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Chapter 14 — John Brander

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The School’s public statement quoted above refers to reports that contact was made with the school in the early 1980s, alerting the authorities there about Mr Brander’s previous history. Sr Ines denied any record or recollection of receiving such information. She testified that she learned about this after her retirement in the mid-1980s, when she was advised by a senior teacher that Mr Brander was a paedophile.

Attempts to expose Mr Brander during the early 1980s


Following the revelations of the sexual abuse of children resident in the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast, Mr Rothe, who had been abused while a pupil of Mr Brander in Walsh Island NS in the 1960s, decided to make efforts to expose Mr Brander’s behaviour. At this point, he ‘began to realise that I wasn’t the only person that this had ever happened to’. In considering how to go about exposing Mr Brander, he was worried about the advisability of revealing that he had been sexually abused. As he was a teacher himself, he thought that it might give rise to comment that he himself was unsuitable to be a teacher. This man furnished documentation and gave evidence to the Investigation Committee.


He approached a number of individuals whom he felt might be in a position to assist him.

Members of the clergy


Mr Rothe made an appointment to meet with the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, in whose diocese Walsh Island NS was located. At the meeting, they discussed the circumstances of Mr Brander’s departure from Walsh Island NS. The Bishop told him that Mr Brander was an urgent problem at the time and it was dealt with quickly. He made the point that, if they had waited for the Department of Education to act, it could have taken years.


The purpose of the meeting, from Mr Rothe’s point of view, was to find out how it was possible that: a person who had been removed from a school for sexual abuse of a large number of pupils could still be working as a teacher especially so close to where he had abused.


Mr Rothe said that the Bishop appeared to be surprised to learn that Mr Brander was teaching in Tullamore. He was very critical of the manner in which the Department of Education dealt with this sort of problem.


Following their meeting, Mr Rothe and the Bishop entered into correspondence on the matter, commencing with a letter from Mr Rothe: Dear [Bishop] Further to our meeting of April 30th I think it fair to clarify my position. I have made a written complaint to the Department of Education with the objective of finding out why the management of Sacred Heart Secondary School were not informed of Mr. [Brander’s] behaviour in Walsh Island NS. I now know that managers are not obliged to report such matters to the Department. The school manager has ultimate responsibility. It would have saved me time and expense had you told me that when I asked you. As one who has suffered greatly because of this I have the right to know the truth, a right which many people do not seem to recognise. I believe that you made an unwise judgement in allowing Mr. [Brander] an opportunity to get back into teaching. I also believe that other people had the right to information about Mr [Brander] if he was to be prevented from coming into contact with children in any capacity. During my enquiries I have found that what happened to me in school is not at all uncommon. I now know that there have been and continue to be numerous similar cases. It appears that each year the Dept. removes the right to teach from a number of persons. I would think this number to be between three and six. This does not take into account the number of teachers sacked by individual managers or Bishops. I know from Department sources that complaints are frequently lost and are dealt with only when they are accompanied by an avalanche of similar complaints. In one case I know of this took five years. I would also like to point out that the teachers sacked by the Department go out on full salary or pension which is of course tax-payers money. I find this a little hard to accept as it seems unlikely as I will get medical or legal expenses or payment for time lost from work through illness. It is clear to me that there are many thousands of people who have some knowledge of the problem of sexual abuse in schools. Every person I have spoken to connected with education recognises that there is a problem. It is undoubtedly something which many people do not forget and which many never talk about. I recognise of course the problems of getting proof in such cases. However there is an unwillingness to deal with cases even when sufficient proof exists. The people who then suffer are the children who are left at risk. It is the children I am concerned about. I do not believe that the action taken in the [Brander] case was of any help to me either [at the time of the abuse] or now. The attitude of clergy I have been in contact with is to say the least regrettable. To an outsider it would seem like an attempt to cover up the facts rather than deal with them. If society is now more informed and enlightened on such problems as homosexuality it is no credit to the clergy in my opinion. I ask you to consider the plight of many children who are sexually abused in their own homes by members of their families. Who are they to turn to for help. Various bodies try to help while society in general continues to ignore the realities. The point I wish to make is that society will never deal with that abuse or alleviate some of the suffering that accompanies it until it first deals effectively with cases of sexual abuse in schools. I now find myself interested in not one case of sexual abuse but many. I believe that the number of such cases can be greatly reduced if the relevant authorities are prepared to take action. I am therefore asking that an investigation be made to find out the extent of the problem and how it can best be dealt with. I have made it quite clear at all times that I am interested in seeing that what happened to me in Walsh Island NS will not continue to happen to others. In anything that I have done I believe I have acted responsibly. Trying to do that can be frustrating if others do not accept their responsibilities. I am not saying that anyone would deliberately allow an unhealthy situation to continue. Somebody must show courage and leadership in tackling a problem which most are unable to even discuss. I look forward to any early reply.


The Bishop replied: I have your letter ... I was under the impression that you had already been in touch with the Department prior to your visit to me. I would query your reference to “numerous similar cases” – in fourteen years only three such cases were brought to my notice, and this is one of the most populous dioceses in the country. In each case the families concerned were unwilling to testify publicly and the teacher concerned had to be allowed to resign. The question of another appointment to a National School should be covered by the fact that a reference from his last school is always sought in the case of a teacher–applicant, and no manager would conceal the facts in such cases. It does look as there is a loophole where post primary schools are concerned. Subsequent to your visit I alerted the PP of Tullamore so that he will be aware of the dangers, but one also has to take in consideration the possibility of a man genuinely leaving his past behind him. I can fully understand your feelings and your concern. With every good wish.


Mr Rothe pursued the matter in a further letter: Dear [Bishop] In reply to your question on other cases I have been informed that during the seven months of the last Coalition Government two persons had the right to teach removed from them by the Minister Mr. Boland. You did not in your letter give any answer on the question of an investigation or compensation for me personally. I do not agree with your reasoning on the Tullamore case but do realise that it was the result of an oversight. If my attempts to achieve an improvement through the proper channels fail I will use any other means available. What happens in our schools is everybody’s concern. The first time parents hear of the problem is after it has happened when it is too late. It is no consolation to know how many cases there have been. How many are necessary before action is taken.


Mr Rothe wrote a further letter, but there is no evidence that the bishop replied to either.


Mr Rothe also contacted Fr Derek, former curate in the Walsh Island parish, whose parish priest had been Fr Colm. Mr Rothe had approached Fr Derek, as he felt that his meeting with the Bishop had been unsatisfactory. He gave evidence of a meeting he had with Fr Derek, with whom he had a good relationship. Fr Derek advised him that, when Mr Brander was sacked, a Department of Education Inspector and an Irish National Teachers’ Organisation official were involved. He did not learn their names.


Fr Derek advised him of the circumstances surrounding Mr Brander’s removal: He did tell me the sequence of how Fr [Colm] heard about it on Sunday and he went to the Bishop on the Monday and consulted with the Bishop and then he came back the next day and ... confronted Mr [Brander] about it and how quickly it was done.


Fr Derek said that, if Mr Brander was still teaching, it was the Department’s fault.


There is a Garda memorandum of an interview with Fr Derek in the mid-1990s. Fr Derek said that, following Mr Rothe’s visit in the early 1980s, he consulted with the Bishop and visited the school curate of Tullamore to warn him about Mr Brander who was then teaching in the School.


Mr Rothe wrote to Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh. He discussed the problem of child abuse in general terms and said that he had been abused in a small rural primary school. He mentioned that had contacted the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin and John Boland TD. The Diocesan secretary replied as follows: ‘In the absence of [the] Cardinal I wish to acknowledge your letter ... As you have already consulted your own bishop concerning the matter you can be assured that [the] Bishop will bring it to the attention of the bishops if he deems it right that the bishops should be informed’.

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  4. He was again transferred to another primary school St Michael’s CBS Inchicore. He remained here for one month and then moved to CBS James’ St.
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  11. Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
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  22. Irish for ‘This is a very good teacher: he has qualifications in Irish’.