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In a letter written during the course of their deliberations, they gave a lengthy account of numerous aspects of the School, including staffing levels, food, aftercare, health issues and numbers detained in the School. It was clear that the Committee had a number of concerns about Daingean, and met with Mr Thomas O’Floinn, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education. At the conclusion of this meeting, Mr O’Floinn suggested that the matter should be conveyed in writing to the Department for it to be sympathetically considered.
Mr Crowe pointed out that Mr O’Floinn, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education, had attended a meeting with the Kennedy Committee that had visited Daingean. During that meeting, Mr O’Floinn remarked ‘... that punishment of the sort disclosed by Fr [Luca] would be regarded as irregular by the Department of Education’. He also said ‘that the complaints of irregular corporal punishment were investigated by his Department but he said that frequently these complaints could not be substantiated’.
Mr Crowe stated that Mr O’Floinn invited the Committee to include this matter in the letter to the Department of Education, which was forwarded on 14th June 1968 (as detailed above). This letter did not receive a reply despite numerous reminders until almost a year later, and Mr Crowe expressed concern that the reply ‘... made no reference whatsoever to the particular matter of boys being corporally punished while they were stripped naked’.
In view of the extremely serious nature of the criticisms made, the text of this letter is given in full: Dear Secretary, Following the Committee’s visit to St. Conleth’s Reformatory School in Daingean on 28th February, Mr. Tomás Ó Floinn, Assistant Secretary, attended the meeting of the Committee on 19th April so that the members might outline certain features of the present situation in Daingean, which they considered to require immediate amelioration. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Ó Floinn suggested that the matters discussed should be conveyed in writing to the Department, so that they might be sympathetically considered and I am now doing as he suggested. The Committee has not yet formulated final views on St. Conleth’s and consequently feel precluded at present from advocating any sweeping steps involving heavy expenditure which in time could prove nugatory. They do feel, however, that some immediate interim action is very necessary to improve conditions there. The premises gave a general appearance of grubbiness and, while allowances must be made for the older sector of the buildings, even the newer portion was not very presentable. In particular the kitchen/refectory area, with its open drains and dirty yards adjacent, was very disturbing and the ware used for the boys meals was in particularly poor condition. In regard to the buildings, we are not advocating any expensive redecoration, but a thorough cleaning of the premises and its maintenance in that condition would seem to be in order. The buildings were noticeably cold. The visitors wore overcoats throughout and were still conscious of the prevailing low temperature. The Resident Manager freely admitted that the heating system was inadequate. This is a feature which should not be allowed to continue and some effective interim auxiliary heating should be provided. The boys presented a dirty, unwashed appearance – even to the extent of ingrained dirt and seemingly verminous hair. It was admitted that they were disinclined to wash and the lack of hot water was mentioned as a contributory factor. It was obvious to the visitors that the showers were hardly used. The vocational teachers drew attention to the lack of facilities for the boys to wash up after work in the shops and to the absence of proper protective clothing. The formative value of high standards of personal cleanliness is obvious and immediate action should be undertaken to correct the prevailing neglect in this respect and to provide the facilities which would encourage an improvement. The boys were attired in extremely ill-fitting, oddly matched, old, dirty and rather tattered clothes. We do not overlook the difficulties there in providing clothing, nor the extent to which clothing provided is subject to abuse, but in the interests of fostering the boys’ personal dignity, the present situation should be radically improved. It is suggested that the boys be outfitted in a more modern idiom and a “jeans and pullover” outfit, such as we have seen widely used in Britain, might well merit consideration. Underclothing and the substitution of pyjamas for night shirts might also be considered. Discoloured bed linen and the thread-bare condition of the blankets gives cause for concern. On the basis of one visit, we hesitate to comment on diet, beyond stating that on Ash Wednesday – the day of our visit – the boys main meal consisted of chipped potatoes, bread and tea and they were universally vocal that the quantity of food served to them on the occasion of our visit was far in excess of what would normally be in the case. Committee members commented on the absence of eggs from the menu, although they had been shown an extensive “egg-battery” adjacent. Early consideration to recognising the school as a special school for the handicapped would cater more realistically for the needs of the boys receiving instruction. It would also afford the higher teacher-pupil ratio, which the educational condition of the boys so urgently needs. The vocational teachers complained that their equipment was not alone inadequate but dangerous and there would appear to be considerable scope for immediate improvement in this field. In the course of discussion with the Committee as a whole, the Resident Manager disclosed that punishment was administered with a leather on the buttocks, when the boys were attired in their night shirts and that at times a boy might be undressed for punishment. At this juncture, the Committee does not wish to elaborate on corporal punishment as such but would urge that the practice of undressing boys for punishment be discontinued. In this regard, attention is invited to the amendment in recent times following the Court Lees incident of the British Home Office regulations regarding corporal punishment in Approved Schools which specifies that punishment, if administered on the buttocks, should be applied through the boys’ normal clothing. It will be greatly appreciated if you will look into the question of providing these improvements listed at the earliest possible moment. It is felt that they are the minimum necessary to render the school reasonably acceptable as a Reformatory. Yours sincerely, EILEEN KENNEDY Chairman.