Commission to inquire into child abuse.
The Sisters of Mercy
1.93 The Sisters of Mercy played a significant role in the industrial school system, as they had been responsible for the management of 26 industrial schools. This is discussed fully in the General Chapter on the Sisters of Mercy. They were also involved in numerous primary and post-primary schools.
1.94 The Sisters of Mercy issued an apology in 1996, following the broadcast of the ‘Dear Daughter’ programme in 1995, which characterised a Sisters of Mercy Industrial School, Goldenbridge, as having been abusive. The apology was as follows:
In the light of recent revelations regarding the mistreatment of children in our institutions we the Mercy Sisters wish to take this opportunity to sincerely and unreservedly express our deep regret to those men and women who at any time or place in our care were hurt or harshly treated. The fact that most complaints relate to many years ago is not offered as an excuse. As a congregation we fully acknowledge our failures and ask for forgiveness.
Aware of the painful and lasting effect of such experiences we would like to hear from those who have suffered and we are putting in place an independent and confidential help line. This help line will be staffed by competent and professional counsellors who will listen sympathetically and who will be in the position to offer further help if required. In this way we would hope to redress the pain insofar as that is possible so that those who have suffered might experience some peace, healing and dignity.
Life in Ireland in the 40s and 50s was in general harsh for many people. This was reflected in orphanages, which were under funded, under staffed and under resourced. It was in this climate that many Sisters gave years of generous service to the education and care of children. However, we made mistakes and irrespective of the passage of time as a congregation we now openly acknowledge our failures and ask for forgiveness.
Regretfully we cannot change the past. As we continue our work of caring and education today we will constantly review and monitor our procedures, our personnel and our facilities. Working in close cooperation with other voluntary and statutory agencies we are committed to doing all in our power to ensure that people in our care have a protective and supportive environment.
We were founded to alleviate pain, want and misery. We have tried to do this through our work in health care, education, child care, social and pastoral work. Despite our evident failures which we deeply regret we are committed to continuing that work in partnership with many others in the years ahead.
1.95 Sr Breege O’Neill, then Congregational Leader of the….