Cappoquin Industrial School is of special interest because it existed first in the form of a conventional Industrial School and subsequently as a group home, and in each of these manifestations it gave rise to major complaints of abuse. The story of the Institution highlights the need for proper management and supervision, whatever the structure of the care facility. In the early part of the history, there are examples of severe physical neglect, while the more recent period is dominated by other failures.
This chapter also deals with certain allegations made by former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School for Boys, Passage West, County Cork, which was also under the management of the Sisters of Mercy. A sexual abuser moved from a School in Passage West to the School in Cappoquin therefore an account of his movements is relevant to the investigation of Cappoquin Industrial School as well as Passage West.
St Teresa’s Convent of Mercy was established in 1850 in Cappoquin, County Waterford.
St Michael’s Industrial School was built in the grounds of the convent and, in January 1877, it received 36 boys as its first residents. The Industrial School only admitted boys, as there was already an Industrial School for girls in Waterford City.
The accommodation limit of the School was increased from 51 to 65 in 1928, and from 65 to 75 in 1938. Until 1944, the State capitation grant was payable on only 51 of the children, as those under six did not qualify for a capitation grant; from 1944, it was extended to all 75 children.
In 1969, the School was given permission to keep boys past the age of 10 and, in 1970, was permitted to admit girls for the first time.
Until 1985, St Michael’s Industrial School, Cappoquin was under the authority of the Sisters of Mercy, St Teresa’s Convent, Cappoquin, County Waterford. Accordingly, until 1985 the Mother Superior of the local convent, St Teresa’s held the highest level of responsibility for the Industrial School.
In 1973, a site was purchased from the Cistercian Monks on the Melleray Road in Cappoquin, and two group homes were opened in 1974. For the purposes of this report, we have called these homes ‘Group Home A’ and ‘Group Home B’. A third group home (which is referred to in this report as ‘Group Home C’) was bought as a temporary measure in 1976. The original Industrial School closed in 1977. All the children in care at that stage were resident in the three group homes.
The ownership and responsibility for the group homes were transferred to the South Eastern Health Board in 2005.
A total of 1,483 children were recorded in the admission register of St Michael’s Industrial School over the entire period. For the period 1930 until 1983, the total number of children was recorded as being 582. In the period 1897 to 1960, it was understood that some 96 voluntary admissions were recorded for St Michael’s.
When the boys reached the age of 10, they were transferred to other industrial schools around the country. Most of the children were committed through the courts in the early years and came from the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Cork, Wexford, Limerick, Galway, Clare and Dublin.
The Mother Superior of the convent appointed the Resident Manager of the Industrial School and, during the period covered by the inquiry, there were seven Resident Managers, of whom four account for much the greater part.
The documents available to the Committee included: The reports of the General and Medical Inspections conducted by the Department’s Medical Inspector, Dr Anna McCabe,1 following her appointment in 1938; Memoranda and correspondence between the Department’s Inspectorate and the Resident Manager and Superior for St Michael’s Industrial School following the Inspections; Memoranda and correspondence between St Michael’s School and the Department in relation to the financial viability of the School, the reduction in pupil numbers, capitation grants and such like, and the plans to move from an institutional model to that of group homes.
The pool from which the Resident Manager and the Sisters were drawn to work in the Industrial School was confined to the Sisters in the local convent, St Teresa’s. As there was no central organisation of the Sisters of Mercy at that time (this came much later), it was not possible to source Sisters from outside the Community of St Teresa’s.
The number of Sisters resident in St Teresa’s during the relevant period was approximately 28 from 1940 to 1960, and decreased to 20 in 1985.