A Visitation Report in the late 1950s criticised two Brothers for excessive use of corporal punishment. It wrote the following about one Brother: Br Vailant31 was reported to be rather severe on certain boys, troublesome ones, and to be exceeding the permitted limits of punishment. I spoke to him about this and he promised to be more careful in future. He has excellent control and should not have to resort to corporal punishment at all.
One complainant claimed he had been struck by Br Vailant so hard that he had to be treated in hospital as an in-patient in 1959. The blow was known as an ‘electric jowler’, struck downwards across the face. The Brother who attended the oral hearing was asked if he was familiar with this phrase, and replied, ‘Yes, they called it a jowler ... it was being struck on the face like, I suppose, like getting an electric shock‘.
The Brother who prepared the Congregation’s response simply stated: Brother Vailant was the disciplinarian in Artane for part of my stay there. He was a strict disciplinarian. It is possible that there was some folklore about him and the manner in which he used to punish the boys. However I never saw him giving any boy an electric jowler. The leadership team have confirmed to me that save for the complaints furnished to the Commission there are no records of complaints of abuse of any type made against Br Vailant during the relevant period.
Br Vailant, who had two spells in Artane in the 1950s and early 1960s, stated that he felt the boys were angry against the State that committed them, against their parents who did not care, and angry against the Brothers as the ones who were keeping them there. ‘In their eyes’, he explained, ‘we were seen as types of jailers’. He admitted he used the leather strap for misbehaviour and then added: ... I think I would have to put my hand up and say that I also used it for failure in lessons, even though I knew that that was discouraged. If you ask me why I would use it for failure in lessons I would say to encourage people to get on and to learn something.
Br Vailant was asked about the reference to him in the Visitation Report quoted above, which noted that he was ‘exceeding the permitted limits of punishment’. When asked if could remember the rebuke, he replied: I think I could say that I was never aware that that was written about me in a Visitation Report ... I don’t actually remember that [the Visitor speaking to me]. He said that I was too severe. Well, I would say now that I probably was, or at least that I was too strict, or maybe too demanding.
— The Visitor should have dealt effectively with Br Vailant’s severity when it came to his attention. The failure of a proper system for monitoring punishments administered by Brothers has left a number of ex-staff members of Artane with feelings of guilt and remorse for what occurred there.
Br Vailant told the Investigation Committee that life in Artane tended to revolve around the band and that the needs of the band took priority.