Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Emotional abuse


Even as late as 1969, it could be seen that there was no systematic way of dealing with children who were misplaced in Artane. Mr Dunleavy remarked: Equally disturbing are a collection of applications from 1969 for boys to be admitted to St. Augustine’s Special School as being mildly mentally handicapped. It transpires that in some cases psychiatric evaluations of the boys determining their handicap had been made up to two years before an application was made on their behalf to St. Augustine’s Special School.


He concluded his review of this feature of the Institution: It is clear from the above that while a deplorable practice existed of “dumping” mentally and emotionally disturbed children in Artane Industrial School, a school which was certainly not equipped to deal with their special needs, the school itself took no steps to alleviate the situation, and indeed appears to have been slow to recognise that the situation existed in the first place.


The Christian Brothers prohibited Brothers forming particular friendships, and they had a rule that a Brother should never be alone with a child. These instructions were part of the training each Brother received at Marino. The ban on forming particular friendships was partly to protect the Brothers’ vow of celibacy, but it was also to ensure the Brother would love everyone equally as God’s children. The instruction about never being alone with a child was to protect the Brother from allegations and also from any temptation. With this purpose in mind, these were good rules and were designed to protect all individuals involved.


Generally in families the parent singles out his own child from other children outside the family. In this relationship the child is made to feel special, and needs the affection that flows from this relationship and the sense of being protected by the parent. This bond is the foundation of the child’s self-esteem, and it gives the child confidence to tackle the stresses of life in the outside world. Despite being in loco parentis, the Brothers, with a few exceptions, could not provide this parental relationship because the system did not allow for it.


Quite apart from the fact that the rules of the Congregation made the kind of emotional support the children needed more difficult to deliver, the actual day-to-day interaction was one of fear and distance. This more than anything damaged the development of the children and this was not necessary. Even with the large numbers, Brothers could have behaved in a kind and measured way towards the children, showing them consideration and respect. The absence of this quality of care was the most emotionally abusive element in Artane.


Again and again, complainants told the Investigation Committee that they felt there was nobody they could go to for help or for protection. As shown above, many Brothers spoke of wanting to help a child who looked lost or lonely, but few were able to do so. As a result, many children went through life in Artane feeling ignored, except when being chastised and punished, and feeling nobody cared about them in any way at all. This failure to acknowledge the child, to make the child feel important and loved, left many of them feeling marginalised and rejected.


The Investigation Committee heard convincing evidence from complainants and Brothers who served in Artane that control of the vast numbers of children was accomplished by means of a strict regime and through a climate of fear. One Brother remarked that even well-behaved boys lived in fear of being punished. Children who were hardened by dysfunctional backgrounds, were placed with orphans and emotionally disturbed children, under the control of young Brothers who received no training other than their teacher training.


In the Visitation Report of 1954, the Visitor gave an example of the level of control that was inherent in Artane: Br Cretien is chief Disciplinarian. It is gratifying to hear that there is not much necessity for corporal punishment. There was a good test of the spirit of discipline on my second day in Artane. It was Saturday night and the boys were retiring to the dormitories. More than half had got in; many were on the stairs and a number still in the yard when the electric light failed. There was no stampede or sign of confusion. A few candles were lighted and to my surprise I found the boys sitting on or standing beside their beds in absolute silence.


As one Brother who served in Artane in the late 1950s put it: If we did not have a strict discipline at that stage the place would have gone to rack and ruin and those who would have suffered most would have been the boys ... it had to be strict because we had no back up services whatsoever ... some of them unfortunately who had problems and maybe who should not have been there at all ... the boys who could not understand that there was a certain way of doing a thing and that if they did not do that then it was going to lead to trouble for them, even if they were punished it didn’t register with them.


Later in his evidence, he was asked whether there were boys in Artane who were too emotionally fragile to be there in the first place: In all probability that would be a way to put it yes. They had come from backgrounds where they didn’t have the normal supports and so on as young people and they were coming in and they find themselves in a large group. Looking back now it must have been an impossible situation for them and knowing what we know now those young people should not have been there. There should have been a place for them but that wasn’t available at that particular time, as far as I know.


As the evidence unfolded before the Investigation Committee, it became clear that Artane did undergo a certain amount of change in the 1960s. Numbers were falling, and two Brothers in particular were singled out by their peers as men of vision who tried to bring innovations into the School for the betterment of the boys. A Godparent association was formed, and boys were placed with families for Christmas, summer holidays, and occasional Sundays. This was seen as a step forward, where boys would be able to live in a normal family situation. Nuns were introduced into the School, and their presence had a calming effect on the boys. A new games room and swimming pool were opened in the mid-1960s.


Although some of the Brothers recognised the need for the boys to be better prepared for the outside world, there does not appear to have been any consistent policy to prepare the boys emotionally and psychologically for their post-Artane days.


The Investigation Committee heard from a number of complainants that they did not have much family contact and that, on occasions, for example on the death of a family member, the situation was not handled in a sensitive manner. There is no evidence, however, that the Institution had a policy of discouraging children from having contact with their families. Boys from Dublin usually went home regularly.


Many witnesses to the Investigation Committee gave instances of acts of kindness, when particular Brothers treated them well. This evidence was often given by way of contrast with other negative experiences in Artane. The complainants named several Brothers as being particularly kind and fair, and these kind members of the Congregation made a positive contribution to the lives of the boys in Artane.


In conclusion: The number of boys in Artane, the extreme regimentation of their lives, the lack of appropriate training of the Brothers, the insufficient numbers of staff, and the pervasiveness of corporal punishment all had serious adverse effects on the welfare and emotional development of many of the children who passed through Artane. A climate of fear in Artane was a dominant memory for many ex-pupils. Practices used for management and control of the boys were frightening and abusive from the child’s point of view. It was a problem central to the whole system in Artane that the boys’ perspective was not taken into account. The Christian Brothers did not understand the impact of those practices.

  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.
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  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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  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.