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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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Closure of Greenmount


An Ceann Comhairle protested, ‘That seems to be a separate matter’, but Mr Lynch went on to reply, ignoring his Department’s brief. He said, ‘It is very unlikely to arise again, I am sure’. This assurance from the Minister, that the way in which Greenmount closed was a precedent that would not be repeated, was as close as he came to expressing disapproval of the way the closure was handled.


The secrecy surrounding the closure of Greenmount meant that the rights of the parents, and the emotional needs of the boys, were both ignored. It was carried out in a way that suited ‘the best interests of the management and conduct of the school’ without any regard for the right of parents to know where their children were being taken, or concern for the boys, who were suddenly transferred without any time to prepare themselves for the move. Parents were clearly upset, because they asked their TD to raise the matter in the Dáil. The documents concerning the closure show no compassion or concern for the boys’ emotions. The boys were kept in ignorance of the fact they were going to be moved from an institution they had lived in for months and, in many cases, years. To many, it was their home. Only at the last moment were they told where they were going to be taken. To many, this news must have been a shock causing much distress.

On the changing nature of the boys in Greenmount


The letter to the Bishop of Cork from the Superior General had cited ‘the difficulty of providing suitably trained Brothers to staff such an Institution’ as one of the four reasons for closing. During Phase III, Br Minehane expanded on this problem. He explained that, in the 1950s, ‘Boys were assigned to Greenmount from the Dublin area and that created further problems’. The problems were related to discipline. The Dublin boys were more challenging of authority. They were hardened and street-wise. Br Minehane said, ‘we were dealing with a new and more difficult client, and ... training and expertise was required’. While the numbers of Brothers dealing with the pupils in Greenmount was about the same all the time, the management and care of the new kind of boy required an expertise and training that was not available to the Presentation Brothers.


Professor Keogh concluded his report for the Presentation Brothers as follows: This was the central point made in the report of the 1934–6 commission of inquiry – children in industrial schools were not ‘children apart’; however, they were still being criminalised in the public mind without any justification ... Industrial school children ought, accordingly, to have been treated and cherished as children and as citizens of the Irish state with rights under the constitution. But it seems that in Ireland in the 1930s, 40s and 50s the ‘old idea’ of treating such children as ‘a class apart’ had not yet ceased to be part of the mind-set of a society that was all-too-willing to seek an answer for complex social problems behind the closed doors of state-funded under-resourced institutions. It was tidier that way.

General conclusions


General conclusions 1. A harsh regime with excessive corporal punishment was implemented by one Resident Manager, who continued to serve as a senior Brother after his period of office, and would accordingly have influenced the policy of the School, but there was evidence of a softening of the regime in subsequent years. No formal record was kept, as required by the regulations. 2. The Congregation and the Department of Education failed to supervise properly and were insufficiently objective. They placed too much reliance on the Resident Manager for information on how the boys were cared for and did not have independent investigation. Evidence of mistreatment was ignored. 3. The 1955 investigations into sexual abuse revealed grave failures on the part of the Congregation and the Diocese, and let two persons who were believed to be guilty of sexual abuse to continue careers dealing with children. 4. The interests of the Congregation were prioritised in the manner in which Greenmount was closed, and the lack of information to the parents and the boys themselves, by both the Congregation and the Department of Education, showed an indifference to the people most affected by the closure.

  1. Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ (Report prepared for the Presentation Brothers, May 2001 and submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19 May 2004), pp 187–188.
  2. For the greater glory of God.
  3. Fratrium Presentionis Mariae.
  4. Keogh, p 54.
  5. Keogh, p 57.
  6. Cork Examiner, 28 March 1874, cited in Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ May 2001.
  7. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, p 41.
  8. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, pp 41–2.
  9. Cork Examiner, 24 March 1874.
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  13. Report on Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1936.
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