Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Fr Hughes gave evidence about staff ratios operating in Daingean: I give you two examples there, we have a staff list of 1944 which shows the presence of a population, a school population, of 236. They were 24 Oblates in the school ... That would indicate there was a staff ratio of one member of staff to 10 inmates.


He also stated: Similarly in 1968, the population, the school population, of 104 shows the presence of 18 Oblates ...


However, as noted above, during this period Fr Luca wrote that ‘there are only nine active members of staff’. The problem clearly was worse than the records indicate.


One witness stated: There was probably not enough individuals to look after the amount of boys that were there, which is why so much went on there.


Another witness, when asked about supervision in the small section at night, replied: You asked me about the supervision over boys by priests, there was no supervision over them as far as I could see ... looking at it now – there was some young men down there, some young priests in it that could handle the situations that were down there probably, but then there was a lot of older men down there, they really didn’t do any work; I am talking about supervising.


In their Opening Statement, the Oblates stated that staff members were over-extended in their responsibilities. During the last decade of the School’s existence, the Brothers were clearly getting older and suffering ill-health more often. This was a result of the Oblate policy of appointing members of their Community to the School for long, indefinite periods. In fact, some Oblate Brothers served periods of up to 50 years in the School. Fr Luca in his evidence agreed with counsel for the Investigation Committee that the Brothers would more or less stay in Daingean for their entire working lives. Some of the Brothers even remained in the School after retirement rather than leave. These Brothers played no contributory role in the caring of the boys.


Fr Luca, throughout his period as Resident Manager of Daingean, had serious concerns about his staff and the pressure they were placed under while working at this School. In his evidence and in contemporary documentation this was evident. His concerns about lack of staff numbers and the effect this was having can be seen in a letter he wrote in 1966. In it he protested: At present there are only nine active members of the Staff who are expected to cater at all times from seven in the morning to half-past ten at night, come what may, seven days a week ... Br X is not named as he is full time on the farm. The average age of these men is over 40, and obviously increasing. The staff as a whole feels that under the present circumstances they are unable to continue much longer with the present system. The strain is regarded as far too severe, and unless something tangible is done in the immediate future, they feel that they will be fit subjects for special institution themselves. That the strain is evident is obvious by the fact that six brothers in five years are sent from here with nervous breakdowns. This in itself should be a raw reminder of the seriousness of the situation of the already seriously understaffed school ... At present the Staff feel that they are being treated very unfairly.


Fr Luca’s letter of concern for the stress placed on the staff of Daingean is illuminating. At no time was similar concern expressed for the unfortunate boys who were there. The consequences of having overworked and overstressed staff in Daingean were examined during the Phase I hearing. Fr Hughes was asked about the content of the letter of Fr Luca and about the problems that could result from stressed staff. When asked if this kind of strain carried with it any risks for the people in the care of those under that type of strain, he replied, ‘I suppose the men under stress might snap and become abusive, it is a possibility’. He accepted that it was an undesirable situation, where people working in a position of responsibility over young people were under extreme stress. On the basis of this evidence, there was never an adequate staff at Daingean.


The Provincial was the person in the Congregation who was in charge of the School and its Community. However, he discharged his duties through the Resident Manager who was also the Superior of the Community in Daingean. He held office for a term of three years, but this period would usually be extended for further terms. Resident Managers were appointed by the Provincial with the consent of his Council.


The Resident Manager had numerous responsibilities both inside and outside the School. His responsibilities within the School extended not only to the boys resident there but also to his fellow Oblates and staff. He was responsible for the administration of the complex of buildings that made up Daingean, as well as a large farm at the School. Externally, the Resident Manager would liaise with other Resident Managers, primarily through the Resident Managers Association, which was chaired for considerable periods of time by the Manager of Daingean.


In relation to the post of Resident Manager, the Oblates stated: while they had no special training for reformatory work, it would be wrong to describe these men as unprepared for the task. They all had personal experience of living in communities with a pattern of education, manual work, including farm work, and pastoral activity.


A designated priest or Brother, who maintained an office in the School, assisted the Resident Manager in his duties. He would keep records, accounts and numerous records required for the individual files on the boys. There was also a Brother Prefect who was responsible for dealing with serious breaches of discipline. As Fr Luca stated: It was always a man who ... was healthy, strong and who could bear the brunt of that responsibility and the work that it entailed, because it meant that he would have to be on the line at anytime if there was trouble of any description.


The Brother Prefect also had numerous other time-consuming duties. He would organise supervision of the boys outside school and work hours, and he was responsible for the boys’ correspondence and any monies sent to them. In practice, the Resident Manager left matters of discipline entirely to the Brother Prefect. As Fr Luca stated: I would have to say I don’t know how many slaps they had. I never saw the boys being punished while I was there. I didn’t regard it as part of my duty to supervise that. I know that the boys were punished and I know it was left to the prefect to decide what the punishment would be for the particular, well I don’t like to call it crime, misdemeanour.


In their Submission, the Oblates stated that there were criticisms of the standard of the buildings and accommodation in Daingean, and they stressed that the buildings were owned by and were the responsibility of the State, which, despite the protestations of the Congregation, allowed the facilities to deteriorate and fall into an unsuitable condition. While the lease under which the Oblates held Daingean placed responsibility for day-to-day care and maintenance of the premises on the Congregation, allowing the boys to live in filthy conditions as described by the Kennedy Committee was not the responsibility of the State.


A report compiled by Ciaran Fahy on Daingean is appended.

  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.