Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


Six days after the mother’s letter of complaint was written, Br Cyrano, who had struck the blows, wrote to the Provincial of the Congregation: I am very sorry for all the damage I have done to the Brothers of Artane Community and to the Brothers in general. I have been very much upset and worried since it has happened. I will never forget it all my life. I would like if you would give me a change, as I would never really settle down again in Artane. As a favour I would be very much obliged if you considered my case, in making the change ...


These two contemporary documents within the records of the Congregation contain no details at all about the nature of the incident and the personnel involved. The infirmary record wrongly described it as an accident, with no indication that the fracture was the result of a deliberate blow, and the Brother’s letter expresses concern about the damage done to the Congregation rather than concern about what had happened to the boy. Even so, the fact that he was so upset and worried, and felt he would never be able to forget it, did not accord with Br Reynolds’s assertion that the attitude of the times to such incidents was not to view them as seriously as they would be viewed today.


This document also revealed that Br Cyrano was transferred out of Artane at his own request, because he felt he could never settle down there again. The assertion that his transfer was the result of action taken by the Congregation, to remove him from his position in Artane, misrepresents what actually happened.


Br Michel, the other Brother involved in the incident, appeared before the Investigation Committee and also expressed his remorse, describing it as ‘one of these things that I have to carry with me to the end of my life’. He said: ... a thing happened which I have found very difficult to bear ever since. It is 51 years ago now. In the classroom one morning, a young lad and myself – he wasn’t responding to the slaps that I was giving him, as far as I can recollect it now, and I was a young man, he was quite a hefty fellow. At any rate he decided to rush to the side of the classroom and grab a brush and went to strike me with it. Now I was absolutely nervous, didn’t know what to do and did the wrong thing, unfortunately. I called in another Brother, and he grabbed the brush from this young man and it all happened on the spur of the moment, regretfully. He did strike the young chap and he caused some injury to him. The matter was investigated at the time by the inspector for industrial schools and, regretfully, that other man was transferred out of the place.


This Brother did not know that the transfer was made at the request of his colleague and thought it followed the Inspector’s investigation. Under questioning, he added: It happened very very suddenly and in actual fact I didn’t realise there was any harm done, if you know what I mean, at the time until sometime afterwards, some days later.


This young Brother had seen a boy hit several times with a brush, causing visible injuries to his head and arm and he ‘didn’t realise there was any harm done ... at the time until sometime afterwards, some days later’. This simple statement indicates how a violent incident did not seem to be extraordinary in Artane. The extent of the harm done only emerged after the complaints had been made.


Br Michel blamed himself for the incident. He said, ‘I was young, I was timid. I hadn’t the control I should have’. He then uttered the following apology, ‘I wish to apologise profusely to people that I offended and I feel I have done my best to put that before the Commission’.


Neither of the Brothers escorted the boy to the infirmary: a fellow pupil took him. Br Cyrano, who struck the blow, appears to have suspected a fracture, because he wrote in his statement that he saw the boy looking at his arm and asked him to bend it, but he did not pass on that concern to the infirmary. The obvious severity of the injuries should have resulted in a full medical history being taken and a thorough examination.

Physical abuse


The TD who raised the matter in the Dáil took up the case as a solicitor and wrote making a claim. In correspondence, it was suggested that a payment could be made to the parents by way of settlement. The Christian Brothers at the time were willing to make a settlement in order to avoid proceedings, but they were advised that a payment would not prevent a claim being made when the boy reached his majority, and that payment should not be made to the parents. No agreement could be reached, and the matter apparently ended without any payment being made.


In conclusion: Young, inexperienced Brothers were left to cope with difficult children without adequate training, and without the support and supervision of a good management system. There was no ordered system of discipline: control was maintained by force. The gravity of inflicting serious injury on a boy was not apparent to the Brothers until an external complaint was made. It should have been routine for the parents and the Department to be notified of a serious injury to a child, however it was caused. Failure to disclose such a serious incident immediately suggests that there was a policy of concealing damaging information. Injuries inflicted by Brothers should have been fully investigated. The infirmary record was wrong, and was not subsequently amended as it should have been.


An Artane boy’s death in the early 1950s was recalled by complainants and respondents as a tragic and traumatic event that affected everyone in the School at the time and left a lasting impression for years after the event. Many former residents, including some complainants, alleged the boy fell because he was being chased and punished by a staff member. For this reason, the Investigation Committee investigated the incident in full.


At bed-time, around 8.30 pm, Stephen Cavanagh27 fell some 14 feet to the ground and suffered injuries including gum and lip lacerations. He was brought to the Mater Hospital, where he underwent an operation under general anaesthetic to repair the lacerations of his mouth. His condition deteriorated after the operation and he did not respond to treatment, and he died in the early hours of the next day. A post-mortem examination was carried out and an inquest was held in the hospital the next day, resulting in a verdict of accidental death.


A boy who was acting as monitor at the time of the incident told the inquest what he saw: the deceased went up the stairs to the dormitory with the other boys and then came back out onto the stairs and went to do a ‘circus trick’ in which he leaned his body on the handrail and slid down a short distance ‘when he seemed to overbalance and fall face downwards to the floor below’, which was a distance of over 14 feet. The injured boy had damaged his teeth and ‘put his hand to his left side as if he was hurt’. He was able to go into the dormitory to get his boots before he was taken to the hospital.


A Brother who was on duty on the first-floor landing described in evidence to the Committee how the injured boy was being partly carried by another boy and was brought to the infirmary before being removed to hospital. He said there was no question of the boy being pushed or being pursued at the time and that ‘he just accidentally fell over the staircase’.


The treating doctor at the Mater Hospital gave evidence to the inquest that the boy was admitted to the hospital at 9pm on the evening of the accident, with a history of having fallen about 14 feet and that, on examination, he was conscious and suffering from shock, with a laceration of the lower lip and lower gum, four upper front teeth missing and a bruise over the right lower jaw. The doctor decided to operate to repair the injury to the boy’s lip and gum, which he performed at around 12.30 am. He described the anaesthetic that was given and said that an endotracheal tube and pack were placed in position. He continued: ‘After the operation was completed, his breathing became embarrassed, for which he was immediately treated, but in spite of this he did not respond, and died’. The doctor expressed his agreement with the evidence given by the pathologist as to the cause of death.

  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.
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  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.