DAMNING letters from the Department of Education setting out the serious neglect of children at Newtownforbes industrial school, Co Longford,were presented to the Commission on Child Abuse. The letters catalogued attempts by the Department to improve conditions at the school. Sr Margaret Casey, leader of the western province of the Mercy Sisters, testified to the Child Abuse Commission and admitted that many of the children found their time at the school to be "harsh, impersonal, abusive and deeply humiliating".
A letter from the Department addressed to the nun in charge of the school, told her:
cannot find any excuse which would exonerate you and your staff from the verminous condition of several of the children's heads."
The letter, written by the medical inspector of the Department, Dr Anna McCabe, continued:
was not satisfied in finding so many of the girls in the infirmary suffering from bruises on their bodies. I wish particularly to draw attention to the latter as under no circumstances can the Department tolerate treatment of this nature."
It blamed the "neglect of supervision and individual attention" as the reason for "the dirty condition of the heads and the untreated abscess I discovered in the child in the infirmary".
It warned that "immediate steps will have to be taken to remedy" conditions at the school, and that, unless there was "a
marked and sustained improvement when the school is next inspected . .
. I will be reluctantly compelled to take the matter further."
Casey, who was a day-pupil at the school between 1954 and 1967, told the Commission that prior to the 1990s there was no awareness within her order of the damage done to some of the children in its care. She
said the first complaint about Newtownforbes surfaced after the 'Dear Daughter' drama-documentary about life at Goldenbridge orphanage was aired by RTE in 1996. In all, five complaints about abuse and ill-treatment suffered by residents of the industrial school were received. These related to the period 1939-1965. The Industrial school was opened in 1869 and closed in 1969. At its peak it incarcerated 159 children.
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QUOTE 1 talks about "verminuous condition of several of the CHILDREN'S heads"
QUOTE 2 talks about "GIRLS in the infirmary suffering from bruises on THEIR bodies"
QUOTE 3 talks about "the dirty condition of the HEADS"
And all this ABUSE, NEGLECT and ILL TREATMENT in only ONE LETTER !
YET this Institution which was being so cruel to children remained open, no prosecutions ensued.
A QUESTION NOT addressed in the Department's letter - or at the Commission, is:
"If parents were found to be treating children in a similar
fashion to the Sisters of Mercy in Newtownforbes Industrial School what would the authorities have done to provide Proper Guardianship for the children?"
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The children would have been carted off to the nearest (or furthest) Industrial School