Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


The main interest of this article is that it made an allegation that a Brother in whose care the boy had been placed punched the boy in the stomach. Mr O’Neill had found the boy retching, brought him to the infirmary when he returned the boy to the School, and made an appointment with the Resident Manager. The man was clearly very concerned. While a doctor was called and he found no marks on the boy’s stomach, the key allegation, that a Brother had punched him, was not investigated. The overwhelming concern in the correspondence was for the reputation of the Institution and the insult sustained by Br Gilles. The Department dismissed the complaint in the article out of hand, and merely sought the Manager’s response ‘to complete the record’.


A total of 26 Brothers who had served in Artane gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. From their testimony, certain facts emerged about which there was no disagreement. These included: All the Brothers were issued with a leather strap when they arrived at the School and most of them carried it with them. All of them were allowed to administer corporal punishment for minor offences, yet nowhere was it set out in clear, unequivocal terms what a minor offence was. They all said that punishment was left to their judgment. A combination of immaturity, overwork, long hours, isolation and lack of proper supervision led to severe strain and exhaustion.


The following points emerged in their evidence.


Br Fontaine,43 who was on the staff of Artane from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, said that he never witnessed Brothers losing control or punishing boys excessively and that he himself had never done so. However, he did say: At times you would hear the boys talking and you got the impression that somebody had gone overboard and you would have a feeling that something had happened that shouldn’t have happened. But it would be from listening to the boys themselves. The Brothers themselves would not talk about something like that.


Br Davet44 was in Artane in the early to mid-1960s and regarded the use of corporal punishment as a symptom of the stress the Brothers were under. He said, ‘if situations arose and you were supervising quite a large number of boys a situation could arise where you would use corporal punishment then ... it was part of the stress that was put on the men supervising ...’.


He also acknowledged that there were ‘some Brothers that were regarded as being tough and could possibly use the leather excessively ...’.


Br Yves,45 who was in Artane for two years in the 1960s, agreed that he punished boys to excess, and now regretted it: That’s a fair comment. When I went there I was twenty years of age, I was just out of first year training college. It was for me a baptism of fire to go into that kind of situation. I had no experience much as a teacher ... If I was severe, and I was severe, it was my way of coping, and, you know, to those boys that I punished severely, I am exceedingly sorry.


He remembered being reprimanded by the principal of the School for beating a boy too harshly, and toned down his severity accordingly.


Br Burcet,46 who had two spells in Artane, in the mid 1950s and then throughout the 1960s, told the Investigation Committee how one witness had moved him to recall an incident. The former resident gave evidence that the first time he received the strap was from Br Burcet when he was one of the youngest boys in Artane, aged eight or nine: The first experience I have with a strap or a leather as they are called, it was from Br. Burcet. again there is a lot after that but because it was the first one it stuck with me ... I remember retracting my hand ... and then receiving ... the strap around that area (indicating) and then on the buttocks area. That was for retracting my hand ... All I remember, and that’s why it stuck with me, was the stings, the stings in the actual body areas. It was more than two or three [strokes].

Physical abuse


Although Br Burcet had denied beating the boy in his statement written in 2002, when he simply wrote, ‘I did not abuse [the complainant]’, he changed his evidence. He said: When I heard him describing it in evidence I was very taken and I was very conscious of how credible it was ... When he was giving his evidence and as he described it, it made a very, very big impact on me ... to hear it in his own words as he described that ...


Br Burcet was singled out for praise by some of his colleagues, and many of the boys listed him among the more kind and fair Brothers. He described to the Committee how the experience of Artane had affected him: In my last year in Artane I was Disciplinarian. I didn’t like the job, I didn’t want the job ... and I wouldn’t say I was very good at it. But during that period there was a fire and part of the building was burnt down ... I was in charge then and that had a huge effect on me ... I became paranoid about where kids were ... if I found boys in places where they shouldn’t be ... I punished them more severely than would have been necessary.


He then described punishing some boys on the backside: ... when some boys were interfering with other boys, they would be punished and one of the punishments they would get would be on the backside with the leather. I wasn’t too keen on doing it, I had a certain reluctance about it ...


In relation to one particular incident of peer abuse brought to his attention by Br Gaspard47, he said: I just brought [the boy concerned] to the boot room ... He had his nightshirt on him, he bent down, I gave him three or four smacks of the leather on the – not on the bare backside and he ran out the door and I was glad to see him go.


When Br Burcet was asked if he punished more in Artane than in other schools, he replied: Yes, I did punish more. I would say that it was more true of when I went there first than when I started to find my feet there ... In the latter part I probably punished less, until I was made disciplinarian ... it did change me, because when I left Artane ... I didn’t use corporal punishment at all.


Br Burcet later taught in Letterfrack and Salthill.

  1. Report on Artane Industrial School for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by Ciaran Fahy, Consulting Engineer (see Appendix 1).
  2. Rules and Regulations of Industrial Schools 1885.
  3. Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System 1934-1936 chaired by Justice Cussen.
  4. Dr McQuaid and Fr Henry Moore.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym. See also the Tralee chapter.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. Br Beaufort had previously also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  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. See also the Carriglea chapter.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. From the infirmary register it appears that while the boy was not confined in hospital he was due for a check up the day his mother called to see the superior so he may well not have been in the Institution when his mother called.
  24. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  25. It was in fact the Minister for Education who used those words. See paragraph 7.117 .
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  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. This is a pseudonym.
  36. The same incident is referred to in the Department’s inspection into the matter as ‘a shaking’.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. This is a pseudonym.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. This is a pseudonym.
  42. This is a pseudonym.
  43. This is a pseudonym.
  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. This is a pseudonym.
  46. This is a pseudonym.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Dr Anna McCabe (Medical Inspector), Mr Seamus Mac Uaid (Higher Executive Officer) and Mr MacDáibhid (Assistant Principal Officer and Inspector in Charge of Industrial Schools).
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. This is a pseudonym.
  55. This is a pseudonym.
  56. This is a pseudonym.
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  60. This is a pseudonym.
  61. This is a pseudonym.
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  66. This is a pseudonym.
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  75. This is a pseudonym.
  76. This is a pseudonym.
  77. This is a pseudonym.
  78. This is a pseudonym.
  79. See General Chapter on the Christian Brothers at para ???.
  80. He went there after many years in Artane.
  81. Dr Charles Lysaght was commissioned by the Department of Education to conduct general and medical inspections of the industrial and reformatory schools in 1966 in the absence of a replacement for Dr McCabe since her retirement the previous year. He inspected Artane on 8th September 1966.
  82. See Department of Education and Science Chapter, One-off Inspections.
  83. The fact that they were tired is noted in many Visitation Reports.
  84. Council for Education, Recruitment and Training.
  85. This is a pseudonym.
  86. This is a pseudonym.
  87. This is a pseudonym.