Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 16 — Marlborough House

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Physical abuse


In May 1969, a Probation Officer reported an assault on a boy at Marlborough House to Judge Eileen Kennedy. The boy had been hit in the eye with an aluminium mug by the Matron, Mrs Grange, which resulted in a black eye, and he was slapped twice on the left-hand side of his face by her. He was seen by a doctor the following evening but he ‘was afraid to say anything against Mrs Grange, as she was present while the doctor saw him, and he was afraid he would get a beating that night’. He had been a week in custody and, when brought before Judge Kennedy on remand, he had a black eye. Judge Kennedy brought the matter to the attention of the Secretary of the Department of Education on the same day, and said that she was of the view that the ‘complaint is one deserving of investigation’.


The Department of Education replied within a week that ‘The matter will be investigated and a further communication sent to you in due course’. No such communication was found in discovery. The General Statement of the Department of Education stated that there are ‘no further records in relation to this complaint’.


The Investigation Committee heard evidence from a complainant who was the individual subjected to the alleged assault by the Matron, Mrs Grange. He recalled that, when he appeared before her, Judge Kennedy asked how he had received a black eye, to which he replied ‘the madame gave me bang with a belt or something’.


This witness complained of getting ‘a few clatters on a few occasions’ from the Matron, Mrs Grange, and he explained that the black eye which Judge Kennedy had asked him about, was in fact the result of a blow with a ladle.


In January 1971, Rosita Sweetman, a journalist with the Irish Press, wrote a series of articles on the ill-treatment of boys and the poor conditions in Marlborough House. Her information came from an existing member of staff, Mr Jacob,8 who also provided her with unofficial access to the building and documents. It was reported that: ... one of the wardens boasted ... how he’d “beaten the lard out of that itinerant kid.” The itinerant kid was 13. ‘Jacob’ protested and was told “These young lads aren’t juvenile delinquents – they’re criminals. They are here to be corrected and we’ll correct them.”


The events surrounding the escape by a boy, Emmet Crosbie,9 on St Stephen’s Day 1970 prompted these newspaper articles and, in particular, Mr Jacob to contact the press. An attendant who was intoxicated gave the boy keys to escape, which he did, and went to the West where he surrendered himself to the Gardaí who brought him back to Marlborough House. The Superintendent of Marlborough House, Mr Carnoy,10 obtained statements from both attendants regarding the circumstances of the boy’s escape. He wrote to the Department of Education in January 1971, stating that he believed the boy’s version of events and was satisfied that both attendants were under the influence of drink on the nights in question, and he considered that it was a case of neglect of duty on the part of one of the attendants, Mr Lombard. As was outlined above, Mr Lombard was eventually removed from his position in July 1971, as he was considered a source of tension amongst the boys.


The Department became aware that Mr Jacob was supplying the information to the press. Following publication of these articles, officials from the Department of Education interviewed a number of staff at Marlborough House, including the Superintendent, Mr Carnoy, the matron, Mrs Grange, and Mr Jacob. In his interview, Mr Jacob admitted that he contacted Ms Sweetman and gave her access to the building, and he re-asserted his allegations that the boys were ill-treated by certain attendants. He was initially suspended from work, and then was sacked at the end of January 1971, following an internal Department investigation into complaints made against him.


In mid January 1971, the Superintendent of Marlborough House sent a report entitled ‘Report Re-Dismissal Mr Jacob. (Attendant)’ to the Department of Education, in which he detailed a number of complaints against Mr Jacob. He alleged that Mr Jacob, on one occasion, had ‘very little interest’ in the ‘safe custody’ of the boys and, on another occasion, he ‘reported for duty as rostered, he did not appear to be inclined to exercise control or work’.


It is clear from this report that the Superintendent had been asked to answer some questions from the Department of Education, and there is some sense of a little discomfort in the final paragraphs to his report: ... With reference to Mr Jacob’s report to the Press, I have no knowledge that he did same for financial gain, or that he did gain financially from it. Before, during and after Mr Jacob’s press report, he at no time threatened me with the press. I had no fault to find with Mr Jacob, as an Attendant here up to the time he gave the report to the press, from then on he fell below the required standard.


Mr Jacob was interviewed at the Department’s offices, at the end of January 1971, where the complaints about his performance contained in the Superintendent’s report to the Department were put to him. He denied each allegation and put his own version of events to the Department. He also asserted that ‘Since the incidents relating to the Press Mr Carnoy had subjected him to extreme pressure’. He offered to provide a number of witnesses to support his case, and asked that he be given the complaints in writing.


The Department wrote to Mr Jacob three days later, informing him ‘having fully considered the facts of the case, the Minister has decided to terminate your employment as Attendant in Marlborough House’. The reason given by the Department was that ‘the explanations given by you in the matter cannot be accepted’.


The dismissal of Mr Jacob sparked another round of newspaper articles, and it was even raised in the Dail. The Minister for Education stated that he ‘certainly was not dismissed because of the fact that he made allegations in relation to this home’, but was dismissed ‘because of unsatisfactory performance of his duties’.


An injury to a boy in 1971 highlighted problems in Marlborough House that had been present for many years. The 12-year-old boy was attacked by two 15-year-old residents. He was severely kicked in the course of the assault, as a result of which he began passing blood and had to be removed to hospital, where he received treatment for a considerable period of time. In response to complaints made by Free Legal Advice Centres, a member of staff who reported on the incident commented that the staff had done their best to keep these unruly boys out of Marlborough House ‘but the courts still sent them to us’. The report concluded: We have no way of keeping the boys apart here, and young and old have to stay in the one recreation room and dormitory. In my opinion and with experience over the years this building is no longer suitable for the detention of boys or for staff to work in.


In early 1972 there was an incident that resulted in an attendant striking a boy with a torch. It became the subject of a Garda investigation that resulted in a recommendation that no further action be taken. It involved a confrontation between attendants and a number of the 25 boys who were resident at the time. The Garda investigation revealed two conflicting accounts of the events that night. The boy who was struck described how an attendant shouted at him to keep quiet in the dormitory and then hit him with his hand, at which the boy got out of bed and hit the attendant back. Another attendant struck him on the head with a flash lamp a number of times. The attendants’ version was that the boys were troublesome and one of them was put into a cell. The others demanded his release and about eight or nine jumped out of bed and attacked the attendants. In order to prevent the boy getting a poker which he might use as a weapon one of the attendants struck him with a torch. Although it was never resolved and did not give rise to any prosecution, the incident revealed the tense atmosphere that prevailed in the institution. Violence could erupt quickly with little provocation.


An internal memorandum of the Department of Justice dated 23rd July 1969 referred to the attitude of the Department of Education when these allegations of physical abuse were reported: It will be recalled that the Probation Officers had complained of boys being beaten in their presence in Marlboro House. While I was in Ormond Quay I transmitted complaints of this nature to Education. Justice Kennedy had also complained about boys from Marlboro House coming before her with obvious signs of ill-treatment. It took the best part of six months for [the Assistant Secretary] to reply to the Justice. Apparently [the Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools] simply ignored complaints of this kind. [The Assistant Secretary] admitted that there was ill-treatment by the staff and investigations are still going on. Some of the ill-treatment was however between the boys themselves.

  1. .The Department of Education was negligent in the management and administration of Marlborough House. Its unwillingness to accept responsibility for the Institution caused neglect and suffering to the children there and resulted in a dangerous, dilapidated environment for the children.
  2. .The employment of unsuitable, inadequate and unqualified staff resulted in a brutal, harsh regime with punishment at its core.
  3. .There was no outside authority interested in the welfare of the children in Marlborough House. No concern was expressed by Department officials at the appalling treatment and care they knew the boys were receiving. The concern at all times was to protect the Department from criticism.
  4. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It later changed its name to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. (ISPCC)
  5. The average cost of keeping a prisoner in Shanganagh Castle in 2002 was €169,450, the second highest in the state outside of Portlaoise
  6. Department of Education & Science Statement to Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19th May 2006, p 220.
  7. Correspondence cited in Department of Education submission, p 223.
  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 pseudonym.