The Department of Education submitted: Records of the Department of Finance which were discovered to the Commission indicate that in June 1969, the then Minister for Finance, Mr Charles Haughey, had met with a group known as the Friends of Industrial Schools and indicated that he would authorise a doubling of the capitation grant in respect of children in industrial schools. The Department of Finance subsequently notified the Department of Education of the Minister’s decision.. The Department of Education records also indicate that the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, inquired from the Department about the capitation grant prior to its doubling and was informed of its increase in letters from the Department respectively dated 19 September 1969 and 24 October 1969.
There was an air of Ministerial detachment in the Dáil exchanges arising out of the closure, in 1959, of Greenmount School. Deputy Stephen Barrett asked the Minister for Education, Jack Lynch, if he was aware that the Greenmount children had been ‘dispersed without any prior discussion with their parents and that, in fact, the parents were not aware that the children had been removed from the Industrial School to other Industrial Schools until after the dispersal had taken place?’ The Minister replied: The conductors of the school did so for what they considered good and sufficient reason and there was no intention whatever to ignore parental rights. They did so in the best interest of the management and conduct of the school. Deputy Barrett pressed the point by stressing that the interests of the parents had been ignored and that the promoters of the Industrial School knew that they were ignoring the rights of the parents. Minister Lynch’s answer was: I think it ought to be made clear that they acted strictly within their rights and within the terms of the Children Act, 1908, which governs the conduct of Industrial Schools.54
A complaint about the food was made in May 1959, when fathers of two boys who had been transferred from Greenmount Industrial School to Upton complained to their local TD about the poor conditions prevailing in Upton, and he forwarded their complaints to the Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch. One of the complaints was that the boys only got three slices of bread with dripping for their tea each day, compared to Greenmount where they received bread and jam each evening and two ounces of cheese four nights of the week (other complaints were made about punishment). He felt compelled as their local TD to forward the complaints on to the Department of Education, but he did not think there was much merit to the complaints, as he qualified his letter by saying that much of what they said was hearsay and that, having questioned them very closely on some of the information, he had formed the view that some of it ‘is obviously exaggerated to say the least of it’.
In their Opening Statement on Greenmount, the Presentation Brothers expressed the view that industrial schools were ‘a flawed model’, doomed to failure. They wrote: Up until the 1960s there was a popularly held belief in Ireland that industrial schools were an institutional response to cope with the problem of petty crime and delinquency by young people. This was a misconception. Children convicted of minor criminal offences were often admitted to industrial schools, But that was usually because they had strayed into breaking the law due to the absence of parental supervision and neglect. Children were also admitted for non-attendance at school. That was, again, usually a consequence of difficult family circumstances. Where one parent had died or departed, an older child might be required to remain at home in order to rear the other children in the family. The consequences of social and economic deprivation were addressed by breaking up whole families, the boys being sent to the Brothers and girls to the nuns. It is clear that, in hindsight, the industrial school system was not, and could never be, a success. It was based on a flawed model. No one today would seriously argue that an institution operating on then approved lines, such as Greenmount, represented an adequate response to serious social problems suffered by some of the most vulnerable elements in society. No one would tolerate the Courts regularly making orders having the effect of separating so many children from their families for up to 8 years. No one would suggest that a child could be raised on the modern equivalent of 22 shillings a week: indeed it appears that that task was beyond the Presentation Brothers at that time. (the Presentation Brothers informed the then Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch T. D., that it was not possible to feed and clothe boys on 22/6 per week in the late 1950s). No one would suggest that neglected and abandoned children should be housed and cared for together with, and in the same fashion as, young offenders. No one would consider lodging such a large number of children of varying ages in single institution with so few carers.
An unexpected question arose soon after the closure of the School, when the Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch, was asked if there was any proposal to re-form the band of Greenmount in any other local institute in the Cork area. In the notes prepared for the Minister’s reply, to be given on 9th April 1959, the following statement was made: In arranging for the dispersal of the boys every care was taken to ensure that the transfers would cause the least possible inconvenience to the boys’ parents or guardians.
Mr J Lynch replied: I think it ought to be made clear that they acted strictly within their rights and within the terms of the Children Act, 1908, which governs the conduct of industrial schools.
An Ceann Comhairle protested, ‘That seems to be a separate matter’, but Mr Lynch went on to reply, ignoring his Department’s brief. He said, ‘It is very unlikely to arise again, I am sure’. This assurance from the Minister, that the way in which Greenmount closed was a precedent that would not be repeated, was as close as he came to expressing disapproval of the way the closure was handled.
However, the view of the Department of Health prevailed and on 11th October 1974 the Government made a decision to firstly allocate to the Minister for Health the main responsibility, including that of co-ordination, in relation to childcare; and secondly authorised the Minister to set up a working party to report within three months on the necessary updating and reform of childcare legislation and of child care services. On 19th October 1974, Mr Brendan Corish, Tanaiste and Minister for Health and Social Welfare issued the following press release: Last week the Government decided that I, as Minister for Health, should have the main responsibility for children’s services in the future. I welcome this decision, since the present arrangements whereby responsibility for children’s services is diffused between three Government Departments presents serious obstacles to reform. I intend to begin work immediately in the following areas. I intend to prepare a new Children’s Bill. Simultaneously, I will review and draw up proposals to improve and extend the services available to children. At the same time, it will be necessary to carry through reforms. To help me in this work, I am immediately setting up a full time task force comprising one representative from each of the Departments concerned with children’s services, together with a number of outside experts...Since the group will work on a full-time basis, I expect that my proposals for reform will be ready within a matter of very few months.228
This system of nomenclature was confirmed to the Committee by a witness who was in Daingean in the late 1950s. When asked, ‘What was this boy’s name?’ he replied: I haven’t a clue. You never knew people’s surnames. Sometimes there was that many and you wouldn’t even know their first names, it was either Dub, Corky or Jack. Unless you knew somebody personally they used to keep their ethnic groups.