Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


The night watchman found the boy, who had not gone to bed because of the instruction from the Brothers to ‘walk the passageway, gangway’, and told him to go to bed: The next morning I got up my finger was a white ball of flesh, waterlogged. I reported sick, I reported to Br Cretien20, which you had to do to get to see the nurse. I told the nurse what happened. I was treated at least a month or six weeks until eventually all the skin peeled off. Sometimes the nurse would cut it. After some weeks I was like a plucked chicken, bare skin. In time the skin grew back on the nail. To this day that finger, especially in cold weather, is numb, there is no feeling in it. I swear they must have burned the nerve ends.


Br Olivier gave his account of the incident: ... I was trying to help him, I was trying to cure him. That was a common thing long ago in the country, a bread poultice, you know, in water, like, before it comes to the boil. That’s what I tried to do with him. He looked upon it as a penance I think, but I didn’t mean it as a penance.

Physical abuse


The complainant told the Investigation Committee that there was no bread involved. The records show he was treated in the infirmary for a septic finger and that the Artane general practitioner saw him to treat the finger on two occasions, although the witness did not recall being seen by the doctor.


The Investigation Committee was faced with two conflicting versions of the motivation for this incident. On the one hand, Br Olivier claimed it was an attempt to treat a septic finger. On the other hand, the complainant firmly believed he was being punished for injuring himself to avoid games.


If the main motive was treatment, then the treatment should have been administered with due care, to ensure no further injury would result. There was an infirmary with a trained nurse available, and no explanation was offered as to why this facility was not used. The two Brothers opted to use instead a ‘hot poultice’ and clearly did not ensure the water was of a low enough temperature to prevent scalding.


There were, however, elements of punishment to the whole procedure. The boy was so terrified that he tried to make a run for it. Despite being in obvious pain, he was then made to walk the corridor. Normal resources for treating sick children were not used, suggesting the Brothers did not take the injury to the finger seriously. Given these facts, it is not surprising the boy believed he was being punished, rather than treated, for his affliction.


Moreover, the respondents’ defence was more cautious than a totally innocent explanation of the incident would suggest. In cross-examination, the complainant was initially told that Br Boyce had no recollection of the event, casting doubt on whether it had taken place. When he gave evidence, however, Br Boyce recalled the incident and said the water was not boiling. It turned out that both Brothers could recall the event, but insisted the motive was driven solely by concern to cure the finger.


The occurrence of the event was no longer in dispute. Nor was it in dispute that he was treated for some weeks for a septic finger. The boy’s feeling that it was more punishment than treatment does not seem surprising. Subsequent events proved he needed care and professional treatment.


A second, subsequent incident happened some considerable period later when the boy again failed to attend training. Br Olivier, he said: took me into the washroom. What we used to do if a Brother was going to beat you that night we tried to hang on as long as we could with our trousers on and our clothes. If you stripped off you only had a night-shirt. You didn’t have pyjamas. I thought he is not going to come, good. I stripped off. Sure enough he came in. He brought me into the washroom. He told me to kneel down on the floor and he stood over me with his arms folded. He was quite cool and calm and he said ‘I have told you now more than once to come out and I am going to give you the hiding of your life’ real calm. He was enjoying it. He said ‘hold your hand out. Hold your left hand out and don’t drop it until I tell you’. He took this leather strap out and he gave me four or five straps. I couldn’t hold it out any longer because the strap was starting to go up my arm. I had welts on it. I dropped it. He said ‘I have warned you not to drop your hand. Now, put your other hand out’ and I did. He started to beat me again. Again I dropped it. He said, ‘I did tell you’ and he went berserk. When you seen this man when he lost his temper he was like a wolf. His jaws literally went out and he bared his teeth and he just lashed at me. I was running trying to get away from him. He hit me, it didn’t matter where, legs, back, head, anywhere. During that I must have passed out because when I came around there was water running on my head and the taps from these baths were about that wide ... real old fashioned taps. I must have thought I was dreaming it. Then I thought I was drowning. I drew back and I cracked my head on the nozzle of the tap so I had blood coming down, I had tears, I was soaking wet. He wasn’t finished then. He threw me on the ground and he said ‘you’ll walk that floor for the rest of the night. Of all nights I thought the watchman would come but the watchman didn’t come that night. Nobody came and I walked that passage until 6.30 the next morning. I was so terrified of going to bed that he might come back and beat me again. I walked the whole night without sleep, I swear to God .... The injuries, you just put up with them. I was black and blue but I just had to put up with them ... I never missed a session after that, I can assure you.


In evidence, Br Olivier queried the complainant’s recollection in relation to this incident, as Br Olivier said that he would not have been training boys of the complainant’s age at this time.


Br Olivier did not recall the incident but, with honesty, again said ‘I am capable and I am ashamed to say I am capable of that’. His approach was clear and candid, because he refused to say that it did not happen simply because he could not remember the incident. He was willing to take responsibility for his general behaviour, even though the details of the complainant’s account did not make sense to him or trigger a memory. There was no dispute that such an incident could have happened, and the likely explanation was that the complainant was mistaken about the time lapse between the events he described.


Br Olivier was also involved in a shocking incident that began when a 12-year-old boy accidentally defecated on the floor in the sports dressing room. The Brother came on the scene and some of the excrement ended up on his shoes. The Garda statements made by the witnesses differ as to how this happened, and the precise sequence of events, but what is admitted in statements made by Br Olivier is that he told the boy to lick the excrement from his shoes and he did so. The Brother, in his statement to the Gardaí, said that he was shocked when the boy did this and told him to stop: ‘I only said it out of frustration. I didn’t mean him to do it’.


In the 1990s, Br Olivier wrote an apology to the former resident. A copy was furnished to the Committee by the Congregation. Br Gibson had asked him about a statement made by the former resident. Br Olivier’s letter to the man was as follows: Br Gibson ... brought to my attention a statement you made to him some time ago. I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer you my humble apology for my part in causing any of the above pain and hurt. I hope you find in the goodness of your heart the courage to forgive me and I promise to remember you always in my prayers. I pray and hope that you will find peace of mind and happiness in your life. May God bless and protect you always. Sincerely yours.


In his written response to the Investigation Committee, Br Olivier gave a full account of the incident as he remembered it, and repeated this apology. He wrote: On the day in question I was playing football with another Brother in a field far away from the dressing room. When we finished playing we returned to the dressing room to change and I noticed [the complainant] coming out of the dressing room. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he had to go to the toilet. I brought him back in and noticed the floor and my shoes were covered in faeces. I told him to clean up the mess and he replied he had nothing to clean it with. I spontaneously told him to lick it, meaning my shoes. To my horror he proceeded to do so and I immediately told him to stop and to go back to the class or he would be late. I did not give him any beating or bath and I proceeded to clean my shoes and the floor myself. On the day in question I was not on duty. I also wish to state that I never refused anyone permission to go to the toilet in my entire teaching career. I repeat the unqualified apology I made to [the complainant] sometime ago when this incident was brought to my attention.


He was specific in his statement that the apology was for asking the boy to lick excrement off his shoes. In that sense, it is indeed an ‘unqualified apology’. However, the Christian Brothers, in their response to the complainant’s allegations, wrote: [The complainant] describes in detail an occasion, while out training, he had stomach cramps, and accidentally defected himself. He claims that he was terrified that Brother Olivier would find out, so he hid his soiled clothing. Brother Olivier ultimately found the clothes and stained his shoes on the soiled clothing. [The complainant] alleges that Brother Olivier made him lick his boots clean. This alleged act took place in front of an ‘entire group’. [The complainant] continues that the group was asked to leave and he was then “subjected to a beating from Brother Olivier which lasted about 5 minutes”. In relation to the allegations made against Brother Olivier I would like to refer to a letter dated the ... addressed to [the complainant] from [Br Olivier] In this letter [he] wrote “I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer my humble apology for my part of the above pain and suffering”. While this letter acknowledges [the complainant’s] alleged pain, the letter is not intended to be an admission of the allegations made against Brother Olivier.

  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.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. This is a pseudonym.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. This is a pseudonym.
  42. This is a pseudonym.
  43. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. This is a pseudonym.
  55. This is a pseudonym.
  56. This is a pseudonym.
  57. This is a pseudonym.
  58. This is a pseudonym.
  59. This is a pseudonym.
  60. This is a pseudonym.
  61. This is a pseudonym.
  62. This is a pseudonym.
  63. This is a pseudonym.
  64. This is a pseudonym.
  65. This is a pseudonym.
  66. This is a pseudonym.
  67. This is a pseudonym.
  68. This is a pseudonym.
  69. This is a pseudonym.
  70. This is a pseudonym.
  71. This is a pseudonym.
  72. This is a pseudonym.
  73. This is a pseudonym.
  74. This is a pseudonym.
  75. This is a pseudonym.
  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.