Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 9 — Clifden

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Sr Casey and complainant witnesses testified that inspections were notified to the school in advance and that conditions were improved for the visits.


Dr McCabe carried out Medical Inspections at the same time as the General Inspections, and these are documented separately. All of her Medical Reports are very positive.


The local GP completed Quarterly Medical Returns for the Department which noted that the health of the children was excellent, their diet varied and they were well nourished, clean and neat in appearance. The children were taken for walks and drives in the countryside and the accommodation was in good condition.


Dr C E Lysaght was contracted by the Department of Education to conduct one-off inspections of industrial and reformatory schools in 1966. He provided a detailed General and Medical Inspection Report in regard to Clifden after an inspection in 1966.


Overall, his report was very positive. He asked why the industrial school children were taught separately from the local children and was told by Sr Veronica that this was the way it had always been and that, in any event, the local primary school was too small to cater for them.


There was a hiatus in inspections until 1969, when the Acting Inspector visited the School and was alarmed to find it overcrowded and understaffed.


It is apparent that the reports of the acting inspector were more child-centred than those of his predecessors, who tended to concentrate on the physical aspects of the Institution as opposed to the standard of care provided to the children.


Mr Graham Granville was appointed to the position of Child Care Advisor in the Department of Education in the mid-1970s. He conducted five inspections of Clifden between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s. In general, these reports were positive although he expressed concern about the aftercare and the socialisation of the children into the community.


Sr Casey said she had spoken to two Sisters who expressed concern about the adequacy of the food in the School in the mid-1960s. She accepted that, in the 1950s and through to the early 1960s, the food was very basic; at teatime they had bread, butter and jam every day.


Most of the complainants made allegations regarding the poor quality and quantity of food in Clifden. Many of the witnesses recall always being hungry, and resorted to stealing food intended for the farm animals and bread from the bakery.


Another former resident, who spent her childhood in Clifden during the 1960s and 1970s, stated that conditions changed in 1969 when a new Resident Manager was appointed. There seemed to be more money and they never went hungry. This contrasted with previous years, when she recalled always being hungry and eating food destined for the pigs. However, with the regime change, she recalled ‘another type of panic around food, because we had to eat what we got and if we didn’t eat it we got lashed. Well, I got hit. I remember get – being beat because I couldn’t eat my food’. She recalled, in particular, being beaten by one Sister for not eating her food quickly enough, but this Sister denied hitting the witness or any other child across the face for not eating their food quickly.


One respondent who gave evidence was a national schoolteacher who had taught children in Carna national school before being transferred to Clifden internal national school in the early 1960s. She stated that, in comparison with the children in Carna, the Industrial School children were well fed and clothed.


In its Submissions, the Congregation concedes that: in view of the repetition of complaints about food, and the evidence of certain particular complainants such as [the complainant named] it seems likely that hunger was a real issue for the children in Clifden industrial, at least up to a certain period of time, perhaps the late 1960’s ... The food does not seem to have been adequate in quantity to satisfy the appetite of the children. It is accepted that children probably did, on occasion, steal loaves of fresh bread and extra portions of food whenever they could.


In 1939, a Preliminary Report was carried out by a Department Inspector into the feasibility of amalgamating the internal national school and the local national school, Scoil Mhuire, which were located yards from each other within the same grounds. The manager of both schools, Mother Alma, was open to the idea, but expressed reservations about the attitude of parents of children in Scoil Mhuire to the proposal.


The Department Inspector reported in May 1942 that while in his view it was perfectly feasible to amalgamate the two schools: The Rev. Mother of the Community, Mother Alma, who is manager of both schools, and the principal teacher of the Convent N.S. are all three opposed to the idea of having the pupils of both schools taught together, mainly because they fear that the parents of the children attending the N.S. would object. I think it likely that there would be some such objection.

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  4. See the chapter on St Joseph’s and St Patrick’s Kilkenny for further details in relation to this course.
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  7. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
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