A diary entry in 1981 read: [John]12 Back. 6.30 . Had a chat with him and gave him a few clatters.
The memorandum concluded with the suggestion that the Department entrust the day-to-day management of Marlborough House to a religious Order, in particular the Hospitaller Order of St John of God. It calculated that the cost to the State of such a move would be the same as the present running costs, but the service provided would be better: The advantages are obvious. The whole tone of the establishment would be raised to a very high level. At the worst the boys’ would be catered for, both spiritually and physically, in a far better manner than at present. At the best, the Order might send one of its trained Psychiatrists to take charge.
Not to be deterred, the Department of Education wrote again to the Department of Finance on 31st May 1944, setting out detailed reasons for their proposal. In particular, they asserted that ‘The chief consideration is that the Institution should have the best possible influence for reform on the young people who are detained there’. In this regard, they felt that, ‘a few days detention under the right guidance might prevent a subsequent career of law breaking’, which they felt could only be achieved by a religious Order, such as the Hospitaller Order of St John of God. They went on: Regarding your suggestion of grafting the place of detention onto an existing institution for boys conducted by a religious order the only suitable institutions of the kind are the industrial schools at Artane and Carriglea. We have tried repeatedly in the past ten years to get the managers of these schools to take charge of boys under detention or to set aside a small section of their premises for the purpose, but they definitely refuse to do so. I understand that Artane did make an arrangement of the kind many years ago and their experience of the difficulties and trouble involved has decided them against ever touching the matter again.
Many former residents complained of punishments that were excessively severe and violent. One witness, at Artane from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, described seeing a classmate being beaten. John51 was a very slow learner, but the Brother teaching Irish was not aware of this. He kept asking him questions, and persisted until he got the right answers, even though the boy had no idea what the questions meant: We started tittering laughing. I think Br Laurent52 thought we were laughing at him. He asked him again. Poor John kept guessing and always getting the wrong one. Eventually Br Laurent just blew his top. He hit that lad and got his head and smashed it ... on the bench. The ink wells went up, he was covered in ink, snots, blood, everything. He spent the entire half an hour, three quarters of an hour beating this lad until John eventually had a run of luck and picked this out three times in a row. With that when the bell went or the whistle, Br Laurent just slumped down exhausted from beating this lad. While we were, in the beginning, tittering, some of the lads were crying, we were frightened that he was going to kill him. We made way for him at the door. It was ghastly. The Brother at the other end, one class faced that way and the other faced that way, never intervened once to come down. That wasn’t like Br Laurent but he just lost it that day. He battered this poor lad, he was in bits. So don’t tell me there it was isolated cases, that Brother at the other end should have done something about it but he didn’t.
Br Dennis served in Artane in the late 1960s. He was questioned by the Gardaí in the early 1990s in relation to allegations of interfering with boys, in a school in the north-east of the country, on two occasions between the late 1980s and early 1990s. He denied the allegations at the time, but when questioned about them again almost 10 years later he admitted to a limited level of sexual abuse involving these boys. He also admitted to getting sexual gratification from young boys. Br Dennis told the Gardaí that in the mid-1990s his Superiors sent him to the Granada Institute, a centre for the treatment of sex offenders in Shankhill County Dublin which was operated by the St John of God Order.
Br Dennis’s ‘more or less’ denial obviously rang alarm bells: A short time after that they advised me to go for professional help, so I went to the St John of God, Granada Institute ... I was going there for a period of time and it took quite a while for me to admit, even to myself, that what I had done was wrong. As part of the therapy there I began to come to terms with it more and eventually was able to make a clean statement to them. I spent quite a long time there, in individual treatment and in group therapy ... At first I found it very difficult, but with time I began to open up more to the group because I saw that they were able to be open, and I kind of felt that I was lagging behind. So eventually, something happened anyway and there was a kind of breakthrough for me that I was able to admit it. From that period on I seemed to come to terms with the whole situation and to realise – well, I probably realised – I did realise before, the gravity of the situation I suppose, but it really only came home to me because as part of the therapy we were getting reports from people who had been sexually abused and it began to come home to me then the enormity of the thing.