30 years of sex abuse at hands of Brothers

THIRTY years of sexual abuse endured by mentally disabled children at the hands of the Brothers of Charity has been documented for the first time.

Yesterday, the Health Service Executive published the long-delayed report into the physical and sexual abuse of pupils at two special schools in Galway between 1965 and 1998.

It outlined the suffering of 22 pupils who agreed to be interviewed by the Inquiry into the services at Kilcornan Residential Centre, Clarinbridge, and the Holy Family School, Renmore, Co Galway.

The inquiry investigated 27 allegations of sexual abuse against 16 people.

There were a further six cases of physical abuse against three individuals. They were made against 11 former Brothers, four lay staff and three ex-pupils who returned as adults. The nature of abuse included:

* Anal rape on a routine basis.

* Displays of masturbation.

* Persistent fondling of young children’s genitals.

* Beatings with sticks and fists to the point of hospitalisation.

All of the perpetrators were male and all but two of the victims were boys.

Ironically, it was the victims who had to be psychologically assessed before being accepted into the institutions as children.

This helped establish the extent of their learning disability.

Twenty pupils were taught on a residential basis.

Some of the children were abused late at night, others in private offices during the day and one victim said it happened in a swimming pool.

The victims had very little understanding of what was happening. They were all interviewed prior to July 2000 after the old Western Health Board established the inquiry in 1999.

The interviewees represented 4% of the Holy Family school’s student body during this time and 2% of those who attended Kilcornan.

Many of those who made contact with a special helpline in 1999 decided not to give an account of their experiences.

During the past seven years the allegations have resulted in two convictions. Eight alleged abusers are now dead and the rest have left the service.

The report’s publication comes more than two years after a separate investigation began into why it was taking so long to publish.

In April 2006, special care consultant Dr Kevin McCoy took over responsibility for finishing the report after Dr Elizabeth Healy stepped down as chair.

The rules of the inquiry demanded all interviewees and alleged abusers remain anonymous.

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