‘Fear of everything. Fear of God. Fear of the Christian Brothers. Fear that I would go to hell’

Ryan report remembered five years on

The report by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was launched five years ago today. Photograph: Eric Luke

The report by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was launched five years ago today. Photograph: Eric Luke


On May 20th, 2009, five years ago today, the Ryan report was published. It dealt with the abuse of children in residential institutions run by 18 religious congregations.

Pages 113 to 119 in Volume V of the report – the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, to give it its official title – record recollections of childhood by some who were in the institutions. They told their stories to an interviewing team.

Here are sample extracts, unedited, lest we forget . . .

Statements of “worst thing” that happened to participants while living in an institution

- After running away having my hair cut off to a very short length and was made to stand naked to be beaten by nun in front of other people.

- When I told nuns about being molested by ambulance driver, I was stripped naked and whipped by four nuns to “get the devil out of you”.

- A brother tried to rape me but did not succeed, so I was beaten instead.

- Tied to a cross and raped whilst others masturbated at the side.

Severe physical abuse:

- I was polishing the floor and a nun placed her foot on my back so I was pushed to the floor. I was locked in a dark room.

- Put in bath of Jeyes fluid with three others.

- They used to make my sisters beat me.

- Being beaten for wetting the bed and allocated to do worst work like cleaning potties and minding children.

- I was beaten and hospitalised by the head brother and not allowed to go to my father’s funeral in case my bruises were seen; also the head brother threatened to kill me.

- Being accused of sexually interfering with other boys and being beaten until made to write down the names of boys I had touched. In the end I wrote down two names to stop the torture.

- Being stripped and thrown into nettles and sleeping with pigs for a week.

- Being locked in a furnace room and left, bitten by rats, found by coal delivery man, removed, washed in cold water, bites cleaned and then put back there.

- Receiving a severe beatings and witnessing my younger brother returning from a severe beating.

- Being thrown and ducked in scalding hot baths; being taken to hospital and anaesthetised with ether when getting my tonsils out. I have awful memories of feeling like being smothered with ether, similar to being ducked in the bath; I came as near death as you can imagine.

- Constant beatings; I was forced to sit on potty until my rectal muscle popped out.

- Beaten by nuns with cat-o-nine-tails that left deep cuts.

- Beaten and scarred with hurley.

- Kicked down the stairs.

- Being hit on my back by a brother and sustaining a lifelong injury.

- Beaten until I had bones broken.

Severe sexual abuse:

- Sexual abuse, molested at night.

- Rape.

- Gang rape.

- Sexually molested by a priest visiting the institution on six-eight occasions.

- Sexual abuse perpetrated by gardeners, a social worker and other male convent employees.

- A Brother sexually abused me.

- Child sexual abuse by older boys (not the brothers).

- Being raped by the director of the school.

Severe emotional abuse

- When my mother first came to visit after six months, she cried lots at how much weight I and all the kids had lost. She cried lots saying “I didn’t put ye here”.

- Father prevented from seeing me.

- The night I entered the institution, my clothes and teddy thrown away.

- Deprived of chance to go to my grandmother’s funeral.

- The first day I was told my mother didn’t want me.

- I had my identity taken away. I was known by a number only.

- At age nine I was sent to pluck turkeys in a coal shed in the cold and had freezing fingers.

- Lack of education: not being taught how to read or write. That’s the most hurtful thing.

- Listening to them talking badly about my mother and being taunted about my physical appearance. I was called “four eyes”.

- Public humiliation about my mother being unmarried.

- The constant fear. I was called into the office and told my mother had died. I actually felt relief that it wasn’t a punishment.

- Constantly being told I was worthless and shouldn’t have been born.

- Seeing my brother being beaten.

- Being taken into the office and told my foster mother had died and then immediately sent away again.

- Fear of everything. Fear of God. Fear of the Christian Brothers. Fear that I would go to hell.

- It was all bad.

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