- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Social and demographic profile of witnesses
- Circumstances of admission
- Family contact
- Everyday life experiences (male witnesses)
- Record of abuse (male witnesses)
- Everyday life experiences (female witnesses)
- Record of abuse (female witnesses)
- Positive memories and experiences
- Current circumstances
- Introduction to Part 2
- Special needs schools and residential services
- Children’s Homes
- Foster care
- Primary and second-level schools
- Residential Laundries, Novitiates, Hostels and other settings
- Concluding comments
- Volume 4
Chapter 3 — GatewaysBack
Over the period from 1936 to 1970, a total of 170,000 children and young persons (involving about 1.2% of the age cohort) entered the gates of the 50 or so industrial schools.1 The period for which they stayed varied widely, depending on the ground of entry; but the average was more than seven years.
The result was that, although the population of the schools at any particular time fluctuated widely, it remained above 6,000 from 1936 to 1952, peaking at 6,800 in 1946 partly as a result of the wartime emergency conditions. Thereafter, the improving economic conditions of the 1950s, and even more so in the 1960s, meant that the population in the schools fell steadily to 4,300 in 1960 and 1,740 in 1970. This amounted to an average reduction, over the period from 1950 to 1970, of 250 per year.
Although the balance varied from decade to decade, the great majority of children were committed because they were ‘needy’. The next most frequent grounds of entry were involvement in a criminal offence or school non-attendance. Each of these grounds involved committal by the District Court. The remaining two grounds, which over the entire period from 1936 to 1970 were less frequently used, were being sent by a Health Authority and voluntary entry.
The figures for reformatory residents were much smaller than those for industrial schools. There were only three reformatories, and their populations (most of whom were offenders) fluctuated between 100 and 250. Although the average length of stay was one year, this meant that, in the period from 1936 to 1970, a total of approximately 2,000 to 3,000 children and young persons spent time in a reformatory.
For the entire period under consideration, the governing law was section 58(1) of the Children Act, 1908 (as amended by the Children Acts, 1929 and 1941). A child could be committed to an industrial school if he or she, inter alia: was found begging or receiving alms; was found not having any home, or visible means of subsistence, or was [found] having no parent or guardian, or a parent or guardian who did not exercise proper guardianship; or was found destitute, not being an orphan and having both parents or his surviving parent, or in the case of an illegitimate child, his mother, undergoing penal servitude or imprisonment; or was under the care of a parent or guardian who, by reason of reputed criminal or drunken habits, was unfit to have the care of the child; or was the daughter ... of a father who had been convicted of an offence of [sexually abusing his daughters]; or frequented the company of any reputed thief or of any common or reputed prostitute (other than the child’s mother); or was lodging or residing in a house used for prostitution.
Section 58(4) of the 1908 Act stated: Where the parent or guardian of a child proves to a [District Court] that he is unable to control the child, and that he desires the child to be sent to an industrial school ... the court, if satisfied on inquiry that it is expedient so to deal with the child, and that the parent or guardian understands the results which will follow, may order him to be sent to a certified industrial school.
Subsequent legislation expanded the 1908 Act in two main respects. In order to come within the ‘destitute’ category, a child’s parents had, under the 1908 Act, to be in prison or be deceased. The Children Act, 19292 in effect widened this category by providing that a child could be committed if its parents were unable to support it, in circumstances where both parents consented, or the court was satisfied that a parent’s consent could be dispensed with owing to mental incapacity or desertion.3
Yet, the precise scope of these legislative categories probably did not make a significant difference in the numbers of children committed. Whatever the basis of the committal, these children all came under the category of ‘needy’, and the majority of them were as a result of poverty, but some were committed because of other social circumstances such as illegitimacy.
The second largest category of those committed were children or young persons who had been involved in an offence. Section 57 of the Children Act, 1908 as amended by section 9 of the Children Act, 1941 governed the law relating to young offenders. The first issue was on what basis it was decided to send a young offender to a reformatory rather than an industrial school. The main ground was age, although the seriousness of the offence was also a factor. The practice can be best explained in this area by considering the cases in three categories, according to age: A child under the age of 12 could not be sent to a reformatory school, only to an industrial school; and, indeed, the records show relatively few children below the age of 12 being committed for offences, even to an industrial school. A child of (after 1941) 12, 13 or 14 could be sent to an industrial school provided that: the child was a first offender; there were ‘special circumstances’ as to why the child should not be sent to a reformatory; and the child would not ‘exercise an evil influence over the other children’.4 In fact, despite these conditions, children under 15 years were usually sent to industrial schools. It was not open to the court, under the Act, to send the offender aged (after 1941) 15 years and upwards to an industrial school.5 Thus, if a custodial sanction were to be selected, the only option was the reformatory.
Into category 2 above came girls who were regarded as having been ‘morally corrupted’. In 1944,6 St Anne’s Reformatory School in Kilmacud was established to accommodate girls who were considered a risk to other children because of sexual experiences. As can be seen in the chapter on St Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny,7 girls as young as eight who had been raped or abused, or even those children in contact with such girls, were considered unsuitable for an ordinary industrial school and were sent to St Anne’s Reformatory School. Unlike boys, girls who were sent to reformatories were usually sent until their sixteenth birthday.
The reformatory school was reserved for the tougher type of boy, who became eligible for committal between the ages of 12 and 17 years. After the Children Act, 1941 took effect, the legal period of detention was between two and four years.8 However, the period of actual detention for boys was often no more than one year, provided that the offender’s behaviour and home circumstances were satisfactory. Before 1941, the equivalent period of detention was between three and five years.9
By contrast, boys committed to industrial schools were invariably sent until they were 16 years old.
The practice was that offenders were committed to a reformatory only following a straightforward conviction, whereas those sent to an industrial school were sent when charged ‘with an offence punishable in the case of an adult by penal servitude or a less punishment, and the court is satisfied that the child should be sent to a certified school’,10 with no conviction being recorded.11
Between 1923 and 1943, the most common offence for which juvenile males were sent to reformatories was larceny; subsequently, house-breaking overtook larceny in the share of the committals.12
The position was complicated by the fact that several ways of treating the offender were open to the District Court. Committals to a reformatory or industrial school were just two among several possible sanctions within the range of sanctions that were available, irrespective of the particular offence committed13 since, in the case of young offenders, the law was more concerned with the offender than the offence.
- Section 44 of the Children Act, 1908 (as amended by section 6 of the Children Act, 1941) defines ‘child’ as one under the age of 15 (originally 14); and a ‘young person’ as one between the ages of 15 and 17 (originally 14 and 16). This is pursuant to section 57(1) of the Children Act, 1908 as amended by section 9 of the Children Act, 1941. The umbrella term ‘young offenders’ comprehends any offenders between the ages of seven and 21 years.
- Later re-enacted in section 10(1)(d) of the Children Act, 1941.
- The full wording of section 10(1)(e) of the 1941 Act was as follows:
- ‘Provided also that the Court shall not make an order that a child be sent to a certified industrial school on the grounds stated in paragraph (h) unless—
- (i) the child’s parents consent or his surviving parent or, in the case of an illegitimate child, his mother consents to such order being made, or
- (ii) the Court is satisfied that owing to mental incapacity or desertion on the part of the child’s parents or his surviving parent or, in the case of an illegitimate child, his mother, the consent of such parents or parent may be dispensed with, or
- (iii) one of the child’s parents consents to such order being made and the Court being satisfied that, owing to mental incapacity or desertion on the part of the other parent or to the fact that the other parent is undergoing imprisonment or penal servitude, the consent of that parent may be dispensed with’.
- Section 58(3) of the Children Act, 1908 as amended by section 10(2) of the Children Act, 1941.
- Section 57(2) of the Children Act, 1908 as amended by section 9(2) of the Children Act, 1941.
- Kennedy Report, p 1.
- See chapter on St Joseph’s, Kilkenny.
- Section 65(a) of the Children Act, 1908 as amended by section 11(1) of the Children Act, 1941.
- Section 65(a) of the Children Act, 1908.
- Section 58(3) of the Children Act, 1908.
- See sections 57 and 58(3) of the Children Act, 1908.
- Annual Figures for the JLO for 1968–2003 are given in O’Donnell, O’Sullivan and Healy (eds), Crime and Punishment in Ireland 1922 to 2003: A statistical Sourcebook (IPA, 2005), Table 5.3.
- What follows is a paraphrase of section 107 of the 1908 Act where the available sanctions are summarised. Section 107 states:
- ‘Where a child or young person charged with any offence is tried by any court, and the court is satisfied of his guilt, the court shall take into consideration the manner in which, under the provisions of this or any other Act enabling the court to deal with the case, the case should be dealt with, namely, whether—
- (a) by dismissing the charge; or
- (b) by discharging the offender on his entering into a recongizance; or
- (c) by so discharging the offender and placing him under the supervision of a probation officer; or
- (d) by committing the offender to the care of a relative or other fit person; or
- (e) by sending the offender to an industrial school; or
- (f) by sending the offender to a reformatory school; or
- (g) by ordering the offender to be whipped; or
- (h) by ordering the offender to pay a fine, damages, or costs; or
- (i) by ordering the parent or guardian of the offender to pay a fine, damages, or costs; or
- (j) by ordering the parent or guardian of the offender to give security for his good behaviour ...’.
- Section 17(4)(a) and (b) of the School Attendance Act, 1926.
- Section 17 of the School Attendance Act, 1926 states:
- ‘(1) Whenever a parent fails or neglects to cause his child to whom this Act applies to attend school in accordance with this Act and, so far as is known to the enforcing authority of the school attendance area in which the child resides, there is no reasonable excuse for such failure or neglect, such enforcing authority shall serve on such parent a warning in the prescribed form ...
- (2) If a parent does not comply with a warning duly served on him under this section, he shall, unless he satisfies the Court that he has used all reasonable efforts to cause the child to attend school in accordance with the Act, be guilty of an offence under this section ...
- (4) If in any proceedings against a parent under this section the parent satisfies the court that he has used all reasonable efforts to cause the child to whom the proceedings relate to attend school in accordance with this Act or the parent is convicted of a second or subsequent offence under this section in respect of the same child, the court if it thinks fit may—
- (a) order the child to be sent to a certified industrial school ...’.
- SI 105/1972: School Attendance Act, 1926 (Extension of Application) Order, 1972 raised the school leaving age from 14 to 15.
- Section 80 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924.
- ‘Managers’ was the term used under the 1908 Act. This later became more commonly referred to as ‘resident manager’.
- Section 65(a) of the Children Act, 1908 as amended by section 11(1) of the Children Act, 1941.
- Originally (under the 1908 Act) this was three to five years. However, the 1941 Act reduced this period from two to four years. It also raised the upper age limit of committal to a reformatory from 16 to 17 years, and reduced the period of detention, after which managers could release on licence, from 18 to six months.
- In The Irish Press 27th June 1967, Joseph O’Malley gives the eventual average length of stay in Daingean Reformatory as about 15 months.
- Section 65(b) of the Children Act, 1908 states:
- ‘The detention order shall specify the time for which the youthful offender or child is to be detained in the school, being— ... in the case of a child sent to an industrial school, such time as to the court may seem proper for the teaching and training of the child, but not in any case extending beyond the time when the child will, in the opinion of the court, attain the age of sixteen years’.
- Section 69(1) of the Children Act, 1908 states:
- ‘The [Minister] may at any time order a youthful offender or a child to be discharged from a certified school, either absolutely or on such conditions as the [Minister] approves ...’.
- Section 5 of the Children (Amendment) Act, 1957, which superseded the 1908 Act provision, in the case of children committed under [section 58 of 1908 Act], stated:
- ‘(1) Where—
- (a) a child has been committed to an industrial school under section 58 of the Principal Act, and
- (b) an application is made to the Minister for Education by a parent or guardian for the release of the child, and
- (c) the Minister is satisfied that the circumstances which led to the making of the committal order have ceased and are not likely to recur if the child is released, and that the parent or guardian is able to support the child, the Minister shall order the discharge of the child.
- (2) The Minister may, if he so thinks proper, refer the application to the court.
- (3) If the Minister refuses the application, the parent or guardian may refer it to the court.
- (4) The court, if satisfied in regard to the matters referred to in paragraph (c) of subsection (1), shall have jurisdiction to order the discharge of the child.
- (5) A reference to the court under this section shall be made to the District Court in the District in which the committal order was made or, if the applicant resides in another District, in that District.
- (6) The order for the discharge of the child, whether made by the Minister or the court, shall operate to revoke the detention order.
- (7) (a) Where the District Court or, on appeal, the Circuit Court, orders the discharge of a child, the court may award costs and expenses to the successful applicant ...’.
- This provision was introduced in response to the Doyle case discussed at Appendix, para (iii).
- Doyle v Minister for Education. The case was decided in 1956 but not reported until 1989 at  ILRM 277. The Supreme Court decided that, because of the wording of Article 42.1 of the Constitution, the right of parents to raise their children was inalienable and could not be transferred to the State, even with the consent of parents.
- Kennedy Report, p 6.
- Section 56 (2) of the Health Act, 1953 states that:
- ‘Where a health authority have sent a child to a school approved of by the Minister, the authority—
- (a) may at any time, with the consent of the Minister, remove the child from the school, and
- (b) shall remove the child from the school if and when required so to do by the Minister or by the managers of the school, or upon the school ceasing to be approved of by the Minister’.
- Section 55(1) of the Health Act, 1953.
- Section 55(1) and (2) of the Health Act, 1953.