It has been a privilege to serve on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The Chairperson and Commissioners acknowledge the trust witnesses placed in them and are acutely aware of the responsibility of reporting on these events that still affect the lives of so many people. The dignity, courage and fortitude of witnesses who endeavoured to recall events that happened many years ago was impressive and the Commission wishes to express its gratitude to all those who participated in its work.
There were two types of inquiry, one drawing on contested evidence (Investigation Committee) and the other on uncontested evidence (Confidential Committee), which reported to the Commission. Between them the Commission received the evidence of over 1,500 witnesses who attended or were resident as children in schools and care facilities in the State, particularly industrial and reformatory schools.
The system of industrial and reformatory schools belongs to a different era. However, many of the lessons to be learned from what happened have contemporary application for the protection of children and vulnerable people in our society. The Commission hopes that this Report will give rise to debate, reflection and action regarding the needs and rights of all children and persons in need of care.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was Chairperson of the Commission in its formative period until January 2004, when Mr Justice Sean Ryan succeeded as Chairperson. She established the legal framework and the structures for the work to be undertaken. The Chairperson and Commissioners are grateful to Ms Justice Laffoy, former Commissioners and their legal and administrative teams.
The Investigation Committee Report was the responsibility of:
Mr Justice Sean Ryan, Judge of the High Court (Chairperson)
Mr Fred Lowe, Clinical Psychologist (Commissioner)
Ms Marian Shanley, Solicitor (Commissioner).
The Confidential Committee Report was the responsibility of:
Ms Anne McLoughlin, Social Worker (Chairperson)
Ms Mary Fennessy, Social Worker (Commissioner)
Ms Norah Gibbons, Social Worker (Commissioner), resigned as Chairperson of the Confidential Committee in 2005 and continued to assist the Commission on a part-time basis.
The Solicitors to the Commission were Ms Feena Robinson and Ms Elisa McHugh, whose professional expertise was central to the running of the Commission.
The Secretary to the Commission was Ms Brenda McVeigh who, with her team of administrative, secretarial and support staff, provided a service which was essential to the efficient working of the Commission.
Counsel to the Investigation Committee provided invaluable assistance and included at different stages Mr Frank Clarke SC, Mr Brian McGovern SC, Mr Noel MacMahon SC, Ms Karen Fergus SC, and a team of document counsel.
The work of other staff members including para-legals, witness support officers and IT experts is also acknowledged with gratitude. A full list of the professional and administrative advisers and staff of the Commission appears at the end of the Report in Volume V.
Signed on behalf of the Commission:
Mr Justice Sean Ryan, Chairperson