Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:00 UK

Abuse 'Ireland's darkest chapter'

A religious statue
Abuse at Catholic institutions was investigated

The Irish deputy prime minister has called the abuse of children in Catholic-run institutions as one of the "darkest chapters" in Irish history.

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan apologised on behalf of the government. There is to be a special meeting of the Dail to consider the Child Abuse Commission.

The report found that thousands of children had been abused over 60 years.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said anyone responsible for the abuse should be held to account.

"If there is evidence that could lead to prosecution that should be brought forward," said Cardinal Sean Brady.

"Certainly people must be held responsible for their actions."

The report, nine years in the making and covering a period of six decades, also found government inspectors failed to stop beatings, rapes and humiliation.

The findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions - in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.

John Walsh, of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said he felt "cheated and deceived" by the lack of prosecutions.

No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

Kevin Flannigan from the group Survivors of Child Abuse, protests at not being allowed into the launch of the long awaited Child Abuse Commission report
Campaigners protested at being excluded from the news conference

Mr Walsh said: "I would have never opened my wounds if I'd known this was going to be the end result.

"It has devastated me and will devastate most victims because there are no criminal proceedings and no accountability whatsoever."

The victims were among 35,000 children who were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses until the early 1990s.

More than 1,000 people had told the commission they suffered physical and sexual abuse.

'Self-serving secrecy'

The five-volume study by Child Abuse Commission concluded that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders' paedophiles from arrest amid a "culture of self-serving secrecy".

The commission found that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions, and church leaders knew what was going on.

The commission's report, which runs to five volumes

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you might need to download Adobe Reader.

Schools were run "in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff".

It found the Department of Education had generally dismissed or ignored complaints of child sexual abuse and dealt inadequately with them.

As far back as the 1940s, school inspectors reported broken bones and malnourished children but no action was taken.

The report proposed 21 ways the Irish government could recognise past wrongs, including building a permanent memorial, providing counselling and education to victims, and improving current child protection services.

Cardinal Brady, said he was "profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions".

"It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children," he said.

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