Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

Show Contents

Physical abuse


In conclusion: A serious complaint was inadequately investigated and was dismissed on insufficient grounds by both the Department of Education and the Superior. The Superior did not deny that ‘to impress matters on the boy he gave him a tip of his hand’. The severity of the blow was subsequently disputed, but it is accepted that the boy was physically chastised in the presence of the grandmother. Neither the Brothers nor the Department of Education criticised the Superior for hitting the boy in this way. The correspondence reveals a lack of respect for the grandmother and her complaints. She is seen as a dangerous troublemaker whose complaints ‘have to be nailed’. The decision by the senior official in the Department of Education not to reply to the grandmother’s letter itself revealed a contempt for her complaint. The Department’s inspectors accepted written statements from the Brothers and did not question them directly, thereby affording them a preferential credibility. Although the grandmother’s complaint was totally rejected, the Superior still sent out a letter prohibiting a method of giving punishment that the establishment claimed had never happened. This odd fact suggests there was an apprehension that there was some truth in what had been alleged. Many witnesses before the Investigation Committee testified that they were taken out of bed and punished, thereby supporting this part of the grandmother’s complaint.


A case of documented abuse was summarised in the Opening Statement by the Congregation. It involved a boy who received treatment in the infirmary following a beating by a Brother: In 1964 a Brother gave a beating to a boy, apparently for misconduct with other boys. The nature of the misconduct is unclear. There is reference to this incident in the infirmary diary for June of 1965 (sic), from which it is clear that the boy was beaten on the back and legs. There is no indication that the matter was investigated or that any action was taken against the Brother.


The 1964 infirmary diary contained an entry regarding a boy who complained of a sore back and legs. The entry simply stated: ‘got beating by Br Lionel for bad conduct with other boys. Resting’.

Physical abuse


In evidence, Br Lionel denied that this had happened. The Brother said that he was never reprimanded for this incident and said that he had no recollection of the particular boy named in the diary. He went on to say that he had indeed severely punished another named boy for sexually interfering with three younger boys. He described the beating as follows: I had to deal with just one incident of [peer abuse] ... I literally gave the person responsible when he had admitted doing it – he admitted openly to having done this to three children and I gave him literally a hiding. I mean a hiding ... I would have slapped him on the hands, I would have slapped him on the backside. It was literally – it was something to deter him from ever doing this again ... It stands out in my mind, it was the toughest thing I ever had to deal with.


A workman witnessed this beating and reported it to the Superior, Br Ourson. According to Br Lionel, the boy was brought before the Superior, where he recounted what he had done in the presence of the Brother and the workman. The Brother then claimed the workman said, after hearing what the boy had done, ‘if I was dealing with him I would have killed him’.


The Brother was unable to describe to the Committee the nature of conduct which in his view merited this severe punishment. All he could say was that the three young boys had come to him reporting ‘badness’ being done to them by the offender.


The Brother admitted he had beaten another boy in the manner described, but not the boy named in the diary, which leaves the entry in the infirmary diary unexplained. If the entry is correct, a second boy must have received a beating that was so severe he required treatment in the infirmary.


It was obvious from the worker’s reaction that the beating he had seen was one of extreme brutality. In evidence, however, the Brother remained unapologetic about the incident. He viewed the offending behaviour as sufficiently serious to warrant this extreme punishment, and invoked the workman’s later comment as support of his claim. Given the obvious severity of the beating, the matter should have been fully investigated and reported on by the Superior, irrespective of the offending behaviour of the boy.


In their Opening Statement, the Christian Brothers referred to an incident in the mid-1960s when an employee injured a boy: The Manager’s diary contains an entry ... which states that two boys, who were brothers, were sent unaccompanied to the Mater Hospital and did not return. This note is followed by the word “readmitted” which seems to indicate that the boys did eventually come back to Artane. It appears that one of the boys was injured, his brother accompanied him to the hospital and both absconded. Two lines below the original entry there is another entry as follows: “The injury received was caused by an employee of the School, who was the object of a jeering attack by the injured boy and others”. It is obvious from the handwriting that the two notes were not written by the same person. It is not clear whether the two notes refer to the same boy, nor is there any indication what the nature of the injury was.


The Brothers maintained that it was ‘not possible to come to any logical conclusion on the matter’. What is clear is that an employee injured a boy. The source of the information that the employee punished the boys for jeering at him most likely came from the employee concerned, who presumably was questioned in relation to the assault. There is no record that he was reprimanded. If it was not acceptable behaviour, then some record of the reprimand should surely have been made. There is no other record of this incident.


An article about discipline in church-run schools in Ireland appeared in a newspaper report in the late 1960s. In it, the journalist wrote about a pupil from Artane Industrial School, who had recently become emotionally disturbed and had been kept under sedation in the School infirmary. Despite this fact, he was punched in the stomach by a Brother as he came out of the toilets that morning. The boy also said the nun in the infirmary kept a cane there. The journalist went to the School to confront the Brother Superior about the matter. The journalist wrote this account of the meeting: “Brother, is it true that Delmar39 punched Michael40 in the stomach last week?” Brother Gilles41 moves the papers about on his desk, nibbles a biscuit. “Sure, I asked Brother Delmar about it this morning. He says he can’t recollect punching Michael at all.” “Could that be because he punches so many boys that he can’t recollect this particular instance?” Brother Gilles looks sideways at me and giggles, leans back in his chair, twiddles his thumbs and does not reply. “Is it true, what Michael says, that the nun keeps a cane in the infirmary?” “I couldn’t say,’ says Brother Gilles. ‘It’s news to me.” “But you’re in charge here, aren’t you? Surely you must know what goes on?” “I really couldn’t say.”


The Superior wrote to the Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education. He had been asked for a statement in response to the article. In it, he protested that he had not given an appointment to the journalist who had accompanied a Mr O’Neill,42 who had requested an interview. He explained: Mr O’Neill asked for the interview because Michael used to visit his home in Blackrock on the second and last Sundays of each month. On [a particular Sunday] Michael was out in Mr O’Neill’s house when he complained of a pain in his stomach which, he stated, was the result of a punch he received from one of the Brothers that morning. Mr O’Neill brought the boy back here that night and put him into our Infirmary. The Matron took charge of him and put him to bed. In a matter of minutes Michael was sitting up viewing the television programme. The following morning he was examined by the school doctor who didn’t discover any marks on his stomach: in fact he told the boy to get up and go to school. Michael got up but stayed in the Infirmary that day and attended school as usual the following morning. He was never under sedation tablets here ...


The letter continued: Articles like this have done much harm to Industrial Schools and they are most embarrassing to the staff and the hundreds of past pupils who are upright and honest citizens of the state. It is also to be regretted that a semi-state controlled organization like R.T.E. should invite [this journalist] to appear on a programme to cause more annoyance to the teaching authorities. [... a television journalist ...] interviewed a former pupil of Artane School. This boy gave a completely false picture of the school as it is to-day and many people, who knew the conditions here, telephoned to ask why some Brother wasn’t in the studio to state the facts. On the same programme when false allegations were made about the Gardaí, a Garda was present to give his side of the story, the true story; but we were not asked by the R.T.E. authorities to state our case. It is hard to blame [the journalist in question] and other members of the journalistic profession from across the water for launching their unjust attacks on Irish schools since there is much unfair and unjust criticism from so-called responsible sources here in Ireland. Not a voice is raised in defence of those who have dedicated their lives to this difficult task.


The Assistant Secretary replied as follows: Dear Br Gilles, Thank you for your letter ... concerning [the journalist’s] visit to Artane and [the] subsequent article ... I hasten to assure you that my verbal request to you through Mr. Wade for your version of [the] visit was entirely for the record and was not intended to imply that the Department was testing the veracity of [the] account. It was obvious that [the] account was biased, tendentious and in parts highly improbable. However I had to compile a record of all the cases mentioned in the article and a note from you was necessary to complete that record. It is highly regrettable that the Reformatory and Industrial School system should be the subject of so much ill-informed and malicious attack. The difficulty in dealing with the problem is that it is not always possible to identify those responsible or to be sure of the motivation which inspires the attack. The ignorant and the malicious, like the poor, we have always with us.


The main interest of this article is that it made an allegation that a Brother in whose care the boy had been placed punched the boy in the stomach. Mr O’Neill had found the boy retching, brought him to the infirmary when he returned the boy to the School, and made an appointment with the Resident Manager. The man was clearly very concerned. While a doctor was called and he found no marks on the boy’s stomach, the key allegation, that a Brother had punched him, was not investigated. The overwhelming concern in the correspondence was for the reputation of the Institution and the insult sustained by Br Gilles. The Department dismissed the complaint in the article out of hand, and merely sought the Manager’s response ‘to complete the record’.

  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.