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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Sexual abuse


In conclusion, Fr Salvador emphasised the difficult work that they were doing in Daingean and the encouragement they gave to the boys to reform.


The Resident Manager knew that Michael Brady had been punished for going to Mr O’Reilly’s on a previous occasion but it appears that the Gardaí were not informed about that; otherwise, Mr O’Reilly’s house would have been searched. The Resident Manager actually gave the Gardaí an entirely different impression by telling the Sergeant that he was unaware of the boys’ habit of visiting the house. The Resident Manager undermined the possibility of prosecution of Mr O’Reilly by denigrating the boy in this case, in the full knowledge that the most serious allegations had been made by five other boys against this man. The circumstances in which a group of boys could visit this man’s house on numerous occasions over a period of five months, in the words of the contemporary comment of the investigating Garda, ‘displayed an attitude of indifference to the moral welfare’ of the boys in care. The Resident Manager’s readiness to dismiss complaints of serious misconduct in respect of boys in his care, which were under investigation by the Gardaí, indicated an irrational scepticism that cannot be ignored when considering how other reports of abuse might have been received. Notwithstanding the gravity of this episode involving: a criminal investigation in which boys and staff up to the Resident Manager were interviewed; a subsequent trial on indictment with a conviction on escape-related charges; and embarrassing and potentially damaging queries from the Department, no records of this appeared in the files of the Institution or the Congregation, and no information existed as to what was done for the other boys who were involved and who were still detained in the Reformatory.


Complainants testified about serious sexual assaults by other boys. One witness, who was in Daingean during the 1960s, described how he was singled out for a sexual approach on the very first evening. He explained: In Daingean from day one I was abused ... I think the first evening I was there was the first sexual contact that I had.


He described what went on in the hall when films were being shown: It looked like it was random but it wasn’t ... You would see a group of boys coming into a room ... you would think that everybody was sitting down randomly but there was a set pattern because boys would sit next to boys who they wanted to be with and things went on when the lights went out ... There was a boy sat next to me ... I don’t know whether he put his hand on me or whether he took my hand ... masturbation occurred.


He said that this occurred ‘all the time’. Some of the boys, according to this complainant, had a well-rehearsed routine during the showing of films. They calculated where to sit, and whom to target, and, once the lights were out, sexual contact was initiated. He described how he was raped by the leader of an established gang within Daingean who picked on him: There was a wall and a railing which divided the playground, I can’t remember what we used to call it. When I was in the small sections this guy ... He was an aggressive guy with a horrible sort of personality. He had a group of guys and he was the sort of leader of these group of guys ... On a weekly basis whenever the opportunity would – I would be dragged off into a pig shed, hay shed, wherever, and buggered ... he was leader of a group of guys, they could make your life hell ... You are living with these people, you can’t get away from them, you are there.


While the other boy was his age and size, the power he had from his gang status allowed him to do what he liked.


A complainant who was in Daingean 20 years earlier, in the 1940s, described a similar experience. It happened only once, but three boys buggered him in a sudden attack: I would be coming up to the 16 ... You are all down in this big yard and it’s divided by a wall but you could go through. At that time if you wanted to go to the toilet you went up to the man in the top, “Permission to go to the toilet” ... It was between 6:30 and maybe 8:30 ... In the evening ... there was a toilet that you went to out off this square. I asked to go there. Maybe the man in charge, whoever it was, there used to be about four of them in charge at different times, he might have forgotten that I had gone up there and when the other three big fellows went up, they was just allowed up ... They followed me ... They pulled me to the ground and stripped me. The strange part about it, axle grease was used.


He said that he was raped by these three boys. He said that he was in pain and that he ‘felt helpless’. He added: If you went and told anybody anything like that you would be in trouble from several different quarters. You would be in trouble and you would be punished and you would be in trouble on account of getting other fellows punished as well ... I never went up to that toilet ever again after that.


In the late 1960s, another complainant described being in an animal shed with two other boys, one of whom was ‘the biggest bully down there’. The incident began when this boy held a pitchfork up to the complainant’s neck: He said to me, “I want to ride you” ... The other fella was with him was his sidekick ... He was pulling at my trousers and he said, “I want a gobble”. I didn’t even know what it meant ... I said, “Leave me”. The bullying was heavy and I was afraid of that pitchfork ... Eventually they let me alone for a few minutes and I burst through them ... I got over the gateway and I ran off.


When he was brought back to the School, he told Br Enrico why he had run away, and Br Enrico comforted him and believed him. This witness described seeing this boy abusing a younger boy: ‘He pulled him out of the small section in the middle of the day and brought him down to the toilets ... That’s what they were known for, sexually abusing anybody they could’.


The predatory behaviour of the bigger boys towards the smaller boys was a constant theme. A complainant from the 1940s said: In the evenings, especially in the dusty evenings – the way the yard was built, there was one entrance into it, the bigger fellows went up to one end and we remained at the entrance, the end that we went into. There was a wall ... The big fellows were on the far side. There used to be things happening that were new and strange to me. You see, there would be bigger fellows saying to you that they wanted to be all one with you. That was the expression.


The kinds of sexually abusive behaviour described to the Committee by complainant witnesses also emerged from the documentation. During a Garda investigation into the riots of 2nd May 1956, which has been dealt with earlier in this chapter, a resident of Daingean made a complaint to the Gardaí about two boys who had subjected him to sexually abusive acts. In the presence of the Prefect of the School, Br Jaime, he made the following statement: I remember one day in the month of March last. [two boys] asked me to put my hand on [one of the boy’s] private part and feel it. I refused them, and ran away, but they followed me and caught me, and brought me back to the wall in the yard. [One of them] forced my hand on to [the other’s] private part, and told me to feel it. I did it because I was afraid of them. [He] was helping [the other] to force my hand onto [his] private part. I felt [his] private part, and I kept it there for a few seconds. I took my hand out then. [the other boy] hit me on the arm because I refused to put my hand on his ... private part. I saw the front of [his] trousers opened, and when I had my hand on his private part. I saw he got a thrill from it. I saw fluid coming from [his] private part. I often saw [another boy] and [these two boys] feel each others private part in turn.


As a result of the above statement, additional charges were brought against the two boys, who were found guilty of gross indecency and sentenced to two years in Borstal.


As stated above, if boys were discovered by the staff to be indulging in ‘immoral conduct’, it was normally dealt with by the strap being administered by the Prefect, but in the absence of a punishment book, it is impossible to say how often this occurred. Had it not been for the riot, the incident described above would not have come to the notice of the Gardaí.


The kind of relationships that formed between older and younger boys was a characteristic of Daingean. The behaviour was so institutionalised that a vocabulary evolved that seemed to be current only among the boys in Daingean.

  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.