The first occasion was when she visited him, shortly after he had arrived in Daingean, and she said his face was black and blue from a beating that Br Enrico10 had given him. The boy had asked his mother not to say anything about it at the time.
The Department official promised the mother that the matter would be investigated, and an official was sent to Daingean. Clearly, the Department was becoming alarmed because of these very similar complaints coming in quick succession. An unusually detailed investigation was carried out, and the full text of the report is given below: Daingean Admitted 1969 – stealing Runaí Cunta As instructed I visited Daingean to investigate Mrs. [Walsh’s]11 complaint about the ill-treatment of her son in Daingean and interviewed Brother [Macario],12 Acting Manager, and John Walsh.13 Brother [Enrico], who was alleged to have beaten the boy was on annual leave and called to this Office ... by arrangement where the investigations were completed. In the interim I visited the boy’s mother ... and also spoke to Father [Salamon],14 S.J. and Mr. [Carlos]15 who had experience of [John] in [a boy’s] Club where he was a member for a number of years. Though [John] had been described by the authorities in Daingean as being a bit of a ‘pup’ his mentors in the [boys’] Club would not agree with this opinion. They did say that he could be difficult at times. Brother [Macario] did not deny that on one occasion ... the boy had got ‘cuffed’ but did not know of any previous assault on the boy by a member of the Staff. Members of the [Walsh] family had arrived in Daingean ... and seeing the condition of [John’s] face had created an incident. When interviewed [John] admitted that he had absconded six times since [he arrived] and after an unsuccessful attempt to escape on ... had been brought back by Brother [Enrico] who counselled him on the futility of his intention and gave him a couple of apples. [John] admitted that he liked Brother [Enrico]. When he called to the Office, Brother [Enrico] described the incident. Having brought [John Walsh] back to St. Conleth’s as described above, Brother [Enrico] was on his way to organise the milking of the 100 cows kept on the farm in Daingean which [Walsh’s] earlier absconding had interrupted. The usual supervisory staff were being helped out by students from the Oblate Noviciate in Athy and word was sent to him that [Walsh] had again absconded and was threatening a young Clerical student who was attempting to restrain him. When Brother [Enrico] arrived on the scene [Walsh] was already half way across the canal which bounds the Reformatory. With assistance, Brother [Enrico] was able to shepherd him out of the canal and once on the bank he gave him a backhander on the face and then seizing a length of plastic hose, which was the nearest thing to his hand he gave [Walsh] three strokes on his wet jeans. He admitted that at that stage his patience with the boy was exhausted. He admitted that the boy’s face had swelled up as a result of the backhander and that because of his jeans being wet he had left weals on [John’s] legs with the plastic hose ... Control of delinquents in Daingean is a difficult task calling for endless patience and understanding but the one unjustifiable feature of the present case, notwithstanding the provocation given by the boy, is that while [John] is fifteen years old and weighs 8 ½ st. Brother [Enrico] is a giant of a man, weighing 17 sts. whose backhander could cause considerable damage in the circumstances. The best way of finishing this case would, I suggest be a talk with the Manager, Father [Luca], O.M.I. on his next call to the Office and if you agree this will be done.
The Investigation Committee heard allegations from six witnesses as to the severity and violence of this Brother.
Another witness present in the late 1950s and early 1960s stated that he worked on the farm: Br. Enrico was in charge of the farm. He was nicknamed the Bull, he was a big strong man, he was over six foot. He didn’t like being called the Bull ... On one occasion I got a bang of a shovel or a spade, I don’t know which, I was brought to hospital and I got stitched.
Another witness present in the 1960s said Br Enrico was in charge of the farm and was a ‘Big tall man about 21/22 stone he was. He was over six foot, a big giant of a man’.
He recalled the second winter he spent in Daingean as being very cold, and the boys were told to go out and pick potatoes in November. He refused, and Br Enrico ‘went ballistic’. He described how this Brother kicked him around the yard. He was asked about the severity of the beating and he summed it up simply as ‘A grown man beating a young child, that’s what it was’.
Another witness present in the late 1950s recalled Br Enrico working on the farm, and remembered an incident where he witnessed another pupil being boxed on the side of his head by this Brother. There was blood coming out his ear and he remembered the boy being brought in and cleaned up afterwards.
A further witness present in the late 1950s said that he worked at the ‘horse batch’, ie he was assigned to look after the horses with three others. He said that Br Enrico and another Brother would hold them over the ‘shaft of the ponies’, and Br Enrico would hit them across the back with a rope while the other Brother used his fists.
Another witness present in the early 1960s recalled an incident when a farmer hit him, and the farmer complained to Br Enrico that he had given him cheek. Br Enrico used a hosepipe to beat him. He described Br Enrico as ‘... a big man, He was big, he was six foot odd and weighed about 28 stone. He was about in his 40’s ...’.
He also remembered an incident when he was accused of leaving a gate open, and a dog got in and killed some sheep. Br Enrico called him into the dairy and hit him with a box that broke his nose and the blood went everywhere.
Some of these complaints arose during Fr Luca’s period as Resident Manager, and clearly the giving of beatings was not confined to the Prefect, as stated by him. Br Enrico administered severe ad hoc punishments, as well as the more ritualistic floggings, although he was not the Prefect but the farm Brother. Br Enrico was brutal and unpredictable. Fr Luca’s comments that ‘On the corporal punishment, I don’t think it was excessive’ was contradicted by the facts. Corporal punishment: tradition and practice rather than regulation
Fr Luca did not fear censure about the practice of floggings in Daingean. This practice was well known to the Department of Education and had not attracted criticism in the past. He was clearly unprepared for the revulsion of the Department of Justice representative to it. There was no reason for Fr Luca to be anything other than ‘matter of fact’ about it, as it was accepted by Dr McCabe as early as 1953. The investigation into Br Enrico, as outlined above, shows a regime in which Brothers other than the Prefect administered severe corporal punishment. Only the intervention of the Kennedy Committee brought about the end of floggings in Daingean after two years of correspondence. It is hard to reconcile this with the stated position of Fr Luca, that he abhorred the practice of flogging and resolved to do away with it when he became Resident Manager.
When he was brought back to the School, he told Br Enrico why he had run away, and Br Enrico comforted him and believed him. This witness described seeing this boy abusing a younger boy: ‘He pulled him out of the small section in the middle of the day and brought him down to the toilets ... That’s what they were known for, sexually abusing anybody they could’.