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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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Physical abuse


In Phase III, Br Minehane was asked if there was unwarranted physical abuse in Greenmount and he replied: Yes, by today’s standards there certainly was, especially at a period during the 1940s, our research would show that there was certainly excess corporal punishment.


Br Minehane was asked to clarify what he meant by the phrase excessive physical punishment ‘in the light of today’s standards’. He replied, ‘my interpretation of it is that corporal punishment in schools was totally acceptable until 1982’. Under questioning, he went on to concede that some punishments were indeed excessive by the standards of the time, and that he did not need to use the term ‘by today’s standards’.


In summary, the Presentation Brothers made the following concessions: 1.Greenmount operated a harsh regime, especially in the 1940s. 2.The corporal punishment administered by the Superior, Br Arrio, during the 1940s was excessive.


Br Arrio was at Greenmount from the mid-1930s until his death in the late 1950s. As mentioned above, he was Resident Manager/Superior of the School in the mid-1930s for three years and again from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. A Visitation Report from the mid-1940s noted that ‘The Management, discipline, the general tone and atmosphere of the school have dropped some points since my Visit [three years previously]’. The reappointment of Br Arrio during the mid-1940s soon turned this situation around, because the Visitation Report commented, ‘The management, discipline and tone of this school are on the upward trend. I am quite confident it will very soon hold the honoured place it occupied prior to [the appointment of Br Arrio]’.


During the 1940s, the annual reports furnished by the Resident Manager of the School to the Department of Education gave a glowing picture of benign discipline being enforced in the School. In the early 1940s, it said, ‘Punishment of every kind is all but a dead letter in the school’. One year later, the Department was told ‘Punishment of any kind is all but abolished in the school’. The reports for the following two years used the same phrase, ‘Corporal punishment of every kind is, all but, completely abolished’. From the mid to late 1940s, in answer to the question ‘Nature of the punishments for misconduct’, the identical answer was given: ‘Forfeiture of rewards and privileges, which are allowed boys of good conduct’.


The 1940s were precisely the years that the Presentation Brothers acknowledged to have been an era marked by excessively severe corporal punishment. Br Minehane was asked to explain the contradiction. He began by saying, ‘I would have question marks about it’. He then went on to explain that the Resident Manager, Br Arrio, was in charge of discipline, and was ‘the same person who wrote that report’. He then said: He was the Resident Manager and I have no explanation for it except that he regarded himself as the disciplinarian in the School. And from his point of view ... corporal punishment was part of it.


The fundamental inadequacy of the system could not be more apparent. The Brother who was himself operating a severe and harsh regime was the same Brother who reported to the Department. His reports to the Department were misleading: they claimed that punishment consisted of a system of withdrawing privileges, when in fact the School was being controlled by severe beatings and a climate of fear through a regime that he himself commanded.


Mr Olivero21 (formerly Br Olivero) joined the Presentation Brothers in the mid-1940s. He spent a year teaching in Greenmount before going to a Training College in Waterford. He returned to Greenmount in the late 1940s, where he again taught for one and a half years. He left the Congregation in the late 1950s. He gave evidence to the Investigation Committee in respect of Br Arrio and his disciplinary regime.


Mr Olivero said that, when he arrived at the School, he was told that if any boy committed a misdemeanour he should be sent to the Head Brother, Br Arrio, who would look after him. He said that Br Arrio was regarded as a strict disciplinarian and the boys were fearful of him. He agreed that the boys had good reason to be afraid of him. He explained: if a boy did commit any misdemeanour, if he fought in the yard and if he didn’t try and pull himself together, all I had to say was, okay, do you want to go to Br Arrio and they’d say no.


When he was asked if he thought it was a good thing that the person who was in ultimate control should instil such fear in boys he replied, ‘I thought it was maybe a bit extreme’.


When asked if he had seen boys being caned in the yard, he explained: When the boys were lined up in the evening time, before going, maybe, for a meal, for the evening meal, I did see him chastising boys with a stick. I thought it was very extreme because if he had, we’ll say, twelve lines of boys there was a monitor for each who was responsible for each line of boys ... And the monitor, if he couldn’t explain the absence of some boy in his group he was punished, and I thought that was very unfair.


Mr Olivero also confirmed in oral evidence a particular method of punishment that was referred to by complainants and which is outlined below. This involved the boys climbing a ladder in a storeroom and Br Arrio beating them with a cane.


He was asked whether he and those Brothers with similar views could together have had some influence over a Brother who was harsh or severe with the boys. He replied that there was no mechanism at all to have such an effect. He explained: ... I was too young and too inexperienced at the time to make a complaint. If I did make a complaint I would probably – I don’t know would I be listened to ...


His dilemma was a common one. Those Brothers low in the hierarchy could not challenge their seniors because of their vow of obedience. This inability to challenge the status quo meant that progress or change was virtually impossible unless it came from the top.


Although he felt some complainants exaggerated the level of abuse in Greenmount, the complaints about Br Arrio were, he believed, justified. He said, ‘... I wouldn’t mind if they do make complaints about the treatment he meted out to them’.

  1. Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ (Report prepared for the Presentation Brothers, May 2001 and submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19 May 2004), pp 187–188.
  2. For the greater glory of God.
  3. Fratrium Presentionis Mariae.
  4. Keogh, p 54.
  5. Keogh, p 57.
  6. Cork Examiner, 28 March 1874, cited in Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ May 2001.
  7. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, p 41.
  8. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, pp 41–2.
  9. Cork Examiner, 24 March 1874.
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  13. Report on Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1936.
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