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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Provincial Archivist, Fr Michael Hughes in his evidence to the Investigation Committee at Phase I stated: The place where we parted company with the State in Scoil Ard Mhuire was that ultimately they would not—they were not prepared to sanction a sufficient number of staff members to cover all the responsibilities and we felt at that stage that we should withdraw.


The Department of Education appointed a Board of Management to run the School from that date onwards.


The Oblates, in their General Statement given to the Investigation Committee, asserted that they had high ideals. They ‘brought a vision of their own’ to the work, ‘arising from their long experience in this work and their nature as a religious order. The work was accepted as a mission: the Christian welfare of the boys, their rehabilitation in so far as they were wayward, and their preparation to earn their livelihood so far as possible. They developed a tradition going back to 1857’.


The Oblate General Statement described the characteristics of this tradition as it was put into practice in Daingean: A substantial staff, mostly religious brothers and priests, but lay staff too A well-established administrative structure A remedial education programme Vocational training in various trades and occupations A routine of instruction and work The assignment of the boys to a Brother in a school/training group whose task it was to integrate the newcomer into the life of the School The separation of juniors from seniors A sacramental religious framework An insistence on discipline Encouragement of sporting activities, and other leisure activities such as drama and music Many external contacts Help in finding a job An aftercare programme. The re-establishment of Daingean


The conditions that led to the re-establishment of Daingean was not a decision that was taken without considerable debate, since the move involved taking some 200 boys under Garda escort to a new residence nearly 60 miles away, and much further from the boys’ own homes.


Glencree was in a state of disrepair from the beginning. An internal memorandum written by Mr Derrig,1 the Minister for Education, dated 10th July 1939 began: I visited this place recently and was very disappointed to find it in such a bad state of repair. I have come to the conclusion that it is very doubtful whether, even with large expenditure, the present buildings can be brought up to a satisfactory standard.


Within the same memorandum he suggested that substantial reforms needed to be made in the area of teacher training, provision of practical training and the setting up of a visiting committee.


A subsequent memorandum elaborated on this theme. Mr Derrig asserted: the basis of the present system is defective and possibly will continue so, so long as maintenance and improvements as well as payments to staff have to be made out of the capitation payment. ... My personal view is that if we are going to make a change from Glencree we shall have to face up to the question of providing a new institution properly equipped, and we may also have to provide special aid for staffing.


At this time the thinking within the Department of Education was for drastic change, with the need for such measures an urgent priority. The Minister for Education, Mr Derrig, had paid a visit to Glencree and had ‘formed the opinion that it would be difficult to make the buildings suitable for their purpose’. Moreover, the memorandum added, ‘The management did not impress the Minister as being efficient or satisfactory’.


The Department had gone so far as to consult the Presentation Brothers about the matter, but the urgent need for economy forced the Department to ‘defer consideration of the proposal to change the Reformatory to new accommodation and management, and to try to get the premises at Glencree improved as much as possible’.


The outbreak of war in 1939 meant all plans had to be suspended. The Resident Manager of Glencree wrote to the Department, acknowledging the appalling conditions there and the debts owed by the School to the parishes and to the Oblate Congregation totalling over £3,200.


These appalling conditions were confirmed by an inspection carried out for the Department, which made it quite clear that remaining at Glencree was not an option, and that it would be more economical in the long run to provide suitable accommodation elsewhere: roofs, staircases and floors required replacing; the roofs of the workshops leaked and one section of the first floor was too dangerous to be in use; walls were falling outwards and would have to be rebuilt; the bake house was ‘dark, dirty, and thoroughly unhygienic’; washbasins had only cold water supplied ‘from a small hole in the water pipe placed above the basins’; the only plunge bath was an old iron one in the corner of the building; the whole ‘ablution system’ was obsolete, unhygienic and a danger to health; and the lavatory accommodation was described as ‘appalling’.


With the necessity of finding a replacement for Glencree, various options were investigated and, finally, a meeting was held on 17th November 1939, attended by the Taoiseach, Eamon De Valera (who was also the Minister for Education), the Provincial of the Oblates, the Manager of Glencree and the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education. Fr Giancarlo,2 the Resident Manager of Glencree, put a temporary solution forward that was to become a permanent one, which was that accommodation might be found at Daingean, if other provision could be made for the students there at present. Daingean was held by the Oblates on a 99-year lease from the Government. The surrounding farm was owned outright by the Congregation. Fr Giancarlo explained that the buildings at Daingean had been considerably improved and the former dormitory accommodation remained. Since the premises at present housed about 170 students and staff, he thought that should be sufficient for the Reformatory for a time.


The question of accommodating the Reformatory permanently at Daingean was considered and a number of difficulties were discussed, such as the distance from Dublin and the complications that arose because additional buildings would need to be erected by the Government on land that it did not own.


As regards the objection of the distance from Dublin and the difficulty for parents visiting the boys, Fr Giancarlo contended that this would have the advantage of preventing undesirable visits (from boys’ former companions) which took place at present at Glencree. He also asserted that parents would not mind travelling by bus to Daingean occasionally, and suggested that a system of permits might be arranged which would possibly entitle them to reduced bus fares. There is no evidence that such a system was ever established.

  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.
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  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.