Journal Article

The Irish Charity Myth, Child Abuse and Human Rights: Contextualising the Ryan Report into Care Institutions

Fred Powell, Martin Geoghegan, Margaret Scanlon and Katharina Swirak

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 43, issue 1, pages 7-23
Published in print February 2013 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr182
The Irish Charity Myth, Child Abuse and Human Rights: Contextualising the Ryan Report into Care Institutions

Show Summary Details

Preview

The publication of the Ryan Report during 2009 was a seminal event in the vindication of the human rights of survivors of child abuse in Irish reformatory and industrial schools and public truth-telling. There were seventy-one industrial schools and ten reformatories established in Ireland during the second half of the nineteenth century. Most of the reformatories soon closed because there were not enough children to put in them. The Ryan Report was 2,600 pages in length and composed of five volumes. It contains the testimony of over 1,500 witnesses. However, in terms of truth-telling, it is a flawed document because the alleged perpetrators of abuse (living and dead) have been given anonymity following legal action. Furthermore, the original Chair of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Justice Mary Laffoy, had resigned in 2003, because of an alleged lack of official co-operation, notably on the part of the Department of Education ( Arnold, 2009, pp. 98–109). She was replaced by Justice Sean Ryan, who negotiated a compromise that enabled the survivors' evidence to be heard, while the clergy remained under the protective cloak of anonymity. The Ryan Report reveals that child abuse was endemic in the industrial and reformatory school system in Ireland. Its shocking revelations have been reported around the world, exposing the failure of Ireland's human rights record in relation to children to critical international scrutiny. The crimes against children described in the Ryan Report are on a systemic scale and involve a degree of cruelty that is difficult to comprehend in a developed Western society. The purpose of this article is to analyse the Ryan Report into child abuse in Irish care institutions. It begins by providing the context and background to the Ryan Report, with particular reference to contested interpretations of causality and the key role played by civil society groups. The article then moves on to consider in detail the findings of the Ryan Report. Finally, there is the disputed question of responsibility between the Church, state and the ISPCC. The role of civil society and the fact that child poverty played a decisive role in the creation and maintenance of what Smith (2007) calls ‘the architecture of containment’ that defined the reformatory and industrial school system will also be discussed.

Keywords: Child welfare; child abuse; human rights; care homes

Journal Article.  6483 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.