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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Physical abuse


The Department official promised the mother that the matter would be investigated, and an official was sent to Daingean. Clearly, the Department was becoming alarmed because of these very similar complaints coming in quick succession. An unusually detailed investigation was carried out, and the full text of the report is given below: Daingean Admitted 1969 – stealing Runaí Cunta As instructed I visited Daingean to investigate Mrs. [Walsh’s]11 complaint about the ill-treatment of her son in Daingean and interviewed Brother [Macario],12 Acting Manager, and John Walsh.13 Brother [Enrico], who was alleged to have beaten the boy was on annual leave and called to this Office ... by arrangement where the investigations were completed. In the interim I visited the boy’s mother ... and also spoke to Father [Salamon],14 S.J. and Mr. [Carlos]15 who had experience of [John] in [a boy’s] Club where he was a member for a number of years. Though [John] had been described by the authorities in Daingean as being a bit of a ‘pup’ his mentors in the [boys’] Club would not agree with this opinion. They did say that he could be difficult at times. Brother [Macario] did not deny that on one occasion ... the boy had got ‘cuffed’ but did not know of any previous assault on the boy by a member of the Staff. Members of the [Walsh] family had arrived in Daingean ... and seeing the condition of [John’s] face had created an incident. When interviewed [John] admitted that he had absconded six times since [he arrived] and after an unsuccessful attempt to escape on ... had been brought back by Brother [Enrico] who counselled him on the futility of his intention and gave him a couple of apples. [John] admitted that he liked Brother [Enrico]. When he called to the Office, Brother [Enrico] described the incident. Having brought [John Walsh] back to St. Conleth’s as described above, Brother [Enrico] was on his way to organise the milking of the 100 cows kept on the farm in Daingean which [Walsh’s] earlier absconding had interrupted. The usual supervisory staff were being helped out by students from the Oblate Noviciate in Athy and word was sent to him that [Walsh] had again absconded and was threatening a young Clerical student who was attempting to restrain him. When Brother [Enrico] arrived on the scene [Walsh] was already half way across the canal which bounds the Reformatory. With assistance, Brother [Enrico] was able to shepherd him out of the canal and once on the bank he gave him a backhander on the face and then seizing a length of plastic hose, which was the nearest thing to his hand he gave [Walsh] three strokes on his wet jeans. He admitted that at that stage his patience with the boy was exhausted. He admitted that the boy’s face had swelled up as a result of the backhander and that because of his jeans being wet he had left weals on [John’s] legs with the plastic hose ... Control of delinquents in Daingean is a difficult task calling for endless patience and understanding but the one unjustifiable feature of the present case, notwithstanding the provocation given by the boy, is that while [John] is fifteen years old and weighs 8 ½ st. Brother [Enrico] is a giant of a man, weighing 17 sts. whose backhander could cause considerable damage in the circumstances. The best way of finishing this case would, I suggest be a talk with the Manager, Father [Luca], O.M.I. on his next call to the Office and if you agree this will be done.


There is a handwritten note on the report to say that the matter will await Fr Luca’s next visit, and this is dated 18th November 1969.


This case again illustrates the Department’s ambivalence to the use of violence in Daingean, even as late as 1969. The fact that the boy did not confirm to the Inspector that he had been beaten should have made the Department concerned and suspicious. The beating the Brother admitted giving the boy was an example of uncontrolled violence on the part of ‘a giant of a man’ on a boy of 15 years. The Inspector, however, identified the disparity in size as ‘the one unjustifiable feature’, and did not address the issue of unregulated and uncontrolled punishment in his report.


The Investigation Committee heard allegations from six witnesses as to the severity and violence of this Brother.


One witness present in the late 1960s described this Brother as ‘... a very big, tall, stocky Brother who worked on the farm’. He described an incident where six pupils were taken from the dormitory and beaten in turn by this Brother with a leather. They were accused of plotting an escape and he was going to make sure it did not happen. He said that this Brother: had some lad there standing and each one of us in turn—he made us lie across the stairs had him stand on our hands and he whipped us with a leather ... I had only a nightshirt and he pulled up our nightshirts over our heads.


Another witness present in the late 1950s and early 1960s stated that he worked on the farm: Br. Enrico was in charge of the farm. He was nicknamed the Bull, he was a big strong man, he was over six foot. He didn’t like being called the Bull ... On one occasion I got a bang of a shovel or a spade, I don’t know which, I was brought to hospital and I got stitched.


The infirmary records for this pupil confirmed the injury complained of: ‘12.7.60 Accident, Cut face, Dentures smashed’.


The witness recalled that the incident centred round him calling the Brother by his nickname and stated, ‘In fairness to the man I don’t think he didn’t mean to hurt me as seriously as he did’. He said he lost three or four teeth in the incident and, contrary to the medical record, did not have dentures at the time. He stated that his teeth were not repaired in Daingean. He got the dentures at a later date when he left Daingean and joined the British Army.


Another witness present in the 1960s said Br Enrico was in charge of the farm and was a ‘Big tall man about 21/22 stone he was. He was over six foot, a big giant of a man’.


He recalled the second winter he spent in Daingean as being very cold, and the boys were told to go out and pick potatoes in November. He refused, and Br Enrico ‘went ballistic’. He described how this Brother kicked him around the yard. He was asked about the severity of the beating and he summed it up simply as ‘A grown man beating a young child, that’s what it was’.


Another witness present in the late 1950s recalled Br Enrico working on the farm, and remembered an incident where he witnessed another pupil being boxed on the side of his head by this Brother. There was blood coming out his ear and he remembered the boy being brought in and cleaned up afterwards.


A further witness present in the late 1950s said that he worked at the ‘horse batch’, ie he was assigned to look after the horses with three others. He said that Br Enrico and another Brother would hold them over the ‘shaft of the ponies’, and Br Enrico would hit them across the back with a rope while the other Brother used his fists.


Another witness present in the early 1960s recalled an incident when a farmer hit him, and the farmer complained to Br Enrico that he had given him cheek. Br Enrico used a hosepipe to beat him. He described Br Enrico as ‘... a big man, He was big, he was six foot odd and weighed about 28 stone. He was about in his 40’s ...’.


He also remembered an incident when he was accused of leaving a gate open, and a dog got in and killed some sheep. Br Enrico called him into the dairy and hit him with a box that broke his nose and the blood went everywhere.


Some of these complaints arose during Fr Luca’s period as Resident Manager, and clearly the giving of beatings was not confined to the Prefect, as stated by him. Br Enrico administered severe ad hoc punishments, as well as the more ritualistic floggings, although he was not the Prefect but the farm Brother. Br Enrico was brutal and unpredictable. Fr Luca’s comments that ‘On the corporal punishment, I don’t think it was excessive’ was contradicted by the facts. Corporal punishment: tradition and practice rather than regulation

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is the Irish version of Richard Crowe.
  17. This is the English version of Mr MacConchradha.
  18. Allegations of brutal beatings in Court Lees Approved School were made in a letter to The Guardian, and this led to an investigation which reported in 1967 (see Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School (Cmnd 3367, HMSO)) – Known as ‘The Gibbens Report’, it found many of the allegations proven, and in particular that canings of excessive severity did take place on certain occasions, breaking the regulation that caning on the buttocks should be through normal clothing. Some boys had been caned wearing pyjamas. Following this finding, the School was summarily closed down.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is the English version of Ó Síochfhradha.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This was Br Abran.
  27. Organisation that offers therapy to priests and other religious who have developed sexual or drink problems run by The Servants of the Paraclete.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. Board of Works.
  36. Bread and butter.
  37. Board of Works.
  38. Patrick Clancy, ‘Education Policy’, in Suzanne Quinn, Patricia Kennedy, Anne Matthews, Gabriel Kiely (eds), Contemporary Irish Social Policy (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005), p 79.
  39. This is a pseudonym.