You'd hear the younger ones screaming during the night, the twelve and thirteen year olds. There was a night watchman who used to patrol the dormitories with an ash plant on his shoulder. You'd see him constantly bringing down that stick onto a boy in a bed with his full force, about five or six times. There were an awful lot of priests and brothers there in my time. The priests were unimpeachable, they beat the boys with complete impunity. No one ever interfered.

Location: Ireland

The Ryan Report I hold fast to the view that there must be no more deals, secret or otherwise done between Religious orders and the Government of Ireland without indepth consultation with people who were abused while in the care of religious orders or the state.

Tuesday, December 21, 1999


`Suffer The Little Children'

Sir, - The review by Maureen Gaffney of the book Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland's Industrial Schools (Books, December 11th), suggests that I, as residential manager of St Conleth's Reformatory in Daingean, and as chairman of the Association of Residential Managers of Industrial and Reformatory Schools in Ireland (the RMA), was an unapologetic advocate of harsh corporal punishment. I wish to make the following points:

I was chairperson of the RMA from 1964 to 1972. It was a voluntary and elective position in an association that had no authority over the affairs of any school or institution but was recognised by the Department of Education as a body with which it would dialogue. In the 1960s the RMA became a driving force for policy change in the area of childcare in an Ireland which lacked the interest, resources, understanding or will to provide adequate facilities to assist young people in trouble.

The RMA sought to focus attention on the deeper needs of children as well as to secure adequate funding.

As residential manager I challenged government departments to provide better facilities in my school in the areas of psychological and educational needs and buildings. I also arranged for social, employment and sporting links between the boys and other schools and local bodies. I pressed for psychological assessments of all boys before they were admitted to St Conleth's school. I provided specialised staff, a visiting psychologist, a matron, teachers.

I refer now to a quote attributed to me in the headline and in the body of the review about punishment, portraying me, as I have said, as an unapologetic advocate of harsh corporal punishment. I have no recollection of making these statements and comments. It was never my view that humiliation had any place in the relationship with the boys in Daingean. During my time in charge of Daingean, I oversaw a dramatic change in the approach to discipline, abolishing all kinds of corporal punishment in 1969. It would be well to remember that the State did not take this step until 1982. I introduced instead a merit system of rewards and non-physical punishments.

Let me say that I am personally saddened to think that any boys could have been subject to any sexual abuse or unwarranted physical punishment in Daingean. I am sorry that your review repeats the book's accusation that the Oblate Order was only distressed to learn of "allegations of abuse being made against any of our members". The review surprisingly omits any reference to the statement of the Oblate Order on April 28th, 1999, which was widely covered in the print and broadcast media at the time, and which read: "The Oblates of Mary Immaculate deeply regret that any young man was mistreated while in their care and offer sincerest apologies."

For my own part, I look forward to the commencement of the Commission on Child Abuse. From this I expect a balanced investigation of allegations into abuses in our industrial schools and reformatories. I hope it will help to secure truth, justice and peace for all concerned. - Yours, etc.,

Rev William McGonagle, OMI, Inchicore, Dublin 8.


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