I was battered by nuns and raped by priests in same room as my disabled brother, 6, at sickening ‘orphan’ schools – The Sun

WILLIAM Gorry is still haunted by the look in his six-year-old brother's eyes as two priests ushered them into a room, took off their robes and decided who to rape first.

The helpless lad and his severely-disabled sibling had been left alone with the sickening pair for the entire weekend, in the most horrific chapter of his decade at one of Ireland's infamous industrial schools.

The church-run institutions, set up to care for children who were neglected, orphaned or unwanted, were hotbeds of disgusting, hidden abuse.

Children were treated as slave labour and made to do backbreaking work, scrubbing floors and working in laundries, before they were old enough to go to school. Beatings were a daily occurrence.

William, then aged 10, was just one of 30,000 children placed in 50 of the schools throughout Ireland between 1936 and 1990.

A recent redress fund, set up by the government to provide financial help for the victims, received 16,500 applications, but William is now fighting to scrap the gagging orders required to receive any money.

Flashbacks of pain

“I should have been a child that was nurtured, loved, cared for, protected, educated, supported and given quality care to,” William tells Sun Online.

“Instead I was a child who was physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused.”

For William, now 54, the trauma of the abuse haunts him in every waking moment.

“Anything can trigger flashbacks because there are so many bad memories,” he says.

“I carry and wear it every day and I believe many others do the same thing.”

Bashed against wall by nun

William, one of 13 children born to Catherine and John Gorry in Ballyowen, Co. Offaly, was born partially sighted and two of his brothers were severely disabled.

It was a poor but loving home, but in 1975, William’s world was turned upside down when Catherine buckled under the strain and left.

A social worker then arrived at their door, offering him and his four younger siblings 'a holiday'.

Four days later, they were taken to the industrial school at Mount Carmel in Moate, Co. Westmeath, run by the Catholic nuns of the Sisters of Mercy.

“The tears, the upset of my brothers and sisters, the thought of my father been upset and being lonely was all too much for me,” he recalls.

At the residential home, he was given two sets of clothes, a number – 217 – and sent to his dormitory.

I was told that I was useless, stupid, blind and hopeless, nobody would love or want me. I was constantly humiliated

Every morning he had to wash and dress his little brother Thomas, who had brittle bone disease and was unable to walk.

He would feed him at breakfast, dinner and lunch then undress him and bath him before putting him to bed.

In between he was assigned backbreaking cleaning jobs, working up to 12 hours a day, and was physical and emotional abused.

“There was an horrific regime of abuse by the head nun,” he says.

“I was sent to clean her office and if she decided I didn't clean it properly she would start banging my head against the wall.

“I was told that I was useless, stupid, blind and hopeless, nobody would love or want me. I was constantly humiliated.”

Stripped, fondled then raped with brother

Seven months into his stay, in December, William was invited to a staff member’s room, to help him put up Christmas decorations.

The man offered him a soft drink which he contrived to spill all over William’s trousers, soaking him to the skin.

“He told me to take my clothes off and he would wash me down and then he started fondling me, before masturbating me,” says William.

“Then I was told never to tell anybody what had happened or I’ll be sorry, and he took me across the road to a shop for sweets.”

The sexual assault was to be the first of many suffered by William at the hands of his supposed care-givers.

Shortly afterwards, another trainee staff member took him round to the back of the convent, behind the bicycle shed, pulled his trousers down and raped him.

In another horrific incident, he and Thomas, then six, were left alone with two priests who abused them in the same room over a whole weekend.

“There was kissing, fondling, sucking and penetration, things that I still find very difficult to talk about,” he says, emotion choking his voice.

“We could see each other’s suffering and pain, while they took turns to abuse both of us a few times over the weekend.”


Heartbreak over mystery 'death'

In May 1983, 12-year-old Thomas was taken to Lourdes, by the local charity the Order of Malta, who frequently arranged trips for disabled children.

“I was asked to go but I refused,” says William. “Something was telling me that something bad was going to happen.”

A few days later, William was told his brother had died – although he is now convinced this was untrue.

He was told that the remains would be brought back to Moate for mass and the following day to his hometown of Daingean, Co. Offaly.

“We went to the airport and we weren't allowed to see the coffin or go near it, so I had my suspicions all along. This caused a huge strain on me.”

I have cried so much wondering what happened to my loving brother. Was Thomas given away or sold?

Two years ago, he began searching for the death certificate and found there were no records of Thomas’s death at the funeral home, airline of the French registry.

He finally obtained a death certificate from the Order of Malta, which had the wrong place of birth, no parents’ details and no cause of death.

A police officer later told him he believed it was faked.

“It is now 37 years and it has been eating me up the whole time.

“I have cried so much wondering what happened to my loving brother. Was Thomas given away or sold?”

Forced to sign gagging order

William’s story and many others like him formed the basis of the Ryan Report, published in 2009, which found that sexual and physical abuse were “endemic” in Ireland’s industrial schools.

Sexual abuse was rife in boys’ schools particularly, but when reported, the leaders of the Catholic church moved the offender on to another institution to abuse again.

Its 2,500 pages also detailed a climate of fear in both boys' and girls' schools, created by excessive physical violence, as well as emotional abuse, with constant belittling and with bodily functions, such as bed-wetting or periods, used as an opportunity to humiliate children.

Children were also left hungry and cold, with poor hygiene facilities.

The gagging order is such an appalling and cruel abuse to all of us survivors who went through the Redress Board

The Residential Institutions Redress Board, set up in 2002, received 16,500 applications for financial compensation – 15,500 of which were successful – and paid out an average of €62,000 (£55,000) in sums ranging from £10,000 to £300,000.

But the hearings were criticised as being harsh on the victims and William, now 54, is angry that the survivors were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement in return for the money they were offered.

"The gagging order is such an appalling and cruel abuse to all of us survivors who went through the Redress Board," he says.

"I call on the Irish State and government to remove the gagging orders and give us survivors the right to speak out for the sake of our mental health."

Stripped naked and leathered

Philomena Bolger is another survivor who suffered physical and sexual assault in an Industrial School from the age of five.

Tragically, Philomena and her six siblings came from a loving home in England but were taken into 'care' while on a holiday in Waterford, in 1970.

Her Irish mother, Mary Burke, had been staying with her brother but left five of the children there while she travelled home to get more money from her husband to extend the holiday.

In her absence, Philomena says, the parish priests took the children into the industrial schools, with the girls entering the Good Shepherd in Waterford.

“When Mum came back from England she couldn't get us back,” she says. “She was told to go away, that we were wards of court, even though that wasn’t true.

We were beaten with big sticks – the bigger the better

“Then they took the other two from her as well. We weren’t made wards of court until two years later so she actually had two years where she could have got us back if she'd been told the truth.

“She stayed in Ireland and had a nervous breakdown over the stress of trying to get us back.”

Philomena says the abuse started straight away, with constant beatings, almost daily, “for something and for nothing.”

“We were beaten with big sticks – the bigger the better,” she says.

“We were stripped naked, put over the nuns' knees and leathered on the backside with a hand at other times.”

Abused by priest sent to 'bless' them

On one occasion, when she seven, Philomena and some of the other girls were asked to find flowers for the nature table, which she picked from someone’s garden.

“The nuns from the Good Shepherd were called,” she says. “We were sent upstairs. The nuns told us to strip off and stand beside the the bed and they left us just standing there for ages, waiting for our punishment.

“Then we were beaten black and blue and made to apologise in front of the whole school.”

At night, they were abused by visiting priests who came to the girls’ dorm.

“We were told, ‘The priest will be up to bless you now.’

“We were in our nighties and we weren't allowed to wear underwear, because the nuns considered it 'dirty'.

“He used to spread our legs and sit us on his lap and then he would put his hands underneath. He did that to each of us in turn.”

Baby snatched away

After being forced to leave the school at 16, Philomena fell pregnant and went into one of Ireland’s notorious mother and baby homes, where her baby girl was taken away and given up for adoption against her will.

She was sent news of baby Sonia for two years, before she was told she could have no more contact.

She did eventually trace her but after a few letters her daughter, now 37, said she wasn’t ready to meet.

Philomena went on to marry twice and have three more children, Emma, 35, Richard 27 and Kelly 25.

Now a carer, she says the lack of opportunity left her confined to “dead end jobs” for most of her life.

“I managed to buy my own house and pay the mortgage off. My kids have grown up and I have a great relationship with them.”

Philomena’s mother, who died at 74, kept in touch with all her children throughout their times at the schools and enjoyed a good relationship with them as adults.

“We were innocent children taken from our mother for no reason,” says Philomena.

"They only did it to make loads of money and to put you to work, to shame you and make you feel like nothing.”

Legacy of suicide and self-harm

Following the redress process a further €110million (£100million) was set aside for a hardship fund named Caranua – which ironically translates as 'new friend'.

Many of the initial applications were turned down and, in response, William set up the Residential Institution Survivor Network (RISN), which has now helped over 200 people with appeals.

Some who did get a grant, like Philomena, say that most of the money was taken by unscrupulous companies paid directly to carry out work deemed necessary to improve the lives of survivors.

In her case, she claims, a company charged £15,000 for work on her home which included £6,000 for a stove which actually cost £475.

Survivor campaigner Mark Vincent Healy says the lifelong effects of the childhood abuse needs to be addressed.

"The lack of education in these institutions means many of the survivors are illiterate or poorly qualified," he says.

"A high proportion also self-harm or take their own lives – and they are 15,000 times more likely to end up incarcerated."

For William, and thousands of others, the nightmare goes on.

"I am not the human I should be, a human that should have had what I deserved as a child – my family, love, happiness, education, a job, being able to live with my partner and marry.

Not a life of such abuse, torture, pain and hell."

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