A number of difficulties with the children described as ‘uncontrollable’ and ‘fire-bugs’ were identified by the manager of Daingean, Fr McGonagle, who stated that he was unwilling to accept such children for any period of detention. The delegation concluded from this: It needs to be stated that the present situation appears to be highly unsatisfactory. A boy who will not be accepted by the manager of Daingean or Letterfrack (and Clonmel, which is still more inappropriate for such a type of child) either has to be set free on probation or sent for one-month to Marlborough House (or to St. Patrick’s201, if 16 years of age – or to prison in certain circumstances, if he is 15 years of age). Such boys committed to Daingean or Letterfrack get to realise that the shortest route to release is to behave in such a way as lends to their again being brought before the Courts for a further offences and being committed to Marlborough House or being released on a suspended sentence. We mentioned tentatively to Fr. McGonagle the possibility of the provision of such a suitable secure unit in connection with the new Reformatory School in Oberstown. The boys in it would be separate from the boys in the Reformatory School and a separate programme of courses would have to be arranged for them. The staff, however, would be common to both institutions and it would be under the administrative management of the Oblate Fathers. Fr. McGonagle appeared to be well disposed to this idea but, of course, could not commit himself or the Order in any way and the matter was left in abeyance at that stage.
In relation to reopening the former reformatory in Daingean, Fr MacGonagle, the former Manager, stated, ‘that while he would not favour it he felt that the newer part of the building there could be made reasonably suitable for such a unit provided the older part was demolished’. At the fourth meeting of the group, held on 12th October 1977, it was reported ‘to make it usable would be expensive; that the renovations would probably take more time than could be considered for a short-term solution, and that it could not be considered for a long term solution’. The committee agreed that while they ‘would not be very happy with using Daingean as a secure unit, it might be as well to keep it in mind in case nothing better was found’. The chairman, Mr Ó Maitiú, who had excused himself at the beginning of the meeting as he was meeting the Minister for Justice, Mr Collins and Mr Tunney, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, returned to the meeting after the discussion on Daingean had concluded. The minutes record that: He was accompanied by R. Mac Conchradha, P.O. in the Department of Justice, who is now to serve on the Team at the request of the Minister for Justice and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education. Both Mr. Collins and Mr. Tunney want the whole question of the Secure Unit for Boys treated as one of the utmost urgency – in fact, the Team is asked to take a decision within a fortnight so that an appropriate memorandum may be submitted to the Government.
In response with which Sr Bruton agreed, Fr McGonagle outlined that: while he appreciated the convenience of using the land at Lusk, he was completely against the Committee’s making a ‘crisis’ decision. A new building would interfere with the present site and with the continued development of Ard Scoil Mhuire as envisaged by its Board of management. A fortnight was much to short a time to make a decision, the results of which would stay with us for many years.