Woodstown was a holiday centre in Waterford used by the Rosminian Order for holidays for the boys during the summer vacation. The site in Woodstown was purchased in 1957 and, according to Fr Stefano, was fairly basic. The camp provided basic facilities, which by 1979 were considered inadequate. Fr Stefano’s first redevelopment project was the rebuilding of Woodstown. The renovation in Woodstown began in 1977 with the addition of new kitchens, and a recreation-cum-dining hall; and, by the following year, a new block which housed the sleeping accommodation for the boys was built. According to Fr Stefano, they raised most of the money themselves, but the Department of Education did provide a grant towards the building works. Justice Eileen Kennedy officially opened the new Woodstown in 1979.
In 1967, the Government set up ‘The Committee on Reformatory and Industrial Schools’ under the Chairmanship of District Justice Eileen Kennedy to carry out a survey of reformatory and industrial schools. The terms of reference of the Committee were ‘To survey the Reformatory and Industrial Schools systems and to make a report and recommendations to the Minister for Education’.
This letter was sent in June 1968. Justice Kennedy stated that the Committee had not formulated final views on Daingean, but felt that immediate interim action should be undertaken to improve conditions, and detailed the following as requiring attention: (1)The premises gave a general impression of grubbiness and required a thorough cleaning. (2)The buildings were cold and interim heating should be provided. (3)The boys were dirty, unwashed with ingrained dirt and verminous hair and their clothing was ill fitting, old and dirty. (4)That the recognition of this School as a special school for the handicapped be given early consideration.
The Department of Education replied to the above by letter on 30th April 1970. The letter stated: following on the letter from the Chairman of the Committee of the 14 June, 1968, the Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools had a discussion with the Resident Manager, Rev. [Luca] O.M.I., at which the manager was told that the boys should not be undressed for corporal punishment and that the aim of the management should be to phase out corporal punishment in the institution. At a special meeting with Fr. [Luca] on 21 April, 1970, the manager stated firmly that boys were no longer undressed for corporal punishment and that corporal punishment was being phased out in Daingean ... The omission of reference to the Inspector’s discussion with Father [Luca] from the letter to District Justice Kennedy of 22 May, 1969, is a matter for regret ...
Neither Kennedy nor Cussen would have shared this opinion.
The second incident was reported to him by a former detainee in November 1968, who alleged that he was ‘hit by a lamp on the lips, arms and other parts of the body’ by the same attendant, Mr Lombard. The boy did not make a complaint to the authorities at the time as ‘he was afraid of Mr Lombard and because he was convinced that he would not succeed in any complaint he would make’. The following day, the Probation Officer informed Ms Justice Eileen Kennedy, who instructed him to get the Probation Administration Officer of the Department of Justice to contact the Department of Education to have the matter investigated. He spoke to the Probation Administration Officer on 11th November, and was requested to submit a report on the two incidents, which he did on 13th February 1969. Mr MacConchradha, the Probation Administration Officer, referred the matter to the Secretary of the Department of Education on 28th February 1969.
In May 1969, a Probation Officer reported an assault on a boy at Marlborough House to Judge Eileen Kennedy. The boy had been hit in the eye with an aluminium mug by the Matron, Mrs Grange, which resulted in a black eye, and he was slapped twice on the left-hand side of his face by her. He was seen by a doctor the following evening but he ‘was afraid to say anything against Mrs Grange, as she was present while the doctor saw him, and he was afraid he would get a beating that night’. He had been a week in custody and, when brought before Judge Kennedy on remand, he had a black eye. Judge Kennedy brought the matter to the attention of the Secretary of the Department of Education on the same day, and said that she was of the view that the ‘complaint is one deserving of investigation’.
The Investigation Committee heard evidence from a complainant who was the individual subjected to the alleged assault by the Matron, Mrs Grange. He recalled that, when he appeared before her, Judge Kennedy asked how he had received a black eye, to which he replied ‘the madame gave me bang with a belt or something’.
This witness complained of getting ‘a few clatters on a few occasions’ from the Matron, Mrs Grange, and he explained that the black eye which Judge Kennedy had asked him about, was in fact the result of a blow with a ladle.
An internal memorandum of the Department of Justice dated 23rd July 1969 referred to the attitude of the Department of Education when these allegations of physical abuse were reported: It will be recalled that the Probation Officers had complained of boys being beaten in their presence in Marlboro House. While I was in Ormond Quay I transmitted complaints of this nature to Education. Justice Kennedy had also complained about boys from Marlboro House coming before her with obvious signs of ill-treatment. It took the best part of six months for [the Assistant Secretary] to reply to the Justice. Apparently [the Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools] simply ignored complaints of this kind. [The Assistant Secretary] admitted that there was ill-treatment by the staff and investigations are still going on. Some of the ill-treatment was however between the boys themselves.