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, May 10, 2005

Order rejects claim of serious abuse

Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Allegations of serious sexual abuse of boys at Daingean reformatory, Co Offaly, which closed in 1973, were strongly rejected yesterday at a hearing of the Child Abuse Commission. So too were suggestions that severe corporal punishment there was abuse.

The hearing was also told that Oblate Brothers at the reformatory had no training and that six of them had nervous breakdowns between 1964 and 1969.

Fr Michael Hughes of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Ireland, the congregation which managed St Conleth's reformatory at Daingean, agreed, however, that men under such stress "might snap and become abusive", though he felt they "were [now] being treated very unfairly".

He told the commission's investigation committee that the sexual abuse allegations were "totally and completely denied" by the congregation.

Provincial archivist with the Oblates in Ireland, Fr Hughes alluded to two alleged incidents of such abuse at St Conleth's, one involving a lay person in 1950 and one involving an Oblate Brother in 1967.

Neither was upheld following Garda investigation, and a court hearing in the 1950 case. He said "immoral, impure conduct", strictly forbidden at the reformatory, "was a problem among the boys".

The congregation was "surprised" at the numerous complaints of physical abuse received by the commission. (It has received a total of 322 complaints concerning Daingean and Scoil Mhuire in Lusk, Co Dublin, run by the Oblates until 1984).

Pushed by Mr Justice Seán Ryan, chairman of the commission, as to whether he accepted on behalf of the Oblates that the punishment at Daingean had been abusive, Fr Hughes replied: "I would contend it was done in good faith and that people at the time didn't think it was abusive."

He agreed "the punishment was very, very severe but I feel it would be an injustice to the men of the time to say it was abuse."

Complaints by former residents had been taken "very, very seriously" and each had been replied to individually, but he felt it was for the commission to adjudicate on them. No punishment books - required by law - had survived from Daingean. He didn't know what happened to them.

He was aware of concerns of members of the Kennedy committee, which inspected Daingean in 1968, at the administration of corporal punishment to the boys over the bare buttocks and that the then resident manager there, Fr McGonagle, appeared to accept the value of such punishment as "more humiliating". Fr McGonagle, he said, denied saying he accepted the added value of such humiliation, though he had not denied the boys so punished were naked or had their shirts pulled up.

Fr Hughes accepted as "an honest statement of what was observed" a 1966 report which said corporal punishment at Daingean was "used frequently. When it is used it is very severe and in my opinion cannot in any circumstances be justified."

He disputed complaints that the boys had not been fed properly. He disagreed with an internal Department of Education memo which said there was "shameful neglect" of the boys' education and that they were being made use of as labourers.

He disputed findings by the Kennedy committee that the boys were "dirty and unkempt" and that the showers at Daingean were "rusted and disintegrating" through lack of use, or that toilets were "dirty and unsanitary". He contrasted the Kennedy findings with the "very careful" 1966 report from Dr Lysaght.

He disagreed with Justice Ryan that it seemed "eccentric" to accept the findings of one such report while rejecting that of the other.

© 2005 The Irish Times


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