At last night’s ‘rabble Babble’, Conor McCabe spoke about the historic importance of alternative and independent media in Ireland. Much of our society and history has it’s narrative framed by the institutional press, for example the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Press.
We have learned in recent years what was not known before, the systematic abuses of tens of thousands of children, mainly poor children, in the religious institutions of Ireland. However, through our independent media we learn that this is not true, as the headline in the Workers Voice (1935) illustrates, abuse was known, was ignored and was wiped from accepted history. Independent media gives a voice to the voiceless.
The following are some short excerpts from the Child Abuse Commission report on Artane. All these events and reports happened subsequent to the headline above (in which a young boy had been kicked to death in Artane boys’ school and the murder covered up). If Ireland had listened to independent media these children would have been saved:
Brother Cyrano – a broken arm
In the mid-1950s, the mother of a boy in Artane wrote to the Department of Education to ask if she could be allowed to see her son, who had sustained a broken arm and head injuries during the previous week. She also asked if the incident could be investigated. She wrote:
I heard during the week that my boy Thomas Artane School had an arm broken as a result of a blow with a brush by one of the brothers I call to the school yesterday and the superior admitted that one of the brothers had given him a blow and that his arm was broken I did not see the boy but I believe he was attending another hospital for treatment the superior said he had it xrayed and seen the result the arm is in Plaster of Paris I also heard that his head was bandaged during the week Im very worried over it and I called on Sunday to see him and was not allowed If it could be arranged for me to see him to ease my mind. In any case please have the matter investigated and let me no the result.
A former resident explained:
Another Brother, if you are talking or doing other things in the dormitory that you weren’t supposed to be doing, he would make you go in to the washroom and put your hand into very cold water, because there was no hot water in Artane, and he would make you put your hand in the cold water for about ten [minutes] to quarter of an hour. Then he would call you out and while your hands were still wet, he used to make you put your hand, palm upwards, on the iron bedstead and he had a foot ruler and he used to slice the top of your fingers. It was only afterwards when the blood returned to your hand that you actually got the pain that was involved. Speaking here, it doesn’t seem to imply that being hit at the top of your fingers was a great punishment but it certainly was. The pain afterwards was more than the actual striking of the fingers.
There was no hot water in Artane, nor plumbed toilets
We had only buckets behind the handball alley … I would say there was about 20 to 30 buckets … it was newspaper we used instead of toilet rolls, there was no such thing … They had to be emptied … There was two men, [he thought they were siblings], … at the time it was a horse and cart … They were lay men … I was one of the ones that had to help on that occasion because I was a hefty lump of a lad … You had to put a bit of paper, them buckets could be over full … You have a dirty job there … we were just emptying the buckets … into this barrel. We called it a barrel. It was a horse and cart … it had to be done every day. Imagine there is 800 people were going through toilets … the handball alley was your wee wee, the back of the handball alley. You put them back. They were lovely looking going back … They went back with a kind of coat on them.
A decent man in every other way:
He used have his cloth over him and he kind of took my hand and placed it on top with the cloth covering it in case anybody came in. I touched him like that … He carried on … and then sent me back to my place. That’s all [he] ever done, he was a fondler more than anything. He didn’t ask you to undress or anything like that. He confirmed the statement that he had made to the Commission: All boys liked [him] because he was a gentle kind of man. He said that the teacher looked after the boys and that they put up with him for that reason. He said: We weren’t idiots. Boys at that age were aware, I was anyway, that some of the teachers and some people were like that. He continued: he was good to us … He wasn’t cruel like some of the Brothers. I personally found him very nice and also he always brought a newspaper in every morning. When he was finished the lads would get it. Some of us were avid readers. In that way he was a man’s man, if you like. I know he was a groper but he was a decent man in every other way
Br Ricard, who taught in Artane in the mid-1950s, sexually abused boys in a Christian Brothers’ school in Waterford in the late 1950s.:
A letter sent the following day to the Brother Procurator General, regarding the dispensation from perpetual vows of Br Ricard, reveals the anxiety felt by the Brothers about this case:
This is one of the worst cases we have had in my experience. It is so bad that we have voted unanimously in both Provincial and General Councils that he be granted a dispensation …
The letter discloses how the abuse was detected:
For a whole year he had been “interfering” in a homosexual way with two or three very respectable pupils at [a private secondary college]. One of these came to [a college run by another Order] last August and it was through a letter censored by the [Superiors at that college] that the whole matter came to light. The Brother admitted everything the boy … had stated.
The letter goes on to say:
We fear that the evil ways into which he had fallen may be of some years duration. He leaves immediately for England (on leave of absence). Were he to remain in Ireland and were the parents of the boys to get to know of his behaviour at [the Christian Brothers College] there would be a great danger of a public prosecution. The case is, as I have stated, one of the worst we have had. Do everything you can to secure an immediate Dispensation and forward same as expeditiously as you can.
Br Ricard sought a reference, but was not provided with one as it was felt that ‘there is no knowing what use he might make of it’. According to a letter written by the Provincial Assistant to the Superior General, he was informed that he could not continue teaching and would not be given a reference. However, it appears from records furnished by the Department of Education and Science that the ex-Brother came back to Ireland less than a year later and took up a senior position in a school in Co Kildare and remained there for some years. He was then appointed an assistant teacher at a school in Dublin where he worked for a few years, before moving to a Dublin secondary school where he worked until the late 1980s.