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Chapter 14 — John Brander

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The barrister was extremely disturbed by what he heard and drafted a letter to be given to Mr Brander but the two teachers decided to adopt a more gentle approach. The barrister advised the two men to go straight to Sr Giuliana, which Mr Stegar said they did the following day. He said they advised her of the questions they had asked the boys and their findings. They gave her the names of the five boys concerned. Mr Stegar said there was no misunderstanding as to the nature of the allegations being made.


Sr Giuliana said that she did not know what to do and the matter rested there for some time. Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd were conscious of the fact that Mr Brander was a very strong and influential member of staff. During the next four to five weeks, word of the complaint and Mr Stegar’s actions slipped out.


Some time later, the boy’s father contacted him again. He said that if nothing was done about Mr Brander he would contact the Gardaí. The following day, Mr Stegar went to Sr Giuliana. She told him that she found it difficult to even discuss the matter with the manager, Sr Donata, who was 20 years her senior. She advised him that she had got a book on understanding homosexuality. Sr Giuliana, denied this in evidence and said ‘I had never heard of homosexuality at the time’. Some time after this, she asked if he and Mr Gadd would speak to Mr Brander about the allegations.


Sr Giuliana arranged that they would meet Mr Brander after school. The meeting took place on the Monday or Tuesday of Holy Week. At the meeting, Mr Stegar advised Mr Brander that there were widespread allegations that he was sexually interfering with boys in the School, and that the allegations were also out in the wider community. His immediate reaction was to deny the allegations, saying that he might have given them a few clatters. They advised him that Sr Giuliana knew of the allegations. Mr Brander said that, once allegations of this nature were made about you, there was no future in the community. Mr Stegar had the impression at the end of the meeting that Mr Brander would leave the school.


On the Wednesday, when the school was to close for Easter holidays, Mr Stegar told Sr Giuliana how the meeting had gone. After the Easter break, Sr Giuliana came to the staff room and advised them that Mr Brander would be leaving at the end of the term.


Mr Gadd recalled the meeting in the parlour with Mr Brander: ‘I remember that we put the situation to him that there was a complaint, at least one, being made by a parent of a very serious nature’.


Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd were two young teachers in their twenties confronting the vice-principal who was in his fifties and who had been there for a number of years. Mr Gadd said that this was why the events stayed in his mind while most other events from the time were a blur. He recalled Mr Brander being pained by what he heard and not making much comment. Mr Gadd said to him that ‘given the seriousness of the allegations ... it was in his own interest that he should come out and that he should deny them forthrightly, in public’. He put this suggestion to Mr Brander because, having spoken to the pupils concerned, he knew that Mr Brander would do no such thing.


When asked what he did next, Mr Gadd said that he had no clear recollection but he presumed or thought ‘we must have passed on, if we had met him in the parlour and we met him, I think, at the behest of Sr Giuliana, I think we must have reported to her. But I have no picture in my mind of that meeting’. In a previous Garda statement, he had been more specific: We reported our findings to Sister [Giuliana]. It was decided that Mr [Stegar] and I would discuss the matter with Mr [Brander]. He confirmed that this statement was correct.


Mr Gadd was careful to qualify the extent to which Sr Giuliana could have known of the abuse. He said that their understanding of what had happened was different back then: if people like Sr Giuliana and so on had been told about this, I just think their understanding of what was going on at the time would have been very, very narrow indeed ... it was a very different moral world ... People’s knowledge of these matters would have been extremely minimal, that they mightn’t even know about them at all ... one has to put these things into context and one has to understand that the people who were being asked to deal with them would have been very ill prepared to deal with them I think. It was only much, much later on that we understood the enormity of what he had been at ... much later on that we understood that on days perhaps the School would have had a function in the local church, in the local Roman Catholic church, that Mr Brander might have lurked behind and might have accosted the boys in the School, who belonged to [other religious communities] ...


When asked specifically what he thought Sr Giuliana knew, his response was vague. Later, he said that nobody wanted to know about the matter. However, he also said that he remembered Sr Giuliana at some later point making the comment that Mr Brander was the last person she would doubt.


As to whether they reported the result of their questioning of the boys to Sr Giuliana he said, ‘We probably did, but I can’t be anymore definite on that’. When asked specifically whether he and Mr Stegar had reported the outcome of their interview with Mr Brander to Sr Giuliana, he replied, ‘I would think that in all likelihood [we] did yes’.


Sr Giuliana gave evidence that one morning she was in the cloakroom as the children were arriving to school. The boy’s mother had arrived and asked for Mr Stegar. Sr Giuliana sent a child to fetch him. She later enquired of Mr Stegar as to how the meeting went, and he advised her that the mother had complained about Mr Brander and that he and Mr Gadd had dealt with the matter. That was the end of the matter as far as she was concerned.


She had no recollection of being given any specific details of the complaint by Mr Stegar. She said, ‘I feel that if he said anything about sexual abuse that I would remember it. But I have no recollection of that whatsoever’. She did not move from this position throughout the course of her evidence.


Sr Giuliana confirmed that she gave Mr Brander a good reference on his departure. In it, she described him as a strict disciplinarian, ‘good and strict’.


It is extraordinary that such a serious turn of events was not recorded or reported to the authorities. The absence of explicit recorded information has resulted in almost exclusive reliance on recollected events, and unfortunately the memories of the three participants differ.

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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’.