Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 5 — Lota

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In the material discovered to the Investigation Committee are documents entitled ‘Regular Visitation’ in the houses of St Joseph’s Province. The impression is given that an annual visitation was carried out in Lota. However, the paucity of records has made it impossible to establish whether in fact such visitations occurred annually. There are very few documents relating to management of the School and the living conditions within it. What records are available focus on matters of finance, building development and the like. A fuller discussion of these Visitation Reports is given below.


In the early years, there was a mixture of children and adults residing in Lota and, although there was a school, it was not officially recognised by the Department of Education. Some qualified teachers were recruited in the early 1950s in order to obtain recognition from the Department, and this was granted in 1955.


Between 1951 and 1953, there was a rapid expansion in numbers, and new buildings, considered to be innovative at that time, were constructed. They comprised three large, detached, single-storey buildings known as pavilions. They were quite a distance apart and separate from the main building. They each housed approximately 60 boys.


The boys slept in dormitories, and there were two rooms at each end where the Brothers slept. Although there was accommodation for four Brothers in the pavilion known as Sancta Maria, the evidence suggested that there were times when not all of the four rooms were occupied.


The school classrooms were scattered between the main building, reconstructed farmyard buildings and portakabins.


The children were allocated to these buildings by both age and degree of learning disability. One pavilion was used for boys with more severe disability. The other two pavilions were used for children between approximately 10 and 14, and 14 to 18 years of age, with mild learning disability. Br Dieter1 explained the system as it operated in the late 1950s: I should give you the names of the three pavilions. One was Sancta Maria for eleven-year-olds plus who were mildly handicapped, and unfortunately among those there were some normal boys, as well, as discovered as time went on. Then in St Patrick’s, the older age group of those boys, 14 to 16-year-olds, were catered for, and then the younger children who were coming in at that time, as well, they were four-year-olds. The Blessed Martin pavilion, which was designated for the very severely handicapped children, it was decided then to divide that up into two sections, and one section was used for the mildly handicapped boys that were coming in, they were four-year-olds plus.


There were two dormitories at either end of these pavilions, each with 30 beds. The residential part of the building was completely separate from the classrooms.


The boys went to school in the original main building, where the younger children in Lota also resided.


After the Kennedy Report recommended that large institutions should be split up into group homes, these large pavilions became obsolete, but it was not until 1985 that the first of these pavilions was demolished, and 30 boys were moved into three bungalows, housing 10 boys in each. By 1988, all the boys were housed in bungalows in a more family-style setting.


The Investigation Committee received the following photograph and plan of Lota: Source: Brothers of Charity Source: Brothers of Charity


In theory, all the children in Lota had special educational needs. Unlike the industrial school system, which segregated the children according to their ages, with separate classes provided for younger children, the age profile of children in Lota was wide ranging and was based on different criteria. They were segregated according to their level of learning disability.


Children could be sent to the School at a very early age, some from the age of two years. A high percentage of the complainants were orphans who had been transferred from other institutions.


From 1956 to the early 1970s, there was an average of 240 boys in the School and they were cared for by 16 Brothers, who worked an 18-hour day. Some of the older residents helped with the younger ones, but this practice became less common as work became available for them outside the Institution.


During the course of his evidence, Br Dieter stated that some boys had been sent to Lota, even though they did not have special needs. He said: One was the Sancta Maria for eleven year old boys who were mildly handicapped, and unfortunately among those there were some normal boys, as well, as discovered as time went on.


The Investigation Committee asked the Brothers of Charity to clarify Br Dieter’s statement, and further requested if the Brothers of Charity had assessed the boys to ascertain this fact.

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