Der Betreiber dieser non-commercial Webseite ist der hoch-engagierte Martin Mitchell in Australien (ein ehemaliges “Heimkind” in kirchlichen Heimen im damaligen West-Deutschland)

Mary Raftery and Eoin O'Sullivan – First published in 1999 – ISBN 0-8264-1337-4 – (425 pages).
Well-researched non-fictional documentary-type account of Irish institutional child abuse –
in this case perpetrated almost solely by Catholic orders of religion in institutions run for profit
and enrichment of themselves, and to the total disregard of the needs of the children in their ‘care’.


Suffer the Little Children exposes a hidden Ireland of industrial schools, reform schools, convents, orphanages, places of such brutality, even savagery, you will wince from page to page. But wincing isn't enough. The value of this powerful book ist that it might force us to look, wherever we are, at the least among us – the powerless, the children. Frank McCourt Author of Angela's Ashes

For anyone interested in modern Ireland or in the absolute corruption of absolute power. The combination of vivid personal testimony and acute institutional analysis makes it as gripping as it is revealing.

Suffer the Little Children throws light for the first time on the darkest episode in the history of independent Ireland. The levels of official cruelty, indifference, and inhumanity it discloses are deeply shocking.
COLM TÓIBÍN Booker Prize nominee

A terrible and splendid book. This story, one of immense national disgrace, will not quickly go away.
Justin Keating former Irish Government Minister


2001 – This particular version of the publication SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN was published by

[ page 3 ]


On the 11th of May 1999, the Irish Government called a press conference to issue an apology, on behalf of the State, to the tens of thousands of children who grew up in Ireland’s extra-ordinary network of what were called ‘industrial schools’.

This historic and unprecedented event coincided with the broadcast on Irish television of the final part of States of Fear, a series of three documentaries exposing the astounding levels of both physical and sexual abuse suffered by many of these children while in the care of the Chatholic religious orders who ran these institutions [ For a transcript of the television documentary States of Fear, see ].

States of Fear† had provoked an enormous response from the Irish public. Outrage at the crimes committed against these children was expressed continuously for the three weeks of the series, across acres of newsprint and hours of radio broadcasts all over the country. The Government apology was perceived as a direct response to this furore, as was its promise to establish a Commission of Child Abuse to inquire into the issues raised.

Minute examination of official State records, together with extensive testimony from those who grew up in industrial schools, combine to make this the first full account of the vast and largely hidden system used to lock up so many thousands of Irish children. Their vivid human stories convey both the extraordinary levels of cruelty and suffering experienced by them as children, and their tremendous courage and resilience in surviving the often savage way in which they were abused.

* This new introduction updates some of the material in the text.
† Dr Eoin O’Sullivan, co-author of this book, was a Consultant to States of Fear (RTE Television, broadcast on 27th April, 4th May and 11th May, 1999). Mary Raftery, his co-author, wrote, produced and directed States of Fear.

[ page 4 ]

Now [in 2001], almost two years since the historic apology by the Irish Government, several parallel processes are in train. The Irish police investigations continue with regard to several of the schools. Most of these cases had begun before the broadcast of States of Fear, but so far none have come to trial. A total of nine Christian Brothers are facing multiple charges of child sexual abuse with regard to the industrial schools in Salthill, Galway and Tarlee, County Kerry. Allegations of abuse in St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Letterfrank, County Galway continue to be investigated.

The largest police operation in this area concerns Artane Industrial School in Dublin – in fact, it now constitutes one of the most extensive child abuse investigations to have been conducted anywhere in the world. However, to date only one Christian Brother has been charged – he faces multiple counts of sexual assault. Completed files on the approximately twenty others have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and most have now been awaiting a decision on whether to proceed to charges for over a year.

The slow pace of bringing cases to court has been a source of considerable frustration to many of the survivors of abuse of the Artane institution. Over 500 formal statements of complaint have so far been lodged with the Gardaí, with new allegations continuing to be made on a regular basis. Up to 150 Christian Brothers have been implicated, a number of whom have left the order, some have died, and the remainder continue as serving Brothers.

About half of the Artane allegations concern physical abuse only, with the remainder comprising both physical and sexual abuse. The Gardaí conducted full investigations into the complaints of physical abuse and sent a number of files of the complaints to the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, the DPP decided that no charges would be brought as a result of these. It is understood that the lapse of time, over 30 years in all cases, was the primary reason for not charging any of the Artane Christian Brother against whom allegations of physical abuse had been made.

It is interesting in this regard to note a recent case in Scotland, where a nun was convicted on charges of child

[ page 5 ]

cruelty relating to her work in two residential children’s homes from the 1960s to the 1980s. These were run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, who had an extensive network of such institutions throughout Britain and Northern Ireland. Maria Docherty, also known as Sr Alphonso, had faced four counts of repeatedly abusing, humiliating and cruelly treating young girls. Since her conviction, 50 nuns have been named in over 400 compensation claims from former child residents of Nazareth homes in Scotland.

Descriptions of conditions within the Scottish institutions are very similar to survivors’ accounts of Irish industrial schools. And yet in all such Irish cases so far, the authorities of the State have declined to use the sanction of the courts against the perpetrators of almost identical physical abuse of children.

During the past year [2000], many of the survivors of Irish industrial schools have strongly objected to the way in which such firm distinctions have been made between sexual abuse on the one hand, and on the other, the physical violence to which they were subjected as children. They argue that for the perpetrators there was a strong element of sexual gratification involved in the kinds of extreme beatings which they meted out to their small victims. However, it appears that Irish law as it stands does not share this view, and that the only recourse now open to those who were physically abused is to testify before the Commission of Child Abuse.

This Commission, chaired by High Court judge Mary Laffoy, has had a bumpy ride since its inception. It has now begun hearings before its Confidential Committee, in which survivors are provided with a sympathetic forum in which to tell of their experiences, and where no cross-examination is permitted.

The Commission’s Investigation Committee, which will fully test and rule on cases of child abuse (physical, sexual, emotional and neglect) within all institutions, including ordinary schools, has yet to begin hearings. It has been delayed by issues relating to compensation for survivors of this abuse. However, in October 2000, almost 18 months since its initial apology, the Irish Government finally announced its intention to establish a separate Compensation Tribunal. Although there

[ page 6 ]

are as yet no details as what form this will take, the religious orders implicated in the abuse of children at their institutions have agreed in principle to make some financial contribution towards compensation.

It is interesting to look at the extensive international experience in this regard, as institutional child abuse at the hands of Catholic religious orders is by no means an exclusively Irish phenomenon. The past decade has seen the uncovering of widespread abuse of children from the 1920s to the 1980s at residential homes run by Catholic religious orders in Australia, most notably by the two Irish orders of Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy. The Government of Queensland, where several of these institutions were located, has contributed $1 million to a Trust Fund to provide assistance to those whose lives were destroyed by this abuse. So far, however, no financial contribution has been forthcoming from the relevant religious orders.

It has been left to survivors to pursue the religious orders through the courts, as indeed is happening in Ireland and in Canada. To date, the Sisters of Mercy have paid an undisclosed sum in an out-of-court settlement of sixty former residents of their Neerkol orphanage, ending what had become one of the largest litigation cases Queensland’s history.

The Christian Brothers agreed to pay $3.5 million to over 260 former residents of their orphanages and schools in Western Australia. Widespread sexual abuse of children by members of the order had been uncovered at its Western Australian institutions, covering a period dating back to the 1930s.

However, it is in Canada that the most detailed and comprehensive attempt has been made to identify means of redress for those who have had their childhood stolen by abuse in institutions. Prominent among the Catholic religious orders implicated in child abuse in Canada are once again the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy, with the addition of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who ran the notorious Daingean Reformatory School in Ireland.

In March 2000, the Law Commission of Canada published its Final Report on Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions. It is undoubtedly the most thorough study of this

[ page 7 ]

tragic phenomenon, and should provide a blueprint for the Laffoy Commission in Ireland.

The Canadian Law Commission conducted a series of studies to identify the “needs” of those abused as children within Canadian institutions. Different groups of victims across Canada were asked what they wanted, what they had received and how they would improve the situation for other victims. Their responses had several points in common, even as the groups varied. Their reasons for pursuing their claims included: establishing a historical record; acknowledgement; genuine apology; accountability; access to therapy or counselling; access to education or training; financial compensation and prevention.

In its final report, the law Commission makes over 50 specific recommendations on both how to deal with the victims of past abuse and how to prevent future institutional child abuse. The report concludes that it is the survivors of such abuse who can best articulate how they have been harmed, that the focus of all interventions should be to right the wrongs done to them, and crucially that this process should cause them no further harm. How to achieve this key objective resulted in a report of 450 pages.

The Commission notes that the goals of achieving accountability, apology and reconciliation are often in conflict with the objective of providing financial compensation in existing processes such as public inquiries, criminal trials, criminal injuries compensation schemes and civil trails.

Interestingly, in the light of concerns in Ireland about the role of elements of the legal profession in representing clients of institutional abuse, the Canadian Commission recommends that law societies should review their Codes of Professional Conduct to ensure that appropriate rules are in place to safeguard against exploitation of survivors of institutional child abuse, especially with respect to recruitment of clients and fee arrangements.

The Canadian Law Commission concludes that what matters most is the attitude of those in authority in terms of dealing with this issue. New initiatives will mean little to survivors of institutional abuse if those in positions of power

[ page 8 ]

are not fully committed to redressing the harm done. Similarly, irrespective of what a survivor seeks, authorities must respond with full honesty. No information should be strategically withheld, and no procedural tactic should be deployed simply to gain an advantage.

In practice, however, achieving these principles has proved difficult. For example, since the publication of the Law Commission of Canada final report, it has emerged that the Christian Brothers seriously misled a Canadian court in an attempt to protect millions of dollars worth of their assets from creditors, according to court documents filed in Ontario.

In a strategy centrally devised by senior Christian Brothers in their Rome headquarters, the order [of these Christian Brothers] put its Canadian assets into liquidation in 1996 when it was facing large civil claims for compensation from 126 alleged victims of child abuse at the order’s Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland.

At the time, a high-ranking Canadian Christian Brother had sworn an affidavit that the liquidation would ensure that a “maximum amount” of assets would be “employed compensating all of the claimants in a fair and expedited manner”. The court was informed that the total value of the assets of the order was approximately $4.2 million.

However, it has now emerged that the Christian Brothers in Canada had internally calculated that they had in fact had, “in conservative terms, well over $100 million in assets”. The plan was to minimise any possible payments to victims of institutional child abuse, leading the court-appointed liquidators of the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada (their official title) to raise “questions about the bona fides of the decision by the Christian Brothers to wind up Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada for the purpose of maximising compensation to the victims of abuse, and demonstrates possible … breaches of an undertaking to this court.”

The Canadian experience may give some inkling of what lies ahead for the Laffoy Commission, the Compensation Tribunal, and the various civil actions in Ireland. So far, the Irish Commission has held three public sessions, mainly to explain how it intends to function. During the summer of 2000, it heard formal submissions from many of the survivors’ support

[ page 9 ]

groups and from the religious orders responsible for the industrial schools system in Ireland.

In spite of their public apologies to the children abused in their care, the submissions from religious orders displayed scant evidence of contrition – in fact, they manifested in some cases a degree of hostility towards several aspects of the Commission’s operation.

The Christian Brothers, for instance, objected to the Commission’s decision to use the word “survivor” to designate those who grew up in industrial schools. Former residents had welcomed this – they had previously been generally referred to as victims, a term which they felt humiliated them. However, the Christian Brothers indicated that the use of the term “survivor” implied that some had not survived, an inference which they considered “distressing”.

A number of the religious orders considered that the process was unfair to them, that it was “pro-accuser and anti the accused”. Justice Laffoy firmly rejected any imputation of unfairness concerning the Commission. Ominously, however, some of the orders indicated that they reserved their right to mount a legal challenge to the entire process. The Commission is acutely aware that every aspect of its operation is likely to face a series of court challenges from the legal teams representing the religious congregations involved.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Ireland maintains its policy of secrecy with regard to publicly releasing its records on children’s institutions. Diocesan archives in this area remain closed, and despite repeated requests for access to their archives, the religious orders concerned remain equally secretive.

It is easy in this fraught legal landscape to forget that what is at the heart of this issue and this book is the wilful and systematic ruination of thousands of lives, children subjected to appalling and horrific treatment from their earliest years.

Their stories, together with the exclusive access given to the authors of official State records, provide a searing insight into a tragedy whose scale Ireland is only beginning to understand. In most cases, those whose experiences are recorded here decided to be identified by their first names only. Some asked for their

[ page 10 ]

names to be completely changed in order to protect their privacy. Those individuals identified by their full names had specifically asked that this should be so.

Without exception, they all spoke eloquently about the importance to them recording publicly the terrible events of their childhood, no matter how painful they were to recall, so that children in the future would never have to suffer as they did, either from direct abuse or from the decades of disbelief, denial and indifference which they as adults had faced at the hands of society. Their motivation in this regard is identical to that found by the various commissions of inquiry into institutional child abuse elsewhere in the world – across three continents, survivors of these horrors share the hope that they may contribute to improving the lives of the next generation of children in care.

Mary Raftery
Eoin O’Sullivan

January 2001

[ First published on this Website: 29 November 2006 ]

Subindex No. 1

DW WORLD.DE - DEUTSCHE WELLE on 23.01.2009 in English ( Sabina Casagrande reporting )
( relating to the former West-Germany ) »Abused Wards Of The State Demand Reparations In Germany«
An apology and compensation are long overdue

( The current CDU/SPD Government of the German Federal Republic, however, is dragging its feet. )

News in brief in the German news-magazine FOCUS, Munich the 12 August 2007:
»The Association of Former Wards of the State [ of the former West-Germany ] /
Former Institutionalised Children / Care-Leavers-Survivors demand compensation -
"The firms that made use of institutional child labour ( "unpaid forced labour" ) have to pay"« -
announced the lawyer for the victims, Munich
human rights lawyer Michael Witti.

Media reports pertaining to an Australian compensation case indexed by GOOGLE:
Court Judgment:
Compensation for Aborigine of the "Stolen Generation":

Judgment of The Honourable Justice Gray - 1 August 2007

Former wards of the state take the initiative.
German care-leavers-survivors take Government to task.
The German Federal Government is being challenged to answer the following simple question:
Ehemalige Heimkinder stellen eine sehr einfache Frage an die Deutsche Bundesregierung:

Legitimate critical observations by the Australian operator, Martin Mitchell, of the
cum postwar German history site Care-Leavers
@ with regard to specific human rights violations -
extra-judicial incarceration and "forced labour" and the profiteering therefrom
by the postwar West-German State
, the churches and private enterprise
(between ca 1945 - 1975) - which should concern us all.

Absolute prohibition of all forms of forced labour / compulsory labour !, or not ?
Was "forced labour" / "compulsory labour" / "work therapy" /
"indoctrination by toil" / "labour discipline" / "pressganged labour"
"hiring out of involuntary labour" / "forcing people to work without pay" ever permitted
in the Federal Republic of Germany, or not? Was it ever permitted in the 1950s, the 1960s,
the 1970s and the 1980?
Is it permitted in the Federal Republic of Germany today?

The use of and the profiteering from forced labour are crimes under international law and they
constitute a serious violation of human rights and an unlawful curtailment of human freedoms.

German wards of the state / institutionalised children used as slave labourers (in the former
West Germany
) demand adequate compensation and the making of appropriate amends;
they don't want to be "paid off" / "to be bribed henceforth to keep quiet"; no "compromise" !

Deutsche Heimkinder / Kindersklaven verlangen eine anständige Entschädigung und
Wiedergutmachung; keine "Abfindung" / "kein Schweigegeld", keinen "Kompromiss" !

Horrific (hidden) POSTWAR GERMAN HISTORY unearthed !!!
Justice at last for abused wards of the state being detained
and slave laboured in ‘institutional care’ in
(West) Germany
by church and state
(a couple of million of them between 1945-1975+;
the exact number has not as yet been able to be determined).

However, whether these victims will in fact obtain justice remains to be seen.


Mary Raftery and Eoin O'Sullivan – First published in 1999 – ISBN 0-8264-1337-4 – (425 pages).
Well-researched non-fictional documentary-type account of Irish institutional child abuse –
in this case perpetrated almost solely by Catholic orders of religion in institutions run for profit
and enrichment of themselves, and to the total disregard of the needs of the children in their ‘care’.

Forgotten Children – The Secret Abuse Scandal in Children's Homes.
[ Institutional child abuse in the UK ]
Author Christian Wolmar – Vision Paperbacks . October 2000.

Visit also “Ehemalige Heimkinder” (former Wards of the State) Blog @

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