A month later, Dr Lysaght made a surprise inspection of the premises on behalf of the Department of Education. There were 32 boys there, all aged 10 or under. He recorded eight staff members, including the Resident Manager. He found the condition of the premises in good repair, and was informed that the Congregation had spent a lot of money on improvements and was most anxious about falling numbers. The Resident Manager feared they might have to close down. Dr Lysaght toured the building and was generally pleased with what he saw. He remarked on the good table manners displayed by the boys, and felt this was down to the efforts made by the Sisters with them. He thought the boys had a well-balanced and varied diet. He carried out a medical inspection, and raised a number of concerns about the arrangements in existence for dental treatment, which were not very satisfactory. The School in general had a happy and homely atmosphere.
Later that year, a Department Inspector carried out a general inspection. It is worth noting that the previous inspection by Dr Lysaght was in 1966 – a period of six years had elapsed since the Department had carried out an inspection.
Dr C E Lysaght was contracted by the Department of Education to conduct one-off inspections of industrial and reformatory schools in 1966. He provided a detailed General and Medical Inspection Report in regard to Clifden after an inspection in 1966.
On 11th November 1966, Dr CE Lysaght submitted a report on Industrial Schools and Reformatories to the Minister for Education, Mr Donagh O’Malley. Commissioned by Mr George Colley, the previous Minister for Education. Dr Lysaght outlined that: his personal instruction by word of mouth was not to confine myself to the purely medical and physical condition of the children but to go into and report on their environmental conditions which have a direct or indirect effect on their well-being and health, physical and mental.
Despite questioning the managers as to the reasons underlying the decline in numbers, Dr Lysaght claimed that he could obtain no conclusive result and that it seemed the result of a number of factors. He went on to state: Legal adoption has been given as a cause but all agreed the numbers involved could not account for the marked fall. Another reason given and also accepted as welcome was increased earnings and consequent increased standard of living among the poorer classes. Emigration of whole families of the poorer class to Great Britain was also considered a factor. The boarding out of children by Local Authorities was also mentioned. Nobody appears in a position to indicate its extent in their area but many considered its worth had been greatly exaggerated and were critical as regards boarded out children they had received in their schools....In many schools, Managers and nuns were cynical as regards Local Authorities and said their officials would prefer to send children to any sort of home rather than to the industrial schools and in fact had taken children from industrial schools without assigning any reason and placed them in homes. ...There were also statements made that some District Judges, no matter how bad the circumstances, would not commit children to these schools and they had a wrong conception of them. On inquiry I found that in only very few instances had District Judges visited these schools. It would seem therefore their knowledge of them was obtained second-hand and is hearsay which they would not themselves accept in Court as evidence.
In addition to the report by Lysaght, the Department of Education received a detailed memo from the Association of Resident Managers of Reformatory and Industrial Schools on 24th January 1967. In the memo the Managers highlighted the decline in the number of children and the closure of a number of schools in the previous year. In addition, they highlighted a number of further issues, including the unsatisfactory operation of the School Attendance Act, the lack of adequate funding for aftercare and the need for additional psychologists and psychiatrists. A further issue raised was the number of ‘pupils who are retarded and should not be in these schools’.139 The memo argued that such children place ‘a heavy burden on managers and staffs and then there is the added difficulty of finding suitable employment for those pupils at sixteen years of age. There should be a Special School for such pupils for they are a handicap to the other children and being unable to keep up with the class, their education tends to become worse.’
During his inspection in 1966, Dr Lysaght81 commented unfavourably on the lack of variety in the diet of the boys and on the institutional nature of the refectory. The dining room was large, and all of the boys ate together at the same time, which gave: a feeling of institutional mass feeding and just as the large numbers in each dormitory it tends to hinder or delay development of individuality.
While the meals were ample and well cooked, the weekly menu lacked imagination and variety. With the newly modernised kitchen, there was no excuse and, once again, Dr Lysaght placed his faith in the nuns to turn things around.
Many of the complainants resident in Artane in the 1940s complained of the quality of the clothing. The Brothers confirmed that the School produced its own cloth from which trousers were made. Although this material was clearly unsuitable for use in clothing, it was not replaced until the mid-1960s. A number of Brothers who spoke to the Investigation Committee stated that one of the major improvements introduced in the 1960s was an improvement in the boys’ clothing. Instead of being made by the tailoring shop, the clothes were bought in and were more comfortable and fashionable. The report of Dr Lysaght dated June 1966 described the boys as ‘well clothed: neat and tidy’.
Dr Lysaght was not impressed by the standards of cleanliness in the bathrooms and dormitories. He stated that, despite the School having being certified for 830 boys, realistically nowhere near this number of boys could be accommodated in the dormitories or dining room. In fact, of course, that number and, indeed, more than that number had been accommodated in Artane throughout the 1940s and well into the 1950s.
Even with the falling numbers, Dr Lysaght was of the view that the dormitories were far too large, with 90 to 100 beds in each dormitory. Such a large number ‘gives an impression of institutional care and regimentation which is of course objectionable and not in accordance with modern trends’.
Although Dr Lysaght was informed that the Manager placed the boys in suitable jobs upon discharge, ensured that they were properly treated, and if they left a job, found them another, he still expressed concern. He commented: this while outside the province of the School and Dept. of Education would seem an essential part of the support of young boys to make their way in the world. It can well be the case that all the time and care given them in the schools can be of no avail unless they are safeguarded during the first year or two after leaving.
Dr Lysaght had visited the School in Spring 1966 and was critical of the medical record-keeping. He revisited in September and noted that record-keeping had improved. He noted that the boys’ weight and height were recorded every quarter, by their teachers in class, to cause minimum disruption. He said that, ‘In general the boys impressed me as healthy, well nourished and physically fit’. He carried out a spot check on a sample of boys and found a large number had tooth decay. Dr Lysaght recommended that a dentist by assigned to the School but, again, the issue of who would pay for the service was raised.
In 1966, Dr C.E. Lysaght carried out the general inspection. He stated that the School menu provided a ‘well balanced diet and variety’. He noted that the dinners, which he witnessed during his inspection, were ‘ample’, ‘satisfactory’ and that ‘little food was left behind’.
Following Dr McCabe’s departure from her post in 1965, Dr Lysaght carried out a full inspection on 24th March 1966. In his lengthy report he remarked that: There is a kindly & intimate atmosphere in this comparatively small school which makes up for its old fashioned & rough furniture and equipment. The fact that the numbers are low and the buildings not fully occupied tend to make it feel bland by comparison with more compact building or one in which all the rooms are occupied. Much could be done to bring it up to date by way of say modern beds.