Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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At the public Phase I hearing, Br Reynolds commented on Br Danton’s appointment to the infirmary. He rejected the Visitor’s description of the Brother’s mental condition, and he did not appear to regard it as a major example of incompetence or failure of care. He said: I would say a number of things about it. First of all, obviously I know who the Brother was, I knew the Brother and I would not agree with the description of the Visitor, but so be it. Secondly, I would say that he wasn’t a teaching Brother and I don’t think the criticism was in relation to the mental soundness of the person. I think the main criticism was here was somebody that was sent in and he does not seem to be able to fulfil any role, so essentially I think the Visitation Report said that he was a negative quantity in the place. I would take that certainly I presume not in the community and from religious observance, but from the point of view that his work rate wasn’t very good and his contribution wasn’t adequate in the eyes of the Visitor. As you wisely say, why not take him out. The simple fact of the matter was he was left there, they tried him in a number of situations, they didn’t work and eventually he was moved on. During part of that time incidentally, the Brother in question was studying in university, he wasn’t a full-time member of the staff.


Dr Lysaght had visited the School in Spring 1966 and was critical of the medical record-keeping. He revisited in September and noted that record-keeping had improved. He noted that the boys’ weight and height were recorded every quarter, by their teachers in class, to cause minimum disruption. He said that, ‘In general the boys impressed me as healthy, well nourished and physically fit’. He carried out a spot check on a sample of boys and found a large number had tooth decay. Dr Lysaght recommended that a dentist by assigned to the School but, again, the issue of who would pay for the service was raised.


Many witnesses complained about the medical care they were given. One complainant, who was in Artane in the 1940s, stated that the doctor visited approximately every six months. All of the boys stood out on parade, and the doctor, accompanied by a Brother, walked up and down between the rows of boys. That was the extent of the examination. Other complainants have confirmed this practice.


A complainant who was committed to Artane for six years in 1945 recalled being told to go to the infirmary a number of times for various ailments. He never went, and nobody ever checked whether he had in fact attended. He gave his reason for not attending: ‘All screaming in there. The things I have heard about that place. I can’t remember it now. I was never actually in it’.


A complainant committed to Artane in the early 1940s recalled many of the boys had scabs on their faces. His mother took him out for the day and, on seeing the state of his face, she bought him some salving cream. This complainant, who was 10 when he was sent to Artane, stated that he was never examined by a doctor or nurse during his four years there.


Another former pupil, who spent seven years in Artane during the 1940s, stated that he had never received a routine check-up in Artane. The same complainant stated that he grew more than a foot in height in the 12 months after being discharged from Artane, because he received proper medical attention for the first time.


One witness, who spent seven years in Artane from 1946, described the treatment he received for a serious injury he sustained to all of the fingers on one hand, as a result of an accident during training in the carpentry workshop. He stated that sulphur was poured over his wounds and he used to pass out with the pain. He was kept in the infirmary for quite some time, but did not see a doctor. He stated that, in his seven years in Artane, he only saw the doctor once when there was an outbreak of diarrhoea in the School.


In an interview given in the late 1980s, Br Burcet described how hard he had to work there. He said that, on one occasion, 100 boys contracted influenza, and he was on his own in the dormitory looking after them. He described the utter exhaustion he felt at the end of the outbreak. Looked at from the perspective of the boys, one Brother in charge of 100 seriously ill boys was not an adequate standard of care. Whilst the tireless and selfless endeavours of the Brother in question are to be commended, the system that placed both him and the boys in such a situation must be condemned.


The Congregation stated that the overall judgement of Dr McCabe on Artane was positive. In some respects, this is correct, but an analysis of Dr McCabe’s reports reveals that she was impressed at the scale of the enterprise of Artane and the way a small number of Brothers managed the vast number of boys, rather than with the standard of care the boys received. Much of her comment was aspirational rather than factual. Rather than record conditions as they were, she tended to rely on promises that there would be improvements in the future. Successive Resident Managers did not inform the Department of Education as to the true financial position of the Institution, with the result that conditions were tolerated by the Inspector, in the belief that the Institution was barely surviving on the funding it received when she should have insisted on immediate changes.


1.Food: mealtimes were not properly supervised, and young or timid boys were bullied. Facilities for preparing and serving food for the boys were primitive. 2.Clothing: clothing was poor, patched and institutional, and the repeated criticism by the Department Inspector was to no avail, despite a healthy surplus in the School accounts. Underwear inspections in public were unjustified and degrading. 3.Accommodation and hygiene: accommodation was generally poor. Toilet facilities were primitive until 1953. 4.Education: the Christian Brothers condemn the Department of Education for failing to cater for educationally backward children in Artane, but the Congregation is also to be criticised for its failure to provide secondary education to many of the intelligent and able boys who passed through Artane. 5.Training: industrial training was a key objective of the system and, as the biggest industrial school, Artane >should have provided a high standard. However, training was only an offshoot of work that met the needs of the Institution. 6.The Band: boys who were in the band had better experiences of Artane than those who were not, and participation for some was a positive experience. The band was an extraordinary success and illustrated what the boys could accomplish with proper training. 7.Recreation: the Brothers put a considerable effort into training teams for matches with other schools and playing outdoor games, but the lack of indoor recreational facilities was a severe deprivation. 8.Aftercare: the purpose of aftercare was to ensure boys’ welfare, but direct contact was not thought to be essential, and it was often conducted only with employers to establish their level of satisfaction. It was, nevertheless, at a higher level than the ex-residents were aware of, and many were surprised at the level of contact maintained between the School and their employers.

Fr Henry Moore


Fr Henry Moore spent nine years in St Vincent’s Orphanage, Glasnevin, an institution run by the Christian Brothers, before he entered the priesthood. His first appointment, to the parish of Coolock, included the position of chaplain in Artane, which he held from 1960 until 1967. He prepared a confidential report on the School in July 1962 at the request of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid. His report was severely critical of the organisation and management of the Institution. Contrasting conclusions on the Institution were expressed in three reports written by Department of Education personnel, after they carried out an unannounced inspection of the School in December that year. The most senior official concluded that the School emerged very creditably from the inspection. The two approaches were analysed in depth at meetings of an Inter-Departmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in early 1963. Fr Moore gave evidence to the Investigation Committee, during which he reiterated and elaborated on the contents of his report. The Christian Brothers rely on the three reports from the Department of Education officials to defend the Institution against Fr Moore’s criticisms.


Fr Moore’s report to the Archbishop said that, with 450 boys in the School, the only way it could be successfully managed was by breaking the number down into small units. He was critical of the way the boys were indiscriminately admitted to the School without regard to their circumstances, background or special needs. He was particularly uncomplimentary about the general atmosphere in the School and the consequences for the boys: The very structure of the school is in dilapidated condition, colourless and uninspiring and reflects the interior spirit ... The atmosphere is somewhat unreal, particularly in regard to lack of contact with the opposite sex and this unnatural situation in a group of 450 boys plus a staff of 40 men invariably leads to a degree of sexual maladjustment in the boys ... The boys seem to be denied the opportunity of developing friendly and spontaneous characters; their impulses become suffocated and when they are suddenly liberated their reactions are often violent and irresponsible.


Fr Moore criticised the rigid and severe discipline in Artane, where every activity was marshalled and which he thought often approached pure regimentation: Constant recourse to physical punishment breeds undue fear and anxiety. The personality of the boy is inevitably repressed, maladjusted, and in some cases, abnormal. Their liberty is so restricted that all initiative and self esteem suffers.


In addition to its general condemnation of the regime, the report made detailed criticisms of the care provided in Artane under the headings of diet, apparel, medical attention, religious observance, education, technical instruction, and aftercare.


In comments on the boys’ clothes, for example, Fr Moore thought that this aspect of care was ‘grossly neglected’ and had adverse consequences: A boy’s personal clothing is as much the property of his neighbour. Shirts, underwear (vests are not worn), stockings, footwear, nightshirts (no pyjamas) are all common property and are handed down from generations. When these articles are duly laundered they are distributed at random, sometimes without regard to size.

  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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  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.