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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Physical abuse


Two years later, the issue of the school rules arose again. Two weeks before the trial of the ringleaders in the 1958 conspiracy to riot in Daingean, Br Jaime forwarded a copy of the school rules to the Department of Education. The local Gardaí were interested in the Department’s views on the rules, and anticipated the matter arising in the imminent court case. Br Jaime asserted that he had drawn up the rules in July 1958, displayed them on the notice board in the School and, for the benefit of those who could not read, he arranged lectures for them. He had intended forwarding them to the Department for approval at that time.


The Department responded on 23rd September 1958, and made the following observations: (1)that there was little likelihood of his (the Manager) being questioned as to the breach of the rules as this would not appear to be among the charges which would be preferred, (2)If the question did arise he should say that the Department is aware of the rules and have offered no objection to them, (3)in view of the nearness of the trial 25th September, 1958 the Department did not consider it desirable to have a letter issued bearing the date 24th September, 1958 offering no objection to the rules.


In a letter dated 3rd October 1958, Br Jaime wrote to Mr Sugrue of the Department of Education, informing him how the case had progressed. He wrote: I stated in court that they (the rules) were always in practice here, and that the Dept. of Education knew about them, and had no objection to them. I also stated that I had, with the Superior’s sanction, decided to put them in writing, and post them up for the boys to read. This was on June 20th. of this year. I also stated in the court that I had explained some of the rules in question to all the boys, and that I had cautioned two of the boys concerned in the case about certain rules, and that it would be impossible for any boy not to know them.


The rules that had been prepared and posted up by Br Jaime were in manuscript form, and must have been a lengthy document, given that the typed version of the Major rules alone ran to seven pages. The school authorities later had them printed up and sent to the Department for approval. These were examined by a Departmental official and, in a memorandum to the Secretary of the Department, he said they appeared adequate for the requirements of St Conleth’s. The importance of having these rules can be gleaned from the final paragraph in his memorandum: Where written rules exist it is comparatively easy to arrange for the committal to Borstal of a Reformatory School pupil. This may be done before a Court of summary jurisdiction and the charge may consist of a breach of the rules of the school or of inciting to such a breach.


The Assistant Secretary to the Department, in a handwritten note in Irish on the above memorandum, stated that (1) the Rules would be better understood if the English version was improved, and (2) there would be the danger that the Manager and the Department would be made a laughing stock by virtue of its contents if the present version were read out in open court.


The Assistant Secretary’s concerns were well founded. Prior to the changes and amendments suggested by the Department, some of these rules were so ill-thought out and badly worded that they would confuse an adult, let alone a poorly educated child.


To illustrate the point: RULE 8. Good manners should not be used only towards those whom we like. Not everyone may like one of us, yet each of us expects good treatment at the hands of others. Therefore; selfishness and unfairness in regard to the rights of others is absolutely wrong. This applies especially to meal-times when some boys may deprive others of their fair share. The school authorities will see to it that each boy gets his rights and that offenders are punished. RULE 10. Immoral or impure conduct is forbidden by God Himself and so is no mere school rule. Therefore to warn boys against it is absolutely for their own good. The school authorities must strictly forbid it and will be helpful and watchful in preventing any such conduct. RULE 17. Any intercourse between Senior and Junior Sections is an offence against the school rules. The forming of particular friendships between Senior and Junior boys is a more serious offence and merits a severe penalty.


The school rules were divided into two sections: MAJOR rules and MINOR rules. The major rules ran to seven typed pages containing 21 rules. The rules stated: ‘To break a major rule is serious and merits serious penalties’


It was two years before these rules were finally approved by the Department, in November 1960.


One of the boys accused of involvement in the 1958 riot gave evidence. As a result of the conviction in respect of the riot, he received a two-year sentence in St. Patrick’s Institution. He was asked whether he remembered the school rules. He said, ‘I don’t remember anything because I’d never seen the school rules’. Neither did he recall being lectured on the school rules.


He stated that he was punished severely by the Prefect for his part in the riot. He was taken out of the hall where the film was being shown, and brought to a hallway were he received the lashes from the Brother. There was no other Brother involved. He stated that he received blows on his arms, back and backside. He claimed that he had received over 100 blows, and then stood up and hit the Brother with his head, accidentally, resulting in more blows being given to him. He believed that this amounted to 140 blows in total.


This boy’s conviction and sentence to two years in a Borstal was facilitated by the Resident Manager’s evidence in court that the school rules had been in place from 20th June 1958 and had been specifically brought to the attention of two of the accused. The Department was uncomfortable with the Resident Manager’s history regarding the rules. It feared exposure of the fact that they had been submitted to the Department so recently, ie just before the trial and after the riot. The Department of Education knew that its acceptance of the Manager’s word that the rules had been in place prior to the riot was important for the case.


In 1968, a number of residents in the School attempted to set fire to part of the building. The Garda report on the incident stated that the trouble started on 25th August 1968, when a fight took place between rival gangs in the School. On the 26th, senior and junior sections were separated and confined to separate parts of the School. At this stage, the junior section boys decided not to fight amongst themselves and came up with a proposal that they all should join together to burn down the buildings. It was decided to attempt to burn down the junior dormitory at 11pm when the lights went off. Four boys obtained bottles of diesel oil. At 11pm that night, one boy sprinkled three vacant beds and part of the floor with the diesel. As he was about to strike the match, the night watchman sounded the alarm and more staff arrived. Order was restored.


On 27th August, the local Garda Sergeant was informed that a fire may be started in a number of workshops, and that four o’clock in the afternoon was fixed as the start time. The local fire brigade were alerted. However, the staff had restored order and no Garda assistance was required. The Manager separated the ringleaders and had them confined in a separate room. These boys were interrogated by a Garda Sergeant at Daingean, and it became evident that a full-scale conspiracy to burn down sections of the Reformatory was in existence. The four boys mentioned above were charged with attempted arson and conspiracy.


The severe regime of corporal punishment in Daingean did not prevent trouble in the institution. There are no recorded instances of riots in Daingean after the abolition of corporal punishment in 1970. The riots as described by the Gardaí suggest that the institution that was seriously out of control. This was a consequence of bad management and Daingean was a frightening and threatening environment as a result.

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is the Irish version of Richard Crowe.
  17. This is the English version of Mr MacConchradha.
  18. Allegations of brutal beatings in Court Lees Approved School were made in a letter to The Guardian, and this led to an investigation which reported in 1967 (see Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School (Cmnd 3367, HMSO)) – Known as ‘The Gibbens Report’, it found many of the allegations proven, and in particular that canings of excessive severity did take place on certain occasions, breaking the regulation that caning on the buttocks should be through normal clothing. Some boys had been caned wearing pyjamas. Following this finding, the School was summarily closed down.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is the English version of Ó Síochfhradha.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This was Br Abran.
  27. Organisation that offers therapy to priests and other religious who have developed sexual or drink problems run by The Servants of the Paraclete.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. Board of Works.
  36. Bread and butter.
  37. Board of Works.
  38. Patrick Clancy, ‘Education Policy’, in Suzanne Quinn, Patricia Kennedy, Anne Matthews, Gabriel Kiely (eds), Contemporary Irish Social Policy (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005), p 79.
  39. This is a pseudonym.