Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


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.

Physical abuse


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.


In one newspaper, under the headline, ‘Boy Wasn’t Beaten, Say Teachers’ the journalist wrote: A boy in a school for delinquents had his arm broken when he resisted a beating, the Dáil was told before it broke up this week, but teachers at the school gave a different version of what happened ... Captain Peader Cowan told the Dáil that the boy resisted [being] slapped on the hands with the leather ... The boy, said Captain Cowan, grabbed a sweeping brush to resist the punishment, but was struck on the arm by it as two Brothers wrested it from him ... When I visited the school yesterday, teachers told me the story had been exaggerated. The boy was hurt when he attacked the Brother with a brush, they said.


The Congregation referred to this incident in its Opening Statement. They commented: Although there are differences of opinion concerning precisely how the injury was caused and when the mother was allowed to see the boy, it is quite clear that the boy was injured and that his arm was broken. The Brother in question was transferred out of Artane.


At the first public hearing on 15th September 2005, Br Reynolds, speaking for the Christian Brothers, was asked if he found it appropriate for the Congregation to effect such a transfer under the circumstances, and he replied: It wasn’t appropriate. I would say it wouldn’t have been uncommon in various places at the time. Certainly that one is the most serious incident we have and it was handled badly I would say from all aspects of it. The other thing that gives some sort of indicator or is indicative of society at the time and what surprised me when I read it that even Peader Cowan, the TD who alerted the Dáil to it at the end of it said, “this is an isolated incident and it won’t happen again” and so on. That came as a surprise to me, but I am taking that as indicative of the times as well. It’s probably indicative of the attitude that somebody who did something of that nature could be transferred elsewhere.25


The boy whose arm was broken is now deceased. The only witness available to the Investigation Committee was Br Michel,26 who was involved in the incident with Br Cyrano. Br Cyrano made a statement at the time, in which he said: As I was asking Br Michel something about the Easter tests he mentioned that a boy ... had caused him trouble that morning. He asked me what should he do and I told him that it would be better to give some punishment as he would only cause trouble again. I closed my door and began writing on the black board. During this time I could hear the boy talking and saying “I won’t give in if you keep at me for a week”. The boy was making remarks similar to this but I could not hear them to make them out. My own class stopped their work when they heard the noise next door. I knew from this that the boy was resisting punishment. I continued writing on the board and suddenly the door was opened in a hurry. A boy from Br Michel’s class entered saying that [he] wanted me immediately. I dropped the chalk and went in. As I entered I saw Br Michel and the boy in a corner. Br Michel was holding the boy who in turn had a brush raised as if to hit [him]. I lost my temper and in the spur of the moment I caught the brush and hit the boy. But how often or where I hit him I can’t say for definite. Then I gave the brush to another boy and told him to leave [it] at the far end of the room. As I was going back to my own room again I noticed the boy looking at his arm. I asked him to bend it which he did. I then left the classroom and went back to my own.


Following the incident, a fellow pupil took the boy to the infirmary. The infirmary record read as follows: ... Injury to arm (Accident in schoolroom) Iodex dressing and crepe bandage. Head dressed and bandaged. Taken back to school by boy who brought him to the infirmary.


This treatment indicates that the boy had lacerations to his arm and head, in addition to the fracture that was later diagnosed. The severity of the beating must have been obvious.


A doctor did not see him until the next day, when the entry in the infirmary record read: ... Examined by Dr [name] – sent to Mater Hospital. X-rayed. Result: fracture. Put in plaster. To return [date]. Admitted to Infirmary.


The boy continued to attend the Mater Hospital on a daily basis, and he was finally discharged two months after his first attendance.

  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.
  57. This is a pseudonym.
  58. This is a pseudonym.
  59. This is a pseudonym.
  60. This is a pseudonym.
  61. This is a pseudonym.
  62. This is a pseudonym.
  63. This is a pseudonym.
  64. This is a pseudonym.
  65. This is a pseudonym.
  66. This is a pseudonym.
  67. This is a pseudonym.
  68. This is a pseudonym.
  69. This is a pseudonym.
  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.