Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 13 — Cabra

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Physical abuse


Br Seymour,13 who taught in the School from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, was the subject of an allegation of physical abuse when he was teaching in another school in the late 1980s. A pupil there alleged that Br Seymour had hit him on the back of the head, which caused his head to shoot forward and his mouth to hit the desk, thus damaging his teeth. Legal proceedings were instituted and the matter was settled without admission of liability. Br Seymour was transferred to a school in Galway following this allegation.


In the mid-1990s, a number of the boys stated that their House Parent, Mr Moore14 was rough and cruel and slapped them. These allegations were made in the course of an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Mr Moore.


1 .Physical abuse of boys in the School is documented in the records. 2.Corporal punishment, at times excessive, took place at the School as late as the mid-1990s, despite the ban on corporal punishment which had been in place since 1982. It is particularly regrettable that this form of punishment was used on children with disability, who should have been treated with kindness and consideration. 3.In a case involving a teacher, Mr Ashe, about whom numerous complaints of physical abuse had been made, the Board of Management was unable to dismiss him because it was overruled by the school patron, the Archbishop of Dublin. However, it is noteworthy that the Board sought his resignation first and was prepared to give him a reference to enable him to transfer to another school. 4.The Department of Education was ineffective in investigating complaints of physical abuse in the School. In the case of Mr Ashe, no action was taken against the teacher and the file is mysteriously missing. 5.The requirement of the Archbishop’s consent to dismissal made it more difficult for the School Management to deal with the serious problem that affected the lives of the pupils. 6.Even as late as the mid-1990s, a care worker, Mr O’Sullivan, was not dismissed from his employment despite the fact that senior management found that he had been physically abusive towards younger children. The solution of transferring him to another residential house within the Institution ignored the safety of the children in the School.

Sexual abuse


The Christian Brothers in their Submission dated October 2006 acknowledged that individual Brothers had sexually abused boys in their care, but argued that there was ‘no evidence that it was a systemic phenomenon’. They defended the manner in which the Congregation dealt with such allegations, saying that there was no cover up and that: Each incident was investigated thoroughly as soon as it came to the attention of the relevant authorities, and action was promptly taken. There was no cover up.


They admitted that their approach to allegations of sexual abuse at the time was ‘seriously inadequate’, but added that this arose ‘through lack of awareness or knowledge rather than through neglect’. They cited the lack of clinical research into child abuse and the recidivist nature of such abuse in support of their approach. They submitted that there was little or no understanding or regard given to the effect of such abuse on the child concerned. Sexual abuse, they argued, was seen as a moral failing on the part of the Brother in question, and this and ‘the danger of scandal arising out of that moral failure were seen as the primary matters to be addressed when a case of child sexual abuse presented itself’.


They also conceded that complaints of sexual abuse were not reported to the Gardaí. This they justified on the basis that at the time ‘an incident of sexual abuse was considered more of a failure in morality than a criminal act and therefore the idea of reporting to the Garda was not considered to be usual practice’.


The Christian Brothers referred in detail to the documented complaints of sexual abuse against various Brothers. Based on these cases, they asserted that the Congregation of Christian Brothers ‘sought to protect children who were under their care. As soon as an allegation or incident of abuse came to their notice, the authorities took action’. Documented cases of sexual abuse by staff Allegations against a care worker, Mr Moore


In the early 1990s, a pupil, Brian15 complained to a pastoral care teacher, Sr Clarke16 about his House Parent Mr Moore, who was in charge of one of the residential homes at St Joseph’s Cabra. Brian also complained to Mr Hogan,17 Assistant House Parent, that Mr Moore showed ‘blue movies’ to the boys, and was constantly engaging in sex talk. Mr Hogan noted these complaints and reported them to Mr Gallagher, Director of Residential Care.


Later that year, Brian described how he had gone into his Mr Moore’s room in one of the residential houses, and discovered him engaged in sexual activity with another of the boys, Fergal,18 who was in his teens.


Brian reported this incident to the same staff member he had spoken to earlier that year, Sr Clarke The following morning, she reported the allegation to the Principal Br Grissel. That afternoon, she met with both Br Grissel and the Director of Residential Care, Mr Gallagher, and repeated the allegations to them. She also set out the allegations in a report. That day, Br Grissel and Mr Gallagher interviewed Fergal. A member of staff acted as interpreter during the interview. During this interview, Fergal outlined the events of the night, and confirmed Brian’s account.


Br Grissel and Mr Gallagher held two meetings with Mr Moore, who denied the allegations. He was suspended on full pay, pending the outcome of an investigation.


Br Grissel and Mr Gallagher met two Eastern Health Board workers at their offices the following day and briefed them on the situation. Over a week later, Br Grissel had a meeting with a social worker from the Eastern Health Board to discuss informing the boy’s parents, contacting the Gardaí and setting up an internal inquiry. Br Grissel then contacted the School’s solicitor.


Br Grissel informed Fergal’s parents who were very anxious and were particularly worried about the possibility of AIDS. It was stressed to them that what took place ‘was of a masturbatory nature’.


Fergal was assessed two months later by a team from the St Clare’s Unit, an assessment unit attached to Temple Street Children’s Hospital. It was concluded that he had been abused in the manner he described.


Brian, who had witnessed the incident, was also seen by the assessment team. He informed them that Mr Moore had shown him on many occasions how to masturbate, and he named two other boys who had been similarly instructed. He also informed the team that Mr Moore used to show adult-blue movies to the boys. A case conference took place between the St Clare’s team, members of the Eastern Health Board and Br Grissel, where it was decided that an initial screening process should be undertaken of all children in both residential houses where Mr Moore had worked. In addition, staff of St Joseph’s were to be informed of the situation, and the parents of the boys named were to be contacted with a view to having their children assessed.

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