Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


Br Burcet,46 who had two spells in Artane, in the mid 1950s and then throughout the 1960s, told the Investigation Committee how one witness had moved him to recall an incident. The former resident gave evidence that the first time he received the strap was from Br Burcet when he was one of the youngest boys in Artane, aged eight or nine: The first experience I have with a strap or a leather as they are called, it was from Br. Burcet. again there is a lot after that but because it was the first one it stuck with me ... I remember retracting my hand ... and then receiving ... the strap around that area (indicating) and then on the buttocks area. That was for retracting my hand ... All I remember, and that’s why it stuck with me, was the stings, the stings in the actual body areas. It was more than two or three [strokes].

Physical abuse


Although Br Burcet had denied beating the boy in his statement written in 2002, when he simply wrote, ‘I did not abuse [the complainant]’, he changed his evidence. He said: When I heard him describing it in evidence I was very taken and I was very conscious of how credible it was ... When he was giving his evidence and as he described it, it made a very, very big impact on me ... to hear it in his own words as he described that ...


Br Burcet was singled out for praise by some of his colleagues, and many of the boys listed him among the more kind and fair Brothers. He described to the Committee how the experience of Artane had affected him: In my last year in Artane I was Disciplinarian. I didn’t like the job, I didn’t want the job ... and I wouldn’t say I was very good at it. But during that period there was a fire and part of the building was burnt down ... I was in charge then and that had a huge effect on me ... I became paranoid about where kids were ... if I found boys in places where they shouldn’t be ... I punished them more severely than would have been necessary.


He then described punishing some boys on the backside: ... when some boys were interfering with other boys, they would be punished and one of the punishments they would get would be on the backside with the leather. I wasn’t too keen on doing it, I had a certain reluctance about it ...


In relation to one particular incident of peer abuse brought to his attention by Br Gaspard47, he said: I just brought [the boy concerned] to the boot room ... He had his nightshirt on him, he bent down, I gave him three or four smacks of the leather on the – not on the bare backside and he ran out the door and I was glad to see him go.


When Br Burcet was asked if he punished more in Artane than in other schools, he replied: Yes, I did punish more. I would say that it was more true of when I went there first than when I started to find my feet there ... In the latter part I probably punished less, until I was made disciplinarian ... it did change me, because when I left Artane ... I didn’t use corporal punishment at all.


Br Burcet later taught in Letterfrack and Salthill.


There is a marked contrast between the Congregation’s response to the evidence of physical abuse and that of individual respondents. The Congregation took up a very defensive position, but the individual respondents were, for the most part, more open and concessionary, with the result that areas of disagreement between respondents and complainants diminished, and some areas of agreement emerged. Individual respondents were able to recall and admit cases of excessive punishment or cruelty, but they were reluctant to see policy implications in such episodes. The Brothers were, however, less forthcoming in regard to physical abuse than some Brothers had been when they spoke to Mr Dunleavy when he was preparing his report on Artane for the Congregation. He described what he discovered in his interviews: In the course of interviewing members of the Christian Brothers who worked previously at Artane Industrial School a picture of a particularly brutal form of discipline emerged. It seemed that many of the Brothers who came to Artane to teach, did so as relatively young Brothers, often indeed Artane was their first mission. As such they seem to have been both equally enthusiastic and inexperienced and were highly influenced by the views of the School expressed to them by Brothers who had been there longer than themselves. Nearly all of the Brothers that I interviewed told me that it had been explained to them by senior Brothers at Artane Industrial School that the boys would not respect a Brother who did not discipline them extremely severely, and that a Brother who would not deal out such punishment would soon become know to the boys as a “Silly Brother” – it was not clear whether there was any sexual connotation in such a nickname. One Brother related an incident where his fellow Brothers had burst into applause when he entered a room where they were, as it had been learned that he had punished one of his pupils by punching him in the face – previously he had not dealt out such harsh punishment. Another Brother recalled holding a colleague’s soutane while he beat a pupil with his fists round a handball alley – the location having been chosen so that the only path of escape for the boy was past the Brother who was meeting out the punishment. It is my conclusion that unofficially at least, a system existed in Artane Industrial School of inflicting unusually brutal punishment on pupils, that such a system was tacitly sanctioned by the more senior Brothers at the School, and that this unofficial code of discipline made it inevitable that the physical abuse of pupils at Artane Industrial School would occur. Several Brothers relayed stories of occasions on which fellow Brothers had “snapped” and had punished a pupil excessively. The actions of the subjects of these stories were always termed as being entirely out of character. It seems to me however that the level of ordinary punishment in the school was so extreme, that when Brothers punished their pupils in an excessive manner, such punishment was inevitably of the most brutal kind. The reluctance of the school to properly investigate and deal with any allegations of physical abuse, or even to report the injury of pupils to parents or the Dept. of Education, ensured that such a system would persist.


Fr Henry Moore was the chaplain of Artane from 1960 to 1967. In 1962 he was asked by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, to give him a report on Artane, which he delivered on 7th July 1962. The report is discussed later in this chapter. He gave evidence about his report and generally in relation to conditions in Artane.


Fr Moore’s report stated: The administration of punishment is in charge of a disciplinarian, but in practice is not confined to him. There seems to be no proportion between punishment and the offence. In my presence a boy was severely beaten on the face for an insignificant misdemeanour. Recently, a boy was punished so excessively and for so long a period that he broke away from the Brother and came to my house a mile away for assistance. The time was 10.45 p.m., almost two hours after the boys retired to bed. For coming to me in those circumstances he was again punished with equal severity. Some time ago, a hurley stick was used to inflict punishment on a small boy. The offence was negligible. Constant resource to physical punishment breeds undue fear and anxiety. The personality of the boy is inevitably repressed, maladjusted, and in some cases, abnormal.


Br Reynolds at Phase I said the Brothers were not challenging Fr Moore’s eye-witness account and commented: ... we are saying that if anything like that happened it shouldn’t have happened and it was wrong. The thing that surprises me about it was that he didn’t bring it to the attention of the Resident Manager.


Fr Moore gave evidence to the Investigation Committee of the difficulties he had in bringing complaints to the Resident Manager.


He said that the overall atmosphere in the School was: very oppressive and it seemed to me to engender a great fear, an atmosphere of fear in the boys, generally, either in anticipation of punishment or actually experiencing punishment. In a word I would have described it as excessive and out of proportion.


He described incidents he had witnessed, including one in his report to the Archbishop in which he referred to a boy being severely beaten on the face for an insignificant misdemeanour in the playground.


He expressed a particular concern about the levels of corporal punishment used by Br Videl48, who was in the School in the early 1960s and about whom he heard consistent reports of his excessive disciplinary actions and beatings.

  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.
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  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.
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  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. This is a pseudonym.
  42. This is a pseudonym.
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  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.
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  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.