Brother Michael Reynolds told the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse that from the late 1980s a negative picture of the institution had been painted. In a submission on behalf of the Christian Brothers, he said that taken “in the round”, Artane was a positive institution.
The school and its administration have become the focus of widespread criticism following revelations of physical and sexual abuse of children by the Christian Brothers.
Brother Reynolds said most of the 3,947 boys cared for and educated in Artane between 1940 and 1969 were committed by the judicial system.
“Many of them came from situations of inadequate parental care, destitution, neglect, truancy or backgrounds which included petty crime.”
Brothers who worked at Artane in the 1950s and 1960s were advanced in years. They were faced with the daunting task of disproving their alleged guilt, which was an inversion of the normal process of justice.
Brother Reynolds said he did not want to belittle the pain of those who had been hurt by abuse and he repeated an apology made by the order in the late 1990s.
Questioned by commission lawyer Brian McGovern SC about corporal punishment, Brother Reynolds said there were incidents of severe punishment but the discipline was no stricter than in any primary school in the country at the time.
A high level of discipline and organisation was regarded as very necessary for a residential institution catering for upwards of 800 boys. Despite high levels of discipline, accidental injuries were sustained by a number of boys and 14 cases were documented.
The commission has heard that many former residents of Artane, who have brought complaints of abuse, were slapped for bed-wetting and had to change their sheets in public.
The inquiry is to go into private session later this month and hear evidence from former residents.