All posts by atheistmilitantsrising

Militant Atheist: What is it? An atheist has as much right to live as anyone else. We are not the souless, moral-less, demonic pieces of shit that Christians, Muslims and others have made us out to be. We are more moral, more human than they are if you come down to it. We atheists do not want to put to death Christians and Muslims because they believe in their god or practice their religion. We want to be left the fuck alone by these psychopathic Abrahamist freaks who want to harm us atheists, thinking they are morally superior to us, because they worship some god and follow some psychotic religion of bigotry, misogyny, hate, and vile evil. When you proclaim your religion is one of love and peace and non-judgment? And you seek to put atheists to death? Then you are a shitstain on the underwear of humanity and NO ATHEIST? SHOULD EVER LAY DOWN FOR YOU TO MURDER BY YOUR PSYCHOTIC RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. WE HAVE EVERY DAMN RIGHT TO DEFEND OURSELVES, OUR LOVED ONES AND OUR FELLOW ATHEISTS, AND OTHER FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS THAT COME UNDER VILE, EVIL, BIGOTED, HATEFUL, DISGUSTING ATTACKS BY PSYCHOTIC BRONZE AGE BELIEVING PSYCHOPATH RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS WHO SEEK TO KILL US, OR DO US ANY DAMN HARM. OR? ANY ONE ELSE FOR THAT MATTER. It is far past time? Atheists stop laying down for this shit. In 13 Muslim countries? Atheists among others? Have a death sentence punishment upon them. Christian majority countries do all they can to deny rights to atheists, including the right to hold office, the right to adopt children, the right to even hold a job. And there are many psychotic ChristoTaliban pastors and preachers of hate and death in the United States, psychopaths like Teddy Shoebat, Steven Anderson and others? Who constantly call for either a death penalty punishment of atheists or all our rights be taken away and we be sent to prison for life. FUCK THAT SHIT BOYS AND GIRLS AND IT IS FAR PAST TIME? WE ATHEISTS DROP OUR FUCKING NUTS AND STAND UP TO THIS SHIT TOOTH AND NAIL. Now? Myself personally? I do not give a flying fuck who you worship. I liken people worshiping gods to rocks. You can worship what ever damn rock you want to worship. You can worship multiple rocks if that is what floats your damn boat. Or? Hey, you can worship no damn rock at all. But if YOU take your damn rock and start to beat on another person with that rock, who either does not believe in your rock, or believes in another rock, or does not believe in any rocks? Then you should have done unto you as you do unto them, and reap back what the fuck you sow and get your own head beaten with your own rock. Christians, you all proclaim yourselves a follower of Jesus Christ. Yet? Even Jesus would reject 99% of you mental midget morons who DARE call yourselves Christians. His greatest commandment was that you were to love ALL your neighbors, and even more so? Those who YOU consider your enemy. And you all fucking fail miserably because even you who say you are not like this? REFUSE TO STAND UP TO THOSE SCUMBAG CHRISTOTALIBAN PASTORS OF HATE AND DEATH AND BY NOT DOING SO? YOU ARE JUST AS FUCKING GUILTY AS THEY ARE OF THE RESULTS OF THEIR BEING ALLOWED TO SPREAD HATE AND DEATH IN THE NAME OF CHRISTIANITY AND JESUS CHRIST. SO SUCK IT UP AND DEAL WITH IT CHRISTIANS. AND AS YOUR OWN BIBLE SAYS? THE RULES OF KARMA IS? AS YOU SOW? SO SHALL YOU REAP AND DO UNTO OTHERS? AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. SO IF YOU PROCLAIM YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN AND SPREAD HATE AND DEATH? YOU WILL FIND THIS MILITANT ATHEISTS? ALL UP IN YOUR FOUL MOUTHED GRILL STANDING UP TO YOUR PUNK ASS WITHOUT ONE SHRED OF FEAR OF YOU, CAUSE ALL YOU ARE TO ME? IS A PUNK ASSED BULLY AND I USED TO KICK BULLIES ASSES ALL THE TIME WHEN I WAS A KID. AS FOR MUSLIMS? MOTHERFUCKERS!!! STOP MURDERING PEOPLE IN THE NAME OF YOUR FUCKING ALLAH, ESPECIALLY MY ATHEIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS. HOW FUCKING DARE YOU TELL ME THAT YOU ARE A RELIGION OF PEACE, LOVE AND NON-JUDGMENT AND THROW PEOPLE OFF OF BUILDINGS, BEHEAD THEM AND FUCKING STONE THEM TO DEATH. THIS IS NOT EXAMPLES OF PEACE, LOVE AND NON-JUDGMENT AND ANYONE TELLS YOU OTHERWISE? ARE FUCKING SHITSTAIN, GOAT FUCKING, PISS DRINKING LIARS. AND THE SAME GOES FOR YOU MUSLIMS WHO TELL ME WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE THEM. FUCK THAT SHIT, GO AND PUT A STOP TO YOUR EXTREMISTS AND GET SOME BALLS AND STAND UP TO THEM TOO. YOU OUTNUMBER THOSE ASSHOLES BY AT LEAST 1,000 TO 1. DROP YOUR FUCKING NUTS AND DO SOMETHING TO STOP YOUR TERRORIST EXTREMISTS TOO. OR BY YOUR OWN GOD'S NAME? YOU WILL NOT GET TO SEE ALLAH. LEAVE US ATHEISTS, US FREE-THINKERS AND ALL OTHERS ALONE. YOU WANT TO WORSHIP A ROCK? FINE, WORSHIP YOUR DAMN ROCK. BUT STOP TELLING ME THE ROCK YOU WORSHIP IS ONE OF LOVE, PEACE AND NON-JUDGMENT AND THEN TRY TO BEAT MY HEAD IN OR THE HEAD IN OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING CAUSE THEY DO NOT WORSHIP YOUR FUCKING ROCK. AND GUESS WHAT ASSHOLES? WE ATHEISTS? LGBTS? WOMEN? ALL OTHERS? YOU ROCK WORSHIPING PSYCHOPATHIC FREAKS WHO WANT TO MURDER US ALL? FUCK YOU. CAUSE YOU ASSHOLES THINK YOU ARE TOP DOGS? YOU ARE NOT. YOU ARE PUNKS, BITCHES AND BULLIES, AND YOU WILL BE PUT DOWN LIKE THE LOW LIFE RABID DOGS THAT YOU ARE CAUSE THERE ARE IN FACT? MANY ATHEIST MILITANTS RISING, CAUSE WE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF ESPECIALLY YOU PSYCHOPATHIC ABRAHAMISTS THROWING US OFF BUILDINGS, SHOOTING US IN THE HEADS, ETC. AND WE GOT AS MUCH FUCKING RIGHT TO DEFEND OUR LIVES, THE LIVES OF OUR LOVED ONES, FELLOW ATHEISTS AND OTHERS YOU PUNKS ATTACK? AS YOU PUNKS SAY YOU ALL DO. AND TRUST US.... THE DARK AGES ARE OVER MOTHERFUCKERS...TRY BURNING US NOW.

Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, Volume One, Part Two, Chapter 8: Letterfrack Industrial School (Letterfrack) 1885-1975

Time to Arm the Children
Time to Arm the Children

The next section of the Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse report dealing with the horrors done to children at the Letterfrack Industrial School.


Establishment of Letterfrack

8.01Letterfrack is a village situated in Connemara, Co Galway, more than 84 kilometres from Galway city. A wealthy Quaker couple moved to Letterfrack from England in 1849 and bought a large tract of land that they developed. Amongst the various improvements they made were the construction of a large residence and a school for the children from the locality. In 1884 the property was sold to the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr John McEvilly, who applied the proceeds of a legacy bequeathed for charitable purposes.

8.02The Archbishop wrote to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Earl Spencer, shortly after the purchase, suggesting that the property was ‘admirably suited for a boys’ industrial school so sadly needed in that district’.

8.03The Lord Lieutenant sought advice from his officials on the matter and the feedback was universally against the proposal. The general view can be summed up in the following extract from a memorandum from one of his officials:

In a wild remote district like Letterfrack it is very improbable that there would be any genuine cases for committal, the children there do not beg. There is no one to beg from. They all have settled places of abode – they live with their parents; are not found wandering, and though no doubt very poor, are not destitute: they do not frequent the company of thieves – there are no thieves in districts like Letterfrack in Ireland – the people are very poor but very honest.

8.04Furthermore, the Lord Lieutenant was advised that the number of national schools in the area amply provided for the educational needs of the children.

8.05Despite support from the Inspector of Industrial Schools, Sir John Lentaigne, the Archbishop’s application for the establishment of an industrial school in Letterfrack was refused by the Lord Lieutenant.

8.06However, the Archbishop was not to be dissuaded and he continued to lobby the Lord Lieutenant. His efforts eventually bore fruit, and a letter from the Vice Regal Lodge dated 11th August 1885 stated:

There are no doubt technical objections to the establishment of an Industrial School at Letterfrack: but after reading the papers through carefully I am satisfied that the general and moral reasons far outweigh the objections.

8.07On 14th November 1885 the Chief Secretary’s Office confirmed its sanction for the establishment of an industrial school in Letterfrack certified for the reception of 75 boys to open ‘so soon after the 1st April next as the promoters of the school are in a position to satisfy the Inspector that the buildings intended for the purpose are fit for the reception of children within the meaning of the Industrial School Act’. With Sir John Lentaigne already on board, this latter stipulation did not prove to be a stumbling block.

8.08The Archbishop entered into negotiations with the Christian Brothers regarding the management of the School. There were fears that the low certification limit would discourage the Brothers from agreeing to run the School. Incentives were offered to enhance the proposal. A lease of the lands and premises was drawn up for a term of 999 years subject to an annual rent of £82.10s and included ‘about 45 statute acres of good land in the village of Letterfrack on which the new mansion house, extensive farm buildings, and about 12 or 14 well constructed cottages, large schools, police barracks and dispensary now stand’. A sizeable sum of money had been expended on modernising the buildings, and the new Manager of the School would also be given extensive grazing rights on adjoining land. Funds were also made available from the Archbishop to fund the purchase of furniture, trades appliances and the construction of workshops.

8.09The Christian Brothers agreed to manage the Institution, and extensive plans were made to develop the property into an industrial school. Included in their plans was the purchase of the adjacent land over which the Archbishop had promised grazing rights. The Government was concerned when it became aware of these plans and an internal memorandum dated 24th March 1886 stated that Sir Lentaigne should be officially notified that ‘the Government does not see its way to any future extension to the numbers in the Letterfrack School’ and that the Brothers should therefore be discouraged from expending large sums of money on the School.

8.10Whether or not these concerns were communicated to the Christian Brothers, the proposed developments proceeded. The Chief Secretary signed the certificate for St Joseph’s Industrial School for the reception of 75 boys on 1st April 1886. Building and refurbishment of the Institution was completed in August 1887, and the school opened its doors on 12th October 1887.

8.11In March 1889 the Resident Manager, Br Flood, applied for an increase in the certified number, and any unease the Government previously had regarding the expansion of the School seemed to have dissipated over the intervening three years, as a revised certificate was granted on 1st April 1889 doubling the certified number to 150.

8.12Once again, in 1895, an application was made for an increase in numbers. Br Slattery, the Manager, wrote in support of his application ‘the main building, shops and other accessories were erected to accommodate 200 children to meet the requirements of this large populous district – the poorest in all Ireland’. He was supported in his application by B. McAndrew, P.P., who also wrote to the Chief Secretary:

The outlay on the Building for 200 boys, partly made with borrowed money, has much crippled the resources of the Brothers, as they have not as yet been allowed the full number for which they provided accommodation, and which would, in some measure, recoup them.

8.13He went on to say that:

the restriction of the number to just 150, bears no adequate proportion to the extent and intensity of the chronic destitution that prevails throughout Connemara. Surely, it will be a matter of great gratification and grateful remembrance if one of your first public acts of well-doing amongst us, will secure the blessing of a safe and salutary home for 50 more of the destitute little ones in the poorest part of Ireland.

8.14The Chief Secretary was not willing to oblige, and refused to increase the certified number.

8.15In November 1912 the accommodation limit was increased to 190, with the certified number remaining at 150 boys. This latter figure was increased in July 1931 to 165, with the accommodation limit remaining at 190.

8.16What is particularly noteworthy about the inception of Letterfrack Industrial School is that, despite the prevailing view that, first, there was no demand for an industrial school in this part of the country and, secondly, that the location was entirely unsuitable, the Archbishop brought sufficient pressure to bear that these persuasive grounds for objection were reduced to mere technical difficulties. However, the reasons against establishing an industrial school in Letterfrack haunted the School throughout its life and eventually contributed to its closure in 1974.

8.17St Joseph’s Industrial School, like all other residential schools of that time, provided care for ‘large numbers of children living together’. The main building was an inverted L-shaped structure. The ground floor housed the classrooms, the boys’ dining room, their kitchen, scullery, laundry and bathroom. There were two large dormitories for the boys on the first floor, each holding at least 80 beds. There was a third dormitory for a brief period when numbers were particularly high. By the 1960s, with falling numbers, only one dormitory was utilised. The Brothers lived in a separate monastery – the original manor house – beside the School.

8.19The physical location of Letterfrack in remote Connemara created a very real sense of isolation, felt by both the boys and the Brothers in the School. The surrounding region could not supply the number of boys needed for the School, and most of the children sent there came from many miles away. This created obvious difficulties for families wishing to visit their children.

8.20The isolated environment in Letterfrack nurtured an institutionalised culture separate from society and other institutions. It also led to another unforeseen problem: those people who chose to abuse boys physically and sexually were able to do so for longer periods of time, because they could escape detection and punishment by reason of the isolated environment in which they operated. These matters will be dealt with in detail in the sections that follow.

Management and administration

8.212,819 boys passed through the doors of Letterfrack from its opening in 1887 to its closure in 1974. Between 1940 and 1974, 1,356 boys were resident there. This figure excludes voluntary admissions which totalled 52 between 1935 and 1954. The following table shows the number of children detained for each year between 1937 and 1973:

YearNumber of children under detentionYearNumber of children under detention

8.22From the outset, there was pressure to increase the certified numbers of boys in Letterfrack in order to make it a financially viable project. The Institution was large and the Brothers needed the maximum number of boys in residence. As noted above, the certified number was very quickly doubled, from the original certified limit of 75 in 1886, to 150 in 1889. The School could officially accommodate 190 from 1912.

8.23The authorities struggled to meet this number throughout the years. Even during the emergency years of World War II, numbers did not reach the accommodation limit. There was an increase in numbers during these years in all industrial schools, largely due to the more difficult social conditions, combined with a policy of removing potentially problematic children from the streets.

8.24The Christian Brothers stated in their Opening Statement to the Commission:

At local level the day to day management of Letterfrack institution, in accordance with the Rules and Regulations for Industrial Schools was the responsibility of the Resident Manager. The Resident Manager was appointed by the Irish Provincial Council up to 1956 and by the Provincial Council of St. Mary’s Province, Ireland from 1956–1974. The period 1938 to 1974 saw nine Resident Managers in Letterfrack, the terms of office ranging from one to six years with an average term of office of five years. During the relevant period each Resident Manager had between seven and ten Brothers under his control. Between 3 and 5 Brothers were on the teaching staff and there was a Brother who acted as bursar, an office Brother, a kitchen Brother and a Brother who worked on the farm. For most of the relevant period there were between fourteen and twenty lay staff employed in the various trade shops, on the farm or as domestic staff.

8.25The Resident Manager was also the Superior of the Community and had to perform these dual roles without any training or guidance.

8.26In his report on Letterfrack commissioned by the Congregation in 2001, Mr Dunleavy BL identified the lack of any management structure:

In the course of interviews with Christian Brothers who had previously worked in the school, the evidence was that the Brother acting as Resident Manager of the school had complete powers with regard to the running of the school. There appears to have been a weekly Community conference in the school but this seems to have been an occasion when directions were given to the Community, rather than any proper discussion taking place regarding the running of the school.1

The changing face of Letterfrack

8.27Until 1954, Letterfrack was home to three categories of boys: those who were committed through the courts because they were homeless, without proper guardianship, destitute, in breach of the School Attendance Act or guilty of criminal offences; those sent by the Local Authorities pursuant to the Public Assistance Act 1949; and boys who were voluntarily admitted by parents or guardians.

8.28On 12th January 1954 the Provincial Council, led by Br O’Hanlon,2 met with the six Resident Managers of the Christian Brothers’ schools. A decision was taken to close one of their schools because of the deteriorating financial position of the industrial schools, mainly attributed to falling numbers, which had resulted in a decline in income. Carriglea, situated in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, was nominated for closure because it was the most suitable for use as a juniorate for the Congregation. A unanimous decision was also taken at the meeting to segregate ‘juvenile delinquents’ from other categories of boys and locate them all at Letterfrack, and it was felt that the closure of Carriglea would provide an ideal opportunity to put this plan into effect.

8.29There was opposition to this proposal from the Departments of Justice and Education and the Judiciary. A meeting was convened on 14th May 1954, attended by Br O’Hanlon, District Justice McCarthy, who presided over the Dublin Metropolitan Children’s Court, and representatives of the Department of Education. District Justice McCarthy indicated that he had grave concerns about the isolated location of Letterfrack, which made it unsuitable, in his view, as a school for young offenders. However, his protest fell on deaf ears. So, too, did a protest from District Justice Gleeson, who also pointed out the difficulties that would be caused by Letterfrack’s remoteness.

8.30The majority of the children in Letterfrack were from Dublin and Leinster. The percentage rose from 56% in the 1950s to 76% in the 1960s. These children would have been better served by the retention of Carriglea as an industrial school, where they could have had more access to parents and siblings.

8.31The Provincial Council decided that all of the Public Assistance cases and ‘as many of the other boys who are in the school through no fault of their own as would leave the number of non-transferred boys at 85’ should be relocated from Letterfrack. This number represented the lowest number of boys that would enable the school to remain economically viable.

8.32The Department of Education wrote to the relevant authorities, including the Departments of Health and Justice, District Justice McCarthy and the NSPCC, informing them of the decision of the Christian Brothers. They were informed that boys who had been convicted of offences would no longer be accepted in Artane, Salthill, Tralee or Glin.

8.33On 30th June 1954 there were 179 boys resident in Letterfrack. On 2nd September 1954, 80 boys were transferred to other industrial schools, and 14 were released on supervision certificate. The 80 boys were distributed to Salthill, Artane and Kilkenny. On 30th September 1954 the Department of Education records show there were 87 boys resident in Letterfrack.

8.34The Christian Brothers submitted in their Opening Statement that the Brothers were prepared to make this proposal, even though it meant a significant drop in numbers in Letterfrack and, consequently, an appreciable loss of income because of the decreased per capita payment. They felt the separation was in the best interests of the boys, even though the School would suffer economically.

8.35There may have been other reasons apart from the best interests of the boys for making this decision. As the scourge of tuberculosis came under control, and the health of the nation improved, there were fewer orphans. Increasingly, neglected children were being sent to foster-parents or relatives, and fewer were being placed in institutions. Also, the birth rate was beginning to fall and fewer children were becoming destitute. On the other hand, more children were being convicted of larceny, housebreaking, malicious damage, arson, burglary, theft and assault, an increase already evident by 1953. With numbers in general dropping, it made sense to have a specialist institution for the one area of the child population that was increasing. Despite the very real concerns expressed by Judges who presided over the Children’s Court in Dublin and Limerick, and the slightly more defeatist attempts at opposition demonstrated by the Departments of Justice and Education, there was no evidence to suggest that the Christian Brothers gave any consideration to the impact their decision had on the children in their care.

8.36What this scenario also demonstrated was that, while the Department of Education funded the industrial and reformatory schools and carried out periodic inspections of schools, these schools were in reality controlled by the Congregations that ran them, and it mattered little the level of opposition, or indeed who might be opposing any changes the Congregation proposed – their decision in the matter was final.

8.37This decision had serious consequences for the boys in Letterfrack. The School had been reduced to a number that was not economically viable and this impacted on the level of care these boys received until Letterfrack closed in 1974. To survive, Letterfrack had to continue taking children who were destitute or in breach of the School Attendance Act, but these were now in a minority in the School.

8.38The full implications of this decision are discussed below.

Closure of Letterfrack

8.39On 28th September 1965 the Minister for Education met the Provincials from St Mary’s and St Helen’s Provinces, Br Mulholland and Br O Muimhneachain, together with representatives from Upton and Clonmel Industrial Schools. The meeting was convened to discuss the closure of some of the industrial schools. Br Mulholland stated that he would prefer to close Letterfrack rather than Salthill, as the latter comprised property held in trust, whereas the Brothers were free to put the premises at Letterfrack to other use. In addition, he pointed out that, if another place of detention was opened, this would act to further deplete numbers in Letterfrack.

8.40The Department received written confirmation in November 1965 from the Provincials of their agreement to close Letterfrack.

8.41The Archbishop of Tuam, Reverend Joseph Walsh, when he was made aware of these plans by the Department of Education, wrote an indignant letter dated 17th March 1966 to Br Mulholland registering his shock and disappointment at the news. He noted that the Christian Brothers had spent at least £30,000 on the Institution between 1958 and 1966, and considered the decision to close the School as unjust in the circumstances. In his view, Letterfrack was one school that should not be closed. It was an excellent school for delinquent boys, as they could not escape easily because of its isolated location. He continued, ‘in fact I know that the boys like the place. For many of them it is a pleasant change, and they are very happy’. He stated that he believed that the Brothers were being treated most unfairly and were not receiving the recognition they deserved for their work.

8.42The Archbishop was clearly under the impression that Letterfrack was being closed against the wishes of the Brothers, and it seems that no attempt was made to rectify this misapprehension.

8.43The Provincials met the representatives of the Department of Education on 28th March 1966. They explained that the Archbishop was against the closure of the school and that they did not want to go against his wishes.

8.44From 1st July 1972, Letterfrack was recognised as a ‘special school’ by the Department of Education, which resulted in an increase in the grant payable by the Department of Education.

8.45In 1973 the Provincial Council decided to close Letterfrack. The only information available regarding the reasons for the decision was found in a letter dated 27th August 1974, from the Secretary of the Department of Education to the Provincial of St Mary’s Province, thanking the Brothers for their devoted work in Letterfrack. In the course of the letter he stated, ‘we well understand also the reasons behind the decision of the Brothers to close the school – reasons that emanated from the difficulties of employing professional services in a place so remote as Letterfrack together with the doubt arising from having city boys in a school so far from home’. Letterfrack closed on 30th June 1974.


8.46The Investigation Committee conducted hearings in public and private sessions into abuse in Letterfrack. Br David Gibson, Provincial Leader of St Mary’s Province, gave evidence in a public session on 16th June 2005. His evidence was based on a detailed Opening Statement submitted to the Commission in advance of the hearing.

8.47The Investigation Committee then proceeded to hear evidence from complainants and respondents in private hearings, which ran from 17th June 2005 to 20th July 2005. Forty complainants were invited to give evidence to the Committee, and 25 did so. Fourteen respondent witnesses gave evidence at the private sessions.

8.48In the third stage of the Investigation Committee’s inquiry into Letterfrack, a public hearing was convened on 22nd May 2006, and Br Gibson once again gave evidence on behalf of the Congregation. This session focused on issues that arose as a result of the private hearings into Letterfrack and the documentary material furnished to the Commission.

8.49In addition to oral evidence, the Committee considered documentary discovery material received from the Christian Brothers, the Department of Education and Science, An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Archbishop of Tuam and the Health Service Executive (formerly the Western Health Board).

8.50The Investigation Committee received Submissions from the Christian Brothers and also received written Submissions on behalf of a number of complainants and individual respondents. These Submissions were made following the oral hearings and in light of this evidence and the documentary evidence which emerged during the course of the inquiry.

8.51The Christian Brothers made similar Submissions regarding Letterfrack as they made in relation to other institutions. They made the following qualified concessions regarding the main areas of contention that arose in relation to the investigation into Letterfrack:

It is accepted that, unfortunately, instances of abuse did occur but it is submitted that the level of abuse was not in any way as extensive or as widespread as the allegations and much of the surrounding publicity initially would have suggested. The question of the nature, extent and responsibility for the abuse is a very complex one and not subject to easy determination. However, it is submitted that the evidence does not support a finding that the Congregation itself is responsible for abuse.

It is further submitted that the occurrence of instances of sexual abuse should be viewed in the context of the secretive circumstances in which such abuse was perpetrated and the lack of contemporary insight into the recidivistic nature of paedophilia.

Physical abuse


8.52This part of the report comprises three sections based on the sources of evidence. First, the documentary material obtained by the Investigation Committee pursuant to the legal process of discovery of documents was analysed, and instances of physical abuse were catalogued, generally in chronological order, together with relevant evidence of complainant witnesses. Second, the evidence at the Phase II hearings given by Brothers and former Brothers who served in Letterfrack is detailed, again with complainant testimony. The third section sets out further reliable evidence of former residents.

Documented cases with evidence of victims and respondents

8.53The Committee received documentary evidence in respect of seven cases that dealt with allegations of physical abuse by Brothers in Letterfrack. These cases gave an insight into how allegations were dealt with by the Congregation.

Use of a horse whip (1940)

8.54On 8th April 1940, the Sub-Superior of Letterfrack, Br Vernay,3 by-passed the Superior and wrote a letter to the Provincial complaining about punishment in the School.

The punishment of the boys in Letterfrack has for some time past been of such a character that without going into detail I feel constrained to call your attention to the matter. The thing has now become public property and the rehearsal of the acts are not creditable to the school nor to those concerned. The instruments used and the punishments inflicted are now obsolete even in criminal establishments. Were it not for the frequency of the acts I should not have troubled you. I expect that an insistence on the prescriptions of the Rule without further ado will go far towards putting matters right. I may mention that there are differences of opinion in the Community at the moment in respect of these punishment in which I do not wish to become involved.

8.55A member of the Provincial Council made a handwritten note on the letter that the Superior was queried on 10th April 1940 on the practices complained of, but there is no record of what the Superior said. Neither was the nature of the offensive punishments specified.

8.56It is clear from the letter that the Sub-Superior was concerned as follows: first, as to the fact that the excessive and offensive punishments had been going on ‘for some time past’; secondly, the matter was being discussed in public and thus causing discredit to the School and the Brothers; thirdly, the instruments used and the punishments inflicted were, he thought, wholly inappropriate; fourthly, he drew attention to divisions in the Community of Brothers about these punishments; and fifthly, and most importantly, it was the frequency of the acts that had impelled him to write.

8.57A senior Brother in the Provincial team carried out the annual Visitation of the School in May. He found that there was a cleavage between the Brothers in the Community, in which most of them lined up on one side or the other and two sought to remain neutral. The source of the disharmony was the punishment of a number of boys who were guilty of improper conduct. The Superior commissioned two Brothers to punish them and they did this as the boys were going to bed ‘using a horsewhip rather freely’. Two Brothers and a teacher witnessed the punishment from a distance, and one of the Brothers later characterised it as brutal and others agreed. The report went on:

The severe punishment was a subject of gossip in the workshops and village. The Superior realises that he acted imprudently in the matter and that the consequences might have been serious. The estrangement that followed these incidents made life in the Community unpleasant. Reconciliations have been effected and let us hope they will be lasting.

8.58Notwithstanding the reference in Br Vernay’s letter to the Provincial to the frequency of this punishment, later in the report the Visitor said:

Boys appear to be happy and contented and I was assured that outside the case of severe punishment alluded to above there has been no excessive punishment.

8.59Following the Visitation, Br Corben,4 the Provincial, wrote to the Superior outlining some of the salient features of the report. He informed Br Troyes5 that the Superior General had written to the Provincial on the subject, stating:

One item of the Report is so serious that I confine my remarks to it. The Superior who permitted the punishment which the Law of the Congregation (Act 65 of Acts of General Chapter) forbids and humanity abhors should get more than a mere reprimand … The reputation of the Congregation is at stake. A less offence in Prior Park6 was punished by fines, imprisonment, dismissal of the Head of the School, and an order from the Government to close the School or to put it under new management.

8.60The part of the Superior General’s letter that the Provincial omitted was:

a secular body who would continue an official in office after allowing a law to be set aside to permit an offence which the common law punishes does not merit public confidence. I wish you to discuss in Council what is to be done in this case with the Superior of Letterfrack. I think the offence should not be passed over.

8.61There was no record of any action being taken against the Superior of Letterfrack on the strength of this suggestion, and he remained as Manager until the following year when his six-year tenure expired.


  • The Congregation was aware that excessive punishment of children could be unlawful.
  • The Visitor accepted an assurance that this case was the only case of excessive punishment, although the Sub-Superior’s letter, written less than a month before the Visitation, stressed that his reason for writing was the frequency of the acts.
  • The Visitor did not look into the other matters of concern in the Sub-Superior’s letter, namely the duration, public knowledge, instruments used and nature of punishments.
  • The recommendation that the Brother Superior should receive ‘more than a mere reprimand’ appears to have been ignored.
  • The condition of the children who had been brutally horse-whipped was not given consideration in the correspondence.

Br Leveret7 (1940)

8.63The Resident Manager had occasion later in the same year to return to the subject of excessive corporal punishment with reference to one of the Brothers involved in the horsewhipping incident, which had happened in April. He wrote to the Br Provincial in November 1940 and stated:

At a Conference on the resumption of school business, I quoted Rules re Corp Punishment, Sup Gen’s reference to my authorising “brutal punishment” during last term and in plain words I forbade certain types of punishment. I stated that, in future, in presence of a third party, I would punish for any serious offence amongst the boys. Br Leveret has not adhered to the regulations.

8.64He referred to this Brother again in a subsequent letter:

Punishment: a stick is the general instrument used and even with this he goes beyond the rule. I have seen recently a boy with swollen hand, palm and thumb, the steward on farm remarked he was not able to milk for some days. A boy was stripped and beaten in (Br Leveret’s) room. He has put boys across his bed in room and even in unbecoming postures to beat them behind. The boys are absolutely afraid to divulge who punished them and won’t even answer questions truthfully, through fear of being punished again. Only this week I got two little fellows crying and I asked them what happened. They would not tell me.

8.65The subject of this Brother’s severity with the boys arose in correspondence concerning his removal from the position of Disciplinarian. In a letter written in November 1940 to the Provincial, the Brother said:

Since I came to this house I have never punished a single boy severely except on the one occasion when I was ordered to do so by my Superior. This was the occasion when a number of big boys were involved in immorality. I explained the matter to [the Visitor] and he said that I did right in obeying my Superior.

Since this Conference you referred to and for months before it I have not punished a single boy severely. I have, except on just a few occasions, used the leather at all times. On these few occasions when I had to give a slight punishment to a boy it was outside of school altogether and I had not got a leather on my person. Even then I never gave more than two slaps with an old piece of cane. In fact I have made it a rule for a long time back never to give more than one slap to a boy. I would be a most unreasonable Br were I to be severe to these poor boys who have obeyed and worked hard for me at all times. I know I have vexed the Superior a good many times because I did not punish the boys severely enough for his taste. He told me hundreds of times never to spare them. I will give you his own words in brackets. What are they but “illegitimates and pure dirt”.

8.66The Provincial’s reply, if any, is not available but he appears to have sided against him, as Br Leveret was transferred to Salthill. The records of that Institution show that he was criticised for using excessive punishment in that school, in 1949 and 1950. In 1950, his Superior complained that he ‘had injured at least two boys when inflicting corporal punishment’.

8.67The Congregation’s comment was as follows:

The above incident demonstrates well how the Brothers generally did not approve of severe corporal punishment. Those who did not approve were courageous enough to speak out even though it meant having to live with the person against whom they spoke. The contention that those religious who did not abuse were culpable because they did not “stand in the way” of abuse they witnessed does not stand up to scrutiny. When abuse was known to a Brother, the documentation indicates that he made it known to the authorities.


  • This case is evidence of a particular feature of congregational life, namely, that complaints were more likely to be made when relations were poor in the Community or where some other issue was present.
  • The management saw the problem in this case, not in terms of the cruel and unauthorised punishment of the boys but rather the combination of insubordination by Br Leveret and poor inter-Community relations.
  • Transferring Br Leveret to Salthill, which was the way in which the problem was dealt with, did nothing to reduce his propensity for violence in his dealings with boys.
  • The Rules and Regulations of the Congregation and of the Department of Education on corporal punishment were disregarded by Br Leveret, but the Superior did not enforce them, even in the knowledge that the Brother had frightened boys to the point where they would not truthfully answer questions about him.
  • A matter deserving of investigation in itself was whether the Superior had described the boys as ‘illegitimates and pure dirt’, and the outcome ought to have been censure either of the Superior for what he said or of the Brother for his false attribution of offensive words.

Br Perryn8 (1941)

8.69Br Perryn was in Letterfrack for two periods totalling 19 years between 1913 and the early 1940s. In 1941 he was discovered to have been sexually abusing the boys in his charge. The Visitor noted:

Boys whom I interviewed told me that they were afraid to reveal the malpractices through fear of Br Perryn. It is alleged that he beats them, kicks them, catches them by the throat etc. and uses them for immoral ends.

8.70This was not the first complaint that had been made against Br Perryn in respect of his use of excessive corporal punishment. In April 1917, the Sub-Superior of Letterfrack, Br Gardiner,9 wrote to the Superior complaining of Br Perryn’s ‘notorious’ severity towards the boys:

Last Autumn I complained of Br Perryn’s harsh and cruel treatment, and now he still continues along the same lines. About a month ago he took a boy out of bed at near 10 o’clock at night and punished him in the lavatory in his night-shirt, and that because the boy took a pinch of salt out of the salt box on the table in the boy’s kitchen. About a week after he did the same to another boy who took a potato off the table in the boy’s kitchen and on last Thursday night, about 10 o’clock, he did the same to another boy for calling him names! In each case he acted on the report of another boy … I stood and counted 27 slaps given in the space of about five minutes to some juniors in the knitting room. He uses a rod also and strikes them on the legs and I have been told uses it wildly and wantonly as if for sport sometimes … His severity in the knitting room is notorious – and the more so to be deplored as many of the young children are delicate and their hands are sore, chilblains being prevalent among them.

8.71Br Perryn remained in Letterfrack for two years after this letter was written and returned eight years later, where he continued his reign of terror until he was finally removed in 1941 because of sexual abuse of boys.

8.72Noah Kitterick,10 who was detained in the school from 1924 to 1932, named this Brother in a letter of complaint sent to the Superior in 1953, which is considered in more detail in the later section on sexual abuse.

8.73The Congregation in its Opening Statement commented:

It is difficult to explain how Br Perryn was reappointed to Letterfrack when he had been found to have been physically abusive during his first period in Letterfrack …


  • Br Perryn spent 14 years in Letterfrack on his second assignment there and, in addition to sexual abuse of boys, he was also violent and frightening to them.
  • If the Brothers considered what Br Perryn had done to the boys to be a serious infraction, they would have responded effectively to this complaint at the time and thereby spared other children.

A black eye explained (1943)

8.75A Department of Education General Inspection was carried out on 31st August 1943. The report noted that the health of the boys was very good and that the Resident Manager, Br Marcel11 was kind and good to the boys. The Inspector did notice one case of a boy with a black eye and, on inquiring as to the cause, was informed that it was the result of a blow from a Brother. The Department of Education took the matter up with the Resident Manager:

It appears, however, that she found one boy suffering from a black eye and was informed that it was the result of a blow from one of the Brothers for talking in class. The Minister would be glad to learn whether, this in fact, was the case and if so, I am to request you to forbid correction of this kind in future as it is both extremely dangerous and undesirable.

8.76Br Marcel replied that the black eye was the result of an accident. He explained the matter as follows:

The Resident Manager regrets the occurrence indicated and he has no doubt that there shall not be a recurrence of a like nature. The Brother while remonstrating with his class happened accidentally to strike the boy who stood behind him with his elbow in the face.

8.77In Phase III, Br Gibson was asked whether this seemed like a plausible explanation and he said:

Well, it doesn’t, but I’m not going to judge. I mean you are talking about 60 years ago, so I just don’t know. It doesn’t sound plausible no, it doesn’t.

8.78• The Department of Education properly sought an explanation for the injury but accepted without further question a manifestly implausible account that was inconsistent with what the Inspector had been told. This was one of many instances where the Department allowed the Institution itself to investigate complaints. The boy does not appear to have been questioned in the course of the investigation.

Br Maslin:12 Br Aubin’s13 complaint (1945)

8.79As the Visitor prepared to leave Letterfrack after his four-day inspection in April 1945, Br Aubin wrote a hurried note to him. There had probably been a conversation between the Visitor and the Brother, in which it was proposed that the complaint which Br Aubin wished to make should be put in writing. The note described a serious disagreement between the writer and the Disciplinarian, Br Maslin, concerning severe punishments that the latter had inflicted on boys. The circumstances outlined to the Visitor were revealing of different aspects of life in the Institution. The case is therefore important for a number of reasons.

8.80By way of background, the Visitation Report for the previous year recorded disharmony between the two Brothers involved in this episode and also involving, to a lesser extent, other members of the Letterfrack Community.

8.81The events related in the note are best listed in sequence:

  • Br Aubin learned that a boy who was in charge of 15 or more other boys working on the farm ill-treated them by beating them severely with a leather. The boy had done this on three occasions.
  • The Brother reported the matter to the Disciplinarian, Br Maslin, who knew about it already. They decided that the boy should be punished ‘as he had not been allowed or told to punish these boys’.
  • Br Aubin suggested informing the Superior but his colleague dismissed this. Br Maslin said that there was more than punishment wrong between this boy and the others, meaning sexual activity. On this the Brothers disagreed.
  • A few days passed during which Br Aubin questioned the boy in charge and 13 of the others who were on the farm. He was satisfied that nothing more than the unauthorised punishment had taken place.
  • On the next Sunday, Br Maslin meted out punishment to a boy, which left him with a swollen cheek, for allegedly allowing another boy into his bed or going into the other’s bed. The boy emphatically denied the charge.
  • Later on that day, Br Maslin punished the farm boy in the surgery off the school, in the presence of Br Aubin who believed that the boy was innocent of immorality and that his only wrongdoing was unauthorised beatings of other boys. During the punishment, Br Maslin accused the boy of carrying on immorally with the boys on the farm and he confessed – out of fear, as Br Aubin believed – and gave some 15 names of those with whom he had offended, including among them the 13 previously interviewed by Br Aubin and found innocent. Before he finished punishing the boy, the Disciplinarian sent Br Aubin to bring back the boy who suffered the swollen cheek in the earlier beating and who was also on the farm at the material time.
  • This boy was then accused of having oral sex with the boy in charge, which he denied, but he was nevertheless punished severely.
  • The next day, Br Aubin spoke once more to the boy in charge on the farm, who assured him that none of what he had told Br Maslin was true and that he said what the Brother wanted him to say for fear of further punishment.
  • Br Aubin went back to the farm boys he had previously interviewed and confirmed his view that there had been no immorality.
  • Br Maslin remained convinced that he was right and refused to accompany Br Aubin to speak to the boys again. He declared his intention to punish all the boys who had not already been punished and, in addition, to punish the boy in charge for going back on his confession.
  • Br Aubin told the Brothers who were in charge of the farm boys in the School and the dormitory, and they in turn inquired into the sexual allegations and rejected them. The Superior was informed at last.
  • One of the School and dormitory Brothers recalled another previous unsubstantiated allegation by the Disciplinarian of sexual misconduct by a boy.
  • The Visitor left a typewritten list of 22 recommendations with the Superior, including no. 9 with the underlined words added in handwriting:

Manager to be present when punishment beyond the ordinary is being administered.

8.82Some other points in Br Aubin’s letter should be mentioned.

8.83Firstly, Br Aubin and the Disciplinarian were agreed that the boy temporarily in charge on the farm was wrong because ‘he had not been allowed or told to punish’ the other boys. The implication was that there could have been circumstances in which he would be authorised to do so. It may be that too much should not be read into this, taking account of the rushed nature of the letter, but the distinct impression remains that it was not the fact of punishment in itself but the punishment not having been authorised that was the real offence committed by the boy in charge.

8.84Secondly, when the two Brothers were discussing the sexual allegation involving the boy in charge, Br Aubin defended him by pointing out that ‘through all the morbid cases in the past his name was never mentioned’. This was recognition of the scale of the problem of sexual activity between boys in Letterfrack.

8.85Thirdly, the Disciplinarian turned down the suggestion that the Superior should be informed and gave as one of his reasons that, when he took a case on a previous occasion to the Superior, the latter did not believe the witnesses, and the boy accused of sexual misconduct went unpunished.

8.86Finally, the letter acknowledged that the Disciplinarian ‘can inflict terrible punishment on children and the boys have a terrible dread of his anger’.

8.87Br Maslin was transferred to another industrial school, Carriglea, in January 1946.

8.88The Congregation’s Opening Statement commented on this case as follows:

Once again, the complaints were acted upon and the offending person taken out of the situation. Why he was transferred to Carriglea in 1946 for 4 years, and later to day schools, is not known.

8.89Br Maslin was sent to Carriglea at a time when it had deteriorated into near anarchy due to the ineffectiveness and incompetence of successive Resident Managers. The Congregation realised that drastic measures were called for. Br Maslin continued his abusive practices in Carriglea when he was transferred there. He was described by one complainant in Carriglea as the most feared of the Brothers there.


  • The problem that the Congregation dealt with in this case was the dispute between two Brothers; it did not deal with the cruel or unjust treatment of the boys or the failure of management to protect them.
  • The contents of Br Aubin’s letter should have caused alarm to the Leadership of the Christian Brothers. If what he said was true, it disclosed a very serious episode of cruelty and injustice in Letterfrack. If what he said was not true, severe disciplinary action was called for against him.
  • There should have been an immediate investigation into Br Maslin’s extreme violence against children for alleged offences that were denied by the boys and were disbelieved by other Brothers.
  • The case illustrates how management was unable to deal with disputes between Brothers, even though they had a knock-on effect throughout the Institution and could lead to boys becoming victims of these disputes.
  • Recommendation no. 9, as typed by the Visitor before he left Letterfrack, read ‘Manager to be present when punishment is being administered’. This was, in effect, a re-statement of the requirements of the Rules and Regulations governing industrial schools. The insertion of the words ‘beyond the ordinary’ amounted to a qualification. The amendment was highly significant because its effect was to render the injunction meaningless. It was a matter of individual interpretation what constituted punishment for which the Manager’s presence was required. The addition of these three words illustrated that keeping corporal punishment as an option for all Brothers was deemed essential to the running of the Institution.

Br Percival14 (1949)

8.91The Visitation Report for 1949 was critical of Br Percival for being over-severe in the administration of discipline in the classroom. He was in Letterfrack for six years during the late 1940s and mid-1950s.

8.92The 1949 Report stated:

Discipline in the school is good, and is maintained without undue severity. Br Percival has been over severe at times. The Superior has spoken to him about the matter, and I also made mention of it. He seems to be sincerely determined to have no relapse.

8.93Br Sorel15 worked in Letterfrack during the same period and he gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. He had a vivid recollection of Br Percival who arrived in Letterfrack at the same time as him. Br Sorel remembered him as very harsh and as someone who punished severely. He tended to overdo it and would hurt the boys. He said that he could hear Br Percival in the classroom overdoing it with the strap. He would hear the noise of the strap on the hand. Br Percival was noisier than anyone else. Br Sorel said that there was a rule that they were not allowed to punish for lessons. However, Br Percival punished boys for minor misdemeanours. He recalled that, one night at tea, one of the Brothers, Br Noell,16 reprimanded Br Percival for being overly severe. A number of boys reported Br Percival to the Superior for his severity in the dormitories and, as a result, he was removed from dormitory duty and was replaced by Br Sorel, who was asked by the Superior to take over.

8.94There was evidence from former residents as to the severity of this Brother. He seems to have been immature and vicious and perhaps somewhat unstable. If his county did badly in a GAA match, he would react extremely angrily and take it out on the boys in the classroom and in the School the following day.

8.95A complainant who was resident in the late 1940s said that he treated all the boys badly and was always picking on his brother. He used to put his brother at the back of the class and beat him. The witness also described how Br Percival beat him for failure at lessons.

8.96The Congregation in its response to these allegations confirmed that there was a Br Percival in Letterfrack but that he had since left the Christian Brothers and therefore the Congregation was not in a position to either accept or reject the specific allegation. The response statement went on:

It should be noted however that the Congregation has no contemporaneous record of any complaint having been made against Br Percival. Further, the allegation does not accord with what is recorded of Br Percival in the Visitation report of 1950. It notes that Br Percival is “sympathetic to the poor children … in this institution”.

8.97It was regrettable that in its response the Congregation chose to quote from the 1950 Visitation Report, but ignored the 1949 one which is quoted above and which referred to Br Percival being ‘over severe at times’. The complainant in this case came to give evidence in the belief that his allegations were regarded as ill-founded. The Congregation’s failure to address these allegations properly was all the more regrettable in circumstances where a serving member of the Congregation, Br Sorel, could have given a first-hand account of his experience of Br Percival. Fortunately, Br Sorel was available to give evidence.

8.98A complainant who was resident from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s said that Br Percival was fanatical about sports and if the boys were not playing well he would hit them with his hurley. He also said that, if Br Percival’s team lost at hurling, he would be violent towards the boys for the following week. However, he stressed that Br Percival’s bad temper was not limited to the sports field. He said that Br Percival was very severe in the classroom as well. He used to beat the boys for talking or failure at lessons. He described one particular incident where Br Percival beat a boy, who had to wear callipers, for talking in class:

This day he took this lad who was talking in the class, and he said, “get out there”. [The boy], had callipers on his legs, he could hardly walk. When he got out he just gave him a dig with his fist, knocked him to the floor and jumped on him like he was a bag of potatoes. That lad was in callipers.

8.99Another complainant confirmed that Br Percival would be in a bad temper and mistreat the boys if his team lost at hurling.

8.100The Congregation’s response was the same for this case, and so the complainant came to the Commission in the belief that his allegations were viewed with suspicion by the Congregation. No effort was made to investigate the allegations, but the Congregation adopted a position of scepticism as a default position that was not helpful to the individual complainant.

8.101A complainant who was resident in the late 1940s, who did not identify Br Percival in his original statement, gave evidence that he was quite good at handball and that one evening Br Percival told him to play with him against the cobbler and the tailor. They lost and Br Percival slapped him across the mouth. He later offered him a glass of lemonade but he couldn’t drink it as he was too sore.

8.102Br Percival spent a total of six years in Letterfrack. Having completed his teacher training he returned to Letterfrack for a year before being transferred to a day school in Dublin. He applied for and was granted secularisation in the late 1950s.

8.103The Congregation did not address the allegations against this Brother in its Closing Submissions.


  • Br Percival was an unstable man who should not have been teaching or caring for children, particularly in a residential school like Letterfrack where his propensity for violence could extend beyond the classroom and where the children had no parental protection.
  • Br Percival’s irrational and unpredictable behaviour generated fear and insecurity in the boys, who found it impossible to avoid punishment.
  • Br Percival’s violence was known to the authorities in Letterfrack, and the fact that he was allowed to remain for so long is evidence that preventing this kind of abuse of power and trust was not a priority.
  • The Congregation’s attempt to defend Br Percival by reference to a favourable Visitation Report was not balanced, as it should have been, by making reference to the other, unfavourable Report.

Complaint by Noah Kitterick

8.105Noah Kitterick was a resident of Letterfrack from 1924 to 1932, which is outside the relevant period of this investigation. The reason why his story appears here is because of the response of the Congregation to his private and public complaints about Letterfrack. These began with two letters to the Superior of Letterfrack in 1953, and concluded with a visit to the Superior General in 1957. Mr Kitterick died tragically when he set fire to himself in London in 1967.

8.106Mr Kitterick wrote two letters in 1953 to the Superior of Letterfrack, in which he complained about three named Brothers in Letterfrack. He claimed that they were tyrannical and sadistic:

Bros Piperel,17 Corvax18 and Perryn … these men were a disgrace to the Christian Brothers. Piperel and Corvax were tyrants. Br Perryn who was in the cook-house and refectory took great pleasure in beating boys for no reason, he was a sadist, for beating us he used a piece of rubber motor tyre.

Almost daily we were flogged by one or other of these Bros. Dozens of times I left the dining room with my hands bleeding …

On several occasions after a meal, I was taken to the pantry … by Br Perryn. He would lock the door and make me undress he would then sit on a stool and would put me across his knee and then flog me savagely he would then pinch me until I was unconscious.

8.107Mr Kitterick followed up this letter with another, two days later, in which he said that he wished to see Letterfrack closed until improvements could be made there and the perpetrators of abuse brought to justice.

8.108His letters were not replied to.

8.109The Brothers he identified were all members of the Community in Letterfrack during his time there, although the presence of one Brother, Br Corvax, was only verified by the Congregation in 2007. Mr Kitterick made a spelling mistake in one of the names but that did not prevent easy identification of the person.

8.110The Christian Brothers knew that the principal culprit named by Mr Kitterick, Br Perryn, had a history of serious physical and sexual abuse of boys, as recorded in the Congregation’s documents.

8.111The third Brother, Br Piperel had, to the Congregation’s knowledge as recorded in their documents, a history of sexually improper and suggestive behaviour which had necessitated his urgent removal from a day school. Notwithstanding this information, the Congregation maintained complete silence in the face of Mr Kitterick’s letters.

8.112Mr Kitterick met with the Provincial of the Congregation in 1957. In a letter to the Congregation’s solicitors, the Provincial said that he thought Mr Kitterick was on a ‘blackmail ticket’:

This evening I had a “gentleman” named Kitterick ex-British army to see me. He said he was an ex-pupil of our industrial school in Letterfrack and that the doctors had said that all his troubles were due to the hardship he got whilst in Letterfrack. I took it that he was working on the blackmail ticket and after listening to him for some time I gave him your name and address as our solicitor. I know you will know how to deal with him if he approaches.

8.113Mr Kitterick continued his campaign:

During the last ten years I have reported about conditions in Letterfrack, which I have no reason to think have changed very much, to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, and Dr Browne Bishop of Galway, as well as President de Valera, and to the Superiors of many industrial schools. I have yet to receive a reply.19

8.114In the public hearing on Letterfrack, Br Gibson explained the silence of the Congregation on this issue:

I think it was a totally inadequate response. We have been dealing with allegations of abuse over the last 10 years and certainly one of the things we would always do is listen to the person who has the complaint and pay great attention to it. We would assure them that we would investigate it and we would look to see is there any veracity in it. I think there was certainly in the past, and say 10 years ago when the issue of child abuse came to the fore, there was general disbelief that this could happen. I think generally people were saying this couldn’t happen in the Brothers and I think there was general horror, disbelief, denial. I think with time we have discovered that it has happened in the past. Certainly the Leadership of the time, it was probably one or two cases that they were dealing with and probably saw it, particularly when he was mentioning a Brother who wasn’t in Letterfrack amongst those three, they were probably holding on to that idea it’s not all true, therefore, can’t any of it be true. I think that was unfortunate.

8.115The explanation that allegations of child abuse would have been met with ‘general horror, disbelief, denial’, even in 1957, is difficult to sustain in view of the number of cases of sexual and physical mistreatment of boys that the Congregation had dealt with. Brothers had been dismissed, moved or been given Canonical Warnings for such activities. All of the industrial schools run by the Congregation had experienced abuse, and so it was not correct to claim ignorance of this problem.

8.116When the first complaint was received from Mr Kitterick in 1953, even the most cursory investigation of the files would have disclosed that Br Perryn had been reprimanded for his severity in 1917 and, in 1941, just 12 years previously, had been removed for physical and sexual abuse after the Visitor to Letterfrack received complaints from the boys there: ‘They are so shockingly obscene, revolting and abominable that it is hard to believe them’.

8.117Br Piperel had been the subject of a serious allegation of sexual abuse in Letterfrack that was documented in the Congregation’s records, which also implied that he had a previous history of interference with boys. He worked in industrial schools until the 1950s and then moved to a day school. He was removed from a day school in Cork for sexually inappropriate behaviour towards a young girl just a few months prior to Mr Kitterick’s first letter.

8.118The information recently provided by the Congregation confirmed that the third Brother named by Mr Kitterick was in Letterfrack during his time. It follows that, if the Brothers who dealt with this correspondence decided to ignore it because he had named a Brother who was not present, they were entirely wrong. The Brothers at the time could have established whether the third Brother was there if there was any doubt about the matter. The possibility that the Congregation decided its response on this basis was not grounded in any document but was an interpretation advanced by Br Gibson on behalf of the current Congregation.


  • The Congregation’s refusal to respond to Noah Kitterick’s complaints was indicative of an organisation that chose not to investigate criticism or admit failings.
  • The Congregation sought to protect itself from the allegations rather than seeking to ascertain the truth.
  • The Christian Brothers’ records contained potential corroborative material, and the complaints warranted full investigation.
  • The Congregation’s current position is that allegations of abuse, both physical and sexual, came as a shock to the Congregation, but such allegations had been dealt with for many years.

Br Verrill20

8.120Br Verrill worked in Letterfrack in the early 1960s, having been transferred from Artane. He was the subject of written complaints about his treatment of boys in Artane in the late 1950s which are dealt with in full in the Artane chapter.

Evidence of individual respondents

8.121Fourteen former members of staff, 13 Brothers or ex-Brothers and one lay-man, gave evidence about corporal punishment. They were in Letterfrack between 1948 and 1974.

Br Sorel

8.122Br Sorel was a teacher in Letterfrack from the late 1940s until the late 1950s. He also worked in the dormitories. He said that Letterfrack was a harsh place:

The whole experience. I cannot justify it. It was too strict and the lads were great that they were able to accept it and come through it …

8.123The need for strictness had been impressed upon him at an early stage:

I was as strict as anybody else. The system was strict and we were told at the very beginning that unless we had discipline, that there would be chaos, there would be chaos.

8.124He was told by senior Brothers never to let his guard down and to maintain an aloof and stern visage. He did so even though he was fearful inside:

One of the Brothers said to me, “Whatever you do don’t smile, walk along with a very serious face”, and I was shivering. Nobody knew that. I was shivering in my boots. Quite a number of the lads there were big strong lads, … huge guys there, I was shivering in my shoes because I never had this experience.

8.125These same Brothers also told him that, by being strict, he would be better able to keep control, which resulted in his punishing boys unnecessarily.

8.126According to Br Sorel, absconders were treated particularly harshly. Their heads were shaved and they were often forced to march around the yard in silence during recreation periods. They were also forced to sit with their backs to the screen during the weekly cinema performance. He described this as a fierce punishment because the weekly film was so eagerly anticipated by everybody in the School.

8.127He found the work very difficult. He taught three classes and had responsibility for one of the dormitories. He would get up at 5:45am, attend morning prayers, wake the boys, bring them to Mass, take them to the refectory, have his own breakfast, supervise the morning chores, bring them to school, and teach until lunchtime. The boys would then go to the various trade shops for industrial training. This was his first break. He would supervise them again and bring them to bed.

8.128Br Sorel made the shocking admission that he forced a boy to eat his own excrement. The boy was not a complainant to the Investigation Committee but the incident was recounted by a complainant who had witnessed it. The Brother in his written response to the Investigation Committee accepted that the allegation was true. In evidence he told the Committee:

Well the … thing has haunted me all my life. It should never have happened. Actually he didn’t eat the excrement, he spat it into the basin, that doesn’t matter, it was wrong, totally wrong, and I accept that. I accept full responsibility for it. It was cruel.

8.129When asked by the Committee why he did it, he said that he was stressed by having to cope with boys who soiled themselves, particularly during the night. He asked colleagues what he should do about one particular boy:

A few days before I mentioned this to some of the staff, “what will I do”, I couldn’t get any help from anybody. One of them quite cynically said, “make him eat his own shit”. When I think now on this particular morning, he did it right out in the floor in front of everybody and I saw red, I saw anger, I thought he was doing it purposefully to ridicule me. I think that was the reason.

8.130He added that as soon as he had calmed down he knew he had gone too far and he subsequently apologised to the boy in question.


  • The stresses of working in Letterfrack as teacher and carer caused this young, untrained and inexperienced Brother to behave in a shameful manner towards a troubled child.
  • This disgusting incident was not unique: another example is reported in the Artane chapter.
  • With hindsight the Brother was able to recognise the severity of the regime in Letterfrack and the damage it could do to both Brothers and boys.

Br Dax21

8.132Br Dax was in Letterfrack from the late 1950s to mid-1970s, except for one year. In 2003, he was convicted of 25 counts of sexual abuse committed during this period. His evidence is dealt with in detail in the section on sexual abuse.

8.133His evidence is also relevant in this section. He admitted using violence and the threat of violence to prevent boys he sexually abused from reporting him. He also admitted to being a generally cruel and violent person. He agreed that he was an angry man with a bizarre prejudice against boys from County Limerick. He admitted that if he lost his temper he hit boys with whatever he had in his hands and that he could have drawn blood on such occasions. He also accepted in cross-examination that it was possible that he would have walked up behind them and struck them on the back of the head just to get their attention.


  • How Br Dax could have continued unchecked for such a long period of time is a question that arises acutely in regard to sexual abuse of boys.
  • His use of premeditated violence in some circumstances, and capricious violence in others, should of itself have triggered an investigation that might have uncovered the full extent of his abusive activities.

Br Francois22

8.135This Brother, who served there for two years from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, made a number of important concessions in relation to Letterfrack. He confirmed that he was not given any specific instruction on punishment and that the use of the leather strap, which some Brothers carried around with them all the time, was totally discretionary. He also said he had no recollection of a punishment book during his time there.

8.136He said that boys would only be referred to the Disciplinarian for serious breaches of the rules such as fighting. The individual Brother dealt with minor infractions on the spot.

8.137Boys who were caught near another boy’s bed at night were slapped on the buttocks. This punishment was administered in the dormitory or in the washroom attached to it. He said that he frequently administered punishment on the hands, but that slapping boys on the buttocks was a rare occurrence.

8.138He remembered one incident where a number of boys who had absconded were lined up and slapped by the Disciplinarian in front of the rest of the school.

8.139He said absconders also had their heads shaved as punishment.

Br Michel23

8.140Br Michel was in Letterfrack in the 1960s during which time he was the Disciplinarian. He accepted that Letterfrack was a strict place but he stressed that it had to be:

Well, it was a pretty strict place and I think that the children who came had a carefree life before coming. It was necessary to discipline them and unfortunately they had to be disciplined otherwise we couldn’t run the place.

8.141He also confirmed that all the Brothers who worked in the school carried straps and that discipline was administered at the total discretion of the individual Brother.

8.142He described the punishment of forcing boys to run around the yard. He beat boys on the buttocks with a leather, but said he was unsure whether he beat on the bare buttocks. He acknowledged that it occurred and accepted that he may have punished in that way.

8.143He admitted to an allegation of physical abuse made against him by a complainant and apologised for the incident. The complainant, who was resident in the early 1960s, described how the Brother was asking him questions about his absence from the school grounds. When the boy repeated a question that the Brother asked, the latter lost his temper and jumped on the boy and started beating him up in front of the whole refectory. In his evidence to the Committee, the Brother accepted that he had been ‘over-robust’ in his punishment of the witness. He said that it was one of his bad days and he sincerely regretted it because the witness was generally a good boy.

8.144He also spoke about the relationship between overwork and excessive punishment. He stated that the Brothers worked under considerable strain. The number working with the boys was small and the hours were ‘desperately long’. He sometimes took his stress out on the boys and he did not always comply with the rules governing corporal punishment.

8.145When asked by the Committee whether he thought that corporal punishment was used more in Letterfrack than in other schools elsewhere, he said:

Regretfully, I think it was more simply because most schools were day schools and they wouldn’t have the same problems as a boarding situation. Regretfully, the times that were in it unfortunately.

Br Telfour24

8.146Br Telfour served in Letterfrack in the mid to late 1960s. He was a teacher and was Disciplinarian for a year. He told the Committee that Letterfrack was a regulated place and that he had no difficulty managing the boys. A Visitation Report stated:

The disciplinarian … understands his charges very well and realises that harsh methods do not produce lasting results. He is most patient and has good control.

8.147He did not like corporal punishment but he did recall one incident when he snapped and beat a boy out of frustration. He said that he did not carry a strap, although he conceded that there were straps available in the school. Absconding was a problem and he heard that boys who absconded ‘got it on the bare’, which he understood to mean that they were beaten on their bare buttocks.

8.148He told the Committee that when he was appointed Disciplinarian he told the Manager that he refused to administer this form of corporal punishment. He was asked to explain the circumstances of this conversation:

It was in the yard and a boy had been brought back early that morning from absconding, I knew the punishment previously had been the beating on the buttocks but I had my own mind made up I wasn’t going to inflict it and I told him that I didn’t want to beat them that way.

8.149He explained the reasons for his dislike of corporal punishment:

It was based on the fact that after a little while there I felt that these young people had suffered enough, they had been taken from their parents and from growing up with their brothers and sisters. The more I thought of that the bigger the influence it had on me in coming to that decision, that none of them would be slapped in my classroom and none of them would be slapped in this way.

8.150He admitted using running as a punishment on the recommendation of the Sub-Superior. The circumstances of one such incident were that he was waiting in the yard for the boys to return from the farm. A boy came into the yard and asked him whether the farmhand was allowed to beat him. The boy was bleeding and he told him to go and clean up. The farmhand and the farm Brother came to the yard and told him that some of the boys tried to attack Br Deverelle25 and that the farmhand tried to stop them. He told the farmhand that he had no business beating the boys. He was at a loss as to what to do, since a large number of boys were involved and so he put them running around the yard as a punishment, which they had to do for periods on two nights. The boys contended that they had attacked Br Deverelle because he had been severe on them.

8.151This Brother was sympathetic towards the boys and tried to avoid using corporal punishment, but in these respects he was unusual. The Committee was left with the impression that his refusal to impose such punishment did not stop it and he had no influence on the behaviour of other Brothers.

Br Rainger26

8.152Br Rainger was a teacher in Letterfrack in the late 1960s. He said that he was wholly unprepared for life there and found that he simply could not apply the teaching methods he had learned in Marino to the boys at Letterfrack. His duties also included supervision and he would often be required to supervise a group of over 100 boys because staffing levels did not allow smaller groups. This meant that a military-style discipline was necessary to keep order. He accepted that, as a result of this, Letterfrack was a harsh place but he stressed it was harsh for the Brothers too. Initially, he said he was quite aloof as an aid to maintaining discipline, although he mellowed after a while. However, he never trusted the boys:

No, I wouldn’t trust them, I had been told that the boys had come to Letterfrack through the court.

8.153He said he carried and used a leather strap, as did every Brother working in the School. He received no training in its use and administered it on an ad hoc basis whenever he saw fit to do so. He did not require any sanction to do this and he punished both inside and outside the classroom. He admitted to beating children on the buttocks, although not the bare buttocks, with the strap. He thought that discipline was not too bad, although he conceded that he punished boys for failure at lessons and for misbehaving generally.

8.154He was never aware of the presence of a punishment book, and on the issue of discipline he said:

Generally speaking, you know, it wasn’t too bad. Discipline wasn’t too bad, but now and again, yes, fights broke out, arguments broke out. I had a leather and I used it, not that I am proud of it now but I did use it, yes.

8.155Br Rainger admitted that he did not confine himself to the strap when he punished children but also used his hands. He denied that bed-wetters were physically chastised. He recalled that they tied knots at the ends of their beds to identify themselves to the night watchman:

Just to clarify the thing on the bed-wetters, when I would take over the dormitory in the morning from the night watchman the custom at that time was if they were bed-wetters they tied a towel over the end of the bed and the bed was stripped so that it could dry out during the day. There was definitely no verbal humiliation or even physical punishment for bed-wetting. That is not true.

Br Anatole27

8.156Br Anatole was convicted in 2003 of sexual abuse of boys in Letterfrack when he was a Brother there during the late 1960s.

8.157He gave evidence that the Brothers worked 16 to 18 hour days, and that their only method of maintaining order was by means of corporal punishment, the constant threat of which permeated the atmosphere of the Institution. Before he came to the School, he had heard rumours about the need to maintain strict discipline in the School. The attitude was that breaches of discipline had to be dealt with swiftly and harshly, otherwise law and order would break down.

8.158Br Anatole described his arrival at Letterfrack with two other young, inexperienced teachers, Br Dondre28 and Br Iven.29 They were all in their early 20s and they had little more than one year’s teaching experience.

8.159The bulk of the supervisory work in Letterfrack fell on these three young men, and Br Anatole testified to the strain he felt – a breach of the rules by a boy under the control of one of them was regarded as a reflection on the Brother. This put a lot of pressure on the younger Brothers, who were often intimidated by the boys and they tried to counteract this by being excessively strict.

8.160Br Anatole said that pupils attacked him on a number of occasions:

I was attacked on a couple of occasions: Once in the dining room a boy ran at me with a chair; once in the yard; and once in the Brother’s monastery when I went up – I opened the door and one of the boys was in the monastery which they weren’t allowed to do and he punched me trying to get out the door before I could get in. That was three incidents in two years which was not a lot. There was always the possibility of that happening and I was a little bit fearful of what might be done to me if it happened.

8.161The children were often difficult to deal with, according to Br Anatole, and many had psychological problems that the Brothers had no special training to deal with.

8.162Difficulties manifested themselves in conduct such as fighting and bullying, which were constant and worrying features of life in Letterfrack. Sometimes, the children absconded and that was also a constant worry. The children would run away at night but they would usually be apprehended, sometimes by local people, and returned to the School soon after.

8.163He said that the threat of punishment hung like a cloud over the boys. It was arbitrarily administered without any supervision either inside or outside the classroom. Br Anatole was given a leather strap on arrival but he got no instruction on its use. He did not confine himself to the use of the strap; he would punish boys with a slap of his open palm, his fist, a stick, or indeed a kick.

8.164Although the Brothers were given no guidance regarding corporal punishment, Br Malleville,30 the Resident Manager, often complained about the excessive use of corporal punishment and was quite strict on such matters when boys complained to him about excessive beatings. Br Anatole recalled one incident in particular, when Br Malleville approached him and told him he had received a complaint that a boy had been punished for the wrong reasons and he wanted an explanation. Br Anatole described how the boy had been beaten about the legs with a leather strap and made to run around the yard. The boy complained to Br Malleville, who reprimanded him, Br Anatole.

8.165Br Anatole described another particularly savage beating, when a boy was beaten on the bare buttocks with a leather. The boy was placed over a chair on the stage and beaten in front of other boys by Br Iven. Br Anatole did not himself administer the beating but he was present during it. A former resident who recalled the boy being stripped and beaten recollected that the handle of a sweeping brush had been used to administer the beating.

8.166Br Anatole said that Br Malleville heard about the beating and, that evening, convened a meeting of the three junior Brothers who had been involved and reprimanded them for what had occurred.

8.167The other two Brothers implicated, Br Iven and Br Dondre, denied to the Investigation Committee in evidence that this incident ever took place or that they were involved in it.

8.168Br Anatole informed the Committee that he and his colleagues had inherited from some of the older Brothers the practice of making the boys run around the yard. It was a punishment generally administered by the senior dormitory Brother for absconding. The Brother would stand in the centre, and the boys would form a circle around him and they would be made to run around the yard and would be beaten if they started to tire or to lag behind. In a Garda statement, Br Anatole described it thus:

I can recall the heavy silence punctuated by the rhythm of the boots pounding on the concrete yard as the boys ran around and around, eyes cast down as they ran … Their faces were cold and emotionless, unsmiling and blank of any recognition. I carry this memory with me still, as I do all the other punishments meted out to boys in our care.

8.169He described its operation as follows:

Well, the dormitory leader was the man who dictated what was to be happening. I was not a dormitory leader I was an assistant to Br Dondre so a decision to run around the yard was never mine; but if it was done I might be called upon to stand in the corner of the yard and be there to give moral support to the other Brother who was in charge – the Brother stood in the centre of the circle rather like a ring master and the running was done in silence. It was supposed to calm everybody down, I think it did have that effect actually on recollection, there was a sort of a silent running. When it was over the boys usually went off upstairs to bed, it was done late in the evening time.

8.170As a punishment, however, he stated that he regarded it as pointless and ineffective, ‘It was devoid of human dignity, it was humiliating, it was pointless and probably completely ineffective’.

8.171Another way of punishing was for a boy to be seated in a chair near a football game and to be treated as if he did not exist:

I don’t think the intention was to kick footballs directly at the boy it was more or less an act of isolation to humiliate him, it was a form of punishment other than corporal punishment. If somebody did kick a football at him, and that would happen, the ball would bounce off his head or off his chest or something, there would be a big cheer or a bit of a laugh. That again was part of the humiliation of the experience.

8.172Another punishment was peculiar to the refectory. It involved making the offender kneel in silence during meal times. He would not receive any dinner:

… if they were kneeling on the floor the withdrawal of food would be part of the punishment as well. We learned these things from seeing them done, they were handed down like a code of practice so to speak, which was never questioned or supervised in any way by anybody else.

8.173Br Anatole said that corporal punishment would be administered for a myriad of offences:

If you were walking behind somebody and they were talking you could take out your leather strap and sort of give them a swipe on the back of the legs or a smack on the backside.

8.174He would also hit them for failure at lessons:

For example, you asked me for an example, maybe in the classroom I was under pressure to get my Department of Education accreditation so I would be short-tempered at times with pupils who didn’t spell words correctly or something. The traditional way at that time was you would give somebody a smack to make sure so they learned it properly.. There was a very crude connection between if you hit somebody they would learn better that way, that was the basic thinking at the time. That was the way I was taught at primary school and I repeated that myself later on as an adult in the Christian Brothers.

8.175He also beat boys who attempted to jump out of the showers to avoid the sudden changes in temperature, which could go from scalding hot to freezing cold in a matter of seconds. He thought that beating boys for a natural reaction to extremes of temperature seemed particularly cruel.

8.176He spoke of collective punishment and recalled one incident where a boy stole a Communion wafer. Nobody owned up and the whole School was punished. Collective punishment could take many forms, such as the deprivation of food or being made to run around the yard.

8.177Yet another occasional punishment was using the fire hose to direct cold water on to boys who had run away.

8.178The knowledge that there was no parental presence made him feel he had carte blanche to punish to a greater extent than he would have done in a national school with active parental involvement. Being able to beat the boys gave him a sense of power. He said, ‘The opportunity for use of corporal punishment was much greater in Letterfrack than it would be in the national school’.

8.179He apologised for his use of corporal punishment in the School:

My first duty before the Commission is to put an unreserved apology in the record for anyone who was hurt by me in any way. That was regrettably the state of the art at the time in the 60s that these pupils had to be punished, they had to be made to pay for the damage they did in society, reformed and sent back out as productive citizens.

8.180The Christian Brothers disputed Br Anatole’s recollections of Letterfrack. They submitted that written statements made by him following his arrest were inconsistent and contradictory when compared with a document he produced while he was still working in the Institution. They also contended that these statements were self-serving and coloured by his desire to present himself to the court in a sympathetic light in seeking to avoid imprisonment. It suited his purpose, therefore, to portray Letterfrack in the most hostile light. For his part, Br Anatole said that he was not understating his case in his Garda statements. He described how he co-operated with the Gardaí in the investigation and that he was encouraged to write a full account of everything that he thought might be relevant by way of mitigation. He had been through two years of therapy, and a lot of memories had surfaced in the therapeutic situation, which the therapist had encouraged him to keep in journal form.

8.181Although the Congregation were able to demonstrate inconsistencies between written statements and testimony given by this witness at different times spanning many years, his evidence was generally credible and reliable about life in Letterfrack, and witnesses provided independent confirmation.

The Patron Saint of Pedophiles of the Unholy Roman Catholic Cult of Pedophiles

Br Iven

8.182Br Iven worked as a teacher in Letterfrack during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He found Letterfrack to be a lonely place with stressful work and little free time. He told the Committee that he carried a strap, as all Brothers did, but did not remember ever getting any training in its use. Punishment was a matter for his discretion and he punished as the need arose and never felt the need to refer matters up the chain of command. He accepted that the use of the strap was unacceptable by today’s standards, but he did not think that it was excessive by the standards of the day. Br Iven, however, qualified this view when he went on to say that Letterfrack was not a normal school and its residents were not normal schoolchildren, implying that normal standards did not apply to them and some excesses were justified.

8.183He was asked whether he had any personal regrets about punishments he meted out to the boys:

I have regrets in many ways. I have regrets, first of all that I was sent there inadequately trained for the job. Secondly, I didn’t know how to handle the situation I was put in. Thirdly, I suppose that with corporal punishment, punishment by the strap – yes, I think with better training, with better facilities, better staffing, we would not have had the need to use as much discipline and corporal as we did. I do have regrets yes.

8.184His perception that corporal punishment was not overly excessive was said in the context that the level of discipline that was normal at the time in schools was the appropriate standard to apply throughout the day:

You were there 24 hours, seven days a week, so yes, there was a lot more than you would normally have as a teacher at the time, but it wouldn’t have been overly excessive.

8.185He remembered one occasion when a boy attacked him and he just about got the better of him. He felt that it was a test of strength. He was a new Brother and a small man, and the attack was designed to see what the boys could get away with. It left him greatly shaken and showed him that he was not dealing with ordinary 16-year-olds.

8.186This Brother also confirmed what complainants and other Brothers had said about boys being hosed down for absconding. One complainant had described an incident where two boys had absconded at a time when there was heavy snowfall. They were captured and returned to the school and, according to the witness, put up against a wall, hosed down with fire hoses and made to stand in the freezing cold in their underpants as a form of punishment:

The incident happened during winter. There was snow on the ground. It was easy then to find the pupil. The pupil was brought back to the school and then one particular Brother decided that this was the way he would wash him down after it.

8.187Br Iven was in his interim period of teacher training during his time in Letterfrack and was due back in Marino to complete his qualification. He said that he did not feel he could report breaches of discipline to the Resident Manager because of a combination of factors, but principally because he was afraid that it could lead to his dismissal from the Congregation which would have meant he could not become a teacher:

I am giving you my honest opinion, no, I didn’t feel that I was in a position to report this. It would have been maybe thought as unseemly conduct for me as a Christian Brother to defend myself, maybe turn the other cheek instead, unfortunately, I didn’t feel that confident about saying anything.

8.188This Brother did return to Marino after two and a half years in Letterfrack and a six-month posting to a day school in Dublin; and immediately he had completed his final year of training, he left the Congregation.

Br Dondre

8.189Br Dondre worked as a teacher in Letterfrack from the 1960s to the early 1970s. He regarded himself as a sort of gaoler who was hated by the inmates of the school. This sometimes bubbled over in the form of attempted assaults on members of staff. The young Brothers were the front line and, if challenged, they had to take decisive action for fear of losing control over the group as a whole:

… we were the front line, we were the people responsible for keeping these kids in an industrial school, in a contained situation, as they called themselves in prison. Some of them would refer to the place as a prison. So we were the front line. We were the people who were sort of the easy targets for all their unhappiness and frustration and the stress and tension, and all the other things they were feeling.

8.190He said that yard duty was particularly difficult, given the numbers involved and the rough nature of the boys. Fighting, bullying and name calling were constant features of life in the yard, and the Brother in charge would be expected to take action. He felt he was particularly vulnerable because of his small stature.

8.191Br Dondre said that he was physically assaulted on a number of occasions. On the first occasion, when he was supervising a group of 90 pupils, one boy was cursing at another boy and he called him over to chastise him. As the boy approached, he put up his two fists. Br Dondre put his own fists up and the situation was defused.

8.192The next occasion involved the same boy, in the dormitory, when he pinned Br Dondre up against a wall and attempted to choke him. He flipped the boy over. Br Anatole came in and asked him if everything was all right.

8.193On a third occasion, he was threatened by a boy wielding a broken chair. He said he was able to handle that situation because the boy was the same height as him and he removed the chair from him.

8.194Br Dondre described a fourth occasion as the most serious and upsetting incident. He was verbally chastising a pupil when the boy attacked him with the leg of a chair. Br Dondre picked up a stick and hit him on the head with it. The boy’s head was grazed from the blow. The boy dropped and he caught him in a headlock. He got control of the boy and brought him to the nurse who disinfected the wound on his head. He reported the matter to Br Malleville, who criticised Br Dondre for his inability to keep control and letting the incident occur. He was asked whether he understood Br Malleville’s criticism to relate to his loss of temper and he said:

No it wasn’t that. It was the fact that the incident happened at all. That I let him get out of control.

8.195He was never given any guidance or direction from Br Malleville or anyone else as to how that control might be maintained. Br Dondre said that he deeply regretted his conduct on that day.

8.196He was not issued with a strap on arrival, but he went to the cobbler and asked him to make one for him because he thought he would need it. He received no guidance as to its use and so would have used his own discretion. He was aware, however, of the Christian Brothers’ rules regarding the administration of corporal punishment.

8.197He explained the circumstances in which corporal punishment could be administered in the classroom. The rulebook prohibited the administration of punishment for failure at lessons, but Br Dondre drew a distinction between two types of failure at lessons: the first was failure due to a lack of knowledge, the second was failure due to not having prepared the subject properly. In the former, he would not administer punishment; in the latter, he would. There was a grey area in which the second kind of failure could be regarded as a breach of discipline.

8.198Br Dondre said that he often gave boys ‘a clatter’ for serious offences. He admitted to kicking boys, beating them with a stick or with his open palm. He said that he regretted using corporal punishment but stressed that it was essential for maintaining order. He felt that the boys had no respect for teachers who did not use it.

8.199Br Dondre agreed with other Brothers that absconding was regarded as a particularly serious offence, and recalled an incident where absconders were punished with a fire hose. It was also punishable by the withdrawal of home leave, head shaving and by being beaten with the strap. It was usually dealt with directly by the Resident Manager.

Br Karel31

8.200Br Karel worked in Letterfrack in the early 1970s and had been sent there because the school was experiencing problems. Discipline was poor as a result of low staff levels, and the small number of staff that was there was overworked. Shortly after he arrived, the boys staged a sit-down protest and were only persuaded to go to bed with difficulty. The other Brothers working there told him they were barely able to keep control and there had been assaults on two of them. Bullying was a big problem, with bigger boys regularly trying to impose their will on smaller boys and even on Brothers. He administered corporal punishment with a leather strap which was carried by all of the Brothers and he also used his fists. He confirmed that there was no punishment book in which punishments administered were recorded. He told the Committee that he used the threat of three slaps on the buttocks to deter boys from absconding.

8.201He instituted a number of schemes to try and control the boys and create a positive atmosphere in the School. As a result, he was able to discontinue gradually the use of the leather strap:

The atmosphere changed gradually. Punishment was still there in the normal way, corporal punishment didn’t go out until 1982 or 1983. I was able to discard that leather which was the normal way of administering punishment in Letterfrack in that, somewhere in the middle of that period I was there and I never again used it.

8.202Br Karel worked in Letterfrack for the last two years of the Institution, during which time the numbers reduced dramatically. When he arrived, there were 41 boys in the Institution, and when he left in 1974, there were only 11 boys and the School was in the process of closing.32 Even though numbers were that small, violence was still a serious problem in the School.

8.203Main points arising from respondent evidence

  • These witnesses confirmed that violence was a regular feature of life in Letterfrack. It was a means of communication and was a way of gaining status and power. Fear affected the way boys related to Brothers and impaired relationships among the boys themselves.

• Many Brothers considered that the practice of carrying a leather all the time and using it as and when required was normal for the times. They defended this level of corporal punishment by saying that it was no more than was present in many national schools. The crucial point was that Letterfrack was more than just a national school; it was home to the boys who were there. Parents did not carry around leathers or sticks as a matter of course, and that is the standard by which the Brothers should be judged. The Brothers were trained, or were in the course of training, as teachers and it is as teachers that they speak of levels of corporal punishment, not as carers in loco parentis to these children. Even today, many of them are not able to see that subjecting children to the constant threat of corporal punishment at the level it was administered in Letterfrack was excessive and unreasonable.

  • Brothers gave examples of corporal punishment that were clearly beyond what was acceptable in national schools. Punishment was not confined to slapping on the hand. Brothers used the strap on the buttocks and the bare buttocks. Some Brothers admitted hitting boys with their hands or fists. Implements such as sticks were used. Punishments included marching around the yard, isolation, head shaving and hosing down with cold water.
  • Brothers differed as to their knowledge of the rules on corporal punishment, in that some recalled being aware of them whilst others did not. In reality, these Rules were irrelevant in Letterfrack because they were breached so often and without any fear of censure.
  • All Brothers who spoke to the Committee confirmed that corporal punishment was a matter of individual discretion and that they received no formal guidance or training on its administration. They administered the punishment themselves and generally did not involve the Resident Manager.
  • Trainee Brothers who did so much of the day-to-day running of the School had a strong incentive to maintain the status quo, because taking problems to the Resident Manager might have had repercussions for gaining their qualifications. If they used excessive punishment, the Resident Manager did no more than warn them to avoid recurrences. Losing control of the boys, however, was seen as a serious failing by the Brothers.
  • In the absence of accountability or control, either through supervision or the punishment book, excessive and unfair corporal punishment was administered.
  • Letterfrack was seen as a challenging and difficult posting by the Brothers and ex-Brothers who testified. Some Brothers admitted that they took out their frustrations on the boys in their care and punished excessively as a result. The system that placed inexperienced or unsuitable Brothers in an environment that was so fundamentally flawed was fraught with danger.

Evidence of former residents

8.204Complainant witnesses gave evidence from a perspective that was necessarily different from respondents. Their testimony focused on some major themes as follows:

  • Physical punishment was pervasive; there was no way of avoiding it and it was the response of first resort for any problem that arose.
  • There was an extraordinary variety of methods of inflicting pain and physical discomfort.
  • The circumstances in which punishment was inflicted were many and varied, ranging from serious offences to trivial matters and sometimes for no reason at all.
  • Life in Letterfrack was lived in a climate of fear.

Public punishments

8.205Complainant and respondent witnesses agreed that boys were sometimes punished in public, when other boys were formally assembled to witness the event with the intention that they should learn something from the occasion. Br Francois had a ‘vague recollection’ of one such incident:

I remember them being lined up, I don’t know what room, was it the refectory or something, they were lined up in a line and slapped as far as I remember, in front of the rest of the school.

8.206A former resident described the circumstances of a public beating which was acknowledged as having occurred by Br Anatole and which was dealt with in his evidence above:

This guy, the fellow I am talking about Alan33 what he done was a guy sitting on the top, he was sitting on the chair and he was having a hair cut. The Brother left the thing for cutting your hair down and when he went the guy went up and he shaved the back of the guy’s head quickly as a joke, and your man had a big lump missing out of his hair. So when the Brother came back he seen this and he was really mad, and he asked who done it. Eventually through a lot of, you know, questions and threatening, battering him, whatever, he said it was so and so that done it. That is how he come to be punished for that … I can’t remember if he said, “listen I done it”, but the guy said “it was Alan who done it”. So he got done and his punishment was on the stage in front of everyone.

8.207Br Anatole recalled that this incident came to the attention of the Superior, Br Malleville, who severely reprimanded him and the other Brothers who took part:

It was around supper time. He brought us into the parlour, he was very angry and he said that such a thing was never to happen again … That any boy was to be beaten on the backside over a chair, on the stage in the hall … I think it was the sheer brutality of it and the excessive nature of it, it was way outside the boundaries of what Br Malleville considered legitimate corporal punishment. It was there in the collective consciousness of us as Brothers in Letterfrack that these methods that you are putting to me one after the other, that these were handed down progressively from one year to the next. When new Brothers came on the scene that’s how we found out that this was the way things were done here. We never discussed them in any way it was just here we go, run around the yard, give somebody a kick in the backside or whatever. It was just done like that depending on how you felt at that particular time.

8.208There was no record in the Christian Brothers’ discovery of this reprimand or of the circumstances that gave rise to it.

8.209Another former resident remembered the occasion when this boy was beaten:

…[he] was called up for his punishment on the stage, and he was battered and beaten by Br Iven in front of – we all had to sit in these chairs as if you were watching a play on the stage and Br Iven battered him, beat him, lashed him, punched him and kicked him and because he wasn’t getting any satisfaction, he couldn’t make him cry, he started to take off his collar and take his habit down or whatever you call them, and he started to lash him, you know, with his fists and stuff. It seemed like it went on for a long, long time and we had to sit there and watch this.

8.210The Brother who was identified as having given this extreme beating denied involvement. He said, ‘Not only do I not remember it but that certainly wouldn’t have happened’.

8.211Notwithstanding the disapproving attitude of the Superior, there were other public beatings. One witness said:

There was different Brothers that used to do it. It was a sort of – it wasn’t always on the stage it could be just up in a corner and made to, everybody silent while somebody was getting punished and you would be just staring … We used to have a little TV up the front and there was a stage, you know, there was chairs where we would just sit around. If it was raining you would hang about here or if it was cold. This is where things used to happen … Sometimes they would have a list of people who had done things and the punishment time was in the evening. Or, like, in the dormitory they’d have names, you would be called out, so and so, come up here. At the end of the dormitory where a room was they would carry out punishments there. It could be in the yard, there was a big yard with four walls, you know. You were lined up like soldiers and your name was called out … There was other Brothers who done a lot of punishments too, but this is a guy I have in my mind who I seen doing things and has done things to me. There was another guy Telfour, I seen him using the special branches or sticks that bend.

8.212Although boys might not always be formally assembled, the public nature of beatings administered where all the boys were assembled had a similar effect. This was particularly true at night time, when boys were punished in the washroom adjacent to the dormitories. One witness described a severe beating he received for absconding. The Manager turned off the radio that was playing in the dormitory and invited the rest of the boys who were in their beds to ‘now listen to some music’ as he brought the boy out to be beaten. His screams were heard throughout the dormitory.

8.213It was disturbing to hear other boys being beaten. As one witness said, ‘you nearly preferred to get it yourself because listening to somebody getting bashed, in a sense it is worse than getting it yourself’.


  • Public punishment increased the ordeal for the person being punished and had a frightening impact on the boys watching or listening. Such spectacles should have had no place in a facility dedicated to the care of children.

Varieties of punishment

8.215On one occasion, a boy trying to escape was caught in one of the fields belonging to the School and brought back. He was given a severe beating and was then subjected to two extra punishments that required considerable ingenuity. He first described the beating:

I was told to take down my pants and bend over. Well, I didn’t actually get to bend over myself, he just grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me down and started to lay into me … All the rest of the boys had gone off to work in the afternoon and there was just me and him. Now I have a vague recollection of another Brother being around, but I couldn’t swear to it.

8.216He then said that he was brought to the boot-makers and was given extra large boots:

At the time I was pretty small. The boots, it was like having two barges on your feet. Then he frog-marched me up to the farmyard where some of the boys were up there. They were piling silage, at the time I thought it was only grass, but I got the technical term later; into this big silo pit and I was made to get into it and walk around in circles with these boots. It would have been bad enough walking around with ordinary boots, because every time you stepped, you would go down, but the big boots, and when the boys had a rest, I had to keep going.

8.217Finally, he described how he was isolated by being made to stand at the refectory wall while boys played football around him and where he could be struck by the ball:

Up close to the wall, but I wasn’t allowed to lift my hands up. If I lifted my hands up – I didn’t realise he could run so fast in skirts – the boys would hit the ball. Some hit me on the leg, the backside, the back, quite a few on the head, the back of the head and bang and that went on for about two weeks. Exactly how long, I don’t know. I didn’t play at all, after church in the morning, before we went to school, before lunch and after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, I was there all the time.

8.218This treatment went on for a number of weeks until he was relieved of the obligation by another Brother:

Shortly afterwards, the boys came back from – the ones that were on holidays came back, and I don’t know this Brother’s name, but he came back around the same time, so I assumed that he had been on holidays too, but he actually left the school shortly afterwards. He saw me standing there in my extra large boots and I was always bleeding when I was at the wall and he asked me what I was doing? I said, oh, I ran away. He took me down between the refectory and the stairway and the library, there is a little alcove that they used for first aid. He took me in there and cleaned me up and looked at my boots. He said, they are a bit big for you and sent me up to the bootmakers to get a normal size. I couldn’t believe it I could actually lift my feet off the ground. But Br Noreis,34 well, he more or less asked me, you know, what are you doing and I pointed to the other Brother and said, that Brother told me to leave the wall. He wasn’t too pleased, but I got the impression that there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

8.219The same witness described how he was accused of causing damage by failing to turn off an iron while he was working in the tailor shop. He had not been the last person to use the iron because he had given it to another boy when he had finished his work. Subsequently, smoke was seen to be coming out of the shop because the iron had been left turned on and burned through the ironing cover. That evening, instead of going to the cinema, the boys were summoned by the Disciplinarian to ascertain who had left the iron on. Because the witness had been ironing, he was the prime suspect, and the Disciplinarian organised a mock trial in which he was the defendant and the Brother the Judge. The Brother appointed counsel for the defence and prosecution. He told the boys that the witness would not be punished if found guilty. The trial went on for a couple of hours and the witness found the questioning so hurtful that he broke down crying. The Disciplinarian took this as an indication of guilt and the witness was severely beaten. He said:

That was enough for him to convict me; I was guilty. If I wasn’t guilty, why was I crying? Everyone went off to bed. I was going off to bed and I was called back and flogged. Before he did it, I said, “but you promised I wouldn’t get flogged for the fire”. He said,“ you are not being flogged for the fire. You are being punished because you told a lie”.. So heads he wins, tails I lose.

8.220Another variety of punishment which was confirmed by individual respondents was that boys were required to run around the yard as punishment. Br Michel described it thus:

That did happen. What I can remember was if a boy, if a mature chap ran away, absconded, the Manager would say “give him a while running around the yard.” It happened during break times it didn’t go on for terribly long, a few days maybe … it would be during play time and there was always a Brother in the yard during playtime, therefore he would be supervised. The rest of the students would be there as well.

8.221A witness described how one Brother imposed a punishment on a group of boys, who were due to go swimming, because one misbehaved:

On the way across the yard somebody booed and when we all got to the door to lead up to the dormitory he asked who booed, nobody would own up to who booed so he sent us across to the boot room, which was on the other side of the yard and we had to take off our sandals at the time, because it was the summertime, and put on our Wellingtons. We were made to run around the yard, everybody ran around the yard until we could run no more. That was it we just left – no swimming.

8.222Another witness described how Br Noreis directed boys to write down the names of those who engaged in sexual activity, and punished them as a group, if sufficient information was not given, by depriving them of the Saturday night film:

Everyone got a sheet of paper and a pencil and we were told to write down if we knew of any boys who had been, shall we say, sexually active with any other boy. Well, I always wrote the same thing down; I don’t know what you mean. This always went on a Saturday night. You always missed out on the cinema, because that was the one day that we had a movie. After all these boys had done whatever writing they were doing the paper was collected and we were all sent off to the dormitories, and for the rest of the night you could hear the screaming where boys who had misbehaved were dragged down in their night clothes and flogged by Br Noreis. That went on quite often.

8.223Another witness had his head shaved and was ‘sent to Coventry’ for a period that was to end when his hair grew back:

what they decided to do instead of giving me a beating, they decided to cut all my hair off and keep all the other kids from speaking to me until it was grown back, and that is the way I remember Letterfrack.

8.224The witness described how the other boys treated him:

They weren’t allowed to speak to me, as I say, until my hair grew back, and then when I would be walking around the yard and that, the ball would be kicked – if they were playing football, the ball would be kicked at me, I would be ducking. I was never hurt by a ball or anything like that.

8.225This lasted until his hair grew: ‘I don’t know how long but it felt like an awful long time’.

8.226Another former resident explained:

There was two things down there that you had to be aware of, was the bare and the baldier. The baldier was getting your hair cut off and getting it on the bare was getting it on the bare bum.

8.227Punishments included beating with a leather on the bare buttocks. Brothers acknowledged that this happened, as is detailed in the section on respondent evidence. One respondent who gave evidence, however, did not recall beating boys on the bare buttocks, and conceded only that when he was beating a boy in a dormitory the latter’s nightshirt might have ridden up, but the beating ‘wasn’t on his bare buttocks to my knowledge’. He was referred to a statement he made to the Gardaí, in which he referred to his use of the leather:

Yes, I did in class and in the yard. I used it mostly on the hand. I used it twice on the bare backside of a fella that I caught going into another fella’s bed at nights. I did not feel great about this beating it was part of the reason I left because I felt I was becoming brutalised.

8.228The Brother denied that he used the word ‘bare’ in the statement he made to the Gardaí, stating that he did not read back over his statement before signing it.

8.229Another witness expanded:

Out to the wash hall that was a dreaded thing. There was a term there; you could get it on the bare. What it meant was you would have to pull your nightshirt up, bend over and it would be a cane or the leather strap and you would get it heftily on the bottom. You would suffer from it and it would be violent, there is no other way you could describe it. That’s what happened to me. I got it on the bare out there. You expected it once you got out there, lights out and into the wash hall. This is what you are going to get and this is what I got. I got it pretty violent out there.

8.230Beating on the bare buttocks was not confined to the most serious offences, and one witness said it happened to him because he was talking in the dormitory at night.

8.231Residents remembered head shaving and isolation as part of the punishment for absconding. One said:

They didn’t get very far. One chap … he got to Athlone. The police arrested him and brought him back. When you were brought back they cut all the hair off you and isolated you.

8.232Another said:

For instance, if the boys ran away they stood them up against the wall, cut all their hair off, shaved it and nobody could talk to them.

8.233Respondent witnesses confirmed this. Br Dondre said that it was a recognised punishment and it was done in order to stigmatise them. Br Francois had a similar recollection. He saw it done and presumed it was a ‘badge of disgrace’.

8.234In its Submission, the Congregation accepted that boys’ heads were shaved as a punishment:

It would appear that this was a punishment which was confined to absconders though the Congregation acknowledges that it was an unacceptable form of punishment and deeply regrets that any boy’s head was shaved in this way.

8.235Another form of punishment that was not in dispute was hosing boys with cold water. A resident in the 1950s said that Br Sorel punished bed-wetters by hosing them down. A similar punishment was described in the late 1960s for boys who had tried to abscond. Respondents confirmed this evidence. Br Sorel said that he did so for hygiene reasons, but he accepted that other Brothers used it as a punishment and that it was totally wrong. Responding to the suggestion that people were brought down and hosed as a punishment, not for the purposes of hygiene but as a specific punishment, he said:

I think that was true in other case with some other Brothers, I think that was done as a punishment. I think it was totally wrong … Looking back, the whole thing was horrific for me and I am sure it was for the boys.

8.236Br Anatole accepted that absconders were still being hosed down in his time, the late 1960s:

If a boy ran away. It hasn’t come up so far in the question. It was one of the routine punishments; if a boy ran away he might be hosed down in the shower room. There was a fire hose rolled up against the wall.

8.237Br Dondre saw it happen once and did not approve of its use:

The fire hose, I only ever saw it being used once. There were a couple of boys absconded and they were brought back. That night Br Anatole came to the dormitory and he took the two boys from the dormitory and put them into their bathing togs, they were taken from the dormitory and I went with them. I didn’t know what he was going to do; I didn’t know where he was bringing them. I followed them down to the yard, down the side of the kitchen and he took the fire hose off the wall and he hosed the two boys down with the fire hose. Then he gave it to me to continue on and I turned it off.

8.238Br Iven also recalled an incident when absconders were hosed down when they were brought back to Letterfrack.

The inevitability of punishment

8.239It was impossible to avoid punishment. One witness said, ‘If one of these guys got in a bad humour that was it. You were standing in the roadway, that was it’. Another resident was asked whether a boy could avoid beatings. He replied, ‘Not really, you couldn’t. Not in Letterfrack, you couldn’t. Not from certain Brothers, you could not’.

8.240A witness who was resident from the late 1940s to the early 1950s described a severe beating he received. He worked in the generator room, helping the lay operator. One of his jobs was to go down to the generator room in the early hours to divert the electrical energy created by the turbine to the battery. The night watchman used to wake him for this purpose but on this occasion he was late in doing so, as a result of which the electricity was not diverted at the right time. The Brother in charge of the generator discovered the situation and punished the boy, who did not blame the night watchman because he did not want to get him into trouble. The Brother gave him a severe beating with a stick. When the lay operator saw the boy’s condition after the beating he brought him up to the Manager in the monastery and told him that if it ever happened again he would go to the Gardaí:

He said first of all he’d inform the local police and then he’d get the cruelty man in if it ever happened again. It never happened again from Br Lafayette35 … He said he would see to it, he’d take it in hand.


8.241Brothers and complainants confirmed that boys who ran away from the Institution were dealt with severely once caught. Absconding had to be reported to the Department of Education, and the Gardaí were often called on to assist in finding the child.

8.242A research paper commissioned by the Congregation in 2001 contains an analysis of the number of abscondings between 1959 and 1972 and the ages of the boys when they absconded.

8.243The following table illustrates the number of pupils, their ages and when they absconded:36

YearNumber of pupils abscondingAge(s)
1963210; 12
196658; 10; 12; 13; 14
1967613; 13; 13; 13; 13; 14
1968410; 11; 12; 14
1969214; 14
1970411; 12; 12; 13
197129; 10
1972213; 14

8.244The detail contained in this list does not match the information in the Department of Education’s Annual Report entries. In 1959, six boys absconded from the School and did a considerable amount of damage to property and were removed after special court on 10th January 1959 to Daingean Reformatory. In 1959, the Visitor noted that ‘Since Christmas, 11 boys ran away at different times. Br Malleville has to take the car and follow them or that he got word from the Guards that they had been captured and that he had to collect them and sometimes was not home with them until 1.30 a.m’. What is very evident is the increasing level of absconding, particularly from the mid-1960s onwards.

8.245What was clear from this analysis was that the official records did not reflect the actual number of boys who ran away from Letterfrack and who were severely punished for so doing.

8.246In 1967, the Visitor noted that, although conditions had improved in Letterfrack, absconding was a serious problem:

The boys can never be left on their own for despite the efforts to make the school a home for them the boys always regard the school as a place of detention and are liable to run away at any time.

8.247This Visitor recognised the fundamental problem of removing boys from their home and friends and expecting them to adjust to a completely alien lifestyle and environment. The response of the authorities was punitive and never addressed the reasons why the boys had run away in the first place.

8.248The high level of absconding should have alerted the management to question the way in which Letterfrack provided care to the children sent there, but this does not appear to have happened.


8.249In its Opening Statement, the Congregation stated:

Unfortunately, the boys could have been the objects of ridicule by their peers being labelled “slashers” … No living Brother who was in Letterfrack in the period under review recalls that there was ever any punishment meted out to a boy for bed-wetting.

8.250However, during the private hearings, Br Sorel, who was present during the 1940s and 1950s, admitted to punishing boys for bed-wetting. He stated that:

That was one of the worst and soiling the bed. This is the thing that used to break my heart in the morning when I came down to the dormitory, they had Macintosh sheets, large ones on the bed, and then they had the ordinary sheets over the Macintosh sheet, you would find three or four of the lads would not alone wet the bed but soil the bed. I was really tearing my hair out at that stage.

8.251He continued:

It was a problem every morning and I used to detest it. I felt like running away myself several times, having to face it coming down in the morning. It was terrible, the stench and the smell.

8.252He used to try and deal with the problem himself, but if it was not possible the boys had to take their mattress down to the yard, or take their sheets to the laundry.

8.253As a result of this evidence in its Final Submission the Congregation stated:

It is accepted that boys were, on isolated occasions during this period, punished for this problem though it does not appear that such punishment was a regular or routine practice within Letterfrack.

8.254They also accept that bed-wetters could have been dealt with more sensitively and that boys were required to organise the cleaning of their sheets themselves.

8.255Complainants testified that there was a practice of punishing boys who wet their beds. A former resident, who was in Letterfrack in the late 1960s, described how he was slapped for wetting the bed:

And if you wet the bed, you got a smack. They would know the bed-wetters from the rest of them. They would check their beds all the time. They would just walk by and they would whip your blankets off, and if the bed was stained you would get a smack.

8.256A number of former residents told the Investigation Committee how they started to wet the bed in Letterfrack. One pupil described how he started to wet the bed in the School, a problem that continued well into adult life. He said that, in the mornings, his sheets and mattress would be thrown on the floor. He recounted how he was sometimes made to wrap the sheets around him in order, as he saw it, to degrade him. He would be made to take the sheets to the yard while all the while the other boys would be laughing at him. Although he received the odd slap for bed-wetting he said there was no punishment as such, and what he feared most was the humiliation.

8.257One former pupil said:

lads that wet the bed as well they were made take the mattress down in the morning, carry them around the yard on their back and then put them on the rails in front of the shops they had in the school. There was a row of shops all the way along; the bakers, the cobblers and the tailors, and there was big railings and they had to put the mattresses up there to dry out. It was embarrassing like, you know.


  • Bed-wetting and soiling showed the extreme emotional disturbance suffered by many children in Letterfrack. Evidence from complainants about this problem was that it developed after they had come to Letterfrack and was not a pre-existing condition.
  • Although much of the complainants’ evidence was confirmed in general terms by respondents’ evidence, the particular cruelty of the punishment emerged in the testimony of individual complainants. Punishments described by Brothers or ex-Brothers, often in exculpatory or limiting terms, failed to reflect the pain, fear, helplessness and vulnerability that resulted.

The Congregation’s response to allegations of physical abuse in Letterfrack

8.259In its Opening Statement, the Congregation accepted that there had been lapses by individual Brothers and that children had been physically abused in Letterfrack. They pointed out, however, that corporal punishment was an accepted teaching tool during the period under investigation, and that the children who were sent to Letterfrack could not be regarded as a random sample of the school-going population. They stated that many had been confined to the School by the courts for breaches of the criminal law, and others were committed because their parents did not exercise proper care. Many were unaccustomed to parental discipline. In circumstances where there were a large number of children and a small number of staff, the maintenance of discipline was essential.

8.260The Congregation stated that there are no surviving punishment books for the School, although they believe that at one stage they did exist.

8.261The Congregation argued that their records show that the rules governing punishment were adhered to and that physical abusers were removed from the school when they were discovered. They summarised their position as follows:

(a)The recommendation given was that each Brother was to reduce corporal punishment to a minimum in his class.

(b)It was clearly stated that corporal punishment was not to be used for failure at lessons or during the religious instruction class.

(c)Constant emphasis was laid on ensuring that proper comportment, gravity, and propriety were observed in the administration of corporal punishment.

(d)Other forms of disapproval, from sarcasm to pushing a child away, were forbidden.

(e)The only instrument of punishment authorised was the leather strap, and punishment could only be administered on the hand.

(f)The authorized leather strap was to be kept in the teacher’s desk in the classroom.

8.262In its Closing Submission, the Congregation stated:

In light of all of the evidence, including the evidence of the respondents, it is accepted by the Congregation that, unfortunately there were incidents of excessive physical punishment.

However it would appear that these were isolated incidents and it is submitted that the evidence does not support a finding that excessive severe punishment was routine or prevalent during the relevant period. However it is accepted that the evidence suggested that the regime of physical punishment in the 1940s was somewhat more severe than in the period subsequent to that when there were improvements in the general regime.


  • The evidence of former residents about the punishment regime in Letterfrack was substantially confirmed by respondent witnesses, and there was little dispute as to the punishments that were administered.
  • There were fewer areas of dispute as between complainant and respondent witnesses than there were between complainants and the Congregation of the Christian Brothers. The Congregation acknowledged that there had been breaches of the rules as to corporal punishment, in respect of which they were apologetic, but adhered to the position that excesses were not the norm and that the regime, when considered in the proper historical context, was not an abusive one.
  • Punishment that was excessive, arbitrary, uncontrolled and pervasive had an impact that was not limited to the particular incident or the particular recipient, but created a climate of fear and distrust throughout the Institution. The Congregation failed to consider the full extent and long-term impact of the corporal punishment regime in Letterfrack when coming to the conclusion outlined in its Final Submission.

Conclusions on physical abuse

8.2641.Corporal punishment in Letterfrack was severe, excessive and pervasive, and created a climate of fear.

2.Corporal punishment was the primary method of control. It was used to express power and status and practically became a means of communication between Brothers and boys, and among the boys themselves.

3.It was impossible to avoid punishment, because it was frequently capricious, unfair and inconsistent.

4.Formal public punishments, and punishments within sight or hearing of others, left a deep and lasting impression on those present. Witnesses were still troubled by memories of seeing and hearing other boys being beaten.

5.The lack of supervision and control allowed Brothers to devise unusual punishments and there were sadistic elements to some of them.

6.The rules on corporal punishment were disregarded and no punishment book was kept, which meant that Brothers were not made accountable for the punishments they administered.

7.The Congregation did not carry out proper investigations of cases of physical abuse. It did not impose sanctions on Brothers who were guilty of brutal assaults. It did not seek to enforce either the Department’s or its own rules that governed corporal punishment.

8.The Department of Education was at fault in failing to ensure that the statutory punishment book was properly maintained and reviewed at every Inspection.

9.The Department was also at fault, in the one documented case that came to its attention, when it accepted an implausible explanation that was contrary to the information the Inspector had been given.

10.In dealing with cases of excessive punishment, protection of the boys was not a priority for the Congregation and, because the Department left supervision and control entirely to local management the children were left without protection.

Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


8.265The recorded information about sexual abuse in Letterfrack during the relevant period can be outlined as follows.

8.266Br Dax spent 14 years working in Letterfrack over two periods between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s. He pleaded guilty to sample charges of indecent assault and buggery of boys in Letterfrack. He was sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Four of the victims for the criminal prosecutions also gave evidence to this Committee. Br Dax remains a member of the Congregation.

8.267Br Anatole was a member of the Congregation for over 20 years, until he applied for and was granted a dispensation from his vows in the early 1980s. He pleaded guilty to sample counts of indecent assault in respect of three boys during his period in Letterfrack. He received a suspended sentence.

Documented cases

Br Piperel

8.268The disclosed documents record allegations in the 1930s that a Brother was engaging in sexual misconduct with boys and is an example of how such a complaint was handled.

8.269The Provincial received an anonymous letter of accusation from ‘a friend of the school’. How he responded is not recorded but, as appears below, he may have passed it to a deputy to follow up. A second letter from the same source galvanised him into action. On the day he received it, he sent the Brother against whom the allegations had been made a typewritten transcript and requested an urgent response. The letter writer asked the Provincial to change this Brother for the sake of the morals of the boys:

I wrote just two weeks ago telling you that something was happening in the school with the Brother … it has come to my notice that some of the boys were looking through the partition … and saw a boy on his lap, etc. which has caused a great comment. I would not like it to get around outside. I believe this is not the first time.

8.270The Provincial did not conceal his disquiet. Having set out a transcription of the anonymous letter, he wrote to Br Piperel:

These recurring warnings are causing me grave anxiety. Taken in connection with what did happen between you and boys on a previous occasion there is quite justifiable cause for all my anxiety.

Has anything wrong, such as is described in the above letter, taken place between you and a boy, or boys? The matter is so grave, and is fraught with such serious consequences to you, to the Institution and to the Congregation, that I require you to be very open and candid with me. Please let me have a letter from you by return.

8.271In the course of a three-page, handwritten letter, Br Piperel set out his defence. He began by recalling that a Visitor had mentioned the matter to him previously and that it was only when the Visitor had left that he remembered the occasion. The inference was that, following receipt of the first letter, the Provincial asked the Visitor to raise the matter with Br Piperel in Letterfrack, and the latter had denied any knowledge of it.

8.272His explanation was that, three weeks previously, one of the boys in the School brought him a message from the Gardaí in Letterfrack village:

While I was wording a reply the boy remained in the room, and as I wanted him to understand the message he was quite close to me while I was writing. After finishing I told the boy to re-arrange the desks, which were out of order after the Drawing. All this took only about seven or eight minutes …

After dinner I met this same boy and he brought with him another boy whom he stated was calling him names because he was doing messages for me to-day. Although the door of the schoolroom was open the boy looked through the partition while I was writing the message. I asked him why he called the boy names and he stated he only did that to get the other boy into a row. He then stated that he had been quite mistaken and I punished him. Both boys were emphatic about anything having happened. I can understand other boys exaggerating on this and probably making some statement to some individual in the premises.

8.273Br Piperel claimed that one of the lay staff in the School had a motive for having him removed from the Institution and would have been pleased to get him into trouble, thereby implying that he was the anonymous friend of the School who had written to the Provincial.

8.274The Brother’s reply should have given rise to even greater concern on the part of the Provincial, but instead it seems to have been taken as a complete refutation of the charges of impropriety. The mystery in the case was how the letter of response could have given any reassurance.

8.275At the time of the complaint, Br Piperel had been in Letterfrack for some eight years and he continued his career there for another four years. Thereafter, he served in three further industrial schools over a 10-year period. The records contained complaints about the Brother’s work and attitude in these institutions but did not record incidents of sexual impropriety. His last posting was to a day school in Cork in the 1950s, where his career as a teacher came to a dramatic end as a result of a complaint.

8.276This matter came to the attention of the School when an influential medical specialist told the Superior that a colleague was troubled because his nine-year-old daughter was being accompanied home from school by Br Piperel, who would wait near the School for her. The girl’s father had spoken to the Brother but he maintained that he was not doing anything wrong. The nuns in the School, a local teacher and parents were also concerned about the situation, which was not confined to this particular child. The doctor told the Superior that the girl’s father was going to report the matter to the Gardaí if the situation continued, and the Superior sought an immediate transfer, which was granted. Br Piperel remained in the Congregation until his death nine years later.

8.277In their Opening Statement, the Christian Brothers recorded the facts about this Brother in summary form, noting that he ‘was given the opportunity to explain himself and give his interpretation of what happened’. They commented:

It is not clear why Br Piperel was moved around from institution to institution despite being a danger to the boys. There is no detailed account to indicate what discussion took place about the matter, nor any indication as to why such a decision was taken.

8.278This Brother had a history of improper behaviour towards boys. The Provincial took the anonymous complaint seriously and he behaved appropriately in expressing his anxiety and urgently seeking a response from the Brother. The records did not indicate whether the Provincial notified the manager of any school to which he was subsequently posted.

8.279Br Piperel was one of three Brothers mentioned by an ex-resident of Letterfrack, Noah Kitterick, who wrote to the Provincial of the Order in 1953 alleging serious sexual and physical abuse. Notwithstanding the information the Congregation had, which should have alerted them that the allegations of Mr Kitterick were consistent with this Brother’s history, no acknowledgement or investigation of Mr Kitterick’s complaints was made. It was asserted by the Congregation that the failure to deal with Mr Kitterick’s allegations was because of ignorance that such behaviour could possibly have occurred. However, the documented records make such an assertion implausible.

8.280It is significant that this anonymous letter writer did not feel able to speak to the Resident Manager, Br Troyes, who was in charge during two other serious episodes of sexual abuse in Letterfrack.


  • The explanation offered by the Brother was entirely unsatisfactory.
  • The Provincial’s conduct put the interests of the Congregation, the Institution and the Brother ahead of the welfare of the boys, which demanded that the issue of sexual abuse be confronted.
  • The Congregation’s submission that ‘it is not clear why Br Piperel was moved around from institution to institution despite being a danger to boys’ was an inadequate response to a serious lapse on the part of the Leadership at the time. Br Piperel was not the only Brother transferred in such manner and circumstances.

Mr Russel37

8.282In 1939 the Provincial again had to deal with a case of sexual misconduct, this time involving an ex-pupil who was subsequently employed in the School and was in charge of some of the boys. On 20th July 1939, Br Leveret, the Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, wrote to the Provincial, Br Corben, complaining about the sexual activities of Mr Russel:

You may remember when you called to Letterfrack some time ago my drawing your attention to improper conduct carried on between the young man … Since your visit, the individual concerned has repeated this misconduct and the attention of the Superior was directed to the matter by the Sub Superior. The latter incident happened towards the end of May. Since then no action has been taken to have the fellow removed.

I am now relieving my conscience by again bringing the matter under your notice. If there be a repetition of the misconduct I shall feel that I did my part in trying to have things put right. I now consider that I am no longer obliged to make any further representation on the matter.

8.283The Provincial wrote to the Resident Manager, Br Troyes, on 23rd July 1939 to ascertain what was going on:

You will remember that when you were here some months ago I spoke to you about the undesirability of keeping [Mr Russel]–in your employment. You told me that though he had been admittedly implicated in immoral practices with the boys he was now reformed. I have quite recently been informed that he has since reverted to his immoral conduct and that a complaint to this effect was made to you last May. I shall be thankful if you will kindly let me have the particulars of the charge that was made against Russel and to what extent, if any, you found he was guilty.

8.284The Sub-Superior, Br Vernay, replied on behalf of the Superior on 25th July 1939:

I have known Russel for upwards of seven years and I know that whilst he was in the school as a pupil and that whilst he was out he bore an unblemished character all the time. He has possibly been guilty of a misdemeanour in his contact with the boys but this lapse would be due to an inadvertence rather than any serious notion of guilt on his part or on the part of the boys. The whole thing seems much exaggerated and points to a campaign against Russel rather than to a desire to correct an evil. Russel since being warned of the seriousness of the position, has become a member of the Sodality and was at Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the present month, Sodality Sunday.

8.285The Provincial replied to the Resident Manager on 25th July 1939:

I am glad to hear that you investigated the charge that was made against Russel, and that you have given him a serious warning with the threat of dismissal in case that misconduct would be proved against him. I dare say the action you have taken will have a salutary effect upon him. It is good that he is in the Men’s Sodality and frequents the Sacraments. Let us hope that with such safeguards and with the grace of God he will not again commit himself. We cannot be too particular about the character and conduct of the people we have in our employment, especially in our institutions.

8.286The Russel episode became known outside the School, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Tuam, Dr Walsh, wrote to the Provincial, Br Corben, suggesting a Visitation. The complaint was brought to the attention of Br Troyes, the Superior, who wrote to Br Corben on 25th September 1939:

The matter you refer to was inquired into and vehemently denied. At the inquiry Mr Russel was told, that if ever again, there was a complaint and that it was proved to have foundation, it would mean instant dismissal for him. He goes to the Sacraments and is a member of the Men’s Sodality. I am satisfied that there has been no cause of complaint. His conduct and the company he keeps about the locality give no cause for anxiety.

I was pained to get the complaint in the manner I got it and annoyed that you should get this trouble. The complainant did not mention it to the Superior but talked about it to others. After all if it were a serious breach of conduct, it is not a matter for public talk. I have never failed to investigate a charge made against an employee or a boy. I am afraid the accuser has an axe to grind in this affair. If he had a difference, as he had with [Mr Russel] and the latter said things to him or of him, he ought not to keep up deliberately showing his spleen as this has been done in many ways. I am afraid the rules of charity and justice have been out stepped. I am satisfied, [Mr Russel] is conducting himself in a proper manner.

8.287On the same day, 25th September 1939, a member of the Christian Brothers Provincialate had a meeting with Bishop Walsh and noted in a memorandum:

He told me that he had complaints about some immoral practices carried on by [Russel] in Letterfrack with some of the boys in the institution. This he said was reported to him by outsiders and was talked of freely by people who lived in the vicinity of Letterfrack. He (the Bishop) was very disturbed by this information and wished to have it investigated at once.

I told his Lordship that we had already investigated these regrettable incidents and I showed him the correspondence, which passed between the Superior of Letterfrack and the Br Provincial on the subject. He was satisfied that the matter was already taken up and thanked me for attending so promptly to the matter. He however expressed a desire that the Visitation should be held in Letterfrack as soon as possible and asked me when it could be done. I promised him that it would be done before the end of October. This satisfied him… he wished however that this question should be thoroughly gone into at the Visitation, and that if there was evidence of Russel having reverted to his malpractices that he be sent away. I promised that this should be done.

8.288The Provincial, Br Corben, carried out the Visitation between 12th and 16th October 1939. He investigated the allegations against Mr Russel and satisfied himself that they were true. He directed the Resident Manager to dismiss Mr Russel and the latter did so with the greatest reluctance. His Visitation Report stated:

A short time before the Visitation the Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Walsh had written to me to say that he had been informed that [Mr Russel] had been carrying on immoral practices with some of the boys. On investigation I found that such was the case, and that this man, who is an ex-pupil of the school, was not only corrupting the morals of the boys but was trying to undermine their Faith. I had on two previous occasions within the past six months told the Superior of complaints of this nature that reached me from the Brothers but he still kept him in his employment. Even now it is with reluctance he carries out my direction to dismiss this man. The Superior adopts a very stupid attitude in matters of this kind.

8.289The Superior was extremely reluctant to dismiss the employee, notwithstanding the volume of complaints or indeed the weight of evidence against him. The Superior was holding to the view that, although the employee had been guilty of certain previous misconduct, nevertheless he was a reformed character and was not guilty of further wrong.

8.290In its Opening Statement the Congregation cited this incident for the purpose of showing that this and two other cases involving lay workers were dealt with in an appropriate manner:

These cases demonstrate that the management was very aware of the need to protect the young people from sexual exploitation. It should be noted that such complaints seem to refer solely to the late 1930s and it does not seem that such complaints were widespread.


  • The Superior maintained an obstinate refusal to acknowledge the misconduct of the employee, even when faced with strong findings of guilt made by the Provincial. The protection of the employee was placed ahead of the interests of the children.
  • Immediate action to remove the employee was required, and the inadequate response was an indictment not only of the Resident Manager but of senior management in the Congregation.
  • The Superior’s refusal to deal with these allegations properly at the outset and his continued reluctance to remove the employee should have raised serious concerns as to his suitability for the position of Resident Manager. While the Visitor criticised the Superior for his ‘stupidity’, he did not comment on the consequences for the Institution of having a man in charge who was incapable of dealing with such a fundamental problem involving the safety of children. The Superior continued in office until the end of his term some years later.

Br Perryn

8.292Br Perryn was discussed in the earlier section on physical abuse, but his eventual removal from Letterfrack was as a result of sexual abuse there.

8.293The Visitation Report of 1941 revealed a very serious case of sexual abuse by Br Perryn who was in Letterfrack since 1927 and also from 1913 to 1919. The Report did not contain details of the allegations but they were shocking enough to alarm the Visitor and to demand immediate action:

Br Perryn has charge of the boy’s kitchen. He is dirty, untidy, almost repulsive. He is never present for Morning Prayers, but usually present for Mass, and Night prayers, but never or very rarely at any other exercise. The Brothers tell me that they have never seen him going to Confession, though he told me that he goes regularly to the local priests in the chapel. I don’t believe him. Superior tells me that his word can’t be relied on, and that he frequently lies. It is alleged that his relations with the boys are immoral, and if the statements that I have got from the boys and which I now submit to the Br Provincial are true, he has been living a most depraved, unclean, and gravely immoral life for years. So bad are the charges that I could not conscientiously allow him to remain with boys any longer, and availed of the fact that he got a fit on the day that I arrived to send him to the O’Brien Institute for a “Rest”. I think he suspects that it was only a ruse to get him out.

8.294The Visitor got statements from the boys involved which were ‘so shockingly obscene, revolting and abominable that it is hard to believe them’. The boys said that they were afraid to reveal the malpractices through fear of the Brother. In addition to sexual abuse he was also violent towards the boys.

8.295The Visitation Report continued:

Unfortunately, for years there has been much immorality among the boys. Onanism and Sodomy have been frequent, and these practices take place wherever the boys congregate, in the play field, lavatories, schools, kitchen and in the grounds. Formerly the boys were allowed to go out by themselves and then these practices were frequent. Boys wandered away among the fields and roads and mountain and immoral practices were carried on. Accusations have been made against Br Perryn in this respect also, and my investigations seem to confirm the charges. I have got statements from the boys with whom he is alleged to have had immoral relations. They are so shockingly obscene, revolting and abominable that it is hard to believe them. I have sent him to the O’Brien on the plea of ill health as I could not conscientiously leave him in charge of the boys until the matter is dealt with. Boys got a Retreat last Christmas and since then things seem to have somewhat improved. I fear that the boys have been making bad confessions, and would recommend that Fr. C Counihan be requested to give them a Retreat at once, so that the boys may get a chance now that Br Perryn is away. Boys whom I interviewed told me that they were afraid to reveal the malpractices through fear of Br Perryn. It is alleged that he beats them, kicks them, catches them by the throat etc. and uses them for immoral ends. I found superintendence of the boys at times very slack. For instance, on many mornings there is only an old man … in charge when the boys are getting up and dressing and washing. Many mornings there is no Br present when the boys are saying their prayers. [The man] says the prayers with them. Boys get up at 7 and attend mass at 7.30 Dublin time. House time is one hour later. The boys in the Junior Dormitory do not get up until 7.30. There is no Br with these either at that time. A monitor is in charge though one of these monitors was recently carrying on immoral conduct with some of the juniors in the dormitory. The Superior has now arranged that a Brother takes charge of both dormitories when the children are getting up. I also found that no Br was in charge of the boys between 2.30 and 3.00 this is one of the times when it is alleged that Br Perryn was most active with his vile practices. The night watchman has no “punch clock” so there is no guarantee that he is doing his work of superintendence at night properly. He leaves each morning at 6.30.

8.296The Visitor also found out that the Superior, Br Troyes, had not been informed of the alleged immorality between the boys and Br Perryn. Br Jourdan,38 who was a teaching Brother, discovered what was happening with Br Perryn from the statement from one of Br Perryn’s victims. Br Jourdan told the Visitor that he did not tell the Superior as the Superior would not have believed him; he does, however, appear to have confided in another young Brother. When asked why he did not report it directly to the Br Provincial he explained that he only found out towards the end of March and expected the annual Visitation to take place any week thereafter. The Visitor left a list of 17 directions with the Superior, some of which were designed to improve the supervision of the boys.

8.297The Superior General later commented on this matter in a letter to the Provincial:

Br Jourdan’s handling of the Perryn revelations appears to me very indiscreet; he omitted reference to the Superior and took the young inexperienced lay Brother into his confidence.

8.298Br Perryn spent 20 years in Letterfrack and a three-year period in Cork. He spent short periods in nine other institutions. During his earlier period of service in Letterfrack the Sub-Superior complained of this Brother’s ‘notorious’ severity toward the boys. A Visitation Report from 1919 commented:

Owing to some trouble, which Br Director attributed chiefly to the woman cook at the monastery Br Perryn was freed from all duties connected with the boys kitchen and refectory, and is now in charge of the monastery kitchen … Br Perryn does not associate much with the Brs of the Community and does not according to my information, care for his personal duties as contrasted with his charge of the boys refectory. My own impression is that a change to a non-residential school would be very desirable.

8.299Br Perryn was described as being stern and distant and notoriously severe by Br Gardiner, another Brother in the Letterfrack Community, in a letter to the Br Superior dated 3rd April 1917.

8.300Br Perryn was moved to Baldoyle in July 1919, a month after a Visitor had recommended that a move to a non-residential school ‘would be very desirable’.

8.301The Christian Brothers in their Submission commented:

It is difficult to explain how Br Perryn was reappointed to Letterfrack when he had been found to have been physically abusive during his first period in Letterfrack from 1913–1919.

8.302A number of reasons were suggested by the Congregation for the return of Br Perryn:

  • The authorities dealing with the case in 1919 were the General Council while subsequent to 1922 appointments were assigned by the Provincial Council which was established in 1922.
  • The Provincial Council that came into existence in 1922 may not have been aware of complaints made against Br Perryn.
  • No member of the General Council was appointed to the Provincial Council in 1922 and hence Brother Perryn was returned to Letterfrack in 1927 by authorities who had no knowledge of the problem.

8.303Then they concluded:

Although this incident of the abuse was dealt with as soon as it came to the attention of the Congregation Leadership, it is most unfortunate that the early warning signs had not been acted upon adequately.


  • When the Visitor was presented with information by one of the Brothers in Letterfrack, he investigated at once. He took statements from the boys involved, and was so horrified about the information that he took immediate action to remove the Brother.
  • The Congregation described in the Opening Statement how a trial of this Brother had been arranged in 1941 which would have led to his dismissal if he was found guilty. The trial did not proceed because the Brother was permitted to apply for a dispensation from his vows which was granted.
  • It is significant that the same Resident Manager was in charge during Br Perryn’s and Mr Russel’s time, namely, Br Troyes, who was in the School from 1935 to 1941.
  • Br Perryn was the second Brother referred to by Noah Kitterick in his letter to the Provincialate in 1953. Noah Kitterick alleged sexual and physical abuse by this man when he was in Letterfrack from 1924 to 1932, which was during Br Perryn’s second period there. The Congregation must have been aware of this man’s history and yet they refused to engage with Mr Kitterick or to acknowledge his complaint in any way.
  • The Congregation’s comment that ‘it is most unfortunate that the early warning signs had not been acted upon adequately’ failed to address the fundamental questions raised by this case.
  • The fact that this Brother was able to abuse boys undetected and unreported for such a long period is indicative of a serious failing in the management of the school.
  • To compound the seriousness of this case, even the Brother who discovered the abuse felt unable to report it to his Superior, waiting instead for the annual Visitation to disclose what he had heard. If a member of the Congregation felt that the Superior would not believe him, it is hardly surprising that the boys felt unable to speak up. This Superior was the same man who had refused to acknowledge the case of Mr Russel, referred to above. He was also the Resident Manager when an anonymous letter was sent to the Provincial regarding Br Piperel.
  • The fact that the Brother had felt unable to report the matter to the Superior and had to go through the Visitor was not addressed. Instead, the Brother was criticised for his indiscretion in mentioning the matter to another Brother in the School.
  • The documents do not record the 14 years of abuse by this man, which indicates that there was a higher level of sexual abuse in the Institution than was revealed by the evidence.

Br Leandre39

8.305Br Leandre, who served in Letterfrack during the mid-1940s, was unhappy in religious life from before taking his final vows but feared ‘eternal damnation’ if he left. He had been reprimanded by the Provincialate for ‘deliberately making contact with seculars’ and informed that there was no good reason why he should be freed from his vows. His Superior ‘implored me not to leave’ and so he continued with his vocation and worked as a Christian Brother for 16 years.

8.306Br Leandre first applied for dispensation in 1950, having sought advice from a Confessor who helped him prepare his case; he was refused, and he applied again in 1951 and in 1952, but was refused on each occasion. In his 1954 application, he spelled out the position more clearly and this had the desired effect:

Furthermore I find it impossible to live up to the obligations of my vow of chastity. Repeated exhortation by confessors, despite my earnest cooperation, fail to rid me of this vice. They seemed to think that married life would provide the best cure, and personally I feel or rather have found out by experience that that would be the best thing for me. A virtuous female friend has more than once saved me from breaking my vow of chastity. Men friends, e.g. my confreres, have no influence over me; rather I am essentially a husband.

For conscience reasons, I intend when I leave the brothers, to take up some other occupation other than teaching. However, I am leaving this decision, in the hands of the confessor, who prompted me to write this petition. He is of the opinion that when I will be no longer bound to celibacy, this matter will right itself, though personally I am scared of having to deal with innocent boys and be the cause of their committing sin …

I should mention, that, though I always wanted to leave, I always feared doing so, because during my formative years, I was often told that terrible calamities overtook those who returned to the world, followed by eternal damnation, in consequence of their “betrayal”. In proof of this, a quotation from Sacred Scripture was often recited “he that puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of Heaven” thus it was I was convinced that I should not leave, no matter how I felt about it.

I should mention that when I presented my case to the Sacred Congregation in 1950, it was a case that had been considerably watered down by a confessor, so as not to, as he said, incriminate myself unduly.

I have now stated the reasons, which before God, prompt me to seek a dispensation.

8.307The Congregation pointed out in its Submission that there were no contemporaneous complaints against this Brother while he was in Letterfrack. However, he and another Brother were criticised in a Visitation Report in 1945 for spending ‘most of their time down about the Boys’ Dormitories, in their rooms and away from the House’ His letter suggested that this man had a strong attraction towards boys from before his profession as a Brother and it may be suspected that he had sexual relations with boys during his time in Letterfrack. The Brother said in his letter that he was on the point of not taking final vows, but a lack of courage prevented him from refusing, indicating that the problem he had with the vow of chastity was of long standing.

8.308This Brother continued to teach in national schools for boys in Dublin until the mid-1980s. He left the employ of the Christian Brothers in the same month as he received his dispensation and took up a teaching position in a boys’ school in another county. He continued teaching in boys’ schools for the rest of his career but not in any Christian Brothers’ schools, although he had declared that it was his intention to take up another occupation instead of teaching because ‘I am scared of having to deal with innocent boys and be the cause of their committing sin’.


  • Br Leandre should not have been in a position to continue his teaching career after his dispensation. He openly acknowledged to the Congregation that he was a danger to boys, and the Department of Education should have been alerted to this danger by the Provincialate. No record of any such warning appeared in the Christian Brothers or the Department of Education files.
  • He was appointed to a teaching post in 1954. The question arises whether a reference was given by the Christian Brothers or no reference was sought by the new school when this appointment was made. In either case, safety of children was disregarded and the Brother’s position was protected.

Br Destan40

8.310Br Destan served in Letterfrack for one year in the 1940s. He was then transferred to three different day schools in four years and stayed in his final school for four years. He was dispensed from his vows in the late 1950s.

8.311Although the correspondence on file referred to the existence of other letters, the relevant available information was contained in a letter from one of the management team in St Helen’s Province to the Superior General. The writer enclosed two letters (which have not survived) from the Brother seeking a dispensation. The senior Brother who passed on the request told the Superior General:

He seeks a dispensation from his vows and for the present I am not sure whether we should recommend it or not. He is by no means quite normal and as you will see from the correspondence had been in trouble with boys and got a canonical warning. He now seeks a dispensation for conscientious reasons but does not say what these reasons are. It is quite possible that he is in trouble again but I do not know.

8.312The fact that this Brother was moved around so much and spent such short periods in the different schools, gives rise to suspicion. As noted in the above letter, he had a history of ‘trouble with boys’ and had received a Canonical Warning. On the occasion of a transfer to a school in County Wicklow, the Provincial warned the Superior ‘in strictest confidence’ to exercise vigilance, so that ‘with this vigilance perhaps the danger is more remote’.


  • This was one of the few examples where the Christian Brothers acknowledged in writing that a Brother who interfered with boys was dangerous and required vigilance. It is difficult to reconcile this awareness with cases that were documented in their own records. Men who were known to abuse boys were frequently sent to industrial schools where the opportunities for offending were greatly increased and the possibility of detection much reduced.

Br Avenall41

8.314Br Avenall served in Letterfrack in the late 1940s. His period in Letterfrack seems to have been in the interim between the first and second years of his teacher training. He served in a number of institutions, most notably in a day school from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. In or about 1974, a complaint was made that he had been involved in improper conduct with a boy. When he was informed about this by the Provincial, he denied that there was any truth in the accusation. Some years previously, there had been a similar complaint and the matter was investigated by a previous Provincial. On that occasion also, the Brother denied that there was any truth in the allegation. Some time after the second of the above complaints, a Visitation took place in the day school where he was teaching, during which the Brother made a confession to the Visitor who described what happened in an appendix to his report:

During his interview with the Visitor, Brother introduced this matter on his own initiative. He was very upset because he had not been candid with the Provincial, when the latter informed him of the complaint. He was too shocked to admit his problem, and requested the Visitor to let the Provincial know the real position.

Brother said that this problem had a very long history. Some years ago there was a similar complaint made by a parent, and he was interviewed by the previous Provincial. On that occasion also he denied there was any truth in the accusation made against him. He now realised that he could [not] continue in his present state, and he asked the visitor for advice and help. He was anxious to have whatever medical and spiritual aid there was available. He would be grateful if the Provincial would arrange an interview with a suitable doctor and priest psychologist …

Though Brother had failed to face up to his problem for many years, he was at last prepared to do so now. He was concerned about the harm he has done to the real mission of the Brothers in the area, to the boys, to the Community; he was particularly concerned about the superior who would be so hurt if he knew Brother’s real position.

8.315There were no complaints from witnesses about sexual abuse by this Brother during his time in Letterfrack, but again there must be grave suspicion in view of the information given to the Visitor years later and particularly the Brother’s failure ‘to face up to his problem for many years’.

Br Jean42

8.316In 1954 the Superior discovered that one of his Brothers had been sexually abusing children in the School. The complaint from one boy was that the Brother was ‘fiddling with him in his private parts’ and he described a number of incidents. A second boy gave somewhat similar information about the abuse carried out on him.

8.317The matter was referred to the Provincial who interviewed the offender, who admitted to ‘immoral dealings’ with boys over a period of three months. Br Jean43 was removed from Letterfrack. The Provincial reported that it appeared that the Brother had been initiated into this type of activity whilst he was a student in the Christian Brothers’ Novitiate. The Superior of the College had at that time carried out an inquiry into homosexual activity there that resulted in a number of the boys being sent away. This offending Brother was one of a number who were allowed to remain and who went on to become Brothers.

8.318This Brother was sent to Letterfrack in the knowledge that he had a history of sexual activity. The Superior in Letterfrack should have been notified of relevant history once it was decided to assign the Brother, but there is no evidence that this was done.

8.319The Congregation commented in its Opening Statement that the way this matter was dealt with ‘demonstrated how quickly the authorities acted when a complaint was brought to their attention’.

8.320The Superior did not reveal to the other Brothers the reason for Br Jean’s sudden departure. Br Sorel who served in Letterfrack at the time was angry:

At the end of the year we were told that he was fired home, we were only told then by the Manager that he had been abusing two boys … who used to go to the sacristy every night to prepare for the Mass for the next day for the Priest. I didn’t know at the time, none of us knew at the time what had been going on between himself and the two boys, … the then Manager had said it was his duty to keep it secret and confidential. I was surprised last week when I heard somebody saying that everybody knew it, they didn’t. The boys didn’t know it because I would have found out easily from a number of the lads if that had happened.

8.321While this witness believed that nobody knew the reason the Brother left, the evidence of former residents was that boys did know about Br Jean’s activities. One recalled hearing that Br Jean would take boys up to his room at night to give them extra lessons:

Now, you hear rumours, but we knew that Br Jean left Letterfrack because he was abusing boys. We knew that. I knew some boys in particular who – they didn’t tell us, you just knew. How do I know? Okay, in the School we talked amongst ourselves, “why is he gone, why was he taking such a boy to his room at night pretending to be giving extra school lessons?” Now this is where I think it came from. It was fairly common knowledge amongst the boys that Br Jean was dismissed from the School because he was sexually abusing boys.

8.322Another resident in the School from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s stated that he heard rumours concerning Br Jean’s removal, in particular that he had been removed for abusing boys in the sacristy.

8.323A complainant who was resident during the 1950s gave evidence to the Committee that he was sexually abused by Br Jean during his time in Letterfrack. He said that Br Jean would remove him from his bed at night and take him to his own bedroom, where Br Jean would kiss and fondle him and do “various acts that should not be done. He said that it was part of Br Jean’s duties to act as night watchman and that enabled him to do this. The complainant stated that this occurred on average twice a week for a number of weeks, but that he was constantly in fear of Br Jean coming for him at night and as a result began to wet the bed. He further stated that he never informed anyone of the abuse at the time, as Br Jean told him that he would never be allowed to leave the Institution were he to do so. Br Jean, he stated, would also give him sweets and toys to ensure his silence. The complainant stated that he never heard any talk amongst the boys in respect of Br Jean engaging in sexual abuse. He said that he never spoke to them about it nor did anyone ever mention anything to him. Although he had no recollection of Br Jean leaving Letterfrack, he was in fact removed some weeks before the complainant’s own discharge.

8.324There was no Visitation Report for 1954 and there was no mention of his departure from Letterfrack in the annals of the Community. This was surprising, as the annals documented all the movements of Brothers in the Community, including those on short visits to Letterfrack and any vacations or retreats taken by permanent members of staff.

8.325In its response to the statement submitted to the Investigation Committee by the witness cited above, the Congregation said as follows:

[The complainant] makes serious allegations of sexual abuse against a “Brother Jean” which he says began “after about a week in the school”. This abuse is said to have occurred at night in Brother Jean’s bedroom. It has been very difficult for the Congregation to properly investigate this particular aspect of [this] complaint. Brother Jean left the Christian Brothers in 1954 and the Congregation is unaware of his present whereabouts.

If the abuse claimed by [the complainant] did occur it is a matter of sincere regret for the Congregation. However, I do believe that if [the complainant] had made a complaint at the time, appropriate action would have been taken. The Congregation does not and would not have condoned abuse of the kind alleged by [the complainant] in his statement.

8.326As was customary with all such responding statements, this one was signed by a Christian Brother, in this case Br Sorel, who was quoted above as having been angry that he was not informed earlier of the reason why Br Jean was removed and that he found out only at the end of the year. Br Sorel also stated that in preparing the response he had liaised with members of the Leadership Team, who furnished him with relevant information from the Congregation’s records. The Brother who was the Superior of Letterfrack at the time of the departure of Br Jean was available for consultation when the response was prepared. It was unfortunate in these circumstances that the response statement did not give the reason for the departure of Br Jean. In the result, the Committee was given an inaccurate statement by the Congregation, and the victim of Br Jean’s activities was given the impression that his account was not believed.

8.327In its Final Submission to the Committee following the investigation into Letterfrack the Congregation stated:

On the basis of its own records and of the evidence of [the complainant], the Congregation accepts that Br Jean was involved in some level of sexual abuse. The documentation that the Congregation has in respect of Br Jean is extremely limited, (and all of it has been given to the Commission) but it is clear that Br Jean was removed once the abuse was detected.


  • The assertion by the Congregation that the boy should have reported the abuse at the time ignored the difficulties that boys and even Brothers had in reporting sexual abuse and tended to place responsibility on the victim.

Br Adrien44

8.329Br Adrien served in Letterfrack for one year in the late 1950s. A proposal by the Provincial to revoke the Brother’s transfer away from Letterfrack provoked an extraordinary plea from the Resident Manager:

Your letter cancelling Br Adrien’s change came as a great surprise and shock to me.

I hope you will forgive my candour in saying that I would prefer to have no one at all for the boys’ kitchen than to have the constant strain of watching and worrying about him.

It is impossible to keep one’s eye on him. Every time he gets my back turned he is in the kitchen and goodness knows, there are enough difficulties and worries to contend with, without having to think of him every minute and hour of the day.

The position regard the Monastery kitchen is regrettable but unfortunately he has not got proper control in the boys’ department either. In my opinion he is not suitable at all to handle young boys and it is positively dangerous, especially in these times, to have him looking after them. A weakness in discipline in this important department will have a very detrimental effect on the boys’ behaviour and will add to everyone’s difficulties and will seriously affect the tone of the school.

Taking the above considerations into account and also your own personal knowledge of Br Adrien, I ask you seriously to reflect on the harmful effect his staying here is bound to have, and I entreat you to permit the transfer to go through as originally arranged.

8.330The Provincial replied that the letter was very distressing, and he thought Br Adrien deserved a Canonical Warning for his disobedience and acceded to the request that his transfer should go ahead. Br Adrien was transferred to St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra, and was subsequently transferred to a number of different schools, including Artane. He was back in Letterfrack in the late 1960s for a short period.

8.331Whilst the nature of the conduct that made this Brother ‘dangerous’ and ‘having a detrimental effect on the behaviour of the boys’ was not set out, the implication was clear. No witnesses complained of being abused by him in Letterfrack but, during his subsequent career in Artane, he was accused of sexual abuse of boys. He was urgently removed from Artane when the Chaplain reported complaints by a boy to the management. He appears to have received no Canonical Warning for his behaviour in Artane. Following a period of work in St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra, he was once again dispatched to Letterfrack. After leaving Letterfrack for the second time in 1968, Br Adrien worked in a number of locations before he returned to Baldoyle in the late 1990s.

8.332In view of the history of this Brother in Letterfrack, he should not have been transferred to a school for deaf children. Following the discovery of serious sexual abuse in Artane, his subsequent transfers to the place where his behaviour was first recorded was indicative of the Congregation’s priorities. If protection of children had been even a remote consideration, these transfers would not have occurred.

Br Didier45

8.333Br Didier taught in Letterfrack for 10 months in the late 1950s, and was then transferred to St Patrick’s in Marino. A year and half later, he left Marino under a cloud and was transferred to Colaiste Mhuire. He was given a Canonical Warning in 1960 on account of his “interfering incorrectly” with boys who had been in his class. He was advised that the object of the warning was so that he would not fall into that fault again:

After consultation with the Provincial Council I have decided to give you a canonical warning on account of your interfering incorrectly with boys who had been in your class. The object of this warning is that you will not fall into this fault again.

8.334There was no explanation for the short duration of his service in Letterfrack notwithstanding his position as teacher. He taught in five more schools.

Br Dax

8.335Br Dax was convicted of sexually abusing 25 former pupils, some of whom gave evidence to the Investigation Committee.

8.336During the course of Br Dax’s evidence to the Investigation Committee, counsel for Br Dax told the Committee that Br Dax accepted that he was guilty in respect of further charges.

8.337Br Dax worked in Letterfrack for two periods, from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, having previously spent over five years in St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra. He was in charge of the kitchen and the poultry farm and also did relief work for other Brothers from time to time, which sometimes involved supervising the dormitories. For the first two years of his time in the School, he slept in a room adjacent to the dormitory. He accepted that, with one exception, his abusive activity spanned nearly the entirety of his period in the school. This exception was for a period of two years, and was due to the influence of his Confessor, who made clear to him the sinfulness of his conduct. However, he relapsed as soon as this priest was transferred.

8.338Br Dax told the Committee that he started sexually abusing children approximately six months after his arrival in the School. He said it started ‘with immodest touching and eventually leading to buggery’.

8.339The abuse generally took place in the kitchen area, the poultry farm or the boiler room. He accepted during cross-examination that it could also have taken place in the room adjacent to the dormitory or in the incubator room in the monastery.

8.340Although he admitted raping and fondling boys, he preferred to reserve his position on whether he masturbated them, forced them to masturbate him or engaged in oral sex.

8.341He said that he would abuse the same children regularly and that, at any one period in his career in the School, he could have been abusing a number of children at the same time. The abuse would often continue until the particular boy left the School. He accepted that he would often keep boys behind after work for the express purpose of abusing them. As to the frequency of his assaults, he accepted the suggestion that he would have raped some boys once or maybe twice a week for a prolonged period of time.

8.342Br Dax described how he would select his victims. He said that he did not have a favourite type of boy who he would be more likely to abuse. Indeed, he was unable to tell the Committee why he picked on some boys rather than others, other than to say that it was simply a matter of convenience for him. He did not appear to have engaged in a policy of risk assessment. He simply abused the children that he had regular contact with.

8.343He said that he had nothing to do with the allocation of the boys to their chores as this was done by the Disciplinarian. He was asked whether the boys ever objected to him and he replied that they did not, although he did recall a number of boys who asked him to stop. He said that, when this happened, he would stop. On further questioning, however, he admitted that the main reason for stopping was the boys’ leaving Letterfrack or moving to a different trade.

8.344Br Dax was asked about the extent to which other people knew of his activities. He said that, as far as he was aware, no adults other than his Confessor were aware of his activities, although he accepted that the children who worked in the kitchen would have known about them. He also accepted that it was possible that a wider pool of children would have been aware of his inclinations. He was also asked about his awareness of the risk of detection. He said he could not recall taking any specific steps to avoid detection. He was asked how he avoided being caught and told the Committee that he could not put his finger on the reason but he thought the fact that he worked alone in the kitchen was a factor. He was also isolated from other members of the Community due to the nature of his work. By virtue of the fact that he cooked for the boys, he himself never attended a Community meal in the 15 years he spent in Letterfrack.

8.345He accepted during cross-examination by counsel for a number of complainants that he used threats to prevent the boys from informing on him. He also accepted that the boys would cry and be upset after he abused them and that he would not release them until they had calmed down.

8.346It was put to him during cross-examination that it was astounding that he was able to abuse children for 15 years without detection and that nobody other than the boys or himself knew about it. Br Dax accepted that it was astounding but stressed that nobody ever spoke to him on the subject or suspected him until he was arrested during the course of the police investigation into Letterfrack.

8.347He said that he remembered that Br Vallois46 left suddenly but stated that he did not discover that this was because he was sexually abusing children until many years later. Similarly, he said that he had no idea why Mr Albaric47 left. He speculated that, if there had been an investigation into the activities of Br Vallois, he might have been frightened into stopping his own activities.

8.348Br Dax was cross-examined at length by the Congregation about what motivated or led him to sexually abuse children. He attributed his abusive activities to overwork and a feeling of isolation. Counsel for the Congregation put it to him that these were feelings that would have been shared by many members of staff in Letterfrack, yet they did not all resort to the sexual abuse of children for release. Br Dax later contended that his actions were due to a mix of isolation, loneliness and his own ‘human weakness’. Earlier in his evidence, Br Dax accepted that he could be described as a ‘loner’ and tended not to engage or socialise with the other Brothers in Letterfrack.

8.349Br Dax confirmed that in his ‘human weakness’ his way of dealing with loneliness was to engage in sexual abuse of boys. When asked how he would go about satisfying that human weakness, Br Dax simply stated ‘Touching, embracing’. Br Dax could not explain why he behaved differently to other Brothers who were equally isolated from their families.

8.350During cross-examination by counsel for a number of complainants, Br Dax said that the abuse was primarily about release for him. This was reiterated during his questioning by the Committee, when he stated that he never formed any emotional relationships with the boys.

8.351While Br Dax admitted committing sexual offences against 25 boys in Letterfrack, only four of these gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. It follows that the full extent of this Brother’s sexual activity was not put before the Committee, even with regard to the crimes for which he was convicted.

8.352One of the boys in respect of whom Br Dax pleaded guilty to having abused told the Committee that Br Dax selected him to work in the kitchen because the other kitchen boy had run away. At the time, he thought he was on the ‘pig’s back’, because working in the kitchen would give him access to extra food and warmth. He knew that Br Dax could be bad tempered but soon learned to adjust to his moods. He was alone in the kitchen the first time he was abused by Br Dax, and initially he did not realise anything bad was happening. He just thought that Br Dax was being affectionate.

8.353However, matters soon deteriorated:

Well it started off I was helping, I was doing little odd jobs before I actually went in as kitchen boy and suddenly there was nobody there except Br Dax. But I didn’t really, to me there was nothing wrong with it. He was being nice, you know. He used to call me [Robert].48 Never grown to hate a name so much. Anyway, we ended up in the back kitchen and I don’t know how he got up behind me, I never really thought about it, but suddenly his hands going up and down my tummy, and then his hands are inside my clothes and it is, “you are all right, [Robert], you are all right [Robert]”. He actually touched the top of my penis. Now, I didn’t know what sex was and suddenly he shivered and as I turned around, well, I know now what he was doing, he was ejaculating, but at the time, well, to be quite truthful, I thought he was deformed. You know, what the hell is this coming out of you? You want to go and see a doctor, and he actually gave me a cigarette but I didn’t smoke at the time. I gave it to one of the other boys for some Cleeves. Things like that went on … One time when I was trying to stop it, he actually said, I would be paying a visit to the courthouse and I knew exactly what that meant … That he would be taking me up to the courthouse and have me transferred to Daingean. That is the only possible reason you would go to the courthouse … Do what he says or else. Yes. I mean, Letterfrack was bad. Daingean was worse. You know, I would commit suicide …

8.354He recalled the first time he was raped:

Sex, my introduction to sex was in the back kitchen of Letterfrack, jammed up against a boiler, getting my leg burnt and getting raped by Br Dax.

8.355He continued:

… we had showers every Saturday, Saturday afternoon. So, yes. He ended up behind me again, but it was different. He started to open my clothes and I am “stop it” and he jammed me between two boilers. Well, one boiler really. He was at the other, and I was at this one. He started trying to put something into me, and at the time, I honestly didn’t know what it was, and suddenly I got this unmerciful pain and – well, I went off into a different world. I don’t know, but when I actually, I won’t say came back – he was on his knees in front of me, buttoning up my fly. “Are you are all right?” Every time I moved I had this pain, and I went out to the boys toilets and I sat there. I was sobbing my heart out. Somebody shouted in “showers”. We all had to go to our dormitories for showers, and I still couldn’t understand what he had done with me.

I mean anyway, we used to go down to the showers wearing a pair of swimming trunks that were made by the School, and I think it was 20 at a time, I am not sure. There was a line here and a line there and a handle at the end. I was at the end. Br Guillaume49 took showers. I was sobbing my heart out. Now Br Guillaume was the type of man that if I broke wind in the farmyard, he knew about it in the play yard. He had his finger on it, it didn’t matter what went on in the school, I don’t know how, we used to wonder how he knew, but he never asked me what happened. The only thing I can think of is he knew what happened.

Anyway, that night, the cinemas, and the boys sat on the seats here. It was a projection room behind and the Brothers used to sit there or around the potbelly fire. Br Dax came in, and I was in the middle and he called up my line, “[Robert, Robert] here” . Was a half slab of Cleeves. Well, I took it and I just slung it, I want nothing off the – and that is something that isn’t often done – well, it wasn’t to my experience, and Br Guillaume was behind, he had to see. Why am I getting this preferential treatment? I won’t say I find it hard to believe, I find it impossible to believe that he didn’t know, not only what went on, but what was going on. There is no way, what happened to me over that period of time, that they didn’t know. All of them. Every single one of them, and I hope they all rot in hell.

8.356The witness said that he knew that the same was happening to other boys, because of the way Br Dax behaved towards them, which would now be called grooming:

Yes, I knew how he behaved with me and I could see the way he was behaving with them, and it was identical … “Come and help me with the chickens”, that was regarded as a little perk. Or “let’s go down to the orchard, I want to get some apples. I am going to make apple jam”, or something or other. You knew damn well he wasn’t making apple jam. The man couldn’t boil an egg. I done most of the bloody cooking, but you knew, you seen all the signs.

8.357He said that the boys reacted in different ways: some went very quiet, whilst others became aggressive, but the change in them was very noticeable. He identified two individuals whom he was convinced Br Dax was abusing, although they never said anything to him.

8.358He was cross-examined on his assertion that the Congregation knew about Br Dax’s activities:

To say that they didn’t know would be to say that the sun doesn’t shine tomorrow because in a school like that, there is 120 boys, they all know what is going on. Everyone knew what was going on, there were very few that didn’t know, the only thing was we didn’t speak about it because we were ashamed of it. I am still ashamed of it, I should have cut his bloody throat. He didn’t know? Br Guillaume didn’t know? I sat down and sobbed my heart out, that man knew and he never answered. He should have turned around and said to me “what was going on, why are you crying?” but what did he do he continued on with the shower and sent me up to dry off – he didn’t know? … If I was to stand in front of my maker tomorrow I would have the same position, they knew what went on. Some of them were doing it, some of them were covering it … The ones that were covering are twice as guilty as the ones that didn’t because they could have stopped it.

8.359Counsel for Br Dax stated that he had no questions for the complainant. Br Dax was asked during his own evidence whether he had any recollection of the complainant and replied that he did not, even though the complainant was one of the individuals in respect of whom he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing. In his response statement, Br Dax adopted a Garda Statement in which he stated that he remembered the complainant and that he worked in the kitchen. He accepted that he would have caught and pulled him towards him on several occasions, and that he would have touched his private parts and ejaculated at the same time. He also accepted the allegation that he came up behind the complainant while the latter was cleaning the kitchen, undressed him and raped him. He could not recall how often this type of activity occurred but he accepted that it did happen on several occasions, either in the kitchen or the storeroom. The complainant was about 15 at the time. He said that he was ‘deeply sorry for the hurt caused and I apologise’.

8.360Another witness who gave evidence was also one of the individuals Br Dax admitted sexually abusing. Br Dax pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting this witness. The witness’s evidence was that the abuse occurred during milking time, but this was strongly disputed by the Congregation in cross-examination who pointed out that the records proved that Br Dax did not have farming duties, and that his duties in the kitchen would have made it impossible for him to have been around the milking sheds during milking. Br Dax did not dispute the witness’s evidence at the hearing, and the issue of whether Br Dax had duties other than the kitchen was raised only by the Congregation.

8.361The evidence of this witness was that Br Dax would ask him to stay behind after the milking was done. He said that Br Dax started kissing and fondling him and then he had to ‘touch him up’. This happened about three times a week until he was released. On one occasion, the witness attempted to stop Br Dax by cutting himself with a knife. Br Dax panicked and, when the Resident Manager asked what happened, he told him that the witness had slipped. The witness said that, following his discharge from Letterfrack, Br Dax visited him at home and attempted to abuse him there but he was able to resist.

8.362During Br Dax’s own hearing before the Committee, he stated that he was in charge of the poultry farm and went there daily to attend the chickens and hens. He also stated that he abused boys in the poultry shed, as he was fairly safe from detection there.

8.363He said that he did not have anything to do with the cows or sheep, but the poultry operation was in the same area and boys would occasionally come after their milking duties to help him.

8.364Br Dax was not questioned by the Congregation on this issue at his hearing.

8.365The Congregation in its final Submission to the Investigation Committee said that the conviction of Br Dax spoke for itself and they did not wish to make any submissions on the extent of the sexual abuse committed by him. They did, however, express reservations about the evidence of this complainant, which they believed showed how a false allegation could be made on the basis of information obtained from sources other than the witness’s own experience.

8.366The Congregation maintained this position even after it heard the evidence of Br Dax and in circumstances where it did not examine him on the extent of his duties outside of the kitchen. It appears that the Congregation relied on their own records to dispute the evidence of this complainant, even when those records were disproved by the respondent himself.

8.367Another complainant who was resident for two years in the early 1960s was also one of the individuals Br Dax admitted sexually abusing. Br Dax pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting this man. The complainant gave evidence that he worked in the kitchen and that Br Dax fondled him and pushed up against him while masturbating himself. The abuse was carried out by Br Dax under the guise of his wiping something off the complainant’s ‘cowman’s coat’, during which time Br Dax pushed up against him and fondled his chest and grabbed his shoulders and masturbated. The boys would put on this coat when requested by Br Dax to fetch milk. The complainant stated that putting on the coat ‘meant at the time he wanted to masturbate’.

8.368Another ex-resident, who was there in the late 1960s and who worked in the kitchen, said that Br Dax was prone to violent mood swings, one moment he would be nice and give the boys cake and sweets, the next he would beat them unmercifully. He recalled one incident of sexual abuse which occurred in the back kitchen, where Br Dax attempted to abuse him but which the complainant fought off by throwing boiling water at him.

8.369Counsel for Br Dax did not ask any questions of this witness. In his response to the Committee he adopted his Garda Statement in which he stated, ‘I honestly can’t remember the incident … or the boy himself’.

8.370Another man who worked in the kitchen as a tea boy in the late 1960s said that, when everybody was gone from the refectory, the tea boys would wash the pots before leaving. On one occasion, Br Dax asked him to stay back after everybody else had left. Br Dax calmly poured a cup of tea, then took his penis out and forced the boy to give him oral sex:

He sat me down, made me a cup of tea, well, poured a cup of tea, and then he took his penis out … And he pushed my head down on to his lap, and I had to give him oral sex … I got back up, sat up straight and he started opening my trousers then, but I wouldn’t, so I resisted him. He got angry with me then and he smacked me with a teapot. There was a teapot and he just hit me on the head.

8.371The complainant never went back to the kitchen again.

8.372Another ex-resident in respect of whom Br Dax pleaded guilty was too upset to go into detail about the abuse suffered at the hands of Br Dax and asked that the Committee accept his Garda statement and the response to that statement as his evidence, which the Committee agreed to do.

8.373In his statement the complainant said that he worked in the kitchen in Letterfrack alongside two other boys. He said that Br Dax would get him on his own and that he would ask the complainant to masturbate him with his hand first to get him an erection and then he would try to rape him. He recalled two specific instances where Br Dax penetrated him. He said that the abuse always took place on Saturday evenings before tea.

8.374Br Dax would organise matters so that there would be just one boy there at that time of the evening. He suspected that Br Dax was abusing other boys, because there were a number of boys who refused to work in the kitchen. However, he said that he never discussed the abuse with anyone because he was afraid of Br Dax. Br Dax would beat and hit him, often for no reason, and the boys were terrified of him.

8.375After he was raped the second time he refused to work in the kitchen. He ran away and as punishment he was banned from working in the kitchen:

To work in the kitchen was thought to be a privilege although in fact it was the worse possible place to be if you were sexually abused by Br Dax.

8.376In his response statement, Br Dax adopted a Garda Statement in which he admitted fondling the complainant and forcing him to engage in masturbation. He accepted that he might also have asked the complainant to ‘kiss his penis’. He also accepted that he raped him although he could not recall how many times this had occurred. He did not recall digitally penetrating the complainant but accepted that it might have occurred, and he accepted that the abuse could have happened in a room off the kitchen.

8.377The Congregation’s response to the statement of this complainant did not focus on the admitted facts of the abuse, but instead concentrated on the areas of minor inconsistencies, such as the discrepancies in the age of the complainant at the time of the alleged abuse and details about his work in the kitchen.

8.378Another ex-pupil who gave evidence worked on the poultry farm with Br Dax. He said he enjoyed the work there because he had a great deal of freedom as Br Dax also worked in the kitchen. He got on well with Br Dax to a point but he was sexually abused by him.

8.379He said that Br Dax slept in a room next to his dormitory and on Saturday mornings he would be required to clean this room.

8.380The complainant stated that for about 10 weeks he was abused by Br Dax on Saturday mornings while he cleaned the room. He stated that Br Dax would rub talcum powder around his neck whilst ‘kissing you like you were a girl’. The complainant recalled that:

… he’d lie on top of me and sexually … he would have his penis between your buttocks and moving himself about and ejaculated and that’s it.

8.381He said that Br Dax also abused him in a room in the monastery, which was used for incubating the chicks. On one occasion when Br Dax was abusing him he said that a Brother, he thinks it was Br Noreis, knocked at the window to get Br Dax to stop:

Br Dax is kind of loving me, like, arms around me, loving me inside in the room and I think it was Br Noreis, knocks at the window. It was like a mild reprimand, a little joke and it stopped … Nothing serious, like, but what he was doing you would have some explaining. Like, if I got a child now or I got a young fellow. I keep saying a child because we were children down there.

8.382The abuse continued until the complainant threatened to tell a local priest. Br Dax did not react in any way other than to stop his abuse. The complainant could never bring himself to tell the priest of what had happened to him. The Investigation Committee found the complainant’s account of sitting in a shed outside the priest’s house, trying to work up the courage to tell somebody, moving:

I would be fearful of saying it, of the consequences. I would be fearful of the consequences. Even if he believed me about what was taking place, there is no reason for me to suspect that he is going to act on it. Like, who is going to challenge – like, what is he going to do? Who am I, as a child, am I – am I going to put this particular Christian Brother and the good name of the Christian Brothers in jeopardy by what this man is doing to me of a Saturday in his room? I have the good sense to know that. But at the same time I used to get excited. Now, I went down there about five times down to his house but I never went to the door. But I feel that if he had probably come out to the door I might have gone over and said something and blurted it out and lived with it or whatever. It didn’t happen. It stopped with Br Dax and I worked with Br Dax after that until I left.

8.383He would not have been able to complain to the Superior:

I got on very well with Br Guillaume. No, I would have been embarrassed to go to Br Guillaume . I would have been embarrassed to go to Br Guillaume . None of us lads ever spoke about these things. They don’t actually talk about it now, believe it or not. They only talk in general ways. People don’t go into detail about it. Br Guillaume, no, I never did. I liked Br Guillaume.

8.384During cross-examination, counsel for the Congregation made much of the fact that Br Dax never slept in a room adjacent to the dormitory. However, in his own evidence, Br Dax stated that he spent the first two years in such a room. Br Dax admitted that he possibly did abuse the complainant on the poultry farm and in the room adjacent to the dormitory. It is inexplicable why the Congregation would seek to undermine a bona fide witness by challenging evidence that was subsequently confirmed by the respondent himself.

8.385None of the individual respondents who gave evidence to the Committee of having worked alongside Br Dax suspected that he was an abuser.

8.386Br Dondre described Br Dax as follows:

He was a sort of a witty sort of person, he liked having a laugh. He liked joking. He took his job; he took the kitchen thing very serious. He invited me in a couple of times to test the food, to taste it and that, yes. Didn’t see much of him because when he was on duty, when he was doing the kitchen work, I was doing something else. As a Community man, well, as a Community, the Brothers saw very little of each other in Letterfrack.

8.387Br Anatole described Br Dax as a friendly individual who worked very hard and who was good at his job. He also said he saw no evidence of any abuse by Br Dax in Letterfrack.

8.388Br Karel, who had been the Superior of Letterfrack for two years, said that he had an argument with Br Dax over the manner in which the refectory was run. He said that he told Br Dax to give the boys more food and that he supervised a meal to ensure that the bigger boys were not stealing food from the smaller boys.

8.389Br Telfour was asked whether there was anything from his recollection of Br Dax’s behaviour at the time that ‘clicked’ when he heard Br Dax had been imprisoned. He replied that there was not.


  • Br Dax perpetrated sexual abuse, often with violence, on boys in Letterfrack over a period of 14 years. The Congregation has failed to address the question as to how it was possible for him to continue undetected for so long.
  • There are two possibilities: either the Brothers or some of them were aware of Br Dax’s activities but did nothing or they were not aware, in which case it must be asked why none of his many victims disclosed the abuse. Neither scenario reflects credit on the Institution or on the Brothers who worked there.
  • Many of the accounts of abuse would not have been verifiable but for the admissions of the Brother, and only four of those who were named in criminal charges came to the Investigation, which implies that the incidence of such behaviour is substantially more than could be established in evidence.
  • The Christian Brothers have accepted that Br Dax sexually abused boys in Letterfrack and have expressed their regret for this, but their approach to many of the witnesses was adversarial and even confrontational – calling into question evidence that the accused himself did not challenge or contradict. This approach was unnecessarily distressing for complainants.

Br Vallois

8.391In the early 1960s, Br Vallois left Letterfrack because of a complaint of sexual abuse of a boy. There is no documentary evidence of this incident and the only information came from a Brother who had served in Letterfrack and who gave evidence to the Committee. Br Vallois was sent to Letterfrack as a temporarily professed Brother. The witness was in charge of the senior boys’ dormitory and Br Vallois, who seemed keen and enthusiastic, asked the witness to allow him to take the boys to bed. A boy reported to a Brother that Br Vallois used to sit on the edge of his bed and touch him inappropriately. The complaint was passed on to the Superior, who informed the Provincial, and Br Vallois was brought to the Provincialate for questioning. He did not renew his vows.

8.392Br Michel described the incident as follows:

The young man’s name was Vallois, Br Vallois. He was sent to Letterfrack as a very promising young man, as a teacher and so on. He was very keen and very anxious to work. A few times he asked me – I was in charge of the senior dormitory at the time and he said to me once or twice, “could I take the boys to bed tonight because I would like to learn the ropes?” So I said yes, I was probably glad of the break. It transpires that there was touching going on in the dormitory. Now, I am not perfectly clear who reported it, I presume it was the boy himself. I can’t remember his name, but it went as far as I remember to the Disciplinarian first and it went from the Disciplinarian to the Manager who was Br Guillaume and within a day or two that young man was transported by car to Dublin. I am not certain if the boy concerned was brought also, I have an idea he was. So the Provincial interviewed them and I am not again certain if the offender was let back for a short time to collect his stuff, I can’t recall fully. At any rate at the end of that year that young man left the Congregation. I don’t know whether he was dismissed or whether he decided to discontinue as a Brother. That’s the story in brief.

8.393The Congregation’s Submission stated that ‘the Congregation accepts, on the basis of the evidence of Br Michel and on the basis of its own records, that Br Vallois was involved in some level of sexual abuse’.

8.394This case suggests that prompt action could be taken if the authorities decided to do so.

Mr Albaric

8.395In 1960s, a member of the lay staff, Mr Albaric, was removed from the School for sexually abusing children. A number of boys complained to Br Telfour: ‘Mr Albaric puts his thing against us when we are going to the toilet’. The Brother told the boys to report the matter to the Resident Manager. The Resident Manager subsequently confirmed that the boys had complained and gave Br Telfour a letter to give to Mr Albaric informing him of his dismissal.

8.396A number of complainants alleged that Mr Albaric sexually abused them. One said that one night he went to the toilet and Mr Albaric followed him in. There was a serious outbreak of scabies in the school at the time and Mr Albaric told the witness that he wanted to check him for infection. He then attempted to rape the witness and, in order to prevent the rape, the witness masturbated Mr Albaric. He was in a state of shock afterwards and he felt quite sick. He said that he was afraid to go to the toilet after the incident and that, as a result, he started wetting the bed for which he was punished. He heard rumours that Mr Albaric was abusing other boys as well. Apparently, the bigger boys found out what was happening and reported the matter to the authorities. The next thing they knew, Mr Albaric was gone.

8.397Another complainant told a similar story. He said that he was a bed-wetter and that Mr Albaric, the night watchman, would abuse him in the dormitory. He said that the abuse continued until Mr Albaric left the School: ‘He was finally sacked some time for abusing other kids’.

8.398It is significant that Br Telfour did not go to the Resident Manager with this complaint himself but left it for the boys to do so. If the boys had not acted, it is possible that Mr Albaric could have continued his activities notwithstanding the complaint that had been made.

Br Curtis50

8.399Br Telfour described another occasion when the same two boys as had reported Mr Albaric came to him and made what he called a very vague allegation against another Brother. The allegation, as recalled by the witness, was not that the Brother had engaged in any sexual misconduct with the two boys, but that other boys were saying that the Brother ‘did things’ to them. He said that he pursued the matter with the boys who were reporting to him and tried to get something definite by way of a name or an activity, but:

I was just getting the same – the boys – just the boys – shrug of the shoulders, as if – I didn’t know how to take it. The boys say, that is all I was getting, ah just things, things. So I couldn’t pursue it any further.

8.400He felt that, because he had not got any specifics or details of the names of boys involved or what was going on or where or when it was going on, he was unable to take the complaint either to the Superior or to the Brother who was accused. Nothing further happened on the strength of that information.

8.401Two complainants alleged that Br Curtis sexually abused them. One alleged that he and other boys were sexually abused by Br Curtis in the classroom. He described Br Curtis as ‘an absolute thug … a pure thug, a paedophile thug’. He stated that:

The man would be there doing it in the classroom, staring at the classroom and then he would be doing it with various kids. He would take you out of the desk, get one arm, put it behind your back, your buttocks would be there leaned against the desk and he would be there pushing you back and he would be going into you.

8.402Another witness described Br Curtis as a nice man but stated that he was regularly abused by him. Br Curtis got him a job in the laundry, which was perceived as a ‘soft job’. He started by being nice to the complainant, who welcomed the attention, although he was conscious that it was wrong. Br Curtis would take him from his bed in the mornings four or five times a week in order to abuse him. Normally, Br Curtis was gentle with him but, on one occasion during his first year in the school, he was rough and raped him. He said that Br Curtis made him feel special until he was raped:

Yes, he would make me play with him and he would – nearly every morning – as I said, there was that little room at the top of the dormitories. There was two, there was one each side, I remember, there was more than two little ones, but Br Curtis when he stayed there, when he – the first thing in the morning he would come and take me from my bed, just after our prayers, and in the pretence – and then he would take me into the little room and then he would make me either play with him or he would play with himself. … On one occasion, he just took me in the room and he seemed very excited and he was quite rough, generally – normally, he wasn’t as rough, but he just seemed to be very rough that morning and I don’t know whether he inserted his penis, or, as I said – but in my anus, and I felt a lot of pain and I asked him to stop on many occasions and he didn’t … That was just the one occasion.

8.403He said that he was too confused to report what had happened to him to anyone.

8.404This witness described feelings of guilt mixed with an awareness of being special. He got special privileges and favours from the Brother that were resented by other boys and which led to his being bullied ‘slightly’. The Brother was good to him at times but he was still troubled:

I said at the beginning I felt special, that I was getting special treatment … And until it got rough on that occasion, I still felt I was quite special.

8.405The other boys noticed the special treatment he was receiving and called him a teacher’s pet.

8.406He went to Confession after he was raped and he told the Priest what had happened. He believed that the priest may have said something because, soon after, he was changed from the laundry. He did not know whether that change related to this but he thought it was a possibility.


  • Even though it was hearsay and vague, this complaint was obviously serious and should have been followed up, especially when it came from two boys who had previously reported a case of abuse that was subsequently confirmed.
  • In this case, Br Telfour did nothing about a complaint of sexual abuse that he received. He did not even tell the boys to report it to the Superior. In the earlier case, which he had regarded as sufficiently grounded in fact, the Brother did not himself go to the Superior but sent the boys to make the report.

Br Algrenon51

8.408Br Telfour cited an incident he witnessed soon after his arrival in the school and which involved Br Algrenon, a member of staff during the mid-1960s. He wanted to speak to Br Algrenon so he went up to his [Br Algrenon’s] room. However, instead of finding Br Algrenon he found a boy washing his penis at Br Algrenon’s wash basin. Br Telfour did not ask the boy why he was doing it. He told the Committee: ‘I presumed he was injured and maybe too embarrassed to go into the nurse or whatever’. The boy told him he was washing it on Br Algrenon’s instruction. Br Telfour acted as if nothing strange had happened and did not enquire any further into the matter.

8.409It is hard to understand how the sight that met Br Telfour when he opened the door of a fellow Brother’s private bedroom did not make him suspicious. It is, of course, possible that this incident may not be related to sexual activity between the Brother and the boy but it should have undoubtedly raised a concern. He testified to the Committee that he did not check with Br Algrenon, as it was his first year in the place and he did not know how to handle the situation: ‘No, I didn’t. I didn’t know how to handle this. It was my first year there. I wasn’t long into the place‘.

8.410Br Telfour told the Committee that he should have brought the complaints he got from the two boys about Br Curtis, and the incident in Br Algrenon’s room, to the Superior’s attention. He said that at that time he knew nothing about such activity, although he did acknowledge that he had encountered an allegation of sexual abuse whilst he was a student in Marino.

8.411In Letterfrack, he was able to deal with the allegation against the lay worker by sending the complaining boys to the Superior but he failed, to his later regret, to deal with the complaints that were reported to him about one Brother and the incident in the other Brother’s bedroom.


  • Br Telfour’s explanation for his failure to act appropriately in any of the instances of sexual abuse reported to him was his inexperience and lack of knowledge in how to deal with such a situation. However, it points to a moral and ethical ambivalence about this issue. An adult encountering sexual abuse of a child, even in the 1960s, should have had no hesitation in acting to stop it. This Brother was wracked with indecision when a fellow Brother was involved although he did make some effort, albeit indirect, in the case of the lay worker.
  • Responses to sexual abuse were influenced by loyalty to the Congregation and to the individual Brother rather than the need to protect children in care.
  • The preceding four incidents all occurred during Br Dax’s time there, and indicate ignorance and incompetence in relation to this issue.
  • These Brothers recalled complaints about sexual abuse that were not recorded anywhere in the documentation, which reveals the difficulty of measuring the full extent of sexual abuse in Letterfrack.

Br Anatole

8.413Br Anatole, a former Christian Brother who worked in Letterfrack during the late 1960s and early 1970s, was convicted of abusing three boys in Letterfrack. None of the victims gave evidence.

8.414The Congregation files show that he was accused of sexual abuse in another school in which he worked after his period in Letterfrack. In 1977 a boy in a Christian Brothers day school alleged that Br Anatole had asked him to rub oil on his back and brought him to a room where he exposed himself and gave the boy 20 pence. The boy told his mother who told a Brother in the School. He promised to look into the matter. Time passed and, when the mother enquired as to the position, she discovered that nothing had been done. She was very angry and called to see the Superior, who interviewed the boy in the presence of his mother and, having elicited the details, he contacted his own authorities immediately.

8.415The allegations were investigated in early September 1977. Br Anatole flatly denied the charge, and even wrote to the parents of the boy setting out details of how it could not have been him. The investigating Brother, however, did not believe him. He stated: ‘To me the evidence seems convincing’.

8.416In August 1977, Br Anatole was transferred to a different secondary school in Dublin where he taught for one academic year. He had previously requested a dispensation in 1977 and was granted exclaustration in May 1978.

8.417After exclaustration, he taught for one academic in a rural secondary school year run by a Congregation of nuns before commencing studies for the priesthood. It should be noted that in 1978 the Provincial of St Mary’s Province told the President of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, that he could not ‘unreservedly recommend Br Anatole as a suitable candidate for the priesthood’. He was accordingly not accepted as a candidate.

8.418Br Anatole joined the Servite Community in September 1980. He was granted transitus to the Servites of Mary in February 1981 and a dispensation in June 1982, processed by the Servites of Mary. This was done at his request after counselling.

8.419In August 1982, he joined the staff of a Dublin secondary school where he taught for 10 years. This was in two stages, with a two-year break in the middle to work on an academic text. He was convicted in 2002 in respect of abuse perpetrated in Letterfrack.

8.420Br Anatole told the Committee how his abusive activities began:

I suppose it arose out of need for intimacy, my sexuality was very very juvenile, very immature and I had no experience of women of any kind, no experience of contact with women. Out of my need for intimacy and of sexual experience, it gradually developed …

8.421He said that the abuse generally took place in his bedroom or the wash hall, as he was careful to avoid detection and generally abused children when the other Brothers were away or unlikely to discover him in the act. He regularly used the guise of wrestling with the boys in order to disguise the actual nature of what he was engaged in. He said that he would often initiate the abuse by asking the boys whether they wanted to wrestle. He said that boys would often come to him and ask to wrestle because they wanted the treats he would give them after he had abused them. During these wrestling matches, both he and the boy would be in swimming togs and he would press up against the boy until he, Br Anatole, ejaculated. He felt that the pretence of a wrestling match ‘was an innocuous way of getting some kind of physical contact with another human being’, which would result in an ejaculation.

8.422He told the Committee that he believed that if anyone had discovered him they would not have thought anything untoward was going on: the sight of a Brother and a boy dressed only in their swimming togs wrestling together in a room on their own would not, he thought, have raised any particular concern.

8.423He selected boys mainly on the basis of physical attraction. However, he stated that he had a particular affection for one boy, and that he used to single him out more than the rest. He viewed his relationship with this boy as akin to an affair.

8.424He said that some of the boys were really keen on the wrestling and he would award prizes such as cigarettes and sweets. He tried to dress the activity up as something else but he was certain that the boys knew what he was doing.

8.425He told the Committee that he sexually abused the three boys during the same period, although he doubted whether they were aware of each other’s involvement with him. He accepted that the other boys in the School must have known something amiss was going on.

8.426The abuse did not always take the form of a surreptitious wrestling bout. He used to take one boy, who was 13 or 14 at the time, to his room at night, ostensibly to teach him to read but really to abuse him. He said that the dormitory Brother always gave permission, a matter that Br Iven denied in his evidence. Br Anatole said that he would push up against the boy from behind until he ejaculated. It would normally take between five and ten minutes and, when he was finished with him, he would send him back alone.

8.427Two colleagues of Br Anatole’s gave evidence.

8.428Br Iven served during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He said that he never thought that there was the remotest possibility of Brothers abusing boys. He denied giving Br Anatole permission to take a boy to his room. However, he did say that, if he had been asked, he would not have suspected an ulterior motive.

8.429Br Dondre said that he was not aware of Br Anatole’s activities at the time.

8.430The Congregation did not make any submission on the extent of the abuse committed by Br Anatole. They took issue in their Final Submissions with his evidence, which they described as inherently inconsistent and, ultimately, completely unreliable. Br Anatole had referred to his need for ‘intimacy and sexual experience’ as part of the reason he engaged in sexual abuse of children. The Congregation stated:

It is submitted that the personal factors which cause a person to abuse are probably considerably more complex than this evidence would suggest and that the evidence of these individuals does not add a great deal to the overall knowledge of the Committee on this issue.

8.431Although Br Anatole pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting three named individuals, he stated that it took a relatively innocuous form and was adamant that he did not abuse these children in any other way and that he did not abuse any other children. No complainants gave evidence against him during the private hearings, and the Investigation Committee heard no evidence to contest these assertions.


  • Br Anatole had unsupervised access to boys at most times. Where other Brothers were engaged in sexual activity with boys, it is hardly surprising that he was able to operate without fear of detection.

Br Benoit52

8.433Br Benoit was working in the O’Brien Institute in the early 1960s when two boys made written statements to the Superior complaining of sexual abuse. The Superior forwarded the statements to the Provincial, requesting that Br Benoit be changed to a day school and that was done. He was subsequently sent to Letterfrack to serve in a senior position in the 1970s.

8.434To explain his being sent to Letterfrack, the Christian Brothers’ Opening Statement commented that the Leadership Team that dealt with the complaints had been replaced in 1966, and only one member of the original team remained on the new team which made the appointment to Letterfrack. The Brother’s personal file ‘appears not to have been consulted when his appointment in Letterfrack was decided upon’. Finally, it says that there were no records on file of complaints in Letterfrack.

Br Karel

8.435Br Karel was the subject of a complaint of sexual abuse of boys when he was in Artane in the early 1960s. It was alleged that he had put his hand under the boys’ bedclothes and touched them in the genital area. The Resident Manager investigated the allegation and referred the matter to the Provincial. The Provincial interviewed Br Karel, who denied the allegations. Br Karel remained in Artane for some time after these allegations were made, and he was then transferred to a day school outside Dublin. Br Karel testified that he had previously sought a transfer and he did not know whether he was transferred because of the allegation or because of his request.

8.436The matter was never pursued by the Provincial and so the situation remained that Br Karel was either guilty of serious offences or that a number of boys had made the gravest false allegations. This was a situation that urgently needed to be resolved but the matter went no further.

8.437Br Karel was later moved to Letterfrack.

8.438The Christian Brothers explained his appointment on the fact that the Provincial Leadership of 1960 to 1966 had been totally replaced in 1972, and no search in his personal files had been made: ‘Consequently, no memory of the original offence existed’. The Congregation noted that, while there were allegations against this man in respect of his time in Letterfrack, there were no contemporary complaints of abuse there.


  • The Congregation responded to allegations of sexual abuse by transferring Brs Benoit and Karel to day schools and after a period of 10 years they were sent to Letterfrack. The explanation offered in the Brothers’ Submission was that it was an administrative accident.
  • The suggestion that the Congregation would make an appointment to a senior position in an industrial school without reference to the Brother’s recent history or to his personal file is incomprehensible.
  • Failure in all these respects by the senior management of the Congregation ignored the safety of the children and the requirement of good management in the institution. A record of sexual abuse would have precluded appointment to a residential school if protecting the boys was the priority.

Br Dacian53

8.440Br Dacian was a similar case to the two cited above and the consequences of the Congregation’s failure to act to protect children when the first allegation arose were felt for many years by children in different schools. An account of his activities is set out in full in the chapter of this report dealing with St Joseph’s Industrial School, Salthill.

8.441Br Dacian was the subject of a complaint of sexual abuse in the early 1960s in Salthill. He was transferred from Galway to a day school in Dublin and was later sent to serve in Letterfrack in the 1970s.

8.442In a letter to the Superior General, the Provincial in Salthill elaborated on the allegation. A child awoke to find someone with his hand inside his pyjamas. Although it was dark the boy identified the person as Br Dacian by his voice and size. Br Dacian admitted doing this, but offered the defence that he was checking to see if the child, who was a known bed-wetter, had wet his bed. The Provincial continued, ‘It is apparent that this does not explain everything’. A letter sent three days later to the Superior of the School noted that he was sorry for the lapse of Br Dacian and that all the members of the Council thought that a change was necessary for him, as ‘no doubt some of the boys know of this lapse’.

8.443Br Dacian was moved to a school in Dublin less than five months later. He stayed there for nearly 10 years before being moved to Letterfrack.

8.444He spent a year in Letterfrack before moving to another day school in Dublin where he taught for over 10 years. Br Dacian admitted sexually assaulting a boy in this day school and he had to be transferred out of it in the early 1980s. Although it did not emerge until some five years later, another allegation that abuse had occurred at the same time was made by a pupil in an Irish College where Br Dacian was working during that summer.

8.445After his removal from the Dublin day school, he received counselling from a Jesuit priest. This priest gave a somewhat qualified reassurance to the Leadership of the Congregation. He stated that he ‘was confident that there is no risk of a recurrence of such an event in the near future by which I mean over the next few years he has had a severe shock’.

8.446Br Dacian was appointed Principal of a rural school in 1984 less than a year after his removal from the Dublin school but, once again, he had to be removed from his position because of his sexual abuse of a young boy in 1987.

8.447He moved to England and, although he continued as a member of the Congregation, he was, according to a letter written in 1994 by Br Travis,54 the Provincial, to a concerned teacher from the Dublin school, no longer involved in any ministry that brought him into contact with children.

8.448The Christian Brothers’ Opening Statement once more offered the explanation that the Provincial Council from 1960 to 1966 had been totally replaced by a new Council who had no knowledge of the original complaint when the transfer to Letterfrack was made, ‘Hence, Br Dacian was sent to Letterfrack without any knowledge of the previous complaint on the part of the new council’.

8.449The Opening Statement made no reference to the fact that this Brother was transferred on at least two subsequent occasions because of sexual abuse of children in his school.


  • Brothers with prior records or allegations of sexual abuse against them were transferred to Letterfrack in the early 1970s.
  • The Submission by the Congregation that the Leadership, when deciding to send them to Letterfrack, did not consult the personal files of these Brothers is somewhat speculative and not based on evidence.
  • Assigning these Brothers to Letterfrack was indicative of an attitude that sexual abuse was something that happened from time to time, which was unfortunate and potentially embarrassing for the Congregation and the Institution and which had to be handled in a way that lessened the risk of publicity and even prosecution of the offender.

Oral evidence

8.451Much of the complainants’ evidence relating to sexual abuse has been set out above in the sections dealing with documented cases and respondent evidence. In addition to the two Brothers who were convicted of serious sexual crimes, the cases where sexual abuse was documented or which were confirmed by Brothers and former Brothers can also be regarded as indisputable. Where the evidence of complainants referred to sexual abuse by any of these Brothers, it has been incorporated in the earlier sections dealing with those cases. It does not follow that, where a Brother was found to have committed sexual abuse of boys, every allegation against him was true, and the evidence that is set out relating to these Brothers was given by witnesses whom the Committee considered to be credible and reliable in this respect.

8.452The locations in which sexual abuse took place, as described by complainants, were mainly the kitchens (where Br Dax worked), the dormitories, the classrooms, and the farm. Br Dax was in sole charge of the kitchens, and the other Brothers did not tend to have business or other occasion to be there. The dormitories were also isolated. This point was highlighted by the evidence of Br Iven concerning an attack which was made on him by a senior boy who made his way to the junior dormitory where this Brother was in charge. Br Iven said that there was nobody else around who might have heard the commotion. It follows that, if a Brother in charge of a dormitory engaged in sexual activity with a boy, he was unlikely to be discovered. These features were conducive to the occurrence of abuse and indicate that it was unlikely that other Brothers would be aware of abuse occurring.

8.453One witness made allegations against a Br Francois who was in charge of a dormitory in Letterfrack. He described getting a severe beating from this Brother after being ordered out of bed and into the wash hall. He was required to lift his night shirt and ‘get it on the bare … You would suffer from it and it would be violent … I got it pretty violent down there … I think I was bleeding’.

8.454After the beating he was brought into the Brother’s bedroom:

He didn’t let me into my dormitory so he took me through the other dormitory down to his room … The room where he slept, yes. The best way to describe it is he treated my sore bottom, dressed it or whatever.

8.455When asked whether anything else happened, he stated:

He fondled me, made me put my hand down his pants or in, around his privates and made me masturbate him … He was getting excited and I had my nightshirt and he came up behind me and ejaculated around my back. Not around my bottom but up around my back. He held me in close to him and ejaculated around my back.

8.456The witness said that Br Francois made a gesture with his fist as he dismissed him back to the dormitory:

It was meant like (indicating), it’s fists for you, just go back and just be quiet about it. I took it like that anyway. That’s what I did. I just went back. I was in dread of this man.

8.457This witness also alleged fondling and touching by this Brother in the classroom and during singing class when the boys would all be standing:

… and lots of times it happened up in the choir, he would be passing along and hand under the leg of your pants and feel your penis or that. Rubbing against you and holding you while you are still singing “all eyes up to the front”. That’s the way it went.

8.458The Brother in question denied that this abuse ever took place, both to the Gardaí who investigated allegations against him and to the Committee.

8.459This witness also made allegations against Br Andre.55 He said that Br Andre would question boys individually whether they had any impure thoughts. He said that, while being questioned by Br Andre, he was also fondled by him:

Impure thoughts, that was the key thing, impure thoughts. That covered everything. “Do you have impure thoughts at night?” I said, “No, I don’t have anything like that”. . I probably said something like that. He was talking away and friendly enough. He is sitting down like this and he has you standing next to him there (indicating). In the course of the conversation with him, in the talking with him, he is feeling down towards my penis and that. The conversation is kept going and he said, “Are you telling me the truth, are you telling me the truth, what’s happening to you now?” I was getting stiff and hard around the penis so he said, “There is the proof now, you are not telling me the whole truth”. That was proof that I wasn’t telling the truth and you would have to recant and say, well you did get some kind of impure thoughts at night or whatever, something along those lines. He told me then to, “Remove your pants down, take down your pants, now”. I done that.

I took off my pants. Then he would have me leaning over his lap, give me a little few slaps on the bottom. He would be talking to me about impure thoughts and asking me what kind of impure thoughts and he was probing my bottom with his finger, probing me internally in the bottom. I was aware also that while he was doing some of this he was playing – what I accept now that what he was doing was he was playing with himself under his cassock or under his clothes. And that’s what happened there.

8.460The witness was certain that this Brother’s name was Andre, but he was unsure whether he was a full-time Brother or a relief Brother. Br Sorel said that this Brother was well known for approaching boys and asking them about sex:

He had that reputation, Br Andre, of doing that particular thing, of talking about the facts of life, so I presume that the lads themselves must have told him …

It was a normal thing even before he came to Letterfrack, he was well known amongst the Brothers in Scoil Mhuire, Marino for doing the same thing in class … Talking about the facts of life. It was a kind of a joke amongst us, “he is at it again” … We thought it was unnecessary. That’s what we thought, we thought it was unnecessary. Fellows – normal fellow going to school get these facts of life from their parents. That’s how we looked upon it and as a result we were maybe cynical about it.

Conclusions on sexual abuse


8.4611.Sexual abuse by Brothers was a chronic problem in Letterfrack. Brothers who served there included firstly those who had previously been guilty of sexual abuse of boys, secondly those whose abuse was discovered while they worked in that institution and, thirdly some who were subsequently revealed to have abused boys. A timeline of the documented and admitted cases of sexual abuse shows that:

(a) For approximately two-thirds of the relevant period, there was at least one such abuser working there.

(b) For almost one-third of the years there were at least two abusers present.

(c) There were three abusers present in the institution during at least four different years.

2.As a matter of probability, more sexual abuse took place than was recorded in the documents or the oral testimony, but it is impossible to ascertain the full extent of such abuse. The reasons for this deduction include:

  • Two Brothers committed long-term abuse of boys over separate periods of 14 years each. The fact that abuse could continue for so long is a major indictment of the institution. It is unlikely that in a small, closed Community persistent sexual abuse involving many victims could happen over such a length of time without causing suspicion or inquiry on the part of the other Brothers in the Community.
  • If no suspicions were raised it suggests that relations between Brothers and boys were so inadequate, complaints could not be made.
  • Other offenders could have been operating undetected in Letterfrack at the same time as the documented abusers notwithstanding the absence of complaint or documentary information.
  • Most of the victims of the two Brothers who were convicted and sentenced did not come to the Committee to complain. It follows that more abuse happened than was the subject of complaints to the Investigation Committee.
  • Brothers did not report suspicions about their colleagues.
  • Reasons for under-reporting by boys were fear of repercussions, fear of being disbelieved, lack of faith that there would be a proper inquiry, feelings of shame and embarrassment, and the fact that sexual abuse is difficult for victims to corroborate or verify.


1.The Congregation did not properly investigate allegations of sexual abuse of boys by Brothers.

2.The Congregation knew that Brothers who sexually abused boys were a continuing danger. It was therefore an act of reckless disregard to send known abusers to any industrial school and, in particular, one as remote and isolated as Letterfrack.

3.The manner in which sexually abusing Brothers were dealt with is indicative of a policy of protecting the Brothers, the Community and the Congregation at the expense of the victims.

4.There was no explanation as to how Brothers who abused boys could have gone undetected in Letterfrack for so many years.

Peer abuse and sexual activity between boys

8.462The management of the School was under an obligation to ensure that children lived in a safe and secure environment. The failure to detect and prevent physical and sexual abuse constituted a clear failure to provide children with a safe and secure environment in which to live. In addition, the failure to prevent peer abuse by way of sexual bullying also represented a management failure.

8.463The Brothers inadequately understood the distinction between consensual sex and bullying, predatory sexual acts by bigger boys on smaller. This behaviour could be overtly violent and non-consensual, or implicitly non-consensual in the nature of assault because of the age difference or physical difference between the boys. Failure to protect boys from sexual assault constituted a serious management failure where it occurred.

8.464According to the Christian Brothers, a number of Brothers who taught in the School remembered occasions when sexual activity between the boys was discovered. The phenomenon of sexual activity of one kind or another amongst pupils in industrial schools was a feature of life in Letterfrack. The documentary material disclosed a number of instances of sexual activity in the 1930s and 1940s.

8.465In 1940, the Visitation Report referred to the fact that a number of boys were punished for improper conduct. This appears to have been discovered during the course of the investigation into Br Perryn. In 1941, the Visitation Report refers to the fact that:

Unfortunately for years there has been much immorality among the boys. Onanism and Sodomy have been frequent, and these practices take place wherever the boys congregate, in the play field, lavatories, schools, kitchen and in the grounds. Formerly, the boys were allowed to go out by themselves and then the practices were frequent. Boys wandered away among the fields and roads and immoral practices were carried on.

8.466The Visitor stressed the importance of tight supervision as the only means of curtailing this activity. He noted that:

A monitor is in charge though one of the monitors was recently carrying on immoral conduct with some of these juniors in the dormitory.

8.467He noted that the Superior had arranged that a Brother should take charge of the boys at all times.

8.468The issue arose again in 1945, in correspondence between Br Aubin and the Provincial, in which Br Aubin criticised the Disciplinarian, Br Maslin, in being overly severe in his punishment of the boys. This case has been discussed above and was a clear indication that sexual activity between boys was a persistent problem in Letterfrack at that time.

8.469One Brother told the Committee that, as Disciplinarian, he was aware of the problem of sexual activity. He said that he was instructed to guard the moral welfare of the boys and to prevent such behaviour. He understood that this was a danger to be guarded against in every boarding school. He came across a number of incidents of sex while in Letterfrack. One day, he saw the tailor leave his shop, so he went in and discovered two boys engaging in sexual activity.

8.470He said that the Disciplinarian would be more aware of the sexual behaviour of the boys. The Resident Manager might have been informed by the Disciplinarian, but this knowledge was not often shared with the rest of the staff. The witness was philosophical in retrospect: ‘It is the fairly human failing boys, you could just expect that it would occur again and you just hoped it wouldn’t’.

8.471Another Brother said that, while he never actually witnessed any sexual contact between the boys, he did recall hearing Br Anatole giving the boys a lecture about the Devil’s work, which he presumed was peer abuse. He said that he often saw beds pulled together when he came in to wake the boys up but he never suspected anything untoward. He remembered Br Malleville telling him to be careful of one boy who was coming from Artane because he was a homosexual. He thinks in retrospect that he was telling him to make sure that boy wouldn’t be at the other boys. He did recall an incident where a boy approached him and told him that two boys were engaging in sexual activity.

8.472Br Sorel said that he was aware of the possibility of peer abuse. He recalled one incident where one boy tried to anally rape another boy. That boy reported the matter to Br Guillaume, who punished the offender in front of the other boys in the washroom. He feels that this beating ensured that the message got through to the boys that they were not to engage in such activity.

8.473Br Karel stated that, although the Brothers were aware of the possibility of sexual activity between boys occurring, he had not witnessed it:

Interfering with each other. Never in my time there did I see or did any of us observe an instance of that. It seemed to me, in my opinion, that that just didn’t happen there. If it did, I wasn’t aware of it and nobody else ever mentioned it to me.

8.474One complainant said that another 14-year-old boy sexually abused him. He was a big boy and he abused the witness on a regular basis for four years. The complainant said that he could do nothing except cry and let it happen. He never complained. The abuse only stopped when the other boy left the school. A number of other boys abused him as well, and he stated that he had a number of relationships with other boys when he got older:

I didn’t do what he did. I didn’t go around and attack and ambush kids or abuse them or rape them … But what I am saying is I did have one or two – somebody I could talk or sit or read comics and we did have some sort of a – sort of a relationship … I don’t know if I was 13, 14, 15, I don’t know. It is just, you know, there was one or two that you would play ball or games or roll around in the hay, you know, just things like that.

8.475Another witness said that Br Noreis would ask the boys to write down on a piece of paper the names of any boys who were engaging in sexual activity:

He would bring them and sit them down on their desks. Everyone got a sheet of paper and a pencil and we were told to write down if we knew of any boys who had been, shall we say, sexually active with any other boy. Well, I always wrote the same thing down, I don’t know what you mean. This always went on a Saturday night. You always missed out on the cinema, because that was the one day that we had a movie. After all these boys had done whatever writing they were doing the paper was collected and we were all sent off to the dormitories, and for the rest of the night you could hear the screaming where boys who had misbehaved were dragged down in their night clothes and flogged by Br Noreis. That went on quite often.


  • Peer sexual abuse was an element of the bullying and intimidation that were prevalent in Letterfrack and the Brothers failed to recognise it as a persistent problem.
  • They punished boys for sexual activity without recognising that younger boys might have been victims of abuse. Because they knew they faced punishment these victims did not report.


8.477As in other industrial schools, the Christian Brothers contend that there was no physical neglect of children in their care in Letterfrack. They concede that the emotional needs of children were not properly provided for but they put this down to ignorance rather than deliberate policy.

8.478In the Introduction to their Opening Statement delivered on 16th June 2005 the Congregation stated that:

A study of the financial support provided by the State will show that St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Letterfrack, was grossly under-funded by the State and that the Christian Brothers had to go to enormous lengths to provide adequately for the needs of the pupils. They ran a farm to provide the necessary food for the institution and sold what remained of the crops to provide for the material and scholastic requirements of the boys.

The presentation will demonstrate that the boys were well provided for. Nourishing food, good clothing, and adequate shelter replaced the experience of many boys who would have come from conditions of abject poverty.

… The Congregation believes that the allegations of neglect are exaggerated and inaccurate and do not reflect the reality that pertained in Letterfrack over the years.

8.479The number of children in Letterfrack was an important part of the story in Letterfrack, as the Congregation have time and again pointed to the low numbers and lack of financial support as the reason why they could not do more for the boys.

8.480Until 1954, the numbers in Letterfrack were reasonably high. From 1937 to 1955, the average number of boys in the Institution being paid for by the Department of Education was about 150. In addition, there were Health Board and voluntary admissions. For example, in 1954, Letterfrack received State grants for 147 boys, although there were 181 boys recorded in the School by the Visitor for that year. Those additional boys were paid for by the Health Boards and by voluntary contributions.

8.481The Congregation in its Opening Statement dealt with the entire period under review (1936–1974) and went into detail in addressing the standard of physical care provided.

8.482With regard to food, the Congregation stated:

It is quite normal for students to complain of the quality of food served in boarding schools. Letterfrack is no exception to this. However, it must be said that honest efforts were made over the decades to provide balanced fare in sufficient supply.

The diet in Letterfrack was balanced and healthy. Some of the boys arriving in Letterfrack may not have been used to the regular meals that were served in St. Joseph’s, but for most the experience of regular meals could only have been of real benefit. In the course of the history of Letterfrack there were times when the dietary provision was not uniformly good but action was taken in the wake of complaints and the overall judgement of inspectors was that the food was satisfactory.

The Christian Brothers during their annual Visitation carried out the most vigorous and substantial inspection of the dietary requirements in Letterfrack. Although the Visitor’s reports were usually favourable, some reports showed occasional dissatisfaction with the boy’s diet and the Visitors were quite forthright in demanding improvement. The quality of the dietary arrangements depended on the competence of the Brother in charge of the kitchen area. Some were less successful than others, and their shortcomings led to them being replaced by a Brother of proven competence.

8.483On the issue of clothing, the Congregation submitted:

Generally, when the Visitors advert to the boys’ clothing, usually in the context of ‘smart appearance’, their remarks are positive … The only criticisms appear to concern the need for a change of footwear for farm boy on wet days (1940) and boys going direct to class from manual work without changing (1953) … The inspectors’ reports on clothing point to years when clothing was not good and when improvements were made … The Tuarim Report (Jan 1966) was very impressed with the way the boys were dressed.

8.484They submitted that by the mid-1960s the boys were well supplied with clothes, boots and shoes, and in the 1970s were fully equipped with modern clothing (walking out suits, overcoats, shirts, and games and football gear).

8.485In regard to accommodation, the Opening Statement described the layout of the Institution in Letterfrack and this is dealt with in the introduction to this chapter. There were two dormitories each capable of accommodating 80 or more beds. Each boy had his own bed, and bed linen was changed regularly. There was a washroom located at the end of each dormitory where the boys washed their face and hands. Showers were taken on Saturday morning in the shower room that was located on the ground floor near the laundry area. The showers were hot initially and then, according to the Congregation, cold water was introduced to close the pores and prevent the boys getting colds. The Congregation submits that some of the boys may not have understood the reason for alternating hot and cold, and some have made complaints that this was a form of torture and this was not the case. After the showers, clean clothes were distributed.

8.486The main toilets were outside the building on the northern side of the playground. There were only two indoor toilets, situated between the two dormitories. The Congregation stated that, after continued complaints at the annual Visitation, this situation was greatly improved in 1961 with the building of additional toilets through the work of the Brothers and the boys.

8.487In its Closing Submissions to the Investigation Committee the Congregation accepted that there were criticisms in a number of Visitation Reports about the standard of the buildings and the quality of accommodation generally but, as the Investigation Committee had heard no complaints about the general quality of the accommodation apart from some complaints about the showers, it was submitted that accommodation was not a matter which seemed to have been of material concern to complainants. They also noted that, in the early 1960s, significant improvements were made to the buildings.

8.488They submitted that the Investigation Committee had no basis for a finding that boys were given food of a poor quality or that it was of an insufficient quantity.

8.489The Investigation Committee has divided the investigation into the provision of care for the boys in Letterfrack into two periods – pre and post 1954.

8.490Letterfrack was not one of the biggest industrial schools but, even during the 1930s and 1940s, the numbers rarely fell below 150 boys and, until 1954, the number under detention was reasonably steady. However, it was smaller than many other institutions and this had implications for the level of funding available. Early Visitation Reports showed the constant struggle needed to make ends meet. Until the mid-1940s, the School incurred losses in each year of its operation. From 1943, things improved and, for the next 10 years, the School managed reasonably successfully.

8.491From 1943 the Visitation Reports show that separate accounts were kept for the House and the School. The House accounts that dealt with the monastery and Brothers’ expenses showed that every Brother in Letterfrack received a salary from the industrial school income (ie mainly the capitation grants). For example, in 1943 when there were 10 Brothers resident in the monastery, £1,000 was paid by way of stipend in respect of Brothers’ services. The Brothers did not of course have to pay for accommodation or food out of their salary. The House made contributions to the Christian Brothers’ Building Fund during the 1940s – £500 in 1946, and £1,200 in 1948.

8.492The financial position up to 1953 was summed up by a Visitor in 1953:

Financially you are solvent but it is evident that there is not a whole lot of money to spare when one considers the need there is for expenditure.

8.493It was not quite as bleak as that, however. In 1954/1955, there was a credit balance of £3,573 and, with the increased funding that had been made available since 1952, the outlook for the Institution was not too bad.

Food, clothing and accommodation pre-1954

8.494It is noteworthy that the most critical comments about food come from the Visitor and not from the Department Inspector. The Visitor often cited complaints made to him, as opposed to relying on what he witnessed being served. The Inspector could only judge on what she herself witnessed, as the Brothers would not have complained to her and the boys were not given an opportunity to do so. The one area of the Institution that one would expect to see improved for the purposes of an inspection was the food served on the day, and therefore a more complete picture can often be gleaned from the Congregation’s own Visitor. Serious concerns were expressed by these Visitors over the quantity and quality of food provided to the boys.

8.495In 1939 the Congregation Visitor noted that the boys looked frail, under-nourished and pale. The Visitor commented on this fact to the Manager, but was told that the Department Inspector had examined the dietary scale and expressed herself satisfied with it. Later in the same year, the Disciplinarian, Br Leveret, wrote to the Provincial complaining, inter alia, about the fact that the boys were not getting enough bread, butter or milk. At this time, farm produce and tea, sugar, bacon, meal and wheat were being sold locally, and milk was being supplied to local people.

8.496In 1940, the Provincial received a written complaint from a Christian Brother in Cabra to the effect that one of the boys there, a former resident of Letterfrack, had told him that there was never enough to eat in Letterfrack and that he used to be so hungry that he had resorted to eating turnips and vegetables from the field.

8.497Later in the year, the farm Brother complained that the boys of the School were the ‘worst catered for of any of the five institutions’.

8.498In 1941, the Visitor reported that many of the staff complained about the manner in which the food was served. They complained that the cabbage was cold, minced meat was served all the time, and the tea was served cold in unwashed cups. The Visitor accepted that this was all true but reported that the quantities served were reasonable. He further noted that the boys would not eat the cabbage because the kitchen Brother used the water trough, which was used for washing the cabbage, as a urinal. The Brother in question, Br Perryn, was a Domestic Brother and had been working in the kitchen in Letterfrack since the late 1920s. The Visitor described him as dirty, untidy and almost repulsive. The kitchen Brother was dismissed as a result of the discovery that he had been sexually abusing boys for many years.

8.499The Visitor noted that there were 17 milch cows yielding only 14 gallons of milk per day. The boys got around seven gallons, the monastery around three, and three were sold to the village. In 1941, there were 160 boys in Letterfrack and nine Brothers, and yet the boys got barely more than double the allocation of milk for the Brothers, less than a third of a pint per day. Up to 50 of the boys were under nine years of age.

8.500The Department Inspector does not seem to have engaged on the issue of food at all. She made no reference to the quantity of milk served, although this was an issue she raised in other schools. In 1943, she described the food as ‘an ample, well balanced and varied diet’.

8.501In 1945 the Visitor remarked that the 10 Brothers in the monastery were catered for by two female cooks, whilst the boys, who numbered upwards of 165, were catered for by ‘an old man in the place of Br Lafayette who should be in the kitchen’ – Br Lafayette was ill for most of that year.

8.502Practically all of the clothing worn by the boys was made in the tailor and knitting shops. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Department Inspector made frequent complaints about the quality of the boys’ clothing.

8.503From 1943 until 1947, the clothing of the boys was described as fairly good but very patched and torn. She was told that boots were difficult to obtain and the boys wore wooden clogs attached to leather uppers. In 1948 the Inspector noted that the quality of the clothing was ‘fairly good’ but that it required a lot of improvement and that the Manager had promised to provide new coats. She did not inspect the School again until 1951. Any improvement in the clothing was not evident, as she again commented ‘a lot of the clothing is patched – I asked the Manager to provide new material for clothes’. Later that year, she found the ‘clothing had improved on the whole’. Clothing was described by the Inspector as ‘fairly good’ in the early 1950s, with no other comments.

8.504One former resident in Letterfrack in the late 1940s complained that he did not have proper work clothes when he worked on the farm. He was dressed in short pants in freezing weather, working in a bog with no shelter. After his day’s work, there was no possibility of a change of clothes and he had to stay in wet, dirty clothes until the following Friday evening.

8.505The dampness in the building was regularly commented on by the Visitors in the early 1940s. Neither the School nor the dormitories were centrally heated and, as a result, dampness was a major problem for the Institution. There was a plentiful supply of turf and this provided a heat source, albeit an inadequate one, in the monastery. However, there was not even this basic heating facility in the large, institutional dormitories or recreation areas.

8.506A major problem that continued for over 20 years was the inadequate sanitary facilities for the boys. In a Visitation Report of 1942 the Visitor noted that:

The lavatory accommodation in the dormitories is very inadequate. There are only two lavatories for the three dormitories. No provision is made for the Brothers or the two foremen who have also rooms off the dormitories. There are at present 170 boys in the Institution.

8.507In 1948 the Visitor pointed out that the monastery had only two lavatories situated in the upper storey, with no provision for the kitchen and lay staff. The situation was worse in the School:

Far more inadequate is the poor provision made for the boys of the institution. There are only two lavatories in the upper storey for the 153 boys and the three brothers and three laymen who sleep there at night. This is the only accommodation afforded in the whole institution apart from those situated in the schoolyard. This matter required immediate rectification. With slight modification which I discussed with the Br Superior, six or even eight apartments might be supplied in the positions occupied by the present two.

8.508In 1950 the Visitor again commented on the need for more than two lavatories for 180 boys and four workmen in the dormitories. He was told that the Superior had bought the fittings for four more and they were soon to be erected.

8.509Whatever happened to the four fittings bought in 1950 remains a mystery because, in 1953, once again the Visitor remarked that the night toilet accommodation for the boys was entirely inadequate. ‘Two W.C’s for the whole institution. It would not be very difficult or expensive to increase this to at least half a dozen and the Superior intends to do so in the near future’.

8.510The Superior was written to in 1953 and told to get quotes for new toilets for the boys. It was 1961 before the new toilets were put into the Institution, almost 20 years after the Visitor described the sanitary accommodation as very inadequate.

8.511The absence of adequate fire precautions and the slow response to criticism in the Visitor’s report about the fire escape was another problem.

8.512In 1943, 35 children and one adult died in a fire in St Joseph’s Industrial School, Cavan and, as a result, fire prevention became a high priority for the Department. Between 1943 and 1952, however, the Inspector consistently described the School fire precautions as follows: ‘Fire drill practised regularly, adequate indoor fire exits, night watchman always on duty’. She was clearly incorrect in her assessment.

8.513In 1948 the Visitor noted:

The fire-escape that leads from the children’s dormitory is in my opinion both unsuitable and dangerous. It is a wooden structure put there by some handy-man. It leads straight down from a considerable height and at such a steep angle that should the emergency occur and should there be a rush of children I believe that those who escaped the fire would most probably be dashed to death on the stairs, that is if the stairs were not previously on fire.

8.514Three years later, in 1951, the fire escape in the building again came in for serious criticism and was described as unfit for use and, even if repaired, would be dangerous in an emergency. In 1952 the Department Inspector added one extra piece of information to her usual comments, to the effect that another fire exit has been added to the boys’ dormitory.

8.515The funding provided by the State from 1936 to 1954 was sufficient to provide a reasonable level of physical care for the boys. The inadequacies in the care provided were more a matter of bad management than funding.

Food, clothing and accommodation post-1954

8.516Until 1954, Letterfrack was home to three categories of boys: those who were committed through the courts because they were homeless, without proper guardianship, destitute, in breach of the School Attendance Act or guilty of criminal offences; those sent by the local authorities pursuant to the Public Assistance Act, 1949; and boys who were voluntarily admitted by parents or guardians.

8.517On 12th January 1954 the Provincial Council, led by Br O’Hanlon, met with the six Resident Managers of the Christian Brothers’ schools. A decision was taken to close one of their schools because of the deteriorating financial position of the industrial schools generally, partly attributed to falling numbers, which had resulted in a decline in income. Carriglea was nominated for closure. A unanimous decision was also taken to segregate juvenile delinquents from other categories of boys, and it was felt that the closure of Carriglea would provide an ideal opportunity to put this plan into effect.

8.518In his letter to the Superior General, seeking the approval of the Superior Council for these proposals, Br O’Hanlon pointed out that ‘the Government does not seem to have any power to prevent us from giving effect to both proposals’. The General Council approved of the plans, and Letterfrack was nominated as the school which in future would house only juvenile offenders. The Department of Education was informed of these decisions by way of letter from Br O’Hanlon on 19th March 1954:

The financial position of the Industrial Schools conducted by the Christian Brothers has been deteriorating over a number of years. One of the reasons for this deterioration is the continuous decline in number of boys being sent to these schools with consequent decline in income.

I have examined the whole position of these schools with my Council and with the six Resident Managers, and I have decided that one of the six schools we control should be closed as an Industrial School. Carriglea Park School is the school which has been chosen for closing …

I wish, at the same time, to inform you that we have decided to introduce henceforth into our Industrial Schools a certain measure of segregation. We have decided to inform the Resident Managers of Artane, Glin, Tralee and Salthill (Galway) Industrial Schools that they are to take no more boys of the category, “charged with an offence punishable in the case of an adult with penal servitude”, but to refer the authorities to the Resident Manager of Letterfrack Industrial School in such cases. Likewise, the Resident Manager of Letterfrack will be directed to take boys of this category only, and to refer the authorities to the other four Resident Managers in the case of boys of other categories.

8.519A meeting was convened by the senior officials in the Department on 13th April 1954 with Br O’Hanlon and District Justice McCarthy, who presided over the Children’s Court in Dublin, to discuss the intended closure of Carriglea and the intention of the Christian Brothers to decline in future to receive boys who were committed for offences liable to penal servitude (if committed by an adult) in any institution other than Letterfrack.

8.520The Department and the District Justice objected strongly to the plan for Letterfrack, as it would essentially turn it into a reformatory. They argued it was too far from Dublin, where most of the boys came from, and their families, who were often a good influence on them, would find it very difficult and expensive to visit them.

8.521Br O’Hanlon held the view that it was unfair on boys who had committed no offence to be put in with boys who had, and the Christian Brothers’ experience was that one bad apple could ruin 10 good, and that the reverse happened less frequently. He said, by way of compromise with the Department, that they would be prepared to exempt, from classification as offenders, boys guilty of mitching or begging, neglected boys, and boys who were found uncontrollable.

8.522Br O’Hanlon told the District Justice that it was open to him to send ‘offenders’ to either Letterfrack, Greenmount or Upton, since the last two were not under the Christian Brothers, and the Judge declared himself satisfied once he had this choice of three schools.

8.523The Department felt that the only real objection to the proposal was the distance of Letterfrack, Greenmount and Upton from Dublin, and the meeting concluded with a decision to take all possible steps to have non-delinquent children removed from Letterfrack before the majority in the school were delinquents.

8.524In April 1954 the Department sent District Justice McCarthy a breakdown of the committals to Letterfrack:

According to the figures in this office the total number of boys in the school is 171 of whom 149 are cases committed by the Courts the remaining 22 being 18 Public Assistance cases and 4 voluntaries. Of the 149 committed cases 71 were committed on the grounds of destitution, 48 parent or guardian not exercising proper guardianship; 5 under the school attendance act; 10 for being uncontrollable; 13 larceny cases and 2 for receiving alms.

8.525Only 13 children were in Letterfrack under the category of an offence punishable by penal servitude if committed by an adult.

8.526A second meeting was convened by the Department on 14th May 1954 with senior Department officials, Br O’Hanlon and District Justice McCarthy. The meeting was convened because Judge McCarthy had intimated that he would not be prepared to send to Letterfrack the type of boy for whom the School was to be reserved until the non-offenders had been transferred. Again, the Judge pointed out that he was unhappy about the isolated location of Letterfrack, and felt it was unsuitable for the rehabilitation of boys from Dublin city. Br O’Hanlon informed him that this had been fully considered but the Congregation had decided on Letterfrack.

8.527District Justice Gleeson, based in Limerick, also communicated his concerns to the Minister for Justice in a letter from his court clerk dated 30th July 1954. It stated:

… this arrangement will cause very serious difficulties in administering the Children’s Court in Limerick. Hitherto all cases in which committals were made in offence cases were dealt with by committing the boys concerned to Glin, which is near Limerick or Tralee, which is also convenient. It was possible also for the parents of the children to visit them conveniently in these schools, and for the Gardai to take them there quickly and inexpensively. Moreover, the boys in most cases were allowed home to their parents for summer holidays. With Letterfrack over 100 miles away from Limerick all these advantages will cease and serious difficulties will be encountered.

8.528The Minister for Justice requested the Minister for Education to make representations to the Christian Brothers in line with the Judge’s concerns. The Secretary of the Department of Education responded, stating that strong representations had been made to the Provincial Council, but to no avail. The matter was clearly out of the Government’s hands.

8.529The Department of Education wrote to the relevant authorities, including the Departments of Health and Justice, District Justice McCarthy and the NSPCC, informing them of the decision in the following terms:

As you are aware it has been decided by the Provincial of the Irish Christian Brothers that the Industrial School at Letterfrack is to be reserved in future for the boys brought before the Court and found guilty of an offence which in the case of an adult, would be punishable by penal servitude and also for boys against whom there is a police record of such an offence even though they have not been charged with it, but with some other offence such as irregular school attendance, begging, etc.

8.530They were informed that boys who fell into these categories would no longer be accepted in Artane, Salthill, Tralee or Glin.

8.531District Justice McCarthy, in a memorandum dated 8th October 1954, recommended a number of changes to the Children Acts, 1908–1949. Amongst his recommendations was that, in cases where a child had not been granted leave of absence during a 12-month period from an industrial or reformatory school, financial provision should be made to the child’s parent or guardian to enable them to visit the child at least once a year.

8.532He referred to the decision of the Christian Brothers to limit committals to Letterfrack to a particular category and noted that:

this means that the Dublin School [Artane] is now closed to the large number of city boys who come before the Courts for these offences, or in certain circumstances for bad school attendances, begging, etc and they will have to be sent to Letterfrack, to Clonmel Upton, or Greenmount. Week after week parents are calling to the Children’s Court at Dublin Castle seeking financial assistance to enable them to visit their children in country districts, children whom they have not seen for very considerable periods because they are unable to pay the necessary fares.

8.533At the meeting in the Department on 14th May 1954, the number of boy ‘offenders’ to be left in Letterfrack was also discussed, and Br O’Hanlon said that 85 was the lowest number stated by the School Resident Manager to be required to run the School on anything like an economic basis. It was agreed at the meeting to transfer to Salthill and to Artane and other schools all the Public Assistance cases in the School, together with as many of the other boys as would leave the number of non-transferred boys at 85 and this was to be done by the end of June.

8.534On 30th June 1954, 179 boys were resident in Letterfrack. Between June and September 1954, 94 boys were transferred to other industrial schools or were released on supervision certificate.

8.535On 30th September 1954 the Department of Education records showed there were 87 boys resident in Letterfrack. The vast majority of these boys who remained in Letterfrack were there through no fault of their own, but they found themselves in what was effectively a junior reformatory from 1954 onwards. This situation continued until the Kennedy Committee (1970) stated at Section 6.12 of its Report:

No junior reformatory exists for the detention of youthful offenders under twelve these, on conviction, being normally sent to Industrial Schools. As the bulk of boys in this age group are however, sent to the Industrial School at Letterfrack, Co. Galway, it was decided to treat this institution as a junior reformatory.

8.536At Section 6.15 the Report went on to state that the young offenders who were sent to Letterfrack were not segregated from the non-offenders.

8.537Some 15 years after the policy had been enunciated by the Provincial, the position in Letterfrack was still unresolved. The Kennedy Report noted that in 1969/1970, 64 of the boys in Letterfrack had been convicted of indictable offences, 15 for non-attendance at school, and 13 were non-offenders. Of those 64, most were incarcerated for offences that would not in fact have incurred imprisonment if committed by an adult, for example trespassing or theft of very small items.

8.538The policy adopted by the Congregation was to seriously prejudice the boys who were in Letterfrack through neglect or poverty. They were now in a minority in the Institution, but were retained there to provide economic ballast to a system that was incapable of delivering even a basic level of care.

8.539The fate of these boys in Letterfrack was one of the most shameful episodes in the history of industrial schools. Their individual needs were completely disregarded by the Congregation and the Department of Education. The perceived problem of having offenders and non-offenders in the same institution was never remedied and was actually programmed to continue for the foreseeable future.

8.540The one positive outcome of the 1954 decision was the removal from Letterfrack of the very young boys who were there. The fate of these children had been a matter of concern to Visitors over the years. Infants under six years of age were taken into Letterfrack: there were 20 in 1941, 18 in 1943, and 12 in 1949. The infirmary nurse did not look after these boys, who were under the care of a Brother. The Visitor remarked in 1949 that, unless the nurse undertook the care of such small children, the Institution should not accept them in the future.

8.541In his report on Letterfrack for the Congregation, Mr Bernard Dunleavy was very critical of the practice of taking very young children into the School. He quoted a Christian Brothers’ document:

The official capacity of the school was 172 pupils. Children who were committed to the school were age 6 to 16 years. That continued to be the case until 1950 when it was perceived by the Christian Brothers that falling numbers in those being admitted to the school would eventually lead to a diminution in the total numbers at the school. In the light of this the Brother Superior, Br Nicolas,56 decided to accept a group of children below the minimum age level, the youngest being a mere 4 and a half years old.

8.542Mr Dunleavy went on to say:

These children were accepted from a County Home, though there is no record of which Home they were accepted from. It is clear that not only was the admission of pupils to Letterfrack not properly monitored, but also that in an effort to maintain the numbers at the school the Christian Brothers were prepared to accept pupils who were far too young to be properly cared for by an institution such as Letterfrack.

8.543This matter was again raised in 1951, when the Visitor noted:

Some of the children are extremely young when admitted to the institution and Br Sorel has frequently to perform duties which properly speaking should be done by the Matron … I was given to understand that the Matron was unwilling to look after the very young children.

8.544Br Sorel who had charge of these infants spoke to the Committee of the strain he was under in caring for them, which he described as ‘over-challenging and over-frustrating’. He said that ‘There was many a night I went into bed and cried my heart out inside in bed for various reasons’.

8.545He went on to explain:

In the training college I was trained to teach. When I went to Letterfrack I found out that I had to perform the function of a father, mother, nurse and teacher. I found it impossible.

8.546Br Sorel said that, when he told the Manager about the difficulty he was having, the Manager said: ‘we can’t do anything about it, do the best you can. That’s what I was told, “just do the best you can.” That was as much sympathy as I got’.

8.547The smaller boys were occupied repairing mattresses or darning and, according to Br Sorel, they were ‘happy doing anything’.

8.548The biggest problem faced was bed-wetting and soiling:

That was one of the worst and soiling the bed. This is the thing that used to break my heart in the morning when I came down to the dormitory … you would find three or four of the lads would not alone wet the bed but soil the bed. I was really tearing my hair out at that stage … It was a problem every morning and I used to detest it. I felt like running away myself several times, having to face it coming down in the morning. It was terrible, the stench and the smell.

8.549Br Sorel received no training or guidance for the task allotted to him in Letterfrack. It was not possible for one young, untrained Brother to care for over 20 very small boys and a further 30 or so boys aged between six and 10 years. The despair and frustration experienced by Br Sorel is indicative of the systemic failure of Letterfrack to deliver even a rudimentary level of care to the small children placed there.

8.550In 1955 the matter was resolved:

There are now no boys in the establishment under seven years of age. Until last year there were boys of four and three, and there was one of two years six months! The nurse refused to take over their management and she was within her rights in refusing. The departure of the infants to junior orphanages is a great relief to the Brothers and to the infants.

8.551In a series of interviews conducted by the Christian Brothers in 2001 with Brothers who had served in a number of industrial schools, Br Ruffe57 who served as Resident Manager in Letterfrack from 1953 to 1959 described much more starkly the impact the decision to introduce ‘segregation’ had on Letterfrack.

8.552He described the reasoning behind the decision by the new Provincial to segregate different categories of boys. He confirmed that the Department of Education and the Justices were not in favour, but the Provincial eventually prevailed upon them that this was to be the future of the industrial schools:

So the Provincial sent me word that in due course I should send off any boys in the school who were not guilty of indictable offences and I should receive only into the school those boys who were indicted. So, on the 4th September, 1954 (‘twas I think) I sent off 99 boys from Letterfrack out of the 184. We were left with 85. Now, that immediately left us in a crippling position because the finances in ordinary circumstances were miserably small and we had at least 12 employees. We had a carpenter, a shoemaker, a tailor, a baker, a knitter. We had a laundress. We had three at least, if not four men working on the farm and all of these had to be paid a weekly wage. Now, where it was to come from was your guess as well as mine, but I had to face it. I was promised that the end of the year, Christmas, that I’d get a subvention from the other schools to help out of the difficulty. When I applied for a subvention at Christmas, I was told it was impossible, there was nothing doing. So you can see the position was worrying. It was either close all the shops, dismiss all the employees, but what were we going to do. The boys had no occupation, boys that had no trade, nothing to recommend them when they left the schools. Nothing to help them for a future life when they left school, nothing. So we had to make some attempt to struggle on.

8.553He went on to describe how a predecessor of his had come up with a ‘brainwave’ to get extra cash for the School, by chartering a ship and getting a cargo of coal delivered to a small bay near the School, and he sold some of this to the locals and used the rest to run the furnaces. Later, the furnaces were converted to oil but Br Ruffe had to re-convert them back to coal ‘… and that gave us some form of subsistence. That was the only way we got a little alleviation’. He said the money from the Department was miserably low and it was not possible to keep a living, pay 12 employees, feed, clothe and educate the boys, and provide a trade for them, including purchasing materials and maintaining machinery.

8.554Br Ruffe did not get the promised help from the Congregation to support the school after the 1954 decision. The Congregation had sufficient funds to meet the needs of the boys in Letterfrack but it did not make them available.

8.555As outlined in the general chapter on the Christian Brothers, the Christian Brothers’ Building Fund accounts for 1954 showed a £300,000 credit balance for the year ending 31st December 1954. There was a balance of £30,000 from Artane and £16,000 from Carriglea, as well as smaller amounts from other industrial schools. According to the Congregation, this represented ‘excess funds’ from these Communities.

8.556When Br Paget O’Hanlon met the Department he had told the Department that 85 boys was the minimum needed to run Letterfrack. Clearly, this was not the situation and it appears unlikely that the Resident Manager would have told him this.

8.557In his interview, Br Ruffe described the financial difficulties he faced in Letterfrack and the difficulties caused by the Provincial’s decision. The farm rarely made a profit, and everything it produced was put back into the school. Similarly, the shops produced little or no income. They generated their own electricity until the ESB58 came along, and the cost of switching to the ESB was covered by selling the rights back to the ESB.

8.558The drop in numbers from 184 to 85 was a big financial loss to the school. After the changeover, there was a small trickle of boys, very small in the beginning. Justice McCarthy in Dublin stopped sending them altogether and these were the boys that Br Ruffe was relying on getting and they were not being sent. Other Christian Brothers’ industrial schools which were also in financial difficulties, although in his view not as difficult as Letterfrack, were taking in boys that they were not supposed to be taking under the new regime, so he arranged to meet Justice McCarthy. They had a robust discussion in which Justice McCarthy flatly told him he would not send boys so far away from their parents. Br Ruffe explained to the Justice that he thought it could be good for boys to be removed from sources of temptation that landed them in industrial schools in the first place. He felt that Letterfrack had a lot to offer despite its distance, lots of fresh air and country life, giving them an opportunity to re-orientate themselves by means of work, school and education. He pointed out that he himself during his training as a Christian Brother was only allowed one visit per year from his family. He also promised to facilitate parents as much as possible by putting them up overnight or taking the boys into Galway to meet their families when they travelled. He said that the Justice took his views on board and began to send boys to Letterfrack. Unfortunately, Justice McCarthy did not live for too long after this and he had the same problems with his successor. This required another visit to explain the position to him and, following on Justice Ryan visiting Letterfrack to see for himself, he also began to send boys there.

8.559The average number of boys between 1955 and 1969 was 107 and this was not an economically viable number. This number dropped even more dramatically between 1970 and 1973, and there were only 4159 boys in Letterfrack shortly before it closed with Br Karel stating that the number had dropped to 11 by the time he left in 1974.

8.560The impact of the 1954 decision, taken by the Congregation in the face of opposition from all other quarters, was felt throughout the subsequent life of the Institution.

8.561In 1954, the Inspector reported that the food was fairly good but was to be improved. She noted that the boys only received bread and tea at lunch. She reported that she had told that Manager to rectify this and to get some modern equipment.

8.562In 1955, the Congregational Visitor reported that the boys’ diet had improved considerably. The Department Inspector made a number of suggestions regarding the diet to the Resident Manager and noted the food had improved.

8.563By 1956 the effect of the change in finances in the Institution began to become more clear in the reports from Dr McCabe, the Department of Education Inspector, when she noted that ‘my suggestions have been brought into operation but still the “old system” is used for cooking – no other facilities’. She made the following general observation:

Well conducted school on the whole – Of course, there are many improvements I would like to see – better clothes, better living conditions – better cooking facilities – but as usual when I mention these things I am always told – “we have no money” “it can’t be done” “get into debt” – so while I realise that expense comes into the argument so long as the boys are reasonably well clothed and fed there is very little else I can do.

8.564The Resident Manager blamed the lack of funds for the poor conditions in Letterfrack and she was in no position to disagree with him. The fact that the financial crisis was caused by the actions of the Congregation itself does not appear to have been appreciated by the Inspector.

8.565Dr McCabe reported that the food was slightly improved in 1957 although ‘much remains to be done – old archaic system still in use for cooking – very poor facilities, no modern equipment’. Again she made a general observation:

Well conducted school on the whole – I would really like to see a number of improvements here – clothing, living conditions and cooking arrangements. I have often made suggestions but each time I feel up against a stone wall as always I am told – increase the grant – give more money and of course I realise their difficulties – but all the same I will have to insist on better conditions for the boys. Br Ruffe the Resident Manager is very argumentative and difficult to persuade.

8.566In 1957 and 1958 the Congregation Visitor reported that the boys’ food had improved since Br Delmont,60 who was interested in his work and did his best to provide good meals to the boys, had taken over the kitchen. Dr McCabe was pleased to see in 1958 that an Aga and new steam boiler had been installed in the kitchen.

8.567The situation in Letterfrack had reached an all-time low by 1959. Br Ruffe, the Resident Manager, had been hospitalised for 18 months and, to use his own description in 2001, ‘was practically an invalid’.

8.568Br Adrien had taken over the kitchen, and the Visitor in his Report of 1959 stated that the boys’ diet needed to be looked into. He highlighted that they received bread and tea for dinner three days a week, and that they got very little meat, ‘never getting anything in the nature of an Irish stew’. He further stated that the cooking and serving of the boys’ food was not satisfactory. As regards breakfast he stated the boys received an egg one day a week, with porridge served five days per week. However, he noted that the quantity served was insufficient, with each boy receiving only a saucer full. He highlighted that the Sunday food was ‘the worst of the week’. He stated that the only redeeming feature was that twice a week the boys were served two sausages each in the evenings. He noted that Br Adrien was wholly unsuccessful in his running of the kitchen, and that Br Adrien placed the blame on the Superior whom Br Adrien said restricted his budget. On enquiring into the matter, however, the Visitor discovered that Br Adrien was running the kitchen in a most expensive manner, buying meals from shops as opposed to preparing them in the kitchen. The Visitor concluded by noting that, in order for the boys to be happy at Letterfrack, ‘the food must be improved’.

8.569In 1959, the Provincial wrote to the acting Manager and told him that he had visited the Resident Manager who was convalescing, and complained to him about the small quantities of porridge which the boys were provided with, and the fact that the boys had three meatless days in a week. Br Ruffe told the Provincial that he believed it to be only two days a week without meat. The Provincial asked Br Malleville, who was Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, to inquire into this discreetly and discover whether the boys had been having three dinners of bread and tea over a long period. He also said that the issue of the meat was one that required an immediate remedy. This internal inquiry found that the boys received meat every day, and the only days they would not have meat was during Easter and fasting days.

8.570Br Malleville’s word appears to have been taken and no further enquiries were made about the extremely serious situation described by the Visitor.

8.571The 1959 Visitation Report that criticised the boys’ food said of the Brothers’ diet:

The Brothers food is very well cooked and neatly served. It is also ample. The Brothers were all very satisfied.

8.572In that same year a complaint was received from a parent about the quality of food and clothing in Letterfrack. A letter was sent on 5th August 1959 from a TD to the Minister for Education describing how the woman’s son was one of five boys who had absconded from Letterfrack, broken into two other schools and stolen food from one of them. The boys were recaptured, charged and sent to Daingean. The mother said the boys complained about the food they were getting in Letterfrack. The Resident Manager was written to on 20th August and he responded on 25th August 1959:

The food supplied to the boys in the school is always plentiful, fresh and wholesome; [The boy’s mother] visited the school on a number of occasions while her son was here and made no complaints … Dr McCabe visits the school, unannounced, periodically and she always sees the boys at their meals and she has never made any complaint about the food served. The boys’ menu is:–

Breakfast: Porridge or luncheon roll, tea, bread and butter or margarine Eggs one morning each week.

Lunch: Tea, Bread and Jam

Dinner: Fresh beef or mutton, potatoes vegetables (cabbage, turnip, parsnips, carrots,) soup and dessert (3 times weekly)

Tea: Tea , bread and butter or margarine

With regard to butter and margarine the boys have their choice. At tea also the boys have sausages (fresh) twice a week.

8.573Dr McCabe was in complete agreement with the Resident Manager that the food was ‘plentiful, fresh and wholesome’ and, in a handwritten note to the Inspector, she stated that she did not agree with the statement made by the mother about the food served.

8.574Also in 1959, an Englishman visited the School and noticed that the boys were playing football in their bare feet. This gave rise to a critical article in a Sunday newspaper, which identified inadequate funding of industrial schools as an issue of some concern. Representatives of the Congregation met with Department officials who were anxious to refute the article. The Christian Brothers sent a letter to the paper, explaining the lack of footwear as being due to an exceptionally hot day and stating that ordinarily boys wore boots or sandals.

8.575The Congregation did not avail themselves of the public interest in the matter to confirm their own view that industrial schools were inadequately funded but rather went to some trouble to support the Department of Education’s contention that funding was adequate.

8.576The Department received another complaint in August 1959. (Details of this complaint are dealt with above in connection with food as the main complaint related to food.) The mother concerned also complained, inter alia, about the clothing supplied to the boys. The Resident Manager responded to that portion of the complaint in the following terms:

The boys’ clothes are kept clean as far as is humanly possible. The boys’ day shirts, singlets and trunks are washed weekly and inspected in the dormitory each morning. Clothing for the year 1958 totalled £1,235 – 17 – 4, which gives an average of over £12 per boy for the year.

8.577Again, the Congregation defended the clothing provided instead of taking the opportunity to further advance their case for increased funding.

8.578In 1961, the Congregation Visitor noted that the boys’ food had improved markedly of late and that it was now ‘well up to the standard of similar Institutions’. The Congregation Visitor noted that a good variety was served and that the boys were better fed than in the past. He also noted in the Visitation letter that there would be greater variety when the funding improved.

8.579Later in the year the Department Inspector noted that the boys’ food had improved, stating that better cooking facilities were now in place. She made a general observation that the boys were well cared for, despite the adverse conditions. The Brothers were doing their best in very difficult circumstances and in very primitive conditions. There were 111 boys in the Institution at this time.

8.580Throughout the 1960s, the report about food continued to record that the food had improved in Letterfrack.

8.581The Interdepartmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders visited Letterfrack in December 1962. Rather surprisingly, the Working Party did not see a meal being served but was prepared to accept the Resident Manager’s word that the food was good.

8.582The Committee Secretary described the clothes and footwear provided as sufficient, although he criticised the absence of overcoats for the boys, which he saw as a serious deficiency. However, the Committee accepted that additional income would be necessary if adequate clothing and footwear were to be provided.

8.583Following the Committee’s visit the Resident Manager wrote to Mr McDevitt in the Department of Education on 31st December 1962, saying that a new oven had been purchased and that ‘I have already purchased about 50 tweed and gabardine overcoats for the boys and I hope to have one for each boy in the very near future’.

8.584He went on to say:

I hope we will soon get an increase in the Maintenance Grant it would help to pull down my overdraft, and if I had about 20 more pupils I should then be in a position to do more for the boys. We get several applications for vacancies but very few are committed.

8.585There were 128 boys in Letterfrack in 1962.

8.586Department Inspectors continued to stress the need for improvements in the quality of clothing provided well into the 1960s and conditions did improve slowly.

8.587In 1966, Dr C.E. Lysaght carried out the general inspection. He stated that the School menu provided a ‘well balanced diet and variety’. He noted that the dinners, which he witnessed during his inspection, were ‘ample’, ‘satisfactory’ and that ‘little food was left behind’.

8.588In 1970, the Congregation Visitor reported that the boys now had modern clothing and sporting gear.

8.589In the second Visitation carried out in 1970, Br Dax was singled out for further praise. The Visitor noted that Br Dax who had taken over the kitchen had a different menu each day of the week and that the meals served to the boys were ‘very ample and tastefully served’.

8.590The 1972 Visitation Report stated that the food was satisfactory and commended Br Dax for his efficiency: ‘it would be impossible to equal his dedication and efficiency’. In the 1973 Visitation Report the Visitor stated:

Br Dax the Sub-Superior, lives an almost eremetical life since he supervises all the boys’ meals seven days a week and consequently must eat by himself. He is regular and his meals keep the boys contented. He does not cook but does the ordering and supervising. His only other duty is to supervise the boys’ showers. He maintains good discipline though his methods may be a little crude at times. He seems ripe for a total change of environment and the visitor suggests that he might be a suitable candidate for the international tertianship next August.

8.591A number of former residents complained about the clothing they received. Some of these complaints related to the absence of proper work clothes. Boys who worked part-time on the farm (up to 40 at any time) had no work clothes. They wore their school clothes on the bog and in the fields in all weather and, no matter how wet or mucky they got, they had to stay in the same clothes until the end of the week.

8.592One former resident said that he occasionally worked on the farm. Although he had Wellington boots he did not have proper work clothes like the boys who worked there full time. He wore his normal school clothes.

8.593Another resident present in the Institution in the late 1950s and early 1960s said that he received so little food that he was reduced to eating swedes out of the fields. He contrasted the food the boys received with that of the staff. He said that:

I actually seen the table in the monastery one time and there was enough food on that table to feed the 120 lads that were in that school. We never got food, anything like that. There was so much sheep and cattle and vegetables that were in that school, we should have been all little barrels.

8.594One resident from the early 1960s said that the quality of the food was awful and that there was never enough of it. Another resident from the late 1950s said that there was never a lot of it and that boys would trade food they did not like. One resident in the late 1960s said that, of all the institutions he was in, Upton, Daingean and Letterfrack, the food in Letterfrack was the worst.

8.595Another resident present in the late 1960s and early 1970s stated:

The food wasn’t good food … I remember kids breaking out in scabies and all sorts of stuff, weak and pale. It was very cheap food from Galway City, I don’t know where they got it from. The porridge, on many occasions it was very weak stuff and we used to pick little worms out with the spoons. The bread used to come in at the time, we used to be picking bits of green mould out of it and stuff, fighting for a small piece of margarine on the table to spread on it. It was just like animals, dog eat dog stuff, but I don’t remember any healthy food.

8.596Br Dax was employed as the cook in Letterfrack from the late 1950s until it closed in 1974. In his evidence to the Investigation Committee he stated that:

I would say quite honestly as far as I am concerned the food was reasonably good.


  • The 1954 decision of the Provincial, taken in the face of opposition by both the Department of Education and District Justice McCarthy, was ill-considered and detrimental to the welfare of the boys in Letterfrack.
  • If it was desirable to restrict admission to Letterfrack to a specific category of boys, it was unreasonable and contrary to policy to retain a substantial number of boys from previous intakes who were outside that category.
  • By insisting that increases in grants had to be applied equally to all schools, smaller institutions like Letterfrack were at a serious disadvantage. It required extra funding to compensate for the low numbers after 1954 but no special case was made.
  • It was an indictment of the Congregation that extra funding promised to the Resident Manager to compensate for the removal of up to 100 pupils was refused at a time when funds were available. The deprivation of funds caused hardship to the boys in Letterfrack.
  • The decision to close Carriglea as an industrial school and to keep Letterfrack open was not taken in the interests of the children in Letterfrack. The unsuitability of Letterfrack as an industrial school was apparent from the start and was strongly reiterated by District Justices and by the Department of Education. The will of the Provincial prevailed, however, and it is an example of the power the Christian Brothers had in determining the direction the industrial school system took.
  • From the comments in her Inspection Reports, Dr McCabe believed that low standards were the inevitable consequences of inadequate funding. However, when this issue was raised in public in 1959, neither the Department nor the Congregation acknowledged the difficulties but were at pains to paint a rosy picture of life in Letterfrack.
  • The argument put forward by the Congregation in its Opening Statement, that the care the boys received in Letterfrack was better than they would have received if they had remained in their families, misses the point. The Congregation was paid by the State to care for these boys to a standard set down by law, and failed to do so.

Education pre-1954

8.598All industrial schools were required to provide a basic national school education for all boys under 14 and an appropriate level of industrial training for the older boys. Letterfrack was recognised as a national school in 1941 and was required to follow the national school curriculum. All boys under 14 attended classes for five hours per day, and those over 14 years old who had completed the 6th class course were put full-time to a trade. Those still in 6th class and who could be expected to benefit from it remained on to complete the year, and the others who were put into a trade received evening classes in the ‘three R’s’.

8.599In their Final Submission the Congregation submitted that the evidence heard by the Investigation Committee confirmed that teaching in Letterfrack was extremely difficult, principally because the boys had received little or no education before arriving in Letterfrack and because they were not interested in education. This difficulty, they submit, was compounded by the State’s failure to recognise this, in not providing extra teaching staff and not allowing the Congregation to pursue a modified curriculum which was more suitable for the boys. The Congregation even provided for one extra teacher from their own resources at one stage. Despite the difficulties, they submit that the Congregation brought a high proportion of boys to Primary Certificate level and, for a period, organised for some boys to attend secondary school.

8.600They accept that some boys did not benefit from an education but submit that part of the reason for this was their own lack of interest in education. They submit that there was no basis for a finding that the Congregation was guilty of any shortcoming in respect of the provision of education to boys within its care.

8.601These assertions can be tested against the documentary evidence, the evidence of former Brothers, and the evidence of former pupils of the School.

8.602The Visitation Reports up to 1954 do not support the contention that the boys were backward or unwilling to receive education. Although some Brothers were criticised from time to time as being poor teachers, on the whole the standard as recorded by the Visitors was good. In 1938 the Visitor made an important observation:

poor children of our institutions have first claim on our really good teachers, as their school time is short indeed, and we were founded mainly to look after the education of poor boys.

8.603The School was staffed mainly by Christian Brothers. The size of the teaching staff varied. For much of the 1940s and 1950s, there were three to four teachers in the School. Some of these individuals taught two classes together. As regards qualifications, the Congregation’s teachers were trained in its own teaching college. Some former members of staff complained of the lack of training they received in remedial or special needs teaching. This, they said, was a significant handicap in Letterfrack, as many of the methods that they had learned were designed to be utilised in mainstream schools and were of little use in a school of such mixed ability as Letterfrack.

8.604In 1945, the Visitor criticised the practice of removing weaker students from school to work on the farm. He suggested that the permission of the Superior be secured before this was allowed to happen.

8.605Br Sorel, who taught in Letterfrack for four years from the late 1940s, said that the job was difficult as many of the children suffered from educational disabilities:

It was a tremendous experience in one way, but it was very frustrating in another because a lot of the kids in the classes, as pointed out last week, were bordering on the mentally handicapped.

8.606There was no evidence that, during Br Sorel’s time there, Letterfrack had a large number of mentally handicapped children. Educationally deprived they undoubtedly were, and for many the trauma of being locked away from family and friends would have been deeply disturbing, but judging by the complainants who attended the oral hearings, they were not mentally handicapped.

8.607There was not a great deal of evidence about the standard of education in Letterfrack prior to 1954, when the School changed its enrolment policy. The only contemporaneous records, the Visitation Reports, were generally positive about the School.

8.608Complainants to the Committee did not share the Visitor’s views, and described a regime of corporal punishment in the classroom that was harsh and pervasive.

Education post-1954

8.609From 1954, Letterfrack was directed by the Provincial of the Congregation to receive only those children who had been found guilty of a criminal offence. The negative impact that this decision had on the care of the boys has already been outlined. It had a considerable impact on the education of the boys in Letterfrack. The position was succinctly put in 1956 by the Resident Manager, who wrote to the Provincial informing him of the low level of educational ability of the students:

The change in condition in our school brought about two years ago has altered all that radically. The old hands, if I may call them so, have become the ‘intelligentia’ and the new pupils are in a state of ignorance that has to be experienced to be realised. Of the 41 boys, still here who have been admitted in the last two years, 35 are still in school. This is more than half the number of boys on the rolls (61). These boys, in the main do not even know the letters of the alphabet.

8.610He noted that there were three classes in the school: 3rd, 4th and 5th class. He said that 4th class was divided into three groups: 1. Boys who did not know the letters of the alphabet; 2. Boys who did know the letters of the alphabet; and 3. Boys who had begun to realise the simplest of words. He stated that these groupings were absolutely necessary and that the age groups threw further light on the state of affairs. Those in the so-called 4th class had an average age of 11 years 9 months, and those in 5th, 13 years and 1 month. He stated that it was abundantly clear from the above facts that specialised teaching was an absolute necessity if these boys were to get even the most rudimentary education. He said that the services of the three Brothers with the best of qualifications were therefore vitally needed in the school.

8.611The Congregation presented a table of the number of boys who sat for and passed the Primary Certificate. This table does not tally with the Visitation Reports for a number of years and cannot therefore be relied on.

8.612In 1956, seven out of 10 boys in 6th class were presented for examination and obtained their Primary Certificate.

8.613In 1957 the teachers had been reduced to three, as numbers were falling in the school. There were 71 boys in school that year, 14 of whom were in 6th class; 10 were presented for Primary Certificate, and one boy obtained a scholarship. Both the Visitor for that year and the Provincial believed that the effort of getting one or two boys to pass the scholarship exam was not worth it and so the practice was discontinued. Boys were still sent to Clifden CBS for secondary education, but no more than a dozen attended at any time.

8.614As in all industrial schools, the Christian Brothers selected the boys who would be presented for the Primary Certificate from 6th standard. Only those boys who were deemed capable of passing were put forward and, therefore, the pass rate was artificially high. For example, in 1958 there were 16 boys in 6th class, and 11 sat the exam. Therefore, although the results were good as a percentage pass rate, this cannot be taken to be representative of the school as a whole.

8.615Two important factors were significant in education in Letterfrack: first, children did not progress through the various classes in Letterfrack as they did in other national schools. The criterion for advancement in this school was ability. Children who were educationally disadvantaged were placed in a class appropriate to their standard and were allowed to progress to an age-appropriate class at their own pace. Consequently, class sizes decreased in the higher classes.

8.616Br Dondre, who was in Letterfrack in the late 1960s and early 1970s, described this process to the Committee. He said that he taught the weakest group, and classes were allocated by the school Principal, who determined the boys’ ability on entry:

I taught the weakest class and I can only go on my own experience in the classroom situation. The weakest boys were very weak. I did two remedial courses when I was there … to improve my knowledge about weaker kids and the methodology of teaching these weaker children. I was quite happy with my results I could pass kids through my classroom, from 3rd class. There was a great mobility as I said before, I could get kids from my classroom into the next class inside three or four months because they were intelligent, all they needed was regular schooling. There were some kids that never graduated from the bottom two classes, some of them were educationally backward and some of them would be bordered on being mildly mentally handicapped.

8.617The second factor that had a significant impact was that class sizes were comparatively small – smaller than those in outside national schools.

8.618In 1960, the Visitor noted that the average class size was uneconomic, ‘but that nothing could be done about it until such time as the numbers rise’. He further stated that the present staff of three should, ordinarily, be teaching double the number of pupils.

8.619In 1961, Br Guillaume wrote to the Department informing it that the boys admitted to Letterfrack were educationally challenged in that most of them, on admission, were unable to read or write. He stated that the Brothers in the school were doing their utmost to ensure these boys, at the very least, were able to read and write, add and subtract before they left the Institution and, to this end, had appointed an extra teacher to the school which he asked the Department to sanction. The Department recognised the extra teacher as a classroom assistant, but did not sanction two further classroom assistants as requested.

8.620In 1962, the Interdepartmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders visited the school. The Working Party reported that, as boys entering Letterfrack were below the normal educational standard for their age, they required more individual attention than their national school counterparts. The Committee recommended smaller class sizes and more intensive instruction in English and arithmetic.

8.621A Department of Education official followed up on the Interdepartmental Committee, with a more thorough investigation into the education provided in Letterfrack, and reported in 1963.

8.622His report identified the uneven age profile in the classes as ‘a most unsatisfactory state of affairs’ although, by the time the boys reached 6th form, the age disparity with outside national schools had been reduced from two and a half years in 3rd form to 6 months. In June 1962, 34 of the 91 pupils who had reached the age of 14 had not moved on to 6th class. The report noted that the prevailing standard at the time was rated as ‘satisfactory’. It noted that, in former years, ‘allowances had to be made … for adverse circumstances’. These included inadequate buildings, equipment and teachers and the ‘depressing surroundings’, as well as the priority given to work in the Institution over classes.

8.623The report went on to say that ‘If any of the above factors still operate there would be a lowering of educational attainments’. Each of the factors listed above could be readily identified by the Inspector and it is not clear why the report was phrased in this way. What is clear is that each of these suggestions was within the remit of the management of the School and was deemed to be ‘desirable’ if not ‘essential’.

8.624The report noted the possibility that the Christian Brothers had ‘not made the best possible staff available in Letterfrack’, and highlighted the fact that many Brothers seemed not to care to work there. Of particular concern was the fact that there was a very frequent turnover of teaching staff which, it stated, would ‘militate against achieving good educational results’. Also of concern was the lack of experience of some of the teachers in the School. The report highlighted that the youngest of the teachers had only been at the School for six months. The report expressed concern that this teacher had not yet received his diploma, and questioned whether such an inexperienced teacher should have been sent to a school where so many educational problems had to be faced in his daily interactions with the pupils.61

8.625Significantly, the Inspector noted that the Manager had reported to the Interdepartmental Committee that ‘only 2 out of 114 boys (were) below average intelligence’ and he agreed with this assessment. The problem, therefore, was not the intelligence of the boys but their lack of educational opportunity before being sent to Letterfrack.

8.626Throughout the 1960s the Visitors noted the difficulty of teaching the boys who were coming to Letterfrack because of their severe educational disadvantage prior to coming there. One of a number of Reports compiled in the 1970s was highly critical of the standard of teaching in the School. Of the five teachers there, only one was qualified, three had completed one year of training in Marino, and a fifth had no qualifications at all.

8.627The 1972 Visitation Report criticised the Principal. It stated that his abilities fell ‘short of the very high standard required to deal with the disturbed children’ that were admitted. It also noted that ‘most of the boys are very much retarded’. The Visitor expressed concerns at the class sizes, suggesting that an extra teacher would be required to cater for the needs of the boys. He further reported that many of the boys were in need of remedial teaching, something that was impossible to provide with the structure in place. He stated that this problem was further compounded by the fact that ‘neither Br Thibaud62 nor Br Arnaud63 are very efficient teachers, at least for boys of this kind’.

8.628In the same year, three members of staff wrote to the Provincial complaining about the education provided. They stated that the educational set-up that prevailed in the Institution was ‘grossly inadequate to meet the educational requirements’ of the type of boy found there. They concluded by stating that, were the staff shortages not remedied, the Province would be ‘failing in the real work of Edmund Rice’, and further expressed their view that ‘the school should be closed immediately if the … situation is to prevail’.

8.629A Department of Education report later in the year made a number of recommendations to remedy the problems facing the staff in Letterfrack, including having the children professionally assessed. Importantly, this report recognised the need to compensate children in industrial schools for the fact that they were there. Among its many recommendations it stated:

It would be necessary to provide children in care with more than the normal educational facilities. It would, in other words, be necessary to overcompensate for deprivation.

8.630It also recommended specialised training and a more holistic approach to the care of these children. Thinking had at last begun to move on.

8.631The fundamental problems of maintaining a school like Letterfrack were confronted in the 1973 Visitation Report. It noted that many of the boys in the School were ‘emotionally disturbed’, some of them were ‘mentally retarded’, with others being ‘backward’ on entering Letterfrack. It reported that the Brothers were conscious of the fact that they lacked the professional training required to deal with such boys’ schooling, and that the remoteness of the Institution rendered it impossible to get the professional help that the boys required.

8.632Another concern was the need to provide higher education to the boys aged 14 to 16, which one Visitor in the 1960s stated could not be done without ‘special concessions’ being granted by the Education Office.

Evidence from complainants

8.633One witness present in the early 1970s stated that he attended school but never sat his Primary Certificate. He said that some of the older boys got the opportunity to attend the vocational school in Clifden, but he never got the opportunity to go as this arrangement ceased for no apparent reason.

8.634By comparison, some pupils felt they received a good education and liked school. One boy said that he had received a good education prior to being sent to Letterfrack. He said that he got on all right in the school. The experience of members of the same family was not always the same. The Committee heard from three siblings, one of whom felt that the education he received in the school was all right, and whose brothers did not feel they received an adequate education.

Evidence from respondents

8.635A number of the individual respondents who gave evidence taught in the national school and they were all agreed that the standard of education in the school was bad.

8.636Br Francois described it as pretty poor:

The standard of education? It was pretty poor compared to a group on the outside that were of the same age would have been much more advanced.

8.637Br Michel confirmed that teaching in the school was very difficult:

Well progress was very slow. The boys came to us and they were assessed for a class that best suited and then they went up as they progressed. I assure you it was a slog in the classroom, they didn’t want to learn most of them, they weren’t used to being in school they weren’t used to sitting at a desk all day long.

8.638He also felt that the curriculum was not appropriate. He said that one aspect was that the Department Inspector:

made no effort to give us a little programme for these boys who were educationally neglected in the past. We had to slog at the full programme of a primary school even so far as getting the boys to say the words in Irish as they would in the western dialect.

8.639Br Telfour, who was there from the mid to late 1960s, also stressed the low educational standard of the boys upon entry into the school. He said that, over time, some of the boys would improve and progress through the classes, eventually ending up at secondary school in Clifden. Other boys might make little or no progress.

8.640Br Rainger, who was there around the same time, said that he found teaching in the school quite frustrating as he was unable to apply the methods he had been taught in training college because of the low standard of education possessed by the boys:

Probably one of my frustrations in Letterfrack was frustration in the classroom, that I couldn’t apply the teaching methods that would have been applied, if you don’t mind me using the phrase, to normal children, because a lot of these people would have been educationally deprived, lack of reading ability and so on and so forth, and I found teaching in Letterfrack challenging, to say the least.

8.641He said that many of the boys made little progress:

I would personally describe it as minimal. It was a real slog and a real challenge just to get across even the basic concepts. Now having said that, that is across the board. There could have been exceptions.

8.642Br Dondre described the disturbed nature of the boys:

The boys in Letterfrack were disturbed. How will I say this? If they weren’t disturbed before they got to Letterfrack, they were disturbed when they got there. The fact of taking a boy from his home and sending him to an industrial school in some cases, and dragging him through criminal proceedings, through court, and being sentenced by a Justice to four/five/six, in some cases seven years, away from their home, was enough to disturb anybody. Some of them were disturbed, they came from disturbed backgrounds and they were there because they were disturbed. They were there because they were in trouble. Some of them were no trouble at all. The very fact of sending them there, they did become disturbed, they became sort of unhappy and quiet – not quiet – into themselves, introverted. Generally unhappy.

8.643Br Blaise64 said that teaching in the school was difficult, as the constant arrival and departure of boys all the year round made it difficult to teach the curriculum.

8.644The Congregation was cognisant of the difficulties faced in teaching children in the school, and the documentary material was replete with examples of this. However, this is not to totally exculpate the Congregation. The Congregation did not send its best teachers to the school. Many of the teachers came straight from teacher training college with little experience of teaching in a normal school, not to mention a school like that in Letterfrack. It is interesting to compare two documents from the discovered material, one from the start of the period of investigation and one from near the end.

8.645In 1938, the Congregation Visitor noted that the:

poor children of our institutions have first claim on our really good teachers, as their school time is short indeed, and we are founded mainly to look after the education of poor boys.

8.646The Congregational response to this plea was poor. The 1963 Report on education noted that:

  • The Brothers had not made the best possible staff available in Letterfrack.
  • They lacked experience.
  • There was a very high turnover of teaching staff.
  • Many Brothers seemed not to care to work in Letterfrack.


  • The submission by the Congregation, that it was not to be faulted for any shortcoming in respect of educating the boys in its care, was not supported by the evidence.
  • Smaller class sizes and grading according to ability should have formed the basis for real educational opportunity for boys who had missed out on schooling in their early years. However, the poor quality of the staff sent to Letterfrack, particularly in the later years, made progress in this area virtually impossible. The reports from the 1960s and 1970s, indicate how far thinking had developed in the care of these children, but similar advances were not made in the training or guidance offered to young Christian Brothers.
  • Children who are badly fed, badly clothed, cold and lonely cannot thrive in any school environment. The ‘overcompensation’ mentioned in the 1970 Department of Education report was never applied in Letterfrack.
  • The assertion by some ex-Brothers, that most of the residents in Letterfrack were of impaired mental capacity, was not borne out by the complainants who attended the Investigation Committee. They were capable men for the most part who could have progressed in the right environment. The resentment and regret felt by many of them at the loss of opportunity were palpable even 50 years later. Teachers tended to confuse poor education with mental incapacity and that had a negative impact on the education provided in Letterfrack.

Training and trades

8.648The Congregation accepted that the level of industrial training provided was not sufficient:

It would be fair to say that the training in the various trades was not really satisfactory for a number of reasons. Because of the remoteness of the institution, it was almost impossible to attract trade teachers to work there … Then many of the trades were not accessible to boys who had not come through the normal apprenticeship. In addition, vacancies for the various trades were not readily available in the local area, and Dublin probably had its own supply of tradesmen. Moreover many of the techniques for the trades were outdated and consequently did not prepare the young people adequately to enter into a trade … and finally, in response to the criticism that the workshops and the farm did not give adequate instruction in the trade as well as giving practical experience, it should be stated that the normal practice in the training of any trade was to have the young people do the most simple of tasks initially and then to learn by “doing the job”.

8.649It continued:

By far the largest percentage of the boys who over 14 years of age, worked on the farm, seasonally augmented after school hours by a large number of senior school boys … The reason given for this labour intensiveness was the nature of the land (mostly mountain), which is poor and can be tilled only with the spade … in a report on the occupational training provided … it was pointed out that farming was “the most natural and suitable employment for the boys”… The Report expressed disappointment with most of the residential school farms because they generally failed to teach farm management to the boys. They did not train the boys in farming but simply considered them as “juvenile labourers”. It would seem that the reason for this was the lack of people knowledgeable in the theory of farm management.

8.650Trades were determined by the needs of the Institution and, for a small minority of boys who were lucky enough to be employed in an area of the School that offered future job prospects, this was an undoubted benefit. For example, one ex-resident who was in Letterfrack in the late 1950s spoke of the valuable experience he got working in the gardens and looking after the glasshouse. He said it opened up a ‘terrific kind of a job for me’. He had great freedom and he loved the work. Later on, he was put on the poultry farm with Br Dax. He said he learned everything to do with poultry farming, he liked it and he was good at it because he was interested in it.

8.651Gardening could have provided a reasonable prospect of work for trained boys but, because the Institution only needed one or two gardeners, that is all that were trained. only that number received training.

8.652Another complainant, who was resident from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, said he worked in the bakery for a year or so and, following his discharge, he finished up working in a bakery in a neighbouring county. He said he got a basic grounding in the bakery and that jobs were arranged for him by the Brothers.

8.653There were no more than three or four boys working in the bakery and this number was even further reduced in the 1960s. The bakery was run by an ex-pupil who would not have been in a position to offer any real training to the boys outside of the basic bread-making. Here again was a missed opportunity. Baking was a skill that could have ensured employment, but only those boys needed to serve the needs of the Institution worked in this area, and even they did not receive proper training.

8.654The tailors did little more than make and repair the boys’ clothing. One ex-pupil from the early 1960s said he was in the tailor shop and learned how to use a needle and thread, but he did not feel he learned tailoring to the extent that he could consider it as a career option. He said he was removed from tailoring as he was not considered good enough.

8.655Visitation Reports from the 1940s and 1950s made it clear that trades were expected to pay their way or to make a profit for the School. In 1947, the Visitor was critical of the fact that the tailor and shoemaker did little else than meet the necessities of the School. He noted that there was very good work being done in the various departments. He noted that the bread that was produced by the baker was very good, and there was a steady trade carried on with surrounding districts by the smiths and cartwrights.

8.656Other potentially valuable trades were carpentry and painting but, again, the needs of the institution determined the way in which trades were taught and the number of boys engaged in them.

8.657Although Visitors commented positively about trades between 1960 and 1964, it was noted that, by the end of 1964, trades had all but ceased in the School, with the exception of tailoring.

8.658As mentioned above, In 1962, the Interdepartmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders visited the School. The Working Group noted that the boys received some instruction in carpentry and tailoring from the tradesmen. However, it was noted that there were no qualified instructors in the School, nor was there any course to prepare the boys to sit for the Group Certificate of the Vocational Schools. It was highlighted that the main occupational work carried on by the boys was farming.

The farm

8.659The farm was an essential part of life in Letterfrack. The Congregation stated:

The land under the care of the Brothers comprised 837 acres, but most of this was poor land consisting of bog and mountain. Nevertheless on the available 70 acres of arable ground the Brothers, farm workers and boys worked the land to provide for the needs of the institution.

8.660Until 1954, the farm was under the charge of one Brother, Br Aubin, who was consistently praised for his farming skills by Visitors to the school: ‘a good religious Brother and a capable farmer, a very useful devoted Brother’. The farm was, however, very labour intensive, and large numbers of boys were used as workers to keep it going. In 1942, the Visitor remarked that the rough nature of the ground, that did not allow for the use of a plough, meant that most of the tillage had to be done by spade. It was a significant source of income to the Institution and it provided the basic food requirements of the entire establishment. Even with the large numbers of boys assigned to the farm, it was hard, gruelling work. Full-time workers were assigned to the farm from 14 years of age, but all the children were engaged on a part-time basis after school and during holidays and weekends. Turf-cutting, sea-weed harvesting and saving the hay were some of the jobs undertaken by the younger children.

8.661One complainant described how a field of hay was raked by hand by up to 50 boys who worked in a line the length of the field. He also described crushing the silage in the winter:

they would fill it up and it went right up to the top, but it had to keep getting crushed … any day it was raining, they would put us all in there walking around like that, (indicating) dancing, jumping on it and all that, and then go around and around and they would get it down a certain amount of inches every day until eventually they couldn’t get anymore into it’.

8.662In 1944, the Visitor noted that Br Aubin had 40 of the bigger boys under his control at farm work. The Visitor criticised the fact that Br Aubin was frequently not with the boys when they were out working and they were left with a workman whose suitability for such a charge was very doubtful.

8.663In 1950, the Visitor commented on the large number of boys (46) on the farm, noting the ‘large number compared with the number in the establishment. As all the work is spade work, that number is required’.

8.664The Interdepartmental Committee reported that the main occupational work carried on by the boys was farming. It stated that ‘a fully qualified instructor should be available to give vocational training in woodwork and carpentry, particularly to the large number of inmates from town and city areas who [were] unlikely to seek farm work on discharge’.

8.665Ex-residents who spoke to the Committee were critical of the work they were required to do on a daily basis in Letterfrack, and were dismissive of the idea that it could ever be described as ‘training’.

8.666One former resident present in the late 1960s, when asked whether he learned a trade in Letterfrack, said ‘if you call dragging a bag of turf around a bog or going around stamping silage’.

8.667Another resident from the late 1960s said that he did not learn a trade, he spent his time either darning socks or working in the fields and bogs. He said his work on the farm was all labour, pulling turnips, planting, digging etc. He was never involved with the cows or the pigs or anything like that.

8.668The farm made a healthy profit almost every year, which was paid into the school accounts. It is not possible to determine how the farm income or profits were calculated or whether the School received the full benefit of the income generated. It did benefit to a significant extent, however, and the money from the farm kept the School solvent for much of the 1940s and 1950s.

8.669Letterfrack was an industrial school and its avowed purpose was to provide industrial training and, if it was incapable of doing that, its function should have been re-assessed.

8.670The majority of children were assigned to the farm at some time. The conditions in which the children worked and the tasks they were expected to perform were far in excess of what could be described as ‘helping out’ on the farm and could not be described as training. Complainants spoke of being used as slave-labour on the farm.


8.671In their Opening Statement for Letterfrack the Christian Brothers stated that the most common health problems in the School were outbreaks of measles and the ‘flu. There was a nurse employed and she resided in the infirmary which was located on the hillside above the School. There was a large proportion of very young boys in Letterfrack until 1954, and they would have required greater medical care than the boys in senior schools such as Artane.

8.672The presence of a nurse appears to have ensured a higher standard of care than that available in other institutions.

8.673In their Opening Statement the Christian Brothers provided details of deaths that had occurred in the school from 1940 to 1970. This showed a total of 15 deaths of boys during the relevant period. A peak occurred in 1941/1942, when seven of these deaths were recorded. The cause of death was stated to be consumption (tuberculosis) in five of these cases, and tuberculosis and pneumonia in the other two.


8.674The annals for Letterfrack showed that there was a strong musical tradition in the School throughout the 1940s and 1950s, which appeared to decline from the mid-1960s. Plays, concerts and musicals were performed annually and were well attended by the local people. These performances were also used to raise funds for the School.

8.675Team games did not appear to have been a significant feature of life in Letterfrack although, from the late 1950s, there were occasional references to boys entering handball and boxing competitions.

8.676A film projector was installed in the school hall in 1948. From that year onwards, films were shown, although one Visitor expressed reservations at temporarily professed Brothers attending such performances:

Whatever about the desirability of providing such entertainment for the boys and the people of the district, I think that the young brothers of T[emporary] P[rofession] should not be allowed to attend.

8.677Despite the injunction against interaction with seculars, the local people appeared to be quite an important part of the life of the School, and attended functions there regularly.


8.678According to the Opening Statement from the Congregation, when the time came for the boys to be released, they were either sent to parents or relatives, or to employers in a variety of trades and occupations. The Congregation submit that the work secured was usually directly related to the range of trades taught in the Institution.

8.6791,356 boys were admitted and discharged between 1940 and 1974: 869 were discharged to relatives, 3 to hospital and 38 absconded; 131 were transferred to other institutions; and the balance of 318 to employment. Almost one-third of those went as farm workers.

8.680The Congregation submitted that the provision of aftercare was a continual source of concern to the Provincial and Resident Managers over the years but, despite the suggestions and solutions put forward, all foundered on the twin rocks of lack of funding and manpower.

8.681In its Final Submission the Congregation contended that aftercare, like trades, was another matter which the complainants did not wish to focus on. They submitted that there was no evidence to support a finding that the Congregation routinely placed boys in unsuitable or inappropriate employment.

8.682The Children Act, 1908 specified that children committed to an industrial school remained up to the age of 18 under the supervision of the managers of the School. Children who were returned to parents or relatives no longer remained the responsibility of the Resident Manager. In the case of Letterfrack, therefore, over a 34-year period, the numbers for whom aftercare was required were relatively small – they averaged out at between nine and 10 per year. While in Artane and Glin a Brother undertook the work of visiting former pupils on a regular basis, in Letterfrack the position appears to have been that the Superior assumed the responsibility for aftercare, as there was no particular member of staff assigned to this task. The system was that application was made to the School by tradesmen or farmers who, if deemed suitable, would be assigned a boy for employment. The School did not actively seek employment for the boys. This would explain why the vast majority of boys ended up as farm workers, houseboys, or hotel staff. This was confirmed by ex-staff members in their interviews with Mr Bernard Dunleavy, who identified the lack of a dedicated staff member to look after past pupils as a serious flaw in the system.

8.683The Congregation acknowledged that ‘without the allocation of a Brother to look after this aspect of the Institution’s duties, Letterfrack could not have been as effective in this area as other schools were’.


  • The boys of Letterfrack were especially vulnerable because they had been uprooted from their backgrounds and had spent years in a remote, inhospitable part of Ireland. Many were then returned to a city environment and were left without any support to help them make the adjustment.

Emotional abuse

Position of the Congregation

8.685The Congregation accepted that, for much of its existence, the School failed to cater for the emotional development of the child:

They (the staff) were doing their best, thinking that this is the best, and in fact it says often there, they did the best they could under the circumstances but didn’t realise all the emotional needs that were there at the time and that they couldn’t fulfill them given the structure.

8.686The Congregation submits that the emphasis of the School was on the physical care and well-being of the children. There was little understanding of the emotional impact of residential care on children, in particular the effect of separation from home and family. Staff did not receive childcare training. Indeed, the Congregation noted that, for much of the period under review, no such training was available. It was not until the late 1960s that the emotional needs of the children began to be understood and catered for. They accepted that the Cussen Report had highlighted the need for appropriate emotional care in the 1930s. However, they stated that this was impossible to achieve in Letterfrack. The high pupil-staff ratio and the necessity of maintaining a high level of discipline to ensure order meant that the individual needs of the children could not be catered for. However, they stressed that this state of affairs was due to a lack of resources and, therefore, was the fault of the State not the Congregation.

Physical location

8.687The physical location of the School was not conducive to ensuring that the emotional needs of the children were met. In the 1940s and 1950s, travelling to the School was difficult and out of the financial reach of most of the parents whose children were committed to the school. It was understandable, therefore, that small children with little understanding of these difficulties could feel abandoned. One complainant summarised the feeling of isolation well:

The only contact we had was a letter and every letter sent home had to be a good letter. Every letter that was sent home you had to be having a great time, they were learning you how to swim, they were learning you how to play football, they were learning you how to play this. Everything had to be good before you got the letter sent out. If you sent a wrong letter, that you were after hurting yourself, they would tell you out straight you wouldn’t be able to send another letter home for two months because you shouldn’t have put that in the letter.

8.688Br Francois, who was present in the late 1950s and early 1960s, described it as an isolating, frightening place with poor facilities for the boys.

8.689Br Telfour said its location was bleak and isolated, and he felt he was transferred there because he had missed some of his early morning calls in another school.

8.690Letterfrack was seen as a tough posting, according to Br Anatole:

… it would be a tough job, a tough station, something you would not particularly choose, on account of what I have said, that it is isolated.

8.691Br Dax said that he suffered isolation and loneliness in Letterfrack, and he claimed that this loneliness was a factor which led to his abuse of the boys.

8.692Br Iven said he felt isolated from the friends he had made in his training of the previous five years, and another said he found it a lonely, isolating place:

Then in many ways I suppose that just went with the job, in the sense I was isolated in a room at the end of the dormitory, away from the Community.

8.693In his interview with the Christian Brothers that was dealt with above, Br Ruffe described his reaction on being told that he was being sent to Letterfrack:

Well now, when I went to Letterfrack and don’t mind admitting it and when I was told I was going to Letterfrack I shed bitter tears because I had paid a passing visit there when I was on holidays some years previously and when we went into the school that day, the fact that it was so far away from every place it affected me more I’d say than it would affect a boy and the fact that when I go in there at all was an upset in itself but I soon got used to that, after all it was my vocation.


  • The remote location of Letterfrack was a problem from the first days of the Institution in the 1880s, and it continued to be a problem for the rest of its history. It was identified in the early 1950s by the Department of Education and District Justices, when they cited it as the primary reason against turning Letterfrack into a reformatory-type institution. The Congregation, on the other hand, saw the remoteness and distance as advantages in dealing with so-called ‘delinquents’, because it removed the boys from what they saw as corrupting influences. The importance of family contact was not considered.

Parental contact and applications for early discharge

8.695The parent or guardian of a child detained in an industrial school had the right to apply to the Minister for Education for the release of the child pursuant to Section 69(3) of the Children Act, 1908 which allowed the Minister to exercise his discretion to release a child or young person committed. Pursuant to the Children (Amendment) Act, 1957 the position with regard to children who were non-offenders or those committed for non-attendance at school was different, in that the release was mandatory if the Minister was satisfied that the circumstances which led to the committal had changed or ceased and the parents were able to support the child.

8.696An examination of the records of the Department of Education reveals that, invariably, applications for early release were initiated by the parents, very often through the offices of a local public representative. There does not appear to have been a system whereby a child’s case or sentence was automatically reviewed to establish if any of the criteria for an early release were present.65

8.697Once a letter from a parent or public representative was received, the Department wrote to the School and sought observations on the character and ability of the child, together with his proficiency in education and trade (if any). The local Gardaí/ISPCC were contacted, and their recommendation was sought as to the financial and other family circumstances, including an assessment of the suitability of the parent/guardian to have custody of the child.

8.698There are no records concerning application for early release prior to the late 1950s in the Letterfrack discovery from the Department of Education.

8.699A number of examples from the Departmental records illustrated the factors that were taken into consideration by the Department in deciding whether or not to release the child:

Keeping the family together

8.700The mother of a boy committed to Letterfrack for three and a half years for housebreaking applied for his early release six months into his sentence, as the family had emigrated to the UK. The school was not in favour on the grounds that the boy was getting on well in school and trade. The Department sought a reference from the police in the UK, who were satisfied that the family were in a financial position to support the boy and had not come to the notice of the police. The Department official, in coming to his decision, noted that, although the family had failed to exercise parental control in the past and despite the view of the School:

the emigration of the family to England is an important factor in this case and, lest the boy should feel he had been abandoned, perhaps it would be better to release him from detention and such action is recommended for the Minister’s consideration.

8.701The boy was released.

The suitability of the parents

8.702The mother of a boy sentenced to two years in Letterfrack made representations through her local TD to have her son allowed home for Christmas and also sought a remission of his sentence. The boy had served two months when the application was made. The Garda report stated that, although the financial circumstances were adequate and the father was of good character, the mother was deemed unsuitable as she frequented pubs late at night and two of her other children were in detention for criminal activity. The School reported that he was progressing well at school, had settled and they did not recommend his release ‘at present’.

8.703The application was refused.

Proximity of the School to home

8.704The parents of a boy detained in Letterfrack from 1970 to 1974 approached a number of public representatives one month after his detention to request their son be transferred to a school nearer his home. The School was not in favour and stated he had settled down and it would disrupt his education to transfer him. The Manager offered to facilitate a visit by the parents by bringing the boy to Galway.

8.705One year later, the parents made further representations and the School was contacted to assess whether there was a change in circumstances. The Manager stated that he had no objection to a transfer to Ferryhouse if there was a vacancy there. The authorities in Ferryhouse were approached by the Department and they refused to take the transfer.

8.706The boy was not allowed home that summer, as he had failed to return on two previous occasions and a Brother from Letterfrack had had to be sent to fetch him.

8.707The parents persisted and, in late 1971, they again sought a transfer for the boy. The parents were informed that they could now avail of a free travel scheme to see their son more regularly. This, however, did not prove helpful, as the journey to Letterfrack could not be achieved in a single day.

8.708In 1972, the parents again approached the Department who asked the School to allow him home on supervision. This was rejected by the School Manager who was ‘certain the release of this boy would not be for his good’. A Garda report in mid-1972 stated that the family had a nice comfortable home and could afford to maintain and support their son, although it did not recommend his release due to the failure by the father to exercise control of his son in the past. The boy was allowed home for a month’s holiday in 1972.

8.709In 1973, the mother again wrote to the Minister, complaining about the length of time her son was incarcerated and his punishment for not returning to the School following his earlier holidays:

… I think it a bit much revenge to take on a child, after all Mr. Minister you will agree with me the way I feel about by poor child locked away for so long and others can hold up banks and kill all before them and get away with it.

8.710She pleaded for his release and stated she was in a position to get him a job locally and wanted him home for Christmas.

8.711Towards the end of 1973, the Resident Manager of the School stated that the boy was strong, sturdy and willing to work and was a most satisfactory pupil. He recommended that the boy be released to work with a responsible adult. The 1973 Garda report was not favourable, stating that the family home was overcrowded and in the opinion of the Garda ‘the boy would be better off physically at Letterfrack, of course the psychological aspect is another matter. It is only natural for the mother to want all the family around her for Xmas’.

8.712The boy was allowed home for Christmas but was not released until a further letter was sent in early 1974 by his mother to say she had a job waiting for him and wanted his release. The job offer checked out and the boy was finally released in March 1974, four months prior to his due date of discharge.

The age of the child, a first offence

8.713In 1962, a 10-year-old boy was committed to Letterfrack until his 16th birthday for stealing a purse from a parked car. He gave the purse and its contents to his mother. She received a three-month suspended sentence. It was the child’s first offence. Solicitors for the child and his father lodged an appeal against the severity of the sentence, and the boy was released pending the hearing of the appeal in mid-1962. The appeal was not successful and, in 1963, the boy’s father wrote a number of letters to public representatives explaining why the appeal had failed. It appeared that, during the time when he was at home pending appeal, he was playing football with some friends and the ball went into a neighbour’s garden, who reported the matter to the police and the boy was implicated in this incident. When the matter came before the court on appeal, the Garda Sergeant told the court that they had received a complaint but did not tell the Judge the nature of the complaint. In his letter to Mr Haughey, the Minister for Education, the father explained why he wanted his son home:

I should think that after 6 years he will be a complete stranger in the family, as the rest of his brothers and sisters will probably have gone away from home to some employment, what chance has he of becoming acquainted with them … I give you a guarantee he will never get into any kind of trouble again, as that 12 months has learned him a lesson, it would mean a lot to me if he were released, it is for his mothers sake I took the opportunity of writing to you, as she is constantly crying and talking about him, it grieves me so much to see her in such a state for the past 12 months.

8.714The application was refused by the Department on the grounds that parental control in the family was poor, as manifested by the boy in question and by two other members of the family. It was felt that the mother had given a poor example in the past, and the boy’s school attendance was only fair. He was making good progress with his studies in Letterfrack and it would not be in his best interests to release him.

8.715The father wrote to the President of Ireland in September 1963, pleading with him to have his son released. He stated that the boy had developed psoriasis from worry and anxiety that had required hospitalisation. He stated that the boy was medically fit going to Letterfrack and ‘as God forgave us all our transgressions why should there not be forgiveness for a child’. The letter was passed to the Department of Education by the Office of the President. The boy remained in Letterfrack.

8.716Three years later, in 1966, his mother wrote to the Minister for Education, stating that her son had now served four and a half years of a six-year sentence and requested his release so that he could assist his father in his newly started timber business.

8.717The School report recommended his release on a supervision certificate.

8.718A Garda report was sought, which stated that the family were in poor circumstances and the father and mother were not suitable persons to be entrusted with the custody of their son. The Department official reviewing the case stated:

In the boy’s favour it must be said that he was committed for his first offence, he was only 10 years of age at committal, has spent 4½ years in the school and his conduct there has been satisfactory. He has completed the primary school programme. Even though his parents are not to be recommended I think it would be only fair to the boy to let him take his chance and release him.

8.719A more senior official recommended to the Secretary of the Department that the mother be informed that, if she could get him a job other than working with his father, they would be prepared to discharge him, having stated that:

this boy has undoubtedly been detained too long for a single offence. In addition he is evidently of good intelligence and well conducted.

8.720It took his mother another eight months to get him a suitable job and, following another letter of representation, he was released in December 1967, three months before his due date in 1968.

Change in family circumstances

8.721A boy was sentenced to three years in Letterfrack in 1963. He was only five years old when his mother died, and he was taken to reside with his grandmother who was too old to care for him. As a result, he fell into bad company and was convicted of stealing from a local grocery shop. His father subsequently remarried and made representations to his local TD to secure his son’s release, as he had a promise of a job for the boy aboard an Irish Flag Ship. The School reported his conduct was good but he was frail and not suitable for a seafaring life. The Garda report was favourable, and the Department decided to release him, with the comment regarding his health that ‘such a life might improve his health’.


  • It is clear from the Department of Education files that parents initiated the efforts to secure release of their children. Once this process started, there was a system in place whereby reports were sought by the Department from the School and the Gardaí. No particular weight was attached to any report, and the Department occasionally overrode the views of both the School and the Gardaí.
  • Children whose parents did not take steps to have them released do not appear to have been considered for discharge, as there is no evidence from the files that cases were reviewed by the Department other than in the manner outlined above.
  • The fundamental unfairness of incarcerating a child for six years or more was never addressed by the Department of Education or by the Congregation. Applications by parents were dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and those children whose parents did not take this initiative were left to serve out their full sentence without remission.
  • If this was a child-centred service, there would have been on-going assessment by the Resident Manager as to whether the child’s best interests were being served by continuing in the school. No such assessment took place.

Climate of fear

8.723The climate of fear has been described earlier in this chapter, in the context of punishment and bed-wetting, but it also had consequences for the emotional well-being of the children.

8.724It was well illustrated by a number of the former residents. One resident present in the late 1950s and early 1960s said:

From the time you went into that you lived in fear, you were just constantly terrified. You lived in fear all the time in that school, you didn’t know when you were going to get it, what Brother was going to give it to you, you just lived in fear in that school.

8.725Another former resident described the sense of fear:

What happened was when I went down there first I was a nervous wreck, as any child would be. You are going down here and I have never experienced a regime like it that was going on in the place. It was awful, it was very very cold, it was very very lonely, but the worst thing about it all, it was so scary.

8.726This sense of fear was often heightened by the manner in which punishment could be deferred by the Brothers. One resident present in the late 1960s described it as follows:

I think one of the worst things in a sense, in one way it would be as well if they were to give you a beating and get it over there and then, but you had the thing of various times, “I’ll see you after” … Sometimes they would leave this for days and you think they were after forgetting and then they would pounce on you.

8.727Another complainant present in the late 1950s remembered one particular Brother who often deferred punishment:

Br Noreis was his own judge, jury and executioner. His favourite thing would be “I will see you later”. Sometimes you were lucky and he meant shortly later and it was over and done with, sometimes you were unlucky and it could be a week later and during that week you walked around terrified you never knew when that – well, for want of a better word, when the hand was going to come down and grab you, then you were brought into the library … we were in a home where the children there were put in for various reasons, criminal or because they had no one to look after then. We got sent there to be educated and looked after, fed nourished, I won’t say loved, but looked after; we got none of that.

8.728Violence was a feature of life and was reflected in bullying. This ranged from schoolyard bullying to bullying at meal times and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, peer sexual abuse. One resident from the late 1960s described the bullying:

… you had to fight for survival because there was a lot of bullying and a lot of stuff going on. You had to be on your guard all the time because there was bigger kids and stronger kids, different kids and different types. Rough kids and bad kids; there was all different types.

Yes, it was dog eat dog. It was survival, you had to do everything to survive, you know. You had to fight, scratch, you had to do everything for survival. There was no love or affection or caring from anyone, you know. And there was no one to talk to, you just had to form your own way of survival.

8.729Another resident from the early 1960s told the Investigation Committee:

when I got down to Letterfrack, needless to say, I was very very scared. Now I am not going to … I am no angel, never have been, I was a scamp, if you like on the streets at the time, so my father always called it to me anyway, black sheep of the family, but I know in my heart and soul this is not about what I had done. It was the way I was treated in there and I was treated awful, I was starved, I was in rags. I felt I was bullied from the moment I went down until a couple of months, or a couple of weeks before I went out.

8.730There was a lot of bullying over food. For many years the system of food allocation was that a number of boys would be seated at each table. Food would be delivered to the table, and the boys themselves would divide it up. This had the unfortunate consequence that younger, smaller or more inexperienced boys received less than other boys. One former resident from the early 1960s described his experiences in this regard as follows:

Well, you will always get a bully like, even to this day and age you will always have a bully in school. You will always have one boy that would be that bit more dominant over certain young fellows. You’d get a certain thing on your plate, a hard boiled egg might be on your plate or vice versa, that was a luxury to get a hard boiled egg and he would just take it off you, something like that.

8.731Two Brothers, Brs Dondre and Karel, who were present in the early 1970s, told the Investigation Committee that there was a lot of bullying by bigger boys on the younger boys during their time in Letterfrack.

Other factors contributing to emotional abuse

8.732The remoteness of the School, the high pupil-staff ratio, the failure of Managers and staff to care for the individual needs of the children, the high levels of discipline and punishment as well as the consequent atmosphere of fear meant that Letterfrack was for many children a very lonely place. Despite all the hustle and bustle, many boys lived in fear, both of staff and each other. This meant that they were reluctant to form close friendships out of fear of being seen as weak or giving another boy a hold over them. A recurring theme in the evidence was this lack of friendships. A number of individuals told how they carried this fear of forming personal attachments with them into adult life.

8.733One former resident stated, ‘I have no male friends in the world, I am frightened of them – what do they want off me?’

8.734As already stated, a number of Brothers were unhappy and isolated in Letterfrack. The burden of work fell on the shoulders of a few, and this had its own implications for how they treated the children. Some former residents described how some members of staff were kind to them at times but the mood could change in an instant. One former resident described this as follows:

When they took the humour, they would show you, what do you call it, an act of kindness and you got kind of swallowed by this in some ways and you thought – you could get the off day like Telfour or Curtis would show you some act of kindness and next of all they just turn. There was a lot of Jeckyl and Hyde with them.

8.735Another former resident made a similar point:

Some of them they would like you one minute and you would be getting on, and the next minute, they would just bring you down. You put a curtain up in front of them.

8.736Br Dondre described how younger boys could cling to him for protection. However, this natural yearning for love and attention was something that was taken advantage of by a number of sexual abusers. One such acknowledged abuser (Br Anatole) testified that he viewed his relationship with one of his victims as one of affection and closeness.

8.737This Brother was not alone in using these tactics. One complainant who had been abused by Br Jean said that this Brother took advantage of his need for love and attention in order to buy his silence:

He was kind to me in that way, but it was sweets and a toy at the time I thought was kind to me but he must have been just softening me up for his own benefits. As I get older, I was innocent and I didn’t know if everybody had toys or not. Some of the boys I suppose had more toys.

8.738Another former resident told a similar story. He described how Br Curtis was nice to him and how he welcomed the attention. However, Br Curtis went on to sexually abuse him:

But Br Curtis, on many occasions, I didn’t know at the beginning – and I welcomed a little bit of attention, because as I sort of outlined, you know, I had been taken away from home, and Br Curtis, I didn’t realise that it was wrong, what he was doing.


  • The boys lived in a hostile environment isolated from their families, and often faced bullying and sexual abuse by their peers. The Brothers, far from offering protection, added to the fear by being punitive figures who were remote and unapproachable. One Brother described little boys following him in the playground, because proximity to him provided the sole deterrent to bullies.
  • Brothers had to be both teachers and warders. Most Brothers had little respect for boys in their care, which was particularly evident in the way punishments were administered, and also in some of the more cruel punishments that were calculated to cause humiliation as well as pain.
  • The Congregation did not accept that there was an ‘atmosphere of fear’ within Letterfrack during the relevant period. It has, however, accepted that there were physical and sexual abusers present in the School for significant periods of the years under review. In addition, a number of individual respondent witnesses have accepted that they administered discipline in an excessive and capricious manner. It is impossible to deny the impact that cruel punishments would have had on bystanders. Into this mix may be put the prevalence of bullying and peer sexual abuse in the Institution. It is difficult to see how any conclusion could be reached other than that there was a climate of fear in the school.
  • The School was run on the harshest of lines because it was deemed appropriate for the kind of children sent there, yet the Congregation concede that Letterfrack was particularly harsh in the 1940s when the children were mostly orphans, abandoned or neglected.

General conclusions

8.740Physical abuse

1. There was a climate of fear in Letterfrack. Corporal punishment was severe, excessive and pervasive. Violence was used to express power and status and was practically a means of communication between Brothers and boys and among the boys themselves. Punishment was inescapable and frequently capricious, unfair and inconsistent. Rules on corporal punishment were disregarded at all levels.

2.The Congregation did not carry out proper investigations of cases of physical abuse. It did not impose sanctions on Brothers who were guilty of brutal assaults.

3.Protection of the boys was not a priority for the Congregation in dealing with excessive and unlawful punishment, and the Department of Education abrogated responsibility by leaving supervision and control of this area entirely to local management.

Sexual abuse

4.A timeline of documented and admitted cases of sexual abuse shows that for approximately two-thirds of the period 1936-1974 there was at least one Brother in Letterfrack who sexually abused boys at some time and for almost one-third of the period there were at least two such Brothers there. One Brother worked for 14 years before being detected. Another who served for a separate period of similar length went undetected for many years after the school closed. It is impossible to calculate the true extent of sexual abuse in the institution but it is clear that more abuse happened than is recorded.

5.The Congregation did not properly investigate allegations of sexual abuse. Brothers who sexually abused boys and who were known to be a continuing danger were still permitted to work with children.

6.The manner in which Brothers who sexually abused were dealt with is indicative of a policy of protecting them, the Community and the Congregation, from the effects of disclosure of abuse. The needs of the victims were not considered.


7.The boys were unprotected in a hostile environment isolated from their families.

8.Remoteness was an acknowledged affliction that caused or exacerbated almost every difficulty that Letterfrack encountered from its inception.

9. Children left Letterfrack with little education and no adequate training.

10.Boys in Letterfrack needed extra tuition to bring them up to standard, but instead they got poor teachers and bad conditions.

11.The 1954 decision to restrict intake to children convicted of offences, taken in the face of opposition by both the Department of Education and District Justice McCarthy, was detrimental to the welfare of the boys in Letterfrack and was implemented in a way that was wholly inconsistent with the thinking behind it.

1 Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).

2 This is a pseudonym.

3 This is a pseudonym

4 This is a pseudonym.

5 This is a pseudonym.

6 Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.

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. See also the Tralee chapter.

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 document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.

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 See table at paragraph 3.20.

33 This is a pseudonym.

34 This is a pseudonym.

35 This is a pseudonym.

36 This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.

37 This is a pseudonym.

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.

50 This is a pseudonym.

51 This is a pseudonym.

52 This is a pseudonym.

53 This is a pseudonym.

54 This is a pseudonym.

55 This is a pseudonym.

56 This is a pseudonym.

57 This is a pseudonym.

58 Electricity Supply Board.

59 See table at paragraph 8.21.

60 This is a pseudonym

61 Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.

62 This is a pseudonym.

63 This is a pseudonym.

64 This is a pseudonym.

65 Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.

Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Report Volume One Part Two Chapter 7 St Joseph’s Industrial School, Artane (‘Artane’), 1870–1969

Time to Arm the Children

This part is not only going to include the section from the commission on the Artane Industrial School, but also a news story from the victims of Artane describing what happened to them, I will include that news story first, with a link to it, and then continue with the report.

BROTHERS FROM HELL; 10 former Artane Boys Tell of Broken Legs, Torture and Sex Abuse.

TODAY 10 former Artane boys tell JILLY BEATTIE their stories of life at the notorious Industrial School.

Six of them have made allegations to the Gardai as part of Ireland’s biggest child abuse investigation in which 40 Christian Brothers Christian Brothers: see John Baptist de la Salle, Saint. have been named and accused. The other four intend to do the same.

They all say their lives have been destroyed by their experiences under the guardianship of the Brothers at Artane, citing relationship breakdowns, unemployment and clinical depression as some of the problems they have had.

Two of the survivors never married, the marriages of seven broke down and one is still married.

Of the eight who did marry, only two told their wives about the abuse they suffered, and none of their children knows about their past life in Artane.

All the fathers say they have difficult relationships with their children.

Four have tried to commit suicide, four are long-term unemployed and all 10 are currently receiving counselling.

These survivors are among 250 men seeking justice for the sexual, physical and emotional abuse they claim they suffered at Artane at the hands of Christian Brothers.

GERRY 1966-69
In care from eight months after being conceived outside marriage

I WAS beaten and raped by nine different Brothers.

Joseph O’Connor dragged me to his room and he threw sweets on the floor. When I bent to pick them up he pulled my trousers down and thrashed me with the leather cosh.

I squealed and screamed and he kept on hitting me, all over my body and head. I suppose he stopped hitting me when I passed out.

My mother came to see me during that time and she was told I was being treated for TB and couldn’t be seen.

I still wake up screaming in the night, convinced a Brother is trying to get me, trying to drag me away.

The Christian Brothers have to pay for what they did to us as boys.

They have apologised to anyone who was hurt while at Artane but that’s not enough to let me get on with my life.

MALACHY 1965-69
Sent to Atane with his brother for mitching school

THE day Artane burned down I thanked God. I prayed that all the Brothers who hurt me had died but most of those b*****ds are still alive.

I suffered all sorts of abuse. Most of it I still cannot talk about.

They raped me, they beat me, they humiliated me.

Sometimes when you turned up they would be abusing some other boy and you would have to watch or join in.

We were made to crawl on our hands and knees while the other boys were forced to hit you. If they didn’t hit you, they had to get down and start crawling too.

Artane was a concentration camp. Anything we arrived with was taken away from us – clothes, shoes, love, good memories, happiness and trust.

JOHN 1958-61
Sent to Atane for the theft of an overcoat

I WAS a tearaway as a child and eventually the Guards got sick of hauling me up and I was put into Artane.

I ran away three times after being beaten but the Guards brought me back.

After the first time I was beaten around the dormitory. I had my two front teeth knocked out and my wrist was broken.

Then I had to sit in agony as the barber – one of the boys – shaved my head for running away.

Anyone found talking to me was beaten.

I know there were boys raped and interfered with in Artane, but I never was.

The Brothers picked their victims well and chose the most vulnerable.

When I was older they used me to abuse the younger boys. They made me a monitor and I used to beat the boys too.

The Brothers were evil. They enjoyed the violence they meted out. Their favourite weapons were fear and the leather strap.

AIDAN 1966-69
Sent to Artane for mitching school

I WAS always a quiet child and was labelled stupid because I had dyslexia

I used to mitch school because I was teased. Then I was sent to Artane.

It was the worst thing anyone could have done to me. I was the perfect victim of the abuse the Brothers favoured. I spoke to no-one.

I was raped three months after I was moved to Artane and used by three particular Brothers, one of whom, Brother O’Connor, is dead.

I was like a rag doll. They threw me about the place. I was b*****ed, forced to touch the Brothers, masturbate them and have oral sex.

When I was sick I was beaten and kicked. The sexual abuse was indescribable, but it was worse when it was coupled with physical abuse. I ended up in the infirmary seven times during my three years there.

My wife knows – but I still find it hard to hug and love her. No-one deserved what we got.

DECLAN 1965-69
In care from three years after mother deemed unfit unfit to look after him

I HAD no-one to turn to when I needed to get away from Artane. I was put in there because the authorities said my mother couldn’t look after me and my brothers.

I was b*****ed 18 times in Artane and beaten probably every day I was there.

In the summer when some of the other boys had gone to foster families, I was left with the others and that’s when I suffered most abuse.

One night I was made to strip before I was hit and a Brother stood on my hands so I couldn’t move. The beating was started by one Brother and finished by another.

O’Connor was a depraved de·praved b*****d. He was at Artane from 1930 and he did everything he could to inflict as much pain as he could on the boys.

He ran the band and even appeared on an RTE programme dedicated to his so-called good work. That bastard sat and smiled his way through it. I dread to think how many boys’ lives he ruined. He destroyed me.

ADRIAN 1965-69
Sent to Atane with his brother for mitching school

I HAD both my arms broken by a Brother.

I still don’t know Don’t know what I did wrong but I was told not to be bold or I would suffer for it.

Then he lashed into me, I was 11. He hit me with the leather strap, then he started punching and kicking me.

I fell to the floor and he kicked me with his boots. I stopped screaming and he kept hitting me for a bit. Then he told me to pray for forgiveness.

He told me I was bad and would have to ask Jesus to stop me being bad. Two boys took me to the infirmary.

On the way another Brother said I should never be bold because God can see everything. I was terrified

If the Brothers did this to me, what would God do?

JOE 1951-56
Put in care after the death of his mother and suicide of his father

I WAS separated from my brothers and sisters and sent to Artane.

Joseph O’Connor met me at Connolly Station and pushed me into a car. He ran the band and when I said I’d never been interested in music he stopped the car, dragged me out and thrashed me.

When I arrived at the school it was four days before Christmas. One of the boys in my dormitory told me we would be safe for the day. I later realised this meant that we were less likely to be sexually abused on December 25.

Joe Boy O’Connor was an evil bastard. He never raped me but he beat me until I fainted one day. When I woke up I was in the infirmary.

One day I was flogged by another Brother and made to wear a singlet which had been soaked in salt water. I believe it was to literally add salt to my wounds and make it more painful for me.

DESMOND 1964-66
Sent to Artane for mitching school

MY earliest sex education was being forced to watch two younger boys masturbating a Christian Brother.

Then I was forced to beat them before I was fondled by the same Brother.

This happened for five nights with 10 different boys and me looking on every time.

I was never b*****ed but I know two boys who were. I was made to give a number of the Brothers oral sex.

Today I am a gay man but I’ve had problems forming relationships. I still wonder, if my first sexual experiences had been with a woman, would my life have been different.

I think the Brothers at Artane were gay and used the boys for their sexual desires.

We were abused. There’s no excuse for what they did. They violated us – continually.

The beatings were incredible. And the shaming was awful.

EAMONN 1965-68
In care from 10 after mother died

I ended up at Artane after my mother died. I was heartbroken but sure the Brothers would understand and look after me.

I had a terrible shock. The first time I was caught crying on my second night I was beaten by the Brother in charge.

I wet myself and was beaten more. I cried and had my head pushed into a drawer and was thrashed from behind. He only stopped beating me when I couldn’t cry any more.

We were constantly told we were worthless.

I grew up quickly and realised that the beatings and the sexual abuse would not stop until the day I walked out of the doors forever.

I ran away twice and was brought back by the Guards. The first time I was beaten and had my head shaved. The second time it was worse.

I was told I was an ungrateful, worthless little b*****d. I was told I had no-one who loved me and that I would learn to appreciate the care the Brothers showed me. Then I was beaten again.

DONACHA 1966-69
In care from six years after mother deemed a violent alcoholic

I HAD suffered violence from my mother and father at home and was glad to get out of the house to be looked after by the Brothers in Artane.

I’d heard they were tough but I thought it had to be better than at home. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I was first raped when I was 12 and I lost count of the times it happened again. Every day was spent trying to avoid being hit, but it was useless.

There was the odd decent enough Brother who tried to keep me from trouble but I’ve since been told the ones I thought were OK were b*****ds to some of the other boys. Maybe they just liked me.

Boys were dragged from their beds at night, we were beaten in full view of other staff and boys and we were sexually abused in front of other boys too.,…-a060413360

NOTE: After a three year Garda investigation and a further 7 year legal process, ONE Christian Brother was convicted of indecent assault in Artane.

Ireland’s Commission Report

Chapter 7
St Joseph’s Industrial School, Artane (‘Artane’), 1870–1969



7.01St Joseph’s Industrial School, Artane was established under the Industrial Schools Act (Ireland), 1868 by the Christian Brothers at the request of the then Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Cullen. It opened on 28th July 1870 with the aim of caring for neglected, orphaned and abandoned Roman Catholic boys, and it operated as an industrial school until its closure in 1969.

7.02The Industrial School was located in a north-eastern suburb of Dublin some five kilometres from the city centre in an area which was, at that time, open countryside amenable to intensive farming. The application for a certificate in June 1870, to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, stated that Artane Castle plus 56 acres of land had been purchased for the purpose of setting up an industrial school. The request was approved and the School was licensed to accommodate 825 boys on 9th July 1870. From an original intake of three pupils, it quickly grew in scale, housing 700 boys by 1877, and reaching its certified size of 825 boys before the end of the nineteenth century. During its existence, approximately 15,500 boys were cared for and educated in Artane.

7.03In 1870, the buildings consisted of a large dwelling house with out-offices, gardens and 56 acres of arable land. The property had been purchased for £7,000, and it was proposed that dormitories, classrooms etc. would be erected for a further £1,600. Three boys were admitted in the beginning and then tarred sheds were put up to accommodate 40 boys. The Congregation’s Opening Statement described how the ambitious scheme developed thereafter:

Public personages of all shades of opinion gave the school generous support. To raise funds for the provision of permanent buildings a petition signed by a large number of people was presented to the Lord Mayor. A public meeting was called by the Lord Mayor in response to this petition and substantial voluntary funds were soon received. From this response and from newspaper articles of the time it is clear that there was strong public support for the work of the school. The design, atmosphere and work ethos of the school received much acclaim from numerous eminent persons in public life and many visitors were impressed with what they witnessed.

7.04Although the initial proposal was that £1,600 would be spent building dormitories and classrooms, an Annual published by the Brothers in 1905 recorded that buildings costing over £60,000 had been erected at Artane by that time. The land associated with the School increased from 56 acres to more than 350 acres by the early 1940s.1 In 1934, some 147 acres were under meadow and tillage, with the remainder being used for grazing, apart from land occupied by buildings and playgrounds. The main building still stands today.

7.05Artane was conceived on a grand scale. Dormitories accommodated up to 150 boys, sleeping in ordered rows of beds with no personal space. The dining area or refectory accommodated all 825 boys at one sitting. A submission in 1934 to the Cussen Commission into industrial schools boasted that a ‘magnificent corridor 365 feet long runs the whole length of the building’.

7.06The undertaking comprised the School, the trade shops and the farm, in addition to the Community house. The trade shops and the farm constituted a substantial business enterprise, of which the farm brought in a large yearly income.

7.07The Investigation Committee engaged a Consultant Engineer, Ciaran Fahy, to examine and report on the buildings and accommodation in Artane, and his report is annexed at Appendix 1 to this chapter.

7.08The Rules and Regulations of Artane were similar to those of other industrial schools and required it to provide for the physical needs of the boys committed to the School, who were to be supplied with suitable accommodation, clothing, food, and instruction. Recreation was to be provided and they were allowed to receive visitors and to correspond with outsiders. They were to receive religious instruction, a secular education and industrial training. The School was also required to develop a spirit of industry, pride and discipline amongst the children.2

7.09The number of children detained in Artane from 1937 to 1969 was as follows:


7.10These boys were ordered to be detained in Artane by the courts for reasons of inadequate parental care, destitution, neglect, truancy or the commission of minor offences. It is clear, however, that poverty was the underlying reason why children were sent to Artane, whatever the statutory category grounding the detention.

7.11The reasons for committals during the period from 1940 to 1969 were as follows:

Improper guardianshipSchool Attendance ActDestitutionHomelessnessLarcenyOther crime

7.12Other admissions to Artane were insignificant in number in the 1940s but they increased substantially later. Health Board and voluntary admissions increased from 13 in the 1940s to 113 in the 1950s, and 136 in the 1960s. These admissions were not included in the number of children in respect of whom a capitation grant was payable by the Department of Education. They were either privately funded to attend the School or paid for by the Health Board, and in the latter years they accounted for an additional 50% of boys in Artane.

7.13During June 1969, the 211 boys who were still detained in Artane were moved out and the Institution closed on the 30th of that month. 120 boys were discharged to their parents or godparents or placed in jobs. Of the remainder, 26 boys were transferred to Ferryhouse, and the others went in small numbers to different institutions around the country. These dispositions were agreed after much discussion and many meetings between the School authorities and the Department of Education.

7.14In the years leading up to the closure, and particularly during the late 1960s, there was a dramatic decline in the number of children who would potentially have made up the population of industrial schools. Legal adoption, fostering and boarding-out were among the principal reasons for the decline. In addition, attitudes of the public and a number of State officials had become unsympathetic to industrial schools as a means of caring for deprived children. Improvements in economic and social conditions and benefits also contributed.

7.15Artane, as the biggest industrial school, was most vulnerable to these developments. The Superior was a member of the Kennedy Committee that began work in 1967 and was expected to report in mid-1968. He was privy to the thinking of the Committee and was able to inform his colleagues in the Congregation that the Committee was going to recommend the closure of Artane.

7.16Br Reynolds, Deputy Leader of St Mary’s Province of the Christian Brothers, said at the Phase I hearing that it was clear at the time that the Kennedy Committee would recommend the closure of industrial schools. The Opening Statement stated:

it was becoming clear to the Congregation that the future of Artane Industrial School was uncertain and had been under discussion from the middle nineteen fifties. Eventually, in or around 1967 the Congregation took a decision in principle to close the institution.

7.17Br Reynolds added that he thought that the decision ‘could have been taken in 1967’, with the timing being left to the Provincial to decide. On 23rd January 1968 the Provincial informed the Minister for Education that the School would close on 31st August of that year. At a meeting attended by the Minister in March, the Brothers agreed to a deferment until 31st December 1968, to give the Department time to arrange alternative accommodation for the boys. One further extension until 30th June 1968 was subsequently agreed.

The Cussen Report and Artane

7.18The beginning of the relevant period of this inquiry coincided with the publication in 1936 of the Cussen Report into Industrial and Reformatory Schools.3 The Congregation had made a written submission to the Cussen Inquiry, with a detailed account of the system of care and an unapologetic defence of all aspects of the Institution.

7.19The Congregation was worried that the Cussen Commission would call for changes in Artane, and there was relief when that body’s visit to the School went off successfully and the Brothers were reassured by their belief that the Commissioners seemed pleased by what they saw. The Brothers knew that talk of change was in the air and they were hoping to persuade the Commissioners to approve the existing state of affairs. Br Strahan, who wrote the submission for the Congregation, concluded it with the request that Artane should remain as it was:

Whether judged by the greatness of its successes, or by the small proportion of its failures, or by the world-wide fame it has attained, we submit, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, that not only should Artane be allowed to stand untouched, but that it should be cordially and generously supported.

7.20The submission responded to the suggestion that the School was too big, by arguing that it had succeeded beyond all expectations and that:

in its largeness lies its chief merit and advantage; for it is its size and its multiplicity of activities that afford exercise to those following the various trades, etc., within its own precincts. It is only in a large school that such a variety of trades could be established to meet the immediate demands of the Institution.

7.21Acknowledging that ‘the air has become charged with reports of even drastic changes’ because of recent legislation in England, Br Strahan emphasised the differences between the countries and the fact that the new ideas were as yet unproven. He wrote that the legislation dealt ‘with a different people, a people of different temperament, of different religious opinions’.

7.22The submission painted an idyllic picture of life in Artane, describing in detail the facilities for education, training, recreation, aftercare and the living conditions of the boys as being in all respects of the highest quality. No significant faults were admitted. However, in spite of the writer’s zeal in defending every feature of the Institution, something of the impersonal nature of the School crept into the submission. The mealtime routine was described as follows:

After mid-day we hear a bugle-call and see the assembling of the clans from farm and shops and band room and knitting room, as they form in companies before dinner hour. We see them walk in perfect order, but with free step, and await in silence till the presiding Brother pronounces Grace. We see them sit down in perfect silence until given leave to chat …

7.23Some issues that were of real concern to the Commissioners in the Cussen Inquiry were discussed very favourably in the Christian Brothers’ submission, but it transpired when the Report was published that they were anything but convinced. The recommendations made by the Cussen Commission rejected some important parts of the submissions that the Congregation had put forward. The proposal to split up Artane into four units, the criticism of education, and the dissatisfaction with supervision and aftercare of children leaving Christian Brothers’ industrial schools went directly against the arguments in support of the Institution. Some other recommendations were not specific to Artane but were no less applicable and were also implicitly adverse findings.

7.24The Commission concluded that the School was too big by a factor of about four, and recommended that it should be divided. Paragraph 72 of the Report stated:

In our opinion the best results can be obtained only where the number under any one Manager does not exceed 200 pupils. We think that in no case should the number exceed 250. It is necessary in this connection to refer specifically to the case of Artane Industrial School, which is certified for 800 boys and where there are on an average about 700 boys. It is in our view impossible for the Manager in an Institution of this size to bring to bear that personal touch essential to give each child the impression that he is an individual in whose troubles, ambitions, and welfare a lively interest is being taken. We strongly recommend, therefore, that Artane should be divided into separate Schools, the pupils being segregated according to age and attainments. Each school should contain not more than 250 pupils under the control of a sub-manger, whose appointment and removal should be subject to the approval of the Minister …

7.25Artane was also singled out for criticism of the education provided. The Commission noted with regret at paragraph 92 of the Report:

… that in Artane Industrial School, with over 700 pupils, only the minimum standard of literary education required by the regulations is provided, and pupils, however promising, cannot, as a rule, proceed beyond sixth standard.

7.26The Commission commented on supervision and aftercare of children discharged from industrial schools, and was critical of this aspect of care in schools run by the Christian Brothers. Paragraph 120 said:

We are not satisfied as to the adequacy of the methods of supervision and after-care of children discharged from these schools, particularly in the case of boys leaving the Industrial Schools which are under the management of the Christian Brothers.

7.27On this subject, the Brothers’ submission had described a very satisfactory situation, which was obviously not accepted by the Commissioners:

The school keeps in touch with the ex-pupils by letters, enquiries, meetings, when on holiday, reports from employers, etc., for at least two years, and generally for three years after they leave school, and taking into account how greatly they were handicapped in earlier life, it is most gratifying to find the small percentage of those who have failed to make good.

7.28The Cussen Report made other observations and criticisms that were not specific to Artane or to Christian Brothers’ institutions, and they are discussed as they arise in considering the evidence.

7.29The concerns expressed by Cussen were well founded. In particular, the excessive numbers of boys in the School continued to have a detrimental effect on the capacity of the Institution to provide a caring environment and on the lives of those who lived and worked in it, and contributed greatly to the problems that emerged over the years. The Congregation has conceded that, because of the numbers and because of the need for constant vigilance, Artane was run on a highly organised basis, even to the point of regimentation.

7.30The recommendation to divide the Industrial School was not implemented, although, in the last years of Artane’s existence when the numbers had dropped to a fraction of previous decades, the boys were segregated into two groups according to their ages. The documentary records of the Christian Brothers and the Department of Education did not disclose the reason for rejecting the proposal to divide the School. There was no record of discussion or debate or of any explicit decision in that regard. Although the Congregation in its submissions has blamed the Department of Education for failure to implement this recommendation, it must also bear responsibility. If the Brothers had proposed such a change, it is difficult to see how the Department could have reasonably opposed it. When the division was made in 1967, admittedly a much smaller alteration in view of the reduced population, it was an internal decision of the Congregation.

Management and staff

7.31The hierarchical nature of the religious leadership in Artane had consequences for the management of the School. Evidence before the Committee pointed to a rigid and simplistic management structure, whereby all the power and all the decision-making function lay with the Resident Manager. Individual Brothers spoke to the Committee about their own feelings of helplessness and frustration at their inability to effect change. Older Brothers had authority over younger colleagues, and this allowed a system to develop whereby all the heavy workload of the Institution fell on a small number of young, inexperienced Brothers who were obliged by their vows of obedience to carry out instructions without question.

7.32The Institution was not adequately staffed. The day-to-day operation was left to a small number of largely inexperienced and untrained Brothers who were required to work for up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Other Brothers lived in the Community and participated to varying degrees in the Institution, for example in administrative work, while some Brothers did not participate at all in the running of the School due to age, ill-health or even, according to one Brother, because of disinclination. These Brothers were supported by the School, but did not participate in its work.

7.33The Brothers working in the Institution were not instructed in childcare. Their tuition was the teacher training for national schools which was provided by the Congregation at its own Marino training college. Brothers attended teacher training in Marino for one year and were then sent out to a Christian Brothers’ school for experience for a number of years, before returning to complete their second and final years. Many young Brothers were sent to Artane as their first posting in this interim period, when they were wholly unqualified to care for children and had completed only half of their course as teachers. The Investigation Committee heard evidence from former members of staff of Artane that they were shocked by their first experience and overwhelmed by the scale of the task imposed on them.

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The investigation

7.34Phase I of the hearings into Artane took place on 15th September 2005 with a public session at the Alexander Hotel, Merrion Square, Dublin 2. Evidence was heard from Br Michael Reynolds, who described life in the Institution and outlined the Congregation’s view as to how the Institution operated.

7.35Phase II commenced on 26th September 2005 in the offices of the Commission and continued in private in accordance with the legislation until 16th December 2005. The Investigation Committee invited 78 complainants to give evidence as part of the Artane inquiry, of whom 48 attended and gave evidence. 26 respondents, either Brothers or ex-Brothers gave evidence. In addition, the Committee heard from two other witnesses who were in a position to give general information about the Institution.4

7.36In Phase III of the Investigation Committee’s inquiry into Artane, Br Reynolds returned to give evidence on behalf of the Congregation at a public hearing which took place on 22nd and 23rd May 2006. This session focused on issues that arose as a result of the private hearings into Artane and the documentary material furnished to the Commission.

7.37In addition to oral evidence, the Investigation Committee considered documentary discovery material received from a number of sources, namely the Christian Brothers, the Department of Education and Science, An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Archbishop of Dublin and the Health Service Executive.

7.38There are Department of Education General and Medical Inspection Reports for most of the period of the investigation. Files from the headquarters of the Christian Brothers in Rome yielded evidence of cases of sexual abuse considered by the Congregation to have been admitted or proven against individual Brothers. Visitation Reports of the Christian Brothers were another valuable source of information. Infirmary records were scant and were shown to be misleading in some cases. There was a statutory requirement to maintain a punishment book, which was to be examined by the Department of Education Inspector, but no such book was maintained.

7.39An unusual feature about Artane was that there was independent evidence as to conditions there. The evidence was firstly that of Fr Henry Moore, who was chaplain to Artane by appointment of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr J.C. McQuaid, from 1960 to 1967. Fr Moore was the author of a confidential report on conditions in Artane, which he wrote in 1962 at the request of the Archbishop. He also gave evidence about the Institution to an Inter-Departmental Committee on juvenile crime in the same year, as a result of which controversy arose between officials of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. Fr Moore was exceptionally qualified to comment on residential schools and the Christian Brothers, because he had spent nearly 10 years as a resident of St Vincent’s Glasnevin, an orphanage operated by the Christian Brothers. Fr Moore’s evidence is discussed in detail later in this chapter.

7.40The Investigation Committee also heard evidence from Dr Paul McQuaid, consultant psychiatrist, who was a regular visitor to Artane in the late 1960s.

7.41The Investigation Committee engaged experts to prepare reports on Artane. Mazars, a firm of accountants and financial consultants, analysed the accounts of the Institution and produced a report which was provided to the Congregation for comment and response. The issues concerning Artane are analysed in the Mazars’ report which is dealt with in Vol IV. As indicated above, Mr Ciaran Fahy, consulting engineer, prepared a report on the buildings and lands of the Institution, which was similarly sent for comment and which is also annexed (to the chapter).

Concessions and submissions

7.42The Investigation Committee received submissions from the Christian Brothers in relation to Artane in February 2007. A number of complainants and individual respondents also made written submissions on the oral and documentary evidence that emerged during the inquiry.

7.43The Christian Brothers made similar submissions regarding Artane as they made in relation to other institutions. In particular, they submitted that:

an analysis of all the evidence before the Commission strongly suggests that, at a time of significant economic deprivation in the State, the Congregation fully and properly discharged its legal and moral obligations to care for the boys in Artane and that it did so notwithstanding limited financial and related support from the State. Further, in spite of considerable restrictions, the Congregation adopted a progressive and reforming approach to childcare which became particularly apparent in the 1960s. When one takes all of the evidence before the Commission into account, there can be no doubt that, at all times, the welfare and best interests of the boys was the paramount concern of the Congregation and of its members who worked in Artane. The evidence would also suggest that the quality of care which was thus provided to the boys was, in all the circumstances, of a particularly high standard.

7.44The Congregation accepted that the regime was mainly one of physical care and did not encompass much in the way of emotional attention. The Brothers denied that the Institution was generally an abusive one, and their fundamental contention was that Artane was a positive Institution which generally was a force for good.

7.45With regard to sexual abuse, they acknowledged that such incidents had happened, and they greatly regretted them. They said that, as a Congregation, it did not tolerate such behaviour and the available evidence, they claimed, showed that they responded appropriately according to the norms of the time, even if present standards would condemn them.

7.46As to allegations of physical abuse, the Congregation was also generally defensive. It maintained that this issue had to be seen in the context of the time, when corporal punishment was permitted, not only in industrial schools but in all schools, and was also common in homes across the country. Moreover, the Christian Brothers’ own rules forbade excessive punishment and encouraged a minimalist approach to the physical punishment of children. Where excessive punishment occurred, it was disapproved of, and the records of the Congregation showed that, where instances came to light, they were the subject of comment and criticism. A Disciplinarian was employed in the School to deal with all serious breaches of discipline, and that promoted consistency of treatment.

7.47They maintained that there was overall a good relationship between Brothers and boys in Artane, and the picture of a frightening regime with a climate of fear was a misrepresentation of the situation.

7.48The positions adopted by individual respondents were more consistent with the evidence of the complainants.


7.49In accordance with the legislation, the Committee was required to determine what abuse took place in Artane, how it happened, how much of the particular abuse was perpetrated, and why it happened. This chapter addresses the different forms of abuse, which can be summarised as physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse. The method adopted in this and other chapters, in dealing with specific abuse, is first to analyse documentary material which may be considered reliable, and then to proceed to the oral evidence given by complainants and respondents, and to relate it where appropriate to the documented evidence. A further question has also to be considered, namely whether the Institution provided a safe, secure environment for the boys who were detained in it.

7.50With regard to the oral evidence of complainants, the Congregation in its submissions drew attention to features that it maintained detracted from the credibility and reliability of testimony of abuse. It pointed out that the events in question happened many years ago, and witnesses’ memories were less reliable because of the lapse of time. They also pointed to interference of independent recollection by reason of contact with other former residents and by attendance at meetings promoted by campaigning groups. Other relevant features included media publicity and issues of compensation. These problems were exacerbated in the investigation of Artane because it was the biggest institution and one of the most controversial.

7.51Any investigation of an institution such as Artane has to be aware of the possibility that evidence may be lacking in credibility or reliability for many reasons. Memories can indeed be affected by lapse of time. Witnesses whose credibility is not in issue may nevertheless be mistaken in their recollection of particular events. Influences may operate even subconsciously. A tendency to exaggerate the details of events also cannot be overlooked. Some witnesses intentionally set out to give untruthful evidence. The campaign for recognition and redress for wrongs alleged to have been committed in the past was not a reason to reject the testimony of everybody involved. The fact that witnesses attended meetings or spoke to others was relevant in considering the value of their evidence, but was not a basis for rejecting it as necessarily unreliable.

7.52There can be no general rule, in Artane or elsewhere, either to accept or to reject the evidence of witnesses who may have been affected by factors tending to reduce the reliability of their evidence. Each witness has to be considered individually. As with evidence in a civil or criminal trial in court, the Committee may accept or reject the whole or any part of the testimony offered.

7.53Grounds for questioning reliability of evidence were not confined to complainants. Respondents also were subject to lapses of memory and potential distortions of recollection. In some cases, the reliability of evidence could have been affected by the gravity of the allegations made against respondents themselves or against their colleagues; loyalty and affection for others, and for the Institution and the Congregation, may also have had a distorting influence on their testimony.

7.54The approach taken by the Committee, of proceeding from analysis of documentary material containing contemporary accounts of incidents and then, where possible, assessing the oral evidence by reference thereto, tended to lessen the occasions where it was necessary to choose between witnesses asserting and denying particular events.

7.55The Committee was satisfied that its approach yielded an accurate picture of the Institution and the matters which it was required to determine.

Physical abuse


7.56The role of corporal punishment in the management of the Institution is central to this topic. The Congregation accept that it was part of the disciplinary regime, but it also contends that Artane was no different in that respect from other schools, and that corporal punishment was also a feature of home life for many children at the time. Against a background of widespread use of corporal punishment, they contend that the system of discipline in Artane was not stricter than it was in primary schools. They do, however, concede that there were cases of excessive punishment by Christian Brothers in Artane. Some of those were documented in the Congregation’s records that were made available by way of discovery of documents to the Investigation Committee. The Brothers point to these records as evidence that the Congregation did not overlook or condone excesses in physical punishment. They also accept that there may have been more cases, but they are reluctant to go further by way of concession on this issue than was required by the documentary material in the Congregation’s archives. In coming to their position on physical abuse, the Brothers did not take into account the allegations that were made by complainants in their written statements.

7.57The spokesman for the Christian Brothers at Phases I and III of the hearings was Br Michael Reynolds, who conceded that:

There are three and possibly four cases there where I would say yes, there was certainly very severe punishment administered. I am not saying that is the totality of it, I am saying that is what I can work out of on record. I would say the discipline was quite strict and corporal punishment was used and so on. What I am saying is I don’t think that even in relation to physical punishment that it was an abusive institution by the standards of the time.

7.58He was then asked if he accepted that it probably went further than that and he replied:

I do, yes. Unfortunately I am doing that in one sense off the top of my head or from a gut feeling rather than saying – if I was challenged on that I can’t stand it up with documentation because I haven’t got it, but I am not saying that in the absence of documentation that nothing else happened other than what was documented here.

7.59In relation to documentary sources, Br Reynolds was unable to explain the absence of a punishment book, which was required by regulations to be kept, but he accepted the obvious point that such a record would have assisted the inquiry. Indeed, as appears from the discussion of this matter below, maintaining that book would also have tended to reduce excesses.

7.60The Congregation’s concessions stopped far short of what the complainants alleged and did not even match the admissions of individual respondents. Among the latter witnesses were Brothers and former Brothers who expressed sympathy with the boys and agreed with much of their evidence, and a number of them were also prepared to admit their own failings and frustrations and to criticise the system generally. The Congregation engaged a barrister, Mr Bernard Dunleavy, to report privately on a number of institutions, including Artane. In the course of this research, some Brothers were much more candid in interviews with Mr Dunleavy than were the Brothers who appeared before the Investigation Committee.

7.61Complainants alleged that the regime of discipline was unlawful, cruel and unjust. They claimed that it was impossible to avoid punishment in Artane, and that punishment was administered inconsistently, irrationally and capriciously by different Brothers. They alleged that, even if a boy obeyed all the rules and did what he was told, he could encounter a Brother who was in bad form or who had some other excuse for administering punishment. A boy might be punished for anything or for nothing. They maintained that there was a pervasive climate of fear in the Institution that came about because of the unbridled use of corporal punishment.

7.62Although Artane had an appointed Disciplinarian to deal with serious offences, all Brothers carried leathers and administered punishment for a wide variety of infractions, and other adults were also permitted to punish. Witnesses did not generally complain about punishment that they felt was deserved, even if it was severe.

7.63One long-serving Disciplinarian was acknowledged, by all the former residents who spoke about him, to have been strict but fair even though he sometimes punished them severely. This Brother was named and accused of physical abuse in many complainants’ statements, but the Investigation Committee did not find that the evidence at Phase II supported such a conclusion.

7.64The Investigation Committee had to choose between conflicting accounts of the regime in Artane on the fundamental issue as to whether uncontrolled corporal punishment was a feature of the system, so that physical abuse was systemic, or whether there were occasional contraventions of the rules that did not undermine a proper system of management.

7.65The material available to the Investigation Committee in considering this issue included:

  • The evidence of former residents and members of staff.
  • The evidence of Dr Paul McQuaid, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, who did some work and research in Artane.
  • The report written by Fr Henry Moore in 1962, together with his evidence to the Investigation Committee.
  • Department of Education discovery.
  • Garda Síochána discovery.
  • Contemporary documents including the Visitation Reports compiled by the Christian Brothers during the period under review.
  • Letters on the subject of corporal punishment provided by the Christian Brothers.

Documentary evidence

Br Noonan’s attempts to limit corporal punishment

7.66Br Noonan was Superior General of the Congregation from 1930 to 1949. He was anxious to reduce the reliance on corporal punishment and he admonished those who were intemperate in its use. There are some grounds for believing he did keep down its excessive use during his tenure of office. Letters written by him make it clear that the management of the Congregation knew excessive and frequent use of corporal punishment was a problem from the beginning of the period of this inquiry.

7.67A Visitation Report in the early 1930s described an extraordinary penalty imposed on a Brother in the refectory:

Br Sebastien5 erred on two occasions in punishing boys severely. The Superior reproved him publicly and ordered him to make a public apology, on his knees in the Refectory … Br Sebastien was honestly penitent and determined to amend. Indeed he is on the whole a good young Brother.

7.68The severity of the punishment meted out to the boys to warrant this extraordinary reprimand was not disclosed, but Br Sebastien did not mend his ways and continued to punish boys excessively. Evidence of his subsequent conduct was found in a letter to him in 1937 from the Superior General, Br Noonan, who made it clear that he deplored severe physical punishment:

In order to make your life more pleasing to God by fidelity to your obligations I wish to point out two rather serious faults mentioned in the suffrages I received about you. One is your severity to the boys. This is indefensible; it is in every way against the canons of the teaching profession. Punishment in a moderate way is allowed; but severity is altogether to be avoided. It injures the boy’s feelings and never produces real improvement. Let Christ be your Model; He was meek and kindness itself, yet He was the greatest Teacher the world has ever known. Do not imagine you have discovered better methods in harshness and severity.

7.69The second fault referred to in the letter concerned his vow of poverty.

7.70In a similar letter in 1935, Br Noonan wrote to Br Jules6 in Artane:

You incline to the harsh side in school both in language and in inflicting bodily pain. Pupils hate sarcasm and they have a keen sense of what is just and fair in punishment. If you would secure respect for yourself and for your teaching be kind and just towards your pupils. It is said you are a poor student yourself. Perhaps it is due to your failure to make preparation for your work as a teacher that your pupils are made to suffer doubly.

7.71Br Jules previously worked in Tralee in the 1930s, where his behaviour had also come to the attention of the Provincial and a Visitor. Whilst in Tralee, he was accused of beating a boy severely. When he was asked for an explanation of this severe corporal punishment, Br Jules wrote to the Provincial claiming that the Industrial School Inspector had advised him to give the boy special physical training to remedy a physical defect. The boy failed to perform an exercise on this occasion, though formerly he had been capable of doing so, and he had therefore been punished. Br Jules acknowledged that this punishment was excessive in the circumstances.

7.72Less than a month later, the Visitor commented that Br Jules had his:

boys in a state of terror. He maintains a harsh, unnatural discipline. His boys show this. At times, he has been very severe and has treated individual boys in a cruel manner. He does not seem to realise that he is severe or if he does he will not admit it. Br Karcsi7 is being drawn to follow his bad example however, Br Karcsi is by no means so bad … Were it not for the occasional outbreaks of severity on the part of Br Jules, and his general harsh manner in dealing with them, the school would hold a high place amongst our Institutions.

7.73Br Jules had been due to take his perpetual vows, but was rejected. The following year, it was noted that he was too exacting in school. He showed ‘little devotedness to study’ and was ‘troublesome, crossgrained’. It was concluded that he ‘has not had good record – doubtful candidate’. He was, however, ultimately allowed to take his vows.

7.74He moved from Tralee to Artane, where he stayed until the 1950s. He later worked for six years in Glin.

7.75Br Beaufort8 was on the staff of Artane throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, having previously worked in Tralee,9 where he received a letter from Br Noonan, Superior General of the Congregation, warning him about his temper and the risk he posed of causing serious bodily harm to the boys:

A still more dangerous weakness in you was mentioned in the suffrages. You are passionate in your dealings with the boys. In fact at times you show so little control of your temper that you are in danger of inflicting serious bodily harm on the boys by your manner of correcting them. Watch yourself and pray to God to give you some of His meekness and forbearance. Never punish a boy in any way except what is permitted by the Rule. Forgive easily the small failings of your pupils and in this way more good will be done than by harsh treatment.

7.76The Investigation Committee heard evidence from complainants about Br Beaufort. A witness recalled an example of his temper, when he suffered the kind of serious bodily harm apprehended by Br Noonan. Br Beaufort thought that the boy was laughing at him in class and responded impetuously:

he jumped straight at me, picked me up, threw me like a dog around the place. I hit desks, hit the floor. I landed after some time on the floor. The commotion of boys screaming had brought Br Quintrell,10 who was in 11 school, which was the next school, he flew in and pulled him off. I know I was unconscious, and I know to God that if it hadn’t been for him coming in, I do not think I would be here today, in all honesty. The attack was vicious. Moments later, he was apologising, crying.

7.77At the time of this incident, the boy was recovering from injuries to his hand sustained from an accident in the carpenter’s shop, which was confirmed by the infirmary records. The wounds opened in the assault by Br Beaufort. In addition, the witness complained of lacerations and injuries to his left eye and neck. Some of his teeth were broken, he lost one tooth on one side of his mouth and two on the other. He was brought to the infirmary after the attack and when he had quietened down he was taken to the dormitory. Until this incident he had had no difficulty with Br Beaufort, whom he described as friendly.

7.78Another witness, who was in Artane from 1945 to 1950, claimed that Br Beaufort oscillated between kindness and impetuous violence.

7.79In conclusion:

  • Notwithstanding the opposition of the Superior General to excessive and intemperate punishment and clear guidance given to Brothers, the problem persisted.
  • The Superior General expressed himself in the restrained, admonitory language of pastoral counselling rather than issuing direct instructions.
  • In circumstances where every Brother in Artane was given a leather for corporal punishment of the boys, it is difficult to see how these excesses could be avoided. Restricting the leather to the Disciplinarian would have had a direct effect on preventing capricious and excessive punishment, and Br Noonan could have directed that this be done.

Letter of complaint to the Department of Education by former resident

7.80In 1946 a former resident of Artane (from 1929 to 1935) began to correspond with the Department of Education regarding conditions at Artane. Initially, his complaints related to the primitive sanitation system in operation in the Institution. Then, in a letter dated 6th November, he wrote:

It is 11 yrs since I was in Artane and I dont forget one minute of it, neither do others, the injustices done to others and myself, I will see; wont happen to others:

Boys beaten, under the Shower Baths by Staff Mr Byrne,11 Boys heads beaten on the Handball Alley Wall by Bro Acel12 And a Drill Master who used say “do it where you Stand” when a Boy ask to go to the W.C.

7.81In a memorandum dated 8th November 1946, the Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education agreed with the Inspector that no action was required in response to this letter. No response was sent to the former resident and no comment was sought from the Resident Manager.


  • The attitude of the Department of Education to a serious complaint was dismissive. No attempt was made to establish the veracity of the complaints.

Br Maurice13

7.83A Visitation Report in the late 1930s was critical of a Brother for his free use of the ‘slapper’, which was a shorter and thinner strap than the leather. The Visitor noted that the boys were:

well disciplined and I am happy to be able to say that there was no evidence of undue or severe corporal punishment. I was assured by practically all the Brothers that there is very little corporal punishment indulged in. I did come across one case of the free use of the slapper. This was in the class room of Br Maurice. He gave about 16 slaps one after the other. I walked in just at the end. The slaps were not severe and the effect could only help towards demoralising the poor lads. I had a word with Br Wiatt14 and asked him to help Br Maurice to establish his control without having recourse to the useless method of indiscriminate slapping. But it is indeed satisfactory to find that there is very little corporal punishment and that in recent times there has not occurred any instance of undue severity. Br Eliot15 is Master of Discipline and is doing very well in this position. He is very anxious to do his best and he is succeeding very well in his exacting duties. There is still too much reliance on the slapper and not enough on personal influence. The only member of the staff who has succeeded in getting along with the boys without having recourse to corporal punishment is Br Dennet.16 His personal influence is very great, and his single-mindedness and truly Christ-like attitude in his dealing with his boys is having a marked effect for good on them.

7.84In view of the content of this section of his report, it is hard to understand how the Visitor could have been assured that there was very little corporal punishment indulged in. The comment that it was ‘satisfactory to find that there is very little corporal punishment’ was contradicted by the criticisms he went on to make. He noted that only one member of the staff had ‘succeeded in getting along with the boys without having recourse to corporal punishment’, and there was ‘too much reliance on the slapper and not enough on personal influence’. Furthermore, his comment, ‘It is indeed satisfactory … that in recent times that there has not occurred any instance of undue severity’ implied that there had been such instances in the past.


  • At the very least, this report showed there was a problem regarding the use of corporal punishment in Artane. Only one Brother could maintain discipline without using the leather.

Br Eriq17

7.86Br Eriq worked in Artane for less than a year in the late 1940s. He left in April, not August, which was the usual time for Brothers to be moved. Br Eriq had previously worked in Tralee in the late 1930s, where three consecutive Visitation Reports were critical of his severity towards the boys. A full account is contained in the Tralee chapter.

Br Olivier18

7.87The Inspector of Industrial Schools wrote, in July 1949, asking for details of an incident involving Br Olivier, and the Resident Manager replied three days later:

Last year [the mother of a boy] happened to visit the School the very day her second son … had a black eye. She mentioned the matter to me, and I investigated it there and then. Apparently the Brother losing his temper in class gave the boy a blow on the face with the palm of his hand, and next day the skin was discoloured. (Of course the discolouration disappeared within a few days.) I spoke to the Brother implicated (Br Olivier) and made it clear that such should not happen again. And as far as I know nothing has happened since then.

7.88Br Olivier gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. He did not recall being reprimanded by the Resident Manager for using excessive violence, but he thought that an elderly teacher had told him to keep his temper in check.

7.89Br Olivier served in Artane in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He said that all Brothers were issued with a leather strap to maintain discipline, and commented:

The danger with that is this; that it could be used excessively … depending on the type of person you were. You could be somebody with a short fuse like myself, I have to admit I had the short fuse, and there would be times perhaps when … you would be inclined to use it. You see it was the only armoury you had … In fairness I would say though that the Rules of the Congregation laid down, I am just thinking back and I want to be fair to the Brothers as well, rules are there maybe to be broke, but it was specified that corporal punishment should never be used for failure in lessons, that type of thing.

… I could go a week, a month, without ever giving a slap to a fella, it could happen. I am not trying to make myself out that I am a saint or that I wouldn’t use it, I certainly would indeed, and I’m awfully sorry …

7.90He said he did not adhere to the rules regarding corporal punishment very often. He did not recall the rules being brought to his attention while in Artane. He had never seen a punishment book:

I could have slapped a fella maybe on the face or something like that. I might even hit a fella a punch in the back. It could have happened.

7.91Several witnesses complained about Br Olivier’s excessive use of physical punishment. One witness said he used to punch boys on the jaw without warning. The Brother responded to this allegation by saying:

Yes. That could be. I am not denying it. I cannot remember any specific case … but I am not denying that such a thing could have happened.

7.92Another witness told the Committee, ‘life with Br Olivier was one long beating … for one reason or another’.

7.93This witness described in detail an incident which he believed was a punishment for trying to get out of playing hurling, the sport in the charge of Br Olivier. The witness described how he developed a blister on his finger and tried to lance it with a needle, as he had seen his grandmother doing. He said that Br Olivier, however:

… accused me of deliberately trying to harm myself to avoid going training. He said he would cure it for me. That evening in the dormitory, him and Br Boyce19 called me into the boot room … they had a kidney shaped utensil and boiling water. They got hold of me and I realised what they were going to do and I tried to make a run for it. The pair of them got hold of me and Br Olivier got my finger and shoved it in. I screamed and roared and tried to pull it back and they held it. After 10 or 15 seconds the pain went. It just went numb and it was bearable. They held it in for a while and out it come. That’s when he told me to walk the passageway, gangway which was linoleum in the centre of the dormitory. As time went on it swelled, it swelled. He obviously went to bed.

7.94The night watchman found the boy, who had not gone to bed because of the instruction from the Brothers to ‘walk the passageway, gangway’, and told him to go to bed:

The next morning I got up my finger was a white ball of flesh, waterlogged. I reported sick, I reported to Br Cretien20, which you had to do to get to see the nurse. I told the nurse what happened. I was treated at least a month or six weeks until eventually all the skin peeled off. Sometimes the nurse would cut it. After some weeks I was like a plucked chicken, bare skin. In time the skin grew back on the nail. To this day that finger, especially in cold weather, is numb, there is no feeling in it. I swear they must have burned the nerve ends.

7.95Br Olivier gave his account of the incident:

… I was trying to help him, I was trying to cure him. That was a common thing long ago in the country, a bread poultice, you know, in water, like, before it comes to the boil. That’s what I tried to do with him. He looked upon it as a penance I think, but I didn’t mean it as a penance.

7.96The complainant told the Investigation Committee that there was no bread involved. The records show he was treated in the infirmary for a septic finger and that the Artane general practitioner saw him to treat the finger on two occasions, although the witness did not recall being seen by the doctor.

7.97The Investigation Committee was faced with two conflicting versions of the motivation for this incident. On the one hand, Br Olivier claimed it was an attempt to treat a septic finger. On the other hand, the complainant firmly believed he was being punished for injuring himself to avoid games.

7.98If the main motive was treatment, then the treatment should have been administered with due care, to ensure no further injury would result. There was an infirmary with a trained nurse available, and no explanation was offered as to why this facility was not used. The two Brothers opted to use instead a ‘hot poultice’ and clearly did not ensure the water was of a low enough temperature to prevent scalding.

7.99There were, however, elements of punishment to the whole procedure. The boy was so terrified that he tried to make a run for it. Despite being in obvious pain, he was then made to walk the corridor. Normal resources for treating sick children were not used, suggesting the Brothers did not take the injury to the finger seriously. Given these facts, it is not surprising the boy believed he was being punished, rather than treated, for his affliction.

7.100Moreover, the respondents’ defence was more cautious than a totally innocent explanation of the incident would suggest. In cross-examination, the complainant was initially told that Br Boyce had no recollection of the event, casting doubt on whether it had taken place. When he gave evidence, however, Br Boyce recalled the incident and said the water was not boiling. It turned out that both Brothers could recall the event, but insisted the motive was driven solely by concern to cure the finger.

7.101The occurrence of the event was no longer in dispute. Nor was it in dispute that he was treated for some weeks for a septic finger. The boy’s feeling that it was more punishment than treatment does not seem surprising. Subsequent events proved he needed care and professional treatment.

7.102A second, subsequent incident happened some considerable period later when the boy again failed to attend training. Br Olivier, he said:

took me into the washroom. What we used to do if a Brother was going to beat you that night we tried to hang on as long as we could with our trousers on and our clothes. If you stripped off you only had a night-shirt. You didn’t have pyjamas. I thought he is not going to come, good. I stripped off. Sure enough he came in.

He brought me into the washroom. He told me to kneel down on the floor and he stood over me with his arms folded. He was quite cool and calm and he said ‘I have told you now more than once to come out and I am going to give you the hiding of your life’ real calm. He was enjoying it. He said ‘hold your hand out. Hold your left hand out and don’t drop it until I tell you’. He took this leather strap out and he gave me four or five straps. I couldn’t hold it out any longer because the strap was starting to go up my arm. I had welts on it. I dropped it. He said ‘I have warned you not to drop your hand. Now, put your other hand out’ and I did. He started to beat me again. Again I dropped it. He said, ‘I did tell you’ and he went berserk. When you seen this man when he lost his temper he was like a wolf. His jaws literally went out and he bared his teeth and he just lashed at me. I was running trying to get away from him. He hit me, it didn’t matter where, legs, back, head, anywhere. During that I must have passed out because when I came around there was water running on my head and the taps from these baths were about that wide … real old fashioned taps. I must have thought I was dreaming it. Then I thought I was drowning. I drew back and I cracked my head on the nozzle of the tap so I had blood coming down, I had tears, I was soaking wet. He wasn’t finished then. He threw me on the ground and he said ‘you’ll walk that floor for the rest of the night. Of all nights I thought the watchman would come but the watchman didn’t come that night. Nobody came and I walked that passage until 6.30 the next morning. I was so terrified of going to bed that he might come back and beat me again. I walked the whole night without sleep, I swear to God ….

The injuries, you just put up with them. I was black and blue but I just had to put up with them … I never missed a session after that, I can assure you.

7.103In evidence, Br Olivier queried the complainant’s recollection in relation to this incident, as Br Olivier said that he would not have been training boys of the complainant’s age at this time.

7.104Br Olivier did not recall the incident but, with honesty, again said ‘I am capable and I am ashamed to say I am capable of that’. His approach was clear and candid, because he refused to say that it did not happen simply because he could not remember the incident. He was willing to take responsibility for his general behaviour, even though the details of the complainant’s account did not make sense to him or trigger a memory. There was no dispute that such an incident could have happened, and the likely explanation was that the complainant was mistaken about the time lapse between the events he described.

7.105Br Olivier was also involved in a shocking incident that began when a 12-year-old boy accidentally defecated on the floor in the sports dressing room. The Brother came on the scene and some of the excrement ended up on his shoes. The Garda statements made by the witnesses differ as to how this happened, and the precise sequence of events, but what is admitted in statements made by Br Olivier is that he told the boy to lick the excrement from his shoes and he did so. The Brother, in his statement to the Gardaí, said that he was shocked when the boy did this and told him to stop: ‘I only said it out of frustration. I didn’t mean him to do it’.

7.106In the 1990s, Br Olivier wrote an apology to the former resident. A copy was furnished to the Committee by the Congregation. Br Gibson had asked him about a statement made by the former resident. Br Olivier’s letter to the man was as follows:

Br Gibson … brought to my attention a statement you made to him some time ago.

I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer you my humble apology for my part in causing any of the above pain and hurt.

I hope you find in the goodness of your heart the courage to forgive me and I promise to remember you always in my prayers.

I pray and hope that you will find peace of mind and happiness in your life.

May God bless and protect you always.

Sincerely yours.

7.107In his written response to the Investigation Committee, Br Olivier gave a full account of the incident as he remembered it, and repeated this apology. He wrote:

On the day in question I was playing football with another Brother in a field far away from the dressing room.

When we finished playing we returned to the dressing room to change and I noticed [the complainant] coming out of the dressing room. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he had to go to the toilet. I brought him back in and noticed the floor and my shoes were covered in faeces. I told him to clean up the mess and he replied he had nothing to clean it with. I spontaneously told him to lick it, meaning my shoes. To my horror he proceeded to do so and I immediately told him to stop and to go back to the class or he would be late. I did not give him any beating or bath and I proceeded to clean my shoes and the floor myself.

On the day in question I was not on duty. I also wish to state that I never refused anyone permission to go to the toilet in my entire teaching career.

I repeat the unqualified apology I made to [the complainant] sometime ago when this incident was brought to my attention.

7.108He was specific in his statement that the apology was for asking the boy to lick excrement off his shoes. In that sense, it is indeed an ‘unqualified apology’. However, the Christian Brothers, in their response to the complainant’s allegations, wrote:

[The complainant] describes in detail an occasion, while out training, he had stomach cramps, and accidentally defected himself. He claims that he was terrified that Brother Olivier would find out, so he hid his soiled clothing. Brother Olivier ultimately found the clothes and stained his shoes on the soiled clothing. [The complainant] alleges that Brother Olivier made him lick his boots clean. This alleged act took place in front of an ‘entire group’. [The complainant] continues that the group was asked to leave and he was then “subjected to a beating from Brother Olivier which lasted about 5 minutes”. In relation to the allegations made against Brother Olivier I would like to refer to a letter dated the … addressed to [the complainant] from [Br Olivier] In this letter [he] wrote “I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer my humble apology for my part of the above pain and suffering”. While this letter acknowledges [the complainant’s] alleged pain, the letter is not intended to be an admission of the allegations made against Brother Olivier.

7.109There is a marked contrast between the apologetic position taken by Br Olivier and that of the Congregation. The Brother admitted the essence of the complaint, namely that he told the boy to lick excrement; the Congregation adopted an exculpatory position, despite the fact that the Brother and the complainant agreed that the incident essentially did take place. Br Olivier made an unqualified apology in his letter for the purpose of making amends, whereas the Congregation’s submission put the best gloss on a situation that had the potential for embarrassment for the Brother and the Congregation. The effect was to detract from the force of the apology that was always meant to be ‘unqualified’.

7.110The former resident did not proceed with his complaint before the Investigation Committee.


  • The Brother’s spontaneous response to the unfortunate and embarrassing incident when the boy defecated was an abuse of power. When he was confronted about it years later he was able to admit what had happened and to apologise to the victim. The Congregation’s failure to do the same was regrettable.

Br Cyrano21 – a broken arm

7.112In the mid-1950s, the mother of a boy in Artane wrote to the Department of Education to ask if she could be allowed to see her son, who had sustained a broken arm and head injuries during the previous week. She also asked if the incident could be investigated. She wrote:

I heard during the week that my boy Thomas22 Artane School had an arm broken as a result of a blow with a brush by one of the brothers I call to the school yesterday and the superior admitted that one of the brothers had given him a blow and that his arm was broken I did not see the boy23 but I believe he was attending another hospital for treatment the superior said he had it xrayed and seen the result the arm is in Plaster of Paris I also heard that his head was bandaged during the week Im very worried over it and I called on Sunday to see him and was not allowed If it could be arranged for me to see him to ease my mind. In any case please have the matter investigated and let me no the result.

7.113The Department asked for a full report on the incident and asked if arrangements could be made for the mother to visit her son. The boy’s father, who was resident in England, also wrote to the School asking for a report on the matter. It is clear from a letter from the Department of Education to the School that a report was furnished but it has not survived. In this letter, the Inspector of Industrial Schools wrote:

The incident referred to should have been reported immediately to this Office and the boy’s parent should also have been notified of the boy’s injury without delay and the parent should have been allowed to see the boy when she requested.

In connection with the administering of corporal punishment in the school, I am to refer to the Circular no. 11/46 of the 1st November, 1946 “Discipline and Punishment in Certified Schools” (copy enclosed) and I am to suggest that the terms of that Circular should be brought to the notice of the School Staff from time to time.

7.114Given the seriousness of the injuries to the boy, these reprimands are slight. The Department’s powerlessness to take further action is evident in this case.

7.115The incident was then raised in the Dáil and was covered by the Press. The TD, Captain Peadar Cowan, regretted having to raise the matter in the Dáil, but he said that:

the House will want an assurance from the Minister, and the country will want an assurance from him, that punishment, if it is to be inflicted on those sent to industrial schools, will be inflicted by some person of experience and responsibility. If punishment were to be imposed in a fit of hot temper, it would be exceptionally bad and, in fact, as in this case, it would be dangerous.

… The very fact that the incident did occur shows how necessary it is that this House, through the machinery of the Department of Education and through the Minister charged with that responsibility, should have the closest supervision of schools such as this, where children, many of them without parents at all, are sent to be brought up.

7.116The Minister for Education agreed, ‘I think the punishment should be administered … by a responsible person in conditions of calm judgment’.

7.117The Minister then added:

Apart from my high regard for the Brothers concerned, the community concerned, there is also a very constant system of inspection for all such institutions. I personally have visited practically all of them … I know in that particular school how deep is the anxiety for the children’s spiritual and physical welfare. This is an isolated incident; it can only happen again as an accident.

7.118This response implied that the regular inspections of the School included consideration of the administration of corporal punishment. There is, however, no evidence that the inspections conducted on the Department’s behalf included an examination of the use of corporal punishment. Punishment books were not kept. Neither the General Inspection Report nor the Report on Medical Aspects of School Accommodation referred to this matter on the standard printed inspection form. There are no references to it in the general observations and suggestions section. Although one of the Brothers in this incident recalled being interviewed by Dr McCabe24 about it, no report from her survives in the records. The report from Dr McCabe following her next annual inspection made no reference to the incident, or to the question of punishment in the School.

7.119In one newspaper, under the headline, ‘Boy Wasn’t Beaten, Say Teachers’ the journalist wrote:

A boy in a school for delinquents had his arm broken when he resisted a beating, the Dáil was told before it broke up this week, but teachers at the school gave a different version of what happened … Captain Peader Cowan told the Dáil that the boy resisted [being] slapped on the hands with the leather … The boy, said Captain Cowan, grabbed a sweeping brush to resist the punishment, but was struck on the arm by it as two Brothers wrested it from him … When I visited the school yesterday, teachers told me the story had been exaggerated. The boy was hurt when he attacked the Brother with a brush, they said.

7.120The Congregation referred to this incident in its Opening Statement. They commented:

Although there are differences of opinion concerning precisely how the injury was caused and when the mother was allowed to see the boy, it is quite clear that the boy was injured and that his arm was broken. The Brother in question was transferred out of Artane.

7.121At the first public hearing on 15th September 2005, Br Reynolds, speaking for the Christian Brothers, was asked if he found it appropriate for the Congregation to effect such a transfer under the circumstances, and he replied:

It wasn’t appropriate. I would say it wouldn’t have been uncommon in various places at the time. Certainly that one is the most serious incident we have and it was handled badly I would say from all aspects of it. The other thing that gives some sort of indicator or is indicative of society at the time and what surprised me when I read it that even Peader Cowan, the TD who alerted the Dáil to it at the end of it said, “this is an isolated incident and it won’t happen again” and so on. That came as a surprise to me, but I am taking that as indicative of the times as well. It’s probably indicative of the attitude that somebody who did something of that nature could be transferred elsewhere.25

7.122The boy whose arm was broken is now deceased. The only witness available to the Investigation Committee was Br Michel,26 who was involved in the incident with Br Cyrano. Br Cyrano made a statement at the time, in which he said:

As I was asking Br Michel something about the Easter tests he mentioned that a boy … had caused him trouble that morning. He asked me what should he do and I told him that it would be better to give some punishment as he would only cause trouble again. I closed my door and began writing on the black board. During this time I could hear the boy talking and saying “I won’t give in if you keep at me for a week”. The boy was making remarks similar to this but I could not hear them to make them out. My own class stopped their work when they heard the noise next door. I knew from this that the boy was resisting punishment. I continued writing on the board and suddenly the door was opened in a hurry. A boy from Br Michel’s class entered saying that [he] wanted me immediately. I dropped the chalk and went in. As I entered I saw Br Michel and the boy in a corner. Br Michel was holding the boy who in turn had a brush raised as if to hit [him]. I lost my temper and in the spur of the moment I caught the brush and hit the boy. But how often or where I hit him I can’t say for definite. Then I gave the brush to another boy and told him to leave [it] at the far end of the room. As I was going back to my own room again I noticed the boy looking at his arm. I asked him to bend it which he did. I then left the classroom and went back to my own.

7.123Following the incident, a fellow pupil took the boy to the infirmary. The infirmary record read as follows:

… Injury to arm (Accident in schoolroom) Iodex dressing and crepe bandage. Head dressed and bandaged. Taken back to school by boy who brought him to the infirmary.

7.124This treatment indicates that the boy had lacerations to his arm and head, in addition to the fracture that was later diagnosed. The severity of the beating must have been obvious.

7.125A doctor did not see him until the next day, when the entry in the infirmary record read:

… Examined by Dr [name] – sent to Mater Hospital. X-rayed. Result: fracture. Put in plaster. To return [date]. Admitted to Infirmary.

7.126The boy continued to attend the Mater Hospital on a daily basis, and he was finally discharged two months after his first attendance.

7.127Had the mother not written asking for an investigation into the matter, these two infirmary records would have been the only written evidence of the incident. It was simply recorded as an ‘accident’, and no Brother was mentioned as being involved.

7.128Six days after the mother’s letter of complaint was written, Br Cyrano, who had struck the blows, wrote to the Provincial of the Congregation:

I am very sorry for all the damage I have done to the Brothers of Artane Community and to the Brothers in general. I have been very much upset and worried since it has happened. I will never forget it all my life. I would like if you would give me a change, as I would never really settle down again in Artane. As a favour I would be very much obliged if you considered my case, in making the change …

7.129These two contemporary documents within the records of the Congregation contain no details at all about the nature of the incident and the personnel involved. The infirmary record wrongly described it as an accident, with no indication that the fracture was the result of a deliberate blow, and the Brother’s letter expresses concern about the damage done to the Congregation rather than concern about what had happened to the boy. Even so, the fact that he was so upset and worried, and felt he would never be able to forget it, did not accord with Br Reynolds’s assertion that the attitude of the times to such incidents was not to view them as seriously as they would be viewed today.

7.130This document also revealed that Br Cyrano was transferred out of Artane at his own request, because he felt he could never settle down there again. The assertion that his transfer was the result of action taken by the Congregation, to remove him from his position in Artane, misrepresents what actually happened.

7.131Br Michel, the other Brother involved in the incident, appeared before the Investigation Committee and also expressed his remorse, describing it as ‘one of these things that I have to carry with me to the end of my life’. He said:

… a thing happened which I have found very difficult to bear ever since. It is 51 years ago now. In the classroom one morning, a young lad and myself – he wasn’t responding to the slaps that I was giving him, as far as I can recollect it now, and I was a young man, he was quite a hefty fellow. At any rate he decided to rush to the side of the classroom and grab a brush and went to strike me with it. Now I was absolutely nervous, didn’t know what to do and did the wrong thing, unfortunately. I called in another Brother, and he grabbed the brush from this young man and it all happened on the spur of the moment, regretfully. He did strike the young chap and he caused some injury to him. The matter was investigated at the time by the inspector for industrial schools and, regretfully, that other man was transferred out of the place.

7.132This Brother did not know that the transfer was made at the request of his colleague and thought it followed the Inspector’s investigation. Under questioning, he added:

It happened very very suddenly and in actual fact I didn’t realise there was any harm done, if you know what I mean, at the time until sometime afterwards, some days later.

7.133This young Brother had seen a boy hit several times with a brush, causing visible injuries to his head and arm and he ‘didn’t realise there was any harm done … at the time until sometime afterwards, some days later’. This simple statement indicates how a violent incident did not seem to be extraordinary in Artane. The extent of the harm done only emerged after the complaints had been made.

7.134Br Michel blamed himself for the incident. He said, ‘I was young, I was timid. I hadn’t the control I should have’. He then uttered the following apology, ‘I wish to apologise profusely to people that I offended and I feel I have done my best to put that before the Commission’.

7.135Neither of the Brothers escorted the boy to the infirmary: a fellow pupil took him. Br Cyrano, who struck the blow, appears to have suspected a fracture, because he wrote in his statement that he saw the boy looking at his arm and asked him to bend it, but he did not pass on that concern to the infirmary. The obvious severity of the injuries should have resulted in a full medical history being taken and a thorough examination.

7.136The TD who raised the matter in the Dáil took up the case as a solicitor and wrote making a claim. In correspondence, it was suggested that a payment could be made to the parents by way of settlement. The Christian Brothers at the time were willing to make a settlement in order to avoid proceedings, but they were advised that a payment would not prevent a claim being made when the boy reached his majority, and that payment should not be made to the parents. No agreement could be reached, and the matter apparently ended without any payment being made.

7.137In conclusion:

  • Young, inexperienced Brothers were left to cope with difficult children without adequate training, and without the support and supervision of a good management system.
  • There was no ordered system of discipline: control was maintained by force.
  • The gravity of inflicting serious injury on a boy was not apparent to the Brothers until an external complaint was made.
  • It should have been routine for the parents and the Department to be notified of a serious injury to a child, however it was caused. Failure to disclose such a serious incident immediately suggests that there was a policy of concealing damaging information.
  • Injuries inflicted by Brothers should have been fully investigated.
  • The infirmary record was wrong, and was not subsequently amended as it should have been.

Death of boy after fall

7.138An Artane boy’s death in the early 1950s was recalled by complainants and respondents as a tragic and traumatic event that affected everyone in the School at the time and left a lasting impression for years after the event. Many former residents, including some complainants, alleged the boy fell because he was being chased and punished by a staff member. For this reason, the Investigation Committee investigated the incident in full.

7.139At bed-time, around 8.30pm, Stephen Cavanagh27 fell some 14 feet to the ground and suffered injuries including gum and lip lacerations. He was brought to the Mater Hospital, where he underwent an operation under general anaesthetic to repair the lacerations of his mouth. His condition deteriorated after the operation and he did not respond to treatment, and he died in the early hours of the next day. A post-mortem examination was carried out and an inquest was held in the hospital the next day, resulting in a verdict of accidental death.

7.140A boy who was acting as monitor at the time of the incident told the inquest what he saw: the deceased went up the stairs to the dormitory with the other boys and then came back out onto the stairs and went to do a ‘circus trick’ in which he leaned his body on the handrail and slid down a short distance ‘when he seemed to overbalance and fall face downwards to the floor below’, which was a distance of over 14 feet. The injured boy had damaged his teeth and ‘put his hand to his left side as if he was hurt’. He was able to go into the dormitory to get his boots before he was taken to the hospital.

7.141A Brother who was on duty on the first-floor landing described in evidence to the Committee how the injured boy was being partly carried by another boy and was brought to the infirmary before being removed to hospital. He said there was no question of the boy being pushed or being pursued at the time and that ‘he just accidentally fell over the staircase’.

7.142The treating doctor at the Mater Hospital gave evidence to the inquest that the boy was admitted to the hospital at 9pm on the evening of the accident, with a history of having fallen about 14 feet and that, on examination, he was conscious and suffering from shock, with a laceration of the lower lip and lower gum, four upper front teeth missing and a bruise over the right lower jaw. The doctor decided to operate to repair the injury to the boy’s lip and gum, which he performed at around 12.30am. He described the anaesthetic that was given and said that an endotracheal tube and pack were placed in position. He continued: ‘After the operation was completed, his breathing became embarrassed, for which he was immediately treated, but in spite of this he did not respond, and died’. The doctor expressed his agreement with the evidence given by the pathologist as to the cause of death.

7.143The pathologist described the boy’s condition when he carried out the post mortem. Externally, there was a lacerated wound on the lower lip and the four central upper teeth were broken. There were superficial skin lacerations and bruises on the lower jaw near the chin. Internally, there were no fractures of the jaw or skull bones detected: ‘Both lungs were oedematous. The lower lobes, and the posterior half of the upper lobes of both lungs were congested with blood. The thymus gland was enlarged. The heart showed slight thickening and contraction of the cusps of the mitral valve. The veins on the surface of the brain were distended with blood, otherwise no abnormality was detected in the brain. All other organs examined appeared normal’. The pathologist then gave his opinion as to the cause of death which was embodied in the jury’s verdict: ‘Death in my opinion was due to cardiac and respiratory failure, secondary to acute congestion of the lungs following the injuries accelerated by general anaesthesia and probably predisposed to by the presence of an enlarged thymus gland’. The coroner added that he regarded the supervision of the Brothers as adequate.

7.144A Sergeant from Raheny Garda Station visited the School on the day following the accident and inspected the scene, and spoke to the boy who was acting as monitor, and gave evidence to the inquest about the location of the fall.

7.145The inquest concluded with a verdict of accidental death.

7.146The Resident Manager reported the matter to the Department of Education in a letter that was received six days after the accident, in which he briefly described the incident and expressed his understanding that the boy died when he ‘reacted unfavourably to the anaesthetic’. Dr Anna McCabe visited Artane two days later to get details of the accident. She reported the following day in a short note, in which she recorded that the inquest found that the ‘cause of death was attributed to anaesthesia’. She went on to say: ‘No negligence was attributable to the School’.

7.147— The evidence in this case does not support a conclusion that the Christian Brothers were at fault for the boy’s death. The precise reason why the boy died remains somewhat unclear because of the multiplicity of medical complications cited by the pathologist.

Br Gerrard28

7.148In the mid-1950s the father of a boy wrote to Br Gerrard, who was in charge of the boys’ kitchen, to complain about the treatment his son had received while working there. He wrote:


It has come to my notice about my son’s hand which is sepiet; and also the method used in your kitchen. My son is no robber and I hope you will be able to answer for the character you have given him, have you got any authority to use a rod with iron through it. You have noticed I hope I have not giving you the title of brother, as I don’t think you are fit to be one. I will make regular inspection of his body either at home or in the school. I have already wrote to the authorities about the matter.

I will expect a reply and explanation from you as soon as possible.

If the child concerned has suffer any Punishment through this letter I hope you will be prepared to face a court of Inquiry as I will demand it from the Ministry of Education.

I am not going over your head yet that’s why I am writing to you, hoping you will have a explanation of your conduct.

You will want to look after that childs hand if you don’t Artane will be getting into trouble for neglect by outside factors. Trusting you will reply soon as I am fed up listening to the treatment dealt out at Artane by others who have complained.

7.149The father received no response from Br Gerrard, and wrote to the Superior the following month:

I have already sent a letter to Bro Gerrard concerning an Enquiry about my Son; which he did not reply to in fact it is nearly a week ago, as you Know silence is to admit of guilt.

I wish you would remind him and ask him to reply so I am not going to be treated as dirt … If I do not have a reply soon, I will be forced to lodge a Complaint to the Board Of Education as well as the Minister of Education as I would not stand by and see my Son Branded as a robber … Hoping you will look into the matter as soon as possible …

7.150The Congregation commented in its Opening Statement that the main complaint of the second letter was that the boy’s character had been impugned. They further argued that, as there was no further document available on the matter, this was a case that they considered to have insufficient documentary evidence, and what was available provided evidence of opposing views and so left matters inconclusive. They did not refer to the first letter containing serious allegations of physical abuse.

7.151Among the materials disclosed to the Committee under legal process of discovery was a statement by an employee who worked in the boys’ kitchen at Artane for over 20 years. He mentioned Br Gerrard who was in charge of the boys’ kitchen until the early 1960s when he was transferred to another position. This employee worked in the kitchen from the later 1930s until the early 1960s, and his statement to the Gardaí in 1999 named a number of Brothers whom he recalled working in the kitchen during this time. He particularly recalled an incident with Br Gerrard. He said:

I had many arguments with Brother Gerrard mostly because of the way he would beat the kids. Sometimes he would go overboard when beating the kids. I can remember telling him to stop beating the lads on a number of occasions. One day when I came into the kitchens Brother Gerrard was really laying into a lad. He had him down on the ground and was beating him all over his body with the leather. I went over to him and pulled him away from the boy and I hit Brother Gerrard across the face. He said he would speak to the Superior and get me sacked. I never heard any more about that incident.

7.152He went on to state that, ‘I had a leather myself and I often hit the lads from time to time when I felt they deserved it’.

7.153A witness who was in Artane up to the early 1950s recalled Br Gerrard and said his ‘weapon’ was a:

… stretched out rubber from a pram wheel. I know there was never any prams in Artane, but that is what he used to use. When he would hit you my goodness me, the pain, you just cannot remember. He would take the very very tip of your finger and then he would say, “Come again” with a big evil smile on his face as he went up on his toes and he would whack again. Absolutely cruel, cruel man.

7.154— This letter from a concerned parent was ignored. A person with a legitimate interest was expressing a serious concern, and it was not dealt with at any level by the authorities in Artane.

Br Searle29

7.155In a letter to the Department of Education from the foster-mother of a boy who was resident in Artane in the 1950s, only part of which survives, the woman complained that the boy’s head was cut following a blow from Br Searle. The Resident Manager prepared a report for the Department regarding her complaint, the relevant portion of which reads:

The Br Searle mentioned in [the mother’s] letter was changed from Artane about two years ago. I have got in touch with him about the matter and the following statement is taken from the letter which I received from him:

“I remember the occasion when [this boy] received a slight cut on the head. It will be remembered that on a prior occasion when I had a group of boys out on walk, one of them … jumped out on the road, was struck by a lorry, and was killed instantaneously. The fear of a similar occurrence haunted me subsequently when taking boys on a walk. About four years ago when I had a group of boys out on a walk [the boy] began to act in a similar and even more dangerous manner. I was shocked at the thought of what could have happened to him. The impulsive thrust which accidentally struck him was a gesture of protection from a greater danger on a busy highway. I explained all this to [the mother] at the time but to the best of my recollection I never suggested that she should say nothing about what happened”.

I am here for the past four years and never at any time did I receive a complaint from [this woman]. As a matter of fact she has expressed, frequently, her thanks for all that was being done for the boy.

7.156The injury to the head was not disputed. The Brother explained that it was an ‘impulsive thrust which accidentally struck him’. The foster-mother had, apparently, had all of this explained to her, yet she was concerned enough to make a complaint to the Department of Education.

7.157— The unquestioning acceptance of the explanation given by the Brother, without even asking the boy what happened, was indicative of the uncritical approach adopted by the Department of Education to genuine complaints.

Br Verrill30

7.158The parent who made a previous complaint in the mid-1950s about Br Gerrard, which is considered above, made another written complaint two years later that Br Verrill had injured his son. It seems that the letter was written during the course of a General Election campaign, as it refers to a visit to the writer’s home by a candidate who was a doctor by profession and who saw the injured boy and encouraged the writer to complain.

7.159The letter stated:

Dear Sir

I wish to make a Complaint regarding my son … I noticed he had marks of Violence on him, In fact a Candidate who called to the house to day remarked his face Swollen and Bruised as the man who called happens to be a Dr.

He advised me to write in to you and ask for explanation from you and to get a reply within 3 days before he goes ahead with an investigation. This is not the first time it has happened it would appear that Bro Verrill takes out his temper on the children, in fact if it happened to a ordinary man he would get 6 months. As my Dr. Candidate said he looked as if he was Punched ontil he bleed. Trusting you will look into the matter as soon as Possible as my T.D. expects a reply within 3 days. Sorry again to have to Complain as its going on to long now. After all he is only a child and I am sure the High Author dose not Know about the treatment giving to those boys. Trusting again I will have a reply soon.

7.160Recorded on the back of this letter is a handwritten note:

Answered: [Date] Examined boy’s face no mark. Got him to examine it himself no mark. Boy asked not mention to [Br Verrill]. Wish acceded to. Reason? Mentioned boy was happy at Trade & Technical Course. Boy states that he did not see any T.D. Asked father to put me in touch with T.D.

7.161It is clear that:

  • Examining the boy for marks of violence was not an adequate response to the allegation of violence but was more consistent with a defensive attitude by the Superior. The father complained of assault by the Brother, and that should have been properly investigated. Instead, the focus was on disproving the allegations. A full record should have been kept.
  • The Superior should have been concerned at the boy’s fear of being removed from his trade by Br Verrill if he discovered that a complaint had been made. He could have reassured the boy that he would not be removed from the course, while still carrying out an investigation.

7.162In its Opening Statement, the Congregation referred to the following letter as a single allegation, but in fact it contained two separate complaints.

7.163In an anonymous note to the Minister for Education, a boy had written:

The treatment we receive out here in Artane is unbearable specially from Br Verrill if you say a Vulgar word and he hears about it he takes you out of bed … gives you a shocking treatment, there has been proof of this in some boys faces during the last month.

[The Boy]

Yours sincerely

PS Do what you can Sir

7.164This letter was sent to the Resident Manager together with a letter from Mr Ó Síochfhradha, Inspector, Department of Education. He advised the Superior that a boy’s father had called to the office that morning, complaining that his son had been ill-treated by Br Verrill. He wrote:

He alleges that Brother Verrill took the boy out of bed and beat him and that the boy, when on a visit home last Sunday, “had the remains of a black eye”. He also stated that the boy appeared to be going deaf as a result of the treatment he received.

In this connection I am to enclose an anonymous letter received in this Office some time ago.

7.165He enclosed the handwritten note quoted above. Mr Ó Síochfhradha asked the Resident Manager for his observations on the parent’s allegations.

7.166The Resident Manager replied that, having investigated the matter, he was convinced that there was no truth in the allegations. The boy concerned had advised him that he had given backchat to a member of staff in front of other boys. The member of staff concerned did not punish him at that point. He was told to report the incident to the Disciplinarian, who was directly in charge of the conduct of the boys in the School. The Resident Manager went on:

The boy says that he went off to bed quickly that night immediately after tea without having reported this matter and that when Br Verrill sent for him he got up again. He was told that his offence was rather serious especially on account of the bad example he had given to the other boys [The boy] himself has told me that the only punishment he got was a few slaps. He is definitely sure that he was not ill-treated in any way and that at no time was he struck on any part of the head or face. He is also sure that he never had a black eye or ear injury.

The boy says that he had forgotten all about this business until he went on a visit home on the 17th ult. On account of what his father said to him, he believes that whoever took the story to his father must have told lies as his father seemed to have a very wrong impression about the whole affair.

7.167The child concerned prepared a statement at the time. It read:

In about the middle of October I gave back chat to [a Brother] and I also took up a bottle and let on I was going to hit him with it. I was told to report to Br Verrill about this. I did not report it. When I was in bed at about 8.30 Br Verrill called me and he gave me some slaps but he did not hit me on the face or ears, or eyes. I had everything forgotten till I got out for the day on the 17th of Nov.

7.168There was no Department of Education pupil file available for this boy. There was no further correspondence from the Department in the Congregation’s discovery.

7.169Notwithstanding these complaints, Br Verrill was later commended in a Visitation Report for his work as a Disciplinarian:

Tribute was paid by many to the success of Br. Verrill as Disciplinarian. The elimination of the tougher element has resulted in a much more manageable type prevailing. The strict rigidity of previous years has disappeared. The boys appear quite orderly and are obviously friendly towards the Brothers.

7.170Br Verrill was singled out for positive comment in another letter, written to complain about three of his colleagues, in which the writer stated that her grandson had no difficulties under Br Verrill’s care.

7.171A number of complainants gave evidence in relation to Br Verrill. A resident in Artane in the 1950s said, “I don’t know what he didn’t like about me but he used to beat me … I told my mother about it … and she said I must have been up to no good”. He alleged he would beat him for not concentrating in school. He said that he had his trousers pulled down in front of the boys and was walloped with a black leather on his buttocks. He added:

He had his hand on my back when he hit me with the leather he put the leather down and had his hands on my testicles, squeezed me, took his hands away and got the leather and walloped me again …

Verrill used to wallop me across the face sometimes. Verrill was the worst, I was scared of the man, I was absolutely scared of him. Anytime I seen him I used to run away or walk away, I was so frightened of the man.

7.172He alleged the Brother would call him names such as ‘soiler’ and ‘slasher’ for wetting the bed. He also called him a dunce in school.

7.173Another resident in Artane, for seven years during the 1950s, complained that Br Verrill caught four boys smoking and beat them with a leather strap and cane. He then put the boys up in front of the whole school and they had to apologise. He said that his little finger was split as a result. He went to the infirmary and his finger was bandaged.

7.174A resident there for five years in the 1950s said of Br Verrill, ‘… if he happened to be in bad humour or if you were passing by him, he would hit you a clatter … I had boils on the back of my neck and he hit me on the back of my neck’. This was with the strap and he would do this to other boys. When asked whether he complained about this, he said he didn’t know to whom he would have complained.

7.175— The cases cited above are an example of the consequences of a failure by the authorities to stop abusive behaviour by a Brother. Complaints were not investigated and breaches of the rules were overlooked. The dismissal of written complaints supports the assertions of ex-pupils that they could not complain about their treatment to anyone in Artane.

Directions to limit corporal punishment

7.176A Visitation Report in the late 1950s criticised two Brothers for excessive use of corporal punishment. It wrote the following about one Brother:

Br Vailant31 was reported to be rather severe on certain boys, troublesome ones, and to be exceeding the permitted limits of punishment. I spoke to him about this and he promised to be more careful in future. He has excellent control and should not have to resort to corporal punishment at all.

7.177It then made the following criticism about Br Deon:32

It was also stated that Br. Deon was too severe. When I spoke to him about it he said his attention had never been called to it and that he would amend.

7.178One complainant claimed he had been struck by Br Vailant so hard that he had to be treated in hospital as an in-patient in 1959. The blow was known as an ‘electric jowler’, struck downwards across the face. The Brother who attended the oral hearing was asked if he was familiar with this phrase, and replied, ‘Yes, they called it a jowler … it was being struck on the face like, I suppose, like getting an electric shock‘.

7.179He admitted that ‘instead of using a leather I actually, on a number of occasions, struck boys with my hand on the face. I would say that that was … not correct, that was being severe’.

7.180He was asked if he had been consulted by the Congregation when it was preparing its statements in response to individual complaints. He replied:

I remember discussing with … the Provincial at the time and … I said to him, yes, that there was an element of truth in the allegations that were being made, but we didn’t go into details as I remember it.

7.181The Brother who prepared the Congregation’s response simply stated:

Brother Vailant was the disciplinarian in Artane for part of my stay there. He was a strict disciplinarian. It is possible that there was some folklore about him and the manner in which he used to punish the boys. However I never saw him giving any boy an electric jowler. The leadership team have confirmed to me that save for the complaints furnished to the Commission there are no records of complaints of abuse of any type made against Br Vailant during the relevant period.

7.182There was no mention in this response that the Brother had previously admitted that there was an element of truth in the allegations.

7.183Br Vailant, who had two spells in Artane in the 1950s and early 1960s, stated that he felt the boys were angry against the State that committed them, against their parents who did not care, and angry against the Brothers as the ones who were keeping them there. ‘In their eyes’, he explained, ‘we were seen as types of jailers’. He admitted he used the leather strap for misbehaviour and then added:

… I think I would have to put my hand up and say that I also used it for failure in lessons, even though I knew that that was discouraged. If you ask me why I would use it for failure in lessons I would say to encourage people to get on and to learn something.

7.184Br Vailant was asked about the reference to him in the Visitation Report quoted above, which noted that he was ‘exceeding the permitted limits of punishment’. When asked if could remember the rebuke, he replied:

I think I could say that I was never aware that that was written about me in a Visitation Report … I don’t actually remember that [the Visitor speaking to me]. He said that I was too severe. Well, I would say now that I probably was, or at least that I was too strict, or maybe too demanding.

7.185He was asked if he exceeded his own standards and regretted it. He replied:

I would say yes … I would say instead of using a leather I actually, on a number of occasions, struck boys with my hand on the face. I would say that was, you know, not correct, that that was being severe and that maybe is what the Provincial was referring to …

7.186Under questioning, he added:

… I became aware that I was doing things that were not strictly right or not strictly necessary … Like using the leather too frequently, or using it for failure in lessons, or in work. Also, using my hand instead of what was recognised as a way of punishing.

7.187— The Visitor should have dealt effectively with Br Vailant’s severity when it came to his attention. The failure of a proper system for monitoring punishments administered by Brothers has left a number of ex-staff members of Artane with feelings of guilt and remorse for what occurred there.

7.188Shortly before this Visitation, the Provincial wrote a letter to all Brothers to express his concern about levels of corporal punishment. He wrote:

In a Circular issued in January 1957 I asked the Brothers of the Province to avoid as much as possible the use of corporal punishment in the schools. For some time after the issuing of that Circular there appeared to be good reason to believe that the request was being carried out. More recently, however, the leather has come back into frequent use in at least some schools. This is a matter for sincere regret. As I have already stated frequent recourse to the use of the leather indicates a bad tone in the classroom. It may make the lives of the children unhappy and nullifies much of the benefit of their Education. It is to be hoped that, in time, wiser counsels will prevail and that the use of the leather will be reserved for cases in which it is really necessary for the purpose of correction.

7.189He did not say how he knew ‘the leather had come back into frequent use in at least some schools’, but the Visitation Reports and the complaints referred to above may have played a part in informing him. What is clear is that, by the standards of this senior Christian Brother, the leather was being used too often and in circumstances where it was not really necessary.

A letter from a concerned grandmother

7.190A boy’s grandmother wrote to the Superior General in late 1962 complaining about the way her grandson was treated during his time in the Institution. The original letter of complaint is no longer extant, but the content is evident from an internal letter from the Christian Brothers’ Provincial Council to the Superior General:

The Council here has considered the letter you handed into us from a Mrs McCarthy33 making a number of accusations against certain Brothers in Artane and an attack on Artane in general. We consider Mrs McCarthy a very dangerous woman and one who could do a lot of harm.

We think she should get a reply stating that the matter will be looked into as soon as possible; That the Superior of Artane is away at present and will not be back until the end of September. You however will be able to give her the best answer to satisfy her and cool her down. With the Superior of Artane absent at present it would be difficult to get accurate information at present concerning all the statements Mrs McCarthy makes.

7.191The Superior General replied to the grandmother’s letter in November 1962. His letter discussed efforts made concerning the boy’s care after he left Artane. He also stated that the School Superior offered the boy a free place in the secondary school, which he declined. He went on to respond to the grandmother’s complaint:

As to his troubles at school, he evidently received punishment, but it was not in the manner or in the spirit which you seem to suggest. In this he may have exaggerated things to you, and your affection for the boy may have caused you to see them in a more serious way. As far as we could discover there was no unkind feeling towards him, as all felt that his make-up was not that of the ordinary boy …

7.192In February 1963, Mrs McCarthy brought her grandson to Artane to discuss with the Superior his difficulty in keeping jobs and to see if he could help in finding employment. What happened in the course of this meeting is in dispute. The grandmother gave her version of what happened in a letter written later that month (26th February) to the Minister for Education:

I could not believe my eyes, without word or warning the Superior, closed his fist + struck the boy a most brutal blow on the side of the jaw, saying to him why wont you work. He then said in the most deliberate tone to him, you are mental the boy said I am not. He said you are suffering from a mental dicease, this he repeated about five times; every drop of blood had left the boys face from the blow, which had sent him staggering to the other side of the Office, all the unfortunate boy could say was wh… and his voice went. I was so shocked and dazed from the scene. I was not much better than the boy. I could not think straight. However Bro Colbert34 happened to come in just then and the Superior said look who we have here. He then left the Office. I followed him outside the door and told him it was the yrs of ill treatment of that Kind had the boy the way he was, and told him to get the boy medical and mental treatment … He was removed to St Brendan’s on The Sat evg 9th February.

7.193The grandmother turned to a clergyman named Canon O’Neill for assistance with her complaint. He wrote to Monsignor Barry,35 who passed on Canon O’Neill’s letter to the Superior General. After meeting with the Superior in Artane, the Superior General, Br Mulholland, wrote to Monsignor Barry on 26th February 1963:

Further to my note of 23rd February I have now made full enquiries into the allegations in Mrs McCarthy’s letter. I have ascertained that she is a mental case with a strong antipathy against Artane School and that she is given to exaggeration in all matters she speaks or writes about. It is easy to note that she is a very dangerous type of woman …

Now just to give you an example of her powers of exaggeration I asked the Superior of Artane about the blow he was alleged to have given the boy on the 7th of February. He said he was talking to [the boy] in presence of Mrs McCarthy about the number of jobs he was in and of his leaving each of them without cause. To impress matters on [the boy] he gave him a tip of his hand and that is what is described as a staggering blow. 36 That will give us some idea of what to believe of the allegations made in the rest of the letter. As far as I could ascertain there is no truth in the accusation that boys are taken out of bed at 10p.m. and beaten “for any minor fault”. It must be only hearsay on Mrs McCarthy’s part. We all know how boys are inclined to exaggerate the slightest happening.

7.194On the same day, the grandmother wrote a long letter of complaint to the Minister for Education, which will be discussed presently.

7.195Monsignor Barry replied, accepting the ‘unreliability and untrustworthiness of her complaints’ and continued:

I am sorry that you have been put to so much trouble but unfortunately, these sort of people give us all a lot of trouble and their complaints have to be nailed. I am happy to be in a position to reassure Canon O’Neill that the story as he got it was completely without foundation.

7.196On 1st March 1963, the grandmother met the Superior General by appointment. At the meeting, that lasted two hours, she discussed her grievances concerning Artane. On the same evening, the Superior General and the Provincial decided that the matter should be handed over to a solicitor if she persisted. The Provincial informed the Superior of Artane and commented:

The Superior General had great patience with her and he thought by listening to her and getting her to unburden herself she would be pacified but no she left him thundering against the Brothers and against Artane and saying she was going to make certain that such things would not happen again. The Superior General was very beaten up on Friday evening and today.

It is amazing the trouble which one strange woman can make but the Superior General has come to the conclusion that she is an able dealer …

7.197In her long letter to the Minister, the grandmother made many complaints of severe beatings of the boy by different named Christian Brothers in Artane. She also protested about his poor standard of education when he left the Institution. In addition, she described the incident that occurred when she and the boy met the Superior at Artane.

7.198Officials of the Department of Education carried out an investigation and rejected the complaints. In the course of their inquiry, the officials interviewed the boy and his grandmother, and they received written statements from each of the Brothers involved, furnished to them by the Superior of Artane. Mrs McCarthy was unhappy with the way that she and her grandson were questioned. The officials’ investigation was hampered by the grandmother’s refusal to give the names of boys said to have witnessed the events involving her grandson and, in addition, they failed to obtain information from the chaplain, Fr Moore, who had some knowledge of the matter and was unhappy that he had not been approached directly but through the Superior of Artane. More importantly, he feared that his bond of confidentiality with the boys in Artane might be prejudiced. A genuine misunderstanding might have caused the failure to get information from the chaplain. In the circumstances, it would be unfair to criticise the inspectors on this ground. Whatever impediments there may have been to the inquiry, it nevertheless seems unsatisfactory that the officials did not question the Brothers involved. The report of the investigation did not, however, equivocate:

From an examination of the evidence obtained through interviews, enquiries made by phone and the reports furnished by the Brothers concerned, in association with the grandmother’s refusal to give the names of the boys who witnessed [the boy’s] being taken from his bed at night for punishment, it is clear that the charges of brutality and sadism made by Mrs. McCarthy are without foundation. The fact that she is content to leave her other grandson in the care of the Brothers in Artane lend support to this opinion. Br Ourson37 did give [the boy] a shaking … but considering the boy’s infuriating failures to remain in employment, he showed remarkable restraint. Outside this occurrence, nothing emerged from the enquiry to justify the charges of ill-treatment …

7.199The more senior official in the Department of the two who investigated decided that the grandmother should not receive a written reply to her complaint, because she had not co-operated by naming witnesses among the boys.

7.200Br Reynolds was examined in relation to this in Phase I of the Investigation Committee’s inquiry. Referring to the view of the Brothers that the grandmother was dangerous, he said:

I think in that particular case they had reasonably good foundation for the conclusions that they came to. I don’t particularly want to talk about the good lady in question, but I think if you examine the documentation in relation to that case it is quite clearly shown that Number one, an investigation was carried out and the considered opinion of the Resident Manager was that the incident she was complaining about didn’t actually take place. Nonetheless, they did issue a letter, not just to Artane, to all our industrial schools saying if punishments of this nature, if it should happen that they did take place it should cease if that is the custom or if it has happened. I am not sure why that happened.

It would appear to me that that was their action to it first of all in relation to giving instruction to the various institutions and may well have said to the mother or the grandmother who was complaining, “we have done this. We don’t accept your complaint, but we have done this in relation to that complaint”. I haven’t documentary evidence in relation to that but I can’t see why else they would send that out to all industrial schools if there wasn’t some reason of that nature for it.

7.201Br Reynolds was referring to a circular sent by the Superior General to the Christian Brothers’ industrial schools prohibiting the Brothers from taking boys out of bed at night to administer corporal punishment.

7.202The letter, dated 4th March 1963, was a ‘Direction to all our Residential Schools’ and it stated:

Should it be a custom that Brothers, Teachers or Night Watchmen take boys out of bed at night time and beat them that custom is to cease. I am now forbidding it. The Br. Superior is to call the attention of the Br. Disciplinarian, Brothers, Teachers and Watchmen who may have to supervise boys in the dormitory to this prohibition.

Such a custom, if ever it existed, could only bring serious trouble and shame on our management.

The Regulations regarding corporal punishment in our Rules and Acts of Chapter are to be adhered to.

7.203In conclusion:

  • A serious complaint was inadequately investigated and was dismissed on insufficient grounds by both the Department of Education and the Superior.
  • The Superior did not deny that ‘to impress matters on the boy he gave him a tip of his hand’. The severity of the blow was subsequently disputed, but it is accepted that the boy was physically chastised in the presence of the grandmother. Neither the Brothers nor the Department of Education criticised the Superior for hitting the boy in this way.
  • The correspondence reveals a lack of respect for the grandmother and her complaints. She is seen as a dangerous troublemaker whose complaints ‘have to be nailed’. The decision by the senior official in the Department of Education not to reply to the grandmother’s letter itself revealed a contempt for her complaint.
  • The Department’s inspectors accepted written statements from the Brothers and did not question them directly, thereby affording them a preferential credibility.
  • Although the grandmother’s complaint was totally rejected, the Superior still sent out a letter prohibiting a method of giving punishment that the establishment claimed had never happened. This odd fact suggests there was an apprehension that there was some truth in what had been alleged.
  • Many witnesses before the Investigation Committee testified that they were taken out of bed and punished, thereby supporting this part of the grandmother’s complaint.

Br Lionel38

7.204A case of documented abuse was summarised in the Opening Statement by the Congregation. It involved a boy who received treatment in the infirmary following a beating by a Brother:

In 1964 a Brother gave a beating to a boy, apparently for misconduct with other boys. The nature of the misconduct is unclear. There is reference to this incident in the infirmary diary for June of 1965 (sic), from which it is clear that the boy was beaten on the back and legs. There is no indication that the matter was investigated or that any action was taken against the Brother.

7.205The 1964 infirmary diary contained an entry regarding a boy who complained of a sore back and legs. The entry simply stated: ‘got beating by Br Lionel for bad conduct with other boys. Resting’.

7.206In evidence, Br Lionel denied that this had happened. The Brother said that he was never reprimanded for this incident and said that he had no recollection of the particular boy named in the diary. He went on to say that he had indeed severely punished another named boy for sexually interfering with three younger boys. He described the beating as follows:

I had to deal with just one incident of [peer abuse] … I literally gave the person responsible when he had admitted doing it – he admitted openly to having done this to three children and I gave him literally a hiding. I mean a hiding … I would have slapped him on the hands, I would have slapped him on the backside. It was literally – it was something to deter him from ever doing this again … It stands out in my mind, it was the toughest thing I ever had to deal with.

7.207A workman witnessed this beating and reported it to the Superior, Br Ourson. According to Br Lionel, the boy was brought before the Superior, where he recounted what he had done in the presence of the Brother and the workman. The Brother then claimed the workman said, after hearing what the boy had done, ‘if I was dealing with him I would have killed him’.

7.208The Brother was unable to describe to the Committee the nature of conduct which in his view merited this severe punishment. All he could say was that the three young boys had come to him reporting ‘badness’ being done to them by the offender.

7.209The Brother admitted he had beaten another boy in the manner described, but not the boy named in the diary, which leaves the entry in the infirmary diary unexplained. If the entry is correct, a second boy must have received a beating that was so severe he required treatment in the infirmary.

7.210It was obvious from the worker’s reaction that the beating he had seen was one of extreme brutality. In evidence, however, the Brother remained unapologetic about the incident. He viewed the offending behaviour as sufficiently serious to warrant this extreme punishment, and invoked the workman’s later comment as support of his claim. Given the obvious severity of the beating, the matter should have been fully investigated and reported on by the Superior, irrespective of the offending behaviour of the boy.

Beating by an employee

7.211In their Opening Statement, the Christian Brothers referred to an incident in the mid-1960s when an employee injured a boy:

The Manager’s diary contains an entry … which states that two boys, who were brothers, were sent unaccompanied to the Mater Hospital and did not return. This note is followed by the word “readmitted” which seems to indicate that the boys did eventually come back to Artane. It appears that one of the boys was injured, his brother accompanied him to the hospital and both absconded. Two lines below the original entry there is another entry as follows: “The injury received was caused by an employee of the School, who was the object of a jeering attack by the injured boy and others”. It is obvious from the handwriting that the two notes were not written by the same person. It is not clear whether the two notes refer to the same boy, nor is there any indication what the nature of the injury was.

7.212The Brothers maintained that it was ‘not possible to come to any logical conclusion on the matter’. What is clear is that an employee injured a boy. The source of the information that the employee punished the boys for jeering at him most likely came from the employee concerned, who presumably was questioned in relation to the assault. There is no record that he was reprimanded. If it was not acceptable behaviour, then some record of the reprimand should surely have been made. There is no other record of this incident.

Newspaper article

7.213An article about discipline in church-run schools in Ireland appeared in a newspaper report in the late 1960s. In it, the journalist wrote about a pupil from Artane Industrial School, who had recently become emotionally disturbed and had been kept under sedation in the School infirmary. Despite this fact, he was punched in the stomach by a Brother as he came out of the toilets that morning. The boy also said the nun in the infirmary kept a cane there. The journalist went to the School to confront the Brother Superior about the matter. The journalist wrote this account of the meeting:

“Brother, is it true that Delmar39 punched Michael40 in the stomach last week?”

Brother Gilles41 moves the papers about on his desk, nibbles a biscuit.

“Sure, I asked Brother Delmar about it this morning. He says he can’t recollect punching Michael at all.”

“Could that be because he punches so many boys that he can’t recollect this particular instance?”

Brother Gilles looks sideways at me and giggles, leans back in his chair, twiddles his thumbs and does not reply.

“Is it true, what Michael says, that the nun keeps a cane in the infirmary?”

“I couldn’t say,’ says Brother Gilles. ‘It’s news to me.”

“But you’re in charge here, aren’t you? Surely you must know what goes on?”

“I really couldn’t say.”

7.214The Superior wrote to the Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education. He had been asked for a statement in response to the article. In it, he protested that he had not given an appointment to the journalist who had accompanied a Mr O’Neill,42 who had requested an interview. He explained:

Mr O’Neill asked for the interview because Michael used to visit his home in Blackrock on the second and last Sundays of each month. On [a particular Sunday] Michael was out in Mr O’Neill’s house when he complained of a pain in his stomach which, he stated, was the result of a punch he received from one of the Brothers that morning. Mr O’Neill brought the boy back here that night and put him into our Infirmary. The Matron took charge of him and put him to bed. In a matter of minutes Michael was sitting up viewing the television programme. The following morning he was examined by the school doctor who didn’t discover any marks on his stomach: in fact he told the boy to get up and go to school. Michael got up but stayed in the Infirmary that day and attended school as usual the following morning. He was never under sedation tablets here …

7.215The letter continued:

Articles like this have done much harm to Industrial Schools and they are most embarrassing to the staff and the hundreds of past pupils who are upright and honest citizens of the state. It is also to be regretted that a semi-state controlled organization like R.T.E. should invite [this journalist] to appear on a programme to cause more annoyance to the teaching authorities.

[… a television journalist …] interviewed a former pupil of Artane School. This boy gave a completely false picture of the school as it is to-day and many people, who knew the conditions here, telephoned to ask why some Brother wasn’t in the studio to state the facts. On the same programme when false allegations were made about the Gardaí, a Garda was present to give his side of the story, the true story; but we were not asked by the R.T.E. authorities to state our case.

It is hard to blame [the journalist in question] and other members of the journalistic profession from across the water for launching their unjust attacks on Irish schools since there is much unfair and unjust criticism from so-called responsible sources here in Ireland. Not a voice is raised in defence of those who have dedicated their lives to this difficult task.

7.216The Assistant Secretary replied as follows:

Dear Br Gilles,

Thank you for your letter … concerning [the journalist’s] visit to Artane and [the] subsequent article … I hasten to assure you that my verbal request to you through Mr. Wade for your version of [the] visit was entirely for the record and was not intended to imply that the Department was testing the veracity of [the] account.

It was obvious that [the] account was biased, tendentious and in parts highly improbable. However I had to compile a record of all the cases mentioned in the article and a note from you was necessary to complete that record.

It is highly regrettable that the Reformatory and Industrial School system should be the subject of so much ill-informed and malicious attack. The difficulty in dealing with the problem is that it is not always possible to identify those responsible or to be sure of the motivation which inspires the attack.

The ignorant and the malicious, like the poor, we have always with us.

7.217The main interest of this article is that it made an allegation that a Brother in whose care the boy had been placed punched the boy in the stomach. Mr O’Neill had found the boy retching, brought him to the infirmary when he returned the boy to the School, and made an appointment with the Resident Manager. The man was clearly very concerned. While a doctor was called and he found no marks on the boy’s stomach, the key allegation, that a Brother had punched him, was not investigated. The overwhelming concern in the correspondence was for the reputation of the Institution and the insult sustained by Br Gilles. The Department dismissed the complaint in the article out of hand, and merely sought the Manager’s response ‘to complete the record’.

Evidence from individual respondents

7.218A total of 26 Brothers who had served in Artane gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. From their testimony, certain facts emerged about which there was no disagreement. These included:

  • All the Brothers were issued with a leather strap when they arrived at the School and most of them carried it with them.
  • All of them were allowed to administer corporal punishment for minor offences, yet nowhere was it set out in clear, unequivocal terms what a minor offence was. They all said that punishment was left to their judgment.
  • A combination of immaturity, overwork, long hours, isolation and lack of proper supervision led to severe strain and exhaustion.

7.219The following points emerged in their evidence.

7.220Br Fontaine,43 who was on the staff of Artane from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, said that he never witnessed Brothers losing control or punishing boys excessively and that he himself had never done so. However, he did say:

At times you would hear the boys talking and you got the impression that somebody had gone overboard and you would have a feeling that something had happened that shouldn’t have happened. But it would be from listening to the boys themselves. The Brothers themselves would not talk about something like that.

7.221Br Davet44 was in Artane in the early to mid-1960s and regarded the use of corporal punishment as a symptom of the stress the Brothers were under. He said, ‘if situations arose and you were supervising quite a large number of boys a situation could arise where you would use corporal punishment then … it was part of the stress that was put on the men supervising …’.

7.222He also acknowledged that there were ‘some Brothers that were regarded as being tough and could possibly use the leather excessively …’.

7.223Br Yves,45 who was in Artane for two years in the 1960s, agreed that he punished boys to excess, and now regretted it:

That’s a fair comment. When I went there I was twenty years of age, I was just out of first year training college. It was for me a baptism of fire to go into that kind of situation. I had no experience much as a teacher … If I was severe, and I was severe, it was my way of coping, and, you know, to those boys that I punished severely, I am exceedingly sorry.

7.224He remembered being reprimanded by the principal of the School for beating a boy too harshly, and toned down his severity accordingly.

7.225Br Burcet,46 who had two spells in Artane, in the mid 1950s and then throughout the 1960s, told the Investigation Committee how one witness had moved him to recall an incident. The former resident gave evidence that the first time he received the strap was from Br Burcet when he was one of the youngest boys in Artane, aged eight or nine:

The first experience I have with a strap or a leather as they are called, it was from Br. Burcet. again there is a lot after that but because it was the first one it stuck with me … I remember retracting my hand … and then receiving … the strap around that area (indicating) and then on the buttocks area. That was for retracting my hand … All I remember, and that’s why it stuck with me, was the stings, the stings in the actual body areas. It was more than two or three [strokes].

7.226Although Br Burcet had denied beating the boy in his statement written in 2002, when he simply wrote, ‘I did not abuse [the complainant]’, he changed his evidence. He said:

When I heard him describing it in evidence I was very taken and I was very conscious of how credible it was … When he was giving his evidence and as he described it, it made a very, very big impact on me … to hear it in his own words as he described that …

7.227Br Burcet was singled out for praise by some of his colleagues, and many of the boys listed him among the more kind and fair Brothers. He described to the Committee how the experience of Artane had affected him:

In my last year in Artane I was Disciplinarian. I didn’t like the job, I didn’t want the job … and I wouldn’t say I was very good at it. But during that period there was a fire and part of the building was burnt down … I was in charge then and that had a huge effect on me … I became paranoid about where kids were … if I found boys in places where they shouldn’t be … I punished them more severely than would have been necessary.

7.228He then described punishing some boys on the backside:

… when some boys were interfering with other boys, they would be punished and one of the punishments they would get would be on the backside with the leather. I wasn’t too keen on doing it, I had a certain reluctance about it …

7.229In relation to one particular incident of peer abuse brought to his attention by Br Gaspard47, he said:

I just brought [the boy concerned] to the boot room … He had his nightshirt on him, he bent down, I gave him three or four smacks of the leather on the – not on the bare backside and he ran out the door and I was glad to see him go.

7.230When Br Burcet was asked if he punished more in Artane than in other schools, he replied:

Yes, I did punish more. I would say that it was more true of when I went there first than when I started to find my feet there … In the latter part I probably punished less, until I was made disciplinarian … it did change me, because when I left Artane … I didn’t use corporal punishment at all.

7.231Br Burcet later taught in Letterfrack and Salthill.

Congregational response

7.232There is a marked contrast between the Congregation’s response to the evidence of physical abuse and that of individual respondents. The Congregation took up a very defensive position, but the individual respondents were, for the most part, more open and concessionary, with the result that areas of disagreement between respondents and complainants diminished, and some areas of agreement emerged. Individual respondents were able to recall and admit cases of excessive punishment or cruelty, but they were reluctant to see policy implications in such episodes. The Brothers were, however, less forthcoming in regard to physical abuse than some Brothers had been when they spoke to Mr Dunleavy when he was preparing his report on Artane for the Congregation. He described what he discovered in his interviews:

In the course of interviewing members of the Christian Brothers who worked previously at Artane Industrial School a picture of a particularly brutal form of discipline emerged. It seemed that many of the Brothers who came to Artane to teach, did so as relatively young Brothers, often indeed Artane was their first mission. As such they seem to have been both equally enthusiastic and inexperienced and were highly influenced by the views of the School expressed to them by Brothers who had been there longer than themselves. Nearly all of the Brothers that I interviewed told me that it had been explained to them by senior Brothers at Artane Industrial School that the boys would not respect a Brother who did not discipline them extremely severely, and that a Brother who would not deal out such punishment would soon become know to the boys as a “Silly Brother” – it was not clear whether there was any sexual connotation in such a nickname. One Brother related an incident where his fellow Brothers had burst into applause when he entered a room where they were, as it had been learned that he had punished one of his pupils by punching him in the face – previously he had not dealt out such harsh punishment. Another Brother recalled holding a colleague’s soutane while he beat a pupil with his fists round a handball alley – the location having been chosen so that the only path of escape for the boy was past the Brother who was meeting out the punishment. It is my conclusion that unofficially at least, a system existed in Artane Industrial School of inflicting unusually brutal punishment on pupils, that such a system was tacitly sanctioned by the more senior Brothers at the School, and that this unofficial code of discipline made it inevitable that the physical abuse of pupils at Artane Industrial School would occur. Several Brothers relayed stories of occasions on which fellow Brothers had “snapped” and had punished a pupil excessively. The actions of the subjects of these stories were always termed as being entirely out of character. It seems to me however that the level of ordinary punishment in the school was so extreme, that when Brothers punished their pupils in an excessive manner, such punishment was inevitably of the most brutal kind. The reluctance of the school to properly investigate and deal with any allegations of physical abuse, or even to report the injury of pupils to parents or the Dept. of Education, ensured that such a system would persist.

Fr Moore

7.233Fr Henry Moore was the chaplain of Artane from 1960 to 1967. In 1962 he was asked by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, to give him a report on Artane, which he delivered on 7th July 1962. The report is discussed later in this chapter. He gave evidence about his report and generally in relation to conditions in Artane.

7.234Fr Moore’s report stated:

The administration of punishment is in charge of a disciplinarian, but in practice is not confined to him. There seems to be no proportion between punishment and the offence. In my presence a boy was severely beaten on the face for an insignificant misdemeanour. Recently, a boy was punished so excessively and for so long a period that he broke away from the Brother and came to my house a mile away for assistance. The time was 10.45 p.m., almost two hours after the boys retired to bed. For coming to me in those circumstances he was again punished with equal severity. Some time ago, a hurley stick was used to inflict punishment on a small boy. The offence was negligible.

Constant resource to physical punishment breeds undue fear and anxiety. The personality of the boy is inevitably repressed, maladjusted, and in some cases, abnormal.

7.235Br Reynolds at Phase I said the Brothers were not challenging Fr Moore’s eye-witness account and commented:

… we are saying that if anything like that happened it shouldn’t have happened and it was wrong. The thing that surprises me about it was that he didn’t bring it to the attention of the Resident Manager.

7.236Fr Moore gave evidence to the Investigation Committee of the difficulties he had in bringing complaints to the Resident Manager.

7.237He said that the overall atmosphere in the School was:

very oppressive and it seemed to me to engender a great fear, an atmosphere of fear in the boys, generally, either in anticipation of punishment or actually experiencing punishment. In a word I would have described it as excessive and out of proportion.

7.238He described incidents he had witnessed, including one in his report to the Archbishop in which he referred to a boy being severely beaten on the face for an insignificant misdemeanour in the playground.

7.239He expressed a particular concern about the levels of corporal punishment used by Br Videl48, who was in the School in the early 1960s and about whom he heard consistent reports of his excessive disciplinary actions and beatings.

7.240He recalled an occasion when Br Videl punished a boy who had snatched a comic from a younger boy in the playground. The Brother took the older boy to one of the classrooms:

I was concerned at that stage about the evidence that I had been hearing about his severity, so I decided I would follow myself after him and I would stand outside the classroom door … When I did that I counted the number of slaps he was giving the boy and my attention was distracted somehow after 19 slaps … I would have considered that grossly excessive for the demeanour or misdemeanour, which in my view was tawdry.

7.241He did not think the system in Artane was conducive to boys making complaints. He said:

… as far as I could see the boys were afraid to make a complaint. I was in a sort of invidious position because I had been instructed by Br Ourson, the Superior, that the boys were not to make complaints to me, that if they had complaints they should go to him.

7.242While he went to Br Ourson with complaints of sexual abuse, he said that he was reluctant to do so in respect of physical abuse. Other Brothers advised him informally that this was not his function. For this reason, he directed boys who came to him with such complaints to go directly to Br Ourson. He does not know whether they in fact did so. He had not gone to Br Ourson about the Brother for this reason. He went instead to the Brother Provincial, but he did not know what the outcome was or whether the Brother was reprimanded.

7.243Fr Moore’s evidence is important on the extent of corporal punishment in Artane and the difficulty for staff and boys in making complaints. In an environment where the victim is afraid to report it to the authorities, abuse will flourish. This and other evidence indicates that boys did not report abuse to the authorities because they would have been punished for doing so.

Dr Paul McQuaid

7.244Dr Paul McQuaid returned to Ireland in 1965 after four years of postgraduate training in England and Scotland, and took up the position of Assistant Psychiatrist in charge of the Child Guidance Clinic in the Mater Hospital. In or about 1967 or 1968, he began to visit Artane on a weekly basis and he had free access to the Institution.

7.245Dr McQuaid said that his general impression was that it was a daunting institution. The abiding impression he had was that of silence during school hours, notwithstanding the large number of boys in the place:

The silence. So you had all these children, young boys, and virtually not a sound.

7.246The boys’ unease was noticeable:

It was a forbidding place, no question about it. There was a sense of just something about the way that the kids presented. You got a sense that they were intimidated, but again it was 40/50 years ago, times were different. They were there because they were within a juvenile controlled system and how do you control large numbers of kids.

7.247He recalled an incident which happened one day when he visited the School unannounced:

I walked in one day and as I said there was this silence, I was on my own and I don’t think I was expected in that sense.

As I walked down the corridor I heard this (slapped hands together) like that (indicated), just as I walked down, the door opened and a boy walked out and his face was coming out and he had a black eye developing. I stopped him and he was very upset. He was trying not to cry. Anyway I said, you know, “What happened?” He said – I can’t remember what he said, but what transpired was that he had been hit by the Brother in charge, that’s what he said. I had no reason to disbelieve him.

7.248Dr McQuaid returned to the issues of punishment and fear in Artane later in his evidence. He drew a distinction between national schools and other institutions:

We know that particularly in institutions corporal punishment was used in a way somewhat beyond what it was used for in national schools in that it was an instrument of control.

7.249Dr McQuaid said that there would have been a degree of difference in terms of the extent of the punishment in Artane as opposed to the schools that he attended. In his school days, corporal punishment was administered by a dean of discipline, as distinct from individual teachers in the classroom, but he confessed that he would not really have known what was happening in Artane if he had been asked. However, he did repeat that his impression of Artane ‘was one of an intimidatory type of silence and control’. He was asked whether it was his perception at the time that there was a problem in Artane with regard to corporal punishment or excessive corporal punishment, and he replied that:

… we were given to understand that the issue of control was a matter for the individual Brother. So how an individual Brother might deal with a recusant child or class, as I understood it then and since, was that it was a matter for the individual Brother.

7.250The difference in the system of government in a school where punishment was administered by a designated person, as compared with Artane and other Christian Brothers’ institutions, should not have existed, because the statutory Rules and Regulations for industrial schools provided that corporal punishment could only be inflicted by the Manager or in his presence. If the rule had been observed, the regime would have been more ordered, and cases of excessive or capricious violence less common. A Brother would have to justify to the Manager why a boy should be punished and would not be permitted to react spontaneously to a situation. Consistency, another feature of ordered regimes, would be maintained.

1962 inspection

7.251An allegation of excessive corporal punishment was referred to in one of the reports of a special inspection carried out by three officials49 of the Department of Education in December 1962. This inspection followed the appearance by Fr Henry Moore, the chaplain to Artane, before an Inter-Departmental Committee where he expressed his concerns about the way Artane was run. In particular, he commented on the excessive discipline and overuse of corporal punishment. It was in this context that the reference to discipline appeared in the principal report of the group, which was written by Mr MacUaid. The relevant part stated:

Complaints about the treatment of children in industrial schools are not infrequent but from experience I would say that the majority are exaggerated and some even untrue. For example, you will recall the case where a mother brought her child to the hall and alleged that he had been beaten on the head and on the buttocks by a Br Javier50 in Artane. Fortunately, Dr McCabe was in the office the same day and on uncovering the bandaged head she diagnosed the “injury” as ringworm. The child had bruises on his body but in the subsequent investigation Br Javier claimed that they had been made in a rough and tumble fight with other boys and the balance of the evidence favoured the Brother’s case. Because Br Javier is the Dean of Discipline in Artane he was interviewed specially, away from the Superior and Bursar, on his duties Br Javier is a vigorous young man in his late twenties with six years teaching experience. His duties as Disciplinarian do not allow him to teach at present but he hopes to be relieved of his appointment this summer and re-assigned to the classroom. His policy of deprivation of privileges because of misconduct and acquainting the culprit of the reason is basically sound but he explained that successful application of this policy was not always possible owing to the ages of the boys, some of whom did not care if, say, the privilege of watching television or going home for a few hours on Sunday was withdrawn. He felt that, having withdrawn privileges and still being faced with insubordination, he had no alternative but to punish moderately with the leather on the hands in certain cases. He stated that he probably used the leather about twice a week. Br Javier is Dean of Discipline for 400 odd boys and, I believe, fills this demanding position with sincerity and firmness but without harshness. The only criticism offered is that he is too young for an exacting job that requires maturity and had little experience of the city type prior to his appointment as Disciplinarian. In a subsequent discussion, the Superior whole-heartedly supported the work of Br Javier. In response to the suggestion that a course in psychology in U.C.D. would help in an office of this important nature, he replied that the question had never been examined by the Order but that Br Javier would probably return to teaching next September.

7.252The general disposition of the Department of Education was defensive. The official’s example of an unfounded allegation is questionable. If the boy who presented to Dr McCabe had bruises on his body, that in itself was a serious matter, calling for a thorough investigation.

7.253The report said that ‘the balance of the evidence favoured the Brother’s case’, but a report on such a specific matter should have set out the evidence considered.

7.254The key role of Dean of Discipline was given to a Brother ‘too young for an exacting job that requires maturity’. He also had little experience of the type of boy in Artane.

7.255The report admitted that ‘complaints about the treatment of children in industrial schools are not infrequent’, but then relied on the ‘experience’ of the writer to ‘say that the majority are exaggerated and some even untrue’.

7.256A Disciplinarian who was judged to be firm, but without harshness, nevertheless had to use the leather on boys ‘twice a week’.

Evidence given by complainants

7.257The Investigation Committee heard a total of 48 former residents. They tended not to complain about punishments that were justified, even if they were severe. As one witness said, ‘I didn’t mind being beaten if I deserved it’. Many witnesses often qualified their accounts by saying they had deserved the chastisement. One Disciplinarian was consistently described as a very strict but very fair man, because he did not punish unjustly.

7.258The former residents did complain, however, about unjust punishments. Unfair, capricious punishments created a climate of fear because they were administered for little or no reason, and therefore could not be avoided. Examples include failure at lessons, writing with the left hand and bed-wetting.

7.259They complained about punishments so severe they breached the accepted standards of the time. In particular, the punishments given to absconders were cited as excessive and cruel.

7.260Another major cause of complaint was the method by which punishment was administered. One or more complainants before the Investigation Committee recounted the following kinds of punishment, which were often idiosyncratic to certain members of staff, and included:

  • Being beaten with a hurley, fan belt, pram tyre, and sticks of various kinds. A deceased Brother admitted in a Garda interview that he used a fan belt to strike boys.
  • Being beaten on the bare buttocks or other parts of the body.
  • Being hit by the open hand or fist on the face or other parts of the body.
  • Being kicked on various parts of the body.
  • Being lifted by sideburns or the hair at the temples.
  • The use of various methods to make the punishment more painful.

7.261Many complaints were about the timing and circumstances of the punishment. For example, boys were taken out of their beds to be punished, or the punishment would be deliberately delayed to cause anguish about what was to come.

How about we punish these evil fucks with the Judas Chair

Examples of unfair punishment

7.262The Investigation Committee was struck by the number of witnesses who cited one particular long-serving Disciplinarian, Br Cretien, as being strict but fair. As Disciplinarian, he had to administer corporal punishment frequently, but the witnesses were almost unanimous in saying he used it only when it was deserved and it was never excessively severe.

7.263In contrast, there were many complaints about Brothers who used corporal punishment unfairly. One witness, who was in Artane in the 1940s, was accused of stealing when in fact he had just performed an act of kindness. The complainant used to deliver potatoes to the wife of a staff member, and she would give him a piece of bread and jam as a reward. On one of those occasions he was subjected to a beating by a number of Brothers who had become suspicious of his having the bread and jam. He said that was taken into Number 6 classroom and beaten. He told the Committee:

I guarantee you if you were lifted by the locks enough times you will say you done everything. It doesn’t matter whether you done it or not, you will own up to everything. I owned up to everything bar eating the bread and jam. I didn’t realise that that’s what I was getting bet for. I never owned up to eating the bread and jam. I was lifted up and beat. I got no tea that day.

7.264He said that every Brother who was there punched him:

The old men were teaching the young men which was worse still when I think about it now. The old men that should have sense teaching the young men how to effect punishment.

7.265Later, he said that he was positive that the Disciplinarian was the man who showed the other Brothers how to beat him. The strap was also used on this occasion:

At that time I don’t think I should have been beat. That’s why I am so much hard against that. I don’t think that them men should have hit me that day for nothing at all.

7.266He could not forgive them for it. He was visibly upset when talking about this incident, and said that this resentment about the injustice of it all had hurt him all his life. Recalling another incident when he was sent to town and went to a shop without permission, he drew the distinction between deserved and undeserved punishment:

I don’t forgive them men because I really do not forgive them because I really think that they beat me unnecessarily. Doing a good turn and they come and bash you … I don’t think I should have been bashed up. I could have been bashed up for taking children to the bus and I might have been accepting it because I didn’t go in a straight line, I didn’t go from Artane back, I went to Woolworth’s instead. I know I was wrong there. I should have been bashed up for that. But I don’t accept being bashed up for the bread and jam.

7.267Another witness, at the School from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, said:

You don’t seem to understand, the place was built on terror, regular beatings were just accepted. What you’re hearing about is the bad ones, but we accepted as normal run of the mill from the minute you got up, that some time in that day you would get beaten. The last two out of the washroom got beaten. The last two out of the boot room got beaten. The last two down to the piss pots got beaten. Everything was timed and everyone that was last got beaten. We accepted that. We didn’t even regard that as cruelty. That was the way the regime was run.

7.268Another witness, at Artane from the late 1940s to the early 1950s, was punished for trying to stop a Brother hitting his younger brother. He described the incident:

[My younger brother] knew nothing, he was only 7, as you know, and I cannot exactly remember what he chastised him for but he started hitting him anyways so I said “leave him off, he is only a boy”. I was only a boy myself. He just laid off and he laid into me then. I just remember vaguely, that was my first impression of that particular Brother, you know.

7.269Another former resident described how he was hit for bed-wetting:

I used to wet the bed and try and hide it, try and make my bed dead quick. Then after a few days they used to come around the dorm and pull it back, probably because of the smell of piss. Then when they caught you, you just got a whack around the head, you know. You were told … to take your sheets and put them up in the corner and when you came back at night you would pick them up.

7.270A witness who was there a decade earlier insisted that, in his day, the bed-wetters were given the strap:

They were called out of their beds, yes, while everybody was in their beds doing the things they were doing, reading. The sound box wasn’t on every night but it seems on these nights it would be off and he would call out, the teacher would call out the bed-wetters and they would have to line up and they had a strap, I seemed to think that the strap was about 14 to 15 inches long. It was about two inches wide and it was about half an inch to three quarters of an inch … They had to hold their hand out and they would have to pull their sleeve up so there is no chance of the sleeve taking some of the pressure, so you would have to pull your sleeve up and you would have to hold your hand out and the rule was you didn’t pull your hand across, you didn’t pull your hand away … If you pulled your hand away and the Brother got it on the knee, he would just hit you anywhere, the strap would land and you would have to roll yourself up into a ball to try and minimise the areas where this bloke could hit you. You would have it on the head and you would have it on your hands because your hands would be on your head. And used to have it on – he would wallop you on the back. Many times they would go into a bit of a frenzy while doing that. So you had to find the courage of not pulling your hand back and it did take a lot of courage to leave your hand there.

The second rule was that you weren’t allowed to cry. They did not like boys crying. So when the strap landed on your arm, just about halfway up your arm, it would leave a mark on your arm and your hand would go numb. It was only when you got into bed that you could feel the life going back into your arm. It was difficult to be brave on those occasions.

7.271A man described the beatings he received in the 1940s for writing with his left hand:

I was born left-handed, and I learned to write at school left-handed and I was told that the devil was in me that’s why I was left-handed and they decided to stop me. They would come from behind, I wouldn’t know and they would come down with the side of a ruler or a cane on my hand to stop me using my left hand. They beat the devil out of me, that was the saying. I had to use my right hand to write. To this day I couldn’t cut a piece of bread with my right hand, I still do it with my left hand. I butter my bread with my left hand I can’t do it with my right hand. But I write with my right hand.

7.272A resident in Artane, from the late 1940s to the early 1950s, said one Brother punished for ‘minor things’:

Not getting your different letters crossed right when you are writing and just general things that happened in class, like, you know. Not singing properly or not answering when you should answer or not knowing something that he thought you should have known. Things like that, just general sort of stuff.

7.273Another witness, at Artane in the mid-1960s, described being hit after being accused wrongly of tearing a blanket:

We heard [Br Lionel] saying “who tore this blanket?” … I answered him and I says “we don’t know” you know. He didn’t seem to take the answer too well, you know, and he called me down … he asked me again … So I gave him the same answer I gave him the first time, we didn’t know who tore the blanket. He didn’t seem to take that so the next of all he gave me a blow across the head there … with his fists. He had a bunch of keys in his hand. The mark is there on my head if you wish to feel it or if any of your friends. The mark is there, yes. My head bled. I fell to the floor that day and going down I walloped my head off one of the bed legs there. There was rows of beds like in the other dormitory. I hurt my head as well falling to the floor because I wasn’t a very strong boy in them days … I got hearing trouble through the blow afterwards, as life went on.

7.274An ex-resident from the 1960s described the punishments that ensued every Thursday, following the inspection of underpants for soiling:

… when they were to be collected every Thursday night, and you were issued with a clean pair, you would stand by your bed with the underpants in your hand and the Brother would instruct another boy to go around and see who had soiled their underpants. If you came across somebody whose underpants were soiled he would raise his hand and you would go up to top of the dormitory and get a hiding.

7.275He said that it happened more in dormitory number one, because that is where the younger boys were. When asked how the boys were punished, he replied:

The punishment always started with facing the wall, because you faced the wall at the top of dormitory. Then when it came to your turn you put out your hands and you would get slapped.

7.276The number of slaps depended on whatever Brother was in charge. He said that the same Brother wouldn’t be in charge seven nights of the week and it wouldn’t necessarily be the same Brother every Thursday.

7.277Two Brothers confirmed that this degrading underpants inspection and punishment of boys did take place. One of them conceded: ‘If [he] says I put him facing the wall I will admit that. If [he] says I slapped him on the hands I would also admit that’. Although the Brother claimed that the reason for these inspections was because of complaints from the laundry staff about soiled underwear, there was no evidence from complainants that they were required to wash out their underpants if they were soiled, which would have addressed the problem. The Brother also accepted that boys who soiled their underwear did not do so on purpose, and added, ‘I do not think they deserved to be punished’.

Examples of excessive punishments

7.278Many former residents complained of punishments that were excessively severe and violent. One witness, at Artane from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, described seeing a classmate being beaten. John51 was a very slow learner, but the Brother teaching Irish was not aware of this. He kept asking him questions, and persisted until he got the right answers, even though the boy had no idea what the questions meant:

We started tittering laughing. I think Br Laurent52 thought we were laughing at him. He asked him again. Poor John kept guessing and always getting the wrong one. Eventually Br Laurent just blew his top. He hit that lad and got his head and smashed it … on the bench. The ink wells went up, he was covered in ink, snots, blood, everything. He spent the entire half an hour, three quarters of an hour beating this lad until John eventually had a run of luck and picked this out three times in a row. With that when the bell went or the whistle, Br Laurent just slumped down exhausted from beating this lad. While we were, in the beginning, tittering, some of the lads were crying, we were frightened that he was going to kill him. We made way for him at the door. It was ghastly. The Brother at the other end, one class faced that way and the other faced that way, never intervened once to come down. That wasn’t like Br Laurent but he just lost it that day. He battered this poor lad, he was in bits. So don’t tell me there it was isolated cases, that Brother at the other end should have done something about it but he didn’t.

7.279One witness, at Artane in the 1960s, had reported a Brother for sexual abuse, and he described the purging of ‘badness’, the Artane term for sexual activity, that ensued following his reporting the matter:

After that happened, the next day I was brought out of class and I was questioned about who I was committing badness with … Because I didn’t name names at that particular time, but because of the beating I was getting, I was giving names of other boys who I had committed badness with and those other boys were taken out of class and they were beaten until they gave names. It was just one vicious circle that kept going on for two – for three days. I had been taken out because other boys started giving my name back again. It was even said to me, but who said it I don’t know, “you should have kept your mouth shut and none of this would have happened”..

But for three days I was systematically abused, both outside the classroom, in the dormitory, anywhere where I went within those environments. I was taken to a music room just off the corridor to the right of where the classes are and I had been beaten so much that I went to the toilet in a bin and another boy seen me and told a Brother that I had done that and I was taken back out and flogged again because I had done that. We weren’t allowed to go to the toilet; we were being punished for something that I had started.

7.280Another witness described an occasion when a Brother struck him on the genitals in the course of a beating, and the boy protected himself with his hand but the Brother took his hand away:

“What’s the matter with you? Those are no good to you anyway”… With that, he had me against the wall … He put his fist between my legs and pushed me upwards while I was leaning back against the wall. He had his other hand on my chest to make sure I would fall forward and then he took his hand away.

7.281A former resident who was there in the 1960s described the punishment given to boys whose shoes were ‘cast’. He explained:

what cast means is they were cast out, thrown away because they were absolutely gone beyond repair. Depending on the state of your shoes … would depend on the severity of the clattering you would get.

7.282He then described the punishment:

If your shoes were cast you knew you were going to the wall. You would go and face the wall until they finished the inspection on all the children and then you would receive slaps. With Br Karel53 he could use a hurl, he could use a leather. Br Raoul54 the same, leather, hurl … At times a hurl, at times a leather. At times an open palm. At times, as far as I was concerned a closed fist, pulling of the sideburns, being lifted by your sideburns. The particular instant that would frighten me and still does today was … The chap in front of me at the time was a guy called David.55 When we were going up to get the boots examined you could see that … there was no sole left in the boot and when he got up in front of him, he turned up the boot and I know now I didn’t know then that … Br Raoul was just being totally sarcastic and he said “They’ll do you another week …” and David – it was a relief, he was too young to understand, so was I to what was going on, but when David turned to walk away with his boots, thinking that’s great, he suddenly got a belt of a hurl on the back of – the back, then he was beat up and down the dormitory with a hurl.

Other forms of punishment

7.283Some punishments were peculiar to Artane. Several witnesses described the practice of putting boys ‘on a charge’.

7.284A former resident of the 1940s described what was involved:

Artane, people don’t realise, it was a prison in itself. You were surrounded by gates and you were surrounded by big buildings. If you done something wrong in my time there was a 30 foot wall. I don’t know how anyone was going to get over a building. But you got a little patch to mind and you had to stand minding that wall.

7.285The boys were left there until ‘Whenever they’d feel like coming back for you’.

7.286Another resident who was there between the mid-1940s and mid-1950s said:

I was fairly regularly on a charge in Artane. You were put in charge of a building or a gate and you walked up and down. Br Armande56 would go from gate to gate often passed us and he said to me, “You seem to be in a lot of trouble”.

7.287He explained further:

by the church there was the wicker gate, you were on a charge, it meant you stood by that, you didn’t let anyone out. Then there was another chap on the main gate. Then there was somebody on the building, which was usually me in the last few months. You had to parade up and down there, you couldn’t play … Br Cretien always had a stick up his sleeve. He always beat you with a stick and then you got the charge.

7.288In addition to the strap, some Brothers had idiosyncratic implements, such as a fan belt or a pram tyre. Boys could be struck on the palm of the hand, the arm, the face, the stomach, the legs and the backside. Another implement used was a hurley. Sometimes, boys were punched and kicked. Lay teachers, said one resident who was there in 1940s, did not have a leather. He explained:

there was a bit of social distinction. The lay teachers tended to carry sticks, quite often broken off hurley handles that had been filed and the sharp edges removed leaving a manageable sized club.

7.289Common physical punishments were ‘the clatter’ and lifting boys by the hair at the temples or sideburns. Br Burcet said, ‘My interpretation of clattering would be to give a fellow a thump or a clip behind the ear’. These punishments were often used either as a rapid chastisement or as an immediately available alternative to the strap.

7.290Two Brothers admitted using a dowel. One Brother said, ‘I might have used a dowel … I think they would have come from the carpenter’s shop’.

7.291Br Burcet was more precise. He said:

I recall once using a dowel, yes … I became paranoid about where people were. Now, I was under a lot of pressure and I was often frustrated and so on when boys went missing because I had this fear that we could have another fire. On one occasion, when a boy was missing and we had to spend a lot of time looking for him, the dowel was – a baby’s cot, you know the little thing? I hadn’t a leather that happened to be handy, and I slapped the boy on the hand with that. The thing broke and that was it.

7.292One witness described a punishment chosen to fit the crime. The witness was in Artane from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, and he described one incident:

I was given my own suit, as I say. The very first Sunday I was there, that was the first time I wore it because that was when we wore our best suits. During the Mass I had terrible runs. I ran down the passageway to the door and Br Cretien blocked my way. He said “You can’t go. The host is exposed”. I had to wait until the Host was put away and then I made a beeline. The latrines were a good 100 yards from where the chapel was. I never made it and I soiled my pants. In those days, in 1945, they didn’t have flush lavatories. It was a box with a bucket underneath. The paper was newspapers cut up. I done my best to clean my pants. We didn’t have underpants in those days, we had lined trousers. I did my best to clean myself and wipe it but I stunk. After breakfast when I went to the dormitory I had to report to Br Boyce he was in charge of dormitory five then … Everybody was busy doing their scrubbing and he told me to take my clothes off. They never had hot water in Artane, the cold tap was put on, I stood in it naked and he got the lads who had the big long scrubbers to scrub me. They weren’t very strong and he didn’t think they were doing a bloody good job anyway. He got the hand scrubber and he said, “I will show you”. (Indicating) He scrubbed all my buttocks and legs down. I was red raw after it. He threw me out. I had to dress there and then. No drying off or anything. That was my only experience with Br Boyce.

Delayed punishment

7.293Witnesses described having to wait before the corporal punishment was administered. Some were taken out of their beds at night to be punished. Boys sent to the Disciplinarian had to wait facing the wall until he was ready to deal with them, which led to an increase in anxiety about what was to come.

7.294Bed-wetters were often the victims of delayed punishment. A boy who was there in the 1950s described the procedure:

[If you wet the bed] the next day you might have to – it depends on what Brother would be on – strip down your bed. You would try and hide it but if you couldn’t hide it then the next night you would have to face the wall up in the dormitory.

7.295Facing the wall meant having to stand in the dormitory, wearing only a nightshirt, when the other boys had gone to bed. Boys remained facing the wall for one or two hours before being allowed to get into bed.

Techniques that increased pain

7.296Some complainants described how the pain of corporal punishment could be intensified through techniques of delivering the blow, or simply through failure to take account of the physical condition of the boy. A resident in the 1940s complained:

When beatings were applied, whether by a leather or strap, no account was taken of whether you had chilblains or you didn’t. You just got it and you took it and who were you to complain to, there was no one to complain to.

7.297A former resident from the same period explained:

Another Brother, if you are talking or doing other things in the dormitory that you weren’t supposed to be doing, he would make you go in to the washroom and put your hand into very cold water, because there was no hot water in Artane, and he would make you put your hand in the cold water for about ten [minutes] to quarter of an hour. Then he would call you out and while your hands were still wet, he used to make you put your hand, palm upwards, on the iron bedstead and he had a foot ruler and he used to slice the top of your fingers. It was only afterwards when the blood returned to your hand that you actually got the pain that was involved. Speaking here, it doesn’t seem to imply that being hit at the top of your fingers was a great punishment but it certainly was. The pain afterwards was more than the actual striking of the fingers.

7.298Another technique was to get the boy to hold his hand over a hard object; the same witness explained the procedure:

There was one teacher, and if he needed to smack you with the strap, would make you hold your hand possibly about an inch or two away from the desk and then he would smack you with this strap … and when they walloped you on the front of the hand, your hand came down on the desk, so you got it on the front and the back of the hand.

7.299Another witness, there in the 1950s, described a similar procedure. He said, ‘You would put your hands out and if he missed he would make you put your hands on the wall … so you couldn’t pull your hand back’.

7.300A resident from the late 1940s described how a teacher would punish boys who got something wrong:

If you didn’t get something right in class, if he asked me a question or whatever it was and I can’t remember what it was, if I didn’t get it right, he would come along and he would take your ear. He said “this part of your ear is no good, it won’t do any harm”. He pierced the side of my ear with his nail and dragged you to the board to write the correct answer on the board whatever it was that you got wrong. He would escort you back the same way. You would have to pray that you didn’t get something wrong the next day because although your ear was sore with a scab on it he would still do the same thing with the same ear.

7.301He then added, ‘Outside of that he never used the cane. I never saw him raise the cane to anyone’.

7.302One of the functions of the rules and regulations for corporal punishment was to ensure that chastisement was carried out only for serious offences, so that the punisher knew how and when to punish and the wrongdoer knew what to expect. One effect of these other forms of punishment was to remove predictability about physical punishment. Uncertainty about what was going to happen next contributed to the climate of fear described by many of the complainants.

Punishment leading to injury

7.303Some witnesses complained that the punishments they received sometimes resulted in serious injury. A former resident from the 1940s described an incident on the playing fields:

[The Brother] was, I would say in his time, a great hurler. He always carried a hurley with him no matter where he went. When I was on the hurling team, when I was fighting to get on it, I was put in goal and I was dropped and he then said, “I will teach you to be a good goalkeeper”. He beat – he hit balls at me, I am not sure you know how hard a hurley ball is. He hit hurley balls at me one after the other. One of them hit me on the eye and my eye came up (indicating) really, really large. He apologised. The other balls that hit me on the body and head quite badly. He was the one in actual fact who hit me on the knees … with the hurley. A day later my knees came up like balloons …

It was deliberate because I wasn’t doing what he wanted me to do. I wasn’t being a good enough goalkeeper. I wasn’t stopping enough balls properly … The next day my knees came up like balloons. I couldn’t walk and I was taken down to the infirmary. There was a lady looked after me. I never saw a doctor all the time I was there. I don’t know how long I was there, I can’t remember to be honest with you, he came to visit me when I was there … I was in a while but I can’t remember how long.

7.304In their Opening Statement given before the public hearing, the Christian Brothers outlined the rules, regulations and guidelines that governed the use of corporal punishment in industrial and in national schools. They also give an outline gleaned from internal documents of the policy of the Congregation in relation to corporal punishment. A more detailed analysis of the rules, regulations and policy documents of the Congregation are discussed in the Christian Brother General Chapter.

7.305These regulations setting the acceptable standards of the day were often broken. Moreover, the Brothers often broke the two main provisions about corporal punishment in the Christian Brothers Acts of Chapter, namely that proper comportment, gravity and propriety should be observed in administering corporal punishment, and that the only form of corporal punishment authorised should be a leather strap on the palm of the hand.

7.306Most of the witnesses did not complain of being punished if they had done wrong and deserved chastisement. Their main objections were to unjust, capricious punishments or excessive punishments that were administered without ‘proper comportment, gravity and propriety’, or where the experience was either cruel or humiliating.

Ability to complain

7.307In the course of his interviews on behalf of the congregation, Mr Dunleavy discussed the ability of Brothers to complain to their superiors about incidents or deficiencies in Artane:

No Brothers interviewed recalled any means by which they could make a complaint on any matter concerning the School. Several Brothers expressed feelings of disquiet about things they had seen during their time at Artane but maintained there existed no process by which they could make their feelings of unease unknown. The absence of any proper complaints procedure for staff was mirrored in a total absence of such a procedure for pupils. If a pupil had a complaint relating to any matter within the School or concerning any Christian Brother in the School he would have to make that complaint to another Brother. Apart from the inadequacy of such a system, Brothers being interviewed recognised that such a complaints procedure was unlikely to be invoked by a pupil because of the fear of his complaint being relayed back to the Brother concerned.

7.308Mr Dunleavy reviewed 11 cases of alleged physical abuse and found that they shared certain features:

(a)In no case of an allegation of physical abuse did the School notify the Dept. of Education of the allegation.

(b)In no case where the Dept. of Education became aware of an allegation of physical abuse did it insist on carrying out its own investigation, or insist that an independent investigation be carried out.

(c)In all cases involving allegations of physical abuse of which the Dept. of Education became aware, the Dept. were content on each occasion for the School authorities to investigate themselves.

(d)In no case involving an allegation of physical abuse could I find any evidence that either the School or the Dept. of Education dismissed or disciplined the individual involved.

(e)In no case involving an allegation of physical abuse does it appear that the experience of the incident led the School to establish any safety measures or any appropriate code of practice or even a simple regulation governing the maximum force to be used against a boy, to ensure that such incidents did not recur.

(f)In no case of an allegation of physical abuse, where it was clear that the Dept. of Education’s own guidelines concerning the proper procedures for the notification of an injury to a boy had not been followed, did the Dept. of Education insist on carrying out its own investigation, or insist that an independent investigation be carried out.

7.309The documentary evidence, the recollections of independent witnesses, the evidence heard by the Committee between September and December 2005, and the report of Mr Dunleavy that was commissioned by the Congregation all described a regime of punishment and physical abuse in Artane.

7.310It is an inadequate response to the allegations of physical abuse to attempt to refute them by forensic analysis. The Congregation failed to address central issues about Artane. There is a body of information showing the prevalence of excessive use of corporal punishment in cases that are documented and others that are acknowledged. The evidence of complainants confirms what is beyond dispute. There was an absence of an ordered system of management and governance of the institution that had inevitable consequences.

Conclusions on physical abuse

7.3111.Artane used frequent and severe corporal punishment to impose and enforce a regime of militaristic discipline.

2.Corporal punishment was systemic and pervasive. Management did nothing to prevent excessive and inappropriate punishment and boys and Brothers learnt to accept a high level of physical punishment as the norm.

3.Brothers used a variety of weapons and devised methods of increasing suffering when inflicting punishment, and in some cases they were cruel and even sadistic.

4.Brothers did not intervene to stop excessive punishment by colleagues, and there was a code of conduct between Brothers that prevented criticism of each other’s behaviour, even in cases where it was clearly extreme or excessive. All Brothers, therefore, became implicated in excesses.

5.Even where a child behaved and kept to the rules, he could still be beaten.

6.The result of arbitrary and excessive punishment was a climate of fear.

7.Artane did not operate within the Rules and Regulations for industrial schools and the precepts of the Christian Brothers concerning corporal punishment.

8.The absence of a punishment book in Artane was a disregard for a specific legal requirement intended for the protection of children. The Punishment Book was not maintained in Artane because the Christian Brothers chose not to maintain it.

9.The Department was also at fault in failing to ensure that the statutory punishment book was properly maintained and reviewed at every inspection.

10.The Department of Education failed in its supervisory role by maintaining a defensive and protective attitude towards the management and staff. Even when it conducted an investigation, the Department simply accepted Brothers’ explanations uncritically.

Sexual abuse

The Congregation’s approach to sexual abuse in Artane

7.312The Christian Brothers’ Opening Statement on the issue of sexual abuse commented on six Brothers who were guilty of sexual abuse while they were in Artane. It then discussed five more Brothers who sexually abused boys in other institutions after their time in Artane ‘because of a possible retrospective connection to Artane’. The Statement finally dealt with two cases in the 1930s, in each of which a Brother was assigned to the staff of Artane with knowledge that he had previously been guilty of child sexual abuse.

7.313Following its review of the cases of these 13 Brothers, the Congregation concluded that there was no systemic sexual abuse of boys in Artane. With regard to Brothers who abused, the Statement accepted that they did ‘betray the trust given them causing serious damage to boys in their care’, and it contrasted this with ‘the great number of Brothers who honoured this trust and devoted themselves to the education and welfare of the boys in their care’, to whom it said the offending Brothers caused pain. The Brothers accepted that the approach to instances of sexual abuse was ‘very inadequate by present day standards’ and then went on to propose arguments which were intended to exonerate the Congregation at the time:

  • There was no cover up of the issue.
  • When personnel became aware of the issue, they reported it to the Congregation authorities.
  • Structures in Artane made it possible for boys to bring such issues to the attention of the Resident Manager or other personnel, and this in fact happened.
  • The Congregation removed the abusers from the Institution and, in most cases, from the Congregation.
  • The Congregation Visitor was attentive to the dangers of sex abuse.
  • Guidelines and recommendations were issued to assist with child protection.

7.314The Congregation does not accept any blame as a Congregation for sexual abuse in Artane. It contends that the Brothers who dealt with cases of sexual abuse did so in a proper manner by the standards and procedures of that time. It acknowledged that these procedures would not meet present-day standards. It repeated the apology that it issued to people who suffered abuse in its institutions.

7.315The Congregation contended that Brothers who committed sexual abuse were dealt with severely. A guilty Brother was either given a warning or he was dismissed. Repeat offenders were dismissed. A Brother who had not taken permanent vows was usually dismissed. Of the cases recorded in the archives, 11 Brothers were finally professed and two were of temporary profession. Dealing first with the 11 Brothers in the former category, six Brothers were permitted to apply for and were granted dispensation from their vows, three were given Canonical Warnings, and no sanctions were applied to the remaining two Brothers. One of the two Brothers of temporary profession was dismissed, and the other did not renew his vows at the end of the year.

7.316These details show that the only actual dismissal was in the case of a Brother of temporary profession. The most common sanction was to permit the Brother to apply for a dispensation from his vows, a procedure which required the endorsement of a Bishop. Taking this course spared the Congregation the trouble of proceeding with a formal Canonical trial and it was of immense advantage to the abuser. He was able to leave the Congregation of his own volition, to all appearances in good standing. He was in the same position as a person who had lost his vocation to be a Brother and who had been permitted to rejoin the outside lay world. The records acknowledged this sharp distinction, and detailed comments made by the Congregation also recognised it. For example, in relation to one case, information was given that the Brother:

applied to the Apostolic Visitor who advised him to seek a Dispensation from Vows. His application was granted and he left the Congregation …

7.317In another case, a decision was made that the Brother ‘should be dismissed from the Congregation but he was given the opportunity to apply for a Dispensation from Vows’. In a subsequent general comment on the six cases of Brothers recorded as having been guilty of sexual abuse in Artane, the Opening Statement confusingly appeared to equate these two quite different means of exiting the Community of the Christian Brothers:

The sanction applied was either dismissal or a canonical warning. In cases where it was decided to dismiss a Brother, the normal procedure was to instruct him to apply for a dispensation from vows.

7.318The records indicate that the authorities were very well aware of the distinction between dismissal and a grant of dispensation from vows, which was a considerable benefit offered to an abuser otherwise facing expulsion. Dismissal means removal from office, not permission to resign. The Brothers’ Statement offered no explanation as to why this facility was offered to offenders.

7.319The Opening Statement made a cursory reference to the question why abuse was not reported to the Gardaí:

It would appear that the abuse was not reported to the civil authorities. However, reporting of allegations and/or instances of child sex abuse may not have been common practice in the general population at the time.

7.320The implication is that sex abuse against children was not normally reported to the Gardaí by ‘the general population at the time’ and that this furnished mitigation or explanation of the failure by the Brothers. The introduction of ‘allegations’ is not relevant in a section dealing with recorded cases of undisputed sexual abuse committed by Christian Brothers. Moreover, what may or may not have been common practice in the general population cannot be the rule for providers of childcare who should be setting standards. And, as a later account will show, the practice of the Brothers differed according to the case: when laymen were suspected of sexual abuse, the Christian Brothers reported them to the Gardaí.

7.321Dealing with the two cases where Brothers known to be guilty of sexual abuse elsewhere were assigned to Artane, the Christian Brothers observed that this was unacceptable by current-day standards, but the implication is that it was acceptable by the standards of the time. The Christian Brothers in their submission to the Investigation Committee stated that the ‘fact that it happened in the past is indicative of the lack of understanding of the recidivistic nature of child abuse’. The Statement does not indicate on whose part there was the lack of understanding, but a helpful pointer is found in the introductory remarks to this section. Here, it is stated that the long-term psychological damage caused by sexual abuse was not understood by society at the time ‘nor was the recidivist nature of child sexual abuse’. These failures of understanding are attributed to society at the time, and the ‘response of the Congregation to instances of sexual abuse was conditioned by this inadequate understanding of the issue’.

7.322In its Opening Statement, the Congregation did not accept any responsibility at Congregational level for the undeniable, recorded abuse that took place in Artane. They blamed society for its inadequate understanding of the long-term psychological effects of such abuse and its recidivist nature. They claimed that the Brothers behaved appropriately for the time, although they did concede that these past methods would not now be considered proper. The Christian Brothers had long experience dealing with sexual abuse, and were better informed than others about its dangers and prevalence. They could not, therefore, attribute their failure to respond to a ‘lack of understanding’.

Documented cases of sexual abuse

Br Platt57

7.323The earliest record of a Brother sexually abusing a boy in Artane dated from the early 1930s. It was specifically furnished by the Christian Brothers as an illustration of how expeditiously these cases were dealt with by the Congregation.

7.324Br Platt, who was in charge of the infirmary in Artane, voluntarily confessed to the Superior that he had ‘abused a boy and acted immodestly with him’. The Superior referred the matter to the Provincial Council, and the case was considered by both the Provincial Council and the General Council. The Superior General wrote to the Provincial, saying that he had interviewed the offending Brother in August 1932 and ‘told him of the risk we ran in retaining him in the Congregation’. He was given one day to consider applying for a dispensation from perpetual vows or stand trial within the Congregation. The following day, Br Platt appeared before the General Council and informed it of his decision not to apply for a dispensation. His expulsion was then considered and a vote was taken on the issue. The Council unanimously voted in favour of his retention in the Congregation rather than expulsion. He was given a Canonical Warning and the daily recital of the Miserere as a penance and was ‘sent back to Baldoyle’. The Council noted that he was very repentant.

7.325It appears that there was reluctance at a high level within the Congregation to expel this Brother, despite their awareness of the danger he posed. The Superior General was very worried about the situation, because he wrote in a letter to the Provincial on 19th August 1932 that he considered him to be ‘a great danger to us’ and also considered it a ‘risk’ to retain him in the Congregation. He even cited cases where two Brothers had been hanged in Canada for ‘murder of their victims after such offence’:

He is a great danger to us. Two Brothers were hanged in Canada within the past two years for murder of their victims after such offence. A Brother of a community in charge of an Industrial school in Rome awaits his trial for the murder of a boy in the school who told of his offence to his Superior. The school is closed and the community disbanded.

7.326No consideration was given to the child who had been abused. In fact, the Brother could not even recall his exact name. There was no record of the boy being spoken to.

7.327Notwithstanding the concern of the Provincialate, this Brother was assigned to Glin Industrial School in the late 1930s and remained there for seven years.

7.328This Brother refused to seek a dispensation from his vows and the Congregation unanimously agreed not to take action. This case shows that the Congregation knew, as early as 1932, of the recidivist nature of these offenders. His description as a ‘danger’ and a ‘risk’ to the Congregation illustrates a clear understanding of this man’s propensity to re-offend, but it is noteworthy that the ‘great danger’ was to the Congregation and not to the boys.

Br Herve58

7.329The second recorded account of sexual abuse by a Brother who served in Artane concerns Br Herve, who was sent there in the late 1930s with a history of sexual abuse in a previous school in the south of the country, and who worked there on administrative duties until his retirement some seven years later. He came to Artane following a short stay in an institution to which he had been moved as a matter of urgency. In the school in which he was a teacher, Br Herve was accused of having ‘kissed, fondled, embraced and meddled with boys in his class’ and he admitted that the charges were ‘substantially true’. Br Herve’s Superior was aware of his activities for at least four years. The Superior was not alone in his knowledge, because, as the correspondence discloses, boys in the School, some parents, the Dean of the diocese, local clergy and even visiting priests conducting Missions were aware of the Brother’s behaviour, in addition to some members of the public.

7.330The problem presented by Br Herve’s conduct in his school came to a head in early 1938, when the Superior expelled two boys for immorality, following an investigation that he said he carried out reluctantly. ‘Why I moved in the case of the boys … at all was because two mothers – Doctors’ wives asked me to investigate certain bad conduct and of course language going on in a certain class’.

7.331One mother, whose boy was expelled, tried to get him reinstated and consulted a local solicitor, who was unsympathetic and called to see the Superior and told him that what he did ‘was quite right and that he would not touch the case’.

7.332The boy’s mother had more success in enlisting the support of the Dean of the Parish than with the solicitor. In February 1938, the Dean called on the Superior of the School and asked that Br Herve be ‘removed at once on grounds of immorality’. The Dean stated that Br Herve ‘kisses, fondles, embraces and indeed fiddles or meddles with the boys’ and that this ‘has been going on for the past five years’. The Dean said that Br Herve’s activities had been brought up at the last Mission in the parish, when a number of parents asked the Missioner for advice as to what to do. He had recommended that they report the matter to the Superior of the College, but the parents refused, ‘not wishing to get the Brother concerned into trouble’. The Dean was reluctant to get involved; indeed, he specifically asked the Superior not to ‘drag him into it’ but was just asking him to transfer Br Herve from the School.

7.333The Superior had known about Br Herve for years, as he informed the Provincial:

During the past few years I spoke to Br Herve about these matters, while last September I called him into the Office and abused him and rated him roundly for his kissing of the boys and his fondling of them. On that occasion he promised to give it up for good.

7.334The Superior did not tell the Dean that Br Herve had a history of misconduct with boys: ‘In speaking to the Dean I did not pretend to know such a thing existed at all’.

7.335The Superior told the Provincial that in his view the matter had come to light out of ‘a woman’s revenge’, but he accepted that ‘Quite apart from this it appears that Br Herve is guilty’. He suggested that, if the Provincial investigated the matter, he should do so discreetly and not come to the School during school hours. The Provincial dispatched one of his Consultors who stayed in a hotel so that ‘the investigation could be carried out quietly’. This Brother recorded that Br Herve:

admitted that the charges were substantially true. He did kiss and fondle boys, but always (a) openly, (b) when others were present, and never in a gross manner. It was not alleged by anyone that there was gross immorality at any time.

7.336Because he had admitted his guilt, the Br Consultor did not feel that it was necessary to investigate the matter further, which saved him the ‘disagreeable duty’ of seeing those who had made the charges, and saved Br Herve and the School ’from talk that would arise if an investigation were to be made by me’. He recommended Br Herve’s immediate removal because:

His actions are a constant source of talk and criticism among the boys and their parents. It may be taken for granted that he is much talked of [in the area] and being one who is loose in morals, and one who should not have charge of boys.

7.337The Provincial took immediate action and ordered that Br Herve be transferred. He wrote to Br Herve notifying him and also referring to the impact of his abusive activities on the Congregation and on the boys who were abused:

By indulging in such improprieties you have scandalised your pupils, given rise to a good deal of unsavoury gossip among them and their parents, done grave injury to the reputation of the College, brought discredit on yourself, and, I greatly fear lowered the Brothers in the estimation of a big section of the public. May God grant that the consequences are not worse.

Every Christian Brother is bound by his Rule as well as by the laws of charity and justice to do all in his power to safeguard the virtue of his pupils and to assist them as far as he can to preserve their innocence if they have not already lost it. You[r] conduct was well calculated to rob them of this precious treasure of innocence. What greater wrong could you do them? You cannot reasonably make the plea that you did not realise the gravity of your offence.

7.338The Provincial gave Br Herve a Canonical Warning pursuant to Constitution 218 and a ‘serious warning that a repetition of any of the faults with which you are now charged will render you liable to expulsion from the Congregation’. He told Br Herve to make a determined effort to combat his ‘immoderate tendency to softness in dealing with your pupils and to think seriously over the grave spiritual harm your actions inflict on both them and yourself’. He also stated that, ‘May God grant that the consequences are not worse’. He transferred Br Herve as soon as possible pursuant to the rules of the Congregation.

7.339On the same day that he wrote to Br Herve, the Provincial also wrote to the Superior of the School sympathising in ‘the amount of worry and humiliation that has been inflicted on you by the deplorable conduct’ of Br Herve. He stated that:

The unfortunate man is really more to be pitied than to be censured, but to make him realise the gravity of his offence I am giving him the canonical warning provided for in the Constitution, and in doing so I think I am adopting the most charitable course that can be pursued in a case of this kind.

7.340The Superior replied, thanking the Provincial for his comments and agreeing that Br Herve was more to be pitied than to be censured and concluding ‘He just has no control over his hands …’.

7.341The Superior reinstated the expelled boy in the School. His mother had threatened to inform the Bishop and to ‘bring this case further and further’. As he told the Provincial, the Superior had to ‘capitulate with the best grace I could’.

7.342The crisis was resolved with the boy’s return to the School and Br Herve’s transfer. The Superior was more than a little relieved:

For the past four years I always feared that when the inevitable would come in his case that it would be much more serious.

7.343Similarly, the Superior noted that the complaining parent was not sure whether Br Herve had ‘meddled with the boys in their privy parts’ but thought not. He then commented. ‘Knowing Br Herve as we do I thank God he did not do worse’.

7.344During the Phase III hearing into Artane, Br Reynolds, referring to the nature of Br Herve’s meddling, commented as follows:

But I mean, what the Provincial believed or didn’t believe I am not sure is of any consequence. What I was saying in the submission is that the lady thought it didn’t happen, the Dean thought it did. And, obviously, that’s the view that I am taking, that if the Dean thought it did well then it did happen.

7.345It was put to Br Reynolds that this comment showed clearly that the Congregation was aware of the recidivistic nature of abuse as far back as 1938. Br Reynolds did not agree:

I would come back to say that this letter, in my view, does not point out that the recidivistic nature of child abuse was known to whoever wrote it. What he is saying is that this individual person, certainly he believed, abused but he wasn’t in a position to take any action on it until he had sufficient proof.

7.346This observation is scarcely correct, as the correspondence shows that the Superior had brought Br Herve into his office in September 1937 ‘and abused him and rated him roundly for his kissing of the boys and his fondling of them. On that occasion he promised to give it up for good’. However, Br Reynolds persisted in his view that they had no evidence prior to 1938.

7.347Br Reynolds was also reluctant to accept that the reference to ‘May God grant that the consequences are not worse’ referred to the involvement of the Gardaí or other authorities:

That’s your interpretation is all I am saying … Off the top of my head that would not have been my interpretation of that. But I am not saying that you are not correct in that.

7.348The Superior did not incur criticism although, in his correspondence to the Provincial, he admitted that he was aware of Br Herve’s activities for years but did not even report to his own authorities until events forced his hand. Instead, the Provincial sympathised with him.

7.349The letter from the Provincial to Br Herve shows awareness of some of the damage that sexual abuse could inflict on a child.

7.350In conclusion:

  • The School was driven to take action only when there was a threat to expose the behaviour of Br Herve.
  • The Provincial expressed sympathy for, rather than criticism of, the Superior.
  • The offending Brother was considered to be an unfortunate man who was ‘more to be pitied than censured’.
  • There was relief that worse did not happen, having regard to the known habits of Br Herve.
  • The Congregation was aware of the harm Br Herve was inflicting on children in his care, but did nothing to alleviate it or to ascertain the full extent of the damage.
  • Sending a Brother with this history to a residential school for boys was reckless and dangerous, and showed a disregard for the safety of children in care.

Br Gustav59

7.351Br Gustav began teaching in the O’Brien Institute in the 1920s. Three boys made written statements in which they alleged that ‘they had been immodestly handled’ by him on a number of occasions. These written statements no longer exist. The matter was considered so serious that it was referred to the General Council for consideration. At his trial before the General Council, the Brother ‘admitted immodesty in each case stated but not as gross as specified’.

7.352The General Council issued a Canonical Warning to Br Gustav and imposed as a penance the daily recital of the Miserere for six months. A further condition was his transfer out of Dublin, with the injunction that he was not to return without the leave of the General Council. It was conceded in the minutes of the General Council meeting that this Brother had been dealt with very leniently:

This lenient treatment of [Br Gustav] is largely due to the man’s age and, although it was not told him, to his very low condition of health.

7.353After these events, the Brother was transferred frequently from school to school in the north of Ireland, spending on average two years in each, before being assigned to Artane for a short period prior to his retirement to Baldoyle. No allegations were made against him in Artane.

7.354No dispensation or expulsion was sought in respect of Br Gustav. Although ill-health was suggested as the reason for leniency, he remained a Christian Brother until his death some 19 years after the charges were brought.

Time to Arm the Children
The only good Roman Catholic pedophile is a dead one.

Allegations of sexual abuse against four Brothers resident in Artane in 1944

7.355Br Leroi60 was accused of sexually abusing boys in Artane in 1944. His personal card retained by the Congregation stated, ‘Evidence of immoral relations with boys in Artane came to light’. This Brother sought a dispensation from his vows and left the Congregation in 1944, and the Department of Education service history records Artane as his last teaching post.

7.356Br Laurent, who gave evidence to the Investigation Committee, said:

… he came to Artane the same year as I was there. We arrived at the same time. The outgoing [Superior] said to Br Leroi ‘you are not welcome here’. Probably some accusation had been made about Br Leroi and because of that then he was sent to Artane.

7.357The second case involved Br Tristan61 who worked in the kitchen. He was found to have sexually abused a number of boys following complaints made by the boys themselves. He was tried by the General Council in 1944 and was unanimously adjudged guilty. When the charges were laid against him, he:

denied “some” of the matter of each charge, admitted “jostling” or “wrestling”, said he had “no bad intention” and “never lay on any boy” in the back-store so often referred to by boys. He admitted “tricking” with several boys, denied “touching” a boy’s face or body.

7.358The minutes recorded that the abuse had occurred frequently over a long period of time. The boys had given detailed written statements, which indicated long, continuous and frequent wrong-doing on the part of this Brother.

7.359These statements were not discovered to the Committee and would appear not to have survived in the records of the Congregation. The General Council voted unanimously to expel him. He appealed the decision to the Apostolic Visitor, who advised him to seek a dispensation from his vows, which he duly did. The dispensation was granted and he left the Congregation in 1944.

7.360Br Tristan had arrived in Artane in the early 1940s under a cloud of suspicion from Carriglea Park Industrial School, where he had served on the staff for a year. From the records, it appears that he had been given a Canonical Warning because of ‘an incident’ that arose during his time in Carriglea before he was sent to Artane. No details are provided as to the exact nature of this incident. It also appears that he was transferred to Carriglea from a training college under suspicious circumstances. Again, no details are given of his time in this college, where he was stationed during the 1930s, or what warranted his removal. The minutes of the meeting of the General Council, where the details of this Brother’s trial in the Artane case are recorded, stated that he:

… was also reminded of the causes of his removal from [the training college] and Carriglea – a Canonical Warning had been given him re Carriglea incident.

7.361Br Julien,62 the third Brother who was found guilty of sexually abusing boys, was a non-teaching Brother who had served two terms in Artane and had spent seven years in Salthill in the 1930s. His personal card stated: ‘Clear evidence came to light of serious, long-continued misconduct with boys in Artane’.

7.362Br Julien applied for dispensation from his vows, which was granted and he left the Congregation. The documents did not give any details of the nature of the abuse that this Brother had engaged in with the boys, and there were no documents concerning how the allegations came to light or what investigation was carried out.

7.363Br Edgard,63 the fourth Brother who was dismissed from Artane in 1944, was a teaching Brother who was not yet a fully professed member of the Congregation. In this case, the statements of six boys who complained of sexual abuse by the Brother were furnished in discovery. The boys ranged in age from 11 to 14 years. The case of this Brother was the only one that provided any information as to the nature of the sexual abuse that was alleged. The allegations were of fondling of their private parts, tickling their bodies, and embracing them. The incidents occurred in the classroom, in the Brother’s own room and in the boys’ dormitory. Br Edgard was transferred to a Dublin day school and was shortly thereafter refused permission to take final vows and left the Congregation. The Department of Education service history recorded the Dublin day school as his last teaching post.

7.364The Visitation Report dated 30th October 1944 referred to the dismissal of these Brothers who were ‘accused of irregularities’. No direct reference was made to the fact that they had sexually abused boys in the School, it merely referred to ‘irregularities’ being ‘discovered some weeks ago in the Institution’. The Visitor who wrote this report took the view that ‘there was nothing to be alarmed at’ and went on to state that:

In our Institutions it should be considered a very grave offence for a Br. to take a boy to his room on any pretext, or to be seen alone with a boy on any occasion.

7.365He went on to state that this rule was breached in Artane:

Unfortunately the Rule forbidding such was not observed in Artane. Boys were also taken out of the shops and off the parade by Brothers for various reasons. These have now been prohibited.

7.366The Visitation Report, having acknowledged inappropriate conduct on the part of four Brothers, made a number of recommendations to prevent such events in the future. These recommendations provide some clue as to circumstances of the discovery of the abuse. One recommendation made by the Visitor was that:

Brothers should not prevent or discourage boys to come to the Superior even with complaints. Boys should have free access to the Superior at all times. If that were the practice the disturbing conduct experienced lately would have been avoided.

7.367Another recommendation was:

No Brother – young or old – is to allow a boy to enter his bedroom, nor is any Brother allowed to take a boy from the school, shops, or parade. No Brother is to be alone with a boy anywhere. Any Br. who sees this Rule violated is to report it immediately to the Br. Superior.

7.368It was also recommended that glass panels should be inserted in the doors of locked rooms near the kitchen and store-rooms, and that the ‘Superior should have access to all rooms and stores in the Institution at all reasonable times and keys should be provided to enable him to have such access’. A subsequent Visitor considered this unnecessary and the glass panels were not inserted.

7.369A letter written to the Superior General by the Visitor in October 1944 stated:

I have spent a week in the above Institution, and have come to the conclusion that there is very fine work being done here. The boys are very open and intelligent and now that the rotten bricks have been removed the structure will be more than safe for the future.

The Brothers who were outside the circle were quite unaware of what was going on and knew nothing about it until all was over. Thank God the disease was discovered in time, and that such a drastic remedy was applied. I don’t think there will be any more “Dry rot” for many a long year.

7.370One ex-staff member, Br Saber,64 spoke of the importance of the boys’ sodality introduced by the Resident Manager which met once a week:

During my ten years there, there was no case against – of sexual abuse brought against a Brother. I would say due to, I suppose, the group that were there and due to the sodality and that the boss was conscious of it and that he would keep an eye out for it and ask the lads. He was an active man, he would come there, he would walk the dormitories at night, he would be around. He had his ear to the ground. Br Dennet was the same. There were Brothers there who knew more about institutes than I did, the younger Brothers. All we thought of was keeping them occupied, taking them out to games, taking them to circuses, you know.

7.371The sodality gave an opportunity for boys to talk informally to the Resident Manager and this led to the discovery of sexual abuse.

7.372Some years later, in a letter dated 19th November 1958 to the Superior following a Visitation, the author strongly recommended the establishment of a sodality or the introduction of the Legion of Mary for the boys:

I understand there was a sodality in the past but that it was abused in some way. Therefore in introducing such a sodality again it would have to be done with discretion and I think it would be better for a member of the staff to introduce and look after it rather than the Superior.

7.373It is possible that the level of sexual abuse in Artane in 1944 was an aberration, but it is also possible that discontinuing the informal contact between the Superior and the boys resulted in such behaviour going undetected in subsequent years.

Br Lancelin65

7.374Br Lancelin came under suspicion of sexual involvement with boys while he was in Artane in 1944 and was transferred to Carriglea. His personal card stated:

Suspicion had been aroused by a tendency to particular friendship with a boy in Artane.

7.375In Carriglea, sexual abuse was disclosed and several boys furnished written statements accusing Br Lancelin of ‘immoral conduct’. (These allegations are dealt with in more detail in the Carriglea chapter.) The complaints were investigated by the Brother Provincial, who referred the matter to the General Council. When the case came to trial before the General Council, Br Lancelin admitted to the offences and pleaded guilty. The personal card made reference to one of the offences committed saying, ‘One offence occurred on Xmas. day 1944, though he made vows on Xmas. morning’.

7.376The General Council voted unanimously to dismiss him from the Congregation in 1945. Again, this Brother was not a finally professed member but rather a temporarily professed Brother and so dispensation from vows was not an issue.

7.377Br Laurent said that he recalled Br Lancelin leaving Artane, but he did not know the reason for his transfer and had not heard his name mentioned in connection with child abuse. The Department of Education records indicated that Carriglea was this Brother’s last teaching post.

Br Gaillard66

7.378In the early 1950s, a complaint of sexual abuse was made against Br Gaillard, who was then teaching in a north Dublin primary school. This Brother had taught in Artane in the mid-1940s. There is no documentary evidence of complaints against this Brother in Artane, although he did apply for a transfer from there due to ‘conscientious reasons’.

7.379The complaint was made by the father of a boy who reported to the Superior that this Brother was abusing his son and up to 12 other boys in the primary school. The abuse took place in the Brother’s private room, where he sat the boys on his lap and fondled their private parts. Br Gaillard received a Canonical Warning and was transferred to another Christian Brothers’ primary school, where he remained for three years. In the mid-1950s, he wrote to the Superior General, voluntarily seeking a dispensation from his vows on the basis that he was unable to prevent himself from interfering with boys. In this letter he wrote:

I received a Canonical Warning for interfering with boys. I cannot overcome it. I have tried it for three years and it is worse I am getting. I just find it impossible to stand in front of a class as a Christian Brother.

7.380Br Gaillard was granted a dispensation a month later, and shortly thereafter took up a teaching post at another school, where he stayed for two and a half years.

7.381In the late 1950s, the Provincial of the Christian Brothers wrote to the manager of another school in the west of Ireland who had sought a reference in respect of Mr Gaillard. The Provincial was frank about his history of sexual abuse. He referred to his ‘interference (morally) with boys’ and felt that he could not write a reference for him. Notwithstanding this setback, Mr Gaillard was still able to continue teaching until his retirement in the mid-1980s. He did two short periods of teaching in rural schools, both of which commenced and ended in the middle of school terms, which is unusual and which might imply removal for misconduct. Br Laurent, who was on the staff of Artane at the time, told the Investigation Committee that he knew Br Gaillard, but had never heard of him having any involvement with abuse in Artane.

7.382In conclusion:

  • Br Gaillard was transferred within the Congregation, notwithstanding a history of abuse.
  • His letter seeking dispensation could not be clearer in underlining the danger he posed to children.
  • By being granted a dispensation from vows, he left the Congregation apparently in good standing.
  • He was able to move into a teaching job immediately on leaving the Congregation.
  • The Provincial, when asked directly for a reference, was not afraid to identify him as a danger to children, but there is no evidence that he took steps to notify other schools or the Department of Education.
  • Despite the employment pattern of this man prior to 1960, there are no known complaints about his later career.

Br Fremont67

7.383Br Fremont taught in Artane in the early 1950s, and was later found to have sexually abused boys in a Christian Brothers’ school in the Midlands. In the late 1950s, the mother of a boy in the School made a complaint about Br Fremont to the Superior of the School. From a report written by the Superior to the Provincial Council, it appears that Br Fremont got boys to expose their private parts and he also exposed himself to them. The Superior questioned him about these incidents, and he admitted that they were true.

7.384The Superior referred the matter to the Provincial Council of St Mary’s Province. A member of the Provincial Council then interviewed Br Fremont. In the course of this interview, the Brother, when questioned about whether he had abused boys in Artane, admitted that he had once interfered with a boy in Artane, and that in another school where he had been teaching there had also been an incident. He further admitted that the sexual abuse in the Midlands school had taken place. This case was considered so bad that the unanimous decision of the Council was to dismiss him, but he was given the option of voluntarily seeking a dispensation from his vows, which he exercised. The dispensation was accordingly granted.

7.385The Department of Education records indicate that he ceased teaching within the State system at that time.

Br Ricard68

7.386Br Ricard, who taught in Artane in the mid-1950s, sexually abused boys in a Christian Brothers’ school in Waterford in the late 1950s. There is no documentary evidence of complaints about him during his time in Artane. His earlier abuse came to light when one of the boys abused in Waterford became a pupil at a private secondary school run by another Religious Community. Br Ricard wrote a ‘sordid and immoral letter’ to the boy which was intercepted by the Superior of the College, who informed a member of the Christian Brothers Provincial Council. The Brother’s personal card states that he ‘admitted accusations of having interfered immodestly with at least one 12 year old pupil’.

7.387A meeting of the General Council was held, at which he admitted the charges. Both the Provincial and General Councils at the time considered his case to be the worst of its kind that they had ever come across and voted unanimously for his immediate dismissal. Nevertheless, he was given leave to apply for a dispensation from his vows, which he did. His departure was immediate and was obviously considered very serious, as he was put on a boat and sent to England.

7.388A letter sent the following day to the Brother Procurator General, regarding the dispensation from perpetual vows of Br Ricard, reveals the anxiety felt by the Brothers about this case:

This is one of the worst cases we have had in my experience. It is so bad that we have voted unanimously in both Provincial and General Councils that he be granted a dispensation …

7.389The letter discloses how the abuse was detected:

For a whole year he had been “interfering” in a homosexual way with two or three very respectable pupils at [a private secondary college]. One of these came to [a college run by another Order] last August and it was through a letter censored by the [Superiors at that college] that the whole matter came to light. The Brother admitted everything the boy … had stated.

7.390The letter goes on to say:

We fear that the evil ways into which he had fallen may be of some years duration. He leaves immediately for England (on leave of absence). Were he to remain in Ireland and were the parents of the boys to get to know of his behaviour at [the Christian Brothers College] there would be a great danger of a public prosecution.

The case is, as I have stated, one of the worst we have had. Do everything you can to secure an immediate Dispensation and forward same as expeditiously as you can.

7.391Br Ricard sought a reference, but was not provided with one as it was felt that ‘there is no knowing what use he might make of it’. According to a letter written by the Provincial Assistant to the Superior General, he was informed that he could not continue teaching and would not be given a reference. However, it appears from records furnished by the Department of Education and Science that the ex-Brother came back to Ireland less than a year later and took up a senior position in a school in Co Kildare and remained there for some years. He was then appointed an assistant teacher at a school in Dublin where he worked for a few years, before moving to a Dublin secondary school where he worked until the late 1980s.


  • The Congregation facilitated this man’s immediate departure for England so as to avoid a ‘great danger of a public prosecution’.
  • The Brothers did not inform the parents about the abuse of the boy who had been abused.
  • It is clear, by inference from the correspondence, that the boy’s College authorities behaved similarly towards the parents of their pupil.
  • The man was able to return to Ireland and obtain a senior teaching position after a year’s absence.
  • The Congregation put self-interest in avoiding adverse publicity before their duty to the boys in their care and to their parents.

Br Karel

7.393Br Karel, who was removed from Artane following allegations of sexual abuse in the 1960s, spoke about the allegations, which he denied in full, and the events leading to his leaving Artane. Br Karel said that, in the early 1960s, he was approached by the Manager of the School, who told him that two boys had signed a joint statement in which they alleged that ‘I put my hand under the bedclothes and touched them in the genital area’. A third boy also made a similar allegation but he did not sign the joint statement. The boys made these written allegations after speaking with the chaplain, Fr Henry Moore. Fr Moore recalled speaking to the Superior in Artane, Br Ourson, about an allegation of sexual abuse that had been reported to him by a pupil. He could not recall the name of the Brother in question, but he could confirm that the Brother was removed shortly after the complaint had been communicated.

7.394The Resident Manager informed Br Karel of the allegations and that the Provincial Superior would have to be informed. Within days, he was summoned to the Provincial’s office in Marino, where he was asked about the allegations:

I explained as best I could that I didn’t do it, that there was a mistake somewhere, what could I do, what else could I say? I didn’t do it and that was as honest as I could be in saying that.

7.395Br Karel was not shown the written statement signed by the boys, neither was he given an opportunity to question the boys himself. He was asked if the allegations were true, and he denied them. As far as he was aware, no further investigation of the matter took place. He returned to his normal duties in Artane for a year, before being transferred to a day school outside of Dublin. Some ten years after leaving Artane, he was transferred to Letterfrack, where he worked for less than two years.

7.396When this Brother applied for a dispensation from his vows many years after these allegations, a report was prepared by a senior Christian Brother, which stated:

While Br Karel was in Artane an accusation was made against him that he had interfered sexually with some of the boys. The Provincialate files are incomplete on this and contain simply a joint statement of three boys. However, the Provincial at the time … on the basis of the case as presented, transferred Br Karel out of Artane … There is no record of any similar accusation against him in succeeding years.

7.397Whether Br Karel was transferred soon after the complaints or at a later stage remains unclear, but the question of his guilt or innocence was not resolved. The Provincial was satisfied to let the matter rest and to use Br Karel’s desire for a transfer as part of the reason for moving him. The authorities appear to have thought that the allegations were true but they did not investigate the matter. The result was that there were two possible situations: either the School had a child abuser on the staff, or three pupils had made serious, untrue charges against the Brother.

7.398Br Karel maintained that his transfer from Artane was made almost a year after these allegations were made, and a Visitation Report would appear to bear that out. He said that he had already requested a transfer within a year of being sent to Artane, and that the Provincial had also suggested that it would be ‘the wisest thing’ in light of the allegations. In any event, he was not transferred immediately after the allegations were made.

7.399The Brother received no advice or warning following his interview with the Provincial and, indeed, when he applied for dispensation from his vows some 20 years later, he was asked to undergo counselling with a view to saving his vocation.

7.400Br Davet, who spoke to the Committee, recalled Br Karel’s departure from Artane as being unusual because it occurred in the middle of the school year. He said that he had no idea why he left and had heard nothing about a complaint signed by three boys. He also said that he knew nothing about any inquiry carried out by the Superior or the Provincial.

7.401Leaving the situation unresolved was expedient, but it was unfair and unsatisfactory for the Brother and potentially dangerous for the boys.

Br Lamar69

7.402Br Lamar, who had taught in Artane in the early 1960s, applied for dispensation from vows in the early 1970s, stating that he was unable to keep his vow of chastity and that his record in relation to chastity had not been good. A document relating to the application, signed by the Provincial, stated: ‘He is known to have interfered with boys in his class’. It does not specifically state what class or what school this was in. Although there is no document indicating that he abused boys in Artane, at the time of his departure from Artane the Provincial wrote to the Superior General and referred to Br Lamar as someone ‘who did not turn out too well in Artane’.

7.403Witnesses recalled the sudden departure of Br Lamar, one of whom, Br Davet, said:

All I remember was that at prayers one morning he just got up and stormed out, and that was it. I thought he had some sort of a nervous breakdown or something …

7.404Br Davet said that he did not ask any questions about this departure, believing that the man was not well.

Br Adrien70

7.405Br Adrien, who worked in Artane in the early 1960s, was removed as a result of a complaint that was made to the chaplain, Fr Henry Moore, and passed on by him to the Superior and to the Provincial.

7.406Prior to serving in Artane, Br Adrien had served in Letterfrack, and was acknowledged as being a danger to boys there. The Resident Manager of Letterfrack wrote of this Brother in 1959:

I hope you will forgive my candour in saying that I would prefer to have no one at all for the boys’ kitchen than to have the constant strain of watching and worrying about him.

It is impossible to keep one’s eye on him. Every time he gets my back turned he is in the kitchen and goodness knows, there are enough difficulties and worries to contend with, without having to think of him every minute and hour of the day.

The position regarding the Monastery kitchen is regrettable but unfortunately he has not got proper control in the boys’ department either. In my opinion he is not suitable at all to handle young boys and it is positively dangerous, especially in these times, to have him looking after them. A weakness in discipline in this important department will have a very detrimental effect on the boys’ behaviour and will add to everyone’s difficulties and will seriously affect the tone of the school.

Taking the above considerations into account and also your own personal knowledge of Br Adrien I ask you seriously to reflect on the harmful effect his staying here is bound to have, and I entreat you to permit the transfer to go through as originally arranged.

7.407The Superior’s request was granted, but it was scarcely a satisfactory solution to move Br Adrien to St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra. He remained there for two years until he went to Artane and, despite the concerns expressed in the above letter, he was put in charge of the boys’ kitchen.

7.408Some two years later, a letter to the Resident Manager following a Visitation referred to Br Adrien as follows:

I am sorry about Br Adrien and I only hope that we will hear no more about such cases. Rather there will be no such case to hear about.

7.409No further information was provided, and it is unclear what type of ‘case’ was being referred to. The Visitation Report does not give any clearer indication as to what was being alluded to in respect of this Brother and, in fact, the Visitor commended him on his excellent cooking and his improvement of the food for the boys.

7.410The Committee heard evidence from one complainant who made allegations of sexual abuse against Br Adrien. His evidence was unusual in that it was corroborated by the chaplain, Fr Moore. The complainant in this case was 11 or 12 when he went to work in the refectory of Artane. Within a short while, a grooming process was commenced by Br Adrien:

[He] used to take me into his confidence and give me sweets and an apple or an orange or whatever. He used to show me a bit of affection. Obviously, not getting any affection that I used to have from my grandmother, it was lovely to have. I used to look forward to the treats that I used to get—and after a period of time, slowly but surely—not realising what was happening, I was being given sweets and all of a sudden my hand was taken and it was placed on – what we called at the time, we committed badness, but my hand was taken and put on his penis. Being an innocent child, I didn’t realise what was happening, or whatever. I was being shown what to do with my hand and this, that and the other and I was being given sweets.

7.411This went on for a period of time and became more frequent. Br Adrien would often make a point of beating him in the refectory in front of all the boys if he committed any slight infraction: ‘I was being shown who was in charge here, “you do what I tell you to do”’.

7.412Br Adrien had an office at the back of the refectory and, when the complainant was brought there, the same pattern of behaviour continued. The door was locked and he was made to masturbate the Brother in return for sweets and treats. He also alleged that, on one occasion, Br Adrien anally raped him. The second time he tried to do this, the boy resisted by kicking out. In return, he was badly beaten and had no escape from the locked room.

7.413The complainant went to Confession on a Friday in the mid-1960s and told the chaplain, Fr Moore, what had been happening with Br Adrien. He was shocked and asked the boy to repeat what he said outside of the confessional. The boy did so and then the priest reported the matter to the Superior, Br Ourson.

7.414The following Monday, Br Ourson and a large number of the teaching Brothers came out to the pre-school assembly in the yard, and the complainant was summoned to Br Ourson’s office. There, he was asked to repeat exactly what he had told the chaplain. When asked what Br Ourson’s reaction was, he said, ‘I can’t say what his reaction was. All I know is that within 24 hours Br Adrien was gone out of Artane’.

7.415The matter did not rest there. According to the witness, he was taken out of class the next day and was questioned about boys he had been ‘committing badness with’. He was beaten in the course of this questioning until he named boys. Those boys were in turn taken out of class and beaten until they gave names. He was taken out again over two or three days, and was beaten because of being named by other boys:

It was just one vicious circle that kept going on for two – for three days. I had been taken out because other boys started giving my name back again. It was even said to me, but who said it I don’t know, “you should have kept your mouth shut and none of this would have happened”.

7.416He went on to say that for three days he was systematically beaten:

both outside classroom, in the dormitory, anywhere where I went within those environments. I was taken to a music room just off the corridor to the right of where the classes are and I had been beaten so much that I went to the toilet in a bin and another boy seen me and told a Brother that I had done that and I was taken back out and flogged again because I had done that. We weren’t allowed to go to the toilet, we were being punished for something that I had started.

7.417He said that six Brothers punished him during that period:

I was beaten by so many of them at that particular time I can’t say if all done it because I was systematically just taken out and being accused of this and accused of that and there was no let up whatsoever … it was like it was a punishment over me going and reporting.

7.418He recalled being badly bruised and swollen after these events but said that nobody intervened on his behalf:

Brothers didn’t go against Brothers, they all stuck together. I think the whole school knew that I had reported Br Adrien, the whole lot of the Christian Brothers and everything, so there was no sympathy shown for anything that I may have done on my behalf.

7.419From that time on, life for the complainant settled down in Artane, and he was not subjected to any further sexual or physical abuse.

7.420Fr Henry Moore confirmed what this witness said about making the complaint to Br Ourson. He knew he had been an altar boy, and what was being alleged when the boy spoke of ‘badness’. He recalled the boy was very upset and nervous when telling him.

7.421Fr Moore suggested that he should tell the Superior, but the boy’s first reaction to that suggestion was that he was too afraid. It would be taken that he was ‘squealing’, as he put it, on Br Adrien. The boy was relieved when Fr Moore said he would speak with Br Ourson. Fr Moore also reported the allegation to the Provincial Superior in Marino, Br Mulholland, to reinforce his concern about the matter. Fr Moore recalled Br Adrien being removed within a matter of days.

7.422Complainants testified that a campaign of physical punishment directed against sexual activity between boys followed Br Adrien’s removal, but this was denied by the Congregation. Fr Moore remembered complaints being made to him by boys about the activities of a Brother who was going from class to class inquiring in a frightening manner about sexual activity among the boys, although he could not recall if this coincided with the Br Adrien incident:

But I do remember a group, some two, three or four, coming to me and being almost in a state of panic about this. I asked them about what was troubling them and they told me that there was something going on in the school, in the school rooms. Br Videl was going from class to class and calling out boys and inquiring about their sexual activity and getting – and then beating them in the corridor outside of class and getting them to inform on other boys and beating them. This was continuing all throughout a day, a particular day. They were very, very fearful of this. As I say, it seemed to me in a state of panic.

So I decided then that I would have to confront Br Videl myself and relate to him what the boys had said and how distressed they were. He told me that there was a problem of pretty widespread sexual activity among the boys.

7.423Another complainant spoke of a sudden increase at this time in the Brothers’ interest in detecting sexual abuse in the Institution. This Complainant spoke of a particular campaign against sexual behaviour between boys when Brothers used to check on boys in toilet cubicles. He said that the school was assembled and the Brother in charge spoke to the boys and told them of the high number of boys found misbehaving in this way, and told the boys that it had to stop. He himself was never caught by the Brothers, and he said he was not aware what happened to the boys who were detected, although he could recall them being brought into a classroom.

7.424A number of respondent witnesses who were in Artane during this time stated that they recalled Br Adrien being in the kitchen, but they had no recollection of him leaving. Fr Moore said that such an assertion would surprise him very much indeed, as he had certainly noticed his departure and had discussed it with at least one Brother.

7.425The statement in response to the allegation about Br Adrien filed by the Congregation was signed by a Brother who was in Artane for a period which overlapped for one year with the complainant’s stay. The Brother stated that, for the purpose of making his statement, he relied on his own knowledge and personal experience of Artane Industrial School. The statement addressed the issue of sexual abuse in Artane generally, in the same way as all statements signed by representatives of the Congregation.

7.426The statement went on to deal with the specific allegations made by this complainant. It said, in relation to the particular campaign of physical abuse following Br Adrien’s departure, that ‘Whilst there was corporal punishment in Artane at that time, I do not believe that it amounted to the type of violent behaviour that is alleged by the complainant’. In support of this contention, the Congregation quoted the Visitation Report filed by the Congregation after a 1962 visit to the Institution. The Visitor stated:

The discipline generally is good and the Superior as well as the Brothers in general are pleased with it. It is not harsh or severe by any means, but effective nevertheless.

7.427The statement then dealt with the particular allegation that the complainant was taken out of his bed by a number of Brothers and beaten over a number of days as a result of having made the complaint to Fr Moore. It stated:

I can state that I never saw boys being beaten in the manner alleged. I myself never witnessed such beatings, nor did I ever hear allegations of beating of this wide-ranging nature while I was in Artane. The only punishment authorised was with a leather strap and this could only be administered on the hand. I find it difficult to accept that such a large number of brothers would gang up in the manner alleged and cause such disturbance in the school without being detected. The Brothers who are still alive may make their own response to these allegations. Each of these allegations against each of these respondents is not admitted by the Congregation.

7.428It was not alleged by the complainant that this wide-ranging punishment took place during this Brother’s time in Artane. The complainant specified the year in which this event took place, and this was after the departure of this Brother from Artane. There are Christian Brothers in the Congregation who were in Artane during that time and who would have been in a position to speak with more authority on this matter, but they were not selected to make the statement on behalf of the Christian Brothers in this case.

7.429In relation to the allegations of sexual abuse by Br Adrien, the Christian Brothers stated: ‘[Br Adrien] will make his own response to these allegations. They are not admitted by the Congregation. The Congregation denies that sexual abuse was tolerated, accepted or prevalent in Artane’.

7.430Br Adrien was removed from Artane and sent to a day school in Dublin. In the late 1960s, he was returned to Letterfrack for a number of months, following which he went to a Dublin school for 10 years. He later spent 10 years on missionary work. There is no reference in his personal card to his ever receiving any sanction or warning in relation to his abuse.

7.431Sexual abuse by Brothers was a serious issue in Artane, but many Brothers said that they had absolutely no awareness of this problem and no knowledge of any Brother leaving under a cloud.


  • This Brother in the 1960s was in a position to perpetrate serious and repeated sexual abuse of a boy over an 18-month period.
  • The boy was, by his own evidence and by the evidence of Fr Moore, too afraid to report it himself to the Superior, which contradicts the Congregation’s assertion that there was no difficulty about boys who were sexually abused going to the authorities in Artane with complaints.
  • Br Adrien was removed from Letterfrack, where it was ‘positively dangerous’ to have him looking after boys. The implication is clear that he sexually abused boys there.
  • Transferring him to a residential school for deaf boys knowingly endangered a large new group of children.
  • His behaviour in Artane could not have come as a surprise to the authorities.
  • This case demonstrates indifference by the Congregation to the protection of children from a sexual predator. It is evidence of a policy of avoiding the disclosure of abuse rather than dealing with it.
How about these pedophiles get one of these Pope’s Pears shoved up their asses and see if they like it?

Other cases

Br Dennis71

7.433Br Dennis served in Artane in the late 1960s. He was questioned by the Gardaí in the early 1990s in relation to allegations of interfering with boys, in a school in the north-east of the country, on two occasions between the late 1980s and early 1990s. He denied the allegations at the time, but when questioned about them again almost 10 years later he admitted to a limited level of sexual abuse involving these boys. He also admitted to getting sexual gratification from young boys. Br Dennis told the Gardaí that in the mid-1990s his Superiors sent him to the Granada Institute, a centre for the treatment of sex offenders in Shankhill County Dublin which was operated by the St John of God Order.

7.434Br Dennis also admitted the allegations which had been made by former residents of Artane, insofar as they described inappropriate external touching and fondling. Although these individuals alleged masturbation and anal rape, he did not admit to those more serious charges:

… I wish to say that I accept some of the allegations as being true, insofar as they describe inappropriate external touching and fondling. I deny however any of the allegations that refer to masturbation and buggery.

7.435Only one man who had made a statement to the Gardaí about Br Dennis gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. He alleged that Br Dennis told him to clean his room and, while he was doing so, the Brother took out his penis and then ‘he brought my head down onto his penis which was erect and he rubbed it against my lips’. On another occasion when he was sent to clean the room, Br Dennis ‘started fondling me and played with my penis. He pressed himself against me and ejaculated’. The witness described a third incident that he said took place, in a derelict area near the playing fields, at holiday time when most of the boys had gone home for holidays. He said that this time the Brother had his penis out and attempted penetration, but gave up when the boy screamed with pain.

7.436Br Dennis attended an oral hearing of the Investigation Committee. He admitted to a limited degree of sexual activity with nine- to 12-year-old boys in Artane. He was asked how he began to abuse. He said:

I don’t know how it came about really. At the time I probably deluded myself into thinking that I was being kind to them and using it as a way of encouraging them and making them – I mean, I don’t subscribe to it now, but that’s how I was able to justify it to myself at the time.

7.437Br Dennis had no recollection of the first time he had abused, but was able to confirm that it had occurred in the classroom:

If somebody was having difficulty with a particular problem, mathematics perhaps, I might bring him up and put my arm around his waist or something, and kind of draw him towards me.

7.438He conceded that he had no idea how many boys were involved. He said that the activity had commenced within six months of his arriving in Artane and continued until he had left two years later. He said that it continued ‘fairly regular’ for an 18-month period.

7.439He said he only stopped sexually abusing some 20 years later, when he was detected.

7.440Br Dennis said the urge to interfere with boys had not been present before his appointment to Artane, but had started during his teaching time there:

I was convincing myself that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, that I was kind of giving encouragement or making up for some lack in their lives. I mean I was deluding myself really. But that’s the way I looked on it at the time. I was justifying it for myself in that way.

7.441He said that, although he engaged in this behaviour at the top of the classroom of some 22 to 23 boys, he did not think that they would have been aware of what was going on. Indeed, he said that he believed the boy himself would not have been aware of what was happening. He said that it was totally secret and that he did not discuss it with anyone and that ‘Probably deep down I probably did know it was wrong, yes’.

7.442He admitted that there would have been a selection process:

There would have been. But I am not sure in what way; whether it was the ones that were weaker at a particular subject or something. That’s the way I justified it, that I was giving them encouragement and explaining how to do something. But again, I can’t really say … Well, in order to justify it I had to feel that I was doing him a service in some way, it kind of made it right for me at the time.

7.443Br Dennis was never challenged or confronted about his behaviour in Artane, and he went on to abuse in the next school he was posted to. There, a boy complained to the authorities in the mid-1980s that he had touched him inappropriately. Br Dennis stated:

[The boy] had a pain in his stomach on a particular day and I massaged his stomach. He claims, and he could well be right, that while I was massaging his stomach my elbow was touching his penis at the same time … I was investigated by the Garda … I was fairly sure at the time that I had done nothing inappropriate, but it was investigated by a Garda … I was told that I had no case to answer … For that reason I continued on in the school.

7.444He continued teaching after that investigation until the early 1990s, when a former pupil of Artane made an allegation about sexual abuse. Br Dennis said that he had stopped his misbehaviour after the previous investigation and had not interfered with any boys in his latest teaching post. However, he was removed once the Artane allegation came to the attention of the authorities in the Congregation:

Once our headquarters got to hear of that they said that once, it could have been all right once perhaps, the first allegation, but when a second allegation came they decided that they would have to take action. So I was taken out of teaching at that stage.

7.445Br Dennis confirmed to the Committee that he had continued his activities, in the same pattern which did not change, from his first posting to Artane in the late 1960s until he was reported some 20 years later. Speaking about the investigation that occurred following the 1980s allegation, he said:

The parents of the boy came and accused me of behaving badly with the son and that he was going to go further with it. So the next thing a Garda came up to the school and our own headquarters had been notified at that stage and I … was summoned to headquarters anyway. I was asked various questions. At the time I denied everything to them because I had more or less convinced myself that these things hadn’t happened … Yeah, but the fact that the Garda could find no substance either, that was the main reason why I was left[in the school] at that time.

7.446Br Dennis continued teaching in the School for a further five years, after which he was transferred as teaching Principal to another Christian Brothers’ school in the west of Ireland. After about six months there, he received a phone call from an individual who claimed to have been abused by him and demanded money. The Brother met this individual and another man, and gave them some £800. However, the allegation was brought to the attention of the Superior by the individual or someone on his behalf:

The Brother Superior at the time, he rang headquarters and I was summoned to headquarters the following day and when I went there they said that … the fact that it was a second time they said that it called for more serious action. I was asked to take sick leave because, I mean I was very traumatised at the time anyway. So I went back and met the Board of Management, this is some time later now. I went off on sick leave for a period.

7.447Br Dennis said that the Provincialate did not know at that stage that he had paid money, and they asked him if the allegations were true:

They did and again I more or less denied them. This time they decided, the fact that it was a completely different case, that there was a danger that there was some grounds for the allegations.

7.448Br Dennis’s ‘more or less’ denial obviously rang alarm bells:

A short time after that they advised me to go for professional help, so I went to the St John of God, Granada Institute … I was going there for a period of time and it took quite a while for me to admit, even to myself, that what I had done was wrong. As part of the therapy there I began to come to terms with it more and eventually was able to make a clean statement to them. I spent quite a long time there, in individual treatment and in group therapy … At first I found it very difficult, but with time I began to open up more to the group because I saw that they were able to be open, and I kind of felt that I was lagging behind. So eventually, something happened anyway and there was a kind of breakthrough for me that I was able to admit it. From that period on I seemed to come to terms with the whole situation and to realise – well, I probably realised – I did realise before, the gravity of the situation I suppose, but it really only came home to me because as part of the therapy we were getting reports from people who had been sexually abused and it began to come home to me then the enormity of the thing.

7.449He did not admit his abusive activities all at once:

In dribs and drabs at the start. I think it was actually the Artane investigation that – I was called to Clontarf, I think that was the deciding factor that really opened me up to the whole – I was able to – I got great support from the group at that time and I decided that I had to put all my faith in the group. Before that I was very hesitant, because I am by nature shy and not having much confidence in myself, but when I saw how much support I was getting from them it made me open up completely to the group and to the therapists.

7.450It was a long process:

Well, I still spent a lot of time in Granada to fully come to terms with it. Some of the group there, they would suggest that they felt that they were ready for the world again but I was very slow to suggest that, I kind of waited until I was told by the therapists in Granada that as far as they were concerned I was in a position to leave therapy, but that I should have no contact with, no direct contact with children, as far as was possible.

7.451Br Dennis said that, prior to his actions in Artane, he had not felt drawn to young boys. While he eventually admitted he had acted for sexual gratification, he had begun by deceiving himself that he was comforting the boy. He said that he found it very difficult to pinpoint any one thing that started it for him:

Well, I suppose, I was under pressure. Under pressure, having very little free time, I suppose, in Artane … I was young and I didn’t seem to feel that pressure, but it probably was there in spite of me, I don’t know.

7.452He went on to say that he was sexually naïve and shy, and he tended to select boys who were weaker and needed more help: ‘Maybe I was looking for a shy boy trying to give them confidence. That might be my justification, I couldn’t really say’.

7.453Part of his therapy in the Granada Institute was to accept responsibility for what he had done, which also involved telling his Superiors the whole story:

I told them eventually, yes, but it took some time for that to happen as well … Well, they were invited to – they would have meetings over in Granada with the therapists and the Leadership Team and myself. The first session yielded nothing at all, but after about four months I suppose, I gradually began to open up to the Leadership Team, as well as to the group members.

7.454Br Dennis said that he had lied, when he was first accused, out of fear: ‘I don’t know what kind of fear it was, but it was out of some kind of fear and a sense of shame; that I didn’t want to reveal that I was a failure or something like that’.

7.455He said that, in the Granada Institute, he had also come to an awareness of the impact of the abuse on the boys:

Probably the effects that it had on them in later life, where it could have led to marriage break-up and to suicidal tendencies. That their whole life really was all messed up … It was traumatic for me, but even though I didn’t look on it in that way, at that time I was thinking more of the victims at that particular time. But it was very traumatic for me as well. I found it very hard. There was one – I was advised to have at least one Brother that I could talk to, so I chose a Brother that I could talk to about all my misgivings and upset, and I found that that was a help to me all right, that that helped me greatly.

7.456The Christian Brothers’ statement responding to the complainant who made allegations to the Investigation Committee stated that the allegations were not in keeping with the character of the Brother. The complainant’s allegations were expressly not admitted. The statement did not say that Br Dennis had been sent to the Granada Institute by the Congregational Superiors in the mid-1990s in respect of his activities in Artane.

7.457Br Dennis filed two separate statements of response to the complainant’s allegations. The first was a long statement that dealt in detail with the complainant’s allegations, which were denied in full. It commenced by stating that he did not remember him or the incidents that were alleged to have occurred and ‘that the Complainant is both inaccurate and mistaken in much of his recollection’. It did not make any admission and, in the final paragraph, he said ‘I deny any allegations of abuse made against me contained in [the complainant’s] statement which is not directly or indirectly denied or referred to in this response statement’. He did not refer to the admissions that were made to the Gardaí, or to the fact that he had been sent by the Superiors of the Congregation to the Granada Institute in the mid-1990s in respect of his activity in Artane.

7.458His second statement to the Commission was dated a few weeks after the first statement and was the standard denial of abuse, with a legalistic paragraph which stated that he was required to prove a negative in respect of events alleged to have occurred on unspecified dates over 30 years ago.

7.459The significance of the approach taken by the Congregation and by Br Dennis is twofold:

  • The Congregational response in this instance did not tell the whole story. It was seriously misleading because it did not reflect the Congregation’s actual knowledge of Br Dennis: the Superiors in the Congregation sent him to the Granada Institute in 1996 because of allegations from Artane. It is inconceivable that they did not also know about the previous allegations. In the course of his treatment in Granada, Br Dennis had meetings with the leadership team of the Christian Brothers and his therapists, at which he eventually opened up about his abuse. None of this is reflected in the Congregational response in which they attested to his good character.
  • Br Dennis’s statements of response to the Commission cannot be trusted on face value. They contain assertions that he knew to be untrue and which contradicted the import of his earlier statement to the Gardaí and the Granada Institute.

7.460The complainant confined his allegations of sexual abuse to two Brothers and spoke positively about others.

7.461This complainant’s allegations are, at least in part, confirmed by Br Dennis’s admissions to the Gardaí. The Investigation Committee had the benefit of being able to hear the Brother’s evidence at an oral hearing but, at the time when the complaint was heard, Br Dennis had not yet given evidence and the complainant was subjected to a rigorous cross-examination by the Christian Brothers, without any reference to the information they had. If Br Dennis had not been able to attend and give evidence, valuable information would have been lost to the Inquiry.

Br Etienne72

7.462A complainant resident in Artane during the late 1960s alleged sexual abuse by Br Etienne, which he said took place in the classroom and in the attic. He described an occasion when Br Etienne told him to stay behind in the classroom when the other boys left to go to the yard. The Brother closed the door and locked it. He went on to describe what happened:

An item of furniture, to me it was either a cupboard with books or a piano or some sort of wooden structure was pulled from the wall, Br Etienne started kissing the back of my neck and …

My memories are just, well being put down, lying on my stomach; Br Etienne lying on top of me with my face sideways, kissing my neck, kissing the side of my face. I remember pain in my buttocks area, it was the pain of, like, somebody trying to enter. It ended with hot splashes on my back area, my bottom area. Then I was allowed to join the other boys in the yard.

7.463The witness went on to say that his trousers were pulled down and his shirt lifted during this encounter. He said that Br Etienne was dressed in the usual long cassock and cummerbund and that, during the assault, he had his cassock open and his trousers down. He said that this happened a number of times in the classroom.

7.464The complainant said that the sexual abuse also occurred in the attic of Artane:

I remember being led up a stairs, it seemed to me an isolated stairs but as part of the building, the school area and the dorm area. I remember gas masks around and the attic was to me, enormous, it just seemed to go on forever. I remember a mattress and it was the same routine, but this time on a mattress.

7.465The complainant said that this had occurred on more than one occasion. As to other memories of Br Etienne, he said:

he was kind, I don’t ever remember being hit by him in class or anything like that … He was my teacher. I don’t ever remember being actually physically smacked by him.

7.466The witness remembered Br Etienne making contact with him when he was leaving Artane at nine years of age:

I remember there was ten boys, about ten, could be more could be less, waiting in a waiting room for a minibus that was going to take us to [another Industrial School]. I remember him being sat in the waiting room and I remember him giving me a white prayer book which I took at the time, but eventually found out that on the inside it said ‘always keep our secret’.

7.467When asked if he had any further contact with the Brother he said:

I believe I had a letter from him about a year after or maybe even less, after I was in [Industrial School to which transferred], which asked me how I was getting on. The letter was actually read to me by one of the nuns, asking me how I was getting on, hope the nuns were looking after me and a p.s. again saying, ‘always keep our secret’.

7.468The statement of the Congregation and a statement delivered by Br Etienne to the Investigation Committee denied that the complainant had been abused.

7.469In a letter to Br Gibson dated October 2003, Br Etienne admitted to certain acts of sexual abuse of the complainant but denied that this happened in the classroom or in the attic. The admission by Br Etienne was sent to Br Gibson in the context of the complainant’s application to the Residential Institutions Redress Board. It was forwarded to the Commission by Br Gibson when he received it.

7.470The letter stated:

I can verify that he was sexually abused by me in Artane in the sixties. I also wish to state categorically that he is lying when he describes how he was abused. What he accuses me of never happened either in the classroom or in the attic nor anywhere else in the school. I never had a key to the attic and never attempted to bugger him.

7.471The Brother gave no further information and, although he denied the details of the abuse as outlined by the complainant, he did not give details about the sexual abuse he was admitting to or how it had occurred.

7.472Counsel for the Christian Brothers said that the Congregation did not consider it appropriate to test the credibility of a complainant in circumstances where the fact of abuse had been admitted. The Investigation Committee noted that the Christian Brothers made a statement some months before Br Etienne’s letter, saying:

The Complainant makes allegations of abuse of a sexual nature on a number of occasions against [Br Etienne] … For my own part I find the allegations difficult to accept. In particular where the Complainant alleges that on one occasion the abuse allegedly occurred in a classroom. The classrooms were very public places and I cannot accept that abuse of this nature was conducted in such a location.

7.473This case again raises the issue of the value to the Inquiry of denials by the Congregation in circumstances where it did not make any proper enquiries of the alleged perpetrator. The Congregation’s position was unchanged until the hearing. In the subsequent submission prepared by the Congregation in response to the oral hearings, this case is included in the category of cases not specifically dealt with by the submission:

The Congregation’s decision not to refer specifically to such allegations is not to be taken as an admission on its part that such allegations are true or accurate.

7.474Counsel reiterated that a decision was made by the Congregation to send Brothers accused of criminal offences to their own solicitors to be separately represented, that the Congregation did not question these Brothers in relation to the allegations, and that they did not have access to Br Etienne’s statement as prepared through his own solicitors, when the Congregational statement was being prepared. It was a policy decision to have a dividing line in respect of those Brothers who were subject to the possibility of criminal prosecution.

7.475Counsel for the complainant submitted that the approach taken by the Christian Brothers was unhelpful:

it seems to have been a case where the approach adopted is: “Prove it. We are not going to go and ask the people who were there what it was like and try and put together our picture of it. We will deny everything; you prove it and we will cross-examine everybody on the minutiae of everything”.

7.476In the circumstances that arose in this and the previous case, the Congregation found itself in an embarrassing position when its rejection of allegations was contradicted by admissions of abuse. This arose because of the view that allegations of abuse against individual Brothers impacted adversely on the Congregation’s charism and that it was therefore appropriate to adopt a position on specific factual issues independent of that of the Brother.

7.477A policy of keeping the individual accused Brother at arm’s length, while at the same time filing a statement of denial in respect of allegations against him, was bound to lead to confusion, misunderstanding and embarrassment for the Congregation, particularly as amending statements were not furnished when new information came to light. Furthermore, the complainant was given the impression that the Congregation would challenge his evidence and he was caused unnecessary anxiety in this regard.

Three cases involving laymen

7.478Two complainants gave evidence of sexual abuse by laymen who were not staff members of Artane. The incidents were not disputed by the Congregation and were used in their Phase III Submissions to illustrate the willingness of the Congregation to deal with issues of sexual abuse.

7.479The first incident happened in the 1960s and involved a man who was himself a former resident of Artane. He approached the complainant returning from Croke Park and offered him a cigarette. They were sitting on the grass chatting when the man put his hand up the boy’s shorts. The man said to him: ‘do you want me to tell the Brother you were smoking or are you going to let me play with you?’ The witness said that he was more frightened of the Brothers than this man, so he let him touch him. In the end, he remembers jumping up and running the rest of the way back to the School, crying. When asked why he was crying by the Brother on yard duty, he said that his team had lost the match.

7.480The next Sunday, a Brother told the boy that a visitor wanted to take him out for the day but, when the boy saw that it was the same man, he refused to go. The Brother called him into his office and asked him why he didn’t want to go. The complainant said he broke down and told the Brother everything. ‘Before I was finished the conversation, the police were outside and took the man away’.

7.481In their responding statement, the Christian Brothers refer to this incident briefly:

The Complainant refers to an incident of abuse by a former resident whilst he was returning from a trip to Croke Park … I cannot comment on the allegation of sexual abuse committed by the outsider other than to say that boys were closely supervised at all times to try to ensure that something like this did not happen. It is noteworthy that the Complainant was in a position to complain about the alleged abuse by the former resident and that the authorities in Artane took appropriate action.

7.482At the Phase III hearing, the implications of this case were discussed with reference to the point that this lay person had been handed over to the Gardaí, whereas the same had not occurred with offending Brothers. It emerged then for the first time that there appeared to be some dispute as to the circumstances of the case, in that Br Reynolds, the Christian Brothers’ spokesman, suggested that the case was not reported as an instance of sexual abuse but rather as one of absconding, and that it involved two boys who failed to return from a trip to Croke Park and were seen going into the man’s house. He said that it subsequently emerged that they had been sexually abused. Such an alternative case does not appear to be based on any evidence available to the Committee, and so it is treated as an accepted instance of sexual abuse known to the Artane authorities. In those circumstances, the difference in the handling of this complaint against a layman as compared with offending Brothers is indeed striking.

7.483This point was made even more clearly in the following case, which was raised at an oral hearing of the Investigation Committee. In this second case of abuse by a layman, another complainant described an incident with a man who was a friend of the Brothers, and he took the witness and two other boys on a weekend trip to Northern Ireland. They all slept in the same room, which had four beds. When they were in bed, the boys would not stop giggling and the man ordered the witness to get into his (the man’s) bed. The man ‘started to rub me and put his hand on my genitals. He got me to put my hand on his genitals and I was feeling really scared, I didn’t know what to do’. He did not know whether the other two boys could see what was going on but he presumed they could. He said that he masturbated the man and that he felt disgusted afterwards. The following morning he had a shower and recalled trying to ‘scrub the skin off my body’.

7.484When the complainant got back to Artane, he told his older brother who was also a pupil there what had happened. He thinks that his brother said it to someone else, because he was brought in front of a senior Brother in the School. He recalled two men coming in to the Brother’s office and was told they were Gardaí. He told the full story of the abuse he had experienced to the Gardaí.

7.485When he left the office and was making his way over to the dormitory, he got ‘an awful hiding’. He said that this beating was administered by another Brother who had been present during his interview with the Gardaí. He never saw the man around Artane after that.

7.486In their response, the Congregation confirmed that a lay person who had been accused by some boys of sexual abuse was told to stay away from the School and the matter was reported to the Gardaí. The statement went on to say:

However, this incident does demonstrate that the Congregation took any complaints of sexual abuse very seriously indeed, reported them to the Gardaí and took all necessary steps to prevent the alleged perpetrator from having any contact with the boys in the future.

7.487Two Christian Brothers recalled this incident, one of whom said that it had been his idea to allow the man into the School. He said that the man had offered to help out by driving the boys on outings. He admitted that it was a bad decision on his part to allow this. He believed that the Resident Manager had called in the Gardaí when the allegation was reported to him.

7.488One of the Brothers remembered another incident. He said that two boys came to him to talk it over when the matter was being investigated by the Gardaí. The older boy came to him first, and told him that he was one of the boys who had been abused by the man. He then told him that he himself was abusing the younger boys but that had now stopped. The Brother told the Investigation Committee that this came as a big shock to him, as he had thought him to be a very decent boy. He said that that was the only incident he encountered in Artane of boys abusing other boys. He did not believe the boy was making a complaint as such. He believed that he just wanted to talk to somebody about it. The Brother did not do anything further in the matter and did not think that the boy should be punished.

7.489This Brother recalled a further incident, where he believed a man was behaving inappropriately with the boys. He said that this particular man used to visit the School and talk with the boys. He had the nickname of ‘Dirty Hairy Sixpence’. He would put a sixpence into his trousers pocket and invite the boys to retrieve it, which involved them in inappropriate touching of the man. The Brother said that he had received no complaints about this man during his time in Artane, and that it was only now, because of an allegation in which another Brother was referred to as ‘Sixpence’, that he realised what the man had been doing.

7.490This Brother confirmed that ‘Sixpence’ used to come freely into the School and talk with the boys. When asked whether this was a regular occurrence, he said that ‘Well, he did’. When asked whether it struck him as odd that a man could be allowed to enter the School freely, he said, ‘No, it never crossed my mind it just—no, I didn’t no’.

7.491At the Phase III hearings, Br Reynolds was not able to explain why the Gardaí had been called in the case of a layman, but had not been called in relation to sexual abuse by Brothers. He said that the reluctance to involve the Gardaí was ‘common practice right across society’.

7.492These cases undermine the position adopted by the Congregation in relation to sexual abuse, namely that it was seen as a moral failing rather than criminal behaviour on the part of the Brother and was dealt with as such. No ambiguity existed in the case of lay offenders. To assert, as the Congregation has done, that it was ignorant of the full implications of sexual abuse of children is not consistent with its response to these lay offenders. The Congregation was aware of the criminal nature of this conduct and took swift and effective action, which makes its failure to do so in the case of its own brethren all the more difficult to excuse.

Other complainant evidence

7.493This part deals with evidence of complainant witnesses that has not been cited in the examination of documented and confirmed cases. It includes extra information from witnesses who were cited above and data from witnesses not previously discussed. This material is uncorroborated evidence from credible and reliable witnesses.

7.494Complainants described the different kinds of abuse that they experienced.

7.495One witness recalled how he was warned to avoid certain Brothers when he first went to Artane:

There was always talk amongst the boys who to keep away from. When I went in there first, being naïve you don’t know anybody and you have boys coming to you and telling you “you watch Brother so and so, and watch Brother so and so. Don’t let him come near you or don’t let him get you into a place on your own”, things like that, like. But it only happened to me by one particular Brother, where sexual abuse took place, the rest was physical and mental abuse.

7.496Another witness described how abuse by Br Bruce73 became progressively more severe, culminating in an attempt to commit anal rape. The witness was detained in Artane during the 1940s:

… at first it was just, he used to just take me trousers down and just stand there and make me masturbate him and things like that. But then it got a bit deeper and deeper where he would ask me to do things, which I couldn’t understand at the time. But like, he would ask me to – oral sex and things like that. Then he started bringing me, just, it is only 50 yards down into the shower rooms and in there he would bring me down, usually down the left-hand side into one of the curtain rooms at the bottom there and then on a couple of occasion he actually tried to rape me, but he never did succeed. He used to be very upset himself even afterwards, you know, what he was doing.

7.497A witness from the 1940s described how Br Armande progressed from talking about sex to physical contact and then to masturbation:

He liked to talk dirty … So over a period of time he used to ask me “have you ever popped or ejaculated”’ and things like that. No, “I can’t”. I knew other boys could. I forget how the conversation – but the subject of circumcising came up and he said “probably that’s your problem. I will show you some time”. Over a period of time – he would press into you, he invariably wore a cloak so anybody looking from the sides couldn’t see what was going on.

One incident, as I say, in the theatre, when we used to file in the theatre, at the end of every, maybe, third row was left vacant so that a Brother would sit there presumably to keep an eye on us. I happened to be in this seat and Br Armande – the seat was vacant, so I didn’t know what Brother it was going to be. I think he was either a projectionist or assisting the projectionist. Once the film started he came and sat beside me. I always remember he gave me a sweet and he started touching and petting and one thing and the other. I got to admit I was aroused. He kind of got my hand and done the same, messing.

7.498The same witness described another occasion when sexual activity was aborted because of the arrival of another person in the dormitory:

The other incident with Br Armande was the morning I was expelled from the band … I was expelled from the band and I was told to report to the dormitory. He told me to go over to the far corner of the dormitory where the Brother’s sleeping room was. He said “lie on the bed there and take your trousers down”. He disappeared and went off down to the long hall, I suppose, to check. There I was in the bed waiting for him to come. I got to admit I was quite excited about it because I had never ejaculated and he was going to show me … I was just coming up to 16, 15 and a half. I had heard other boys saying they had. Whatever happened, somebody must have came. The next thing I knew the door was open and he hollered “anybody in here, get out now”. I jumped up, put on my trousers, ran down and joined everybody else at the parade. That was the incident.

7.499This witness described how a sympathetic approach by the Manager led to his divulging information about abuse:

He put a friendly arm around me, drew me close to him and he said, “Tell me, what’s troubling you?” I started to cry and I blurted out all the things that happened to me and why I hated God, I hated my own parents for being weak and dying, I hated religion. “Tell me”.. So I told him about what Olivier had done and I told him about Br Armande . I told him the specific incident, general as well, but mainly what Br Olivier had done to me. I told him about the Br Armande. I would never have had the courage to go and complain to anybody because I would be terrified I would get another hiding, they wouldn’t believe me. On that occasion he was so kind that he got my confidence, he spoke to me like a father. I blurted out and told him everything.

7.500The witness described another experience that was commonly mentioned by former residents of boys’ industrial schools. When boys were in bed, Brothers sometimes went through the dormitories checking to see whether boys had wet their beds. That was the ostensible reason why Brothers put their hands under the bedclothes but there was unease among boys at the time.

7.501A number of complainants spoke of the requirement to sleep with their arms crossed and above the blanket, which was a rule of the Congregation. Some supervising Brothers were more diligent about enforcing this rule than others, but the object was to ensure that boys were not committing ‘badness’ during the night. One Christian Brother confirmed that he enforced the rule of sleeping with arms above the blankets but claimed that he did not know why he was doing so. He stated that he was not aware that it had any purpose of preventing self-abuse by boys.

7.502A complainant described getting a slap on his private parts by the Brother in charge when he was not lying in the correct position.

7.503Another described how Br Gaspard questioned him about where his hands were:

He pulled the covers down slightly and got my hands like that (indicating). That is how they told us to fall asleep in bed. Then he got down on one knee, might have been two knees, and just slid his hand across my lower abdomen. Didn’t touch anything, just straight across. That was it … There was something odd about it, obviously. It wasn’t the sort of thing you done. It’s always sort of remained with me.

7.504A complainant resident in the 1950s alleged that, when supervising the showers, Br Verrill used to require the boys to bend over, to make sure that they were clean. He said that, on a few occasions while doing this, he used to put his hands on the boys’ testicles and say ‘did you like that?’. The complainant said that he got so used to being humiliated that he accepted it and did not regard it as unusual at the time.

If we put these fuckers through the Rat Torture and let the rat eat their junk? They will never be able to rape another child that is for sure.

Sexualised relationships

7.505Relationships between Brothers and boys were unlikely to be the subject of complaint in the same way as violent or forced incidents of abuse.

7.506One witness who was in Artane in the 1940s described a sexual relationship with a Brother that he said was different from what happened with other Brothers. This relationship was a sexual affair with affection and reciprocity. It is scarcely necessary to add that it was a case of serious sexual abuse:

… I had sexual relations with him. That is the way I look at it. I will say the others abused me, but with him I would be kinder with the words because the man did look after he me, but I did do things with him that today people would stand up and scream about. But he was kind. He was probably the only person in my life up to that time. Probably the only person in my life up to that time that would give me a hug, look after me. Anyone, nobody could get to me. You know, he kept the others away. Monitors never reported me because they knew I would report them. Simple. He looked after me, I looked after him. As simple as that … sexual abuse did take place. But at that time that was mine, I now know that it was wrong. But at the time, if he had asked me to eat his head, I would have eaten his head, as simple as that.

7.507When it was suggested to him that this relationship appeared to form a large part of his memories of Artane, he replied:

It does, actually, because as I said, he was probably was the one person I loved at that point. I did love the man, you know. I know he done that, but I loved him. I have very fond memories of the man. But now I am 68.

7.508In contrast, he named four other Brothers as having been sexually abusive of him. This complainant said that, at the same time that he was being sexually abused, the Brothers were emphasising the evils of sex:

They screamed about the dangers of badness and yet they were practising it on us.

7.509Another complainant spoke about a lay teacher’s behaviour that he saw as coming into a different category from other sexual experiences in Artane:

He used have his cloth over him and he kind of took my hand and placed it on top with the cloth covering it in case anybody came in. I touched him like that … He carried on … and then sent me back to my place. That’s all [he] ever done, he was a fondler more than anything. He didn’t ask you to undress or anything like that.

7.510He confirmed the statement that he had made to the Commission:

All boys liked [him] because he was a gentle kind of man.

7.511He said that the teacher looked after the boys and that they put up with him for that reason. He said:

We weren’t idiots. Boys at that age were aware, I was anyway, that some of the teachers and some people were like that.

7.512He continued:

he was good to us … He wasn’t cruel like some of the Brothers. I personally found him very nice and also he always brought a newspaper in every morning. When he was finished the lads would get it. Some of us were avid readers. In that way he was a man’s man, if you like. I know he was a groper but he was a decent man in every other way.

7.513A number of witnesses, who did not themselves claim to have been sexually abused, stated that they believed that other boys were sexually abused in Artane. Almost all of these witnesses acknowledged that they had not actually seen sexual activity taking place, so their evidence and recollections were based on mixtures of surmise, hearsay and deduction. One witness explained:

The way I reckoned it was that when I was being abused, I know other boys were going through the same doors, going through the same classroom doors, going the long hall … I saw them. I saw boys going through the doors … I mean down to classrooms. I saw them going into classrooms when they shouldn’t have been in the classrooms.

7.514He added:

The reason why I think it odd was because the classrooms, any time I ever went into one when I shouldn’t have been there, it was for that reason. That is the only places they could take you. So I reckoned that if it was happening to me in there and Brothers were taking them in there, that it was happening to them. I had seen many Brothers go in there with children, and then I would hear children crying when I was in the dormitories. I knew what they were crying for, because I had done a bit of it myself. I knew boys, that when I was keeping – watching Brothers on the Parade, and I was hiding from them and seeing them hiding from them, I knew what they were hiding from.

7.515Other witnesses testified that they had seen boys going into Brothers’ rooms at night in the period after bedtime and before the night watchman came on duty.

Respondents’ awareness of sexual activity in Artane

7.516Respondent witnesses gave evidence as to their awareness of sexual activity in Artane. Four Brothers testified that, during their training for the Christian Brothers, they had been instructed about the possibility of inappropriate sexual activity between Brothers and boys.

7.517Br Saber stated that:

I would say the best instruction we ever got was before we left the training college. Before we left the training college, we got a talk from our Superior on sexual abuse, right. The attraction of a kid – of a Brother to a young fellow, right. He would be very clear and very specific minded, be careful of it, avoid it … Some other Brothers would say to me that it didn’t mean much to them because they never encountered it. Right? It did, it meant something to me, I can honestly say that. To most people it did. There was an outbreak in Artane previously seemingly of some Brothers being accused.

7.518Br Gaspard stated that there was a general rule that Brothers should not be alone with boys. One of the reasons for this rule was that it provided a defence for Brothers if accused of abuse. However, he stated that this rule was not rigidly enforced. He informed the Committee that he was always conscious of the rule:

I mean that I went out of my way to make sure that I never gave any, never did anything that would be sexually incorrect in my dealings with the boys in Artane.

7.519The third and fourth Brothers were less forthcoming. One acknowledged that Brothers were given specific instructions about sexual abuse, but that it was not a priority. He said he remembered it being discussed but it was not an issue.

7.520The four Brothers testified to having heard rumours of colleagues being asked to leave because of sexual abuse in the School. Br Michel described the rumours as follows:

There was a rumour as regards sexual matters, that some years previous to our time, there were one or two men dismissed from the Congregation. Now I didn’t know them. I cannot even name them because it was so long ago, but that rumour was about, that a few men were in trouble with boys and they were actually dismissed.

7.521Br Gaspard stated:

The rumours were about … there were a few Brothers who sexually abused boys and they were dismissed from the Congregation because of that.

Sexual activity between boys

A documented case

7.522A case in the early 1960s, that is documented in the records of the Department of Education, illustrated knowledge by the management of Artane about sexual activity among boys.

7.523A former Artane boy, who was still under the supervision of the Resident Manager of Artane, was on remand in Marlborough House on a charge of indecent assault of a young girl. He had a frank conversation with the officer in charge about his sexual history and proclivities. He went on to say that he had engaged in sexual activity with three other boys on several occasions during his time in Artane.

7.524The Superintendent notified the authorities in Artane, and the Resident Manager visited Marlborough House with a senior Brother to interview the boy. In a subsequent letter to the Department of Education, the Superintendent reported that the boy ‘admitted what he had done and gave the names of the other boys whom he committed offences with in Artane’.

7.525An internal memorandum in the Department expressed:

very grave concern and particularly so in the case of the underprivileged children who were sent to Artane by the Courts. It is also suggested that Dr McCabe enquire from the Resident Manager whether he has traced the extent of this practice in the school and what are his proposals for dealing with the situation.

7.526The following month, Dr McCabe reported her interview with the Resident Manager of Artane. She first inquired about the boy who had at that stage been dealt with by the District Court, and she went on to ask about the three boys who had been implicated in sexual activity in Artane. She was told that ‘they have now left the school’. Dr McCabe then asked about the extent of the problem and what proposals the Resident Manager had for dealing with it. She noted:

I then inquired about the supervision carried out and as far as is reasonably sensible it appears to be well done – but as the Brother intimated to me when boys are so inclined if opportunity arises and temptation is there it is very difficult to be always on the qui vive. In fact the Superior said that to have a complete supervisory system the Brothers detailed for such work would need to have no other duties but as it is now the Superior is having to teach and perform various tasks. However, he is quite well alive to such moral dangers and as far as it is possible for him will see that strict supervision is enforced. He also reminded me that there are retreats at stated intervals each year and that the Chaplain is very interested in these boys and also the Superior gives a little talk in the Chapel at prayer time.

7.527The proceedings in the District Court were described by the Superintendent of Marlborough House in his letter to the Department:

Rev Brother Leon74 was requested by Dist. Justice Price, B.L. to attend [the] Dist. Court … and the Justice directed him, as being the legal guardian; to have arrangements made to have the boy committed to Grangegorman Mental Hospital, so that he could be subsequently transferred to Portrane Mental Hospital for treatment and the Justice further remanded [the boy] to Marlborough House until … he was to appear at [another] Court …

… the boy again appeared before Dist. Justice Price [at the other] Court. Brother Leon again attended the Court and stated that no arrangements were made to have [the boy] committed to a mental hospital; so the Justice let the boy out on his own bail of £10 and made an Order that he was to be of good behaviour for 12 months; when he was discharged. The mother of the boy was not in Court at any time.

7.528The Resident Manager was inconsistent in what he told the Department of Education.

7.529The Manager first told Dr McCabe that the three boys had left the School. On a visit to the Department, the Resident Manager ‘stated that he did not know the identity of the boys as Bro. Leon who had handled the matter had since died but that he would find out and reply later’. It is not easy to understand how the Manager could have given that information to the Department because he was, after all, present at the interview with the boy in Marlborough House when the names of the boys were given. Furthermore, the manager had previously told Dr McCabe that the three boys had left the Institution, so at that point he must have known the names. Finally, the Manager wrote in response to a formal request sent two months earlier and gave two names, adding that one of them was still in the School and that the other had been discharged the previous year.

7.530In conclusion:

  • The Department expressed concern about the revelation of sexual activity between boys in Artane, and asked Dr McCabe to inquire into the extent of the problem and the proposals for dealing with it. The Manager undertook to do no more than was already in place, which, by his own admission, was inadequate. The Department did not pursue the matter.
  • The Resident Manager was inconsistent in the information he gave to the Department, indicating a lack of respect for the Government officials who raised the matter with him.
  • This case indicated that there was a higher level of sexual activity in Artane than the authorities there were capable of dealing with.
  • It is a matter of concern that no documentation relating to this matter survived in the records furnished by the Christian Brothers.

Another investigation

7.531Br Romain75 spoke about an investigation into sexual activity among boys that occurred during his time in Artane, during the late 1960s. He said that up to a dozen boys, who were all in the same domestic economy class, had complained of being sexually abused by older boys in the School. Br Jeoffroi,76 who was a young Brother in Artane at the time, instituted an investigation. The witness said that ‘everybody knew about it’, when asked whether the pupils and staff generally knew of this investigation. Br Jeoffroi interviewed all the boys but the witness was not in a position to give further information. He did not know if boys had been punished or not – he only remembered the fact of the investigation.

Complainants’ evidence

7.532Sexual activity between boys in Artane appears to have been a common feature during all of the relevant period. Part of this activity consisted of sexual abuse by older boys with younger boys, in this report referred to as ‘peer abuse’. Many complainant witnesses, however, were reluctant to discuss sex between boys generally, and particularly the question of peer abuse. Nevertheless, the Committee was satisfied on sufficient evidence and reasonable inference that both these features of sex between boys were present at all relevant times.

7.533A witness spoke about an unwelcome approach:

I was working in the tinsmiths and this boy attacked me and threw me on the floor and lay on top of me. At the time it was a sex act. I didn’t know it was a sex act at the time. Like I said, I never even saw my aunty’s ankles. Of course I didn’t know that, that’s what it was. That’s what he was doing. It was reported. When Br Cretien asked me, “yes, I was attacked”. He still gave me six, right on the hand, not anywhere else, directly on the hand. He said he had to punish both of us. That boy never came near me again. I believe he was punished again for other acts which he did to other boys.

7.534Another witness explained the reason for fearing becoming known as a sexually active boy:

You know, there was two things that you never did in Artane. One was you never touched another boy in a sexual area. Me personally never did anyway. Another thing is that you never told of it if it ever happened to you because then you’re open, you’re open season then. If you are open season that means the boys get you. So you don’t tell anybody, you keep your mouth shut and that’s it … Nobody, except a priest. I told nobody. I am sure it happened to other boys and they told nobody either because you didn’t tell. You know, I mean, you were a soft touch then.

7.535A further witness was embarrassed about his sexual activity, even though it was by consent:

Well, it is probably a bit embarrassing, but to be honest with you I was actually involved in that myself. It was just sort of playing around basically … No, it wasn’t very frequent but it happened every now and then. But it was very common in Artane, it was very common that boys would be playing around with each other … Most of the time, 99% of the time it would be a case of just two boys messing about.

7.536He went on to comment on the Brothers’ awareness, and on the prevalence of one particular form of common sexual activity:

… you have got to appreciate in places like Artane, well it wasn’t very, very common but quite a lot of times boys would be masturbating each other. If another boy that wasn’t, you know, doing that would find out they would say it was badness.

7.537Another witness recalled an admonitory talk by a Brother:

… and the Brother who was giving the speech, God knows who he was, turned around and says “right, we know what you boys are doing, you have got to stop it”. This Brother in particular said, “We found over 300 children playing with each other”. Now there was only about 450 in the school. We were all standing there listening and that and, I don’t know whether they ever stopped or not.

7.538A witness spoke of the enormous interest of the Brothers in ‘badness’ and the sin of impurity:

Badness was the sin of impurity. They had the sixth commandment. I remember Br Jules used to say there is more people in hell because of the sixth commandment, the sin of impurity. They were absolutely bonkers on this. When we were growing up, young lads, 14, 15, you are getting feelings, you are getting wet dreams and things like that …

As I say, they must have thought that must be one of the reasons of so called badness. It meant boys messing with one another, thought, word or deed or whatever. They regularly wanted to know if you spoke, swore, told bad jokes. They had a mania for this sort of thing.

Congregation’s approach to peer abuse

7.539The Congregation in its Opening Statement said that it was aware of the possibility of sexual abuse among the boys themselves. Precautionary measures were taken to ensure that such abuse did not occur, including careful supervision of the boys at all times but particularly in the dormitories. The Statement referred to a 1946 Visitation Report which expressed concern about the danger of a lack of proper control in the infirmary, on the grounds that failure to ‘exercise proper control over the boys who are confined there when convalescing … may be a source of serious danger to their morals’. The Statement said that, although Brothers who worked in Artane confirmed that such abuse occurred, there was no documentary evidence available to the Congregation concerning individual cases of peer abuse. The only documented case of peer abuse appeared in records disclosed by the Department of Education and Science.

Brothers’ awareness of peer abuse

7.540Brothers testified to their awareness of peer abuse, but their accounts differ as regards its prevalence, the Brothers’ obligation to look out for it, and the punishments meted out.

7.541One Brother, Br Saber, who was in Artane for 10 years in the mid-1940s and 1950s, spoke about his awareness of sexual abuse both involving boys with boys and Brothers with boys. However, he stated that there was no sexual activity during his time in the School, which he attributed to Br Tyce,77 the Resident Manager, and to the sodality.

7.542Br Boyce, who was in the Institution at around the same time, said that he was aware of the possibility of peer abuse, or ‘badness’ as it was known, but that he never came across it, and his knowledge of the subject came not from the Brothers but from overhearing boys’ conversations. He confirmed that he ordered the boys to sleep with their hands crossed, but said that it was nothing to do with masturbation, it was just the custom.

7.543A Brother who was in Artane during the 1950s stated that he never heard of any type of untoward sexual activity, either amongst boys or staff, the possibility of boys masturbating was never mentioned and he never punished for it.

7.544Br Laramie,78 who was also there in the 1950s, stated that he was aware of the term ‘badness’, which was code for sexual activity. He said that the boys and various religious magazines used the term. Although the Brothers were aware of the issue, he could not recall any specific incidents involving boys.

7.545Another Brother who was there throughout the 1950s said that he remembered the term ‘badness’ as referring to peer abuse and that all staff would have been aware of the term. Despite this, he said that he never encountered any incident of badness nor had to punish a boy for it. However, he was contradicted by a colleague who remembered having to punish a boy who had been referred to him by this Brother who insisted that punishment was necessary:

I was in charge and he reported to me that [the boy] was interfering with other boys and he kind of said to me you will have to do something about it. As I understood it then that when some boys were interfering with other boys, they would be punished and one of the punishments they would get would be on the backside with the leather. I wasn’t too keen on doing it, I had a certain reluctance about it. I didn’t do anything for a while. Then Br Gaspard came back to me again and told me that this was going on and that I had to do something about it. I just brought him to the boot room. My memory now, I am working from memory now and it is a long time ago, my memory is that he had his nightshirt on him, he bent down, I gave him three or four smacks of the leather on the – not on the bare backside and he ran out the door and I was glad to see him go.

7.546Despite having to mete out this punishment, his recollection was that sexual activity between boys ‘wasn’t a major crime’, although Brothers were told to be vigilant.

7.547A Brother who was in Artane in the 1950s stated:

We were always being alerted to be on the look out, to be a presence in places where the boys would be, and I think we did that to the best of our ability. But we would be aware that things happened and there were normal healthy young fellas at that time so we tried to be as protective as we could be in that area by being a presence around the place.

We would have been alerted to be on the lookout, to be there, to be careful and to make sure that people are not injured in a situation like that, or that damage is done to them. So, that we would be there as a protection. It would have been—we would be, I suppose, on the alert and keep moving around and wherever.

7.548He said, however, that although the Brothers were aware of it, they would rarely talk about it. He denied that he would have discussed the matter with the boys in order to find out who was abusing whom, on the grounds that it was ‘none of my business’. He stated that if he became aware of an incident ‘I would have to hand that over to somebody at a higher authority level … I would probably go to the Disciplinarian’.

Conclusions on sexual abuse


7.5491.Sexual abuse by Brothers was a chronic problem in Artane. Brothers who served in Artane included firstly those who had previously been guilty of sexual abuse of boys, secondly those whose abuse was discovered while they worked in Artane and, thirdly some who were subsequently revealed to have abused boys. A timeline of the documented and admitted cases of sexual abuse shows that:

(a)For more than half of the 33 years under consideration, there was at least one such abuser working there;

(b)For more than one third of the years there were at least two abusers present;

(c)During one year in the 1940s there were seven such Brothers in Artane at the same time.

2.More abuse occurred than is recorded in documents because of inadequate recording and reporting procedures. In particular:

(a)There was little or no communication on an informal, friendly basis between boys and Brothers including the Superior.

(b)The sodality was a means of informal communication between boys and the Resident Manager that uncovered four sexual abusers in Artane in 1944, but it was discontinued.

(c)Because boys could be punished for complaining about abuse, there was inevitably under-reporting.

(d)In the 1960s, the Resident Manager gave instructions that complaints were to be made directly to him and not to the chaplain, thereby cutting off a channel of information.

(e)One offender, Br Dennis, admitted sexually abusing many boys in Artane, but only one of his victims gave evidence at the Phase II oral hearings.

(f)In other cases of documented abuse, there were no complaints to the Committee.

3.Other causes of under-reporting also operated, including the fact that sexual abuse is difficult for victims to corroborate or verify, the fear of being disbelieved, lack of faith in the investigation process, and feelings of shame and embarrassment.

4.Sexual activity between boys was common, and there was a significant amount of predatory sexual behaviour by bigger boys on smaller, vulnerable ones, but complainants and respondents were guarded in dealing with it.

5.Evidence and inferences in this and other boys’ institutions suggested that some Brothers sought victims among boys they believed were engaged in sexual activity with other boys.


6.Cases and allegations of sexual abuse were not properly investigated; information was not shared in the Congregation; cases were not reported to the Department; and the Gardaí were not informed.

7.The Congregation was aware of the criminal nature of sexual abuse perpetrated by Brothers.

8.The Congregation was also aware of the risk of recidivism in such cases.

9.Sexual abuse by Brothers posed a serious risk of damaging the reputations of the Institution and the Congregation if it became public, and cases were managed primarily with a view to protecting them against that danger. The offender was an incidental beneficiary of this policy.

10.The most common reaction was to move the offending Brother to another Christian Brothers’ institution, without regard to the hazard to boys in the new location and with no evidence that the Superior was alerted. Some Brothers were moved to industrial schools after abusing in day schools.

11.The Christian Brothers have submitted that repeat offenders were dismissed from the Congregation, but this does not appear to have occurred. Even when the Council voted for expulsion, this was often done by inviting the Brother to seek dispensation from his vows, which allowed him to leave the Congregation with no taint or suspicion on his character. The Brother could continue teaching in a lay capacity.

12.Only Brothers of temporary profession were dismissed by being refused permanent status by the Congregation, but these Brothers were also able to move on with their reputations intact.

13.Some Brothers and former Brothers found to have committed sexual abuse were able to continue damaging children for many years because of the policy of concealment of the disclosure of abuse, failure to investigate properly and failure to report.

14.The Congregation claimed in its Opening Statement that the impact of abuse on young boys was not properly understood at the time and that the response to the child was therefore inadequate. The reality is that the needs of abused children were not considered at all. It was not a case of insufficient understanding, but rather of giving priority to other concerns. For a Community of religious in loco parentis, this was a fundamental breach of their duty of care.

Emotional abuse and neglect

7.550Although some Congregations conceded that institutional detention was not an appropriate way to care for children,79 the Submission of the Christian Brothers defended the kind of care they had given. They wrote:

It is clear that the level of poverty in Ireland during the period under review was such that the basic physical needs of many people required for day to day living went unfulfilled … In this context it cannot be surprising that there was a strong focus in Artane on the physical care of the boys … The “philosophy of care” underlying the operation of Artane … can be broadly described as a philosophy of physical care concentrating on the physical well-being of the boys.

7.551The Congregation accepted that a focus on physical care alone was not sufficient to fully and properly care for a child, but contended that it was important to note the general economic and legal context in which the Congregation’s care of the boys was provided. A senior Brother described this approach in his evidence as follows:

the philosophy of Artane when I was there was a physical care philosophy. Look after the health of the boys, look after their physical education, like by drill and so on … it was a physical education philosophy. There was no understanding, and I had no understanding at the time, about any kind of emotional education, psychological education. I had no understanding of that at the time.

7.552The Christian Brothers concluded this section of their Submission by asserting that the totality of the evidence suggests that, especially when viewed in the context of the times, the Congregation fully and properly provided for the physical needs of the boys.

7.553They went on to concede that at times there were shortcomings, such as the condition of the classrooms and toilets that were criticised in the Visitation Reports, but added, ‘these shortcomings were addressed after the criticism’.

Emotional abuse

7.554Extracts from the 1926 Annual Report of the Department of Education, and the Cussen Report in 1936, highlight that there was an awareness of the emotional needs of the child. They warned that a regime based on ‘a hard and fast uniformity’, in which the child loses his sense of individuality through just being one among hundreds of other children, caused permanent damage to the child. The Congregation, on the other hand, claimed that it was not until the early 1960s that the emotional needs of children began to feature in the thinking behind childcare.

7.555The Congregation also contended that the emotional needs of children were not a consideration at the time, either by the Congregation or by the Department of Education. In support of this contention, the Congregation stated that, when the Department carried out a full and thorough inspection in December 1962, it ‘focussed almost entirely on the physical conditions in which the boys lived and on their education’.

7.556Some individual Brothers who gave evidence to the Investigation Committee displayed a greater awareness of the boys’ emotional needs than the Congregation. The Brother who was quoted by the Congregation in their Submission, and who had served a number of years in Artane and had held a senior position in the Institution, told the Investigation Committee:

As a result of what I experienced in Letterfrack80 I came to the conclusion that a lot of these children were disturbed and a lot of these children hadn’t had their basic needs for love, affection … fulfilled …

As regards the Industrial School Branch [of the Department of Education], it is my opinion that when Artane closed in 1969 we were still working out of a physical care philosophy. All the improvements that were done in Artane; central heating was brought in; we got new classrooms; we got new improvements to the cinema; we had the Godparent associations and so on; all these improvements, while they were very welcome … they were still coming out of that physical care philosophy. I went into Artane as a teacher and I think I can honestly say I left it as a teacher.

7.557It was only later, after Artane closed, that he supplemented his training as a teacher by attending, under his own initiative, a childcare course. At one point in his testimony he said:

as I looked back over the years at my time in Artane I became aware that there were times when I punished boys … and might have done better … I looked back at Artane and saw what the system was like … the more knowledge I acquired the more critical I became I suppose of how I saw Artane and what I did.

7.558Some of the other Brothers showed a similar awareness of the emotional needs of the children in their care, and lamented that the system did not address them. One Brother, who was in Artane from the late 1940s to the early 1950s, told the Investigation Committee:

I would say I was lacking in appreciation of … the circumstances in which these chaps found themselves, away from home and that kind of thing … I wouldn’t know who was legitimate or illegitimate or anything of that nature and I tried to treat everyone the same and of course you cannot do that. In that sense I would regret that.

7.559Another Brother, who was in Artane in the 1960s, told the Investigation Committee of an occasion when the degree of deprivation of some of his pupils was brought home to him in a disquieting way. He recounted the following incident:

… I remember teaching a lesson, it was English reading and it was about a family, and I discovered a boy in the class who didn’t understand what the word “mother” meant. “Brother” or “sister”, it meant nothing to him. I was taken aback by that.

7.560Another Brother told the Investigation Committee of one boy in Artane who had taught him a great deal about human nature. He said:

I did learn before I left Artane, if I could tell you a small little story. There was the chap, I can remember his name … he feared neither God nor man. He didn’t give a hoot about anybody. He was a desperado … constantly in trouble … he was the toughest fellow I have ever came across anywhere. Who arrived to see him but his mother. The fella didn’t even know he had a mother. So he was in to meet her … she was all over him … he was due out in three months and he was welcome to come to her and she would look after him … that guy … went back, I couldn’t believe it, he was a model, because for the first time in his life he realised he had a mother, there was somebody. He didn’t care what she was like. And he was complete – a model boy.

7.561These Brothers, even though their training did not include study of the emotional needs of children, were aware that the boys needed more than just food, clothing, accommodation and education, and craved individual attention.

7.562One Brother explained:

sometimes a fellow, you would be nice and a fella would come up to you trying to play up to you and say, “Can I be your chafer?” God love them.

7.563While the boys and Brothers had to keep their distance, it was open to any Brother to rise above these constraints and offer more than just physical care to these boys. From the evidence before the Committee, regrettably few Brothers chose to do this, but those who did were remembered with warmth and gratitude by the ex-residents who attended the oral hearings.

7.564A Brother, who was in Artane from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, spoke of what he called ‘that softening down … in the whole system’ that occurred during his time in Artane. It became ‘a kinder place to be than the first day I entered it’. He told the Investigation Committee:

But I have to say now, in all sincerity, that in the latter years that I was there, there was a hell of an improvement, both in food, dress, entertainment, mixing with the outside world. Getting parents or getting Godparents for these kids and trying to get them out and breaking the system.

7.565When asked to explain what he meant by ‘breaking the system’, he explained:

You don’t change an environment overnight … It is done over the years. What I am trying to get across is that when these changes did take place … you didn’t wave a magic wand and say, “everything is new, everything is grand”. It took years even when Br Ourson was there.

7.566Some individual Brothers did not recognise Artane’s shortcomings, even when looking back at their time there. One Brother described it as ‘a happy place’. Another Brother said, ‘I was always very happy with the years I spent in Artane. I enjoyed the company of the boys … and enjoyed the fact that you could talk to them …’. Another said, ‘It was a very busy place, and a fairly happy place, there was a lot of exuberance in the yard …’.

Reasons why the emotional needs of children were not met

The problem of numbers

7.567Artane was purpose built for 825 children, and the capitation system meant that keeping the numbers up was an economic necessity. One Brother in his testimony summed it up neatly:

I would say the biggest problem was what can you do to change the life for 800 young fellas? It was entirely too big. Now who was responsible for that? … the more we had the more money we got. But the more we had didn’t necessarily mean that it was a better place for them to be.

7.568Paragraph 72 of the Cussen Report published in 1936 stated:

In our opinion the best results can be obtained only where the number under any one Manager does not exceed 200 pupils. We think that in no case should the number exceed 250. It is necessary in this connection to refer specifically to the case of Artane Industrial School, which is certified for 800 boys and where there are on an average about 700 boys. It is in our view impossible for the Manager in an Institution of this size to bring to bear that personal touch essential to give each child the impression that he is an individual in whose troubles, ambitions, and welfare a lively interest is being taken.

7.569For the sake of ‘the care and after-care of the pupils’, Cussen recommended that Artane should be divided into separate schools of no more than 250 pupils.

7.570In paragraph 80, the Cussen Report commented on the effects of institutional life:

In some schools monotonous marching round a school yard took the place of free play at the time for recreation. Such drill-like exercise, especially if prolonged, becomes a dreary routine deleterious to mind and body, and it should be replaced by free play and organised games that will develop in the child alertness of movement and individual confidence, and thus help to compensate in some measure for the lack of initiative and individuality that are characteristic of children reared in institutions.

7.571Concerned to prevent this institutionalisation, the Cussen Report, in Recommendation 15, advocated that:

Reasonable contact of pupils with the outside world is desirable and should be permitted to a greater extent that is the case at present.

7.572Cussen’s recommendations were not put into effect. Indeed, in the 1940s the numbers in Artane swelled to 844.

7.573Some senior Brothers questioned the regimented lives in Artane. In 1952, the Visitation Report contained the following observations:

The presence of over 700 boys in one establishment with all kinds of social background necessitates a great amount of regimentation and vigilance, and these have been developed in Artane to the n-th degree so that it would be almost impossible to find a loophole in the system. From Rising Bell till “lights out” the boys are regimented under the watchful eyes of Brothers who are experts in their various duties – so that it becomes almost true to say that the boys are never called on to make decisions for themselves even in small details except at one moment in the day – the moment when they must decide to go or not to go to the altar for Communion.

And then one begins to wonder if it can be possible that this system, so perfect in itself, is fundamentally all wrong from top to bottom. Is it achieving the end for which it was evolved, to train the will, memory and understanding of the boys so that when they go out into the world they may be able to take their parts as good citizens and good Catholics? Will young people who know nothing about freedom, since their birth or since their early boyhood, be able to use sensibly the freedom which is theirs when they pass through Artane gates into the wide world? These questions cannot be answered after a period of five days’ residence in Artane. However, more than one experienced Brother in the Community has asked himself similar questions and has not been too happy about the answers.

7.574In the 1956 Visitation Report the Visitor, commenting on the character training of the boys, wrote:

The control of so many boys has led, in the system employed, to over much “shepherding especially from 6.30 till bed time. The separation of Juniors and Seniors would be most desirable. The lack of play-hall space is a crying need. Notwithstanding the devoted care of the Brothers it must be admitted, I think that the Institution is much too large. If it is to continue as an Industrial School its division into Junior and Senior sections would seem to be most desirable.

7.575It was 1960 before the division was finally made, and in the Visitation Report for that year it was noted:

As an aid to discipline in this large Institution the boys have now been divided into two groups – the boys over 14 and those under that age … it was time this move was made. Of course it means doubling the number of Brothers on duty.

7.576The Congregation’s Opening Statement reveals the relationship between boys and staff over the years:

1940s – average number of pupils – 802

1950s – average number of pupils – 620

1960s – average number of pupils – 286.

7.577The staff quotas provided by the Congregation are as follows:

1940–1947 – 16 to 20 Brothers and up to 6 lay staff

1947–1960 – average 14 Brothers

1960–1966 – average 11 Brothers.

7.578The evidence of the Brothers and former Brothers in relation to staff ratios was that a small number, between six and 10 of the younger Brothers, carried the main burden of teaching and supervision of the boys. This led to the situation that Brothers who were directly involved in these duties were over-worked and often stressed. It is not clear why so many Brothers living in Artane were not directly involved with the care of the children.

7.579The Investigation Committee heard evidence from many former pupils and staff from Artane with regard to the size of the Institution. A former pupil, in Artane from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s, described:

The first night, I was put in the ward, I couldn’t believe it. It looked to me huge. All the beds in a line and I was put into this bed and I was crying. I was told to stop crying and I couldn’t. I was smacked [by the Brother who was on at nights] to say if you don’t stop crying you will get another one … I couldn’t sleep … I was woken up and I had wet the bed.

7.580A former Brother described how there was no preparation or training in Marino for dealing with the large numbers in Artane or for the type of boys that were sent there. Artane was run like the Army, everything ran like a clock. The boys marched for breakfast, marched to the dormitories, other than the free play in the playground everything was structured. The size of the School and the numbers during his time (800 boys) did not leave much room for understanding the boys.

7.581Another former Brother who served in Artane in the early 1960s said:

the numbers were very large and you had to have your wits about you to keep an eye on everything, you know, to make sure nobody was in danger. You would want to keep the smaller children away from bigger so they wouldn’t be run down or hurt or anything.

7.582He recalled that, in his time, two Brothers would be keeping an eye on over 400 boys.

7.583Most of the Brothers who appeared before the Investigation Committee complained about the numbers in the School.

7.584One Brother was asked if the system made it difficult to be compassionate with individuals. He replied, ‘I would say so, yes, I would agree. I mean it was numbers, large numbers you were dealing’.

7.585A Brother in Artane in the 1950s, whilst saying that there was a good atmosphere between the 800 boys and the 25 to 30 Brothers, said that it was ‘mass production … It was impossible to do anything worthwhile with them’. He felt that the Brothers on the ground were interested in the children’s welfare and many of the children did well, but it depended more on their background and make-up. When asked why nobody spoke out about the impossibility of looking after 800 boys, he replied:

I was going to use ignorance … It was lack of knowledge or lack of insights by the Brothers ourselves, by headquarters and that. I mean 800 – there were 800 people that weren’t wanted and that nobody else would take them.

7.586A Brother who was there in the late 1950s was angry about the situation:

You had in Artane at that time 600, or whatever, pupils. You had, effectively, 16 or 17 Brothers, the teaching Brothers on the staff, who had to teach them full time … So I would be asking today, ‘Why was it that I was expected to do the impossible in Artane by my country from 1955 to 1959?’ … the system survived because of the dedication of the few. And I suppose we are paying for that today.

7.587He went on to say:

Some of them [the lads] unfortunately who had problems and maybe who should not have been there at all, they should have been in some other institution that could care for such people like that … at that particular time we weren’t as aware … about the importance of having places for people like that who need specific care and specific attention and specific help.

7.588A Brother who served a total of nine years in Artane between the mid-1940s and mid-1950s explained:

… the new kids coming in who would be lost, you know, really some of them were lost really. 825 kids. Divide that by five and that’s 160. 160 kids in a dormitory was very formidable … It was cruel … That was the total responsibility of two really. It was really the two in the dormitory made the kids or developed a kind of relationship with them.

7.589He was still angry at the enormity of it all. He railed against the system that allowed such numbers:

825 kids were imposed on us. No. 1 by the Superior, No.2 by the authorities, by the Archbishop of Dublin, who wanted the kids sent to Artane, not Letterfrack or to Galway because they were too far from home … 825 where the maximum was supposed to be 800 and you had kids on the floor and it was really cruel and unnatural and wrong.

7.590This Brother also saw children who were isolated and lost within the system. He told the Investigation Committee:

I suppose you never knew a kid, like, to talk to him. You would pick out a lonely child … If he hadn’t a friend it would be tough. Really tough. You could see a kid that is lonesome, you would take him in the hand or something. He was the only boy from Gorey. He was the only boy from Wexford …

7.591The Investigation Committee heard the evidence of ‘the only boy from Gorey’. He had been sent to Artane for stealing a purse when he was ten and a half years old. He explained that his family were very poor and his sister had told him to take it. He was sent to the Industrial School for five and a half years in the 1950s. His mother had simply told him he was ‘going away for a few days’. He told the Investigation Committee about his early days in Artane:

I think I was the only one from Gorey … It was very difficult [to make friends] for a long time … I was terrified … there were so many boys … I never saw the likes of it before in my life … The first Brother that ever met me there was Br Bruce the day I went there. I don’t know what it was, from that day onwards we seemed to get on very well together. He was explaining the school to me that night and ever since that we were friends … He was brilliant, yeah. Brilliant. Brilliant … he was exceptionally good to me. For what reason I couldn’t tell you. But I liked him and he liked me … I would be chopping sticks for him and he would bring [extra food] down under his habit.

7.592Apart from this friendly Brother, he lived in ‘a constant state of fear’. Yet this friendship, so valued by the terrified young boy, was in itself problematic for the Christian Brothers.

7.593As well as being an enormous institution, Artane was totally male dominated, and the Investigation Committee heard evidence from a number of Brothers who served in Artane about the lack of women in the Institution.

7.594A Brother who served in Artane in the late 1960s described how the lack of females there at the time left a lot to be desired, ‘The gentle touch of a woman … was missing’.

7.595One Brother who served in Artane from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s recalled that Artane was a totally male dominated place. He particularly remembered a group of boys coming from a convent in Mount Merrion in the 1950s. He described how they arrived in Artane in brand new clothes and were dressed like dolls. He remarked, ‘we could see the female hand all over the place. They never met boys, they never met men. They were thrown into Artane’.

7.596He also felt that the dormitory for the young children should have had a nurse working there full-time to care for the boys. It was not within the power of the younger Brothers to make suggestions such as the need for women in the place. Visitors could be spoken to about some deficiencies, but they were not ‘on the ground’ and could be a bit removed.

7.597Another Brother, who also served in Artane throughout the 1950s, was asked whether the boys craved affection. He replied:

yes, affection and because of the lack of women around to put it baldly. That was kind of a gesture that was made later on towards the end of the 1950s or the beginning of the 1960s to get them foster parents to get them more and more in touch with the outside world and that kind of thing and maybe to improve the feeding or the grub … they were a few extra women brought in in the nursing set up … but still it was Artane.

7.598The arrival of four nuns to work in Artane in 1963 is noted in the Visitation Report for that year:

There are four Sisters in residence in a Convent in conjunction with the Infirmary. They supervise the Infirmary and spend time in the dormitories every day, checking the beds, the boys’ clothes, the wash rooms and so forth. Because of time schedules it is unfortunate that they cannot have much contact with the boys and hence their influence on them cannot be great. The two in the dormitories feel the lack of this opportunity and are hoping that as time goes on they will be able to have more contact with the boys, especially the little ones. The Superior has this matter under observation and consideration and he hopes to be able to provide more contact with the boys for them in time.

These fuckers belong in prison where they can be Geoghaned

Mixing boys with different needs

7.599The Cussen Report had recommended that boys be medically and psychologically examined and assessed for suitability to be sent to an industrial school. That recommendation was not implemented, and the result was that children were ordered to be detained in Artane and other institutions when they were unsuitable and where there were no facilities for dealing with their disabilities. This put extra pressure on the Institution and made life more difficult for the children themselves. Respondent witnesses gave evidence of their awareness of these problems, and the authorities in later years complained to the Department about its failure to identify and differentiate between children who had different needs, and particularly those who suffered from mental or psychological disability.

7.600Mr Dunleavy in his report for the Congregation also identified this problem, which he stated was exacerbated by a reluctance on the part of the Brothers to direct boys to other institutions which were better able to care for them, even when there were places available for that purpose. He quoted the Visitation Report for 1968 as follows:

Some are very retarded … Others are mentally deficient, and in recent years the proportion admitted in this latter class has been on the increase. As such children require very specialised attention it is not easy for an industrial school to adjust its programme to care for them in a satisfactory manner. The policy of the Department in directing these boys to Artane, without consultation, is quite unfortunate.

7.601He acknowledged that there was something of a double standard in the attitude of the Brothers in Artane:

However there does seem to have been a certain reluctance in the school, once children with mental problems had been accepted, to allow them to leave the school for Institutions which might have been better able to care for them.

7.602Even as late as 1969, it could be seen that there was no systematic way of dealing with children who were misplaced in Artane. Mr Dunleavy remarked:

Equally disturbing are a collection of applications from 1969 for boys to be admitted to St. Augustine’s Special School as being mildly mentally handicapped. It transpires that in some cases psychiatric evaluations of the boys determining their handicap had been made up to two years before an application was made on their behalf to St. Augustine’s Special School.

7.603He concluded his review of this feature of the Institution:

It is clear from the above that while a deplorable practice existed of “dumping” mentally and emotionally disturbed children in Artane Industrial School, a school which was certainly not equipped to deal with their special needs, the school itself took no steps to alleviate the situation, and indeed appears to have been slow to recognise that the situation existed in the first place.

The need to keep a distance between the Brothers and the boys

7.604The Christian Brothers prohibited Brothers forming particular friendships, and they had a rule that a Brother should never be alone with a child. These instructions were part of the training each Brother received at Marino. The ban on forming particular friendships was partly to protect the Brothers’ vow of celibacy, but it was also to ensure the Brother would love everyone equally as God’s children. The instruction about never being alone with a child was to protect the Brother from allegations and also from any temptation. With this purpose in mind, these were good rules and were designed to protect all individuals involved.

7.605Generally in families the parent singles out his own child from other children outside the family. In this relationship the child is made to feel special, and needs the affection that flows from this relationship and the sense of being protected by the parent. This bond is the foundation of the child’s self-esteem, and it gives the child confidence to tackle the stresses of life in the outside world. Despite being in loco parentis, the Brothers, with a few exceptions, could not provide this parental relationship because the system did not allow for it.

7.606Quite apart from the fact that the rules of the Congregation made the kind of emotional support the children needed more difficult to deliver, the actual day-to-day interaction was one of fear and distance. This more than anything damaged the development of the children and this was not necessary. Even with the large numbers, Brothers could have behaved in a kind and measured way towards the children, showing them consideration and respect. The absence of this quality of care was the most emotionally abusive element in Artane.

7.607Again and again, complainants told the Investigation Committee that they felt there was nobody they could go to for help or for protection. As shown above, many Brothers spoke of wanting to help a child who looked lost or lonely, but few were able to do so. As a result, many children went through life in Artane feeling ignored, except when being chastised and punished, and feeling nobody cared about them in any way at all. This failure to acknowledge the child, to make the child feel important and loved, left many of them feeling marginalised and rejected.

Climate of fear

7.608The Investigation Committee heard convincing evidence from complainants and Brothers who served in Artane that control of the vast numbers of children was accomplished by means of a strict regime and through a climate of fear. One Brother remarked that even well-behaved boys lived in fear of being punished. Children who were hardened by dysfunctional backgrounds, were placed with orphans and emotionally disturbed children, under the control of young Brothers who received no training other than their teacher training.

7.609In the Visitation Report of 1954, the Visitor gave an example of the level of control that was inherent in Artane:

Br Cretien is chief Disciplinarian. It is gratifying to hear that there is not much necessity for corporal punishment. There was a good test of the spirit of discipline on my second day in Artane. It was Saturday night and the boys were retiring to the dormitories. More than half had got in; many were on the stairs and a number still in the yard when the electric light failed. There was no stampede or sign of confusion. A few candles were lighted and to my surprise I found the boys sitting on or standing beside their beds in absolute silence.

7.610As one Brother who served in Artane in the late 1950s put it:

If we did not have a strict discipline at that stage the place would have gone to rack and ruin and those who would have suffered most would have been the boys … it had to be strict because we had no back up services whatsoever … some of them unfortunately who had problems and maybe who should not have been there at all … the boys who could not understand that there was a certain way of doing a thing and that if they did not do that then it was going to lead to trouble for them, even if they were punished it didn’t register with them.

7.611Later in his evidence, he was asked whether there were boys in Artane who were too emotionally fragile to be there in the first place:

In all probability that would be a way to put it yes. They had come from backgrounds where they didn’t have the normal supports and so on as young people and they were coming in and they find themselves in a large group. Looking back now it must have been an impossible situation for them and knowing what we know now those young people should not have been there. There should have been a place for them but that wasn’t available at that particular time, as far as I know.

7.612As the evidence unfolded before the Investigation Committee, it became clear that Artane did undergo a certain amount of change in the 1960s. Numbers were falling, and two Brothers in particular were singled out by their peers as men of vision who tried to bring innovations into the School for the betterment of the boys. A Godparent association was formed, and boys were placed with families for Christmas, summer holidays, and occasional Sundays. This was seen as a step forward, where boys would be able to live in a normal family situation. Nuns were introduced into the School, and their presence had a calming effect on the boys. A new games room and swimming pool were opened in the mid-1960s.

7.613Although some of the Brothers recognised the need for the boys to be better prepared for the outside world, there does not appear to have been any consistent policy to prepare the boys emotionally and psychologically for their post-Artane days.

7.614The Investigation Committee heard from a number of complainants that they did not have much family contact and that, on occasions, for example on the death of a family member, the situation was not handled in a sensitive manner. There is no evidence, however, that the Institution had a policy of discouraging children from having contact with their families. Boys from Dublin usually went home regularly.

7.615Many witnesses to the Investigation Committee gave instances of acts of kindness, when particular Brothers treated them well. This evidence was often given by way of contrast with other negative experiences in Artane. The complainants named several Brothers as being particularly kind and fair, and these kind members of the Congregation made a positive contribution to the lives of the boys in Artane.

7.616In conclusion:

  • The number of boys in Artane, the extreme regimentation of their lives, the lack of appropriate training of the Brothers, the insufficient numbers of staff, and the pervasiveness of corporal punishment all had serious adverse effects on the welfare and emotional development of many of the children who passed through Artane.
  • A climate of fear in Artane was a dominant memory for many ex-pupils. Practices used for management and control of the boys were frightening and abusive from the child’s point of view. It was a problem central to the whole system in Artane that the boys’ perspective was not taken into account. The Christian Brothers did not understand the impact of those practices.



7.617The topic of finance in Artane and in the other institutions specifically investigated by Mazars is discussed more fully elsewhere in this report, in the context of issues that arise in all institutions. That discussion focuses first on whether the capitation per child was sufficient in institutions generally. It then considers the accounts of four particular institutions including Artane. The reports prepared by Mazars were sent for comment to the relevant Congregations, which responded with submissions that they prepared with the assistance of their own experts, following which Mazars finalised a comprehensive report.

7.618By making comparisons with contemporaneous indices, Mazars established that the grant paid per child in the industrial school system was adequate to provide a reasonable level of care for most of the relevant period. When other factors were taken into account, such as the value of the farm and the profit made from trades, the financial position was even stronger. A significant further factor that applied in Artane was the economies of scale that arose because of the large numbers accommodated there.

7.619Artane was virtually self-sufficient, providing the majority of its needs from its own resources. The Industrial School’s sources of income were: capitation/maintenance grants (84%); income from the farm and trade shops (10%); and the balance from a variety of other sources, including parents’ contributions and receipts from band performances. The Institution was also in receipt of a substantial primary grant for the running of the national school attached to the Industrial School.

7.620In its Opening Statement in relation to Artane, the Congregation contended that:

The level of grant aid was a constant topic of discussion between the Resident Managers Association and the Department of Education, the former continually insisting that the grants paid were seriously inadequate.

7.621The Christian Brothers’ own Resident Managers’ meetings also took the view that funding was inadequate and throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s they used the Resident Managers’ Association in order to express this view to the Department of Education, seeking increases in the grants paid. These requests were often made in years when the financial position in Artane was strong.

7.622The Christian Brothers went on to state that the validity of the claim of gross under-funding made by the Resident Managers is strongly supported by the Kennedy Report, which described the grant aid paid to industrial schools as ‘totally inadequate’. When the Kennedy Report was published in 1970, numbers in industrial schools had fallen so dramatically that funding was at that point inadequate to meet the needs of the many institutions that were struggling to stay open. When the Kennedy Report was published, Artane had already closed down.

7.623For most of the period under consideration, funding in Artane was adequate to provide for the children in its care. The Visitation Reports and the evidence of complainants and respondents indicated, however, that the physical care provided was poor, even by the standards of the time.

7.624Mazars have looked at the accounts for Artane and have identified, as far as possible, how the money was spent. On the expenditure side, the biggest item was salaries and wages of lay staff. In addition, the Institution provided a stipend for almost every Brother in the Community. The level of stipend was decided by the Managers of Christian Brothers’ residential schools and, in Artane, it varied from £120 per Brother per annum in 1940 to £300 per Brother per annum in the 1960s. The amount was uniform, and no account was taken of the extent to which any particular Brother was engaged in the care of the children or the work of the Institution.

7.625The accounts show that the stipends constituted the principal source of income for the Community. They were paid into the ‘House’ account every year for almost every Brother. The account built up a substantial surplus of income over expenditure, and showed a cumulative surplus (excluding land sales) from 1940 to 1969 of approximately £56,000.

7.626In addition to providing the Community with an income, the Industrial School also provided for the day-to-day expenses of the Brothers. In 1966, the Visitor recorded that:

… In addition to supporting the boys the School supports the Brothers to the extent of food, maintenance but not clothing or medical or any luxury items. In addition there is transferred from the School Account to the House Account each year £300 per Brother for extra services, etc …

7.627The Community was also able to invest substantial sums in its Building Fund.

7.628In conclusion:

  • Artane was an important source of support and income to the Congregation.
  • Lack of funds was not a reason for failure to provide for the children in Artane.
  • Artane was a major contributor to the Building Fund and to the support of the Provincial Organisation.
  • The Artane Community charged a full stipend for Brothers who had little or no involvement in the care of the boys and funded the Community’s day-to-day expenses out of the maintenance grant for the children, which enabled the House to run at a profit.

Physical care of the boys in Artane

7.629The Christian Brothers maintained in its Opening Statement to the Artane module that the documentary evidence:

clearly demonstrates that the boys were well fed and clothed and that their welfare needs were catered for … Where criticisms were made or shortcomings were pointed out, remedial action was taken.

7.630The sources of evidence relied on were the Department of Education Inspection Reports and the Visitation Reports from the Congregation.

7.631While Artane was directly responsible for the physical care provided, the Department of Education had supervisory responsibility.

7.632The Department of Education Inspector, who inspected Artane regularly from 1944 until 1962, reported under the headings of: Food, Clothing, Accommodation, Recreational Facilities, and Health and Education. Her General Inspection reports are a source of contemporaneous comment. The reliability and consistency of Dr McCabe’s reports were questionable, and this is discussed in the chapter dealing with the Department of Education.

7.633By and large, Dr McCabe was impressed with the way Artane was run and was not overly critical of the care provided. However, when each individual element of care is analysed, she was often quite critical of the standard provided and, taken as a whole, her reports point to serious deficiencies in the School.

7.634It is useful to look at Dr McCabe’s reports in conjunction with the Visitation Reports compiled by the Congregation’s own Visitor who inspected annually. The Visitor’s prime function was to report on the Brothers in the Community, but they also made observations on the care of the boys and the general standard of the Institution. These reports were more critical of the Institution than those of the Department Inspector, and often highlighted issues that should have come to the attention of the Department Inspector but were not mentioned by her.


7.635Dr McCabe was generally satisfied with the standard of food provided in Artane. In her first report of April 1939, she stated, ‘the quantity, quality and variety of their diet is satisfactory’. Likewise, in 1944 she expressed herself as satisfied that the food was ample and varied.

7.636In 1953, she identified the kitchen and refectory as being in need of modernisation and she continued to be critical of the kitchen and refectory facilities throughout the 1950s. Her categorisation of the food as ‘good’ or ‘v.good’ has to be qualified by the absence of adequate facilities for its preparation.

7.637Visitation Reports from the 1950s did not identify any particular problems with the food or the kitchen facilities until November 1957, when the Visitor wrote:

Everything in connection with the kitchen and the preparation and serving of food calls for complete re-organisation and re-conditioning … Too many boys are at each table though half of the room is vacant almost. All the food for the meal is piled on the table before the meal begins. The boys proceed to make a most awful mess when the meal begins. There is not the slightest attempt to eat in a civilised fashion. The Brother and teacher in charge can do nothing with over 500 to look after. A great deal of the food is wasted and the waste is the main support of nearly forty pigs.

I shall comment later on the condition in which many of the boys come to meals. To me the sight was just revolting. One can just imagine the comments of visitors but every care is taken on the conducted tours to prevent visitors from seeing the spectacle.

7.638The shortcomings in the system were apparent to the management, as evidenced by the special efforts made to ensure that the boys who played in the band were given particular instruction in table manners. The 1957 Visitation Report commented:

They have special table drill in all the niceties of handling sets of knives, forks, spoons, serviettes etc and in how to behave themselves in a decent home. I have reason to know from friends of my own who had some of these lads staying in the house that they made a wonderful impression and have done a tremendous amount to win admirers for Artane and to counteract the smear campaign that would appear to be the settled policy of certain sections of the public Press.

7.639The Visitor went on to describe conditions which would have more than justified a campaign of protest on the part of the press if the full picture of conditions in Artane was made known:

The boys in the full trades and on full farm work deserve special treatment and better meals. These lads really make the running of Artane possible yet in all the apartments devoted to the farm and the trades there is not a single toilet or wash-basin for these boys. They come into their meals in a shocking condition, hands, faces and clothes are covered with the grime of the trades, boots, stockings and portions of the trousers often soaking from working in the cowhouse or the manure pit. These boys remain in this condition all day Winter and Summer, at meals, during afternoon school and in the chapel … No boy could retain his self-respect under the conditions that exist for many of them.

7.640The Visitor blamed Br Gerrard’s ‘slip-shod methods’ for the poor standards in the kitchen and refectory.

7.641A Brother who was there at the time confirmed that the report reflected the conditions he had seen: ‘My own impression was that things were not satisfactory in whatever visits I did make to the refectory … with large numbers … it was difficult’. He pointed out, however, that things improved when a new Brother came and facilities were improved in 1962: ‘There was a tremendous improvement both in the standard of food, the way the food was presented, the menus that were there’.

7.642It is difficult to reconcile that Visitation Report of November 1957 with the one of just seven months earlier, in which the Visitor remarked:

Br Gerrard has charge of the boys kitchen and does his work very efficiently. The food served is good and plentiful and the boys looked healthy and strong.

7.643It is even more difficult to reconcile this Report with the Reports of Dr Anna McCabe. She did not mention any of the matters raised in the late 1957 Report, which would indicate that either she did not actually see the boys in the refectory or she did not see anything remiss in the way meals were served. Either explanation has disturbing implications.

7.644The condition of the boys’ kitchen may be contrasted with the provision made for the kitchen that looked after the 24 Brothers in Artane. The Visitor noted in 1960:

The food supplied to the Brothers is excellent and very well cooked. There is a cook, assistant cook, six boys in training, and a Brother looking after the Brothers’ kitchen.

7.645The boys’ kitchens were renovated and a new Brother put in charge in 1960, and the Visitation Reports noted an immediate improvement, as in 1962 when the Visitor stated:

There is very little trouble on this score and the Brothers think that the improvement in the meals has a lot to do with the easier discipline among the boys.

7.646The Committee heard evidence from a respondent who spent four years in Artane in the mid to late 1950s. He was in charge of supervising meals for a period, a task he carried out with the assistance of a lay staff member. He stated that, despite the large numbers in the School, meals were conducted in a very orderly fashion and the boys were very well behaved. He does not recall mealtimes being particularly difficult, as documented in the Visitation Report of 1957. He stated that meals were not conducted in silence and were quite lively events.

7.647A respondent, who first went to Artane in the mid-1950s and spent almost 15 years there, accepted in his evidence to the Committee that ‘while the food was adequate that, at that particular time, the serving of the food and the way it was presented wasn’t the best’. He acknowledged that this was not satisfactory. In addition, the large number of boys being catered for in the refectory made things more difficult. Things changed dramatically for the better when a new Brother took charge of the kitchen. He changed the way in which food was prepared and presented.

7.648Fr Moore was critical of the food served and the way it was served. In his report of 1962 he stated:

The boys are reasonably well fed. There is fair variety but obvious essential requirements such as butter and fruit are never used … In general I feel that the boys are under-nourished and lacking calcium and other components. At table I have observed the unruly indelicate manners of the boys.

7.649During his inspection in 1966, Dr Lysaght81 commented unfavourably on the lack of variety in the diet of the boys and on the institutional nature of the refectory. The dining room was large, and all of the boys ate together at the same time, which gave:

a feeling of institutional mass feeding and just as the large numbers in each dormitory it tends to hinder or delay development of individuality.

7.650While the meals were ample and well cooked, the weekly menu lacked imagination and variety. With the newly modernised kitchen, there was no excuse and, once again, Dr Lysaght placed his faith in the nuns to turn things around.

7.651Many of the complainants who gave evidence to the Investigation Committee from the 1940s era complained about food. One ex-resident described the diet:

I would sum up my time in Artane as cold, brutal and hungry and the cold was because of the hunger. There was this enduring feeling of cold and this gnawing pangs of hunger. There was never any satisfaction, never any way to relieve the hunger. That was it, hungry, everybody was hungry all the time.

7.652Another complainant, committed in the early 1940s at the age of nine, recalled that his mother often sent him food parcels, but that he only received a parcel once as they were stolen by the other boys. He did not blame them for this, as he stated that they were always hungry, ‘We ate the grass for God’s sake’. He stated that they had a small loaf dipped in fat for breakfast, and vegetables with gravy for dinner. He recounted how one Brother would conceal sticks of bread in his cassock and distribute them to the boys: ‘As soon as he appeared we went around him like a pack of dogs looking for food’.

7.653A witness, committed in the mid-1940s, alleged that the food was diabolical. He stated that, during mealtimes, younger boys were sometimes moved to older boys’ tables on a temporary basis. When this occurred, the younger boys invariably went hungry because they could not get to the food fast enough. He also asserted that, whenever visitors came to the School, the boys got better food.

7.654A further complainant from this era recalled how the boys divided the loaves between them. The first boy would cut himself a big slice, and the second boy would do the same, so that, by the time the last boy came to take his slice, there was little left. The younger boys were often left hungry as a result of the system of distributing food.

7.655On the other hand, a complainant who was committed in the mid-1940s and remained in Artane for six years asserted that he had no complaints to make about food, as ‘the food was better than what I was getting outside’. He described living in abject poverty before being sent to Artane, and his records indicate that he was malnourished and underweight on admission.

7.656While complaints about food feature with decreasing frequency in the 1950s and 1960s, a complainant who was committed to Artane for five years in the early 1950s stated that there was never enough food, and that the boys had to resort to scavenging from the swill buckets to sate their hunger. He singled out one Brother who would slip him extra food. He also alleged that bullying took place during mealtimes, with the result that some boys got less food than others.

7.657A complainant resident in Artane during the 1960s complained that the food was unpalatable. One surmised that the reason the quality of the food was so poor was because the boys cooked it and did not possess the requisite culinary skills. Another complainant from this era recalled that, whenever a Visitation or inspection took place, the quality of the food markedly improved.

7.658A respondent, who was in Artane during the 1940s, stated in evidence to the Committee that he punished boys who took food from other boys at mealtime. He asserted that ‘the majority of the boys always admitted that they were well fed’.

7.659Another respondent, who worked in Artane between 1950 and 1959, gave evidence that ‘the food was always reasonably good, except that it wasn’t very attractive’.

7.660Mr Dunleavy made the following comment about mealtimes:

Apart from assembly and religious services, mealtimes were the only occasions when the whole school was present together. It seems extraordinary then that only one Brother was assigned to supervise the large refectory where up to 800 boys could be eating at once. In the course of being interviewed Brothers who had formerly worked at Artane told of leaving the door behind them open at all times so that they could escape if the situation in the refectory got out of hand. Brothers spoke of the atmosphere being “like a powder keg” and related stories of how Brothers had occasionally been assaulted by boys with knives from the dining tables. At each table of boys a senior boy was placed in charge, and it was his job to distribute the bread and tea to the other boys at the table. It was also his function, should any boy be misbehaving at the table to tell him to leave the table and stand by the wall so that he could be punished by the Brother in charge in due course.

7.661In conclusion:

  • Food from the farm and bread from the bakery made it possible to provide for the needs of the School and the Community at reasonable cost.
  • Mealtimes were not properly supervised, and young or timid boys were bullied and did not get enough to eat. This was a failure of management.
  • Facilities for preparing food and for serving it were primitive. Meals were poorly prepared and monotonous. A Brother categorised as ‘slip-shod’ by his own colleagues was in sole charge of this department for up to 15 years until the early 1960s and complainants testified that food was poor until this Brother was replaced. This was evidence of inferior management in the fundamental task of providing three meals a day for hundreds of boys. The facilities available in the Brothers’ kitchen were in stark contrast to those provided for the boys.
  • The problems identified by the Visitor in 1957 and confirmed by witnesses were not picked up by the Department Inspector. The food during an inspection was not typical of that served on a daily basis, indicating a serious flaw in the inspection procedure.


7.662Dr McCabe was critical of the standard of clothing provided for the boys.

7.663In 1944, following a number of general inspections, Dr McCabe complained that the boys’ clothes were very patched, but was informed that there was difficulty in procuring material. She reiterated her criticism sporadically.

7.664In 1955, following a general inspection of the School, a Department Inspector, Mr Ó Síochfhradha, wrote to the Resident Manager outlining a number of concerns in relation to the care of the boys. The Resident Manager responded by saying that while he agreed that the improvements were necessary:

The only obstacle that stands in the way and hinders progress being made in [the] scheme outlined is the lack of funds. The school is in a weak condition financially and for obvious reasons we are unable to meet fully our ordinary commitments at present.

7.665This conflicts with the Visitation Report for 1955, which stated that the financial position of Artane was very satisfactory:

On the 31st December, 1954 the Surplus Income from the School Account was £4,645 … and from the House Account £12,113 … On both accounts there was a Credit Balance at the end of the year of £36,203 to carry on to the 1955 accounts. There is a sum of £30,000 invested in the Building Fund.

7.666At this time, there was to the credit of the Institution £30,000 in the Congregation’s account. Between 1944 and 1956, the sum of over £17,500 was paid into the fund. Around this time, Artane paid back a long-standing debt of £8,800 to the building fund. The Community paid Visitation Dues of £3,000 in 1955.

7.667A Visitation Report in 1947, while describing the boys as ‘well fed and very well clothed’, recommended that boys should be allowed to wash and change after working in the farm. However, 10 years later, in 1957, the Visitor commented that the boys came in to meals in a filthy condition and stayed in their dirty and often wet clothes all day.

7.668A complainant committed in the mid-1940s described how boys who worked on the farm wore their everyday boots whilst working. They did not have overcoats or waterproof clothing, and wore a sack over their shoulders if it was raining.

7.669Many of the complainants resident in Artane in the 1940s complained of the quality of the clothing. The Brothers confirmed that the School produced its own cloth from which trousers were made. Although this material was clearly unsuitable for use in clothing, it was not replaced until the mid-1960s. A number of Brothers who spoke to the Investigation Committee stated that one of the major improvements introduced in the 1960s was an improvement in the boys’ clothing. Instead of being made by the tailoring shop, the clothes were bought in and were more comfortable and fashionable. The report of Dr Lysaght dated June 1966 described the boys as ‘well clothed: neat and tidy’.

7.670The inspection of underwear also had a humiliating and embarrassing impact on the boys. A witness who was sent to Artane in the late 1950s explained how, every Saturday evening, the boys would line up and receive their change of clothing for the following week. They had to display their underwear to the Brother in charge and were punished if it was soiled. Another man who was in Artane during the late 1960s described a similar regime and said that he did not wear his underwear for fear that it would be soiled by the end of the week.

7.671This humiliating and unnecessary practice was referred to by a number of complainants who described the weekly inspection of underpants. If the underwear was soiled, the boy would have to face the wall and await punishment, which generally meant slaps on the hand with the leather. One Brother said:

I accept that I did examine the underpants. The reason for examining the underpants was that complaints had come from the woman and the staff in the laundry that soiled underwear was coming down to the laundry, and with the number of boys that was in Artane at the time she wasn’t too happy about it … so word came up to us that we were to check the underpants and if an underpants was badly soiled, not the ordinary run of the mill thing like slide marks, that didn’t matter, it was a case where the underpants was badly soiled, it is then that I would take action … I would take the action of getting the fellow to go to the washroom and so on and clean it, then we would throw it into the bag with the rest of it. I will admit that – not in connection with the underpants – if [the complainant] says I put him facing the wall I will admit that.

7.672When asked whether the boys deserved to be slapped for something they had no control over, he replied:

I do not think they deserved to be punished … I accept that if I did slap them. I don’t think I slapped them for soiling their pants. I slapped them for other reasons but not for that … normally I would not punish a boy for soiling his pants. I mean that could happen to anybody. But if [the complainant] says I did it on one particular occasion, fair enough I will accept that.

7.673Many former residents spoke of the inspection of underpants, and recalled the punishment that ensued if they were soiled, but not one of them recalled having to wash them before they were thrown into the laundry bag.

7.674Fr Henry Moore82 reported in 1962 that clothing was an aspect of the general care that was ‘grossly neglected’. He said that the boys’ clothing was ‘uncomfortable, unhygienic and of a displeasing sameness’. The quality of the clothing was poor due to the fact that they were manufactured at the School. Overcoats were only supplied to those boys who were in a position to pay for them. He described as pathetic the sight of hundreds of boys on their Sunday walk in the depths of winter without an overcoat. He was also critical of the fact that boys had to change from their Sunday clothes after their walk into their everyday clothes which, in his view, was bad for morale. There was no change of clothing in accordance with the seasons, and the boys wore hob-nailed boots and heavy clothing all year round.

7.675An additional criticism was the lack of personal ownership of clothes, that were common property amongst the boys. Clothes were distributed randomly from a common pool, often without regard to size. Stockings and shirts were replaced once a week, underwear only once a fortnight.

7.676Fr Moore commented:

This fundamental disregard for personal attention inevitably generates insecurity, instability and an amoral concern for the private property of others. This I consider to be a causative factor in the habits of stealing frequently encountered among ex-pupils.

7.677A respondent who was in Artane in the 1960s recalled how shirts and undergarments were distributed randomly, and there was no sense of ownership attached to these.

7.678Fr Moore referred in his report to the lack of overcoats for the boys. The leader of the Department group that inspected Artane just before Christmas 1962 noted that, in early December, 412 raincoats had been ordered by the Institution for all the boys:

… as regards clothing the overcoats supplied by the school are raincoats only 412 of which were ordered early in December. All the boys questioned (50 approx.) wore woollen underpants.

The clothing of the boys while lacking refinement was adequate apart from the doubtful desirability of providing cloth overcoats which will require further investigation.

7.679Complainants who stated that the clothing provided by Artane was not adequate in cold weather, even into the late 1960s, were probably correct.

7.680In conclusion:

  • Clothing was poor, patched, and institutional in style, and the repeated criticism by the Department Inspector was often to no avail.
  • Underwear inspections in public were a feature of life in Artane. The explanation that this was done to clean the underpants before they were sent to the laundry was not confirmed by former residents. It would not, in any case, have afforded justification for this degrading practice.
  • Changes of clothes were not available to boys who worked in wet, muddy and dirty conditions. Until the mid-1960s, overcoats were not provided. Bad clothing marked out the boys and reduced their self-respect and personal dignity.

Accommodation and hygiene

7.681In 1944, Dr McCabe identified sanitation as being in need of modernisation. The poor state of the sanitation facilities was described in a letter written by a former resident to the Department of Justice in October 1946:

the only W.C.s 900 boys have at Artane Ind. School [are] 30 filthy buckets at the rear of a Hand Ball Alley which the boys use and I want to know when are more modern and hygienic lavatories going to be provided for the boys.

7.682He also queried whether the boys were involved in emptying and cleaning ‘these buckets of stenchious filth’.

7.683The Resident Manager responded, confirming that a farm labourer was employed to empty and clean the sanitary buckets as part of his duties. The labourer who usually performed this task had become unwell, and a number of the boys who worked on the farm had carried out this chore on a temporary basis. He assured the Department that another farm labourer had been assigned this task and was not assisted by the boys. The Department confirmed to the letter writer that plans for the modernisation of the sanitation system were ‘under active consideration’. The Department categorically denied that the boys were involved in removing the buckets. The letter went on to say:

The sanitation system at the school has been inspected time and again by Inspectors of this Department and by Sanitary Inspectors and as far as is known no complaint has been made about it from the point of view of the hygiene and health of the boys beyond the statement that the system is an old one. Scrupulous attention is given to the daily cleansing and disinfecting of the system.

7.684A man who was a pupil in Artane in the 1940s described the state of the toilets and the occasional duties given to some of the boys:

We had only buckets behind the handball alley … I would say there was about 20 to 30 buckets … it was newspaper we used instead of toilet rolls, there was no such thing … They had to be emptied … There was two men, [he thought they were siblings], … at the time it was a horse and cart … They were lay men … I was one of the ones that had to help on that occasion because I was a hefty lump of a lad … You had to put a bit of paper, them buckets could be over full … You have a dirty job there … we were just emptying the buckets … into this barrel. We called it a barrel. It was a horse and cart … it had to be done every day. Imagine there is 800 people were going through toilets … the handball alley was your wee wee, the back of the handball alley. You put them back. They were lovely looking going back … They went back with a kind of coat on them.

7.685The buckets, he insisted, were not washed out: ‘Where would you get water?’.

7.686The 1943 Visitation Report noted:

The Toilets for the boys are not modern in any sense. They are of the dry kind and buckets are used and changed daily. There is no running water in the urinals; they must be washed out every day.

7.687In each year between 1944 and 1947, the Visitor noted that the lavatory facilities required replacing. Work commenced on the replacement of this system in 1948.

7.688This primitive system remained in use until 1950, when the Visitation Report for that year stated: ‘The sanitary block completed by Br Tyce meets a long-standing want’.

7.689Apart from identifying the sanitation as being in need of modernisation, Dr McCabe expressed herself as consistently impressed with the condition of the premises in Artane. Conversely, the Visitor was regularly critical of aspects of the accommodation of Artane.

7.690Facilities for the boys were poor. There was no indoor recreation hall, as identified by the Visitor in 1945 and again in 1956: ‘The lack of a play-hall space is a crying need’. Similar comments were made in subsequent reports, but nothing was done until 1965 when an enclosed play shelter was erected, with recreation rooms for use during the winter. The financial position of the Institution was good during the 1950s, but the Visitation Reports reveal a marked reluctance to spend money on the Institution because of uncertainty as to its future as an industrial school.

7.691This uncertainty dogged Artane from about 1954 onwards and materially affected the standard of care but, even before that, there was a lack of urgency in seeing to the needs of the boys. Facilities that were in everyday use by the boys were left in poor condition, for example the lavatories, the recreation hall, the classrooms, and the kitchen and refectory.

7.692In 1955, Dr McCabe identified areas that required attention, including the kitchen and a new recreation hall. The Resident Manager accepted that the various improvements were necessary, and added that new schoolrooms were also required as the School building was in a dangerous condition and had been condemned some 40 years earlier. He stated:

The only obstacle that stands in the way and hinders progress being made in scheme outlined is the lack of funds. The school is in a weak condition financially and for obvious reasons we are unable to meet fully our ordinary commitments at present. As a matter of fact I cannot see how the work being done in this school can be continued for long under the present conditions.

7.693He sought confirmation from the Department as to the nature of any financial aid that would be available from the Department to effect the improvements.

7.694Matters came to a head when, on 24th November 1957, the Provincial of the Christian Brothers wrote to the Department of Education following a visit to Artane. He stated that urgent repairs and renovations were necessary, particularly to the kitchen and roofs. Before entering into a consideration as to whether the Congregation would incur any liability to effect such improvements, he requested information regarding the Department’s position in relation to the future of industrial and reformatory schools. He noted that the number of boys in Artane had steadily decreased and that ‘it is proving more than uneconomical to try to run it’ with smaller numbers.

7.695This letter caused anxiety in the Department, which is reflected in an internal memorandum dated 25th November 1957. The realisation sank in that, without Artane, the nearest location to Dublin of a senior boys’ industrial school was in Clonmel:

If Artane school were to close down the question of the provision of alternative accommodation for the area now served by it would have to be considered as an urgent problem. It is doubtful if any Religious Order would be very willing to undertake the provision of new Senior boys Industrial Schools in the Dublin area without a substantial grant in aid from the State towards the cost of the new building and an assurance that the State and local authorities would give a substantial increase on the existing rate of capitation maintenance grants.

7.696The capitation grant was increased by 50% as a result of the intervention by the Provincial. However, improvements remained outstanding and the Resident Manager pointed out that, despite the increase in the capitation grant, overheads remained high and were always increasing.

7.697By 1961, the kitchen was complete and new classrooms were due for completion that autumn; the recreation hall was not completed until 1965.

7.698Dr Lysaght was not impressed by the standards of cleanliness in the bathrooms and dormitories. He stated that, despite the School having being certified for 830 boys, realistically nowhere near this number of boys could be accommodated in the dormitories or dining room. In fact, of course, that number and, indeed, more than that number had been accommodated in Artane throughout the 1940s and well into the 1950s.

7.699Even with the falling numbers, Dr Lysaght was of the view that the dormitories were far too large, with 90 to 100 beds in each dormitory. Such a large number ‘gives an impression of institutional care and regimentation which is of course objectionable and not in accordance with modern trends’.

7.700In conclusion:

  • The 800 boys in Artane had no toilet facilities other than dry buckets until about 1950. The Department of Education and the Congregation should not have allowed such primitive conditions to continue for so long.
  • Some facets of the accommodation were poor and overlooked. Even when no uncertainty about the future of Artane existed and numbers were at their highest, provision of proper facilities for the boys was not considered a priority.


7.701Primary school education was a right of every child in the State during the period covered by this investigation. Failure to attend school was the reason given for committing 1,045 of the 3,685 boys detained between 1940 and 1969.

7.702It is clear from the section dealing with accommodation in Artane that the classrooms provided were poor, even by the standards of the time. Successive Visitation Reports decried the dilapidated and unsuitable condition of these buildings that had been condemned in the 1930s. As early as 1934, the Visitor commented:

The Buildings are in good repair on the whole, but the class-rooms are said to be unsafe; they will hold until the findings of the Commission now in session will determine the school accommodation required.

7.703By 1937, the Superior expressed the view to the Visitor that the classrooms were adequate and would survive another 10 years.

7.704It was not until 1963 that new classrooms were provided, five years before Artane ceased operating as an industrial school and opened as a secondary school for boys. Not only were the buildings themselves in poor condition, but they were cheerless and depressing, according to both ex-pupils and ex-staff members.

7.705The standard of the School premises came in for criticism in 1956 when the Visitor noted that they were drab, crowded and the furniture old fashioned. However, given the uncertain future of industrial schools, he recommended that any plans to refurbish be postponed. Plans for the construction of new classrooms were approved by the Department of Education in 1959, and they were completed in 1963.

7.706The Visitation Reports are complimentary of the standard of primary school education in Artane throughout the years, and frequently note that it is on a par with, if not better than, the standard in ordinary day schools. The Visitors were not alone in their praise. It is noted again and again in the Visitation Reports that the Department of Education School Inspector marked the standard of teaching as either efficient or highly efficient.

7.707Br Wiatt held the position of Principal from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. He was praised in many Visitation Reports for the well-organised manner in which he ran the School.

7.708The Visitation Report in November 1938 noted that the School was well organised and the classes of reasonable size. The Visitor remarked that the numbers of boys in classes was in fact lower than in ordinary schools. There was a wide divergence in ages amongst children, particularly in the lowest class, because many children who were admitted to Artane had little or no education before being sent there. In the 1930s and 1940s, when numbers in the School rose to over 800, there were up to 24 teachers engaged in teaching classes, from infants through to 6th standard. The teaching staff was mostly made up of Brothers. By the mid-1950s, the number had reduced to 16 classes with 14 teachers, due to falling numbers.

7.709By 1957, there were 526 boys in the Institution, a drop of over 200 in two years. The Visitation Report that year noted that the School was overstaffed, with 12 teachers, and class sizes were well below average. Numbers continued to drop steadily in the Institution into the 1960s and, by 1968, there were 280 boys in the School.

7.710The school day was unconventional. Most of the boys attended school in the morning, from 9.30 a.m. to 11.40 a.m. and returned in the evening, from 5.00 p.m. to 7.15 p.m., a feature that the Cussen Commission criticised. The afternoons were spent in trades, at band practice or at knitting school.

7.711There was also ‘midday school’, which ran until 2.00 p.m. and catered for children of all ages who were classed ‘backward and neglected’. Children who were not otherwise engaged in trades, the farm or the band attended this class. The value of this class was questioned by the Visitor in 1958. It did not follow any particular curriculum and was not subject to Departmental Inspections.

7.712Boys over 14 who attended trades-training all day were required to attend ‘continuation school’, which ran from 5.00 p.m. to 7.15 p.m. They were taught by the same teachers who took the midday class, and these classes were not subject to inspection by the Department of Education.

7.713Although the continuation school offered an opportunity for extra education to boys who might not otherwise achieve 6th class standard, nevertheless there was little room in the above timetable for recreation. The boys who attended the continuation school in the evening did so after a long day working in a trade or on the farm. They were exhausted by the time they got to school, and did not even have time to change out of their work clothes before class.83 This daily routine remained until the School closed in 1968, although it was debated in 1959 whether normal school hours should be introduced.

7.714The same year, a secondary top school was formed in the School, although the Visitor opined in his Visitation Report of 1965 that a technical top might have been more appropriate. The School had opted for the secondary top, as there were no metal or woodwork teachers available.

7.715Two classes were formed from amongst those who had passed their Primary Certificate, and the first tranche of boys from Artane prepared to sit their Intermediate Certificate in 1966. However, it was also the last time a boy from Artane Industrial School would sit this examination. The Visitation Report of December 1966 noted that the class had been discontinued because of Department regulations. Only eight boys had passed the examination that year. Instead, a class for boys who wished to join the catering industry was set up under the supervision of the CERT84 organisation. It was hoped that the more promising boys could continue their education in the local secondary schools, although the Committee has seen no evidence that this ever occurred.

7.716In 1964, a special remedial class was formed for boys of sub-normal ability. The class was a success, and the Principal hoped to form another class so that the age range of boys would not be so disparate.

7.717By 1966, the number of boys of sub-normal ability had increased to the point where it was becoming an acute problem. The Christian Brothers were critical of the Department’s policy of directing these boys to Artane when the Institution did not have the specialised facilities to deal with these children.

7.718The School followed the National School programme, and the boys were eligible to sit the Primary Certificate examination. Many of the Visitation Reports point to the high success rate of the boys who sat this examination, but these figures need to be examined against the total number of boys in 6th standard. In some years, up to 50% of the boys in 6th standard in the primary school were not presented for this examination, which made the very high pass rate for those who did sit for it less significant.

7.719The standard of education for the boys engaged in trades during the day was criticised by a number of Visitors. The first hint of disapproval appeared in the Visitation Report of 1947, in which the Visitor noted that the few hours devoted to school work in the evening lacked drive and efficiency. In 1952, the Visitor queried in his report the wisdom of taking the boys out of primary school at the age of 14, regardless of whether they had reached the 6th standard.

7.720In 1952, the Visitor noted that more could be done for this category of boys. He stated:

… our institutions owe a great deal to those boys who work full time at their trades. Their work is of great financial advantage to each establishment. One obvious difficulty is that those teaching the trades are tradesmen and not teachers. If they have the power to control and teach it is only by accident and not as a result of their previous training.

7.721He noted with satisfaction the introduction of mechanical drawing during evening classes, and wondered whether it would be possible to employ vocational teachers to develop this aspect of education further.

7.722In 1954, 40 of the boys who had passed the Primary Certificate were nominated to sit the Technical School examinations. Two teachers from Marino Technical School taught woodwork and mechanical drawing. They were paid by the Vocational Committee. 16 boys sat the exam in June 1954, and 12 passed. In 1956, all but one of the 16 boys who presented for the examination were successful, and all had higher marks than the average. However, this scheme was discontinued.

7.723In conclusion:

  • The pass rate for the Primary Certificate was high by national standards, but not all boys of 6th class standard sat the examination.
  • Boys who attended continuation school did so after working at a trade during the day. Many boys had not attained 6th standard before they reached 14 and were taught by teachers in classes that were not subject to Department Inspections. The standard of their education was the subject of contemporary criticism in Visitation Reports.
  • Boys who completed the Primary Certificate went over the same course until they reached 14 and went into trades training, and did not get the opportunity to progress into secondary education.
  • The Christian Brothers have been critical of the Department of Education’s failure to provide for the educationally backward children in Artane, but they must also accept blame for their failure to provide secondary education to intelligent and able boys who passed through Artane. The Congregation ran secondary schools close to Artane, and yet no provision was made for any Artane boys to attend these schools.


7.724Training was an essential part of the philosophy of the Industrial School. If the boy was to become a useful citizen, he should be trained for productive employment. The author of the 1952 Visitation Report discussed some of the issues:

Artane has a more elaborate organisation of trades than our other Industrial Schools. These trades serve, or are supposed to serve, a dual purpose – training the boys for outside life and balancing the Artane budget. Br Oscar85 has charge of the shops, and each shop has one or more trained lay tradesman. In practice, some of the trades serve only one purpose. For example, the wages of the two shoemakers amount to £800 per annum. It is believed that this sum plus the money expended on leather would supply the boys with factory-made boots for one year. On the other hand, the tinsmiths supply the establishment with such things as kitchen-ware and refectory-ware at a cost well below factory prices, but no boy has been placed as a tinsmith in any outside factory in the past six years.

7.725The Visitor noted that:

the position is satisfactory with regard to placing tailors, shoemakers, waiters band boys and farmers, unsatisfactory in the case of bakers, weavers, carpenters, mechanics and painters, and hopeless in the case of tinsmiths. These latter have to be fitted in anywhere a vacancy can be found irrespective of its nature.

7.726He then asked the very pertinent question:

Would a boy who has served as a tinsmith for two years and who has to go into a post of a very different type for which he has received no training have a grievance? Would he feel that he had been exploited for two years? Are the Brothers justified for economic reasons in putting a boy at such work when they know that he is almost certain not to continue in it later? The nurse told me that one of her patients was a tinsmith against his will. He wanted to be a carpenter. I should have mentioned earlier that as far as is convenient the boys get their choice of trade.