Victims, Perpetrators And The Commission Voices Of Experience


It is 11 yrs since I was in Artane and I don’t forget one minute of it, neither do others, the injustices done to others and myself, I will see won’t happen to others: Boys beaten, under the Shower Baths by Staff Mr Byrne, Boys heads beaten on the Handball Alley Wall by Bro Acel And a Drill Master who used say ‘do it where you Stand’ when a Boy asked to go to the WC – Letter to the Department of Education, November 1946. The assistant secretary instructed no action be taken

When you knew . . . she was arriving, there would be pushing and shoving about who was going first. Honest to God, this is terrible, there would be younger children than you and you would be pushing them to get them to take the beating first. You didn’t want to be the one to get the first of the strength. I am sorry, it was horrible, you had to do what you had to do. The screaming . . . will stay with me for the rest of my life. – Inmate of Goldenbridge

I don’t know how it came about really. At the time I probably deluded myself into thinking that I was being kind to them and using it as a way of encouraging them – I mean, I don’t subscribe to it now, but that’s how I was able to justify it to myself at the time. – Christian Brother who sexually abused nine- to 12-year-old boys at Artane

There were 232 accounts of being hit or beaten with a variety of sticks, including canes, ash plants, blackthorn sticks, hurleys, broom handles, hand brushes, wooden spoons, pointers, batons, chair rungs, yard brushes, hoes, hay forks, pikes and pieces of wood with leather thongs attached. One hundred and eighteen witnesses reported being beaten with canes and 37 with hurleys. Other implements described included bunches of keys, belt buckles, drain rods, rubber pram tyres, golf clubs, tyre rims, electric flexes, fan belts, horse tackle, hammers, metal rulers, butts of rifles, t-squares, gun pellets and hay ropes. Witnesses also reported having objects thrown at them. – Commission report on the experiences of boys

Thirty-seven witnesses reported being sexually abused by men in families where they were placed for holiday or to work. Many reported that the fear of being returned to the Industrial School, sent to a Reformatory School or transferred to a laundry or psychiatric hospital was the most common experience. Many witnesses reported that it was generally known there were ‘worse places’ where girls were sent when they were thought to have disclosed abuse or misbehaved. The threat of being ‘sent away’ was a potent incentive to which several witnesses reported they responded by enduring the abuse to which they were subjected. – Commission report on the experiences of girls

We consider Mrs McCarthy a very dangerous woman and one who could do a lot of harm . . . I have ascertained that she is a mental case with a strong antipathy against Artane School and that she is given to exaggeration in all matters she speaks or writes about. – Internal Christian Brothers correspondence in 1962 and 1963 concerning a grandmother who complained of her grandson’s treatment

I hope you will forgive my candour in saying that I would prefer to have no one at all for the boys’ kitchen than to have the constant strain of watching and worrying about him. It is impossible to keep one’s eye on him.

– Letter from the manager of Letterfrack to the Provincial of the Christian Brothers in the 1950s, concerning a serial sexual abuser

The Brother would turn around and say ‘right . . . he has wet his sheets, you have now got to wash his sheets. Now there’s the belt, give it to him so he won’t do it again’. To look at that little boy’s eyes, to look at that little boy’s eyes . . . I wouldn’t punish him, the boy was too frightened. I understood what he was going through because I was frightened that way so often. If I didn’t flog that little boy, I got the flogging. – Tralee resident on the system of forcing children to beat others who had wet the bed

‘Flogging’ . . . consists in taking the offender into a small room, removing his pants and administering 5 or 6 strokes on the bare posterior with a leather strap which is quite flexible about 1” wide and 1 yard long . . . The punishment is administered by the disciplinarian . . . who is a very understanding, patient man. – 1953 memorandum on Daingean by the Department of Education’s medical inspector, Dr McCabe

[One Brother] would stand on your hands and [the other Brother] – it was peculiar the way he used to bring the strap in that he would bring it this way [indicating], under his left arm . . . he would bring it underneath [indicating] and it would come right around like a golf club and he would bring it that way . . . It was peculiar how he would always get at least one into your balls. – Victim’s description of flogging at Daingean