At a conference held in the Department of Education on 30th June 1952, with Fr Pedro,7 the Resident Manager of Daingean, District Justice McCarthy and the Minister for Education and his officials present, issues relating to Daingean and Marlborough House were discussed. The minutes at one point revealed the following: Justice MacCarthy asked whether corporal punishment had often to be inflicted. Father Pedro said no. Occasionally a caning on the hand, but no more.
Just a year later, in 1953, Fr Pedro explained in a letter to the Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools exactly what a ‘flogging’ meant in Daingean: “Flogging” means that a boy is put on his knees receiving a few (5 or 6) light strokes of a light strap on the back. This is not done except for serious offences such as a) insubordination (b) deliberate destruction of property (c) public immoral conduct (d) inciting others to riotous conduct (e) absconding. Absconding must be regarded as a serious offence otherwise it would be impossible to keep those type of boys in the School. The usual punishment for ordinary breaches of rule is a few slaps on the hand or deprivation of re-creation for 15 or 20 minutes.
The Investigation Committee was shown the strap used by the Prefect in Daingean. It was about three feet long, with a narrower section at one end for use as a handle. It was half an inch thick and about two inches wide. It was not as flexible as a belt described by Dr McCabe, or ‘light’ as described by Fr Pedro, but heavy and stiff and bendable and, when administered with force by an adult on a child, it caused extreme pain.
In the discovery from the Department of Education, an interesting document emerged in correspondence written after a deputation from Daingean had gone to see the Minister for Education. During the war, large numbers of boys had been sent to Daingean, filling the School to its capacity of 250 boys. When the war ended, numbers began to fall dramatically and, on 2nd March 1950, Fr Ricardo, Superior General of the Oblate Congregation, and Fr Pedro, Resident Manager of Daingean, met with the Minister for Education and his team to discuss the problem of reduced numbers in Daingean. The Oblates made the following points: 1.The chances of a boy’s reform are in inverse proportion to the number of chances given to the boy by the District Justice. Every new offence contributes to habit, and boys are now under the impression they have a right to be let off three times under the First Offenders Act. They wanted the Department of Justice to be brought into discussions to make the District Justice aware of an agreed plan, and make him “inclined to commit the boys for a period that would suit the course”. 2.The falling numbers meant falling income under the capitation system. They wanted a grant on a sliding scale once the numbers fell below 200. 3.Father Ricardo stated he would like to be able to appoint a special priest to deal with the children during their recreation period. 4.Father Pedro stated that the two-year period of detention is scarcely long enough to train boys properly in preparation for trades.