Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


An allegation of excessive corporal punishment was referred to in one of the reports of a special inspection carried out by three officials49 of the Department of Education in December 1962. This inspection followed the appearance by Fr Henry Moore, the chaplain to Artane, before an Inter-Departmental Committee where he expressed his concerns about the way Artane was run. In particular, he commented on the excessive discipline and overuse of corporal punishment. It was in this context that the reference to discipline appeared in the principal report of the group, which was written by Mr MacUaid. The relevant part stated: Complaints about the treatment of children in industrial schools are not infrequent but from experience I would say that the majority are exaggerated and some even untrue. For example, you will recall the case where a mother brought her child to the hall and alleged that he had been beaten on the head and on the buttocks by a Br Javier50 in Artane. Fortunately, Dr McCabe was in the office the same day and on uncovering the bandaged head she diagnosed the “injury” as ringworm. The child had bruises on his body but in the subsequent investigation Br Javier claimed that they had been made in a rough and tumble fight with other boys and the balance of the evidence favoured the Brother’s case. Because Br Javier is the Dean of Discipline in Artane he was interviewed specially, away from the Superior and Bursar, on his duties Br Javier is a vigorous young man in his late twenties with six years teaching experience. His duties as Disciplinarian do not allow him to teach at present but he hopes to be relieved of his appointment this summer and re-assigned to the classroom. His policy of deprivation of privileges because of misconduct and acquainting the culprit of the reason is basically sound but he explained that successful application of this policy was not always possible owing to the ages of the boys, some of whom did not care if, say, the privilege of watching television or going home for a few hours on Sunday was withdrawn. He felt that, having withdrawn privileges and still being faced with insubordination, he had no alternative but to punish moderately with the leather on the hands in certain cases. He stated that he probably used the leather about twice a week. Br Javier is Dean of Discipline for 400 odd boys and, I believe, fills this demanding position with sincerity and firmness but without harshness. The only criticism offered is that he is too young for an exacting job that requires maturity and had little experience of the city type prior to his appointment as Disciplinarian. In a subsequent discussion, the Superior whole-heartedly supported the work of Br Javier. In response to the suggestion that a course in psychology in U.C.D. would help in an office of this important nature, he replied that the question had never been examined by the Order but that Br Javier would probably return to teaching next September.


The general disposition of the Department of Education was defensive. The official’s example of an unfounded allegation is questionable. If the boy who presented to Dr McCabe had bruises on his body, that in itself was a serious matter, calling for a thorough investigation.


The report said that ‘the balance of the evidence favoured the Brother’s case’, but a report on such a specific matter should have set out the evidence considered.


The key role of Dean of Discipline was given to a Brother ‘too young for an exacting job that requires maturity’. He also had little experience of the type of boy in Artane.


The report admitted that ‘complaints about the treatment of children in industrial schools are not infrequent’, but then relied on the ‘experience’ of the writer to ‘say that the majority are exaggerated and some even untrue’.

Physical abuse


A Disciplinarian who was judged to be firm, but without harshness, nevertheless had to use the leather on boys ‘twice a week’.


The Investigation Committee heard a total of 48 former residents. They tended not to complain about punishments that were justified, even if they were severe. As one witness said, ‘I didn’t mind being beaten if I deserved it’. Many witnesses often qualified their accounts by saying they had deserved the chastisement. One Disciplinarian was consistently described as a very strict but very fair man, because he did not punish unjustly.


The former residents did complain, however, about unjust punishments. Unfair, capricious punishments created a climate of fear because they were administered for little or no reason, and therefore could not be avoided. Examples include failure at lessons, writing with the left hand and bed-wetting.


They complained about punishments so severe they breached the accepted standards of the time. In particular, the punishments given to absconders were cited as excessive and cruel.


Another major cause of complaint was the method by which punishment was administered. One or more complainants before the Investigation Committee recounted the following kinds of punishment, which were often idiosyncratic to certain members of staff, and included: Being beaten with a hurley, fan belt, pram tyre, and sticks of various kinds. A deceased Brother admitted in a Garda interview that he used a fan belt to strike boys. Being beaten on the bare buttocks or other parts of the body. Being hit by the open hand or fist on the face or other parts of the body. Being kicked on various parts of the body. Being lifted by sideburns or the hair at the temples. The use of various methods to make the punishment more painful.


Many complaints were about the timing and circumstances of the punishment. For example, boys were taken out of their beds to be punished, or the punishment would be deliberately delayed to cause anguish about what was to come.


The Investigation Committee was struck by the number of witnesses who cited one particular long-serving Disciplinarian, Br Cretien, as being strict but fair. As Disciplinarian, he had to administer corporal punishment frequently, but the witnesses were almost unanimous in saying he used it only when it was deserved and it was never excessively severe.


In contrast, there were many complaints about Brothers who used corporal punishment unfairly. One witness, who was in Artane in the 1940s, was accused of stealing when in fact he had just performed an act of kindness. The complainant used to deliver potatoes to the wife of a staff member, and she would give him a piece of bread and jam as a reward. On one of those occasions he was subjected to a beating by a number of Brothers who had become suspicious of his having the bread and jam. He said that was taken into Number 6 classroom and beaten. He told the Committee: I guarantee you if you were lifted by the locks enough times you will say you done everything. It doesn’t matter whether you done it or not, you will own up to everything. I owned up to everything bar eating the bread and jam. I didn’t realise that that’s what I was getting bet for. I never owned up to eating the bread and jam. I was lifted up and beat. I got no tea that day.


He said that every Brother who was there punched him: The old men were teaching the young men which was worse still when I think about it now. The old men that should have sense teaching the young men how to effect punishment.


Later, he said that he was positive that the Disciplinarian was the man who showed the other Brothers how to beat him. The strap was also used on this occasion: At that time I don’t think I should have been beat. That’s why I am so much hard against that. I don’t think that them men should have hit me that day for nothing at all.

  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.
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  31. This is a pseudonym.
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  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.
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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.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
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  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.