Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
"In accordance with the Department of Education rules the number of teachers on the primary school staff was determined by the number of pupils on the roll."
There is a table there. You say:
"The staff number increased from three to four in 1939 and remained so until 1955 when, because of the reduced enrollment, it was reduced to three."
Then the number went up again to four in 1961, I think, and was more or less unchanged until 1973?
A. Yes. Just about the educational standards reached in the school, I think visitors reporting on the educational standards are quite praiseworthy. It says on page 60 there, it says:
"The boys here are very backward due to previous environmental circumstances rather than to lack of ability. Progress, therefore, is initially very slow and of little benefit to those who spent but a short time here. Those spending a longer time show much improvement and interest in class work."
The Tuairim Report talked about how one boy who had been admitted at the age of 10 had spent a total of two days in school in his life. Despite that many of the boys reached the sixth standard and took their Primary Cert. Again just to highlight that the standard of the Primary Certificate was considered quite high and an important exam for young people as they faced the workplace. A lot wouldn't have gone to secondary school education. You will see there in table 8, you have 1943 to '67 when the Primary Cert was stopped. You have the number of boys in the class in each year, then the number presented for the exam. Now, a lot of schools in fact didn't reveal how many boys or girls in fact were in the class, they just give the results, 25 got their results. What we are showing here is that we have the class numbers and the number of people who sat the exam. So the percentage pass rate is reflecting not the people who sat the exam but the people who actually were in the class itself.
Q. How many of the boys, what percentage of the boys would have done the exam?
A. You have it there. In sixth class in 1943 there were seven in the class.
Q. How many were in the school?
A. In the school it would have gone from primary one to primary seven so there would have been a variety of numbers in each of the years. In sixth class of that year there were those small numbers so it was a small number in each of the classes.
Q. Would all boys be expected to get up to sixth standard?
A. When a boy reached the age of 14 if he was in sixth class and didn't get the exam he then went to trades. So every boy under the age of 14 would have been expected to sit the exam.
Q. I see. Can we look at the issue of staff training?
Q. You say the recognised staff included a lay teacher up to 1940, otherwise the staff consisted entirely of Christian Brothers.
Q. You describe then that they would have been either the holders of the national teacher qualification of St. Mary's Christian Brothers Training College, Marino, Dublin or had completed one year of the course and by arrangement with the Department of Education under the Monastic Capitation Scheme of obtaining practical teaching experience prior to returning to training college?
A. Yes. In actual fact normal teachers training nowadays involves a student going to a training college and spending say three years or four years training during which they do short periods of teacher training practice out in a school. The Christian Brothers in the early 1940's and maybe earlier thought that a better way was where a brother did a year's training in a college and got the basics of teaching and then went out and had a few years experience teaching. Then came back after two, three or four years and did the second year training. It was a two year training period. They had the benefit of practical experience in the classroom. When they came back for their second year they had all the experience so when the teacher, the professor was giving the theory they could apply that to very practical experience of the years that they were out. With regard to brothers in Letterfrack, some of the brothers would have finished their training totally. Other brothers would have done the first year, gone out teaching, done their second year and were now under probation because following the two year training there was a year's probation after that so some of them would be in that category and others would have been brothers who having finished their first year would be there in Letterfrack, chosen because it was felt they were suitable for it, have had experience there and then gone back to second year training.
Q. Could I just ask you about another aspect of training which isn't teacher training, but the sort of training Christian Brothers would have got themselves in a general way to inform them. There is a paper which was written by a former brother and I have to say he is a brother who has been convicted of sexual assault on pupils in Letterfrack which is entitled "Memories of Letterfrack." He is trying to deal with his concept of the Christian Brother mentality of the late 1960's. In the course of this article he talks about how they were trained, it's going up there on the screen. He says in the first paragraph that:
"There was a regimental attitude to body functions and the oppressive ban on friendships."
He talks, without going into details there, that even such mundane bodily functions as urination and defecation were controlled and you could only use certain toilets, of how, when you were having a shower, there was an enormous military regime in place and then a moment's silence when you recited a prayer before bath to protect us from any form of bad thoughts or immodest touches. The showers were conducted in silence. He describes how friendships with other postulants or recruits as he called them were actively discouraged, that boys who were trained to be brothers would be moved even in the refectory if they were showing any friendship towards people, that they were told to avoid contact. They were totally to exclude female company and to avoid women especially their mothers and only to look at a woman's chin when she was talking and never into her face and eyes. Now, first of all, do you have any general comment to make on whether this regime that he describes as a form of training for Christian Brothers is accurate or not?
A. First of all, I would have to say that I don't think it's accurate.
Q. In what way?
A. The first thing, I think this document was written as a Garda response to serious allegations of abuse. In my view this is trying to justify the abuse that took place. I was in training around the same time as this brother, a year or two after. I think it's preposterous what he is saying.
Q. Are you saying then that there was no protocol in place to admonish brothers against forming any sort of close relationship with another brother?
A. I think there were a number of things. I think it's probably quite a complex thing. A lot of the young people joining the brothers at this time would have been very young, they would have been probably 15/16. It's a time psychologically where the whole homosexual dimension of sexual formation becomes -- it's a sort of latent period of sexual homosexuality. Obviously the people in authority were aware of that so they were taking normal precautions that there wouldn't be active sexual activity in a boarding school, which unfortunately there is or can be in boarding schools. That was one thing. The second thing was when brothers take a vow of celibacy they take a vow to extend their love to all people rather than focussing on a partner so their work and their ministry and so on is to all people. It was highlighted in our formation that we are not here to form close and intimate relationships with people.
Q. Do you think the training went so far as to actively discourage you to form any forms of friendships. I am not talking about improper friendships but friendships generally?
A. I would say that there was a tendency to do that. I would also say that a lot of brothers survived very well and formed very firm and strong relationships, but there was an awareness that brothers could develop relationships that were not healthy.
Q. I understand that, but I am just wondering if the training, when you look back on it now, perhaps had inherent dangers in it in terms of being able to relate to people for some brothers, would you have view on that?
A. I think all people have difficulty of relating or can have difficulties of relating. I went through the same sort of system which he describes in a way that I wouldn't accept.
Q. Is it the way he describes it or are you saying that the training didn't encompass these things. For example, being advised to sow up your trouser pockets?
A. That's untrue.
Q. Hands in pockets was regarded as a danger to chastity?
A. It is ridiculous.
Q. You were never told that?
A. Never. There are lots of things in that document that are totally off the wall. It's sad to see reading them and it would seem to me when you compare this document written when the unfortunate brother or former brother was accused of abuse is writing this and when you compare that to the document he wrote when he was actually in Letterfrack where he describes the work of the brothers and I refer you to the ...(INTERJECTION)
Q. This is the "The Cause for Concern" document?
A. Yes, I refer you to, I just haven't got it to hand here, but the last paragraph, in fact the last page of that, maybe if I can get it.
Q. We will put that up on the screen. I just want to make sure there is no names in it now. In fact, Chairman, there are too many names in this.
A. I will just read a few sections.
Q. If you could omit the names please.
A. This is a brother who was in Letterfrack, very competent guy, but has serious allegations of abuse against him. His final paragraph says: "Let's hope that the gates of St. Joseph's Letterfrack will remain open to the underprivileged and closed to the auctioneers as a summary comment." He talks further on up at the second paragraph of page 47: "The Christian Brother's ability to impart this sound Catholic education qualifies them for working with underprivileged children. Many of the boys who were sent to the institute conducted by the congregation benefit greatly from the training they get so much so that when they return home they lead lives much different from the career of crime that they originally embarked upon." Then I refer to page 45 where it talks about the weight and so on of the boys. It says: "The remarkable difference is I think a tribute to the Christian Brothers who by their tradition for sound learning and progress succeeded in mitigating much of the backwardness in the children sent to their industrial schools. Without this tradition the figure for backwardness would be as high as that for reformatory schools, none of which are run by us." Maybe just to highlight that this document is pointing out the very valuable contribution of the brothers and this young man was pointing to all that was positive in the school. This second document "Memories of Letterfrack" written for the Garda , he is in my view trying to explain the reason for child abuse. It is unfortunate that child abuse cannot be justified just by what a person would consider inadequate formation.
Q. Can I just ask you in what context was the "Cause for Concern" document written?
A. The "Cause for Concern" document seems to have been written for a chapter that was coming where he felt that reformatory schools or industrial schools were going to be closed. He felt that there was need for this type of education for boys who were wayward. His cause for concern was that the work of Edmund Rice which started off, he has a question here on page 1: "The cause of Edmund Rice which was for young people and poor children would be neglected." He says: "Are we witnessing the complete shut down of institutes for underprivileged children. Who is responsible? Questions such as these cannot be answered satisfactorily." What he is saying is the cause for concern is that there was need for a type of education for these children and the danger was that we were going to close them.
Q. Do you know when that document was written?
A. My understanding is, I remember myself reading it about 1970 so I think it would have been written in probably '69. I remember years ago reading it and feeling that that was an interesting document.
Q. Can I invite you to look at a document I am going to put up on the screen by a same author which was dated September 1972. At the top of the page there he deals with lack of trained brothers: "Brothers come here fresh and green from normal schools quite unprepared for what they meet here. When faced with awkward situations they do not know how to react. Such changes have been disastrous. Brothers coming here need training in delinquent care." Now, I accept that's a slightly different issue, but do you feel that when you look at the entire nature of the training that the brothers were well prepared to deal with young boys in a residential institution like St. Joseph's Letterfrack?
A. Well, I suppose what I would say is this: Brothers were trained to be teachers. There was no training for residential child care. There was no State training, there was no State funding. There was no courses on. I think the first course in child care, serious course, was in Kilkenny in 1970 and one of our brothers went on that course when it started. There wasn't any form of child care formation. There were occasional day courses or day seminars in child care in the 1950's, but other than that there was no proper training available and certainly no funding for it. I would say the brothers who went to these institutions were chosen specially, a lot of them were of the highest calibre. There were some who unfortunately were found to have abused. I suppose it's particularly concerning that brothers who were not trained; in other words, a brother who was say a kitchen brother or a non-teaching brother probably hadn't the same sort of training that a teaching brother had -- well, he hadn't -- and maybe, therefore, hadn't that same appreciation for the ministry of care to young people that a brother would have had.
MR. McGOVERN: Chairman, I am about to move on to another topics.
THE CHAIRPERSON: I was just going to let you go until we finished a particular topic. Shall we say 2:00. Thank you very much.
Q. Yes. Can I ask you to move on then to the next area which I went to discuss with you which are deaths in Letterfrack. I know the Christian Brothers have some things to say about suggestions surrounding deaths in Letterfrack. Maybe you would like to deal with that issue?
"I have never spoken like friendly to a teacher before, it's hard to get used to. I hated teachers, all my mates did too. It's different here. If they saw me they would wonderwhat happened to me. They would probably think I had gone soft."
Another one said:
"Boys where I come from don't understand about Letterfrack, you have to act differently here. The worst part of life in Letterfrack is when you feel like doing a bunk andeveryone says 'to have sense, cop yourself on'."
The inter-Departmental visit in 1962, which was a significant visit, said:
"The boys seemed happy and not at all cowed and there appeared to be a good relationship between them and the brothers. The manager seems a sensible, humane man."
The visitation records where the brothers visited Letterfrack on an annual basis commented on the good natured quality of the boys and on the generalatmosphere of the place. One visitor said:
It is true that in the early 40's no such comments exist.
"The four brothers in charge of the school are earnest and efficient and treat the boys with kindness and sympathy so that a cheerful happy atmosphere pervades the classrooms."
He talked about the boys being cheerful and bright. It says:
"The pupils are well taught and receive a very sympathetic treatment from all the brothers."
Q. I don't want to cut you short. I mean it's clear there are other quotes there which are positive and rather than going through them individually what you are saying to the Commission is that there were reports indicatinga good relationship between the brothers and the boys?
"There is no evidence that any violent act caused or contributed to his death."
Then there were a lot of allegations about the tragic death of a former pupil in Letterfrack where he died as a result of an accident?
"Which spread to the brain causing encephalitis or a cerebral abscess which, if untreated, would have ledThen the following appears:
"This would have been painful and he would have complained of sore neck, earache and headaches."
Is there anything in the medical records to show that a boy was being treated for painful ...
A. I would have to check that from the medical record, I just haven't got that information here, but I would just have to check that. It could well be thatthere was, I don't know.
Q. I see. Would you like to go on then?
Q. The author of this article that's attached to your submission states the records of the Christian Brothers do not show that Martin Cahill was ever apupil in St. Joseph's school Letterfrack?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Q. I see. You go then in the submission to deal with admissions and we have talked about this already, the type of boys who were admitted. You say: "When boys were admitted they were given a meal, a shower and a change of clothes. The change of clothes was necessary for many boys arrived in poor clothing." What about boys if they arrived in good clothes, were they allowed keep those clothes?
A. To be honest I don't know. I would imagine so. I know is that a lot of them who arrived would have arrived in pretty bad shape.
Q. Yes. They were seen by a resident nurse and they were weighed, I think, and their height and weight was entered in a medical chart?
A. That's right. The whole admission of children was done in a very orderly fashion. It was a system that was in place. The Resident Manager would have received a phone call the previous day before the child appeared in court and the Garda would have asked was the Resident Manager prepared to take the child. Then following the court hearing the boy was escorted by the Garda in plain clothes by taxi from Galway. Then the Detention Order was handed over and the pupil became the responsibility of the school authorities.
Q. Would the brothers be given much information about the boy or his background?
A. Yes, there was a form, form A, where details of the background of the child was handed to the Resident Manager and he was asked to return it so he wasn't given a copy. Very meticulous notes were taken by one of the brothers and they would have been noted down in a book so they would have some information about the background of the boys. I think it's worth highlighting the work of Denis O'Sullivan who did the Ph.D. research in the Irish Industrial School and he when he talked to the boys, one of the things they were quite impressed was the fact that brothers did not mention to them or ask them on arrival why were they coming to Letterfrack and they appreciated that. They were being treated as boys and not as criminals. I think it's an interesting impression that the boys had that they weren't asked why they were being brought to Letterfrack.
Q. Yes. You describe the routine, the daily routine and we have already seen something of that when you were illustrating the work of the brothers. I think it changed and became more updated as the decades went by so certain things were relaxed in the 70's?
A. Yes, in the 70's. In the 60's the Resident Managers began to wonder was it wise to be asking boys to be going to mass every day and they felt it wasn't really and that it would be better if they acted like normal Christians and went once a week.
Q. I think there were other improvements, there was television and there would have been more games facilities and so on, but they are fully set out there in page 41 and 42. Can we move on to the issue of the diet of the boys?
A. Yes. I would say the diet generally of Letterfrack was balanced and healthy. They got regular meals. I think, looking at the annual visitation reports, they were probably the most stringent and critical in ensuring that the dietary requirements were maintained. Obviously it depended to some extent on the ability and competence of the cook at the time. It is true that in 1939 one of the congregation visitors said that the boys did not appear well nourished?
Q. I think if we just put that up on the screen, a portion of that letter. It is stated near the top: "They are not getting sufficient bread, butter or milk, with the result that quite a number of them are delicate." Then further down, the next paragraph, it says: "If I am expected to be responsible for the conduct of the boys, it would be necessary that provision be made for the proper feeding of the boys and facilities be given to me for their entertainment, particularly during the long wet days." This was apparently signed by a Br. Langan?
Q. Who is Br. Langan?
A. Br. Langan would have been one of the brothers who was working in Letterfrack. He would have been there from 1939 to 1941. He was commenting on the fact, this was war time, that resources were not very available and children were suffering so he wrote about that. As an immediate result of that they added to the cow herd to increase the supply of milk. Probably another worrying one was in 1940 when a former resident of Letterfrack was visiting Cabra and he was talking to one of the brothers and the brother was asking was he enjoying the food of Cabra and he said he was and he felt that the food in Letterfrack was such that he had to eat turnips in the fields. Now, the brother was very surprised at that and immediately wrote to the Provincial. I highlight that because it shows that brothers were not slow in bringing complaints before the leadership and ask the leadership to immediately act on it. In fact, the brother in charge of that kitchen at the time was unfortunately found to have been abusing children and was dismissed.
Q. I think just to turn to that letter of 9 June 1940. 109 In the course of it the author of the letter, which was a Br. McSweeney, he asked the boy: "Well, Matt, how do you like Cabra, better than Letterfrack? Oh, yes, Brother. Why do you like this place since all the boys are deaf? Because I get enough to eat. Surely you don't say that you did not get enough to eat in Letterfrack? He then said very shyly, 'you would be always hungry there, you would only get a wee bit of bread for lunch and we would eat the turnips or mangles when out on the farm'."
A. That's the one I am referring to. Whether he would eat mangles is another thing, but he certainly might have eaten the turnips. In the 40's there was still that concern about food. In 1941, you can see it's mainly in the 40's, the visitor complained that they were getting minced meat all the time and it was cold. There was a problem.
A. There was a problem with food there. The strange thing is that the school inspectors at the time who were visiting were saying that it was satisfactory. It just highlights the fact that their inspection were quite perfunctory. In 1953, again there was a call to improve things even though the judgment was fairly good was given. They were aware that there was need. From the 50's onwards generally it would be fair to say that food was much improved. If you look at page 45 you have the menu that they got in 1946: Breakfast, tea, bread, margarine, butter or dripping; lunch, bread and soup or milk for smaller boys; dinner, potatoes, meat, soup and vegetables. Fish took the place of meat on Wednesdays and Fridays; tea, bread, margarine and tea. Plus the fact that there was a bakery there and there were 160 loaves baked each day. The farm supplied the milk, potatoes, vegetables, meat and later eggs and poultry. By the end of the war time shortage the food continued to improve and in the 1950's the boys were getting a varied breakfast, German sausage three times a week and egg once a week and so on.
A. You will see that in 1956 the inspector for reformatory and industrial schools arrived and he said: "I found the boys a cheery lot and I gave them ample opportunity to complain about the food or discomfort and they all seemed quite happy." He did encourage a better variety in the diet at the same time and he notes the following year that the diet was varied. You will have there on page 46 then in the mid-60's the breakfast: Porridge, tea, bread, margarine, black pudding and sausages. Then for lunch: Tea, soup and milk. This would be the 11:00 break. Potatoes for lunch, meat and vegetables and desert. The meat was varied: Pork, beef, mutton and bacon. A lot of the mutton was got from the farm, beef too and pork. Foul were given on special occasions and weekly when available because there was a poultry farm set up. Tea: Bread, margarine, tea, cheese twice a week, black slab cake and so on. You can see that the menu in the 60's was fine. The inspector said that there was improved and better cooking facilities than there had been and in the 70's there was a different menu for each day of the week. It would be fair to say that the problem was in the early 40's. It's interesting to look in the 70's in the paper, "A Cause for Concern", a brother did some research where we examined the height and the weight of boys and that overhead may be available. You see there that a boy aged eight and a half to nine and a half, he had spent 10 months in the school and he had increased in height by two inches and 11.5 lbs. I skip then to 10 and a half years to 11 and a half years. In Letterfrack for 23 months and he had increased in height four and a half inches and put on 20 and a half lbs. I think it's just showing, unfortunately other than that little bit of research we don't have the medical cards where we would have in a place like Artane, they don't seem to have been kept, but the nurse would have measured and weighed the boys on a monthly basis to ensure that in fact they were getting enough food. I think it would be, with few exceptions, I would say the visitor's comments on food matters during the period are favourable in the 40's, towards the end of the 40's, the boys are well fed they said. The food is plentiful and suitable and varied. The boys appear well nourished in the 50's. In the 60's it said the meals are plentiful, wholesome, varied, well cooked and neatly served. Often the cook at the time, which would have been a brother, was commended for the standard of catering and also for the cleanliness of the dining room. Now, there are exceptions to that in the early 40's.
Q. Yes. Can we move on then to other issues. I don't think anything of significance arises on the issue of clothing. I think a lot of the clothes were made in the school, but there was an attempt that when they were out in public to ensure that they were properly dressed in good clothes and I don't think there is any issue that I want to explore?
A. No, I think it's interesting to note, I think it was the Tuairim Report.
Q. In 1966?
A.Yes, commented on the quality of the clothing and how the boys were well cared for and neatly dressed in bright casual clothes and so on, which showed that it wasn't just everyone being dressed in the same way with standard clothing. In fact, in some of the photographs you will have there ...(INTERJECTION)
Q. I was going to say that, there are photographs which are in the submission. The next section then deals with medical care and hygiene. We have dealt with a lot of the items there. On page 50 you mention that each year Dr. Anna McCabe the Medical Inspector of Industrial Schools would carry out a thorough examination of the premises and of the boys. She seems to have been pleased with the way the boys were kept and the medical files were kept. You then say that in 1960 the Superior expressed dissatisfaction with the state of the infirmary. I am just going to put that letter up there because there is something I want to ask you about in that. He says: "A few boys suffering from pneumonia were went to Clifden Hospital during the past few years due to the fact that our infirmary here are totally unsuitable for the reception of patients."
I think you say that action was taken immediately to try and deal with this problem?
A. Yes. I think one of the things with regard to the infirmary would be things like central heating, that there wasn't central heating generally in Letterfrack at that time in the infirmary so it was obviously needed. There would have been fires and so on there. The Superior was not happy with the state of the infirmary even though Dr. McCabe at the time would have expressed satisfaction generally with the conditions. I think it highlights really that the brothers wanted the best and were saying that in fact if children did have pneumonia that it wasn't a suitable place for them and I think it's to the ...
Q. Indeed the brother says further down, he says: "I cannot afford to take any risk where the health of the boys is concerned. " I want to ask you about the next sentence. He says: "I fear that at times Dr. -- and I am not going to mention the name, it's not Dr. McCabe, it's another doctor -- is too anxious to experiment on the pupils of this school. No parent would allow this." What did he mean by that?
A. I do not know.
Q. You have no idea?
A. I have no idea. I saw the letter and see the phrase. Talking to people who were there in Letterfrack at the time and who knew the doctor would commend him for his care of the children. They would say some things about his own life and his own private life, which isn't relevant, but there was no indication at all about that phrase and I just don't know what it means.
Q. Would you agree it conveys a definite anxiety on the part of the author of the letter. He says "no parent would allow this". It comes after the sentence, "I cannot afford to take any risk where the health of the boys is concerned."
A. Yes, it's a mysterious phrase, it's a worrying phrase, but we do not know what it means. There is no other resources, no other contemporary documentation that would highlight what that concern was and talking to any of the brothers there doesn't seem to have been any concern expressed.
Q. I see. The next issue you deal with is bedwetting. I think in common with other institutions this was a problem which was there but you state that no living brother who was in Letterfrack in the period under review recalls that there was ever any punishment meted out to a boy for bedwetting?
A. Yes, that's true. We couldn't say that of all our institutions. I think there have been cases which are documented where there may have been some boys punished for bedwetting, but certainly talking about brothers in Letterfrack there has been no brother who said that he saw or heard of any punishment. You referred to another document, the "Cause for Concern" that I mentioned and I am aware in that something was said about a boy being asked to clean his sheets in the sink. I would say that's highly unlikely. I would question it very much. Sorry, it's not in that, it's in another document.
Q. I see. Another document by the same person?
Q. I see, yes.
A. I would highly question it because there were very good washing facilities in Letterfrack and I have talked to a boy who took care of the mattresses when they were the subject of bedwetting and they took great care of the mattresses to ensure that they were perfectly dry and suitable for the boy the next day. In fact there was a lot of care taken to boys who had that problem of bedwetting.
Q. I think the author of that document "Cause for Concern" in a statement made to the Garda did say: "That bedwetters would be humiliated by being singled out and verbally abused in front of other boys and were made to wash and dry their own sheets." Before you answer that I have to say that the same person in another statement or article he wrote said that he was never aware of boys being punished?
A. That's right. I mean there is a lot of problems with that first document and the reason/motivation for it, but I don't think we need to go into that publically. With regard to bedwetting I would say most of the problem with the boys on bedwetting was from their peers. It was a difficult thing for a boy to be seen to have wet the bed by his peers and I would say if any sort of shame was heaped on the head of boys it probably was from their peers, which would be a fairly natural thing in a school or boarding school setting.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Q. Yes. You describe how the brothers had an extremely heavy workload?
Q. What did you mean by that?
A. I think this is something that is very important to understand. Maybe it could be quite valuable to go through a day in the life of a brother in Letterfrack because I don't think we fully realise the burden of care that was on an individual brother working in Letterfrack. I refer you to an overhead which gives the weekday horarium. I will just add to that to complain what impact that had and that's on page 40 and it would be there on the overhead. It says there the weekdays, this is in 1956, the brothers themselves, the boys would have risen at 6:40. The brothers probably would have risen at 5:55 or 5:50. When they rose, they had morning prayer, they would have gone up to the monastery which was some distance away from the school, they would have had prayer and then they would have returned down to the school at 6:40 to get the young people up. When the boys had washed and dressed they would have gone down and the disciplinarian would have taken them then up to the church. At 7:10 they would have had morning prayers with the disciplinarian, guiding them and leading them. That was another role of the disciplinarian to guide them in prayer. Then there would have been mass at 7:30 followed by breakfast. Now at the breakfast the boys, in other words, would have left the chapel, they would have gone down with the disciplinarian to the dining room, which would have been just off the school yard. In the meantime the brothers themselves would have gone to the monastery and had their own breakfast. Following that the brothers, particularly the brothers who were in the school, would have gone quite quickly down to relieve the disciplinarian so he could have his breakfast. They would have then embarked on what's known as charges or chores where the boys cleaned and tidied the dormitories under supervision. Then the dormitories were locked and out of bounds for the rest of the day. There was sweeping and dusting of the dining room, chapel, sacristy and so on. These would be the sort of things that happened. Then there was an inspection of the boys by the Resident Manager at 9:00 prior to them going to school. Then the brothers would have thought in school from 9:00 or 9:15 until 2:00 with a break for a light collation at 11:15. So the brothers then would have taught, in other words, their time in school. Then in the
afternoons they would have taken some of the younger boys for knitting classes or seen that they did knitting classes and the older boys went to trades. There was a tea break and then the brothers took them
for games, band practice, music. Then they supervised the recreation at 5:45 and then at 6:15 they taught religion for half an hour. They had night prayers before supper. At supper then the brothers would have gone up to the monastery for their own tea while the disciplinarian would have supervised the supper with the kitchen brother. That was followed by recreation and then the boys would have gone to bed in or around 8:30. The night watchman would have arrived in or around 10:00. Effectively you could say that the brother dealing with the boys was up from 6:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night.
Q. Did those brothers get many holidays?
A. The only holidays that the brothers really got was during the summer month where they got a month. Effectively they were working seven days a week. The weekends were more difficult for them because they hadn't got the luxury of having a small group in school for four or five hours, they had instead the whole group which had to be supervised.
Q. Did the brothers rotate very often or did they stay in St. Joseph's in Letterfrack for many, many years?
A. The short answer is that they stayed for shorter periods rather than longer periods. I think I have in one of the ...(INTERJECTION)
Q. I don't think we need to go into the expressed details.
A. Generally speaking, a Resident Manager would have been there for six years. He would have been appointed for six years.
Q. The brothers?
A. The brothers would have been there, some of them were there for a long period, maybe up to 10/12 years, others were there for 2/3 years. I have a list of all the brothers and it would give you an indication. A lot of them I would say three or four years would have been the amount and some of them one and two years.
Q. Yes. When the brothers were there did they live in a confined environment, would they have had much in the way of privacy?
A. You see the brothers who were teaching in the school, who were mainly the young brothers, they were with the boys almost 24 hours a day; in other words, from 6:00 to 10:00 at night. They would have had very little free time during that period. They slept then in small bedrooms at the end of one of the dormitories. Often those rooms were very simple. There wasn't heating for a lot of the time. That was their place of living and then they went up to the house for a short period of recreation at night-time, but effectively speaking they were on the job seven days a week.
Q. Did they have anything in the way of luxuries, were they allowed smoke or were they allowed alcohol?
A. Well, brothers who were finally professed, that is who had spent nine years in the congregation and had made their final profession were allowed smoke if they wanted to. Brothers who are not finally professed were not allowed smoke generally. Some would have had alcohol, but certainly the primary professed brothers wouldn't have had. There was a film every week for the boys. The visitation report said about the young brothers, that they shouldn't watch the films.
A. It was quite a strict gime or an aesthetical regime.
Q. I think you refer to this later on in the submission at page 54. You say: "The brothers worked in Letterfrack at enormous cost to themselves. The work was hard, unrelenting and often unrewarded." You talk about the long days and you said: "Because of the intensity of the work load there was little time for the brothers to communicate at any decent level." Do you think looking back on it now that this fairly bleak regime you have described posed any dangers for the people under the care of the brothers?
A. Well, I have talked to brothers who worked there and particularly brothers who were sent to Letterfrack as fairly young brothers. I was talking to one two days before this hearing and he said they were happiest days that they had. The work was hard. It sounds strange but the work was hard but there was a good rapport generally among the brothers. They supported each other. The life was hard but they were used to that. Generally speaking the relationship between the boys and the brothers were good. That's not to say there weren't difficulties. Talking to a lot of brothers who worked in Letterfrack they found it quite a positive view. Looking back now they realised that the idea of working over 100 hours a week is not a balanced life work system.
Q. What did you mean precisely where you said there was very little time for the brothers to communicate at any decent level because of the intensity of the workload?
A. Basically what I am saying is that they hadn't that time to go for long walks together, to go to a film, to go for a meal outside the normal work. The normal child care now is 39 hours a week. Outside that a person has a life. Their total life was in the service of the young people.
Q. It was a very stressful life that you are describing?
A. Well, it was a very intensive life. I wouldn't say a lot of them could say that they were stressed. Some were stressed, but I would say it was very intensive. It wasn't the sort of balanced lifestyle that we would talk about today.
Q. Do you think the lifestyle you have described was conducive to some brothers at least being stressed?
A. I do. I think some brothers were stressed. I think some brothers found the going very tough, very difficult. I think that was the value of brothers being there for a short period, but a lot of brothers that I have talked to found it a marvellous experience and has helped them or did help them in their normal work in school following their time in Letterfrack.
Q. Can we move to the next part of the submission, part 2, which deals with the social and educational organisation of St. Joseph's in Letterfrack. Some of this we have touched on already. You refer to the fact that many of the complaints coming to the Commission refer to the inadequate provision of care. Do you have a view or does the congregation have a view as to whether these complaints are reasonable or not?
A. Well, what we would say is that they give the impression of conditions of primitive housing, feeding and clothing and we would not accept that. We believe that they are exaggerated and inaccurate and really do not reflect the reality that pertained in Letterfrack over the years. Maybe it might be useful to look at the sort of provision of care that the congregation provided.
Q. Yes. Well, you set out the facilities in the institution and you deal with the dormitories, there were two dormitories, I think. I don't think any specific issue today concerns us about that?
A. That's fine.
Q. There were washroom areas. Again, we can move on from that. There was an issue about toilets which I will come back to. In the dormitory at night-time there was a night watchman?
A. That's right. At times there was a difficulty where the watchman could be irregular in fulfilling his duty.
Q. Would the brother take over?
A. Where the brother took over, yes.
Q. Each boy had his own bed and the bed linen was changed regularly. What do you mean by that?
A. It was normally changed either weekly or fortnightly so it would have been probably fortnightly. I have talked to various people, some say weekly; some say fortnightly. There was one incident where the visitor from Dublin coming over and examined the linen, bed linen, and discovered that for the period prior to his arrival it hadn't been changed for six weeks and he expressed great concern that that was the case and that that should be allowed happen, but the normal thing, talking to the Resident Manager, the most recent Resident Manager of Letterfrack he would say that it was normally weekly, sometimes
Q. Yes. You talk about the toilets being on the northern side of the playground. There are issues surrounding the toilets which we can come back to. Well, maybe we can deal with it here. There was always an inadequate supply of toilets there?
A. What you had was a series of outdoor toilets in the north side of the school yard. I think they were adequate for the group that were there in terms of number. There were serious need for improving them and quite a number of visitation reports highlight that and eventually the Department agreed to fund that improvement. There was a question about toilets in the dormitories. In the dormitories you had St. Patrick's and St. Michael's dormitories and there were two toilets on the junction of those two dormitories and in St. Joseph's dormitory there was one. One of the brothers working there explained the fact that when children were out of their bedrooms the dormitories were not accessible to the children. The toilet facilities that were used during the day were the outside toilets, as in most primary schools at the time. I wondered about the fact that there were only two or three toilets upstairs at night-time. He explained the fact that prior to going to bed, when the boys lined up to count to ensure that they were all there, they all went to the toilet before going to the dormitories. In fact the need for toilet facilities wasn't the same need. Having said that in visitation reports it was commented on a number of occasions that there was need for improvement of the toilets in the dormitories.
Q. Then you deal with showers. Showers were taken on Saturday mornings for the younger children and Saturday afternoons for the older boys?
A. That's correct.
Q. The Resident Manager supervised the shower and you say that silence was required during the showers?
Q. The showers were hot initially and then cold water was introduced to close the pores and prevent boys getting cold. I think you are probably aware there is an issue?
A. There is.
Q. We will discuss that later on under the heading of physical abuse, but there was an issue about the showers being either very hot or very cold?
A. Well, all I would say to that, and I suppose that's why I included it there, there are a number of issues. I think the showers -- many people in terms of taking showers will conclude with a cold shower, or some will anyway. I think the boys may not have understood that. I think they saw it as a form of torture that heating was turned up hot and then cold. I think it's simply a matter of the fact that showers were provided, they were hot and they were turned to cold. Sometimes, as we all know in showers, adjustments in shower knobs is not as smooth and as modern as it is today.
Q. Are you aware that one of the issues which appears with some frequency is that boys were often whipped or beaten back into the showers when they were trying to get out of them because they were either too hot or too cold?
A. Having talked to people who worked there that would be refuted. What we would be saying was that the boys were led to the showers, showers were given and they were then sent up to the dormitory where they got their new clothes or change of clothes. I am aware that there is that allegation that people were punished for jumping out of showers.
A. We have no indication that that was the case.
Q. I think it was more than that. It wasn't punished after the event, it was being punished to whip them back into the showers, but I will deal with that later. I think that is an issue that you are probably aware of. You talk about the role of silence and that this was for good order and discipline?
A. Yes, I think the reason I put it there was because I think in the Cussen Report they felt that the role of silence as a disciplinary measure was not advisable, but I think anyone teaching in a school over the 40's, 50's and 60's would have seen children lining up in the yard and prior to going into classroom quietening down and moving into the classroom. It's for safety and often the case at different times of the life of the institution. For instance when the children went to bed so that there could be a chance of children eventually sleeping and so on, there was silence where they could read books, listen to the radio but it was done in silence.
Q. Was there supposed to be silence in the refectory?
A. There are a number of allegations where silence was imposed for a long period in the 40's. My understanding is that there wasn't normally silence in the refectory, but the particular brother involved, there were serious complaints about him, and eventually he was dismissed from the Congregation.
Q. I will be dealing with that later. So far as you are aware there was no general rule of silence in the refectories?
Q. There was a playground there which was enclosed, I think, on three sides by two wings of the main building and the toilet block. You describe that?
Q. There would have been drill, marching and games played there?
A. That's correct.
Q. On the issue of procedures and discipline, which I will be coming back to, there was a brother in charge of discipline; is that right?
A. Yes, the discipline and order was maintained in the playground by the disciplinarian. The disciplinarian would have done many things, but that was one of his roles. He supervised the playground which allowed the other staff a break and at the end of the play period the boys lined up in silence for inspection and an orderly return to the classrooms. The disciplinarian was there. He was often a teacher himself, but that was one of the additional roles that he had.
Q. Would there be boys chosen to supervise other boys?
A. Yes, there was a monitor system particularly in the dining room area where some monitors would have distributed the food and would have ensured the cleaning up after the food. Also in work practice sometimes there were monitors to help in discipline.
Q. I see. Can we move on to the issue of funding and finance, which I know is a source of great concern to the Christian Brothers. I am not going to take you at great lengths through this. You may take it that there is a substantial body of evidence in your report or submission which will be considered by the Commission and it's not something that has arisen for the first time here. I think the position you outline is one of totally inadequate funding, is that fair?
A. I think maybe there is an overhead that summarises that and it refers to three charts that are on pages 22, 23 and 24.
A. There is an overhead there, the top one looks at the State funding and it goes from in 1944, 15 shillings per pupil per week. You see there that the funding was done through a State grant and a local authority grant.
Q. The figures speak for themselves. They went up eventually in 1969?
A. They went up just before the Kennedy Report, they doubled.
Q. I see, yes.
A. When the Kennedy Report came they themselves said that the funding, the grant aid paid to industrial schools in Ireland was "totally inadequate".
Q. I think the second table, the one that's on page 23, is perhaps more revealing because it's a comparison between the 1950 capitation rates in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland?
A. Yes, and you see there that in England it's nearly five times the amount.
Q. Yes. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it's just about four times the amount?
A. Four times, yes. In a way the leadership at congregation level were very aware. The Resident Manager's meeting, if you go through the Resident Manager's meetings, from meeting to meeting the key problem always highlighted was the inadequacy of the funding that was in institutional care. I think Br. Mulholland the Provincial in '57 wrote to the Minister for Education and he really pointed out just the very minimal standard of survival would have needed two pounds 15 and five pence when in fact all that they were getting was one pound 10 schillings, half that amount.
Q. The other table there I think shows the comparison between the situation in Northern Ireland and Artane Industrial School, it's not Letterfrack?
A. It's not Letterfrack, but it would actually have been the same in Letterfrack.
Q. There was a manager's salary in Northern Ireland, there was none in the industrial schools that were run by religious orders and so on?
Q. The figures speak to themselves there. Can we move on then to page 26 of your submission. I think you indicate that the Kennedy Report noted that no grants were made available to industrial schools for maintenance, renovation or modernisation?
A. Yes, it pointed out that the majority of buildings in use generally in institutions were very old and in need of substantial repair and modernisation. To do that would have been an enormous expense to the orders who weren't in a position to carry out that necessary work. In Letterfrack at the time, the weather conditions of the time obviously meant that the building was a damp building and needed constant repair, constant painting. I think in 1935 you will see there on page 26 it was considered one of the best of the brothers industrial schools, very good facilities, but with the lack of funding it was very difficult to maintain that level of maintenance.
A. Nevertheless I think in one of the appendices, and it would be appendix 2, I think, you will see that from 1935 onwards every year -- on page 97?
A. Every year '35, '36, I won't obviously go through them: "The grounds around the infirmary improved, dormitory, classrooms, boys refectory, kitchen, band room were renovated and painted." One thing that might be interesting is that at the time in the 20's in Letterfrack there was electricity when there was no electricity in the West of Ireland. The brothers had devised a whole electrical scheme or electricity where they provided electricity for Letterfrack and indeed for the local town. In other words, what I would like to emphasise is the fact that at all stages the Christian Brothers were trying to maintain a standard and a quality of life despite the totally inadequate funding that was there.
Q. Because of the inadequacy of the funding did the fabric of the buildings deteriorate over the decades?
A. It did and it needed constant maintenance.
Q. Sorry. How did the Christian Brothers fund capital expenditure?
A. With great difficulty. The institution had to run on its own funds. Any improvements that were made were usually from the funds that were given for maintenance in the primary school. There was a capital maintenance fund for primary school. For instance the toilets, there was a lot of demand for improving the toilets and eventually with the agreement of the Department of Education it was under a primary school grant that that was done. Also in the early 60's, on page 98, the last section there, it says here: "Br. O'Shea always on the watch for improvements, never gave himself rest as long as he saw work to be done. Having cleared up and so on." He talks about the fact that the brothers saw that if they were depending from funding from the Department they couldn't do the repairs that were necessary. What they did was the brothers themselves and the boys worked together at repairing, improving, painting, installing toilets on the bare minimum amount of money that they had, some of which came from the farm, sale of produce from the farm, from the trades but certainly no funding was available for those sort of repairs.
Q. I think the farm comprised, there was 837 acres of land under the Brother's control there, but most of this was poor land; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. And bog and mountain, but there were 70 acres of arable ground?
A. That's correct.
Q. In 1949 there were 24 acres of mixed pasture and 32 acres set aside for hay?
A. Yes. There is a list there which comes from the visitation reports at the time which looks at what was being provided in the farm.
A. The farm probably was a very valuable source of finance and also for providing food, particularly in the post war period when there would have been rations still, that food, vegetables, meat, potatoes were all readily available to the school and then the excess from the farm was sold to the locals, that as well as poultry in the 60's. So the funds from the farm helped to move the brothers from the red into the black.
A. You will see that in one of the appendices, again under funding, and if you could look at appendix No. 3 and there is an overhead to that. It takes each year and for instance let's take one year to go through it. In 1946 the grant income was 7,297. Now, if you skip the next two columns and look at the total expenditure was 10,727 so the income was 7,000, the expenditure was 10,000 so if you like the deficit was 3,000. It was 3400 as you will see there. When you add in what they call here other income, 3,269, that offset the deficit for that year to the effect that in fact the deficit at the end of that year was 161. Obviously we won't go through all of those years, but you can see consistently that the first column there, the grant income and the fourth column, the total expenditure, leads to the surplus on grant, you can see under that title it's never a surplus or hardly ever a surplus, it's a large deficit. From that large deficit then you add in all the amount that was got from the farm and the trades. Then you have the final count, surplus and total there on the penultimate column there. You can see that overall from 1946 to 1975 there was a deficit in the region of 90,000.
A. I suppose what we are pointing out in fact is that the funding level was very difficult and it meant that literally the brothers had to provide a quality education and a care of children on funding that was very inadequate.
Q. MR. McGOVERN: If we move on to the question of education. I think from 1936 onwards the syllabus and curriculum were offered in the primary school attached to St. Joseph's in Letterfrack?
A. Yes. From 1926 onwards the syllabus as I say was the rules and regulations for the primary school. So all boys under the age of 14 would have had classes Monday to Friday, 183 days a year. Then those boys on reaching the age of 14 who had already finished their sixth class would then have moved into full-time work in learning a trade.
A. Then those who were in sixth class, and they might have been 14, because when they arrived in Letterfrack they were put in the class that best suited their ability. It wasn't according to age. You could have had a boy of 14 in fifth class or fourth class if that was the ability when he arrived. When they arrived at sixth class and if we were 14 and weren't going to succeed in that class well then it was considered that they should go into the trade regardless.
Q. Yes. I think the numbers then in the primary school on the roll averaged between 140 in the years '36 to '53 and then peaked at 176 in 1943?
A. Correct, yes. Then from '54 onwards it would have been a smaller group. I will deal with the education later on.
Q. Moving on to the next section of your submission which deals with management and administration. I think you refer to different types of administration, there was Government administration, local management and then you deal with various forms of inspections that would have taken place. Now, in terms of Government administration, I think the Department of Local Government and later the Department of Justice became responsible for the administration of industrial schools?
A. Yes. It's quite interesting to look at the level of inspections that were taking place in the school, the institution of Letterfrack. You had the reformatory and industrial school branch of the Department of Education and they were responsible for the management of the industrial and reformatory schools so you had that sort of level of inspection where the school was inspected as a reformatory school.
Q. Yes, but just to explain how that came about. I think that under the Minister and Secretaries Act of 1924 the task which had been entrusted to the Department of Justice then passed on to the Department of Education?
Q. I think both the Department of Justice and Education maintained a responsibility for industrial schools?
A. Yes. They would have been sent through the courts so the Department of Justice had that role in the committal of young people to the institutions and it was following the Secretaries Act of 1924 where the Department of Education then became involved and became involved at two levels. It became involved inspecting the institution from a reformatory and industrial school side and also then from the primary school and the standards achieved in the primary school. In terms of the inspection from the industrial school branch, often you will see Dr. McCabe mentioned very often talking about the annual visits done to Letterfrack and Mr. Sugrue making the visits from 1950 to '60.
A. I think the visits from the Department of Education were quite inadequate. The Kennedy Report of 1970 points out that a very inadequate system of inspection in Ireland existed because of lack of personnel where only one person was employed by the Department of Education. I have an overhead which shows the report that they wrote following the inspection. You will see from that that it's a quite summary document where simply talking about the food or talking about the standard they would use the word "satisfactory", "needs to be improved" and so on. It took place probably during a day and after the report it was lodged with the Department of Education, but there doesn't seem to have been any feedback to the institution itself other than a verbal feedback. In the annals at the time there are comments saying the inspector from the reformatory and industrial schools branch was there on the day and they said everything was satisfactory. There was no indication that a communication was sent from the Department to the school and certainly not to the leadership of the congregation. There was one or two cases where if there was somebody who they saw had been physically hit they wrote a letter saying they want to find out why that happened so at least there was that level of inspection.
Q. There was also inspection from the leadership of the congregation, I think?
A. Yes. Well, before that there was the inspection of the primary school branch. That was done on an annual basis again. It was particularly done, there were two types, there was a general inspection which looked at the overall performance of each teacher. The inspection at that level would have looked at how each subject was being taught, the level of expertise of the teacher, the efficacy of the teaching and they would have drawn up a general report. We have one or two of them, but they don't seem to be available.
A. I am not sure why but they are not available to us anyway. The inspector would have looked at the monthly progress report, the annual scheme of the brothers, who were the teachers there, and a detailed assessment particularly of teachers who were on probation. Every teacher having done national training was on a probationary period and the inspector could turn up at any time without announcing and see how the progress was going in the classroom.
Q. Do you have a view as to the adequacy of these reports?
A. We don't have very many of them. We have one of them. They seem to have simply the word "satisfactory" or "s s l" and that's it or maybe a few comments. There was one inspector who was famous for his harshness in terms of judgment. He visited in the 60's and was quite critical of the two brothers who were teaching there. However, the results at the end of the year seemed to indicate that the brothers had done quite well.
Q. What was the nature of his criticism?
A. Their professionalism, standard of teaching, ability to impart the information to the children. They were the two inspections, if you like, the one on the industrial and reformatory school and the other one on the primary school. I come now to the leadership.
Q. I think there were inspections from the leadership of the congregation and these were known as visitation reports?
A. The visitation reports, and again maybe I would just show an example of them. You won't be able to read them, but it is just to give you an idea. There are about five pages there, closely typed pages. Maybe just to explain what happened at a visitation by the leadership team of the congregation. They would have arrived, announced their arrival. They would have stayed for about five or six days, well anything up to five or six days.
Q. Sorry to cut across you, when you say they would have "announced their arrival", was that when they arrived or in advance?
A. No, in advance. They would have informed the Manager or the Superior that they would be arriving. Often that was to make sure that they had a bed and so on.
Q. Would that have alerted people to have everything looking shipshape?
A. Well, I would hope so. I suppose just looking at what happened during visitation I think would give you a flavour of what went on. Every brother who worked in Letterfrack at the time would have had a private interview with the visitor. The visitor would have asked him how he thought the school was being run, he would have asked him about how the Superior was running the school, the Resident Manager, he would have asked about the level of religious observance in the community. He would have asked about the level of attendance at religious exercises. It was a very detailed examination through personal interviews with the brothers. He would then have visited the school. He would have stayed in classes and watched the teachers teaching. He would have looked at the maintenance of the buildings. He wrote quite detailed reports if he thought that some of the buildings needed repair. He went into the finances and organisation of the running of the institution. He talked to the boys individually and in great freedom over the six days. When he had done all that having spent six days, he lived with the brothers, he would have watched the food that the children were getting so he would have had an extremely good idea of what was going on in Letterfrack at the time. He would then have written this detailed report that you have seen and that would have been sent to the Province Leader at the time. They would have met then and discussed Letterfrack as a team if there were any issues of concern.
Q. Can I ask you if any of these visitation reports show that any boys who would have been interviewed ever complained of physical or sexual or other abuse?
A. Well, I think I will leave it until I come to the instances of sexual abuse and physical abuse. In short I suppose the answer would be that other than the complaints that we have in our report there weren't.
Q. Did these come in any way through visitation reports?
A. No. In terms of talking to the boys at the time, there was no indication that sexual abuse or physical abuse was taking place. They may have heard from brothers that a brother was harsh and that needed to
be looked at and that may have happened.
Q. I see.
A. When the leadership discussed the findings of the brother who had visited Letterfrack, a communication would have been sent then to the general leadership of the congregation and the general leadership of the congregation would have got a copy of that report and sometimes the general leadership would write back to the province leadership and say 'look, you are going to have to look at this issue or that issue'. Then subsequent to that a letter was sent from the province leadership back to Letterfrack so you would have again a letter there which shows a letter was written to the institution outlining the positive things about the school but indicating things that needed improvement.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning everybody. Just before we start, Mr. McGovern, there were one or two things I want to say. Good morning everybody.
PUBLIC: Good morning.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Just before we start I want to make a few comments that people may find helpful. By coincidence today is the anniversary of the Investigation Committee's announcement of decisions that we made as to how we were going to proceed with the Inquiry into Child Abuse that is mandated by the Act of 2000, it is the precise anniversary of that date. Today is also our 99th day of hearings since the Investigation Committee restarted this investigation. We are now embarking on our investigation of the industrial school at Letterfrack, County Galway. As is usual we commence with a public phase when the congregation that ran the institution is given the opportunity of outlining its position generally on the issues, that's the purpose of today's hearing. This procedure is the same as we adopted for the other institutions we have enquired into to day. I want to say a little word about that procedure because it's not always clear to people what we are doing and why. Our policy is to be as open and as public as possible, but there are statutory provisions which limit what can be done in public. Section 11(3)(a) of the 2000 Act prohibits the public hearing of evidence relating to individual instances of abuse. The great bulk of our hearings involves allegations of that kind. Even if a witness deals with some more general questions it is almost invariably in the context of evidence of specific instances of abuse whether the person is recounting abuse that he or she says happened or the person is responding to such evidence. Just let me say what the section says, it's section
"A meeting of the Investigation Committee or a part of such a meeting at which evidence relating to particular instances of alleged abuse of children is being given shall be held otherwise than in public."
Those are the terms of the Act. This strict statutory injunction is intended to protect people who are giving evidence of abuse as much as those who were responding to complaints. Even if we wanted to do so we would not be allowed to hold those sessions in public. We have described in previous announcements how we intend to have hearings in public where that is permissible and is in the course of the inquiry. The final of hearings, which we call phase 3, we plan to hold in public unless there is a reason not to do so. Our inclination and the bias in the Act are for public hearings. Phase 3 will consider general issues disclosed by the previous hearings and the documentary material we are analysing and aspects of expert reports that we obtain in the course of our work. I hope that people will understand that at this stage it is not appropriate that I try to be precise as to the phase 3 hearings. It would not be possible to be comprehensive and issues may arise or change or develop. By way of progress report, the Investigation Committee has conducted hearings into the following institutions to date: St. Joseph's, Ferryhouse, Clonmel; St. Patrick's, Upton, Cork; Newtownforbes Industrial School; St. Patrick's, Kilkenny; St. Vincent's, Goldenbridge; St. Conleth's, Daingean.
Our next hearings will begin in September and will inquire into Artane Industrial School, which is the biggest in our remit. We are now planning the investigations into other schools which will take place when our Artane hearings come to an end. Other areas of our inquiry are either proceeding or in the course of planning. The interview process that we announced in January of this year is going ahead with satisfactory results for the Inquiry and, more importantly in some respects, for the participants. This scheme which we have introduced means that every person who wished to participate in our work and who submitted a statement can do so. Although we are pleased with what has been achieved so far, we are also very conscious of how much remains to be done. I want to say at this stage that we couldn't have come to this point without the cooperation of everybody who has participated in our Inquiry and we are very grateful for that. Finally, and again conscious that we are very much at an interim point, I want to acknowledge the work that our own people here in the Commission and the Investigation Committee have put in to get where we are. I wanted to make that for illumination, I hope, and for people's assistance and clarification as to what's actually going on today. Now, Mr. McGovern.
MR. McGOVERN: Good morning, Chairman, Members of the Committee. This is a public hearing as you have already indicated into St. Joseph's Industrial School in Letterfrack. This hearing will follow the same
format that has been used in the past year or so when investigating other institutions and will be in line with statements made by the Commission on the question of the procedures to be followed. This means that the evidence regarding St. Joseph's Industrial School will be heard in three phases. Phase 1, commencing this morning, will consist of the hearing of evidence of Br. David Gibson Province Leader of St. Mary's Province Ireland, one of two provinces of the Christian Brothers in Ireland. This province would have had responsibility for the northern half of the country, north of a line from Dublin to Galway and would have included Letterfrack. Br. Gibson's evidence will be based upon a submission which aims to describe life in Letterfrack in the period coming within the remit of the Commission, including the Congregation's view as to how the institution operated and what life was like there and it is intended to serve as general background information on the institution. It is appreciated that some or perhaps all of the evidence which he gives will not be accepted by some who are present here today or were present in the institution at Letterfrack and that if there are issues that remain to be resolved these will be come back to in due course in phase 3 as you have described a few moments ago. When this brief public hearing comprising phase 1 is completed then phase 2 will begin. This will involve the hearing of evidence from persons who have filed statements with the Commission outlining abuse suffered by them while they were in Letterfrack. The Committee has prepared a schedule of hearings involving relevant witnesses who may have evidence to give with regard to the institution and these hearings will commence tomorrow Friday, 17th June and are expected to conclude sometime next month. These hearings will take place in private. After the Committee has had an opportunity to consider the evidence given in both phase 1 and phase 2, it is proposed to return to a public hearing which will deal with any contentious matters outstanding or any other relevant issues concerning the management and operation of Letterfrack and that is phase 3 as we have referred to. At that stage the Investigation Committee will permit such cross-examination as fair procedures require in the light of the issues which have been identified in phases 1 and 2 from those parties who appear to have a legitimate interest in them. A decision has been made to leave over these contentious issues until phase 3 since by that time the Commission will have had an opportunity of hearing evidence from persons who were in Letterfrack at the relevant time rather than now when the Committee can only have a limited picture as to what contentious issues are likely to arise.
Before calling Br. Gibson to give evidence here before you, I just want to briefly set out the history of Letterfrack. Letterfrack was an industrial school and was built on lands owned formerly by Mr. James Ellis, an English Quaker who had made his fortune as an manufacturer of woolen goods in Bradford. He built Letterfrack House which later became the Brother's residence and a school for children in the district. In 1885 the Archbishop of Tuam approached the Superior General of the Christian Brothers with a view to establishing and managing an industrial school on the property. On 24 February 1886 a lease was executed to that effect and a certificate for an industrial school was granted on 1 April 1886 for 75 boys, later to increase to 150. A contract for the erection of new buildings was signed on 1 June 1886 and the buildings were paid for by the Christian Brothers. The institution opened on 12 October 1887 with 10 boys. By the end of 1891 180 boys had been admitted. The institution closed its door for the last time on 30 June 1974 following a decision which had been made a year earlier, that is in 1973.
I would now ask Br. Gibson if he would now come forward please.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning, Br. Gibson, thank you very much. Would you like to go up to the witness box.
MR. HANRATTY: Perhaps at this stage, Sir, I should indicate for the record that I appear on behalf of the Christian Brothers Order. My name is Patrick Hanratty and I appear with Ms. Sara Moorhead and Mr. Joseph O'Sullivan for the Order of Christian Brothers.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning Mr. Hanratty, very good.
BR. DAVID GIBSON, HAVING BEEN SWORN, WAS EXAMINED BY THE COMMISSION AS FOLLOWS
THE CHAIRPERSON: Sit down there, Br. Gibson, please.
Q. MR. McGOVERN: Good morning, Brother.
A. Good morning.
Q. We have a fairly comprehensive submission which has been made on behalf of the Christian Brothers and I propose taking you through that submission. I just want to indicate to you that there will be certain
aspects of it that I won't be dwelling on significantly because the Members of the Committee will of course consider everything that is there and there are some issues which are not very contentious and other issues which we way want to explore with you. I hope in the course of asking you questions that I will be fair and reasonable to you and give you an opportunity to represent the position of the Christian Brothers. I think you are the Province Leader of St. Mary's Province; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. As I indicated earlier that Province is one of two provinces of Christian Brothers and deals with the northern half of the country if you draw a line between Dublin and Galway?
A. That's right, yes.
Q. Letterfrack would have been within that area of control?
A. That's right.
Q. I know my resume of the history of Letterfrack was rather brief, but I don't think that anything of significance turns on the years. Is it correct that it began to operate in October 1887 and continued
operating as an industrial school until 1974?
A. That's correct.
Q. In the course of the submission that has been made you indicate that you are anxious to present the picture of life in Letterfrack in the context of the time in question, that is the period 1940 to 1974?
Q. Could you just explain what you mean by that?
A. Yes. What I hope to do today is present a picture of life in St. Joseph's Industrial School and I am aware that there are many perceptions and there have been many reports that would indicate that life in St. Joseph's Letterfrack was anything but salutary. Now, we will be presenting a very different picture of life in Letterfrack. We don't wish in any way to justify the hurt or damage that was done to those who were abused. Whoever was abused in Letterfrack we would express our deepest sorrow and shame that this could have happened and we repeat our apology of 1998 where we did apologise. It might be useful to look at when the Christian Brothers in 1998 made an apology to all the former residents of the school. The reason for doing that was that we had already begun to receive a number of complaints for all our institutions. On 29 March 1998 we made an apology. At that time three complaints had reached our files relating to Letterfrack. There is an overhead which shows the statistics that you might like to present there. So following the year of the apology, which had been transmitted in all forms of media, a subsequent nine complaints came before the Christian Brothers. Then following the announcement by the Taoiseach that there would be a Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse and that the Statute of Limitations would be altered and that some form of compensation scheme arose. From the 12 complaints we had in that following year 449 complaints were made. Now, that caused serious concern in the congregation and we wondered about the nature of those complaints. One of the difficulties as I said in presenting the balanced picture of Letterfrack is that we are talking about an institution that closed 30 years ago. Of the 85 people who worked in those most of them are dead. In many ways the surviving brothers who worked in the 50's, 60's and 70's, over 30 years ago, are faced with the daunting task of proving their innocence which is often the reversal of the normal process of justice. What I would hope to do is to present a more objective view of Letterfrack. I would be basing it on the contemporary documents that were written, not documents that have emerged in the last year or two. These documents would be from the Department of Education, Department of Health and the Congregation of Christian Brothers. I think also it is important to remember that we are talking about a time in the 40's, 50's and 60's where now there is a tendency to judge life at that time from the viewpoint of how life is now. What I would be hoping to show is that the Christian Brothers provided a very necessary service to the State in caring for children who themselves were marginalised. The financial support provided by the State will show that it was grossly underfunded and that the brothers had to go to enormous lengths to provide adequately for the needs of the pupils.
Q. I think in due course we will come back to that, you have some statistics, and I only intend to deal with some?
Q. They are Quite stark and show that the level of funding here compared to other jurisdictions in the neighbouring island was quite significant?
A. That's right. I would also like to show that there have been many complaints that people didn't receive an education. What I will be showing is that there was a 90% success rate in what was the key exam of the time, that is the Primary Certificate, which was a very significant and important exam for many people, most of whom would not have gone on to post-primary education. I would like to also talk about corporal punishment and again to look at it in the context of the time, without justifying in any way people who stepped beyond the boundary of corporal punishment and went towards physical abuse. I would like to make the distinction between the normal corporal punishment that was allowed in all national schools throughout the land, was sanctioned and the physical abuse that is where somebody goes beyond the normal regulatory way of punishment. I would also like to mention because in the media for the last number of years there has been a lot of coverage about mysterious deaths and I would like to show that there have been no such mysterious deaths at all in Letterfrack. I would also like to point out that there was abuse in Letterfrack by a small number of brothers in an individual capacity. It was not systematic, isolated and done by individual brothers. I would like to show also that when that was known it was not concealed, action was taken immediately and every effort was made to prevent its recurrence. Maybe judged again in present day guidelines it may not have been adequate, but certainly at the time it was the best that could be done. I would also like to emphasise the fact that sexual abuse in a period 60 years ago was seen more as a moral failure than a crime and that it was more the failure morally of the person rather than the actual criminal dimension of the act. The Christian Brothers accept their dismay of the fact that boys were sexually abused. We apologised and continued to apologise and have sought to reach out to those who have suffered. Nothing can excuse child abuse. Our hope is that this Commission and today, this will be a process where we can begin reconciliation between all parties and that we would hope to reach out to those who have suffered abuse. In doing that we would hope that the danger that innocent people would be ignored or wrongfully accused could be avoided. It's something that we are very concerned over.
Q. Your submission is divided into a number of sections and the first section deals with the early years. I don't propose to go through that, Chairman, with the witness. You will be reading this submission and I don't think there is anything controversial about that. There is one thing I think of some significance, Brother, which you might deal with. Up until 1954 was it the position that Letterfrack was an industrial school taking in boys who were either destitute or not properly cared for at home or were not attending school; is that correct?
A. Well, it was a mixture, if I could point you to ...
Q. I think on page 9 of your statement you refer to the fact that in 1954 it was decided that only boys guilty of criminal offences be admitted. Are you saying that prior to 1954 there was a mixture of boys
who had been sent there for criminal offences and the other boys I have described?
A. Yes. If I could turn you to page 38 of the submission.
A. You have there a list, and in fact there is an overhead on it, I think --
A. -- which shows that in the 1940's the problem for people ...(INTERJECTION)
THE CHAIRPERSON: Let's get the overhead if we are going to put it up on screen.
MR. McGOVERN: That's coming now.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Take your time.
A. In the 1940's you had 224 people who were sent to Letterfrack for lack of proper guardianship. That can encompass many, many things that we could go into later on: 37 for school attendance, 10 or destitution and homelessness, 58 for larceny and other crimes, If you like before 1954 you would have, combining the first two boxes there, you would have probably in the region of 150, 40 or 50, who were there for larceny, and maybe 20 or 30 who were there for other crimes. They were mixing with people who were there because of lack of guardianship, school attendance and destitution. I suppose the key figure there is in the 60's where you have larceny there, 399 and other crimes, violence and so on, 61. So particularly in the 60's I think it would be fair to say that that's where the vast majority of people there were there because of serious indictable crimes. You can see the level of guardianship going down to, at that stage, 62. Even though there was an attempt, going back to page 9, in 1954 that only boys guilty of criminal offences be admitted to Letterfrack, the reason for that was, and talking to the brother who has just recently deceased, was he was of the opinion that boys who are coming from homes who were orphaned shouldn't be mixing with boys who had got into quite serious crime.
A. He felt it would be important to separate those and. The Association of Resident Managers in 1953 began looking at that and in the minutes of that report they could see two reasons for it. One was a financial reason. The financial reason was that of the six homes run by the Christian Brothers there was a significant number of vacancies there, over 380 vacancies spread over six institutions. To have that financially was crippling on the institution so they felt that close one and group the rest into the five remaining ones. In the grouping they felt at the same time that now was the time to separate those who were orphans, who were from broken homes should be separated from those who were there for indictable crimes.
Q. I think you met with some resistance from the Departments of Education and Justice as well as from the Garda with this proposal, is that so?
A. Yes, it appears that the Departments of Justice and Education and the Garda were opposed to that.
Q. Do you know why?
A. I am not too sure.
Q. I see. Eventually I think the proposal was accepted?
A. The proposal was accepted and in 1954 it was decided that all the children who were orphans and so on would move to other institutions and in fact 81 boys at that time were transferred out.
Q. If we look at the chart that's up on the screen, we see from '50 to '59 and really from then on in the third column, Destitution and Homeless Children, there were eventually no more of those, there was one
in the period '50 to '59?
Q. There do seem to be a not insignificant number under the headings of Guardianship and School Attendance?
A. Yes. Probably you would have to go through the background of the children who were in the institutions and see what lack of proper guardianship meant. I would refer you mainly to the index on page
Q. Yes. I don't think it's page 126. I don't want to waste too much time on this, Brother, and I don't want to put you off either. I think the thrust of your evidence seems to be that there was a change
proposed, there was some resistance to it, and eventually it was accepted, but that even after the acceptance there was certain categories of boys who had guardianship issues or school attendance issues?
A. That's correct.
Q. I think you may have been referring to appendix 6 at 21 page 125?
A. The introduction, yes, 125. That's basically showing, and I mean that's a long appendix there, but it's showing the background of a lot of children who came from extremely difficult circumstances.
Q. I will be coming back to that with you in the course of your statement. In terms of the change of status then, it was predominantly a reformatory after that, isn't that so?
A. It became a reformatory. It didn't receive the funding for a reformatory which would have been higher than that for an industrial school, but in fact rather than in name it became a reformatory.
Q. Yes. I think you accept that the care which would have been provided in residential institutions at the time was physical care. There wouldn't have been as much emphasis, if any, placed on issues such as emotional care and that sort of thing?
A. Yes, I think I would emphasise something about the spiritual care. I think there was always a concern for the spiritual welfare of the young people. I refer to things like say the Legion of Mary meetings that were taking place in the institutions at that time, retreats that went on, the fact that they went to mass and so on. There was certainly a real concern about their spiritual welfare. The emotional impact of residential care, and we will deal with that later on, was not really understood and certainly separation from home and from the family, however bad the home was, and unfortunately some of them were very inadequate, it wasn't fully understood the impact of that on children separated from their families.
Q Yes. Dealing with the background of the boys, if we could move to the submission at page 13. You talk about the type of boys who arrived in Letterfrack and that they were from very difficult circumstances?
A. Yes. On page 13 you have a short selection of cases, hard cases where children were coming from no fixed abode, child found wandering around the country, father was an n'er do well, these would be written on forms as the child arrived in Letterfrack.
Q I think just in a general sense after giving those 25 specific examples you say that a lot of the boys were from very difficult circumstances who had been traumatised by their life experience?
A. Exactly and that the normal support that a family structure would give was in fact missing so the children were abandoned in many ways.
Q. Were these children almost exclusively from socially disadvantaged communities?
A. Yes, they were. I think a paper written entitled "The Cause for Concern" analyses the background from which children came. It shows that in fact the parents of those children, hardly any of them were from skilled professional backgrounds. Just looking at one incident where the child is residing with parents in a tent in Inchicore, living in a one room tenement, father, mother and four other children, where parents were addicted to drink and the Garda did not consider the parents suitable to be entrusted. It was a sad and sorry case. I do refer to Karl O'Brien in a recent article that he wrote about child care where he talked about in fact today young people who require residential interventions come from socially disadvantaged communities and difficult home environments. I am just aware that in many ways circumstances have not changed.
Q You mentioned the document "Cause for Concern" I think which was written by a brother, we needn't name the brother, but that actually was handed to me this morning. It doesn't appear in the discovery that I am aware of from the Christian Brothers, have you any idea why that would be?
A. Well, it's in one of the footnotes.
Q Is it?
A. It is, yes.
Q I stand corrected. What footnote reference do you know is it?
A. Just wait there.
MR. HANRATTY: Page 46 footnote 74.
MR. McGOVERN: Thank you.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
Q MR. McGOVERN: Sorry, Brother. Page 46 we are told. I just want to clarify this in case it's of any significance. Note 74 on page 46 does indeed refer to this, but in volume 2 of the submission which you made where the vast majority of documents ...(INTERJECTION)
A. You have it in 74.1.
Q Yes, but it doesn't seem to be in the copy which I have. I am not sure that it was in the copies which were furnished. We have page 70.2 and the next one is 85.1?
A. I am not sure why that is.
Q Nobody in my team here had seen this before and I am just wondering why?
A. Well, I am not sure about that. My understanding was it was sent, certainly those two pages of it. I am not sure about the full document whether it was sent, I wouldn't be sure about that.
Q THE CHAIRPERSON: It's available, I take it?
A. It's available.
MR. McGOVERN: It's available. I don't want to make a big issue about it.
THE CHAIRPERSON: No, but I think Br. Gibson's point is 'look, we have named it in the submission'. I think that's his point.
MR. McGOVERN: It may be of some circumstances later on, Chairman, in a matter I will be dealing with.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Anyway the full document is available, I understand.
MR. HANRATTY: We have already provided a copy of the full document.
THE CHAIRPERSON: That's grand, thank you very much.
Part Two to follow
- ► 2007 (17)
- ► 2006 (40)
- Women's Chins and Trouser Pockets
- Letterfrack Hearings - Dead Children
- Letterfrack Hearings 6 Medical Experiments
- Letterfrack Hearings 5 A Brothers Life......
- Letterfrack Hearings 4 Social & Educational Organi...
- Letterfrack Hearings 3 Funding & Finance
- Letterfrack Hearings 2 Education
- Letterfrack Hearings 1
- The Full Carrigan Report
- This Never Happened, BUT..........
- Days In The Life
- ▼ June (11)