Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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During his inspection in 1966, Dr Lysaght81 commented unfavourably on the lack of variety in the diet of the boys and on the institutional nature of the refectory. The dining room was large, and all of the boys ate together at the same time, which gave: a feeling of institutional mass feeding and just as the large numbers in each dormitory it tends to hinder or delay development of individuality.


While the meals were ample and well cooked, the weekly menu lacked imagination and variety. With the newly modernised kitchen, there was no excuse and, once again, Dr Lysaght placed his faith in the nuns to turn things around.


Many of the complainants who gave evidence to the Investigation Committee from the 1940s era complained about food. One ex-resident described the diet: I would sum up my time in Artane as cold, brutal and hungry and the cold was because of the hunger. There was this enduring feeling of cold and this gnawing pangs of hunger. There was never any satisfaction, never any way to relieve the hunger. That was it, hungry, everybody was hungry all the time.


Another complainant, committed in the early 1940s at the age of nine, recalled that his mother often sent him food parcels, but that he only received a parcel once as they were stolen by the other boys. He did not blame them for this, as he stated that they were always hungry, ‘We ate the grass for God’s sake’. He stated that they had a small loaf dipped in fat for breakfast, and vegetables with gravy for dinner. He recounted how one Brother would conceal sticks of bread in his cassock and distribute them to the boys: ‘As soon as he appeared we went around him like a pack of dogs looking for food’.


A witness, committed in the mid-1940s, alleged that the food was diabolical. He stated that, during mealtimes, younger boys were sometimes moved to older boys’ tables on a temporary basis. When this occurred, the younger boys invariably went hungry because they could not get to the food fast enough. He also asserted that, whenever visitors came to the School, the boys got better food.


A further complainant from this era recalled how the boys divided the loaves between them. The first boy would cut himself a big slice, and the second boy would do the same, so that, by the time the last boy came to take his slice, there was little left. The younger boys were often left hungry as a result of the system of distributing food.


On the other hand, a complainant who was committed in the mid-1940s and remained in Artane for six years asserted that he had no complaints to make about food, as ‘the food was better than what I was getting outside’. He described living in abject poverty before being sent to Artane, and his records indicate that he was malnourished and underweight on admission.


While complaints about food feature with decreasing frequency in the 1950s and 1960s, a complainant who was committed to Artane for five years in the early 1950s stated that there was never enough food, and that the boys had to resort to scavenging from the swill buckets to sate their hunger. He singled out one Brother who would slip him extra food. He also alleged that bullying took place during mealtimes, with the result that some boys got less food than others.


A complainant resident in Artane during the 1960s complained that the food was unpalatable. One surmised that the reason the quality of the food was so poor was because the boys cooked it and did not possess the requisite culinary skills. Another complainant from this era recalled that, whenever a Visitation or inspection took place, the quality of the food markedly improved.


A respondent, who was in Artane during the 1940s, stated in evidence to the Committee that he punished boys who took food from other boys at mealtime. He asserted that ‘the majority of the boys always admitted that they were well fed’.


Another respondent, who worked in Artane between 1950 and 1959, gave evidence that ‘the food was always reasonably good, except that it wasn’t very attractive’.


Mr Dunleavy made the following comment about mealtimes: Apart from assembly and religious services, mealtimes were the only occasions when the whole school was present together. It seems extraordinary then that only one Brother was assigned to supervise the large refectory where up to 800 boys could be eating at once. In the course of being interviewed Brothers who had formerly worked at Artane told of leaving the door behind them open at all times so that they could escape if the situation in the refectory got out of hand. Brothers spoke of the atmosphere being “like a powder keg” and related stories of how Brothers had occasionally been assaulted by boys with knives from the dining tables. At each table of boys a senior boy was placed in charge, and it was his job to distribute the bread and tea to the other boys at the table. It was also his function, should any boy be misbehaving at the table to tell him to leave the table and stand by the wall so that he could be punished by the Brother in charge in due course.


In conclusion: Food from the farm and bread from the bakery made it possible to provide for the needs of the School and the Community at reasonable cost. Mealtimes were not properly supervised, and young or timid boys were bullied and did not get enough to eat. This was a failure of management. Facilities for preparing food and for serving it were primitive. Meals were poorly prepared and monotonous. A Brother categorised as ‘slip-shod’ by his own colleagues was in sole charge of this department for up to 15 years until the early 1960s and complainants testified that food was poor until this Brother was replaced. This was evidence of inferior management in the fundamental task of providing three meals a day for hundreds of boys. The facilities available in the Brothers’ kitchen were in stark contrast to those provided for the boys. The problems identified by the Visitor in 1957 and confirmed by witnesses were not picked up by the Department Inspector. The food during an inspection was not typical of that served on a daily basis, indicating a serious flaw in the inspection procedure.


Dr McCabe was critical of the standard of clothing provided for the boys.


In 1944, following a number of general inspections, Dr McCabe complained that the boys’ clothes were very patched, but was informed that there was difficulty in procuring material. She reiterated her criticism sporadically.

  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.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
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  31. 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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  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.
  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.