Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


Br Olivier did not recall the incident but, with honesty, again said ‘I am capable and I am ashamed to say I am capable of that’. His approach was clear and candid, because he refused to say that it did not happen simply because he could not remember the incident. He was willing to take responsibility for his general behaviour, even though the details of the complainant’s account did not make sense to him or trigger a memory. There was no dispute that such an incident could have happened, and the likely explanation was that the complainant was mistaken about the time lapse between the events he described.


Br Olivier was also involved in a shocking incident that began when a 12-year-old boy accidentally defecated on the floor in the sports dressing room. The Brother came on the scene and some of the excrement ended up on his shoes. The Garda statements made by the witnesses differ as to how this happened, and the precise sequence of events, but what is admitted in statements made by Br Olivier is that he told the boy to lick the excrement from his shoes and he did so. The Brother, in his statement to the Gardaí, said that he was shocked when the boy did this and told him to stop: ‘I only said it out of frustration. I didn’t mean him to do it’.

Physical abuse


In the 1990s, Br Olivier wrote an apology to the former resident. A copy was furnished to the Committee by the Congregation. Br Gibson had asked him about a statement made by the former resident. Br Olivier’s letter to the man was as follows: Br Gibson ... brought to my attention a statement you made to him some time ago. I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer you my humble apology for my part in causing any of the above pain and hurt. I hope you find in the goodness of your heart the courage to forgive me and I promise to remember you always in my prayers. I pray and hope that you will find peace of mind and happiness in your life. May God bless and protect you always. Sincerely yours.


In his written response to the Investigation Committee, Br Olivier gave a full account of the incident as he remembered it, and repeated this apology. He wrote: On the day in question I was playing football with another Brother in a field far away from the dressing room. When we finished playing we returned to the dressing room to change and I noticed [the complainant] coming out of the dressing room. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he had to go to the toilet. I brought him back in and noticed the floor and my shoes were covered in faeces. I told him to clean up the mess and he replied he had nothing to clean it with. I spontaneously told him to lick it, meaning my shoes. To my horror he proceeded to do so and I immediately told him to stop and to go back to the class or he would be late. I did not give him any beating or bath and I proceeded to clean my shoes and the floor myself. On the day in question I was not on duty. I also wish to state that I never refused anyone permission to go to the toilet in my entire teaching career. I repeat the unqualified apology I made to [the complainant] sometime ago when this incident was brought to my attention.


He was specific in his statement that the apology was for asking the boy to lick excrement off his shoes. In that sense, it is indeed an ‘unqualified apology’. However, the Christian Brothers, in their response to the complainant’s allegations, wrote: [The complainant] describes in detail an occasion, while out training, he had stomach cramps, and accidentally defected himself. He claims that he was terrified that Brother Olivier would find out, so he hid his soiled clothing. Brother Olivier ultimately found the clothes and stained his shoes on the soiled clothing. [The complainant] alleges that Brother Olivier made him lick his boots clean. This alleged act took place in front of an ‘entire group’. [The complainant] continues that the group was asked to leave and he was then “subjected to a beating from Brother Olivier which lasted about 5 minutes”. In relation to the allegations made against Brother Olivier I would like to refer to a letter dated the ... addressed to [the complainant] from [Br Olivier] In this letter [he] wrote “I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer my humble apology for my part of the above pain and suffering”. While this letter acknowledges [the complainant’s] alleged pain, the letter is not intended to be an admission of the allegations made against Brother Olivier.


There is a marked contrast between the apologetic position taken by Br Olivier and that of the Congregation. The Brother admitted the essence of the complaint, namely that he told the boy to lick excrement; the Congregation adopted an exculpatory position, despite the fact that the Brother and the complainant agreed that the incident essentially did take place. Br Olivier made an unqualified apology in his letter for the purpose of making amends, whereas the Congregation’s submission put the best gloss on a situation that had the potential for embarrassment for the Brother and the Congregation. The effect was to detract from the force of the apology that was always meant to be ‘unqualified’.


The former resident did not proceed with his complaint before the Investigation Committee.


The Brother’s spontaneous response to the unfortunate and embarrassing incident when the boy defecated was an abuse of power. When he was confronted about it years later he was able to admit what had happened and to apologise to the victim. The Congregation’s failure to do the same was regrettable. Br Cyrano21 – a broken arm


In the mid-1950s, the mother of a boy in Artane wrote to the Department of Education to ask if she could be allowed to see her son, who had sustained a broken arm and head injuries during the previous week. She also asked if the incident could be investigated. She wrote: I heard during the week that my boy Thomas22 Artane School had an arm broken as a result of a blow with a brush by one of the brothers I call to the school yesterday and the superior admitted that one of the brothers had given him a blow and that his arm was broken I did not see the boy23 but I believe he was attending another hospital for treatment the superior said he had it xrayed and seen the result the arm is in Plaster of Paris I also heard that his head was bandaged during the week Im very worried over it and I called on Sunday to see him and was not allowed If it could be arranged for me to see him to ease my mind. In any case please have the matter investigated and let me no the result.


The Department asked for a full report on the incident and asked if arrangements could be made for the mother to visit her son. The boy’s father, who was resident in England, also wrote to the School asking for a report on the matter. It is clear from a letter from the Department of Education to the School that a report was furnished but it has not survived. In this letter, the Inspector of Industrial Schools wrote: The incident referred to should have been reported immediately to this Office and the boy’s parent should also have been notified of the boy’s injury without delay and the parent should have been allowed to see the boy when she requested. In connection with the administering of corporal punishment in the school, I am to refer to the Circular no. 11/46 of the 1st November, 1946 “Discipline and Punishment in Certified Schools” (copy enclosed) and I am to suggest that the terms of that Circular should be brought to the notice of the School Staff from time to time.


Given the seriousness of the injuries to the boy, these reprimands are slight. The Department’s powerlessness to take further action is evident in this case.


The incident was then raised in the Dáil and was covered by the Press. The TD, Captain Peadar Cowan, regretted having to raise the matter in the Dáil, but he said that: the House will want an assurance from the Minister, and the country will want an assurance from him, that punishment, if it is to be inflicted on those sent to industrial schools, will be inflicted by some person of experience and responsibility. If punishment were to be imposed in a fit of hot temper, it would be exceptionally bad and, in fact, as in this case, it would be dangerous. ... The very fact that the incident did occur shows how necessary it is that this House, through the machinery of the Department of Education and through the Minister charged with that responsibility, should have the closest supervision of schools such as this, where children, many of them without parents at all, are sent to be brought up.


The Minister for Education agreed, ‘I think the punishment should be administered ... by a responsible person in conditions of calm judgment’.


The Minister then added: Apart from my high regard for the Brothers concerned, the community concerned, there is also a very constant system of inspection for all such institutions. I personally have visited practically all of them ... I know in that particular school how deep is the anxiety for the children’s spiritual and physical welfare. This is an isolated incident; it can only happen again as an accident.


This response implied that the regular inspections of the School included consideration of the administration of corporal punishment. There is, however, no evidence that the inspections conducted on the Department’s behalf included an examination of the use of corporal punishment. Punishment books were not kept. Neither the General Inspection Report nor the Report on Medical Aspects of School Accommodation referred to this matter on the standard printed inspection form. There are no references to it in the general observations and suggestions section. Although one of the Brothers in this incident recalled being interviewed by Dr McCabe24 about it, no report from her survives in the records. The report from Dr McCabe following her next annual inspection made no reference to the incident, or to the question of punishment in the School.

  1. Report on Artane Industrial School for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by Ciaran Fahy, Consulting Engineer (see Appendix 1).
  2. Rules and Regulations of Industrial Schools 1885.
  3. Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System 1934-1936 chaired by Justice Cussen.
  4. Dr McQuaid and Fr Henry Moore.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym. See also the Tralee chapter.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. Br Beaufort had previously also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym. See also the Carriglea chapter.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. From the infirmary register it appears that while the boy was not confined in hospital he was due for a check up the day his mother called to see the superior so he may well not have been in the Institution when his mother called.
  24. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  25. It was in fact the Minister for Education who used those words. See paragraph 7.117 .
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.
  36. The same incident is referred to in the Department’s inspection into the matter as ‘a shaking’.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. This is a pseudonym.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. This is a pseudonym.
  42. This is a pseudonym.
  43. This is a pseudonym.
  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. This is a pseudonym.
  46. This is a pseudonym.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Dr Anna McCabe (Medical Inspector), Mr Seamus Mac Uaid (Higher Executive Officer) and Mr MacDáibhid (Assistant Principal Officer and Inspector in Charge of Industrial Schools).
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. This is a pseudonym.
  55. This is a pseudonym.
  56. This is a pseudonym.
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  60. This is a pseudonym.
  61. This is a pseudonym.
  62. This is a pseudonym.
  63. This is a pseudonym.
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  65. This is a pseudonym.
  66. This is a pseudonym.
  67. This is a pseudonym.
  68. This is a pseudonym.
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  70. This is a pseudonym.
  71. This is a pseudonym.
  72. This is a pseudonym.
  73. This is a pseudonym.
  74. This is a pseudonym.
  75. This is a pseudonym.
  76. This is a pseudonym.
  77. This is a pseudonym.
  78. This is a pseudonym.
  79. See General Chapter on the Christian Brothers at para ???.
  80. He went there after many years in Artane.
  81. Dr Charles Lysaght was commissioned by the Department of Education to conduct general and medical inspections of the industrial and reformatory schools in 1966 in the absence of a replacement for Dr McCabe since her retirement the previous year. He inspected Artane on 8th September 1966.
  82. See Department of Education and Science Chapter, One-off Inspections.
  83. The fact that they were tired is noted in many Visitation Reports.
  84. Council for Education, Recruitment and Training.
  85. This is a pseudonym.
  86. This is a pseudonym.
  87. This is a pseudonym.