The Reformatory Schools Act certified existing voluntary institutions and religious organisations to care for juvenile offenders with public funding and inspection

1868 - The Industrial Schools Act. Industrial schools were established to care for “neglected, orphaned and abandoned children.” They were run by religious orders and funded by the public.

1900 - Peak of industrial schools with 8,000 children in 71 schools.

1908 - The Children Act defined reformatories as responsible for feeding, clothing, housing and teaching young offenders and instigated annual visits by an Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools.

1919 - The revolutionary Dáil established by Sinn Fein declares “It shall be the first duty of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children,” but doesn’t suggest an alternative to the British industrial schools.

1920 - Six counties partitioned under the Northern Ireland Act.

1922 - New Dáil and Seanad established under the Irish Free State Constitution.

1924 - The new State’s Department of Education noted that there were more children in industrial schools in the Irish Free State than in all of the United Kingdom.

1929 - The Children Act allowed destitute children to be sent to industrial schools, even if they hadn’t committed a crime.

1933 - Rules governing industrial schools were updated and funding increased.

1933 - The Commission of Inquiry Into Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions found only 350 of the children in industrial schools were orphans (5.3 % of the total)

1933 - Industrial schools were abolished in the UK, but not in Ireland.

1934 -  The Cussen Report, which investigated industrial schools, had reservations about the large number of children in care, the inadequate nature of their education, lack of local support and the stigma attached to the schools, but concluded that “schools should remain under the management of the religious orders”.

1937 - Under a new Constitution the State guaranteed to protect “the inalienable and imprescriptible rights” of the family.

1941 - The Children Act increased State funding for industrial schools.

1943 - St. Josephs Industrial School in Cavan, run by the Order of Poor Clares, burnt to the ground, killing 35 girls and one elderly woman. The nuns were exonerated in the subsequent inquiry.

1944 - P. Ó Muircheartaigh, the Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools reported that “the children are not properly fed,” which was “a serious indictment of the system of industrial schools run by nuns-a state of affairs that shouldn’t be tolerated in a Christian community” where there was “semi-starvation and lack of proper care and attention.” The Resident Managers of Lenaboy and Cappoquin industrial schools, both Sisters of Mercy, were dismissed for negligence and misappropriating funds, despite Church resistance. However, there were no other changes to industrial schools.

1945 - The Department of Education agreed to pay industrial school teachers directly at the same rate as National School teachers.

1945 - Secretary to the Department of Education wrote to the Secretary of the Dept. of Finance to denounce the “grave situation which has arisen regarding the feeding and clothing of children in industrial schools” due to “parsimony and criminal negligence”.

1945 - Funding to industrial schools tripled.

1946 - Rules governing industrial schools were updated and funding increased.

1946 - Community pressure in Limerick, led by Councillor Martin McGuire, on the Dept. of Ed forces the release of Gerard Fogarty, 14, from Glin Industrial School after he was flogged naked with a cat of nine tails and immersed in salt water for trying to escape to his mother. A call for public inquiry into industrial schools was rejected by Minister of Education. Thomas Derrig because “it would serve no useful purpose”.

1946 - Fr. Flanagan, famous founder of Boystown schools for orphans and delinquents in the US, visits Irish industrial schools. He describes them as “a national disgrace,” leading to a public debate in the Daíl and media. State and Church pressure forces him to leave Ireland.

1947 - Three-year-old Michael McQualter scalded to death in a hot bath in Kyran’s Industrial School. Inquiry found school to be “criminally negligent,” but the case was not pursued by the Dept. of Education.

1948 - Fr. Flanagan died of a heart attack and with him, the debate on industrial schools.

1949 - Ireland declared itself the Irish Republic.

1949 - Minister of Education General Mulcahey received complaints from Cork City Council about Greenmount IS. A visit is arranged (with advanced warning) and the case is dismissed.

1951 - State Inspector denounced conditions of industrial schools and care of children.

1951 - The Catholic Hierarchy condemned the ‘Mother and Child’ scheme (4 April), which provided direct funding to expectant mothers for their children; Dr Noel Browne, Minister for Health, resigns; the scheme was abandoned on 6 April.

1951 - Standoff between Church and State when Church refused to provide financial records of how it has used funding in industrial schools in exchange for increased state funding.

1952 - State funding to industrial schools increased.

1954 - Daíl debate on Michael Flanagan, whose arm was broken while in care in Artane Industrial School. The case was dismissed as “an isolated incident”.

1955 - Secretary of the Department of Education visited Daingean Industrial School, Offaly, and found that “the cows are better fed than the boys.” Nothing was done for another 16 years.

1957 - Marlborough House building was condemned by the Dept. of Works as “a grave risk of loss of life.” No alterations were made, and it continued unchanged for 15 years.

1959 - Minister of Education Jack Lynch received complaints about Upton School from Senator Gus Healy, the mayor of Cork. A visit was arranged (with advance warning) and the case was dismissed.

1960 - Gardaí informed Archbishop McQuaid that Fr. Paul McGennis had developed pornographic films in England of children in his care in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. McQuaid arranged for McGennis to “have treatment which was considered successful at the time” Fr. McGennis was convicted in 1997 of molesting girls in his care in Crumlin Hospital in the 1960’s.

1962 - Fr. Moore, Chaplain at Artane Industrial School, complained about the abuse received by the boys in the school. The State dismissed his allegations as an exaggeration.

1963 - The Bundoran Incident. Eight girls trying to escape from St. Martha’s Industrial Schooll had their heads shaved. It became a scandal when it was front-page news in a British tabloid with photos and headline, “Orphanage Horror”. A Department. of Education official visited the Mother Superior of the school to tell her “The Department was unlikely to do anything of a disciplinary nature”.

The Glin Affair. Department of Education investigated a boy who was hospitalised upon receiving facial injuries in Glin Industrial School from a Christian Brother. No action was taken.

1967 - Department of Health visit Ferryhouse Industrial School, Clonmel to investigate the death of a child from meningitis. They described conditions as “a social malaise” and recommended the closure of the school.

1969 - Under 2,000 children were in 29 schools. Artane Industrial School was closed.

1970 - The Kennedy Report recommended closure of industrial schools, as Justice Kennedy was “appalled” by the “Dickensian and deplorable state” of industrial schools.


1971 - Catholic Church in Ireland held a seminar on child care. Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy defended the role of the Church in industrial schools.

1972 - Marlborough House, Dublin closed down.

1974 - Letterfrack Industrial School closed down.

1974 - Daingean Industrial School, Offaly closed down.

1976 - RTE broadcasted a tribute to Bro. Joseph O’Connor, founder of the Artane Boys Band. He was subsequently proved to be a multiple rapist of boys in Artane Industrial School.

1978 - A child care worker at Madonna House kidnapped a boy in his care, took him to Edinburgh and drowned him in a bath in a hotel. The Minister for Health, Charles Haughey, rejected a call for a public enquiry into the matter, stating that it “would serve no useful purpose.”

1980 - A Task Force on child care services emphasised the need for child care staff training, care for children after leaving institutions and family support.

1984 - Payment-per-head funding for children in care in Ireland was abolished.

1984 - Department of Health introduced fostering for children in care.

1985 - Children of the Poor Clares by Mavis Arnold and Heather Laskey published.

1989 - The Children Act gave health boards powers to care for children.

1989 - The God Squad by Paddy Doyle published.

1991 - The Child Care Act gave powers to health boards to care for children who were ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused.

1991 - Fear of the Collar by Patrick Touher published

1996 - A conviction for sexual abuse by a worker in Trudder House, Co. Wicklow, where he worked with Traveller children throughout the 80’s.

1996 - The Madonna House Report detailed continuing physical and sexual abuse of children in State and Church care. The report was suppressed by the government.

1996 - Willie Delaney’s body was exhumed to investigate whether beating was the cause of the 13-year-old’ s death in 1970 while in care at Letterfrack Industrial School. The results were inconclusive.

 1997 - Dear Daughter was broadcast on RTE. Christine Buckley’s description of her abuse while under care in Goldenbridge sparks public debate on industrial schools.

1998 - The Christian Brothers in Ireland make a public apology to those who were physically or sexually abused in their care.

1999 - States of Fear by Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan was broadcast on RTE in April and May, renewing debate on industrial schools

1999 —Suffer the Little Children by Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan published

1999- Freedom of Angels by Bernadette Fahy published

May 1999 - On the 11th May 1999, the Irish Government apologised to victims of child abuse; 

“On behalf of the State and of all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a

sincere and long overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue.”

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologised on behalf of the government to the victims of child abuse in industrial schools, acknowledging the responsibility of the Irish State in providing services for children. A Commission to Inquire Into Childhood Abuse was established under Justice Laffoy, which became official under the Child Abuse Act, 2000

The Commissions report (Ryan Report) recommended that to alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse on those who suffered, a memorial should be erected and that the Government apology should be inscribed on it as a permanent public acknowledgment of their experiences.(see July 2011 and November 2013)

2000- The Child Abuse Act established a commission to investigate child abuse in institutions in the State, and to enable persons to give evidence to committees of the Commission.

2000- Focus Ireland publication, Left Out On Their Own, reported serious deficiencies in residential care. They found 75% of those leaving Health Board Care experience homelessness within the first two years of leaving.

2001- Catholic Church agreed to pay over £100 million into a special State fund for victims of abuse. In return, the State arranged that people seeking compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board are barred from suing the Church directly. Only victims of sexual, not physical, abuse are eligible for compensation.

5 days later, Justice Kelly described the juvenile justice system as “a shambles and chaotic” after being forced to send a disturbed and neglected child into a psychiatric hospital, due to lack of alternative accommodation.

2002 – An independent inquiry condemned conditions in Finglas Children’s Home, and recommended either change or closure. Arson attack on school.

2002 - The Redress Board was set up under the Act in 2002 to make fair and reasonable awards to persons who, as children, were abused while residents in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to state regulation or inspection.

October 2002 - A television documentary ‘Cardinal Secrets’ made by journalist Mary Raftery was broadcast as part of RTÉ’s  PrimeTime series which contained accounts of children abused by Catholic priests serving in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

2004 - The Commission of Investigation Act. This act mandated the establishment of a ‘Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese’ to examine the manner in which allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests over the period 1975 to 2004 were dealt with by Church and State authorities.

2006 - Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin (The Murphy Report) An investigation into the handling of child sexual abuse cases in the Dublin diocese between 1975 and 2004 began.

20th May 2009 - The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Report, (also known as the Ryan Report) released a 2,000-page report recording claims from hundreds of Irish residents that they were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as children between the 1930s and the 1990s in a network of state-administered and church-run residential schools meant to care for the poor, the vulnerable and the unwanted. The alleged abuse was by sisters, priests and non-clerical staff and helpers. The allegations of abuse cover many Catholic (Magdalene), Protestant (Bethany Home) and State-run Irish Industrial schools. 

The commission received evidence from more than 1,500 witnesses who attended or were residents as children in schools and care facilities in the state, particularly industrial and reformatory schools

November 2009 - Report by the Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin (The Murphy Report) The commission was initially to take 18 months but due to the volume of evidence it was extended. The report stated:‘The authorities in the Archdiocese of Dublin and the religious orders who were dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse were all very well educated people. Many had qualifications in canon law and quite a few also had qualifications in civil law. This makes their claims of ignorance very difficult to accept.’‘

The Commission is satisfied that Church law demanded serious penalties for clerics who abused children. In Dublin from the 1970s onwards this was ignored; the highest priority was the protection of the reputation of the institution and the reputation of priests. The moving around of offending clerics with little or no disclosure of their past is illustrative of this.’

2012 - Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act. This Act was brought in to provide for the establishment of a body to support the needs of former residents to be known as RISFB and to define it’s functions and to provide for the making of contributions of certain persons. It was also to amend the Residential Redress Act 2002, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 2005 and related matters. 

July 2011 - Expression of Interest for design of a Memorial to victims of institutional abuse, sought by the Office of Public Works (OPW)

2011 - McAleese report into the Magdalene laundries. Having lobbied the government of Ireland for two years for investigation of the history of the Magdalene laundries, advocacy group 'Justice for Magdalenes' presented its case to the United Nations Committee Against Torture alleging that the conditions within the Magdalene laundries and the exploitation of their labourers amounted to human-rights violations. On 6 June 2011, the panel urged Ireland to "investigate allegations that for decades women and girls sent to work in Catholic laundries were tortured." In response the Irish government set up a committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, to establish the facts of the Irish state's involvement with the Magdalene laundries.

November 2013 - Plans to build a E500,000 memorial to victims of institutional abuse in the Garden of Remembrance on Dublin’s Parnell Square have been refused by An Bord pleanala. 

'The Journey of Light' designed by Dublin-based Studio Negri with Hennessy & Associates was chosen in July 2012 as the memorial for abuse victims by a committee set up by the Department of Education following a year-long design competition. The application by the Office of Public Works to build the monument was approved by Dublin City Council last May despite several objections including one from an abuse survivors’ support group. The application was appealed to An Bord Pleanala, who have overturned the decision.

2013 - Publication of inquiry report. Following the 18-month inquiry, the committee published its report on 5 February 2013, finding "significant" state collusion in the admission of thousands of women into the institutions. The report found over 11,000 women had entered laundries since 1922. Significant levels of verbal abuse to women inside was reported but there were no suggestions of regular physical or sexual abuse. 

2016 - The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation to be published. In 2012, a Galway historian Catherine Corless published an article documenting the deaths of 796 babies and toddlers at the Bon Secours Mother and baby, St Marys in Tuam Co Galway, during its decades of operation, primarily from infectious diseases and marasmus-related malnutrition. Her research led her to conclude that almost all had been buried in an unmarked and unregistered mass grave at the Home, some of them in a septic tank. Some sources questioned whether a chamber filled with children's skeletons by two local boys 1975 were from the Bon Secours Home or from one of the previous institutions which had occupied the same building, as well as whether or not the structure Corless speculated was a mass grave was a disused septic tank or a 19th-century burial vault.

In 2012 the Health service Executive raised concerns that up to 1,000 children had been sent from the Home for (then illegal) adoptions in the United States.

Following these concerns and Catherine Corless' research, a commission was set up to investigate 14 Mother and Baby Homes around the country, including the one in Tuam, which was open from 1925 to 1961.

Sources: www.paddydoyle.com Suffer the Little Children(by Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan); This Great Little Nation (Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan); Ireland Politics and Society, 1912-1985 (Joseph Lee); Ireland Since the Famine (FS Lyons) Victim and Critic: Child Mistreatment in Ireland ( Mary Killion) Galway Independent, Corless, Catherine. "The Home". Journal of the Old Tuam Society (2012)


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