted that there were more children in industrial schools in the Irish Free State than in all of the United Kingdom.

1929 The Children's Act  was amended to allow destitute children to be sent to industrial schools, even if they hadn't committed a crime.

1933 The statutory regulations governing industrial schools were updated and funding was increased.

1933 The Commission of Inquiry Into Widows' and Orphans' Pensions found only 350 of the children in industrial schools were orphans (5.3 % of the total)

1933  Industrial schools were abolished in the UK but not in Ireland.

1936 Cussen Commission's Report into Reformatories and Industrial Schools The Cussen Report had reservations about the large number of children in care, the inadequate nature of their education, lack of local support and the stigma attached to the schools but the implementation of these recommendations by the Department of Education was inconsistent and intermittent.

1941 The Children Act increased State funding for industrial schools.

1943  St. Joseph's Industrial School in Cavan, run by the Order of Poor Clares, burned to the ground, killing 35 girls and one elderly woman. The nuns were exonerated in the subsequent inquiry.

1944 The Resident Managers of Lenaboy and Cappoquin industrial schools, both Sisters of Mercy, were dismissed for negligence and misappropriating funds, despite Church resistance. P. Ó Muircheartaigh, the Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools reported that "the children are not properly fed," which was "a serious indictment of the system of industrial schools run by nuns-a state of affairs that shouldn't be tolerated in a Christian community" where there was "semi-starvation and lack of proper care and attention." There were no other changes to industrial schools.

1946 Fr. Flanagan, the  founder of the Boystown schools for orphans and delinquents in the United States visited Irish industrial schools. He described them as 'a national disgrace', leading to a public debate in the Dáil and national media. 

1969 The Artane Industrial School was closed.

1970 Reformatory and Industrial Schools System Report  (The Kennedy Report) This report recommended: 'The present institutional system of Residential Care should be abolished and be replaced by group homes which would approximate as closely as possible to the normal family unit. Children from the one family, and children of different ages and sex should be placed in such group homes.'

1972 The Marlborough House, Dublin was closed down.

1974 The  Letterfrack Industrial School, Co Galway was closed down.

1974 The Daingean Industrial School, Co Offaly was closed down.

1984  The Department of Health introduced fostering for children in care.

1991 The Child Care Act 

This brought in considerable changes in relation to children in care. Until the main part of the Act was implemented in 1995, child care policy had been regulated by the 1908 Children Act. This Act focused on the child and the promotion of the child's welfare. It also placed a specific duty on Health Boards (now the Health Service Executive) to identify children who were not receiving adequate care and protection and in promoting their welfare to provide child care and family support services. This Act underpinned the basic belief that the welfare of the child is of paramount importance.

1993 Madonna House Report  

The Eastern health board and Garda Síochana began investigating allegations of sexual abuse and other misconduct made against a number of members of staff at Madonna House. One member of the team was convicted which led to The Sisters of Charity and the Department of Health appointing a team to do a review of Madonna House.

1995 Child Care Regulations (made under Part VI of Child Care Act 1991). 

These regulations governed the placement by health boards of children in their care in residential centres. They applied to residential centres operated by voluntary bodies as well as those operated by the boards themselves. 'The regulations are designed to ensure that children in residential care are visited, supervised and reviewed on a more systematic basis than before and that the changing needs of the children are not lost sight of.'

February 1996 Dear Daughter TV Documentary

A groundbreaking television documentary by Louis Lentin that was broadcast on RTÉ One. It dealt with the childhood experiences of Christine Buckley and others at the Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin.

May 1996 The Madonna House Report published (abridged version)

The Sisters of Charity, who were responsible for the operation of the home, and the Department of Health decided to appoint a team to carry out a review of the operation of Madonna House. They announced it was to be phased out and was closed in 1995. The abridged version of this report was published in May 1996. The Office of the Attorney General advised not to publish the report in full in order to protect identities of certain parties.

1998 The Christian Brothers apology  

The Christian Brothers in Ireland made a public apology to those who were physically or sexually abused in their care, taking out half page advertisements in newspapers to admit some people's claims had been ignored.

'We the Christian Brothers in Ireland wish to express our deep regret to anyone who suffered ill-treatment while in our care. And we say to you who have experienced physical or sexual abuse by a Christian Brother and to you who complained of abuse and were not listened to, we are deeply sorry.'

April 1999 States of Fear TV Documentary

The television documentary series by journalist Mary Raftery which detailed abuse suffered by children between the 1930s and 1970s in the state child care system of Ireland was broadcast on RTÉ One.

May 1999 An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apology  

The then Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, apologised on behalf of the government to the survivors of child abuse in industrial schools, acknowledging the responsibility of the Irish State in providing services for children and announced a package of measures to tackle such abuse. These included the establishment of a Commission to inquire into child abuse and the establishment of a €5 million professional counselling service for victims.

2000 The Child Abuse Act 2000

This act established a commission to investigate child abuse in institutions in the State under Justice Laffoy, and to enable persons to give evidence to committees of the Commission. (Also known as the Ryan Commission)

2002 Residential Redress Act

The Redress Board was set up under the Act in 2002 to make fair and reasonable awards to persons who, as children, were abused while residents in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to state regulation or inspection.

2002 Catholic Church agreed to pay €128 million

The catholic church agreed to pay €128 million which went into a special State fund for victims of abuse. In return, the State arranged that people seeking compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board were barred from suing the Church directly. 

October 2002 Cardinal Secrets TV Documentary

A television documentary 'Cardinal Secrets' made by journalist Mary Raftery was broadcast as part of RTÉ's  PrimeTime series which contained accounts of children abused by Catholic priests serving in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

2004 The Commission of Investigation Act

This act mandated the establishment of a 'Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese' to examine the manner in which allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests over the period 1975 to 2004 were dealt with by Church and State authorities.

2006 Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin (The Murphy Report) 

An investigation into the handling of child sexual abuse cases in the Dublin diocese between 1975 and 2004 began.

20th May 2009 Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Report (The Ryan Report)

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Report was published. (Also known as the Ryan Report) This report found that 'The system of large-scale institutionalisation was a response to a nineteenth century social problem, which was outdated and incapable of meeting the needs of individual children.The defects of the system were exacerbated by the way it was operated by the Congregations that owned and managed the schools. This failure led to the institutional abuse of children where their developmental, emotional and educational needs were not met.'

November 2009 Report by the Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin (The Murphy Report) 

The commission was initially to take 18 months but due to the volume of evidence it was extended. The report stated:'The authorities in the Archdiocese of Dublin and the religious orders who were dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse were all very well educated people. Many had qualifications in canon law and quite a few also had qualifications in civil law. This makes their claims of ignorance very difficult to accept.'

'The Commission is satisfied that Church law demanded serious penalties for clerics who abused children. In Dublin from the 1970s onwards this was ignored; the highest priority was the protection of the reputation of the institution and the reputation of priests. The moving around of offending clerics with little or no disclosure of their past is illustrative of this.'

2012 Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 

This Act was brought in to provide for the establishment of a body to support the needs of former residents to be known as RISFB and to define it's functions and to provide for the making of contributions of certain persons. It was also to amend the Residential Redress Act 2002, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 2005 and related matters. 

March 2013 The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board 

This was established under the provisions of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012.

October 2013 Caranua 

The name of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund was changed to Caranua

January 2014 Caranua opened applications to survivors of institutional abuse to apply for services.

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