Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


1.Artane used frequent and severe corporal punishment to impose and enforce a regime of militaristic discipline. 2.Corporal punishment was systemic and pervasive. Management did nothing to prevent excessive and inappropriate punishment and boys and Brothers learnt to accept a high level of physical punishment as the norm. 3.Brothers used a variety of weapons and devised methods of increasing suffering when inflicting punishment, and in some cases they were cruel and even sadistic. 4.Brothers did not intervene to stop excessive punishment by colleagues, and there was a code of conduct between Brothers that prevented criticism of each other’s behaviour, even in cases where it was clearly extreme or excessive. All Brothers, therefore, became implicated in excesses. 5.Even where a child behaved and kept to the rules, he could still be beaten. 6.The result of arbitrary and excessive punishment was a climate of fear. 7.Artane did not operate within the Rules and Regulations for industrial schools and the precepts of the Christian Brothers concerning corporal punishment. 8.The absence of a punishment book in Artane was a disregard for a specific legal requirement intended for the protection of children. The Punishment Book was not maintained in Artane because the Christian Brothers chose not to maintain it. 9.The Department was also at fault in failing to ensure that the statutory punishment book was properly maintained and reviewed at every inspection. 10.The Department of Education failed in its supervisory role by maintaining a defensive and protective attitude towards the management and staff. Even when it conducted an investigation, the Department simply accepted Brothers’ explanations uncritically.

Sexual abuse


The Christian Brothers’ Opening Statement on the issue of sexual abuse commented on six Brothers who were guilty of sexual abuse while they were in Artane. It then discussed five more Brothers who sexually abused boys in other institutions after their time in Artane ‘because of a possible retrospective connection to Artane’. The Statement finally dealt with two cases in the 1930s, in each of which a Brother was assigned to the staff of Artane with knowledge that he had previously been guilty of child sexual abuse.


Following its review of the cases of these 13 Brothers, the Congregation concluded that there was no systemic sexual abuse of boys in Artane. With regard to Brothers who abused, the Statement accepted that they did ‘betray the trust given them causing serious damage to boys in their care’, and it contrasted this with ‘the great number of Brothers who honoured this trust and devoted themselves to the education and welfare of the boys in their care’, to whom it said the offending Brothers caused pain. The Brothers accepted that the approach to instances of sexual abuse was ‘very inadequate by present day standards’ and then went on to propose arguments which were intended to exonerate the Congregation at the time: There was no cover up of the issue. When personnel became aware of the issue, they reported it to the Congregation authorities. Structures in Artane made it possible for boys to bring such issues to the attention of the Resident Manager or other personnel, and this in fact happened. The Congregation removed the abusers from the Institution and, in most cases, from the Congregation. The Congregation Visitor was attentive to the dangers of sex abuse. Guidelines and recommendations were issued to assist with child protection.


The Congregation does not accept any blame as a Congregation for sexual abuse in Artane. It contends that the Brothers who dealt with cases of sexual abuse did so in a proper manner by the standards and procedures of that time. It acknowledged that these procedures would not meet present-day standards. It repeated the apology that it issued to people who suffered abuse in its institutions.


The Congregation contended that Brothers who committed sexual abuse were dealt with severely. A guilty Brother was either given a warning or he was dismissed. Repeat offenders were dismissed. A Brother who had not taken permanent vows was usually dismissed. Of the cases recorded in the archives, 11 Brothers were finally professed and two were of temporary profession. Dealing first with the 11 Brothers in the former category, six Brothers were permitted to apply for and were granted dispensation from their vows, three were given Canonical Warnings, and no sanctions were applied to the remaining two Brothers. One of the two Brothers of temporary profession was dismissed, and the other did not renew his vows at the end of the year.


These details show that the only actual dismissal was in the case of a Brother of temporary profession. The most common sanction was to permit the Brother to apply for a dispensation from his vows, a procedure which required the endorsement of a Bishop. Taking this course spared the Congregation the trouble of proceeding with a formal Canonical trial and it was of immense advantage to the abuser. He was able to leave the Congregation of his own volition, to all appearances in good standing. He was in the same position as a person who had lost his vocation to be a Brother and who had been permitted to rejoin the outside lay world. The records acknowledged this sharp distinction, and detailed comments made by the Congregation also recognised it. For example, in relation to one case, information was given that the Brother: applied to the Apostolic Visitor who advised him to seek a Dispensation from Vows. His application was granted and he left the Congregation ...


In another case, a decision was made that the Brother ‘should be dismissed from the Congregation but he was given the opportunity to apply for a Dispensation from Vows’. In a subsequent general comment on the six cases of Brothers recorded as having been guilty of sexual abuse in Artane, the Opening Statement confusingly appeared to equate these two quite different means of exiting the Community of the Christian Brothers: The sanction applied was either dismissal or a canonical warning. In cases where it was decided to dismiss a Brother, the normal procedure was to instruct him to apply for a dispensation from vows.


The records indicate that the authorities were very well aware of the distinction between dismissal and a grant of dispensation from vows, which was a considerable benefit offered to an abuser otherwise facing expulsion. Dismissal means removal from office, not permission to resign. The Brothers’ Statement offered no explanation as to why this facility was offered to offenders.


The Opening Statement made a cursory reference to the question why abuse was not reported to the Gardaí: It would appear that the abuse was not reported to the civil authorities. However, reporting of allegations and/or instances of child sex abuse may not have been common practice in the general population at the time.


The implication is that sex abuse against children was not normally reported to the Gardaí by ‘the general population at the time’ and that this furnished mitigation or explanation of the failure by the Brothers. The introduction of ‘allegations’ is not relevant in a section dealing with recorded cases of undisputed sexual abuse committed by Christian Brothers. Moreover, what may or may not have been common practice in the general population cannot be the rule for providers of childcare who should be setting standards. And, as a later account will show, the practice of the Brothers differed according to the case: when laymen were suspected of sexual abuse, the Christian Brothers reported them to the Gardaí.


Dealing with the two cases where Brothers known to be guilty of sexual abuse elsewhere were assigned to Artane, the Christian Brothers observed that this was unacceptable by current-day standards, but the implication is that it was acceptable by the standards of the time. The Christian Brothers in their submission to the Investigation Committee stated that the ‘fact that it happened in the past is indicative of the lack of understanding of the recidivistic nature of child abuse’. The Statement does not indicate on whose part there was the lack of understanding, but a helpful pointer is found in the introductory remarks to this section. Here, it is stated that the long-term psychological damage caused by sexual abuse was not understood by society at the time ‘nor was the recidivist nature of child sexual abuse’. These failures of understanding are attributed to society at the time, and the ‘response of the Congregation to instances of sexual abuse was conditioned by this inadequate understanding of the issue’.


In its Opening Statement, the Congregation did not accept any responsibility at Congregational level for the undeniable, recorded abuse that took place in Artane. They blamed society for its inadequate understanding of the long-term psychological effects of such abuse and its recidivist nature. They claimed that the Brothers behaved appropriately for the time, although they did concede that these past methods would not now be considered proper. The Christian Brothers had long experience dealing with sexual abuse, and were better informed than others about its dangers and prevalence. They could not, therefore, attribute their failure to respond to a ‘lack of understanding’.


The earliest record of a Brother sexually abusing a boy in Artane dated from the early 1930s. It was specifically furnished by the Christian Brothers as an illustration of how expeditiously these cases were dealt with by the Congregation.


Br Platt, who was in charge of the infirmary in Artane, voluntarily confessed to the Superior that he had ‘abused a boy and acted immodestly with him’. The Superior referred the matter to the Provincial Council, and the case was considered by both the Provincial Council and the General Council. The Superior General wrote to the Provincial, saying that he had interviewed the offending Brother in August 1932 and ‘told him of the risk we ran in retaining him in the Congregation’. He was given one day to consider applying for a dispensation from perpetual vows or stand trial within the Congregation. The following day, Br Platt appeared before the General Council and informed it of his decision not to apply for a dispensation. His expulsion was then considered and a vote was taken on the issue. The Council unanimously voted in favour of his retention in the Congregation rather than expulsion. He was given a Canonical Warning and the daily recital of the Miserere as a penance and was ‘sent back to Baldoyle’. The Council noted that he was very repentant.


It appears that there was reluctance at a high level within the Congregation to expel this Brother, despite their awareness of the danger he posed. The Superior General was very worried about the situation, because he wrote in a letter to the Provincial on 19th August 1932 that he considered him to be ‘a great danger to us’ and also considered it a ‘risk’ to retain him in the Congregation. He even cited cases where two Brothers had been hanged in Canada for ‘murder of their victims after such offence’: He is a great danger to us. Two Brothers were hanged in Canada within the past two years for murder of their victims after such offence. A Brother of a community in charge of an Industrial school in Rome awaits his trial for the murder of a boy in the school who told of his offence to his Superior. The school is closed and the community disbanded.

  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.
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  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym. See also the Carriglea chapter.
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  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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  36. The same incident is referred to in the Department’s inspection into the matter as ‘a shaking’.
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  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.
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  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.
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  87. This is a pseudonym.