Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 12 — Salthill

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Physical abuse


A diary entry in 1981 read: [John]12 Back. 6.30 . Had a chat with him and gave him a few clatters.


A casual approach to physical punishment was revealed in this entry. It suggested that giving a boy ‘a few clatters’ was acceptable when it should have had no place in childcare practices in the 1980s.

Sexual abuse


The documents revealed cases of actual and suspected sexual abuse in Salthill. They implicated five Brothers, one care worker who was a former resident, and another ex-resident who came back years after he had been discharged and got into the building on a number of occasions.


The documents covered the period from the 1930s to the 1980s. Three of the Brothers came under suspicion when they were in the Institution, while the other two came to notice in industrial schools other than Salthill. One Brother explicitly admitted that he had been guilty of immorality with boys for years, but he later withdrew the confession, and his subsequent dismissal was for unconnected reasons. In another case, the Brother tried to put an innocent interpretation on his conduct but the Provincial was clear that it was a ‘lapse’. This Brother went on to abuse for over 20 years after leaving Salthill. The last Salthill case involving a Christian Brother was more equivocal, and concerned inappropriate behaviour for which he gave a somewhat odd explanation.


Br Emile was working in Salthill in the early 1950s, when he wrote directly to the Sacred Congregation of Religious in Rome requesting a dispensation. He said that he never had a vocation and only took his final vows to avoid disappointing his mother. He confessed: Since 1945 with the exception of two years back at College I have been interfering immorally and unchastely with boys under my care. I tried to give it up but failed. I realised that I was doing great harm to the boys, to the Congregation and damning my own soul.


He said that he had consulted two Jesuit priests on the matter and they strongly advised him to leave the Congregation.


The Monsignor dealing with the case sent a copy of the letter to Br Clancy, the Superior General, commenting, ‘I think it is a clear case of letting him go’. The Brother then withdrew his application, asserting that he was depressed at the time he made the application and that what he had stated with regard to abusing boys was false. The General Council accepted Br Emile’s retraction and his explanation for it, but felt it necessary to issue him with a maneat in February 1953.


Less than two years later Br Emile was accused of new, unrelated charges of repeated, serious disregard of religious obligations, including rebelling with others against the strictures of religious life. The General Council ultimately decided that it had ample evidence regarding Br Emile’s unsuitability for the Congregation and that ‘it will be in the interest of the...Community and of the Irish Province to have Br Emile’s case disposed of as quickly as Canon Law permits.’


Two Canonical Warnings were then issued to Br Emile and were swiftly followed by a Decree of Dismissal, which was accepted by Br Emile. He subsequently got married and continued to teach in a national school until the early 1990s.


There was no record of any inquiries into the confessions made by Br Emile in his abortive application for a dispensation in the early 1950s which he made directly to Rome. It was not clear why he was issued with a maneat. To accept the retraction of such a serious confession without further investigation was a risk to children in his care.


This complicated and difficult story of repeated sexual abuse is recounted here because the perpetrator’s behaviour was first recorded in the Christian Brothers’ records relating to Salthill. The Brother’s history reveals a pattern of abuse extending over a period of 25 years in different schools. It illustrates the recidivist nature of sexual abuse, and the difficulties of reporting it.


Br Dacian had spent only four months in Salthill in the early 1960s when he was transferred in great haste to a day school in Dublin. A Visitor at that time noted: Br Dacian has been guilty of a grave indiscretion with one of the boys and I’m afraid he will have to be changed. He was otherwise most suited to this place and an ardent worker.


In a letter to the Superior General following his Visitation, the Visitor elaborated on Br Dacian’s indiscretion. A pupil reported to the Superior that one night he had been awakened by somebody who had his hand inside his pyjamas touching his genitals. He could only make out an outline of the man but, by his shape and the sound of his voice, he recognised him as Br Dacian. When the boy awoke, the man had said to him that this was a serious matter and that he should not tell anyone.


The Visitor confronted Br Dacian about the allegation and he confessed that he was the person involved. However, he offered the explanation that he had merely been checking to see whether the boy had wet the bed, as he was a regular bed-wetter. But, as the Visitor noted, ‘it is apparent that this does not explain everything’. Br Dacian assured the Visitor that he did not have any ‘inclination this way’ and that this was the first time anything like that had happened. The Visitor was ‘inclined to believe him’ but thought that a transfer was necessary, as other boys were aware of Br Dacian’s lapse. The Visitor lamented that this change was necessary as ‘he was a very good choice for that school where self-sacrificing men are so necessary’.


This experienced Visitor described the incident as a lapse and an indiscretion, and he was not satisfied with the Brother’s explanation. Nevertheless, he left the matter unresolved and uncertain, which implied that he did not consider the allegation to be very grave.

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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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