Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described the alleged sexual abuse of students in some Spiritan schools as “sickening and shocking”.

Schools run by the religious order, such as Blackrock College and Castleknock College, have been accused of historical abuse by former pupils.

The Taoiseach has said that a formal government inquiry is inevitable, but won’t begin immediately.

“It is sickening and it is shocking what has happened in terms of the scale and the nature of the abuse”, he said.

“The terrible trauma visited on so many people in their early lives when they needed protection and when their parents were putting them into a place of care and protection.”

Victim-led approach

The Taoiseach said that the government is still identifying the most effective way to carry out an inquiry, but assured that it will be a “victim-led process”.

“We’ll spend the next week engaging with victims, to get their perspective on this and the type of approach they would want government to take.”

Minister for Education Norma Foley has been tasked with leading the state’s involvement in addressing the claims about the Spiritan schools.

“We have to take on board the views of victims”, the Taoiseach said.

Coming forward

The Spiritans, formerly known as the Holy Ghost Fathers, have apologised, and hundreds more survivors are expected to come forward.

A press conference earlier this week was told that 38 people posted reports of abuse on a dedicated Facebook page.

Independent experts have now been appointed to engage with victims and survivors.

The man leading the process, Tim Chapman, has said those who have already come forward are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Some of the stories would just break your heart,” he said.

“Just the physicality, to a certain extent, of what happened – they remember it as if it was yesterday. The smell, the touch – all that is still stored in their 12-year-old brain.

“All stories were different…a couple of the ones I met their lives were really just wrecked.”

Main image shows Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Picture by: Julien Behal