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Chapter 12 — Salthill

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Sexual abuse


Further information about Br Dacian had emerged some four months before the Murphys made their complaint about his conduct. A memorandum in the records of the Brothers contains an account of information given by a father as to Br Dacian’s offensive sexual activities with his son, Peter Brady,22 when the boy was in the Gaelteacht one summer in the mid-1980s. The matter came to light when the Principal of a Christian Brothers primary school in Dublin contacted Br Agrican and then another senior Brother, whose note recorded the information. The Principal heard the allegations from Mr Brady and thought it was important to notify the Congregation at senior level. He said that he was concerned about recommending groups of boys to go to the Gaelteacht in view of what Mr Brady had reported to him. He arranged for a meeting between Mr Brady and the senior Brother at Cluain Mhuire.


Mr Brady complained that, after Peter’s first two days in the Gaelteacht, Br Dacian, who was teaching there, brought him to his room every night and sat him on his lap and fondled and kissed him and stroked his penis. Br Dacian would arrive when all were asleep and shine a torch in Peter’s face and bring him to his room. One night, Peter tried to evade him by going to another bunk, but he was located by Br Dacian and brought away. Peter said that he was ‘scared stiff’ all during the holiday. Mr Brady had suggested to Peter that Br Dacian was very friendly and maybe that Peter was exaggerating, but Peter insisted on the details as described, and recalled another particular incident when boys were waiting for presents they had ordered and Peter asked Br Dacian when they were coming. The Brother brought him outside and asked him if he really wanted to see him about the presents or did he want to see him himself. Mr Brady said that Peter had written to the family saying that he wanted to go home. The Bradys visited him on two weekends and found Br Dacian very helpful and friendly, and Mr Brady brought cigarettes as a present for Br Dacian but Peter objected, which struck Mr Brady as strange, but he did not follow it up.


When Peter came home, he received a letter from Br Dacian inviting him to visit the Brother at his Dublin school, enclosing a map showing how to get there. His parents thought that Peter should accept the invitation, but he would only go if he was accompanied, and his mother went with him but Br Dacian was not there.


Mr Brady did not wish to press charges, nor did he want Br Dacian to know the details or the source of the information. He was concerned that other boys might have been affected. Mr Brady made a favourable impression on the senior Brother who made the record.


After his second time on retreat in the monastery (following the allegations made in respect of Tom Murphy), Br Dacian went to a Residential Therapy Centre for Religious Clergy in England. The Provincial, Br Travis, wrote to him there with information about the progress of the investigations. Br Travis apologised for the delay in writing and expressed the hope that Br Dacian was finding his stay helpful and looked forward to visiting in a few weeks’ time when ‘I will be able to have a chat with you then’. He went on to describe the state of the inquiries: I have had two further meetings with the Western Health Board and they have now concluded the investigations. They will not be following through with any proceedings, thank God. I have now to meet Mr and Mrs Murphy ... I hope this will be the final meeting. They still require an apology in writing which, on reading, they will immediately destroy in my presence. It should be brief and to the point. On the basis of legal advice I enclose a draft. I also enclose some of our own Cluain Mhuire notepaper on which you can write the apology in your own handwriting. However, write this apology only if you feel you should. I would need it to hand by Wednesday, [two days prior to my meeting with the Murphys] at the latest. When I meet you on ... I will bring you up to date on what has happened at all of these meetings. I am confident that it will all die down now with the help of God.


Br Dacian wrote the apology as requested by Br Travis: Dear Mr and Mrs Murphy, My purpose in writing to you is to apologise for my behaviour with Tom and any upset I may have caused to you, his parents. I regret it sincerely. I am pleased to hear that Tom is back at school and faring well. Yours sincerely,


Br Dacian wrote to the Provincial expressing his gratitude and appreciation that ‘the whole affair is coming to a satisfactory conclusion’, which he thought was due to the Provincial’s ‘delicate dealing of the matter’.


The documents in this case revealed, incidentally, other unrelated instances of sexual abuse by religious and lay teachers.


In his first meeting with the Provincial and the Superior, Mr Murphy stated that interference with boys was going on in the School for many years, going back 25 or 30 years, and mentioned a Br Nathaniel.23 The Provincial recorded that he and the Superior said they knew nothing about it, and noted that Br Nathaniel was a Christian Brother in the Community in the early 1950s who had later left the Congregation. The story of Br Nathaniel, as revealed in the Congregation’s Rome Files, was that, in the mid-1960s, he sought and obtained a dispensation from his vows because of his trouble with the vow of chastity, although the record did not confirm that his sexual interest was in boys. The Brother had informed his Superiors that he had not been able to keep the vow of chastity for years. He was proposing to seek a job as a teacher in England. The authorities were keen to facilitate the Brother and, because ‘it would make matters too pointed if he was now taken off’ a course that he was to do, it was proposed to move him to the O’Brien Institute and have the dispensation executed from there.


The psychologist whom the Murphy family consulted reported to a senior social worker that the father of another child with whom he was dealing had himself, when he was a schoolboy, witnessed his Principal teacher, a religious Brother, sexually abusing a boy in front of the class on frequent occasions.


The story of Peter Brady emerged for the first time in that family when Peter’s brother had an unpleasant experience of a sexual nature with a teacher in his school and warned Peter about him, whereupon Peter revealed to his mother and brother the abuse that he had suffered at Br Dacian’s hands.


In none of the Br Dacian cases was there a prosecution or even a formal report to the Gardaí. None of the victims wished to pursue the matter by way of Garda investigation. In the Murphy case, the parents were fearful of the damage that might be done to their son by the publicity. The same was almost certainly true for the incidental cases mentioned above. These features of the responses of victims and their families to cases of abuse have important implications for abuse and the investigation of abuse, and often make it easier for perpetrators to avoid being required to answer for their actions.


The teacher who confronted Br Dacian in the Dublin school was the Principal, in the mid-1990s, when he wrote to Br Travis seeking confirmation that Br Dacian was no longer working with children. He wrote: We have to be absolutely certain that no other children are at risk. If we do not get that guarantee we will have to get legal advice.


Br Travis furnished the required confirmation in his reply: I wish to confirm that he is engaged in ministry with adults in England. His work does not entail any involvement or contact with children or young people.


In its Opening Statement on Letterfrack, the Congregation dealt with Br Dacian, who is referred to as Br R, as follows: 8. In ... Brother R, during his appointment to Salthill Industrial School was accused of touching a boy’s private parts in the dormitory. (a)He admitted that there was some truth in the allegation. (b)Unfortunately, he was subsequently sent to Letterfrack [in the early 1970s], having spent the previous years in day schools. Comment: Details of the complaint were found in the Generalate Archives, which had been transferred to Rome in the mid-60s while only a short reference was made in the Salthill visitation report ... The Provincial Council who had been in office [at that time] were replaced by a new Council who had no knowledge of the original complaint when R was sent to Letterfrack. Hence, Brother R was sent to Letterfrack without any knowledge of the previous complaint on the part of the new Council.

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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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