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Chair of child abuse inquiry reports "seriously erroneous" figure in commission report

Mr Justice Ryan said the claim that 170,000 were admitted to institutional school is, in fact, closer to 42,000.

NEW FIGURES FROM the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has indicated there was a “seriously erroneous statistic” in the Ryan report published in 2009, according to the chair of the commission.

The inquiry which was chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan began in 1999 and took ten years to complete before a report, commonly known as the Ryan Report, was published in May 2009.

It documented the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of thousands of children admitted to reformatory and industrial schools run by religious orders. 

In a statement from the chair posted on the commission’s site, he said the original claim that 170,000 children were admitted to these institutions over the 34 years between 1936 and 1970 was incorrect. 

Following correspondence received since the report’s publication, he now believes that figure is around 42,000 – around a quarter of the original figure. 

“The Commission’s report published in May 2009 contains a seriously erroneous statistic according to the general agreement of relevant experts and bodies,” the statement claims. 

“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.

“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.”

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Ryan states that “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.”

In the Ryan Report published 10 years ago, some 99 recommendations were made to address the effects of historic abuse, proposing a memorial to victims, and recommended the review of child protection regulations into the future. 

A Bill providing  for the records and accounts which were gathered during the inquiry to be sealed for 75 years is currently at committee stage in the Dáil and will be discussed this morning at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills. 

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