With responsibilities disputed between these two Government Departments, it is not surprising there were chronic problems. The Department of Education did not regard Marlborough House as being rightfully in its remit. Tarlach O’Raifeartaigh, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education, wrote a letter on 19th March 1952, to the Department of Justice making his Department’s position clear. The Department of Education, he wrote: ...had absolutely no power whatever regarding the entry, removal, transfer and disposal of the inmates in the Institution. All these powers are exercised by the Minister for Justice.
In retrospect, the establishment of the Kennedy Committee to review Reformatory and Industrial Schools seems more like an obituary than a death warrant for the existing system. In a memorandum prepared by Tarlach O’Raifeartaigh, the Secretary, for the Minister for Education in March 1967, he suggested that it would be ‘well worth considering whether the whole problem of reformatory and industrial schools should not be our next major target’. The Minister, Mr O’Malley, said he had always ‘felt deeply’ that children in care there had ‘a very special claim on society’.
There was little in the field of fundamental change. One of the few considerations of structural change is the following brief statement by T O’Raifeartaigh, Secretary of the Department of Education, on 15th March 1967 in an internal memo: One line of approach to the problem of the Industrial Schools is the provision of a Prevention Centre. The importance of the Prevention Centre will lie not only in the turning back the youngsters from their first steps in delinquency and the caring for innocent youngsters from broken homes, but also in that it will reduce considerably the number of children who will be committed to industrial schools. This raises the question of the second line of approach. It is that the industrial schools will in future have to devote themselves more to rehabilitation type of work. This will mean that they will have to organise the children into smaller groups and so have to employ a much larger staff of skilled personnel. The children will, learn by doing (as Senator Quinlan mentioned in the Seanad debate on ‘Investment in Education’). The maximum number in any institution should not exceed 250. The only school which accommodates more than 250 is Artane. The question of breaking up that school into smaller schools was recommended by the Commission of Inquiry 1934-36 but nothing came if it mainly due to the opposition of the conductors and the extra huge expenditure involved. I consider that in fact 250 is altogether too big a number for a school and that 50-100 would be the ideal number.