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One of the most gripping scenes ever on Irish TV played out this week as a former inmate of an Irish industrial school confronted a Government minister on live TV.

Former Clonmel mayor Michael O'Brien was shaking with emotion as he called on Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to apologize for the Government's earlier response to the persistent claims of child abuse at the Church-run industrial schools.

O'Brien had been a resident of St Joseph's Industrial School in Clonmel during the 1940s and said he was sexually and physically abused there.

"You don’t know what happened there," he said as a horrified audience - and nation - watched. "You haven’t the foggiest, you’re talking through your hat there...Ye didn’t do it right, ye got it wrong.

"Admit it," he said, "And apologize for doing that. Because you don’t know what I feel inside me."

"You said it was non-adversarial," he said (referring to the earlier commission in 2004.

"My God. Seven barristers.Throwing questions at us. Non-stop."

He then told the hushed audience that his wife had saved him from committing suicide after five days at the commission.

"They brought a man over from Rome, ninety odd years of age, to tell me I was telling lies.

"That I wasn’t beaten for an hour, non-stop by two of them. By two of them.

"Non-stop from head to toe without a shred of cloth on my body.

"My God minister."