Priest condemned committal system
A letter sent in 1971 by the resident manager at Daingean reformatory in Co Offaly to the Garda Commissioner, in which he threatened to refuse admission to boys sent there, was described yesterday as a cri de coeur by Justice Sean Ryan of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
Fr William McGonagle had asked for a week's notice before the arrival of any boy.
Earlier yesterday, a hearing of the commission's investigation committee, which Justice Ryan chairs, was told Fr McGonagle had described the manner of committal by the courts of boys to Daingean as "a monstrous arrangement". He made the comments in a letter to his superior in the late 1960s.
Boys would arrive from the courts "at all hours of the day or night" while accompanying gardaí had "not a clue" about the boys' past history. He contrasted the situation with that operating in England where boys were assessed in advance as to their suitability for particular schools.
What was happening at Daingean "must stop", he had said, as "no constructive rehabilitation can be initiated" in such circumstances.
James Martin, assistant secretary at the Department of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, who was giving evidence, agreed it was "certainly not a desirable situation".
Colm Ó hOisín, for the Oblate congregation which managed Daingean, said that in March 1971 Fr McGonagle had written to the Department of Education saying he would accept only those boys who would benefit from the treatment programmes available there.
Such was the situation then that boys were confusing the role of Brothers, asking "is he a Brother or a screw?"
Repressive measures were the order of the day for the purpose of containment, "the result of a take-all policy", he had said. He recalled that among the boys were the "violent, the emotionally disturbed, the psychotic".
He stated in the letter: "No one gave a second thought to the problem as long as [ Daingean] took all." It was "a pure outrage".
Mr Martin pointed out that Daingean was the only institution to which such young offenders could be referred.
He agreed with Mr Ó hOisín that the department should have been more pro-active in ensuring young offenders were sent to places of detention suited to their mental and medical capacities.
Later in his evidence he agreed that a very heated row between then minister for education Padraig Faulkner and minister for justice Desmond O'Malley over Marlborough House remand centre in 1971 delayed resolution of the problem.
The hearing was also told reforms by ministers for justice Charles Haughey and Brian Lenihan in the 1960s were frustrated by slow responses from the Department of Education.
A journalist, John Cooney, religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Independent , is seeking an apology from a solicitor representing the Christian Brothers at today's session of the investigation committee of the commission.
This follows comments made by the solicitor at yesterday's hearing about the journalist and a book he had written.