Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 15 — Daingean

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In the Emergence hearing, Fr Murphy said, ‘The Kennedy Report in 1970 mentioned St. Conleth’s. They highlighted two things in that report: The state of the buildings and the clothing of the children’. His colleague, Fr Hughes, when questioned about the Kennedy Committee’s criticism that the showers were rusty through lack of use, rejected the Committee’s criticism, saying: There is no evidence that the Kennedy Committee did a very thorough examination of the premises, they descended on it as a group, there is no evidence that they made a very careful examination of everything ...


Fr Luca, who was Resident Manager at the time, gave a different version. He said in evidence that he got two day’s notice of the visit and that they did not ‘land on the doorstep unannounced’. Fr Hughes urged the Investigation Committee to read instead the ‘much more careful report’ of Dr Lysaght who ‘made a report there in 1966 after a very careful investigation, it is a very nuanced report and I think one would accept his observations as being fair and just’. He went on to explain that Dr Lysaght: went there specifically to do an investigation. He did a very careful and very honest and objective report which is far from being totally favourable but at the same time it has its nuances. I think one would have to accept it. Dr Lysaght’s report on St Conleth’s, Daingean, 1966


Given that Dr Lysaght’s report has the imprimatur of the Oblates, it is worth looking at it in some detail. It is a comprehensive document, involving 16 pages of tightly written manuscript. Dr Lysaght replaced Dr McCabe as the Medical Inspector in the Department of Education. He visited Daingean on 3rd June 1966. In his conclusion, Dr Lysaght summarised his views as follows: I have indicated in this report by my comments where I regard the faults in this institution are to be found. Broadly they are in connection with food and clothing. In this latter connection I am seeking to avoid, but with difficulty, comparison with senior boys industrial schools. It is probably the case that the same care for clothes cannot be expected from the type of boy here. In any event they are untidy, poorly dressed, unkempt by comparison with the four senior boys industrial schools I have so far seen. The kitchen, food storage, wash up and dining room are unsuitable in regard to structure, decoration & equipment.


He reported that the School was authorised for 250 boys. There were 122 present on the date of inspection.


He then very simply described the equipment as, on the whole, poor. He found that the infrastructure of the dormitories, which had been recently built, was fine, but the beds, sheets and blankets were often substandard, and grubby. The junior toilets were smelly and messy. The items that needed regular supervision, cleaning and laundering, in other words, were showing neglect.


The kitchens received a close examination. Dr Lysaght summarised his findings: Altogether the kitchen section is a poor effort – it is unsuitable in its structure, inadequate in its equipment and while it is impossible to be critical of personnel forced to work under such conditions I would feel that the brother cook would benefit by instruction and experience of other kitchens. Dining Room Poorly lighted, low ceiling room adjoining kitchen. While it is also in an old building & suffers from the disadvantage of poor lighting and low ceiling I feel its general air of dinginess & old work house atmosphere could be improved by an intelligent use of decoration and paint on the room and furniture. The one thing it has is plenty of wall space and it is capable of taking many more tables.


Then Dr Lysaght turned his attention to the food itself, and was in general critical of the diet provided, for example: As regards breakfast with the exception of Sunday it is just tea and B & B36 – it seems unusual that porridge & milk is not provided on any morning. Another unusual feature is that despite having their own farm and a battery egg system eggs only appear on the menu once i.e. Sunday morning breakfast. In contrast to industrial schools fruit in season does not appear on the menu at all. Cheese a most valuable and cheap form of protein food only appears once for Friday tea. I see no reason why it should not be made available on the one other evening when meat is not served for tea viz – Sunday. It would seem to me that the whole question of food, cooking, service, kitchen and dining room facilities etc call for consideration and efforts to improve the present position. As in most male religious institutions the food departments lag behind those in most institutions run by nuns. – they are operated in a rough and ready style & do not approach in any way kitchen departments under the control of women, whether nuns or lay.


Turning his attention to the state of the boys’ clothing, he found much to be desired: Clothing - I was not impressed by their general appearance.


When he looked at the medical records, it was the paucity of information that drew his criticism. He did not know whether the absence of information was due to the School having healthy children or due to omission. In particular, the lack of any record of inoculations or measures against infectious diseases concerned him. There was no nurse in the Institution at the time of Dr Lysaght’s inspection, but it was hoped to employ one in the near future, and this he hoped would bring about an improvement in the recording of information on the boys’ medical cards.


Finally, Dr Lysaght was very critical of the lack of hot water in the washroom and showers and, although he inspected during the summer, the heating was inadequate. Washroom Source: Martin Reynolds


All of the criticisms made by the members of the Kennedy Committee are to be found in Dr Lysaght’s report. They both found that: The boys were grubby and unkempt. Clothing was poor and torn, worse than in other schools. Showers were inadequate. The building was cold and poorly heated. Food was adequate in quantity but mostly carbohydrate. Despite having a battery farm producing eggs they were infrequently served to the boys. Most of the building was dingy and dark. Beds and sheets were poorly kept, and many were dirty and had threadbare blankets.


Dr Lysaght has criticisms not found in Kennedy, for example the inadequacy of medical records. The only criticism in Kennedy not also found in Lysaght is the condemnation of corporal punishment. Yet, the Oblates found Lysaght careful and balanced and ‘one would have to accept it’.


Apart from the issue of corporal punishment, they appear to have found the same things but reached a different conclusion about whether the School was fit to remain open. The Department of Education had enough information from their Inspector to reach a decision on the matter in 1966. What we do learn from comparing the two reports is that between 1966 and 1968 no improvements were made, and possibly matters had deteriorated.


The lack of teaching staff and teaching Brothers affected the level of education offered to the boys. Daingean, for the majority of its existence, never had an adequate teaching regime to cater for the requirements and needs of its pupils. The issue of education given to the boys in Daingean had always been a contentious and problematic one. The Department of Education wrote in 1967: the educational aspects of this reformatory school for boys in Daingean, Co. Offaly, has been shamefully neglected over many years. The boys were illiterate on entering the school and were given very little education during their two years of normal time in the institute. As a result of financial restrictions, the directors had to make use of them as labourers. It is proposed now to put an end this neglect.


The Oblates in their Opening Statement stated that the Brothers and other members of staff always provided certain classroom education in the usual subjects of the primary school programme. There was also vocational training in various trades and occupations given by Brothers of the staff, for example, carpentry, tailoring, shoemaking, printing, and farm and garden work.

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
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  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
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  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.
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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.
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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.