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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 19, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

    Solitary Courage of a Hero of Our Time

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    If you haven’t already done so, please read today’s column in The Irish  Times by John Waters (click here). It concerns a hero of our time, Dr Cyril Daly, who was a lone voice against corporal punishment in schools way back in the 1960s. 

     john-waters.jpg

    Columnist John Waters (Photograph by Frank Miller)

    Although it would not have been regarded as a liberal paper and its then-editor, Hector Legge, is meant to have been to the right of Genghis Khan, nevertheless the Sunday Independent gave generous space to Dr Daly’s campaign to stop the brutalising of the nation’s children in schools.

    As a young schoolboy at the time, I greatly appreciated his efforts. Although I admire many aspects of the work of the Christian Brothers in educating a fairly-ungrateful nation, they were still hammering us with a leather strap at that time.

    As a fairly feisty young fella with a free spirit, I probably came in for a greater dose of punishment than most. It was rough stuff and, as Waters points out, the full panoply of State institutions stood four-square behind this type of treatment.

    Against that Kafkaesque scenario, Dr Daly’s campaign reflected amazing personal courage on his part. He was the good deed in a naughty world. It was perhaps the first time in my life that I saw how the individual can stand out against the mass – and eventually win.

    Waters highlights the role – or lack of it – played by individual politicians in the sorry saga. Not their finest hour, by any means. Nor does the then-leadership of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) emerge with much credit in Waters’ narrative, I don’t know about the secondary schoolteachers.

    While all this was being tolerated in the ordinary schools, far worse was being ignored and covered-up in the closed institutions, such as the industrial schools.

    I am delighted to read in J.W.’s column that Dr Daly survived the pressures and now lives amongst us in, I believe, north Dublin. He should, even after all this time, be suitably honoured for his lonely, courageous stance.

    Another person at that time, incidentally, who took a brave but fairly solitary position was Ciarán Carty who was film critic for, if memory serves, the self-same Sunday “Indo”. He campaigned against the ridiculous excesses of film censorship at the time and, eventually, his cause won through. (Some might say the pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, but that’s another story.)

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      It’s an interesting article and does show that what was reported as happening in the Ryan Report wasn’t isolated but rather the extreme end of a culture of child suppression if you will

      One problem I do have with the article though is that John Waters refers to Cyril Daly coming into conflict with the state in the guise of Richard Burke and John Bruton over a Martin O’Neill who was sent to St Joseph’s Prison for Young Children in 1969. The problem is that the FG/Lab government didn’t come into power until 1973 which is 4 years after. So if Martin O’Neill was sent to St Joseph’s Prison for Young Children in 1969 it was someone else that Cyril Daly was in conflict with, a FF someone. I know John wears his FF leanings quite publicly but it seems odd to make such efforts to cast the blame all over the place as he does. I don’t doubt that FG members as much as FFers were inclined to support corporal punishment but tying people so closely into a case that preceded their being in office by years and years reads like overreaching.

      It may simply be the original article was considerably longer and it was truncated by someone else, losing the original detail. Yet this is the sort of fact-checking that John was admonishing bloggers and other denizens of the internet for not doing a while back and I would have presumed a professional like himself would have made sure the chronology was perfectly spot-on.

      In searching for information about Cyril Daly I came across this piece which has a slightly different tack on the abolition of corporal punishment, not necessarily one I’d agree with but interesting nonetheless.

      http://www.alliancesupport.org/news/archives/001734.html

    • Paul says:

      A columnist in this weekend’s Irish Examiner wrote a piece about a Fr. Flanagan, an Irish-American priest who spoke out in the 40′s (?) and was denounced by members of the Government.

      I’m not quite sure what the intended inference of the above picture is, but it seems a little unnecessary.

    • Mike says:

      Dr Cyril Daly was my doctor all my life and I do recall him making efforts to help young kids who were getting dragged from their beds at the crack of dawn.
      Can you imagine youg children waking up from sleep by a bunch of men (gardaí) for some small offence like not attending school?
      In those days school inspectors would chase and capture childen if they were seen on the streets during school hours.
      Dr Daly can hold his head up high where many of our so-called caring members of society will never be able to do that.
      He was one of the true people who cared and was not afraid to tell the truth to those who wanted to hear him.


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