Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 13 — Cabra

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Sexual abuse


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.


Arrangements were for the screening and assessment of pupils at St Joseph’s who it was felt could have been the subject of sexual abuse by Mr Moore. This was a slow and lengthy process. At the same time, the Eastern Health Board conducted an inquiry into the allegations, and a Garda investigation was also underway which continued early into the next year. Approximately two months after the investigations commenced, Mr Moore was dismissed from his employment.


There was a delay in actually commencing the screening process of past and present pupils at St Joseph’s, which was to be conducted by the social workers of the Eastern Health Board together with a member of staff at Cabra. The St Clare’s team had stressed the need to begin the screening process quickly. However, the minutes of a case conference held following the dismissal of Mr Moore noted that the screening process had not begun and parents had not even been informed at that stage, some five months after the initial complaint of sexual abuse had been made. The screening process began shortly after this case conference. Initially, 17 boys were screened. However, further screenings took place and were expanded to include past and present pupils of the School, which resulted in 70 boys being screened.


There were communication problems and poor organisation. There was a lack of co-operation between the Eastern Health Board, the Gardaí, St Clare’s and the authorities at Cabra. At one point, criticisms were levelled against the management of Cabra by the Eastern Health Board on these grounds. It was stated that the senior social worker and his assistant and the St Clare’s Unit were ‘not getting full co-operation from St Joseph’s, Cabra, especially from the Principal’. This was challenged by the Congregation at a subsequent meeting, and it was acknowledged that there had been co-operation from management, but that there had been difficulties and differences of opinion. It was raised at a meeting that there had been a lack of communication with the parents and the setting-up of an independent inquiry was discussed. Some parents were upset by the delays in informing them and there was a lack of clarity as to who should inform them. The issue of peer abuse and its prevalence in the School was raised and it was stated that ‘there was evidence of a kind of culture of abuse having developed in St Joseph’s among the boys themselves’ which had to be dealt with. Br Grissel wrote a letter defending his actions in the handling of the investigation, stating that there had been full co-operation from him and his staff.


The case was reported in the media and the investigations then took on a more urgent role; two teams worked in tandem at St Clare’s to assess the boys, extra staff were involved at St Joseph’s in carrying out the screening process, and extra Gardaí were recruited to assist in conducting the interviews with staff and pupils of the School. A treatment programme was also devised by the Eastern Health Board for pupils affected. Staff training was also mooted and there was counselling for staff affected by the issues. A total of 11 case conferences were held over a 12-month period.


In the course of the investigation into Mr Moore, allegations were made against a Christian Brother, Br Farber, who had been on the staff of Cabra since the late 1950s, by one of the boys who had been assessed. Allegations were also made by an ex-pupil who wished to remain anonymous.


Sr Clarke reported that she had met with the past pupil who was prepared to ‘come forward in relation to allegations against Br Farber’. In the report of the Health Board, two allegations of sexual abuse were recorded against Br Farber. Br Farber did not return to Cabra.


Given that the allegations against Br Farber arose in the course of the investigation into Mr Moore, it seems extraordinary that no similar investigation was conducted into Br Farber by either the Congregation or the State agencies.


In 1994, the Christian Brothers commissioned a review of the management structures, care practices, care programmes, administrative practices, staff selection, training, deployment, supervision and liaison with teaching staff and parents. An interim report was issued followed this review. One of the issues identified in the report was the lack of reporting and communication structure between teachers in the School and the care staff of the residential units regarding each child. Problems were also noted in communicating information to parents. It was recommended that the Director of Residential Care should be the conduit for liaising and communicating information regarding children. The report said that there was a lack of information about children on admission to the School. It was also recommended that care staff should have professional qualifications, which was something that had previously been recommended in a 1977 report by the Department of Education on the Education of Physically Handicapped Children. The unsuitability of mixing younger children with older children in residences was also raised. Other recommendations included staff training programmes, care programmes geared towards the particular needs of younger children, and staff counselling. The issue of sexual abuse was not addressed in this report.


A few months later, the Eastern Health Board produced two reports. The first dealt with complaints about staff at the School, and the second with observations on the management and operation of the residential units. The first report catalogued complaints against members of staff that came to light during the course of the investigation, but it did not come to any findings. The second report identified three main issues of concern: (1) matters of sexuality; (2) communication; and (3) child care issues. With regard to matters of sexuality, the Health Board identified that there was a lack of a clear policy in this area, which they felt could ‘only have contributed to the likelihood of sexual abuse occurring in the units’. This was stated, in particular, with regard to sexual abuse amongst the boys. The report noted that there was a ‘sexualised culture within the school in general’ which they felt could only ‘be shifted by radical and ongoing management and training’. They concluded that institutional abuse had occurred in the School.

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