The Shame of Ireland
Thursday May 21 2009
CLAIMS that a lack of finances was partly to blame for cases of neglect in some of the most notorious industrial schools was exposed as a myth in the report of the Ryan Commission.
The large boys' schools with big productive farms and trades work geared to meet their needs were well resourced -- yet the young children in their care were often the most neglected, the commission's investigation committee found.
"These schools should have been able to provide a good standard of care. However, the evidence indicates that children in these schools were some of the most poorly provided for."
For example, Artane had a sizeable farm and a significant number of trades which boys did as part of their training.
The farm income in the 1960s was IR£122,122 with a surplus of IR£49,256.
Similarly, the income at Ferryhouse industrial school exceeded its spending by the euro equivalent of €26,901 over almost 30 years to 1969.
The adequacy of funding to provide for the care of children to the standard needed by law was examined in the Mazars's report and given to the investigation committee.
It found some schools "struggled valiantly" to survive and some did not. But the Department of Education made no distinctions between both in negotiations.
Larger schools dominated the debate although the Department of Finance did see that not all institutions were the same and sought to distinguish those in "genuine need".
However, it discovered the Resident Managers' Association, the representative body for the schools, did not co-operate and many children were condemned in the less well resourced institutions to "needless poverty".
It pointed out it was the responsibility of the Department of Education to ensure adequate funding for the provision of minimum standards of care for children in the care of the State.
The funding system was based on a capitation grant per child in an institution. It questioned why this capitation system persisted for so long after its abandonment in England.
It was clear a switch to a budget system of funding the schools was more efficient and of greater benefit to children.
- EILISH O'REGAN and DEARBHAIL MCDONALD
'Annual' procession? When did this cease? I was there from early 1941 to late 1947 and never heard of such an event. As for girls, I never saw or spoke to one, other than ones I saw that were members of other boys families on visiting days. Those of us that were 'Nobodies' and under 14 were kept inside during the visiting days and could watch from the windows. After 14 we were employed on the farm and poultry farm.
In my book that I'm trying to give away I record in detail the full conditions that existed in Artane during the 1930s and 40s. There was no running water in the latrines and buckets were used and no toilet paper provided. When I read of accounts of conditions some ten and twenty years later I don't recognize them. There must have been vast improvements.
In Kilkenny in the late 50s and early 60s shoeboxes with newspaper clippings were the toilet paper. The cubicles also had no doors. We each had a tin plate and a tin mug or an enamel mug. Dinner was mostly a green mash (potatoes and something green). At bathtime - once a week I think - two boys at a time were washed in the bath and we all waited with some kind of sheet over us for our turn to be washed and dried. I don't recall the water ever getting changed during bathtime.
But we were turned out very well for religious processions/events. I remember wearing a blue cape for some kind of virgin Mary feast day parade, also a lovely white crisp shirt and blue tie and navy blue trousers. Mostly though our clothes were nothing more than cast-offs from the 1930s and 40s. We got to wear shoes and socks on sundays and on days of inspection but mostly I remember being barefoot.
I spent eight years in St. Patrick's Killkenny from 1934 to 1941, when I was transferred to Artane. Most of the stories I've read of both Industrial Schools bare only a passing resemblance to how I recall them..
It is of little wonder that so many people of my generation left that Godforsaken country as soon as we were released and never wished to be associated with it again. Not only did the nuns and brothers instill the fear of God but also hate of the English. It was no wonder that I saw signs outside pubs and lodgings 'no dogs and Irish allowed.' That was in the early 40s and 50s.
How social history changes. Second and third generation Irish have contributed enormously to British society. In more than 60 years I've seen an Irish influence in every walk of life. The greatest shame has been the loss of talent that many of these 'ner do goods' (a description used by a Christian Brother) may have contributed to Irish society had we been given a proper education.
I agree with you. The point I make is that children that spent time in those 'schools' in the late 60s and 70s had a far better time and appear to have been educated and so were capable of writing of their experiences. Over time society changed and people found a new freedom and began to voice their grievances that led to a Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
It took a very long time to challenge the Church State and for them eventually, grudgingly admit their wrongdoing after years of denial. Yes, you are right as one American woman described the conditions as Dickensian, as outlined in my book 'Lonestray Survivor'.
This past weekend I had the most amazing experience. I received an email from the wife of the late famous Canadian writer, Eric Nichol. She directed me to a site 'Through a Mirror, Darkly' where I read a report about my book.
It read: "I received this book from my Dad." He goes on to describe the the story and then reveals that "I have read other books on the subject, but this is a very personal story. It is also a personal story to me, as the man who wrote it is my uncle. I have never met him, nor am I likely to."
There are family members still living in Ireland none of whom I've ever met. Somewhere along the way religion got mixed up in my story; They were Catholic and Protestant and I got lost in between.