Edge Hill University in Lancashire, UK | Published: 15 March, 2015
ISSUE 10 | Pages: 95-108 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2015-5108
2015 by Anthony Keating | This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.
This article utilises the surviving working papers of the Irish, Inter-Departmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders of 1962-3 (IDC) to critically evaluate its work on the industrial and reformatory schools. The industrial and reformatory schools were populated by vulnerable children, from largely poor backgrounds, who were not well regarded by Irish society. The work of the IDC in regard to adult prisoners is argued by academics and politicians to have been a turning point in Irish penal policy; representing the point at which a more enlightened approach to the treatment of offenders began to feed through into the penal system. This positive assessment of the IDC’s impact on adult penal policy is demonstrated to stand in stark contrast to its actions in regard to the children detained in the industrial and reformatory schools. Children, against whose interests, the IDC and its political masters chose to place economic expediency and the perceived interests of departmental and religio-political sensibilities. The actions of the IDC left these children exposed to the worst excesses of abusive institutions despite clear evidence of their plight. It was not until the years after the publication of the Kennedy Report in 1970 that the Irish State took it first hesitant steps in reforming the rotten and abusive system.
El artículo se sirve de los documentos existentes del Comité interdepartamental irlandés para la prevención del delito y tratamiento de delincuentes de 1962-3 (IDC) para evaluar críticamente su labor en las escuelas industriales y reformatorios. Las escuelas industriales y reformatorios estaban llenos de niños vulnerables, provenientes principalmente de entornos pobres, a los que la sociedad irlandesa no veía con buenos ojos. En círculos académicos y políticos se considera que el trabajo del IDC en lo que respecta a los presos adultos supuso un punto de inflexión en la política penal de Irlanda en tanto que introdujo un enfoque más inteligente para el tratamiento de los delincuentes en el sistema penal. Esta evaluación positiva del impacto del IDC en la política penal de adultos contrasta vivamente con sus actuaciones en relación a los niños confinados en las escuelas industriales y reformatorios donde, en lugar de velar por los intereses de los reclusos, el IDC y sus dirigentes políticos priorizaban la conveniencia económica y supuestos intereses y sensibilidades político-religiosos. Las acciones del IDC dejaron a estos niños expuestos a los peores excesos de instituciones abusivas a pesar de la clara evidencia de su difícil situación. No fue hasta los años posteriores a la publicación del Informe de Kennedy en 1970 que el Estado irlandés tomó los primeros pasos vacilantes en la reforma del corrompido y vejatorio sistema.
Comité interdepartamental; educación; justicia; abuso de menores; Iglesia; escuelas industriales y reformatorios.
The public understanding of the care of children in institutions funded and regulated by the Government in the Republic of Ireland (Ireland) has profoundly altered over the last two decades. This change of perception has occurred as a result of the public exposure, of what for some had been an open secret for decades, namely, the poor levels of care and the abuse of children living in institutions, run largely, though not exclusively, by religious orders of the Catholic Church.1 The public outcry regarding this maltreatment and abuse has led to a substantial redrawing of the policy landscape in regard to child protection and welfare and Irish society’s sense of itself and its history. The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs asserted in the preamble to a 99 point Implementation Plan that followed the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009;2
The history of our country in the 20th century will be rewritten as a result of the Ryan Commission of Inquiry…. Institutions that we held to be beyond reproach have been challenged to their core. When the 1916 Proclamation of the Republic declared its resolve to cherish all of the children of the nation equally, it was not considered to be controversial and yet today it is clear that such idealism was misplaced (Office of the Minister for Children 2009: xiii).
The legitimacy of the concept of a ‘misplaced idealism’, which implies a level of ignorance of the realities of the conditions in the schools on the part of the State, fails under even under the most superficial scrutiny. There is a plethora of evidence that the appalling conditions in the schools, both in terms of the buildings themselves and the treatment of children held in them, was known to those in authority for over 60 years prior to the publication of the Ryan Report (Raftery & O’Sullivan 1999; Arnold 2008). However, in spite of this knowledge virtually nothing was done to improve conditions, whilst much was done to conceal the truth.
This article will utilise the working papers of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders 1962-3 (IDC)3 to explore its investigation and recommendations in regard to the industrial and reformatory schools. There will be a particular focus on four most notorious institutions, Artane (1870 -1969), Letterfrack (1887-1974), Daingean (1940-1973) and Marlborough House remand centre (1944-1972). It will be demonstrated that the IDC found evidence that something was very wrong in these schools, yet despite this politicians and administrators failed to act to protect children, a failure that constituted a dereliction of their duty of care.4 The IDC papers afford an insight into the political choreography between, and within, the institutions of Church and State, the dictates of which ensured that political expediency was placed before the protection of children.
Notwithstanding, Rafterty & O’Sullivan’s work on the State’s failure to act on its limited recommendations (Raftery & O’Sullivan 1999) and Arnold’s observations relating to the Department of Education attempts to undermine key evidence (Arnold 2008), to date the work of the IDC, in regard to reformatory and industrial schools, has received little scholarly attention. There has, however, been a greater focus of the IDC’s work on adult prisons. Rogan’s 2011 study and Kilcommin et al’s. 2004 work, have explored the IDC’s impact on the treatment of adult prisoners and these studies have argued that the IDC was a manifestation of the progressive attitudes in the Department of Justice in the early 1960s that drove humanitarian reform in Ireland’s prisons (Rogan 2011; Kilcommins 2004). Notwithstanding, this judgement of the work of the IDC, its pursuance of an open, progressive agenda, was not evident in its work on the Nation’s reformatory and industrial schools. The failure of the IDC to have the same impact on the industrial and reformatory schools as it had on the adult prison population, was as a result of a complex and interrelated set of variables. These found their roots in the realpolitik of Ireland in this period, which were themselves manifestations of the concomitant complexity of Ireland’s sense of itself, Church and State relationships, economics and inter-departmental ‘turf wars’. However, the potential for ‘turf war’ disputes over adult prisons was far less acute.
The Department of Justice controlled and directly ran adult custodial institutions, however, whilst the Church had a strong emphasis on moral leadership in regard to the prisons, it did not have the direct operational control or financial interest in the prisons that it had in the schools. Neither did the other significant player in this regard, the Department of Education. The Catholic Church and the Department of Education were both highly sensitive to any intrusion into the schools, particularly if it could lead to criticism and scandal, the avoidance of scandal long having driven the Church above its duty of care to those in its charge (In Plain Sight; The Cloyne Report, The Ryan Report; The Ferns Report).
The Political, Cultural and Administrative Context of the IDC’s Work
Since the establishment of the Irish State in 1922, a high social premium had been placed on homogeneity and social conformity. This was a feature of Irish life that persisted for much of the twentieth century, bolstered by economic and social policy and the rigid application of censorship (Brown 2010). However, by the mid 20th century the post-revolutionary settlement was beginning to alter, hardly noticeable at first, but to alter nonetheless. The forces that drove these changes, political, economic, social and technological, gathered pace in the late 1950s and early 1960s when a deeply conservative and isolationist revolutionary generation of politicians retired from political life. They were replaced by a new generation who believed that Ireland’s future was to be as part of the European mainstream. However, it would take another 40 years for the modernisation of Ireland’s child protection services to achieve meaningful change.5 These developments have been in no small part driven by the overwhelming evidence of endemic child abuse both in Irish institutions and more generally in Irish society. A reality downplayed or denied for much of the State’s existence as it did not fit wider cultural myths about the inherent virtues of Ireland’s people (Smith 2007; Brennan 2013). Realities amply illustrated in a plethora of reports on this issue,6 all of which provide disturbing insights into the realities of the treatment of children by both Church and State.
Poverty was the overwhelming cause of children being placed in reformatory and industrial schools. Poverty was an issue that Governments had continually failed to address, or indeed made worse for much of its early history through the pursuance of isolationist economic policy (Garvin 2005). The reality of childhoods lived in poverty was too thorny, too complex, too uncomfortable, to address, as the reality that the Nation was failing children did not chime with the ‘acceptable’ self-image of Ireland (Ferguson 2007). Therefore, it was convenient to focus on the shortcomings of the families and children within the schools, and in consequence they became the institutional manifestations of what O’Toole has described as the “criminalisation of poverty” (Ferguson 2007: 127). It was far better, from the Government’s perspective, to focus on the moral turpitude and corruption of poor children and their families, the causation of which could be comfortably externalised to forces that had their origins beyond Ireland’s shores (Keating 2012) rather than Ireland facing its responsibility.
When it came to the care of children in reformatory and industrial schools, the default position of the Irish Government was an adherence to the status quo, premised on a belief in the power of the Catholic Church to affect some good, even amongst the most ‘contaminated’ of souls. This mindset was doubtless influenced by what McLoone-Richards has described as a “culture of honour towards the Church and its agents” (McLoone-Richards 2012). Furthermore, effective action would require co-ordination between Government departments, extra expenditure, and an admission that things were far from right, by both Church and State.
Ireland’s economy had been relatively weak from the foundation of the State until the economic modernisation of the 1960s and the childcare services provided by the Church was nothing if not cheap. Therefore, any substantive development of the school’s inspection regime and regulation, or upgrading of conditions and protection, would have required an investment of funds the Government simply did not feel it could afford (Keating 2002). The result was large institutions that warehoused children in large numbers; institutions too often run by unqualified, overstretched staff who were not subject to appropriate selection, vetting or supervision and consequently too often kept control through the frequent brutal application of violence. Much of the institutional architecture of the schools was inherited from the British; however, post-independence, the level of investment in, and inspection of the schools had been substantially eroded as a result of difficult economic conditions.
The low status of the children cared for in the schools was reflected in the personnel employed to care for them, as those members of religious orders who worked, in what Coldrey has referred to as, the “orphans’ circuit”, were regarded as having low status within their orders (Coldrey 2000). The schools were staffed largely by individuals drawn from lay members of the order, members of the community who had not received the same educational and training opportunities as ‘teaching Brothers’ and ‘choir Sisters’. Furthermore, members of religious orders with a drink or mental health problem, or those with a propensity to cause difficulty in some other way, could be placed in an industrial school to keep them out of ‘harm’s way’ (O’Sullivan 1978; Keating 2002).
However, it is important to remember that not all the staff, religious and non-religious, which ran these schools, were abusive or incompetent; many were committed to the care of the children in their charge. Some, sadly, were embittered as a result of their experiences and became brutalised, whilst a number were sexually and physically abusive prior to working in the schools, as in any walk of life.
It should not be forgotten that Irish child rearing practices in the 1950s and 60s relied heavily on corporal punishment. Indeed, when in 1955, Senator Sheehy Skeffington raised concerns in Seanad Éireann, the Irish Parliament’s Upper House, regarding the use of corporal punishment in mainstream Irish Schools, Skeffington was attacked by the Minister for Education, Richard Mulcahy, who accused him of “pushing for a non-Irish, alien system of discipline and child rearing” (Garvin 2011). Given there was then little sympathy at ministerial level for the plight of children in mainstream Irish schools, it is not surprising that politicians and officials had little sympathy for the children in the reformatory and industrial schools, children seen as in some ways to blame for their own plight.
The Church was similarly impervious to any suggestions regarding changes in its practices within the schools, including its disciplinary regimes. It was ideologically antagonistic to any form of encroachment by the State in what it viewed as areas of policy that properly belonged in its bailiwick (Whyte 2008), in particular those of education and family related policy. This antagonism is manifest in the Church’s opposition to the legalisation of adoption (Keating 2003), Noel Browne’s Mother and Child Scheme (Horgan 2000), and Donagh O’Malley’s Free Education policy (Walsh 2009). Furthermore, the Church’s moral strictures, particularly in relation to sexual morality, caused the ascendency of a form of moral Puritanism that ensured the persistence of Victorian values and precepts of behaviour, not least impacting on the way that the children who populated the reformatory and industrial schools were viewed by the public. Ferguson has argued that these children were labelled as carrying a contagion resulting from their abuse, neglect or illegitimacy, which had “‘polluted and contaminated the child with ‘impure’ adult knowledge…” leading, he argues powerfully, to these children to be viewed as “moral dirt” by large swathes of Irish society (Ferguson 2007).
The Establishment of the IDC and its Terms of Reference.
The Minister for Justice, Charles, J. Haughey, in the September of 1962, established the IDC, its brief being to investigate: a) juvenile delinquency b) the probation system and c) the institutional treatment of offenders and their aftercare (Department of Justice files (DJ), 93/182). The members of the Committee, Chaired by Peter Berry, Secretary of the Department of Justice, included representatives from the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Industry and Commerce. As with all inter-departmental committees, the diverse interests of its constituent members lead to a certain amount of jockeying for position and posturing in pursuance of departmental interests over the primary considerations of the tasks. In the case of reformatory and industrial schools, it was primarily the departments of Education and Justice that experienced the greatest level of inter-departmental tension on this issue.
Haughey suggested that the IDC split into sub-groups, one of which was charged with the exploration of juvenile crime and the treatment of young offenders and it was this group that decided to investigate the Nation’s reformatory and industrial schools. The IDC was to have the “services of experts”, academics, practitioner, lay and religious.7
These schools were largely run by religious orders and were funded and regulated by the Department of Education, a department that had long resented the fact that it had the responsibility for these schools. Schools that Education felt that would be more appropriately managed by the Department of Justice, something the Department of Justice had long avoided.
In addition to the Departments of State sitting on the IDC there was another institution influencing its work, albeit one that hadn’t any formal representation on the Committee; namely, the Church. Notwithstanding the fact that Ireland was not a theocracy, deep ties of faith and friendship between Ireland’s political and Church elites, and the loyalty of the vast majority of Ireland’s population, afforded the Church a significant amount of power and influence, particularly in relation to education and family policy (Whyte 1984). Therefore, the Church was a constant influence in all Irish Governmental deliberations in this period, especially in areas of social policy (Fahey 2007), a reality personified in the person of John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, who was dubbed, “the grey eminence behind the Government”, by the Irish Times in 1950. No Irish policy maker or politician could effectively make decisions, plan or review without consulting or having cognisance of the views of the Catholic Hierarchy,8 a Hierarchy that was as quick to act to preserve its financial interests and the avoidance of scandal, one of its great preoccupations, as it was to act on doctrinal concerns.
The IDC’s Investigation
Soon after beginning its deliberations, the IDC was to receive evidence that conditions in the industrial and reformatory school sector9 were far from well. The IDC despatched inspectors to several industrial and reformatory schools, including the most notorious, Artane, Daingean, Letterfrack and the remand centre Marlborough House.10 The reports of these visits had to be acceptable to both the Departments of Justice and Education representatives on the Committee. What may be described as ‘turf wars’ are evident in the working papers of the IDC, explored below. The politics involved account for the nondescript reports of the visits in relation to criticisms of the institutions, the use of guarded language and the positive spin relating to the negative aspects of what they found.
One of the first people to give evidence to the IDC was Father Moore, a diocesan priest and chaplain to Artane Industrial School, an institution managed and staffed by members of the Christian Brothers,11 a religious order with significant power and influence in matters of education in Ireland. Moore had been commissioned to write a report on Artane by John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, and having submitted his report to McQuaid in the July of 1962 Moore, with McQuaid’s blessing, gave evidence to the IDC in the December of 1962. Moore gave broad-based evidence which included concerns over the stigmatization of children living in Industrial School, the institutionalisation of boys from babyhood and the problems this caused them in later life. Moore criticised the manager of Artane as being an “unwilling captain, and too conservative in his approach.” He also raised concerns regarding the educational programme, staff numbers and training. In addition, he asserted that the funding of the institution was so poor that the boys clothing, footwear, bedding, nutrition and medical needs, were all appallingly below standard (DJ. 93/182/8). In addition Moore noted the physical brutality of the regime at Artane, which he argued led to long term psychological damage to the boys that made it difficult for them to “establish ordinary human relationships” (Murphy Report).
Moore’s evidence clearly ruffled T.R. Ó Raifeartaigh, Secretary of the Department of Education,12 and an IDC member, who interrupted Moore angrily on a number of occasions, clearly troubled by Moore’s portrayal of life in Artane. Ó Raifeartaigh objections to Moore’s evidence were doubtless driven by concerns to limit reputational damage to both the Christian Brothers and his own Department. The poor conditions in the school should not have come as a surprise to him. Ó Raifeartaigh had visited Daingean Reformatory in 1955 and observed that “the cows were better fed than the boys” (Arnold 2008: 58). Additionally, in 1957 he had received a report from the Office of Public Works, the Government agency responsible for the upkeep of public buildings, warning that Marlborough House remand centre was so dilapidated that it presented “a grave risk of loss of life” (Ibid), yet he chose to do nothing to remedy either situation. Following Moore’s evidence Ó Raifeartaigh, eventually, but reluctantly, despatched inspectors to Artane to assess Moore’s claims. However, the Christian Brothers were given advance notice of the inspection and unsurprisingly the inspectors returned from Artane with positive reports that contradicted Moore’s evidence and denigrated Moore’s character (DJ.93/182/8).
The inspection was conducted by three Department of Education representatives on the 20th and 21st of December 1962 and drew a very different picture to that painted by Moore. The inspectors’ report, when combined with the knowledge now in the public domain about Artane, (Ryan Report) illustrates the collusive and apologist nature of the inspection in operation at the time. The inspectors concluded that the boys in Artane were “well fed, warmly clothed, comfortably bedded and treated with kindness by the Christian Brothers in an atmosphere conducive to their physical and spiritual development”. The section of the inspectors’ report that addresses the boys’ clothing is of particular interest as it demonstrates how Department of Education officials sought to put a positive spin on their department’s inadequate childcare provision. The inspector asserted:
Before turning to other premises visited, I think it is proper to comment at this stage on the clothing of the boys, the outward show by which the uninformed public must, perforce, judge the work of the school. Canons of criticism inevitably change once the criticised is the ward of the State and/or in the control of the religious. The cherry nosed ruddy-faced boy playing coatless in a muddy street on a winter’s day will at once be the happy despair of his mother for his appearance and his father’s pride for his rude health. Place the same child in the gates of an industrial school and he immediately earns the label ‘neglected and exploited’ (DJ.93/182/11).
The inspectors also commented on the discipline applied in the school, and again the preconceived attitudes of the inspectors are evident in the preamble, which states: “Complaints about the treatment of children in industrial schools are not infrequent but from experience I would say the majority are exaggerated and some even untrue” (DJ.93/182/11)”. It is worth noting here that it was the Department for Education’s standard practice in this period to run down the character of parents or carers who registered complaints against the schools (Keating 2002).
The inspectors reported that whilst the Dean of Discipline had “occasionally” to use the strap that he “fills this demanding position with sincerity and firmness but without harshness” (DJ.93/182/11). The inspectors interviewed the Dean of Discipline without the presence of the Manager or other senior managers, a privilege not afforded to the children as the Manager was present at all times. The fact that the Manager’s continual presence may have had some bearing on the interactions between the inspectors and the boys seem to have escaped the inspection team. Their report concluded, “not a single boy had any complaint to make except the one about the breakfast sausage” (DJ.93/182/11). The inspector did however recommend that the Dean of Discipline would “benefit from a course in psychology at UCD