The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was established on 23 May, 2000, pursuant to the “Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000” and given three primary functions:
- to hear evidence of abuse from persons who allege they suffered abuse in childhood, in institutions, during the period from 1940 or earlier, to the present day;
- to conduct an inquiry into abuse of children in institutions during that period and, where satisfied that abuse occurred, to determine the causes, nature, circumstances and extent of such abuse; and
- to prepare and publish reports on the results of the inquiry and on its recommendations in relation to dealing with the effects of such abuse.
The Commission has no role in relation to financial compensation. That function rests with the “Residential Institutions Redress Board”.
It was dependent on people giving evidence which they did in large numbers. The Commission expresses its gratitude to all those who participated and contributed with their testimony and documents. The witnesses who came to the Confidential and the Investigation Committees ensured that the Inquiry had sufficient information to investigate the difficult issues that it was mandated to explore. The Commission was impressed by the dignity, courage and fortitude of witnesses who endeavoured to recall events that had happened many years ago.
The Commission Report, issued in 2009, gave rise to debate and reflection. Although institutional care belongs to a different era, many of the lessons to be learned from what happened have contemporary applications for the protection of vulnerable people in our society.
The expression “abuse” is defined in section 1(i) of the Principal Act, as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act, as:-
- the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child,
- the use of the child by a person for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of that person or another person,
- failure to care for the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare, or
- any other act or omission towards the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his behaviour or welfare, and cognate words shall be construed accordingly.
The Commission Report
The Commission Report issued in 2009 consists of 5 Volumes:
- Volumes I and II: The Investigation Committee Report on Institutions
- Volume III: The Confidential Committee Report
- Volume IV: The Department of Education; Finance; Society and the Schools; Development of Childcare Policy in Ireland since 1970; Report on Witnesses Attending for Interview; Conclusions and Recommendations
- Volume V: The ISPCC, Expert Reports, Commission Personnel and Legislation
Structure of Commission
The Commission heard evidence through two separate committees:
- Investigation Committee and
- Confidential Committee.
The Chairperson of the Commission, Mr. Justice Ryan, is a judge of the High Court and also chairperson of the Investigation Committee. The ordinary members of the Commission, who sat on either (but not both) committee, were drawn from various disciplines. Click here to see a list of Commissioners.
The Commission also had a number of administrative and legal staff, paid for by the Department of Education.