The Christian Brothers stated in their Opening Statement to the Commission: At local level the day to day management of Letterfrack institution, in accordance with the Rules and Regulations for Industrial Schools was the responsibility of the Resident Manager. The Resident Manager was appointed by the Irish Provincial Council up to 1956 and by the Provincial Council of St. Mary’s Province, Ireland from 1956–1974. The period 1938 to 1974 saw nine Resident Managers in Letterfrack, the terms of office ranging from one to six years with an average term of office of five years. During the relevant period each Resident Manager had between seven and ten Brothers under his control. Between 3 and 5 Brothers were on the teaching staff and there was a Brother who acted as bursar, an office Brother, a kitchen Brother and a Brother who worked on the farm. For most of the relevant period there were between fourteen and twenty lay staff employed in the various trade shops, on the farm or as domestic staff.
There was no record of any action being taken against the Superior of Letterfrack on the strength of this suggestion, and he remained as Manager until the following year when his six-year tenure expired.
The Provincial Report of June 1955 referred to the fact that Br Garcia18 had complained that discipline under the current Manager was somewhat lax. This report also made reference to immorality among the boys.
Sr Vincenza replied immediately to the Assistant Secretary: In reply to your letter of 29th September regarding the appointment of an aged Sister as Manager of Golden Bridge Industrial School, I have this day appointed as Manager one of the Staff – Sr. Bianca– to that position. When appointing the Manager on the 12th September I sent an extra Sister to the Ind. School, who holds very high qualifications and certificates for Domestic Economy, Cookery, Needlework and Household Knowledge, to help with the management with the household work and management of the children, so that Sr. Bianca could be free to devote some time to the duties that the Manager would have to undertake. The appointment made today leaves Mother Pia9 free to devote herself to the Community in Golden Bridge Convent.
The Minister, by letter dated 20th October 1944, refused to withdraw the statutory request. He again wrote on 6th and 7th November 1944, as he had not heard from the School about the new Resident Manager. On 11th November 1944, the Department received a telegram from the Superior to the effect that ‘the suggested arrangements at St. Michael’s School have been in effect since 21st ultimo’. The Department understood this to mean that a new Resident Manager had been appointed.
The children were severely underfed for a long period in the 1940s and 1950s. On being told by the Medical Inspector that the children were seriously underfed the Superior’s first priority was to defend the inadequate diet. The state of the children was not a concern for her. The Superior was arrogant and dismissive of the Department’s complaints. The Manager was grossly incompetent but the Superior was determined to keep her in place. The Department’s contention that conditions in Cappoquin were mirrored in other industrial schools run by the Congregation was an indictment of the Sisters of Mercy generally in respect of their care of children, and disclosed widespread neglect. The Department’s assessment also represented an extraordinary admission of failure on its part in respect of its oversight of the system.
It would appear that from the early 1950s the regime was less strict in Glin than in some other Christian Brothers’ schools, and the influence of a kinder and more efficient Resident Manager had a lasting effect on the ethos of the School. However, the accommodation of the School in a former Victorian workhouse meant that what improvements were effected were offset by the unsuitability of the building for its purpose.
The personnel created the management system and, while that had the advantage of the system changing with the style and personality of the man assigned the role of Resident Manager, it also meant an inefficient Manager could seriously affect the working conditions and quality of life in the School.
In 1973, a new Manager was appointed and he worked with the Department in bringing about the changes that established the group home structure. The new Manager was more sensitive to the needs of the boys, and had the assistance of a trained and experienced Brother who had taken a special interest in childcare and had attended the Kilkenny course shortly after it commenced in the early 1970s.
Br Ames did in fact leave the School in the late 1980s. The Christian Brothers in their Submission of 2006 said: The fact of a manager being of a dour disposition does not of itself support the veracity of any allegation of physical abuse made against him. Before being posted to Cabra, Br Ames had been appointed as Manager in [an] Industrial School where he introduced many changes and innovations. Allegation against an Assistant House Parent, Mr O’Sullivan4
The need expressed earlier, for new methods and a change of management for the reformatory schools system, also seems to have been shelved. A memorandum dated 25th July 1940 contained a note of resignation about how things were going. The Department official wrote: ... Father Ricardo3 informs us that his Provincial Council has decided to appoint Father Neron4 as Manager of the Reformatory at Daingean, and it is necessary to consider what reply should be sent to this. We do not know if Father Neron has any experience of the work of a Reformatory or similar institution, or what special qualifications he has for the position. At the same time, I fear it might merely annoy the Oblate Authorities to raise any questions regarding the appointment they have made, and I suggest that we merely say in reply that the appointment is noted.
This witness described how a sympathetic approach by the Manager led to his divulging information about abuse: He put a friendly arm around me, drew me close to him and he said, “Tell me, what’s troubling you?” I started to cry and I blurted out all the things that happened to me and why I hated God, I hated my own parents for being weak and dying, I hated religion. “Tell me”.. So I told him about what Olivier had done and I told him about Br Armande . I told him the specific incident, general as well, but mainly what Br Olivier had done to me. I told him about the Br Armande. I would never have had the courage to go and complain to anybody because I would be terrified I would get another hiding, they wouldn’t believe me. On that occasion he was so kind that he got my confidence, he spoke to me like a father. I blurted out and told him everything.
The Manager first told Dr McCabe that the three boys had left the School. On a visit to the Department, the Resident Manager ‘stated that he did not know the identity of the boys as Bro. Leon who had handled the matter had since died but that he would find out and reply later’. It is not easy to understand how the Manager could have given that information to the Department because he was, after all, present at the interview with the boy in Marlborough House when the names of the boys were given. Furthermore, the manager had previously told Dr McCabe that the three boys had left the Institution, so at that point he must have known the names. Finally, the Manager wrote in response to a formal request sent two months earlier and gave two names, adding that one of them was still in the School and that the other had been discharged the previous year.
Although Dr Lysaght was informed that the Manager placed the boys in suitable jobs upon discharge, ensured that they were properly treated, and if they left a job, found them another, he still expressed concern. He commented: this while outside the province of the School and Dept. of Education would seem an essential part of the support of young boys to make their way in the world. It can well be the case that all the time and care given them in the schools can be of no avail unless they are safeguarded during the first year or two after leaving.
Fr Moore learned about an Inter-Departmental Committee that was considering submissions in relation to Industrial and Reformatory Schools and he contacted the Chairman, Mr Peter Berry, who was the Secretary of the Department of Justice. A meeting took place on 26th November 1962 attended by Fr Moore, Mr Berry and the Secretary to the Committee, Mr Toal. Fr Moore’s criticisms, as summarised in the minutes, included the following: the absence of aftercare; a big percentage of boys needed psychiatric treatment which was not available; a psychologist was also required; many of the boys were institutionalised from babyhood until 16 years; the educational standard was very low; trade training was poor and did not lead to jobs in those callings and boys ended up in dead end jobs; neglect in regard to clothing, bed clothes, food and medical care; the Manager was unsuitable and ‘an unwilling captain’; and the Institution was short of money. At Mr Berry’s request, Fr Moore agreed to attend a meeting with Dr Ó Raifeartaigh, Secretary of the Department of Education.