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Fr Luca,5 who was Resident Manager of Daingean from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, in a memoir about his time in Daingean described the former barracks as ‘pretty stark’, apart from a few very nice rooms that might have been officers’ quarters. Behind this old building was the building erected in the 1940s that housed the two large dormitories, one for seniors and the other for the juniors. Underneath were the woodwork and metalwork classrooms. On the opposite side of the yard was the large recreation hall, and across from that were the washrooms, again separate ones for senior and junior boys. There were also classrooms, a piggery and a poultry house, and the scullery and storerooms. Only the dormitory block had any form of heating. The boys and the staff had to wash in cold water.
Fr Luca also wrote about the urban-rural divide in the School and the differences and difficulties this presented to the school authorities. Most of the boys in the School came from an urban background. Fr Luca stated that the rural boys were more difficult to deal with than even the toughest boy from the city. He stated that, for a rural boy to be sent to Daingean, he must have done something ‘very radically wrong’: A boy or girl who seriously offended would be regarded as sort of social outcasts, they would be marked as people not fit to be in that area.
Fr Luca, who was Resident Manager from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, added to this picture. He wrote in his Statement to the Committee: I know you have heard it said at times that they were stripped, well there weren’t stripped but they might have to let down their pants and get it on the backside ... ... I would have to say I don’t know how many slaps they had. I never saw the boys being punished while I was there. I didn’t regard it as part of my duty to supervise that. I know that the boys were punished and I know it was left to the prefect to decide what the punishment would be for the particular, well I don’t like to call it crime, misdemeanour. It was generally at the end of the day, there would always have to be two there, never one. I suppose, there would have to be a person available. It seemed to be the tradition which was never questioned. It was never done during the day as far as I know. Nobody ever punished any boy except the prefect ... The place wasn’t in view. As far as I know, the punishment was always performed in the washroom. The stairs went from the washroom up to the dormitory. Now, I am sure they could hear the boys, they would know anyway, they knew what the score was.
In effect, Fr Luca confirmed all the other testimony: the Prefect with another Brother present administered corporal punishment, and it was administered at the end of the day in the washroom, near the dormitory, and could be heard by the other boys.
The evidence of the dreadful effect of these screams was most graphically brought home to the Committee by the evidence of Fr Luca himself. He was the penultimate Resident Manager of Daingean. He told the Committee: we had an oratory which was just on the other side of the square from – the square was a small one, maybe not much wider than this room, and I was there saying my office in the evening and I heard the leather being used on some boy at that time. I thought it was a most revolting thing and said here am I inside to praise God and Christ himself is being punished now right beside me. It sunk into me as a kind of a horror, that it was such a contradiction to all that we were working about.
Fr Luca replied: That’s fair. When I went in there the School was in action, as it were, there was movement. I acquainted myself with what each person’s function was within the School. I didn’t change them from the different jobs or that, I took it that they knew what they were about ... I didn’t involve myself in it, I think only twice I asked the Brother to punish a boy.
Despite his assertion that the practice revolted him, Fr Luca did nothing to stop the ritualistic flogging of boys in Daingean. This punishment was stopped in Daingean, after vigorous intervention by a Department of Justice official, and not because of any initiative on the part of the management. The banning of all corporal punishment followed in 1970. A full account of events at that time is given later in this chapter.
The open and frank discussion between the Oblates and the Department of Education throughout the 1940s and 1950s, on the way in which flogging was administered, revealed indifference by the Department to a flagrant breach of the rules. Flogging was administered in Daingean in a cruel, sadistic and excessive manner designed to maximise the terror of all the boys. It was used in Daingean for a wide range of offences, including those which even at the time would have been considered trivial. The pain caused by the punishment was intense, and victims graphically described to the Committee the physical impact on their bodies. Bruising and scars remained long after the beating was administered. Fr Luca’s stated revulsion to the practice of flogging was contradictory. It was within his power as Manager to put a stop to it and he chose not to do so. The Oblates did not condemn the practice of flogging in their Submission to the Investigation Committee. They contended that it was used only for a breach of the school rules and was administered by the Prefect. They did, however, acknowledge that punishment for absconding was ‘over severe’ but not abusive.
The Department official was sufficiently concerned by what he heard that he phoned Fr Luca the same day, requesting a school report as soon as possible. Fr Luca said he would investigate the matter but assured the Department official that boys were not prevented from writing home, quite the contrary.
The discovered documents reveal an unexplained anomaly. The Department’s system for processing requests for early discharge was to send a standard communication form, requesting the Manager to indicate whether discharge was recommended by him. That occurred in this case, but the form sent by the Department was dated one month prior to the mother’s visit to the Department – 12th May 1969. Fr Luca filled in this form but did not make clear whether he recommended a discharge or not, although he did state that he thought there was little hope for lasting or radical improvement in the boy. There was no reference in that document to the complaint by his mother. The document signed by Fr Luca is dated 13th June 1969 and is stamped as received by the Department on 16th June 1969.
The Department official promised the mother that the matter would be investigated, and an official was sent to Daingean. Clearly, the Department was becoming alarmed because of these very similar complaints coming in quick succession. An unusually detailed investigation was carried out, and the full text of the report is given below: Daingean Admitted 1969 – stealing Runaí Cunta As instructed I visited Daingean to investigate Mrs. [Walsh’s]11 complaint about the ill-treatment of her son in Daingean and interviewed Brother [Macario],12 Acting Manager, and John Walsh.13 Brother [Enrico], who was alleged to have beaten the boy was on annual leave and called to this Office ... by arrangement where the investigations were completed. In the interim I visited the boy’s mother ... and also spoke to Father [Salamon],14 S.J. and Mr. [Carlos]15 who had experience of [John] in [a boy’s] Club where he was a member for a number of years. Though [John] had been described by the authorities in Daingean as being a bit of a ‘pup’ his mentors in the [boys’] Club would not agree with this opinion. They did say that he could be difficult at times. Brother [Macario] did not deny that on one occasion ... the boy had got ‘cuffed’ but did not know of any previous assault on the boy by a member of the Staff. Members of the [Walsh] family had arrived in Daingean ... and seeing the condition of [John’s] face had created an incident. When interviewed [John] admitted that he had absconded six times since [he arrived] and after an unsuccessful attempt to escape on ... had been brought back by Brother [Enrico] who counselled him on the futility of his intention and gave him a couple of apples. [John] admitted that he liked Brother [Enrico]. When he called to the Office, Brother [Enrico] described the incident. Having brought [John Walsh] back to St. Conleth’s as described above, Brother [Enrico] was on his way to organise the milking of the 100 cows kept on the farm in Daingean which [Walsh’s] earlier absconding had interrupted. The usual supervisory staff were being helped out by students from the Oblate Noviciate in Athy and word was sent to him that [Walsh] had again absconded and was threatening a young Clerical student who was attempting to restrain him. When Brother [Enrico] arrived on the scene [Walsh] was already half way across the canal which bounds the Reformatory. With assistance, Brother [Enrico] was able to shepherd him out of the canal and once on the bank he gave him a backhander on the face and then seizing a length of plastic hose, which was the nearest thing to his hand he gave [Walsh] three strokes on his wet jeans. He admitted that at that stage his patience with the boy was exhausted. He admitted that the boy’s face had swelled up as a result of the backhander and that because of his jeans being wet he had left weals on [John’s] legs with the plastic hose ... Control of delinquents in Daingean is a difficult task calling for endless patience and understanding but the one unjustifiable feature of the present case, notwithstanding the provocation given by the boy, is that while [John] is fifteen years old and weighs 8 ½ st. Brother [Enrico] is a giant of a man, weighing 17 sts. whose backhander could cause considerable damage in the circumstances. The best way of finishing this case would, I suggest be a talk with the Manager, Father [Luca], O.M.I. on his next call to the Office and if you agree this will be done.
There is a handwritten note on the report to say that the matter will await Fr Luca’s next visit, and this is dated 18th November 1969.
Some of these complaints arose during Fr Luca’s period as Resident Manager, and clearly the giving of beatings was not confined to the Prefect, as stated by him. Br Enrico administered severe ad hoc punishments, as well as the more ritualistic floggings, although he was not the Prefect but the farm Brother. Br Enrico was brutal and unpredictable. Fr Luca’s comments that ‘On the corporal punishment, I don’t think it was excessive’ was contradicted by the facts. Corporal punishment: tradition and practice rather than regulation
The circulars on corporal punishment, in short, did not alter tradition and practice, and it was only when Fr Luca was told that he could be prosecuted for corporal punishment that the management of the School began to realise their practices were in breach of regulations. In fact, the issue of corporal punishment had emerged as a serious problem a year before, with the visit of the Kennedy Committee.
The full Committee visited Daingean on 28th February 1968. They spent the day in the School completing the inspection. They spoke to Fr Luca, the Resident Manager, and his staff, but not, it would appear, the residents.