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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Sexual abuse


Following Br Ramon’s conviction on charges of sexually abusing boys, the obvious question arose in the Congregation as to whether he had engaged in such activities in his previous postings, including Daingean. Before he was assigned to a boys’ college in Wales, he had served for 10 years in an emigrants’ hostel in London, where he came under suspicion. In response to a query as to whether any investigation into Br Ramon’s activities in Daingean had taken place in 1997, the Oblates stated in a letter dated 8th May 2008 to the Committee: Fr [Benicio] himself followed up the inquiry referred to in the note of 6 March 1997. He did so by speaking with Fr [Luca]. Fr [Luca] indicated to him that there were no accusations against Br [Ramon], apart for an accusation that had been discounted at the time it occurred as being unfounded Fr [Arador]28 has no recollection of the matter being raised with him. Fr [Javier]29 has no specific recollection of being asked to enquire into the matter, however he is now aware that in [the mid-1960s] an allegation was made against Br [Ramon] which was fully investigated by both An Garda Siochana and the Oblates at the time and was dismissed as unfounded. With that exception, Br [Ramon] had a clean record at St Conleth’s. At the time of our letter dated the 21st of December 2006 we understood that Fr [Javier], as Provincial, did not know of the incident the basis of the accusation in [the mid-1960s], but it appears that he learnt of it around the time of the trial in [the late 1990s].


On the issue of whether Br Ramon ever admitted abusing boys in Daingean, the Congregation stated: We are instructed that Br [Ramon] never admitted nor acknowledged that he had abused boys at St Conleth’s Reformatory at Daingean.


Having regard to the sexual abuse that Br Ramon committed in Wales, the reservations expressed about his time in London, the complainant evidence received by this Committee, together with the investigation in the late 1960s and the recidivist nature of sexual abuse, there must be serious misgivings about Br Ramon’s behaviour in Daingean during his 17 years there.


In his detailed Statement about his time at Daingean, Fr Luca told of another accusation made against a Brother in the late 1960s. He wrote: The boy made the accusation to the priest who was the Chaplain and the Chaplain said to the boy that if he didn’t mind he would call the Superior in on the matter because it needed to be looked into or, he told the boy, he could go to the Superior himself, but the Chaplain said he would have to have the boy’s permission to bring the matter up to a higher authority. The boy said he didn’t want to do it himself but didn’t mind if the Chaplain brought the Superior into it. Then we met together and went through the details of it and, in order to get the details straight, there had to be a bit of cross questioning, because you couldn’t just take the story exactly as it was told, there would be more to it than that. Eventually, he broke down and said it wasn’t true that he was asked by the bigger boys to make the accusation.


It was also strange that Fr Luca did not appear to have taken any action against the boys who initiated the alleged malicious report. If the boy in this case had not retracted his allegation early on, ‘... the next thing would have been that the Brother would have to have been brought into it’.


There remain some puzzling aspects of this case that were not explained by the investigation. If the bigger boys asked this boy to make the allegation for malicious reasons, it was odd that he went to the Chaplain, who could not pass the information on unless the boy allowed him to do so. It was an extraordinarily indirect way to make a malicious allegation.


Also, it would seem that the Resident Manager did not interview the Brother involved. Everything depended on the judgement of the Resident Manager. He wrote in his Statement: It was a likely scenario that a Brother could have kept a boy back after class ... That would be an opportunity. Again, there had to be a certain amount of trust because otherwise if you couldn’t do these ordinary things ... then it was really uncommon these accusations. The Provincial ultimately was responsible because he was the Manager and I was, as it were, his Deputy although I was called the Resident Manager. It would have been very necessary then to let him know, seek advice from him and then proceed from that. I don’t think there was a record kept of it because of the way it ended up. Had it gone further, hindsight is dangerous, you might do a thing differently today, but then there just didn’t seem to be the need for it ... you just didn’t have time to do all the things you would have liked to do.


He nonetheless said he set up a system for dealing with complaints about staff members. He wrote: When the boys made any accusation about any of the Brothers or any of the staff, they = the staff member had to be present ... I made this clear to the staff that if a boy was going to make a complaint against any of them that the person in question should be there and should hear the person saying it. One good thing about that, too, was that a person would have to be more careful about making accusations.


In his Statement, Fr Luca wrote: A strange thing was that never once in all the time did any boy come along and say to me that he had been abused either sexually or physically, never once. I don’t know why because I felt that I was open enough to receive any boy that would come along ...


Clearly, Fr Luca did not appreciate, even at this remove, that the system he set up made it virtually impossible for any boy to come to him with complaints of sexual abuse. The system he described was actually more likely to ensure that sexual abuse was not uncovered.


There was no written record of the allegation that came from the chaplain and the boy. The absence of documentary evidence of abuse was a result of the system. The exact nature of the allegations and the names of the people involved were only recorded in the memory of the Resident Manager, not the Institution or the Congregation. The way this incident was dealt with shows how failure to record complaints led to evidence about possible repetition of allegations being lost.


Fr Luca referred to this incident in his Statement to the Committee although, again, he did not identify Br Abran as the Brother in question: It was a different Brother to the accusation about the 14 year old. There had never been any accusations against the second Brother [Ramon] before that, at least I had never heard anything against him.


As the Oblates pointed out in their Submission, ‘The incidents ... require a careful investigation, the materials for which are not available in the records held by the Oblates’. This particular case illustrates one of the reasons why the records on allegations of sexual abuse do not exist: the system inhibited disclosure and the type of thorough investigation that would lead to meaningful and useful records. Fr Luca’s procedure would have tended to suppress rather than encourage allegations of sexual abuse in Daingean. He appeared unable to appreciate the difficulty his procedure would have caused the boys in Daingean, even during the evidence to the Committee.


Most of the staff members accused of sexual abuse were not available to give evidence, and the Committee was presented with allegations of sexual abuse made by credible witnesses, but without the possibility of hearing the contrary side and generally in the absence of documentary evidence and independent corroboration.


One witness described his seduction by a lay teacher: He would take me out fishing. The outer walls of Daingean ran alongside the grand canal ... Things happened there ... he used to use a newspaper and he would start off by reading the newspaper and I would have the fishing rod and then he would put the newspaper down on his lap, it was a slow process that went on for 10 or 15 minutes, then it would be spread out on his lap and then half of it would go on to my lap. He would say to me, “Oh, look at this.” He would point to something in the newspaper. Then he would point at something which was just directly above my crotch ... Then he would put his hand under the newspaper and attempt to masturbate me ... I remember on a few occasions he tried to suck my penis. On another occasion he tried to – we were in some grass and I can remember that he had a handkerchief in his hand and he got on top of me from behind – I was laying flat, he got on top of me from behind and he tried to bugger me ... I just clenched and kept my legs closed. He ejaculated sort of somewhere in that region and I remember him using a handkerchief to wipe up ... I can only remember one occasion that happened but several instances of him trying to suck my penis.

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is the Irish version of Richard Crowe.
  17. This is the English version of Mr MacConchradha.
  18. Allegations of brutal beatings in Court Lees Approved School were made in a letter to The Guardian, and this led to an investigation which reported in 1967 (see Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School (Cmnd 3367, HMSO)) – Known as ‘The Gibbens Report’, it found many of the allegations proven, and in particular that canings of excessive severity did take place on certain occasions, breaking the regulation that caning on the buttocks should be through normal clothing. Some boys had been caned wearing pyjamas. Following this finding, the School was summarily closed down.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is the English version of Ó Síochfhradha.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This was Br Abran.
  27. Organisation that offers therapy to priests and other religious who have developed sexual or drink problems run by The Servants of the Paraclete.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. Board of Works.
  36. Bread and butter.
  37. Board of Works.
  38. Patrick Clancy, ‘Education Policy’, in Suzanne Quinn, Patricia Kennedy, Anne Matthews, Gabriel Kiely (eds), Contemporary Irish Social Policy (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005), p 79.
  39. This is a pseudonym.