Industrial Schools in Ireland

Industrial Schools (Irish: Scoileanna Saothair, IPA: [ˈsˠkɛlʲən̪ˠə ˈsˠiːhəɾʲ]) were established in Ireland under the Industrial Schools Act 1868 to care for "neglected, orphaned and abandoned children". By 1884, there were 5,049 children in such institutions throughout the country.[1] The Act was superseded by the Children Act 1908.

Today in the Republic of Ireland, children may still be detained in protective custody. The nomenclature has changed from "industrial schools" and "reformatory schools" to "Children Detention Schools". There are five such institutions in the State.[2] The equivalent institution in Northern Ireland is the Juvenile Justice Centre at Rathgael, near Bangor. It is now Northern Ireland's only children's detention centre following the closure of St Patrick's in Belfast and Lisnevin in Millisle (formerly known as Training Schools).[3]


The first Industrial School in Ireland was set up by Lady Louisa Conolly in Celbridge,[4] Co. Kildare, where young boys learnt woodwork and shoe making skills as well as other trade skills.[5]

Establishment of Reformatories and Industrial SchoolsEdit

Reformatory Schools had been established in 1858 under a Poor Law amendment.[6] Ten years later Industrial Schools were introduced by the Industrial Schools (Ireland) Act of 1868, four years after the equivalent in England. An 'upgraded' Reformatory Act was also introduced that year.[7] Ironically, children charged with begging could not benefit under the terms of the original 1858 Act and were still being sent to adult prisons, but young burglars were being sent to the more benign 'special school'.

The next few decades found there was a building boom to provide new premises for both types of institution. Reformatories were intended for children found guilty of criminal offences, while Industrial Schools were for orphaned neglected and abandoned children and those considered in danger of contact with criminality. This latter category had previously been accommodated in so called "Ragged Schools" (such as the one at the Coombe in Dublin),[8] and in the countrywide network of Workhouses. Many private philanthropic schools were granted certificates as Reformatories or Industrial Schools for the reception of children committed by the courts. After certification, they became eligible for grants from public money in proportion to the number of children catered for.

Although Reformatory Schools were established first, Industrial Schools soon surpassed them, both in numbers of schools and of pupils. Between 1851 and 1858, ten Reformatories (five each for boys and girls) were certified. The 1868 Act insured that Protestant and Catholic children would be catered for separately, preventing proselytising.

Industrial Schools reached a maximum of 71 in 1898. Of the 61 in what is now the Republic of Ireland, 56 schools were Catholic-run and 5 were Protestant-run. Of the ten in what is now Northern Ireland, six were Catholic-run and four Protestant-run. Of the nine Protestant Industrial Schools in Ireland, five were for girls and four for boys.

By 1900, only seven of the ten original Reformatories remained. In 1917 the last Industrial School run by the Church of Ireland (Anglican) was closed in Stillorgan. A number of the reformatories were re-certified as Industrial Schools so that by 1922, only five remained (one of which was a Reformatory for boys in Northern Ireland).


The reformatory school population, which was nearly 800 immediately after the passing of the 1858 Act, fell to 300 in 1882, and to 150 in 1900. However, by 1875, there were 50 industrial schools, and the highest number of industrial schools was reached in 1898, when there were a total of 71 schools, of which 61 (56 schools for Catholics and five for Protestants) were in the 26 counties.

According to the Ryan report, the Department of Education and Skills has calculated the number of children discharged from Industrial Schools and Reformatories from 1930 to the 1970s as approximately 42,000. 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 Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in IrelandEdit

Child abuse investigation (Ireland)Edit

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was established in 2000 with functions including the investigation of abuse of children in institutions in the State. It was dependent on people giving evidence which they did in large numbers.

The conclusion of the report, issued in May 2009, was that over a period going back at least to the 1940s, many children in Industrial Schools in the Republic had been subjected to systematic and sustained physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. It also found that the perpetrators of this violence had been protected by their religious superiors, primarily out of self-interest to maintain the reputations of the institutions concerned. 42 of the 43 conclusions refer to the Industrial Schools.[9]

Vaccine trialsEdit

Vaccine trials in some Industrial Schools were to be investigated by the Commission, but were discontinued by the Commission in 2003 following Court judgement. In a statement on their website the Commission said "The Vaccine Trials Inquiry was a Division of the Investigation Committee. Judicial Review proceedings seeking, inter alia, a declaration that the Order which established the Vaccine Trials Inquiry was ultra vires the Act of 2000, were initiated in November 2003. On 25 November 2003, an undertaking was given to the High Court, by the Commission, that it would not conduct any hearings in relation to the matters within the ambit of the Order, until the matter was settled.

The practical effect of this undertaking was that the work of the Division was suspended at that point and never re-commenced, given the subsequent decision of the Court, that the Order was ultra vires the Act."[9]

Lord Justice Cherry's remarksEdit

Richard Robert Cherry, a future Chief Justice of Ireland, speaking in 1911 was of the opinion that:

It is impossible to exaggerate the good effect (of).... this twin system of Reformatory and Industrial Schools. The latter have been particularly successful in Ireland; and the combination of voluntary effort and private management, with State regulation and partial support—a rather dangerous experiment—has been completely justified by the result.[10]

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, concluded almost one hundred years later, documents widespread serious neglect as well as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children in many of the schools. The Commission only investigated complaints dating back to the 1940s (that is, with direct evidence from living persons), but its findings are at odds with Lord Justice Cherry's earlier assessment of the success of the 'experiment'.

List of industrial schools in Ireland (Republic of Ireland)Edit

The Fisheries School in Baltimore, West Cork was run by a local board of management and directed by the local parish priest. The school was closed in the 1950s and its records allegedly deliberately destroyed.[11]

The following schools were run by religious orders and funded by the public:

  • Artane Industrial school, Dublin
  • Carriglea Park Industrial School, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin.
  • Meath Protestant Industrial School for Boys, originally Elm cliff then Avondale House, Blackrock, Dublin
  • Our Lady of Succour, Newtownforbes
  • Summerhill Industrial School, Dublin, Protestant run school.
  • Stilorgan Industrial School, Protestant run school (closed 1917).
  • St Aidan's Industrial School for Girls, New Ross County Wexford, run by the Good Shepherd Order of nuns.
  • St. Ann's Industrial School for Girls, Killarney, County Kerry
  • St. Anne's Industrial School for Girls, Booterstown, County Dublin
  • St. Anne's Reformatory School for Girls, Kilmacud, County Dublin
  • St. Ann's Industrial School for Girls and Junior Boys, Renmore, Lenaboy, County Galway
  • St. Augustine's Industrial School for Girls, Templemore, County Tipperary
  • St. Bernard's Industrial School for Girls, Fethard, Dundrum, County Tipperary
  • St. Bridgid's Industrial School for Girls, Loughrea, County Galway
  • St. Coleman's Industrial School for Girls, Cobh/Rushbrooke, County Cork
  • St. Columba's Industrial School for Girls, Westport, County Mayo
  • St Columba's Industrial School for Boys, Killybegs, County Donegal
  • St. Conleth's Reformatory School for Boys, Daingean, County Offaly
  • St. Dominick's Industrial School for Girls, Waterford
  • St. Finbarr's Industrial School for Girls, Sundays Well, Marymount, Cork
  • St. Francis Xavier's Industrial School for Girls and Junior Boys, Ballaghadereen, County Roscommon
  • St. Francis' Industrial School for Girls, Cashel, County Tipperary
  • St. George's Industrial School for Girls, Limerick
  • St. John's Industrial School for Girls, Birr, County Offaly
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School, Letterfrack
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School, Whitehall, Dublin
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School, Kilkenny, Ireland
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Boys, Passage West, County Cork
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Boys, Tralee, County Kerry
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls and Junior Boys, Ballinasloe, County Galway
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls and Junior Boys, Clifden, County Galway
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls and Junior Boys, Liosomoine, Killarney, County Kerry
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls, Cavan
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls, Dundalk, County Louth
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls, Kilkenny[12]
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls, Mallow, County Cork
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls, Summerhill, Athlone, County Westmeath
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Girls, Whitehall, Drumcondra, Dublin 9
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Senior Boys, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, County Tipperary
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Senior Boys, Glin, County Limerick
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Senior Boys, Greenmount, Cork
  • St. Joseph's Industrial School for Senior Boys, Salthill, County Galway
  • St. Joseph's Reformatory School for Girls, Limerick
  • St. Kyran's Industrial School for Junior Boys, Rathdrum, County Wicklow
  • St. Laurence's Industrial School for Girls, Sligo
  • St. Laurence's Industrial School, Finglas, Dublin 11
  • St. Martha's Industrial School for Girls, Bundoran, County Donegal
  • St. Mary's Industrial School, Lakelands, Sandymount, Dublin 4
  • St. Michael's Industrial School for Girls, Wexford
  • St. Michael's Industrial School for Junior boys, Cappoquin, County Waterford
  • St. Patrick's Industrial School, Kilkenny
  • St. Patrick's Industrial School, Upton, County Cork
  • St. Vincent's (House of Charity) Industrial School for Junior Boys, Drogheda, County Louth
  • St. Vincent's Industrial School for Girls, Limerick
  • St. Vincent's Industrial School, Goldenbridge, Inchicore, Dublin 8

List of industrial schools in Ireland (Northern Ireland)Edit

Some abuse victims in industrial schools in Northern Ireland are taking a legal case against religious orders.[13] There have also been calls for an inquiry.[14] The Industrial Schools in Northern Ireland were gradually closed and emptied in the 1920s and 1930s, and were effectively gone by 1950.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS (IRELAND). HC Deb". Hansard. UK Parliament (vol 285 cc1022–4). 10 March 1884.
  2. ^ "Detention of children and young people in Ireland". Citizens Information. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  3. ^ "Report into Children's Detention Centre". Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. 5 April 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  4. ^ Lady Louisa Augusta Conolly (1743–1821), by Allan Ramsay, Oxford Dictionary of Biography.
  5. ^ History Conolly Family Turtle Bunbury.
  6. ^ Poor Law Amendment; Reformatory Schools (Ireland) , House of Commons Debate, 20 April 1858 vol 149 c1353 1353 (Hansard)
  7. ^ Reformatory and Industrial Schools – Ireland Archived 26 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Luddy, Maria (1995). Women in Ireland, 1800–1918: a documentary history. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-1-85918-038-9. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  9. ^ a b Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 2009.
  10. ^ Cherry, Richard R (1912). "Juvenile crime and its prevention". Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland. Dublin. XII Part XCI (1910/1911): 435–450. hdl:2262/7921.
  11. ^ "Extent of abuse and neglect at Cork school laid bare".
  12. ^ "St Joseph's industrial school: A potted history".
  13. ^ Clerical abuse: Northern Ireland victims fight back, Deborah McAleese, The Belfast Telegraph, 20 October 2009, retrieved 30 October 2009
  14. ^ Call for child abuse inquiry in NI, RTÉ News, 30 October 2009
  15. ^ Two Paths, One Purpose: Voluntary Action in Ireland, North and South Archived 19 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine A Report to the Royal Irish Academy Third Sector Research Programme, Royal Irish Academy.
  16. ^ Hampton House Industrial School


External linksEdit