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Chapter 10 — Carriglea

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Sexual abuse


It was not long before Br Tristan once again came to the attention of the General Council. Less than a year after his arrival in Carriglea, he was issued with a Canonical Warning and was swiftly transferred to Artane. Once again, details of this incident are not available.


In 1944, Br Tristan was implicated in sexual abuse of boys, along with three other Brothers in Artane. The abuse came to light after ‘a series of accusations by boys of the school indicating criminal or indecent assault’. The written complaints made by the boys and investigated by the Superior of Artane revealed ‘long continuance and frequency of wrongdoing on the part of Br Tristan’. He was tried by the General Council in Rome on 16th October 1944, where he denied ‘some of the matter of each charge’. Br Tristan was found guilty, and the unanimous vote was in favour of expulsion.


Br Tristan requested an interview with the Apostolic Visitor and one was granted. After their discussion, Br Tristan decided to apply for a dispensation from his vows. The dispensation was granted immediately by the Apostolic Visitor ‘whose powers enabled him to do so where he deemed it wise’.


There is a strong indication that Br Tristan was known by the General Council to be an abuser. He was that he was probably abusing boys throughout his 15-year career in the Congregation. Their solution to the problem was to move him on and to keep him within the industrial school system. The record of his trial by the General Council made it clear that the allegations amounted in their view to ‘criminal or indecent assault’. This was at odds with the submission made by the Christian Brothers to the effect that there was no appreciation at the time of the gravity of sexual abuse, and that the moral failure of the Brother and danger of scandal to the Congregation were regarded as the most significant repercussions of sexual abuse. The Christian Brothers referred to this incident in their Opening Statement and submitted that ‘it transpired, later, ... that he had also offended while in Carriglea Park’. This implied that the Carriglea incident only came to light some time later. This was not the case, as the minutes of the General Council meeting revealed that Br Tristan was reminded at his trial of the reason for his removal from both Marino and Carriglea.


Br Lancelin spent a short time in Artane in the early 1940s and was transferred to Carriglea in 1944. It would appear that he was transferred from Artane as ‘suspicion had been aroused by a tendency to particular friendship with a boy in Artane’. The Christian Brothers added in their Opening Statement that the evidence against him was inconclusive and he was cautioned before being transferred to Carriglea. It wasn’t long before he once again came under suspicion. A number of boys submitted written statements accusing Br Lancelin of ‘immoral conduct’. His record noted ‘one offence occurred on Xmas day 1944, though he made vows on Xmas morning’. The matter was investigated by the Provincial. He had previously given Br Lancelin ‘advice and caution’ regarding his dealings with boys, but the circumstances of this earlier episode are not known. The statements were read to Br Lancelin at a hearing before the General Council on 19th January 1945, and he admitted the substance of the allegations. As he was still on temporary vows, a dispensation from final vows was not necessary and he was dismissed from the Congregation.


In this serious case of sexual abuse, boys made written statements of complaint, which would have been an unusual course in the 1940s. The language used in the records included reference to ‘offences’, ‘charges’ and ‘guilt’. It is clear from these references and the nature of the hearing before the General Council that there was an awareness at the time of the criminal nature of the allegations and that their significance extended beyond moral failing of a Brother.


The documents revealed a high level of sexual activity between the boys. These records have been dealt with in the section ‘Management Issues’ The Christian Brothers submitted in their Opening Statement: The phenomenon of sexual activity of one kind or another among the pupils in industrial schools and indeed in boarding schools generally seems to have been a feature of life in these institutions and called for constant vigilance on the part of the staff.


Although some of this activity may have been consensual, children as young as 11 were engaged in this, and they were in all probability victims of predatory behaviour. In failing to supervise, management failed to protect younger or weaker boys from sexual abuse by their peers.


The Visitation Reports of 1943 and 1945 referred to sexual activity amongst boys, and the latter report revealed that such activity was ‘rife’. In an institution where over 70% of the boys were under 12 years of age, this was a serious problem.


There was an absence of recreational activity for the boys, who were left to spend their time outside school hours ‘lolling about the yard’, which had been identified as a problem as far back as the late 1930s.


The staff did not provide the ‘constant vigilance’ identified by the Christian Brothers as being necessary to counter sexual activity between boys when it became a major problem in the mid-1940s.


The Investigation Committee heard evidence from two complainants alleging sexual abuse. One complaint related to sexual abuse by a Brother, and the other related to sexual abuse by an older boy.


A complainant, who was resident in the School in the early 1950s, alleged that he was sexually abused on two occasions by Br Vic, one of the Brothers who had been sent into the School in 1946 to restore order and discipline. The alleged abuse took place at night, when the Brother would take the boy out of his bed and bring him to a room downstairs. He made the complainant perform oral sex. When asked by counsel whether he was in a position to resist, he stated, ‘No, you were never in a position to resist, they owned you body and soul once you were inside them walls’.


The complainant confided in a priest and, somehow, the allegation made its way back to Br Vic, who punished the boy for telling the priest. While the sexual abuse never occurred again, the boy lived in permanent fear of it recurring: ‘It wasn’t the fact that it didn’t happen again, it was the fear that it might. And when you live with that fear it is worse really than the act itself’.


The second complaint was made by a former resident who was present in Carriglea from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. He was 10 years old when he was sent to Carriglea, and the abuse, which involved masturbation, began shortly after he arrived there. He alleged that he was sexually abused on three or four occasions by an older boy aged approximately 15 years. When the perpetrator left the School, the abuse stopped. The witness stated, ‘I just kept it quiet. When you are institutionalised you don’t tell anybody, you keep it quiet’. It was significant that the alleged abuse occurred during a time when Visitation Reports indicated that immoral practices had been stamped out in the School.

  1. 121 boys in Carriglea who had been committed through the courts were transferred to Artane (106), Upton (8) and Greenmount (7). There were 55 voluntary admissions and they were transferred to Artane (16), Tralee (20) and Glin (19).
  2. As in the case of Letterfrack .
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  9. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter for a discussion of her role and performance.
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  11. Br Ansel was also sent there for a few months around the end of 1945.
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  22. Review of Financial Matters Relating to the System of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools, and a Number of Individual Institutions 1939 to 1969.
  23. Córas Iompair Éireann was a State-owned public transport company.