Childhood ended for hundreds of thousands of Irish children when they entered the doors of orphanages and industrial schools such as this one. From the middle of the 19th century up until just a few decades ago, children were subjected to terrible neglect, physical, mental and sexual abuse in institutions run by religious orders. It's only in the last ten years or so that the extent of the horrific cruelty which was meted out to children sent to these so-called homes began to emerge.
Most of the children were sent there due to family break-up, the death of parents, poverty or simply because they were born out of wedlock.
The findings of The Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse in Ireland published earlier this year makes grim reading, so grim that I only read the report surrounding St Joseph's Industrial School in Dundalk. By and large, the children sent there fared better than those sent to other institutions whose names have become by-words for horror. I have spoken to former pupils: some had fond memories of nuns who cared for them, while others remembered only neglect, fear and punishment.
The revelations of what happened in these homes as well as countless instances of young boys and girls being abused
by priests has shaken the faith of many Irish Catholics of all ages. A report into the handling of child abuse by clegry in the Dublin diocese due to be published tomorrow found decades of attempts to cover-up what was happening rather than efforts to prevent the priests from abusing other children.