An investigation into Ireland’s Roman Catholic-run institutions has found that thousands of boys and girls were terrorised in workhouse-style schools for decades.
It also revealed that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
High Court Justice Sean Ryan unveiled the report of Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse on Wednesday, which is based on testimony from thousands of former students and officials from more than 250 church-run institutions.
More than 30,000 children were sent to Ireland’s austere network of industrial schools, reformatories and orphanages from the 1930s until the last church-run facilities shut in the 1990s.
The report found that molestation and rape were ‘endemic’ in boys’ facilities, which were chiefly run by the Christian Brothers order.
Girls, supervised chiefly by the Sisters of Mercy order of nuns, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.
‘In some schools, a high level of ritualised beating was routine. Girls were struck with implements designed to maximise pain and were struck on all parts of the body,’ the report said.
Victims of the system have long demanded that the truth of their experiences be documented and made public, but most leaders of religious orders have rejected the allegations as exaggerations and lies.
Wednesday’s report sides almost completely with the former students’ accounts.
It concludes that church officials always shielded their orders’ paedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.
‘A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys,’ the report concluded.
But its findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions, in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.
The Irish government has already funded a compensation system that has paid 12,000 abuse victims an average of 65,000 euros (£57,000), but they only receive the pay-outs after waiving their right to sue the state and the church.
Irish church leaders and religious orders all declined to comment on Wednesda