Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 15 — Daingean

Show Contents



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.


From the description of the premises, it is clear that material comforts were not provided for the inmates of Daingean. They lived in cold, damp, gloomy conditions, had to wash in cold water, and were crowded together in unhealthy dormitories, with a laundry that could not even provide them with an adequate supply of clean shirts and bed linen.


Dr McCabe’s reports revealed many concerns about the buildings at Daingean. Her first visit to the School, after the move from Glencree, was in January 1941. She wrote: At present premises will need a lot of repairing and painting. Dormitory acc. rather congested now but this will have to do until new wing built. Wash-house is being organised - Recreation hall not very suitable – old building. Equipment – fair – to be improved. Bedding to be improved – proper sheeting and blankets. Floor in refectory very defective. The water supply. There is a tank indoor which is unsuitable for drinking – warned the manager against using this supply unless it has been boiled previously.


She stated, ‘conditions under which boys live great improvement to Glencree’. Even in this early report, it is clear that the promise of a new wing, which made the existing conditions something to be tolerated on a temporary basis, was a major reason for accepting the state of the School as she found it.


She visited again in October 1941, and reported a ‘gradual improvement’. But again the promise of new buildings persuaded her to accept existing conditions. ‘Work-shops and Recreation Hall are small’, she wrote, ‘and not suitable, but pending the new building must do’.


By her next visit in April 1942, she found some improvement but listed very many faults: Still much can be done - Floor of refectory needs repair. Recommended for immediate action. Dormitories overcrowded – but only as a temporary measure till new Building established. Drew manager’s attention to sheets and bedclothes which could be cleaner. Lavatory Annexe ... general cleanliness is not good – drew manager’s attention to this. Clothing to be improved ... suggested lumber jackets. Farm boys very untidy looking, especially about legs – suggested small gaiters ... to be worn to keep ends of trousers dry. Suggested rubber aprons to be worn by boys in the laundry because of wet conditions their clothes were in. Manager hopes that new building will soon be started.


Over a year later, in July 1943, she visited again. There was no sign of the promised new building but she remained optimistic. She wrote: At present, as a purely temporary arrangement, the dormitories are over-crowded - Recreation Hall is a condemned building – this must be till the new Building is erected. Sheets on beds unsatisfactory – not clean – clothing for everyday wear could be improved. The Manager has been only too eager to carry out any recommendations previously made by me - i.e. new floor in refectory – lumber. I suggest that some impetus should be given to the starting of the New Building – The dormitories are very overcrowded and the no. of boys is yearly increasing. Classrooms are small and the recreation and wash-house are just makeshift.


Three years later, in May 1946, there was more concern than optimism about the promised building. ‘The Manager’, wrote Dr McCabe, ‘is very keen to get on with the New Building and he has asked me if possible to get at B/W35 and ask them to expedite matters ... I am most anxious for the new buildings to be started as soon as possible’.

  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.