A spokesman for the Oblate Order has said some form of sexual abuse of boys is likely to have taken place at Daingean Reformatory in Co Offaly.
Fr Michael Hughes was speaking before the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
Fr Hughes also said that the only surviving manager of the institution has said he accepts that he failed by not supervising more strongly the physical punishment staff meted out to inmates.
The Oblate Order told the abuse commission that its priority in running Daingean was always the welfare of the 150 or so boys up to the age of 18 entrusted by the courts to its care.
But today Fr Hughes, who is the order’s archivist, admitted to a number of management failures.
He said support was lacking from the wider order and from the State, adding that money and staffing levels were inadequate and that it would require 400 staff to run a centre of its size today.
Instead, Daingean's 20 or so priests and brothers worked for seven days a week, only getting a day off when they turned 70.
Senior Counsel Tim O'Leary for the former inmates reminded him of private evidence given to Justice Sean Ryan's investigation team by former residents referring to the so-called Gobbler's Cup, designed by the boys to mark out an inmate who they believed was being sexually abused because nobody wanted to drink from his cup.
Fr Hughes accepted counsel's view that it was unlikely that someone had made up this searing and resonant testimony and that therefore it was likely that some form of sexual abuse was happening in Daingean.
But its members had done their best with the meagre resources available to them, according to a statement issued afterwards.