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On 5th January 1967, Mr John Hurley wrote to the Minister for Education, Mr Donagh O’Malley about the consequences of institutional life on a named young person. He also enclosed two documents, both written by Fr Kenneth McCabe, one on juvenile delinquency, which was based on McCabe’s studies of various institutions in the country, the second a descriptive account of St Patrick’s Training School in Belfast. The first report argued that: Our reformatory and industrial school system as it stands, is at best, only punitive. Reformatory and industrial schools are absolutely inadequately endowed. No institution could run on £3-10-0 per boy per week (This may not be an exact sum). The result is as one would expect. The food is bad. Boys are disgracefully dressed. In Daingean when I was there (Summer 1964) boys were not supplied with handkerchiefs. Spitting was a common habit. The boys got one shower per month (this at the height of summer). The school had only seven showers. Too much time, far too much, is spent in the school square; a large yard where the boys just hang around for hours at a time. There is no segregation of new boys from the rest. A relatively good boy is thrown in with the rest and, within a month, he is as bad as all the others.
The following day, 21st June 1967, Fr Kenneth McCabe wrote to Mr O’Malley from St Anthony’s Presbytery in Middlesex, stating: For many years I have been interested in the prevention and treatment of delinquents in Ireland. One aspect that interests me particularly just now is the ‘fate’ of so many reformatory and industrial school boys who fund their ways to Britain, and, almost inevitably, to trouble. I am just recently ordained but I can see possibilities and would like to begin as soon as possible to get something done for these boys. If anything is to be done, however, some change in policy at home would be essential. This would mainly entail an effort to keep track of where boys go in the months or year after they leave the schools, and, if they do come to Britain, to let us know. All this sounds elementary. From what I know of our present reformatory system, it would demand a radical reform of the whole approach to after-care. However, I won’t bore you with ideas. What I have in mind could only be adequately discussed in an interview. Should you be interested in doing something about the problem, I should be very glad to meet you when I am home in Dublin in early August. Do please let me know and I can put a tentative programme on paper. Just for the moment I would be grateful if you would please keep this letter confidential. I would ask in particular that you do no communicate it to the industrial school section of your department. If and when we meet I will let you know why I prefer to keep my suggestions separate from department level.162
Mr Costello replied on 12th July and suggested the Rev Kenneth McCabe as a member. He outlined that: I have known Father McCabe for a number of years. He was educated in Dublin and joined the Jesuit order here and was a member of that order until last year. He was most anxious to do social work (particularly in the field of juvenile delinquency) and with the permission of his authorities he left the order and went to a diocese in England. He was ordained a priest here in Dublin in the month of June but is now as indicated by his address working in an English diocese. I understand that he anticipates that he will be able to get permission from his Bishop to act on the Minister’s committee if it is thought fit to appoint him to it and that he will be able to travel to Dublin for the meetings of the Committee. Fr. McCabe has been intimately acquainted with problems of juvenile delinquency and also industrial schools for many years. I know that in addition to great personal interest in the problem, he now has a very wide knowledge of them. He has spent some time in the Daingean Reformatory and also, during his holidays, has studied the problem in Northern Ireland. He is a young man (in his early thirties) and is very intelligent and would make, I believe, a good committee member. He is a discreet person, but he has decided and firmly held views on how improvements in the present situation could be brought about and he would not, I believe, be in any way inhibited in expressing his views to the committee.