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Chapter 14 — John Brander

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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.


Further internal memoranda on the problem of Mr Brander were exchanged: Convent of Mercy, Sec.school, Tullamore [To] PO [in Post Primary Section] (1)This school caters for girls only according to the ... October Lists. (2)There is no adverse report on the teacher Mr [Brander] in the reports on this area’s Inspection File for the school. [Signed] R/Cig (Inspection Section) ... [To] PO [in Secondary Salaries Section] We discussed this case on the telephone earlier today. As you will note from above, the teacher who is the subject of complaint is at present employed in a Girls School: the inference seems to be that he is not, therefore, a risk to the pupils even if he was guilty of the offence or offences complained about by Mr [Rothe]. As you will note also from above minute, there is no adverse report of any Inspector on file here in respect of Mr [Brander]. On the contrary, the last Inspector’s report in which he was mentioned – one dated [two and a half years earlier] ... – praises the teacher’s work in the phrase “Oide an-mhaith é seo: cailíochtaí sa Ghaeilge aige.”22 Copy of that Report is attached. The fact remains, however, that the Department has received Mr. [Rothe’s] very serious complaint and that the whole context of the complaining letter might well appear to imply that Mr. [Rothe] considers the nature of the offence to be such as to indicate unfitness for employment as a teacher by reason of conduct unbefitting a teacher. As you are no doubt aware, the relevant statutory regulations [viz. Regulation 4 of the Regulations for the Register of the Intermediate School Teachers] empower the Minister (not the Registration Council) to “remove from the register the name of any teacher who shall be shown to his satisfaction to have been guilty of conduct which is, in the opinion of the Minister, unbefitting a teacher.” Before doing so (i.e removing a name), the Minister is required by the regulations to give the teacher an opportunity of being heard. Having regard to the complaint and to the statutory provisions which I cite and which are obviously designed to cover the kind of offence or offences complained of I consider that the papers should be submitted for the Department’s decision as to whether any action beyond consideration of the complaint should at this stage – 13 years post eventum – be put in train. I note that the complainant offers no explanation whatever of the lateness of his complaint; such explanation might well be considered reasonably necessary, however, in view of the implications of the lateness for the availability of evidence at this juncture. If, however, evidence was made available to the Department about the offence or offences at or around the time of their occurrence, then the question arises,: from the nature of the present complaint, why did the Dept. not act earlier. I do not express any opinion on the bona fides of the complaint or on whether any action should be taken on it beyond considering it carefully – and in the light of any other evidence available on the matter in the Primary Branch – if there is any such evidence – and that a Departmental decision should be obtained. For the complainant may have the matter raised elsewhere presently and seek to blame the Dept. for alleged negligence. [Signed] [PO Post Primary Financial Section]


Some time passed before the matter was considered again. The following memo was sent by an official in the Secondary Salaries Section to a colleague: I will have a word with you about this after the holidays D.V. I understand from Primary branch that staff had no knowledge of the allegation made during the [teacher’s] period of service as a N.T. Accordingly Minister had no knowledge of the alleged offence at time of registration. Do you think any action should be taken – I don’t! [Signed]


This memo was sent to HEO in Registration and Pensions, who noted: query out re primary no problem with Registration [Signed]


On the same day, the HEO in Registration and Pension wrote to a HEO in Primary Payments Section: [To] HEO 1.We have had a complaint about Mr. [Brander] currently a secondary teacher, but who taught in Walsh Island NS, Geashill, Co Offaly. Could you ascertain whether there is any record of a complaint against this teacher on the primary side? Are there any indications on why he left Primary teaching. 2.Please also confirm that Mr [Rothe] teaches in ... Thanks. [Signed] Registration [and Pension]


She in turn wrote to a colleague in Pensions: Offaly     176/6     Walsh Island NS [To] Pensions Re: Mr [Brander] – Sec Branch –[HEO]– Registration has asked if we have any record of a complaint against this teacher – he transferred to Secondary Teaching some years ago and served as Principal Teacher in Walsh Island NS according to our school records [in the late 1960s]. His own cards are missing also the file ... for apt. of Principals in this school is missing so I cannot trace his details at all. (Taken up [late 1970s]). Perhaps you would have something on him in Pensions. I’d be thankful to get a reply if so. [Signed] HEO


The official in the Pensions section replied setting out Mr Brander’s service history which showed numerous changes of post.


The frequency of Mr Brander’s changes of post, as evident from this document, and the nature of the complaint being made by Mr Rothe, should have raised questions and/or prompted a more detailed investigation.


The HEO in Primary Payments was then in a position to reply to the HEO in Registration and Pensions: Mr [Rothe] apptd. as Asst. on ... and still serving. 1. We have no records unfortunately re Mr [Brander] – his cards and apt. file are missing – the file ... apt. of Principal is noted in Registry “Up” [late 1970s] but Records Section do not have it. All I have is a record of his past Primary Service. See copy obtained from T.P.O. [Signed]

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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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.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
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  22. Irish for ‘This is a very good teacher: he has qualifications in Irish’.