26Nov Child abuse inquiry admits to ‘seriously erroneous statistic’ 

A statement issued by Mr Justice Seán Ryan said “the commission’s report published in May 2009 contains a seriously erroneous statistic according to the general agreement of relevant experts and bodies.”

The statement can be read in full at  http://childabusecommission.ie

 

25th November, 2019

Statement by Chairperson

The Commission’s report published in May 2009 contains a seriously erroneous statistic according to the general agreement of relevant experts and bodies. In two places it states that the total number of children who were admitted to Industrial Schools between 1936 and 1970 was approximately 170,000. See Volume 1 Chapter 3 Page 41 and the Report at Volume 5 Chapter 2 – Gateways – page 52 Table 1.

The Commission has had correspondence disputing this total and citing the work of Prof Eoin O’Sullivan among others. The chairperson has consulted Prof O’Sullivan, Prof David Gwynn Morgan, the Department of Education and Skills and the other Commissioners and is of the view that the number stated in the report is not correct.

It appears that the total given in the report was derived by adding the yearly figures for the population in the institutions but that did not take account of the fact that children were counted in each year of detention.

The statistics provided by the Department cover the period from 1930 and extend beyond 1970 because some institutions continued to operate. They also refer to Reformatories as well as Industrial Schools.

While it is not possible to establish a precise figure, the Department’s calculation of the number of children in Industrial Schools and Reformatories from 1930-1970 and beyond is approximately 42,000 or somewhat higher.

It continues ….

As the format of the statistical report changed during the 1970s, the population of the schools, which was well in decline by then, is given as an estimate only.

The 1969/70 statistical report stated that there were 117 children in reformatory schools at the start of the school year and 1,513 children in industrial schools.  Instead of exact figures, a conservative estimate of the number of children who were committed in the 1970s is 1,500 based on an average number of 150 committals per year.
It would add over 3,000 to the number of children who had been through either the Industrial or reformatory school system bringing the numbers close to 42,000.

It should be noted that the scheduled institutions which eventually came within the ambit of the Redress Scheme included institutions which were not industrial or reformatory schools: for example, orphanages.
There are no population statistics available for such institutions. However, it is known that the bulk of applicants to the Redress Board came from industrial and reformatory schools. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the figure of 42,000 children will be somewhat understated as a result.

 

Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times has reported on this statement:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/child-abuse-inquiry-admits-to-seriously-erroneous-statistic-1.4094716?mode=amp&localLinksEnabled=false&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Child+abuse+inquiry+admits+to++seriously+erroneous+statistic&utm_campaign=morning_briefing_digest

 

Patsy McGarry

New figures indicate that the number of children who went through institutions investigated by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is about a quarter of the 170,000 previously cited.

The commission investigated abuses of children in industrial schools, reformatories,and orphanages run by 18 religious congregations.

In a statement on the commission website on Monday, its chair Mr Justice Seán Ryan said “the commission’s report published in May 2009 contains a seriously erroneous statistic according to the general agreement of relevant experts and bodies.

“In two places it states that the total number of children who were admitted to Industrial Schools between 1936 and 1970 was approximately 170,000.”

The commission had since had correspondence “disputing this total and citing the work of Prof Eoin O’Sullivan among others. The chairperson has consulted Prof O’Sullivan, Prof David Gwynn Morgan, the Department of Education and Skills and the other commissioners and is of the view that the number stated in the report is not correct”.

Justice Ryan said “it appears that the total given in the report was derived by adding the yearly figures for the population in the institutions but that did not take account of the fact that children were counted in each year of detention”.

While it was not possible to establish a precise figure, he said, “the department’s calculation of the number of children in Industrial Schools and Reformatories from 1930-1970 and beyond is approximately 42,000 or somewhat higher.”

Sealing reports

The question of how to handle historical cases of child abuse will be discussed at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills on Tuesday, when a number of survivors, lawyers, historians and archivists will voice concerns about the Retention of Records Bill introduced by Minister Joe McHugh.

It proposes that all documents gathered by the Ryan Commission, the Redress Board, and the Redress Review Committee be sent to the National Archives and sealed for at least the next 75 years.

The Ryan Commission consisted of two strands, the Investigation Committee and the Confidential Committee.

In an interview with The Irish Times last May, Mr Justice Ryan said people gave evidence to the confidential committee on the basis that it was “utterly confidential, full stop, end of story”.

He added: “As to the investigation committee, every hearing about abuse or what happened to an individual had a double lock. The section says that you can’t identify the person nor can you give information that would enable the person to be identified.”

He asked: “How do you deem that not to be the basis on which people gave evidence? They’ve said maybe 75 years, the truth is there isn’t a way out.”

3 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Some two-and-a-half years ago (5 April 2017) Pádraig drew our attention here to a statement on the OMI Website: “The moral challenge posed to religious orders about the cost of redress”. Dealing with the argument that “it was the religious who did the actual abuse and who should be made to pay until it hurts”, the Oblate of Mary Immaculate wrote:

    “It assumes that the findings of the Ryan Report are immune to criticism. While the Ryan Report commands great respect as the fruit of a long and patient inquiry, its findings are not immune to challenge. The findings are opinions come to by the Commission on a basis that would not be sufficient in a court of law. Unlike a court’s findings, they may be based on no more than expressions of beliefs, opinions or intentions. We are not here in the zone of ‘evidence beyond all reasonable doubt’, or even of ‘probabilities’, certainly not ‘cast iron facts’.”

    In view of Justice Ryan’s startling revelation, we certainly need people like Pádraig McCarthy, that anonymous OMI, Professor Eoin O’Sullivan etc.
    Keep digging – keep them honest.

    Nevertheless, my belief in the basic numeracy of the Republic’s statisticians is unshaken. My nine surviving siblings and I have clubbed together to hire in the Laffoy/Ryan team of number crunchers to shed light on a small family dispute in ‘another jurisdiction’ on the border. We had always been convinced that in the period December 1939 – December 1970 we were a small family of 11 children (7 boys, 4 girls) living more or less comfortably with our parents in a two-bedroom rural house on 7-and-a-half acres. That is until some of us began to talk about scores of phantom siblings crowded into our two rooms & kitchen. Sure enough, our very expensive statistical team have already established that we have been miscounting ourselves for the past eighty years. Rather than a mere 11 offspring housed in less than 200 sq ft , it seems that in the Hungry Forties we were as many as 42, and by the 1958-1968 decade our numbers had peaked at 132 – particularly during the 3-4 months of enforced holidays from boarding schools, teacher training college and universities (including Maynooth).
    I often wondered how Eddie Finnegan Snr managed to make ends meet on less than 7 and 1/2 acres, but obviously with a captive workforce of up to 132 he had it all worked out. We are now taking two parallel cases against the North’s Children’s Benefit Office for multiple unpaid Child Allowances over the 1939-1970 period, and against the Cruelty Man’s Department for his failure to visit or inspect even once over those 30+ years.
    Clearly, emigration and marrying out began to ease the situation from the late 1960s onwards.

    The Number Crunching team is now available for any families with similar miscounting problems. They are well worth their high commission.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    Eddie Finnegan (#1)is going to have a hard time sending Christmas cards to all the family this year!
    But the point is serious.
    The Irish Times front page (27 Nov) reports the Niall Meehan, head of journalism and media faculty at Griffith College Dublin, points out that the error in the 2009 Ryan Report in regard to numbers indicates that the report was read initially uncritically. The same can be said of the Murphy Report which was published the same year.
    To read critically does not mean, of course, that one rejects a document, but that one assesses the document for what is true and valuable, and also that one is ready to query any part which is questionable. The Murphy Report did valuable work in reporting the utterly reprehensible the abuse which was inflicted. One must ask, however, whether the Report’s assessments of failure in dealing with the allegations are in fact justified by the evidence.
    One must also ask whether the failure of the Murphy Commission to fulfil its mandate to subject state authorities to the same examination as was done in the case of Dublin diocese how the public understands the Report. The failure to examine the facts in their social and historical context must also be queried.
    I addressed these matters in a book, “Unheard Story”, published in 2013 by Londubh Books (176 pages). It provides relevant material. Perhaps it was too early then for such an assessment.

    This book too, like the Ryan and Murphy Reports, should be read critically.
    It’s available from the ACP website Book Shop – click on the Book Shop link.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Abuse is regularly vamped up by many agencies ranging from the media (babies thrown in septic tanks) to the courts (Pell).

    Having watched the joyful reception of the Pope in Thailand and Japan, I can only feel regret for a happy Catholicism not overshadowed by this black cloud. He didn’t have to spend all his time apologizing as in his dismal Irish visit.

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