Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Volume Two

Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Volume Two

Chapter 1
Institute of Charity: St Patrick’s, Upton, and St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse


A history of the Rosminians and their involvement in industrial schools

1.01The Institute of Charity was founded by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati in 1828 at Calvario in Italy. It received the approbation of the Holy See on 20th December 1838 and was given the status of a religious Order. It was a society that included religious members, who took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and also lay members who shared the special objectives of the Institute. Rosmini believed in a ‘principle of passivity’, based on the consciousness of humanity’s ‘nothingness’, or its inability on its own to achieve lasting good. He had a conviction that God’s Providence guides by means of his Church and the needs of people. By remaining open, or having an attitude of ‘indifference’, as Rosmini put it, as to what work of charity was undertaken by them, the Rosminians, as they came to be known, were being guided by Divine Providence to doing lasting good for their neighbours.

1.02In 1835, Luigi Gentili founded a Novitiate in England and set up further missions across England and Wales in the two following decades. The Institute of Charity continued to grow and became an international organisation with four major provinces: the Italian province, which included the regions of India and Venezuela; the English province, which included New Zealand; the Irish province, which included the vice province of Africa; and the province of the United States. Until 1931, the Institute of Charity in Ireland came under the jurisdiction of the English province.

1.03In 1860, the Institute, which had experience of running a Reformatory School in North East Yorkshire, was invited to run the proposed new Reformatory School at Upton, County Cork, which became the first Rosminian Community established in Ireland. Upton Reformatory operated for 29 years and closed in 1889, to reopen five days later as Danesfort Industrial School, certified for the reception of 300 boys.

1.04In 1884, the Rosminian Institute took charge of a second establishment, the Clonmel Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys, which received a certificate to receive 150 boys the following year. Count Arthur Moore, the MP for Clonmel, had approached them to manage and run the school that he had built for orphaned and abandoned children at the cost of £10,000, a considerable sum in those days. It was situated about four kilometres east of the town of Clonmel, in the townland of Ferryhouse, on the northern bank of the River Suir. The 3.6 hectares of land it was built on was soon expanded to 16 hectares, and ultimately to 32 or more hectares of farmland.

1.05In 1901, the Institute of Charity acquired Ballyoonan House, Omeath, situated on 14 acres of land, to serve as its Novitiate. It was given the name of St Michael’s, becoming a Scholasticate in 1935, until 1945, when it again became a Juniorate for 28 students. In 1931, a new Novitiate was established in Kilmurry House, Kilworth, County Cork. In 1954, St Michael’s applied to be recognised as a secondary school, taking in students who did not necessarily want to become members of the Institute of Charity.

1.06The Rosminians operated two industrial schools: St Patrick’s Industrial School, Upton, County Cork; and St Joseph’s Industrial School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, County Tipperary. In addition, the Order had other establishments primarily concerned with the education and religious formation of boys and young men intending to be ordained (as priests) or professed (as Brothers). Both the priests and Brothers would be members of the Institute. Those institutions were at Omeath, County Louth; Kilmurry, County Cork; and Glencomeragh, County Tipperary. The Rosminians were principally a missionary Order, and most of the young men trained in their houses of formation were destined for work in their missions.

Committee’s investigation into Upton and Ferryhouse

1.07The Investigation Committee carried out a detailed examination into the industrial schools at Upton and Ferryhouse. In June 2004, at the Emergence Hearings, the Institute began by outlining at a public hearing how the issue of child abuse in their schools emerged. Then they gave evidence at public introductory hearings (Phase I) into Ferryhouse, which took place from 6th to 9th September 2004, and into Upton, which took place on 26th October 2004.

1.08Between 14th September and 17th November 2004, witnesses from Ferryhouse were heard in private, and between 18th November and 16th December 2004, witnesses who were in Upton gave evidence. Finally, a public hearing in Phase III was held on 9th May 2006, at which Fr Joseph O’Reilly, the Provincial Superior of the Rosminian Institute of Charity in Ireland, dealt with general issues in both institutions that had arisen in the course of the Phase II hearings.

1.09The Institute furnished written statements in advance of the hearings and also provided Submissions following the private hearings.

1.10The figures for Upton were as follows: 11 complainant witnesses gave evidence, out of a total of 13 who were invited. Three respondent witnesses testified.

1.11The figures for Ferryhouse were as follows: 29 complainant witnesses gave evidence, out of a total of 39 who were invited to do so. Nine respondent witnesses gave evidence.

1.12The hearings into Ferryhouse and Upton differed from other hearings, because the Rosminians adopted a markedly different position on the role of industrial schools generally, a position which affected the way they responded to the complaints that were made. The attitude of the Order to the complainants is dealt with in the sections relating to the individual schools, but something can briefly be said here about the position that the Order.

1.13Giving evidence on behalf of the Rosminian Institute on 9th May 2006, at the Phase III public hearing, Fr O’Reilly said that he had ‘no doubt that there were many areas in which we failed and I have no doubt that the entire system was a failure’. He said that they were given the task of trying to manage an apparently unmanageable system, and that control was the first priority. He acknowledged that there was pressure to keep up numbers, so as to maximise income from the capitation payment system, and that the numbers themselves presented a problem in caring for children:

… that’s why it was a trap, it was trap for us, if we didn’t have an adequate number of children then we didn’t get a sufficient income. If we had children well in excess of any number, or whatever number it was, then we were into the position of finding that it was more difficult to manage the whole thing. It was a trap. How do you deal with that?

1.14Fr O’Reilly said that it was not even clear that children were better off in industrial schools than they had been in their previous circumstances:

I think that children were often taken from fairly hopeless situations and they were handed over to despair in a way. Because I am not too sure that we can say definitely that the situation that they found themselves in was an awful lot better than the situation that they had come from. They got some things and there are other things that they didn’t get. Frying pan into the fire.

1.15The industrial school system, he said, was fundamentally flawed and was not capable of fulfilling the needs of children. He did not think that there was any clear objective, or that anybody had a sense of what was going on, or that anybody was really giving direction to it. He was not sure that such strategic thinking existed, even in more recent decades.

1.16Unlike other Orders, the Rosminians did not seek solace in the contents of the Inspection Reports of the Department of Education. These reports found the schools to be more or less satisfactory, but identified continuously a need for improvement. Fr O’Reilly stated that the approach to industrial schools ‘was just making do’. He added:

Unfortunately, some things can’t be done on a just enough basis, you have just enough of this or you have just enough of that, some things need more than just enough. But I think that we had just enough of this, that and the other and we made do.

1.17The stance adopted by the Rosminians on the very nature of the industrial schools system was unusual. They were also unusual, if not unique, in that they had begun looking back critically, as long ago as 1990, on the operation of these schools. On 11th May 1990, at the opening of a new development at Ferryhouse Industrial School, the then Provincial, Fr James Flynn, apologised for the abuse that children had suffered in the past in the Institution and then said:

Like any human institution, old Ferryhouse had its bad points as well as its good points, its weaknesses as well as its strengths. It damaged some boys and those have looked back in bitterness and anger to their time here. For many of them, this was the only home that they ever knew and sadly they did not find it a good one. Let me say that a lot of that anger is justified … The greatest guilt has to be borne by those of us who utilised or condoned or ignored the extreme severity, even brutality which characterised at times the regime at old Ferryhouse. An occasion like this is an opportunity for me on behalf of the Rosminians to publicly acknowledge this fact and to ask forgiveness of those who were ill-treated or hurt. We have sinned against justice and against the dignity of the person in the past and we always need to be on our guard that we do not do the same today in more subtle or equally hideous ways.

1.18Fr O’Reilly at the public hearing referred to this apology:

When we opened the new Ferryhouse we started off by drawing attention to the fact that many of the children who went through the school over the previous hundred years or so suffered, suffered greatly, suffered from fear and suffered … he spoke about brutality. He spoke about people who condoned or ignored extreme severity, even brutality that characterised the old regime.

1.19The Rosminians sought to understand abuse, in contrast to other Orders who sought to explain it. They accepted that abuse had occurred in their institutions, and that the institutions in themselves were abusive.

1.20The biggest contrast between the Rosminians’ position and other Orders was in its acceptance of responsibility for what happened in their industrial schools. Even when factors such as inadequate resources were involved, they took responsibility for tolerating them and doing nothing about it.

Sources of information: the Rome archive

1.21The Investigation Committee had at its disposal discovery documentation furnished by the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Justice, Garda Discovery, Bishop’s Discovery and the Rosminians.

1.22The Rosminian Order originally believed that the only documentary material it was able to produce on the use of physical punishment consisted of two punishment books for Upton, one dating from the nineteenth century and the other dealing with part of the relevant period, from 1952 to 1963. The latter is incomplete and deficient in some other respects, but is nevertheless a valuable source of information about punishment in Upton.

1.23There also appeared to be a dearth of written information on sexual abuse in their schools before 1979, when the issue first came to the notice of the management of the Institute at that time. This belief, that no documentation existed, was reflected in a General Statement submitted by Fr Matthew Gaffney to the Investigation Committee on 3rd May 2002.

1.24The position changed with the discovery of an archive of correspondence in Rome, containing letters between the Irish Province and the Superior General about members of the Irish Province. The documents concerned Brothers who had been suspected of, or who had admitted to, or who were found to have engaged in, the sexual abuse of children. The Institute discovered this material to the Investigation Committee in May 2004.

1.25The Rome archive consisted of 68 letters written between 20th October 1936 and 11th January 1980. They reveal how the Rosminians dealt with cases of sexual abuse and also reveal the career details of those who had committed such abuse in Upton and Ferryhouse, and these are dealt with in the appropriate sections of this chapter.

1.26Sexual abuse was a recurring problem for the managers of Upton and Ferryhouse and for their Provincial. On the basis of these records and the other confirmed cases, it is apparent that there was a sexual abuser present in each of the institutions for much of the period being inquired into, and there were multiple abusers present for significant periods of time.

1.27These documents showed how the Rosminians handled cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by staff, and they are also relevant in attempting to establish how much more sexual abuse took place in Upton and Ferryhouse than has been alleged by complainants.

1.28The Rome archive also revealed how other members of the Irish Province were dealt with when it was discovered that they had perpetrated child sexual abuse. The Provincial, who for most of the period of our inquiry resided at Upton, was the head of the Irish-American Province, with the two countries operating as a unit. The English Province was separate, and reported separately to Headquarters in Rome. The correspondence discloses that two members of the Institute who served in the USA were found to have abused children in that branch of the Irish-American Province. Neither of the offenders served in Upton or Ferryhouse, but their histories are relevant in considering the attitude of the Institute and of the Irish Province to the matter of sexual abuse and its management.

The management system and staffing

1.29The Provincialate of the Irish Province of Rosminians was located at Upton, and the Provincial had his residence there in St Patrick’s. Each of the schools, Ferryhouse and Upton, was under the control of a Resident Manager, who was appointed by the Provincial.

1.30The Religious Community in Ferryhouse comprised between 10 and 12 members, made up of both priests and Brothers, each with a separate area of responsibility. The Rector of the Community also held the post of Resident Manager and was responsible for the day-to-day management of the School.

1.31All of the Resident Managers appointed were ordained members of the Institute of Charity. Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee that the post was not one ‘regarded as a reward for long service’. He stated most of the priests who were appointed managers ‘would have worked at some stage on the ground as a Prefect in either St. Patrick’s Upton, or St. Joseph’s’.

1.32Fr O’Reilly spoke about the calibre of the Resident Managers in Ferryhouse:

… certainly most of the Managers that I know about and have come to know about would seem to have been people who were quite suited to it and who were keen for the position and keen to do something with the work that was there and they were people, I would say, who had a degree of vision at the time, for the most part.

1.33A Spiritual Director assisted the Resident Manager in his management duties in Ferryhouse.

The Prefect

1.34One of the most important staff positions to be held in Ferryhouse and Upton was that of the Prefect. Fr Stefano,1 former Resident Manager in Ferryhouse stated, ‘there was a manager … and the next people … on the care side were the Prefects’. While the Resident Manager had responsibility for the running of the Industrial School itself, the Prefect was in charge of the day-to-day care of the children. As one witness explained, ‘The Prefect was in charge right through the day and right through the night, you know’.

1.35Ferryhouse and Upton each had two Prefects, one for the senior group and one for the junior group. Until the 1940s, the Prefect would have been a priest. However, this changed and, from the 1940s, Brothers were appointed Prefects. Each Prefect had sole responsibility for his group, which at times could consist of more than 100 boys. This responsibility was for 24 hours a day throughout the whole year, with little respite or additional help from his fellow Brothers.

1.36Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee:

I would say that most of the responsibility fell on the Prefect. Only occasionally could he call on others, who had their own duties to go on with. So if a Prefect was – for example, it wouldn’t have been uncommon that the Prefect, one of the Prefects who was on, would have to leave to go and look for a child who had run away or go to a Garda station to pick up a child who had been picked up by the Gardaí, and so all the responsibility rested on the shoulders of the Prefect who remained behind and, indeed, it wasn’t uncommon for a Prefect to have to leave a dormitory of children in the middle of the night to go to pick up a child. They, obviously, relied on the other Prefect primarily, you know, to look after the situation. He’d have been made aware of things, as would the Manager.

1.37Fr O’Reilly explained that Prefects’ responsibilities covered everything to do with the children:

From the time that they got up in the morning, getting children up, sorting out what had to be sorted out, making sure that they were all in place, getting them down to Mass, getting them back up, to breakfast, making sure they got out to school – when they got out to school, okay, the school had responsibility then, but almost inevitably, you know, you have a child who is sick or a child who has cut himself or who has got in trouble in school, and a Prefect who has to pick up the pieces. I mean, I have seen that in my own time working in St. Joseph’s, Ferryhouse.

1.38During non-school hours the Prefect would also have to be constantly vigilant, especially at mealtimes in the School. He would have to manage the dining area where over 150 boys would be eating their meals. Bullying at mealtimes was common: older boys would take the food of younger boys, and these younger boys had to be protected. As a result, the dining hall area was ‘a highly charged situation … where any number of things could happen’.

1.39The Prefects were mainly responsible for administering corporal punishment in the School. Boys who badly misbehaved were generally sent to the Prefect’s office to receive their punishment.

1.40The Prefect was answerable to the Resident Manager in all matters. Among the Resident Manager’s numerous duties and responsibilities was overseeing the performance of duties by the Prefects. Fr O’Reilly spoke of this requirement:

The Manager, although he had other responsibilities, would have obviously had to keep an eye on what was happening. I think the Manager would know on a very regular basis what was going on in the place because, although this might not be a term that everybody would agree with, there would have developed a certain sort of family atmosphere insofar as when you live in a place for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year and there is not an awful lot of change in life, you know, you soon become quite acquainted with everybody who is in the place.

Selection and training of the Prefect

1.41Every September, the Rosminian Provincial would decree assignments to the priests and Brothers. If a vacancy for a Prefect arose in either of the Rosminian Industrial Schools, it was the Provincial who selected the person to fill this role. During the 1940s, the appointment was usually a priest, but later it was normally a Brother who was appointed.

1.42Prefects were the younger men of the Order, who were able to manage the task of being in charge of a large group of young, active boys. They would have ordinarily worked as teachers or Prefects in other schools. Fr O’Reilly stated that the new Prefects would have seen it as a very responsible post, and would have been proud of being appointed, but he added, a few of them would not have been very happy at being selected. He explained:

Now there were some men who didn’t like being Prefects and I know that one or two would have seen it as – I am not too sure what the word is now … yeah, hell is a good word all right … A punishment posting. Well, I know, for example, one man has often recounted to me how he was regarded as difficult by his superiors so they appointed him as Prefect.

1.43Training for a newly appointed Prefect was minimal. The previous holder of the position would initially help the new trainee. However, the period of overlap of the experienced Brother Prefect and his trainee replacement was short, with a week being the norm. Very often, the new Prefect would initially be sent to Woodstown Summer camp to obtain some experience with a smaller number of boys before returning to Ferryhouse or Upton.

1.44The young men appointed Prefects had themselves only left school a small number of years previously. A number of the Rosminian Prefects would have completed their secondary education in the Rosminian secondary school, St Michael’s, Omeath. Priests who held the position would have completed their third level education. The Rosminians accept that this education ‘wouldn’t have been particularly useful for childcare’.

1.45Fr O’Reilly explained:

You learnt by the tradition, you know. You were told as a Prefect that this is what you do and you get in there and you sink or you swim. The tradition was useful for a period and then it wasn’t useful any longer.

1.46It was an extraordinarily demanding job. Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee:

It was unnatural what was asked of them, really, and utterly unfair. Quite obviously in retrospect, you know, it was truly unfair what was asked of them. Like, where do you begin with comparisons? I mean, the School that had two Prefects looking after 200 children now has, you know, 35 or 36 children in the school and there are probably in the range of, maybe, 60 to 70 who were childcare workers, you know. In addition, probably another 30 to 40 staff who have auxiliary roles.

The evidence of former Prefects to the Investigation Committee

1.47One former Prefect recounted what he had been told prior to his starting as a Prefect at the age of 22:

The advice I was given when I went over there first, make sure they know who is boss and your job was to keep control. There was very little support, I might add.

1.48He went on to explain why he and his colleagues used physical punishment on a regular basis:

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I suppose the lack of support for ourselves. There was the big numbers and a small amount of staff, there was only three staff at that time. [The absence of training] was a disaster … you were only going on instinct at that time.

1.49Another former Prefect, who worked in Ferryhouse for periods during the 1960s and 1970s, complained about the long hours required for the job. He was exclusively in charge of 100 boys, for 24 hours a day, and had limited time on his own. He had just reached his twentieth birthday and had been appointed straight into Ferryhouse in the 1960s as a Prefect. He found his experience of being Prefect ‘difficult to cope with’. He agreed that trying to control 100 boys made him feel ‘like a sheepdog’. He had no previous experience of any kind in relation to boys in care. When asked how he was trained for the role of Prefect, he replied:

Well, you would have just learned from Br Benito.2 He was there before me and, you know, you would have fed into a system in some sense. Albeit there was never any written, any programme as such, you know, of what you should or shouldn’t do, like … Yeah. It was learned on the job, really, I suppose, yeah.

1.50One Prefect, Fr Antonio,3 spoke about the difficulty he encountered when he was appointed Prefect when he was a young member of the Rosminian Order. A small number of Prefects were required to look after a large number of boys for 24 hours a day. He stated that this system was never questioned by any of them:

I don’t think we had the courage to do it or the maturity to do it, personally speaking I wouldn’t have had the maturity to do it at the time to even question it. Your work was your prayer and you did what you were told to do, you were told you would get religious if you did all your work.

1.51He explained that the pressure could lead to excesses of punishment:

[Was there] physical abuse and that kind of stuff? I’m sure there would be because the frustration would have been there, if you are going to lose control, fear comes in. As time went on things would have improved a lot, but things would have got out of hand, certainly.

The Rosminian approach to allegations of abuse in Ferryhouse and Upton

1.52The Order, in its Submissions and in its evidence to the Commission, accepted that the abuse of children in its various forms, including physical and sexual abuse, had occurred in both Ferryhouse and Upton during the period under investigation.

1.53In the course of a Submission to the Investigation Committee, dated 17th June 2004, Fr O’Reilly referred to, and quoted from, the apology expressed in 1999, at a time when three former members of the Rosminian Institute had been convicted of sexually abusing children in its care:

The members of the Rosminian Institute are saddened and shamed that young people in our care were abused by members of our Order. We deeply regret not only the abuse, but also the shadow cast on the lives of those abused. We abhor all mistreatment of children and we wish to express our profound sorrow.

1.54Fr O’Reilly again acknowledged on behalf of his Order that the use of corporal punishment had led to physical abuse in its schools. He also accepted that children had been sexually abused, although he submitted that, amongst those in authority in recent times, there was not any knowledge of sexual abuse prior to the late 1970s. He added that, in the course of working for the Commission, the Rosminian Institute had become aware that sexual abuse had in fact occurred earlier than previously believed. He said that, while the Rosminians did not know by what standard to criticise their predecessors, they did not disassociate themselves from them. In giving evidence to the Commission, they intended to assume responsibility for the past, to account for it, to bear criticism for it and to learn from it.

1.55Fr O’Reilly, in his Submission to the Investigation Committee, outlined the approach taken by the Order in its response to individual complaints made through the Commission:

In our individual responses to the Commission, we have apologised and we have intended that our co-operation with the Commission should be seen as an act of apology.

In some instances, our apologies have been qualified. In this, we have been fearful of betrayal of our members and shocked by allegations. But we do not challenge the accounts of survivors where we have no good evidence to do so, and we have resolved, where people have been injured in the past, to do no further harm by denial. We have witnessed and read of the courage and trauma of survivors, and it has affected us. We are determined that errors of the past should not be compounded by our conduct in the present.

1.56During a preliminary hearing held in public on 18th June 2004, counsel for the Order focused on the approach to complaints being taken by the Order:

We have resolutely declined to deny a case in which we have no evidence for denial. That is a reversal of all of the established legal procedures … it has been a difficult task, but it has been, I have to say, a most emphatic decision of the Rosminian Order.

1.57According to Fr O’Reilly, this decision was implemented even in situations where the Order found itself in a dilemma. There were instances where a complainant said that he was hurt or abused whilst in the care of a member of the Institute, and the complaints related to a member of the Institute against whom there was no objective evidence, and whose general reputation was that of a hard-working and respected member of the community. The decision was implemented even though it created a difficulty for the member concerned, or for his family.

1.58Fr O’Reilly explained that the Rosminian Institute had decided to take this approach because of the ethos of the Order. They also desired to avoid an adversarial approach to the resolution of conflicts before the Commission. He said that in the past, the Order’s responsibility was to work for those who were in their care and that part of their job was to advocate for them before other bodies, before the Department and society in general. That was their ethos, and that was what the Rosminian Institute was about. For that reason, he said:

We are not going to contradict that type of approach that we have had throughout our lives unless there is extremely good reason to do so.

1.59He added that the avoidance of an adversarial approach was also driven by a desire to do no further harm. This was an objective promoted in the course of inquiries into abuse in other countries, such as Canada.4 Nevertheless, he explained, the avoidance of an adversarial approach presented its own difficulties and dangers when seeking to determine the extent to which abuse occurred.

1.60The Rosminian Institute had taken the view that a strictly adversarial approach was unnecessary and inappropriate, and that it could create a distracting polarisation of views and obscure the truth. It believed that many of the individual allegations and complaints were beyond proving or disproving, and that such investigation was unnecessary, as the faults and limitations of the schools being inquired into would become apparent without the need to pursue every conflict of evidence.

1.61This issue was revisited in the course of written Submissions furnished by the Rosminian Institute at the conclusion of hearings. They wrote:

Many aspects are visible through time without confronting uncertainties of memory, or raising the divisive issue of recollection distorted by feeling or shared experiences. These points have some relevance, but can create a distracting polarisation of views and obscure the truth.

For some allegations of serious or wilful abuse, this approach may seem like indifference to the truth, or to the reputation of our members. But there is a greater danger in thinking that any length of inquiry could prove or disprove many of the individual cases. We believe we must live with the uncertainty, and deal with matters as a whole.

1.62The Rosminian Institute asserted that the confrontation of evidence in an adversarial way was also unnecessary because, in many instances, the complainants’ accounts of hardship, deprivation or neglect were not necessarily contradictory to the evidence given by members of the Order, who described trying to cope with conditions which were brought about by a shortage of staffing, training, and of resources that ought have been in place to facilitate the provision of proper care for the children in their charge. Both sides were describing essentially the same thing, viewed from different perspectives: on the one hand, the former resident was describing a deprived and neglected childhood, with real needs not being addressed; while, on the other hand, the overworked and under-resourced priest or Brother was describing their very real struggle to provide, despite inadequate resources, good care for the children in their schools.

1.63At the first public hearing, counsel for the Rosminian Institute outlined their legal position. He submitted that whether boys resident in Ferryhouse were sexually abused was not in dispute, as it is accepted that such abuse did occur. What had to be addressed by the Investigation Committee was how pervasive sexual abuse was in the School, and the extent of that abuse during the time under investigation. In their statements of complaint, former residents from every era had made allegations of such abuse. While, in general, allegations of sexual abuse were not expressly denied in the Rosminian Statements, such allegations were not admitted either. For this reason it was submitted it would not be appropriate for the Investigation Committee to take the view that the absence of a denial should be deemed to be an admission of the truth of allegations, as may be the case in civil proceedings.

1.64In an inquiry into an institution, the Rosminians submitted, it was not necessary or appropriate to decide on the validity of each complaint on an individual basis, but it was necessary to determine how widespread abuse was during the history of the Institution. He pointed out that a reasonable insight might be gained by looking elsewhere, beyond the allegations and counter-allegations, to see what was known at the time.

1.65Part of the reason for taking this approach was to avoid causing further distress to the former residents of Ferryhouse and Upton. During the hearings, counsel for the Order examined witnesses sympathetically, and, even when evidence was being challenged, it was done with courtesy and care. The Investigation Committee was impressed by the number of apologies that were made. The following are examples:

  • we have learned since your statement to the Commission came in that Br Lazarro5 did sexually abuse boys, I hope you will accept the Rosminian’s apology if that happened to you. We haven’t ever suspected it of [the other Brother] and I am sorry to ask you questions about it.
  • I am ashamed to ask you questions about what you describe about Br Valerio6 (the questioning that followed was solely to elucidate how contact was made after the boy had left the school).
  • I don’t want to ask you much at all because the hardship you have described deserves not to be investigated in any way or questioned.
  • We accept what you have said, we trust the truth of it completely. There is one very big thing, which you have done today. [Your evidence] is a testament to the pain you suffered and others with you.

1.66While many witnesses found it hard to accept the apologies made by the Rosminians for the pain and hardship they had suffered, it may have helped them to find that their evidence was treated by the Order in such a sympathetic way.

1.67This approach facilitated investigation. Counsel for the Rosminians often brought out details that might have been missed. He elicited facts about school routines, practices and conditions, in order to gain as much information as possible from witnesses. Sometimes, they were asked to fill in gaps in the knowledge available to the Order. The Rosminians were correct in their submission following the Phase II hearings by stating that:

the faults and limitations of the Schools become apparent without pursuing every conflict of evidence.

The leather straps

1.68The official instrument used to administer corporal punishment was the leather strap. There were two kinds: one was a single piece of leather a ¼ of an inch thick (0.63cm). It was about 19 inches long (48.2cm), and 2½ inches wide (6.3cm), with one end shaped to form a handle. It was used to slap the palm of the hand. It weighed 5oz (147grms).

1.69The second kind was a ‘doubler’. It was made in the shoemaker’s shop from two layers of leather approximately 2½ inches wide (6.3cm) and 22 inches long (55.8cm). The two strips were sewn together and, again, one end was shaped to form a handle. Br Antonio, who worked in Ferryhouse, confirmed that coins were sometimes inserted between the two layers of leather when this strap was being assembled. He told the Investigation Committee:

And they are right what they say, because I opened the leather myself and saw there were coins in the leather strap, which were stitched in the shoe shop.

1.70Without coins, the strap weighed 11oz (311grms).

1.71It is likely that different straps were in use from time to time, and it is not certain that all of them contained metal or coins within them. One witness described the effectiveness of these two kinds of straps:

If you are out in the yard – they carry their own straps, some of them, and it is only a small one. You wouldn’t even feel it.

1.72The Brothers carried the leather straps on them. The heavier strap was kept in the Prefect’s office.


1.73The Investigation Committee commissioned chartered accountants, Mazars, to examine the accounts of Upton and Ferryhouse with a view to assessing the application of state funding to the institutions, and the financial consequences for the relevant institutions as a result of caring for the children over the period 1939 to 1969. The Mazars report is in Volume IV.

1.74Limited financial information was available. No accounts had survived from the 1940s, in respect of Upton or the Irish Province of the Institute of Charity, and only two years’ accounts, 1941 and 1947, were available for Ferryhouse. No accounts were available between 1954 and 1960 for either of the schools or for the Irish Province. The 1960s had better records for all three bodies.

1.75It is impossible, therefore, to assess the actual day-to-day costs of running the industrial schools. Mazars’ analysis of the capitation grant, by reference to Household Income and Unemployment Assistance, would indicate that funding was adequate for both schools in the 1940s and 1950s, although Upton would have been more financially challenged because of the fall of numbers in the early 1950s. In Ferryhouse, high numbers and a farm of good-quality land should have ensured a reasonably good basic standard of living for the boys.

1.76Once numbers of residents began to fall in the 1960s, financial problems would have arisen and, indeed, this led to the closure of Upton in 1966. By the time the Kennedy Committee reported in 1970, the capitation grant as a system of funding, which depended on high rates of committals, was clearly inadequate, and alternatives had to be found. In the case of Ferryhouse, these alternatives were not finally put in place until the early 1980s, when an annual budget based on submitted estimates was agreed with the Department of Finance. During the 1970s, however, significant increases in the State grant alleviated the position for those institutions like Ferryhouse that continued to operate.

1 This is a pseudonym.

2 This is a pseudonym.

3 This is a pseudonym.

4 Law Commission of Canada: + Institutional Child Abuse – Restoring Dignity Pt II Responses ‘Guiding Principles’at p 7.

5 This is a pseudonym.

6 This is a pseudonym.

Chapter 2
St. Patrick’s Industrial School, Upton (‘Upton’), 1889–1966


The original building

2.01When a local judge in Cork requested the setting up of a reformatory school to serve the area, the Cork Society of St Vincent de Paul set up the Cork Reformatory Committee in 1858, to plan such a school to contain juveniles outside adult prisons. They bought a 112-acre farm at Upton, 14 miles from Cork city, and asked the Rosminians, who had experience of such work in England, to take charge of the Reformatory. A building was designed by Richard Brask, architect, and was completed at a cost of £5,000 in 1860. The lease was transferred to the Rosminians in 1872.

2.02The buildings formed a square, surrounding a central courtyard. Fr Moses Furlong, the first Superior of Upton Reformatory, launched a Patronage Fund to gather public support for the work of the Reformatory. He pointed out in 1867, that the boys in the Reformatory came from all parts of Ireland. He reiterated the founding ideal when he wrote:

An instant’s reflection will convince anyone that no matter how carefully a lad may be trained for a few years, his safety is fearfully imperilled if he be returned to his old haunts and old associations, with no money, no assured occupation, no friends but his former criminal companions, and no character but that of one who had been a criminal.1

2.03When the Industrial Schools Act was extended to Ireland in 1868, the Rosminians sought to have the School reclassified as an industrial school. It was certified as one in 1889, and was called Danesfort Industrial School. It continued as an industrial school until it closed in 1966.

2.04It was an imposing building, two storeys high, with extensive farmlands around it. One witness who was there in the late 1950s, told the Investigation Committee:

It was a beautiful place … [it] was beautiful for a visitor going there. It was better than Butlin’s, but for us inside the walls it was a completely different thing. It wasn’t just one day, it was every single day of your young lives. It was beautiful sometimes.

2.05A former resident from the late 1950s and early 1960s said:

On arrival, as far as I can recall, it was into a yard that looked like a prison. It was a kind of castle yard, like an old military parade ground, which a lot of children of my own age, younger, a few maybe older, had been walking around almost in circles. It was frightening. Naturally, I was crying – lonely it was.

2.06Another witness, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, said simply but evocatively:

When I arrived at Upton first, when I saw it, it looked like a mental home to me. That’s what it actually looked like, a mental home.

2.07Initially, Upton consisted of a big house, located on a farm of 112 acres. The size of the farm was increased over the years and, at the time of its closure, it was approximately 220 acres. The main building was in the form of a square around a central courtyard. In later years further buildings, such as a chapel, a hall and various outhouses and workshops, were added.

2.08The School was under the control of the Resident Manager, who was appointed by the Superior or Provincial of the Irish Province. The School was run according to the principles laid down in the Rules and Regulations for Danesfort Industrial School. The Resident Manager was responsible for the staff. They may be grouped into four categories: the Members of the Institute of Charity; the Dominican Sisters; the Teaching Staff; and the lay staff who worked in the various trade shops or on the farm. In addition, members of the Institute of Charity sometimes lived in St Patrick’s while studying elsewhere, in University College Cork, for example.

2.09The Religious staff worked in various capacities: some were Prefects, with responsibility for the control and supervision of the children; some were Secretaries, with responsibility for administration; and some taught in the School, or worked in the various trade shops or on the farm. The Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of St Catherine of Siena worked in the School in various capacities from 1946 to 1955. The School also employed a number of lay teachers, who were paid by the Department of Education. The staff also included a number of farm hands or lay staff that worked in the trade shops. The School was funded by the Department of Education and the appropriate local authorities.

2.10A large part of the building was destroyed when an accidental fire occurred in Upton on 21st July 1966, but it was not the reason for the closure of the School.

Closure of the School

2.11Upton closed on 1st October 1966. There had been ongoing discussions within the Order for a number of years previously regarding its closure. The falling numbers, lack of trained staff, and the reorganisation and rationalisation of the schools run by the Order ultimately led to its closure as an industrial school. The minutes of a Provincial Council meeting held on 19th November 1964 recorded that ‘the writing is on the wall as far as this particular work of charity in Upton is concerned’.

2.12On 1st March 1966, the decision was finally taken to close the School within six months from April 1966.

2.13The certificate of the School was resigned on 1st October 1966. At the time of its closure, there were 83 boys in the School. These boys were either released or transferred to other industrial schools. 16 boys were transferred to Letterfrack, 10 to Artane, 10 to Tralee, and 28 to Ferryhouse.

2.14It reopened in 1972 as a centre for adults with mental handicap and learning disabilities. The Institute of Charity handed over ownership of the School to the State in 2003, but it continues to exercise a pastoral role.

Number of boys in Upton

2.15In 1889, Upton was certified for the reception of 200 boys, with an accommodation limit of 300. The number of boys in the School who were committed through the courts fluctuated during the years 1937 to 1966. In 1937, there were 137 boys detained in the School, and this number increased to 217 in 1943. As can be seen from the table below, the numbers declined between 1943 and 1958. In 1959, however, the numbers increased significantly to 216, owing to the closure of Greenmount Industrial School and the transfer of boys from there to Upton. Thereafter, the numbers declined steadily and, at the time of its closure in 1966, there were 83 boys in the School. During its life as an Industrial School, approximately 3,000 boys were admitted.

Year Number of boys committed
1937 137
1939 105
1941 136
1943 217
1945 212
1947 189
1949 142
1951 139
1953 121
1955 128
1957 124
1959 216
1961 195
1963 189
1965 126
1966 83

2.16The rise and fall in the numbers in the School can be seen from the graph below:

2.17The number of admissions to Upton was a cause for concern to Fr Giuseppe,2 the Provincial, in early 1939. In correspondence in February 1939 he mentioned that the falling numbers were causing him some anxiety and that he had got a local TD ‘on the job now to bring pressure to bear on the Minister to send extra transfers to Upton until our numbers have reached an economic number’. A month later, in March 1939, he again wrote to say that he had spoken to the then Minister for Education, Thomas Derrig, about the matter. However, according to him there was little prospect of increasing numbers, as the Department was governed by a recommendation of the Cussen Commission that children should be sent to the school that was nearest to their place of origin, and Mr Derrig was disinclined to ‘override the regulations of his Dept’. He wrote that, when he saw the Minister, he showed him a copy of their accounts and emphasised that they were neither able nor prepared to continue to fund the School from their own finances. In a letter sent later in the same year, he again mentioned that he was in talks with the Department about the great inadequacy of the grants and the injustice to the religious orders in expecting them to meet the costs out of their own funds or by heavy borrowing, when funding should be done by the State.

2.18By November 1939, it appears that Fr Giuseppe had enlisted the help and support of Mr Eamon DeValera, the then Taoiseach and acting Minister for Education:

Dev. is taking up the matter of our school. I am informed that he has been convinced that we have been unfairly discriminated against in the way of transfers and committals and we are told to expect results soon.

2.19In 1941, Fr Giuseppe was happy to note that the numbers had increased from 110 at the beginning of the year to 144.

Physical abuse

Concessions made by the Rosminians

2.20In 2002, Fr Matthew Gaffney, the Provincial of the Irish Province of the Institute of Charity, submitted a general statement on behalf of the Order to the Committee. In this statement, he accepted that corporal punishment was used as ‘a general disciplinary measure’, and was also used as ‘a punishment or deterrent’ for bed-wetting, absconding and other infringements. The use of corporal punishment, he said, had to be seen in two contexts: first, from the perspective of the Institution, and second, in the light of the ‘social attitudes of the time’. From an institutional perspective, he asserted that the ‘maintenance of control was an absolute necessity’, and was achieved through the use of corporal punishment. He accepted that its use ‘produced a disciplinary environment in which the distinction between punishment and abuse could become blurred’. Indeed, he accepted that abuse had occurred in the administration of some corporal punishment, and he apologised for this fact.

2.21In their Opening Statement, dated 17th June 2004, the Rosminians reiterated their awareness ‘that corporal punishment has led to abuse’ and ‘was known from time to time to have been excessive’. But they asserted that the use of corporal punishment was regulated to some extent by ‘the spoken instructions of the Manager of the School, recording, and by trust in the judgement of those in charge’.

2.22Having heard the evidence at the Phase II private hearings, the Order were willing to make more concessions on this issue. In their written Submission in 2006 after the Phase III hearings, the Order accepted that corporal punishment ‘was often used to excess’ and was ‘generally too readily used as a solution to the problems of the Schools’. Departing from their earlier stance, they conceded that ‘the standards of the time are not an adequate excuse or explanation’. They went further, and conceded that the problems with corporal punishment were partly due to its discretionary and unregulated use, particularly by the Prefects who were unsupervised.

2.23They submitted that:

The susceptibility of corporal punishment to abuse seems inherent. If left to discretion, a cause can always be found for its use, especially where authority is threatened or insecure.

2.24Fr O’Reilly at the Phase III public hearing referred to the inherent difficulties in using corporal punishment in circumstances where there were no clear policies or guidelines. He described it as ‘a trap’:

Corporal punishment is a trap, if you allow corporal punishment without having the most clear guidelines possible, it is a trap, it is a trap for everybody. It is a trap for the boys and a trap for the adults. Because what you are saying is it is okay to hit children. And there are times when they do things that are wrong and that are very, very wrong, and that cause an enormous problem for the entire Institution. So inside yourself you think, “well, it is okay”, and the only response is to punish even more. It is a trap.

2.25He did concede that, at times, ‘the punishments that children received were brutal’.

2.26The Order admitted that corporal punishment was used for absconding. Absconding was a serious problem, because of concerns for the safety of the boys, and the possibility that they could damage neighbours’ property. Fr O’Reilly conceded at the Phase III hearing that ‘boys who ran away were often severely punished because of the problem that it created in the School, the unease that it created among the rest of the boys’. The punishment administered was either slaps on the hand or on the buttocks with a leather strap. He conceded that, on occasions, boys had to remove their trousers for punishment. While each absconding was recorded, reasons for absconding were not. He agreed that many ran away because they were homesick, fearful or deeply unhappy in Upton. He also accepted the possibility that boys absconded because of physical or sexual abuse. He acknowledged that, from time to time, boys’ heads were shaved as part of the punishment for absconding. All children who absconded were punished, and ringleaders were likely to be punished more severely. One form of punishment was ‘benders’, the administration of the strap on the buttocks, but, he asserted rarely on the bare buttocks.

2.27The Order also accepted that boys who wet their beds were given corporal punishment. They were known as ‘slashers’ and had their own section of the dormitory. Between 10 and 25% of the boys wet their beds, and for most of the period covered by the inquiry would have been ‘slapped’. Towards the later years there was ‘less slapping’ for bed-wetting. The Rosminians also accepted that boys had to take their wet sheets to the laundry in front of other boys and, while it may not have been the intent, the Order accepts it was deeply embarrassing for them.

The role of Prefect

2.28The Institution was run on regimented lines and the daily routine was subject to a strict regime of order and discipline. The Prefects’ main purpose was to maintain discipline and control over a large number of boys, and this they did by using corporal punishment. The job was described by Br Marcello,3 who was in his early 20s when he arrived to take up the position of Assistant Prefect in Upton in the mid-1960s. He said, ‘our work, or job was to contain the thing so that everything else ran, to a certain extent, fairly smoothly’.

2.29He was questioned about his use of the word ‘containment’ to describe the situation, and he reiterated that this term did describe how he felt. He felt he had to ‘contain’ situations in order to ensure that they did not blow out of proportion. The Prefects were constantly vigilant for potential trouble.

2.30He explained that discipline was maintained through the use of the strap or giving the boys a ‘clatter’, the term used for a blow with the hand. Corporal punishment was used on a regular basis and, with 100 boys to control, ‘someone was getting it more or less all the time’. The range of offences that resulted in corporal punishment varied. Something small, like talking in the line for example, would warrant a ‘clatter’, but serious incidents were severely punished. He recalled giving a boy eight slaps of the leather on each hand for stabbing one of his companions in the tailor shop, and then being told by the Senior Prefect that he had not given the boy enough slaps. He was asked what, in his view, was the purpose of corporal punishment. He answered:

Discipline, it was necessary. Because there were only two of us and any relaxation of discipline at that particular time could have caused havoc in the school. That was the position we had at that particular time. We thought that it was necessary … I still think in the circumstances there it was necessary.

2.31The boys were punished on the spot for minor offences by whoever was in charge. More serious offences that warranted ‘fairly severe punishment’ were dealt with by sending the boy to the Prefect’s office for punishment, usually administered with a leather strap.

2.32He conceded that boys could be punished on the spot with ‘a clatter’ and then could be sent to the office for further punishment. The Prefect never inquired if a boy had already been punished, so it was possible that boys would be punished more than once for the same offence. Many of the witnesses felt aggrieved over this fact.

2.33When asked whether corporal punishment was a first or last resort for the Prefect, he replied:

I think it was always the first resort … We didn’t have any other resorts … A lot of the time I was frightened because at any time, if there was a concerted effort by the boys they could have flattened me.

2.34He had no training for dealing with delinquent boys, nothing in his religious or scholastic training prepared him for it. There was no coherent scheme or policy for the boys in those years:

It was piecemeal, it was different little things we did, but there wasn’t the concerted effort that we have made in the last 20 years.

2.35Another Rosminian priest, Fr Christiano,4 who had also been a pupil in Upton, gave evidence to the Committee from two perspectives. He was in Upton as a pupil during the 1950s. He remembered an atmosphere dominated by punishment, which was meted out for misdemeanours such as talking in the dormitory, or causing difficulty for the supervisor in the workshop. The punishments were usually administered in the office by the Prefect. He recalled a particular incident of group punishment, when some boys, who had been confined to a small recreation room for the day while others attended a sports event, were punished for trashing the room and scattering the board games. His impression was that each boy got about 20 ‘benders’, and he recalled that it only stopped because an older boy challenged the Brother who had been beating the boys until he had exhausted himself.

2.36Fr Christiano was a promising student and was sent to the Rosminian secondary school in Omeath. He remembered it felt like getting out of prison. He also recalled there was no corporal punishment in Omeath. The atmosphere there was not punitive.

2.37He believed that, before Upton closed, it had deteriorated and had become a punishment regime. At some time during each day, there were boys being punished. When he returned to Upton from Omeath during the holidays, he and the other secondary students ate in a little refectory situated close to the Prefect’s office, and far too often they could hear the bang of the strap. By the time the witness was in university, and Upton was coming to a close, the School had changed from his early years, when it was relatively benign, into an excessively punitive place.

2.38When Fr Christiano was asked how he reconciled the religious life, which involved love, charity and kindness, with a system that required men of the cloth to be brutal and severe, he replied that he did not believe that this was a requirement. The post of Prefect did involve the obligation to impose discipline, but he did not see the need to be brutal:

I later became a Prefect in Ferryhouse and one of the things I did was throw the strap in the river, in the Suir in Ferryhouse, the one I had. There is a different way. We have the feast of St. Don Bosco every year, he was a man who loved children and I read – there is a reading in the book – his instruction to his Brothers about looking after children, and I say, ‘my God, why didn’t anyone show some of our lads this piece?’.

2.39When asked whether he found a ‘different way’, he replied:

No, I would say my judgement of Prefects was that those with better education or more culture were much better than those who were not educated and didn’t really have much of an idea what to do except keep order.

2.40When it was suggested to him that he had found a better way through education, he replied:

Oh absolutely. My experience at Upton, it just made me never ever let that happen to anybody if you can possibly do anything about it. When I was in charge, I was not going to be a Prefect like I had seen.

2.41The use of corporal punishment as a general disciplinary measure for absconding, bed-wetting, and other infractions, many of which were of a very minor nature, produced an all-pervasive climate of fear. One former pupil described it as follows:

I suppose first of all the place you were in, and obviously the people that were allegedly looking after you. I think they probably controlled these places with this fear, I believe. It was just a climate of fear that you were going to get hit, you were going to get beaten, something evil was going to happen to you. There was no happiness; there was nothing to be glad about. Maybe the only part of escaping out of that place was probably when you went to sleep, that was probably the only escape you had from the reality of that place.

2.42Many of the witnesses described the fear they felt when they had to wait outside the office for punishment. One witness said the fear and the waiting remained a more vivid memory than being struck with the leather.

Documentary evidence – the punishment books

2.43The main documentary sources dealing with corporal punishment in Upton are two punishment books, the first covering the years from 1889 to 1893, and the second relating to the period 1952 to 1963.

2.44The obligation to maintain a record of punishments went back to the beginning of industrial schools in the late 19th Century, and this was re-reiterated in Rule 12 of the 1933 Rules and Regulations. This rule required all industrial schools to maintain a punishment book for serious misdemeanours, and also stipulated that it was to be shown to the Inspector of the Department of Education when he visited:

All serious misconduct, and the Punishments inflicted for it, shall be entered in a book to be kept for that purpose, which shall be laid before the Inspector when he visits.5

2.45However, out of all of the industrial schools examined by the Investigation Committee, only Upton and St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Dundalk, were able to produce punishment books, and then only for some of the period under investigation.

2.46The Upton books are leather-bound volumes, with double pages of entries set out in tabular form and divided into six columns, giving spaces for: the date of the offence, name of offender, nature of offence, by whom reported, the punishment given and remarks on the case.

2.47The first book for Upton spans the period 1889 to 1893, and has 87 pages of details of punishments. The later book, for the period 1952 to 1963, consists of only 18 double pages of entries. While the earlier book is of interest by way of comparison and is a valuable historical source, the later volume, covering years relevant to this inquiry, is of real importance. There are, unfortunately, serious deficiencies in the record keeping in this later book, but the contents are highly significant.

The 1952 to 1963 book

2.48The first problem with this punishment book is that it is nothing like a complete record for the period between the first entry and the last. There are long gaps in time between dates and entries appear out of chronological sequence. It is obvious that the book was not kept up to date and that it was not filled in carefully or systematically.

2.49Another problem is inconsistency in the breaches of rules that are recorded in the punishment book. Between 1952 and 1954, there was almost no entry for punishment of immorality, yet from September 1954 onwards it was almost the sole reason for punishment. Given the frequency of punishments for immorality, it would be expected that there would have been some record of punishment for it in the first period, and, in the second period, there must have been some occasions when boys were punished for reasons other than immorality.

2.50There is a gap at the front of the book where pages appear to be missing. There is nothing to indicate the reason for removing them.

Contents of the punishment books

2.51The offences listed between 1952 and 1954 include stealing, disobedience, giving cheek, absconding, lying, laziness, smoking, talking at Mass, wasting food, horseplay, rough play, missing from yard, and being out of bounds. Also listed on a very small number of occasions was ‘immorality’ with other boys.

2.52The recorded punishments varied according to the offence committed, and consisted of being hit with the leather strap on the hand or the buttocks. They were usually noted as being ‘over pants’, but on three dates in 1953 the book records that boys were punished by slaps ‘without pants’. Their offences were ‘run away, stole school property’, ‘run away’, ‘give cheek to a Brother’ and ‘destroying clothes’. The number of slaps with the leather strap on the bare bottom ranged from 6 to 15. These three dates in January and February 1953 are the only occasions when punishment was recorded as being given on the bare buttocks.

2.53The following table provides some examples of offences and punishments for 1952 and 1953:

Date Offence Punishment
26 Nov 1952 Giving cheek and being disobedient 6 over pants
20 Dec 1952 Disobedience in continually playing soccer 6 over pants
20 Jan 1953 Run away, stole school property [3 boys committed this offence] 10 without pants [for one boy] and
15 without pants [for two boys]
22 Feb 1953 Give cheek to a Brother 12 without pants
23 Feb 1953 Destroying clothes [2 boys] 6 without pants [each]
22 April 1953 Disobedience, sulking, slothfulness 6 on pants
22 June 1953 Disobedience to Prefect 6 on hands
24 June 1953 Disrespect for teacher 6 on hands
25 June 1953 Lying and helping himself to bread and butter in the pantry Six on hands
5 July 1953 Fooling and talking at Mass 8 on hands
6 July 1953 In boiler house having a rest 5 over pants
9 July 1953 Destroying his coat 4 on hands
2 Sept 1953 Throwing good food away 5 on hands
5 Sept 1953 Neglect of religious duties 12 over pants
21 Sept 1953 Stealing and running away 6 over pants
28 Sept 1953 Smoking in W.C. 6 over pants
13 Oct 1953 Plotting against the Prefects – an enemy in the camp 10 over pants

2.54The entry for 19th September 1954 marked the beginning of the period of intense concentration on immorality. The last entry recorded that 18 boys were punished for immorality. The first 10 of them were guilty of ‘wretched’ immorality, and each of them received 20 slaps over pants. The remaining eight boys were also found guilty of ‘wretched’ immorality but ‘yet not so frequently’. Despite this mitigating circumstance, these eight boys nevertheless received the same punishment of ‘20 over pants’. A simple calculation shows that, on this day, one Brother administered 360 strokes of the leather strap on the buttocks of 18 boys.

2.55An entry in the book dated 17th November 1955 recorded punishment, for immorality with other boys, of ‘20 over pants’, and concluded with the comment:

A coward when faced with the music. But when Arturo Toscanini took the baton in his hand, there was more music in Beethoven’s “Fifth” than one expected to find.

2.56This was not explained in the book but it seems to be a self-congratulatory and pejorative reference to the cries that the beating produced. The Prefect, Br Alfonso,6 who made the entry gave evidence to the Investigation Committee, and denied that the reference to Beethoven in the context of being conducted by Toscanini had anything to do with striking the boys, but was to do with making them sing.

2.57A further entry dated 20th November 1955 recorded sexual offences by nine boys, including the same boy referred to in the above quotation. This time, the entry reads:

Observe that these boys have repeated the same offence – they were up to their eyes in it any time they got a chance: their activities were confined to their own happy circle and no one else could enter – where angels fear to tread.

2.58A comment about one of the boys displayed an awareness of peer sexual abuse, as distinct from immorality among consenting boys:

A new offender interfered with many small boys.

2.59Other examples of punishment in the latter part of the book, from 1954 to 1963, are set out in the following table:

Date Offence Punishment
19 Sept 1954 Immorality – wretched
[18 boys]
20 over pants [each]
19 Sept 1955 Immorality – wretched, yet not too frequently [one boy] 20 over pants
19 Sept 1955 Immorality – not so extensive [one boy] 15 over pants
19 Sept 1955 Bad conduct – immorality
[4 boys]
10 over pants [each]
19 Sept 1955 Immoral talk
[2 boys]
3 over pants [each]
28 Sept 1956 Immorality [2 boys] 4 over pants and
6 over pants
31 Jan 1959 Immorality under the eyes of others in the billiard room [2 boys] 10 over pants [each]
26 Feb 1960 Immorality with others [6 boys] 10 over pants [for 5 boys] and
8 over pants [for one boy]
04 Mar 1960 Immorality with others 10 over pants
05 Mar 1960 Immorality with others [2 boys] 10 over pants each
08 Mar 1960 Immorality with others [2 boys] 10 over pants each
04 April 1960 Immorality with others 10 over pants
5 Jan 1962 Immorality in school giving bad example to small boys also going on with filthy talk 20 over pants
9 Jan 1962 Immorality with others while supposed to be working in sacristy 20 over pants

2.60The first punishment book for Upton spanned the period 1889 to 1893. For most misdemeanours, the punishment ranged from three to eight slaps of the leather and, for the more serious offences such as immoral conduct, cursing, immodest language and absconding, the number of strokes ranged from 10 to 15. The highest number recorded in the book was 15, and this occurred only twice. The next highest number of slaps was 14, which also occurred twice.

2.61Sexual acts amongst the boys did not seem to be a major problem at that time. A few instances were recorded in 1890 of immodest conduct and immodest language. A boy received 15 slaps on 5th April 1890 for immodest conduct. On 9th June 1890, nine boys were found guilty of immorality in the fields, and six were given 12 slaps, two received nine slaps of the leather, and one boy received no punishment. The only other example of immorality amongst boys is recorded on 11th December 1893, when five boys were found guilty and were stripped, and four received eight slaps and one received seven slaps of the leather.

2.62The most striking difference between the two books is that the earlier book is systematic, with a chronological method of recording the information. These entries make it probable that it is a full account of punishments for serious misconduct during the period covered, as required by the rules. The later book compares unfavourably with it: it is not comprehensive, it is unmethodical, and is often not chronological. In addition, the severity of punishment in the later book is greater than the earlier one.

Impact of 1952–1963 book

2.63The information in the 1952–1963 book tended to undermine and contradict the recollection of former staff of the School as to the punishment regime.

2.64The severity of punishment, as recorded in the book, is greatly in excess of what some respondent witnesses remembered. Br Alfonso was insistent that the amount of punishment was not excessive, and he was quite vigorous in defending his position. The numbers of blows recorded in the book, however, were wholly in conflict with his recollection, and counsel for the complainants suggested to him that the evidence of this book was more reliable because it was a contemporaneous record, and the Prefect or other person recording the punishment in the book had no reason to exaggerate the amount. The intention must have been to give an accurate description of what was inflicted.

2.65Apart from Br Alfonso, the Investigation Committee had evidence in the form of correspondence from Br Giovani,7 who served in Upton for one year in the 1950s, a period covered by the entries in the book, which gave a different impression of the level of punishment from that indicated in the punishment book.

2.66The entries in the punishment book demonstrate that the severity and frequency of beatings were greater than what were recollected by the staff. This discrepancy explains why accounts given by complainants, whose credibility was not in doubt, differed so markedly from the accounts given by respondents. This conflict appears in other institutions investigated.


  • The 1952-1963 punishment book provides evidence of the severity of punishments that were inflicted in Upton in the 1950s and early 1960s. It contradicts the recollections of Br Alfonso and Br Giovani, who recalled that punishments were not excessive, and supports the accounts given by the complainants.
  • The later book contrasts unfavourably with the one kept in the late 19th century. It is not comprehensive, it is not methodical and is often not chronological, and the severity of punishment is greater.
  • Some of the comments in the book suggest that they were not written in anticipation of an official inspection of the book, and there is no record of any such inspection.
  • The punishment book is not a complete record, but it is accurate in respect of the punishment that it records.
  • The book does not demonstrate an ordered system of punishment that was properly supervised and recorded on all occasions.
  • The punishment books are not a complete record of punishments administered during the periods they cover. It is highly likely that other beatings were also administered.

Evidence of respondents

Br Alfonso

2.68Br Alfonso was a dominant figure during his time in Upton. He held the position of Prefect for a number of years from the mid-1950s. He was physically strong, and evidence from former residents confirms this.

2.69One former resident was asked to describe Br Alfonso. He said:

He had a bubbly personality, he had a wonderful structure. He was a brilliant golfer and a brilliant hurler … To me, I was his lap dog. If he hit a sliotar and it went into the woods or into the nettles, me in my short little pants had to go and look for it and bring it back to him. Likewise, with a golf ball. And if you couldn’t find it you stayed until you did.

2.70Another witness described the strength of Br Alfonso when he administered the strap:

He really physically forced (indicating). It was like a golf driver and he was a golfer. That’s what he used to spend his time, playing golf. He used use the straps like a golfer. I never got so much pain in my life.

2.71Br Alfonso said that corporal punishment in Upton was an essential tool in the maintenance of order in the School. He was given no training or advice regarding its use, which was a matter solely for his discretion. Other members of staff would send boys to him for punishment, and he always knew the reason for the punishment. He said that he always recorded his punishments in the punishment book and that the Resident Manager inspected his book regularly. When the entries in the punishment book were first raised with Br Alfonso during the investigation into Ferryhouse, in questioning about absconders, he said:

The most strokes on the seat of the pants they would get for anything like that, if it were that, would be 10 strokes, that was a lot but that was what it was, that would be the maximum.

2.72He went on to assert that 10 would be the maximum number of strokes for any offence. He confirmed that the Prefect made the entries in the book after the punishment was given. When the information in the punishment book showing 20 strokes given on the bare buttocks on a boy for immorality was put to him, he was incredulous:

That couldn’t possibly have happened during my time … That never ever happened. I put my hand on that Bible there, that never happened.

2.73He was adamant that he himself had never exceeded 10 slaps when hitting a boy. However, when he was shown the punishment book, he had to admit that when he was Prefect he had himself meted out punishment of 20 strokes on the buttocks for sexual offences committed by the boys, for ‘immorality’ and ‘wretched immorality’. He went on to justify the bigger punishment because it was for ‘wretched immorality’.

2.74The importance of the punishment book can be seen from this exchange. Not only does it provide a contemporaneous account of the administration of corporal punishment, but it also affords corroboration of the evidence of some of the former residents who were adamant that they had received punishment in excess of 10 strokes.

2.75Punishment was administered in the Prefect’s office, and it could happen, albeit rarely, that a boy would have to wait outside the office for punishment. Br Alfonso disliked the term ‘punishment’, and described his position as follows:

Punishment would be administered – well, I don’t want to call it “punishment”, but I have written in that book which I have there that when boys were chastised, I will use that word, they were advised. So there would be lots of advice going on instead of punishment.

2.76This phrase ‘lots of advice’, to describe multiple blows with a strap on a boy’s hands or buttocks, minimises the whole nature of corporal punishment, which is exercising control by inflicting pain. He went on to say that punishment was not administered to boys of all ages, but he refused to be drawn on the age at which punishment started.

2.77Counsel for three complainants referred to the entry for 19th September 1954, the day on which it was recorded that 18 boys were each given 20 strokes for ‘wretched immorality’. Br Alfonso was unable to recall the occasion when so many strokes had been administered, although it was simple arithmetic (but erroneous because counsel thought 17 and not 18 boys were involved).

2.78On a number of occasions during his cross-examination, Br Alfonso appeared to find some of the suggestions made by counsel for the complainants derisory. One such instance arose when a witness gave evidence that he had felt children were being used ‘like lap dogs to collect your ball’. Br Alfonso was asked why he found this derisory:

No, and the reason I laughed, excuse me, no, they were my children, I loved them. I had no approach to the children like that at all, they were wonderful and that is all and they are still my children and that so, just I could never treat any child like that as a lap dog, I could not do that.

2.79He suggested, instead, that the boys played golf with him and they would all be having a good time.

2.80He said that, during his time in Upton, he never beat anyone for bed-wetting and never saw anyone being beaten for that reason.

2.81He said that, when boys were sent to his office for punishment, they did not always get a beating, as sometimes he gave them an orange or an apple. When asked if he thought he was strict or fairly strict, he preferred to describe himself as fair. In his evidence before the Committee in the Ferryhouse hearings, he was asked to comment on the following quotation from his submission to the Inquiry:

During all those years I fought many battles for the boys, of which they know nothing. I am not ashamed to say that I often wept silently in empathy for the boys who were trapped within a system, which lumped together delinquents and orphans, an arrangement which compounded the problem.

2.82He recalled someone saying to him once that it was a good thing for orphans to be exposed to delinquents, but this made no sense to him at all. In his view, orphans were coming from different places and needed entirely different treatment to delinquents:

Not that the delinquents need have to get rigid treatment, or anything else like that, but they’re coming from a different background, a different experience and everything else, and the orphans are a different people altogether. And so to expose them to that type – that’s the orphans, to that type of criminality – I don’t ever use that word because I never treated them as criminals, they were all my own children, every one of them. But to expose them to children who had such deviousness in their lives in the form of theft and all these type of things, that they had agenda hidden up their sleeves all the time, to expose them to that was to encourage them to come in to that and to me there was something criminal about that.

2.83He described Upton as ‘a place of great activity, seething with action, excitement’.

2.84The complainant evidence in respect of this Brother is dealt with below.

The letter of Br Giovani

2.85Br Giovani joined the Institute of Charity in the early 1950s, a month after he was professed. He was appointed Prefect at Upton soon after, a position that he held for a period of 12 months. In a letter written in the late 1990s, he painted a picture of what it was like to be a Prefect in Upton during the 1950s.

2.86He viewed his appointment as Prefect as an awesome responsibility for one so young. Br Giovani had just completed his religious instruction and had received no official training or instruction for his new job. The only advice he received came from his former Novice Master, Fr Cecilio,8 who told him, ‘Don’t be a police man’. These five words constituted his only introduction to a job which involved both him and his colleague, Br Alfonso, taking responsibility for the care and control of over 300 boys.

2.87Br Giovani said that he was never furnished with a precise description of what it was he was supposed to do, but it did entail the coordination of the activities of nearly all of the 300 boys from morning till night. He said that there was very little in the way of recreational activities for the boys when he was appointed. Not surprisingly, in light of their youth, both he and Br Alfonso attempted to remedy this deficiency by instituting a range of games and activities for the boys. He described Br Alfonso as a talented organiser, who was considered totally devoted to the task of trying to improve the lot of the boys.

2.88He said that the Prefects were responsible for the discipline of the boys. The Prefects had the authority to administer three slaps with a leather strap on the palm of the hand. The Prefect was obliged to record the incident in the punishment book. The Rector, Fr Fabiano,9 would periodically review this book. Further punishment could only be administered with the consent of the Rector. He said that this consent would only be given in severe cases, and he stated that he personally could not remember any incident where further and extra punishment was administered.

2.89Br Giovani stated that there was no brutality, cruelty or physical abuse in Upton during the 12 months he was there. He stated that, while the regime in the School was ‘austere’ and harsh, the level of corporal punishment would have been commensurate with the levels pertaining in every other school at the time. Indeed, he stated that, during the period which he spent in Upton, great strides were made to reduce the levels of corporal punishment. However, in a later letter, he compared the regime to that of a ‘concentration camp’, accepting that Upton was not a pleasant place to be as a pupil, and stated that he felt guilty for not having done more to help the boys. He stated that all he ever did was complain while others tried to help in a more practical way.

Evidence of complainant witnesses

2.90The earliest witness account came from a boy who was admitted in the late 1940s. He recalled being physically punished for bed-wetting. He was also punished in the classroom by the lay headmaster, Mr Maher.10 He described a number of incidents involving two of the Prefects, including one beating given to a boy who absconded because his father was dying and he was not allowed to go to his funeral. He described the Prefects as being ‘over the top’ in inflicting punishment. He explained:

This particular man was always over the top, the two of them were definitely over the top. Any time I was hit or beaten or attacked, or hit by anyone, it was always in a rage …

2.91He disputed entries in the punishment book of two and three slaps, as he said the boys were always given more and remembered the Brothers making the entries in the punishment book.

2.92Another witness resident in Upton in the mid-1950s described the regime as brutal from the first day. He particularly recalled Saturday, which was shower day. No matter how hard the boys tried to clean themselves, it was never good enough for the Brother in charge. The boys would be clattered back into the shower with an open fist or with the leather if their nails were still dirty. Punishment with the leather was almost a daily feature for things like talking in the dormitory, talking in the ranks, etc. The most vicious Brother was Br Donato.11 The witness recalled being punished in the washroom one day, because he could not explain how he came to have a spoon in his pocket; he had actually dug it up in the garden earlier in the day. His legs were so bruised from the beating, it was noticed by Br Nico12 the following day in the garden. He assumed Br Nico admonished Br Donato for the beating because, a few days later, he received a further beating from Br Donato for telling tales.

2.93There were two Brothers who were siblings in Upton, Br Orlando13 and Br Donato, and the witness claimed they were both vicious. Prior to Br Nico arriving in Upton, this witness recalled that the person in charge of the garden was very tough.

2.94This witness recalled that all punishments, except for minor offences, such as having holes in one’s socks, were administered in the washroom. The leather was administered on the buttocks. He was only ever hit on the hand in class. The typical number of strokes of the leather administered was between 6 and 12, with the exception of Br Donato who kept slapping with the leather until the boy would eventually fall down.

2.95The worst experience for him was the physical abuse. The sexual abuse he was subjected to was not brutal, and the Brother who sexually abused him would give him sweets, so he did not see it as being as bad as the beatings from Br Donato.

2.96A witness present in the early 1960s recalled his very first experience of physical abuse. The boys were out for a Sunday walk and, on their return, they used the toilet and were talking to each other in there, unaware that it was against the rules. Br Alfonso overheard them and sent for them up to the office, where they were made to bend over a stool and hold the legs of the stool. Br Alfonso administered six “benders” on that occasion. The witness was not the first of the four to be punished:

I wasn’t first, I don’t know who got the first one. Someone was first. Three of us would be standing watching this and believe me when you get one of these, if you thought you couldn’t jump, you would jump when you get one of these, six feet in the air, no problem, especially with Br Alfonso. He really physically forced. (Indicating) It was like a golf driver and he was a golfer. That’s what he used to spend his time, playing golf. He used use the straps like a golfer. I never got so much pain in my life. I remember the first one of those I got. I never thought anyone could go through so much pain as what we went through with them. I got six of those and you were that colour, all your hips would be that colour for weeks after and (indicating) you couldn’t tell no-one. If you told anyone you would get more.

2.97Other Brothers, including Br Donato and Br Ludano,14 gave him beatings, but none were as severe as Br Alfonso’s.

2.98He did not accept the contention that punishments were limited to three slaps on the hand. He said that he was slapped on the hand on one occasion, and the rest of the time he was beaten on the buttocks, and he sometimes got between 12 and 14 strokes of the leather.

2.99A witness who was also resident in the early 1960s said that, from his earliest days in Upton, the daily routine often involved receiving a smack on the face for minor things, such as not getting out of bed quickly enough in the morning. He was only 10 years old at the time, and remembered how boys had to stand to attention all the time, even when they were being beaten by a Brother. After dressing, the boys went to the yard and then to Mass. Any misbehaviour at Mass resulted in being sent to the office for benders:

Punishment in St. Patrick’s, Upton was a regular thing. I would have to say it was – you went to school, you went to bed, you went to work and there was nothing but fear, fear, fear. It was just fear the whole way.

2.100He recalled receiving one severe beating from Br Alfonso. He was about 11 years old when he was accused of ‘scamping’, a name used for masturbation. He also described how it was a regular enough occurrence for a boy to be brought to the office for punishment, this usually related to the boy being accused of ‘scamping’. He also recalled hearing the screams and cries of boys who had been taken from their beds in the evening to the office for punishment, as the office was situated underneath the centre of the dormitory. Punishment by the Prefect was normally administered in the office, but the boys could be beaten anywhere, in the washroom, or in the shower room on Saturdays.

2.101One witness resident during the early 1960s recalled an incident when the boys were watching a film, which they did not enjoy and, at the end of it, they gave a slow handclap. Each boy was brought out into the yard, one by one, and called into the washroom and beaten. He thought there were about 150 boys punished in total. This fact was confirmed by another witness. He recalled one Brother, Br Alfonso in particular who often beat him. The Brother was fond of music and particularly of hurling and golf. He used to make the boys fetch his golf balls and beat them if they couldn’t find them. He said that punishment was normally administered on the buttocks with a leather strap. According to him, the minimum number of strokes with the leather was six, and he said ‘If you didn’t get six you didn’t get anything’ and if the punishment was administered on the hand he would be ‘very lucky’.

2.102Another witness remembered being taken out of school to attend to the needs of an ill priest. He said he did not smoke at the time, but was accused of stealing Lucky Strikes from the priest’s room. He denied he had ever done such a thing, but Br Marcello brought him upstairs to a classroom and told him to put on swimming trunks and proceeded to beat him severely. He also recalled a boy who was extremely thin being leathered in the showers by Br Marcello. This Brother requested that this witness should hold the boy down while he beat him. He said he refused to do this because the boy was so young.

2.103Finding oneself in the wrong place at the wrong time was a matter for punishment, according to one witness. He received the leather for not having his socks darned. He later attended a normal national school, and was anxious to differentiate between the slaps that were acceptable there as compared with the punishment in Upton. He said:

The level of punishment, the force, the ferocity of it. It was done in such a savage manner that it was way beyond anything that you could class as being the norm.

2.104He did not agree with the Resident Manager, Br Alanzo,15 who wrote in the late 1950s in response to a complaint, which compared the treatment of boys in Greenmount and Upton, that the leather strap was rarely used. He thought that what was written was an untruth.

2.105One witness said he was not long in Upton before he was called into the office by Brs Ludano and Donato, and questioned about his brother who had been in Ferryhouse and was now in Daingean. Once they established they were siblings, the Brothers said words to the effect ‘we won’t make the same mistake with you’ and proceeded to strike him across the face and gave him ‘benders’ on the buttocks with the leather. He was black and blue from this beating. He recalled being beaten also by a Fr Gian16 on the farm, but the main punishments were meted out by Brs Ludano and Donato.

2.106The witness spoke about the punishment for immorality with others. He explained how, every couple of months or so in Upton, Brs Ludano and Donato would take a boy into the office and strap him until he offered up the name of a boy who had been scamping with him. This went on as the next boy would name another boy, ‘it was a never ending … circle’.

Internal survey carried out by the Rosminians

2.107A decision was made in 2002 by the Rosminian Order to carry out a survey of all surviving Rosminian Brothers and priests, to assess the extent of their knowledge of physical and sexual abuse at the time. The survey was carried out in respect of both Ferryhouse and Upton. In response to a question about knowledge of physical abuse in Upton, the following responses were elicited:

2.108Br Tomasso17 said that, although he had never witnessed anything himself, he did recall hearing that Br Alfonso administered excessive punishment on a number of occasions.

2.109Fr Stefano18 said that he thought that there were a number of cases of excessive punishment.

2.110One anonymous respondent, when asked whether he felt that corporal punishment was excessive, replied:

Yes, the longer I spent there: but then, there were few Fr Flanagans in Ireland: nobody knew any better: it was common in most places at that time.

2.111When asked if the Rector was aware of the fact that excessive punishment was being administered, he stated:

If he wasn’t Blind, deaf and dumb, he must have known: but he didn’t know any better. In my years as prefect there was a punishment book, wherein we, prefects had to write in all punishment – three slaps were allowed. This was Fr Fabiano’s idea: it ended with him.

2.112Fr Gustavo19 said that he witnessed Br Alba20 beating boys in the old infirmary for talking in the dormitory. He said that he questioned Br Alba but was told to mind his own business. He said that he heard that Br Alfonso was tough and cruel.

2.113Br Flavio21 said that, while he was a scholastic in Upton, he often saw punishment administered. He implied that this was excessive in nature as, in the next sentence, he stated ‘while in charge of discipline in Omeath, I too punished excessively’; when asked whether the Rector, Frs Alanzo and Eduardo,22 knew about the excessive violence, he replied ‘not sure if the rector knew all the sordid details – probably not’. He identified Brs Donato and Alfonso as excessive punishers.

2.114All Brothers surveyed agreed that there was inappropriate punishment in Upton.

Conclusions on physical abuse

2.1151.It was not in dispute that physical abuse took place, and the only issues were how widespread it was and how brutal.

2.Physical abuse was widespread and systemic. Excessive punishment was an everyday occurrence and was brutal and severe.

3.Like many other institutions, Upton kept control over the boys by maintaining a climate of fear.

4.Corporal punishment was used by religious and lay staff as an instrument of control as well as for the purpose of chastisement.

5.The punishment book of the early 1950s documents brutal corporal punishment.

6.Punishment was not supervised or controlled and the severity of punishment was a matter for the individual who administered it.

7.The abusive nature of the regime as recalled by complainants is corroborated by the entries in the punishment book, and by some of the religious.

Sexual abuse

Order’s approach to allegations of sexual abuse

2.116At the Phase III public hearing held on 9th May 2006, Fr O’Reilly, Provincial of the Rosminians, went further than previous concessions, saying that:

I accept totally that there are people out there who have also been – who have been sexually abused in our institutions who have not come forward to this Commission. I know that, and we accept that, there are people who were abused in our institutions, sexually abused who have not come forward to this Commission, or to any – or indeed to other forum.

2.117Fr O’Reilly was asked whether the attitude of the Order in relation to the issue of sexual abuse had been changed by the evidence given at the Phase II hearings. He responded:

I think we have grown in appreciation of the impact that being in the industrial schools had on the children. I think we feel different about the whole thing now than we did previously. Two years ago we had come an awful long way, I think we have come further since then. I think it has impacted on us enormously.

2.118Fr O’Reilly acknowledged that the response of the Order, in the wake of revelations of sexual abuse, had been inadequate. He did concede that it was the fear of scandal which prompted them to keep quiet about the situation. However, he justified this response on the basis that those in authority at the time lacked a proper understanding of the situation:

I think clearly at the time they did not want the scandal to be known, because they felt it would affect the entire Institution. I think they had a very immature sort of understanding of what the problem was …

2.119He did not concede that the Order’s primary motive was to protect the abuser and cover up the situation, and instead asserted that those in authority at the time ‘did know it was wrong and that it was hurtful to the boys and that that was the first priority’. However, they did not seek at the time to consider the impact of such abuse on the boys. Although knowing it was wrong, such sexual abuse was not reported to the Gardaí until 1995, despite the Order being aware of sexual abuse in the 1960s and, more particularly, in 1979. Instead, known abusers were moved to other institutions.

The Rome archive

2.120Related inquiries led to the discovery of cases in 1956, 1957 and 1959. Questionnaires were circulated to members of the Order who had little or no involvement with the Industrial School. These corroborated the written material and referred to other previously unknown allegations.

2.121Fr Gaffney also stated that he had asked the Superior General of the Rosminian Order in Rome, Fr James Flynn, to carry out a search for documents containing references to sexual abuse through all the records of correspondence between the Generalate and the Irish and English Provinces. This search disclosed a considerable number of documents, 68 in all, dating from 1936 to 1968. They dealt with, among other things, seven sexual abusers who worked in Upton. The Rosminians provided this information, together with the questionnaires and related material, to the Committee in May 2004. These documents proved to be very significant and came to be known as the Rome files.

Documented cases

2.122Respondent evidence and the Rosminian survey disclosed that sexual abuse perpetrated by a lay teacher and employees in the Institution had been discovered and was dealt with through the removal or transfer of the offenders.

2.123Little information was available as to the nature of the abuse that was discovered or the circumstances in which it was detected. It is clear, however, that a large number of the perpetrators of the abuse were discovered as a result of the activities of Br Alfonso, who zealously pursued a policy of relentlessly rooting out and punishing sexual activity among the boys.

2.124This Brother was responsible for the exposure of six persons who were committing sexual abuse of boys in Upton. He served in the Institution from 1953 to 1960. In his curriculum vitae, he wrote:

I also enlightened the boys who had been molested by the staff members, of the evil that had been perpetrated against them. I left no stone unturned to eradicate this evil.

2.125Complainant witnesses confirmed the prevalence of sexual abuse by some of the Brothers during this period.

2.126The question is whether the period during which Br Alfonso served in Upton was a particularly bad period for the occurrence of sexual abuse, or whether it merely showed what could be detected or discovered by one campaigner.

Fr Carlo23

2.127Fr Carlo was posted to Ferryhouse in the late 1930s as Prefect, and remained in the School until he was transferred to Upton a few years later.

2.128The information that is available about his departure from Upton is limited. The Superior General, Fr Montes,24 wrote to the Irish Provincial, Fr Giuseppe, stating:

Fr Carlo told me, sincerely, I think the whole story. He tearfully acknowledged his mistake. I sent him to Diano Marina on the sea between Genoa and Nice … He accepts his present situation as a penance but I am convinced that we will have to find a place for him by September. Could he not go to America? … I can understand that you were relieved at his departure. One could have had certain fears for the Upton house, also because, in the past the Government had some unfavourable reports regarding morality between the boys, as you will recall.

2.129Although the letter in this case does not say it, it is apparent that the reason for Fr Carlo’s departure was very serious, and that he was extremely contrite about it. He left the School at an unusual time of the school year, so it may be inferred that his transfer was made urgently, rather than waiting until the late summer when transfers took place. His situation at the time was ‘a penance’, and the Superior General was faced with a problem of where to put him. The Provincial was pleased at his departure from Upton, and the Superior General acknowledged that there could have been fears that were related to immorality between the boys. Fr Montes thought of sending him to America, a solution that was employed on a number of other occasions for people who sexually abused. There was no indication of any other abuse or fault that could have accounted for Fr Carlo’s unseasonal departure, and in the circumstances the inference is that, on the balance of probabilities, Fr Carlo was guilty of sexual abuse in Upton.

2.130He continued to work as a priest in a number of parishes in England until his death in the late 1970s.


  • The probability is that Fr Carlo was removed from Upton because of sexual abuse but the matter is not beyond doubt. The inferences from Fr Montes’s letter are all indicative of sexual abuse, as indeed is his use of allusions rather than specific terminology in his letter to the Irish Provincial

The Rome file: Fr Santino25

2.132Fr Santino worked in Upton from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, when he died just before he was due to be transferred to a teaching position at Omeath. He began sexually abusing children in England some time after he was ordained a priest in the 1920s.

2.133He served in his first parish for 20 years before it was discovered that he had been sexually abusing children. He was then quietly transferred to another parish. The Provincial, Fr Andrea,26 wrote to the Superior General, saying that, although the change had caused some surprise, ‘he was glad to say’ that it was received quietly enough. He stated that the fact that it occurred at decree time, a time when changes in staff would have been common, made it less conspicuous. Fr Santino was not happy with the transfer and wrote a letter of complaint to the Provincial who noted in a letter to the Superior General that:

The curious thing I note is that his compassion is merely for himself. He does not seem to realise the injury inflicted upon his victims and the consequences to them of his conduct. To me, at all events, this aspect of the affair is the most dreadful.

2.134The Superior General agreed, and suggested that in Fr Andrea’s reply to Fr Santino he should stress the need for Fr Santino to pray that,

The persons to whom he has done such great harm will not carry its ill effects for their entire lives.

This exchange shows how both the Provincial and the Superior General were acutely conscious of and apologetic for the hurt and pain caused to those who suffered abuse at the hands of Fr Santino.

2.135In the late 1940s, in his new parish, it was discovered that Fr Santino ‘had again lapsed. Badly’. The newly appointed Provincial, Fr Arturo,27 stated in a letter to the Superior General, Fr Montes, that he had been trying to figure out what to do with Fr Santino, but he had come to the conclusion that there was no work in the English province that he would feel justified in allowing him to do, except perhaps as a Minister of a Rosminian house at Rugby. However, he stated that he could not place Fr Santino there immediately, because of the ‘admiratio’28 that it would cause to the members of the institute. Fr Arturo suggested sending Fr Santino to the Novitiate at Kilmurry, County Cork in the Irish-American Province for a period of six months, and that ‘his face could be saved by making it part of an exchange between the two provinces’. He added that Kilmurry was a place where Fr Santino would be ‘safe for the time being’.

2.136Fr Montes replied that the latest revelations constituted ‘really bad news, even if not completely unexpected’. He told Fr Arturo that he had stressed the need to inform the local Rector in Kilmurry of Fr Santino’s history, so that the latter could keep an eye on him. He informed Fr Arturo that he had been in communication with Fr Orsino, the Provincial of the Irish-American Province, about what could be done with Fr Santino. He noted that Kilmurry was short of space and that the only available position was that of confessor of novices, a position that Fr Montes stated that he ‘couldn’t in conscience give him that, even apart from his deplorable weakness’. He said that Fr Santino ‘deserves to do two months of penance at Melleray’, and he gave permission for him to be sent there. He also noted that Fr Santino ‘will always be a problem because he does not acknowledge the evil he has done’, and suggested that he would be somebody for Fr Torre29 to study. Fr Torre was a member of the English Province who had some skill as a psychotherapist.

2.137Fr Santino went to the Cistercian Abbey at Mount Melleray in the late 1940s but, instead of staying for a period of months, he remained for 10 years and only left because the Cistercians would no longer have him. The problem then was to find a place for him. It was thought that Ferryhouse was not suitable because:

Melleray and Clonmel are both in Waterford diocese – and news travels even from the hidden depths of Melleray. I should be surprised if he returns to England. Perhaps he is the Providential answer to the quest for an English confessor at Porta Latina.

2.138For the time being, Fr Santino was sent to Kilmurry, pending a decision to place him on a more long-term basis. The Superior General thought of sending him to Florida but nothing came of that.

2.139In 1959, Fr Santino sought permission to visit his family in the UK whom he had not seen for years. This came to the attention of Fr Arturo, the Provincial in the United Kingdom, who wrote to his Superiors in Rome in March:

I am very worried about Fr Santino. I presume that you know his sad history. In spite of the fact that his misdeeds are known to quite a few people here in [parish] he has been writing, I understand from Fr Lanzo,30 to various people here in [parish] saying that he has returned to the Institute etc. My fear is that he will want to return, perhaps on a visit, here, to see some of his friends. In my opinion it would be really dangerous of him to return here at all, since, if some ill-intentioned person were to denounce him to the police, he would be in danger of arrest, and the scandal produced would be disastrous. Hence I would ask you to make sure that he does not return to England and particularly to [parishes where he worked] … I do not know whether Fr Placido31 knows all the circumstances of the case, and I have therefore not wished to write to Fr Placido direct about it. I do not think my fears are exaggerated, Fr Santino is a man who has been singularly blind to implications of his case, and seems quite capable of thinking that he can act as though his past were forgotten, and that he could start afresh as though nothing wrong had happened. I therefore beg of you to take what steps are necessary to ensure that he does not return to England.

2.140Fr Arturo’s worst fears were confirmed when he received word that Fr Santino was proposing to call to the parish where he first worked, to see his brothers and sisters:

As I said in the letter I have just written to you, in my opinion, in no circumstances must he go to [parish] – to tell the truth I do not like the idea of his coming to England at all, since what he did in both [parishes] is a criminal offence for which he could be prosecuted. He seems to have no sense of the fact that he is disgraced man in the eyes of, at any rate, some people in [parish].

2.141The Superior General wrote to Fr Santino forbidding him to leave Ireland. Fr Arturo, in another letter to his Superior in Rome, set out his concern more specifically:

Most Reverend and very dear Father General, Fr Santino’s trouble is homosexuality. When I became Provincial, my predecessor Fr Andrea, thought it his duty to let me know that for 15 years (on and off I suppose) Fr Santino had been corrupting boys in [parish]. It was known to various people, but none dared come forward and report it. Fr Andrea, as soon as he knew about it, removed Fr Santino immediately to [another parish]. But the same thing began to occur again at [this parish]. Fr Calvino32 telephoned me urgently one evening, and I went straight down to [the parish] and sent Fr Santino immediately to Ireland; there was danger of prosecution by the police – this offence being a criminal one in England. I interviewed Fr Santino, and suggested to him that the only thing for him to do was to retire into some place like Mount Melleray and do penance. This he did.

He seems incredibly unaware of the gravity of the whole position. Fr Lanzo tells me that when Fr Calvino was appointed rector of [the parish], Fr Santino wrote an indignant letter to the Provincial, to Fr General and to the General’s monitor, complaining that after all his years of faithful service, he had been passed over for a rectorship!! Also Fr Lanzo tells me that during these last years he has frequently written to [former parish] people, and they have been to see him at Melleray. Fr Lanzo has imagination, I know, but there is probably foundation for what he says. I remember too in my last interview with him eight years ago that he blamed Fr Andrea for his troubles, because Fr Andrea had always been hostile to him. And from my last letter (which you apparently had not received when you write to me) he is actually expecting to be allowed to return to [former parish] for a visit – oblivious of the fact that for a certain number of people in [former parish], he is a completely disgraced person. Fr Santino tells me in the letter he wrote asking permission to come that he is translating some writings of the Founder with a view to publication. I think it would be a disaster to have any writing of Fr Founder’s published over Fr Santino’s name.

2.142In August 1959, Fr Placido was again required to deal with Fr Santino because Fr Salvatore33 was no longer willing to keep him in Kilmurry, where he was having an unhealthy influence on certain members of the professed and also on some of the novices. He suggested that, if no alternative could be found, he would as a last resort be compelled to keep him in Upton but warned: ‘there would be grave risks in accepting him here considering the class of boy we have in certain age groups here’.

2.143Despite this anxiety, Fr Santino was assigned to Upton and he remained in the School until the early 1960s when he died suddenly, just when he was due to be transferred to a teaching position at Omeath.

2.144A former resident, who was present in the School from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, alleged that Fr Santino sexually abused him:

Fr Santino did approach me from the back with both hands on my shoulder. I felt him leaning up against me, in doing so I ran away. I did so, I met a particular Brother, Br Ludano, at the end of the stair who asked me why was I running, I told him why and I was punished for it.

2.145During cross-examination, counsel for the Rosminians apologised for the abuse that this witness received. He asked him how Fr Santino was perceived. The complainant replied that he remembered Fr Santino as being very approachable, with a great way with children. He would talk to them all day. Fr Gaffney accepted his allegations in his responding statement:

I have no justification for doubting the complaint of sexual interference made against Fr Santino, and those actions were shameful and wrong. I apologise for the hurt inflicted on [this witness] and for the association of the Rosminian Institute of Charity for that conduct. It was profoundly against the ideals and expectations of the institute.

2.146Another former resident of Upton, who was there from the mid to late 1950s and who himself was subsequently convicted of paedophile offences testified that he engaged in mutual masturbation with Fr Santino, whom he described as the only adult who seemed to take any interest in him. He stated that the relationship lasted a couple of months.

2.147The story of Fr Santino sheds light on the Rosminians’ attitude to child sexual abuse at the time. In a letter from the Provincial of the English Province to the Superior General, the Provincial showed his awareness of ‘the injury inflicted upon his victims and the consequences to them of his conduct’. The Superior General replied, stressing the need for Fr Santino to pray that ‘the persons to whom he had done such great harm will not carry its ill effects for their entire lives’.


  • The Order was aware of the damage caused to victims of sexual abuse. Although the Provincial and Superior General were critical of the offender in this case, they did not take steps to prevent further injury or harm being perpetrated on other victims.
  • Although Fr Santino was known to have sexually abused children for many years in his first posting, he was transferred to another post where he repeated the abuse. He was transferred because of fear that there might be a police investigation and without regard for the safety of children.
  • The next move took him out of the United Kingdom and brought him to Ireland, again for the purpose of obviating investigation.
  • It is clear that Fr Santino’s conduct in each of his postings in Britain was criminal, and that he offended repeatedly to the knowledge of his superiors. His transfer from one English parish to another was irresponsible. The Order was aware of the risk that he posed and of the damaging impact of his behaviour on his victims.
  • The transfer to Ireland was for the purpose of Fr Santino’s spending a short penitential stay in Mount Melleray. It was obvious that full information should have been given to the Abbot so that careful supervision could be exercised, but there is no evidence that such steps were taken and he remained in the monastery for a period of 10 years.
  • Assigning Fr Santino to a position in Upton was irresponsible and reckless. With the knowledge that the Order possessed about his past history and attitudes, they must have been aware of the likelihood that he would sexually abuse boys in this Institution. It follows that the Order was prepared to put boys at risk in order to find a place for somebody who might cause public scandal if he were to be located elsewhere.
  • The documents do not indicate any attempt by the Order to dismiss Fr Santino from the priesthood. They appear never to have given consideration to the possibility of doing so.

The Rome file: Br Umberto34

2.149Br Umberto joined the Rosminians in the mid-1940s. He made his perpetual vows eight years later. He was posted to Upton as an Assistant Brother in the mid-1950s, and remained in the School for approximately three years until he was transferred to Kilmurry to work on the farm.

2.150The reason for his transfer was that he had been interfering with the boys in Upton, and the details were set out in a letter from the Irish Provincial, Fr Placido, to the Superior General, Fr Lucca,35 in which he said that the Brother:

Who had been previously warned by the Rector [Fr Fabiano] and myself has not been discreet cum pueris [with boys] and is a periculum [danger] to them so I have been compelled to send him to the Novitiate house where circumstances are different.

2.151It is clear from Fr Placido’s letter that it was not the first time that Br Umberto had offended, but there was no evidence that dismissal was considered.

2.152Fr Lucca approved the decision to remove Br Umberto, and he remained in Kilmurry until the early 1960s when he was sent back to Upton. Although there was a new Rector, who may not have known the recent history at the time when Br Umberto returned, Fr Placido was still Provincial and in residence at Upton. On this occasion, the Brother remained for approximately six years, until he was transferred to Omeath. He continued to be a member of the Order until his death.


  • This Brother was found to be committing sexual abuse with boys notwithstanding a previous warning, and the Provincial reacted by moving him to the Novitiate House ‘where circumstances are different’. This decision appears to have been a short-term expedient, because the Provincial returned the Brother to Upton five years later, notwithstanding the danger that he represented to the boys.
  • The case of Br Umberto is interesting because he left Upton while Br Alfonso was Prefect, yet he is not mentioned by Br Alfonso. It is surprising that Br Alfonso, a relentless pursuer of sexual abusers, did not hear of this case, particularly because of the reference to Br Umberto’s having been previously warned by both the Rector and the Provincial. It illustrates the secretive way in which abusers could be removed.
  • Returning Br Umberto to Upton in the early 1960s amounted to reckless disregard of the safety of the boys, particularly as at that time a known sexual abuser who had served years at Upton had recently been uncovered. There should have been an appreciation of the need to eliminate the risks the boys faced.

The Rome file: Br Constantin36

2.154Br Constantin was sent to Upton in the early 1950s, where he remained until he was transferred to Kilmurry. He was transferred in November, not at the more usual time of September, because he had been discovered sexually abusing children. The Brother subsequently applied for a dispensation from his vows two years later and, when it was granted, he left Kilmurry.

2.155The correspondence between his superiors concerning his application for a dispensation provides some information about his sexual activities. In a letter to the Superior General concerning the matter, the Provincial, Fr Placido, stated:

I enclose the request of Br Constantin for a dispensation from his final vows … He was … here at Upton … when he asked for a transfer to Kilmurry as his contacts cum pueris hic erat ei periculum [with boys, this was his danger]. He was getting out from here as he was really under suspicion and investigations were being made regarding some serious matters. I regret to say that he was most seriously involved in the case of at least two.

2.156The Provincial asked the Rector of Kilmurry, Fr Salvatore, to write to the Superior General, setting out his views on the matter. In a letter, Fr Salvatore wrote:

Br Constantin’s case is a sad one. He came here [Kilmurry] over a year ago from Upton. Fr Provincial will, no doubt, have informed you that this Brother had great difficulty in observing his vow of chastity. His Rector at Upton was forced to send him away from that house because he had proof that, in two cases at least, he had sinned with boys. The fact that he is still a religious is due to the charity of his Superiors because, generally, in these kinds of cases the rule is to send the accused person away. I must say, Father, that Constantin himself did ask his Superiors to take him away from the occasion [in the sense of the occasion of temptation]. Sending him here was seen as saving his vocation but it is not like that.

2.157The letter from Rome to Fr Placido informed him that the dispensation sought from the Order of Religious had come through. The letter went on to say that the dispensation itself was retained in the Rosminian archive in Rome. Br Constantin was, therefore, free ‘to return to the world without further delay …’.

2.158Former Br Constantin reappeared in the early 1960s at Mount Melleray Seminary, Cappoquin, County Waterford, as appears from a letter to the Provincial:

Dear Father Provincial,

We had a student here last year named Constantin who spent some time in your Congregation. It was only quite recently that information of that fact reached me. He was admitted here on the recommendation of a priest in England and I would never be satisfied to keep him without a reference from his former Superior had I known he was in religion. I am writing now to you for a reference for him as I am expecting him back soon and he will get a bit of my mind for not telling me he was with you. He is very quiet and well conducted as a student but that would not be enough to get him into a major seminary later on.

With every good wish, I am, dear Fr Provincial,

Yours sincerely in DIE


2.159There is no record to show whether a reference, or even a reply, was sent, nor is it known whether this ex-Brother joined the Cistercian Community.

2.160Further light on this episode emerged from the evidence of Br Alfonso, who described how one of the boys complained to him about Br Constantin’s activities, which he immediately reported to the Rector and the Provincial.

2.161An Assistant Prefect at the time, Fr Giovani,37 in a statement supplied to the Committee confirmed the discovery of abuse by this Brother and another:

Later on we were both scandalised and shocked and distressed to find that two lay brothers, … were also sexually molesting the boys in their care. Immediately Br Alfonso and myself reported this to the then Provincial of the Institute of Charity, Fr Orsino, I.C., who removed the offending Brothers: one brother later died in the institute, Bro Fausto,38 the other, Bro Constantin, left the Rosminians and I haven’t heard of him since.

2.162Another Rosminian, Br Tomasso, who was lodging in the School at the time, responded to a Rosminian questionnaire as follows:

As a student … residing in Upton [during the 1950s] I made enquiries about Bro Constantin – when he had been absent for some time – and was told by Fr Gian that he had been interfering with boys, and had left the Order.


  • When the Rosminians discovered this Brother was sexually abusing boys, the first response was to move him. There does not appear to have been any proper investigation of the extent of his activities because Fr Salvatore’s letter says that the Rector at Upton had proof ‘in two cases at least’. There were very possibly more. It would appear that he went on to be a problem once more in Kilmurry, because sending him there ‘was seen as saving his vocation but it is not like that’.
  • The priority was again keeping the matter secret. Permitting the Brother to obtain relief from his vows avoided the need for a formal process, which suited the Order, and was convenient for the offender, particularly as the actual dispensation was not even contained in his record. Taking this course meant that minimal information was recorded about the departure of the Brother from the Order.

The Rome file: Br Fausto

2.164Br Fausto was sent to Upton as Assistant Brother in the early 1930s. He made his perpetual vows in the mid-1930s and later was transferred to Omeath. He spent another year in Upton in the mid-1940s. He returned to Upton in the early 1950s, and worked in the Community kitchen. He was moved to Ferryhouse approximately three years later, and his record card indicated that this was done ‘during year’. He was transferred to Glencomeragh in the early 1960s. He died in the early 1980s.

2.165This Brother was discovered to be sexually abusing boys in the 1950s. Br Alfonso said that he discovered that Br Fausto had been sexually abusing children at the same time that he found out about Br Constantin. Fr Giovani corroborated the discovery of Br Fausto in his statement. A complainant, resident in the early 1950s, gave evidence that his brother, while being punished by Br Alfonso, complained to him that he was being abused by a Brother whose name the witness did not recall correctly, but by a similar-sounding name:

When he started laying into him with the strap my brother turned around and said that he was abused by a Brother called [similar sounding name to perpetrator] … Br Alfonso stopped dead in his tracks, put the strap back in the thing and he couldn’t apologise enough. [The Brother] was removed from the school shortly thereafter … No, I did not witness that. My brother mentioned it to me a couple of years ago, three or four years ago.

2.166The note of the Brother’s transfer to Ferryhouse in the mid-1950s ‘during year’ would indicate that there were urgent reasons for the transfer, and that it did not occur in the ordinary way, carrying the implication that there was some apprehension on the part of the authorities that dictated the move.

2.167In other records, there are references to this Brother that are suggestive of improper conduct on his part, but nothing that was clear and unequivocal or that could be understood without knowing the evidence of Br Alfonso and Fr Giovani.

2.168Fr Fabiano, Resident Manager at Upton, wrote to the Provincial at Rome referring to this Brother. He said that he had done nothing more about an episode concerning him. He added:

as it would be needlessly bringing things into the limelight again and I could do nothing without authority. The assertion about [Br Fausto] came up casually as having happened in the past and I decided that the prudent thing to do was leave it in the past while you decided what should be done. My own opinion about the matter is that he should quietly get a change and be taken out of the danger because it will always be there.

2.169Other documentary references to the Brother are even more vague, although generally suggestive of reasons for apprehension about his behaviour. For example, one comment read, ‘Fr Salvatore … told me that he did not consider Fausto’s influence there as being to the spiritual advantage of the Novices’.

2.170Another reference discussed his suitability as follows:

you don’t mention Kilmurry; from what Fr Salvatore … was saying to me, I have my doubts if Fausto is the best one for that house. But the Novice Master holds him in high esteem.

2.171Another document remarked that his conscience was in a class of its own:

I hope Fausto won’t be a destructive element in the Novitiate I think he has a conscience that is sui generis.39 At Omeath he used to bring the Scholastics with him, secretly, for a smoke.

2.172In another letter, the Resident Manager said he knew of the Brother’s propensities for particular friendships.

2.173In a letter from the Superior General to Fr Orsino, Provincial in Ireland, he wrote:

As regards the other, I can understand that because he flatly denies everything, one can only give him the benefit of the doubt. However, from what you write, it seems there is some suspicion in his regard and this obliges us to make provision for the future. You say that the there is more than one victim. This needs to be checked out with great prudence, or else find a good excuse for sending Fausto away from Upton.


  • Concerns about this Brother are expressed in correspondence from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. It seems clear that there was grave suspicion about his conduct. The evidence of Br Alfonso and Fr Giovani put the position beyond doubt, and reveals the full meaning of the earlier written statements.
  • The failure to express these concerns clearly indicated a degree of concern on the part of the authorities that no information should escape on this issue, as it was seen to be potentially damaging. Such secrecy resulted in the serious consequence that there was reduced consciousness about the problem.
  • The interest of the Order in avoiding adverse publicity was given priority over the protection of the boys.
  • Transferring the Brother to Ferryhouse was another example of a reckless approach to child protection.

The Rome file: Br Mateo40

2.175Br Mateo was a postulant in the Franciscan Friaries in Killarney and Louvain during the 1930s. No records exist about his departure from the Franciscans. He joined the Rosminians in the late 1930s, and made his perpetual vows in the mid-1940s. He was sent to Upton for just over a year in the mid-1940s, and he then went to Omeath for almost 15 years, before returning to Upton in the late 1950s.

2.176This is another Brother who was discovered by Br Alfonso to have been sexually abusing children in Upton. The matter is referred to in a letter in the late 1950s from the Provincial, Fr Placido, to the Superior General, Fr Lucca, without mentioning Br Alfonso’s involvement:

Bro Mateo here has recently been indiscreet cum puero41 or perhaps cum pueris42 so Fr R deems it advisable that he should be changed to avoid danger or talk especially in view of the big influx. We thought first of sending him to Kilmurry but the Rector put forward good reasons against that apart from the fact that the place would be unsuitable for the brother’s health in view of the insomnia from which he suffers. We are of the opinion that Omeath would be the better place where he had been previously … and there was no complaint about him as regards conduct … Bro Mateo should be satisfactory … and I think his slip will be a lesson to him to be careful and watchful …

2.177Fr Placido wrote again, expressing his relief at having received a reply to his previous letter, which he feared had gone astray, a matter which would have concerned him greatly as it contained references to matters about Br Mateo which he did not wish to become widely known. In the same letter he stated:

I don’t think we need worry about Bro Mateo at Omeath as he has got a warning and the Rector will be vigilant. There wasn’t much of a serious nature against him si dice.43

2.178A complainant from the late 1950s gave evidence that corroborated Br Alfonso. He alleged he was sexually assaulted by Br Mateo in his early days in the School. He recalled he was playing ball one evening and the ball went into the hall. Br Mateo found the ball and called the complainant over and sat him on his knee and fondled his privates and kissed him. This abuse went on over a period of time until it was eventually reported to Br Alfonso. He did not officially report it to Br Alfonso. What actually happened was that Br Alfonso found him coming out of the hall one night when he had been missing from the games room. He was initially frightened to tell Br Alfonso what was happening but eventually he did, and he was told to go and wait for Br Alfonso in the office. Some time later, Br Alfonso came back and questioned him further, and he gave all the details and was told not to worry any more as Br Mateo would be transferred. During the hearing into this evidence, counsel for the Rosminians intervened and said that they accepted that it had happened as described.


  • No steps were taken to dismiss this Brother, but he was transferred to another school where it was believed that he would be less of a danger.
  • The Provincial was complacent and did not regard what the Brother had been doing as being extremely serious, referring to it as a ‘slip’.

The Rome file: Br Mario44

2.180Br Mario’s parents died when he was young, and he was raised by the Rosminians at Upton. He took his perpetual vows three years later. In the mid-1950s, he was transferred to Upton and appointed to an administrative role. In the early 1960s, he was sent to Ferryhouse where he was appointed as an assistant to the Rector.

2.181He was discovered by Br Alfonso to have been sexually abusing boys during his posting in Ferryhouse, where he had been transferred following his term in Upton. A letter from the Provincial to the Superior General in the mid-1960s reported the discovery, and stated that the Brother had been transferred to Kilmurry for the time being. The letter said:

that there were two members of his community who had been rather indiscreet with the boys and owing to some talk there and admiratio45 he wished to have the two changed sine mora.46 One was Br Mario47 … and went to Clonmel [Ferryhouse] at the request of Fr Alanzo … He admitted his faults and went to Kilmurry on 19th pro tem and about the middle of January Fr Pietro48 will find suitable work for him in the office there – at Drumcondra and so will accept him with the debite cautele49 … You will fully appreciate in such circumstances how instant action is often necessary and the changes made are a cover up in some respects.

2.182He wrote again, a month later, stating that:

I hope you got two previous letters I sent … the second one was about the changes of the brothers I was compelled to make owing to two who failed in fidelity to the sacredness of their work amongst the boys.

2.183Fr Lucca replied a few days later. He wrote:

The distressing news … shows that the Rector is very attentive and decisive. I approve the changes you had to make and I hope that the guilty ones are convinced of the serious wrong they have done and are repentant. All this causes me great sadness especially [when I consider] the elder of the two. We really must work out our salvation ‘in fear and trembling.’ I am well aware of the Brothers whom you have had to change in these painful circumstances and I pray that the Lord will help them in their new positions … I am sorry for you too who have had to make all these urgent and painful changes. Let us pray the Lord that nothing else of the like will occur.

2.184Br Mario was transferred to a Rosminian School for the Blind, where he remained until his death over 10 years later.

2.185Transferring a Brother with this history of sexual abuse to a school for blind children was reckless and inexplicable.

2.186A complainant, who was in Upton from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, made a complaint about Br Mario. He alleged that Br Mario pinned him up against a table in the kitchen, and the complainant said he was conscious of Br Mario’s arousal. This happened on a number of occasions and only ceased when the complainant threatened to tell Fr Eduardo, the Resident Manager:

That man annoyed me week in week out for four or five weeks, commencing when I was working in the kitchen. Now, he knew I wanted to go on holidays, that man used to have me in tears. He would come up behind my back when I would be scrubbing pots, and I mean scrubbing pots now, and he would put his arms around me and he would be saying to me “I don’t know will I let you go on holidays or not”. He used to force me up against the sink. Believe me he used to have an erection on him. This was going on for weeks … He used to annoy me every day of the week for weeks until I threatened to tell Fr Eduardo on him. I told him to do what he wanted. I got the holidays anyway. When I threatened him with Fr Eduardo he didn’t come near me any more.

2.187The question arises why this Brother was not removed, or even given a formal Canonical Warning. The Provincial expressly acknowledged the main purpose of transferring Brothers who had been abusing when he said ‘the changes made are a cover up in some respects’.

The Rome file: Br Gilberto50

2.188Br Gilberto joined the Rosminian Order in the early 1940s, and he took his perpetual vows in the mid-1940s. He was in Ferryhouse in the mid-1940s for 10 months and again in the early 1950s. He was sent to Upton in the mid-1950s in an administrative role.

2.189His personnel card recorded that he was moved from Upton to Kilmurry before the end of the year in which he moved to Upton. The words ‘during year’ follow but are crossed out, and the words ‘left on this date: and later was dispensed from vows’ inserted. His service in Upton, accordingly, was very short, extending from his transfer there, which in the normal way would have happened in September. This Brother was another alleged sexual abuser who was reported by Br Alfonso.

2.190The actual reason for his sudden removal from Upton and his quitting the Order was made perfectly clear by the evidence of Br Alfonso to the Investigation Committee. The reasons for his departure can be further deduced from a letter by the Superior General, Fr Montes to Fr Orsino, the Provincial in Ireland, although the details are obscured by circumlocutions:

As regards the latest painful news of Gilberto, keeping precedents in mind and his own spontaneous remark dating from last Spring about leaving the Institute, I now think that the best advice to offer him is to ask for a dispensation. He must realise that, after what has happened at Upton, he can no longer enjoy the confidence of Superiors and could not be happy in the Institute. If he agrees to what is suggested, tell him to write his petition on a large size sheet, as big at least as the one I am writing on, and to say that he is asking for a dispensation because he feels himself unequal to the obligations of a religious.

2.191It seems that the Brother was induced to apply for his dispensation, and the request was in fact granted, but the Superior General was unhappy about the form of the request from Br Gilberto, and he gave advice to the Provincial about how to deal with cases like these:

He [Br Gilberto] included a petition for dispensation that is worthless because he concludes saying that he is seeking it “because I have been requested to do so”. His complaint is: “I have been condemned without being informed of the nature of the charge against me. Nor have I been called upon to state my case”.

2.192Fr Montes went on to give advice about procedure ‘in cases like these’:

Even though the situation was difficult and dangerous, Fr Fabiano should have spoken with Gilberto before sending him to Kilmurry. He could have told him it was in his best interests to be sent away from Upton for the time being in order to put an end to gossip. I feel for Fr Fabiano because he was in a delicate situation, but experience has taught me in cases like these one has to let the person accused have his say. Otherwise, he will always be able to argue that he was condemned without being given the opportunity to defend himself.


  • There is a lack of explicit detail in the correspondence. Because the issue of sexual abuse was a sensitive one, the Rosminians developed a means of discussing it that obscured the facts in vague and coded language. The reason why an abuser left one institution and went to another was concealed. Such secrecy not only lessened the likelihood of the reporting and discovery of any further abuse in the new setting, but also reduced the awareness of sexual abuse as a major issue among the Community as a whole.
  • The safety of boys in Upton, where this Brother had so recently served prior to his being discovered, were entirely ignored.
  • Even though the petition for dispensation in this case was considered ‘worthless’, the authorities were nevertheless in a position to achieve the desired outcome of the quiet departure of the offender from the Order.
  • It would appear that no investigation took place as to how many children might have been abused or how they might have been affected.

Conclusions on the Rome files


  • The contents of the Rome files illustrates the importance of good archives. Not merely did the files help to establish, through contemporary documents, the extent of sexual abuse, they also afforded corroboration of many of the allegations made by complainants. From the Rome files, the Committee also learned about attitudes to the sexual abuse of children at that time, and how known abusers were dealt with by the Order. They proved invaluable sources of information.
  • An institution without good records is one without a memory. It cannot learn from the past, so the management has to deal with each case of abuse as a new problem. Failure to keep records increases the risk of more children being abused, and of the discovery of abuse being mismanaged.

Respondent evidence

2.195Three members of the Order gave evidence. Two of these denied any knowledge of sexual abuse as an issue in Upton. The remaining individual, Br Alfonso, gave detailed information about sexual abuse that he had discovered and the action he had taken on foot of those discoveries while he was Prefect in Upton and Ferryhouse between the early 1950s and early 1970s.

2.196Br Alfonso said that, when he was Prefect, he was responsible for identifying to his Superiors seven sexual abusers operating in Upton. He confirmed they were as follows:

Br Fausto;

Br Constantin;

A named night watchman;

An unnamed lay teacher;

Br Mateo;

Br Mario,

Br Gilberto.

2.197He said that all of these individuals were removed from the School.

2.198Br Alfonso said he reported these individuals to his then Superiors, Fr Fabiano and Fr Alanzo. Fr Orsino, Provincial of the Order, was also involved in the reporting of one of these individuals. He said that, when he reported these people, he was never given any indication about whether they had any previous history of abuse:

These things were not tossed around among the Superiors nor were they ever mentioned at a table at any time, they were always kept secret.

2.199Despite the number of individuals who were found to be sexually abusing children in Upton, Br Alfonso told the Committee that there was never any instruction given to watch out for possible abuse and abusers, nor were there guidelines on how to deal with such activities.

2.200What seems clear is that, following his discovery of some sexual abusers in Upton, Br Alfonso went on a crusade to purge ‘immorality’ amongst the boys themselves. His evidence suggests that, once he revealed the identity of the abusers amongst staff members, the opportunity was afforded to boys to come forward and to tell him if they were being abused by fellow pupils. This version of events is in stark contrast with the evidence from witnesses, some of whom describe being falsely accused of ‘scamping’, a term used in the School to describe masturbation.

2.201One witness recalled an incident when another pupil received a postal order. The boy was showing the postal order to the complainant and had his arm around his waist. Br Donato came along and accused them of interfering with each other. They were taken into the washroom and told to take off their pants. They were then told to hug each other, while Br Donato leathered the two of them. This went on for about an hour, until a Brother came along and they were sent off.

2.202Another witness recalled that Br Alfonso and Br Donato were totally obsessed with sex and the boys. They were super-vigilant and constantly accused him of masturbation and other sexual activity. He alleged that he was often beaten for the entire day, as the Brothers took turns to extract a confession of masturbation from him. He also alleges that the Brothers beat a confession from another boy who lied and gave his name up to the Brothers. The name he gave appears in the punishment book.

2.203He described how these two Brothers had regular purges, and the boys called them ‘hobbles’.

2.204During the cross-examination of Br Alfonso, it was suggested to him that the punishment book could be divided into two sections. As was discussed above, the first period of the book is from 1952 to 1954. The second period from 1954 to 1963 showed a marked difference in the type of offence being punished, in that the almost exclusive reason for punishment was immorality. He was asked to explain this shift in emphasis of punishment, and he failed to give a precise answer. His counsel attempted to ‘explain’ what Br Alfonso was saying:

By his actions in reporting the activities of the community and the lay person, he brought a situation out into the open where the boys were now more comfortable coming forward. So the boys who had been allegedly victims of each other were now coming to Br Alfonso to report incidents between themselves as opposed to between themselves and the community. So that those things had now become more open, there was an atmosphere of honesty coming out that these things were no longer taboo, that there was a way to get some action.

2.205Br Alfonso also said that the reason why there was so much punishment for immorality in the punishment book during his time was due to an increasing awareness that sexual behaviour was unacceptable. He said:

All I was saying is that somehow or another it must have in some way leaked out to the children that this is not acceptable, this standard. I think my attorney here spelt that out, that the boys realised that and then started to come to me and say, “this is what is going on here with us, these boys are molesting and will you stand up for us”. If that makes sense, I don’t know, but I cannot explain it any other way.

2.206Br Alfonso gave evidence that the punishment that was administered was normally three or four slaps on the hand, or 10 strokes on the seat of the pants for more serious offences. The punishment book recorded that 20 strokes were administered to a boy for sexual impropriety and, on other occasions, 15 strokes were administered. When asked to explain why he said 10 was the maximum delivered, which was clearly incorrect, Br Alfonso explained that the severity of that particular punishment arose from a highly unusual situation. He said:

I am saying that in these events we are talking about, boys wouldn’t be one on one in this situation. They would be like animals among one another, everybody would be involved in it, young boys and all. It was having whatever, I don’t know what you would like to call it, an orgy, I don’t know what it would be. Certainly it wasn’t a normal one to one thing. That is all I can say.

Complainant evidence

2.207The evidence of complainants who made allegations against documented abusers has already been set out. In addition, further credible evidence of abuse was given.

2.208One witness who was resident in the 1950s alleged that he was sexually abused in the tailor shop. The routine was normally that a boy would arrive in the tailor shop, and whatever item of clothing that required repair would be repaired on the spot. On this occasion, he was told by a lay worker to remove his trousers for repair. The lay worker then put him on his knee, on the pretext of showing him how the sewing machine worked. He sexually abused him, and he and the lay worker ended up on the floor. This only happened on one occasion, as the person normally in charge of the shop was absent. He did not report this incident, as he was too frightened.

2.209Another resident, present in the 1960s, alleged that he had been raped while he was a pupil in Upton. He stated that he awoke on a number of occasions to find a dark figure groping him. He stated that, on one occasion, a lay member of staff persuaded him to accompany him to the kitchen for the purpose of giving him cookies and milk. While in the kitchen, the man pushed up against him and attempted to lift him up. However, the witness stated that he froze and the lay worker got a fright and stopped. However, he was told to go straight to bed and not to say anything.

2.210Another complainant, present in the mid to late 1960s, said that he was sexually abused by a man named Mr Vance51 who came into the School and would take the boys out for a walk. He would attempt to fondle him when they were out for the walks. He says he fought off his advances.

The statement of Fr Giovani

2.211Although he was not called to give evidence, the Committee were able to consider a statement made by Fr Giovani, who was Prefect in Upton during the mid-1950s.

2.212Fr Giovani stated that one of the most distressing memories he had of Upton was when he and Br Alfonso discovered that one of the primary teachers had been sexually abusing the boys. He stated that Br Alfonso immediately reported the matter to the Resident Manager, and the teacher was dismissed. He also stated that he and Br Alfonso discovered two members of the Community, Brs Fausto and Constantin, engaged in similar activities. Again, Br Alfonso reported the matter to the Resident Manager, and the offenders were removed from the School.

The Institute of Charity internal survey

2.213One section of the internal survey conducted by the Institute of Charity related to allegations of sexual abuse in Upton.

2.214Br Tomasso said that, as a student residing in Upton in the 1950s, he had been told that Br Constantin had been removed for interfering with the boys. He had also heard that Br Fausto was engaged in similar activities. Fr Stefano said that he had heard from Br Romano52 that Mr Vance had been interfering with the boys.

2.215One respondent to the survey stated that, in the mid-1950s, a teacher had been fired for abusing boys behind the blackboard. He also stated that this individual had found employment in a local school a week later.

Conclusions on sexual abuse is impossible to quantify the full extent of sexual abuse by religious and lay staff in Upton. The documented cases disclose that it was widespread and it is very likely that more abuse happened than was recorded.

2.Sexual abuse by religious was a chronic problem: a timeline of documented and admitted cases of sexual abuse shows that—

a.For more than half the relevant period, there was at least one abuser working there;

b.For more than one third of the period, there were at least two abusers present;

c.For periods of years in the 1950s, there were at least three abusers present;

d.In the course of two separate years, there were at least four abusers present in Upton at the same time.

3.The succession of cases that confronted the authorities must have alerted them to the scale of the problem, and to the need for a thorough ongoing investigation as to how deep the problem went among the Brothers and staff in Upton. Such an investigation did not happen. Instead, each case was dealt with individually, as if no other case had occurred.

4.Br Alfonso brought about the exposure of a large number of sexual abusers, and gave rise to the question whether any of them would have been discovered if he had not been there.

5.The question in this Institution arises, as it does in many others, as to whether the discovery of a large number of abusers represented a period that was a bad time for abuse or a good time for the discovery of abuse.

6.Transferring abusers to other institutions where they would be in contact with children put those children at risk.

7.The Order was aware of the criminal nature of the conduct, but did not report it as a crime.

8.Sexual abuse was dealt with in a manner that put the interests of the Order, the Institution and even the abuser ahead of the protection of the children.

9.The Order did not expel members for sexual abuse.

10.The extent and prevalence of the problem were not addressed.

Sexual activity amongst the boys: documented cases

A case from 1936 which led to a Special Inspection of Upton by the Department of Education

2.217The issue of sexual activity amongst boys in Upton came to the attention of the Department of Education in 1936, when it was notified by the Attorney General’s office about criminal cases that had come before Cork Circuit Court, involving former residents of both Greenmount and Upton Industrial Schools. The facts were that two former pupils of Upton, aged 19 and 16 years respectively, were convicted of crimes including attempted buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault. The boys were sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

2.218The Attorney General was the prosecuting authority at the time, and he felt it necessary to notify the Department because the defendants in their court depositions dated ‘their original misconduct to a time when they were detained in the Industrial Schools …’. Prosecuting counsel reported to the Attorney General that:

The revelations about Upton and Greenmount, at this sittings have given me furiously to think about Industrial Schools and Religious Orders …

2.219The Attorney General’s office wrote a carefully phrased letter to the Minister for Education, not making reference to the charges or other sexual activity, but simply referring to ‘misconduct’ and respectfully suggesting that the Department should take some form of intervention:

The Attorney General is slow to draw unfavourable general conclusions from these cases, and he transmits the information merely in the hope that the Minister in collaboration with the School Authorities may be able to devise some means of keeping the number of such cases in future at the lowest possible level.

2.220The letter went on to suggest a remedy:

The Minister may take the view, which would be shared by the Attorney General, that a closer supervision of the older boys would be calculated to discourage the formation of these unfortunate habits.

2.221It nevertheless acknowledged the problem for school authorities:

The Attorney General is fully alive to the great difficulty experienced by the school authorities in eliminating as far as possible these particular tendencies on the part of the older boys.

2.222The Minister for Education directed his Department officials to conduct a special inspection of both Greenmount and Upton, with particular emphasis on the supervision methods employed at both schools. This special inspection took place on 1st and 2nd December 1936 and was conducted by two officials of the Department, namely the Inspector of Industrial Schools and the Deputy Chief Inspector of the Primary Branch. The Minister considered that, as the matter was very grave, the services of a very experienced inspector from the Primary School Branch were required to assist the Industrial Schools Inspector, hence the appointment of the Deputy Chief Inspector of the Primary Branch. The internal Departmental memoranda made it clear that their brief was only to inspect the supervision practices at both schools, because:

… their visit is really one of inspection rather than enquiry but they should if necessary impress on the manager of the two schools the gravity of the recent cases, the need for stricter supervision etc.

2.223The only other guidance provided to the two Inspectors, regarding the inspection of supervision at these two schools, was that they should ascertain ‘the measures taken to prevent or put an end to the occurrences which gave rise to the recent cases before the Cork Courts’.

2.224The Inspectors submitted their report to the Assistant Secretary of the Department on 14th December 1936. In it, they noted that the ‘supervision exercised in both schools is adequate in ordinary circumstances and the recent occurrences will tend to keep the school authorities on the alert’. However, the Inspectors gave it as their opinion that there was always a danger of sexual activity occurring between boys, which could be increased in particular circumstances:

there is an ever present danger of these cases arising no matter how well planned the supervision and the danger is aggravated when, as in the case of Greenmount, a member of the staff is known to have been implicated.

2.225The Inspectors particularly stressed the need for supervision of the older boys:

The problem, as we understand it, is for obvious reasons a most difficult one to deal with and we consider the only action that can be taken is to impress on the Manager (verbally for preference) of each boys school the possibility of such cases occurring and the necessity for close and constant supervision of the boys, especially the senior boys i.e. boys over 14 years of age, in all their activities.

2.226The Inspectors noted that members of the Community were always present during boys’ recreation and free time. In addition, a Rosminian priest or Brother slept in each of the dormitories, and the Superior made visits to the dormitories. Furthermore, the Resident Manager had prevailed upon the senior boys who were destined for the Novitiate, unbeknownst to each other, to report to him ‘doubtful conduct among the boys’, in an attempt to prevent such activity occurring.

2.227The Department informed the Attorney General’s office on 30th December 1936 of the outcome of the special investigation, and that the Minister for Education was ‘satisfied that everything possible is now being done to stamp out and to prevent a re-currence of the practices referred to in the cases in question’. The letter added that the Minister ‘also approved of a suggestion that the Inspector of Industrial Schools should impress upon managers of Boys’ Schools the danger of such practices existing and the importance of continual and close supervision of the senior boys’.

2.228The importance of the court cases was clear to the Upton authorities and beyond. Writing to Fr Orsino in Rome on 20th October 1936 about his brother, Fr Giuseppe, the Resident Manager, Fr Gerodi,53 described how the Manager was detained on urgent business:

Fr Giuseppe was unable to be away from Upton, owing to a matter which had troubled him much for several weeks and during last week he had to be on call on the telephone … Some ex-Upton boys got into very serious trouble, and there was very great danger that the reputation of the School would suffer.

2.229That appeared to be the end of the matter, in the eyes of the Department, until another case involving a former Upton boy came to the attention of the Gardaí in Cork in 1944.


  • The Inspectors considered the supervision as described to them to be satisfactory, while acknowledging the difficulty of dealing with the problem, and the only step they took was verbal exhortation as to supervision.
  • No new measures were put in place, yet the Minister was able to inform the Attorney General that he was satisfied that everything possible was ‘now’ being done to deal with the problem.
  • The School authorities were concerned about the ‘very great danger’ to the reputation of the School.

The case from 1944

2.231Alarming evidence of more extensive sexual activity among the boys at Upton came to light in August 1944. A former resident of the School, who had been detained there from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, was arrested and charged with larceny. The boy had been released early from Upton on licence to a farmer and was considered very troublesome. He was convicted and sentenced to two years’ detention in Daingean Reformatory in 1944.

2.232The boy was medically examined while he was in custody, and he was found to be suffering from venereal disease. He admitted that, while he was resident in Upton, he had engaged in anal intercourse with other boys on several occasions, and he made a statement to the Gardaí in which he named seven other boys with whom he had engaged in such acts, one of whom had died in the intervening period. The Gardaí interviewed the six boys, of whom all but two denied the allegations.

2.233In their statements, the boys who admitted such sexual activity with each other gave explicit details of the acts, which took place in a number of locations such as the kitchen attached to the infirmary, the farm, water closets, the dormitory and the infirmary. One of the boys complained in his statement that he had been anally raped on approximately 10 occasions during his time there. He said that he told one of the Brothers what this boy was doing to him but, when the matter was reported to the Resident Manager, Fr Fabiano, the latter beat him. This boy named five other boys with whom he had committed these acts.

2.234The two boys who had made admissions had been discharged from the School on the expiration of their detention orders and were residing with their parents. The prosecuting authorities decided that they, together with the first boy, who was in Daingean, should be charged, and that the remaining boys who had denied the allegations were not to be prosecuted.

2.235The authorities at the School did not relish the prospect of another trial of sex charges involving boys from Upton, and they went to work to try to prevent the prosecution going ahead. When the local State Solicitor was at the District Court in Cork, he was approached by a senior member of the Order, who pointed out to him that the offences took place a long time ago when the boys were very young. He said that the boy in Daingean was to blame for the incidents, that the other boys ‘did not realise what they were doing’ and that they had been punished accordingly at the School and were now leading good lives. He specifically asked the State Solicitor ‘that no prosecution should be taken’.

2.236The Resident Manager of Upton, Fr Fabiano, followed up this representation with a letter to the State Solicitor in 1944. He stated that the School had been aware of sexual activity amongst the boys in question, and had dealt with the two boys at that time who ‘afterwards became very good’. He impressed upon the State Solicitor that no good would be derived from prosecuting the two boys who had now changed their ways and were now upright citizens. He said:

We believe that we have attained our object when we make of these boys upright law abiding citizens, but it is now unjust to draw into the limelight the sins of their youth or perhaps I should say misdemeanours as they may not have been sins at all.

2.237Fr Fabiano took a benign view:

I wonder if the law in this case is being interpreted rightly or if the name attributed to the crime of adults can rightly be applied to children who often may not know that they are breaking the law of God let alone the law of the State.

2.238In praise of the children, he asserted that they ‘are good normal children perhaps better than the average and have a right to their good name’.

2.239These efforts proved successful, and the State Solicitor recommended that the three boys should not be prosecuted, and the Attorney General agreed. The reasons were, first, that the boy at the centre of the allegations was already serving a two-year sentence of detention at Daingean, and it was felt that no benefit would be derived from a further prosecution. Secondly, with regard to the other two boys, it was felt that, having considered all the circumstances of the case, no prosecutions should be taken. Each of these reasons existed at the time when the boys were charged, and the only new development was the opposition of the Upton authorities to a prosecution.

2.240There could have been strong arguments put forward for not proceeding with this prosecution, but one of the motives of the Manager appears to have been to avoid adverse publicity and ‘very great danger’ to the reputation of the School. The attitude to sex between boys, that he advanced in his letter seeking to stop the case, was very different from what emerged from their attitude in other cases.

2.241An unwelcome consequence of this Garda investigation for the School management was the renewed attention of the Department of Education. The Superintendent of Bandon Gardaí informed the Inspector of the Department of Education in 1944 of the charges being brought against the three boys. An internal enquiry was mooted by the Department of Education, but it was decided that there was no point in writing to the Resident Manager of Upton to ask him ‘to explain how these acts went undetected until it had been proved that they took place’, i.e. until after the court cases. Such an enquiry never went ahead, presumably because there were no prosecutions.

2.242The Department was unsure as to how it should deal with the situation, but eventually decided almost two months later to write to the Resident Manager to express the ‘Minister’s grave concern at the continued prevalence of this serious vice in the School’. This the Inspector of Industrial Schools duly did, by letter dated early the following year. He expressed in very strong terms his concern on behalf of the Minister of the ‘continued prevalence of sodomy amongst the boys’ in Upton, and he specifically drew attention to the 1936 Special Inspection, whereby the need for tighter supervision of senior boys was stressed to the Resident Manager at the time. The letter also expressed, even more forcefully, the burden on the Minister who, as the regulator of all industrial schools, was placed in a grave predicament when these allegations of sodomy arose. In order to impress upon the Resident Manager the urgency and problem posed by sexual abuse amongst the boys, he threatened that the school certificate would be withdrawn if radical action was not taken to eradicate the problem:

The danger that this is so places a burden of the gravest responsibility on the Minister, since it is by virtue of his continued recognition of the School as an industrial school that a steady stream of young boys are sent there under the Children Acts. If it should become clear that this ruinous vice has taken firm root in your school and cannot be eradicated so that boys are exposed to an abnormal degree to the danger of indulging in it, the Minister may feel bound to withdraw his recognition from the School.

2.243He then requested the Resident Manager in the letter to take ‘radical action immediately to stamp out this vice’, by tightening up supervision and keeping surveillance of boys over the age of 14 years, with particular attention to their activities on the farm.

2.244This letter evoked a quick and indignant response from both the Resident Manager and the Provincial at Upton. The Resident Manager in his letter to the Department admitted that ‘we do get odd cases of immorality’, but ‘I most emphatically deny that this school is the den of iniquity implied in your letter’. Fr Fabiano defended the management of the School in unequivocal terms, stating:

It has always been my greatest anxiety to see that the boys are moral in every way and that they are never exposed to any risk, whatsoever, in other words as far as it is humanly possible this particular danger is guarded against.

2.245He went on in the letter to defend the actions of the school staff in preventing such abuses taking place, stating that he had 18 years’ experience in the School and knew how to protect the boys’ morality, in addition to making frequent visits to the farm and the whole school ‘at all sorts of odd and unusual times’ and having ‘always dealt severely with anything like indecent conduct and have taken a particular interest in the boys concerned making sure they become God fearing boys’. The Resident Manager ended his six-page letter with a challenging declaration:

If the minister is worried about the welfare of these children and is ready to accept the evidence at its face value notwithstanding Fr Giuseppe’s statement to the contrary I am authorised to state that he (Fr Giuseppe) is willing to hand up the certificate in the interests and for the safety of the religious staff dealing with the school.

2.246The Provincial, Fr Giuseppe, also wrote to the Department on the same day, expressing his outrage and annoyance, but went further and expressed his desire to resign the certificate of the School and prevailed upon the Inspector ‘to make provision as soon as possible for the committed children at present in the care of the Fathers of Charity in this school’.

2.247The fact that the Department did not take very seriously the Provincial’s threat to close the School can be gleaned from an internal memorandum. They considered that the decision by the Provincial was made ‘in a fit of pique, seeing that this incident follows on the heels of the clean up at his other school, Clonmel’. However, they sought to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Upton authorities by issuing a ‘mild apology’ and explaining the reason behind the forceful letter that was sent. They wrote to the Provincial and offered the explanation that the Department thought that, when the two inspectors visited the School in 1936 and urged stricter supervision, that was the end of the matter of sodomy. When it came to light in 1944 that abuses had taken place over a further seven-year period from 1938, this gave rise ‘of grave concern and disappointment’. The statements of the boys were also furnished to the Provincial, in the hope that this would clarify and explain the gravity of the situation and the response of the Department:

I have no doubt that you will recognise this when you have read the statements, and that you will understand why it was considered desirable to urge you in the strongest terms to spare no efforts to stamp out this form of misconduct in your School.

2.248It did not have the desired effect on the Resident Manager. Instead, after having read the statements of the three boys, he wrote a very defensive letter to the Inspector, dismissing his concerns outright. As to the statements of the three boys, the Manager analysed them and pointed out reasons why they should not be believed, and he referred to the difficult backgrounds from which each of them came. He certainly did not think that he was in any way to blame for the misconduct of the boys, and insisted that the acts complained of in the statements were well known to him and he had done everything in his power to be vigilant:

I do not know that there is a case mentioned in any of the statements which was not either known or suspected and every vigilance was exercised.

2.249Instead of attempting to understand or alleviate the concerns of the Department in this matter, the Resident Manager took the moral high ground and dismissed outright the stance taken by the Department:

My conscience is quite clear and untroubled about the whole matter and I do not believe I could have done more.

2.250The Assistant Secretary stated in an internal memorandum in 1945 to the Secretary that the letter ‘is reasonable enough on the whole’ and that he did not expect that the Resident Manager would actually resign the certificate. The course taken by the Department was simply to do nothing more about the matter and to let it all blow over. When the Medical Inspector, Dr Anna McCabe,54 carried out a routine General Inspection of the School on 19th March 1945, she had a long discussion with Fr Giuseppe about the situation and particularly his threat to resign the certificate. She considered that the threat was ‘a bit of a bluff’. The Manager informed her that he could always turn the School into a secondary boarding school. By April 1945, a reply to the Manager’s letter had not been issued from the Department, and they felt it was unnecessary to do so and that it was safe to ‘assume that the Provincial will not pursue his threat to resign the Cert. of the School?’.


  • This episode illustrates the priority given by the school authorities to avoiding adverse publicity.
  • The Resident Manager was prepared to make light of what was considered to be the most heinous conduct that a boy could commit in Upton, in an effort to stop the prosecution and thus avoid adverse publicity or ‘danger to the reputation of the school’.
  • The correspondence demonstrates the weakness of the Department; first it did not achieve its purpose, second to assert its entitlement to supervise this School, and third to protect vulnerable children.

Neglect and emotional abuse

2.252The Department of Education and Science furnished, as part of the discovery process, General and Medical Inspection Reports for Upton spanning the period 1939 to 1966. Although a number of them are missing for various years, they are a valuable source of information on the conditions that prevailed in the School at the time. These documents allowed the Committee to view complainants’ evidence in the light of contemporary records.

Living conditions

2.253The Department’s Medical Inspector, Dr Anna McCabe, considered the School ‘well run’ and the premises ‘well kept’ for the most part. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, her reports reflect anticipation of improvements in general living conditions, but any such improvements occurred very slowly. A difficulty with Dr McCabe’s reports is the fact that no specific information is provided as to the actual condition of the School or the nature of the improvements needed. The food and clothing of the boys were the two main areas with which she was least satisfied, and these are discussed in detail in the paragraphs below.

2.254After a General Inspection of Upton on 9th June 1939, Dr McCabe was very impressed with the School. She found that the house and grounds were ‘in good order’ and the ‘boys appeared very healthy and bright’ and their physical condition was ‘excellent’. Apart from their outward appearance, Dr McCabe noted that the ‘boys all appear very pleased and content, and freely talk with their Superiors’. She also commented that the boys had ‘plenty of playing space – a great big cement yard and field’ as well as a ‘fine Swimming Pool in the grounds’.

2.255The next available record of an Inspection by Dr McCabe is a report dated 10th November 1943. On that occasion, conditions had deteriorated somewhat from 1939. Dr McCabe described the School as only ‘fairly good’ but she noted that the boys were ‘well cared and happy’. The reasons for her dissatisfaction included the fact that there were dirty tablecloths on the tables in the refectory, and the towels for the boys were worn and ragged. She recommended that these be replaced. She also called for better supervision of the boys in the dressing room and for each boy to be supplied with a toothbrush.

2.256The next available Inspection Report, two years later, reported conditions had not altered. In her report dated 19th March 1945, Dr McCabe again described the School as only ‘fairly good’ and the premises as being ‘fairly well kept’. But she did not elaborate on what needed to be done to improve conditions. She commented that improvements were being made to the School, but did not specify what the improvements were, except to say that a new kitchen was being built. Again, she found that the boys were ‘well cared and happy’.

2.257On the next General Inspection, which took place on 2nd September 1946, she found the School was ‘much improved’. Dr McCabe noted that the new kitchen was a great success and a new sanitary annexe had been added. Of even greater importance was the fact that a bungalow had been built on the grounds of the School, for the purpose of housing six nuns who were due to arrive to assist in the running of the School. Their presence, according to Dr McCabe, would bring about great changes ‘for the best’. These nuns were from the Dominican Order and arrived in Upton in October 1946.

2.258When Dr McCabe visited the School on 27th October 1947 she found ‘altogether there is a great improvement in this school’ which was due in no small measure to the arrival of the Dominican nuns. She declared that ‘the advent of the Nuns has made a great difference to the school’. In particular, she felt that the nuns had brought about much improvement on the domestic side of the house. In 1948, she noted the same improvements, again because of the nuns. In her report dated 22nd October 1948, Dr McCabe detailed that the corridors and dormitories had been repainted and the premises were clean and ‘well kept’.

2.259There are no Inspection Reports for the years 1949, 1950 and 1951. The next available Inspection Report is dated 21st May 1952. On that occasion, Dr McCabe again praised the nuns for bringing about ‘great changes’ in the dormitories and kitchens, and found that the School was altogether ‘much improved’ and the painting of the entire house was being undertaken at the time. Dr McCabe made similar comments when she visited on 17th December 1954. She remarked that the ‘school continues to improve’, particularly in the area of clothing and food.

2.260From 1947 to 1954, Dr McCabe consistently remarked on the great positive changes which had taken place at the School by the arrival of the Dominican nuns in 1946. The precise changes cannot be gleaned from her reports. However, by 1955 the nuns had to leave Upton due to staff shortages in the Dominican houses. Dr McCabe lamented the departure of the nuns in her Inspection Report of 11th November 1955 where she stated:

School has improved – Unfortunately now that the Nuns have departed I wonder if this happy state of affairs will continue.

2.261Despite the departure of the nuns, the School conditions had not deteriorated, as was evidenced by Dr McCabe in her General Inspection Report of 29th November 1956. She still considered that the School had ‘much improved’ and there was a ‘Nice Spirit’ prevailing.

2.262Dr McCabe’s Inspection Reports from 1958 to 1964 repeatedly record her anticipation of conditions improving in the School. Throughout those years, she consistently stated that ‘improvements have been made’ and ‘continue to be made’, but very little information was provided as to the exact nature of these ‘improvements’ except to say that they were occurring ‘slowly’. In 1958, Dr McCabe remarked in her report that the Resident Manager ‘is investigating the central heating’. It took another four years before central heating was installed in the School. During those years, Dr McCabe consistently described the School as ‘well run’ and the boys ‘well cared’.

2.263In 1961, with the appointment of a new Resident Manager, Fr Eduardo, Dr McCabe was positively hopeful that he would bring about greater improvements, which up to that time had been occurring slowly. She wrote, ‘Now with Fr Eduardo in charge I expect to see great works’.

2.264Dr McCabe’s last inspection was carried out on 12th May 1964. On that occasion, the Resident Manager, Fr Eduardo, came in for particular praise by her:

Fr Eduardo deserves the greatest praise for the work he has done since his appointment. He has redecorated all the school inside and outside and its appearance is much better and brighter. Great improvements everywhere.

2.265Every area of the School on that occasion was referred to as being ‘very good’, including the food and diet of the boys, which had been an ongoing issue for the Medical Inspector for a number of years. Even the clothing on that occasion was described as ‘much better’.

2.266Her view, however, was contradicted by the Lord Mayor of Cork, who visited Upton in January 1965 with a number of students. His report gave a very different account of life at the School. Each week, a number of students from Cork visited Upton ‘to help brighten the lives of the boys’. On one of these visits, the Lord Mayor was invited to join them, which he did on 26th January 1965. Whilst there, he admitted to taking ‘an unofficial tour of the buildings’ and he arrived in the dining room while the boys were preparing for tea. The scene that greeted him ‘came as quite a shock’. He went so far as to say that:

The conditions I saw would not be tolerated in a workhouse of by-gone days.

2.267The conditions in the dining room, which came as such a shock to the Lord Mayor, were the battered tin plates and cups from which the boys ate and drank, the dirty tables stacked high with piles of bread, and the lack of knives and forks. One Brother and a woman did the entire cooking for 130 boys.

2.268He was also critical of the boys’ dormitories, where he found ‘some eighty beds all closely packed together’. Apart from the lack of privacy, he found that the pillows were hard ‘as if made of straw’ and there ‘didn’t appear to be any sheets’. He commented:

It is bad enough to see delinquents subjected to these conditions but orphans who are there through no fault of their own should surely deserve more humane treatment.

2.269The only positive remark he had to make was in respect of the recreational facilities, but felt that ‘surely essentials should come first’. He concluded from what he saw that:

It is hard to visualise any of these lads adapting themselves to conditions in the outside world after their years in Upton.

2.270This report reached the Department of Education and it prompted them to dispatch a senior officer, Mr McDevitt, to inspect the School on 4th and 5th March 1965.

2.271In his report following his inspection, Mr McDevitt ‘found the school generally very much improved’. He commented on each of the complaints raised by the Lord Mayor. First, he reported that each boy received a fork and spoon, but confirmed there was a shortage of knives, with only 30 in existence, which resulted in two knives being supplied to each table of eight boys. He noted that the Brother in charge of the kitchen complained of the shortage of knives. Secondly, he disagreed that the boys used tin cups, stating that the tableware was aluminium, which had been purchased in the interests of hygiene, as the Department of Health had issued a warning on the dangers of eating from chipped or cracked delph. Previously, according to the report, delph cups were used in the School. He did, however, concede that, owing to constant wear and tear, the aluminium plates and cups had become battered and needed to be replaced. Thirdly, he reported that the dining hall was adequately heated, that tablecloths were not used in any industrial school, and the tables were newly topped with formica. Fourthly, he found that the kitchen was adequate, with first-class equipment, but it was supervised by a Brother who ‘has had a nervous breakdown and seems rather neurotic’.

2.272Mr McDevitt was of the view that the dormitories were ‘highly satisfactory’. He added that there were two sheets to every bed and a blanket underneath, and that the pillows were stuffed with either feathers or fibre. He concluded that the School ‘has improved immensely’. In support of this conclusion, he cited figures provided to him by the Brothers that £32,000 had been spent: on renovating the toilets, play hall and T.V. room; on the central heating; and in extending the dormitories and shower rooms.

2.273That appears to have been the end of the matter. At the Phase I hearing, Fr O’Reilly, when questioned about the Lord Mayor’s report, conceded that a ‘lot of his comments – would have to be accepted’. But he added that:

… a lot of it depended really on what a person’s background was. If [he] had extensive experience in other places where the standards were entirely different obviously then his criticisms were justified. But if the Inspector had a different standard then that told its own story obviously.

2.274The final General Inspection of Upton took place on 15th June 1966, shortly before its closure, by Dr Lysaght. He provided a very detailed and lengthy report on the School. His overall observations of the School were good. He found that the premises ‘for the most part’ were in a ‘reasonable state of repair’ but the roof in the recreation hall was leaking. He was critical of the lack of wardrobes and lockers available in the boys’ dormitories, which he viewed as a necessity. The mattresses on the beds he felt could be replaced, as wire meshing and film were outdated. His report noted that there was a modern bathroom in place, fitted with communal showers. Dr Lysaght noted that the Resident Manager gave sex education classes to the boys. Dr Lysaght was very impressed by Fr Eduardo, the Resident Manager, as he came across as someone ‘very interested in his work and devoted to the boys’ welfare and sorry at the prospect of the school closing down’.


2.275The Rosminians concede that boys were hungry in Upton. Fr O’Reilly, at the Phase III public hearing, said, ‘I absolutely accept that children were hungry …’.

2.276Dr McCabe’s reports were not of great assistance, because she describes the food in very general terms as being ‘satisfactory’ or ‘could be improved’. Nevertheless, she repeatedly recommended to the Brother in charge of the kitchen to vary the diet.

2.277Dr McCabe, in her report dated 21st June 1939, summed up the boys’ food as ‘good in quantity, quality and variety’. Thereafter, in the 1940s it appears to have deteriorated, as Dr McCabe described it as ‘fairly satisfactory’ or ‘satisfactory’. No precise details of the quality, quantity or type of food provided can be elicited from these reports. A number of reports are missing for the 1940s and early 1950s. The reports of 1943 and 1945 characterised the food as ‘fairly satisfactory’. In 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1952, Dr McCabe described the food as ‘satisfactory’. There are no Inspection Reports from 1949 to 1951.

2.278When Dr McCabe visited the School on 27th November 1953, she commented that the food was ‘much better’. Between 1953 and 1962, her reports regularly described the food as ‘improved’, although it is not clear what it had improved from or what it was actually like. Her report of 1955 categorised the food as ‘very good’. But, by the following year, problems had arisen again with the food, as her report of 29th November 1956 asserted that the food ‘could be improved’.

2.279Dr McCabe’s report of 1956 gives some indication of the problem regarding the food, namely that not enough food was being given. In particular, she was critical of the insufficient quantities of meat and milk provided for the boys. At the time, only 15lbs of meat per meal was provided for 180 boys, and she recommended to the Brother in charge that this should be increased to between 30lbs and 45lbs. She also recommended that each boy should be given one pint of milk per day. In addition, she suggested that honey or golden syrup and ‘vitaminised’ margarine should be supplied at lunchtime.

2.280In 1957, when Dr McCabe called on the School on 1st November, she again reported that the food ‘could be improved’ but added that it was ‘on the whole not too bad’. From her 1957 report, no information can be gleaned as to what the nature of the problem with the food was or how it could be improved. Unlike her report in 1956, she provided no recommendations to improve the food. Neither did she report whether her 1956 recommendation had been implemented.

2.281Former residents of Upton complained that they were constantly hungry and that the food provided was of poor quality. One witness, who had been resident in Upton throughout the 1950s, complained that he was ‘always hungry’ while he was in the School. His hunger was such that he had to resort to eating the slops and leftovers from the priests’ kitchen. In evidence, he recounted this vivid memory of watching and waiting for his own brother, who worked in the priests’ kitchen, to bring the slop from the kitchen to a pit so that he and his friends could eat from it. He said:

He used to take the slop from the kitchen, he used to take it down to this pit. It was quite a way away from the house. I used to watch him. I used to see him take the food down to this pit, apple skins and bits and pieces. When he left I used to go down there with my little team and we used to go eat all the apple skins.

2.282A witness from the mid-1950s described the food as ‘absolutely terrible’ and insufficient in quantity, particularly for boys who had to do heavy farm work:

The food was absolutely terrible; a starvation diet is all I can say it was, everything was rationed. We were expected to work, do men’s work on that kind of food.

2.283He said that breakfast consisted of bread and dripping, with porridge on some mornings, but no milk. Bread with margarine was provided for supper, and the dinner he described as ‘pea soup’, which had the consistency of ‘gruel’.

2.284Another witness, who had been in the School for a short period of time in the late 1950s, stated that the boys were starved in Upton, and the situation was one of ‘a total lack of food’.

2.285The issue of lack of meat for the boys was also attested to by another witness. He remembered each week that two sheep were killed on the farm, but the meat from the sheep was not given to the boys. His only recollection of meat was of black pudding and sausages, in a stew with potatoes for dinner. But, as regards other forms of meat, he stated adamantly that they never got any:

Meat, you would never see meat. You might get a chunk of fat now and again but you would never see meat even though I was there and I knew it was there. The boys never got any of it.

2.286This witness who worked in the kitchen peeling potatoes saw a distinct difference in the food provided for the priests and the boys: ‘there was food for the clergy and food for the boys’.

2.287Fr O’Reilly at the Phase III public hearing, conceded that the Brothers received better quality food than the children:

I accept that the food was so much better for the people who lived and worked in the place, yes. I would say it was a better quality of food.

2.288In 1958, Dr McCabe noted that the food for the boys had ‘improved’ but, at the same time, she felt that more could be done as she ‘had a talk with the Br in charge and advised several improvements I thought could be made’. Again, there are no details provided as to what was needed to be done to ameliorate the food situation.

2.289A complaint about the food was made in May 1959, when fathers of two boys who had been transferred from Greenmount Industrial School to Upton complained to their local TD about the poor conditions prevailing in Upton, and he forwarded their complaints to the Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch. One of the complaints was that the boys only got three slices of bread with dripping for their tea each day, compared to Greenmount where they received bread and jam each evening and two ounces of cheese four nights of the week (other complaints were made about punishment). He felt compelled as their local TD to forward the complaints on to the Department of Education, but he did not think there was much merit to the complaints, as he qualified his letter by saying that much of what they said was hearsay and that, having questioned them very closely on some of the information, he had formed the view that some of it ‘is obviously exaggerated to say the least of it’.

2.290The Department of Education forwarded the letter of complaint to the Resident Manager, Fr Alanzo, for comment. He replied in a letter dated 3rd June 1959, stoutly defending the food provided in Upton:

All I can say is St. Patrick’s was always outstanding and still is regarding feeding the boys well. Our friends … did not say that our boys get sausages and eggs Sunday mornings, which they never got in Greenmount. Our boys are the admiration of all visitors, because they look so healthy. Hungry children do not look healthy.

2.291He did not take the complaints very seriously as he considered them to be ‘100% exaggerated’. Nor was the complaint taken very seriously at Department level. Dr McCabe, whose opinion was sought on the issue, dismissed the complaint outright. Her views about the complaints are contained in an internal Departmental note dated 11th June 1959, as follows:

The boys in this school are very well fed and cared. I have no comments to make on this letter as I consider it is a ‘grouse’.

2.292One witness was questioned about receiving sausages and eggs as contended by the Resident Manager in 1959, and had the following to say:

Well, it sounds as if they owe me a few breakfasts by the sounds of it. There is just no answer to that. That’s just a joke. I wouldn’t know a sausage down there if I tripped over one. That’s just not the case.

2.293When Dr McCabe inspected the School on 17th December 1959, she commented in her General Inspection Report that the ‘quality and quantity’ of the food had ‘improved’. Despite this improvement, she still felt it necessary to make further recommendations to the Brother in charge of the kitchen to vary the diet. Again, the exact nature of the problem with the food was not specified.

2.294Dr McCabe called to the School on 13th August 1960, and yet again she discussed the need for improvement with the Brother in charge of the kitchen, particularly with regard to ‘various methods of varying meals’, and in this she found him ‘most co-operative’. In her 1961 report, Dr McCabe, whilst commenting that the food and diet had improved, remarked that she had ‘discussed problem of food with Br in charge and he hopes to make further improvements’. In 1962, the food was said to have ‘improved’. By 1963 and 1964, it was ‘good’.

2.295As discussed above, the Lord Mayor’s criticisms in January 1965 led to an inspection by the Department’s Inspector, Mr McDevitt on 4th and 5th March 1965. The Mayor had not made any criticism of the food, but Mr McDevitt investigated that matter and uncovered a problem with the kitchen and the diet. The source of the problem, as he saw it, lay with the ‘neurotic’ Brother who was in charge of the kitchen. When questioned about the food by Mr McDevitt, this Brother replied that the ‘diet was highly satisfactory except that the milk and cake rations were inadequate’. He was also questioned about supplying margarine rather than butter to the boys, and his reply was that margarine was more nutritious. Mr McDevitt summed up this Brother as the ‘problem child of the community and as the likely original source of the complaints made to the Minister’. When he mentioned this Brother to other members of the Rosminian Community, they replied ‘with either a smile or an expression of sympathy for his nervous condition’. Yet this Brother was in charge of supplying the daily nutritional requirements for all the boys.

2.296Overall, Mr McDevitt did not give much credence to the Lord Mayor’s complaints, and the root of the problem, as he saw it, lay with the Brother in charge of the kitchen. From the documents furnished, no action was taken on foot of the report with regard to this Brother.

2.297The final General Inspection of Upton took place on 15th June 1966 by Dr Lysaght. He reported in detail on the food and diet of the boys and listed the four meals a day which they received and enclosed a sample food menu. He commented that the boys get ‘all the milk they want at dinner or any other meal’. However, he noted that the Resident Manager, Fr Eduardo was ‘not altogether satisfied with the meals’ which he felt could be improved with better culinary equipment.


2.298An ongoing area of dissatisfaction for Dr McCabe, and one which she often raised in her General Inspection Reports, was the clothing provided for the children.

2.299The first recorded complaint is contained in Dr McCabe’s General Inspection Report of 10th November 1943. She described the boys’ clothing as ‘fair – but rather patched’. She had the same complaint to make two years later, on 19th March 1945, when she characterised the clothing as ‘Fair – rather patched’. On her next inspection, on 2nd September 1946, Dr McCabe noted that the clothing ‘Could be improved’. No details are given in this report about the exact condition of the clothing or the nature of the problem. When she spoke to the Resident Manager, he informed her that they had experienced ‘great difficulty in obtaining material for suits’, and as a result they had to purchase a number of them from shops in Cork ‘which was most expensive’. He nevertheless said that he would ‘endeavour to make improvements’. She noted that he ‘is severely hampered on account of small quota of material’ and wanted to obtain a permit for supplies so that he could ‘obtain sufficient material’.

2.300When Dr McCabe called on the School on 27th October 1947, she commented that the clothing was ‘improved’ but she gave no information as to how the clothing had improved. In her Inspection Report of 22nd October 1948, Dr McCabe again described the clothing as ‘improved’ and added that ‘much remains to be done’. Again, no further details can be elicited from her report on the extent of the problem or what exactly needed to be done to rectify the situation.

2.301Four years later, Dr McCabe, in her General Inspection Report of 21st May 1952, again found that the clothing of the boys had ‘improved’ and added that the tailors were busy making new suits. There are no Inspection Reports in existence between 1948 and 1952. For the years 1953 and 1954, Dr McCabe described the clothing situation as ‘much improved’. In her Inspection Report of 1955, clothing was simply described as ‘improved’ but, by 1956, the clothing was again described by Dr McCabe as ‘much improved’. From 1957 to 1960, Dr McCabe consistently used the words ‘improved’ or ‘much improved’ in the section on clothing in her General Inspection Reports.

2.302On 22nd February 1961, Dr McCabe noted that the clothing was ‘improved’, but she specifically recommended that the boys ‘could do with a new issue of clothing all around’. The subsequent Inspection Reports do not provide any insight as to whether this recommendation was carried out. When she visited the School on 20th June 1962, she again remarked that the clothing was ‘improved’. In 1963, she said it was ‘much improved’ and, by 1964, she described it as ‘much better’.

2.303The Lord Mayor, who visited the School in January 1965, was also critical of the boys’ clothes. He was told the boys slept in their shirts, as they had no nightclothes. According to his report, their everyday clothing was ‘rough and ready’.

2.304The General Inspection Report of 15th June 1966 by Dr Lysaght provided somewhat more information on this matter. He described the boys as being ‘well clothed neat and clean’. According to his report, the tailor on site made the boys’ suits with the assistance of some of the boys. In the summer, they wore shorts and blazers.

2.305A former resident who was in the School in the 1950s gave evidence about the type of clothes the boys wore. He told the Committee that the clothes were unsuitable and inadequate, and summed up the situation as follows:

We wore the same things year in year out; khaki shirt, khaki pants and a short jacket. No pullovers, no underwear.

2.306The footwear, he said, consisted of leather ankle boots, which were made by the boys. He said that sometimes he had socks and sometimes he didn’t, by reason of the fact that they each got only one pair, and when they needed repair they were sent to the knitting shop. While they were being repaired, boys went without socks, as there was no replacement.

2.307Another witness, who was in Upton in the 1950s, described the clothes he wore as ‘rags’, comprising a top, shorts and a pair of sandals. He also said that they wore no underwear and had a change of clothes once a week. They did have nightclothes, in the form of a nightdress, and there were no heavy winter clothes provided.


2.308Bed-wetting was a persistent problem for some of the boys in the School. It was treated as a disciplinary issue by the Rosminians, and they attempted to solve the problem by the use of physical punishment. They sought at the time to halt the problem by waking children during the night to go to the toilet. Boys who wet the bed were known as ‘slashers’ and were placed in a separate section of the dormitory. Each morning, these boys had to take their wet sheets or mattresses to the boiler house to dry. Fr Matthew Gaffney, in his general statement in 2002, accepted that this was the regime regarding bed-wetting, but stated that:

In past decades the psychological nature of the difficulty was not understood, and it was thought that deterrence through corporal punishment or embarrassment in front of others was an appropriate remedy. I can appreciate by present standards, that such a response was obviously humiliating and unfair.

2.309Former residents gave evidence of being beaten for bed-wetting. This allegation is accepted by the Rosminians. Fr O’Reilly, at the Phase III public hearing, stated, ‘I accept that boys, regrettably, were punished for bed-wetting’.

2.310Bed-wetting was seen principally as a disciplinary issue. Fr O’Reilly added, ‘the response to bed-wetting was more than wholly inadequate, it was terrible. It was terrible on boys to be punished for this’.

2.311He also conceded that the practice of carrying wet sheets down to the boiler house to dry was a humiliating ritual for the boys:

… I think that boys felt humiliated by having to carry sheets. Whether it was intended to do that or not, I don’t know. But obviously, having to carry your sheet in front of other boys … was a deeply embarrassing thing to boys. There might have been just a practical reason in terms of removing the sheets from the bed where they’re wet to another place where they’ll be dried. But obviously it was embarrassing.

2.312A witness, who arrived in the School in the late 1940s, recalled that he was relegated to the bed-wetting section of the dormitory. He clearly remembered the nightly visits to the dormitory by the night watchman, who used to call the boys three times during the night to go to the toilet. He described this night watchman as a ‘savage’, as he would hit the boys with his walking stick to wake them and get them out of bed. According to this witness, it was like trying to ‘run the gauntlet’ to the toilet, trying to avoid a blow from this man’s walking stick. If they wet the bed during the night, the next day they had to carry their mattress across to the boiler house to dry, which this witness found degrading. On the way to the boiler house, they were teased and humiliated by the other boys. His entire memory of Upton was of ‘stale urine, overflowing toilets, abuse …’. This witness also recollected that the night watchman used to have a slice of bread and butter with sugar for his ‘pets’ that did not wet the bed. Eventually, he got the treat of bread and sugar when he stopped wetting the bed so in that sense he felt that giving a treat did work in halting bed-wetting.

2.313Another witness who was in the School in the 1950s also remembered that the same night watchman would do the rounds of the dormitory, and would wake the boys who wet the bed by roaring at them and hitting them with his blackthorn stick. Even though he himself did not wet the bed, he recalled that this practice of hitting the boys to get them out of bed continued from the time he arrived until the time he left the School, which was over a five-year period.

2.314One witness remembered being sent to the ‘slashers’ dormitory, which was the name given for those who wet the bed. To his knowledge, he did not wet the bed in the previous industrial schools he had attended. The punishment for bed-wetting was to receive benders.

2.315The Committee also heard evidence from Br Alfonso. As Prefect in Upton for a period of six years, he was a dominant figure, and his evidence is dealt with in more detail in earlier sections. He completely rejected the allegation that there was an atmosphere of fear in Upton, and he insisted that during his time in Upton he never beat anyone for bed-wetting and never saw anyone being beaten for it.

Education and trades

2.316The Order stated that the boys were educated to primary level only. According to the records of the Rosminians, 339 boys sat the Primary Certificate Examination between 1943 and 1966,55 of whom 167 passed, 164 failed and 8 were disqualified. The Irish language was the main difficulty. When they reached 14 years of age, their formal education ceased and they went to work in the trade shops, such as the tailors or the shoemakers or on the farm.

2.317One witness, who spent approximately five years in Upton in the 1950s, recalled that when he first arrived in the School he was unable to read or write. However, while at Upton he learnt to read and write, an achievement that he attributed to the lay teacher there who was ‘very good’. He went on to sit the Primary Certificate, which he passed. When his schooling ended, he was sent to work full-time in the garden and subsequently on the farm.

2.318A witness who was in Upton in the 1960s did not recall learning anything much while he was there. He had attained fifth class standard before going to Upton and, once there, he compared the education to being back ‘into first class again …’. He felt that he didn’t learn anything more than what he had been taught prior to going there. His schooling lasted a total of three weeks, and then he was sent to work in the Brothers’ kitchen to wash pots and pans and scrub the floor. He remained there full-time until he came back from holidays one year – he had delayed his return and he was sent to the garden as a punishment for this, to work for the rest of his time there.

2.319One witness described how the regime of punishment interfered with his ability to learn in the classroom and in the tailor’s shop. In particular, he recalled that another lay teacher used to hit him on the tips of his fingers with a map, which was cylindrical in shape and wrapped around a stick. According to him, it was very hard to learn anything because, as he said in evidence:

It was very, very hard to learn anything because everything was pressure and violence, abuse, “shut up”, “sit down”. I can never remember anyone saying anything with any degree or modicum of affection or tenderness, I can never remember.

2.320Not all boys learnt a trade in Upton. Some of them, once their schooling ended at the age of 14, were sent to work in the kitchen or the farm or in the garden, and some worked with the builder who was on site at the time of the renovations taking place in Upton. A number of boys went on to become members of the Rosminian Order.

2.321No secondary education was available in Upton itself as there was no secondary school. However, boys who were sent forward to the Novitiate in Omeath received secondary education, as was evidenced by Fr O’Reilly. Reference was made by Fr. Christiano to three to four boys who attended Omeath returned to the School during holidays etc. They were segregated from the other boys. They slept in an old infirmary, ate in a small refectory and did odd jobs around the School.

2.322Br Nicoli,56 who was the Secretary in Upton for over 15 years until the late 1960s, was, according to the Rosminians, ‘quite meticulous in sourcing work and trades for boys’ once they left the School at 16 years of age. This Brother was unique in this regard, as he took it upon himself to seek work for the boys, since there was no policy in the School itself concerning aftercare. He kept a diary record of the number of boys who were apprenticed and engaged in different occupations. From this record it appears the boys got work in the Army, and as blacksmiths, butchers, post office clerks, postmen, draper’s assistants and welders.

Family contact

2.323The boys detained in Upton came from many of the surrounding counties and also from as far away as Dublin. They were officially allowed home in July for two weeks. They were also allowed to receive visits from parents and relatives. However, the amount of family contact depended on where the children came from and their family circumstances. For some, this meant reasonable family contact, and, for others, little or none.

2.324One witness was already one year in the School when his brother arrived. He also had regular visits from his parents. His father came almost every second week. They would be allowed to see each other alone in a room for visitors at the end of one of the corridors.

2.325The separation from family was described by one witness, who said he was deeply affected by the fact that he was sent 160 miles away from his family. He got no visits and only recently became aware that his father had extensive correspondence with the authorities, seeking to have him transferred to Artane or to an Institution nearer the family home. His mother even wrote to President De Valera at the time. His mother died in 1957, and she had been buried by the time he was told about it, despite the fact that his father telephoned and tried to have him released in time for the funeral.

2.326Another witness said he had no family contact and was prevented from going home on holidays, as the ISPCC put a stop to it because his mother had illegitimate children. He was sent home at age 16 on his own, having been institutionalised at the age of four, and only then met his sister for the first time.

2.327A witness described how, when his mother died when he was eight years old, which resulted in him being sent to an industrial school, it effectively broke the bonds between him and his siblings:

As I say, having lived in a family environment, however limited that may have been it was still a family, you still had your siblings and you had a parent and to be taken from that environment and placed in a place where you suddenly were no longer human, you were treated as a number and any chance of having any love, affection…

2.328When he was discharged from Upton, he was sent to the home of a neighbour who had previously looked after him. This arrangement was not successful, as the father of the house abused him, and he eventually ran away to sea at the age of 14. The whole experience was extremely unhappy, and he believes the neighbouring family should have been properly vetted.

2.329One witness described how, during his time in Upton, his father consistently applied to have him discharged. His family made him aware of this fact, but he was never told of it by the authorities in Upton. He did go home on holidays and his parents also visited him. They used to send him money and parcels from home.

2.330Witnesses remembered being allowed home for two weeks in the summer. For about a month beforehand, the regime was relaxed a little bit and the boys were reminded not to speak about Upton at home. The boys were also allowed to write a letter home once a month, and this letter was written for the boys on the blackboard and they were checked before they were posted.

Conclusions on neglect and emotional abuse

2.3311.At times during the relevant period, food, clothing and accommodation in Upton fell below acceptable standards, for which lack of resources was not an excuse.

2.Boys went hungry and, given the size of the farm at Upton, there was no reason for it.

3.The food that was provided to the boys was poor in quality. The Brothers and priests who lived in Upton received far better food than the children.

4.Bedwetting was a persistent problem, and children were punished, humiliated and segregated in a futile attempt to deal with it.

5.The regime of punishment and fear interfered with children’s ability to learn in the classroom.

6.Removing children to this distant Institution caused emotional harm, because it cut them off from their families and social networks.

2.332General conclusions on Upton and Ferryhouse are at paragraph 3.454 of the following Chapter on Ferryhouse.

1 Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.

2 This is a pseudonym.

3 This is a pseudonym.

4 This is a pseudonym.

5 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.

6 This is a pseudonym.

7 This is a pseudonym.

8 This is a pseudonym.

9 This is a pseudonym.

10 This is a pseudonym.

11 This is a pseudonym.

12 This is a pseudonym.

13 This is a pseudonym.

14 This is a pseudonym.

15 This is a pseudonym.

16 This is a pseudonym.

17 This is a pseudonym.

18 This is a pseudonym.

19 This is a pseudonym.

20 This is a pseudonym.

21 This is a pseudonym.

22 This is a pseudonym.

23 This is a pseudonym.

24 This is a pseudonym.

25 This is a pseudonym.

26 This is a pseudonym.

27 This is a pseudonym.

28 Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.

29 This is a pseudonym.

30 This is a pseudonym.

31 This is a pseudonym.

32 This is a pseudonym.

33 This is a pseudonym.

34 This is a pseudonym.

35 This is a pseudonym.

36 This is a pseudonym.

37 This is a pseudonym.

38 This is a pseudonym.

39 Latin for in a class of its own.

40 This is a pseudonym.

41 Latin for with a boy.

42 Latin for with boys.

43 Latin for As spoken.

44 This is a pseudonym.

45 Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.

46 Latin for without delay.

47 This is a pseudonym.

48 This is a pseudonym.

49 Latin for due caution.

50 This is a pseudonym.

51 This is a pseudonym.

52 This is a pseudonym.

53 This is a pseudonym.

54 Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.

55 Records exist for only 19 of the 23 years.

56 This is a pseudonym.

Chapter 3
St Joseph’s Industrial School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, (‘Ferryhouse’), 1885–1999


Buildings and layout

3.01St Joseph’s Industrial School is located in the townland of Ferryhouse, some three to four kilometres due east of the centre of Clonmel, on the northern bank of the river Suir, in County Tipperary. The original building was erected at a cost of £10,000 in 1884 by Count Moore, a wealthy local Catholic benefactor, and, shortly after its construction, he invited the Rosminians to run the School. He gave them an additional £1,000 to furnish the School.

3.02It was a large, three-storey red brick building located on approximately nine acres of farmland. It was cruciform in shape, with the central projection in front housing the main entrance, with the Resident Manager’s office, a reception area and the church, which included the sanctuary area. Above the entrance, set in an alcove, was a statue of St Joseph. There were steps running down to the river from the entrance. The projection to the rear housed the main staircase. A cloister at the rear of the building served as a corridor.

3.03Shortly after opening, three new wings were erected, a west and east, each with two storeys, and a north-facing building of one storey. With the main house, these buildings enclosed a yard or quadrangular area, with access through an archway on the northern side. More land was bought during the course of the following decades so that, by the 1950s, the farm had increased to approximately 50 acres. In later years, a series of buildings, including a chapel, an infirmary and various workshops, were built. The focus of the School remained the original main building. The School was entirely rebuilt during the early 1980s.

3.04The dormitories were in the two upper storeys of the original three-storey building, with senior boys on the first floor and junior boys on the second floor above. Each dormitory accommodated 100 beds and a Prefect’s room. On the ground floor were a number of offices.

3.05The west wing was a two-storey granite structure providing community accommodation, the infirmary, nurse’s room and boys’ kitchen and dining area.

3.06The two-storey east wing housed the School classrooms up until the 1960s when they moved to prefab accommodation. This area was then converted in 1967 to a junior dormitory, at which stage the dormitory accommodation was divided into junior, intermediate and senior areas. The ground floor of the east wing comprised the hall, offices and various recreational rooms.

3.07The north-facing section was a single-storey building which housed the trade shops and, in later years, various recreation areas.

3.08There were also various outhouses and maintenance sheds and, in the 1960s, an extension to the original central building was added, providing toilet and shower facilities.

3.09The Community had a separate refectory and kitchen in the main house. The Rosminian Community residence was located in the main building. All of the buildings and land still in possession of the Rosminians was transferred to the State in 2002, apart from a small holding of land unsuitable for farming south of the river Suir.

3.10A plan of these buildings is given below:

St Joseph’s Industrial School buildings plan

3.11A report has been compiled by Mr Ciaran Fahy, consulting engineer, on the physical surroundings of Ferryhouse, with particular reference to the buildings. A copy of this report is appended to this chapter.

Number of boys in Ferryhouse

3.12As can be seen from the following charts, there were between 150 and 200 boys in Ferryhouse until the 1970s. In January 1885, a Certificate was granted for the School to receive 150 boys and, in 1944, this Certificate was increased to 200. The numbers in Ferryhouse ranged from 189 boys in 1940, increasing to a high of 205 in 1960. This number decreased to 160 in 1970, but it was still a high number of boys. Thereafter, the numbers began to gradually decline. Up until the 1980s, the numbers were far in excess of the certified number.

3.13Numbers in other schools began dropping from the 1950s onwards, but Ferryhouse continued to be at or near its capacity, largely because it took children from other schools. Upton closed following a major fire in 1966, and 28 boys were transferred to Ferryhouse. The chart below shows the breakdown of numbers of residents throughout the years:

Year Certification number Type of admissions
1884 licence for 150 children Committed
1900 155 children Committed
1910 154 children Committed
1920 127 children Committed
1930 193 children Committed and voluntary
1940 189 children Committed and voluntary
1950 182 children Committed and voluntary
1960 205 Committed and voluntary
1970 160 Committed and voluntary
1994 140 Committed and voluntary
1995 80 Committed and voluntary
1996 56 Committed and voluntary
2004 36 Committed and voluntary

This data may also be illustrated in graph form as follows:

3.14The boys were aged between nine and 16 years.

First impressions of the School as described by former residents

3.15On first entering the School, several complainants described being over-awed by the numbers. One witness, who went there in the late 1940s, described his first day as follows:

Oh, it was frightening, to see them big doors open. I was introduced to the Rector at the time … who was a very nice man, he was, very pleasant. I was taken into a room. I was given some bread and cocoa, a change of clothes … Then you could say I was thrown out into the yard with the other boys, really frightening … I have never seen so many boys in my life. I thought – well, I should imagine you would expect about 50 or 60 like that was in [the convent] but when you see about 200, oh dear.

3.16A resident who was in Ferryhouse in the 1940s described his first day as fearful. His mother had recently died and five of the large family were sent to Ferryhouse. He recalled:

When I arrived, we were brought in a front door and then you came through a kind of a cloister and you came out a door and there was a clock over the door – now you didn’t see that until you came back in – and I seen this massive amount of boys. There was about 200 boys there at my time when I arrived there. There was a massive amount of boys, all ages, running, and shouting. It drove the fear of God in you and that’s the truth. We kind of cuddled together, the five of us.

3.17Another witness, in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s, also stressed the frightening impact of so many boys together at one time. On recalling his first day:

We were escorted up to a laundry house and, if I am not mistaken, the laundry house would have been underneath the main stairs or somewhere in that area of the main building of Ferryhouse before you go out to the yard from the Rector’s office. There was a little laundry room there which Br Leone1 was running and there he handed you out whatever clothing or blankets, I can’t remember what it was. I remember the smell of the laundry room. That is all I remember of it.

When I walked out the door that day and seen so many boys running around, I think it was the first and last time I actually had a good cry because I knew where I was. I didn’t know there was no come back, but I knew that was the first time I actually said to myself I really missed my mother. I realised I was after being taken away.

3.18Another witness described a similar routine at mealtime:

You lined up every morning for your meals … the small guys up the front and the bigger lads at the back. It would be like an army … you would go in and line up. There was 11 at each table and you had a leader at the top of the table, he was responsible for cutting the horrible block of margarine that each one got a square of.

3.19By the 1960s, the nineteenth-century buildings were becoming dilapidated and outmoded. A surprise inspection by the Department of Education of Ferryhouse, on 21st July 1966, referred to outmoded methods of housing children. Dr Lysaght, the Medical Inspector, described ‘a depressing air of mass communal living’ due to the large size of the dormitories and the large number of beds. His report, which is dealt with below, recommended that the dormitories should be broken into smaller units, and the Department responded by sanctioning six new prefabs for the School. These changes prefaced the huge rebuilding programme undertaken a decade later.

3.20After the School was rebuilt, some complainants described their first impression as favourable. A resident who went there in the late 1980s, after Ferryhouse had been rebuilt, said:

The first day we went down I was with the police and they were showing us around. They brought us out in the building first, they showed us where we would be just so we would settle in. Then they brought us all around the buildings, telling us what buildings was which and then brought us out to the back where there was a kind of farm, just showing us where the animals were and saying if we wanted we could help out with the animals and all. Looking around it was real nice, I thought it was going to be nicer than when I was in Michael’s beforehand, because I was in St. Michael’s for three weeks before going down. I was thinking it was real open, not closed doors everywhere. I thought it was a real nice place and I thought it would be okay.

3.21Later he added:

The first few weeks it was more or less the same like, everybody was okay. Then I think the first time I got hit was when I was in a fight with one of the lads, we had a disagreement.

First impressions and atmosphere of the School as described by staff

3.22The conditions within Ferryhouse, and its atmosphere, were vividly described by some of the former and current members of the Rosminian Order. One priest, Fr Antonio,2 who was there in the late 1960s and 1970s, described the grim conditions that he found prior to the rebuilding of the School. He told the Investigation Committee:

Things were very Dickensian in the place at the time in 1967/68 … Things were very, very bad at that time. My first vision of the dormitory were all these beds in the big dormitory, full stretched up the whole way, and all the wet beds on one side of the dormitory which was a very Dickensian situation and a cruel situation at that time.

One of the earliest memories I would have had going in there was a place at the end of the stairs and a young 12 year old would be in charge of the laundry and he would go in and take out all these shirts and bring them out and put them on the beds. A tall fella could have a shirt down to his navel and another fella could have his shirt down to his ankles.

… Some of the saddest memories I would have is of the boys who wet their bed bringing out their sheets to laundry in the morning because there was only one woman in the laundry and they used to have to bring them out.

Daily routine

3.23With small variations, the daily timetable for the boys and staff in Ferryhouse followed the activity pattern set out below:

Time Activity for boys Duty for staff
6.30 Rise/ prepare breakfast etc
7.30 Mass
8.00 Boys called/ Wash and dress Raise boys
8.30 Mass then breakfast/ polishing boots and clothing inspection etc Supervise
9.00 School/ Workshops/technical classes Mondays and Wednesdays Return to dorms to check all is clean
11.30 Playtime Supervise
12.00 to 12.45 Catechism
12.45 to 1.00 Playtime Supervise
1.00 Dinner/play Supervise
2.30 Workshops
3.00 Band until 4.45 for players
5.00 Play Supervise
5.30 School
7.45 Supper/Play Supervise
9.00 Bed Supervise until night watchman arrives/ on call

3.24In earlier years, the boys started earlier, but shifts in the time scale did not alter the basic routine.

3.25For this daily routine to run on time, the boys had to be drilled with near military precision. As one priest, Fr Ludano,3 who stayed at the School in the late 1940s and early 1950s, put it:

Probably even at that time I considered it harsh … well, there was a lot of regimentation, some of which I didn’t think was necessary. It was run almost on army lines, which I think was unnecessary.

3.26While this regimentation allowed things to run on schedule, it led to quick physical chastisement of boys who fell behind the others. One witness, resident in Ferryhouse in the late 1940s, described the regimentation and how it was enforced:

In the yard playing around. Then when evening came, bedtime, I was shown the bed I would be sleeping in, an iron cast bed. We got up in the morning, wash your face, wash your hair. There was two lines of sinks, wash basins. You had to take your shirt off, one line at a time in each line of sinks. When they were finished another line would go in. Now, we had to wash our hair and our face, cold water, carbolic soap and if we didn’t get the soap off in time we got a whack across the head with a cane so everybody had to rush to get the soap off …

Then we would go out and then we would make our beds. The other lot would go in, wash their heads and face until everybody was done. Then we would dress ourselves, down to Mass. We went to Mass every morning. After Mass we would go back up to the dormitory again, dust our beds, the frame of the beds, dust it. The laymen would come around, feel the bed. If there was a bit of dust left on it, if there was a bit left on it we got a wallop. What does a 10 or 11-year-old child have to get a wallop because there is a bit of dust on the frame of the bed?

Anyway after that we would go down to breakfast: two slices of bread and dripping, either a cup of tea or cocoa. Then we would go to the various classes, school. We had four, I think it was four lay teachers … We had no lady teachers, there was no ladies at all in the school while I was there, no ladies at all.

After school we would have our dinner. We would have to line up in the yard like an army barracks. They would shout out in Irish, ‘Stand to attention. At ease’. Line one would go into the refectory. Then line two. We didn’t say a word. If we said anything we got a wallop. We would say our grace for what was on the table, which wasn’t much. We would sit down, have that, not a word out of us. Tin plate and a spoon. We would come out and then we would start playing. Then about half past four line up again for our last meal of the day. Two slices of a bread and jam and a cup of cocoa or whatever it was, tea or cocoa then about. We would be out playing then and we would have – no, I beg your pardon. Before the lunch we would go to the workshops. I was in the knitting shop. There was a tailor shop, a shoemaker shop and that would go on for several hours. Then we would have our lunch. We lined up again for that. After that we would go out and play, and at about eight or half past eight we would go to bed then. We would say our night prayers. We would get up again in the morning, same routine again.

3.27Within this regimented timetable, each boy got to know his duty. One witness explained:

Some people who wet the bed might get a clattering and that would be the start of the day for them, after showing their sheets and the mattresses. Those that wet the bed would have to go for communal showers after Mass and then go to the office then to get the strap for the same thing … Then you had your morning chores after that. Some people cleaned the long corridors of the school, clean it. Some people cleaned the dormitories. Not everyone had morning chores, but there was a designated number of people who would do the morning chores.

Priests and Brothers in Ferryhouse

3.28The Rosminian Community in Ferryhouse generally consisted of 10 members of the Order, both priests and Brothers. All of the members of the Community lived in the School, and each had different responsibilities. The Resident Manager and the Prefects ran the School, and the Prefects had the most direct contact with the boys. However, other Brothers and priests had responsibilities with the boys to a lesser degree.

3.29Fr Stefano4 was appointed as Resident Manager of Ferryhouse in the mid-1970s. He detailed in his evidence what staff were available to him at that time. What he described was typical of the previous decades in Ferryhouse:

In the community when I arrived, I had a bursar; I had three Prefects, one for each group; and I had an assistant, a student, and a Rosminian student who was studying for the priesthood and he was there as well and he would help out in different units at different times. I had the farm manager. There was a retired gardener, a Brother who died shortly after I arrived there. I had another Brother who was helping in maintenance. There was a Brother who was in charge of the community kitchen and there was a mission secretary – that was a priest who worked full-time for the Missions raising money for our African Missions and he lived with us.

3.30Fr Stefano, therefore, had three Prefects to call upon to take care of over 150 boys. His other staff, although involved in the running of the School, were not directly involved in the day-to-day care of the boys. Throughout its history, Ferryhouse used only a small number of staff to take care of the boys. It is a fair estimate that less than 20% of the religious Community present in Ferryhouse had a direct role in the provision of care to the boys:

Sample table of staff to pupil ratio in Ferryhouse

Year Number of boys resident Total number of Rosminian Community Number of prefects Prefect/boy ratio
1930 193 9 2 96/1
1940 189 9 2 94/1
1950 182 10 2 91/1
1960 205 12 2 102/1
1970 160 12 3 53/1

Physical abuse

Physical abuse: what the Institute of Charity have conceded

3.31As far back as 1990, on the occasion of the public opening of a new school in Ferryhouse, the Provincial spoke of the boys who had been damaged by the years they spent in the old Ferryhouse, and of those who looked back in anger and bitterness on their time there. He said:

The greatest guilt has to be borne by those of us who utilised or condoned or ignored the extreme severity, even brutality which characterised at times the regime at old Ferryhouse.

3.32This awareness of the extreme severity, even brutality, of the old regime was reiterated in statements made to the Investigation Committee. Fr O’Reilly, speaking on behalf of the Order at the Phase I public hearing on 7th September 2004, outlined its position on the use of corporal punishment at St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse. He told the Investigation Committee:

I’d say that most of the boys who were in Ferryhouse would have received corporal punishment at one time or another in the course of their time there for what was regarded as misbehaviour, be that absconding, or some other thing, and I think that corporal punishment was the standard that was acceptable at that time.

3.33He went on to say, however, ‘I am sure that punishment at times for running away was excessive’.

3.34The Rosminians prepared a respondent statement in response to each complainant’s allegations of physical abuse. This statement was furnished to the Commission by Fr Matt Gaffney, Provincial Superior, in May 2002. It further clarified the attitude of the Order to the era when corporal punishment was in widespread use. He wrote:

Corporal punishment should be seen in an institutional context where the maintenance of control was an absolute necessity, and in particular in the light of social attitudes of the time. It is true that the ideal of child-care in Industrial Schools was to avoid corporal punishment when possible, but that unfortunately provided an aspiration without the means of achieving it. The absence of child-care training left staff at the schools without any practical policy other than personal judgment, which was fallible and always hard-pressed. The use of corporal punishment as a general disciplinary measure, and its uses also as a punishment or deterrent for bed wetting, absconding and other infractions, in times when corporal punishment was generally socially acceptable, produced a disciplinary environment in which the distinction between punishment and abuse could become blurred.

3.35In their Final Submission to the Investigation Committee, after all the hearings had been completed, the Rosminians wrote:

The susceptibility of corporal punishment to abuse seems inherent. If left to discretion, a cause can always be found for its use, especially where authority is threatened or insecure …

It must be said that Prefects seem to have varied widely in their use of corporal punishment. This appears to be reflected in the pattern of complaints. This in itself would suggest that problems of corporal punishment were created in part by a lack of policy and supervision.

3.36The approach taken by the Rosminians had many advantages for the complainants giving evidence to the Committee. Above all, it made it easier for them to tell of their experiences. The Rosminians’ inquisitorial approach actively engaged with the Commission in searching for facts. The victims were sometimes helped to recall details, and were often asked to add to the facts known to the Order.

3.37However, the Order were loath to admit that the kind of corporal punishment administered as part of the regime often constituted physical abuse. This contrasted with their approach to known sexual abusers, where they did not dispute the abusive nature of the behaviour.

The role of Prefect

3.38While all members of the Order and the lay teachers could use corporal punishments, the majority of the complaints received by the Investigation Committee named members of the Order who had been appointed Prefects. Until the late 1960s, when the number of dormitories was increased to three following a critical inspection, there were two Prefects, one for the junior and one for the senior section. Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee:

… it was regarded as the responsibility of the Prefects to look after the children, regardless of how many there were there … once the children came out for all activities, whether that was football or hurling or soccer in the yard or whatever it had to be, you had to organise that and you had to ensure, as far as you could, that you had an eye on all the children or as many as you possibly could have, because that is your responsibility.

3.39It was regarded as an impossible task, unless the supervision of the children also involved a degree of control over them through fear of punishment. One former Prefect told the Investigation Committee:

I certainly would have hit chaps with the palm of my hand as well if the frustration got too much … I wouldn’t have been unique, I don’t think, no … we always tried to leave that side of it to one of the others if they would do it. Somebody has to take on the responsibility of the disciplinarian, one of us could step back and let … whoever was there do it … That kind of shoved you into a role at the time as well.

3.40The Prefects, he explained:

allowed somebody to take the flak, we all do it in groups unfortunately at times, somebody else takes on this role of being the disciplinarian and everybody else can sit back and say I’ll send you to [the Prefect].

3.41A Prefect from the 1960s, Br Alfonso,5 described the role of Prefect in the following terms:

the Prefect of Discipline was public enemy numero uno. That he was the first public enemy because he was the only one who is to dish out discipline. He was to physically punish the children if that were necessary.

3.42Fr Antonio, who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1940s and 1950s, told the Committee, ‘The advice I was given when I went over there first, make sure they know who is boss and your job was to keep control. There was very little support, I might add’.

3.43Once ‘shoved into’ the role of Prefect, he went on:

You just have to go in and pretend that you are the big boy, which I did at the time … I roared and shouted and put a fella away and said that will stop that messing now. I don’t remember hitting anybody that particular night, many a time I did. You would kind of take on the acting role … Then, looking back now, while I was acting I’m sure the children didn’t think I was acting at all, so that would have frightened them as well … You would think I was going to kill them. It was using fear really to get control.

3.44Fr Antonio told the Committee that he had requested that he be removed from the Prefect’s position. He said:

I was glad to get away from the prefecting … it was too boring and walking around just like that all day, nothing to do. I would prefer to be working, doing something.

3.45He took up another position in the School, and became happier in his work. Indeed, one of the complainants singled him out as a kind and helpful Brother, whereas, when Prefect, he did rule by fear, and was named by many complainants as unfeeling, cruel and severe.

The leather straps

3.46The official instrument used to punish was the leather strap as discussed in the chapter on Upton. There were two kinds: one was a shaped single piece of leather; and the other was known as ‘a doubler’.

3.47It is likely that different straps were in use from time to time, and it is not certain that all of them contained metal or coins within them.

3.48The heavier strap was kept in the Prefect’s office on the ground floor, a room that served also as the sweet shop, and boys who had committed more serious offences were sent there for punishment. Another strap, also a ‘doubler’, was sometimes kept in the Prefect’s room adjacent to the dormitory. It appears that some Prefects carried a strap in their cassock or up a sleeve, to act as both a deterrent and to punish as they felt appropriate.

3.49Both boys and Brothers agreed that, to receive the strap, the boy faced the Prefect or Brother, and blows from the strap were along the length of the hand and forearm. The Brothers spoke of giving a boy a few slaps, but when the witnesses described their pain and distress the full pathos of corporal punishment emerged. Many graphic descriptions are given below. As one witness put it, ‘The doublers … when you were getting hit it used to go up your arm … You got it right up the arm’. Many said the most painful was the blow upon the wrist.

3.50Being beaten on the hands was known as getting ‘handers’, and being struck on the buttocks or back was known as a ‘flamming’. In theory, ‘flammings’ were reserved for very serious offences such as absconding and, as a rule, only the Prefects administered them.

3.51The Rules and Regulations governing Industrial and Reformatory Schools, issued to all certified schools in 1933,6 allowed ‘Chastisement with the cane, strap or birch’, but made no attempt to describe the implements. The Department of Education Inspector, Mr Mícheál Ó Síochfhrada, issued more precise guidelines in a circular of 1946, in which he stated that corporal punishment should in future be confined to the form usually used in schools, that is, slapping on the open hand with a light cane or strap. Any form of punishment that was not in accordance with the circular was ‘strictly prohibited’.

3.52The heavy double straps in use until 1993 in Ferryhouse, often weighted with coins, could not be described as a light strap. Nor could a blow along the arm be described as ‘slapping on the open hand’. Therefore, neither the implement nor the manner of delivering the blow were in accordance with the rules and regulations governing corporal punishment.

Documentary evidence on physical abuse

3.53There is no documentary evidence on the use of corporal punishment and the issue of physical abuse. There is no punishment book for Ferryhouse. This is all the more surprising, given the fact that the Prefect who had introduced the punishment book in Upton in 1952 also served as Prefect in Ferryhouse from 1960. Since the punishment books were intended to control the use of corporal punishment and curb its excesses, its absence makes it more difficult to establish the extent and severity of such abuse.

The evidence of the complainants

3.54The Investigation Committee heard evidence from 29 individuals who spent time in Ferryhouse as children. Nearly all of them described being physically punished. Many expressed an acceptance of corporal punishment if it was proportionate and deserved. For example, one witness, in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s and early 1970s, told the Committee:

You just have to be, kind of, street wise down there, you know … I was never really punished much … if there was a group of you you would always get one or two on the hands and that was it. You would just take it and leave it, you know … sometimes they were deserved, yes.

3.55He went on to describe the kinds of offences that incurred different levels of physical punishment:

Sometimes would be two, sometimes it would be four. Six if it was something bad, you know what I mean, smoking, say, for instance … or cursing, you know, if you called somebody something you would probably only get two or three … but really really trouble you would get six.

3.56A predictable tariff for offences would have allowed boys to work out what was fair or deserved punishment, and also taught the ‘street wise’ boy what to do to avoid being beaten. If applied properly, it would have made the punishment regime predictable. This particular witness accepted being physically punished if he had done wrong and if he got what he deserved. He reserved his criticism for unfair punishment, or excessive violence. He told the Investigation Committee:

It was strict … like, when you look back over it, it is for stupid things; wet the beds or you soiled your pants or something like that.

3.57He elaborated on this theme later:

Soiling your underpants, checking your underpants and if you are soiled everyone else know about it. That is not human. You used to have to go up and open your underpants and show them in a line and there would be people scrubbing and spitting on them … they are the things that stick in your mind.

3.58Many witnesses described being physically punished in circumstances that they considered being excessive, unfair and capricious. Although a few spoke of being punished by the Resident Manager, or by other members of the Rosminian Community, almost all focused on punishments inflicted by the Prefects, who were in charge of the boys.

3.59Complaints were not confined to the use of the strap as an instrument of punishment. Some testified to being struck by various other implements, and a number of witnesses spoke of being punched or kicked.

3.60Complaints of physical punishment related to every decade in respect of which the Investigation Committee heard evidence. The earliest evidence came from a witness who was admitted in 1943. The latest evidence came from one who left Ferryhouse in 1991.

3.61In each of these decades, boys living in Ferryhouse complained of punishment that was severe and excessive, and beyond what was permitted under the rules governing industrial schools.

Excessive punishment

3.62Several witnesses described beatings that went far beyond the limits of moderate chastisement. These severe beatings were usually given after serious offences, such as absconding. Running away was viewed as particularly serious for several reasons: first, the safety of the boys themselves was a consideration; secondly, there was a fear that the neighbours in Clonmel might be burgled or disturbed by the absconders; thirdly, all cases of absconding had to be reported to the Department of Education, so involved extra administration and possible reprimand; fourthly, one boy absconding unsettled the other boys and frequently triggered a spate of absconding; and finally, the Gardaí would have to be informed and searches had to be organised. The Prefect had the responsibility of organising the search for absconders.

3.63For all these reasons, absconders were dealt with severely. When they were returned, they were usually punished with the strap, often in view of other boys, and in the earlier years their heads were shaved. At one stage, Fr Antonio informed the Committee:

They used to put them in pyjamas and coats over the top to stop them running away … Again it was Dickensian … And there were other occasions where they were put in short pants as well.

3.64The major deterrent remained corporal punishment, and, as the Rosminians have conceded, corporal punishment for running away was at times excessive.

3.65A witness who was resident in Ferryhouse in the late 1940s, when he was aged approximately 14 years, told the Investigation Committee of a particularly severe beating he received for absconding. He ran away four or five days after his arrival and was found by the Gardaí and brought back. He was not punished on this occasion. A week later, he ran away again, and was picked up a few days later, early in the morning, by the Gardaí at his home. He was put in a police cell, ‘a dirty stinking hole of a dungeon’ and was forgotten about until there was a change of shift. He received no food at all, and was collected late that evening by a Brother, and driven back to Ferryhouse. He described what ensued:

Went to bed because it was very late at night. Within about 15 minutes, I was hauled out of bed by Br Gian.7 In those days we had no nightclothes, we slept in our shirt, he grabbed hold of my shirt and pulled it up over my head and my arms were held up like that and I was flogged unmercifully for a long period of time … across the back, small of the back, the buttocks, the backs of my thighs and he left marks nearly an inch wide and they were there for months. When my mother come to see me they wouldn’t let her see me because she could clearly see the back of my legs, they were all bruised.

3.66He did not try to run away again. ‘Neither’ he added, ‘did anybody else. We lived in fear, I never looked up from the ground after that’. Following that beating when he finally left the Institution and went home, he never left the house for a period of two years.

3.67A witness who was in Ferryhouse in the 1950s described seeing a boy who had absconded receive a severe beating in the dormitory on his return. He was visibly distressed as he told his story:

He was 14, I think, 14 years of age, a big lad. A nice person. I used to refer to him as a gentle giant … he was given an example beating in the dormitory … He ran away with another two lads or something like that … he was protesting, he had been in the school because he was 14 and the Committal Order was until he was 14 … He should have been out. I think that was his general thing so he ran away. He was caught, brought back and up in the lower dormitory, at night time, when we were all up in the dormitory … He was again brought out in the dormitory … and he was approached by this Br Maximo8 … Br Maximo would be the main physical man. [There were three other staff there] … I don’t know. Did they want him to tip over so they could strap him on the backside? … He wouldn’t anyway. He grabbed the bed and he wouldn’t let go of the bed so Br Maximo then proceeded to come down on his fists, on the boy’s fists on the bed … then Br Maximo went to physically attack him anyway on the body … He gave him a couple of whacks of the strap as well to see would that loosen the grip. It didn’t. We were all kind of getting closer and closer to what was happening … In the end I think …. did, out of pure weakness, let go of the bed. Br Maximo started strapping him with the strap … From fisting, and from clattering and from the strap … it was quite a bad beating he got. Bear in mind he was only a young boy and you have a full physical adult using fists and what have you on him.

3.68A witness who was there in the late 1960s absconded twice, the first time with his brother and another boy, and the second time with two other boys. He told the Investigation Committee, ‘I think the first time they let us go because we were only young and they realised we wanted just to go home’. The second time, however:

We were brought back and we were made to shower again in our swimming trunks, and they would dip them in salt and they would slap us again and give us a much more severe beating this time, maybe 12 times.

3.69Many former residents described severe beatings they called ‘flammings’, a term apparently peculiar to Ferryhouse. One resident, who was in Ferryhouse in the 1940s, defined a ‘flamming’ as follows:

They were administered mostly in the dormitory in front of everyone. They consisted of you being called. Then you took off your shirt because you wore your shirt at night … and you were put across the bed … The strap that I was talking about was laid into your body and they didn’t care where they hit you … You were completely naked … Most of the time you were made put your hands across over the bed, sometimes they were held … You see, you were in constant fear … of being punished for the least thing, for the simplest of reasons or maybe for no reason at all.

3.70He went on to draw a distinction between punishment and abuse:

If you asked me before to ban corporal punishment, I would have said corporal punishment is a necessity … The corporal punishment we got, if we got it properly, it was right, it is the corporal punishment that was not right that I did not agree with. The corporal punishment that became abuse is what I’m talking about. Putting out your two hands … we all got it in school, but flammings you didn’t get in school … in schools you got the hand, you may even have got the pulling of the hair or the ear when you done something wrong. I wouldn’t be here today complaining about that.

3.71A former resident who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s and early 1970s described a beating that went from being a deserved punishment, given because he was seen doing a two-finger gesture behind a Brother saying Grace, to being a vicious assault. He told the Investigation Committee:

I was called into the office … I knew I was caught … Fr Paolo9 had [the leather] in his hand. He said put out your hand, so I put out me hand and I took one … and he asked me for the other one and I said my thumb was sore, I was after bending it back playing football and I didn’t want it on that hand because it would have been worse then, because if you take two or three on one hand you don’t feel them. If you are getting six you won’t feel the other three or four anyway and I wouldn’t and he insisted and I kept moving. I wanted him to catch me this side [indicating], rather than this side of me thumb … He kept missing me because I kept moving it … One time he skinned it, and the next time he went and I pulled it, and he missed completely … I could see in his face he was going to batter me … I seen it and he went for me and I just went down in a huddle … As I was going down I seen him drawing back to hit me and he caught me with the width of the thing … It wasn’t the flat part. He caught me with the thickness of it on the back there, on the back of the neck there … I was down for a minute and he stood back. He didn’t go mad on me or anything. It was one blow … When I looked he was back … I stood up and he said, “Put out your hand” … I put out this hand and I took the rest. I do not know if it was one or two more on me hand, and I walked out.

I had genuinely got a sore thumb but everyone used to say it because if you took two you don’t feel the rest because your hand is numb. That was a ploy but they knew about it as well you know.

3.72A witness who was in Ferryhouse in the latter half of the 1960s gave a similar account of a punishment that went out of control. The punishment was meted out by Br Valerio10 who, in the private hearing, instructed his counsel to say, ‘Br Valerio does not deny [the complainant’s] allegation as it is set out in his statement of complaint.’11 The statement said:

When I was 13½ years old, maybe 14 years, I was going for a walk with other boys from St Joseph’s. I don’t know which Brother had us out for the walk but we were walking in twos and on the way out we were doing some messing … When we got back to the school Br Valerio called me and another fellow out because of what happened on the walk. I was sent to the office to see him … Inside the office Br Valerio asked me about the messing on the walk and if I had been involved and I denied it. He said he would give me one more chance to tell the truth. I denied it again and this time he got out the long leather strap. He had a reputation of not using his fists to hit boys but of using the strap. He gave me blows with the strap to each hand and he started to hit me all over the body with the strap. He hit me all over but did not hit my head. This lasted a good 5 minutes.

3.73Fr Ludano who was resident in Ferryhouse in the early 1950s recalled one occasion when he was approached by a few boys about a Brother who had punished another boy. He told the Investigation Committee:

Some of the boys came to me and said: “Brother so and so, he slapped so and so even though he is only a baby.” And that stayed in my mind … I was horrified … [I did] nothing … I didn’t know what to do … You see, my own position would have been a visitor, or just passing through or whatever … I was very sorry for the little fellow who was involved, you know, and he was only a baby.

3.74Even in an institution that was accustomed to the use of corporal punishment, there was an awareness of what was excessive and cruel. Neither the boys nor the priest, however, could challenge the right of the Brother to inflict punishment as he saw fit. Within Ferryhouse, it was the Brother in charge who set the rules.

Unfair punishment

3.75The Investigation Committee heard many complaints of punishments that were essentially unfair. It was not the severity of the beating but the injustice of it that gave cause for grievance. As one witness put it, ‘Nothing you could do, could be an accident. Everything was deliberate that you did so you were punished’.

3.76One witness described one such incident, when he was unfairly beaten by Br Maximo:

I was coughing in the dormitory, I wasn’t feeling well, I was sick and I was coughing and I don’t know what time it would be, maybe it would be after ten or eleven or twelve o’clock at night and Br Maximo came out. He went down along the aisle of the dormitory, one of the aisles, and he wanted to see who was coughing. So he spotted me anyway and he said, “Were you coughing?” I said, I was. So with that he went and started belting me and clattering me from head down across the body for coughing … With his hands, yes and told me not to cough again … He gave me a fair old walloping that time … It was so unfair severe at the same time. I never heard of anyone getting a hiding for being sick. That would be my view.

3.77Another former resident recounted an incident when he was beaten with a strap, even though he had done nothing wrong:

I used to go to the boiler room to turn the steam on, and one day a glass was broken … It was on the side of the boiler, a kind of dial to show how much water was in the boiler. I didn’t break it, but I got belted for it on the hands because I was supposed to have been the only one who had gone in there.

3.78A resident in the early 1960s described being beaten for something that he did not realise was a serious offence in the eyes of the Order. He explained:

I got a serious beating there – there used to be a girl, I cannot think of her name now, she used to come out from Clonmel on a bicycle … I remember the address. She was talking to me one day at the hay barn, I suppose I was maybe 15 at the time, but I knew nothing about young ones or anything like that, I was just plain ignorant and that. I was talking to her at the hay barn and the next thing Fr Dino12 came along. He gave her a clatter and sent her off home anyway to Clonmel. We were just talking, there was absolutely nothing involved; but I got a bad beating that day and I ended up, I ran away out of Ferryhouse over it. That was a serious beating I got over that.

3.79A resident in the 1940s described two ‘flammings’, he was given undeservedly. On one occasion, he was accused of asking a person for a cigarette on the Waterford Road, which ran by the School. ‘I didn’t do it’, he said, ‘but someone else’s word was taken instead of mine and I was flammed for that’. The worst beating he received was when he was accused of allegedly claiming he had seen a priest eating in the kitchen when he should have been fasting. In fact, he had simply said he had seen the priest in the kitchen. ‘I got an unmerciful hiding that day and not alone that did I get a hiding, at periods I was sent out and made stand against the wall with my fingers up against the wall like that’ … [indicating].

Other forms of punishment

3.80Staff members were not merely authorised to use corporal punishment, they were given the freedom to use it at will. This freedom allowed for even greater scope for abuse. One complainant, a resident in the early 1970s, told the Investigation Committee:

Not only me, we all got hidings for nothing, it all depends which way Br Valerio woke up in the morning. If we didn’t make our beds right, if it wasn’t inch perfect we got the slap. If our shoes weren’t properly done or if our collars weren’t properly inside our jumpers we got the slap for it. More or less for anything.

3.81A witness who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1950s described a physical punishment favoured by Br Maximo:

A few times, I don’t know what for, I can’t remember what it was for but I remember a few times where he told me, he used to do this a lot with a lot of people, hold the head steady by holding the ear to make sure that you didn’t move your head when he was going to give you a clatter on the other side of the head. He would give you several clatters maybe on the other side … with the open hand.

3.82The Rosminians conceded that most of the physical punishment would have happened in a spontaneous way. If there were an incident in the yard, a Prefect would hit a boy a slap as opposed to going through the whole process of administering corporal punishment at a designated time. Fr O’Reilly called these ‘spontaneous responses’. He explained, ‘it wasn’t corporal punishment in terms of receiving the cane. Like, I would acknowledge that it is quite possible that a Prefect just immediately slapped the boy’.

3.83These ‘spontaneous responses’ allowed some Brothers and priests to use physical chastisement as a first resort for correcting a child, and it was not always confined to one or two slaps. Depending on the mood of the Prefect, it could be a few slaps or a severe beating. A witness from the late 1960s told the Committee that even good boys would be beaten. He explained:

I was very quiet. I kept myself to myself and stayed out of trouble … we were beaten on regular occasions for talking in the refectory, or whatever. Stuff like that … Every one of the boys got beaten on some occasion. No matter how good you were you were always beaten at least at some certain occasion.

3.84He gave an example of such on-the-spot chastisement:

[Fr Paolo] said, “Lights out” and we weren’t allowed to speak after lights out and one of the boys might say something and he would be called out in front of Fr Paolo and he would hit him with his back handed slap … the boy would be looking up to him, he would be only tiny, he would be only seven or eight years old, and he would put a full slap on with the back of his hand and he would put him actually spinning.

3.85The clatter was often the main means of correction, so boys lived in an environment where they expected to be hit regularly and often.

3.86Perhaps the worst effect of gratuitous and capricious punishment was its unpredictability. No matter what the boys did, a punishment was still a possibility. The result was a climate of fear. A witness who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s vividly described the kind of fear he experienced every day. He told the Investigation Committee:

I cried most days in that school. I was so scared when the next beating was going to come, whether it would be me. I mean I cried for my friends, my friends cried for me. We didn’t deserve this stuff, we really didn’t deserve this … It was the beatings that was given and dished out in there was savage, man, savage … I was a child you know, a child. I’ve walked landings with hard men in the Joy [prison], in Cork, wherever. I was never afraid. I would stand eye to eye with people that killed people. I wasn’t afraid. But I was afraid when I was in that school, every day of my fecking life. That is what I want you to understand.

Punishment for bed-wetting

3.87Fr O’Reilly, in his evidence to the Investigation Committee given on 7th September 2004 at Phase I, said that nocturnal enuresis had always been a problem at their schools:

If we are taking bed-wetting or enuresis as a problem, it seems to me that you are talking somewhere between 20 and 30% of the boys with a problem in that area.

3.88When asked how bed-wetters were dealt with, he replied:

Well, we have no records to say how boys were dealt with who wet the bed. Were boys punished for wetting the bed? We don’t have records of that and when I spoke with members of the Congregation who would have worked there, they would not recall that boys were punished for wetting the bed.

3.89He conceded, however, that boys who wet were kept in a separate area known as ‘the sailor’s dorm’, and that boys were also given the term ‘sailors’. The Rosminians explained, ‘It is generally felt that these beds were kept together so that the smell of urine did not pervade the whole dormitory and thus the boys who did not wet the bed did not have to suffer the smell’.

3.90The Rosminians now accept that it would have been humiliating for a boy to be known as a ‘sailor’ or ‘bed-wetter’. They also state that ‘it is quite possible that certain Prefects used this as a way of asserting their authority’.

3.91The Rosminians also concede that other practices were used to try to stop bed-wetting. The boys were required to wash their own sheets each morning. They would have to take their wet sheets down from the dormitory to the laundry, wash them and then hang them up to dry. In the evening, they would have to collect their own sheets and return them to the dormitory. This practice continued until a new Prefect arranged for the sheets to be washed by a housekeeper. The boys still had to bring down their wet sheets to the laundry room, and that continued to mark them out and humiliate them.

3.92Two further humiliating practices existed for boys who wet the bed. The Rosminians admitted that ‘a very demeaning practice developed for a short time of making boys with enuresis wear a short skirt for a period of a day or two’.

3.93Another practice also developed, whereby bed-wetters would be required to walk around the schoolyard with a mattress above their heads.

3.94It was put to Fr O’Reilly that bed-wetting seemed to have been treated as a problem of discipline, even though it was probably the least subject to discipline. He replied:

I would have to agree with you. You know, if a child has a difficulty in that area and is upset, obviously you are going to increase the problem by drawing even more and more attention to it and certainly by punishing the child or by causing the child to be even more afraid than he was.

3.95However, he again added, ‘I don’t know that children were habitually punished for wetting the bed’.

3.96The question of whether bed-wetting was routinely punished was fully answered in the evidence given to the Investigation Committee at the private hearings.

3.97One of the Prefects in charge of the dormitory, Br Ignacio,13 told the Committee:

[The top dormitory] was divided into two, they were all the wet beds, as we call them, there on one side, and then the rest of the boys on the other … When I went there I always thought they were punished … Which I didn’t agree really, but as it before I went and it was well before I went there, I wasn’t the one to stop the discipline. Hard as it was for me to administer a couple of slaps for each boy … They were punished every day if they wet the bed … They went down with their sheets … to dry them below where the heating for the showers were …

3.98He added, ‘That is the way it was when I went in there. Boys [who wet the bed] were always slapped … one in each hand … before they went to bed the next night’.

3.99He went on to say that he had never agreed with punishing the boys, because ‘some boys I know didn’t do it purposely, just in their sleep they wet the bed, they couldn’t be accountable for that’. However, he added ‘That was the case when I became Prefect and I didn’t discontinue that’.

3.100He was then asked how the boys should have been treated. He replied:

If I know what I know now, I wouldn’t have administered punishment at all, but I was young at the time and that is the way it was handed down from Prefect to Prefect during all the course of the years.

3.101He went on to advance the bizarre proposition that some boys deliberately wet their beds, ‘I knew some fellows didn’t mean it, just did it in their sleep … but there could be others there who didn’t … I couldn’t distinguish’. It was put to him that he was therefore punishing them all in case one boy deliberately wet the bed. He knew that some of the boys could not help wetting the bed and it was not their fault but, at the same time, he felt that some of them deliberately wet the bed and, as he could not distinguish between them, he punished all who wet the bed. He replied, ‘Exactly, yes and two slaps would not hurt anyone, never, you know’.

3.102He then said, ‘I am very sorry for it, very sorry for having done that indeed’.

3.103His counsel apologised on his behalf to a complainant who had been beaten for wetting the bed. He told him:

Br Ignacio does not and will not in his evidence seek to justify the administration of corporal punishment to bed-wetters in an effort to deter bed-wetting. He accepts there is no justification … for the administration of corporal punishment to people who wet the bed in the hope or expectation of deterring them from wetting the bed in the future … Br Ignacio now accepts this was a stupid thing to be doing if he wanted kids to stop wetting the bed …

Br Ignacio will say in evidence that the Prefect that he replaced when he took over as Prefect … and the Prefect who succeeded him … administered corporal punishment to the bed-wetters … he accepts now it was entirely wrong.

3.104The Prefect himself apologised again, and the conflict between his own beliefs and feelings about how to treat the children and the requirements of his duty to follow the rules and tradition of the Institution fully emerged:

There was one thing I do regret is having to punish the boys who wet the bed. That was all. That was the biggest, or should I say … the worst and I couldn’t bear to do that and still it was the done thing, give a couple of slaps on the hand and it was against my nature to do that…I didn’t want to do that at all although it was done the whole time, years and years before I went there and that was done all the time and that was the, how shall I say, the order of the time….It was against my nature altogether to do that because I knew very well some of them couldn’t help it but it was the done thing like. I couldn’t very well be the one to stop that, because I would be the worst in the world. You might have the whole lot of them wetting it after a while.

3.105He found it impossible to break with the School’s precedents and tradition. Beating boys to stop them wetting the bed was acknowledged to be ‘a stupid thing to be doing’ because it was ineffective and did not stop the wetting. Indeed, it may have made bed-wetting worse. The practice of beating them, however, ‘was handed down from Prefect to Prefect during all the course of the years’, and the Prefect felt he was powerless to stop it, even though it was cruel and pointless. As in many institutions, tradition outweighed reason.

Evidence on bed-wetting from former residents

3.106The Prefect whose evidence has just been discussed expressed the belief that ‘two slaps would not hurt anyone’. Many of the former residents told the Investigation Committee about the effects of facing these beatings at the end of every day. A resident from the 1940s said:

It was rampant throughout, not just the bed-wetters, everybody got beaten. If you were a bed-wetter my God it was a second helping, a third helping, but you got beat during the day as well, but you were guaranteed it every night. I wished they would give it to us in the morning, get it over with. No, you were all day sweating and you got a few handers during the day and you still had to take whatever. Once it was over thank God, but you got it the next night again because you knew you were going to wet.

3.107He had earlier tried to express the pain of the experience:

The wet-the-beds went into the toilet, in they would walk. You would have to hold your sleeve of your corduroy to get the full whack of the hand. When you are getting beat, you shake, you can’t help it, you couldn’t with them. “Keep your hand still” and there you are – we had a little thing at the beginning but they copped on to that very quick. When the slap came down we used to bring the hand with it. Anyway, if you didn’t they would keep beating you until you keep it still. You try to keep a still hand and the blue marks and the pain and the swelling with a leather strap. If you didn’t stop they would just put it across the sink and you couldn’t move it then so you got it.

3.108A resident in the early 1960s told of how the beatings had shifted to the mornings, but the inevitability of being beaten for wetting the bed remained. He had not wet the bed in the previous institution, but on his way down to Ferryhouse he drank too much lemonade. That night he wet the bed, was beaten and consigned to the ‘sailor’s’ section. From then on, he lived in fear of doing it. He explained:

I used to try and stay awake until I wanted to go to the toilet and then I would go to the toilet, but it didn’t work. I would fall asleep eventually.

3.109He described the ritual the next morning:

If you wet the bed you had to put your hand up the next morning. They would go around and ask, “Any sailors?” and you would put your hand up. So you took your mattress and your sheet and brought it downstairs to a drying room and you got a cold shower … If you stepped out of line in the cold shower, if you didn’t stand directly underneath the cold shower, you were hit with a strap. If you stood underneath the shower you still got your punishment over in the office. Once you wet the bed you were due a punishment … Some of them would hit you up there (indicating his arm) … Some of them would barely get you up the wrist … Some of them would hit you right up the arms.

3.110He differentiated between one Brother, who ‘would take pleasure in hitting you for nothing’, and another Brother who ‘would kind of gave you your slaps and let you go … he would just give you your dose of medicine and you would be gone’.

3.111According to the evidence of Fr Antonio, he did occasional holiday relief work in Ferryhouse from the late 1960s to the late 1980s. He later worked as Director of Ferryhouse from the early to mid-1990s. He said those who wet their beds during his time were not physically punished. That had stopped sometime in the mid-1960s. Also, boys were no longer segregated into a separate section. However, the boys who wet the beds still had to take their sheets down the old fire escape and across the yard to be washed in the laundry. He told the Committee:

Some of the saddest memories I would have is of the boys who wet their bed bringing out their sheets to laundry in the morning because there was only one woman in the laundry and they used to have to bring them out.

3.112During the 1960s, other steps were taken in an effort to ease the situation. During Fr Rafaele’s14 time (mid-1960s to early 1970s), electronic devices that woke the boys went on trial. The segregation of those who wet the beds in the designated section of the dormitories ceased.

3.113Fr O’Reilly admitted to the Investigation Committee that the number of boys who wet the bed decreased only when conditions got better, because there was a reduction in the level of fear and anxiety about bed-wetting and because boys were no longer humiliated by being required to carry their sheets down to the laundry room themselves.

Documentary evidence on the punishment of bed-wetting

3.114In 1962, a County Waterford mother wrote a letter of complaint to the Department of Education about the way in which her son was punished for wetting the bed while in St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse. She wrote:

Dear Sir

I am writing this to ask you about my boys … whom Justice Skinner released three weeks ago, well I want to tell you what happened their brother … who was only sent also [earlier in the year] for three months, he was suffering from kidney trouble and the punishment they were giving him for wetting the bed was stand under a cold shower and one night he was put out of the bed by the Brother and given four showers at 9:30 p.m. Then into the office in the morning and nine whips of the leather on each hand, and they told him they would increase it, well he had to run and I said it to the Priest, you would run too and so would I. Well he ran home in a terrible state chilled to the bone so I thought he would have a nervous breakdown so I wired for his father to come for him.

3.115Fr Alanzo15 twice wrote to the Reformatory and the Industrial Schools Branch of the Department of Education about the mother’s complaint. In his first letter in 1962, he spoke despairingly of her: ‘I have had more trouble from their mother than I have had from the rest of the boys’, but he does not deal with the complaints raised. His second letter to the Department, sent a month later, is revealing insofar as it conceded that cold showers were given, and suggested that bed-wetting was 99% a bad habit and the result of bad upbringing and laziness on the part of the boys, and it goes on to describe the mother as a neurotic person. Fr Alanzo failed, however, to deal with the question of whether corporal punishment was administered for bed-wetting, and, if so, whether it was the Institution’s policy. The Commission does not have any documentation suggesting that the Department followed up this issue.

3.116What does emerge from the correspondence is the way in which the mother was seen as a neurotic troublemaker. The Manager’s main concern was not dealing with the substance of the complaint, that her son had been ill-treated and beaten for bed-wetting, but placating the Department of Education on the matter. In another sense, her persistence paid off, because her third son was released before the end of the month.

3.117The General Inspection Report of Dr Lysaght dated 21st July 1966 refers to the problem of bed-wetting in the School, stating that it is ‘somewhat a problem’. According to the acting Resident Manager, Fr Dino, there were about a dozen cases of bed-wetting in the School at that time, and it was his belief that the ‘boys who came from the Convent schools were the worst in this regard’.

The movement towards the abolition of corporal punishment

The minutes of a meeting of Rosminian Superiors to discuss the issue

3.118The question of corporal punishment in Ferryhouse was considered at a meeting of Rosminian Superiors and others, which took place in Drumcondra on 19th April 1968. Fr Filippo,16 Provincial of the Rosminian Institute, called this meeting, and amongst those who attended was Fr Rafaele, Resident Manager of Ferryhouse, Fr Pietro,17 a previous Resident Manager there, and Fr Lucio18 who succeeded Fr Rafaele in 1970. Also in attendance was Fr Ludano.

3.119The problem of corporal punishment was raised by the Fr Provincial, Fr Filippo, because ‘Recent events seemed to indicate that the administration of it had gone beyond the mean in the past’. His solution was to make it ‘the responsibility of the Rector or the Headmaster’, with the Provincial as manager ultimately responsible. He canvassed their opinions.

3.120One of the solutions suggested had in fact been in the regulations for decades, that ‘all punishments of this kind should be recorded, and further that they should be administered in the presence of a witness’. The Brothers suggested ‘the need for a written guide … such had been in existence in Upton’.19

3.121There was recognition that much depended on the appointment of capable Prefects.

3.122There was an objection to turning to the Rector even in small things, but it was again asserted that, even there, ‘a little record should be kept’ and ‘a ceiling to the punishments’.

3.123They discussed the current punishment systems in Ferryhouse and Omeath and agreed ‘Corporal punishment was judged the most humiliating of the lot, and the least effective’.

3.124This meeting in 1968 was, in short, debating the need for the regulation of corporal punishment and was reaching conclusions that had been contained in the 1933 guidelines.

3.125Notwithstanding the acknowledgement that it was humiliating and ineffective, the use of corporal punishment continued in Ferryhouse for a further 25 years, until its abolition by the School in 1993.

Remarks on corporal punishment by the Department of Education Inspector

3.126The Department of Education Inspector, Mr Cobalt,20 touched on the subject of corporal punishment and recorded his concern at its continued occasional use in Ferryhouse. In an addendum to his General Inspection Report of Ferryhouse dated 30th May 1979, Mr Cobalt noted that corporal punishment was still used occasionally, and added that he had not examined the facts of its usage.

3.127Mr Cobalt’s Inspection Reports for the following and successive years, noted the sanctions that applied to the children. A report dated 26th October 1980 listed the sanctions applied to the children as: (a) loss of TV; (b) loss of pocket money; and (c) early bed/loss of home leave. The reports of 1981, 1983 and 1984 are in similar terms, and make no reference whatever to the use of corporal punishment.

Circular 9/82 prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in national schools

3.128In January 1982, the Department of Education issued Circular No 9/82 that prohibited the use of corporal punishment in national schools. On 7th May 1982, Fr Stefano, Resident Manager in St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse wrote to the Department on the issue of corporal punishment:

While the general practice, philosophy and ideas of the school would be against the use of any form of corporal punishment, nevertheless, because of the nature of the work in which we are involved, there may be certain occasions when the Manager or his Deputy (Care or Education) might feel that some form of corporal punishment should be used.

3.129He went on to ask the Department for its views as to whether or not Circular 9/82 nullified the Manager’s powers under the 1908 Act and 1933 Rules. Despite the considerable reforming zeal that had led to the rebuilding of the nineteenth-century institution, and to numerous other reforms, the abandonment of corporal punishment it seemed was a step too far for him.

3.130Various officials in the Department considered Fr Stefano’s letter. One such official, a Miss Ní Fhearghail, set out her views on the issue of corporal punishment in an internal memorandum dated 11th May 1982 and entitled ‘Corporal Punishment in Special Schools’. She wrote:

… in my view Circular 9/82 only covers the conduct of the children while they are in the national school. It does not cover out of school activities. Even within the school the Rules which were approved under the Act may hold precedence. I think we would need to consult the Chief State Solicitor.

3.131However, the issue lay dormant in the Department for a number of months until March 1983, when Miss Ní Fhearghail, in a memorandum addressed to Mr Ó Críodháin, noted that Fr Stefano never got an answer to his query. Mr Ó Críodháin referred the matter to Mr MacGleannáin who, by memorandum dated 14th April 1983, replied:

This matter needs to be cleared up. I think policy should be to prohibit corporal punishment. Undoubtedly, however, members of staff in these schools have to restrain youngsters physically and a thin line divides physical restraint from corporal punishment.

3.132The matter was referred to the Chief State Solicitor. By letter dated 9th June 1983, the Deputy Assistant Chief State Solicitor advised that rules made under the 1908 Act took precedence over the rules for national schools, as they had the force of statute, while the rules for national schools, although they had been judicially noticed, were not made pursuant to an Act. He suggested that the matter should now be rectified by the provision of rules made pursuant to Section 3 of the Act of 1941 for all certified industrial schools.

3.133On 3rd August 1983, the Department of Education passed on to Fr Stefano the advices received from the Deputy Assistant Chief State Solicitor. They wrote:

The present Rules and Regulations for Certified Industrial Schools were approved by the Minister some fifty years ago and have, to a great extent, become out-moded in practice.

I would be grateful if you would give earnest consideration to the question of statutory Rules for the conduct of your school and would draw up a schedule of Rules deemed appropriate. It would be helpful if a copy of these draft Rules were forwarded to the Department not later than the 30th September, 1983.

3.134Fr Stefano gave evidence that nothing was done about this request. The School was being rebuilt, and the management were apparently too busy to respond.

3.135It would seem that the use of corporal punishment continued in Ferryhouse. The report of Mr Cobalt of 13th April 1989 records that the strap had been given to one boy and was witnessed. He wrote that a positive decision should be made about its use as a punishment for out-of-school misbehaviour. In a note attached to the end of the 1989 Report, he advised that the use of corporal punishment be discontinued ‘as the evidence is that is does not change deprived boys in their anti-social behaviour … and my experience confirms that’.

3.136In July 1989, a draft Circular (1/89) was prepared which, on the face of it, imposed a ban on the use of corporal punishment in industrial schools operating under the terms of the 1908 Act. In evidence, Fr Stefano said he had no recollection of ever receiving this circular. He believed that, if he had seen it, he would have remembered it, and would have discussed it. He presumed he would have ceased the use of corporal punishment. Fr Stefano said that, when the 1989 draft circular first came to his attention at a recent meeting in preparation for his evidence to the Commission, they carried out an extensive trawl through the Ferryhouse documentation relating to this period, but failed to disclose the original.

3.137The issue remained a live one in the early 1990s. At the end of a document concerning requests for amendments to the School rulebook, dated 12th April 1990, there is a handwritten comment by the Inspector:

It is noted that corporal punishment can still be administered in St Joseph’s. I raised this matter with the Director on my recent visit to the school and he would be strongly opposed to any move to alter this rule.

3.138At a meeting in 1993, the senior management team at Ferryhouse took a decision to stop using the strap.

3.139What emerges from the foregoing is that there was concern about the use of corporal punishment in Ferryhouse during the period of time under investigation, and attempts appear to have been made in the late 1970s and 1980s to devise a policy in respect of its use, but there was little, if any, regulation of this policy by the Department of Education. Ferryhouse was given leeway to continue its use.

Conclusions on physical abuse

3.1401.Corporal punishment was the option of first resort for problems. Its use was pervasive, excessive, unpredictable and without regulation or supervision and for these reasons became physically abusive.

2.Frequent corporal punishment was the main method of maintaining control over the boys and it created a climate of fear that was emotionally harmful.

3.The system of discipline was the same as in Upton and the Rosminians accept that there was excessive corporal punishment in Ferryhouse.

4.Young and inexperienced staff used fear and violence to assert authority. Severe punishments were inflicted for a wide range of acts and omissions.

5.Rules and regulations governing corporal punishment were not observed and a punishment book was not maintained. The rules were regarded as merely guidelines, with no provision made by the Department of Education for sanctions and reprimands being issued to schools that ignored them. They were therefore ignored with impunity.

6.Excessive, unfair and even capricious violence did lasting damage to many of the boys in Ferryhouse.

7.For most of the period under review, boys were punished for bed-wetting and were subjected to nightly humiliation, degradation and fear.

Sexual abuse

3.141Two religious members of the Rosminian Institute and one layman were convicted of sexual abuse of boys in Ferryhouse. Another religious who served in Ferryhouse was convicted of a crime committed elsewhere, on a boy who had previously been a resident of Ferryhouse and who was then living in another Rosminian institution. These three religious offenders served in senior positions in Ferryhouse and the layman was a volunteer there for different periods of years between 1968 and 1988.

3.142The fact that sexual abuse occurred was not in dispute. The issue that the Committee had to decide was whether the abuse was systemic, related to failures of the Institution or of management, or whether the abuse was to be viewed as episodic acts perpetrated by individuals, unrelated to the nature of the Institution and its management.

3.143The most revealing evidence about sexual abuse came from Br Bruno,21 who worked as a Prefect in Ferryhouse in the latter half of the 1970s, and who was convicted in 1999 of a number of counts of serious sexual assault on four young men when they were boys in Ferryhouse.

3.144Br Bruno’s account described how he committed systematic and repeated abuse of boys during the four years that he was a Prefect in Ferryhouse. He gave candid evidence at a private hearing about his modus operandi, how he was able to escape detection (which surprised even himself), and how he was able to frighten boys and prevent them from reporting him or talking about him. He was frank about the nature of his acts, the circumstances in which he committed them, and the extent of what he did.

3.145His account of his deeds, and what enabled him to perpetrate them, provided an insight into the behaviour of a child sexual abuser. He operated in the late 1970s, when living conditions and the building itself were better than in the old Ferryhouse. His testimony on what enabled him to abuse for so long may well be relevant to the Institution at other times in the past, when conditions were more likely to facilitate such coercive, furtive and abusive behaviour.


Br Bruno

3.146Br Bruno was arrested in 1996 and charged with counts of buggery, indecent assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, in respect of four people who had been in his care at Ferryhouse between 1975 and 1979. He was the Brother in charge of ‘A’ group comprising some 36 to 40 boys aged between nine and 11 years. He appeared before the Circuit Criminal Court in 1999, pleaded guilty to the offences charged and was sentenced to a term of nine years imprisonment with the last three suspended.

3.147Br Bruno’s activities as a perpetrator of sexual abuse in Ferryhouse came to light in the late 1970s, following which he was dismissed from the Order, but the case was not reported to the Gardaí until the mid-1990s.

3.148The disclosure occurred when two boys who had absconded from the Institution were hitching a lift. The Resident Manager, Fr Stefano, saw them on the road, picked them up and brought them back to Ferryhouse. As they travelled back to the School, one of the boys broke down, and told Fr Stefano that Br Bruno ‘was at him’. This had an immediate impact on Fr Stefano and, when they got back to the School, he brought the boy to his office, cautioned him about the seriousness of what he had said, and sought details from him. The boy stuck by his story and said that another boy would confirm what he was saying. He said that Br Bruno had started to abuse him when he was in his unit, but that the abuse had continued when he was transferred to the senior group.

3.149The other boy was sent for, and Fr Stefano described how ‘the two boys sat in my office and unfolded to me a most horrific story of what had been happening to them’. The boys told Fr Stefano story after story of cruelty and abuse. The worst, as far as he was concerned, was the abuse of one of the boys during the Pope’s visit to Ireland in 1979. The whole school went to see the Pope in Limerick, except for one of the two boys who was not allowed to go because of his record of absconding. Br Bruno volunteered to stay back and supervise him. The boy told Fr Stefano that, when the rest of the boys left, ‘this Brother came and raped me in my bed’.

3.150Fr Stefano said that he had never suspected Br Bruno; indeed, he found him a very enthusiastic member of staff. His dedication to the work seemed unquestionable: ‘this was a man who seemed to be the last in bed and the first up every day’. Nevertheless, when the allegation was made, Fr Stefano began to see it all very differently:

… the picture that comes to mind always to me is of a huge jigsaw puzzle that you are reasonably happy with but that there is a piece missing and while I had no suspicions of him, the minute those words were spoken, it was as if somebody had put the final piece in the jigsaw and all these activities that he was involved with started to make sense.

3.151He gave the example of an earlier discussion, at which one of the other Prefects said that a boy had heard someone in the dormitory the night before, and Br Bruno had volunteered to check it out.

3.152The same night that the boys disclosed the abuse, Fr Stefano drove the short distance to Glencomeragh to report to the Provincial. He returned to the School where he met Br Bruno the next day. Br Bruno initially denied the allegations but, when he was told that the boys were willing to confront him, he confessed. Br Bruno left the School and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Dublin. Shortly afterwards, he was dismissed from the Order.

3.153Br Bruno’s career in Ferryhouse began in the mid-1970s and he became a Prefect, which he continued to be until the events of 1979. As Prefect, he was in charge of ‘A’ Group consisting of 36 to 40 boys aged between nine and 11 years.

3.154Br Bruno sexually abused numerous boys during his time in Ferryhouse. He had easy access to and exclusive control over his group, who were located in the junior dormitory, which was separate from the other residents and Brothers. This dormitory was located on the second floor of the east wing. Br Bruno’s own room was located off the boys’ dormitory. These arrangements had been put in place in the late 1960s, to replace the old system of two large dormitories housing junior and senior boys. The boys were now separated into age groups in three smaller dormitories, each accommodating up to 80 boys.

3.155Br Bruno’s preference was for pubescent boys, whom he selected with considerable care. Under the pretence of checking whether they had wet their beds, he approached their beds at night. He would fondle their genitals to see if they became aroused; weekends were more suitable times, because there were fewer people around.

3.156When he had fixed on a boy whom he intended to abuse, he waited until the weekend and then gave the boy an anti bed-wetting pill that he knew would have a soporific effect. He would spend some time with his colleagues in the west wing, where he would socialise and have a drink, before returning to the dormitory where he carried the boy to his private room and sexually abused him before returning the boy to bed.

3.157Br Bruno began his evidence to the Committee with some initial hesitation; he began to imply that he had pleaded guilty to offences he had not committed. He said:

I fondled them in their bed … It began when I was moved to the A unit, when I was checking beds at night time for wetting … Just by touching it started … The boys didn’t mind, they didn’t stop me … I knew it was wrong but I continued …

3.158At that stage, he denied anal rape:

I never penetrated … I would be sexually excited, yes … it just ended at that …

3.159The Chairperson then spoke to him about the need for him to give a full and honest account, without trying to recant or change evidence accepted in court. After a brief adjournment for legal consultation, the hearing resumed, and Br Bruno gave a very different account of events. He now said:

[That boy] was one of the boys that I pleaded guilty to in my criminal trial … I pleaded guilty to buggery. I did take him into my bed and penetrated but not in a full extent but I did bugger, I did penetrate him … I told the Gardaí that I had abused [the other boy] … I took him to my bed and I penetrated him … [The third boy], I pleaded guilty to fondling, abusing him in that way.

3.160He acknowledged that these acts of abuse happened on more than one occasion. He also accepted that these were not the only boys that he sexually abused:

There was one or two other boys that I took there but the names are gone from me at the moment.

3.161He was asked to give some estimate as to when the sexual abuse began, and he replied:

The fondling and the feeling at bedtime went on a few months after I taking charge of the group. It went on at that time. The serious matters that were dealt with in the criminal trial went on in … [1978/79] … up to that moment that the Superior … it was reported to the Superior and he called me in and I admitted to it … Four, five boys, I think.

3.162He took charge of the dormitory in the mid-1970s, and until Fr Stefano confronted him in December 1979 there were some four years of abuse. When asked to estimate the number of boys he had abused, he answered that, if he was being asked to estimate the numbers he had groped and interfered with, ‘It could be dozens, yes … Yes it would be dozens’. When asked to try to put a more precise figure on it he replied, ‘over maybe 20, over a period of years’.

3.163The fondling took place during the week. The acts of penetration tended to occur at weekends. He explained:

I fondled them … I carried them to my room … left them in my bed and fondled them … I attempted myself to penetrate them … It was a weekend basis. Friday, Saturday night … I was able to go over to the community room … in the community room we would have a social evening and I would have a drink.

3.164There was a community room upstairs in the west wing, where the members of the Order could relax. It had ‘comfortable chairs, a cocktail cabinet and a big television screen’. Here, he would have a couple of pints of Guinness and perhaps a couple of shorts: ‘I may have been a bit unsteady, but not falling down … they would know that I had some drink taken’. He would then return to his room where he would also ‘take a little tipple’ from bottles of spirits received as gifts that he kept there. He added:

I should never have been left in the unit on my own, solely on my own and isolated from the rest of the community. There was no such thing as shift work, night staff, night staff even for a weekend, all of those things should have been in place in a group like the group that I was in.

3.165He then described what happened when he returned to the dormitory and took a boy to his room:

… I left them in the bed and I fondled them and penetrated them … I felt they were asleep and they didn’t know … On waking up they just remained limp, I am sure terrified of what was going on and preferred to remain in that state … Those boys that I took to my room were boys that were sleeping … I selected those … I felt they were what I wanted. It was weekly … those boys were terrified during that period when I took them to my room.

3.166He went on to explain why the boys were so deeply asleep:

Some of them were on medication for bed-wetting … They took their tablet and it made them sleepy … All the bed-wetters would be on them … The nurse would allot the nightly take every day to me and I would distribute it to them … I would have maybe two or three days supply of the tablet for all of the boys.

3.167As he knew which boys had taken a tablet, he knew which ones would be drowsy. These tablets allowed him to choose those boys who would be asleep and remain asleep. When he was finished with a boy, he took him back to his own bed in the dormitory. His activities show how planned and pre-meditated the abuse was.

3.168The abuse continued undetected for four years. When asked whether he was concerned that the boys would tell, he said:

At the back of my mind you would think—you would know very well that it would come out and somebody would reveal it and they did.

3.169He told the Investigation Committee, ‘I am sure the other boys in the dormitory knew what was going on’. However, such was his control over them that they never told. In Fr Stefano’s words, ‘quite a lot of the boys who went through his unit … have told me of the control that he was able to keep when he locked that door at night time … he had them terrorised’.

3.170A number of reasons as to how the abuse continued were explored with Br Bruno. He agreed that, in his early days as Prefect, he frequently used corporal punishment:

Yes, I hit the boys, I struck the boys. I found certainly at the beginning I had no other way of keeping control, keeping order, keeping day to day things running.

3.171He agreed that he had a reputation as a Prefect and the boys were afraid of him, and that this facilitated his ability to do these things without being reported.

3.172He agreed that the job of Prefect with complete unsupervised control over 35 to 40 boys was a corrupting influence:

It changed me to a different type of person … a monster person that was the effect that it had.

3.173Br Bruno claimed that he had no attraction to boys before he went into Ferryhouse:

In all my years before I went into the Rosminians I had no attraction towards the younger boys … I had my girlfriends up to going to the Rosminian Order … the boys thing just started when I went into Ferryhouse.

3.174Yet, within Ferryhouse, he was unable to control his attraction to pubescent boys and claimed that he tried to get help:

I went for advice before with [a senior member of the Order] and we chatted. At the end … at the breaking point that I went to him and discussed it with him. I discussed it with him after coming out of the Order too.

3.175The Investigation Committee was unable to corroborate this assertion. He remained convinced, moreover, that other members of the Community knew what he was up to. He also asserted that ‘it was widespread’. He explained:

Like when other boys were talking and were giving out about other members of the Community, I felt they were being abused by other members.

3.176He was asked if he thought it was fairly safe to do it because it was almost permitted within the Institution, and he replied, ‘Yes …’.

3.177He later added: ‘They [the boys] were mentioning that other members of the community were abusing the boys’.

3.178This assertion, that abuse was so widespread that it seemed to be permitted, does not accord with the way in which Fr Stefano took instant action when the abuse perpetrated by Br Bruno was disclosed to him. However, Br Bruno had been abusing for about four years before it was reported to Fr Stefano, who was completely unaware that he ‘was living with an abuser’.

3.179A complainant who was in Ferryhouse in the mid to late 1970s described Br Bruno as ‘just bad … he was just evil out and out’. He told the Committee he first met Bruno in the mid-1970s in Woodstown, in Waterford. This was before Br Bruno had joined the Rosminians, and he was visiting Woodstown with his friend who was a priest. The complainant described how Br Bruno approached him when he was washing his shirt in the sink and, under the pretence of helping to wash the shirt, started rubbing his chest and:

From that he went on to put his hands down towards my privates and, basically, that was the first time I met [Br Bruno].

3.180His next encounter with Br Bruno occurred when the latter was posted to Ferryhouse. Under the pretence of checking for bedwetting, Br Bruno would fondle him under the bed sheets and bring him to the toilet, where he ‘would start massaging, that’s your privates like, and it would start from there’. He also described how Br Bruno would take him to his bedroom and then he would sexually abuse him. He said there was no penetration involved.

3.181The abuse happened regularly ‘every couple of weeks’, so regularly in fact that the witness thought it was normal: ‘I thought this is the way life is, this happens to everybody’. The complainant also witnessed others being abused. He described how, on occasion, he walked into Br Bruno’s room on the way to the toilet and saw that Br Bruno ‘had two guys there and they were playing with each other’. He also attested to the fear Br Bruno used to instil in him. He had an odd tactic of sticking drawing pins into his thigh whenever he saw Br Bruno approaching. He explained, ‘It just took away the fear. Me being in pain was better than the fear and the fear of him’. He described how Br Bruno would never leave him alone with any visitors, as he might have to prevent him from telling them about the abuse.

3.182Br Bruno denied he had abused this witness, but the witness’s recollections mirrored the known events. As the witness claimed, Br Bruno did visit Woodstown before he became a Brother and he did reappear as a member of the Order. The events described in the dormitory and in the Brother’s room are not dissimilar to the account Br Bruno gave of his own activities.

3.183Another complainant from the same period described a similar incident of nocturnal intrusion into his bed. He was in ‘A’ group which was supervised by [Br Bruno]. He said that one night, a couple of weeks after he had arrived at the school he woke up in pain. He was being sexually abused . He could not see who it was and he started to scream. This woke the boy next to him who turned on the light. The complainant blamed this boy but he denied it.

3.184The next day, the mystery of the nocturnal intruder was solved. The complainant told another boy what had happened, and the boy said, ‘This is the start of it. He won’t stop … It will go on and on’.

3.185He said that other boys told him ‘It was Br Bruno himself, he does it to all of us’.’

3.186The complainant ran away and, on his return to the School, said that he had reported the fact that Br Bruno was at his bed to two staff members, but nothing happened. Neither could recall this complainant reporting the matter to them.

3.187The witness also gave a vivid account of seeing boys being carried to Br Bruno’s room:

He would come out of his room, late at night, he would go to his bed, that bed, he would go into the back dormitories, he would come back out, sometimes carrying a boy. The boys would be asleep. Their limbs would be hanging down like so (indicating), their head to one side and he would be carrying them in his arms, he would be bringing them to his room. The next morning you would enquire as to where the boy was and you would be told that he was sick, he won’t be in school today.

3.188He described how Br Bruno would give the boys tablets for bed-wetting. Sometimes, he would give them just one each, and on other occasions he would give them three. These had the effect of causing the boys to go to sleep. He recalled one occasion when he did not take the tablets and how he woke later that night to find Br Bruno sexually abusing him:

I started crying and Br Bruno came up to me and he said to me “What’s wrong with you, child, you are dreaming, child, go to sleep”. That next morning when I was in the toilet and I came out and I was after getting dressed and everything, I went to get the tablets and they were gone. I don’t know where they had gone to, they were gone.

3.189The number of complainants who gave evidence about Br Bruno’s activity was not indicative of the number whom he abused. He molested dozens of boys. He himself remarked that the only ones he was likely to have recalled were those whom he raped. None of the four boys who were named in the indictment as being victims of this crime gave evidence before the Investigation Committee. It would appear that the number of boys who he raped over the period of four years when he was in Ferryhouse was greater than he remembered.

3.190In a trial that took place in the mid-1990s, a victim named in Br Bruno’s indictment himself faced trial on charges of sexual abuse of children. Mr Cumin22 pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old boy. He had previously been convicted of rape in Britain. In mitigation, his counsel submitted that he had been sexually abused while in care, and this abuse had had disastrous consequences on his own sexuality. The court jailed him for six years.

3.191The lessons learned from this case can be applied to the question posed at the start of this section: was the abuse systemic, related to failures of the Institution or of management, or was it episodic, namely, acts perpetrated by an individual, unrelated to the nature of the Institution and its management?

3.192Fr Stefano’s comment provides the best clue and may be repeated:

The picture that comes to mind always to me is of a huge jigsaw puzzle that you are reasonably happy with but that there is a piece missing and while I had no suspicions of him, the minute those words were spoken, it was as if somebody had put the final piece in the jigsaw and all these activities that he was involved with started to make sense.

3.193The fact that the Institution had a history of keeping the stories of known abusers secret must have contributed to Fr Stefano’s unawareness of the real possibility of abuse in a residential institution for young boys. Because the archives recording the discovery of previous abusers were not available, this meant the Institution could not learn from the past.


  • This case shows how easy it was for an abuser to gain access to the boys in Ferryhouse.
  • Br Bruno’s activities went undiscovered for four years, despite the fact that many boys were raped and a much greater number were fondled and groomed in his selection process.
  • Br Bruno’s activities happened at a time when other sexual abuse was happening in Ferryhouse and when improper access to the boys was a feature of the Institution.
  • The extent of these activities suggests that boys felt unable to report abuse.

Mr Garnier23

3.195Mr Garnier was convicted of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy from Ferryhouse Industrial School on a number of dates in the mid-1970s.

3.196Mr Garnier lived and worked in Clonmel and was a voluntary worker in the School for many years. He had free access everywhere in the Institution, even in the dormitories when the boys were going to bed and afterwards. He had particular contact with ‘C’ Group, which was managed by Br Leone, who was a friend of his. Another man from Clonmel, named Mr Tablis,24 had similar access on the basis of his friendship with Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager.

3.197Fr Paolo recalled Mr Garnier and Mr Tablis being there in the 1970s, but did not remember them being there in the mid-1960s, although it seems that Mr Garnier certainly had access over many years, which could indeed have extended back to that earlier period. Fr Paolo was suspicious of the two men. He thought that they had no business being in any of the dormitories, and made sure that they did not come to his group, ‘A’ Group. Although Fr Paolo was careful in what he said about these men, he agreed that it was inappropriate for them to be in any dormitory, and that his concern would have been less if they had been in the downstairs gym or a ground-floor recreation area.

3.198Despite Fr Paolo’s concern about the incursions into the boys’ dormitory, and his determination to keep such men out of the one under his control, he did not interfere in what another Brother was doing. The convention of allowing colleagues to run their ‘empires’ as they thought fit remained paramount, even when the safety of the boys was an issue.

3.199Fr Stefano arrived in the mid-1970s. He said that Mr Garnier was someone who had an involvement with Ferryhouse for many years and that his access was in two main areas. On Sunday nights, he used to come and play cards with the boys ‘and he would go up along to the dormitory with them, it would be mainly the senior dormitory, from what I recollect’. He never heard anyone make a complaint about Mr Garnier and did not at the time think that there was anything inappropriate in his having access to dormitories. He ‘never had any reason to suspect anything wrong was going on’. He said local community helpers were needed and appreciated in Ferryhouse, and the two men were accepted in that context. They had a long history of involvement in the School ‘probably because there were so few people to do anything’. Outsiders were involved in the sports day and in fundraising, and people were in and out all the time. He said that it could happen that the Brother in charge of the senior dormitory would be required to drive a distance of some miles to collect a boy who had absconded, for example. In such circumstances, he thought it was likely that Mr Garnier would have volunteered to stay on. Fr Stefano accepted that he was perhaps somewhat naïve, in not being uncomfortable about the access that Mr Garnier was permitted. He suggested that, if there was an error of judgement or a lack of alertness, it should be seen against a background of involvement by the local people in helping Ferryhouse.

3.200There is an enormous difference between involvement by the community in the running of the Institution, and allowing outsiders to enter the boys’ dormitories and to spend time there on a frequent basis. Clearly, the Brother in charge of the dormitory, Br Leone, should not have permitted the access, but he happened to be the contact in the School on whom Mr Garnier relied, and who introduced him to the School in the first place.

3.201Mr Garnier told the Gardaí how his contact with Ferryhouse began:

I know Br Leone for years. A lot of the boys went to the technical school. That is boys from Ferryhouse School. I saw Br Leone bringing them to school and I got chatting to them. That’s how it started roughly 28 years ago.

3.202Fr Paolo told the Committee he was uneasy about what was going on, and while he would not have allowed the man into the dormitory under his charge, he did not make his concerns known. As in many other cases, Brothers did not interfere with what other Brothers were doing.

3.203Before Fr Stefano took over as Resident Manager in the mid-1970s, Fr Lucio was in charge, and he permitted similar access to his friend, Mr Tablis. With such connections over such a period of time, it is unlikely that any action would have been taken, even if Fr Paolo had reported his unease about the access enjoyed by these outsiders.

3.204Fr Ricardo25 was present in the School for two periods during the 1970s and 1980s. He gave evidence to the Committee, and he also did not see anything inappropriate about Mr Garnier’s access. He said:

He used to play a lot of cards, particularly Friday evening and he would help Br Leone in playing cards, that basically was his job. Sometimes he would lock up the unit or come up with Br Leone and he might come up to the dormitory but generally he would go off then before Br Leone would turn the lights out. And I think Br Leone would have seen Mr Garnier, or [Christian name], as I would have known him, as some kind of a help, to help him to get the boys to bed.

3.205Mr Garnier confirmed to the Gardaí the level of his involvement with the School. He visited regularly about once a week. He would play table tennis with the boys, and would play cards; he worked at the School sports day and helped with the pantomimes and the Strawberry Fair. In addition, he said:

I’d take some boys out for drives. About four or five boys at a time. I had my own car. We went to Youghal once and the steam rally in Upton.

3.206The boys would also visit him in his house in Clonmel after visiting the cinema, and he would give them ‘a drink of minerals and maybe some money’.

3.207He mostly remembered the boys in the older group in Br Leone’s care who were about 14 or 16 years old. He was with the seniors more than the juniors but he had contact with all the groups. He bought sweets and gifts for the boys. Mr Garnier denied allegations made by boys that he had fondled and masturbated them, but he did admit having had sexual contact with two boys in Ferryhouse. The first one happened at a time when Br Leone was in charge of the group, and Fr Lucio was the Resident Manager. The incident happened in the ‘C’ Group dormitory. He described how he had kissed the boy and sexually abused him.

3.208The abuse with the other boy followed the same format. He was in ‘C’ Group, which was under the stewardship of Br Leone.

3.209A witness resident in Ferryhouse in 1970s alleged in his evidence to the Committee that Mr Garnier sexually abused him. Mr Garnier was not represented at the hearing. The witness said that Mr Garnier was a friend of Br Leone and that he would visit the School regularly. He spent a lot of time in the junior dormitory and only left when the lights were turned off:

He used to come into the school and he would be up in the juniors, upstairs with the juniors. He would be buying sweets, he would buy torches and he would buy different things for you.

3.210He also visited Mr Garnier’s house in Clonmel:

We had gone to the cinema and we were on our way back, thumbing likewise. [Mr Garnier] pulls up and says “you can come up to the gaff for a few cigarettes”. Deadly, you know. We went up and he gave us 10 smokes.

3.211The abuse that he alleged happened followed a similar pattern to that admitted by Mr Garnier in his Garda statement, which he confirmed as correct through his solicitor.

3.212Mr Garnier’s involvement with the School continued throughout this complainant’s time there.

Br Sergio26

3.213Br Sergio was convicted of sexual assault in 2002. The offences were committed at locations in Clonmel and Dublin in the early 1990s. Br Sergio received a sentence of three and a half years’ imprisonment.

3.214The victim of one assault was a former resident of Ferryhouse, who was living in the Rosminian aftercare centre in Dublin at the time the assaults took place. He was aged 18 at the time of the first assault. The accused, Br Sergio, worked in the aftercare centre. The victim complained to the Rosminian authorities, and the Provincial confronted Br Sergio with the allegations. Br Sergio admitted his guilt and was immediately removed from the centre. He was admitted for treatment at Our Lady of Victory in Stroud in the mid-1990s, and he was treated there for a number months, although he remained in follow-up care for a number of years. He applied for and was granted a dispensation from the Order. In the late 1990s, the victim of the sexual assault contacted the Rosminians, to tell them that he was reporting the matter to the Gardaí. The Rosminians informed the Department of this, and told them that they would co-operate fully with any Garda inquiry.

3.215Br Sergio had previously worked in Ferryhouse from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. In his evidence to the Committee, he said that he had been appointed Prefect in the late 1970s, when he was given charge of ‘B’ Group, which was composed of about 37 boys aged between 10 and 12. He took over from Fr Antonio, who had been transferred to ‘A’ Group to replace Br Bruno who had left the School suddenly, as a result of the discovery of his activities as a sexual abuser. He became aware of the reason for Br Bruno’s departure ‘a week or two’ after his departure. Given the age of the boys in his group, and the length of time he was in charge, his group would have contained many of the children who were sexually abused by Br Bruno or who were aware of his activities.

3.216One complainant who was present in Ferryhouse in the late 1980s alleged that Br Sergio sexually abused him. He told the Committee that he was taking a shower after he had been brought back to the School after attempting to abscond. Br Sergio was supervising him and molested him in the shower.

3.217He also described other less serious instances of improper behaviour, when Br Sergio ‘put his hands on me’. He alleged that Br Sergio would rub his knee while driving him down to see his relatives.

3.218Br Sergio denied these allegations, both through his counsel during the cross-examination of the witness and directly during his own evidence, when he described them as ‘totally untrue’.

3.219Br Sergio denied abusing children in Ferryhouse or even being attracted to them. When asked if he had ‘inappropriate sexual feelings towards the young boys under your care,’ he replied, ‘It would be very wrong to say that, it would be very wrong to say that’.

3.220He was also very reluctant to talk about the treatment he had received in Stroud because of his abusive activities. He said that it was a very traumatic time and:

I don’t have any recollection of what I would have said or what and I don’t have any papers left from it at all.

3.221He was also uncomfortable about being asked about his knowledge of Br Bruno’s departure in the late 1970s.

3.222Br Sergio vigorously denied any abuse during the time when he was in Ferryhouse. His subsequent conviction cannot be regarded as evidence that he committed abuse at an earlier time and in different circumstances.

Fr Valerio

3.223Fr Valerio, a Rosminian priest, was convicted of assault, including indecent assault in respect of two boys who had been in his care in Ferryhouse in the early 1970s, when he was a Prefect in the School in charge of a group of boys. He received a suspended sentence. The trial judge took into account, in mitigation of sentence, the fact that the accused had himself been a pupil in Ferryhouse and had been sexually and physically abused there. The Court of Criminal Appeal agreed that the accused:

came from a very difficult background – a background which the Court is all too familiar with as representing a cycle of abuse which notoriously has gone on in cases of this nature from one generation to another and the respondent in this case was part of that rather dreadful cycle.

3.224The first allegation of sexual abuse against Fr Valerio was made in the early 1980s, when a 15-year-old boy from the United Kingdom complained to a priest there, Fr Penrose27, that Fr Valerio had attempted to ‘embrace and caress’ him while he was on an Irish holiday with Fr Valerio, who was working in Wales at this time and the boy was one of his parishioners. Fr Penrose wrote to the Provincial, who spoke to Fr Valerio. There is no record of how Fr Valerio responded to the allegation, but the Provincial left instructions for his successor as Provincial not to let Fr Valerio go to Wales again.

3.225This allegation resurfaced in the early 1990s, when the victim contacted the Rosminians after seeing a television programme on clerical abusers. He inquired whether Fr Valerio was still a priest. When he was told that Fr Valerio was still in Holy Orders, he threatened to expose him in the media unless he left the priesthood. The Provincial, Fr Stefano, met Fr Valerio, who was now in parochial work, and he admitted his guilt. He was removed immediately and admitted to a psychiatric hospital and later to Our Lady of Victory, Stroud, for assessment and treatment. He was told that he would never be allowed to work in a position where he would have access to young people. In the early 1990s, he applied for, and was granted, a leave of absence (exclaustration) from the Order. In the mid-1990s, he applied to be laicised, and his application was granted.

3.226The Rosminians received further complaints of sexual abuse against Fr Valerio in the mid-1990s, and reported the matter to the Department of Education.

3.227Fr Valerio’s first involvement with Ferryhouse was in the mid-1950s when, at age nine, he was committed to the Institution by the courts. He remained there until the eve of his 16th birthday. He alleged in his Garda interview that he was sexually abused during his time there. After leaving, he joined the Order in the mid-1960s. He was posted to Ferryhouse as Assistant Prefect in the late 1960s. He took over charge of ‘B’ Group, which was composed of boys aged between 14 and 15 years, from Fr Antonio. At the time, Br Andino28 was in charge of ‘A’ Group, and Br Leone was in charge of ‘C’ Group. As Prefect, he slept in a room just off the dormitory where the boys slept. He remained in this position until he left the School, four years later, to begin his studies for the priesthood. Other members of staff present during this period described him as a hardworking albeit strict Brother ‘who seemed to me to have a great rapport with the lads in general’. He was ordained in the late 1970s, and spent the next 10 years as a religious teacher. In the early 1990s, he was engaged in parochial work in Dublin and Wales.

3.228Fr Valerio did not give evidence to the Committee, he lives abroad, but he did have a legal representative present. Information about his activities can be ascertained from: the offences to which he pleaded guilty in court; statements of admission made to the Gardaí; admissions made to his Superiors in the Order; and concessions made by his counsel on his instructions at the private hearings. These sources make clear that he sexually abused at least seven children while he worked as a Prefect in Ferryhouse, and a further two children after he left the School. In a statement made to the Gardaí in the late 1990s, Fr Valerio admitted abusing boys in his group in Ferryhouse. However, he stressed that he never used violence. He told the Gardaí:

It was possible that the likely place that I assaulted these boys was in my own private room in Ferryhouse. I would have masturbated these boys. These boys would then masturbate me … After these acts were over I would have little conversation with them.

3.229He described how he once brought two boys to his private room on the pretence that he wanted to give them a prize for swimming. The prize was a pair of swimming togs, which he gave to them and asked them to put on. He also described how he brought one of these boys to his room on another occasion and sexually assaulted him.

3.230The Gardaí interviewed him on a number of occasions, concerning a series of new allegations of sexual abuse that had been made against him. He accepted that he had sexually abused the two individuals in question, but differed in his account of the abuse. He stated that he engaged in mutual masturbation with a boy, at his mother’s house, after the boy had left Ferryhouse but he denied rape. Fr Valerio admitted that he had sexually abused the second person. The Gardaí subsequently interviewed this victim, who alleged that Fr Valerio abused him in Ferryhouse, but Fr Valerio denied that the abuse took place in the School. He told the Gardaí that, when he was studying for the priesthood in Dublin, he was sent to Ferryhouse on an errand and, while he was there, he was asked to take the boy to Dublin. Instead of taking the boy straight to Dublin, he took him to his home and sexually abused him there.

3.231One of the victims whom Fr Valerio admitted abusing in Ferryhouse gave evidence. He was in the School in the early 1970s:

My encounter with Valerio was more by chance than anything else, you know. I had an occasion, I believe, to come across a situation where he was quite violent to somebody else and I intervened. From that incident I was put to his room, told to go to his room, which I did. I waited for a little while and he came in, and just a rage, you know, a physical rage on him. He started getting my clothes off and, again, the same thing. It wasn’t like Fr Daniele29 where it was more psychological, you know, more the fear over you, but Valerio was more the doing of the fear; the beating, the grunting, the dragging, the tearing. He was just like, I do not know, the eyes of him, he was like a man who was possessed, you know. He got me … down and he beat my face off the ground. He done his best to penetrate me, I don’t believe to this day he ever did it.

3.232Another witness who was present in the early 1970s gave evidence that Fr Valerio started to abuse him when he was transferred to ‘B’ Group. He said that the abuse happened regularly, about once a month, and that Fr Valerio would come up to his bed at night and ‘get all pally pally with you’ and bring him up to his room where he was forced to perform oral sex. He said he was not the only one who was brought to Fr Valerio’s room at night. It happened regularly, and he believed all the boys were aware of what was going on. Fr Valerio was represented at this hearing by counsel, but did not cross-examine the witness.

3.233One witness said that one night, while he was crossing the yard, Fr Valerio saw him and called him into the office, where he tried to sexually abuse him. He refused to co-operate and was beaten as a result. He felt that he was singled out for punishment after that.

3.234During the cross-examination of this witness, counsel for Fr Valerio stated that Fr Valerio denied the allegation, and further:

That he is certain that if any attempt at indecency occurred – and he has admitted in other circumstances an offence of indecency, but he says in your case that if any attempt at indecency occurred it was never in the context of violence or associated with violence.

3.235Another witness gave evidence that Fr Valerio abused him after he had left the School:

Br Valerio, while I was actually in the School he never actually touched me but when I left School I was in my uncle’s house … and he appeared at the door one day and he asked me to come for a drive or whatever, I presumed I was going back to the School or something for some reason. He took me to his elderly mother’s house … and he asked me to stay the night or something there. I presumed I was going to have my own bedroom. I went to bed and he followed me in and he actually got into the same bed with me. I can’t remember, I think it was sometime in the early 1970s, I can’t remember the exact dates. It was around Easter or something. He put me to bed and he got in with me and he proceeded to fondle me and touch me and he actually masturbated me and made me do the same thing to him. That was the one occasion. He never touched me before or after that.

3.236Counsel for Fr Valerio did not accept or reject the allegations but, in his statements to the Gardaí, Fr Valerio accepted abusing other boys in this fashion.


  • This man served as a Prefect in Ferryhouse for four years until he left to study for the priesthood. He exploited his position for the purpose of sexual abuse.
  • In Ferryhouse the system allowed individuals to gain absolute control over large groups of children so that they could do what they liked with little risk of detection.

Other cases

Mr Tablis

3.238Mr Tablis was another outsider who worked in Clonmel and who had easy access to the boys in Ferryhouse. He does not seem to have had quite the same access to the dormitories as Mr Garnier had, but there are allegations against him in respect of sexual impropriety. Mr Tablis was a friend of Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager before Fr Stefano. Fr Ricardo described the situation as he recalled it:

Mr Tablis , to my understanding, again was involved with [local club] and they used to bring the boys to … a daily outing, where they would collect them in the cars and bring them to … Mr Tablis would call alright, but I think he was a friend of Fr Lucio’s, he got to know the boys, but I think it was more got to do with the … He wouldn’t be playing cards so much, I wouldn’t recall him being up in through the school generally.

3.239Fr Antonio recalled that Mr Tablis ‘was very friendly with Fr Lucio, he might take two or three of the lads off for a spin in the car and all that kind of stuff, but … didn’t have any specific role’.

3.240Fr Paolo, who was a Prefect, was uneasy about Mr Tablis, just as he was about Mr Garnier. His determination to keep outsiders away from the boys in his group extended as much to Mr Tablis as it did to Mr Garnier.

Mr Ducat30

3.241A witness who was present in the School from the latter half of the 1970s alleged that he was sexually abused by Br Bruno and Mr Ducat. Mr Ducat was a local man who used to visit the School regularly, doing odd jobs. Fr Antonio gave evidence that Mr Ducat would regularly drive the boys to concerts. The witness alleged that, on one occasion, Mr Ducat asked him if he wanted to go for a drive in his car. He said that he would like to and they went for a drive around the football field. They then left the School grounds, and Mr Ducat stopped the car on the Waterford road:

He pulled his car in and he tried to get me to commit a sex act for him … I opened the door and ran back towards the School but to my surprise I was told I won’t be going home again because I had tried to run away. Ducat had gone back and told whoever was in charge that I had tried to abscond. In fact I didn’t try to abscond. There was no point reporting the matter because there was never anything done about the matters when you reported them.

3.242Fr Stefano was asked about Mr Ducat. He said that he had never received a complaint about him, but that, in the late 1970s:

I was tipped off by a detective in Clonmel that they were worried about him, you know, and I sent for him immediately and he was never allowed in the gates of that School after that again.

Documented cases

Br Gilberto31

3.243Br Gilberto served in Ferryhouse as Assistant Prefect in the mid-1940s, and he returned there as a student from the early to the mid-1950s. He was sent to Upton in the mid-1950s and, shortly afterwards, it was discovered that he had been sexually abusing boys there. A fuller account appears in the Upton chapter.

Br Emilio32

3.244Br Emilio joined the Rosminians in the late 1940s, but left the Novitiate at Kilmurry after only three months ‘against [the] counsel of [his] Novice Master who thought his decision to leave imprudent and his judgement premature’. He returned to the Rosminians three years later and was re-admitted to the Novitiate in the early 1950s. He was sent to Ferryhouse in the mid-1950s, and he remained there until he was dismissed by decree of the Superior General some three years later.

3.245The reasons for his dismissal appears from the correspondence. In a letter to Fr Lucca,33 the Superior General in the mid-1950s, the Provincial wrote:

I regret that there is another Brother Emilio who is stationed at the Clonmel house and who is very unsettled in his vocation and desires a dispensation from his triennial vows, which he took on the [two years ago]. His reasons for desiring the dispensation are that he cannot remain until his vows expire as he feels unhappy and discontented – feels keenly the restrictions of obedience and has reasons for fearing that contact with boys would be a danger to him.

This brother is very faithful and conscientious in the office entrusted to him at Clonmel and his external behaviour is good … I offered him a change to another community but he would not accept that. I am satisfied that it is a case for a dispensation …

3.246Fr Lucca replied:

As regards Br Emilio try to encourage him to be faithful to his vows until their expiry next September.

3.247The Provincial, Fr Placido,34 was unhappy with this response and wrote again, setting out different reasons why he felt Br Emilio should be dispensed. Br Emilio was ‘of good character but somewhat unbalanced’, ‘self willed, obstinate’, he had ‘an intense antipathy to the Prefect of the boys … and caused great deal of trouble influencing unduly two other members of the Community against the Prefect’, ‘he is a trouble maker’. Fr Placido concluded:

I think it is urgent to obtain a dispensation from him since he is so unhappy and so unspiritual in his outlook and his presence at Clonmel would endanger still more the peace and happiness of the Community.

3.248Fr Lucca replied:

In view of the explanation you now give me regarding Br Emilio, I believe it is better that he goes. I am dispensing him from his Triennial Vows according to the faculties given me by Canon Law. I am very sorry but it is better for himself, and for the community that he goes. Send him home straight away, and may the Lord protect him and accompany him.

3.249Despite the fact that the correspondence implies that the Brother was granted a dispensation, his personnel card records that he was dismissed. The full details of this case remain uncertain.


  • The fact that the Brother had ‘reasons for fearing that contact with boys would be a danger to him’, were not sufficient for the Superior General to grant dispensation.
  • The Provincial then sought the dispensation on the ground that the Brother was disrupting the community and this did persuade the Superior General.
  • The primary concern was about managing the Brother’s case. The safety of the boys was not a consideration.

Br Lazarro35

3.251Br Lazarro joined the Rosminians in the early 1950s. He was sent to Ferryhouse in the mid-1950s as Assistant School Prefect and was promoted to Prefect in the early 1960s. He left Ferryhouse after a year, when he was transferred to Omeath. The reason for his sudden removal from the School is apparent in a letter from Fr Placido, the Provincial, to Fr Lucca, the Superior General:

The other case is that of Br Lazarro who was prefect and over a period had been very indiscreet. He left for Omeath … You will fully appreciate … how instant action is often necessary and the changes made are a cover up in some respects.

3.252Fr Lucca replied:

The distressing news conveyed in your letter … shows that the Rector is very attentive and decisive. I approve the changes you had to make and I hope the guilty ones are convinced of the serious wrong they have done and are repentant. All this causes me great sadness especially [when I consider] the elder of the two. We really must work out our salvation “in fear and trembling.” I am well aware of the Brothers whom you have had to change in these painful circumstances and I pray the Lord will help them in their new positions … I am sorry for you too who have had to make all these urgent and painful changes. Let us pray the Lord that nothing else of the like will occur.

3.253A former resident, present in the School in the early 1960s, complained about Br Lazarro, alleging fondling of a sexual nature when the Brother was Prefect:

He put his hand under the bedclothes and started, you know, all that. I suppose, you know, this is kind of bloody hard talking about this in front of women, I tell you that much now … I don’t know how long it went on for, I was in a position that my job was cleaning his bedroom and that, so it went on there as well …

3.254He said that the abuse continued up to the time that Br Lazarro disappeared. He was unable to remember the circumstances of the Brother’s departure, but said ‘This is only hearsay as well, I heard that someone complained about him’.

3.255He said that the Resident Manager called him into his office and questioned him about the abuse and then punished him. He added, ‘He used the strap on me, more or less saying “it is your fault”’.

3.256The witness had difficulty recounting the abuse, and instead confirmed to the Committee the contents of the written statement that he had provided, which contained further detail about the sexual abuse that he alleged against Br Lazarro.

3.257The witness was complimentary about the Resident Manager, despite the punishment he said that he received. He liked Fr Rafaele, and felt pleased that he had got rid of the offending Brother as quickly as he did.

3.258Fr Matthew Gaffney, Provincial of the Rosminians, made a written response to these allegations on behalf of the Order in 2001. He stated that ‘the passage of time since the event described … make it impossible for me either to respond to them or to investigate them adequately …’. However, he added that ‘if the allegations of sexual abuse made by the complainant are true, the abuse was shameful and horrific, and I should apologise for the terrible injury he must have suffered’.

3.259In the time between the writing of that statement and the hearing of the complainant’s evidence, the Rome files came to light, containing documents which identified Br Lazarro as an abuser. As a result of this, the Order changed their response. At the commencement of his cross-examination of the complainant, counsel for the Rosminians said:

We accept what you have said, we trust the truth of it completely. There is one very big thing which you have done today … and it is a testament to the pain you suffered and others with you.

3.260Most of the other former residents who referred to Br Lazarro did so in the context of physical abuse. However, one resident present in the School in the late 1950s recalled one occasion when another Brother instructed him to fetch the leather strap:

I ran over to the office and I ran into the room, into the office; when I went into the office Br Lazarro was sitting down with a boy on his lap, a young boy … he was only probably 10/11 … he shouted at me, “what are you doing in here, what are you doing in here?” I said “Brother Donato36 sent me over for the leather, he wants to slap [a boy]”. He gave me the leather and said “I will see you afterwards.”

3.261Staff members who served in Ferryhouse at the time of Br Lazarro’s departure were unable to remember the circumstances of his leaving, which suggests that there was secrecy about the matter. It is nevertheless surprising that, in a small community, a sudden departure would not have generated a great deal of interest. Moreover, Fr Lucca’s letter cited above refers to talk and ‘admiratio’,37 suggesting there was indeed curiosity about the departure.

3.262In reply to an internal Rosminian survey, other members of the Order who were not in the School at the time recalled how they heard about the Br Lazarro episode. One priest, who was appointed teacher in Glencomeragh in the mid-1960s, stated in his questionnaire that he heard that Br Lazarro had been involved in improper behaviour and that the Rector, Fr Rafaele, was suspicious. Similarly, another priest described a conversation that he had with members of the Institute in the early 1960s, when he was a student in Glencomeragh, in which it was mentioned that Br Lazarro and Br Mario ‘were somehow implicated with some boys at Ferryhouse’.

3.263It is unclear from the documentation whether Br Lazarro was assigned to work directly with the boys or for the staff.

3.264In the case of Br Mateo,38 he was given a warning for sexually abusing children in Upton and transferred to a post at Omeath that did not bring him in contact with boys. The Rector of Omeath, Fr Lucio, was given instructions to be ‘vigilant’.

3.265Fr Lucio was still Rector when Br Lazarro was sent to Omeath, although he was replaced a few months after the transfer of Br Lazarro.

3.266When Br Lazarro joined Br Mateo in the early 1960s, there were two sexual abusers working in Omeath.


  • The Order was unsure how to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct by Br Lazarro but, once the correspondence in the Rome files was found, the Order accepted unreservedly the truth of what the former resident said and apologised to him.
  • Although there is some doubt as to whether the two offenders worked together, it was particularly reckless to have two known sexual abusers working in proximity in an institution like Omeath.

Br Fausto39

3.268Br Fausto was discovered to be sexually abusing boys in the mid-1950s, while he was serving in Upton. He was moved to Ferryhouse and his record card indicates that he was transferred ‘during year’. His position in Ferryhouse was that of assistant superintendent of the boys’ kitchen. He was transferred to Glencomeragh in the early 1960s. The account of how he was discovered to be a sexual abuser is told in the Upton section.

Br Mario

3.269Br Mario was transferred to Upton in the mid-1950s. In the early 1960s, he was sent to Ferryhouse, where he was appointed to an administrative role. He was discovered to have been sexually abusing boys during his posting in Ferryhouse in the early 1960s, to where he had been transferred following his term in Upton. Once again, Br Alfonso, himself then serving in Ferryhouse, was the discoverer. The full details of this case are given above, in the Rome files section.

The Department of Education investigation

3.270Following the disclosure of sexual abuse perpetrated in 1979 by Br Bruno, Fr Stefano, having consulted the Provincial of the Order, made a decision to inform the Department of Education. He spoke to Mr Black,40 an official in the Department dealing with industrial schools, early in 1980. No contemporary written evidence of this reporting has been found and furnished to the Commission.

3.271Mr Black gave evidence to the Investigation Committee, where he recalled receiving a phone call from Fr Stefano early one morning and being told that he wished to report a sexual assault on a pupil.

3.272Mr Black accepted that his recollection of the detail of the conversation was not clear, but he recalled being told that Fr Stefano had caught one of their Brothers in bed with a boy, that the Brother was ‘now on a train out of his way out of the place’ and that Fr Stefano was very distressed.

3.273Mr Black told the Committee that he told Fr Stefano to leave the matter with him, and he then contacted Mr Orange,41 the Secretary of the Department. He told Mr Orange exactly what Fr Stefano had relayed to him, and said that Mr Orange reflected on the matter for a few moments and decided that no further action was necessary, as the person responsible for the assault had been caught and was now removed from the School. He told the Committee that, as far as he could best recollect, that was what happened.

3.274Mr Black said that he had not made a written record of the events. He accepted that he may have ‘slipped up’ in not making a note. He gave two reasons for not doing so: first, he had not been told to; and secondly, he understood the School would have kept a record in the daily register of the School which, under the terms of the Act, should record notable events to be laid before the Inspector.

3.275There is no evidence available to the Investigation Committee indicating that Mr Orange, Secretary of the Department, kept a written record either.

3.276Mr Black also confirmed that he had not asked whether Fr Stefano had reported the matter to the Gardaí. He explained:

If I was doing it today – hindsight is grand, of course – the first thing I would have said is “Have you reported that to the Guards?” That is the first thing I would have said to Fr Stefano. Secondly I would have taken a note, even if only to protect myself. So, mea culpa.

3.277He confirmed that there was no follow-up investigation, as the ‘culprit was found’.

3.278Mr Black explained that, at the time, there were no guidelines in the Department as to how one should handle a complaint of this nature. He did, however, refer to a complaints procedure, which had been handed down by tradition in the Department, to deal with complaints from ‘the woman who was making the complaint or whatever it was’. It involved sending an investigator out to interview the people concerned.

3.279When asked why this procedure was not set in motion in relation to the complaint against Br Bruno, Mr Black replied:

Because the thing was finished, the crime was solved, the culprit was on his way off … What more could I do at that time? I should have now have told the Guards, of course, you know, because it was a crime, but it wasn’t regarded in that light at that time.

3.280The Department’s Child Care Advisor, gave evidence that he became aware of Br Bruno’s dismissal, shortly after it occurred, through a phone call from Fr Stefano:

To the best of my knowledge, I then reported that to Mr Black, …. who I think already knew of the issue, and he said that he would be dealing with the matter or to leave it with him at that stage.

3.281He was asked what procedures were in place to deal with information received in this way:

To record it and to consult with the managers, to make certain it is all on record … If the Secretary had been informed, you would obviously go back and keep him updated of where you were with that situation. You would then consult with the Order as to where they were with the situation. Because they have ultimate responsibility for – and I think there was, as far as possible, good communication.

3.282It was put to him that one would expect the matter to go on record, and the record to go on file, because that is the way the Department worked and he responded:

Yes. I expect there was a file in the Department, because when I am listening to the Chairman, my mind is thinking of – not an incident like that, but there was an incident of a fire in Cavan many years ago and I know that incident is on a file. So that’s the same sort of major incident we are talking of really.

3.283He added that he did not report the matter to the Gardaí:

I certainly didn’t inform the guards, as Mr Black was dealing with that situation and he said to me, “leave it with me”. I left it with him. Maybe on hindsight that was wrong.

3.284It is clear that the Department of Education did not conduct any investigation into the events that took place in Ferryhouse in 1980. Nor did the Department facilitate any such investigation, whether by the Garda Sióchana, by the Department of Health, by the local Health Authority or by any other agency.

3.285The position of the Department of Education in relation to the investigation and reporting of abuse is set out in its document, ‘Statement to Commission To Inquire Into Child Abuse’ dated 19th May 2006 and prepared in advance of the Phase III hearings. It states:

In detailing the allegations of abuse in Clonmel and the response of the Department, it is worth noting the Department’s position with regard to dealing with allegations of this nature was that the Department does not investigate allegations of abuse. This is a matter for the employers of the staff (in the case of St Joseph’s this would be the Rosminian Order), the Gardai and the health authorities. The responsibility of the Department would be to ensure that the welfare and safety of children was protected and that the matter had been reported to the appropriate authorities and that appropriate steps were being taken to investigate the matter and protection of children.

3.286The Department’s TN030 file was discovered to the Investigation Committee by the Department of Education. It had not been among the other documents disclosed earlier because it was an ongoing file, and was not in the archive, but among the files of senior Department staff. As Mr Black, former Principal Officer, told the Committee:

They had in that Section in the Primary Branch, they had a safe for confidential files … any offences with a suggestion of a sexual offence in them were kept there. I asked the girls about this thing … one girl I knew in the section, “Did you ever remember any cases like this?” “Oh no, we wouldn’t see them at all.” They never went down. There was a rule at one time that girls were not to see any things like that, they were very sensitive creatures.

3.287It is the only file of the period covered by the inquiry that deals explicitly with the reporting and management of sexual abuse. The file cover bears the heading, ‘Meeting with Clonmel Authorities Wednesday 4th December 1996’. The earliest memorandum it contains is dated 9th December 1994. The file contains the Department’s record of events involving sexual abuse commencing with the year 1994.

Events of 1994

3.288On 8th December 1994, Fr Antonio, the then Director of Ferryhouse, telephoned Mr Grey,42 Principal Officer in the Department of Education, in relation to allegations of sexual abuse made by a person who had attended Ferryhouse from 1971 to 1973. The alleged abuser was a member of staff in the School. Mr Grey’s memorandum was headed, ‘Note for Secretary’s Information “Allegation of Sexual Abuse at St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Clonmel, in 1971/1973. This school is operated by the Rosminian Fathers”’, and it was dated 9th December 1994.

3.289The note recorded the details of the phone call. According to Fr Antonio, these allegations had been made to Fr Stefano, who was then the Provincial. The alleged abuser is not named in the note, but Fr Antonio is recorded as saying that he was a member of the Rosminian Order at the time. He had left Ferryhouse some years previously and was no longer a member of the Order.

3.290Mr Grey recorded being told that Fr Stefano, on learning of the complaint, attempted to arrange a meeting with the person making the allegations but these attempts were rejected, and that the accuser had said he would be pursuing the matter through his solicitor. Mr Grey also recorded that the Order had held a Council meeting on 7th December 1994 to discuss the matter (see below), and that Fr Antonio was unwilling to provide further details over the phone but suggested that the Department’s Child Care Advisor should call to St Joseph’s as soon as possible, where he would be given all the information available.

3.291Mr Grey further noted he had explained to Fr Antonio that the Order should report the matter immediately to the Garda Authorities, and should not wait until a complaint was received by the Gardaí from another source. He requested that Fr Antonio should provide him with a written report on the matter. Fr Antonio agreed to bring Mr Grey’s comments to the immediate attention of the Provincial, and stated that he considered that the course suggested by Mr Grey was the proper one in the circumstances. A handwritten note on the memorandum indicates that it was delivered to Mr Green,43 the Assistant Secretary, at 10.30am on 9th December 1994. The word ‘sexclon’ is also handwritten on the top of the page.

3.292Mr Grey addressed a further memorandum to Mr Green in December 1995. It was in this memorandum, dated 4th December 1995, that Mr Grey became aware that the allegation was against Fr Valerio. The list of religious personnel indicated that, as of 1994/1995, Fr Valerio was still a member of the Order but seeking laicisation.

3.293In it, Mr Grey referred to his earlier memorandum and recorded that, on 8th December 1994, he was contacted by Fr Antonio, Director of St Joseph’s, who explained that the allegation was made by a person who had called to the Order’s house in Dublin at 2.00am. The person in question was very drunk and somewhat incoherent at the time, but agreed to leave a telephone number at which he could be contacted, and indicated that he was reporting the matter to his solicitor. Several attempts to contact the person by telephone and by registered letter, sent on 9th December 1994, were unsuccessful. In this letter, the Provincial sought more information on the allegation, and told him he should take it to the proper authorities and ‘that Fr X is available to meet him anytime’.

3.294According to Mr Grey, Fr Antonio explained that he had had lengthy discussions with the Order’s solicitor, and that he had been strongly advised that, in view of the circumstances surrounding the making of the allegation, he should take no further action at that stage. Rather, he should await receipt of a formal complaint. The Provincial had been advised that he did not currently have sufficient grounds to formally confront the alleged offender, and that any such action on his part could expose him to legal challenge from that source.

3.295Mr Grey made a note to the effect that he had been told that the alleged offender was effectively out of the Order for the last two years, a situation which was in the process of being formalised at present, and that the alleged offender was no longer dealing with children.

3.296It is clear from these memoranda that the Garda authorities were not notified by the Rosminian Order in 1994, and that Mr Grey and Mr Green were aware of this fact.

3.297It is not clear whether the Department officials were informed at this stage that Br Valerio had admitted: (1) the truth of a complaint of sexual abuse on a minor as far back as January 1980, to the Provincial; (2) that, in 1992, Br Andino had told him of a further incident circa 1990; and (3) that, when challenged in 1992, Br Valerio had admitted to him (Fr Stefano) that an incident had occurred when he was a scholastic in Clonmel (around 1968).

3.298Fr Stefano was aware of all of these facts when contact was made with the Department in December 1994.

3.299Several questions arise from the management of this case. Did the solicitor who advised no action have all the information available on this Brother? This advice prevented the Order from following Mr Grey’s advice to report the matter immediately to the Gardaí. Was Mr Grey or Mr Green in a position to overrule the solicitor, whose main concern was for his client and not the abused children? Furthermore, having regard to what they actually knew about him, one might ask whether the Rosminians should have reported Br Valerio’s activities to the Gardaí when the opportunities arose in 1980, in 1992 and in 1994.

3.300The issue was obviously a matter of grave concern to the Rosminians, as they appointed a media consultant to advise them almost as soon as the sexual abuse was reported. He attended their Council meeting on 7th December 1994, and advised them ‘that the media would “savage” anyone involved in sexual abuse and its concealment’. The minutes record that he strongly recommended ‘that the Provincial and his Council appoint a group who would take responsibility for investigating any allegations and make recommendations in turn to the Provincial and Council’. He then advised them specifically about the allegations made by the former resident of Ferryhouse and discussed the ‘civil and canonical rights of the accused’.

Events of 1995

3.301On 29th November 1995, Fr Stefano met with Mr Grey, this time in relation to Br Bruno. At this stage, he also contacted the Garda Superintendent in Clonmel, to inform him of his 1979 discovery of Br Bruno’s activities and of the allegation of sexual abuse being made against Fr Valerio. In his undated statement furnished to the Commission, Fr Stefano put into context how this came about:

I was serving as Provincial of the Irish Province of the Rosminians. The Protocol on Child Sexual Abuse was being developed by the Hierarchy and CORI. As we reviewed the Draft Document we decided that we should once again report these matters. Accompanied by Fr Vito44 I first travelled to the Department of Education, Athlone and reported the matter again to the then Principal Officer, Mr Grey and, in the afternoon of the same day, reported the matter to the Garda Superintendent at Clonmel Garda Station.

3.302This is in line with his evidence during the Emergence Hearings, where it was conceded that, by then, there was already a Garda involvement ‘not directly with us, but we knew, like, that Gardaí were asking questions’, and that past pupils had been making complaints to the Gardaí.

3.303Mr Grey’s memorandum dated 4th December 1995 puts a slightly different perspective on Fr Stefano’s motivation for this visit. In this memorandum, Mr Grey first points out that there were two distinct allegations. He deals with the 1994 allegation, goes on to identify Fr Valerio as the person being referred to, and alludes to the complainant’s failure to report the matter to the Gardaí. Mr Grey then recorded the meeting on 29th November 1995, at Fr Stefano’s request, in connection with a second allegation, this time against Br Bruno. At that meeting, Fr Stefano advised Mr Grey that a former pupil had been approached by the Gardaí and questioned about abuse in the School in the 1979 period. The Garda enquiry arose from comments made by the former pupil that had been overheard. Fr Stefano explained to Mr Grey that the person who made the allegation was himself the victim of very serious physical abuse and torture at the hands of his own father, and it was not clear whether the overheard allegation related to abuse in the School or at home.

3.304Mr Grey recorded that Fr Stefano was seriously concerned at these developments. He was anxious that the Department should be made fully aware of what was involved, and he would also be travelling to Clonmel, where he had arranged to meet a Chief Superintendent of the Gardaí in relation to the matter. He wrote that Fr Stefano then went on to tell Mr Grey in detail about the revelations in 1979 concerning Br Bruno, and the steps taken to remove Br Bruno from the Order and from contact with children. He also told him of his contact with Mr Black in the Department and that, in later years, Mr Black had confirmed to him that ‘he had passed the matter on to protect the Order and the school’. Fr Stefano did not know the identity of the person to whom Mr Black was referring.

3.305Mr Grey recorded that, on 30th November 1995, Fr Stefano contacted him again, on this occasion confirming that he had met with the Garda Superintendent in Clonmel on the previous afternoon, and had provided him with all the information at his disposal in relation to the 1979 allegation and the allegations against Fr Valerio. The memorandum goes on to detail the Superintendent’s reservations as to whether any action would be taken in either matter.

3.306It is clear from the TN030 file that the Garda enquiry into Ferryhouse did not result from information provided by the Rosminians or by the Department, but from overheard comments made by a former pupil in a public place. It was not just the ‘Draft Protocol on Child Sexual Abuse’ that triggered Fr Stefano’s decision to tell the Gardaí. The knowledge that a Garda inquiry was underway also led to their decision to contact the Garda authorities and contribute to their inquiry.

3.307It is enlightening that, at the meeting with the Superintendent on 29th November 1995 and in the course of his contact with Mr Grey on 30th December 1995, Fr Stefano did not also refer to the other complaint of abuse that had been made against a third Brother (Br Sergio). The decision to help with ongoing inquiries had not yet become a broader inquiry into sexual abuse. It was as if each case was seen as a separate problem, rather than as a single issue about child protection and crime prevention within St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse.

Events of 1996

3.308In a memorandum of 10th December 1996, which was e-mailed to Mr Green, Mr Grey made a note of his meeting with the current Director of St Joseph’s, Fr Vito, on 4th December, when he was informed that the Gardaí had now interviewed over 70 boys who were in Ferryhouse in the late 1970s. Arising from the Garda inquiries, at least five boys had made allegations, all against the same person, a former member of the Order, Br Bruno, who had admitted the offences to the Gardaí in respect of at least four of the cases, and the file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

3.309Mr Grey recorded that Fr Vito expected that ‘once the matter became public, St Joseph’s could expect a repetition of the Goldenbridge situation. The Order and the management were already planning for such an eventuality’. According to Mr Grey, Fr Vito was enquiring whether the Department would be in a position to assist the School, by covering the cost of legal representation for any member of staff interviewed by the Gardaí, the cost of delegating staff to handle anticipated enquiries and all contact with the media, and the cost of providing counselling services for staff who were likely to be traumatised by the developments. There was no mention of counselling for the victims.

3.310Mr Grey noted that the more critical issue was the need for the School to be able to offer adequate assurance that the children now in the School were not exposed to the danger of abuse; this he saw as a difficulty, because ‘the main purpose of the meeting with Fr Vito was to discuss staff shortages and specifically, concern that staff and children are currently exposed because of inadequate staff cover’.

3.311Mr Grey recorded that this was an issue that needed to be urgently addressed in advance of the abuse cases coming to public attention. He noted that the issue of staff shortages had been recognised for some time, but the Department had not made a case to the Department of Finance because the School authorities had failed to provide data to support the claim. At the meeting, it was agreed that the School would provide the information within weeks, and the Department would make the necessary approach.

3.312While Mr Grey expressed concern about the need to be able to offer assurances as to the safety of boys currently in the School, there was no expression of concern for those who had been abused by the Brother. The urgency was to resolve the question of staff shortages, thereby avoiding the Department’s being exposed to serious criticism when the abuse cases became public.

3.313Again, it is worth noting that this memorandum also makes no reference to the complaint against Fr Valerio. The concern was to deal with each problem as it arose, rather than to survey the broader picture.

3.314Finally, there are two memoranda dated 19th and 20th December 1996 addressed to the Minister, from Mr Green and Mr Grey respectively. These appear to be memoranda briefing the Minister about the allegations against Br Bruno, and are identical save for the date and the name of their authors. They begin:

Fr Vito … contacted Mr Grey recently and advised that a number of former pupils of St Joseph’s Industrial School, Clonmel had made allegations of sexual abuse against Br Bruno to the Gardaí …

3.315These memoranda make no reference to the allegations against Fr Valerio, of which both Mr Green and Mr Grey had been aware since December 1994. They are somewhat misleading, insofar as they give the impression that their knowledge of Br Bruno’s abuse had come to them in the recent past, and as a result of the contact recently made by Fr Vito. They fail to refer to the fact that, in November 1995, Fr Stefano had informed them of Br Bruno’s activities.

Events of 1997

3.316According to the Department file, Mr Grey was first informed of a boy’s allegation against Br Sergio on 12th February 1997. In his notes dated 13th February 1997, Mr Grey recorded being told by Fr Stefano that the previous weekend a former pupil had called to Ferryhouse and indicated that he now intended reporting the incident to the Gardai, and that the Clonmel authorities had indicated that they would co-operate fully in any inquiry which might arise.

3.317Though this information only came to the Department in 1997, the incident had occurred three years previously in 1994. The former resident had been working in Dublin and staying in a house maintained by the Rosminian Fathers as part of their aftercare programme. He went on a prolonged drinking spree and returned to the house. That night, he awoke to find Br Sergio ‘on top of him’. The young man became distressed and left the house, and the next day he went to a relative of Br Sergio’s to tell them about it. He did not take the matter further at that time, but moved to work in Clonmel. Mr Grey noted that the relative in turn told Fr Stefano, the Provincial, who immediately had Br Sergio removed ‘to a facility in … the U.K. which caters for the rehabilitation of members of religious orders’. Two years after this incident, Br Sergio applied for dispensation from his vows and he left the Order at the end of that year.

3.318There the matter rested until 1997, when the young man decided he would report the incident to the Gardaí.

  • This investigation was recorded in File TN030 of the Department which was not included in the Department’s original discovery and was the subject of procedural hearings by the Commission in 2003.
  • The Department dealt with the case with extremes of caution that prevented the matter being dealt with properly as a report of serious crime.
  • The principal issue for the Department was how to deal with the scandal.
  • The children who had been abused or put at risk were not considered by the Department.
  • It took a further 17 years before the matter was reported to the Gardai and the offenders’ risk to children was addressed.

Complaints made by witnesses

3.319Two witnesses made allegations of serious sexual abuse by two staff members in the early 1970s.

Br Leone

3.320A witness who was present in Ferryhouse from the late 1960s alleged that he was sexually abused by Brs Leone and Valerio. The abuse took place in Br Leone’s bedroom, when they would return to the School late after sporting tournaments. It continued for about two and a half years.

Fr Daniele

3.321A complainant who was present during the early 1970s alleged that Fr Daniele sexually abused him. He said that Fr Daniele sent for him and, when he arrived, started asking him about his past and educational history. Up until this point, he thought of Fr Daniele as a nice, jolly man who was very encouraging to the boys. However, on this occasion in his room, Fr Daniele told the witness to take off his clothes, as he needed to examine him. The witness was surprised at this request and hesitated, at which point Fr Daniele became very angry and threatened to beat him.

3.322Eventually, he complied with Fr Daniele’s request, and he alleged that he was raped by Fr Daniele.

3.323Fr Daniele then gave him some chocolate and sent him on his way. When he went to bed, he awoke in pain and noticed that there was dried blood on his leg. He said that this happened on a few occasions. Fr Daniele would send for him in the evenings or ask himself if he bumped into the witness.

3.324The witness accepted that the Rosminians had a very high opinion of Fr Daniele but stressed that ‘my memory is far different’.

Conclusions on sexual abuse

3.3251.Sexual abuse by religious was a chronic problem in Ferryhouse throughout the relevant period but the full extent cannot be quantified. Some of the abuse is verifiable by contemporary documents or admissions.

2.During most of the years between 1952 and 1988, there lived and worked in Ferryhouse a member or members of the Rosminian Order who at some time were found to have engaged in sexual abuse of boys. In more than ten of those years, there were at least two abusers present and in at least two different years there were three abusers there.

3.Complainant witnesses from every era, from the early 1940s onwards, testified about the sexual abuse of children in Ferryhouse. The Rosminian Institute acknowledged that not all of those who were sexually abused have come forward as complainants, whether to the Commission, to the Redress Board, or to An Garda Síochana. In their Final Submission to the Investigation Committee they wrote, ‘We know that some boys were sexually abused who have made no complaint to the Commission or otherwise, but have spoken to us about it’.

4.The Rosminian authorities discovered that some members of their Order had been abusing children, but their response was wholly inadequate. When sexual abuse was detected, the Order sought to cover up the situation by removing known abusers and transferring them to other institutions.

5.It was only when the Gardaí had already become aware of allegations that the Rosminians reported abuse to the Gardaí in 1995.

6.At no stage did the Rosminians query whether other boys had been abused when a known abuser was discovered.

7.The impact of sexual abuse on the boys themselves was not a consideration on the part of the Rosminians.

8.The Department of Education did not act responsibly when an allegation of sexual abuse was made to it in 1980 and distanced itself from the allegations, seeking to minimise the publicity and scandal which might arise for the Department and the Order.

9.The approach taken by the Department was an ad hoc one. There was no clear policy on the management of sexual abuse.

Neglect and emotional abuse

3.326A senior member of the Rosminian Order told the Investigation Committee:

That’s my belief that every child that was ever in this situation was abused in some way, emotionally, physically or whatever the case may be and you would say that we were part of that because we didn’t stand up at the time and probably say so.

3.327This statement goes further than simply to admit that abuse occurred. It states that the kind of institutional life that was made available in Ferryhouse until the late 1970s was in itself abusive. Boys lived in a system of military-style regimentation, and endured a ruthless regime of control by corporal punishment. The objectives were to reform them, and mould them into obedient and subservient citizens, but the system did not allow for the fact that they were young children with emotional and developmental needs. It offered them the cruel and austere life of a nineteenth-century institution that had survived largely unchanged into the third quarter of the twentieth century. It had few caring adults who could show affection, compassion and sympathy. The rare staff member who did treat them as individuals, and offered them kindness and support, were singled out by former residents for special mention. For the rest, the adults were there to control the children, and the children had to look to each other for emotional and social support.

3.328Whether the boys had been orphaned, or sent in by the courts for juvenile criminal behaviour, they were dragooned into the same system, where the needs of the Institution dictated the way of life. They were forced to adapt to a lifestyle that did not meet their special needs, and if they rebelled they were always seen as trouble-makers rather than unhappy children.

Orphans and delinquents

3.329A senior Brother, who served as a Prefect in Ferryhouse in the 1960s, explained how the presence of orphans and delinquents was a major problem in the institutions:

Well, you see, after all, I remember somebody saying to me that it was a good thing for the orphans to be exposed to the delinquents, that could make no absolute sense to me whatsoever … there is an example of what I’m speaking about, of all the children being lumped together in one recreational facility, you see. You’re coming from different places, orphans are coming from different places. Orphans needed entirely different treatment to delinquents.

3.330It was put to him that the orphans came from broken homes, or homes where parents were ill or dying, or dead, and their need was for another family, for love and affection, and gentle guidance by example, but the delinquents were sent there by the courts, and their need was for control. They had families and homes, and wanted to return, whereas the orphans had no other home. The real problem was trying to administer a system which was treating both the same. Inevitably, it would become more a kind of prison for delinquents than a surrogate family home for children with emotional needs. The Brother replied:

The system couldn’t work any other way, that’s the bottom line. I’m saying that that was the sad point about it. That it had to deal with the most belligerent if you like, if you like to put it that way. That there was no escape from it.

Living conditions

3.331In the 1940s, because of the Emergency, there was a period of deprivation and food shortage. One witness described the bitter cold they had to endure:

There was a big freeze up and the children, including myself, we got chilblains between our fingers, on our fingers, on our toes and they swelled up. Some poor kid – they burst and the cold was bad enough, but the pain from those things when they burst made it ten times worse … At no time were they put in any place warm, they were put in that old recreational place beneath the classrooms. There was a doorway but no door on it … The Prefects would tell them to keep moving, they wouldn’t let them stand still; keep on moving to try to get the circulation going.

3.332This witness was lucky, in that he was given a job in the kitchen, where there was warmth and more food. He explained:

Naturally I could eat more than the other kids because I was cooking it … I was protecting myself, they could not protect themselves … I have a lot of feeling for those little children. I didn’t suffer half as much as a lot of them did. Don’t forget they were hungry, not just for the six months I was hungry, some of them were there nine or ten years, they were hungry every day for nine or ten years.

3.333His guilt about hiding in the relative comfort and warmth of the kitchen was worsened when, in his last year there, he was given the ingredients to make a Christmas pudding. There was some left over and he was told to put it away for 6th January. When he took it out on that date, it was covered in mould. He was horrified, but he was told to cut the mould off and serve it to the boys. It was the first time ever they had been given Christmas pudding, and it went mouldy. It was terrible, ‘if you look at something like that and then you think of children going to eat it’.

3.334Fr Antonio described the refectory as follows:

One of the earliest nightmares you would have was being in charge of the refectory because you knew the food wasn’t good and even the tables were coming to the sides and they used to use what they called hods, which was plastic bowls and plates and stuff like that. It was – nearly I would regret an awful lot, hindsight is a great thing but at that time it was a very cruel situation. And because there was only one person in charge of the 150 there would have been a lot of bullying … I remember one occasion where the older boys were kind of selling slices of bread, which they used to call “skinners” to other lads. “I will give you a slice of bread for two sausages”.

3.335He singled out the conditions of the refectory for special criticism:

I remember the tiles in the refectory were slippery and if the steam rose up you would slip and break your leg or anything on the floor there … Let’s be honest about it, there was a chef there that used to stir the pot of stew with the handle of a brush. These things happened and I can’t deny them.

3.336At one point, he made clear the abhorrence and disgust he felt, in retrospect, about how the boys had to eat. He said:

For obvious reasons looking back now … it was horrific. The question I would have to ask myself is, would I have eaten the food out of the bowls the boys were eating out, no, I wouldn’t and I didn’t.

3.337On the other hand, he admitted, ‘It was a hell of a lot different’ for the members of the Order. He told the Investigation Committee, ‘The quality of the food would have been better for a start. You had people serving you’.

3.338He had grown up as a child in Clonmel, so he knew of the School before he went to work there as a member of the Order. He recalled:

My understanding of Ferryhouse at that time was as a child growing up in Clonmel. We used to see them going through the town in lorries with black stockings and red tops in lorries going through and the threat of my age group, and indeed everybody else at that time, was that you would be sent to the monastery if you misbehave. Ferryhouse at that time was known as the monastery. I would have visited and played football against the Ferryhouse boys at that time.

3.339When he went to work there in the 1970s, he had found the physical conditions even more stark and primitive.

3.340The Department of Education’s Medical Inspector, Dr Lysaght’s report of 1966 described the dormitories as the worst he had ever seen. They bordered on being overcrowded, and had ‘a depressing air of mass communal living’. There were no lockers or wardrobes and ‘as is usual then the boys store personal belongings under the mattresses and of course destroy the springs’.

3.341Almost a year later, a Public Health Inspection found the conditions overcrowded and ‘a hazard to the health of the child’. As a result of this report, the Department of Health withdrew their children from the Institution.

3.342In his evidence to the Investigation Committee, Fr Antonio, a former Resident Manager, spoke about an experience he had dealing with boys who were sent to Ferryhouse from Artane:

One of the – I suppose one of the things that made me angry ever since was that I was sent up on a bus to Dublin to collect the Artane boys and the instruction I was given at the time, go up – the Artane boys were told, I don’t know where they were told they were going but they weren’t told they were coming to Clonmel. My instructions were go up on the bus and don’t stop the bus or let them out because they will run away. I stand very guilty of that that I hadn’t enough courage at that time to say this is not right. I remember well, coming down on that bus and they were arriving in Ferryhouse. From what we heard at that time, I couldn’t swear by this, at least there were nuns cooking in Artane, their standard of food was a lot of better. Certainly their standard of clothes were a lot of better. Because I remember them coming down and they were all given three khaki pants and three T-shirts and whatever and they were light years to what our lads were doing. That would have made me quite angry at the time that I was going up to bring all these lads.

3.343The boys from Ferryhouse looked different. Taken from homes that were deemed to be poor and unable to provide proper care, they were placed in an institution that made them look poor and in need of proper care. It is no wonder that they resented the experience.

Family bereavement

3.344A witness who was in Ferryhouse in the 1940s came from a family where illness, poverty and death led to social upheaval. He was the eighth in a family of 13 children. His mother died of pneumonia. Her youngest child at the time was just one month old, and the complainant was seven years of age. The entire family was placed into various institutions. The four brothers were initially sent to Ferryhouse, but then were split up and the younger two were sent elsewhere. He was unaware that one of his brothers was later returned to Ferryhouse. The witness explained:

After he became a certain age, five years of age or that, he was sent to Ferryhouse. But the point about it was he was two and a half years in Ferryhouse before anybody told us he was our brother. So he was in the school for two and a half years and nobody knew he was – well, at least we didn’t know – we knew he was [names the boy] but that was it. We never knew he was our brother.

3.345He was frightened and confused on entering the School, and he was ‘never prepared’ for leaving it. He recalled leaving the School and meeting his brother-in-law who took him into his flat. There was no job found for him, and the Rosminians never checked on him after leaving the School. He lived in dire circumstances with his sister and brother-in-law until he joined the Irish Army.

3.346A witness, who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1970s, told the Investigation Committee of his family circumstances. He was the youngest of five children, with two brothers and two sisters older than himself.

3.347He was physically abused in his primary school, so stopped attending the school. After a number of appearances before the District Court, he was sent to Ferryhouse. His mother was ill with epilepsy and this also contributed to his school non-attendance as he would remain at home to help his mother. He recalled the judge telling him that his parents did not care for him, as they were not even in court. He felt this was a huge injustice. He explained:

My mother was after taking an epileptic fit as she was getting off the bus at Christchurch and it took some time to revive her. When my father got to the Court that time he pleaded with [the judge] who, could do nothing at that stage.

3.348His mother in fact was terminally ill, and she died while he was in Ferryhouse. He was called to the office. He then told the Investigation Committee:

I went into Fr Antonio’s room and Fr Antonio started crying. And he said to me, “I have something to tell you.” And I said “What? is it my mother, my father, my family, something’s wrong.” He said to me, “Your mother has died”, he said. He started crying and I looked at him to say “what are you crying for?”, because it was all coming down now, what my father was crying for [in the Court].

3.349He was driven to Dublin by a Brother. Instead of taking him directly to his family home, the Brother took him to a pub near his home. The witness remained in the car for hours and it was almost 8.15pm when he arrived at his family home. The Brother walked in through the door of the house and gave his condolences to the witness’s sister and then left, saying that he would see her at the grave. He then described the funeral:

She was buried on the following day, as far as I know, after Mass in [the cemetery]. I was at the grave in [the cemetery], just inside the gate, and [the Brother] said – he was at the grave as well and just as the ceremony was over and people were starting to walk away, he said his condolences again to my father and to my sisters. I don’t think he said anything to my brothers and took me by the hand and just brought me over and put me in the car. I was brought back then …

On my first night back to Ferryhouse, it was actually the early hours of the morning I woke to find another chap, a boy in the school, and he was at my bed as well and he said he was only trying to climb into my bed to comfort me over my mother’s death. That’s what I remember about my mother’s funeral.

Family separation

3.350A witness, who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s and early 1970s, described a family breakdown when his stepmother rejected both him and his brother. He knew his brother was placed in another institution and, when he got out of Ferryhouse, he went in search of him:

I found out when I came out of Clonmel, I found out that is where he was and I went. I only found my brother five years ago, if you can understand that. That is how long we have known each other, other than the childhood … Some family … took him … I knew he was in [another institution] and I knew where that was and I went up and I wanted to see me brother … he was the only brother I had … I was bigger so I had to protect him.

3.351He never found him, and discovered his whereabouts only because his brother kept his surname. ‘An aunt of mine found him’, he said, and the two of them had to get to know each other after being separated for nearly 30 years.

3.352A witness who was in Ferryhouse in the 1950s also recounted how his family was separated and dispersed into the care system, and where no contact was provided for the siblings. There were five children, three sisters and two brothers in the family. The mother died in childbirth, and the witness was sent to stay with an aunt and uncle for four or five months. One other member of his family was sent with him to these relations. His new baby sister was sent to other family members, along with his brother. His other older sister was sent to another institution. He could recall being taken to court and being sent to Ferryhouse on his own. He was devastated by the separation from his family.

3.353From then on, he had ‘No contact, no contact as such, no. I did write letters. The regime was a letter once a month, I think’. When he got out of Ferryhouse, he went in search of his sisters who had been placed in an industrial school in Leinster. Unfortunately for him, the girls had no memory of him and did not even remember having any other siblings:

I found the school … and I knocked on the door and looked for the two people by name … The Sister in charge invited me in and after about 20 minutes or so she came up with these two other girls and they were my younger sister and her other sister. That was the first time really I had seen the baby since our mother died … she would have been only nine or ten at that stage. [The other sister] would have been about 11 or 12 or something like that. They didn’t know anything, in fact it was completely blotted out of their minds, that they had any other members of family.

3.354The break-up of the family unit meant that there was no real connection between any of them:

It kind of, if you know what I mean, it ended with no closeness at all, it is just that we know each other. There is no connection as such. We just know we are brothers and sisters like.

3.355He left a loving family, and went to an institution where he found no love. He said:

No one cared, that’s what it seemed to me, devoid of any emotional context or devoid of anything. The only thing that was there was physical approach … I thought, it seemed to be deliberate. It appeared to me that it was deliberate at that time to break the strings. I don’t know why, that’s the impression I got that, that the strings separate and cut the string so you have no one left, you are more or less on your own as an independent. It was probably easier to control as well I suppose in the school situation, that maybe after a couple of years you forget that you had any connection with anyone at that time … I don’t know if anyone made friends there, if they just gathered together. One thing that struck me when I left the school there was no goodbyes or anything like that, it wasn’t “come back” or anything like that, there was boys, no farewells or anything like that, just under the arch and up to get the bus away from there. Basically it was cold … A cold environment.

The State’s knowledge of the conditions in Ferryhouse

Evidence from a local health inspector

3.356In 1967, a local health inspector visited the School, following the death of a boy from cerebro-spinal meningitis. His report to the Department of Health was thorough, beginning with an examination of the living conditions that might have caused the disease. He wrote:

Now this disease can be due to overcrowding, so I accordingly caused accurate measurements to be made of the dormitories, school, etc. and what emerged is what we expected: The school holds twice the number of children – there are 192 boys. The floor area and the cubic space available to every bed is 25 sq. ft. instead of 55 sq. ft. which is the normal and 200 cubic ft. instead of 400 c. ft.

We introduced every protection for the pupils by way of prophylactics. However we run a serious risk of recurrence. The matter is grave, in fact more than grave, it is unjust, and a hazard to the health of the child … You will note by the detailed report attached that the school structure where the children are taught is also doubly overcrowded. Again a serious hazard is the level of overcrowding.

3.357Having found that ‘the dormitory sleeps exactly twice the number of boys recommended’, the two officials drew the Department of Health’s attention to a number of serious matters, namely:

1.Social malaise. There is clear evidence of social malaise in the institution among the younger “denizens”. 43 out of a total of 192 boys are bed-wetters. This matter I have taken up with the M.O. to the institution and also with the Assistant Co. M.O., and will deal with it as well as possible,

2.Dental Care. This question I have taken up with the Chief Dental Officer. I feel we should give very full dental care to the boys in Ferryhouse from the clinic during school closure periods etc. Without parents, you will appreciate, it is difficult for them unless the County Council acts broadly in lieu thereof.

3.358Unlike the School, which traditionally saw bed-wetting as a matter for discipline and learning, the Public Health Officer saw it as a symptom of the level of distress among the boys. Furthermore, he did not see the Order as being in loco parentis because he asked for the local authority to take on the role of parents in caring for dental health. The full report contains other examples of neglect. Among the facts listed were the following:

1.Another unsatisfactory item is that toothbrushes for boys in each dormitory are kept in a wooden box (measuring 4’ x 5”). The brushes standing close together each in its own slot. This would appear an excellent method of spreading ’flu, mouth infections and throat infections etc.

2.On inspection only four of the ten w/c’s worked properly. Some were blocked or partially blocked, some did not flush. The anti-syphon pipes on these particular w/c’s were not connected back to the soil pipes, and flowed over after being flushed. These should be either adequately connected or blocked, as they cause the floors to be continually saturated. Ventilation is through one large roof window and is inadequate.

3.359Within the main letter is another complaint about the closed nature of the Institution. The Public Health Officer wrote:

There is a question, now advanced, of building a new National School within the walls of the Institution. It is my opinion that this is a grave mistake. This is also the opinion of the Medical Officer to the Institution and of [the], Ass. Co. M.O.H. who know fairly well, as I do, that children going out of this Institution because they have no contact outside find it difficult to adapt. We feel the children should go outside to school … where at least there will be some dilution with children with some pennies in their pockets, or the Clonmel Schools.

3.360The Department of Health Boarding-Out Inspector, Ms Fidelma Clandillon, seized on this report and wrote:

This shocking report confirms some unofficial information I have had over the years concerning Ferryhouse – yet two smaller and better schools were closed for economic reasons. From what I have heard the ill-treatment of the boys could do with investigation also. One person who spoke with me about this matter was an inspector of the I.S.P.C.C. It is scandalous that only the death of one of the boys has led to the conditions there coming to light …

[The Secretary, Tipperary (S.R.)] … informed me that the report had not been sent to the Department of Education but had been sent here as a health matter. I would urge the necessity of this Department’s informing the Department of Education of the findings of this report.

3.361At the time of the report, there were 23 boys maintained in Clonmel under the Health Act, and they were transferred without delay to other placements. The other boys, some 169 in number, had been admitted through the courts and came under the Department of Education’s remit. They remained in Clonmel while the Department and the Rosminians discussed how best to handle the problem.

3.362On 21st July 1966, less than a year before the local health inspector’s report, Dr Lysaght, the Department of Education’s Medical Inspector, made a thorough inspection of St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse. At that time, there were approximately 160 boys in the School. The numbers were later swelled when Upton closed, and 31 boys were moved down to Clonmel. Under the heading ‘Conditions of Premises’ he wrote:

The structure appears for most part in good repair. Several parts require decoration and repairs to fitments in washrooms, and sanitary annexes are needed. It would appear from what I saw in this regard they are inclined to be destructive.

3.363He seemed to be blaming the boys for the broken sanitary facilities.

3.364Under the heading ‘Dormitories’ he wrote:

Two in number … Very large, extending the length of building – contain each about 80 beds … The size of these dormitories and the presence of so many beds conveyed a depressing air of mass communal living … While there was free passage way between beds and most probably sufficient floor space to avoid justification of any accusation of overcrowding it would be only marginal and there was not room for any further beds.

3.365In the same month as he was writing the report, a fire broke out in the east wing of Upton Industrial School, and 31 boys were transferred to Ferryhouse. Dr Lysaght’s report made it clear there that there was no room for them.

3.366Dr Lysaght went on to say:

In any event these dormitories are much too big and they should be broken up into smaller units. I can appreciate the need for supervision but it can be got as in the case of Salthill without resort to what I regard as a soul destroying and de-humanising expedient. There is little use in discussing the desirability of having small homes or schools with less than 50 beds, the avoidance of institutional atmosphere from every aspect and at the same time countenance the concentration of double the number sleeping in one room in serried rows of beds, end to end …

I had the feeling that these dormitories were the worst I had seen … There was a general air of “dinginess”, bare boards none too clean, bed covers dull and unattractive etc. which did not impress favourably …

3.367He found the beds adequate though spartan, there were adequate blankets and sheets, but the latter were ‘none too clean at that’. He then added:

There is a large sanitary annex containing W.Cs. and urinals and washbasins off each dormitory. The walls are just bare concrete and stained and discoloured. Damage to fitments were seen – evidence of destructive tendencies.

3.368He found ‘a rough and untidy look about the dining room’, but the food was good and ample in amount. There were only 10 boys in the School at the time, as the others were on holiday at Woodstown, so his judgements were made under exceptional circumstances. Of their clothing he wrote, ‘The ten boys seen were reasonably well clothed’.

3.369His comments on aftercare expressed deeper concerns. He wrote:

They try to get them jobs on leaving. Most do not want to work on farms – they say it is too lonely … Many join the army but unfortunately the army won’t take them til they are 17 … Those who have training in trades … would have to serve their time all over again as apprentices outside … They manage to frequently get places as men servants in religious houses for boys. It would seem, however, that in the case of illegitimate and orphans with no living near relatives the dice is heavily loaded against their getting a fair start in life. This constitutes a social problem, which should be capable of remedy.

3.370There is plenty in this report to alert the Department to the dangers of overcrowding and poor hygiene within Ferryhouse, but the report falls far short of being a shocking indictment of the place. It did not stop the Department allowing 31 more boys into the crowded School.

3.371Apart from Dr Lysaght’s report, there were three reports from Dr Anna McCabe for August and September 1963 and January 1964, when the School population was nearly 200 boys. They are generally very positive. On 15th August 1963, she wrote under the heading ‘Condition of premises’, ‘Clean well kept. Improvements have been made and will be made. Outside and inside re-decoration is being done’. Equipment, sanitation and health were all described as very good. Food and diet, and clothing were described as ‘Improved’. Her general observation was that the new Manager was ‘keen to make improvements’. She recorded that she had ‘discussed many points with him and he will endeavour to have improvements made’. In an addendum following an incidental visit, she wrote, ‘Improvements are being made and in time the school will be much improved’.

3.372In January 1964, she wrote an almost identical report. Again, the premises were ‘clean well kept’ and she commented, ‘Improvements are being made and continue to be made’. Accommodation, equipment, sanitation, and health are all described as ‘V.Good’ and food and diet and clothing are again described as ‘much improved’. She again ended with another optimistic comment. She wrote:

Improvements have taken place and the new manager is most anxious to help in every way he can to making the school brighter and more cheerful.

3.373Just two years later, Dr Lysaght found the dormitories ‘the worst I’d seen’, with a ‘depressing air of mass communal living’ and a ‘general air of “dinginess”’. He found the number of boys, about 160, bordering on overcrowded. A year after his report, the Public Health Officer found the dormitory was sleeping ‘exactly twice the number of boys recommended’ and the School was ‘a hazard to the health of the child’. The numbers were about the same as when Dr McCabe inspected the School three years earlier.

3.374It is hard to explain the inconsistencies in these reports. The Department of Education Inspector concluded ‘in time the school will be much improved’ and found the accommodation ‘very good’.

3.375Just three years later, a Public Health Officer had the Health Board remove their children to protect them from a ‘grave’ situation wherein children’s health and lives were at risk. Ms Fidelma Clandillon, in her memorandum of 17th June 1967, did indeed have grounds to write, ‘It is scandalous that only the death of one of the boys has led to the conditions there coming to light’.

3.376There were rumours and innuendo about cruelty and neglect in Ferryhouse, so it would be expected that the Department of Education’s Inspector would have heard and seen things to cause concern. However, Dr Anna McCabe’s reports gave no indication of the conditions found by Dr Lysaght and the Public Health Inspector just two or three years later.

3.377Even when the ‘shocking report’ arrived, and after the death of one boy through meningitis, there seemed to be no sense of urgency to effect change. On 8th January 1968, the following letter was sent from the Department of Health to the Minister for Education:

I am directed by the Minister for Health to refer again to the minute of 12th September 1967 (ref. 6.43) regarding conditions at St Joseph’s School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, and to request you to indicate the present position regarding the arrangements for the provision of increased accommodation in the institution.

3.378A handwritten note is added by an official in the Education Department. It reads:

Phoned Miss Little45 to inform her that Inspector T. McD. had visited Clonmel recently but was unable to complete re-assessment of school’s capacity owing to illness of Manager; that Inspector had since sustained broken ankle and would re-visit Clonmel to complete inspection as soon as possible.

3.379Reading this note, one would never guess that the matter under consideration was the ‘serious hazard of overcrowding’, causing a grave risk to the health of some 170 boys.

The condition of the School in the 1940s and 1950s

3.380If Dr McCabe’s reports in the 1960s are not a good indicator of the conditions within Ferryhouse at the time, her earlier reports are more illuminating. The DES records include a report of a visit on 2nd June 1939. Inspection Reports are available for each of the years that follow until December 1944.

3.381Initially, she reported that the School and premises were in a satisfactory state, and that she found the Resident Manager very capable and kind. During the years that followed, conditions began to deteriorate. In April 1941, the sanitation came in for criticism and she referred to a general slackness about the School. In October 1942, she found the premises very unsatisfactory and complained again about the outside sanitation facilities. This time, she warned that, if there were not appreciable improvements all round, ‘drastic measures’ would have to be taken.

3.382This threat had some effect because, in July 1943, she noted ‘much improvement’. The premises had been cleaned and painted. However, she condemned the fact that most of the boys were barefoot. She noted that, whenever she recommended improvements, the Resident Manager complained that he did not have the money. She added that, with the increased grants, her suggestions for improvements should be insisted upon. In a further discussion of her visit on 19th July, she added details: she had found the sanitary annex obsolete and ‘dangerous to the health of the inmates’, and the improvements needed included a whole new water carriage system and modern W.Cs. She continued, ‘If this is not done immediately the money will be used for some other purpose and on my next inspection the same rigmarole will start’. Apart from condemning the boys going barefooted, she asked for a height scale to be bought, for the toothbrushes to be replaced and the bathhouse improved.

3.383The report of October 1944 is quite damning. While there were some improvements – the new sanitary block had been erected and the bathhouse had been repaired – there was a general lack of supervision. The boys were untidy and unkempt, the food and diet were unsatisfactory, and the children were underweight.

3.384She blamed the decline on the rheumatic disability of the Resident Manager, who was 73 and gradually becoming senile, and she felt he was ‘unable for the arduous task of Resident Manager’. She wrote:

He always looked after his boys well and I feel if he were active and capable would still do so. He is unable to get about as actively as heretofore. The chaplain is on his sick bed too and poor old Brother B. (76 years old) is nearly past his work too.

3.385She called for the introduction of younger staff. She persuaded the Chief Inspector to write to the Provincial to get him to appoint a successor to the ageing Manager. The Provincial brought in Fr Eduardo46 to assist the Resident Manager, and appointed Fr Ambrosi47 as Dispenser to take charge of the physical welfare of the boys, and in particular their food and clothing, which needed a full-time staff member in view of the difficulty getting supplies.

3.386Surprisingly, Fr Giuseppe48 disagreed with the conclusions of Dr McCabe’s report, the National School Inspector had never expressed any discontent and had found the Principal teacher to be ‘highly efficient’. He contested her view that the children were underweight and asked her to submit proposals as to what should be done in the top dormitory and sanitary annex. ‘In these days of high prices’, he wrote, ‘constructural alterations are not undertaken except with great caution and after proved urgency. Cost may be regarded as about three times what they were before the war’.

3.387He accepted, however, that Fr Basilio49 should not have accepted more boys than the 160 maximum. The School now accommodated 200 boys, and ‘the produce of the farm and garden of 70 acres would be ample for a school of 160 boys; a larger number necessitates extern purchasings and greater cost per caput’.

3.388This extraordinary letter not merely denied that the boys were not gaining weight, a fact that could be easily proven and was not just a matter of opinion, but stated that the farm produced enough food to feed 160 boys. He did not state whether additional food had been brought in, but implied it was not a customary procedure. Nor did he even consider the effects of overcrowding on the health and welfare of the boys.

3.389Dr McCabe was shown his letter and was asked to comment on it. She took him on roundly. In her letter to the Chief Inspector dated 25th November 1944, she set out in detail her thinking on the nutritional needs of growing children and the importance of weight and growth charts in monitoring a child’s health. She wrote:

No well cared for healthy child should lose weight. Weight may tend to increase more rapidly in one child than in another, but there should always be a gain.

3.390She stressed the importance of diet, the need for vitamins A, B, C and D, minerals such as iron, and calcium. She described milk as the most important single item of food, and that it was known as the perfect food because it contained protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and calcium and iron, all important for growth and bone formation. She added:

That is my reason for so strongly advocating its use in the schools, and eventually I hope to have each child supplied with one quart of milk per diem.

3.391She went on to describe how she had been campaigning for an improvement in the diet scales in the industrial and reformatory schools. Shortly after her appointment in 1939, she had revised all diet scales and had advised the individual schools about the deficiencies in diet. She had introduced many new items of food into the school dietary that had hitherto not been in use, because they were unknown to the school managers. Things had gone well in the halcyon days, when food was plentiful and cheap, but matters now could not be regarded as satisfactory. She explained:

In practically every school which I visit, I find, with a few exceptions, that the children are insufficiently fed. I have evidence in support of this statement from the medical charts which, after considerable opposition from managers are now used in all the schools. I have obtained verbally particulars of the quantities of the different foodstuffs supplied for meals – such particulars are often imparted to me very reluctantly by the Sisters in charge of the school kitchens. The quantities are, in my opinion, far short of what should constitute an adequate meal.

3.392After this resounding criticism, she went on to set out definitive standards of food provision for each day of the week.

3.393On 11th December 1944, the Provincial had replaced the Resident Manager in Ferryhouse. The Chief Inspector wrote to him on 19th December 1944 to say:

We are particularly gratified at your choice of a young man. The position of Resident Manager of an Industrial School is only too often regarded as a “retirement job” whereas it is pre-eminently one for a young, active man, whose life’s work is still before him and who can approach it with the fresh idealism of youth. A Resident manager shoulders the heavy responsibility of father to hundreds of unfortunate boys. He moulds their whole lives during the vital formative years they spend in his school, and there is no limit to the good he may try to do for them except the limits imposed by his own capacity and will.

3.394He then went on to comment on the standards being applied by the Department to clothing and diet. He wrote:

If we have criticised the standards of diet and clothing at St Joseph’s, you may be assured that, when doing so, we were only too well aware of the difficulties of obtaining supplies. It is in no spirit of contention that I say that our standards in these matters are based on actual conditions at the present time and on the average prevailing in the schools as a whole.

3.395He makes it quite clear that, even by the standards of the day, the School had been found wanting. He defended the inspection system and commented on the excrement defiling the walls of the sanitary annex.

3.396The Department had hoped the new Manager would be a new beginning. Instead, he took up the fight where his predecessor had left off. On 22nd January 1945, he replied to the Chief Inspector’s letter: ‘As to diet; I do fear it will be very difficult to comply with all your wishes in this matter’. He gave details of the boys’ diet and said he was at a loss to account for the weight loss noted in very many cases. He estimated the cost of providing the diet recommended by the Department, and protested, ‘Even managers of industrial schools have to meet their bills, so I fear on our present allowance it just cannot be done’.

3.397Dr McCabe was again showed the letter by the Chief Inspector, and she told him:

I do not like the attitude taken up by this new Resident Manager – What I have recommended in the matter of diet is of very ordinary proportions and in no way could it be called extravagant … Financially the school management is better off since 1942. I cannot see how he has such difficulty in managing on the state grant.

3.398The Chief Inspector wrote back to the Manager on 31st January: ‘If the diet is adequate the children put on weight at the normal rate – more rapidly, even, when they were undernourished before admission to the school’. He again reiterated that Dr McCabe’s requirements were the minimum requirements in all schools.

3.399The Inspection Reports for 26th October 1945, 29th July 1946, 11th December 1946 and 18th June 1947 indicate progressive improvements in all areas. She warmed to the new Manager, despite the earlier acrimony. In 1946, she wrote, ‘the present Resident Manager is an excellent man. Already he has made many improvements … He is trying to get a community of nuns to take on the domestic side of the house’.

3.400In 1947, she again praised his good ideas and added, ‘he considers that a separate amount should be paid for food, clothing and maintenance’. She made no comment about the fact that the capitation grant was intended to cover these things, and the Rosminians were meant to care for their property themselves.

3.401There was a terse exchange of letters dated 2nd October 1946. The letter from the Resident Manager was not furnished, but it was clearly about the cost of equipment in industrial schools. The official in the Department replied:

The suggestion made in your letter that the Minister, whether by design or otherwise, is endeavouring to obtain a control over private property (Religious Property) to which he has no right is altogether unwarranted, and I fail to see what evidence you can adduce in support of that statement.

3.402The letter then went on to deal with an increase in the rates payable per child as of various dates in 1946.

3.403A report exists for 4th and 5th October 1948, and then there is a gap until 3rd April 1952. Dr McCabe had been absent owing to illness. The reports simply note improvements all round. With Fr Pietro as Resident Manager, there were reports during the early to mid-1950s.

3.404In February 1952, a new kitchen was being constructed, and Dr McCabe noted ‘While food and diet have improved, much remains to be done’. The second visit, in October of that year, had the same comment. 1953 recorded the diet to be ‘well balanced, varied’ and noted the new building had made a ‘vast improvement to school’. In 1955, she gave the School an excellent report. From 1956 to 1959, the reports remained positive, calling it a well-run school and commenting on ‘the modern facilities’ and calling the cooking facilities vastly improved and the food ‘better and varied’. In 1956, she noted ‘knitting machine very good – all jumpers and stockings made at home’. In 1959, she noted with approval the new bakery, and in 1960 she noted the clothing had improved, and that 62 new suits had been made for Confirmation ‘and very good they were’.

3.405Her reports indicate that diet and health had improved, but the improvements were from a very low standard indeed in the 1940s. At no stage did she comment on matters such as corporal punishment, which, during the 1940s and 1950s, became both harsh and more frequent.

Conclusions on neglect and emotional abuse

3.4061.Ferryhouse was a large institution and would have received adequate funding to provide a reasonable level of care for the children for most of the relevant period. In addition, it operated a farm and had trades such as tailoring and boot-making that provided for the needs of the boys.

2.The boys were poorly fed. For much of the period, the food was of insufficient quantity and quality.

3.Poor hygiene and overcrowding were serious problems in the School, and these conditions placed the health and well-being of the boys in danger.

4.The boys were poorly clothed and looked different from children outside the Institution.

5.The accommodation was unsuitable, unhygienic and badly maintained.

6.Family contact was not encouraged or maintained. Boys became cut off from their families and friends.

7.The aftercare was minimal and often non-existent. Young teenagers unprepared for the outside world were thrown into it and had to fend for themselves.

Some historical milestones

The Submission by the Rosminians to the Cussen Commission, 1936

3.407The Cussen Commission received submissions from the various Orders that had been running the schools, and a very detailed submission prepared by the Rosminian Order has survived. It was published in the recent history of the Rosminians by Bríd Fahey Bates.49

3.408The Rosminians’ submission was prepared by the Provincial, the Very Reverend Giuseppe, who was Manager of St Patrick’s (Danesfort) Industrial School, Upton. It was a lengthy document, describing the industrial and reformatory school system operating in Ireland in the early 1930s, and it outlined many of the problems and issues facing those working in this field. It is an interesting document because its criticisms, detailed below, and recommendations closely resemble the conclusions reached by the Cussen Report.

The committal procedure

3.409Fr Giuseppe contended that the Children Act, 1908 was not a suitable Act because it implied that the children placed into this care system were either criminals or criminally inclined. They were in fact, he pointed out, committed because of ‘poverty, the loss of one or both parents, or the negligence of some parents’, but the actual procedure of committing a child to the industrial school system through the courts nonetheless placed a ‘criminal taint to the whole system’. This association of the child with the courts ‘created in the public mind a misconception that is exceedingly difficult to remove’. It also created a feeling of inferiority in the child, which lowered his self-confidence. The result meant that, despite all attempts made to help and encourage the boy forward, he was already affected by what had occurred to him even before he arrived in the industrial school. The children were brought to the schools by guards in uniform, and in some places in the prison van. In some cases, the children were kept waiting in the public court until they were called into the private court or justice’s room.

3.410The Cussen Committee agreed completely with Fr Giuseppe on these particular points. The Cussen Report recommended the following:

That the practice of hearing children’s cases in the ordinary Courts is objectionable. The arrangement, which obtains in Dublin – a Children’s Court housed separately from the District Courts – should be adopted wherever possible throughout the country.

The term “Committal Order” should be abolished and “Admission Order” substituted.

The Justices when hearing children’s cases should not wear the robes of Office. Gardai, should not wear uniform when in attendance at Children’s Courts and when bringing children to the schools.


3.411On the subject of aftercare, Fr Giuseppe argued ‘that the aftercare of children, particularly in the commencement of their career, is, in many respects the most important duty of Managers, who should stand legally in loco parentis to the young persons for, say, two years’.34 He stated, ‘care has to be taken that children do not return to unsuitable homes or surroundings’, for there was a risk of their being exploited commercially. The School Manager, he went on, already carried out the required work for the aftercare programmes efficiently.

3.412The School authorities were the best suited to carry out this work. There was a mistaken impression that the Managers lost interest in the children once they left the School. Boys frequently returned to the School when unemployed, and were housed in the Schools until suitable work was found for them. Even so, he contended that unemployment rates for former industrial schoolboys were low but ‘relative’. Given the value of this work, the State should provide expenses for aftercare in the industrial schools.

3.413Again, the Cussen Report’s recommendations concerning the issue of aftercare agreed with Fr Giuseppe’s argument. Recommendation 28 of Cussen asserted, ‘There is room for improvement in the methods of supervision and aftercare of children discharged from the schools’. The Report then recommended:

29(d)The after-care of pupils should be carried out by the Manager of the school or by a carefully selected and experienced assistant.

29(e)Managers should be required to explain to all the children at the time of discharge that if ever in difficulties during the statutory period of after-care they are entitled to return to the school for advice and help.

29(f)The co-operation of charitable organisations should be enlisted in the work of after care. The priest in the parish to which a child is sent should invariably be notified by the School Manager of the place of residence and the name of the employer.50


3.414Fr Giuseppe discussed at length the situation of teachers of literary subjects in the industrial schools. He pointed out the major problems facing the School Manager was keeping such teachers in their Schools. These teachers, first and most importantly, were not recognised as National School teachers. This occurred even though they were required to follow, in its entirety, the National School programme and were subject to inspection by National School Inspectors. This non-recognition made it difficult for Schools to retain fully qualified teachers. Teachers stayed until he or she found a vacancy in a recognised National School. Industrial School Managers could not bind them to any terms of service and they could not pay proportionate salaries. He argued that a specific educational grant was required, out of which certified teachers would be paid on the same basis as assistants, as set out in the National School scale. The balance of the grant would be apportioned among the remaining approved teachers.

3.415The Cussen Report agreed with the problems facing School Managers and literary teachers, and agreed it required change. It recommended that the conditions of service for lay teachers in these Schools called for substantial improvement, and recommended the following:

36(a)That the cost of literary education should be defrayed out of the State grants for Primary Education (apart from the normal grants for maintenance).

36(b)That future appointment of teachers should be on the same conditions as in the National Schools, and duties other than teaching should not be assigned to recognised teachers who are not members of a religious community.

36(c)That unqualified teachers who have given long and faithful service but whose teaching efficiency is not satisfactory and whose services could be otherwise availed of, should be employed on other duties in the Institutions or, if this is not possible they should be retired with compensation or pension, the cost of which should be defrayed by the School Managers.51


3.416Fr Giuseppe’s central argument was that the basic capitation grants were so low that most if not all of the Schools were burdened with heavy debts and loans. Under the system, the local authorities paid a sum of 4/6 or 5/- per week and the Treasury paid 7/6 per week. This sum, he argued, was inadequate: ‘There remain rents, rates, and taxes, insurance, clerical, managerial, literary and trade expenses, repairs, interest on money borrowed, expenses of after-care etc., all to be met out of grants amounting to 12s or 12s6d per week per child’. The Religious had to meet the deficit. Also, children under six years were not paid for by the Treasury.

3.417Again, the Cussen Report agreed with Fr Giuseppe to a large extent with these arguments on finance. It stated:

39After carefully reviewing all the relevant circumstances we are of opinion that the representations of the School Managers as to the inadequacy of the existing grants would be reasonably met, if, in addition to being relieved of the cost of literary teaching, the present State payments were supplemented by a grant of equal amount from the local authorities, such payments being subject to periodic review so as to bring them into line with any appreciable variations in the cost of living figure, or with any material alterations in the numbers of children committed.

40Grants at a rate somewhat lower than that for other children should be paid in respect of children committed under the age of 6 years.

41Grants should be paid at the full rate in respect of children committed at the instance of parents or guardians as incapable of control.52


3.418On the question of industrial training, Fr Giuseppe argued, ‘Owing to the great increase in the use of machinery and of skilled workers, the trades of boot making, carpentry, tailoring etc in the rural districts and to a great extent in the urban areas have gradually become diminished, and in some cases have become defunct or obsolete’. Furthermore, the Rules and Regulations of Trade Unions often debar certain classes of children from being apprenticed.

3.419Fr Giuseppe argued that the training of boys ‘had to be adjusted to meet modern requirements and the chances of obtaining employment after being discharged’. He believed that training of boys in ‘Agriculture (Tillage), Horticulture, Dairy Farming, Forestry, Bee-Keeping and Rural Science’ would better equip the boys for the positions in life they would occupy. In an agricultural country, most of the boys must be put to agricultural work. He pointed out that there was very little unemployment of boys so trained. Fr Giuseppe believed also that there should be scholarships in Agricultural Colleges reserved for the boys from industrial schools. They had obtained preliminary training already, and should be given an opportunity of advancement.

3.420The Cussen Report made several recommendations reflecting the thinking of Fr Giuseppe:

29(c)Trade Unions should be approached by Managers with a view to endeavouring to secure a modification of any regulations, which might act as a barrier to a boy’s admission to a particular trade.

22Where agricultural training is given, in addition to tillage operations such adjuncts as poultry keeping, horticulture, and bee keeping should be included … Instruction in allied crafts associated with farming especially woodwork, thatching, hedging, and harness-making should, in addition, be afforded in schools in purely agricultural districts.

24Special attention should be paid in the schools to training in the following:- house-painting, paper-hanging, plumbing, electrical work, plastering, glazing, upholstery and general house repairs.53

Conclusions to be drawn from the Rosminians’ submission to Cussen

3.421The Cussen Report did lead, over a period of time, to some changes, largely related to the internal management of the School. Capitation grants were increased and, by 1940, the teachers within industrial schools did acquire additional status to put them on the same footing as the teachers in National Schools. However, Cussen’s conclusion that the industrial school system ‘should be continued subject to the modifications suggested in the Report’ and that ‘the Schools should remain under the management of the religious orders who have undertaken the work’54 led to a protracted retention of the status quo for decades to come. Impoverished children who had lost one or both parents through death or social hardship, or who had been neglected or abandoned, continued to be stigmatised by a system that incarcerated and punished them for being in need. Both the Rosminians and Cussen deplored the effects of this system, yet they both seemed to accept that a life in an institution run by a Religious Order was to be preferred.

3.422The Rosminians recognised the defects in the existing system, but did not advocate more strongly the changes they knew were necessary. They knew that the system itself, no matter how well funded, ‘militates against the child’s future and gives origin in the child to a feeling of inferiority which robs him of his courage and lessens his confidence in himself in spite of all attempts made to encourage him to realise his potentialities’, but they simply accepted more money to run the malfunctioning system, making no changes until the post-Kennedy upheaval in the 1970s.

3.423As quoted earlier, a senior member of the Rosminian Order told the Investigation Committee:

That’s my belief, that every child that was ever in this situation was abused in some way, emotionally, physically or whatever the case may be, and you would say that we were part of that because we didn’t stand up at the time and probably say so.

3.424The submission they made to the Cussen Commission began to say so, but thereafter the voice of the Rosminians became inexplicably muted.

The rebuilding of Ferryhouse: the possibility for change

3.425Fr Stefano was appointed Resident Manager of Ferryhouse in the mid-1970s, and he remained in that post until the early 1990s when he was appointed Provost Provincial of the Rosminian Community in Ireland. Prior to his appointment as Resident Manager, Fr Stefano had previously worked in Ferryhouse in the early 1960s and again in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He also had worked as a volunteer in Ferryhouse.

3.426During his tenure as Resident Manager, Fr Stefano carried out an extensive building and renovation programme in Ferryhouse. As Fr Francesco55, Provincial of the Order, stated in the early 1980s at the official opening of the new School in Ferryhouse:

The planning of to-day’s reality was begun even before I entered the Order. I recall the late Fr Rafaele working on same. He was followed by Fr Lucio whom I am happy to see here today. With the appointment here of Fr Stefano a necessary intensity and a vital momentum was generated and the ideas became realities.

3.427The conditions in Ferryhouse, despite some improvements in the late 1960s, were very poor. It was for this reason that Fr Stefano set about an extensive rebuilding programme, which was necessary in order to bring about the changes recommended by the Kennedy Report.

The rebuilding programme

3.428Woodstown was a holiday centre in Waterford used by the Rosminian Order for holidays for the boys during the summer vacation. The site in Woodstown was purchased in 1957 and, according to Fr Stefano, was fairly basic. The camp provided basic facilities, which by 1979 were considered inadequate. Fr Stefano’s first redevelopment project was the rebuilding of Woodstown. The renovation in Woodstown began in 1977 with the addition of new kitchens, and a recreation-cum-dining hall; and, by the following year, a new block which housed the sleeping accommodation for the boys was built. According to Fr Stefano, they raised most of the money themselves, but the Department of Education did provide a grant towards the building works. Justice Eileen Kennedy officially opened the new Woodstown in 1979.

3.429Fr Stefano’s next project was to rebuild Ferryhouse itself. One of the principal recommendations of the Kennedy Committee was for children to be cared for in smaller group homes rather that the large dormitory-based, institutional buildings. A scheme of capital funding for the provision of group homes was introduced by the Department of Education with the approval of the Department of Finance. The scheme provided for 90% grant aid towards building costs and service installations.

3.430The Department of Education, however, had a different view in relation to the group homes scheme being specifically introduced into Ferryhouse. In 1974, the Government established a Task Force on Child Care Services, which reported in 1980. The main purpose of the Task Force was to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Kennedy Report. The Task Force had difficulty with the Department of Education’s proposal to reconstruct Ferryhouse in order to cater for 100 boys. The Task Force saw these proposals as being contrary to the future childcare system, as set out by the Kennedy Report. Furthermore, the Task Force argued that, once the full range of services they had recommended were fully operational, there would no longer be a need for a large centre like Ferryhouse. Their interim report led to further discussions and, in December 1975, the design team was asked to carry out a comparative cost study of a school for 60 rather than 100 pupils. By early 1976, it was proposed that a school for 80 pupils was the most economical number, with provision for 10 in a pre-leavers unit, and sanction was sought for such a school from the Department of Finance.

3.431The Kennedy Report and the Task Force envisaged that St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse would be the centre charged with looking after boys with poor school attendance records or boys unsuitable for foster care. The Task Force was very specific in designating Ferryhouse as a specialised educational establishment, catering for the following categories of children:

  • Those whose educational progress had been hampered by their home circumstances and whose progress, even where they were attending special classes in special schools, was grossly impeded by such circumstances.
  • Children for whom schooling presented particular difficulties and who required special educational help in a sympathetic and understanding environment.
  • Children in trouble with the law or persistently truanting from school and who would not have a community-based service available to them.
  • Children educationally retarded requiring special educational help.

3.432The existing services and buildings at Ferryhouse were out of date and totally unsuitable for the role that was being planned for the School. As a result, an extensive building programme then began in Ferryhouse. A complete transformation of the Ferryhouse complex began in 1980. The planned reconstruction included:

  • An open plan school building to replace the pre-fabricated classrooms.
  • A bungalow style unit to be known as Piccola Casa. This was opened in 1980.
  • A new sports centre, including a gymnasium, sports hall, swimming pool and canteen.
  • Six two-storey residential houses, each designed to accommodate 10 to 14 boys.
  • A new dining hall, reception area and service buildings.

3.433The Department of Education funded this building programme. The Rosminians stated, however, that they supplemented the cost of these buildings with charitable donations raised by their members locally. Ferryhouse was now a much smaller complex, with state-of-the-art facilities, caring for a much smaller number of boys. A General Inspection Report for Ferryhouse completed in the post-reconstruction period (Report dated 14th October 1985) detailed the school conditions and services. The Report stated that the diets and meals were excellent for adolescent boys. No complaints were noted and, as diet was a central pivot of care, it must be highly commended. It noted that the School had a consistent long-term psychiatrist, and provided an excellent psychological service on a seasonal basis, with excellent reports on individual children. It concluded that the School was an excellent and well-run, caring School and residential centre that provided stability and security for boys, with well-balanced controls that were both meaningful and sensitive.

The Kennedy Report and the staff today

3.434After the publication of the Kennedy Report in 1970, fundamental changes in childcare policy in Ireland began. Residential care was now viewed as the last option. The numbers of children in full-time residential care would drop dramatically within this decade and would continue to do so throughout the 1980s. Running parallel with the drop in numbers of children in care was an increase in the numbers of staff working in the remaining residential schools.

3.435Fr Stefano, in his evidence to the Investigation Committee, spoke about the increasing numbers of trained staff made available to him during his tenure as Resident Manager in Ferryhouse.

3.436As Fr Stefano stated in evidence:

I would like to compare that to the manager in Ferryhouse that comes on duty this morning. He has two full-time deputy directors. Now, neither he nor the deputies, unless there is severe crisis, would ever have to work a weekend, and they would work a nine to five day. Underneath the two deputy directors there are eight unit managers. Underneath the eight unit managers, there are eight assistant unit managers, and these sixteen people run the school really on a daily basis, 365 days of the year. Under the eight assistant unit managers, there are forty care staff, and most of these staff are highly professionally trained staff. To assist them, there are ten night supervisors and, as Fr O’Reilly said in the last day or two, you know, the average number of boys in the school now would be 30 boys, and very happy about that, you know. These are the objectives that we worked for over the years, but it puts in perspective what a person arriving at Ferryhouse in 1960, 70, 75, the responsibilities that that person was taking on.

3.437Today, the staff to pupil ratio is heavily in favour of the staff member. In earlier years, there were just 2 or 3 young, untrained men in charge of 200 or so boys. The consequences of this imbalance are evident from this report.

Improving the staff

3.438Fr Stefano had noted that the residential group homes at Rathdrum, Lenaboy, Lakelands, Moate, Cappoquin and elsewhere had been financed by 90% grants sanctioned by the Department of Finance for the building of group residential homes. Fr Stefano also noted the State’s building of three schools, Oberstown Boys Centre, St. Laurence’s, and St. Michael’s, and he was envious of the staffing and conditions offered to residents at these schools. In response, Fr Stefano sought the services of a consultant, to undertake an evaluation of the Ferryhouse services. Fr Stefano then held a formal meeting with the Principal Officer (Special Education) to discuss the findings of the consultant. The Rosminians, according to Fr Stefano, laid down an ultimatum to the Department of Education. They required the funding to employ 16 lay childcare workers, as there were no professional childcare workers in Ferryhouse. Furthermore, the Rosminians required a budget system of funding for the School. Fr Stefano wanted Ferryhouse financed on a proper budget system, and staffed with generous staffing schedules, in line with the other three new schools recently built by the Department.

3.439The Rosminians sought 16 care staff, to provide adequate cover for night shifts and weekends. The Provincial informed the Department of Education that, if these proposals were not given, he would close Ferryhouse.

3.440The Department of Education acquiesced, and provided the staffing required by the Rosminians. The staff changes, according to Fr Stefano, directly altered in a beneficial way the boys’ lives in Ferryhouse. He told the Investigation Committee:

From the beginning, the early staff, we made a conscious decision that we would take on female childcare workers rather than male childcare workers at the start because we had four Rosminians and the balance was very overloaded in the boys’ lives so all the early childcare workers were female and there was a great sense of well-being and happening in the air. They were young people who were very energetic and very enthusiastic.

3.441Fr Ricardo gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. He was asked what improvements he saw in Ferryhouse when he returned in the mid-1980s following a time of absence. He said:

At that time there were huge, I think, changes. No.1, lay staff – I know lay staff had come in on the scene. One thing I do remember when the first lay staff came – like before they came, the boys would be quite boisterous. I remember the Community having a long discussion shortly after lay female staff came, how the boys had mellowed or softened in general. That to me was one of the huge changes or factors. Also staff were being trained as well, because the Waterford Regional College had set up a training course …

3.442The lay staff now employed in Ferryhouse had received proper training. This was a direct result of the Kennedy Report, which had recommended that priority be given to proper training of staff in residential institutions. The Department of Education state that their response to this recommendation was immediate. A full-time residential course in childcare at the School of Social Education, Kilkenny was established in 1971 with funding from the Department of Education. All the industrial schools and reformatories were given funding to send their staff on the course. The Department of Education was also involved in the organisation of in-service training courses at numerous colleges nationwide. By 1974, approximately 75% of staff working in residential homes had received training in childcare.

The budget system

3.443The second part of the ultimatum given by Fr Stefano to the Department of Education was an adequate budget system along the lines of the budgets provided by the Department to the newly constructed schools. Fr Stefano told the Investigation Committee that the capitation system was the only significant funding received for the School. The farm was ‘not making money at that stage’ and he was determined that he ‘would never fundraise to put food on the table or clothes on a boy’s back or anything that was the responsibility of the State’. He resolved that all fundraising by the Rosminians was to enhance the lives of the boys and not to provide the basics.

3.444This ultimatum in relation to budget funding for their School was in line with the thinking of numerous other groups and individuals. The Kennedy Report recommended that the system of payment of grants on a capitation basis should be discontinued, and replaced by an annual grant based on a budget of estimated costs submitted by each school sufficient to cover all costs. The grant was to be paid direct to the schools by the State. The criticism of the capitation system was that it encouraged institutions to detain children rather than to release them to their families.

3.445Fr O’Reilly spoke about the problems caused by the capitation system:

You needed to have a certain number of children in the School in order to make it financially viable, which is not a good way to look at it, but that was the economic reality at that time and therefore at times they were complaining about not having enough children in the school and they wanted more children to be able to have a greater income to spread across … The system of its nature sought to, or it forced Managers into, trying to have a greater rather than a lesser number of children.

3.446The Department did not give Fr Stefano his required budgetary system immediately, but he succeeded in obtaining a system whereby the School would receive deficit payment on production of financial records every three months. This was a considerable improvement financially for the Rosminians, as Fr Stefano stated, ‘so with money starting to come in, we could start planning’.

3.447By 1984, a budget system of funding had been introduced into all the schools.

The changes to the education system

3.448A number of critical factors combined to bring about fundamental changes in the education provided for the boys in Ferryhouse and industrial schools generally. The Kennedy Report noted that ‘if the task of integration of children in care into society is to be successful it is essential that those in care for one reason or another should have educational opportunities to the ultimate of their capacities’.56 The Report stated that the children in care were educationally disadvantaged, and the industrial school educational system had failed to take this into account in catering for the children’s educational needs. Therefore, in the light of deprivation suffered, the children should be provided with more than normal educational facilities so that they could be educated to their ultimate capacities. The Department of Education policy from the 1970s onwards, in relation to education, focused on rehabilitation and compensatory education, provided by well-trained staff. St. Joseph’s Industrial School building programme provided the opportunity to put these policies to work.

3.449With the new school building completed, class sizes were reduced considerably. This allowed intensive remedial teaching to occur for the boys. The numbers of boys detained in Ferryhouse had fallen dramatically, while the number of trained staff had increased. Additional teachers were also put in place to provide teaching in the practical subjects. As a direct result, older boys would undertake preparation for the State examinations in the School. The first State examination was held in Ferryhouse in 1987.

3.450The education provided in Ferryhouse today enables most of its residents to sit a State examination, while a number complete the Transition Year programme, with the option of completing the Leaving Certificate Examination while in Ferryhouse.

3.451In September 2001, the Rosminians withdrew from active management of Ferryhouse and, in June 2002, they transferred ownership of the centre to the Department of Education and Science.

3.452The words of the then Provincial, Fr James Flynn, at the opening of the new Ferryhouse on 11th May 1990, already quoted above, remain apposite:

Like any human institution, old Ferryhouse had its bad points as well as its good points, its weaknesses as well as its strengths. It damaged some boys and those have looked back in bitterness and anger to their time here. For many of them, this was the only home that they ever knew and sadly they did not find it a good one. Let me say that a lot of that anger is justified … The greatest guilt has to be borne by those of us who utilised or condoned or ignored the extreme severity, even brutality which characterised at times the regime at old Ferryhouse. An occasion like this is an opportunity for me on behalf of the Rosminians to publicly acknowledge this fact and to ask forgiveness of those who were ill treated or hurt. We have sinned against justice and against the dignity of the person in the past and we always need to be on our guard that we do not do the same today in more subtle or equally hideous ways.

General conclusions

3.453Physical abuse

1.Corporal punishment was the option of first resort for problems. Its use was pervasive, excessive, unpredictable and without regulation or supervision, and was therefore physically abusive.

2.Corporal punishment was the main method of maintaining control over the boys and it created a climate of fear that was emotionally harmful to the boys.

3.The system of discipline was the same in Ferryhouse as in Upton. The Rosminians accept that there was excessive corporal punishment in both institutions.

4.Young and inexperienced staff used fear and violence as a means of asserting authority. Punishments were inflicted for a wide range of acts and omissions. The severity of punishment was entirely a matter for the staff involved.

5.Rules and regulations governing corporal punishment were not observed.

6.Excessive, unfair and even capricious punishment did lasting damage to many of the boys in Ferryhouse.

7.Boys were punished for bed-wetting and were subjected to nightly humiliation, degradation and fear.

8.The regime placed excessive demands on the few men who did the bulk of the work.

Sexual abuse

9.Sexual abuse by Brothers was a chronic problem in Ferryhouse and it is impossible to quantify its full extent.

10.Complainant witnesses from every era, from the early 1940s onwards, testified to the Investigation Committee about the sexual abuse of children in Ferryhouse. The Rosminian Institute acknowledged that not all of those who were sexually abused have come forward as complainants, whether to the Commission, to the Redress Board, or to An Garda Síochana. In their Final Submission to the Investigation Committee they wrote, ‘We know that some boys were sexually abused who have made no complaint to the Commission or otherwise, but have spoken to us about it’.

11.The succession of cases that confronted the authorities must have alerted them to the scale of the problem, and to the need for a thorough ongoing investigation as to how deep the problem went among the Brothers and staff in Ferryhouse. Such an investigation did not happen. Instead, each case was dealt with individually, as if no other case had occurred. The Order was aware of the criminal nature of the conduct, but did not report it as a crime.

12.Sexual abuse was systemic. When it was uncovered, it was not seen as a crime but as a moral lapse and weakness. The policy of furtively removing the abuser and keeping his offences secret led to a culture of institutional amnesia, in which neither boys nor staff could learn from experience.

13.The extent and prevalence of sexual abuse were not addressed although the Order had some awareness of its impact on children.

14.Once placed in posts, priests and Brothers had complete autonomy, and there evolved a convention of not interfering with what other people were doing.

15.The Department of Education did not act responsibly when an allegation of sexual abuse was made to it in 1980.

Neglect and emotional abuse

16.Living conditions in both schools were poor, unhygienic, inadequate and often overcrowded.

17.Boys were hungry and poorly clothed in circumstances where funding was sufficient to provide these basic needs.

18.Education and aftercare were deficient.

19.Family contact was not encouraged or maintained.

20.As their submission to the Cussen Commission reveals, the Rosminians knew the detrimental consequences of the industrial school system, but did nothing to ameliorate them. They could have changed the regime, but they did nothing until the 1970s.

The attitude of the Rosminians

21.The Rosminian Institute of Charity is to be commended for its attitude to the Committee. The Rosminians’ refusal to take the conventional adversarial approach, their sympathetic questioning of the witnesses, and their proffering of apologies to the witnesses at the end of hearings, all contributed to an atmosphere very different from that of other hearings.

22.The Rosminians used the memories of former residents to add to the Order’s knowledge of life and conditions in their schools. The witnesses became a source of information and, by tapping into it, the Rosminians helped the Committee’s inquiry.

23.The Rosminians’ attitude to the allegations evolved before, during and after the hearings. They were the first Order to apologise publicly in 1990. They sometimes modified their approach during the course of a hearing, and they issued a final submission that was a balanced and humane response to the evidence they had heard.


Report by Mr Ciaran Fahy

1.0 Introduction

The purpose of this report is to describe the physical surroundings of St Joseph’s School in Ferryhouse with particular reference to the buildings. It is based on research carried out by Mr Ciaran Fahy and Mr. Neil Gillespie during the course of which, all of the documentation in relation to Ferryhouse in the possession of the CICA was examined, including a model prepared by the Rosminians shortly after the original buildings on site were demolished.

This report should be read in conjunction with the attached map and photographs.

2.0 Background

St Joseph’s School is located in the townland of Ferryhouse some three to four km due east of the centre of Clonmel on the northern bank of the River Suir. The site is bounded to the north by the N24 which is the road from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir, while on the east it is defined by a secondary road running due south from the N24 continuing across the River Suir at Sir Thomas’ Bridge and continuing generally towards the Comeragh Mountains. Map 1 shows the school as it was about 1951 and in particular, it shows the school buildings laid out in a quadrangular form approximately 60m north of the River Suir. This map also shows the position of the N24 and the road running due south from this towards Sir Thomas’ Bridge which obviously provided access into the school. In addition, the school farmyard was to the north of the school buildings facing onto the N24 and it will be seen there is an internal road linking this with the school buildings. The distance from the N24 to Sir Thomas’ Bridge is approximately 320m and the distance from the farmyard to the school buildings itself is some 150m.

St Joseph’s in Ferryhouse dates from 1884 when the Rosminians were invited by Count Arthur Moore, the local MP to take over a house which he had built shortly beforehand. Count Moore constructed the main red-bricked three storey house at a cost of £10,000 and he handed it over on 14th June 1884, to the Rosminians apparently on 3.6 hectares of land and in addition, he gave them a further £1,000 to furnish the house. It appears the land was rapidly increased to approximately 16 hectares and in addition water was found and pumped while walls, gates, outhouses and workshops were built and the house was furnished. In January 1885, the institution was certified for 150 boys and apparently it had reached that capacity by May 1886.

The indications are that the buildings at Ferryhouse in the main were constructed very shortly after the school was opened in the mid-1880s and this is evident in photograph no 8 which is an old postcard apparently dating from about 1920. This was taken looking to the north and shows in the centre the main three storey building with the three wings behind it forming the square or quadrangle and behind this again there are three pitched roofs running more or less north-south together with a further building just north of the quadrangle. There were some improvements and changes over the years but the general arrangement described appears to have remained intact until the construction of the new school commenced in the 1980s. This was constructed in phases involving the removal of the original buildings and continued until the late 1980s when the original main three storey building was demolished.

3.0 Details

3.1 Farm

There was a farm associated with the school from its inception until around 1979/1980 when it was closed down completely and after that the land was sold off in pieces. The farm itself started as approximately 16 hectares very shortly after the school was opened and this was initially intended for the feeding of the pupils. The farm was enlarged over the years to about 32 hectares or possibly up to 50 hectares and it extended from the house north towards the N24. However, a portion of the farm was also located south of the river, while as stated previously the farmyard itself was located alongside the N24. The main use of the land was for potatoes, dairy and also hens and in addition, there was an orchard beyond the west wing. The farmyard has been completely demolished and no detail of it remains. It apparently was updated some time in the 1960s with a milking parlour and a chicken house being added at that time. Finally, it should be noted that all of the buildings and the land still in possession of the Rosminians was transferred to the State in 2002, apart from approximately three hectares of land unsuitable for farming south of the River Suir.

Some impression of the farmyard can be obtained from map 1 showing the layout in 1951. It has been completely demolished and all that has been retained is a lodge alongside the N24.

3.2 School Buildings

Details of the school buildings are shown in the map. Essentially, this consisted of a quadrangle formed by the main house which was the red brick three storey building constructed by Count Arthur Moore in 1884, together with an east and a west wing extending north from it with the entire enclosed by a north wing. Beyond that and just north of the quadrangle there were three or possibly four other separate buildings. The main house itself was three storey, while the east and west wings were each two storey with the north being single storey. The three or possibly four other buildings north of that again appear to have been single storey industrial type buildings. The general arrangement is quite clear in the photographs of the model number 1 and 2 and also in the earliest photograph no 8 taken about 1920.

From scaling the Ordnance Survey sheet the outside measurements of the quadrangle were approximately 66m x 66m. The inner space was approximately 48m east-west x 44m north-south without making any allowance for the projection at the rear of the main house.

3.3 The Main House

The main house originally constructed by Count Arthur Moore was a three storey red brick building shown clearly in the photographs of the model number 1 and 2. The main axis of the building ran east-west and in plan it appears to have been approximately 35m x 12m. As originally constructed however, the house was cruciform in shape with a significant front projection and also one to the rear which incorporated the main stairs. As shown in the model, this had four floors and it may well have been added subsequent to the construction of the original house. In addition, the main house also contained a single storey extension at the rear or northern side known as the cloister which connected into the west wing and which ran across the back of the house.

The main house is also shown from the rear in photograph 4 and this shows a fire escape leading down to ground level alongside the cloister which runs as far as the gable. In the lower left hand corner of this photograph, it is possible to see another external stairs, which apparently gave access to the first floor level on the eastern wing. The photograph also shows the projection at the rear of the main house, consisting initially of a high pitched section which was original and incorporated the main stairs. Behind this, there is a four storey section with a flat or a low pitched roof and which quite clearly was constructed in different phases.

The earliest photograph of the main house is no 8 which apparently was taken from postcards dating back as far as 1918/1920. Photograph 8 shows that the construction of the house is effectively unchanged in the later photographs.

Just inside the main entrance at ground floor level as shown in model photograph 1 and photograph 3, the Resident Manager’s office was on the right hand side while there was a parlour on the left hand side. Just beyond the Manager’s office on the right hand side there was a secondary stairs which led to the first and second floor level and from which it was possible to gain access to the dormitories. This, however, was not the main stairs and was not used by the boys since the main stairs was in the rear return of the building. The upper floors of the front projection apparently contained Community bedrooms used by the Resident Manager who apparently slept above his office and also for the Prefects.

There appears to have been no main corridor at ground floor level within the building since this purpose was served by the cloister at the rear. This cloister is shown in photograph 7 and also in photograph 9, both of which were taken looking towards the west wing. Photograph 9, shows the start of the main stairs on the right, while facing this, the doorway leads towards the main entrance. The windows on the right hand side of the corridor obviously lead to the outside and the yard enclosed by the quadrangle, while on the left hand side there was a Community room which apparently had a large billiard table in it and beyond this again on the western gable was the Community dining room. This is shown in photograph 10 which again was taken from an old postcard dating from around 1920.

The upper two floors of the main house were used as dormitories with the junior boys being allocated to the second floor and the senior boys to the first floor level up until the mid-1960s. In each case, the dormitories ran the full length of the building and are described in a questionnaire completed by the Rosminians in 1944 for the Department as being 33.5m long x 7.3m wide. Up until the 1960s, it appeared each dormitory was laid out to accommodate 100 children without any partitions. A report compiled in the 1940s says the first floor dormitory for the senior boys contained 92 children, while the second floor for the junior boys contained 100. It describes each of them as having central heating and electric light and it says the senior dormitory had 16 windows while the junior one had 26. The windows in the junior dormitory were obviously much smaller, as shown in the photographs and in fact photograph 4 shows that two of them have been removed to facilitate the fire escape. This 1940s report gives the height of the senior dormitory as 4.25m while that of the junior dormitory is 6m. Finally, it says there were 28 wash basins and two lavatories for the senior dormitory and 17 wash basins and two lavatories for the junior one.

After the mid-1960s the boys were reclassified as A or junior boys up to the age 12, while the B boys were from 12 to 14 and C boys were from 14 up. The junior or A boys were moved out to the east wing while the B boys were placed on the second floor and the C boys on the first floor level. At about that time, the arrangement of the dormitories was significantly altered with partitions being introduced to give a cubicle type arrangement with four beds in each around a central corridor. This reduced the capacity of the dormitories to approximately 40 beds in each case. Photograph 17 was taken about that time and gives an impression of the layout in the first floor dormitory.

There is a reference in the documentation and in particular, in a letter of October 1944, to a new sanitary annexe having been constructed and prior to that there were only dry closets in the playground. Consequently, it seems likely that this section of the building was originally two storeys constructed in the 1940s and was subsequently extended to four floors in the mid-1960s. Originally, the ground floor contained wash rooms, in other words showers and toilets while the first floor was traditionally bedrooms used by the farming staff. When the second and third floors were added these contained showers and toilet facilities allocated to the dormitories on that floor within the main house. In addition, they contained linen rooms or store rooms for use by each of the dormitories. The washing facilities at the top floor in this area are shown in photograph 18, apparently taken about 1968.

3.4 East Wing

The east wing is shown in photograph 5, while it is also shown in photograph 6 where it joins the northern wing. This shows an archway which was the only vehicular access into the yard as well as a further fire escape or access point to the upper level. At ground floor level the east wing contained the assembly hall as well as some storage and beyond this there was a recreation room and also a visitors’ room at the northern end of the block. Access to the upper floor was via an external stairs which gave onto a balcony running the length of the wing. Initially, this was open and gave access into individual rooms but about 1967/1968 this balcony was covered and enclosed and in fact photograph 13 was taken at that time showing the enclosed balcony. Photograph 2 of the model also shows the enclosed balcony with the stairs near the main house giving access to this level and the bottom of this same stairs is just visible on the lower left hand corner of photograph 4.

Initially, the upper floor of the east wing contained five classrooms and also the tailors’ shop but after about 1967/1968 the junior or A boys up to the age of 12 were moved to the first floor displacing the classrooms and the tailors’ shop. At that time, it appears the first floor was divided into three dormitories and in addition, there was a Prefect’s bedroom and bathroom/toilet located at the northern end of the wing.

By scaling the Ordnance Survey Sheet the east wing appears to have been approximately 48m long overall by 8m wide. The 1940s report referred to earlier describes five classrooms each of them 7m wide x 4.2m high, with two of them being 11.9m long, a further two of them 11.3m long and one 7m long. There is also reference to a play hall and a big school which may be the assembly room and hall taken together. In each case the width of these is 7.3m and the height is 4.6m. The play hall is given as 22m long while the big school is described as being 12m long with a 6m stage. The five classrooms are described as having stove heating and the number of pupils ranged from 34 to 50. The tailors’ shop is shown in photographs 14 and 15.

3.5 West Wing

Access into the west wing was via the cloister at the rear of the main building and there was an internal stairs at the southern end of the wing giving access to the first floor level. The first floor was mainly taken up with Community bedrooms with the washroom/bathroom for them at the southern end near the top of the stairs. Apparently there were nine Community bedrooms on this floor and at the northern end of the wing there was a nurse’s bedroom and beyond that again there was an infirmary with an outside fire escape.

At ground floor level there was the Community kitchen and then a storage area followed by the boys’ dining room followed by the kitchen and the stores for the boys.

Overall, this block also scales approximately 48m x 8m. The boys’ dining room again taken from an old postcard is shown in photograph 11, while the infirmary is shown in photograph 12. In the 1940s document this is described as being 6.7m x 8.2m x 4.2m high. It is described as having eight beds together with a lavatory and a bathroom. No mention is made of heating, but photograph 12 clearly shows a stove.

3.6 North Wing

The north wing was single storey and divided into a number of rooms whose use changed over the years. On the eastern side near the archway leading to the outside was the shoe shop or cobblers. This was followed by the toilets which appear to have been accessed by means of an open doorway and the model in photograph 2 for example, shows a flat roofed extension behind this, which apparently was a new toilet, built in the 1960s. The wing also contained a nurse’s post, a Prefect’s office and a recreation room. The dimensions of the north block appear to have been similar to the other two i.e. about 48m x 8m, but no information is available in relation to individual rooms. The cobblers shop is shown in photograph 16.

3.7 Other Buildings

The model in photograph 2 shows three pitched roof buildings beyond the northern wing running more or less north-south. The one on the western side i.e. the right hand side of photograph 2 apparently was built around 1930 and was newer than the other two, which apparently were interconnected as shown on the model. The newer building apparently contained the bakery in the northern section while the band or music room was located on the southern side of this. The other two units which were interconnected contained the main laundry as well as the boiler house and maintenance workshops. The two interconnected buildings scale approximately 18m x 16m. In the 1940s questionnaire the music room was described as 6.7m x 7.3m x 5.6m high. Finally, there was a water tower as shown in the model just to one side of these.

At the end of the 1960s when the classrooms were moved out of the first floor of the east wing, prefabs were placed to the north of the existing buildings alongside the internal road running towards the farmyard. The positioning of these prefabs is clearly evident in the 1973 Ordnance Survey aerial photograph. It appears the prefabs contained nine classrooms together with an arts and crafts room, a tailor shop, a knitters’ shop and a general purpose room.

An open and unheated swimming pool was constructed by the school in the 1950s and this was located on the southern side of the River Suir just beyond Sir Thomas’ Bridge and it was open to members of the public as well as being used by the school.

3.8 Services

The school was apparently supplied with electricity from early on, in other words shortly after its construction but the source of this is not clear. It is known that the gas company in Clonmel never serviced the school. There is a reference in the early documentation to water being found and pumped but it appears the main supply was from the Glenmorgan River south of the River Suir and this continued to be the case until mains water was supplied probably in the 1970s. Initially, the school was served by septic tanks and this continued until a small treatment plant was installed in the 1980s which apparently was not very successful. The use of this was discontinued approximately two years ago when a pumping station was installed to connect to the main town sewer. It appears the school had been provided with oil fired central heating from the 1960s and before that solid fuel was used. However, there is a reference in the 1940s report to stoves being used to heat the classrooms.

St. Joseph Rural Map

Ordnance Survey Aerial Photograph

Taken 28 June 1973

St. Joseph Aerial view

St. Joseph Model, front view

St. Joseph Model, rear view

St. Joseph Model main entrance at ground floor level

Rear view, that shows a fire escape leading down to ground level

St. Joseph east wing

St. Joseph east wing joining northern wing

St. Joseph, inside view of the cloister at the rear

St. Joseph, aerial view, old postcard apparently dating from about 1920

St. Joseph, inside view of the cloister at the rear

Community dining room. Old postcard dating from around 1920

The boys’ dining room taken from an old postcard

The infirmary

individual rooms, with enclosed balcony

The tailors’ shop

The tailors’ shop

The cobblers shop

The boys’ bedroom

The washing facilities at the top floor, apparently taken about 1968

1 This is a pseudonym.

2 This is a pseudonym.

3 This is a pseudonym.

4 This is a pseudonym.

5 This is a pseudonym.

6 Set out in full in Volume I.

7 This is a pseudonym.

8 This is a pseudonym.

9 This is a pseudonym.

10 This is a pseudonym.

11 Br Valerio did not give evidence to the Committee; he lives abroad.

12 This is a pseudonym.

13 This is a pseudonym.

14 This is a pseudonym.

15 This is a pseudonym.

16 This is a pseudonym.

17 This is a pseudonym.

18 This is a pseudonym.

19 This is believed to be a reference to the Upton punishment book.

20 This is a pseudonym.

21 This is a pseudonym.

22 This is a pseudonym.

23 This is a pseudonym.

24 This is a pseudonym.

25 This is a pseudonym.

26 This is a pseudonym.

27 This is a pseudonym.

28 This is a pseudonym.

29 This is a pseudonym.

30 This is a pseudonym.

31 This is a pseudonym.

32 This is a pseudonym.

33 This is a pseudonym.

34 This is a pseudonym.

35 This is a pseudonym.

36 This is a pseudonym.

37 Latin for surprise and wonder.

38 This is a pseudonym.

39 This is a pseudonym.

40 This is a pseudonym.

41 This is a pseudonym.

42 This is a pseudonym.

43 This is a pseudonym.

44 This is a pseudonym.

45 This is a pseudonym.

46 This is a pseudonym.

47 This is a pseudonym.

48 This is a pseudonym.

49 This is a pseudonym.

49 Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Press Publishing Services, 2003), pp 399–405.

34 Brid Fahey Bates, p 401.

50 Cussen Report; p 53.

51 Cussen Report, p 54

52 Cussen Report, p 55

53 Cussen Report, p 52.

54 Cussen Report, p 49.

55 This is a pseudonym.

56 Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.

Chapter 4
St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount (‘Greenmount’), 1871–1959

History and establishment of St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount

4.01St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, was the only industrial school run by the Presentation Brothers. The first boy was registered on 5th April 1871 and the last was registered on 27th February 1959. A total of 3,592 boys passed through Greenmount.1 The School closed on 31st March 1959, when there were still 127 residents in the School, 113 of whom were sent to other industrial schools and 14 were discharged.

The Presentation Brothers

4.02The Presentation Brothers owe their origin to Edmund Ignatius Rice when, in 1802, he founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The Communities inspired by Edmund Rice adopted a modified form of the Rules of the Presentation Sisters and were under the jurisdiction of the bishops of their local dioceses. In 1820, Pope Pius VII granted Edmund Rice’s application for his society to be given papal approbation and a Constitution. Under this new Constitution, all the houses became united under a Superior General except for the house in Cork, where Bishop Murphy refused his consent, despite the desire of most of the Brothers to be part of Br Rice’s wider congregation. In 1826, the Cork house joined the others, but one of the Brothers, Br Austin Riordan, dissented and offered his services to the Bishop of Cork who placed him in charge of a school in the south of the city. With his secession, the teaching congregation known as the Presentation Brothers was created. The number of Brothers grew rapidly and, despite their having split from the main group of Brothers of the Christian Schools, they still regarded Edmund Rice as their founder and inspiration.

4.03The new Congregation spread across Ireland and moved their base to Dublin. They continued to be subject to their respective bishops until 1889, when Pope Leo XIII confirmed the Congregation and all the houses united under a Superior General. This independent status allowed the Congregation of the Presentation Brothers to expand further, with branches in all the provinces of Ireland, and houses in England and Canada.

4.04The Presentation Brothers take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live in small groups or communities, organised on hierarchical lines, with the younger Brothers obeying their superiors without question. Their daily life is organised by strict monastic rules, involving a daily routine of prayer, meditation and study. They adopted the motto of the Jesuits, ‘Ad majorem Dei Gloriam’,2 and the Brothers place the initials F. P. M.3 after their name. Their mission is to ‘form Christ in the young’ through education. Their work is with disadvantaged and marginalised people, both young and old, and it was this mission that led them to accept the running of an industrial school and orphanages.

4.05Apart from these vows, the Brothers undertake to devote their lives to all people and are forbidden to enter into ‘particular friendships’. Professor Dermot Keogh, in a report he prepared for the Presentation Brothers in May 2001, wrote:

Inside the monastery a Superior would strongly advise against the formation of what were known as ‘particular friendships’. No definition is readily available to help amplify the meaning of this phrase. But it was usually intended to refer to the development of a close emotional bond between two brothers.4

4.06He quoted the Visitation Report of 9th October 1901 which exhorted:

Particular friendships cannot be too carefully guarded against. They rarely, if at all, are without harm and never do any good …

Familiarities with the boys should be most cautiously guarded against, being most hurtful both to boys and Brothers. Even with employees and externs there should always be maintained a reserve that would keep them at proper distance and enable them to have for the Brothers that respect due to their position.5

4.07The implications of this need to keep ‘a proper distance’ will be discussed later.

The establishment of Greenmount

4.08The site that was renamed Greenmount in the 1870s was originally called Gallows Green. It was made available in 1852 at a rent of 30 shillings a year for 500 years to the Bishop of Cork, Dr William Delaney and other Catholic Church dignitaries, including Edmund Paul Townsend, one of the Presentation Brothers. On it they built St Patrick’s Orphanage, a residential home for orphaned and abandoned boys, commencing the building in 1858. The Bishop requested the Presentation Brothers to run the orphanage and they took charge of it in 1862. It soon reached its capacity, and had to be extended in 1866 because of the increasing number of boys needing admission.

4.09Dr William Delaney, the Bishop of Cork, who held that position from 1847 until he died in 1886, was a forceful personality and an advocate of educational reform. He was determined that Cork would be the location of a model industrial school run by a Catholic Order, and he saw it as an important step in overcoming the years of discrimination against Catholics by the governments of those years. It was this ambition that drove him to turn the newly founded St Patrick’s orphanage into an industrial school. He saw the industrial schools system as one that would benefit the children who were being raised in poverty and ignorance in the Cork area. Because of his drive, his ambition was soon achieved: the orphanage acquired the status of Industrial School on 14th March 1871.

4.10The existing orphanage building was not large enough for the new project and so, in 1872, work began on a new building adjacent to the orphanage. It was to be named St Joseph’s School for Boys. An aggressive fund-raising effort, spear-headed by Dr Delaney, raised sufficient funds for the construction of the School, with accommodation for approximately 220 boys. The Cork Examiner described the building as it neared completion:

The new building itself is a handsome and substantial edifice, built of red brick, in the domestic Gothic style of architecture, from a design and plan furnished by Mr George Ashlin, the eminent architect. The front (or northern) elevation presents the bold and effective appearance of a three-storey house, pierced by about forty windows, of which the limestone dressings relieve the ruddy monotony of the chief material, and a lofty, projecting gable at either end with cut limestone barges, flanks the long range of the body of the building. The edifice as it stands, covers an area of 120 feet by 50 feet high. The first rooms met with in this corridor, on either hand, are intended for a reception parlour, 17 feet by 22 feet; a refectory for the Brothers, 22 feet by 23 feet; and a sitting room for the chaplain, 20 feet by 17 feet. Farther on, in the front of the building, is the refectory for the boys, a spacious and cheerful hall, 57 feet long by 28 feet wide, capable of sitting 200. It is lighted by six large windows of plate glass, and above each window appears a ventilator, which passes upward in the thickness of the wall to the eaves. At the eastern end of the refectory will be the kitchen, 20 feet by 15 feet, separated from the refectory by a partition, and communicating with it through a turnstile …

Opposite the refectory door is a convenient staircase, by which we ascend two flights to the first floor, passing on the first landing a room for one of the Brothers. Another ample corridor, like that in the basement, traverses this floor, and from it we enter the first dormitory, occupying the whole front of this storey, 120 feet by 28 and a half feet, with a similar arrangement as to the light and air to those observed in the refectory. The monotonous interior of this splendid apartment is broken near either end by moulded piers, united by three neatly moulded arches, at a distance of 15 feet from each wall.6

4.11The article went on to describe the boys’ dormitories, which were built over two floors, the one above corresponding in every respect with the dormitory below. Each housed 125 beds. The new larger School was opened on 1st December 1874.

4.12There were also plans for numerous additional facilities at the School, such as the provision for the building of a chapel, schoolrooms and workshops for the training of shoemakers, carpenters, coopers and bakers. Building continued throughout the School’s early history. In 1888, trade shops with schoolrooms were erected. By 1896, buildings comprising a day room, band room, coal house, toilets and additional schoolrooms had been built. In 1900 and 1901, the kitchen, pantries, storeroom, boiler house, scullery, bath and toilets were added.

4.13Bishop Delaney wanted a model industrial school for the Cork area, and the building matched the grandeur of his conception. It was built to the highest standards, designed to be an institution that the Church and the city could take pride in. This imposing building, unlike many other industrial schools, was located within Cork City, and local townsfolk formed links with the School, providing both charity and, later, social contact for the residents.

4.14The Bishop outlined his ideal in a speech given at the Chamber of Commerce in March 1874 to mark the completion of ‘the Greenmount Male Industrial School’. He told the audience:

The object of this institution is to take from the streets poor boys who are on the way to perdition, to rescue them from vice and misery, and to save the community at large from the consequences of allowing them to grow up … untrained, steeped in misery, and with no means of support save what they can obtain by depredations on the community.7

4.15He praised the Industrial Schools Act (Ireland), 1868 for making such schools possible. It stemmed from the ‘finest principles that should govern humanity’. He went on:

There is gentleness of treatment for those to be reclaimed; there are reformatories for those who have fallen away, and the perfection of the system was to anticipate evil, and save young people from vice, from misery, and from mischief to their fellow citizens; and for this the Industrial School Act has been passed.8

4.16The conception was idealistic and motivated by a genuine desire to turn the poor and abandoned children of society, who had to live by pilfering and scavenging, into educated and useful citizens.

4.17Professor Keogh made the point in his report that:

There is no contemporary suggestion that the conditions under which the boys would live in Greenmount would be severe. The bishop had stressed the reforming nature of industrial schools. The school ethos was intended to provide a safe environment for the boys, who would range in age from six to sixteen.

4.18The following ground floor plan of Greenmount was made available to the Committee:

Ground floor plan of Greenmount

Source: Professor Dermot Keogh

The acquisition of lands surrounding Greenmount

4.19Having built a model school, the plan then was to extend the grounds so that it would become a farm capable of giving the boys training in farm work, and at the same time provide food for the School and additional income from the sale of farm produce. The School was built on eight acres of land, and the staff and boys in the School began cultivating the surrounding land. The farm was deemed a commercial success. The Cork Examiner reported, ‘In the past seasons Greenmount has sent the earliest and best potatoes to the Cork market and produced other vegetables in abundance and good quality’.9

4.20The Brothers continued to expand the farm. They purchased much of the surrounding land at the turn of the century, and the adjacent farm comprising approximately 39 acres by the early twentieth century. Greenmount also had two further farms located at Lehenagh, on the outskirts of the city. It is recorded in the School annals that the Management decided to sell these farms because of difficulties arising in the day-to-day management of them.

4.21Department of Education records described the farm:

The farm attached to this school has an area of 39 acres. It is used to supply milk and potatoes to the institution. Fifteen cows are kept and the feeding for these is grown on the farm.

4.22In a Report to the General Council dated 1954, reference was made to the farm and its produce:

There are 10 milch cows, one heifer, 4 sows, 33 bonhams and 3 horses on the farm. There are two workmen besides a gardener employed. Brother Ignado10 is in charge.

Brother Arrio11 in his poultry farm has 52 hens and 42 pullets. He gets about 15 eggs per day. (From that number he should get 36 or 40 eggs a day.)

4.23As the following table shows, profits from the farm were modest and, in some years, the farm ran at a loss. The bakery, however, was more successful:

Extracts from financial records for the farm and the bakery, 1945–1957

Financial year The farm contribution The bakery contribution
1945 –£1,244 £1,545
1946 –£1,152 £1,396
1947 –£859 £1,137
1955 –£69 £1,736
1956 £775 £48
1957 £114 £1,012

4.24The large profit made by the bakery in 1955 is explained by the fact that there was a five-month strike by bakers in the city, and Greenmount sold bread to the local shops. The demand was so great that they even bought a second-hand van to replace their horse-drawn cart to speed delivery.


4.25The original certificate for the School allowed 168 boys to be accommodated, and this figure was increased to 188 in 1885. The late 1890s saw a further increase to a capacity of 200 and, in 1913, the accommodation limit was increased to 220. In 1933, there was a final increase to 235 children. Management made representations in 1942 for yet another increase in the certified number of children, but their application proved unsuccessful on the grounds that nearby Upton and Baltimore industrial schools were not operating to their full capacity. However, in 1944, further funding became available to the Department of Education, and 11 additional certificates were allocated to Greenmount, bringing the certified limit to 231 from 1st February 1944.

4.26The School was recognised under the Children Acts as a place of detention for boys on remand awaiting criminal trials or committal to certified schools, and it accepted a small number of boys in such circumstances. In October 1944, the Brothers were asked whether they would increase the number of places for boys on remand from four to eight, in view of the increasing number of boys coming before the courts in Cork. They agreed to do so on the basis that such boys were under 15 years of age, but regretted ‘having to state that, for obvious reasons, we are not willing to receive boys under eighteen years of age’. It is not altogether clear from the documentation whether or not boys on remand were actually sent to Greenmount, as in 1950 the School was asked once again whether they would take such boys. The Resident Manager responded, confirming that, although he was willing to do so, he felt impeded by the fact that the School did not have separate accommodation to house these boys and the fact that he understood that the School would not receive payment for these boys from the State. The Department of Education, after consulting with the Department of Justice, assured the Resident Manager that the School was entitled to payment for boys remanded to Greenmount, and indicated that the accommodation issue should not present an insurmountable difficulty. Br Esteban12 wrote back on behalf of the Resident Manager, confirming that the School was willing to accept up to eight boys. He added, ‘I would like the age limit not to exceed 16 if possible, and also not to accept any cases who may be brought before the District Court for immorality’. When asked whether they would consider accepting boys between the ages of 16 and 17, the Resident Manager responded, ‘I think it would be an injustice, both morally and otherwise, to the boys already in the School, to accept such youths’.

4.27From 1st April 1952, the capitation grant for industrial and reformatory schools, which were also recognised as a place of detention for remand juveniles, was almost doubled from a grant of 3s 6d per day per child to one of 7s 0d for those children detained there on remand.

The number of boys in Greenmount

Number of children in St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount

Year Number of children under detention
1937 206
1938 199
1939 218
1940 219
1941 220
1942 219
1943 224
1944 218
1945 123
1946 224
1947 230
1948 236
1949 226
1950 209
1951 179
1952 164
1953 148
1954 152
1955 136
1956 70
1957 125
1958 133

Management structure

4.28The Superior General ensured that the rules and the Constitution of the Congregation were being observed and that there was agreement to the horarium. A system of internal supervision, whereby the Superior General or his delegate visited the School twice a year, was set up for this purpose. While the focus was on the life of the Community, the overall operation of the School was observed and occasionally commented upon.

Staff and management of the School

4.29Between August 1938 and March 1959 when the School closed, there were a total of seven Resident Managers appointed. Five of the seven held the position in the 1950s. These frequent changes must have resulted in a degree of instability in the running of the School. A number of these Managers admitted they had had no training or suitable experience for the position.

4.30Both the Department of Education and the Congregation were well aware of the importance of having a suitably experienced person in this pivotal position in the School. The report entitled ‘Report on the Occupational Training Provided in the Industrial Schools and in Glencree Reformatory’ commissioned by the Department in the mid to late 1930s, which is referred to in detail in the section ‘Industrial Training’ below, and also the Cussen Report13 emphasised the importance of having a Manager with the requisite experience and qualities for this ‘highly specialised task’. Yet in Greenmount, as in other industrial schools, because the Resident Manager was very often also the Superior of the Community, the Department did not get involved in this appointment and left it in the hands of the Congregation. The Congregation, for its part, does not appear to have recognised the importance of the appointment, particularly in the 1950s, which was unfair both to the Resident Managers appointed, some of whom must have found themselves struggling to cope with the task, and most importantly, to the boys.

The daily routine

Time Activity for boys Duty for staff
6.45 Brothers rise
7.15 Prayers in oratory
7.30 Boys called/ dress
7.30–7.50 ‘Chalks’ – cleaning duties. Monitor in charge of 8-10 boys
7.50 Boys strip in yard or hall and wash at sinks
8.00 Mass Mass
8.30 Breakfast – bread and coffee Breakfast in refectory
9.00 School Teaching Brothers work in school
1.00 Lunch Dinner – meat and two veg then play Lay Brothers supervise
2.00 Workshops/trades/band
5.00 Play
About 6.00 Evening meal – Bread and cocoa
9.00 (Later in summer) Bed

Visitation Reports

4.31Apart from the Department of Education Inspection, the School in Greenmount received two visits per year, from the Superior General, the Provincial, or a Brother delegated to conduct a visit, who was known as the Visitor. The visits usually lasted two days and concentrated on ensuring the observance by the Community of the rules of the Congregation. The Visitor frequently criticised the way in which prayers and the Office were recited. The reports also made brief comments on how the School was run. At the end of each visit, a Visitation Report was completed and placed in a book that was left at the School. A separate report was made to the General Council of the Presentation Brothers, which was based at Mount St Joseph’s, Passage West. In 1952, the governance structure of the Congregation changed, and an additional tier of authority was introduced in the form of the Provincial Council, which reported to the General Council. Therefore, from 1952, in addition to the usual Visitation Reports, there are also Provincial Reports available. (These Provincial Reports were based on the Visitation Reports.)

4.32The Visitation Reports gave a good insight into the life of Presentation Brothers in Greenmount. The Reports concentrated on the absolute necessity for strict observance of the Constitution of the Congregation, and any derogation was frowned upon. Many of the reports prescribed reading lists of religious texts which the Brothers were expected to study.

4.33The Provincial Reports and Visitation Reports that made specific reference to the welfare of the boys generally remarked that they appeared well cared for, well fed, happy and healthy. The use of words such as ‘the boys appeared’ would indicate that the Visitor’s assessment of the boys was a superficial one, based on observation rather than on any careful examination of actual conditions. In particular, there was no evidence that the Visitor spoke with the boys about their experience of the School. Despite spending two full days in the Institution on each visit, none of the concerns noted in the Department of Education Inspection Reports at various stages were commented on in the Visitation Reports. Visitors, as a rule, asked about the level of punishment administered and were usually assured that it was kept to a minimum. This assurance, however, was given by the persons who were responsible for the punishment and, in the absence of a punishment book, it was impossible to estimate the extent or severity of punishments administered. For example, the 1940s was a period when an acknowledged regime of harsh punishment operated in Greenmount, and yet the Visitation Reports did not reflect this.

4.34Lay workers were kept at arm’s length. ‘The time of the lay workers in the Institution should not be wasted by Brothers holding unnecessary conversations with them’, reported the Visitor, Br Diego,14 in his Visitation Report dated 12th June 1934. In the same Visitation Report, he ordered that a nurse should only be called in to attend to a sick Brother after permission was obtained from the Superior General or, in his absence, a senior assistant. Similar lines of demarcation were laid down for the Brothers. Only the Superior and Bursar were permitted to visit the boys’ infirmary, which was regarded as the strict domain of the nurse.

4.35In the Visitation Report of December 1936, Br Diego set out various recommendations for the Brothers and the boys. The local Superior was requested to notify the Superior General if any Brother was outside the house after 9pm, even with permission. Brothers were expected to retire to their rooms at 10pm every night. They were required to stay away from such ‘world amusements’ as were unbecoming to a Brother, as well as places where their attendance would cause scandal. Attendance at horse races, dog races and opera houses was singled out as particularly inappropriate. The Superior was not to, directly or indirectly, supply cigarettes to the Brothers. The cinema was out of bounds unless the film was approved having regard to the Papal Encyclical on Films of 1936. The recommendations for boys included advice that no boy should be allowed to go to a Brother’s room after night prayers. Organised games should be introduced, with playing fields made available.

4.36In the Visitation Report of October 1942, Br Diego complained that the farm staff was unduly large and that staff levels could be reduced by 40 percent. He also noted with criticism that labourers’ wages were above the Government standard and that overhead costs had soared.

4.37Br Diego again visited the School in March 1944 and found that ‘the management, discipline, the general tone and atmosphere of the school have dropped some points’ since 1941. He did not elaborate on the reasons for his view or make recommendations for improvement. There was no Department of Education General Inspection Report or Medical Report for that year for comparison purposes. In any event, by December 1944, another Visitor, Br Enrique,15 noted an upward trend in the management, discipline and tone of the School and was confident that the high standards would be restored.

4.38The Brothers were expected to be completely self-reliant and were forbidden from discussing Community business with outsiders. Br Juan16 visited the School in 1945 and noted, ‘the brothers should be careful not to disclose Community affairs to those who have not the right to know them – not even to priests or relatives’. He also cautioned against incurring expense except when absolutely necessary.

4.39There were no adverse comments regarding the management and conduct of the School in the remaining Visitation Reports of the 1940s.

4.40Br Jose17 reported in June 1951 that the education of the boys was well managed, but warned the Brothers of the Community:

… of the heavy responsibility placed on their shoulders of training these boys to face the world. The spiritual, moral, educational and even industrial training should receive very careful planning and attention.

4.41He recommended that the Brothers consult with each other and pool their ideas as to how best to further the training of the boys.

4.42The following year, the Provincial Report noted, ‘the average age of the Brothers is too high, for the exacting duties they are called upon to perform. A Bursar and another young Brother would be required to carry out the necessary work’. The report went on to state that, with falling numbers, the financial viability of the School was in doubt.

4.43In May 1953, Br Jose recommended that the boys should receive regular instruction in ‘the civic and moral virtues’. The Provincial Report of the same year also recommended that a maid be employed in the Brothers’ kitchen instead of the boys. Further Provincial Reports of the same year complained that there were not sufficient boys in the workshops, despite the fact that half the total number of boys in the School were at the trades training age. In a Provincial Report the following year, it was recommended that all of the boys in 7th class be transferred into trades training classes.

4.44The Provincial Report of June 1955 referred to the fact that Br Garcia18 had complained that discipline under the current Manager was somewhat lax. This report also made reference to immorality among the boys.

4.45Br Blanco19 completed a Visitation Report in December 1955 and he acknowledged the difficulties in running a school of 133 boys from troubled backgrounds, particularly when the average age of the Brothers was 54. He emphasised the need for supervision, and that all members of the Community should pull together to ensure that the School was properly managed.

4.46The Provincial Report of autumn 1957 was most critical of the management of the School and noted:

The boys seem to be well supervised etc. At the same time they appear to me to be very raggedy and unkempt. I am convinced that all the uplift which we – a religious body should give – is not being given. We should be able to do something for them and make something out of them and do more than merely keep them. All my suggestions to this, and in fact to any matter were turned down by the superior as Utopian, impractical and impossible … To sum up, the superior is good to organize, sees about the boys and is efficient generally. He is handicapped to some extent in the staff he has. However, he knows everything, he is open to no suggestion, he is lax about obeying higher superiors and I would say, he does not and will not realize very fully his responsibilities as leader of a religious community.

4.47The Provincial Report the following year noted that the same observations still applied.

4.48The final Visitation Report in December 1958 by Br Jose continued to express concern at the condition of the School. He stated that, although the School was well conducted, ‘the discipline, supervision, food, and general training of the boys would need to be thoroughly investigated so as to devise methods to get the best results’. The School closed three months later.

The Investigation

4.49The Committee obtained discovery documents from the Presentation Brothers, the Department of Education and Science, the Diocese of Cork and Ross, the Garda Síochána and Fr Andrew.20 In addition former members of staff and former residents furnished statements.

4.50In preparation for the hearings, the Commission sent letters to 19 residents listed on its database as having been resident in Greenmount and wishing to proceed with their complaint as of September 2005. Of those, one confirmed that he was not proceeding with his complaint and six did not reply. The remaining 12 were listed for hearing, seven of whom were heard and five withdrew. A further complainant had been heard in 2002. In addition, evidence was heard from one respondent.

Physical abuse

What the Presentation Brothers have conceded

4.51Br Denis Minehane, Vice Principal of the Presentation Anglo Irish Province, gave evidence during the Emergence Phase on 1st July 2004 in relation to the position taken by the Presentation Brothers on the issue of whether there was physical abuse in their Institution. He told the Committee:

we have not formed a view that systematic child abuse occurred at Greenmount Industrial School. We are prepared to accept that a harsh regime operated there which would be unacceptable by today’s standards. In relation to the specific complaints made to the Investigation Committee it is extremely difficult to perform any meaningful enquiry into these allegations which relate to events between 40 and 60 years ago. This is compounded by the fact that virtually all the Brothers who worked at the School are deceased, and furthermore many records are incomplete.

4.52He explained that the ‘Anglo Irish Province have not issued an apology but the Congregation as a whole, in updating its website six weeks ago, did issue a public apology’. This apology stated:

The Presentation Brothers apologise to any person who was abused while in their care. The Brothers are committed to implementing the appropriate national guidelines for dealing with complaints relating to child sexual abuse, and will respond to the best of their ability to any person who comes to them with a complaint. Accordingly the Brothers have appointed a Child Protection Coordinator in every unit of the Congregation to meet with people who have complaints to make.

4.53Br Minehane said of the apology:

It was along the lines of, “we apologise for any wrongdoing or any abuse that occurred to any person while in our care.” That was done for two reasons. First of all to give our regret. Secondly to encourage anybody out there who is hurting to come and make that complaint.

4.54Br Minehane then confirmed that the Presentation Brothers had contributed to the Redress Scheme. He stated:

Well, we were members of CORI and in 2000 when this came up first we were participating in the Faoiseamh help line and we contributed to the Faoiseamh help line. We were a member of the 18 congregations and when the question of the contribution came up we felt that especially because of our 1955 incident that we would feel very exposed if all this went to litigation. We felt that it was prudent management to make a contribution to the Redress Board.

4.55Br Minehane said that the Presentation Brothers knew of around 60 allegations of abuse concerning their Congregation by 2002, when they signed into the Redress Scheme. He confirmed that any Brother against whom allegations were made and who was still alive was interviewed and, in all cases, ‘there was total denial’.

4.56When asked what view the Congregation had ‘of the reality of the allegations being made’, he replied:

Well the Community would have to believe that if these allegations were made that there was grounds to believe that there was wrongdoing taking place. To that extent we apologise and regret that anything like that did happen while children were in our care.

4.57He could say nothing about the specific complaints because of the passage of time and the unavailability of either witnesses or detailed records to corroborate or disprove the allegations. He added, ‘the furthest I could go, I think, is that I must concede that at least some of those complaints are valid’.

4.58During the course of the Phase II hearings, further, more precise concessions were made. Counsel for the Presentation Brothers said of one Brother (Br Arrio) who was Resident Manager/Superior at Greenmount in the mid-1930s and again from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s:

My clients suggest that he was a strict disciplinarian, Br Arrio, he was a very strict man. We accept that certainly from time to time he may have overstepped the mark.

4.59In Phase III, Br Minehane was asked if there was unwarranted physical abuse in Greenmount and he replied:

Yes, by today’s standards there certainly was, especially at a period during the 1940s, our research would show that there was certainly excess corporal punishment.

4.60Br Minehane was asked to clarify what he meant by the phrase excessive physical punishment ‘in the light of today’s standards’. He replied, ‘my interpretation of it is that corporal punishment in schools was totally acceptable until 1982’. Under questioning, he went on to concede that some punishments were indeed excessive by the standards of the time, and that he did not need to use the term ‘by today’s standards’.

4.61In summary, the Presentation Brothers made the following concessions:

1.Greenmount operated a harsh regime, especially in the 1940s.

2.The corporal punishment administered by the Superior, Br Arrio, during the 1940s was excessive.

Br Arrio

4.62Br Arrio was at Greenmount from the mid-1930s until his death in the late 1950s. As mentioned above, he was Resident Manager/Superior of the School in the mid-1930s for three years and again from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. A Visitation Report from the mid-1940s noted that ‘The Management, discipline, the general tone and atmosphere of the school have dropped some points since my Visit [three years previously]’. The reappointment of Br Arrio during the mid-1940s soon turned this situation around, because the Visitation Report commented, ‘The management, discipline and tone of this school are on the upward trend. I am quite confident it will very soon hold the honoured place it occupied prior to [the appointment of Br Arrio]’.

4.63During the 1940s, the annual reports furnished by the Resident Manager of the School to the Department of Education gave a glowing picture of benign discipline being enforced in the School. In the early 1940s, it said, ‘Punishment of every kind is all but a dead letter in the school’. One year later, the Department was told ‘Punishment of any kind is all but abolished in the school’. The reports for the following two years used the same phrase, ‘Corporal punishment of every kind is, all but, completely abolished’. From the mid to late 1940s, in answer to the question ‘Nature of the punishments for misconduct’, the identical answer was given: ‘Forfeiture of rewards and privileges, which are allowed boys of good conduct’.

4.64The 1940s were precisely the years that the Presentation Brothers acknowledged to have been an era marked by excessively severe corporal punishment. Br Minehane was asked to explain the contradiction. He began by saying, ‘I would have question marks about it’. He then went on to explain that the Resident Manager, Br Arrio, was in charge of discipline, and was ‘the same person who wrote that report’. He then said:

He was the Resident Manager and I have no explanation for it except that he regarded himself as the disciplinarian in the School. And from his point of view … corporal punishment was part of it.

4.65The fundamental inadequacy of the system could not be more apparent. The Brother who was himself operating a severe and harsh regime was the same Brother who reported to the Department. His reports to the Department were misleading: they claimed that punishment consisted of a system of withdrawing privileges, when in fact the School was being controlled by severe beatings and a climate of fear through a regime that he himself commanded.

The testimony of a former Presentation Brother in respect of Br Arrio

4.66Mr Olivero21 (formerly Br Olivero) joined the Presentation Brothers in the mid-1940s. He spent a year teaching in Greenmount before going to a Training College in Waterford. He returned to Greenmount in the late 1940s, where he again taught for one and a half years. He left the Congregation in the late 1950s. He gave evidence to the Investigation Committee in respect of Br Arrio and his disciplinary regime.

4.67Mr Olivero said that, when he arrived at the School, he was told that if any boy committed a misdemeanour he should be sent to the Head Brother, Br Arrio, who would look after him. He said that Br Arrio was regarded as a strict disciplinarian and the boys were fearful of him. He agreed that the boys had good reason to be afraid of him. He explained:

if a boy did commit any misdemeanour, if he fought in the yard and if he didn’t try and pull himself together, all I had to say was, okay, do you want to go to Br Arrio and they’d say no.

4.68When he was asked if he thought it was a good thing that the person who was in ultimate control should instil such fear in boys he replied, ‘I thought it was maybe a bit extreme’.

4.69When asked if he had seen boys being caned in the yard, he explained:

When the boys were lined up in the evening time, before going, maybe, for a meal, for the evening meal, I did see him chastising boys with a stick. I thought it was very extreme because if he had, we’ll say, twelve lines of boys there was a monitor for each who was responsible for each line of boys … And the monitor, if he couldn’t explain the absence of some boy in his group he was punished, and I thought that was very unfair.

4.70Mr Olivero also confirmed in oral evidence a particular method of punishment that was referred to by complainants and which is outlined below. This involved the boys climbing a ladder in a storeroom and Br Arrio beating them with a cane.

4.71He was asked whether he and those Brothers with similar views could together have had some influence over a Brother who was harsh or severe with the boys. He replied that there was no mechanism at all to have such an effect. He explained:

… I was too young and too inexperienced at the time to make a complaint. If I did make a complaint I would probably – I don’t know would I be listened to …

4.72His dilemma was a common one. Those Brothers low in the hierarchy could not challenge their seniors because of their vow of obedience. This inability to challenge the status quo meant that progress or change was virtually impossible unless it came from the top.

4.73Although he felt some complainants exaggerated the level of abuse in Greenmount, the complaints about Br Arrio were, he believed, justified. He said, ‘… I wouldn’t mind if they do make complaints about the treatment he meted out to them’.

The evidence of the complainants about Br Arrio

4.74A witness who was in Greenmount from the early 1940s to the early 1950s recalled Br Arrio taking over from his predecessor, whom he described as ‘a stern man, but he got on and I suppose he done his job’. Things changed for the worse, he said:

I can still remember that man, if I can call him that, as a tyrant … He took pleasure, and it helped him in some sick, sadistic way to beat children, and he had his own ways of doing it. If you were reported by another Brother to him you had what was commonly known in Greenmount School as “up the ladder”. That will never leave my memory.

4.75When asked to explain, he said:

You stood on – that type of ladder … and you were naked, which was a horror thing for any man saying he was a member of religion or knew there was a God there or recognised a God, as a child you are up there hanging on to ropes with your hand on them so you wouldn’t slip, naked. That’s when he lashed you across the buttocks, the hips or maybe the raw thighs. And the way he left you, you were given a white nicks like a footballer and you wore that for many days, all dressed up and the boys could laugh at you, but on top of that you had to go to the nurse and get iodine on it.

4.76He conveyed his feelings at the time by saying:

If you hit a dog he’ll squeal, a human, a little boy who was an orphan, feels just as much as a stray dog and that’s the way we were treated.

4.77He went on to describe the implement used to hit boys:

He had a cane maybe. Now I am speaking as maybe a ten year old or an eight year old, nine year old, so I am going back. Maybe it was that length of a stick (indicating). I always remember there was a knob on the end of it, it was a bamboo cane and it would bend around your leg. He said that he got that from the Garda – the Department of Justice, he made a big note of it one time, telling us where he got it, and to use it liberally … he used keep the stick in the back, up behind his belt. You never looked at him in the face, you always looked to where that damn stick was.

4.78Another complainant recalled this method of punishment. He was a resident in Greenmount from the mid-1950s, and he also told how Br Arrio gave him a beating ‘up the ladder’. He told the Committee:

Br Arrio would take off your clothes and you would have just an underpants on you and you would walk up the ladder and he would give you a slap of the cane …

That took place in a little room …..He brought me into that room and he said – he asked me what did I run away for and all this and I told him that I just ran away, I wanted to go home. So he gave me a hiding for it as well … He told me to walk up the ladder … It was one of those ladders that you could go up the top and come down the other side of it. You go up one side and down the other side … I was asked to strip to my underpants and walk up the ladder … He was hitting me [with a bamboo cane] so I ran up the ladder.

… He used to run around after you. He wasn’t as old as people was making him out to be, he was able to run and he was able to do his thing, what he had to do… Br Arrio always made … the kids climb up the ladder.

4.79Mr Olivero was asked if he could confirm punishment by Br Arrio that involved the use of a cane and a ladder in the storeroom, and he said:

I knew it happened. I never saw it happening, it was just hearsay. It was known that punishment was administered there and that there was a record kept to be seen by a representative of the Department of Education.

4.80One witness described another form of punishment used by Br Arrio to punish a boy at dinnertime:

There was various degrees of punishment … Somewhere, somewhere along the line that man worked in another job, or he was taught of keeping your toes off the ground, eat lying on your knees just and keep your toes off the ground but use your hands to go down to a bowl, like a dog, that’s the way you eat. That was another punishment of his.

4.81A former resident of Greenmount who was there in the mid-1940s said:

Br Arrio used to stand in the room, once you darned your socks, you had to go up for his inspection. If it wasn’t to his liking he would cane you and he would punch you in the head.

4.82He also recounted an incident when Br Arrio beat him and his brother for complaining about inadequate food at Greenmount:

It is the same story. My brother was beaten and he was beaten really bad. Why we were beaten so bad is when we went home – my dad was home from England one time and he said to us, “you look very skinny”, in other words, thin. He said, “if I took you up would you say it in front of the monks, Br. Arrio?” We said yes. So my dad took us up and Br. Arrio was as nice as pie to him. And my dad said the boys said they are not getting enough to eat. He said, “is that right, boys?” We made a big mistake and said yes. He showed him the bake house, the farm and all that and said they were getting this and that. When my dad went down to England he called us in about a week after and he gave us a hell of a beating and [my brother] got the worse of it because he said he was the eldest and he was the ringleader.

The Visitation Reports on Br Arrio

4.83Some of the Visitation Reports single out Br Arrio for mention, but always in a favourable light. After a visit in the late 1940s, the Visitor wrote:

There is a full quota of boys. They appear to be happy and well looked after, and great credit is due to the devoted Superior and his staff for the successful management of this Institution.

4.84In a Visitation Report two years later, Br Arrio received specific praise:

The Superior … has a long and very creditable experience at this kind of work, he is patient, kind and self sacrificing with the result that he seems to have secured the good will and best endeavours of all under his charge, nothing escapes his notice down to the fixing of a new bolt in a door …

4.85Somehow, the harsh and severe regime run by this Brother to control the boys through fear and physical punishment was not uncovered by the Visitor’s Inspections.


  • The corporal punishment administered by this Brother was contrary to the Rules and Regulations for Certified Industrial Schools and was severe by the standards of the time.
  • There was no system in place to control his excesses. Neither the Visitor nor the Department of Education Inspector detected the violence or, if they did, neither commented on the matter.
  • The misleading nature of the annual reports to the Department of Education indicated knowledge on the part of the authorities that what they were doing was wrong.

Br Garcia

4.87A witness who was in Greenmount in the 1940s and early 1950s told the Committee about unnecessary punishments administered during class by Br Garcia:

If you can imagine that being a desk and out here is the seating, it comes out about six or seven inches from that, you knelt up on that and it is on the backs of the legs you got the stick. You might say did he hit you four times, did he hit you six times, I couldn’t honestly and on oath say exactly how many times he struck me at any one time, but that was his modus operandi of trying to teach. Now, he had a saying like when we would fall in from school, he knew his class by the way they walked, a horrible thing for a human being to say … We were all limping, that’s what he meant.

4.88A Visitation Report to the General Council in the mid-1950s recorded that:

Br Garcia reported that he considered that discipline was somewhat relaxed since the present Superior took up office. The Superior assured me that all care is taken to have the boys superintended and supervised at all times.

4.89His colleague, Mr Olivero, who gave evidence to the Committee, insisted Br Garcia had a great rapport with the boys and ‘… wasn’t severe or anything like that. He would be a disciplinarian, as I would have been myself, I presume’.

Br Allente22

4.90A former resident who was in Greenmount in the early 1950s described a beating he received from Br Allente. He was careful to state that he was not complaining about the use of corporal punishment as such. He explained:

Well, the definition between punishment and brutality is this: in normal circumstances in a classroom two, three or six slaps on the hand … When you have all the force of a grown man into punishing a child with severe strength that is brutality.

4.91Br Allente, he said, picked on him because he was a slow learner, and used ‘the T-ruler’ on him several times:

… after a while one bit broke off, I think he was banging it across my back and then another time when he used the same ruler again the second part fell off. So he was left down to just a small bit and the T … I do not remember him beating as cruel to other children in my classroom as he was with me.

4.92Another witness described beatings he received from a number of Brothers whilst he was in Greenmount in the mid-1950s. He mentioned Br Allente as one of these Brothers:

You never forget these beatings no matter how old you are, you never forget the beatings you get in them schools.

4.93The testimony detailed above indicates that several individual Brothers did use excessive corporal punishment from time to time. However, many witnesses were anxious to point out that Greenmount had many good points and many good Brothers.

4.94One witness, who was there in the mid-1950s, not merely compared Greenmount favourably with another institution, but made a point of praising some Brothers. He was moved with five other boys from Carriglea to Greenmount, and told the Committee of the difference:

It was softer than Carriglea … they weren’t as cruel as regards beating you … A bit more freedom … a bit more lax … as regards the things you did, you weren’t restricted to doing anything. They were fairly lenient with you … you could play soccer, which you couldn’t play in Carriglea … Everything was played. But it wasn’t trained, you weren’t trained for it, that was just between ourselves.

4.95He was asked specifically if he felt that, in Greenmount, the Brothers there were a bit less violent. He replied:

Oh yeah, they weren’t as brutal as in Carriglea. They would have odd spasms of it, but they were a lot more lenient … Well, they used the strap and all that, but not as much as it was done in Carriglea.

4.96He described Br Allente as ‘a hard task master, but all right’, and said that Br Santiago23 was ‘a nice man’. He said it was better when Br Santiago took over because ‘there was more tolerance’.

4.97One of the other boys who was transferred from Carriglea also gave evidence. He was in Greenmount from the mid-1950s until it closed in 1959. He told the Committee:

The good things were playing hurling and football in the pitch when there was sports, when you were allowed to go out. The good thing was some of the Brothers were good and treated you like maybe you should be. The other thing was going to the Father Matthew Hall for the annual panto, which we went to and which we enjoyed going. Eventually we started going to the cinemas in Cork because we used to have – sometimes in the School they would show you the odd film here and there. But going out, it was actually going out, getting out of the Institution and going down through the streets of Cork in two by two.

4.98He was delighted with the fact that they were allowed to go out escorted into the town. He was asked if some of the Brothers treated the boys with respect and dignity, and treated them as children. He replied, ‘They did, some were very good’. He added later, ‘The older Brothers seemed to have more compassion with the children than the younger Brothers’.

4.99Another resident from the late 1940s also stressed that there was both good and bad in Greenmount. He said ‘there was a lot of rotten apples, right, in the School …’ but he said some of the Brothers were good to him: ‘The Brother that I used to work in the farm with, he was very good to me’. He then named two of the five working Brothers and said ‘it was like hell with them’, but he said the other Brothers were ‘grand’.

4.100Mr Olivero, who had no qualms about denouncing Br Arrio as too harsh and severe, nonetheless felt that there was not a violent regime. He said:

There was discipline there, there was strict discipline, but I mean it was no different to what it was in an ordinary primary school … in the absence of parents we did the best we could. What more could we do?

4.101The person most often mentioned in the complaints was Br Arrio, who was accused of being consistently brutal. Other Brothers were also remembered for administering excessive or arbitrary punishment, on a less frequent basis. As one complainant put it:

They used to beat you hard. The degree of beating they gave you was more than some of the other Brothers, some were more lenient in their dishing out of punishment.


4.1021.There was systematic use of excessive corporal punishment in the 1940s.

2.There were complaints about Brothers in the early 1950s, when corporal punishment appeared to be widespread and on occasion severe.

3.Some Brothers were regarded as nice, friendly and approachable. When they used corporal punishment, it was for misbehaviour and was accepted by complainants as being justified.

Sexual abuse


4.103A major crisis in the affairs of the Industrial School came to a head in late 1955, when the Resident Manager, Br Carlito24 and a senior Brother on the teaching staff, Br Garcia, were the subjects of serious allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the School, resulting in the transfer of the Resident Manager and the resignation from the Congregation of the other Brother. The latter protested his innocence at the time, and subsequently maintained that his voluntary departure by way of dispensation from vows came about because of his dismay at the way the matter was handled. The Resident Manager remained in the Congregation and later was the focus of further complaints of sexual impropriety.

4.104There were a number of Diocesan and Congregation Visitations to the School during this year. The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Cornelius Lucey, visited the School on 7th January 1955. The School Diary records that:

He inspected the House, interviewed some of the Brothers and five boys separately. He expressed his satisfaction as a result of the interviews and from what he saw himself.

4.105It could be inferred from this note that the bishop was pursuing a line of inquiry, but he appears to have been reassured.

4.106The Provincial of the Congregation, Br Jose, carried out the annual Visitation between 14th and 16th June 1955, and the consequent Report was very positive about the School generally and Br Carlito in particular:

As at the last Visitation I am pleased to note that the Constitutions are well observed and that there is a good spirit of fraternal charity … The Superior neglects no opportunity to better the conditions under which the boys live, and together with his staff is devoted and zealous in the care of the boys in their spiritual and temporal welfare … The affairs of the Brothers should not be discussed with the secular staff.

4.107However, shortly after the Visitation, Br Jose received some disturbing news about immoral practices amongst the boys, which he outlined in his report to the General Council:

Some days after the completion of this Visitation I got a report from a member of another Community that immoral practices were being carried on between the boys themselves. The information came originally from a Missionary priest (Fr. Brendan25 I think) who had been Spiritual Director for a time to the Legion of Mary Praesidium at the Industrial School. On being questioned about this, the Superior admitted that he was aware of the fact, having been informed by Fr. Brendan himself. He knew the names of the four or five boys concerned, had them all placed in Dormitories that they could not easily contact each other, and giving special instructions to the Night Watchman without giving him any information or naming any boys.

4.108Some five months after this Visitation, Br Blanco, a member of the General Council, carried out an unusually long Visitation to Greenmount. It lasted 12 days rather than the usual two to three days. Allegations of sexual abuse of boys were made against two respected members of the Community, Br Carlito, the Resident Manager, and Br Garcia, either before or during this Visitation.

4.109At the same time as the Visitation by Br Blanco, a separate investigation was being pursued by a Canon David26 on behalf of Bishop Lucey.

4.110No record survives of Canon David’s report to the bishop following his visit. Br Blanco, who conducted the lengthy Visitation on behalf of the Congregation, left in Greenmount a report that said nothing about sexual abuse and confined itself to pious exhortations. It seems that Br Blanco interviewed boys and took at least one written statement, although no record of these interviews survives. Neither is there any report from Br Blanco to the General Council regarding the matter.

4.111A series of notes in diary form kept by the Superior General, Br Gomez,27 at the time sheds light on the sequence of events.

4.112On 29th November, two days into the Blanco Visitation, Br Gomez recorded that ‘Brother Blanco called on Canon who said he had no doubt about their guilt’.

4.113In his diary, Br Gomez records that on 5th December:

Bishop phoned at 7 p.m. to call on him. I understood he had no doubt of their guilt.

Told me that he had called in Canon David to hold visitation at Greenmount and to call for him the following day at Bishop’s House to bring him to [Greenmount].

4.114The following day, Br Gomez collected Canon David and recorded in the diary:

Asked Canon David when boys and Bros. had been interviewed if he wanted to see Bros. Carlito & Garcia & he said yes. Phoned them at Passage W. & they came along within half an hour.

Returning from Greenmount with Canon David he asked if a Brother had been holding visitation there. I said yes but he had not yet delivered his report on visitation. In that case he said he would say nothing.

4.115It is not known why the bishop ordered his own investigation. However, Fr Andrew, the School chaplain when these investigations were carried out, recalled to Professor Keogh that a Mill Hill Father (he could not recall the name although it seems clear that the source of the allegations was Fr Brendan, the Mill Hill Father who had previously raised the issue of immorality amongst the boys) had made an allegation to the parish priest of the Lough, the parish in which the School was located, that two members of the Greenmount Community were involved in an abusive relationship with a number of the boys, and he reported the matter to the Bishop. Fr Andrew said that Bishop Lucey is believed to have visited the house of the senior curate in the Lough, Fr Charles,28 in order to interview a number of the Greenmount boys, and the bishop is believed to have conducted these interviews without revealing his identity. If that is what happened, it would explain why the bishop ordered the canonical investigation.

4.116On 8th December, the bishop told Br Gomez, during the course of a telephone conversation, that he would see Brs Carlito and Garcia, who were back at Greenmount following the Canon’s visit, if they wished to see him. Br Gomez made an appointment for the Brothers to see the bishop the following day.

4.117Fr Brendan, from Mill Hill, appears to have interviewed a number of boys who presumably made the allegations which led to the investigations. According to the notes made by Br Gomez, Br Carlito, the Resident Manager, assembled a number of boys including two with whom he had been accused of engaging in sexual activity. He questioned the two boys in front of the other boys as to the truth of the allegations. One denied the allegation and the other, who had since left the School, said that he was asked so many questions that he was confused. Br Carlito told him it was his duty to go to Fr Brendan and make the matter clear to him in writing.

4.118There appears to have been a struggle going on between the Superior, who was seeking exculpation, and Fr Brendan, who had received some of the complaints and passed them on. The Superior General’s diary records:

Fr Brendan told the boys would be a mortal sin to divulge the interview to the Brother

2.if they did they would have to go to the Bishop

3.they could be put to gaol.

4.119The note continues:

Superior Carlito assembled the boys interviewed by Fr. Brendan and told them that any words he was using were not in secret and could be used if they were ever interviewed – and that he was using no threats or bribes

“if you think that what you have said is true stick to it but you must prove it. If you think what you said is untrue be honourable enough to admit it.”

“He would follow this up [to] the very end …”

4.120On 27th December, Br Carlito resigned as Resident Manager but remained a member of the Congregation. The Synopsis of his Service History provided by the Department of Education indicates that he taught in a number of different schools until he reached retirement. He died at an advanced age before the Committee began its hearings into Greenmount.

4.121Br Garcia furnished medical evidence that he was incapable of testifying before the Committee, but he did provide a statement dealing with these events:

I learned of these allegations in circumstances when I was walking along the corridor in Greenmount Industrial School and Br Allente approached me and told me that I and another Brother were to go to the Bishop’s Palace to speak to Bishop Cornelius Lucey who was then the Bishop of Cork … At this remove in time I have difficulty recalling the precise allegations as related to me by Bishop Lucey. In general terms the allegations were to the effect that children were being abused in the school and that I was being blamed. I immediately denied those allegations to the Bishop and I inquired as to who had made these allegations against me. Bishop Lucey would not provide these names. I also inquired as to what individual had made the complaint and I did not get that name either. I was then told to leave. Some time later I was invited again to the Bishop’s Palace and had a discussion again with the Bishop about alleged sexual abuse in which I was allegedly involved. I immediately denied any such involvement in this type of activity. I was invited back again on a third separate occasion and I inquired of the Bishop as to when all of this was going to end and I was told by the Bishop “that there was no smoke without fire”.

I became extremely upset about the way in which this matter was being handled and took the view that if this was the way that matters were being dealt with that I would be better off out of the Presentation Brothers.

4.122He continued teaching in the School until his dispensation was granted in February 1956:

I remember leaving Greenmount on a Friday and commencing teaching at Waterford on the following Monday where I had secured a post.

4.123Fr Andrew was chaplain to the School from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s. In a letter dated 29th December 2005, he stated:

I wish to state clearly that during my years as chaplain, I saw no evidence whatever of physical or sexual abuse.

4.124However, he said that he had heard rumours about abuse in the School. He stressed that this was clearly hearsay, but he was ‘happy to pass it on … as it may help to clarify some aspects of the Commission’s enquiries’:

Much of what I heard about enquiries into abuse in Greenmount came from young Mill Hill community priests who were studying for the Higher Diploma in education in University College, Cork … Some information may also have come from Fr. Charles … It was probably he who informed me that I was being excluded from the enquiries because I was hearing Confessions in Greenmount.

I believe that there were altogether three distinct enquiries into abuse in Greenmount while I was chaplain there. The only one of which I was aware at the time was under the care of Rev. Charles, curate in the Lough Parish (long since deceased.) I believe that this enquiry was a formal Canonical Visitation, done by V. Rev. Mons. David.. I never saw him while he was in Cork.

4.125He did not know what action, if any, the Diocese took as a result of the inquiry, but he believed that a number of Brothers either left the Congregation or were transferred elsewhere. When Fr Andrew heard of ‘possible problems in Greenmount’ many years later, he informed the Diocesan authorities of the Canon David investigation, but was told that there was no Canon David report on file.

4.126Fr Andrew stated that he later heard from Sr Vita,29 who had been in charge of the Boy’s Junior Industrial School at Passage West, a feeder school for Greenmount and Upton, that Bishop Lucey had visited her and directed her not to transfer boys to the two senior schools mentioned, thus contributing to the closure of those schools.

Br Carlito’s later career

Early 1970s

4.127In the late 1990s, an individual approached the Presentation Brothers with allegations that Br Carlito had sexually abused him during the 1970s, while he was a resident at an orphanage run by another Congregation and attended the nearby monastery school. Br Carlito was teaching at the school. Br Carlito taught in this school from the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s.

4.128The man making this allegation met with the Superior of the monastery and told him that Br Carlito had abused him. The Superior then met the Regional Leader, Br Hilario,30 to whom he gave the following two-page report:

He told me he had been in an Orphanage in the local … Convent. Bro C. used to visit often. One day a boy broke his leg in the yard and was in … hospital. Bro C took on a motorbike to see him. That the first time abuse started. Then Bro C used to bring to the monastery and take him up to his own room. Brought him to see Leeds v Sunderland Cup Final on T.V. in monastery – then abuse. Usually gave him 2/-. Stopped around the time the Orphanage closed … Is undergoing Counselling. To see me & tell me was part of the healing process …

4.129Br Hilario recorded these events in a memorandum. Following his meeting with the Superior, Br Hilario telephoned the man:

I assured him that I believed his story and that I would be quite prepared to listen to him if he so wished.

4.130They subsequently met and the man repeated the allegations:

Brother Carlito was a regular visitor to the Orphanage. He took the boys on cycling trips … at weekends. When he was in 3rd or 4th class the abuse began. “A lot of grooming had taken place before it started.” Another boy from the Orphanage broke his leg and was in hospital … Brother Carlito took him on a motorbike to visit him. “This was the start of the abuse” [the man] gave no indication as to the nature of the abuse or where it took place. He was vague on dates. When questioned he said he was eleven or twelve at the time. (It seemed to me that eleven or twelve was old for a boy in 3rd or 4th class but I did not comment on this.) [the man] said he had been abused on four occasions … Brother Carlito would take him to his bedroom and “take down my pants” He remembers going to the monastery to view the Cup Final between Leeds and Sunderland; He then went on to talk about further abuse. “Brother Carlito lay on the bed and placed me on his belly. I got frightened and so did he, I think.”

4.131The man told Br Hilario that he did not want to report the matter to the Gardaí. He did not see any benefit in putting an old man in gaol – that would not be any good to him. When asked how he felt the Presentation Brothers could be of help to him, he replied ‘compensation, I suppose’.

4.132A representative of the Congregation met Br Carlito subsequently in relation to this complaint, and recorded the outcome of the meeting in a note prepared for the Congregation’s legal representatives. He told Br Carlito of the allegation:

He did not interrupt or comment while I was relating the story. When I finished he said “This is terrible just when I was recovering this pushes me back down again.” … I told him the Gardai were not approached.

4.133Br Carlito recalled the man as a pupil, although he had not taught him. He said that he had been good to him and that he couldn’t remember any abuse taking place.

4.134Br Carlito continued:

I am very surprised as I was extra good to him. I even gave him money now and then … I gave him £2 or £3 pounds now and then. I even sent him money after I left … but I have not seen or heard from him since. Why did he wait so long? I cannot remember interfering with him.

4.135When it was explained to him that such a time lapse in coming forward was common, that people felt ashamed and guilty about what had happened, and that it took a lot of courage to tell their story, Br Carlito said ‘If I did it to him I must be inclined to do it to others’.

4.136When asked whether he remembered feeling attracted to do this with boys, he replied ‘I can’t remember this attraction’.

4.137He said that the boy could have been in his room, but not for that purpose. Br Carlito said that he was ‘flabbergasted and dumbfounded. This knocks me back altogether. There is nothing for me now but Ahadoe [graveyard] and the sooner the better. I can now understand how easy suicide is’.

4.138Br Hilario met with Br Carlito a few days later, when Br Carlito made a statement maintaining:

I am not saying it did not take place but I have no recollection of it happening. I think it is better for all concerned if I don’t deny it completely.

The late 1970s

4.139In 1978, the parent of a child at a national school made a complaint that Br Carlito had interfered with her child. Br Carlito was working as an assistant teacher in the School at the time. The Committee has not seen any documentary material in relation to this complaint. However, it is clear from the Synopsis of his Service History provided by the Department of Education that Br Carlito remained in the School until he was transferred in 1979.

The mid-1990s

4.140In the mid-1990s, the Gardaí questioned Br Carlito in relation to an allegation that he had sexually interfered with a three-and-a-half-year-old boy on a number of different occasions.

4.141The child’s mother said that she took her son to a doctor as a result of the abuse.

4.142Br Carlito made a statement to the Gardaí and told his superiors of the allegation. The matter was immediately reported to the Provincial, Br Amador,31 who dispatched the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse, Br Manuel,32 to interview Br Carlito. Br Manuel reported:

He denied all the allegations and declared that there was no truth in any of them. He had no recollection of the child ever been in the house but he was certain that he never sexually interfered with him or any other child or youth who may have entered the house for the purpose of receiving musical tuition from him. He had always been careful to give tuition to groups and never to individuals and his students were always in the older age group of 10–14 years. He could not comprehend how anyone could accuse him of the offence and he knew of no one who would want to frame him.

4.143The Provincial’s diary states:

Later that evening I phoned Br Manuel to inquire of his findings and he felt there may be some grounds for concern but had serious doubts.

4.144The Provincial consulted a member of the Conference of Religious in Ireland and decided to move Br Carlito ‘lest his presence … further aggravate any possible hurt to the alleged victim and family’.

4.145Br Amador’s diary referred to a meeting with the Gardaí:

I have only one note of that meeting which is a comment by Sgt. … to the effect that a ‘child of three and a half does not concoct such stories’. He asked if there were any other such allegations against Br Carlito and I said I was not aware of any as otherwise I would not have posted him [to the School].

4.146The Presentation Brothers engaged solicitors to act for Br Carlito. One month later, the principal in the firm wrote to Br Amador informing him of recent developments:

Three children from the locality have alleged that they have been sexually interfered with. All three have been medically examined and two of the three have been physically interfered with – they have been buggered. One of these two children … has identified Br Carlito as having interfered with him …

Brother Carlito is not known personally to me. His denials of the matter appear totally genuine. I very much doubt if, at 79 years of age, he should suddenly develop tendencies of this nature …

4.147Br Carlito was not prosecuted. However, it is clear from the above that neither the Gardaí nor Br Carlito’s solicitor were aware of the previous allegations which had been made against Br Carlito in Greenmount and which had led to his resignation from the School.


  • It is not clear that the investigation in 1955 established that the Brothers were guilty of the charges made against them. The two Brothers protested their innocence, and surviving documents do not reveal the results of the investigations. What is clear is that the bishop and his senior clerical investigator believed that Brs Carlito and Garcia had engaged in sexual abuse of boys. Nevertheless, the two men were permitted to move on to new positions dealing with children. There was no question of reporting them to the Gardaí.
  • While it is impossible to be sure from the documents, the probability is that these complaints about sexual abuse came to light because boys felt able to confide in the young volunteer priest who visited the School. This would conform with a pattern that was seen in other institutions, whereby children were able to report abuse to a sympathetic adult when a suitable opportunity presented.
  • The involvement of the Bishop ensured that the complaints were taken seriously and investigated.
  • Further allegations of sexual abuse dogged Br Carlito’s subsequent career. When the Gardaí were investigating one set of complaints of sexual abuse in the mid-1990s, the information supplied by a senior member of the Congregation was seriously misleading.

Complainant evidence

4.149One complainant, Michael,33 gave evidence of being abused by Br Garcia. He had been in Greenmount in the late 1940s and was discharged in the early 1950s. Michael said that he was about 12 when the abuse started, and that Br Garcia anally raped him about four or five times. He said that he ran away from the School and went with a friend to the local Chief Superintendent in Cork, Superintendent Caffrey,34 because his father worked for him and he knew him. Michael told the superintendent about the abuse.

4.150Michael had faith in the Superintendent because he was such a senior figure in Cork, but did not tell his parents what was happening because he did not think it was proper to speak to his mother and father like that.

4.151Michael recalled his meeting with the superintendent:

So, he said “what’s wrong?” I said “there is a Brother and he’s interfering with all the lads in Greenmount”. Right? He said to me “Michael”, he said to me “they don’t do that”. Well, I says, “Superintendent Caffrey, it is happening”. So he said “I can only bring you up to Bishop Cohalan”.

4.152He brought Michael and his friend to see the bishop:

… he brought me in a police car … he was in the front and myself and [my friend] were in the back and … he drove up there anyway. The bishop was there anyway and Superintendent Caffrey went in. He said “there is two lads here from Greenmount”. That’s what I presume he said to the bishop … He went in first and he left us to wait. Then whatever conversation they had he called me and [my friend] in. He said “tell the bishop what’s happening?” So we told him that we can’t go to sleep at night, that this man is tormenting us, we can’t go to the toilets or anything. Because Br. Garcia was in charge of the dormitory, right. That was his – he was in charge. So, Bishop Cohalan said “the Christian Brothers (sic) don’t do these things at all”. He said “you are two devils”. He said “I am going to get ye excommunicated”. We were more frightened than anything. So we came back out with Superintendent Caffrey … and the sergeant drove us up to the School … the next morning then we got a flogging.

4.153Bishop Cohalan was in his nineties when this allegation was made to him.

4.154In their statement in response to Michael’s allegations against Br Garcia, the Presentation Brothers made no mention of the canonical inquiry of the mid-1950s. Br Minehane who, in his direct evidence to the Investigation Committee, acknowledged that he was aware of the canonical inquiry, signed the statement on behalf of the Presentation Brothers and stated:

The Complainant makes the most appalling allegations against Br. Garcia … It seems likely that the Complainant was taught by Br. Garcia. Br. Garcia is now [real name]. He strongly denies all of the Complainant’s allegations.

4.155In the course of the hearing, counsel for the Congregation stated:

Our difficulty in relation to this is that we don’t have records in relation to this particular aspect of matters and unfortunately the persons who would have been in a position to say exactly what went on at the time are deceased or unavailable.

4.156Br Garcia was represented at the hearing and denied the allegations made against him.

4.157Another witness recalled events surrounding Br Garcia’s departure. He told the Committee:

Some of the boys were getting taken out of bed and they would go to the Brother’s room at night … I was in a very good position to see it happening … My bed was right opposite the door … [The Brothers] had a room annexed to the dormitory itself … [He] used to come in, tap the bed, walk up the dormitory, walk back down and he’d walk out first.

4.158He explained there were ‘four or five’ beds the Brother would choose from. He would walk in, tap the bed, ‘Go back out and then that lad would get up and go out’. The boy would come back ‘maybe an hour afterwards’. He named the Brother as Br Garcia.

4.159The witness explained, ‘I knew two of the lads personally’. One of them ‘used have cigarettes all the time and I used say “where did you get them?” He told him they had been given to him by Br Garcia. Recalling the circumstances of Br Garcia’s leaving, he said:

… after Br Garcia and Br Carlito left everyone was talking about it … It happened so sudden … He was there one day and he was gone the next. It went around the School then that he was gone, him and the Superior. Obviously, Br Carlito was the Superior, the head Brother, so everyone noticed him gone.

4.160Another witness who was in Greenmount in the early 1950s described being physically and sexually abused by a Brother who he described as being a fat man. He stated that this abuse occurred in an office which was identified by the Congregation as being the Superior’s office. In their responding statement to the witness’s statement of complaint, the Congregation said:

During the complainant’s time at Greenmount there were three Superiors. None of them matches the complainant’s description as a “big fat” man.

Peer abuse

4.161Nine former residents of Greenmount were prosecuted and sentenced for offences of indecency in the mid-1930s. A further three former residents of Upton Industrial School were also sentenced for similar offences. All of the young men who had spent time in Greenmount ranged from 15 to 19 years of age.

4.162The Department of Education received an anonymous letter from the parent of one of the convicted youths after sentence was handed down. The letter stated that the boy had spent eight years in Greenmount, despite an application made by his parent to have him released. It alleged that such sexual conduct had been prevalent in Greenmount for the previous nine years, and named a particular teacher who was complicit in such activity. The Gardaí were seeking him. The whole thing was ‘the talk of Cork City’. The writer requested that the Department requisition all of these cases from the court office or the Gardaí so that the full extent of the problem could be exposed, as ‘the Monks of the school was trying to keep this Case Dark’. It added, ‘my boy was 8 years going in to the school … so he got his lesson in the school. Any child is safer at Home’. The letter ended, ‘the school should be closed down’.

4.163The Department Inspector, in an internal memorandum, noted that the Medical Inspector had heard certain rumours about the School and suggested that the local chief superintendent be contacted for a full report. Around the same time, the Attorney General’s office made contact with the Department of Education, furnishing copies of the depositions in the 12 cases. Many of the defendants had asserted that their misconduct stemmed from their time in industrial schools. The Attorney General was of the view that closer supervision of the older boys would discourage such ‘unfortunate habits’, and furnished the Department with the information ‘in the hope that the Minister in collaboration with the School Authorities may be able to devise some means of keeping the number of such cases in future at the lowest possible level’. An extract from the prosecuting counsel’s report was also furnished, which stated ominously, ‘… the revelations about Upton and Greenmount at this sittings have given me furiously to think about Industrial Schools and Religious Orders …’.

4.164The Department arranged for a special Inspection of the two schools in question to take place. An Industrial Schools Inspector and the Deputy Chief Inspector of the Primary Branch were nominated to conduct the Inspections. Their general brief was to ‘… enquire into the supervision exercised over the boys, and the measures taken to prevent or put an end to the occurrences, which gave rise to the recent cases before the Cork Courts’. The Department decided against bringing the matter specifically to the attention of the bishop, on the basis that it had to be assumed that he was already aware of the matter.

4.165The Inspectors conducted their Inspections over two days. They noted that the children were supervised by teachers during school and trades training, and by the Brothers during recreation. Night watchmen patrolled the dormitories at night time.

4.166The Resident Manager, who appeared to have been very much affected by the incidents, stated he had no intention of concealing them from the Department but that the worry of the cases caused him to overlook reporting the matter.

4.167He confirmed that both the Gardaí and an ISPCC Inspector had questioned the children as part of their enquiries. The Manager assured them that stricter controls were in place to ensure that any such misconduct did not occur, and he was satisfied that the problem had been eradicated in the School. The Department of Education Inspectors concluded that:

… consistent with the normal freedom of the children the supervision exercised in both schools is adequate in ordinary circumstances and the recent occurrences will tend to keep the school authorities on the alert: from what we have learned, however, there is an ever present danger of these cases arising no matter how well planned the supervision and this danger is aggravated when, as in the case of Greenmount, a member of the staff is known to have been implicated. The problem, as we understand it, is for obvious reasons a most difficult one to deal with and we consider the only action that can be taken is to impress on the Manager (verbally for preference) of each boys’ school the possibility of such cases occurring and the necessity for close and constant supervision of the boys, especially the senior boys, i.e. boys over 14 years of age, in all their activities.

4.168The Minister for Education approved this recommendation, and the Department’s enquiry into the matter was closed.

4.169The Inspectors do not appear to have spoken to the children as part of their enquiry, and seem to have accepted the assurances of the Resident Manager that sexual activity was no longer a problem in the School.

4.170There is further reference to sexual activity among boys contained in the reports of the Provincial to the General Council of the Presentation Brothers in the mid-1950s. Despite the Provincial being assured by the Resident Manager, Br Carlito, that the boys were at all times well supervised, he received a report shortly after visiting the School from a member of another Community that the boys in Greenmount were engaging in ‘immoral practices’. When this allegation was put to the Resident Manager, he accepted that he was aware of the problem and had taken steps to deal with the issue, which involved separating the culprits in the dormitories and requesting the night watchman to be particularly vigilant. No advice or direction given by the Provincial is recorded, and the issue does not arise in subsequent reports.

Complainant evidence

4.171The difficulty of trying to control sexual behaviour among the boys emerged from the evidence of a former resident who was transferred to Daingean because he was twice caught engaging in sexual activity with his peers. He was admitted to Greenmount in the early 1950s when he was eight years old. He said he learnt about sex from the older boys, and added ‘it was going on with all the boys’. He would masturbate the older boys and sometimes had anal intercourse. He said:

It is a very powerful thing, you may shy away from it to start. You see, I see the sexual business as a disease, but once you start getting the feel for it it is like wanting sugar.

4.172As time went on, he began to engage in sexual activity with younger boys. He pondered the irony of it all:

I became an abuser myself of a form, that is the way it goes. So because I was put in, locked up in the first place for committing no crime I ended up committing some kind of crime in the second place …

4.173When asked whether there was any awareness by the adults in charge in Greenmount of the sexual activity amongst the boys, he said ‘I can only assume that they must have had some idea’.


  • Sexual activity between boys and peer abuse were serious problems in Greenmount. Despite assurances that it would be dealt with the problem persisted.

Emotional abuse

4.175In their Opening Statement on Greenmount, the Presentation Brothers expressed the view that industrial schools were ‘a flawed model’, doomed to failure. They wrote:

Up until the 1960s there was a popularly held belief in Ireland that industrial schools were an institutional response to cope with the problem of petty crime and delinquency by young people. This was a misconception. Children convicted of minor criminal offences were often admitted to industrial schools, But that was usually because they had strayed into breaking the law due to the absence of parental supervision and neglect. Children were also admitted for non-attendance at school. That was, again, usually a consequence of difficult family circumstances. Where one parent had died or departed, an older child might be required to remain at home in order to rear the other children in the family. The consequences of social and economic deprivation were addressed by breaking up whole families, the boys being sent to the Brothers and girls to the nuns.

It is clear that, in hindsight, the industrial school system was not, and could never be, a success. It was based on a flawed model. No one today would seriously argue that an institution operating on then approved lines, such as Greenmount, represented an adequate response to serious social problems suffered by some of the most vulnerable elements in society. No one would tolerate the Courts regularly making orders having the effect of separating so many children from their families for up to 8 years. No one would suggest that a child could be raised on the modern equivalent of 22 shillings a week: indeed it appears that that task was beyond the Presentation Brothers at that time. (the Presentation Brothers informed the then Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch T. D., that it was not possible to feed and clothe boys on 22/6 per week in the late 1950s). No one would suggest that neglected and abandoned children should be housed and cared for together with, and in the same fashion as, young offenders. No one would consider lodging such a large number of children of varying ages in single institution with so few carers.

4.176They went on to point out that many of the flaws in the system were apparent in 1936, when the Cussen Commission reported but Cussen’s recommended reforms were not implemented, and ‘a further 34 years passed before Ireland was prepared to abandon the industrial school as a means of child care’.

4.177The Presentation Brothers make several important observations:

1.Most of the children were not criminals but were disturbed because they had experienced death, or family upheaval, neglect and poverty.

2.The court orders removing them from their families for periods of up to eight years made matters worse.

3.Separating siblings further broke up the family and thereby caused more distress.

4.The prison-like containment of these children in large secure buildings was inappropriate and further isolated them from society.

5.It was detrimental to lodge neglected and abandoned children with hardened delinquents.

6.The number of carers was inadequate, and the funds needed to educate and rehabilitate the disadvantaged children were far short of what was needed.

4.178The Statement suggests these flaws became apparent only ‘with hindsight’. Moreover, the Presentation Brothers blame the failures of the industrial school system on the acceptance of such a model by society. The report prepared by Professor Keogh ends with the conclusion:

In the public debate in the 1990s on the running of Irish industrial schools attention has correctly focussed on the manner in which the religious performed their duties. It is necessary, however, to subject the role of the state to scrutiny. After all, it had the ultimate responsibility for the running of those institutions … It is a harsh but nevertheless valid verdict on the performance of the Irish state in such a central and sensitive social policy area it arrived with unjustifiable, glacial-like slowness at the conclusion only in 1970 that the industrial school system was outdated, outmoded and obsolete.

4.179The question arises as to why so many of the conclusions that were obvious after 1970 were not evident much earlier.

4.180One witness, who was in Greenmount for a year in the mid-1940s, was the second eldest of seven children. His father worked in England during the war, and the family were regularly summonsed for non-attendance at school. He told the Committee:

When we were sentenced we went with a guard … There was me, [my two brothers, the Garda], and my Mam we were taken to the industrial school. We were taken in. My Mam was crying and we were crying. Then my Mam came out, the guard came out and we were there, that was our sentence, we were there then for four years, whatever we were sentenced to.

4.181While he was in Greenmount, his older brother died from tubercular meningitis. He recalled this event:

when we went to the infirmary, me and [my younger brother], like I said, we were so close, we asked to see him but we were not allowed to see him … He went into the infirmary and then they moved him out through – we used call it the union, which was the hospital in Cork, and the next time I saw my brother … was when he was in the death house, when he was laid out. That’s the only time I seen him … when I found out how he was dead, we came from school and we were in the playground, or the yard, or whatever you call it, and we were going into the dinner and we went into dinner and the boy next to me said ” [your brother] is dead”. That’s how I found out. It just came like that … I went spare. There was such a shock, even when he was in hospital we didn’t know what he was there for. When we were in the infirmary we asked to see him but we weren’t allowed to see him.

4.182He also talked about the difficulty they had in relation to contact with their mother:

She used come to visit us but she weren’t let in. So I didn’t have difficulty contacting her, I wasn’t allowed … She told us she was turned away. Even if we seen her there was nothing we could do about it, she was turned away. Br Arrio used say no, she’s not coming in because she used to bring us food parcels … she was turned away. Sometimes we used get them.

4.183Another witness, who was there in the 1950s, recounted how he found out, when he was about 13, that his mother was alive. He had been admitted into Greenmount from another institution where he had been since a baby. He told the Committee how he made this discovery:

I never knew [my] father, no, or my mother … I didn’t know anything about her at all … It came about because people in the School used to write home, if they had parents they were allowed to write home once a month their parents and if you didn’t write home you went to the back of the class. I think it [was] Br. Allente, I think that’s his name, names are hard to come by now. He said, “Don’t you write to anybody?” I said, “No, I don’t.” About three months later as I went into the classroom, on a blackboard on an easel which [a woman’s name and address] and I was told write to that person. That’s your mother … I did write to her under duress at that time. [She wrote back] and she told me I had two stepsisters … I never had contact with her other than writing … I have tried various times to contact her but the advice given by the local police and by the local parish priest was that it is best left alone after all those years.

On one visit to Ireland, my son was eight at the time, I actually drove up from Cork … and parked outside the assumed address and just parked and then drove away again. Because one didn’t want to go and knock on a door and say, “I’m your son”, because the mother has feelings as well, she has had her life since I have not been there so I didn’t want to interrupt.

It has impacted very much so, because when I went to England you don’t have anybody to relate to, so you are always worrying – I don’t know, it is hard to explain but if your parents are missing, if you don’t know where they are – or who your parents are your peace of mind is even to go there at the end – if I come over this year or next year to Ireland, even if she has passed away, it would be to see the grave and say that’s laid to rest now and there is no further gain to be got. But it has impacted. It impacts throughout your whole life because when you have your own family you have no role models, you have nothing to bring up your family.

4.184The Brother in this case noticed the loneliness of this boy who knew nothing of his parents. He did his best to help the son contact his mother. This witness remembered him as the Brother who found his mother for him.

4.185This same witness spoke well of a system, set up by the Presentation Brothers, where boys were sent to visit families in Cork on a regular basis. He said:

Say for argument’s sake, every first Sunday of the month, I think it was every first Sunday of the month, one of the families in Cork would take one of the orphans out to their home and you would spend a day in their home. At the end of the day they might give you lemon sweets or something to take back, a little bag of sweets.

4.186The importance of this regular contact with a family emerged when he disclosed to them that an older boy was bullying him. He explained the circumstances:

I think what actually triggered it off, because I didn’t confide in them, you didn’t have a lot to say to people actually, you were just taken and if they said “Get in the car” you got in the car. If they said “dinner was ready” you ate your dinner. You didn’t confide in them in so much as what school was about, you actually didn’t. It came about when she made this awful red and white coat, or red and black coat for me that made me look like it was a sort of girl’s outfit and I started to cry and it just happened from there on. So sort of one thing led to another and it was an emotion that was coming out. I didn’t specifically go and say, “I have been beaten up”. So it sort of came out from that particular incident. I wouldn’t wear the coat.

4.187He learned later, when he was going to work and calling back to visit this family from time to time, that they had complained to Greenmount on his behalf. His attachment to this family, the first he had known because he was raised in institutions, revealed the importance of such relationships to a maturing child.

4.188By arranging such weekends, the Presentation Brothers were showing their awareness that the children needed more than the Institution could provide. The warning in the 1901 Visitation Report remained part of the culture:

Familiarities with the boys should be most cautiously guarded against, being most hurtful to boys and Brothers … there should always be maintained a reserve that would keep them at a proper distance and enable them to have for the Brothers that respect due to their position.

4.189Many Brothers remained remote figures, who kept control, but who did not show warmth or sympathy and, in their turn, the children learned not to show their feelings. An injury was done to both parties by this unnatural suppression of feelings.

4.190Without an adult as a protector and confidante, the orphans clung to each other and formed a bond. One witness told the Committee:

… we used to confide in each [other] quite a bit, and more so the people who didn’t have families outside were more vulnerable because we didn’t have anybody to complain to and we always sort of knitted together, if you didn’t have a mother and father you sort of knitted with people of that ilk, because you – the others were different. They were actually different from us, the boys from outside, they had a different way of doing things, different outlook because they always saw something on the outside, we never saw anything on the outside …

4.191These boys were not just cut off from the outside world: they were cut off from people who knew the outside world.

Contact with families

4.192Greenmount had a major advantage being in Cork city, and so contact with families was easily arranged. Boys from Cork city were allowed home visits on the first Sunday of every month. Boys whose families lived further away were allowed home on summer holidays. In the 1940 annual report from the Brothers to the Department of Education, the Resident Manager noted:

I believe the Home Leave and Sunday outings have a very beneficial effect – the Boys being kept in touch with their relations and friends, and they grow up having some knowledge of the outside world as well as breaking up the monotony of every day school life.

4.193As illustrated above, those who had no families to go home to were sometimes sent to a sponsoring family on Sundays and for summer holidays. Many boys benefited from this regular contact with family life. When Bishop Lucey visited the School in 1955, he expressed the view that the boys should be let out ‘as much as possible so as by the time they would be finished here, they would have some idea of outside world’.

4.194Boys who were placed in orphanages from their very early childhood suffered from being totally ignorant of their family roots. One witness told the Committee of how his mother left him in Rathdrum when he was six, visited him on the day of his admission, and ‘that was it’. He never saw her again. Subsequently, he made contact with his maternal uncle by chance:

When I joined the army in Cork the recruiting sergeant asked me my name and he said, “Did your uncle work here?” or “Was your uncle in the army?” I says, “I don’t know if I have any uncle.” That’s how I found out he was in the army.

4.195He met his uncle, but they were unable to find his mother. He never knew if she was alive or dead.

4.196He spent a total of nine years and three months in institutions. That still rankled with him. He said, simply, ‘My childhood was taken away’.


Department of Education – General Inspection Reports

4.197The main source of contemporary evidence about conditions in Greenmount is Inspection Reports of Dr Anna McCabe, who was appointed Medical Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools on 3rd April 1939. She held the post until 8th March 1965. She also carried out general inspections of the schools.

4.198Her first impression in 1939 was positive, and she could not find fault with any aspect of the School. However, her report in 1943 was critical of the patched and tattered appearance of the children’s clothes. It was only in the late 1940s that she expressed satisfaction with the quality of the children’s clothing.

4.199During this period, she also expressed dissatisfaction with the children’s diet. On consulting weight charts, she noticed that a number of children had not increased in weight. Added to this concern was the fact that there had been several cases of TB in the School. She recommended that the Department write to the Resident Manager, advising that the rations of milk and butter given to each child be increased to ensure that each child received at least a pint of milk a day. They did this and also advised that each child receive a quarter pound of meat at each meal at which meat was served. The Resident Manager responded, confirming that they would use their best endeavours to increase rations despite ‘our crushing debt’.

4.200With regard to the outbreak of TB, Dr McCabe met with the School’s medical officer, who was anxious that the entire School be investigated, and Dr McCabe made representations to the local TB Officer in Cork. He did not share the same anxieties, but agreed to carry out an investigation of the School if further cases emerged.

4.201In 1947, Dr McCabe noted that the food and diet had much improved and that the children looked healthy and well.

4.202Dr McCabe was absent due to illness for periods in the late 1940s and early 1950s. There is a note that she inspected the School in 1951, but a record of this report is not available. The next report of note is dated November 1953. Br Domingo35 had recently taken over the position of Resident Manager. She noted in her report that, by his own admission, he did not have any experience of running an industrial school. She made a number of suggestions for improvements, including the instalment of up-to-date kitchen equipment, and improved clothing and diet. She also discovered, on visiting the bakery, that the ventilation system was not working and that fumes were being released inside. The Department followed up this latter issue by writing to the Resident Manager, requesting confirmation that the matter had been attended to, and a reply was received by return confirming that measures had been taken to ensure that the problem did not arise again.

4.203When she visited the School next, almost a year later, Br Carlito had taken over as Resident Manager. He also informed her that he had little in the way of experience in running an industrial school. She noted the School had recently been redecorated but was in need of modernisation in many respects.

4.204Three months later, Dr McCabe was requested to carry out another Inspection of the School, after the mother of a resident complained to the Department that her son had head lice. In general terms, she noted a decline in the standards at the School, which she suggested may have had something to do with the inexperience of the new Resident Manager. She inspected each child’s head and was dismayed to find ‘35 boys with nits in their heads and 12 verminous. I consider a shocking state of affairs’. Br Carlito attempted to apportion blame to the School nurse, who he said insisted that her remit extended only to treating sick children. Dr McCabe noted that the majority of the boys who had contracted head lice were in the age group 8 to 12 years, and she felt that the problem stemmed from a lack of supervision of the boys’ personal hygiene. She suggested that the nurse’s salary be increased, in return for her agreement to supervise the boys in the dressing room to ensure that they washed properly.

4.205The following year, Dr McCabe observed many improvements. The redecorating of the School continued, new equipment had been introduced to the kitchen, the children’s health was very good, and their clothing had improved. Br Carlito indicated to her that he was concerned about falling numbers in the School.

4.206When Dr McCabe next visited the School in November 1956, Br Santiago had taken over the post of Resident Manager. She described him as ‘a great improvement on the previous man’, although she had not expressed reservations about the Resident Manager in her previous year’s report. While she noted that the School was well run, the boys’ clothing once again came in for criticism. She noticed that many of the shirts had no buttons. She also highlighted the need for each boy to be given a toothbrush and to ensure that they used them.

4.207The 1957 report is again critical of many aspects of the School. Even though efforts at redecoration had been made, she stated that ‘so much needs to be done to make this School bright and attractive’. The play hall was ‘dank and unattractive’. Despite the improvements in the kitchen, the cooking methods used were still very antiquated. Clothing had slightly improved, in that the boys were given waistcoats, but there was still much room for improvement. The Resident Manager put these deficiencies down to a lack of funds. On a more positive note, Dr McCabe emphasised that the supervision and medical care of the boys was very good.

4.208Dr McCabe’s final Inspection of Greenmount took place on 29th October 1958. She stated that Br Santiago and the nurse were both attentive and kind to the boys. She noted a slight improvement in the boys’ clothing. She recommended several improvements, that Br Santiago seemed to take on board. She emphasised the need to brighten up the School by further redecoration.

4.209In 1949, a Fine Gael Councillor wrote to the Department of Education regarding complaints he had received in relation to conditions in Greenmount. His letter was in response to the most recent complaint he had received from a mother of a boy in Greenmount. Her 11-year-old boy had been sent to Greenmount because she and her husband were being treated for TB, and they had no option but to have their young family committed to industrial schools.

4.210She made representations to the Councillor to assist her in having her son released into the care of her father, after she discovered that he was not well cared for in Greenmount. She had found his clothes crawling with vermin. The Councillor wrote:

For some time past this Executive has been receiving complaints regarding the treatment given to the boys at Greenmount. The boys are made get up at 7a.m. and have to wash portion of the dormitories before breakfast which consists of a cup of black coffee and a couple of slices of dry bread. After this they go to school until 2.30p.m. when they get their next meal, which, on one day last week consisted of potatoes and lemonade. Besides this we have received at last four complaints regarding the verminous state of the children’s clothes, and I have myself verified one case … These complaints have become so numerous that we were considering whether to report it to the City Health Authorities and the Minister for Health. It is of no use making any official enquiries.

The only way to get at the root of all these complaints is to have some of the Health and Education Authorities visit the place without warning.

We don’t like having to report things like this, as they only create trouble but the time has come when something has to be done about them.

4.211The Minister asked Dr Anna McCabe, the Department’s Medical Inspector, to investigate the matter and report her findings directly to him.

4.212Also at this time, a Garda from Union Quay Station wrote to the Department of Education requesting that, the next time an Inspector was in Cork, they call him regarding a matter which he did not wish to commit to paper. He wrote again some weeks later, after a telephone conversation with an official from the Department of Education, and this time the Garda set out his concerns:

For some time past I have been receiving complaint from parents having children in Greenmount Ind Schools, these complaints are in respect of clothing and food. One mother complained that a child of hers is in School 12 months and he has the same pair of boots on him as he took in with him, that he has colds continually from neglect. I have got several complaints recently about footwear from parents having children in this School. A number of complaints have also been received about food which appears to be of poor quality. One complaint was that soup supplied to the children is a week old and sour when given to them. No tea and no sugar or coffee or cocoa, bread very scant supply with no butter only margarine.

I am not relying on all the complaints received, to be genuine but I have the word of a lady Cook who worked there and has no reason for confirming the complaints I have received for some time. I have all called to the School myself and in my opinion they children are not near as healthy or as well fed looking … They look cold and miserable looking. The lady who was cook there says some of the food given to the children [was] not fit for dogs and that she says was one of the reasons for leaving.

Now I am a particular friend of the Bros’ in Greenmount and has no wish to do any injury to them and their good work; which is at times difficult but I consider I owe a duty towards these children owing to the position I hold and as a representative of the Dept. of Education.

I do hope this matter will be treated in confidence as I do not wish it to be known that it was I brought this matter to notice.

4.213Dr McCabe was unable to investigate the matter immediately as she was on sick leave from the Department. However, she did visit the office and was asked by a Department official for her view on the allegations contained in the Councillor’s letter. He made the following note:

Dr McCabe said that she considered, from her experience, that Greenmount was a very well conducted Industrial School. On all occasions on which she visited the school, the food for the children was of a very good quality, and she could find no evidence to justify the present complaint with regard to the care taken of the children from the point of view of their personal cleanliness. Her visits were frequently without previous notification, so that it could not be suggested, in her opinion, that conditions as she found them were designed specially because of her visit.

4.214Dr McCabe visited Greenmount in September 1949 to investigate the complaints made. She interviewed the Garda who had made the complaint, and also the cook who had worked in Greenmount and was now employed in the Garda station. She was not impressed by the account given by the cook, who alleged that ‘the boys were taken out into the courtyard and were stripped and beaten with leashes – that they were ill-fed and never got sugar or tea, and that the little boys who helped her in her kitchen … were always ravenous for food’. She then visited the School and had each boy undressed. She could not see any signs of injury or ill-treatment.

4.215She stated that she was present when several meals were served to the boys and that they were ‘always ample and inviting’. Sugar was put into the boilers rather than into bowls on the table, as was the practice in many schools, to avoid waste. She observed that coffee was served to the boys at one meal, and requested that tea be served instead. The Resident Manager explained that this practice had started during the Emergency, when tea was in poor supply, and agreed that it would desist. She found all areas of the School well kept and clean. She also found that all of the boys had boots which were in good condition, and that repairs were carried out when necessary. She did discover that four boys were verminous and, on enquiring, she was told that these boys had been home for holidays and that the School had difficulty cleaning them up on their return. She suggested plentiful use of DDT and more frequent bathing.

4.216She surmised that the woman who had complained to the Garda about the School bore a grudge because she was summarily dismissed after a short time working there: ‘most of her evidence was conjecture as she had never been in the boys refectory and I do not think anyone would believe her story about the public beatings in the court yard’. She noted that the Medical Officer and nurse always spoke highly of the School, and was satisfied that, if any unkindness was displayed towards the children, they would have informed her in the best interests of the children. In conclusion, she found that the allegations made were without foundation ‘and that the school continues to be as well run as usual’.

4.217The Department accepted these conclusions and that was the end of the matter.

4.218Dr McCabe appears to have disregarded the eyewitness accounts of neglect at Greenmount. She seems to have taken a dislike to the lay person who made some of the allegations, and dismissed all of the complaints on that basis. Garda Bracken37 stated that he had received several complaints from parents regarding food and clothing. He himself had called to the School and was of the opinion that the children were not healthy. He went as far as to describe them as cold and miserable looking. The parent who complained to the local Councillor was so troubled by the condition in which she found her son that she refused to go to the sanatorium for vital treatment for TB until her son was removed from the Institution. The Councillor felt compelled to write to the Department, setting out his concerns regarding conditions in Greenmount, as his office had received numerous complaints of neglect. Dr McCabe made no mention of these complaints in her report. She also dismissed too easily the allegation that boys were stripped and beaten in the courtyard.

4.219Dr McCabe had been critical of food and clothing in Greenmount in the mid-1940s. It was not until 1947 that she noted that food and diet had ‘improved’. She did not make another official Inspection until 1951, but that report has not survived. Her next report was in 1953, and she had a number of suggestions to make regarding the running of Greenmount.

Evidence on conditions from the Presentation Brothers’ annals and records

4.220The annals of 1955 record that the boys were bought new boots ‘as their ordinary everyday boots made noise like that of an army on parade’, new raincoats that ‘should last for at least five years’, and ‘good warm jackets instead of jerseys … for the winter months’. The profit from a concert of £50 ‘helped to pay off some of the bill for the overcoats’. Dr McCabe had criticised the clothing several times in the 1950s, and an effort was being made to respond to her comments.

4.221The Provincial Report to the General Council in 1957 noted that the boys appeared ‘ragged and unkempt’. It went on to say:

I am convinced that all the uplift which we – a religious body should give – is not being given. We should be able to do something for them and make something out of them and do more than merely keep them. All my suggestions to this, and in fact to any matter, were turned down by the Superior as Utopian, impractical, and impossible.

4.222This pessimism about being able to do more for the boys caused Professor Keogh to conclude, ‘it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that demoralisation had set in within the community as a consequence of the inquiry’. It was, of course, at this time that two Brothers were removed from their posts after a canonical inquiry into alleged sexual abuse of children. The report certainly makes it clear that food, clothing and hygiene often fell below acceptable standards. The quality of care varied according to the quality of the Resident Manager, and internal controls did not seem to exist.

Department of Education – Medical Inspection Reports

4.223Dr McCabe also reported on medical matters affecting the School. Generally, her reports were very positive.

4.224She noted in her report of November 1943 that there were five cases of scabies in the School which required treatment. One boy required treatment for syphilis.

4.225The next medical report which warrants comment is from the early 1950s. Dr McCabe made reference to the inadequacy of the boys’ diet, and made suggestions for improvement to the newly appointed Resident Manager, Br Domingo. She reiterated these concerns the following year to his successor, Br Carlito, and also suggested that new cooking equipment should be purchased.

4.226In December 1954, Dr McCabe was asked to investigate an outbreak of head lice at the School, already referred to above. Her comments regarding the nurse had, up to this point, been very complimentary. In this report, she was critical of the inflexible approach taken by the nurse to only attend to sick children, and suggested an increase in her salary to correspond with a widening of her duties. She once again expressed concern at the children’s diet and the antiquated cooking equipment.

4.227She also registered her unease at the presence of two boys whose parents were in a TB sanatorium. The boys had tested negative for TB, but she felt that they posed a risk and should not be in the School. They were also very delicate and unfit for industrial training. The Department subsequently wrote to the School, requesting that the boys be transferred to a more suitable institution. The boys underwent further x-rays, and it was revealed that one of the boys was in fact suffering from TB. He was released on supervision certificate to a children’s hospital, and his brother was permitted to stay until his father was in a position to take him home.

4.228The following year, the nurse was praised for having ‘much improved and taken a greater interest in the school as a whole’.

4.229The report of November 1956 is in the same vein, and Dr McCabe noted improvement in the general hygiene of the children who were now very well supervised. She emphasised, once again, the necessity for each boy to have his own toothbrush and to use it regularly.

4.230The last two Medical Inspection Reports both focus on the inadequacy of the cooking facilities, which had repercussions for the quality of the boys’ diet. The Resident Manager, Br Santos,37 was singled out for praise as being kind and attentive to the boys.


4.231The annual reports furnished by the School to the Department of Education stated that children released on supervision certificate were supervised by the School by means of visits and correspondence. They also stated that former pupils returned to the School for visits and also corresponded with the Brothers. No details were provided to the Investigation Committee regarding aftercare provided to boys discharged from the School.

Closure of Greenmount

4.232The first indication that the Presentation Brothers were considering closing Greenmount was noted in Dr McCabe’s Inspection Report dated November 1952. She stated that the Manager had indicated to her that, once numbers fell below 150, the School would resign the certificate because it would cease to be economically practicable. The following year, numbers did drop to just below 150, and, apart from a slight increase in 1954, numbers remained below 150.

4.233In March 1959, the Chief Inspector of Industrial Schools at the Department of Education wrote:

Bro. Goyo38 of the General Council of the Presentation Brothers, Mount St. Joseph Cork called in to the office about six weeks ago and told me in strict confidence that his order was considering closing Greenmount Industrial School. He enquired what the procedure should be. I told him that under Section 48 of the Children’s Act 1908 the Managers may on giving six months notice in writing to the Minister for Education resign the Certificate. He was anxious to know whether the six months interval between the giving of the notice and the evacuating of the school would be insisted on and I informed him that we would do our best to arrange for the transfer of the boys in Greenmount to some other school or schools as quickly as possible.

Bro. Goyo rang me on the 17th Feb. and said his Provincial and he with the Res. Manager of Greenmount were anxious to meet me to discuss matters bearing on the closing of the Greenmount School. I met the three of them in the School on the 26th Feb. I pointed out to them that before considering the transfer of Greenmount school boys elsewhere we should contact the Res. Manager of Upton School to ascertain how many boys from Greenmount he would be prepared to accept. The great majority of the Greenmount Boys are from Cork City and County. We (the provincial and Res. Manager and I) arranged to meet [the] Res. Manager of Upton School and we told him in confidence that Greenmount school was to be closed and we asked him how many boys from that school he could accept on transfer into his school. [The Resident Manager of Upton] promised to consider the matter and let us know as soon as possible. He notified us on the 3rd instant that his school could accommodate 105 of the Greenmount boys. I further discussed with the Res. Manager of Greenmount the distribution of the boys and asked him on the 11th instant to furnish lists of the proposed transfer. He has contacted the Resident Managers of Upton, Artane, Tralee & Glin Schools and has recommended the transfer of the boys as follows Upton 98, Artane 9, Tralee 4, Glin 3.

The General Council of the Presentation Brothers is very anxious that Greenmount as an Industrial School be closed as from the 31st March, 1959 and the Resident Manager of Upton is anxious to have a decision on the matter as early as possible in order to arrange for the appointment of two extra teachers.

Schedules of the proposed transfers are attached for the Minister’s signature.

4.234Written in manuscript at the end of the letter is the note, ‘Greenmount Arrangements will be made for the transfer of the boys on 31/3/59’. The six months’ notice in writing required under the Act was being waived.

4.235By contrast, the Department attempted to enforce the six-month rule on Newtownforbes when the Sisters of Mercy withdrew in 1969.

4.236On 16th February 1959, the Resident Manager, Br Ernesto,39 wrote to the Chief Inspector:

Dear Sir.

The General Council of the Presentation Brothers has decided to close Greenmount as an Industrial School. I, accordingly wish to know:

(i)If the boys at present in this school can be suitably accommodated in the other Industrial Schools of the country.

(ii)If so, when may we hope that the evacuation can be conveniently carried out.

While I realize that the statutory period of notice for closing is six months, the General Council is anxious to effect the closing as quickly as possible.

I hope to hear from you as early as possible, as we wish to arrange at an early date for the renovation of the building for other purposes.

For various reasons, I should like to have this matter treated in strict confidence.

4.237There is no written explanation of what was meant by ‘the renovation of the building for other purposes’, nor was an explanation given as to why there was a need for such haste. Again, the Chief Inspector is exhorted to treat the matter in ‘strict confidence’.

4.238The Chief Inspector replied, asking for the particulars of the boys to be transferred and asked for the following to be done:

(1)The local authorities liable under the Children Acts to be informed.

(2)The five boys detained under the Health Act, 1953 to be transferred to Tralee by arrangement with the local authorities.

(3)Boys committed but whose period of detention was soon to expire to be released on supervision certificates.

4.239He ended with the caution that no action was to be taken without the approval of the Minister for Education. In this otherwise thorough and methodical letter, no mention was made about informing the parents of the boys who were to be moved.

4.240On 12th March, the Resident Manager duly provided the data needed. The schools at Upton, Artane, Glin and Tralee had been contacted and had agreed to the transfer of boys to their respective institutions. The letter ended:

Regarding the notification of Transfer to be sent to the Local Authorities, can I presume that the transfers will be put into effect on 31st March and mention that date to them?

4.241The local authorities were, in effect, to be presented with a fait accompli.

4.242On 23rd March 1959, the Department wrote to the Resident Manager that the Minister had sanctioned the transfer of the boys under detention as follows:

Release – term expired 1
Release – supervision certificate 12
Transferred to Upton 98
Transferred to Artane 9
Transferred to Tralee 4
Transferred to Glin 3
Total 127

4.243With one small change (one extra boy was discharged and 97 went to Upton), the transfers took place on the agreed date. On 31st March, the Resident Manager wrote the following letter to the Chief Inspector:

I wish to inform you that all the boys have been disposed of to-day as arranged by previous discussion and correspondence with the exception of six boys, victims of influenza, whom we have detained in the school until recovery and three boys who are in hospital. We will arrange for the transport of these boys to their different schools when they are fit to travel.

I would like to take this opportunity of expressing sincere thanks on my own behalf and on behalf of the Superior General, for having treated this whole matter of disposing of the boys so expeditiously.

4.244The matter was not finished here, however. The decision to close the School was initially made without consultation with the Bishop. The Superior General visited the bishop on 16th January 1959 to inform him of the fact that the Brothers intended closing the School and opening a Juniorate for aspiring Brothers. The Bishop sought expert opinion on canon law on the subject, and wrote the following letter to the Superior General:

Dear Brother Jose,

I got your letter of. Jan 29th and, in view of your having told me (a) that you had already made arrangements with the Department about closing down Greenmount as an Industrial School and (b) that my permission was not necessary for your doing this and using the building as an extension to your Juniorate, I took expert opinion in Canon Law. That opinion is that my permission is required by Canon 497. There is question of closing down an Industrial School and opening an additional Juniorate. Can. 497 allows only changes pertaining to the internal management, etc to be made without referring to the Ordinary, whereas arrangements about your Juniorate may be regarded as pertaining to the internum regimen, the change from or concerning the Industrial School cannot be regarded as an internal one. As well there is the possibility that it was precisely in order to have this school there that you got the foundation at Greenmount originally.

In the circumstances, therefore, I have to inform you that Canon 497 has to be complied with and I have formally to register a protest at your having made arrangements with public authority to close down this schola or hospitium without first acquainting, much less having the permission of ecclesiastical authority; namely the Ordinarius Bishop of Cork.

That I am quite agreeable to such change, when duly arranged, is another matter.

4.245The Bishop was correct in his surmise that ‘it was precisely in order to have this school there that you got the foundation at Greenmount originally’. There was at least an ethical difficulty about taking property given at a peppercorn rent to provide a home for boys ‘untrained, steeped in misery, and with no means of support’ and to use it for an entirely different purpose. The Superior General replied as follows:

In your letter to-day you state that you would like us to put before you the reasons for the proposed change. Those reasons are as follows:—

1.Over a period of years, the constant decline in numbers has made the working of the establishment uneconomic, and consequently difficult to cater adequately for the temporal needs of the boys. We believe that if the temporal needs of the boys are not sufficiently catered for, their spiritual and moral well-being will suffer, and the Institution will fail to achieve its purpose.

2.We are satisfied that the public good and the good of the boys will not suffer as a result of the closing of the school. We understand that there is ample accommodation in other Industrial Schools in Munster for all the boys who are now in Greenmount. Consequently we feel that the need for Greenmount as an Industrial School no longer exists.

3.Because of the difficulty of providing suitably trained Brothers to staff such an Institution – Greenmount being the only school of its kind which we have in Ireland.

4.If we cannot use Greenmount as an extra Juniorate, we must build now, and at short notice, an extension to Douglas Juniorate, or provide alternative accommodation.

These are the reasons, my Lord, which we believe justify us in applying to you now for the necessary permission to effect the proposed change. I am sorry that this has been the cause of so much worry and trouble to you.

With dutiful respects [etc].

4.246On 11th February, the Bishop replied that, as the boys had suitable alternative accommodation, and as the Presentation Brothers were going to give up their holding in Passage parish, he was going to agree to the plan.

4.247The fourth reason was the only pressing one. The other three had been problems over the preceding years, and they did not need to be addressed with such urgency.

4.248An unexpected question arose soon after the closure of the School, when the Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch, was asked if there was any proposal to re-form the band of Greenmount in any other local institute in the Cork area. In the notes prepared for the Minister’s reply, to be given on 9th April 1959, the following statement was made:

In arranging for the dispersal of the boys every care was taken to ensure that the transfers would cause the least possible inconvenience to the boys’ parents or guardians.

4.249However, the document went on to add:

The boys’ parents/guardians were not advised of the intention to close Greenmount until the day the boys travelled to their new schools. This information was deliberately withheld for reasons of school discipline and lest it would create an unsettling effect in the minds of the boys.

Thirty two boys were allowed home on Easter Sunday and had they known of the proposed arrangements it is quite likely many of them would not have returned to school.

Should a supplementary question be asked, the Minister might say that: “It is considered that earlier notification to the parents might result in unsettling or upsetting the boys concerned in advance of their transfer”.

Of the 29 boys in the school from the Dublin area Artane were prepared to receive only those committed for non-indictable offences, i.e. a total of 9 boys. The remaining 20 boys would have been discontented had they known beforehand that they were being sent to Upton and not to Artane.

4.250The Dáil debate for 9th April records that Mr Stephen Barrett T.D. first asked the Minister about the band, and then asked if the Minister would ‘state the circumstances under which it became necessary to close down Greenmount … details of the average number of boys in the institute for each of the three years prior to the close down, and the number on 31st March, 1959; and details of the manner in which the boys were dispersed upon the closing down and the manner in which Cork City and County will be catered for in this respect in future’.

4.251The Minister gave his replies and indicated he had no choice in the matter of the closure. He said, ‘The conductors of this institution desired to resign the Certificate under which it was recognised as an Industrial School and I had no option but to accede to their request’. He did not state that the closure could have been delayed legally for six months.

4.252Mr Barrett then asked:

Is the Minister aware that these children were dispersed without any prior discussion with their parents and that, in fact, the parents were not aware that the children had been removed from the industrial school to other industrial schools until after the dispersal had taken place?

4.253The Minister’s reply was:

I understand that is the situation but that the conductors of the school did so for what they considered good and sufficient reason and that there was no intention whatever to ignore parental rights or to disregard their interests. They did so in the best interests of the management and conduct of the school.

4.254Mr Barrett then asked:

Is the Minister aware that, in fact, the interests of the parents were ignored and that the promoters of this industrial school knew that they were ignoring the rights of the parents and, without any prior discussion or notice to them, removed the children and does he approve of that?

4.255Mr J Lynch replied:

I think it ought to be made clear that they acted strictly within their rights and within the terms of the Children Act, 1908, which governs the conduct of industrial schools.

4.256Mr Barrett pressed the matter further. He asked:

Does the Minister agree that it is a very bad precedent in such matters and would he indicate that if any further industrial schools are being dispersed this precedent should not be followed?

4.257An Ceann Comhairle protested, ‘That seems to be a separate matter’, but Mr Lynch went on to reply, ignoring his Department’s brief. He said, ‘It is very unlikely to arise again, I am sure’. This assurance from the Minister, that the way in which Greenmount closed was a precedent that would not be repeated, was as close as he came to expressing disapproval of the way the closure was handled.



  • The secrecy surrounding the closure of Greenmount meant that the rights of the parents, and the emotional needs of the boys, were both ignored. It was carried out in a way that suited ‘the best interests of the management and conduct of the school’ without any regard for the right of parents to know where their children were being taken, or concern for the boys, who were suddenly transferred without any time to prepare themselves for the move. Parents were clearly upset, because they asked their TD to raise the matter in the Dáil.
  • The documents concerning the closure show no compassion or concern for the boys’ emotions. The boys were kept in ignorance of the fact they were going to be moved from an institution they had lived in for months and, in many cases, years. To many, it was their home. Only at the last moment were they told where they were going to be taken. To many, this news must have been a shock causing much distress.

On the changing nature of the boys in Greenmount

4.259The letter to the Bishop of Cork from the Superior General had cited ‘the difficulty of providing suitably trained Brothers to staff such an Institution’ as one of the four reasons for closing. During Phase III, Br Minehane expanded on this problem. He explained that, in the 1950s, ‘Boys were assigned to Greenmount from the Dublin area and that created further problems’. The problems were related to discipline. The Dublin boys were more challenging of authority. They were hardened and street-wise. Br Minehane said, ‘we were dealing with a new and more difficult client, and … training and expertise was required’. While the numbers of Brothers dealing with the pupils in Greenmount was about the same all the time, the management and care of the new kind of boy required an expertise and training that was not available to the Presentation Brothers.

4.260Professor Keogh concluded his report for the Presentation Brothers as follows:

This was the central point made in the report of the 1934–6 commission of inquiry – children in industrial schools were not ‘children apart’; however, they were still being criminalised in the public mind without any justification … Industrial school children ought, accordingly, to have been treated and cherished as children and as citizens of the Irish state with rights under the constitution. But it seems that in Ireland in the 1930s, 40s and 50s the ‘old idea’ of treating such children as ‘a class apart’ had not yet ceased to be part of the mind-set of a society that was all-too-willing to seek an answer for complex social problems behind the closed doors of state-funded under-resourced institutions. It was tidier that way.

General conclusions

4.2611.A harsh regime with excessive corporal punishment was implemented by one Resident Manager, who continued to serve as a senior Brother after his period of office, and would accordingly have influenced the policy of the School, but there was evidence of a softening of the regime in subsequent years. No formal record was kept, as required by the regulations.

2.The Congregation and the Department of Education failed to supervise properly and were insufficiently objective. They placed too much reliance on the Resident Manager for information on how the boys were cared for and did not have independent investigation. Evidence of mistreatment was ignored.

3.The 1955 investigations into sexual abuse revealed grave failures on the part of the Congregation and the Diocese, and let two persons who were believed to be guilty of sexual abuse to continue careers dealing with children.

4.The interests of the Congregation were prioritised in the manner in which Greenmount was closed, and the lack of information to the parents and the boys themselves, by both the Congregation and the Department of Education, showed an indifference to the people most affected by the closure.

1 Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ (Report prepared for the Presentation Brothers, May 2001 and submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19 May 2004), pp 187–188.

2 For the greater glory of God.

3 Fratrium Presentionis Mariae.

4 Keogh, p 54.

5 Keogh, p 57.

6 Cork Examiner, 28 March 1874, cited in Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ May 2001.

7 Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, p 41.

8 Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, pp 41–2.

9 Cork Examiner, 24 March 1874.

10 This is a pseudonym.

11 This is a pseudonym.

12 This is a pseudonym.

13 Report on Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1936.

14 This is a pseudonym.

15 This is a pseudonym.

16 This is a pseudonym.

17 This is a pseudonym.

18 This is a pseudonym.

19 This is a pseudonym.

20 This is a pseudonym.

21 This is a pseudonym.

22 This is a pseudonym.

23 This is a pseudonym.

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27 This is a pseudonym.

28 This is a pseudonym.

29 This is a pseudonym.

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31 This is a pseudonym.

32 This is a pseudonym.

33 This is a pseudonym.

34 This is a pseudonym.

35 This is a pseudonym.

37 This is a pseudonym.

37 This is a pseudonym.

38 This is a pseudonym.

39 This is a pseudonym.

Chapter 5
Our Lady of Good Counsel, Lota, Glanmire, County Cork (‘Lota’), 1939–1999


5.01Our Lady of Good Counsel, Lota was founded in 1938 as a school catering for children with learning disabilities. It continues to be managed by the Brothers of Charity. Among its other services, the Congregation also operates a similar facility located at Holy Family School Woodlands, Renmore, County Galway.

5.02There have been six separate investigations by An Garda Síochána into allegations of sexual abuse of the residents by members of staff of Lota.

5.03Two Brothers of the Congregation were convicted of crimes of sexual abuse of children resident in Lota in the period 1952 to 1984.

5.04In 2002, evidence was taken from three complainant witnesses and three respondents, two of whom had been convicted of sexual abuse offences and a third Brother of Charity respondent who admitted a single incident of sexual abuse while working in Lota. This chapter is based on evidence from those hearings and an analysis of discovered documents.


5.05The Congregation of the Brothers of Charity was founded in Ghent, Belgium on 28th December 1807 by Canon Joseph Peter Triest, with the purpose of taking care of elderly men at the Byloke Hospital in that city. After three years of setbacks, the Novitiate started in 1810, and the first Brothers of Charity took their vows on 26th November 1811. Within a decade, Canon Triest and his Brothers had set up several charitable services that they would develop worldwide. The special aim of this Congregation was the sanctification of its members in the religious state by the exercise of works of charity, which, in the spirit of its founder, embraced every phase of moral and physical suffering and want. They tended the sick, sheltered the poor, cared for the aged, provided for those with learning disability, and raised orphan children. They opened their first service in Ireland in 1883 to provide for mental health needs.

5.06In the beginning of 1938, the Chief Inspector of Mental Hospitals announced his retirement, and before he left office he expressed his wish that the Brothers of Charity would open a second centre in Ireland for the treatment of educationally disabled juveniles with special educational needs. The Central Administration of the Brothers of Charity, who were already operating a psychiatric hospital in Belmont Park, Waterford, were initially reluctant to become involved because they were already overburdened with debt through subsidising a number of their houses in Ireland and the UK. Pressure was brought to bear on the authorities, who eventually agreed to give permission to start the work, provided the cost was borne by the Province in Ireland.

5.07It was decided to base the centre in the diocese of Cork, and, after initial reluctance, the Bishop of Cork agreed to allow the Brothers to enter the Diocese. Suitable premises in Glanmire were identified, and the Brothers formally took possession of the buildings on 19th November 1938. It was officially opened in December 1938 and the first Superior was installed. He named the foundation ‘House of Our Lady of Good Counsel’. The houses needed a considerable amount of work, and it was not until March 1939 that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health approved the Institution. The first patient was admitted on 11th April 1939 and, by the end of the year, they had 18 patients in residence.

5.08The services of the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity for people with learning disability and their families have grown steadily over the years, and today the Congregation is the largest provider of services for people with learning disability in Ireland.

5.09The motto of the Brothers of Charity is ‘Deus caritas est’, God is Love. Their mission is ‘caring for people whose human dignity is threatened through disability, age, poverty etc’.

The vows taken by the Brothers

5.10When a Brother of Charity is professed, he takes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

5.11In a document published in 1948 entitled ‘Practices and Customs’, the Congregation set out the aims, objects and works of the Congregation. In the section ‘Education of Youth’, it set out the Constitution, and then detailed what was expected of the Brothers involved in the education of children. It is clear that the danger of Brothers becoming inappropriately involved with their pupils was present in the minds of the authorities:

38. Though we must love our pupils we must not become too attached to them. We must never let our affection degenerate into particular friendship for one or more children; never must we allow ourselves to be led into dangerous intimacies. The moment such preferences becomes apparent to the other children they will at once feel slighted and neglected. It is certainly permissible to give praise where praise is due, but external marks of tenderness are unbecoming in a religious. He ought always to remember the gravity and modesty which befit his state and never allow a child to touch him familiarly or caress him.

5.12In 1957, the 1922 Constitution of the Brothers of Charity was revised, following the agreement of the General Chapter. Chapter 20 deals with the vow of chastity:

215.By their vow of chastity the Brothers forego marriage and every satisfaction contrary to the virtue of chastity.

216.With the help of God’s grace, they shall be most careful in preserving unsullied the beautiful virtue of chastity.

217.To that end, far from admitting in their conduct anything likely to bring suspicion upon themselves in this matter, they shall carefully guard against harbouring in their minds any thoughts contrary to this eminent virtue.

218.They shall observe sobriety in eating and drinking, for intemperance leads to sensuality.

219.Everywhere, but principally in going through the streets, they must prudently guard their eyes, knowing that it is often through these windows, that the enemy carries death into the soul.

220.Let them earnestly study to avoid in their manner all forwardness and levity, observing in their whole conduct the rules of christian modesty, since, according to the holy Fathers, modesty is the guardian of purity.

221.Therefore, all familiarity, all particular friendship between Brothers, novices or postulants, is strictly forbidden. For the same reason, they must never jostle, wrestle, indulge in horse-play or in any action whatsoever likely to take away or lessen the mutual respect due to each other, for the proverb says: If you would be respected, begin by respecting yourself.

222.A great circumspection and discretion should be observed in their conversation, be it at recreation or elsewhere, to avoid anything that might cause disedification.

223.This circumspection, indispensable among the Brothers, is a thousand times more so when they are with strangers or with persons confided to their care, such as old men, sick and insane persons, and principally children. He who should be unfaithful to this regulation and not fear to be the subject of scandal, is unworthy of the religious garb.

224.For this reason, it is strictly forbidden to play with a child in too free or familiar a manner, to be alone with a single child in a lonely place or in a room with closed doors, even with the view of giving him instruction, reprimand, punishment etc.

225.The Brothers, inspired by a wholesome fear, will ever be on their guard against the attractiveness of children, their cajolery and flattery, being fully persuaded that in this matter, the best children are the most dangerous.

226.They shall very carefully avoid giving the impression of having among their pupils what are called pets or spoiled children.

227.The Brothers are strictly forbidden to inflict corporal punishment on any of their subordinates, whether children or others, without the express permission of the Superior

228.As regards the bodily care or medical treatment which they may be obliged to administer to children or other persons under their care, the Brothers shall do nothing before consulting their Superior, who will judge whether such attentions or treatment had not better be entrusted to the physician or surgeon.

5.13In the material discovered to the Investigation Committee are documents entitled ‘Regular Visitation’ in the houses of St Joseph’s Province. The impression is given that an annual visitation was carried out in Lota. However, the paucity of records has made it impossible to establish whether in fact such visitations occurred annually. There are very few documents relating to management of the School and the living conditions within it. What records are available focus on matters of finance, building development and the like. A fuller discussion of these Visitation Reports is given below.

The Lota campus

5.14In the early years, there was a mixture of children and adults residing in Lota and, although there was a school, it was not officially recognised by the Department of Education. Some qualified teachers were recruited in the early 1950s in order to obtain recognition from the Department, and this was granted in 1955.

5.15Between 1951 and 1953, there was a rapid expansion in numbers, and new buildings, considered to be innovative at that time, were constructed. They comprised three large, detached, single-storey buildings known as pavilions. They were quite a distance apart and separate from the main building. They each housed approximately 60 boys.

5.16The boys slept in dormitories, and there were two rooms at each end where the Brothers slept. Although there was accommodation for four Brothers in the pavilion known as Sancta Maria, the evidence suggested that there were times when not all of the four rooms were occupied.

5.17The school classrooms were scattered between the main building, reconstructed farmyard buildings and portakabins.

5.18The children were allocated to these buildings by both age and degree of learning disability. One pavilion was used for boys with more severe disability. The other two pavilions were used for children between approximately 10 and 14, and 14 to 18 years of age, with mild learning disability. Br Dieter1 explained the system as it operated in the late 1950s:

I should give you the names of the three pavilions. One was Sancta Maria for eleven-year-olds plus who were mildly handicapped, and unfortunately among those there were some normal boys, as well, as discovered as time went on. Then in St Patrick’s, the older age group of those boys, 14 to 16-year-olds, were catered for, and then the younger children who were coming in at that time, as well, they were four-year-olds. The Blessed Martin pavilion, which was designated for the very severely handicapped children, it was decided then to divide that up into two sections, and one section was used for the mildly handicapped boys that were coming in, they were four-year-olds plus.

5.19There were two dormitories at either end of these pavilions, each with 30 beds. The residential part of the building was completely separate from the classrooms.

5.20The boys went to school in the original main building, where the younger children in Lota also resided.

5.21After the Kennedy Report recommended that large institutions should be split up into group homes, these large pavilions became obsolete, but it was not until 1985 that the first of these pavilions was demolished, and 30 boys were moved into three bungalows, housing 10 boys in each. By 1988, all the boys were housed in bungalows in a more family-style setting.

5.22The Investigation Committee received the following photograph and plan of Lota:

Lota, Front view

Source: Brothers of Charity

Lota, General plan

Source: Brothers of Charity

The children in Lota

5.23In theory, all the children in Lota had special educational needs. Unlike the industrial school system, which segregated the children according to their ages, with separate classes provided for younger children, the age profile of children in Lota was wide ranging and was based on different criteria. They were segregated according to their level of learning disability.

5.24Children could be sent to the School at a very early age, some from the age of two years. A high percentage of the complainants were orphans who had been transferred from other institutions.

5.25From 1956 to the early 1970s, there was an average of 240 boys in the School and they were cared for by 16 Brothers, who worked an 18-hour day. Some of the older residents helped with the younger ones, but this practice became less common as work became available for them outside the Institution.

5.26During the course of his evidence, Br Dieter stated that some boys had been sent to Lota, even though they did not have special needs. He said:

One was the Sancta Maria for eleven year old boys who were mildly handicapped, and unfortunately among those there were some normal boys, as well, as discovered as time went on.

5.27The Investigation Committee asked the Brothers of Charity to clarify Br Dieter’s statement, and further requested if the Brothers of Charity had assessed the boys to ascertain this fact.

5.28The legal representatives on behalf of the Brothers of Charity wrote the following:

Most of the children at Lota suffered from a learning disability. Our client believes that Brother Dieter’s reference to some boys being normal was intended as a reference to the fact that a small number of the boys at Lota came from different circumstances. For example, whilst our client believes that it could not occur now, some boys were sent to Lota because there was no other institution better – suited to their needs available to them. Other boys were there because they were born outside of marriage, some boys were orphans, while others were placed for other social reasons – such as their family not being able to cope.

5.29It was a school designed to cater for boys with mild to severe learning disability, yet boys without a learning disability were sent there and kept in the School for years. Even when it became known to staff in the School that these boys did not have a learning problem, no provision was made for them to be educated at a level appropriate to their needs. Not surprisingly, they resented their placement and retention in Lota, and their lives were blighted by the inadequate education they received.

5.30One witness told the Investigation Committee that he believed he was sent to Lota for no other reason than that he had been truanting from school. He stated

As I say, I believe I am quite intelligent. I can pick up things, 99% of things. If I learn about something I will know about it forever. I am very interested in science for instance. I have done a lot of study into science, into space travel and stuff like that. I am very interested in a lot of that. I have done a lot of study into that and I am interested in that but I do not think I had the education good enough to have been able to follow it up, which I would have loved to do.

5.31When asked if he felt that he was in any way educationally handicapped, he replied ‘No’. He was asked if he felt he was inappropriately placed in Lota, and he replied:

Maybe it was my own imagination but I felt that I was not mentally handicapped. That if I was given an opportunity, I could learn properly … I was able to pick things up a lot quicker. When something was told to me I could understand it much easier than some people you know. I do not know why I could do it but that is the way it was with me.

Complaints regarding Lota

5.32There were 12 complainants in respect of Lota. Three of these complainants were heard by the Commission in 2002.

The duty of care

5.33A high duty of care is owed to children who are less able to look after themselves, by reason of physical or mental incapacity. The children in Lota fell into this vulnerable category.

5.34Children with learning disabilities rely heavily on adults to help them cope with everyday life. Whether raised at home or in institutions, they are more vulnerable because they are less exposed to the normal risks of life, and their lack of experience can leave them unable to assess risks in general.

5.35In addition, children wiith learning disabilities may be less aware of social rules that govern everyday behaviour. They can be led into situations posing dangers that would have been avoided by children who had had the opportunity and ability to learn how to assess risks realistically. Learning disabled children, particularly those raised in institutions, often fail to see any risk at all. They may be unaware of what is socially and morally unacceptable, and as a result they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

5.36If children with a learning disability are harmed or abused, their disability and inexperience leaves them even more uncertain than other children as to what to do about it. If the person who is there to protect them is also the person perpetrating the abuse, then their confusion is complete.

5.37Bearing these issues in mind, the Investigation Committee had to do more than assess whether abuse occurred in Lota. It had to assess whether the management structures and care arrangements were such that they could provide the additional level of care owed to the vulnerable population entrusted to the Brothers of Charity.

The dearth of documentary evidence

The supervisory bodies

5.38Two Government Departments, The Department of Health and the Department of Education, were responsible for supervising services in Lota. The Department of Education inspected the education provided in Lota. They officially recognised the National School in Lota in 1955.

5.39The Department of Health also inspected the premises, but only in relation to direct funding of capital development projects. The Investigation Committee asked the Department of Health about their inspection regime for institutions for persons with intellectual disabilities between the period 1939 and 1990, and they replied:

From enquiries made both within the Department and the H.S.E2 (S.H.B3. area as Lota is based there) this division is not aware of any inspections having being carried out by the Department or then Health Board staff on institutions for persons with intellectual difficulties between the period 1939 and 1990.

5.40The Department was also asked specifically if it had carried out any inspections in Our Lady of Good Counsel, Lota during the period 1939 to 1990. The Department replied:

From enquiries made both within the Department and the H.S.E (S.H.B. area) this division is not aware of any inspections having being carried out by Department in Our Lady of Good Counsel during this period.

5.41The Department of Health stated that the ‘only inspections carried out and on behalf of The Department of Health and Children during the period 1939 to 1990 were in respect of children in Care in Foster Homes’.

5.42Lota did not come within the scope of the Inspector for Reformatories and Industrial Schools either. Dr Anna McCabe, who inspected these schools, did not visit Lota, and no Department of Education inspection of the residential facilities took place either. The industrial schools were inspected and the Medical Inspector’s reports left contemporary evidence about diet, and living conditions. No such documentation exists for Lota.

5.43Neither Government Department saw itself as responsible for overseeing the conditions and quality of care in the School. The witnesses who appeared before the Committee said very little about the diet and clothing of the residents, as their chief concern was to relate what had been done to them.

5.44With no external supervision, the management of the Brothers of Charity alone assessed the quality of the care they provided and the suitability of the staff entrusted with the care of children with learning disability.

Visitation Reports

5.45The Investigation Committee received from the Brothers of Charity a limited number of Visitation Reports. They were written by Brothers delegated by the Congregation to conduct Visitations of the School.

5.46The Brothers of Charity conducted two kinds of Visitation. One was a general inspection of St. Joseph’s Province, with the Visitor reporting on every school within it. The second kind was a specific Visitation of Lota, which usually lasted a number of days. It reviewed how the School was being run and the extent to which the Congregation’s Rules were being observed.

5.47The Visitation Reports reveal certain preoccupations. The first concern was ensuring that the Rules of the Brothers of Charity were being observed by the Community. For example, the 1955 Report noted:

There are no serious abuses to chronicle, but in closing the Visitation I drew attention of the Brothers to the following points: 1) Morning Rising and spiritual exercises in general; 2) Fraternal Charity; 3) Spirit of Poverty; 4) Care of the Patients. I also urged them to pray earnestly for good vocations and for the beatification for our holy Founder.

5.48The Visitation Report of 1961 made various observations regarding the School. The Visitor remarked that, in relation to chastity, ‘There appears to be no cause for complaint; the Brothers are attentive and careful in their dealings with the children and circumspect when they come in contact with outsiders’. He also noted that ‘SPIRITUAL EXERCISES. These are well and regularly attended. There is a weakness at the midday exercises when a number of Brothers come late’. He was also critical of the way the Brothers said their prayers. He wrote, ‘In respect of the Office, it is said somewhat on the fast side and too loudly – the superior is one of the worst offenders’.

5.49The second preoccupation was the School finances. The Visitor in 1961 reviewed the financial situation of the School and found it in a healthy state and contributing its quota to the Province.

At the conclusion of his Visitation, the Visitor wrote:

1.As religious, we must give to God at least what we vowed – the generous soul seeks ways and means of giving more. Be generous with God.

2.The morning rising needs attention – it is the first sacrifice of the day, Generosity towards God.

3.It is unbecoming and irreverent for Brothers to constantly come late to H. Mass.

4.Pray daily for one another, the works of your house, the Province, the Congregation – especially for vocations.

5.50This Visitor’s report does not indicate that at any stage he spoke to any of the resident boys in the School, or to any Brothers in relation to the boys in the School. His priority was to observe the religious life of the community.

5.51The Report of the Regular Visitation in 1975 is a typical example. It was a very brief, one-page report and listed each of the Brothers present in the Community, noting the position the Brother held in the School and his religious qualities, as well as an assessment of his contentment with religious life. The Visitor makes no reference to the boys in his report.

5.52In brief, there is no contemporary comment on the condition of the boys and the premises. Even if everything was satisfactory, some comment to that effect should have been made. The existing records do not tell us whether all the conditions that were needed to ensure that a quality service was being provided to the children in the Institution were in fact present. Indeed, there is no evidence that such matters were ever the concern of the Visitor.

Physical abuse

5.53For the most part, it would seem that the children in Lota did not need to be controlled by a regime of frequent corporal punishment. From the limited evidence available to the Committee it would appear that they were seldom, if ever, challenging or confrontational.

5.54One witness, Frank,4 told the Committee:

The only form of punishment I did receive during these years was being slapped with a ruler during school hours. This type of punishment was normal practice …

5.55However, Br John O’Shea, who is the Regional Leader of the Brothers of Charity in Ireland and Britain, talked of the ‘authoritarian atmosphere’ prevalent in schools at the time, and went on to explain what he meant. He said:

In a general sense, and I will go back to my own school days or whatever, that there was a very different perception of people in authority. I suppose we had all kinds of sayings like “children were to be seen and not heard”, and the sense of maybe rights of children would in some way not be seen as being equal to the rights of adults. Maybe that is not correct, but in a general sense that children didn’t have the same standing.

5.56One respondent witness, Br Guthrie,5 who said he was known as a strict teacher, said that he did not need corporal punishment. He regretted the only time he did strike a boy. He told the Committee:

during the 32 years I was there I struck one boy on the face with my open hand, once, and I have always regretted it. That was in 1983. I remember that. I felt like falling on my back when I had done it. I was cross about some remark he had made or something, and there were no beatings. I had no weapon for beating like has been described, whips or sticks or rulers or anything like that.

5.57His size and his formal appearance in his cassock were enough to instil fear and obedience. He explained:

I presume that, first of all, as you say, it was the size and then my position in regard to them. They had to come and go and stand up and sit down and everything like that when I told them.

5.58He had no difficulty getting the children to respond to his every command. Because of their vulnerability, and their dependence on adults to help them cope with everyday life, they were powerless to resist authority.

5.59In addition, many of these boys, because of their disability, were fragile and easily frightened. One witness, Graham,6 described the fear he felt at just the threat of violence:

Br Helmut7 he had a stick on the other side of him and he picked up the stick and he shaked it at me, so I sensed there was physical abuse and I was completely – I was dumbfounded because these guys had the upper hand … they had the same aim and the same approach towards me in that their aim was to frighten you, terrify you, get you to be submissive to them, let them do what they want with you, which I wasn’t able to escape from their hands.

5.60He also recounted a punishment he received because a Brother believed he had attacked a female teacher. In fact, he had become curious about a bun upon her head. He had never seen anyone with her hair tied back in a bun and had approached her to explore the nature of the object. When contact was made, the Brother maintained he was attacking the teacher, and subjected him to a cold shower ‘for a whole half hour’. He went on:

I was in the shower for between 20 minutes and a half an hour and by the time he asked me to get out of it I was freezing cold. He asked me to get up to bed, up to my bed and I got up to my bed and I was there for the rest of the day and while I was up in bed I was freezing. I was very very cold and I was not really in any humour for anything or even food and I think the same Brother came up and asked did I want anything and I said, no. I just waited until the next morning to get some food in me while I was a good bit of the day without food.

5.61The evidence heard in respect of this Institution focused mainly on sexual abuse, and Br O’Shea was not questioned in detail about the Congregation’s policy with regard to corporal punishment. It is clear from his evidence that the authoritarian atmosphere in Lota was sufficient to prevent children from speaking up about sexual abuse perpetrated by staff. It would also appear from Br O’Shea’s evidence, and from the evidence of witnesses, that corporal punishment was an accepted method of ensuring obedience and control. It would not be credible for a Brother to carry a stick about with him if he never used it.

5.62The Committee did not hear evidence of excessive corporal punishment, except what is outlined above, and there are no records of allegations or investigations into physical abuse of children in Lota.

Sexual abuse

5.63The three witnesses gave evidence about the sexual abuse they alleged occurred while they were in Lota.

5.64Conall8 entered Lota at the age of about eight, in the late 1950s. He told the Committee he was sexually abused by two different Brothers. One Brother abused him when he was younger and, when he stopped, the other Brother seemed to take over.

5.65When he first arrived in Lota, he was pleased to have been removed from his National School, where the fact that he wrote with his left hand had led to his being frequently punished and made to stand against a wall for hours. He began playing truant and was sent to Lota. He said, ‘I think I felt relief maybe at the beginning, maybe somebody was taking care of me at long last’. He recalled many good times, such as the cycling trips organised by Br Guthrie, and the football and gymnastics.

5.66Br Guthrie, the first Brother to sexually abuse him, was, he said, ‘nice to me at the beginning’. Then, he said, ‘It changed one day … I cannot remember dates or anything so you will have to forgive me there’. He could not recall the first time, but incidents began to follow a predictable pattern. He described the scene:

There was a room between – there was a place where you could wash yourself, shave, wash basins and there was a room – there was actually doors and a kind of a little small corridor between the two and he took me in there.

5.67The activity that took place was mutual masturbation.

5.68This activity then took place regularly over the next three years or so in various parts of the premises where there were secluded nooks. He said that Br Guthrie never tried to do more than these acts of masturbation.

5.69When this evidence was put to him, Br Guthrie agreed that the witness had described the types of activity he had perpetrated over his 32 years in Lota. It was always, he said, ‘To do with the hands’. He had various hiding places from which there was always an alternative means of escape. ‘There had to be a hiding place’, he said, ‘the danger of discovery was ever present’. He explained, ‘you cannot stay too long in the one place. Somebody could come in or pass by or open the door or whatever’.

5.70His hiding places were chosen with every eventuality entering into his calculation. He would not choose the cellar, he said, because:

there was no way out except the way you went in. I think finding a suitable place is finding a way out rather than the way you came in, in case somebody comes along. The secretiveness was part of my operation, that we mustn’t be seen or found out or caught or whatever the word is. I wouldn’t pick out a dead end.

5.71He also admitted that, in the dormitory he was in charge of, he would visit ‘beds without removing the child from the bed, that was at night time’.

5.72He added, ‘I cannot deny that I did these things to boys’.

5.73He also spoke about the kind of boy who attracted him. He preferred boys aged ‘11 to 13 or 14’. He was asked if older children attracted him, and he replied:

I do not know. Sometimes it could go on for years, you know occasional and now and again there was a sixteen year old but I probably done something to him 2 or 3 years previously. I would not pick out a 16 year old or a 17 year old, not knowing whether they would accept my advances or what. It never occurred to me. I would say my preferred range was 11 to 13 or 14 and it would also have been those that were fairly bright in their eyes and their speech and that kind of thing.

5.74Conall then said that, towards the end of the three years, there was a brief period when both Br Guthrie and Br Dieter were abusing him. He said, ‘At night time I used to be taken into Br Dieter’s room and sometimes during the day I would be with Br Guthrie as well’.

5.75He described the first night that Br Dieter sexually abused him:

the dormitory I was in was Br Dieter’s dormitory, room. There was some rooms – There was two dormitories upstairs and there was one I know that did not have a room onto it. That was in the main house now. My bed, there was actually three rows of beds in this dormitory. I remember the first night he came to my bed. As I say, I had been sexually abused by Br Guthrie but I thought maybe the same thing was going to happen here but it was much different altogether. I had oral sex …

5.76He then went into more detail:

I was taken from my bedroom to his room and we were more or less naked … we did not wear pyjamas. We just wore … Night shirt … My shirt was off … it was taken off me … it was more or less oral sex that night … It was not just quick bang and all it is over. It seemed to last a long time. There was a lot of foreplay, if I put it that way, before it got to that point.

5.77After that night, the sexual abuse became regular until Br Dieter left Lota.

5.78When asked what he had to say about the allegations made by this witness, Br Dieter replied:

I pleaded guilty except that I have to honestly say that I do not remember Conall and it was because Conall was so insistent that I did abuse him, I then pleaded guilty because I felt, well then, I must have done since Conall was so consistent with his accusations.

5.79The consistency he mentioned was examined in detail during the hearing. The statement made to the Garda Síochána was read out and tested for discrepancies:

I remember the first night Br Dieter came to me. I can take you back to the bed I slept in. I was asleep in bed, he woke me and took me into his room which was a nice distance away. He took me into the bedroom, locked the door and stripped me naked. I was completely naked. He then took all his clothes off. I was now terrified …

5.80The Garda statement went on to explicitly describe acts of gross sexual assault on the boy. It concluded:

He washed me and put me back into bed and told me not to say anything. The warning was stronger than that but I can’t remember the exact words. This abuse continued on for a number of years and it was always the exact same. He would come to my bed, bring me to his room and play with me like a doll for 2 or 3 hours.

5.81The witness underwent rigorous cross-examination but held firm. He said, ‘What I have said is what I have said. I cannot expand on it or detract from it in any way’.

5.82A second witness, Graham, also described the sexual abuse perpetrated on him by Br Dieter. He described the first time:

I was subjected to his oral sex. I was subjected to it … It happened in his room off one of the dormitories … Br Dieter asked me to – “he said come up, come up to my room and he also said if anybody sees you, tell them that you are cleaning my room out”. So I went up the stairs and nobody saw me going up, and I went into Br Dieter’s room and he said “if anybody sees you going up and they ask you where you are going, tell them you are going to clean Br Dieter’s room for him”. Obviously, it wasn’t really to clean his room. I was a very very sad, timid, young boy and I didn’t really have anyone to go to or to say that I have experienced this oral sex or evil that I would call it … When Br Dieter called me up and he said after the oral sex, he said “don’t say anything about this”. Then a few seconds went and he said to me “if you say anything about this, you are for it”. I was really caught in two corners. I had nowhere to run. I had no mother and father to come and rescue me.

5.83He was about seven years old when this incident happened. It continued until he was about 10. He said:

… between the age of seven and ten that I was subjected to abuse, oral sex abuse. I was subjected to it and as a young boy, sure, I had no choice of either yes or no … It was very very frequent. There wasn’t a week that it didn’t happen. But I do remember Br Dieter coming down the stairs, and I was doing a rug and I was content and happy in doing it, but he called me up to his room and the sad thing is that he got the upper hand over a young, innocent boy.

5.84He recalled another incident when Br Dieter took him under his cassock when they were out for a walk:

Yes, that’s right. He brought all of us, all of the boys up for a walk and we were a good bit up the laneway away from the building and that we were on our way – our walk led us right into the farmyard. When we were a good bit up the lane he called me back and he put me under his habit, his black habit and he pressed me up against his lower body. I was a young boy, I was wondering what was he doing here and why was he doing it. I had not a clue but I assumed afterwards that he was probably just doing it for his own pleasure or for his own good and that all the other boys were completely gone and Br Dieter had me with him and we were just up the lane a bit. He had me completely subjected to him so I could not do anything … When that incident happened I would have been between 11 and 12 when that incident happened just up the lane, a good bit up the lane.

5.85His bitterness about the abuse he endured was only too perceptible. He said:

As a young boy I would be wondering why they would be going on like that … they took advantage of me. They took the liberty of doing things, and the things they have done were an awful lot of evil things … I was only a young, innocent boy, and I went through evil things that I didn’t want to go through. I went through their devilish hands … I was only dirt.

5.86Graham’s anger emerged in a tirade against Br Dieter’s defence that he couldn’t remember:

The only sad thing I don’t like is that if a religious Brother or a priest or a nun and they know very well they have done something, why don’t admit to it, admit to the damage that they have done to me while I was in Lota because I didn’t ask anyone to send me to Lota. I would have been better off in someone’s family rather than putting up with all the oral sex and all the abuse that I was subjected to … if he is not willing to tell the truth, I suggest go back to him and ask him face to face did he do this because I was very very annoyed when he said he doesn’t remember … Now, Graham who is here today remembers what happened. I’m not making up a story. I’m not making up a fairy tale. I’m not making up lies. I am telling the truth.

… Who has the right to take a mother away from you? Who has the right to take a child away from his mother? And who’s idea was it to grab children and fill their schools up with children, not knowing what was going on? The devil was in my school. The devil was working through different Brothers … I would ask him to come forward and admit his mistakes, admit his abuse, and admit that he had done it because if he doesn’t admit to it down here, let me tell you when he goes to meet his maker, Jesus is going to say, “What have you done to my Graham? What have you done to him?”

5.87When Br Dieter gave evidence, he again said he had no memory of the witness as a boy and he denied the oral sex, but he accepted that sexual abuse must have happened. He said:

I sincerely apologised to him for the dreadful unhappiness I have caused him and I realise the seriousness of my abusive behaviour … I know that because of his insistence that I did abuse them, then I know that must be true and I have accepted responsibility for that …

One thing that is true is that I did invite some of the adolescent boys individually to tidy my rooms, usually on a Saturday morning, so that would fit into what Graham has been saying.

5.88He was then asked if that was as a prelude to abusing them, and he replied, ‘Yes, yes. Not in all cases, but that has been the case, yes’.

5.89He was asked to describe his pattern of abuse, and he replied:

My pattern of abuse was touching the boys and in some cases masturbating them and generally petting them, that sort of thing … Not always masturbating, just touching them and, an expression that seems to be quite common now, fondling them.

5.90He added:

I felt sorry for what I had done, but it became a kind of addiction, if you like, at that particular time for me, and it was a great source of stress and worry for me.

5.91Apart from luring them to his bedroom, he also abused boys in their own beds. He would abuse them while they were asleep in the dormitory. Because he would be under observation in the dormitory, Br Dieter never went beyond surreptitious touching. But in his bedroom, he admitted, there was a chance for more extensive activity, ‘I tended to touch them inappropriately and be more affectionate towards them and that’.

5.92He was asked to reconsider his denial of oral sex taking place, and he said:

Well, I will put it this way, it is possible that I have done so and if I have done so, I sincerely apologise to him, from the bottom of my heart I apologise. I have no recollection of doing it, but I apologise to Graham … and I hope he forgives me.

5.93The third witness to give evidence to the Committee, Frank, also described being abused by Br Dieter. He told the Committee:

I can recall very clearly when I was thirteen years of age in the Sancta Maria pavilion, I was bending down cleaning a bathroom when Br Dieter approached me from behind. He locked the bathroom door behind him and took out his penis and said to me “let me see yours”. I said to him “no”. He then said to me “if you don’t, I will give you a good hiding”.

5.94The witness went on to describe an act of masturbation perpetrated by the Brother:

He then let down his habit and told me to say nothing about what had happened to anybody. This type of abuse of I having to rub Br Dieter’s penis happened on quite a number of occasions over the next number of years until I reached 15 years approx. This took place in the Sancta Maria pavilion, his own bedroom and also in the bathroom. When he took me to his bedroom it was usually in the night time. He would wake me from the dormitory where I slept with the rest of the lads and in single beds. Each dormitory had 36 beds. I slept about seven beds from the door of his bedroom which was off the dormitory.

5.95The witness recalled other specific acts of gross sexual assault, one of which occurred on Christmas Day. He said Br Dieter engaged in oral sex and anal rape. In respect of the latter, he stated:

I could not understand why this was going on and this type of abuse happened to me by Br Dieter on at least four different occasions. I can remember one day Br Dieter brought me to his bedroom and tried the same sort of abuse … and I said “no” and I used the word “f*** it, no more, finished” as this was very very sore I said to him. He got very mad with me and I got a beating from him.

5.96The abuse began in a bathroom, when he claimed anal intercourse took place. Thereafter, it occurred ‘A right few times, make about six months, maybe a year. I don’t know for sure, about a year’. It took place ‘Twice or three times a month or something like that’.

5.97Br Dieter then gave evidence. He said he had a good recollection of the witness. Again, he began with an apology:

The first statement I would like to make is that I feel very sad and sorry for Frank’s experiences and I regret very much the unhappiness I have caused him. In relation to today’s evidence, I am sad that he should accuse me of physical violence of beating him up and that sort of thing, because that is not the sort of person that I am. When I was accused by Frank and appeared before [A Garda Sergeant], I think it was around the end of 1995 and perhaps the beginning of 1996, I pleaded guilty, but I told [the Sergeant] and the other Gardaí that were there at the time present when this allegation from Frank was made that, yes, I did abuse Frank but that I didn’t accept and denied the allegations of anal and oral abuse, also I denied the beatings. That is what I have to say.

5.98He then spelt out what he accepted he was guilty of doing:

I know I am guilty of sexually abusing Frank by touch. He also mentions that he touched me and I encouraged him to do so, that could possibly have been the case, but I think that most of my abuse was by showing my attention for Frank, because I was very sympathetically disposed towards him. As I said in my statement, he was a lonely person and I was tended to look on him as I was myself when I was a young person and I tried to show him affection in an inappropriate way by my behaviour towards him that way … I had a very genuine affection for Frank, yes, I had … There was a sexual attraction as well that went with that, yes, unhappily, yes … I have no recollection of how frequently, but at the same time I don’t think in this particular case that the incidents were frequent.

… They took place, to the best of my knowledge, in Sancta Maria pavilion, where I lived. I have no clear recollection of the locations, but they could have taken place in my room in the Sancta Maria pavilion and they could also possibly have taken place in my classroom after school hours, but I am not certain about this because it is a long time ago and because of that I have no clear recollection of the locations of my sexual abuse.

5.99The sexual abuse stopped, he said, because the witness was moved from the dormitory over which he had control. He told the Committee:

my recollection is that Frank … wasn’t very long in Sancta Maria pavilion because he eventually was changed and I can’t remember when that took place, he was changed to St Patrick’s. So my association with him would have terminated because both pavilions were physically quite a distance apart.

The position of the Brothers of Charity on whether sexual abuse took place in Lota

5.100Senior counsel for the Brothers of Charity, at the end of the hearings, made clear the position adopted by the Brothers of Charity on the question of whether sexual abuse took place in Lota. He said:

I represent the current community of the Brothers of Charity, not all of those who were ever there historically, it is not a body corporate. I represent those who are now members of the Community which happen to include some people who have been abusers, and the Brothers of Charity have made no bones about that, we admit that abuse has taken place, of that there is absolutely no doubt, by our members and by many of our members. In terms of this Committee’s function in determining whether a particular abuse took place with a particular complainant and by a particular Brother, that is something I can have very little to do with and have avoided getting involved in whether that is true in any particular case or not. That clearly cannot be my function.

… It is perfectly clear that in all three of these cases sexual abuse took place in the most appalling nature and must be condemned and is condemned by this Community wholeheartedly and unreservedly. Whether individual acts of sexual abuse took place or not is not a matter for me, with great respect.

5.101Following the appearance in court of a Brother on 21 September 1999, Br Alfred Hassett, the Provincial Superior, issued the following apology:

We deeply regret any abuse which may have taken place and we offer our apology to any person who may have been the victim of such abuse. Our first concern is for the victims of abuse, whatever the source of that abuse …

As an organisation involved with people with learning disability we have in place specialist counselling teams, one of them in the Cork area, with back-up support from a national counselling co-ordinator. This team is ready to help any person with a learning disability who may have been the victim of abuse and this help can be offered on a totally confidential basis.

I would encourage anyone wishing to make an allegation to go directly to the Gardaí.

5.102The fact that abuse took place is not in dispute. What this apology fails to address is the Congregational responsibility for what happened in their schools. The question that arises is the extent of the abuse, and whether it was systemic.

The Brothers of Charity on the emergence of sexual abuse

5.103Br John O’Shea, leader of the region that incorporates both Britain and Ireland, gave an account of how sexual abuse emerged as a serious issue for the Congregation. He told the Committee:

I suppose it became a very significant issue in 1995, at late 1995 we were informed that somebody had gone to the Garda Station and had made allegations that they had been abused during that time.

5.104Prior to 1995, he said that allegations were regarded as individual incidents:

The position prior to that is that there would have been a number of individual allegations, I think they would have been seen as isolated incidents and they would have been broadly dealt with as isolated incidents, that there wasn’t the sense in which we had after 1995, that this was a bigger issue than we had imagined. I suppose prior to that, there wouldn’t have been the kind of awareness of the impact that it had on the people who were abused.

5.105He went on to state:

I feel for us that 1995 was the watershed in the sense of our awareness that we had a fairly significant issue with abuse … It was quite a shock to us really because it wasn’t something we were prepared for, and certainly the individual incidents we would have known of previously didn’t add up to a comprehensive picture, if you like, of widescale abuse.

5.106In the written statement prepared by Br John O’Shea for the Emergence Hearings and received by the Commission on 23rd June 2004, he wrote:

Prior to 1995, there were a few isolated allegations of abuse which were dealt with as deemed appropriate at the time. However, it was not until late 1995 that there was an awareness of more widespread abuse or the damage it had caused.

5.107He admitted, however, that their record keeping was poor. He explained:

Yes, I suppose one of the things is many of our files have a limited amount of information in them. We would have some sense, again, that where allegations would be reported, I would feel that maybe they necessarily wouldn’t be committed to writing. Yes, I think maybe our broader culture or even the wider culture wouldn’t have been as it is now where every allegation would be documented, there would be less kept on files.

5.108When asked what procedures were in place for managing reported sexual abuse before 1995, he replied:

I divide them between lay people and Brothers. Each of the centres that I have mentioned, Cork, Galway, Waterford and so on, would have their own administrative structure and there would have been a Director of Services and in those days it would have been a Brother, who would be broadly responsible for the administration of the centre. The Brothers would be responsible to the Provincial at the time and I think particularly if incidents related to Brothers, that it would entail the involvement of the Provincial. Where they involved lay people, I think the structure, as I say, my sense is that legal advice would have been involved and that we would have acted on that. I suppose in regard to Brothers, depending on the time it was, if it was the early 1990s because we would be more aware of the kind of Department guidelines and so on and there was a broad awareness, that people would be withdrawn from contact with service users. I feel that possibly in all cases Gardaí may not have been notified, because I think our awareness of that would maybe be stronger at a later time, but essentially that people would have been withdrawn. Again, I think the awareness of the level of allegation, if you like, in the sense that now if we speak of an allegation, we have a whole lot of accumulated knowledge as to what an allegation can entail or what it is likely to entail, and I feel back then that there wasn’t the same thing when you speak of an allegation. I would feel people didn’t have a clear-cut idea of just what the allegation entailed maybe or put it down, if you like, people who were behaving inappropriately at various levels, that it might be seen somewhat differently to how we would now view it and with the knowledge that we have of the impact that allegations or abuse did have on people.

5.109He was asked where the records from that period were kept, and he replied:

I suppose where they happened in locations and involved lay people, there would be records. The records would be kept at the location where the Centre was administered.

5.110Complaints about abuse by lay people were recorded and kept. The situation was different for Brothers who had been reported for sexual abuse. He told the Committee:

In regard to Brothers, certainly later allegations would be documented. I suppose I have a sense again that it is only now that it is coming to light that certain allegations were made that there wasn’t an awareness of until quite recently. I suppose our files in regard to Brothers tended not to have a lot of documentation on them, and I would have some sense again that, I suppose, the earlier allegations would have happened, the less likelihood there is that there would be something on file. I would also be aware of a particular situation that now with the knowledge I have, I can fairly definitely say it was an allegation of sexual abuse, but the document on the file doesn’t specify that it was abuse.

5.111Complaints against Brothers were either not written down at all or were in codified language designed to obscure the nature of the offence. They were dealt with, said Br O’Shea, ‘in sort of a hushed way’. Despite this fact, enough records have survived to allow an examination of Br O’Shea’s claim that prior to 1995 there were ‘a few isolated allegations of abuse’, and no ‘awareness of more widespread abuse’.

The convicted sexual abusers: Br Guthrie

5.112Br Guthrie gave evidence to the Investigation Committee on 21st March 2002 and again on 14th March 2002.

5.113Born in the South East of Ireland in the early 1900s, he was the eldest of three children. He was recruited into the Brothers at the age of 13, and is still a member of the Congregation. He was educated in Belgium and England, and qualified as a primary teacher in the 1930s.

5.114He told the Investigation Committee he taught in a school in the UK until 1951 or 1952, when he was brought back to Ireland to work in Lota, where he stayed for 32 years until 1984.

5.115In the early 1950s, the Congregation were setting up a Special School in Lota and there was a need for trained teachers to enable the Department of Education to recognise the School officially. The Department gave recognition to the School in 1955, and Br Guthrie was made Principal of the School from the start until 1974, when a lay principal was employed and he took over as school manager and then Chairman of the Board of Management. He held this latter post until 1984, when he was removed from the School because of complaints made against him.

5.116He was prosecuted for sexual offences in December 1995. He spent seven months in 1996 in Our Lady of Victory, a treatment centre in Stroud in the UK run by the Order of the Holy Paraclete for religious with psychological and behavioural problems. He returned in December 1996 to answer the charges in court. He pleaded guilty to sample charges in December 1996, and was sentenced on 14th February 1997 to four years’ imprisonment, reduced to one year. He now resides under supervision.

5.117He accepted the description of himself as a paedophile, someone whose sexual preference was for children, in his case teenage boys. He said he had no sexual attraction to them until they were aged 11 upwards to about 14, and he was most attracted to 11- to 14-year-old boys with bright eyes and good speech. He admitted to mutual masturbation but denied ever going any further with the children. His sexual activities started in 1937, when he was around 22 years old, and continued until 1983 when he was 69 years old with, according to himself, ‘prolonged intervals’ of abstinence.

5.118His modus operandi varied, but it usually involved isolating a child in a secluded part of the building. Aware of the ever-present danger of discovery, he found various hiding places where the abuse could take place. These nooks always had a well-planned escape route. He also admitted visiting the children’s beds at night in the dormitory where he was the supervisor.

5.119He did not think the other Brothers or members of staff were aware of what he was doing. On one or two occasions, he did hear talk among the boys. He recalled his reaction to one particular occasion when he heard there was talk:

I brought them into a classroom and I sat them down and I said to them, people are saying this about me. Any of you that like to come with me now, we will go to the Brother Superior and talk to him about it, and, of course, that shut them up for good. Nobody took me up on it.

5.120He said that, if any boy resisted his advances, he would leave him alone, and denied ever threatening, coaxing or forcing anyone.

5.121Despite his remarkable memory for dates and time and place, he could not recall the number of boys he abused over the 32-year period. However, on the first occasion when he gave evidence to the Commission, when asked why he could not remember individuals that he abused, he answered as follows:

For one reason the lapse of time and the others, I suppose a fair number. I have no idea how many but there was a good number … Over 32 years.

5.122He was asked if the number would be in the hundreds, and he replied:

I might stop around a hundred, but it could have been more, it could have been less even.

5.123By way of explanation, rather than excuse, he said he believed that the separation from his parents in his early years and the loneliness and isolation of the life of a Brother was the reason why he developed in the way he did.

Institutional responsibility

5.124Br John O’Shea, outlined in the statement prepared for the Emergence Hearings, held in June/July of 2004, the reasons why the Brothers of Charity have issued apologies in respect of child abuse:

When allegations of abuse by two named Bothers were first brought to our attention in December, 1995, the two named Brothers confirmed that they had been involved in the sexual abuse of children in our care. The two named Brothers later admitted in court that they were guilty of perpetrating sexual abuse on children in our care and received custodial sentences in respect of this abuse.

5.125The statement went on to give details of the sentences imposed on these two Brothers and a third Brother who was also found guilty of sexual abuse.

5.126At paragraph 5 of the statement, the Regional Leader explained that, when the allegations were first brought to the attention of the Congregation, the two Brothers against whom the allegations were made were immediately removed from locations where they would be in contact with ‘service users’ and were placed under strict supervision. They had also both attended a seven-month therapeutic programme for sexual abusers.

5.127The difficulty with Br O’Shea’s statement is that December 1995 was not the first time the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity had become aware of sexual abuse perpetrated by Br Guthrie.

5.128Br Guthrie started his teaching career in a primary school in the UK, run by the Brothers of Charity, in 1936. By his own admission, he started to sexually abuse children in 1937.

5.129Br Guthrie’s activities first came to the attention of the Congregation authorities in 1951.

5.130In a letter dated 31st July 1951 from Fr Harvey9 to Fr Gordon,10 who would appear to be a senior member of the Congregation, it was stated:

Dear Father Gordon,

A very serious situation has arisen at Broadgreen. Bro. Guthrie has been accused of serious offences against boys, and the matter has been placed in the hands of the police; so I expect they will begin their investigation as soon as possible. Br Gerhard11 will probably also be brought into it. Whether anyone else will be accused, I don’t know.

I saw Br Guthrie this morning and he has no defence; I have told him I shall report to the Superior General, and he will probably be dismissed. Hence, I believe he will cross to Ireland to-day. I have told him what he does or where he goes is no concern of mine, but I have not transferred him to Belmont Park. I told him, however, that I will communicate to you any instructions, etc. that I receive from Fr. General.

I have sent Bro. Rory12 this morning to Moffat to inform Bro. Gerhard of the situation, and he will probably do like Br Guthrie.

You should receive their clerical suits if they offer them, and also help them with clothing, and in any other way, at least for the time being.

Whatever these fellows do, is on their own initiative. They are not to remain at Belmont Park. You would, however, do well to know where they stay, at least for the time being. But I do not want to know.

As you see, I am in a very difficult situation, and am trying to act for the good of the Congregation.

I am now just going to … with Messrs. [Solicitors], to interview a K.C.13 on the matter. I will then perhaps see things much clearer and will write you again as soon as possible.

In the meantime, please aid me with your prayers.

Greetings in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Yours devotedly … in JC

5.131The letter accepted that Br Guthrie had ‘no defence’ to the allegation that he had committed ‘serious offences against boys’, and prepared the ground for his probable dismissal.

5.132Fr Harvey wrote again on 1st August 1951, following his meeting with the legal team. The mood had changed, because with the two Brothers out of the way he had been given some assurances that the matter would ‘fizzle out’. He wrote:

Dear Father Gordon,

Further to my letter of yesterday, I think I can say that things are somewhat better, and we are hoping there will be no publicity in the matter.

[The Solicitors] have helped very considerably; they took me yesterday to interview Counsel in … and as a result I feel more at ease. Afterwards, I went directly to the Camp at Fleetwood and saw each of the Brothers privately. None of them has anything to fear if the police make their enquiries, so with Gerhard and Br Guthrie out of the way, we are hoping the matter will fizzle out.

Now with regard to Br Guthrie and Gerhard. Before I went to see Counsel, I got them away quickly, and told them to keep away from our Houses but to get in touch with you eventually, as I would communicate to you any further orders or directions regarding them.

My rights and duties have now been made clear to me as the result of my visit to Counsel. I have written again to Fr. General this morning suggesting that Br Guthrie be dismissed and that Gerhard be allowed to remain. As you know, Gerhard has been doing well at Moffat since January, and it is only as a result of Br Guthrie’s irregularities that his case has now become known.

I would be glad if you will get in touch with Gerhard and Br Guthrie immediately; they should both be sent to Lota and await till I arrive there next week. The sooner you get hold of them both, the better, as both were given a considerable sum of money, and you require an account of it. I will discuss with you next week the future of these two men. If you think it better to separate them by keeping one at Belmont for the time being, then I have no objection, but you should warn them against ‘talking’.

Greetings in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Yours devotedly in J.C.

P.S. I am anxious to know if both are safe in Ireland. When you are sure of this will you please send me a telegram, “Everything all right”.

5.133The opinion had shifted, in that it was felt that Br Guthrie could now continue his holy vocation. The next letter was apparently dated 6th August 1951, from a priest in Mount Mellary Abbey, Cappoquin, County Waterford to the Rev. Brother:

Dear Rev Brother,

Br Guthrie has consulted me about his vocation.

Considering his dispositions, other circumstances notwithstanding, it is my humble opinion that there is no reason why he should not remain faithful to his holy vocation, ordinary prudence being used in the assignment of employments to him.

Asking a share in your prayers.

I am

Very Sincerely yours,

5.134Fr Harvey wrote again to Fr Gordon on 17th September 1951:

Dear Father Gordon,

I am afraid the Broadgreen affair has taken a very serious turn; they phone me that proceedings will have to be taken. However, I have asked for Counsel’s advice, and am now awaiting a message from him.

The police are coming again to see me on Wednesday afternoon; they are very sympathetic and will do all they can to help; but the matter seems to be out of their hands.

However, you must do nothing until you hear from me. I will let you know immediately what transpires on Wednesday. If I get any special instructions from Counsel today, I will write again to you, even today.

In the meantime, we can only re double our prayers.

Greetings in the SS.HH of Jesus and Mary,

Yours devotedly in J. C.

5.135Ten days later, in a letter to Fr Gordon, concerning the behaviour of another Brother, Br Johann,14 Fr Harvey mentioned that he was still very occupied with the Broadgreen affair and was meeting the Chief Superintendent of Police in a last-ditch effort to put things right. Br Johann had been physically abusive to staff and boys, and the authorities appear to have been in no doubt at all that this conduct deserved expulsion from the Congregation.

5.136The meeting took place and on the same day, 27th September 1951, Fr Harvey again wrote:

Dear Father Gordon,

I have done all I possibly could; but there is no other way. The two Brothers must come back and stand their trial. I have promised the police they will come back on their own. If they do not, a warrant will be issued and that will make matters worse for them.

Hence, I think they had better come back at once. At the moment, I do not know if the strike has been settled, so I cannot say if the [boat/train] service is running. They should travel back next Monday night; so that they can come back to Runshaw. If you can find time to come with them I would be glad to talk matters over with you and Fr.Jan.15 I realize, however, that you will probably not want to be away from home, particularly as I have asked you to see to this matter of Br Johann. However, you might consider if it is wise to let the two fellows come over by themselves. What about sending [an escort] with them?

To-morrow I am meeting [the Solicitors] and probably we shall go also to see the Counsel in …

I am feeling the strain very much, and I know I must be very careful or I shall have a collapse.

Please help me still more with your prayers.

Greetings in the SS.HH of Jesus and Mary,

Yours devotedly in J. C

5.137Following his meeting with counsel, it was agreed that Fr Harvey would defend the two Brothers and, in a further letter to Fr Gordon, he stated that ‘Everything possible will be done to keep down the publicity of the affair’.

5.138There is no record in the discovery of the outcome of the case in the UK, but it is clear from the Minutes of the Provincial Council Meeting, held on 2nd October 1951, that the case was to proceed before the courts within a couple of weeks of that date. The Minutes note:

Everything has been done to provide for their defence; Advocate and Solicitors have been engaged who will see to the interests of the Congregation. The Vicar General of the Diocese has been informed and he is very sympathetic.

5.139The details of this case are still not known to the Investigation Committee despite extensive inquiries.

5.140By March of the following year, it was clear from a letter from Fr Harvey to Fr Gordon that Br Guthrie had been transferred to Lota, and he was still contemplating where to send Br Gerhard. Fr Gordon, by letter dated 18th March 1952, confirmed that he was sending Br Guthrie to Lota, as suggested by Fr Harvey:

If you think the other can be made better use of elsewhere it is alright with me. I have found both of them very willing and useful and I am sure the poor fellows will make well. The both admit that they have a better outlook regarding Spiritual matters. Lack of prayer was the cause of their trouble in the past.

5.141Br Guthrie immediately took up a teaching post in Lota, and as previously stated he taught 11 to 14-year-old, mild to moderately learning disabled boys. By 1955, he was Principal of the School, a position he held until 1974 when a layman took over. Br Guthrie became School Manager and then Chairman of the Board of Management. He told the Committee that, from 1973 to 1984, he did ‘other jobs’ and ‘what you call recreational activities with the boys’.

5.142In 1984, he was ‘taken out of it altogether. I have not been with children since’. He was removed, he said, ‘because of the complaints about me’.

5.143Just why he was removed from the post of Principal was not made explicit, but it may have been related to the concerns expressed in a letter that was sent by the Provincial Superior to Br Finn.16 It said:

21st May, 1975

Dear Brother Finn,

Brother Guthrie

In reference to the above named I am writing to confirm that it is absolutely imperative that he accept the necessary psychiatric treatment that his case requires. For the implementation of this treatment I hereby request that you make arrangements for him to transfer to Belmont Park where [a doctor] will interview him and prescribe the necessary medication.

As this matter is most urgent would you please see Brother Eric17 [Superior of Lota] and explain the urgency of the matter and then, without delay, fix the day for him to travel to Waterford. The sooner he receives treatment the better as the matter could easily pass outside our control and this would be tragic.

I shall see Br Guthrie myself the next time I am in Waterford.

With every best wish,

Sincerely in J.C.

Provincial Superior

5.144There is no evidence that the problem identified in 1975 was ever addressed, or that he was transferred to Belmont Park for psychiatric treatment. His transfer records show no break in his service in Lota between 1952 and 1984.

5.145In 1984, Br Guthrie was removed from his post as Chairman of the Board of Management in Lota because of complaints made against him. He told the Committee:

I was changed to another house altogether and I did housekeeping and various odd jobs around the house but it was not a place for children. It was a place for grown-ups.

5.146In a statement made to Gardaí, Br Guthrie stated:

The abuse was happening from 1952 to 1984 … I can recall coming back from Lourdes after Easter in 1984, after spending three to four weeks there. Brother Bert18 who was Provincial Superior at the time, requested me to Dublin. He informed me of certain accusations being made against me, namely having sexually abused a child. I was not told whether it was one or more. I was kept in Dublin for nine months and then transferred to Limerick and I was given no more contact with children.

5.147A Senior Child Psychologist on 19th January 1996 made a statement to the Gardaí, in which she recalled commencing work in Lota in early 1984, and having attended combined clinic meetings and having a considerable amount of interaction with professional staff. During that year, she became aware that a Brother was engaging in behaviour of a sexual nature with boys in residence, and this activity was giving cause for concern. A number of boys were interviewed by a Consultant Child Psychiatrist, for the purpose of validating the sexual abuse in which Br Guthrie was involved. A report was prepared and, as a result of the investigations, Br Guthrie was moved. The full account of the events of 1984 is given below.

5.148The author of the statement said that her information about Br Guthrie’s behaviour came from listening to the concerns of other professional staff and from information given to her by the Principal Psychologist in Bawnmore, Limerick, a residential care centre for adults with learning disability, to which many of the boys from Lota graduated. This psychologist said that the male clients that came from the Lota service had been a source of difficulty in Bawnmore because of their unacceptable sexual behaviour.

5.149She had uncovered the sexual abuse within months of starting work, and the information emerged in the normal course of her duties. The sexual activities of Br Guthrie were not so secret that probing and sleuthing were needed to uncover them.

The events of 1984

5.150Between March and May, two psychiatrists had seen an adolescent boy, Paraic,19 who had become depressed and anxious about his sexual activity with another boy and about his masturbation. In April, he disclosed to his headmaster the fact that Br Guthrie had been abusing him. His words were reported in the psychiatric report:

“I told [the headmaster] that I would let Bro. Guthrie interfere with me” “The last time was in Wexford just the two of us” – “We used to tickle each other in the privates” “I would have my clothes off” “Sometimes white stuff came out of him” “He pushed his privates into my privates – not very often” “He told me not to tell anyone” “I was in tents often with him, sometimes he would tickle my privates and I tickled his.”

5.151In April 1984, Dr Noble,20 a Consultant Psychiatrist, wrote a letter to a number of people, including Br Eric the Superior of Lota in which he referred to an interview with Paraic during which ‘disturbing evidence’ came to his notice. He wrote:

Paraic went on to tell me that he was very distressed and upset about incidents that happened on cycling trips. He described how he stayed with Bro. Guthrie on a number of occasions when on these cycling trips both in tents, and also in the same room, and sometimes in the same bed in a house when they would stop on the cycling trips. He told me that he had voluntarily told [the headmaster] about how Bro Guthrie interfered with him during their trips. He told [the headmaster] yesterday and felt much better over talking to him. He said that these incidents had happened on and off over the past three years in trips to [the South of Ireland]. He said the last time was in [the South East]. On that occasion he had travelled alone to [the South East] with Bro. Guthrie. He described in detail how he and Bro. Guthrie had engaged in mutual masturbation on these occasions. He also said that he was warned by Bro. Guthrie not to tell anyone that these homosexual incidents had occurred …

In view of the above history I feel this boy should not go on any further cycling trips or should go on any cycling trips until further notice.

November 1984

5.152A memorandum was sent from Dr Noble on 8th November 1984 to Br Eric, [the Hospital Administrator] and [the Medical Director] outlining the allegations so far, and how Br Guthrie had not stopped contact. He had telephoned Paraic’s house and once again visited Paraic’s parents to get permission to take Paraic on another trip. No abuse occurred on this trip but it was a strain on Paraic. Paraic did not want his parents informed of the situation. He stated that immediate steps should be taken so that this could not happen again, and a meeting should be set up with all professional persons involved to make sure that Br Guthrie could not have any contact with any pupils, past or present. He also questioned whether Br Guthrie should be in any way involved with disabled residents of any institution, and whether it would be better if he were removed to an administrative capacity elsewhere:


To: —

Bro. Eric, Superior,

[Hospital Administrator]

[Clinical Director]

From: Dr. Noble

Child & Family Clinic

8th November, 1984

Lota, Glanmire,


Telephone [redacted]

On the 11th April, 1984 I wrote to the above regarding allegations made by a resident in [named school], Paraic. Paraic is an adolescent boy who is a resident in … School. Paraic at that time was interviewed by Dr. Price and also by [the headmaster] who referred him on to me. Paraic told me that he had been interfered sexually on a number of occasions on cycling trips by Bro. Guthrie. He described these incidents in detail and they are documented in the report of 11th April, ’84…. Because of this very serious situation at that time the above people had to be notified that such allegations be investigated and if there was any suspicion they were to be discontinued.

In l9.9.’84 I sent a second Memo regarding Bro. Guthrie and how despite being told by the Superior that he was not to go on any further cycling trips with the boys from [named school] he did so. This fact was reported to me by [the headmaster], who had been informed that some of the pupils had brought photos of a trip showing that Bro. Guthrie had resumed his cycling trips with [named school], even though he had left the Brothers of Charity Services in Cork at that time and was resident in Bawnmore, Limerick. I again wrote to the Superior, the Administrator and to the Clinical Director regarding my deep concern about what was going on. All the people involved and myself strongly felt at that time the situation could not be allowed to continue. Our views were communicated to Bro. Bert, Provincial Superior and we were told that all contact between Bro. Guthrie and the children and adolescents both past and present who were in the Brothers of Charity would cease immediately.

Unfortunately this did not occur. I interviewed Paraic on 19.9.84. He told me that Bro. Guthrie had phoned him at home and had asked him how the cycling had gone on when he was not present. He asked Paraic to phone him and to let him know a second cycling trip that he would not be participating in went on. Paraic did this and Bro. Guthrie informed Paraic that he was coming to see his parents. Bro.Br Guthrie arrived on 31.10.’84. He talked to Paraic’s parents and he and Paraic went on a cycling trip. They stayed overnight in the house belonging to a Mr. Byron.21 Both slept in the same room in two separate beds. Paraic said, “It was a strain on me if anything went on”. However, he stated that Bro. Guthrie did not touch him on this occasion as he had in the past. Thus, apparently there was no sexual contact between Bro. Guthrie and the boy on this occasion.

Again Paraic told me that he did not want parents to know anything about what had happened previously. He said that if they felt that this had happened that they would be very upset ….Paraic again repeated to me that he did not want his parents to be told about what had happened in the past as he felt that because of their age that they could not take it, and it would upset them and possibly kill them …

I am absolutely appalled that this situation has recurred again,…… Paraic told me that he would be quite happy to go on cycling trips provided Bro. Guthrie was not there. In view of what has happened I feel that immediate steps will have to be taken by the Superior of the Brothers of Charity in Lota and the Provincial Superior that this can never happen again. I also feel that there should be immediately a meeting between the professional people involved to make it absolutely impossible for Bro. Guthrie ever again to have any dealing whatsoever with any of the pupils either past or present from the Brothers of Charity Services in Cork. I feel that the Superior in Bawnmore should be made known of all the facts and that he should know of Bro. Guthrie’s whereabouts at all times. I am also very doubtful if Bro. Guthrie should be in a unit such as Bawnmore, I feel that he should perhaps be in an administrative position far removed from residents in any mentally handicapped service.

Dr. Noble.

Consultant Psychiatrist.

December 1984

5.153Dr Noble wrote a further letter to Br Bert, the Superior of Triest House in Dublin, informing him of the situation. He was appalled that Br Guthrie was still in contact, and had even written to Paraic’s mother asking her to get Paraic to phone him at Triest House. Dr Noble wanted to know what action the Congregation were pursuing in relation to the matter:

Bro. Bert

Provincial Superior

Re: Paraic

Dear Br Bert

… I visited [named school] on 27.11.84 and interviewed Paraic. He told me Bro. Guthrie had written to his mother on the previous weekend asking her to have her son, Paraic, phone him at a number in Dublin over the weekend. Paraic was able to tell me the telephone number,… the phone number of Triest House. Paraic said this message did not affect him, but went on to say that “It doesn’t affect me much unless he takes me on a trip”. He went on to say he does not want to go on cycling trips with Br Guthrie or to meet him. He said he would like to go on cycling trips if Br Guthrie was not present.

… However, I am appalled to find now, despite the seriousness of the matter that led to Br Guthrie’s removal from the Brothers of Charity Services in Cork, that he is still continuing to visit and harass this boy.

I want to re-iterate my concern for the mental welfare of Paraic and out of deference to his wishes (as stated above), I have not discussed this matter with his parents.

Following my discussion with you in [named school] on 27.11.’84 I wish to state that I am not alone in my concern about the lack of progress in this case. This is a great source of concern to the professional members of the staff and Community mentioned above, and, also to [the Head Master] and his staff who are aware of this problem.

As I feel that the mental welfare of this boy is at risk, I would appreciate it if you would write to me as soon as possible, and let me know what course of action you and the Congregation are pursuing so that I and the staff can be assured that Paraic will no longer, ever again, be subjected to stress by contact from Bro. Guthrie.

Thank you for your help in this very serious matter,

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Noble

January 1985

5.154Br Bert replied on 17th January 1985, in which he noted that he had talked to Br Guthrie and issued him with a stern warning, and that Br Guthrie had given him a written undertaking to end his relationship with Paraic:

Dear Doctor Noble,

I thank you for your letter which I received by hand recently.

Since receiving it I have had two further very serious talks with Brother Guthrie, following which I issued a stern warning to him. I feel that now there will be a complete end to his relationship with the lad concerned. Further, Brother has given a written undertaking to that effect to me.

I thank you most sincerely for your concern and solicitude in this whole matter.

Kindest regards and every good wish.

Yours sincerely

Bro. Bert

Provincial Superior

5.155On 11th June 1985, Dr Noble once again wrote to Br Bert. He noted that, although Br Guthrie had not been in touch with Paraic or his family again, Paraic was living in absolute fear of him contacting him again and was, as a result, seriously depressed. Dr Noble felt that he had no option but to inform his parents of the situation and this was done.

5.156On 25th October 1989, the Principal of [named school], wrote a memorandum about a further telephone contact from Paraic’s mother:

[Paraic’s mother] telephoned [school] today (around mid-day) expressing deep concern that her son Paraic, a past pupil [now residing elsewhere], was told by another past-pupil … that Br Guthrie was visiting her home today and would also be calling [to Paraic’s house] … [Paraic’s mother] was most upset to hear this from Paraic and stated neither she nor Paraic wished to meet with or talk to Br Guthrie ever again and Paraic was very upset at the prospect of meeting him anywhere.

I consulted Dr. Noble at his home by telephone at lunch time and later telephoned [Paraic’s mother] (as arranged) to advise and confirm what I had already told her on the telephone earlier.

1. Paraic should not meet with or talk to Bro. Guthrie if he does not wish to – no matter where he may see him.

2. Bro. Guthrie should not be invited into the family home if he visited if that was [Paraic’s mother’s] wish and should be told politely but firmly that he was not welcome in their household.

I also made [Paraic’s mother] aware of Dr Noble’s offer of an immediate appointment should Paraic or his mother wish to meet with him and that Dr. Noble also wished to be informed if Bro. Guthrie made any contact with Paraic or the family against their wishes.

[Paraic’s mother] apologised for contacting the school again about Paraic and was thankful for the support offered.

5.157The persistence of Br Guthrie in pursuing this young teenager contradicts his testimony to the Investigation Committee. He was asked if he had ever fallen in love or had become strongly attracted to an individual, and he replied:

I would not say so, no. I never even had what people would call a pal. When I was moved from one house to another, for example, I never worried about the people I left behind … anyone that is acquainted with religious life knows that there were two mortal sins when you joined religion. The first was not to get up at the right time in the morning and the other was to have a particular friend. They were strictly taboo in those days.

5.158His relentless pursuit of this young boy suggested more than a passing sexual interest: he appeared to be planning an enduring relationship. The remarkable control he exercised over these vulnerable children is well illustrated by this case.

5.159Prior to 1995, Br Guthrie presented the Congregation with several incidents of sexual abuse. He was known to be a serial sex abuser. His deeds were not isolated incidents. Br Guthrie sexually abused children under his care over a period of more than 45 years. Thirty-two of those years were spent in Lota, where he taught mild to moderately learning disabled young boys. He was sent to Lota by the authorities in the Congregation, in the full knowledge that he was a paedophile who had faced conviction in England. There is evidence in 1975 that something was amiss, and Br Guthrie himself told the Gardaí that he was ‘caught out a few times’. He subjected so many boys in Lota to sexual assaults that he cannot remember the numbers, despite having an excellent memory in respect of every other aspect of his life. Despite the dearth of information kept on the Brothers by the Congregation, there is clear and unequivocal documented evidence that the risk Br Guthrie posed to young boys was known.

5.160In spite of his known abusive behaviour, Br Guthrie was made Principal of the School from 1955 to 1974, and then in 1974 he was made School Manager and, in 1981, Chairman of the Board of Management. He was given these positions of power and authority, with control over staff and boys, without the possible consequences being considered. As a result, by his own admission, a hundred or so vulnerable boys were abused.

5.161The case against him was so overwhelming in 1951 it defies belief that the authorities could have seen fit to place him in a residential school for vulnerable young boys. Yet, this is precisely what they did, in the hope that ‘Br Guthrie will be all right in Lota’. On 1st August 1951, when Br Guthrie was in trouble with the police in England, Father Harvey wrote:

p.s. I am anxious to know if both are safe in Ireland. When you are sure of this will you please send me a telegram, “Everything all right”.

5.162Br Guthrie was stowed ‘safe’ in Lota, with no regard for the safety and welfare of the boys residing there. That decision can only be seen as one taken to protect the Brothers of Charity from scandal and prosecution.

5.163Br O’Shea in his Opening Statement, made two assertions about sexual abuse prior to 1995:

Prior to 1995, there were a few isolated allegations of abuse which were dealt with as deemed appropriate at the time. However, it was not until late 1995 that there was an awareness of more widespread abuse or the damage it had caused.

5.164He also stated that there was no awareness before 1995 of the damage that sexual abuse could cause. This is not borne out by the documented evidence. The serious effects of sex abuse were made abundantly clear to the Congregation in the series of reports written by child psychiatrists in 1984.

5.165The victims of Br Guthrie were sexually abused so frequently that it became part of their daily lives. As they had no power to do otherwise, they obeyed his demands, and it was only years later that they were strong enough to come forward and report what had been done to them. In the course of his Garda statement, one of the complainants said:

What was happening between the Brother and myself I thought were the rules of the school. I was told when I went to the school first, that the Brothers were to be obeyed at all times and anything they ask you to do you were to do it.

The convicted sexual abusers: Br Dieter

Conviction: UK (September 1998)

5.166In September 1998, Br Dieter received his first criminal conviction in the UK on the complaint of George,22 a resident in a residential home and sheltered accommodation for vulnerable adults run by the Brothers of Charity in the UK. Br Dieter had been transferred there in 1970, after the disclosure of sexual abuse in Galway; described below. The abuse took place between 1971 and 1973. He was placed on probation for three years, on condition that he attended a sexual offenders course run by the probation service in the UK.

Conviction: Cork Circuit Criminal Court (November 1999)

5.167In November 1999, Br Dieter received one of the most severe sentences ever imposed in this country for crimes of child sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to 18 sample counts of child abuse of young boys in Lota. Br Dieter received two years’ imprisonment in respect of each count (36 years) with a review in 18 months. This review was heard in June 2001 and the remainder of his sentence was suspended.

Conviction: Galway Circuit Court (November 2000)

5.168Br Dieter pleaded guilty to 22 counts of child sexual abuse of boys in Renmore at Galway Circuit Court in November 2000. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, with the condition that the three-year sentence run from the same date as the Cork sentence received in 1999.

Conviction: Cork Circuit Criminal Court (February 2002)

5.169In 2002, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, with four years suspended, after pleading guilty to two sample counts of sexually abusing boys in Lota. Some 75 other charges were taken into account.

Br Dieter’s background

5.170Br Dieter was born in the 1920s. He was the second youngest in a family of five children. His father died when he was young, and the following year he was recruited into the Brothers of Charity and was sent to the Juniorate in Preston in the UK. His mother died of cancer during his first year in the Juniorate and he was not allowed home for her funeral. He told the Committee that he was sexually abused once during his time in the Juniorate by a boy four years older than himself. He never reported the incident because he hero-worshipped the other boy.

5.171He was in the Juniorate from the age of 11 until he was professed when he was 18. When he was a postulant, on an annual retreat, a priest had invited him to his room and had made sexual advances. He resisted them ‘and felt very angry about what had happened’.

5.172Initially, he wanted to become a teacher, but his Irish language skills were poor, so he could not train as one. Instead, he began work as a carer in Belmont Park Psychiatric Hospital, a private hospital run by the Brothers of Charity. In 1945, when he was 20 years old, he was transferred to Lota to work as a nurse with severely disabled children. They were ‘confined to bed, and they needed spoon feeding and they needed to be individually sort of encouraged to use the toilet’. He did this arduous work for six years. He lost weight and became quite ill. During this time, the Superior made sexual advances to him, and he began to have thoughts that he might be homosexual. He recalled years later, to the psychologist at Stroud, that a relative (his sister) used to visit him on a Sunday. While she was there, the Superior invited her up to his room for a coffee. She accepted. He was approached by the Superior early in the morning and was told that she had stayed the night, and he asked him to take her home before any of the Brothers found out. Br Dieter was ‘very upset by this discovery’. Again, he was afraid to say anything about it.

5.173Br Dieter was struggling with his sexual orientation, and trying to control his sexual urges, yet his early experience in the Brothers of Charity was that the vow of celibacy was being regularly broken by religious men of standing and authority.

5.174In or around 1953/1954, he attended a training course in Belgium. When he returned to Lota in 1955, Our Lady of Good Counsel School had obtained official recognition as a Special School. Br Dieter described the new position he held within the School as a teacher ‘under inspection’. In 1957, the Department of Education recognised him as a teacher because of his experience. He was given the post of Assistant Teacher.

5.175Following a period of teaching in Cork, he returned to Lota in 1961, and remained there until 1965.

5.176In July 1965, Br Dieter was moved to Renmore, Galway, where the Brothers of Charity were managing a School. At his oral hearing before the Committee in March 2002, he explained:

At that particular time then there was a very prominent, a very dominant association in Galway for mentally handicapped who were anxious to start a centre in Galway City, as a kind of residential day school for handicapped children and they approached the Brothers about the possibility of a Brother going there to start this. I was appointed to go there and I asked if I could be dispensed from it because of my – I felt totally inadequate for the position but they told me that they had confidence in me and they were totally unaware of my sexual abuse behaviour. They were totally ignorant of that and it was for that reason I was reluctant to be transferred to Galway. I was in Galway from 1965 to April 1969 when abusive behaviour was reported to the Superior … and from there then I was transferred to our psychiatric hospital in Waterford.

5.177In cross-examination, Br Dieter noted that the abuse was not reported by a pupil but by a member of staff, although he was unable to recall whether the member of staff involved was a fellow Brother or a lay member of staff. A full account of these events is given below.

5.178As a result of this complaint, Br Dieter was removed from Renmore to Belmont Park, the Brothers’ psychiatric hospital in Waterford. He testified that he remained in the hospital until January 1970. However, he claimed he was not there to receive professional help and counselling, but rather to help out in the hospital. He held the post of Acting Secretary I.N.C.A. (Irish National Council on Alcoholism).

5.179He was then transferred, in 1972, to a residential school in the UK for adults with learning disabilities. He became involved with a resident in the school and sexually abused him. This led to his conviction in 1998.

5.180He attended two courses in the UK, the first was a course in special education in Preston, and then a course at a polytechnic attached to Leeds University where he obtained his certificate in education. With this qualification and recognition as a trained teacher, he began teaching in 1974 in a junior school for children aged 7 to 11 years, where he remained for 15 years. He claimed that he had not abused anyone since 1973. He retired in 1989 and lived with his Community in the UK until 1995, helping out in the working of the house, doing voluntary driving, and visiting the elderly in a home.

5.181In a psychological report prepared for his trial in the UK, a clinical and counselling psychologist concluded that, following his treatment in Stroud and in view of his decision to withdraw from sexual relationships and recommit himself to celibate life, a decision he took in 1973, Br Dieter constituted a low risk in terms of re-offending.

5.182The trial judge in the case in the UK took into account his plea of guilty, his age (73) and the fact the he was ‘a man of hitherto unblemished character’ and placed him on probation for three years on each count concurrently, on condition he attend a sexual offenders’ programme run by the Probation Office in England.

5.183The judge appeared to have had no idea of the reason for Br Dieter’s transfer to the UK; it would appear that Br Dieter did not disclose his history of sexual abuse in Ireland to the psychologist.

5.184The sentencing judge referred to Br Dieter’s upbringing and background:

Yours is a very sad story indeed. It is a Dickensian story. I do not want to say more than is necessary to justify the sentence I am passing but you have a wretchedly sad childhood, characterized by the untimely death of devoted parents, then your recruitment and placement in the hands of an entirely different religious order where you yourself, as a young child, had a desperately sad time of it. Then, as a postulant and as a novice in this order, the abuse that you yourself suffered from those above you and in turn, of course, as is often the case, you abuse someone else.

Yours is a very sad background, indeed. It is no excuse but it is an explanation for the wretched life you have had, particularly as a young man. Quite frankly the general public have, in recent years come to realize the lamentable criteria of recruitment that were applied 50 years ago or so by religious orders in recruiting very young men, children, to boost their numbers and the methods that were adopted. When I say, “the methods that were adopted” the encouragement, the enticement of people like you who were 11 years of age. That has all changed, and let it be said that it has all changed.

It was asking for trouble, it was sowing the seeds for disaster and you have to then battle within that confined claustrophobic religious organization with your own puzzling sexuality and so you did and this is how this happened: opportunity, privacy and power in a small way.

5.185When Br Dieter appeared before the Investigation Committee, his standard response to most questions asking for details of the abuse he had perpetrated in Lota was to say that he could not remember. He was precise and prompt in recalling other matters, such as the dates of his transfers between schools, and the names of his colleagues. He was asked, for example, to estimate how many boys he had abused in Lota, and he replied:

I can’t remember really. I can’t remember … I couldn’t possibly give you a figure … It is an approximation. It is a long time ago … I would say about 20 …

5.186Br Dieter was in Lota for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965, and this estimate of about 20 boys clashes with some of his other evidence. In another part of his testimony, he admitted he had a frequent compulsion to go to a boy for sex. This compulsion would occur ‘weekly’. He explained:

It was well planned in the sense if I needed the boy or felt the need of a boy I would, for example, in a classroom situation, I would ask him if he would come back after class.

5.187While he said he could not remember specifics, Br Dieter did outline how he set about the grooming process to win a boy over. He explained:

I tended to attach myself to one boy and, as I learned afterwards in Stroud, it was a form of – they have a name for it – grooming, I think was the word, the terminology that was used, in order to get the affection of the boy … it was an activity that I was ashamed of and at the same time, it is what happened. I became attracted to the boy, and then I became more familiar with him and tried to gain his trust by being kind to him and that sort of thing.

5.188He admitted these attractions could lead to a ‘love relationship’ with the boy. He said, ‘I was very attached to one or two of the boys, yes. That’s true’. These loving ‘relationships’ could last a long time, and he believed it was rewarding for the boy as well.

5.189He was asked whether he talked to the boy, and if the grooming continued, while he was having sexual relations with a boy. He replied, ‘It was a silent act … It was basically touching the boys’ private parts’.

5.190It could lead to mutual touching that sometimes, but not always, ended in ejaculation. He went on:

It took place mostly during the day … It would be, as far as I can remember, in the classroom, after school hours in the classroom in my room, and I can’t remember where else just at the moment … it would be asking them perhaps to clean the classroom for me after school hours … It happened sometimes at night, yes … in that particular case, I would go to the boy’s bed and sit there for a while with them and chat with them and then invite them into my room … he would go back to his bed then.

I saw it as a mortal sin, and I was very troubled about it. I was genuinely very troubled … I went to confession regularly about it … I realise it is a crime, of course, yes, now … I think that was my way of thinking, that it was a moral lapse.

5.191Once he had formed a ‘relationship’ with the boy, and he felt he ‘could trust the boy concerned’, the sexual activity began. In many cases, it became an enduring ‘relationship’.

5.192He was asked if he maintained contact when the boy had left the School, and he replied, ‘In some cases, I did, yes, yes … through correspondence’. He admitted in some cases he arranged to meet them, and in reply to the question where he would meet them, he replied:

It was usually – well, on one occasion I arranged to meet one person in Cork … I met this particular person in Cork on one occasion and in Dublin on another occasion.

5.193When asked if these assignations were made in order to pursue a sexual relationship, he replied simply, ‘yes, it was, yes’. He was then asked if sex had taken place, and he replied, ‘Not particularly … It is a long time ago so I cannot remember. I am sure that is the case’.

The circumstances surrounding the departure of Br Dieter from Renmore in Galway

5.194There are different accounts of how Br Dieter came to be removed from his post as principal of the School in Renmore in 1969. The Department of Education version of events is different to the one given by the Brothers of Charity.

5.195The Department of Education’s version of events is described below.

5.196Mr Parter23 was the District Inspector of Schools, with responsibility for all Special Education Services in Connaught and Donegal. In 1969, he visited the School in Renmore on a routine inspection.

5.197In a statement made to the Gardaí on 13th January 1998, and furnished to the Investigation Committee in the Department of Education discovery, he confirmed that in 1969 he visited the School. During the visit, a boy of around 15 years of age approached him in the school yard and complained that he had been sexually assaulted by the Principal of the School, Br Dieter. He questioned the boy, and was satisfied that the boy was making a very serious complaint, and that he would have to report the matter to the School authorities and to his own Department. He then consulted with his superior in Dublin and informed the Provincial of the Brothers of Charity (Br Baldwin).24 He also discussed the complaint with the Manager of the School, Br Kurt,25 (now deceased) who assured him he would investigate the complaint as a matter of urgency.

5.198Within a couple of days, Br Kurt telephoned him and said Br Dieter had been confronted and, after initial denials, had admitted the sexual abuse of the boy. Br Kurt informed him that Br Dieter had been transferred to Belmont Psychiatric Hospital in Waterford.

5.199At the request of his superior, (the then Assistant Chief Inspector with responsibility for Special Education), Mr Parter made a written report on the matter to him. The report is missing.

5.200In their affidavit of discovery to the Investigation Committee, the Department of Education said that this report was last in the possession of the Department in approximately 1989 when it was seen by a now retired inspector. The Department of Education say it is impossible to say at what time since 1989 this report went missing.

5.201The Brothers of Charity provided another version of events which is described below.

5.202Br Baldwin subsequently left the Brothers of Charity. He had joined the Brothers in the late 1940s, and remained there until the early 1970s. The Brothers retained his services in an advisory capacity for a year after he left the Congregation.

5.203On 16th April 1998, he gave a statement to the Gardaí in which he described his recollections of the details surrounding the events in Renmore concerning Br Dieter as hazy. He did recall receiving an anonymous phone call in his office in Dublin one night in 1969 to the effect that ‘Brother Dieter will be visited by the Gardaí’.

5.204He travelled by car the next morning to Renmore and met with Br Kurt, the local Manager/Superior, and spoke with Br Dieter. He recalled that he immediately took Br Dieter with him to Dublin, and transferred him to the service in the UK. He said that Br Kurt managed the local situation and co-operated fully with the subsequent enquiries.

5.205Br Baldwin met with a member of the legal team for the Investigation Committee in 2002, and he explained that, in recent times, he had been in touch with the Brothers of Charity and they had made some records available to him which would indicate that Br Dieter did not transfer immediately to the UK, but had instead spent some months in Belmont, County Waterford and he must have been mistaken in his earlier account given to the Gardaí.

5.206Br Baldwin was unable to be of any further assistance to the Committee as to the identity of the anonymous caller. He confirmed that he, as the Provincial of the Congregation at the time, had not initiated any internal investigation into the allegations, but had preferred to leave it to the Gardaí. He confirmed that he did not contact the Gardaí directly himself and was not contacted by them, nor was he aware of the outcome, if any, of the Garda investigation.

5.207He was certain in his recollection that Br Dieter did not deny the veracity of the allegation and, because of this fact, he decided to remove Br Dieter forthwith from Renmore and transfer him to a position that did not bring him into contact with children. He stated that Br Dieter was moved immediately. He confirmed that a unit in the UK was a suitable location for the transfer of Br Dieter, as it was a facility for the adult learning disabled, and no children attended this facility.

5.208The records reveal the following:

(1)In the “Historical Report” (The School Annal/Diary) for Renmore written in December 1970, the following is noted:

21st January Mr Parter, Inspector of Schools, spent all day in school

6th April, Mr Parter, Inspector of Schools, visited the school today.

3rd June Mr Parter, Inspector of Schools examined Br Alvin26 for Diploma, Brother passed.

12th June Brother Br Dieter transferred to Belmont Park.

1st September Mr Walman27 took up duties as Headmaster.

(2)Records from the Brothers of Charity record the transfer of Br Dieter from Holy Family School in Galway to Belmont Park in Waterford on 14th June 1970. There are two separate records confirming this date.

(3)A Report of the Provincial Council Meetings held at Dominican Retreat House in Cork from 13th to 16th April 1971 records at item 4 that Br Dieter was to be changed from Belmont Park to the UK, on 24th April 1971 (Br Baldwin chaired the meeting which was attended by Brs Kurt, Eric, Bruno28 and Carl).29

(4)Another report of the Provincial Council Meeting held at Triest House on 29th May 1971 records again at item 5 that Br Dieter is in the UK and is happily settled there (Again, Br Baldwin chaired this meeting attended by Brs Eric, Bruno, Claus30 and Franz31 with Brs Kurt and Carl absent).

(5)Br Dieter appears on the annual report of the residential centre in the UK on 23rd April 1971: ‘We welcomed Bro. Br Dieter as teacher for our proposed new special school’.

(6)24th May 1971: special school opened – 5 pupils, Teacher and Headmaster – Brother Dieter.

(7)List of Brothers and their functions – 31/12/1971 Brother Dieter – Teacher.

(8)The annual report for the year ending 31st December 1972 shows Brother Dieter as a Student.

(9)The annual report for the year ending 1974 records:

(a)Brother Dieter, Certificate in Education Leeds University, April, 1st 1974, Department of Education Science.

(b)Brother Dieter – Teaching out (the job was in St. Michaels Primary school and he was there until he retired in 1989).

The Western Health Board Inquiry

5.209In response to the emerging allegations of sexual abuse in Renmore School in Galway, the Western Health Board set up an inquiry in 1999.

5.210In response to several written queries from the Chairman/Members of the inquiry team, the Brothers of Charity have consistently told the inquiry that the Provincial Superior at the time recollects that Br Dieter was removed from the Holy Family School in 1969. Br Dieter’s recollection was that he left the Holy Family School in 1969, and the meagre records available indicate this.

5.211These letters from the Brothers of Charity in general have been signed by either the Provincial or the Director of Services in Renmore.

5.212For example, Br John O’Shea, Regional Leader for Ireland and Britain, wrote on 19th July 2004 to the Western Health Board inquiry as follows:

As I understand it Brother Dieter was moved from Holy Family School Renmore to Waterford in 1970 as a result of an anonymous phone call to the Provincial at the time Brother Baldwin. It seems to me that there was no follow-up on this incident between 1970 and the emergence of allegations in 1995 and the following years. Brother Kurt, RIP was the Superior in the Holy Family School at that time and my speculation would be that knowledge of the reason for this move could well be confined to Brother Kurt, R.I.P. and Brother Baldwin. I would consider it unlikely that there was any awareness in [the UK], either inside or outside the Congregation, of the reason why Brother Dieter was moved from Holy Family School between 1970 and 1995.

Given the above, there was no consideration given to carrying out a risk assessment in relation to Brother Dieter’s teaching between 1971 and 1989. Likewise, there was no consideration given to withdrawing him from his teaching duties/contact with children. Neither was there any consideration given to notifying the UK Police, the Gardaí or the relevant Health Authorities.

Other documented cases of child sexual abuse by Brothers of Charity

5.213While Brs Dieter and Guthrie were the only staff members of Lota to be convicted of sexual offences, other members of the Congregation were convicted of sexual offences in other Services managed by the Brothers of Charity.

5.214Br Roland32 received a two-year sentence in relation to offences in Belmont Park, Waterford in July 1999.

5.215Br Herman33 received a sentence of three years in Waterford for the sexual abuse of young people in Belmont Park on 28th October 2004.

Incident in Lota in November 1989

5.216The following is a report by Mr Admas, Qualified Childcare Worker, dated Monday 13th November 1989:

Report of Incident on Friday 10th November 1989

I acted on a report from one of our residents, (name redacted) at 5.15 p.m. (approx) that the “New Priest” was “interfering with” Robert.34 Robert is 20 years of age and operates in the low moderate/severe range of mental handicap. Robert comes from …

Not knowing what [name redacted] meant by the “New Priest” I went to the Activation Unit expecting to have been sent on a “wild goose chase”. But to my complete amazement, at the end of the Activation Unit I witnessed Robert sitting down on a seat with Brother Alaric35 sitting on his lap in a movement of “going up and down”. Robert’s trousers was half down around his buttocks, but this could have been as a result of the clasp being missing from it.

My first reaction was one of being completely dumbfounded, and on seeing me Brother Alaric promptly got up and made some comment to the effect that Robert was his best friend in Lota. I then, straight away, told Robert to come up for his tea, leaving Brother Alaric in the Activation Unit.

Some time afterwards, 15 minutes (approx) Brother Alaric came into the Unit during tea and started asking questions regarding the level of handicap of the boys etc. He left promptly after receiving a cool reception.

P.S. [name redacted] who operates in the high moderate/low mild range of mental handicap, claimed that Brother Alaric was “feeling Robert” something which I did not witness.

The initial report from [name redacted], which I acted upon, was witnessed by two other members of staff.

Mr Admas

Qualified Childcare Worker

13th November 1989

5.217In a letter dated 15th November 1989 from Br Eric (Manager) to the Provincial Superior, Br Eric said the following:

Dear [Provincial Superior],

It is with deep regret that I feel obliged to send you the enclosed report.

I first was made aware of this incident by [the Clinical Director] when he came to my office at noon on Monday last, 13th November. Subsequently that day [the Hospital Administrator] gave me further details re the sequence of events and of how [name redacted] initially reported the matter to him and, at that stage, also handed me a preliminary unsigned report of the incident. The enclosed signed report was handed to me to-day Wednesday 15th November.

You will doubtless comprehend that we are faced with a matter of extreme urgency – a matter patently calling for immediate psychiatric attention. I’m sure you will deal with this as a matter of urgency as it is obvious that Bro. Alaric needs urgent attention for his problem in an appropriate setting.

With kindest regards and sincere regret to be burdening you with this unfortunate problem.

Yours Sincerely

Bro. Eric

P.S. This incident occurred in a completely public area – anyone could have witnessed it. Fortunately, Mr Admas was the only staff member who went to the Activation Unit at that time, as far as I can ascertain. [He] is one of our more experienced and loyal employees who has been in the service of the Brothers of Charity for [many years] and whose loyalty and commitment is without question … It is some consolation that he was the sole witness and I am fully confident that his loyalty to the Brothers will prevail in this matter.

Bro. Eric.

5.218The following is a report of a discussion between the Provincial and an unknown author (in the absence of Br Eric due to illness) which took place on 3rd January 1990:

Topic: Alleged incident involving Bro Alaric.

On the occasion of [the Provincial Superior’s] visit to Lota on the 3rd January, 1990, and in the absence of Bro Eric (Superior) due to illness, I asked him if any decision had been taken regarding the reported incident involving Bro Alaric and one of the residents. I said there was concern at all levels that some urgent action be taken to resolve the matter.

A summary of the points made by [the Provincial Superior] are as follows:

1. Bro Alaric is a very old man, and, if not already senile is bordering on senility.

2. It is often the case that senility brings on an increased sexual awareness and activity.

3. The alleged incident has been viewed with the greatest concern and Br Provincial has had a lengthy discussion with Bro Alaric expressing this concern. The Provincial now believed that there will be no further incidents of this nature.

4. He has considered the options available to him: should he transfer Bro Alaric to an old people’s home or – given that he believes there will be no recurrence of the alleged incident – leave him in Lota where Bro has requested to stay.

5. He has decided that, for the immediate future anyway, to leave Bro Alaric in Lota. He will keep himself informed of progress and assess the situation on an on-going basis.

6. He anticipated that Bro Eric would be returning to Lota in the next week or so.

5.219The transfer record of Br Alaric would indicate that he remained in Lota where he had been Superior in charge of the Sancta Maria Pavilion for a number of years in the 1960s.

Br Eric

5.220Br Eric was in charge of the Sancta Maria unit in Lota from 1954 to 1963, along with Br Guthrie and Br Dieter. Sancta Maria unit had 60 boys, divided into two dormitories with 30 boys in each. Their ages ranged between 13 and 18 years. The dormitories were divided in terms of age, Br Guthrie was in charge of one and Br Dieter was in charge of the other.

5.221Br Eric admitted to an allegation contained in a Statement of Claim in High Court proceedings from a boy, resident in Lota from the mid 1950s. His counsel asked ‘Did you ever sexually abuse [this boy]’, to which Br Eric replied ‘Yes’. He was then asked to explain to the Committee the circumstances:

1953 was the year, September 1953, and Cork had won the all Ireland hurling final that year and the captain of the team … about a fortnight after the match … rang me and he said, “We would like to bring up the cup and have a bit of a party and a celebration for the boys” and I said very good. So, they came up, big number of the local team called Sarsfields, they were the Glanmire area. So they brought the cup up and we had a party and there was whiskey poured in, in plenty, into the cup and we had a good few drinks of the whiskey and the boys then were sent to bed after the party. It was about 10.30. It was much later than the boys would normally go to bed and I was in my room and I left my door slightly open because the switches for the lights were on the wall outside and the boys were a bit excited, you know, being up late for this party. So I got ready for bed myself and just as I put on my pyjamas this boy ran into my room and he was naked apart from the – he had the top half of his pyjamas on him, so he started jumping up and down in front of me. I wasn’t used to drinking whiskey at the time, as I said it was 1953 and I pressed myself against him and then he went out.

5.222When asked by his counsel, ‘is that the extent of what happened with [the boy]’, Br Eric replied ‘That was the extent of it yes’.

Conclusions on sexual abuse

5.2231.Br Guthrie perpetrated sexual abuse for 32 years with at least 100 victims. Br Dieter, who had a room at the other end of the Sancta Maria dormitory from Br Guthrie, was in Lota for 20 years, with a few short breaks, and then was in Renmore for four years, when he was removed and sent to finish his teaching career in England. Between them, these two sexual abusers operated in schools run by the Brothers of Charity in Ireland for 58 years. Both were promoted to Principal, and one of them to Chairman of the Board. Several of their colleagues were also accused of sexually abusing children. The crucial questions are, ‘how did this disturbing history of sexual abuse come about?’ and ‘what allowed it to continue for so long?’.

2.Lota was an enclosed and inward-looking Institution, and the pavilion system created three enclosed worlds within an enclosed world. The Brothers in charge had complete autonomy and acted without fear of repercussion.

3.The children with learning disabilities were treated as ‘different’, with fewer rights than children outside the Institution. Their near-total dependency on adults to care for them and protect them made them very vulnerable.

4.There was no training provided and no internal structure within the Congregation for reviewing the performance of individual Brothers. Once Brothers were appointed to Lota, they could remain there for decades, even if their performance was unacceptable and unprofessional and their behaviour fell below ethical and moral standards. With no system of inspection and no external supervision, sexual abusers were able to operate with little fear of detection.

5.When sexual abuse was discovered, management failed to take action. They chose to protect the Institution and the reputation of the Congregation, rather than the children. It was the failure of leadership to manage the problem, and remove the abusers, that allowed the sexual abuse to become systemic and pervasive within the Institution.

Emotional abuse and neglect

5.224As a result of their learning disability, the children of Lota were more dependent and vulnerable than children in general. They required additional attention and help from their care-givers. This need for someone to look after them emerged from the evidence heard at the hearings. Graham told the Committee:

My first memory of Lota would be I made friends with the women teachers there … Yes, they were nice to me. They were kind to me, and I felt more at home with them, an awful lot more so because there was only one reason I can say about these teachers, these women teachers, is that like my own mother, my own mother would have been motherly to me up to, maybe, the time she had me, you know. I realised afterwards that I was privileged to have a mother, even though I didn’t know what kind of a mother she was, but I was glad to have her.

5.225After leaving Lota, he could not praise enough the kindness that ‘other people’s mothers’ had shown to him. He said:

But apart from that, I have experienced other mothers’ care with me, and I found loving mothers that I met up with, other people’s mothers.

5.226He then added:

even though I said that with the women teachers I felt at home with them, but still I couldn’t say anything to them because it would get back to the Brothers about what I said. So even though I appreciated the women teachers, I appreciate them as schoolteachers and that they have never done any harm on me, but it takes big giant 6 foot men to upset you, to do what they like with you because the public out there did not know what was going on in that bloody industrial school.

5.227The happiest day of his life was when, after the deprivations of his childhood, he finally found a family through marriage:

It was one of the most nicest and wonderful day I ever had because a family were accepting me into their family and especially my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law to be, and then … my wife to be. These few days were wonderful days in my adulthood. I saw that there were people there who cared.

5.228The irony about Lota was that the Brothers who provided the care and the good times were also the sexual abusers. Conall told the Committee:

Yes, there was happy times too. I cannot deny that. A lot of people say there was not but there is. There was, of course, it was not all doom and gloom, let us be honest about it. There was good times as well … The bikes … The football, I was interested a lot in sports, gymnastics and things … Even the plays, things we did … I have to say, I thought Br Guthrie was nice to me at the beginning.

5.229The emotional state of learning disabled children in the residential schools was seldom given much consideration by the Brothers of Charity. Putting children through the school system was the priority, not whether they were contented and happy. Children with learning disability had a greater need in this regard and they were frequently not regarded as experiencing the full range of human emotions.

General conclusions

5.2301.The Congregation kept records about sexual abuse allegations concerning lay people, and routinely involved the Gardaí. The situation was different for Brothers. The allegations were dealt with internally, and no records were kept, or else were kept in codified language. For this reason, factual information about the true extent of sexual abuse did not exist, and abusers were left free to abuse again.

2.The Brothers of Charity failed in their duty of care to the children in Lota, in that they placed a known sexual abuser, unsupervised, in a school with the most vulnerable and at-risk children. They ought to have known that he would commit similar offences.

3.By placing a known abuser in Lota, to avoid the intervention of the English police who were investigating him for sexual abuse offences, the Order showed total disregard for the safety of children in their care.

4.The Brothers of Charity put the reputation of the Congregation over and above the safety and care of children who were among the most vulnerable in the State.

5.The inadequate system of vetting and monitoring staff allowed abusive Brothers to be placed in managerial positions, with direct responsibility for and control over the entire School, staff and boys. Their position of authority within the School made detection an even more remote possibility.

6.When Br Guthrie was removed from his duties in 1984, supervision of him was so inadequate that he still took children from another school on camping trips, and made persistent and unwelcome contact with a boy he had been abusing, to the point of taking him away on further excursions.

7.The Brothers of Charity, despite knowing of his sexually abusive behaviour, removed Br Dieter to an institution in the UK where he abused again.

8.The management of the Brothers of Charity consistently failed to provide a safe environment for the children in their care.

9.When sexual abuse was disclosed, the Brothers of Charity did not conduct any proper investigation into the extent of the abuse. They simply removed the abusers and continued working as before.

10.The Department of Education and the Department of Health did not undertake any regular inspections of either the School, or boys in the care of the School, which could have identified problems occurring in the School. The residents were placed in a School where the Congregation who was charged with their care was reckless and negligent.

11.The additional duty of care owed to these children was not provided by the Brothers or by the State, who delegated this responsibility without provision to ensure that the necessary quality of care was provided.

12.It is incorrect for the Congregation to claim that it only appreciated the extent of the problem of sexual abuse after 1995, when the Gardaí became involved. The limited documentation that has survived clearly indicated that those in positions of authority within the Congregation were aware that children in their care were at risk of sexual abuse, and were in fact being sexually abused.

13.In its Emergence Statement to this Commission, the Congregation did not examine its own management failures that led to the appalling situation in Lota. The extent of the sexual abuse which was perpetrated in Lota on dependant and vulnerable children was not solely a result of the actions of predatory sexual abusers, but was also due to the extraordinary ambivalence of the Congregation to sexual abuse when committed by one of its own members.

1 This is a pseudonym.

2 Health Service Executive.

3 Southern Health Board.

4 This is a pseudonym.

5 This is a pseudonym.

6 This is a pseudonym.

7 This is a pseudonym.

8 This is a pseudonym.

9 This is a pseudonym.

10 This is a pseudonym.

11 This is a pseudonym.

12 This is a pseudonym.

13 King’s Counsel.

14 This is a pseudonym.

15 This is a pseudonym.

16 This is a pseudonym.

17 This is a pseudonym.

18 This is a pseudonym.

19 This is a pseudonym.

20 This is a pseudonym.

21 This is a pseudonym.

22 This is a pseudonym.

23 This is a pseudonym.

24 This is a pseudonym.

25 This is a pseudonym.

26 This is a pseudonym.

27 This is a pseudonym.

28 This is a pseudonym.

29 This is a pseudonym.

30 This is a pseudonym.

31 This is a pseudonym.

32 This is a pseudonym.

33 This is a pseudonym.

34 This is a pseudonym.

35 This is a pseudonym.

Chapter 6
The Sisters of Mercy


6.01This chapter deals with topics that are of general application to the industrial schools run by the Sisters of Mercy. It begins with a brief history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, and then discusses various topics, including the organisational structure of the Congregation, the way in which their religious vows impacted on the nature and quality of the care they provided, and the response of the Congregation to allegations of abuse in their institutions.

Foundation and mission of the Sisters of Mercy

6.02The Sisters of Mercy date their foundation as a Congregation to 12th December 1831, when Catherine McAuley and two companions made their religious professions at the Presentation Convent, George’s Hill, Dublin and adopted and modified the rules of the Presentation Order as their Rule and Constitutions. In 1835, Pope Gregory XVI gave his approval and blessing to the Congregation for its dedication to the work of ‘helping the poor, relieving the sick in every possible way, and safeguarding, by the exercise of charity, women who find themselves in circumstances dangerous to virtue’. The Holy See approved the Rule and Constitutions of the Congregation in 1841. Later that same year, Catherine McAuley died after 10 years of service as Superior of the Congregation. She founded 10 convents in Ireland and two in England. After her death, the Congregation spread to six continents, with communities in North America (1842), Australia (1846), South America (1856), Africa (1896), Asia (1953) and Europe. It was recognised as an Institute of Pontifical Right in 1926.

6.03In their Submission to the Commission, the Sisters of Mercy described the system of organisation that developed as the Congregation expanded:

While there was one original foundation at Baggot St., Dublin, each individual convent, as it was founded, was established as an autonomous unit with its own governance structure and its own responsibility for attracting new members. Any new foundation thus had a limited pool of Sisters at any given time. One might almost regard each group of Sisters in a local Convent as a self-contained small Congregation.

6.04Thus, each convent was autonomous, and evolved through local, diocesan and provincial arrangements, but they all shared the common values set out by Catherine McAuley, and the Congregation says that these values ‘must have influenced the way in which the schools were run’.

6.05The mission of the Sisters is to provide for the relief, education and protection of the poor. This mission has been expressed in different language over the years. The 1926 edition of the Rule and Constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy, which was applicable for most of the relevant period of the Inquiry, sets it out as follows:

Of the Object of the Congregation

The Sisters admitted to this Religious Congregation, besides attending particularly to their own perfection, which is the principal end of all Religious Institutes, should also have in view what is the peculiar characteristic of this Congregation: i.e., the most assiduous application to the Education of poor Girls, the Visitation of the Sick and the Protection of poor Women of good character.

In undertaking this arduous but meritorious duty of instructing the Poor, the Sisters whom God has vouchsafed to call to this state of perfection should animate their zeal and fervour by the example of their Divine Master, Jesus Christ, who has testified on all occasions a tender love for the Poor, and has declared that he would consider as done to Himself whatever should be done unto them.


6.06Despite sharing a mission and Rule and Constitutions, the Sisters of Mercy continued to develop as separate units. They were not a unitary Congregation and did not have any central authority in the period from 1936 to 1994. Unlike the Christian Brothers and other Congregations, which were organised along provincial lines, with Provincial Councils and, above them, a unitary central Supreme Council with a Superior General, the Sisters of Mercy were organisationally a large number of separate Communities that were united only by their adherence to the same discipline and Rule.

6.07Most of the Sisters of Mercy houses were individual Communities, usually consisting of a single convent, whose members worked in the local area operating a school or some other charitable function, but the Community could also consist of a small number of separate convents controlled by a Mother House. An exception to this arrangement occurred in Dublin, in which the Carysfort Community was the Mother House for all the separate convents in the Archdiocese. This included, for example, the Mater Hospital, many primary and secondary schools, the convent at Goldenbridge, whose members operated both the Industrial School and the national school, and also worked in the local community, and Rathdrum. Carysfort was the closest parallel to a provincial structure because it had a large number of satellite Communities. The more usual situation was for a convent to stand alone or to have just one or two offshoots. For example, in the case of Clifden, there was one such subsidiary house at Carna. In Cappoquin, the convent was self-contained and controlled the Industrial School, which later became group homes. It also operated a secondary school. It stood separate from the other convents in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. Newtownforbes and Dundalk were also separate entities and thus independent Communities.

6.08During the Emergence hearings, Sr Breege O’Neill, then Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy, outlined the organisational structure of the Congregation:

At that time [1831] she [Catherine McAuley] was very clear that for us to be able to be about that work it was important that we would be locally based, and that we would not be constrained by central Government … It emerged within 20 years of her founding the first house of the Order in Baggot Street. There were convents established in each of the 26 diocese in Ireland … In some there might have been eight or nine convents … These convents were autonomous. They were totally, completely and entirely responsible for their own affairs really. There was little central or there was not a coordinating structure among the convents … there was not a sort of a central Government that established these, but they were established in each locality according to the need of the locality at the time.

6.09In his evidence, Dr Eoin O’Sullivan ascribed the popularity of the Sisters of Mercy with the bishops, and their pre-eminence in the industrial school system, to the organisational structure of the Congregation:

… Bishops throughout the country were looking to have industrial schools in their diocese. They had difficulties with some of the Congregations, particularly the Christian Brothers and the Irish Sisters of Charity on the basis that the Bishop did not have a rule over these Congregations, effectively they took their rule from their provincial leader which probably was based in Dublin. So the Christian Brothers, while they had a working relationship with the Bishop, they ultimately took their rule from their Provincial. Whereas, the Sisters of Mercy, to the best of my knowledge, took their rule from the local Bishop. Bishops far preferred Sisters of Mercy than other Congregations, they were easier to control.

6.10All this changed following the Second Vatican Council, when the Sisters of Mercy agreed that there would be a central jurisdiction in each diocese, but there was still no hierarchy of power as between one diocesan central authority and another. The process of amalgamation into diocesan central organisations began in the 1960s, but was not completed in the State as a whole until the 1980s. During the period of this development, a further centralising process was undertaken whereby the Sisters now agreed to adopt a central organisation for all Sisters of Mercy members and institutions. This overall centralising movement was completed in 1994, and so the two processes were moving in parallel for a period of time. Sr Breege O’Neill described this process as follows:

… our structure changed over the years. In that while we had that autonomous sort of way in the beginning after Vatican Council there was a move to amalgamate the houses in each diocese. That really came out of the sort of the thinking of Vatican II. We set about that and for the next 20 years, from the 60s to the mid 80s that process of amalgamation happened in the 26 diocese. So by the mid 80s we were now diocesan based with a leadership structure in each diocese … When we had that in place we decided that it would be good to bring the 26 individual units together in another amalgamation. That was because at that time in the mid 80s our numbers were declining. We had a huge spread of ministries throughout the country and we were looking at how could we rationalise, how could we pool our resources so that we could be more effective in the work we were doing … So by 1994 we formed an amalgamation of those 26 units, together with the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in South Africa, because they had a connection with Ireland. That is our present structure, which has four provincial units in Ireland. In 1994 we were almost 4,000 people. At the moment in Ireland we have 2,620 Sisters residing in 392 local community houses throughout Ireland.

6.11Prior to 1983, all Sisters of Mercy Communities, regardless of their size, were subject to the authority and jurisdiction of the local bishop. Under the 1926 Rule and Constitutions, he was the Principal Superior of the Congregation after the Holy See. All Sisters were instructed to ‘respect and obey him’. The bishop was given the power to nominate a priest to attend to the regulation and good order of the Community, both in terms of spiritual and worldly matters. The importance of this priest’s role in the running of individual convents was clear from the following provision:

He shall watch over the exact observance of the Constitutions, for the purpose of maintaining good order, peace and charity, and he shall assist the Mother Superior with his counsel and advice, in all important affairs. She shall not undertake any matter of importance relating to the Monastery or the Community, without the Bishop’s consent.

6.12The bishop as Principal Superior, after the Holy See, was required to visit the convent at least once every three years. The Superior, or the priest he nominated, was in addition obliged to undertake an annual Visitation, during which he met with each Sister separately. If such Visitations took place, they do not appear to have been recorded, because no records of them were discovered to the Commission.

6.13Each Community had a similar organisation. The Mother Superior was elected for a term of three years by the Chapter and was eligible for re-election for a further term. The Chapter was composed of all Sisters who had a vote. The Mother Superior selected her assistants and proposed them for election. Where the convent did not contain a quorum, i.e. seven Sisters, the bishop nominated the Mother Superior.

6.14The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of Dublin was the largest Community of Sisters of Mercy in Ireland. Its structure was set out in the Rule and Constitutions of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of Dublin.1 This document did not alter the position of the bishop as the Principal Superior, or his nominated priest, but it did change the way the Sisters governed themselves. Supreme authority was ordinarily vested in the Superior General and her Council, and extraordinarily vested in the General Chapter. The General Chapter elected the Superior General and her Council. The Superior General and her Council had the right to transfer Sisters from one house to another. The Council also appointed the local Superiors.

6.15Isolation from other Sisters of Mercy institutions was not a necessary feature of life in Goldenbridge Industrial School, because it was part of the family of institutions under the central authority of Carysfort. The Superior General of Carysfort appointed the Resident Managers and selected the Sisters who were sent to Goldenbridge. Goldenbridge was under the direct control of Carysfort in all matters concerning finance and other related matters. This arrangement would have been expected to give rise to regular exchanges of personnel and a flow of communication, but the reality was otherwise. There are no records of meetings or correspondence or any other documentation between the Resident Manager of Goldenbridge and the Superior in Carysfort. In their Opening Statement of 15th March 2005, the Sisters of Mercy made the following remark in respect of the reporting structure that operated between the Mother House and the Goldenbridge branch house at that time:

Reporting relationships were not very formal and probably depended very much on the personalities and expectations of the Superior in Carysfort and the local superior or resident manager in Goldenbridge.

6.16The result was that Goldenbridge was, for a different reason, left in much the same isolated situation as that which prevailed in smaller Communities of the Sisters of Mercy. The Community in Dundalk, for example, would not have expected any Visitation, inspection or supervision by any other Sister serving as a Sister of Mercy. A nun in Dundalk did not have any prospect or possibility of being transferred. By joining that Community, she became a member of a stand-alone Congregation and, unless she resigned or was dismissed, she would remain there during her entire lifetime. This immobility came about by necessity in smaller convents. Goldenbridge, despite its proximity to Carysfort and other houses, remained in relative isolation. Nuns there also served for very long terms in the one post and were left to carry on their work without outside interference or inspection.

6.17A consequence of the autonomous convent system was that there was a smaller pool of Sisters available for work in an industrial school. Thus, Sr Margaret Casey, Provincial Leader of the Western Province, in her evidence at the Phase I hearing in respect of Newtownforbes, said:

The Sisters also would have been drawn from the small local pool of the Sisters in the convent there in Newtownforbes and there was no expert or back up service really available to them.

6.18This limitation of choice was particularly significant in relation to the position of Resident Manager.

6.19In 1953, the Resident Manager of Goldenbridge, Sr Bianca,2 delivered a lecture to a conference on childcare management at Carysfort College, in which she spoke about the role of Resident Manager:

The efficient and satisfactory running of every Home depends largely on the person in charge. Experience shows that, where the person in charge is kind but firm; sympathetic but impartial; efficient without being over-bearing; determined but open to suggestion; approachable without being too free; the other members of the staff will take their cue from her, and the result will be content and harmony in the entire Home.

6.20She stated that a successful Manager should have:

… sufficient skill and judgment to settle each difficulty as it arises; have a sympathetic interest in both children and staff; have a strong personality, without being overbearing or dictatorial, be enthusiastic and enterprising; and above all, she must be strictly impartial.

6.21These observations echoed what the Cussen Commission had said in its report in 19363 about the importance of the quality of the Manager to the proper care of the children in industrial schools.

6.22The smaller the Congregation, the less easy it was to find a person with these necessary skills.

6.23In addition, Sisters were less able to secure a change of employment. In her Statement of Intended Evidence to the Committee in respect of Dundalk, Sr Ann-Marie McQuaid, Provincial Leader of the Northern Province, noted:

The three Sisters who held these positions during the period under review remained in this position for most of their lives and right into old age.

6.24The Mother Superior of the Community was generally the Resident Manager of the Industrial School, and so had complete control over the funding and administrative duties of the School, in particular its relationship with the Department of Education. However, she had little to do with the day-to-day running of the School, which was vested in the Sister in Charge who acted as de facto Manager. The rationale for this division of responsibility seems to lie in the hierarchical organisation of the Sisters. The Mother Superior was in charge of the convent and, in that capacity, she was in charge of every activity carried out by the nuns of her convent, including the Industrial School.

6.25The number of Sisters available for work in an industrial school depended on the size of the Community. During the Emergence hearings, Sr Breege O’Neill discussed staffing levels:

I think that remained constant in the years between 1935 and 1965. In each of our industrial schools there would have been between 100 and 150 children in the schools. There would have been two or three Sisters, one of whom would have been the resident manager, and maybe another one who would have been working full-time in the school or in some other area. They may have had one or two lay staff … The people with responsibility for the care of the children would have been four or five people. They would have been on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I know of Sisters who told me of having six little cots around her bed at night of children who needed feeding during the night. That would have been a practice. So they were caring for the children over the whole course of the day.

6.26She was asked how the staffing level of four staff to about 120 residents evolved. She replied, ‘My understanding was that that was probably informed by the understanding of the time’.

6.27Her comments were borne out by the evidence. In Goldenbridge, there were usually only two Sisters involved in the Industrial School: the Sister in Charge and the Assistant Sister. The other nuns from the convent would assist in particular activities, but did not play a large role in the day-to-day operation of the School. In Cappoquin, up to four Sisters worked full-time in the Industrial School and, in Newtownforbes, only two Sisters worked full-time in the School from the mid-1940s to the 1960s. In Dundalk, two Sisters worked full-time in the School and were assisted by a third Sister when numbers were high.

6.28Industrial schools run by the Sisters of Mercy were heavily reliant on assistance from senior girls and lay staff. Former pupils of the Industrial School were retained after their periods of detention, and they carried out various supervisory duties, either in a paid or unpaid capacity. In Goldenbridge, some of these girls were offered employment in the School only because they were unable to work outside the convent.

6.29The lack of formal training for Sisters working in industrial schools was a significant feature of the evidence of Sisters and former Sisters. In Goldenbridge, when asked whether she had received any training in childcare, Sr Alida4 said ‘None whatsoever. I think you had to use your own head. She added:

Well I suppose doing my teacher training I did my share of child psychology. I wouldn’t say that would have qualified me for the work I undertook in Goldenbridge. I had no idea that such a place as Goldenbridge existed when I was training up or when I was coming out to it either.

6.30Other Sisters who worked in the School expressed similar sentiments. Sr Gianna5 said that she had received no training whatsoever, although she thought that her previous work with children in the Girl Guides might have been a factor in her being sent to Goldenbridge. In her evidence at the Phase I hearing in the Newtownforbes investigation, Sr Margaret Casey stated:

The Sisters themselves would not, as I said earlier, have had any kind of formal training in childcare, actually such training didn’t exist until the 70s. So most of the Sisters there would have had a background in secondary education before they entered. Subsequently they would have received some training, some of them, obviously the primary school teachers would have qualified as primary school teachers. Some of the Sisters working in the Industrial School did diplomas and certificates to Ceidi and Lough Gill and home economics and housewifery, that area. I know that one of the Sisters in 1953 attended an institutional management course that was run in Carysfort. She subsequently was full-time working in the Industrial School. One Sister also trained as a children’s nurse.

6.31In the Clifden hearings, Sr Olivia6 told the Committee that the only training that she ever received was ‘in 1974, 1975. We did an in service course in Dublin and we would go up every Friday evening and come down Saturday evening’.

6.32The Congregation identified lack of training as one of the features of the industrial school system which contributed to the suffering of children in their care, but attempted to mitigate this by pointing out that there was no course in childcare training in Ireland until the 1970s. They also noted that most of the individual Sisters of Mercy who worked in the industrial schools run by the Congregation had a secondary school education, and others went on to train as nurses, primary school teachers or secondary school teachers.

6.33In the Phase I hearing into Goldenbridge, Sr Helena O’Donoghue, Provincial Leader of the South Central Province, said:

Each of the five Sisters who acted as Sisters in charge and involved in the Industrial School were professionally trained teachers at Carysfort Training College, which was a significant feature in the Dublin Mercy Community. Sr Bianca also had qualifications and certifications in domestic economy, cookery, needlework and household management. These Sisters also were supported by other Sisters as I have said, but who might not necessarily have any had particular training. Those who worked in the kitchen were qualified cooks and others would have taken short courses in household management.

6.34In her 1953 lecture on childcare management mentioned above, the Resident Manager of Goldenbridge, Sr Bianca, made important points about the needs of children in care. She said that children coming from underprivileged backgrounds should be met with sympathy and gentleness. ‘Drastic remedies’ for head lice, such as cutting off hair, should not be necessary, particularly when there were remedies on the market at a very reasonable price. Children should be divided into small groups, including at meal times, to promote an intimate family atmosphere. She added that ‘formal marshalling and regimentation must be avoided’. Whilst there should be an emphasis on domestic training, there was no reason why girls should not follow a commercial or other career path if they had the necessary talent.

6.35She proposed that every child should help with small jobs and chores about the home. They should be encouraged to be creative, and arts and crafts teachers deployed. Dressing the children uniformly should be discouraged. There was no reason why they could not be sensibly and attractively dressed.

6.36She advised that children should be allowed a considerable amount of supervised freedom. They should be allowed to go to the local shop, and older girls permitted to go into town on the bus to run errands.

6.37In addition, she considered that a large playground and hall were a necessity. A field for sports should be made available. Senior girls should have their own sitting room. She felt that music should be encouraged, both playing instruments and singing as well as listening to music on the radio. Dancing should be also encouraged. Caring for pets was another useful occupation for children.

6.38Sr Bianca also felt that the Manager should possess skill and judgement, ‘have a strong personality, without being overbearing or dictatorial … and above all, she must be strictly impartial’. Furthermore, those charged with the care of such children should have a keen interest in their work and possess the requisite experience and knowledge of psychology.

6.39The fact that Sr Bianca was asked to deliver the lecture is evidence that she was highly regarded as a childcare expert, and the lecture expressed an enlightened and progressive view of childcare in the 1950s. Sr Bianca knew how a good institution should be run, and her lecture provides a standard against which Goldenbridge and other Sisters of Mercy industrial schools may be judged. Moreover, these progressive views demonstrated the principles that could have been inculcated in generations of carers, if training had been provided, with potentially dramatic consequences for children in care.

Impact of vows on institutional care

6.40In May 2006, the Sisters of Mercy submitted a document entitled ‘The Influence of Religious Values and/or Religious Life of the Sisters of Mercy on the Management of Industrial Schools and on Aspects of the Care of the Children’. In this document, the Sisters explored the ways in which their religious vows affected the care they gave to children in their institutions, and it arose out of testimony at the oral hearings, particularly relating to the way in which individual Sisters interacted with the hierarchy in the Congregation and with the children in care.

6.41The Congregation accepted that these religious values and ways of life ‘must have influenced the way in which the schools were run’.

6.42Sisters of Mercy take the three vows common to most religious communities – of poverty, chastity and obedience – and they also take a fourth: to serve the poor, sick, and uneducated. In addition to these formal obligations, other aspects of religious life that were highly valued included prayer, routine, simplicity, silence and work. The Congregation gave examples of how these religious values might have had a negative impact on the way industrial schools were run:

  • The strict routine of prayer followed by Sisters meant that during regular identifiable periods, the children were exclusively in the care of lay staff and it also had the consequence of a regime of strict religious observance being imposed on the children. The importance of routine also manifested itself in everyday activities with Sisters following a strict daily routine. ‘The daily routine of adherence to times for prayer, meals, work or recreation was sacrosanct’. Sisters would have expected the children to follow the same routine, with early rising, Mass, chores, special times for meals and recreation and the Congregation accepted that this ‘could have been experienced as harsh and demanding’.
  • The emphasis on silence as a means of focusing attention on ‘God and the things of God’ had a significant impact on the manner in which individual Sisters interacted with each other and with the children. This could have had the effect of reducing the communication of information about children between Sisters, or Sisters and staff, to a ‘strictly “need to know” basis’.
  • Work played a large role in religious observance:

Working hard was viewed as generous, obedient and self-giving. The underpinning theology of the time held that grace would supply for what nature failed to offer. It was not expected or customary that a Sister would complain in any way about the task to which she had been assigned. To do so would be seen as not merely a sign of personal failing, but of inability to cope with the challenges of religious life.

6.43The Congregation stated:

The negative aspect was, perhaps, that leisure activities were circumscribed and everyone was caught up in a system where rest, unstructured relaxation and variety were seen as luxuries rather than necessities.

6.44It also said that ‘A life of simplicity and sometimes frugality was valued as an outward expression of the vow of Poverty’. All Sisters pooled their salaries, and they were ‘directed in the main towards the works of mercy engaged in by the Sisters’.

6.45Many Sisters spoke in evidence about the expectation that they would not show affection to the children in care. The Congregation said:

The question of the reluctance to show any physical affection for the children found its roots in a positive understanding of caring for all children equally and of not favouring one child over the other.

6.46This desire to treat all equally might have led to children seeing the Sisters as aloof or uncaring, but it would be:

… a grave distortion to see the absence of the overt expression of physical affection for the children as some kind of innate personal failing on the part of each Sister, related in some obscure way, to her choice of a life of celibacy rather than a choice of marriage and motherhood.

6.47Many Sisters spoke about the impact of the vow of obedience.

6.48Chapter VII of the 1926 edition of the Rule and Constitutions dealt with the vow of obedience. It provided:

28. The Sisters are always to bear in mind, that by the Vow of Obedience they have forever renounced their own will, and resigned it to the direction of their Superiors. They are to obey the Mother Superior, as holding her authority from God, rather through love than from servile fear. They shall love and respect her as their mother. Without her permission they shall not perform public penances.

29. They are to execute, without hesitation, all the directions of the Mother Superior; whether in matters of great or little moment, agreeable or disagreeable. They shall never murmur, but with humility and spiritual joy carry the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ. They shall not absent themselves from the Common Exercises without her leave, except in a case of pressing urgency and if they cannot then have access to her, they shall make known to her the reason of their absence at the earliest opportunity. They shall obey the call of the bell as the voice of God.

6.49Sr Margaret Casey discussed the operation of the vow of Obedience during the Phase III hearing into Newtownforbes:

I suppose back in those years the Sister would have been assigned to a job under obedience and that obviously would have impacted on the Institution and her role in it, because sometimes then it meant, and this would have been borne out in the Industrial School, that they could have ended up in a particular Ministry as, say, some of the Resident Managers, that they were there for quite a long time, 30 years and more. But it would have been true, as well, that out of the obedience that it wouldn’t have been the accepted or the norm for somebody to complain to the person in authority about how the place was being run, because to do so would have been seen not merely as a kind of personal failing but it would also have shown that in some way that their inability to cope with the challenges of religious life.

6.50One Sister expressed her dissatisfaction with the hierarchical nature of Newtownforbes. She said that the junior Sisters had no say in the Community. ‘It was ruled, it was governed from the top, just a select few, that’s all’, and the junior Sisters were required to follow ‘blindly and dumbly’. She was unhappy with this situation because the people who were governing the Industrial School, the Mother Superior, the Mother Assistant, the Bursar and the Novice Mistress, had little to do with the Industrial School. ‘They were the elite. You had the elite and you had the everyday folk’. This management structure inhibited her ability to speak out about the deficiencies she saw around her.

The Cussen Report

6.51When the Cussen Report was published in 1936, the Sisters of Mercy had responsibility for 26 industrial schools, 22 of them for girls, three for junior boys, and one was a mixed school for junior boys and girls. The leading position held by the Congregation in the Irish industrial school system is illustrated by comparison with the Christian Brothers, who had six industrial schools, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Sisters of Charity who each had five schools, the Presentation Sisters who had two schools, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge and the Sisters of St Louis who had one each.

6.52Despite their importance in the industrial school system, the Sisters of Mercy were not consulted by the Cussen Commission in the course of its work. Unlike the Christian Brothers or the Oblate Fathers, they were not issued a special invitation by the Commission to give evidence; and the absence of any member of the Congregation from the list of witnesses at Appendix A of the Report implies that they did not respond to the advertisement of the Commission requesting assistance in its work.

6.53It is not known why such a large and influential body in this area did not make a submission to the Cussen Commission. Although there was no overall authority for the Congregation at that time, the Sisters of Mercy had in Carysfort a teacher training college that was attended by Sisters of Mercy from all over Ireland. The Sisters of Mercy could, accordingly, have made a contribution to the work of the Commission.

Impact of Medical Inspector

6.54The Cussen Report made a number of important recommendations, one of which was the appointment of a Medical and General Inspector for Industrial Schools by the Department of Education. Dr Anna McCabe was appointed in 1936, and was extremely critical of the conditions she found in the Sisters of Mercy schools.

6.55A 1944 Department of Education memorandum commented on Dr McCabe’s report on Cappoquin Industrial School, and condemned the conditions in the nuns’ schools generally:

This is another school run by the Sisters of Mercy which has a long record of semi-starvation. Dr. McCabe’s report following her inspection last November disclosed such an appalling state of affairs that we went over the head of the resident manager and issued an ultimatum to the Manager. Dr. McCabe’s latest report shows how far we have got. Out of 75 boys, 61 are under the normal weight for their age-height groups by from 3 lbs. to 21 lbs. The butter ration is exactly the same as it was in November, 1943 – 7 lbs. (At 6 ozs. per head it should be 28 lbs.) The boys continue to look pinched, wizened and wretched and look lamentably different from normal children.

It is abundantly clear that the only hope of the required improvement lies in drastic action. The first and most obvious step is the removal of the present resident manager. She is 63 and 5/12 years of age and has held office uninterruptedly since June, 1927. Dr. McCabe informs me that she is a ruthless domineering person who resents any criticism and challenges advice. Her explanation of the children’s failure to gain weight – their “activity” – rival Marie Antoinette’s “why don’t they eat cake?” She has bedded down long since into a groove out of which she cannot be shifted by some annual criticism, and it seems clear that she holds the manager in the hollow of her hand. I can see no hope of improvement while she continues in office.

The state of affairs existing in this school is so deplorable and indefensible that I think further strong action is required. I suggest that payment of the state grant be suspended for three months and, that the manager be informed that there will be a special inspection say, early next December. If that inspection shows that the underfeeding has ceased and that the weights generally are on the increase and tending towards normality, payment will be resumed. If not, consideration must be given to the withdrawal of the certificate.

I might mention that Dr. McCabe’s account of the nuns’ schools generally is most alarming. Underfeeding is widespread. In fact, she tells me that in only one school – Kinsale – is she completely satisfied with the diet. The general rule is what she describes as a bare “maintenance diet” – sufficient to keep children from losing weight but not enough to enable them to put on weight at anything approaching the normal rate. A third junior boys’ school run by the Sisters of Mercy – Passage West – is in the same category as Rathdrum and Cappoquin, and she proposes to visit it again shortly. She is strongly of opinion that we must hit the schools in their purses by threatening to stop grants – and stopping them if necessary in one or two of the worst cases – If we are to effect an improvement.

6.56Dr McCabe made some severe criticisms of individual schools. For example, in relation to Dundalk in 1946, she stated:

… if these people are going to have a school they must look after the children – otherwise I will have to recommend that they are not fit to look after children and have them transferred elsewhere.

6.57Similarly, in respect of Newtownforbes, she was highly critical of the management of the School. In 1940, she had noticed that there was bruising on many of the bodies of the girls in the infirmary. In her letter of 12th February 1940, to the Reverend Mother of the School, she stated:

… I was not satisfied in finding so many of the girls in the Infirmary suffering from bruises on their bodies.

I wish particularly to draw attention to the latter as under no circumstances can the Department tolerate treatment of this nature and you being responsible for the care of these children will have some difficulty in avoiding censure.

6.58She was also highly critical of the general conditions in the School.

6.59Although not directly alluded to by Dr McCabe, the situation in Goldenbridge was so bad that the School had to be closed down for two weeks in 1942.

6.60What emerged was a situation of serious neglect which had been allowed to develop in the late 1930s and into the 1940s. Dr McCabe’s comments in the Departmental memorandum quoted above would indicate that this was much more widespread than the schools looked at in detail by the Investigation Committee. Dr McCabe brought about considerable changes to those schools run by the Sisters of Mercy, and often in the face of opposition and obduracy on the part of the Sisters.

6.61The Sisters have acknowledged the criticisms of individual schools, but have not addressed the question of why these schools were so uniformly bad in the standard of physical care provided. Although the Sisters have accepted that the religious vows they took had an impact on the way in which they cared for children in institutions, they do not explain the level of neglect that was found in the 1940s.

Possibility of change

6.62The Congregation’s Submission dealt with their overall role in residential childcare. They stated:

In conjunction with major changes in Religious Life heralded by Vatican II, in the later 1960’s the Kennedy Report ushered in a new era of child-care. The new model of child-care was the group home. It is, we submit, important to recognise that the Sisters of Mercy were also at the heart of this transition from institutional care to group home. It would be an unfair caricature to depict the Sisters as only being involved in the deposed regime of institutional child-care, and absent from the regime of group homes. On the contrary, the Sisters of Mercy were at the heart of this process of change.

6.63The Congregation went on to say:

It is unlikely that the problems posed by extreme poverty and family dysfunction can ever be addressed in a manner that avoids any pain to the child involved. But there is no doubt that the institutional form of child-care caused a great deal of pain to the children involved. The Sisters of Mercy were at the heart of that system and fully recognise their responsibility. However, it is also fair to say that the Sisters of Mercy were among the first to embrace the transition to the new system of group homes.

6.64By the time of the Kennedy Report in 1970, numbers in the institutions had reduced to such an extent that the old system based on capitation was unworkable. Schools had either to close down or adapt. Change came slowly, and it was not until the mid-1980s that the old institutional care system was fully replaced by the Sisters of Mercy with group homes.

6.65In contrast, the Sisters of Charity, who were also engaged in the institutional care of children, recognised the need for change, and attended childcare courses in England in the late 1940s. These courses changed the way the Sisters looked at institutional childcare in Ireland. They recognised that the existing nature of institutional care could not provide for the psychological or emotional needs of vulnerable children. They introduced the group home system to St Joseph’s, Kilkenny between 1951 and 1954. The success of this innovation was recognised almost immediately by Dr Anna McCabe, who saw that the children were happier in the new system.

6.66Had the Sisters of Mercy seen the fundamental flaws in the system of childcare operated by them in the late 1940s, and introduced change accordingly, much of the abuse recounted to the Investigation Committee might not have taken place. As the Sisters have stated:

It is significant that there have been few complaints about the group homes run by the Sisters of Mercy.

6.67The extent of the Congregation’s involvement in residential care was reflected in the number of complaints received by the Investigation Committee from former residents of their institutions. The Investigation Committee conducted full investigative hearings into five of the largest institutions, namely Goldenbridge, Newtownforbes, Clifden, Cappoquin and Dundalk. Every witness who wished to participate in the investigation into these industrial schools was invited to do so. In respect of other schools, each complainant was invited for interview.

Name Open Certification Original number of complainants Invited for hearing Attended hearing
St Vincent’s,
1880–1983 185 77 52 43
Lady of Succour,
1869–1969 145 6 6 5
St Joseph’s,
1872–1983 140 33 20 10
St Michael’s,
1877–1999 75 26 17 9
St Joseph’s,
1881–1983 100 21 10 3

Response to allegations of abuse

6.68During the Investigation Committee’s Emergence hearings, Sr Breege O’Neill, then Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy, outlined the response of the Congregation to the issue of child abuse in Ireland.

6.69The emergence of widespread allegations of abuse in the early 1990s coincided with the centralisation or amalgamation of the Congregation. The Congregation had just formed at national level in 1994, and the intermediate provincial structures had not yet been established. This made it difficult, she said, for the Congregation to determine precisely what had happened. Sr O’Neill stated:

I suppose one of the reasons I outlined our structure in the beginning was because when the allegations that concerned our congregation became known to us in the mid 90s we did not have central archives. We had just amalgamated at national level in 1994 and our intermediate structures, which were the provincial structures, were not in place. So one of the difficulties for us in responding to the allegations at the beginning was that the information we needed to get the picture ourselves of just what happened in the institutions and what was known of life there, that information was spread around the country.

6.70The records of institutions that had closed in the 1960s had been transferred to local convents, some of which were autonomous and others were branch houses of larger convents. Some records had been transferred to the mother house of the newly formed Diocesan Congregations. In 1996, the Sisters decided to collect what records there were and assemble them in a central archive. To that end, they employed a professional archivist and established the archive at the Congregation’s premises in Baggot Street. The records which had survived the closure of some of the schools and convents, and the process of amalgamation, were in some areas quite sparse. This made it difficult for the Leadership to develop an awareness of what had happened or to respond to the increasing number of requests for information from former residents of institutions run by the Congregation. Sr O’Neill stated that the records were:

as complete as we have been able to find of record of any institution for which we were responsible as far as back as we have been able to find records for. So everything from attics to whatever little pieces of paper were available, we have done an immense trawl of every house to ensure that in some way the whole picture is contained in one place.

6.71The records consist of:

Any records that were kept in any industrial school and I think they cover things like admission registers I have to make a note of these so I will remember them – discharge books, books of incidental returns, manager’s diaries, medical officer reports, punishment books, maintenance books. Any correspondence that has survived from the institutions. Medical history forms, general case notes, birth certificates, detention orders. They vary. I am not saying that we have all of that information for any one institution, but the archives comprise all of that information in relation to at least some of the institutions and in varying degrees in relation to them all … Depending on when the industrial school in a particular locality closed and what happened to the building, or even what happened to the convent building in the subsequent years to the 90s also determined what information has survived.

6.72The Sisters of Mercy became aware of allegations of abuse in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sr O’Neill stated:

It was at that time that we became aware of the pain that some people who had been in our institutions were still carrying in their adult life as a result of their time there. That we became aware of mainly through the public domain. Through books that had been published. I refer to the book “The God Squad” in the late 80s and “You May Talk Now” by Mary Phil Drennan. They were people whose stories related to institutions that were run by our Congregation.

6.73Ms Christine Buckley had made serious allegations of abuse arising out of her time in Goldenbridge on the Gay Byrne radio programme on 8th November 1992, but it was the ‘Dear Daughter’ programme in February 1996 that represented a turning point for the Congregation. Although earlier books had been published and interviews broadcast, they were relevant only to particular convents or Diocesan Congregations, whereas the ‘Dear Daughter’ programme was the first to confront the Congregation as a whole:

It actually was the ‘Dear Daughter’ programme in 1996. Because earlier those two books would have probably come to the attention of the particular convent connected to the orphanage in which their experiences were recounted but in 1996 we had come together as a Congregation and the impact of the ‘Dear Daughter’ programme on us is hard to describe really because the impact of the story and of the coverage in the media following that, it was like a tidal wave that came over us for which we were not prepared either structurally or in terms of how we understood the past at that time.

6.74The programme had an enormous impact on the way that the Congregation viewed itself:

The impact was enormous on the Congregation. One of the reasons was because we had held a particular picture ourselves of our involvement in the care of children and that particular programme certainly shattered all of that. We had within the Congregation many, many Sisters who had no experience of industrial schools. They wouldn’t have ever been attached to a convent where there was an industrial school. They were never involved in them themselves. They wouldn’t have them in their memory. Suddenly there were all of these allegations coming to us and we really didn’t know how to deal with them at the time. I think we went through the shock and denial and that whole sense of could this be true … We didn’t have a base of knowledge ourselves to check it out against. So our initial response was that kind of dismay. Huge hurt within the Congregation for the people who were coming forward with their stories. All of that had a huge impact on the morale of the Congregation. I say that because it was in an effort to try to create some understanding of that, that we engaged in the process I spoke about earlier, that kind of self-reflection process around how could this have happened? How did we contribute to creating situations where this could have happened? It was a very painful time. Then we had Sisters within the Congregation who were extremely pained by somehow now seeing their life’s work being cast in a totally different light. These would be the very elderly Sisters. That was very difficult for them.

6.75Sr O’Neill stated that there was enormous pressure on the Leadership Team at the time:

… it was the tension of holding all of those pieces and trying to support everybody involved at that time. I am talking particularly in the years ’96, ’97, ’98.

6.76The Sisters of Mercy were aware of ‘Dear Daughter’ before it was aired. When it was being made, the Congregation commissioned Mr Gerard Crowley, a childcare specialist, to carry out an investigation into Goldenbridge Industrial School, in an effort to provide the Congregation with an independent view of what happened there, and to give the Congregation some assistance in deciding how to respond to the allegations that were being made. Mr Crowley’s report is considered in detail in the chapter on Goldenbridge: for present purposes, it is sufficient to note that it reached a preliminary view that the allegations were broadly credible. In her evidence to the Investigation Committee in the Phase I hearing into Goldenbridge, Sr Helena O’Donoghue stated:

The approach gave us, if you like, some understanding initially of how we might view our situation at the time and we out of that made our apology. We took the main conclusions from it that the regime was harsh and insensitive to the needs of children, that it was inadequate and did not meet their basic needs.

6.77Following ‘Dear Daughter’, the Sisters announced the setting-up of a helpline and a counselling service. Also, in an effort to build up its level of understanding, the Leadership met with every Sister in Ireland who had worked in childcare. It also met with every Community which had had an industrial school attached to it in the past:

We learnt a number of things. We learnt that their understanding of their time spent in childcare in these industrial schools, their understanding was that they had done well under very difficult circumstances … They would acknowledge that the atmosphere in those institutions was certainly not conducive or helpful to addressing the emotional needs of children. They talked about the lack of funding. They talked about the lack of resources in terms of help. They talked about an … institutional sort of daily set up that wasn’t conducive to either attending to children’s individual emotional needs … Or to developing to the degree that they would now want with the individuality of children. They would recognise there was harshness … But they wouldn’t accept the more serious allegations that have been made against them.

6.78Sr Breege O’Neill stated that the relationship that individual Sisters had with former residents might have clouded their view or led to a ‘rose-tinted’ picture of what life was like in the industrial schools:

… what complicates the whole piece for us is that those Sisters continued to have ongoing contact and friendly relationships with many who were in our institutions and who to this day come back and they visit. They stay for weekends in the summertime in those Communities. So in some way that sort of tradition maybe informed our picture of what we thought the relationship was. People would attend weddings and christenings of children and all of that, and letters would be exchanged. I suppose one of the things we learnt from going around talking to the Sisters was the huge affection they have for those who were children in the institutions and with whom they have that ongoing contact. We try to hold that side by side with the huge pain that many people who were in our institutions speak about. That has been a real dilemma and tension point for us as a Congregation.

6.79In addition to these interviews, the Congregation:

… engaged … in a very intense process of reflection throughout the whole Congregation. Just trying to understand what structures of ours brought about a situation where the stories that were emerging in the 90s could have happened. We have enlisted the help of historians and psychologist, theologians to help us with that reflection. To try to understand the context of the time, but also our own structures and anything within those that might have led to that.

6.80After the broadcast of ‘Dear Daughter’, the Sisters of Mercy issued their first public apology, in February 1996. This stated:

In the light of recent revelations regarding the mistreatment of children in our institutions we the Mercy Sisters wish to take this opportunity to sincerely and unreservedly express our deep regret to those men and women who at any time or place in our care were hurt or harshly treated. The fact that most complaints relate to many years ago is not offered as an excuse. As a Congregation we fully acknowledge our failures and ask for forgiveness.

Aware of the painful and lasting effect of such experiences we would like to hear from those who have suffered and we are putting in place an independent and confidential help line. This help line will be staffed by competent and professional counsellors who will listen sympathetically and who will be in the position to offer further help if required. In this way we would hope to redress the pain insofar as that is possible so that those who have suffered might experience some peace, healing and dignity.

Life in Ireland in the 40s and 50s was in general harsh for many people. This was reflected in orphanages, which were under funded, under staffed and under resourced. It was in this climate that many Sisters gave years of generous service to the education and care of children. However, we made mistakes and irrespective of the passage of time as a Congregation we now openly acknowledge our failures and ask for forgiveness.

Regretfully we cannot change the past. As we continue our work of caring and education today we will constantly review and monitor our procedures, our personnel and our facilities. Working in close cooperation with other voluntary and statutory agencies we are committed to doing all in our power to ensure that people in our care have a protective and supportive environment.

We were founded to alleviate pain, want and misery. We have tried to do this through our work in health care, education, child care, social and pastoral work. Despite our evident failures which we deeply regret we are committed to continuing that work in partnership with many others in the years ahead.

6.81Sr O’Neill described the Congregation’s thinking and objective in publishing that apology as follows:

Our hope was that it would ease the pain and trauma of the many people who had been former residents in our institutions, and that it might help to restore the relationship between