Horrific child sexual abuse uncovered at special school
Childrren as young as eight with intellectual disabilities endured a nightmare of sexual and physical abuse at a special school and residential centre run by the Brothers of Charity.
An extensive report, which took more than eight years to produce, details the extent of the horror which has left many of the former residents suicidal, depressed, with drink problems and unable to form relationships.
Last night the Brothers of Charity acknowledged the "awfulness" of the abuse which occurred within its service -- it included rape and flogging -- and offered sincere apologies to all who had suffered.
The report into the allegations of abuse, made against brothers and lay staff at the Holy Family Special School and Woodlands centre at Renmore in Galway city and at the Kilcornan centre for young adults with disabilities in Clarinbridge, Co Galway, covers a 33-year period from 1965 to 1998.
Published by the HSE, it identifies the abuse allegedly carried out by a total of 18 men, 11 of whom were brothers, four were lay members of staff and three were users of the service.
Among those who worked at the Holy Family School was Brother Ambrose, otherwise known as James Kelly, who was jailed for three years in 2000 for abusing boys there. He had earlier received a 36-year jail term -- the heaviest sentence ever handed down to an Irish paedophile -- for a 12-year reign of sexual abuse at the Lota School run by the Brothers of Charity in Cork.
Only one other teacher at the school has been convicted of abuse at the Galway school. A total of eight of the 18 men identified by former pupils (none are identified by name in the report) are now dead and all garda investigations into complaints have been completed.
The school and Woodlands Residential Centre in Renmore were established by the Brothers of Charity in 1965 to provide special education for boys aged 8-18 with mild mental handicap. It attracted boys from the West, South West and North West.
But in 1998 complaints began to emerge from former pupils, alleging sexual and physical abuse.
The inquiry into the allegations was launched by the Western Health Board in 1999.
Following the establishment of the HSE in 2005, the former Chief Inspector of Social Services in Northern Ireland, Dr Kevin McCoy, was commissioned to prepare the report.
In all, 21 former and current users of the Brothers of Charity Services in Galway made allegations of abuse.
The inquiry team details a regime of very severe sanctions imposed for a lack of discipline by a pupil or for a failure to understand questions or learn a lesson. This included punching and beatings, and being forced to get into a boxing ring with much bigger boys.
But the sexual abuse mostly took place in dormitories when the men would creep up to the bedside of pupils and engage in fondling and more explicit activity.
Asked about the severity of the abuse at the launch of the report yesterday, Dr McCoy said: "I've been reflecting on the horrific stories. Some of the abuse was vicious, from minor assaults to ... basically rape. I would be surprised if lives were not destroyed irreparably."
Asked about the way in which the Brothers of Charity had dealt with the matter, Dr McCoy added: "It should not have happened. I think they have learned their lessons."
The head of the Brothers of Charity Services in Ireland, Brother Noel Corcoran, said last night that the order welcomed the report and sincerely apologised to all abuse victims.
"We have made this apology in the past and I wish to make it again today in the hope that it will contribute to healing for those who were abused.