Children Of A Lesser God

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greenmount

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From top: Greenmount Industrial School, Cork run by the Christian Brothers; Dan Boyle

These were children apart, not thought suitable for polite, moral society.

Dan Boyle writes:

Once upon a time in I undertook a course in child care. I was hoping it could improve my opportunities in my chosen area of youth work.

Others on the course were involved in residential care centres. Most of these centres continued to be managed by religious communities. In describing their work conditions they shared their frustration, that the spiritual needs of the children they cared for, were considered more important than any physical or emotional needs they may have had.

One course participant told of a practice that had happened at her centre, up to a few years previously. Each Sunday the children of this care home were marched down to their local church. They walked in file, all dressed in a drab, grey uniform, to be sat in allocated seats. These were children apart, not thought suitable for polite, moral society.

Earlier my schooling had been provided by the Presentation Brothers. Ours was the GAA rather than the Rugby playing school. Class context being important.

Other than the then still legal practice of corporal punishment, which lay teachers practiced with as much enthusiasm as their religious counterparts, my education was relatively benign.

A generation earlier the Brothers had also been responsible for the management of the nearby Greenmount Industrial School. In my parents’ generation their good behaviour was sometimes encouraged with the threat of their being sent there, if they didn’t behave appropriately.

The implication being clear. This was a place where children suffered. Where society insisted they suffer.

A number of years later, when I had been elected a city councillor, I learned of the existence of an unmarked mass grave at a local cemetery. In this grave were interred the remains of thirty eight boys who had died while confined at the industrial school.

I campaigned to have a headstone erected to acknowledge these shamefully long forgotten boys. I did receive co-operation from the Presentation Brothers, even though the co-operation given they preferred wouldn’t be seen as being so public.

A parallel campaign, I hadn’t been involved with, convinced the Good Shepherd Sisters to similarly acknowledge children who had died under their ironic care.

As a councillor I once was officiating, on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Cork, at an event at Bessboro, a now infamous Mother and Baby Home. I mentioned that someone important in my life had been born there.

It seems I misspoke. Implying pride on any person associated with a Mother and Baby Home was not to be encouraged it seemed.

None of these events can be compared to the horror of Tuam, or to the scale or intensity of what happened there. What they do speak to is the extent to which Irish society colluded with a definition of children being tainted, solely on the basis of the circumstances of their births.

A definition defined through a hateful religious dogma.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

23 thoughts on “Children Of A Lesser God

  1. mildred st. meadowlark

    Very sad, and very interesting, and sadly, very very true of Irish society.

    Good job Dan.

    Reply
  2. ollie

    Dan, the 38 boys in a mass grave, these children would not have all died at the same time so how were they buried in the same hole?
    Likewise the bodies in Tuam were regularly dumped into the shit tank by the nuns, this has to be illegal and therefore the surviving nuns should be questioned and charged.
    I’d like to see a glass case erected in Stephens Green filled with the skulls of the bodies found in Tuam so we are all constantly reminded of the cruelty that was inflicted on these innocent children, but instead we will have a quiet reburial and a feckin granite stone erected in a field.

    And by the way Irish Society didn’t collude, the politicians and religious did. I’m not taking any blame for what happened, that belongs to people like WT Cosgrave, Sean Lemass, Eamonn De Valera, John Costello and the ringleader John Charles McQuaid,
    Shame on them, may they rot in hell.

    Reply
    1. Clampers Outside!

      ” I’d like to see a glass case erected in Stephens Green filled with the skulls of the bodies found in Tuam so we are all constantly reminded of the cruelty that was inflicted on these innocent children ”

      C’mere… I’m rouge for ya, ffs.

      Reply
      1. Lord Snowflakee

        Why? Why are you “rouge” for this chap Clampers?

        I think it’s a reasonable suggestion to erect a monument to the dead babies in a prominent public place.

        Reply
          1. Lord Snowflakee

            Yes I wouldn’t be saying skulls either in fairness.

            But there is merit to the proposal, is there not?

          2. Rob_G

            Mermorial – yes.

            Putting the skulls on display would be grotesque and a further indignity to the poor dead children.

  3. joak joke jik

    “It seems I misspoke. Implying pride on any person associated with a Mother and Baby Home was not to be encouraged it seemed.”

    what do you mean? could you elaborate on what happened when you spoke?

    Reply
  4. Joe cool

    As someone who works in residential care this makes me shudder. The company I work for are fantastic as are the people I work with. Back then we would have been seen as a threat to these institutions and they would have done everything in their power to put us out of business.

    Reply
  5. Spaghetti Hoop

    I think there was a poor attitude to children in general in the last century; in schools, in the community – the ‘seen and not heard’ mentality. Consider how a child’s recounting of a painful event is listened to and analyzed nowadays as opposed to fifty years ago – if the kid started to break silence on an abuser they’d most likely get a clip round the ear.

    Reply
    1. DubLoony

      The brutality of that era echos still. My mother told me that if a teacher slapped you & you told your parents you’d get another clip because you must have deserved what the teacher dished out.

      Reply
  6. therave

    i lived behind that greenmount school, always threatened with being sent there if i mis-behaved, but at that time it was tailing off and was more a boarding school/working farm, I had no idea about the 38 deaths, that is very very sad and makes me feel sick. I attended the GAA Pres brothers as well , the brothers were cruel and a few were well known for putting their arm around you or rubbing up against you whilst “showing” you something in class. These fluckers are just as bad as the nuns, i would imagine the above is repeated all over the country but i am conscious also not to tar everyone of them with the same brush as well, however, if you knew it was going on you’re as bad as the perpetrators

    Reply
  7. pat harding

    Every residential institution, industrial school and reformatory should be examined. There are unmarked graves in nearly all of them.

    Reply

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