The Assistant Secretary replied as follows: Dear Br Gilles, Thank you for your letter ... concerning [the journalist’s] visit to Artane and [the] subsequent article ... I hasten to assure you that my verbal request to you through Mr. Wade for your version of [the] visit was entirely for the record and was not intended to imply that the Department was testing the veracity of [the] account. It was obvious that [the] account was biased, tendentious and in parts highly improbable. However I had to compile a record of all the cases mentioned in the article and a note from you was necessary to complete that record. It is highly regrettable that the Reformatory and Industrial School system should be the subject of so much ill-informed and malicious attack. The difficulty in dealing with the problem is that it is not always possible to identify those responsible or to be sure of the motivation which inspires the attack. The ignorant and the malicious, like the poor, we have always with us.
In a detailed report in April 1961, concerning the Laceys’ application, Mr Wade wrote to Mr McDevitt, Inspector. He set out the circumstances of how the couple came to Ireland in 1960 and immediately contacted the Adoption Board with regard to taking a child into their household. They had been referred by the Adoption Board to St Joseph’s, Kilkenny as an institution that might be able to ‘supply their want’. Sr Klara understood from this referral that they had been vouched for by the official in the Adoption Board, and she introduced the couple to Annette. Mr Wade had met the couple on several occasions as they had called into the Department. On the surface, they appeared pleasant but he had a number of concerns. First, Mr Lacey admitted to being lax about his religious duties; secondly, Mrs Lacey protested that she was a convert to Catholicism but was hazy as to the date of her conversion from the Protestant religion; and, finally, although she could give the location, she was not sure of the exact date of her marriage to Mr Lacey. Added to this, Sr Klara had her own doubts about the couple’s religious persuasion and had been warned that couples were going about the country seeking to adopt infants – therefore, she was not prepared to make the decision on her own authority. Mr Wade concluded that the application should be refused on the grounds that the whereabouts of the child’s mother were unknown and her consent would be needed for final discharge, coupled with the vague replies by the Laceys about their marriage.
Precisely one year later, on 11th May 1962, Mr Wade received a memorandum from one of the Departmental officials who said he had called on Mr and Mrs Lacey at the address where they were living when Annette was discharged to them. He spoke to the woman who now occupied the house. She told him the Laceys had left a long time ago, had sold their business and now had either a pub, or a fish and chip shop in the Southeast.
On 11th September 1969, Mr Wade from the Department travelled to Kilkenny with Mr Madden to inspect the ‘unauthorised works’ which were at that time being carried out, and about which Dr Birch and Sr Wilma19 had called to see the Secretary of the Department. Mr Wade set out the situation as far as he saw it: To fully understand how the nuns in charge of the Industrial School came to find themselves in their present plight the following comment may be of assistance. Since the appointment of Dr Birch as Bishop of Ossory there has been a convulsion in the social conscience of the laity and clergy in the Diocese of Ossory resulting in a welter of activity for the underprivileged from child adoption to geriatrics embracing also itinerants. Nuns, priest and students from St Kieran’s Seminary are involved to a greater extent than ever before among the poor and needy. A social centre has been erected on the grounds of the community, a nursery to facilitate adoption work has been approved by the Department of Health and will also be erected on the convent grounds and there are itinerants settlement schemes, meals on wheels, companions for the old etc etc. Add to this a favourable comment from a member of the Committee on the Reformatory and Industrial Schools on the standards of St Joseph’s, advance information from a member of the Committee that the group system of caring for children would be a recommendation and that grants would be available for building to assist in the changeover from the present methods and the stage was set for the nuns to run off in all directions without an Architect (except for on one item, play space and enclosed gymnasium) without authority, without money or the overdraft facilities to pay for the job.