Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 15 — Daingean

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In an article entitled ‘The Juvenile Offender’ written in 1963 the author, James O’Connor, wrote: The offences which merit committal to Daingean vary from court to court, but more particularly from city to country. In Dublin a boy might have eight or nine previous convictions before he receives a reformatory sentence, whereas in the country he may have committed his first offence.


Fr Luca also wrote about the urban-rural divide in the School and the differences and difficulties this presented to the school authorities. Most of the boys in the School came from an urban background. Fr Luca stated that the rural boys were more difficult to deal with than even the toughest boy from the city. He stated that, for a rural boy to be sent to Daingean, he must have done something ‘very radically wrong’: A boy or girl who seriously offended would be regarded as sort of social outcasts, they would be marked as people not fit to be in that area.


He also stated, somewhat contradictorily, that the District Justices in the country wanted to stamp out crime problems in their area and therefore if a country boy offended he was sent straight to Daingean immediately. The city court Judges tended to avail of the Probation Act more often and gave the offenders numerous chances.


Daingean did not receive boys who were guilty of non-attendance at school.


In their Opening Statement the Oblates referred to a particular issue, which they considered especially relevant to this inquiry. The issue was how the system failed to meet the special needs of some of the pupils.


The Oblates identified two types of pupils: those who ‘... were in no frame of mind to respond to its programme for whatever reasons. These had needs that were not compatible with the School’s ethos’, and those who ‘should not have been sent to the school because their capacity to respond was limited through psychological or educational difficulties that called for a specialist approach that the school did not have’.


The Oblates, in other words, acknowledged that the Institution failed to provide for the special needs of the vast majority of its pupils.


The Resident Manager in the 1960s explicitly referred to the situation he was faced with as ‘unjust’ to the pupils, but it was clear that the regime in Daingean was incapable of responding to individual needs.


Severely psychiatrically disturbed children also ended up in Daingean, and these children could not have been properly looked after by the reformatory system. The Oblates were correct in stating that these children were let down by the State, which failed to provide specialist facilities.


The Oblates maintained that they acted responsibly, and drew attention to these problems without succeeding in having them addressed until very late in the day.


• From its re-establishment as a Reformatory in 1940, Daingean was a poor solution to a problem that had been allowed to escalate to crisis proportions. The interests of the boys were not prioritised in the discussions leading up to the opening of Daingean. Daingean’s isolation, clearly identified as a problem by Government officials, was regarded as an advantage by the Congregation. Isolating boys from family and friends was part of the ethos of the Institution. The lack of clarity with regard to responsibility for maintenance of the buildings in Daingean, identified in the Department of Finance letter, proved to be an on-going problem which contributed to the appalling living conditions of the boys. The complainants who gave evidence mainly came from backgrounds of poverty and neglect. Although they all came through the court system, very few of them were hardened criminals. Daingean did not address the special needs and disadvantages of these boys.


Fr Murphy, Provincial of the Oblate Congregation, presented evidence to the Investigation Committee at the Emergence hearing on 23rd July 2004. Fr Michael Hughes, the Provincial Archivist, gave evidence at the Phase I public hearing into Daingean on 9th May 2005. Complainant and respondent witnesses were heard in private between 10th May and 2nd June 2005 at the Commission’s offices. Finally, a public hearing in Phase III was held on 6th June 2006, and evidence was again given by Fr Hughes.


In the private hearings, 25 complainant witnesses testified out of a total of 34. A further 44 attended for interview, out of a total of 86 who were invited to attend for interview. Two respondent witnesses gave evidence.


In addition to oral evidence, the Investigation Committee considered documents received from the Oblates, the Department of Education and Science, An Garda Síochana, the Department of Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.

Physical abuse


In the Emergence hearing into Daingean, the Oblate Congregation did not apologise for any excessive corporal punishment, but they did refer to the press statement which was issued after the broadcast of ‘States of Fear’ in 1999 in which they stated: We would firstly say that the abuse of young people is always abhorrent and abuse of young people in confinement is doubly so. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate deeply regret that any young man was mistreated while in their care and offer sincerest apologies.

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
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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.
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  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.