Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 14 — John Brander

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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.


Marco gave evidence at Mr Brander’s trial for offences committed while he was teaching at Walsh Island NS. Sacred Heart, Convent of Mercy Secondary School, Tullamore, Co Offaly, August 1975 – July 1985


Following his departure from Castlecomer, Mr Brander took up a teaching post in the all-girls secondary school in Tullamore. Sr Ines18 was principal at the time. She is now elderly and gave evidence to the Committee of her recollection of Mr Brander. In a letter to the Department of Education in the mid-1970s, she advised of the appointment of Mr Brander as a teacher in the School and stated that he was moving to the School for family reasons.


In evidence she said that ‘there was a gap for an Irish and geography teacher and it was in the middle of the school year. So I had to advertise for the job and Mr Brander– so far as I can remember, all of that is not in my head at all except that he applied and seem to be a very suitable and I took him on’. She said that he was taken on effectively there and then, as the students had no teacher. This is inconsistent with evidence from the staff at Castlecomer, who said that he left at the end of the school year, and with his Departmental record showing that he commenced on 1st August.


As before, he built up a relationship with his employers. She told the Committee, ‘He was always a perfect gentleman to me and was very good friends with all the Sisters’. He continued to secure good results for his pupils.


Again, allegations of physical assault emerged. He appeared to have been a constant source of concern for Sr Ines. She reprimanded him numerous times regarding his discipline and said that he was always very apologetic. She gave evidence that she would hear him shouting from her office. He continued his policy of disciplining girls by making them kneel, sometimes making them kneel on their hands. The students complained to her about this treatment ‘maybe once or twice, not very much, but I got the message and I talked to him’.


While she said that she believed he never struck a pupil, she appears to have warned him against it: ‘When I was speaking to Mr Brander about striking students I said “Just be very careful, we cannot strike children, it is not our policy for the discipline in the School”’. She added, ‘I suppose I would be afraid he might strike a child ... [he came across] as very strong person’.


A statement was issued by the School, following his sentencing in respect of the charges relating to Walsh Island NS, as follows: Sr. [Ines], who was Principal for his years of service, recollects complaints from time to time from parents and students. While these complaints are unrecorded, nevertheless, she recollects that they related to discipline incidents in the classroom but none of the complaints were of sexually inappropriate conduct. In one specific incident a senior member of staff recollects an accusation of Mr [Brander] having struck a student. It has been widely reported that contact was made with the School in ... alerting the authorities to [Mr Brander’s] previous history. We have examined our files and interviewed the Principal of the day, Sr. [Ines], who has no record or recollection of receiving such information.


However, in evidence before the Investigation Committee, when asked whether she recalled pupils complaining about his discipline, Sr Ines replied: ‘Not really no, I never got serious complaints’. She further said that she did not recall any parents coming to the School to complain. Sr Ines accepted that the statement quoted above must be correct but she had no recollection of the matters stated therein. She could not recollect recording complaints made by parents or whether she would have done so: It was a very busy school. You couldn’t be taking complaints all day. I just did what I was expected to do and did the best I could in a big school.


When pressed as to why, given her experience, she did not record the complaints, she repeated that she did not know why.

Garda investigation in the 1980s


In the early 1980s a Garda investigation was commenced following allegations made by a pupil,Taina,19 that she had been assaulted by Mr Brander. In the course of this investigation, students and teachers were interviewed and made statements to the Gardaí. The circumstances surrounding these allegations are as follows.


A room in the School was set aside to operate as a shop. Mr Brander supervised the shop during break time. On the occasion in question, he arrived late and a large number of children had congregated in the room. There appears to have been a regulation that only a set number of children could be in the room at one time. He shouted at the children to get out of the room and form a queue outside.Taina appears not to have departed as instructed. At this point the statements made by the various witnesses diverge. What is clear is that there was an altercation between Mr Brander and Taina. The school principal, Sr Ines, was absent at the time. The vice-principal, in her Garda statement described how she met Taina in the corridor. Taina was very upset. She said that Mr Brander had struck her twice in the chest.


The vice-principal fetched Mr Brander to have him deal with the matter. There was a further altercation between Mr Brander and Taina. A male teacher, arrived on the scene and appears to have warned them that other people could hear. This teacher, on the advice of his union, the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland, later declined to make a statement to the Gardaí. Taina’s mother was called to the School at the request of her daughter. The mother, Mr Brander and Sr Edita,20 the School Manager, had a meeting in the course of which Mr Brander explained that he had merely brushed her arms down and that he was sorry that it had occurred. Sr Edita and Mr Brander appear to have thought that was the end of the matter. However, the mother made a Garda complaint that day.

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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’.