Hell in Connaught: Surviving St. Joseph's Industrial School, Letterfrack, Co. Galway
Citation:LYNCH, JEREMIAH, Hell in Connaught: Surviving St. Joseph's Industrial School, Letterfrack, Co. Galway, Trinity College Dublin.School of Education, 2018
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In the century from 1868 to 1969 approximately 200,000 Irish children were forcibly removed from their families and detained in prison-like residential industrial schools. These were harsh places where children were neglected and subjected to emotional, physical and sexual abuse in a pervasive atmosphere of fear. This study draws on the first-hand accounts of survivors of one such institution (St. Joseph?s industrial school Letterfrack), regarded as the most severe of its kind. In-depth semi-structured interviews were carried out with a group of survivors (n=6) and a thematic analysis was undertaken to determine how participants coped as children in detention. Psychometric testing supports thematic analysis of survivor accounts of how these men were impacted psychologically and socially post-release. Using the social cognitive model developed by Bandura (2016), it is proposed that a process of moral disengagement on the part of the Christian Brothers, the religious order who operated six industrial schools, including Letterfrack, facilitated the neglect and abuse of boys in their care. In addition to the primary abuse narrative, namely, that of emotional, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by adults on children, this study reveals the parallel narrative of victimisation, that is, one of peer physical and sexual abuse, as well as a culture of peer consensual sexual contact. These narratives are conceptualised in terms of coping strategies utilised in extreme settings that occur within the psychosocial frameworks of social learning theory and the psychodynamic defence mechanism of repetition compulsion. Results showed that boys survived their experiences of abuse and neglect and the fear of victimisation by utilising a variety of coping strategies, including engaging in consensual peer sexual contact, compliance, isolating self, and covert and overt resistance activities. Upon release participants were seen to be unprepared for life outside the industrial school. They also reported experiencing issues pertaining to anger, loss, and experiencing post-traumatic symptoms. Interviews conducted with a Christian Brother who had worked in Letterfrack and a copy of a lecture he had delivered in 1972 were thematically analysed to ascertain how he had coped during his time living and working in the industrial school. Coping strategies utilised by him contrasted sharply with those utilised by the child detainees in the institution, and included taking time out from work, compartmentalising, and seeking social and professional support. Analysis of the text of the lecture from the early 1970s and of the transcripts of his interviews over 40 years later revealed evidence of the persistence of the mechanisms of moral disengagement. Implications of the results are discussed in terms of trauma theory and clinical practice with this vulnerable population.
Author: LYNCH, JEREMIAH
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Education. Discipline of Education
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available