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Woman's Unlawful Detention Claim Ruled Out

Irish Times, July 13, 2007

A woman who claims she was unlawfully detained for 20 years at an industrial school where she was sent at the age of two after coming before the Dublin courts for begging cannot sue the State and others for damages, the High Court has ruled.

In 1946, when she was two years and seven months old, Dolores Faulkner, from Longford town, was brought before the courts in Dublin for begging. She was sent to St Joseph's industrial school in Clifden, Co Galway, and was there from 1946 to 1965.

Arising from her alleged unlawful detention at the school, where she claimed she was emotionally and physically abused, Ms Faulkner initiated an action for damages against the ministers for health, education and justice, Ireland, the Attorney General, the Mercy Order and Archbishop Michael Neary as representative of the Archdiocese of Tuam.

The High Court yesterday granted an application by the defendants for an order halting Ms Faulkner's claim. They had claimed they had been prejudiced by the delay in bringing the action and that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to allow the action to proceed.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan noted Ms Faulkner had initiated proceedings in 1999 and was ready to proceed 61 years after the start of the alleged wrongful acts and 42 years from the date when they stopped.

Mr Justice Gilligan said it was clear that there was now no witness available to give evidence on the defendants' behalf because they were all either dead or so aged and infirm as not be in a position to give meaningful evidence.

For a court to be asked to determine issues which arose between 1946 and 1964 in the absence of any of the people involved on the defendants' behalf would, in his view, result in a basic unfairness of procedures and give rise to a real risk of an unfair trial.

In those circumstances, there was a clear and patent unfairness in asking the defendants to defend the action. The prejudice suffered by the defendants was substantial. On those grounds, he dismissed the claim.

Ms Faulkner claimed that a court had ordered that she was to be detained at St Joseph's until she turned 16 in 1960, but that she was kept unconstitutionally at that school until she was 21. She was then sent to a nursing school in England by the Mercy nuns, she claimed.

Industrial School Abuse Alleged

The Irish Times, News In Short,

The State, the Mercy Order and the Archbishop of Tuam have asked the High Court to dismiss an action for damages by a woman who claims she was physically abused at an industrial school where she was sent after coming before the Dublin courts for begging when she was aged just 2½.

Dolores Faulkner claims she was subject to physical and emotional abuse and was unconstitutionally detained at St Joseph's industrial school in the west for almost 20 years. Ms Faulkner has brought an action for damages arising from her alleged treatment.


Life Destroyed by Abuse, Court Told

Irish Times, February 02, 2006 by Mary Carolan

A woman who was convicted of begging at the age of two in Dublin city and ordered to be detained at an industrial school until the age of 16 was in fact unlawfully detained there until she was 21 and had her life "to all intents and purposes destroyed" by abuse, the High Court was told yesterday.

At the age of 61, Dolores Faulkner, Longford town, is still affected by trauma and upset as a result of the degrading and offensive conduct and the "physical, sexual and emotional harm" deliberately and constantly inflicted on her, Edward Walshe SC, said.

This was a woman who, in 1946, when aged two years, appeared before a court for begging, was convicted of "receiving alms" and sent to St Joseph's Industrial School, Clifden, Co Galway on foot of a court order to be detained there until she was 16.

In fact, she was kept unconstitutionally at that school until she was 21 in 1965 and was then sent to a nursing school in England by the Mercy nuns and remained under their dominion, he said.

This case had very important aspects, counsel said. The law did not allow a criminal conviction to be recorded against a two-year-old child at a time when she was in the control of an adult who was not her parent. His client had been harshly and cruelly treated by the State.

Ms Faulkner's action for damages for alleged abuse was due to open yesterday but Mr Walshe applied to adjourn it in order to give further details of incidents of alleged abuse. Counsel accepted this was a late application for adjournment but he said it arose in circumstances of "repressed memory" issues and he wished to give further particulars to indicate further instances of sex abuse, relating to a particular person, during the course of his client's "enforced custody".

Stating there could seldom be a case of "such crucial importance" for any litigant, Mr Walshe also strongly objected to applications for costs of his adjournment application made yesterday on behalf of the State, the Mercy order and Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, who is being sued in a representative capacity.

Mr Walshe said the State had "taken over" the conduct of the case from the Mercy order. There was public concern over these matters, a commission was looking into them and the fairest thing to do was adjourn the costs issue until the issues were clear to the court, he said. A costs order now would create hardships for his client, a woman who had had nothing but problems in her life.

He said his side's difficulty had arisen relating to "repressed or buried" memories which would have a fundamental impact on the mode and manner of the running of the case.

He needed time to take detailed instructions from his client, who had received counselling over a significant period.

In seeking his costs, Paul O'Higgins SC, for the State and Mercy order, said the action could have gone before the Residential Institutions Redress Board. It seemed to him that Ms Faulkner was not just seeking to particularise her claim but to introduce a novel matter which would require an amended defence.

His clients had had no notice of this in the past seven years, the proceedings having been initiated in 1999.

Paul Gardiner SC, for Archbishop Neary, also sought his costs and said he had come to court to defend an action listed to open yesterday and to run for five days.

It was no fault of the defence that the case could not proceed and costs should follow the event.

After considering the submissions, Mr Justice Daniel Herbert said he would adjourn this "sad and complex" case in order to permit Mr Walshe to apply to make whatever changes to the proceedings he considered appropriate.

Noting he had discretion relating to costs issues, the judge said he would adjourn to a later date the issue of who would pay the costs of yesterday's proceedings at which point more information would be available regarding the proposed changes.