With a single exception, there were no general motions on Industrial Schools. Even the reaction to Cussen and Kennedy came not in the form of a formal ministerial statement followed by a debate, but as incrementally expanding replies to Dail questions. The exception was in the Seanad and was a general discussion, lasting five hours, on a motion to take note of the Kennedy Report (though taking place on 10th December 1973, some three years after publication of the Report) proposed by Senators Robinson and West, representing Trinity College, Dublin. This elicited an unusually detailed, unguarded and heartfelt response from John Bruton, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Education.
Mr Bruton met with the Association of Workers for Children in Care (AWCC)213 on 4th July 1973 and sought their views on the transfer of residential childcare services to the Department of Health. Fr Gormley, on behalf of the organisation stated: that the administration of child care services by one Department would greatly facilitate the work, and the AWCC had stated this in its response to the Kennedy report. However, it was not for the Association to say which Department could best provide the services that were needed. As far as the Association was concerned, it was the quality of the administration and the back-up services which counted. The real problems facing workers in the Homes were often haphazard method referral, the lack of assessment facilities in many areas, inadequate finance, the lack of ongoing support for children after they have left care. The Association saw the need for a Family Welfare Department which would co-ordinate the work and generate the various services which were needed.
On 17th June 1974, Mr John Bruton, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, wrote to the Minister for Education, Mr Richard Burke, outlining the state of play. In his letter he stated: while the Working party was originally intended to review progress and indicate gaps in the implementation of the Kennedy Report it has in its introductory statement gone farther and recommended the setting up of another working group. As I read the suggested terms of reference of this new working party it seems as if it would in effect be undertaking the production of another (albeit updated) Kennedy Report. This major undertaking is not demonstrably necessary. The major lines of policy are in fact accepted by all and their main problems are availability of resources, administrative procedures and enabling legislation. I feel that the proposed investigation is too broad and would stifle much needed action pending issue of its findings. It is also unwise in that it involves the handing over to a committee of issues which require more and not less political direction. I suggest that following alternative course of action. In order to provide a firm starting point for action, a decision should be taken now that the administrative responsibilities of each Department will remain as they are at present. To co-ordinate day-to-day implementation of policy an inter-departmental committee (similar to that in operation in relation to handicapped children)...To draw up legislation and consider such wider policy issues as may arise in the context of legislation another higher level; interdepartmental committee should be set up. As the primary task of this committee would be drawing up of substantive legislative proposals it would need to act under continuing political direction. Such continuing political direction would only be feasible if it consisted of public servants.
On 7th May 1975, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Education, John Bruton, wrote to Larry McMahon, TD (Chair, Sub-Committee on Settlement of Travellers) and the Minister for Local Government, James Tully, TD to outline his concerns in relation to traveller children. In his letter, he noted: ... it would seem that some priority would need to be given to settlement of the real problem families, difficult though this may be. Otherwise the children will exact a terrible toll from society. Already it would seem that some of them at this stage are irredeemable.
On 23rd September 1976, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Mr John Bruton, in correspondence to the Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave, summarised the discussions that had taken place in relation to the financing of the homes and crucially stated that: I should refer to the fact that the Kennedy Report, in 1970, recommends that, in effect, the residential homes be transferred to the Department of Health. While this issue forms part of the remit of the Task Force on Child Care, I wish to state, at this point, that the Department of Education now wishes to formally record its agreement with the Kennedy Report recommendation particularly as the Government has since allocated the lead role in child care to the Minister for Health.
On 11th October 1976, the Taoiseach, Mr Cosgrave, received a letter from Sr M. Josephine, Superior General, Convent of the Mother of Mercy, Carysfort Park, Blackrock, County Dublin, where she sought an increase in the salaries to be paid to residential childcare workers, and stating that ‘we respectfully remind you that we who belong to your own constituency in which one of our residential homes is situated (St Anne’s, Booterstown), have a special claim on your consideration and support’. The Taoiseach contacted Mr Bruton at the Department of Education who, in outlining the situation to the Taoiseach, stated: The claim recently submitted by the Association of Workers for Children in Care would involve more than double the State expenditure on the homes, in real terms, in the first year alone. The whole trust of the claim is related to staff salaries rather than the cost of maintaining the children. About 65 percent of the State expenditure under the A.W.C.C. proposals would be in respect of staff salaries. Frankly, I think these expectations are unrealistic, especially in the present circumstances. One point I must emphasise is that we are totally opposed to any question of salary scales for child care workers in these homes being the same as those of housemasters in Lusk and Finglas. The A.W.C.C. claims that both groups are doing substantially the same work. We disagree. The boys in Lusk and Finglas, referred for persistent delinquency, are significantly more difficult to manage than the vast majority in the homes. However, apart from this, the Lusk and Finglas scales were deliberately designed to relate the housemasters with the teachers with whom they have to work closely. The staff in the homes, on the other hand, are similar to other staff in institutions for children who work alongside nurses. The implications for the cost of health services of paying child care staff in homes higher salaries than nurses could be enormous.