The Commission’s report published in May 2009 contains a seriously erroneous statistic according to the general agreement of relevant experts and bodies. In two places it states that the total number of children who were admitted to Industrial Schools between 1936 and 1970 was approximately 170,000. See Volume 1 Chapter 3 Page 41 and the Report at Volume 5 Chapter 2 – Gateways – page 52 Table 1.
The Commission has had correspondence disputing this total and citing the work of Prof Eoin O’Sullivan among others. The chairperson has consulted Prof O’Sullivan, Prof David Gwynn Morgan, the Department of Education and Skills and the other Commissioners and is of the view that the number stated in the report is not correct.
It appears that the total given in the report was derived by adding the yearly figures for the population in the institutions but that did not take account of the fact that children were counted in each year of detention.
The statistics provided by the Department cover the period from 1930 and extend beyond 1970 because some institutions continued to operate. They also refer to Reformatories as well as Industrial Schools.
While it is not possible to establish a precise figure, the Department’s calculation of the number of children in Industrial Schools and Reformatories from 1930-1970 and beyond is approximately 42,000 or somewhat higher. The statistical information from the Department appears below. The chairperson has directed that this statement appear on the Commission’s website.
The Chairperson is happy to acknowledge the role of Dr. Niall Meehan, Faculty Head, Journalism and Media, Griffith College Dublin in raising this issue with the Secretary to the Commission and precipitating the steps that led to the publication of the corrective material.
Department of Education Information
Through its annual statistical reports, the Department of Education published data on the number of committals to and discharges from industrial schools and reformatories – see table N following. With the exception of deaths that occurred while resident in an institution, children committed to an industrial school or a reformatory and who survived would eventually be discharged from that institution. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that looking at the number of children discharged from the institutions should equate fairly closely to the number of individuals who passed through the schools.
It is noted that there would be a certain element of double counting because of:-
a) The number of children who may have been committed to reformatories on more than one occasion;
b) The number of children discharged from one residential institution who may have been admitted to another institution or transferred there on the closure of some institutions.
Table No N: No of children discharged from reformatories and industrial schools between the 1930s and 1970s. Source: Department of Education Annual Statistical reports.
Year Reformatories Industrial Schools Year Reformatories Industrial Schools
1930/31 36 921 1950/51 101 941
1931/32 44 998 1951/52 102 928
1932/33 32 892 1952/53 110 870
1933/34 20 918 1953/54 94 888
1934/35 30 874 1954/55 98 860
1935/36 27 1108 1955/56 89 972
1936/37 32 975 1956/57 83 802
1937/38 46 941 1957/58 126 791
1938/39 77 961 1958/59 116 776
1939/40 101 930 1959/60 123 846
1940/41 80 918 1960/61 152 771
1941/42 91 977 1961/62 131 816
1942/43 136 977 1962/63 107 888
1943/44 116 1130 1963/64 89 717
1944/45 141 1042 1964/65 14 701
1945/46 148 1027 1965/66 98 660
1946/47 119 1063 1966/67 136 611
1947/48 105 980 1967/68 105 506
1948/49 97 1033 1968/69 137 480
1949/50 140 994 1969/70 167 398
Table No N: Total number of discharges between the 1930s up to 1970
Reformatories Industrial Schools Total
3,796 34,881 38,677
As the format of the statistical report changed during the 1970s, the population of the schools, which was well in decline by then, is given as an estimate only. The 1969/70 statistical report stated that there were 117 children in reformatory schools at the start of the school year and 1,513 children in industrial schools. Instead of exact figures, a conservative estimate of the number of children who were committed in the 1970s is 1,500 based on an average number of 150 committals per year. It would add over 3,000 to the number of children who had been through either the Industrial or reformatory school system bringing the numbers close to 42,000.
It should be noted that the scheduled institutions which eventually came within the ambit of the Redress Scheme included institutions which were not industrial or reformatory schools: for example, orphanages. There are no population statistics available for such institutions. However, it is known that the bulk of applicants to the Redress Board came from industrial and reformatory schools. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the figure of 42,000 children will be somewhat understated as a result.