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.

Friday, May 14, 1999

I want the skin pulled off this pudding.

Voices In The House

I want the skin pulled off this pudding.

- The then minister for education, Donough O'Malley, to a member of the Kennedy committee established to examine the State's industrial schools in 1968.

In their work, they (the committee) received little assistance. The behaviour of many managers and officials has been described to me as at best silently obstructive.

- The Minister for Education, Mr Martin.

The committee's impression of Daingean reformatory school was of a dismal place which should be closed as soon as possible.

- Mr Martin.

© The Irish Times

Minister describes steps to uncover abuse in 1960s

Minister describes steps to uncover abuse in 1960s

Details of how the Kennedy committee uncovered abuse of boys in Daingean reformatory school in the 1960s were given to the Dail by the Minister for Education.

Mr Martin said that the committee members visited Daingean in February 1968. "Their impression of it was a dismal place which should be closed as soon as possible."

They asked the manager about corporal punishment, and he replied "openly and without embarrassment that ordinarily the boys were called out of the dormitories after they had retired and that they were punished on one of the stairway landings".

When asked if the boys were stripped, he replied that at times they were. Asked why he allowed boys to be stripped naked for punishment, he replied, "in a matter-of-fact manner, that he considered punishment to be more humiliating when it was administered in that way".

Mr Martin said that District Justice Kennedy, who chaired the committee, wrote to the Department on this and other matters and received a reply which dealt with everything but the punishment.

"While giving assurances about the closure of Daingean, assurance about the punishments stopping seem only to have been given as a

result of significant disputes, the exact details of which do not seem to be documented."

Mr Martin said that the exception to this was an April 1970 letter from the Secretary of the Department of Justice to the Secretary of the Department of Education. The Secretary of the Department of Justice wrote that the official of his Department who was a member of the committee had signed the report on the basis of assurances that the Daingean punishments would be stopped.

He wrote: "To sign a report which made no reference to the situation about punishment in Daingean would, in the absence of evidence that the practice had ceased, be to appear to acquiesce in a practice which is indefensible and for the continuance of which the Minister for Justice could not avoid some official responsibility arising out of his having registered Daingean as a suitable place of detention under the Children Acts."

Mr Martin said that the secretary's next comment revealed much about the approach to abuse, even of concerned people:

"On the other hand, to make any reference, however oblique, to this particular method of punishment in Daingean would be likely to lead to a disclosure of the situation and, in this way, to cause a grave public scandal."

Mr Martin said that the episode demonstrated the need for everything to be out in the open. "I have no doubt that there are many other such incidents in official records and that official neglect and ignorance was commonplace."

The Minister, who was speaking during a debate on child abuse, said that any remaining files relating to the State's industrial and reformatory schools would be made public.

The Minister added that he was appointing a professional researcher to draw from the Department's archives all files which would assist the commission or assist in identifying the Kennedy committee's working files, should they exist.

He said that the patterns of neglect and abuse which had been publicised were clearly evident in surviving evidence, both archival and oral. "There is simply no doubt that these institutions were not only deficient, they witnessed serious levels of the direct sexual and physical abuse of children."

He recalled that in 1968, the then Minister for Education, Donough O'Malley, decided to do something about them and established a committee chaired by District Justice Kennedy. One of the committee members had told him that Mr O'Malley said of the schools: "I want the skin pulled off this pudding." But unfortunately, Mr O'Malley died soon after the committee was established.

The committee received little assistance in its work, said Mr Martin. "The behaviour of many managers and officials has been described to me as at best silently obstructive. It was due to the direct intervention of the new Minister, Brian Lenihan, that the committee was given a proper secretariat."

It is important that the response of the State and the public to abuse should be both "adequate and courageous", Labour's education spokesman, Mr Michael D Higgins, said.

He expressed concern that there were many people who did not want the truth to come out and who "will work against the commission to make sure that the truth does not come out".

The commission to establish the nature and extent of abuse would not work unless the person could see the perpetrator of their abuse before them and the perpetrator admitted the abuse. They would tell their own story and might then decide to leave what had happened aside and be prepared to move on. "But that has to happen first," he said.

They also had to face up to this excuse that many people didn't know what was happening. In his own constituency there were boys in the school in Letterfrack. The farmers in the area rang the institutions and had boys working in the fields. Those farmers knew who they had in the fields and the punishments that took place in the fields.

He recalled the publication of the actor Mannix Flynn's book Nothing to Say. Mr Flynn had been in Letterfrack. The Labour deputy said he remembered the difficulty the actor had in publishing the book and in having it reviewed. "There were many people who simply would prefer that the truth never came out. They are still there."

Child abuse continues and the level of abuse is increasing, but there is a high level of legislative neglect, Mr Dan Neville, Fine Gael's spokesman on children, said.

Stressing the absolute priority of establishing a children's ombudsman, he said that "we must ensure that this generation of legislators are not found culpable of failure to act".

Fine Gael's education spokesman, Mr Richard Bruton, said a more robust legal framework was needed to deal with children who were at risk of being neglected or abused. Along with an ombudsman for children an inspectorate should be established of all childcare providers with sufficient independence, power and resources to do the job properly.

Mr Bruton questioned how the commission to examine the causes, nature and extent of abuse in industrial schools would work.

© The Irish Times

Saturday, May 01, 1999

A shameful silence as the children suffered

A shameful silence as the children suffered

`Exactly 30 years ago, a commission of inquiry into industrial and reformatory schools made a report to the government. It was full of recommendations for reform. "Some of them were adopted but many others, even more essential to the welfare of the children, were neglected."

The writer was Michael Viney. His series, The Young Offenders, appeared in this newspaper exactly 33 years ago; the piece from which the extract is taken was published on May 4th, 1966.

The commission to which he referred had published its findings in 1936. The first part of Mary Raftery's heartbreaking series States of Fear was broadcast on RTE 1 on Tuesday.

Michael Viney listed the charges against Irish society for which he offered evidence. The first was "that most juvenile offences in the Republic are rooted in social conditions: urban poverty and overcrowding, deprivation and inadequate family welfare."

States of Fear is not about offenders, but, as the lives of orphanages, industrial schools and reformatories are exposed, the sense that this was in essence a penal system is unavoidable.

And as we look again at these and other issues - the administration of justice, the operations of banks, the links between business and politics - it's plain that the most pervasive influence on Irish society is class.

Class governs access to health services, housing and education; the work we do, the environment we live in, the air we breathe. It makes most difference to those who are at the remote and all but invisible end of what can scarcely be called a scale.

Why this has not given rise to class politics, as in other industrialised societies, is a subject fit for the Labour Party, whose delegates have gathered this May Day in Tralee.

For Labour, class is of more - much more - than academic interest. The shape of our society is changing, as the middle ground expands and those above or below it - the top 10 and the 25 per cent at the bottom - lose touch with the mainstream.

The nature, if not the shape, of society remains as it was.

Class and the imperative to maintain control linked Maynooth and Dublin Castle long before independence; with the fusion of Church and State in the 1920s, the system of social and economic division looked like becoming permanent.

States of Fear has set people asking why no one lifted a finger on behalf of the children left to the mercy of our industrial schools and orphanages in the 1940s, 1950s and for much of the 1960s.

Some blame the Catholic Church. A clerical threat certainly hung over the heads of teachers, much as the threat of Daingean or Glin was used to subdue their pupils.

The press wouldn't say boo to a goose. The Irish Independent, a respected and authoritative newspaper, was too busy with Lenten pastorals. The Irish Press sheltered a fine collection of sacked schoolteachers, spoiled priests and lapsed republicans but, with Fianna Fail in power, steered clear of controversy.

So did Radio Eireann and the Cork Examiner, as they then were; and The Irish Times, selling fewer than 30,000 copies a day, hardly mattered.

Could it be that no one knew what was happening? It's hardly credible; far more likely that because the poor, the excluded, the people who didn't fit in, were considered a threat to society they were best left alone.

When Michael Viney's series appeared, revelation was followed by shock but, only at a safe distance, by change.

We were told then, as we are being told now, that the religious orders were doing what the State couldn't or wouldn't do; that we - and the children they looked after - ought to be grateful to them.

Mary Raftery has come up with a radically different view: the State was paying all along; the religious orders were making a profit from the meanness inflicted on the children.

The State was paying the piper but the politicians, civil servants and the rest of us were too timid, too ignorant or too content to insist that it was our right - and responsibility - to call the tune.

Could the Department of Education not have known what was going on in schools that were partly or wholly under their control? I doubt it. And so does Magill in its April issue.

But whenever there's a fuss we hear the same professional defence: the system works. The fact that there's a fuss is proof of it. Wrong on both counts: systems of self-regulation by and large don't work.

The claims that they do are usually made after something untoward has been discovered - by accident. And the accompanying claim is that it's all over now, nothing of the kind will ever happen again.

The answer to such po-faced assurances is: how can they tell? Since whatever has been discovered came as a complete surprise to the defenders of the system, why should they be believed now?

We need more scepticism (not more cynicism); we need class politics (not a retreat from it), and we need a vigorous opposition that ensures exposure is followed by action.

This is not to propose the left's return to the bad old days of half-baked jargon masquerading as Marxism but to suggest a cool, clear look at the way things are in the country.

The left should stop making excuses for itself and others in positions of power and influence - in politics, business, the media and the law - who act in the interests of rich minorities, seldom for the common good, never for the help of the unpopular minorities. Labour should propose and promote constitutional change, to remove the present supremacy of property rights, so often an excuse for the failure of politicians to defend or promote the public interest.

Has the Whitaker committee's report on the Constitution died of political malnutrition?

Twenty-five years ago the Kenny report proposed a course which would have helped local authorities to acquire the land they needed for houses.

The report was welcomed all round until the men of property got at the parties and the parties threw up their hands in horror: devotion to the Constitution prevented them from doing what the committee proposed.

What are we left with? A whimper from Bacon, a growl from the market, and a growing number of people on the streets.

There are those who bridle at any hint of State intervention or regulation in any shape of form. It's a burden, they say, imposed by begrudgers on the enterprising.

This means, wink and nod, that skulduggery is essential to efficiency. It's not: the countries of northern Europe which are most efficient are also those where regulation is strongest. Cronyism is the enemy of enterprise, masquerading as its friend.

Labour should leave no doubt where it stands on immigration and the reduction of debt among developing countries, as well as the demand for the promised referendum on membership of Partnership for Peace. The party wants to provide sound social democratic government. It should begin by getting down to full-blooded, unequivocal opposition.

© The Irish Times