Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 16 — Marlborough House

Show Contents



Not to be deterred, the Department of Education wrote again to the Department of Finance on 31st May 1944, setting out detailed reasons for their proposal. In particular, they asserted that ‘The chief consideration is that the Institution should have the best possible influence for reform on the young people who are detained there’. In this regard, they felt that, ‘a few days detention under the right guidance might prevent a subsequent career of law breaking’, which they felt could only be achieved by a religious Order, such as the Hospitaller Order of St John of God. They went on: Regarding your suggestion of grafting the place of detention onto an existing institution for boys conducted by a religious order the only suitable institutions of the kind are the industrial schools at Artane and Carriglea. We have tried repeatedly in the past ten years to get the managers of these schools to take charge of boys under detention or to set aside a small section of their premises for the purpose, but they definitely refuse to do so. I understand that Artane did make an arrangement of the kind many years ago and their experience of the difficulties and trouble involved has decided them against ever touching the matter again.


They concluded that ‘... it is a general experience that for an institution of the kind management by a religious order is more economical than lay management’. On 15th June 1944, the Department of Finance sanctioned ‘in principle’ the proposal to entrust the management of the Institution to a religious Order, but no commitment was to be entered into without the approval of the Department. The Minister of Education wrote to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, on 4th July 1944, seeking his advice and approval for the proposal: I feel that the time the boys spend in this institution could be turned to much greater advantage if its management could be entrusted to a religious community, whose training could enable them to face the problem presented by the juvenile delinquent.


Archbishop McQuaid replied on 5th July 1944: I shall have the matter examined at once, but you will readily understand that some time will be required, especially at this season, when many persons are absent from the City, before I can give you a completely helpful answer.


No reply was received from the Archbishop, and the Department decided against sending a written reminder to him ‘as it was felt that it would be better to raise the matter verbally with His Grace if opportunity offered’.


It took a decade for the opportunity to present itself again.


On 19th March 1952, the Department of Education again approached the Department of Justice and proposed transferring responsibility for the Institution to it. The Department of Justice rejected the proposal as it would be seen as ‘a retrograde step’ because ‘its transfer to the Department from the Department of Education would result it its being run as a prison rather than as a Juvenile Remand Home’.


In 1955, the proposal to transfer the management to a religious Order was resurrected again. The Department of Education wrote to the Archbishop of Dublin on 8th January 1955, on the basis that the Superintendent was due to retire and the future of the Institution was uncertain and that ‘Your Grace has expressed a desire that the institution should be in the hands of some Religious Order’ and seeking his suggestions. This letter was followed up by a personal visit to the Archbishop on 20th January 1955, by the Minister for Education and the Secretary of the Department, to discuss the proposal and, in particular, the possibility of using Artane Industrial School as a place of detention. However, the Archbishop considered that Artane was unsuitable for this purpose.


The Secretary and the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education continued in their efforts. They met with District Judge MacCarthy of the Children’s Court on 13th June 1955, and explained ‘that Marlborough House had been more or less condemned as a building and the question now arose as to whether a new building should be found or whether some other means of catering for boys on remand should be considered’. It was agreed ‘that Artane seemed to be the only possible potential House of Detention’, but Judge MacCarthy said that the Christian Brothers had decided that Artane should only accept ‘boys of a non-criminal type’, and so it was unlikely that they would allow Artane to be used as a place of detention.


On 9th July 1955, the Superior General of the Christian Brothers and the Superior of Artane met with the Minister for Education to discuss the issue, as the Archbishop had contacted them. The Christian Brothers were not in favour of the proposal for the following reasons: (1) Artane now housed only orphans and boys who had been before the courts on minor charges. (2) All boys convicted of crimes of an indictable nature were sent to Letterfrack. (3) They were anxious that nothing should be done which would take away from the good name which they had been endeavouring to build up for Artane or which would result in any stigma attaching to a boy who had been in that Institution. (4) The layout of the lands and premises in Artane would not lend itself to separate quarters being provided for a house of detention.


That was the end of the negotiations between the Department and the Christian Brothers. As there seemed to be no prospect of any religious Order taking on the task, and as the Marlborough House building was in such a perilous condition, the Department of Education sought sanction from the Department of Finance for an alternative venue for a place of detention. The Minister for Finance, in a letter of 30th January 1956, said: I do not fully understand why none of the religious communities in Dublin devoted to the correction of juvenile delinquency in its various degrees and manifestations appears willing to receive the type here in question into one or other of their existing institutions ... I suggest then that you would be justified in seeking to reopen the matter with the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities.


On 22nd July 1957, the Department of Education wrote to Archbishop McQuaid about the dangerous condition of the Institution: ... Marlborough House, the building used as a House of Detention, is in so dangerous a state as to make it necessary shortly to look for an alternative building. I have mentioned to the Minister that your Grace has been so good as to have expressed on several occasions a particular interest in the question of the House of Detention and the Minister has asked me to request your Grace to favour me with an interview on the matter.


The Archbishop replied the following day and said: I am very glad to learn that Marlborough House is at last falling down. I have spoken so often to successive Ministers about this Institution, but to no avail whatever. The collapse of the building is now achieving what I had failed to achieve, for the souls and bodies of the boys.


Officials from the Department met with the Archbishop on 24th July 1957. The Archbishop reiterated his view that he was glad the building was in a bad state and told the officials that: At present the boys are idle while there except for a little teaching in Christian Doctrine given by an old Christian Brother. The priests who look after clubs in Dublin will tell you there is nothing worse for boys of that type than idleness. Learning bad behaviour from each other is what they are doing while there ... the first necessity is to find an Order of Brothers to run the place


He felt that the De La Salle Order would be suitable, as they ‘had much experience in such matters’. The Archbishop inquired if the Minister would ‘have any objection to a scheme like St. Anne’s in Kilmacud where the Order itself bought the house and the land and where the Department made arrangements about grants’. The Department official assured the Archbishop that the Minister would be more than satisfied with such an arrangement. The meeting ended and, as the officials took their leave, the Archbishop said: ... the Detention Centre was the root of all good and bad in the Dublin boys who get into trouble and that nothing was more urgent than that the Centre be well conducted.


In January 1958, the Archbishop informed the Department that the De La Salle Order had identified a site at Johnstown House, Ballyfermot for the new place of detention and they would manage it. The Provincial of the De La Salle Order met with senior Department of Education officials on 16th January 1958 to discuss the proposals and, the following day, they inspected the site which was a ‘fine sturdy building’ originally owned by the manager of Guinness. Its only drawback was that it was not large enough. The Department felt this was a ‘golden opportunity’ to transfer the management of the remand facility to a religious order.

  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.