Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 14 — John Brander

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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’.


The discovery from the diocese contained a further letter from Mr Rothe, which commenced: I have again asked [the Bishop] what action is to be taken to establish an investigation into cases of sexual abuse in schools whether or not I am to be compensated for medical expenses etc. and what the position is regarding the employment of Mr. [Brander] in Sacred Heart Secondary School, Tullamore, Co Offaly.


In this letter, he continued to express his frustration at the lack of will to tackle the problem of the sexual abuse of children in public schools.


He received no reply to this letter.


Mr Rothe said that he spoke to the curate in the parish of Tullamore. He felt he was more likely to listen to him than the parish priest: I made an appointment to see him, I went to see him and told him the whole story, he suggested that he would check out the story and that I would phone him a week later, which I did. He was very abrupt and very emphatic that he would do nothing, that he would not be a part of a witch hunt and that you could not drag a man’s past after him like an albatross around his neck.

Department of Education


In light of Fr Derek’s information about a Department of Education inspector being involved, Mr Rothe decided to approach a national school inspector with whom he was professionally acquainted.


Mr Rothe spoke about Mr Brander’s sexual abuse of his male pupils and physical abuse of both male and female students. Mr Rothe also spoke of the sexual abuse he had himself suffered while a pupil at Walsh Island NS. Mr Rothe testified to the Committee that he had expected his acquaintance to pursue his complaint officially with the Department, even though he was not in a position of authority over Mr Brander. However, the national school inspector gave evidence that he believed that the meeting was private and that it was not intended that he should follow up with action on his part.


While there is disagreement between the two men in relation to the number of meetings, what was said and what each understood to be the purpose of the meeting, the essential fact that Mr Rothe gave information regarding serious sexual and physical abuse by Mr Brander, a serving teacher, is not in dispute. The national school inspector did not follow up this complaint by passing on the information to the Department.


Mr Rothe gave evidence that his efforts thus far were an attempt to avoid having to write a formal letter of complaint to the Department of Education. He had no idea how to go about this task, and felt that there were implications for him professionally in so doing. Despite this fact, he wrote: Dear Sir, I wish to make the following points concerning Mr. [Brander] who is presently teaching in Sacred Heart School, Tullamore. Mr. [Brander] taught in Walsh Island NS, Geashill, Co Offaly from 1965 to 70. He was then sacked because it was found that he was sexually abusing boys in his classes. He was the principal teacher in Walsh Island. The manager of the school, Fr. [Colm] reported the matter to [the Bishop]... Mr. [Brander] was then barred from teaching in primary schools. He then taught in Presentation Convent, Castlecomer before taking up his present post in Tullamore. I have been in touch with the authorities in Sacred Heart, Tullamore and they informed me that they were not informed of Mr. [Brander’s] behaviour in Walsh Island either by the Department or [the Bishop]. Many parents in Tullamore are unhappy with Mr. [Brander’s] teaching and methods of maintaining discipline etc... I am sure that [the Bishop] will verify anything I have said here regarding Mr. [Brander’s] conduct in Walsh Island I am myself a teacher and fully realise the seriousness of the charges I make against another teacher, I would not make any charge that I could not prove. I will expect the matter to be fully investigated and appropriate action taken. Yours sincerely


This letter was received in the Secondary branch of the Department of Education. He followed the letter with a telephone call to an employee in the Primary Branch. She advised him that there was no record of any complaint. He received no reply to this letter. However, the letter did receive some consideration within the Department.


Mr Rothe’s letter was passed between various sections of the Department before a decision to take no action was ultimately made. Two sections within the Department were mainly involved in the consideration of the complaint: (a)Post Primary Financial Section (b)Secondary Salaries Section


The letter from Mr Rothe quoted in full above raises the following points about Mr Brander: He is presently teaching in Sacred Heart Convent, Tullamore ; He taught in Walsh Island NS in the late 1960s; He was sacked from Walsh Island for sexually abusing boys; The manager in Walsh Island reported this to the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin; Mr Brander was barred from teaching in primary schools; He taught in Presentation Convent, Castlecomer; Mr Rothe said that he had been in touch with authorities in Tullamore who advised him that they were not informed of Mr Brander’s past behaviour by either the Bishop or the Department of Education; Many parents in Tullamore were unhappy with his teaching/discipline; The Bishop could verify the above information.


The following memorandum was sent from an official in Post Primary Financial to an official in Secondary Salaries: Letter ... from Mr. [Rothe], N.T. Essentially this letter is a complaint about a teacher’s misbehaviour and it seems to imply that the writer considers that that misbehaviour was of such a serious nature that it indicates the unfitness of the teacher for employment in any capacity as a teacher. Inspection Section does not deal with such complaints unless they involve also allegations of actual offences against pupils and seek investigation of such offences. This case does not have that dimension. What it essentially raises, in the Department’s terminology, is the question whether the Dept. can properly continue to recognise the teacher as a “recognised teacher” and pay him Incremental Salary. If, however, the teacher is not a recognised teacher and is not in receipt of Incr. Sal., then the allegation still raises a question: can the Dept. properly aid the school out of public funds while it employs this teacher to impart instruction? Perhaps you wd. deal with the complaint from the “recognised teacher” and Incremental Salary aspects. Presumably Primary Branch have a file about the alleged misbehaviour in a primary school on this teacher’s part. (Signed)


The matter proceeded through another exchange of memoranda between officials: Re: Mr [Brander] Mr [Brander] has been on incremental salary as a member of the staff of Convent of Mercy, Tullamore since ... Previously he was in Presentation Convent, Castlecomer... He served as a primary teacher from [the early 1940s until the late 1960s] with a number of very short breaks – almost a year in [the mid-1940s] and again [in the early 1960s] but otherwise very short. He is now [in his early sixties]. The recruitment and employment of teachers in Secondary schools is a matter for management. Our concern is to ensure that they are properly qualified, that they are authorised quota and that they are properly timetabled. If this man’s work has been inspected and reported on during his years as a secondary teacher, then the records will be available in Inspection Section. If not, perhaps one could be arranged. Teachers Section would not call for the inspection of any particular teacher. “Recognised teacher” has a particular meaning ascribed to it in the Rules for the Payment of Incremental Salary to Secondary Teachers and we cannot go beyond that. I would see the same limitations in relation to the payment of grants but this is essentially a matter for your own area. Mr [Rothe] has, according to his letter, brought the matter to the attention of school management and I would say that the problem now rests there. It would not be for the Department to give character references to a school in relation to a teacher which it proposes to employ. If Mr. [Brander] has served for the last 13 years as a secondary teacher – in girls’ schools – without coming under notice, is it correct to rake up the past now? I have not attempted to trace any report in relation to his N.T. service.



The procedures allowed complaints to the Department of Education, but, as this memorandum points out, the problem now rested with the management of the school.

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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’.