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Chapter 14 — John Brander

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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.


It is unlikely that neither of the two teachers in Castlecomer who had been so thorough in dealing with the complaint would not have notified the School Superior about it.


Whether or not Sr Giuliana knew the full details and implications of the sexual abuse, she knew he was leaving under a cloud, yet she gave him a good reference as she considered that he was a good teacher. Further incidents of sexual abuse at Presentation Convent, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny


Since the events of the mid-1970s, other complaints came to light, some of which led to prosecution.


Firstly, Mr Brander was convicted of the sexual abuse of Niko.16 The Garda discovery contained a statement from Niko, in which he stated that he had complained to Sr Giuliana at the time about the sexual abuse by Mr Brander, but that she did not believe him. In evidence and in a Garda statement, Sr Giuliana denied that he had made such a complaint to her. The Garda who conducted the investigation into the allegations made by Niko spoke to Sr Giuliana who said that she did not recall any complaint.


Secondly, Marco17 made a statement to the Gardaí in the mid-1990s in which he alleged that he was sexually abused by Mr Brander while a pupil in the school.


Mr Stegar in a statement to the Commission supported his allegations. Marco had contacted him in the mid-1990s and advised him that he was going to the Gardaí to complain about Mr Brander. Mr Stegar recalled visiting Marco when he was a schoolboy and was ill in hospital with suspected meningitis. He discovered at the time that the boy was hospitalised following a beating around the head from Mr Brander. He advised the boy to complain to Sr Giuliana. Mr Stegar acknowledged in evidence that he should have brought it to her attention himself. At the meeting, Marco said that he had tried to tell him about being sexually abused by Mr Brander. Mr Stegar recalled another occasion when Marco and another boy told him that Mr Brander was a homosexual, but that he did not pursue the matter.

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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’.