Violence against children might be harmful.
CORPORAL punishment used at one of the most notorious industrial schools "did not cause harm to anyone", it is claimed.
The Sisters of Mercy, who ran St Vincent's Industrial School at Goldenbridge, said the punishment was not excessive. The Dublin school has been seen as one of the most notorious industrial institutions, with ex-residents claiming frequent physical abuse.
At the ongoing hearings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) yesterday, the Sisters of Mercy also denied corporal punishment used at Our Lady of Succour Industrial School in Newtownforbes, Longford, was excessive.
Yesterday's proceedings were interrupted a number of times by former residents, who questioned claims made by representatives of the religious bodies.
Answering questions on Goldenbridge, Sr Helena O'Donoghue, provincial leader of the south-central province of the Sisters of Mercy, said the Order was well aware of the pain which ex-residents carried.
She said "the reality was a cause of great distress" for the Sisters. The Sisters there during the years the school was run were also deeply distressed, she said.
The Order acknowledged the industrial schools were not the best form of appropriate care, but they "do not accept that they were excessively harsh", she said.
Referring later to corporal punishment, she said it was accepted that it was used but "was not excessive or caused harm to anyone".
Goldenbridge was "unfriendly, to put it at its mildest, to children who were hurt already", Sr O'Donoghue admitted."
"David McGrath SC, for some of the victims, asked whether there was a big clean-up before inspections. Sr Casey said she was not there at the time. She said it was regretted that girls over the age of eight were slapped for bed-wetting."
There was a documentry about this years ago and the case rumbles ever onwards. But it make me laugh when the sister says corporal punishment never harmed anyone.
I grew up in a very small village and attended a very small school where the head master was an out and out bully. I can remember vividly being slapped by him and swung around a room hard enough to leave bruises on my arm, my closest friend remembers being struck by him on the face for some minor infraction. It had to be minor becasue we were four and five when he carried out these little 'harmless' punishments.
Any yet if they were so harmless why do we remember them? Why do we hate him with a passion to this day? And we were lucky, at the end of the day we could return to the loving arms of your families. Imagine living in an institute where there is no love and little affection, where beatings were commonplace and girls over eight were regulalr bed wetters and now, so many years later are still traumatised.
The sisters are playing the 'times were different card'. I accept that they were ill equiped to deal with young children and teenagers, but it does not take a rocket scientist to know that beating a young girl because she had wet her bed, or cannot read or write, or who becomes so nervous when you speak to her that she stammers uncontrollably, is wrong.
I have long thought that beating children was stupid, pointless, cruel and a loss of control on behalf of the adult. You would not beat an adult to reason with them, you would not humilate an adult in public because they don't want to do something. You would not strike an adult for spilling a drink in MacDonalds-something I saw one day and it sickened me. A mother hit her little girl as hard as she could across the back of the head for knocking her drink over.
My mother hit us regularly as kids, and not gentle cuffs either. We did not respect her for it, nor have any of us forgotten it. She has mellowed with age, but still.
Corporal punishment is a 'one size fits all' term that covers the odd clip round the ear to some of the most horrific abuse in Ireland's history. Sr Casey well may trot out the line that the women were not deeply affected by their treatment at the hands of the sisters until she is blue in the face. But she is wrong, and I would imagine deep in her heart -if she has one- she knows it.