Child Abuse by Religious Orders in Ireland

by Darlene Barriere - Webmaster
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

After nearly 10 years of investigation, Ireland's Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, was finally published last month. The Ryan Report was made public May 20, 2009, and spans 6 decades from the 1940s onward of state-funded, religious-institution-run child abuse. The damning 5-volume, 2900-page document exposes horrific and endemic child abuse by 216 religious institutions run by 18 religious orders in Ireland.

Some 2500 men and women who were themselves abused in schools and state-run institutions across the country gave evidence to the commission. The deeply disturbing report shows that physical, sexual and emotional child abuse, as well as child neglect was widespread and rampant, and was done with the knowledge of the Catholic Church and the government.

More than 35,000 children were condemned to living in conditions that included a regimen of beatings, sexual and emotional abuse, and extreme neglect that left children who were being used as slaves on farms starving, scavenging for food in garbage bins and among animal scraps.

Hundreds of men and women reported having been beaten on every part of their body with implements that included leather straps, sticks, farm implements, canes, and hurling sticks, some so severely they required medical attention for days, in some cases weeks. Some reported that coins had been stitched into the leather straps for those beatings. Beatings were doled out for such "offenses" as being the last out of the shower, improperly made beds, and school work that didn't make the grade, but often, for no reason whatsoever. Children were kicked, slapped and punched by the Brothers and Sisters who were a part of the institutions; all within earshot of the other children, which left them in a constant and never-ending state of abject fear.

In 2002, legal action taken by a number of the religious orders against the Commission was dropped after the Commission agreed not to publish the names of the perpetrators, unless the names had already been released as a consequence of charges being laid. This has spurred public outrage and a demand that the names be made public and that perpetrators be prosecuted for their crimes.

Recently, but only after public outcry, all 18 religious orders have agreed to increase the amount of compensation (currently at 1.27 million Euros) they are willing to pay victims. The additional amount has yet to be determined, since an audit must now be done in order to establish assets so that an amount can be settled on. There has been talk about a 50/50 split with the government (taxpayer), who has to this point paid out 10 times that of the religious orders. But at this time that is only speculation.

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