Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 12 — Salthill

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Sexual abuse


In conclusion: The Brothers’ assurances to Tom Murphy’s family that they would carry out a proper investigation, take action and not cover up were hollow: they did not investigate, they withheld information, and they supported the perpetrator. The Murphys were treated shamefully: the parents were in turn passed on from one person in authority to another; their case was treated with indifference; they were delayed a meeting with the senior Brother; and when the meeting did eventually take place, they were patronised, cross-examined and misled. The need for proper procedures and protocols is highlighted by these cases, but they are of little value if those in authority are working to their own agenda. The failure to deal with this abuser led to other children being victimised, and the Congregation bears responsibility. The danger perceived by the Christian Brothers was the revelation of sexual abuse rather than the fact of abuse. Victims’ families were unwilling to prosecute this abuser in three separate cases, which would tend to suggest substantial under-reporting of sexual abuse. This perpetrator was able to exploit the reluctance of his victims to charge him and the complacency of his brethren.


A matter concerning Br Gautier was brought to the Provincial Council’s attention in the early 1950s. The Superior wrote to the Provincial setting out the matter. He explained that there were occasions when Br Gautier had stripped small boys who were in care in Salthill in order to apply a medical lotion. This was not an uncommon practice, in that boys suffering from various ailments, such as scabies, were usually treated with a medical lotion. The Superior questioned Br Gautier, who denied emphatically that anything improper had occurred and volunteered to attend at the Provincialate in Booterstown to defend his actions.


The Superior wrote that Br Gautier had acted ‘indiscreetly’ and should have brought to his attention the fact that the boys required treatment so that he could deal with it as he thought appropriate. He warned that there were ‘boys in our midst who have told lies about their companions with a view to having such punished’. The Superior remarked that he had intended to warn Br Gautier to be careful but that the matter lapsed from his memory. He added that Br Gautier ‘is severe – I mean stern’. He accepted Br Gautier’s explanation of the matter.


Br Gautier also wrote to the Provincial and explained what had led him to strip boys. It had been reported to him that two boys were suffering from a disease. He said that he had sought the advice of a priest on the matter. The priest gave him permission to strip the boys, to see whether they were in fact suffering from a disease. Br Gautier swore that nothing improper had taken place.


A Visitation Report later that year noted that Br Gautier was an untiring worker with no difficulty handling the large number of boys in the School. However, the Report noted that ’he resents direction or interference in his work. He has had difficulties with his Superiors, both in Glin and in Galway on this point’. The writer also noted that Br Gautier was below average intelligence.


Br Ryan of the General Council wrote to Br Rice of the Provincial Council six months later: I think it would be well to give Br Gautier a transfer from there on the first opportunity. I got a hint of that some time ago. I do not imply great urgency, but merely for the young Brother’s own sake.


Br Gautier was duly transferred to Limerick three months later. He never taught in an industrial school again.


Br Ryan clearly had previous suspicions regarding Br Gautier and, in the light of these suspicions, his behaviour with the boys in Salthill should have given rise to urgent action. The issue that should have been investigated was whether there was a sexual motive to what the Brother did. Relevant matters included whether it was his function to examine boys, what records he had kept of his inspections, where and when the examinations took place and in whose presence, why the Brother consulted the priest, and how many boys were involved. Before the topic was closed and suspicion dispelled, the boys should have been interviewed. In the result, no clear decision was made, but the Superior thought that the Brother acted ‘indiscreetly’ and he was transferred subsequently ‘for his own sake’.


During the mid-1970s, the Resident Manager’s diary recorded that, at 2am, a former pupil, Brian Dunne, who had been discharged some 10 years previously, ‘broke in and interfered with boys’. The following night, at 1.30 am, he again broke into the School and sexually assaulted five boys. On this occasion, he was caught by Br Marque. Eight months later, he once again broke into the School. No further details of these incidents are available. The former pupil had been in Salthill for six years during the 1960s. Patrick Nolan,26 trainee childcare worker


A number of staff approached Br Burcet27 in the late 1980s, expressing concerns they had in relation to a care worker who held a temporary position with the Christian Brothers and who had himself been a resident of the home during the 1970s. They recounted an allegation, made by a boy residing in the School, that Mr Nolan had attempted a serious sexual assault on him the previous summer. The boy alleged that Mr Nolan targeted loners and used bribery as part of his modus operandi. Another staff member also recounted a recent incident when she discovered Mr Nolan and a pupil alone in a room, supposedly practising for the school concert. When she entered the room, the boy was sitting on the care worker’s knee and immediately jumped up. She also expressed concerns for another child who was close to Mr Nolan.


The Board of Management conducted an inquiry and suspended Mr Nolan, who denied the allegations. Approximately two months later, Mr Nolan was informed that the investigation was complete, that there were serious doubts regarding his professional trust, and the Board of Management felt it had no option but to terminate his employment with the School. He was given a lump sum to help him financially.


Mr Nolan brought proceedings against the School under the unfair dismissal legislation. In correspondence regarding this litigation, Br Burcet noted that ‘it is most likely that Patrick Nolan in his defence will point out that he himself was sexually abused while he was in St Joseph’s’. Br Burcet expressed concern regarding the potential damage that publicity surrounding the court case could do the School. The case settled on the day of the hearing. In the mid-1990s, Mr Nolan made a statement to the Gardaí alleging sexual abuse by three Brothers whilst he was a pupil in Salthill.


In conclusion: Although the allegations in this case were treated with more urgency than other incidents of sexual abuse cited above, the resolution of the case was motivated by a desire to avoid damaging publicity against the School. The consequences for other children who would come into contact with this man were not considered. • The treatment of Mr Nolan, a layman, can be contrasted with that of Br Dacian, which is outlined above and whose abuse also came to light at the same time. • Mr Nolan made serious allegations of sexual abuse which caused a settlement to be reached in his unfair dismissal case. There was no evidence from the Christian Brothers’ files that these allegations were investigated by the Provincialate or passed on to the Western Health Board.


Brother Julien spent seven years in Salthill during the 1930s. During service in his next posting, Artane, he was accused of misconduct. A personnel sheet in relation to Br Julien provided the information that: ‘clear evidence came to light of serious, long, continued misconduct with boys in Artane. He asked for dispensation from his vows and left the Congregation [in] 1944’. Br Julien was implicated, along with three other Brothers, according to the Visitation Report, which noted: In our Institution 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. 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. The superior should have access to all rooms and stores in the institutions at all reasonable times and keys should be provided to enable him to have such access.


There was no documentary evidence as to any sexual activity by this Brother in Salthill but, given the recidivist nature of this crime, there must be serious concern regarding his time there.

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  30. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See the Department of Education chapter for a discussion of her role and performance.
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