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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Letterfrack Hearings 3 Funding & Finance


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.

Q. Yes.
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?
A. Yes.

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.

Q. Yes.
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?

Q. Yes.
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.

Q. Yes.
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.

Q. Yes.
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.

Q. Yes.
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.

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