Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 13 — Cabra

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Sexual abuse


In a climate of scepticism and undermining of complainants, sexual abuse will remain undetected. Children were not encouraged to make complaints, and those who did were not dealt with properly. It could not be claimed that there was a lack of understanding of the seriousness of this abuse on the subsequent development of victims or that the matter was seen as simply a moral issue. The allegations against Mr Moore and subsequent investigations highlight numerous problems at that time in the area of reporting and investigating child sexual abuse allegations. When a pupil made a complaint to a staff member about the sexualised behaviour of his House Parent, no action was taken. Steps were only taken when another boy reported an actual incident of sexual abuse that he had witnessed. This case demonstrates failings in communication and co-operation between the various State agencies. When all official bodies had eventually been notified, there was further confusion and delay in dealing with the complaint. There was delay in notifying the parents of the boy who was assaulted and of the boys who were screened. Staff at St Joseph’s were not properly informed. The serious extent of the abuse perpetrated by Mr Moore only came to light when a full investigation was conducted. In the past, Congregations handled allegations by dealing with perpetrators without ascertaining the extent or prevalence of their abuse. When an investigation screened possible victims of abuse, as in this case, it revealed a level of sexual abuse by this man that should have caused deep concern for the system of care in operation. This case has implications for all the allegations of sexual abuse that were so inadequately dealt with over the years.


In the mid-1980s, an allegation of sexual abuse was made against Br Boucher, who had worked in the School from the early 1980s. The allegation was made separately to a care worker and to a teacher by a pupil. These two staff members reported the matter to the school Principal, Br Ames, who in turn informed the Provincial, Br Sandler.21 The pupil told the care worker, Mr Kennedy,22 that Br Boucher had fondled his genitals.


The Provincial interviewed the two staff members and Br Ames concerning the allegations. The care worker, Mr Kennedy, stated that he regularly saw Br Boucher go into the boy’s room at night, and vice versa, when the Brother would give the boy biscuits and sweets. The teacher, Ms O’Connor,23 reported that the pupil had told her in class that this Brother had power over him and ‘made him do things of a sexual nature which he did not want to do’.


The Provincial, Br Sandler, held separate meetings with Mr Kennedy, Ms O’Connor and Br Ames. Br Sandler also interviewed Br Boucher, who denied the allegations and appeared confused and unable to recall details. Br Boucher then went on his summer holidays, during which time he was taken seriously ill and was transferred to a nursing home. No further action was taken despite other meetings being held with the Brother. He applied for a dispensation, which was granted approximately two years later.


Six months after the reporting of the alleged abuse, it was decided by the school authorities that the boy should be sent to a psychiatrist, Dr Byrne, for counselling. A few weeks later, the school authorities received legal advice regarding the setting-up of an internal inquiry to investigate the allegations. It was mooted that Dr Byrne should head up this inquiry, but he declined to do so on the basis that he had a conflict of interest. Dr Byrne had had two counselling sessions with the boy and he felt that it was not necessary for him to see the boy again.


Br Sandler informed Dr Byrne that progress had been made in establishing a small committee of inquiry. However, no inquiry took place and no reasons were given for not proceeding with it.


The Christian Brothers in their Submission claimed that ‘following this allegation immediate steps were taken to undertake a full and formal investigation by outside experts in this matter’. The documents revealed that this was not the case. Contrary to what the Brothers say, ‘immediate steps’ were not taken to undertake ‘a full and formal investigation by outside experts’. Six months elapsed before the idea of convening a small committee of inquiry was even mooted. It was then decided not to proceed with the inquiry without any clear reasons given. No decisive action was taken regarding the setting-up of an inquiry, as a letter stated ‘things were in an “on-off” situation for a long time’. It may have been due to the fact that Dr Byrne felt that the boy had improved and there was no need to pursue the matter further. The Christian Brothers in their Submission stated that ‘the investigation did not proceed because of the lack of any further information’.


The proper course would have been to report the matter to the Gardaí and to co-operate fully with the Garda investigation. The school authorities did not report the matter to the Gardaí at the time. The Christian Brothers defended their actions on the basis that the complaint was unclear: The reason why the Gardaí were not informed of the nature of [the person’s] complaint of [Br Boucher] allegedly interfering with him was because the complaint was not very clear and we were waiting on clarity.


The allegation did not lack clarity. It was alleged that Br Boucher had fondled the boy’s private parts, and this was plainly a matter for the Gardaí to pursue.


There is no evidence that any attempt was made to identify other children who might have been victims of this Brother, or to establish the extent of his activities.


Allegations against this Brother arose again in the course of the Garda and Health Board investigations that had been triggered by the Moore affair. At that time, an investigation by the State agencies could have taken place but there is no record of this occurring. Neither is there any evidence of an investigation on the part of the Congregation. As in the case of Br Farber, it is inexplicable that this matter was not fully investigated, given the amount of information that emerged in the Mr Moore investigation. Allegation against a staff supervisor, Mr Lynch24


In the early 1980s, the school Principal, Br Noyes, was informed of an allegation that staff supervisor, Mr Lynch, sexually abused a boy in the School The boy complained to Br Ramond25 that Mr Lynch, while on night duty, had shown ‘dirty books’ to him and had abused him. Br Ramond reported the matter to Br Noyes, the Principal.


Br Noyes interviewed the boy and six other boys who slept near him in the dormitory. Some of them verified what the boy had alleged, but others claimed it was a conspiracy against Mr Lynch, as he was supposed to be very strict. Br Noyes then interviewed Mr Lynch, who was ‘completely astonished’ and denied the allegation and ‘claimed that it was part of the ongoing conspiracy to have him fired’. However, later on the same day, Mr Lynch tendered his resignation to Br Noyes, as he felt that his name would be ruined if some boys and staff believed the allegation. Br Noyes accepted his resignation, and Mr Lynch left the School later that evening. In a document recording the resignation, Br Noyes stated that he could not locate any file or background information on Mr Lynch.


In this instance, the school authorities acted swiftly when an allegation of sexual abuse was made. That was considered to be the end of the matter. There was no review of recruitment procedures, despite the fact that no background information was found regarding this person, there was no internal review of procedures in the School, nor any meetings or guidelines issued. It might have been considered a satisfactory outcome that the staff member accused of abuse had resigned and left the Institution, but it was not proper practice. There was no attempt to resolve the issue of whether the man committed sexual abuse or not. The Gardaí were not informed, so there was no criminal investigation. The employee was able to seek work with children in a different facility. If he was innocent, he deserved to be cleared. If guilty, he should have been the subject of Garda inquiries and possible prosecution. Leaving the matter unresolved once the man resigned was the easy but irresponsible option.


In the mid-1980s, an ex-pupil who had left St Joseph’s in 1961 told Br Sumner26 that he had been sexually abused by three Brothers and a priest whilst at the School. The allegations were disclosed to Br Sumner when he went to visit this ex-pupil in jail, where he was waiting to stand trial on charges of incest. In an internal memorandum, the three Brothers were identified only by their initials. The Christian Brothers have suggested that the three Brothers could be Br Dax,27 Br Sydney28 and either Br Alain29 or Br Philippe.30 The priest in question was Fr O’Neill.31 The memorandum also stated that this was the first time that allegations of this nature were made against two of the Brothers. The documents do not indicate what further action was taken on foot of these allegations, and it would appear that nothing further occurred. With regard to one of the Brothers, whom the Christian Brothers say could be Br Alain, it is clear from the Visitation Reports in the 1970s that it was well known within the Community that he had a drink problem. This Brother spent over 20 years in the School.

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