Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Sexual abuse


Br Dennis confirmed to the Committee that he had continued his activities, in the same pattern which did not change, from his first posting to Artane in the late 1960s until he was reported some 20 years later. Speaking about the investigation that occurred following the 1980s allegation, he said: The parents of the boy came and accused me of behaving badly with the son and that he was going to go further with it. So the next thing a Garda came up to the school and our own headquarters had been notified at that stage and I ... was summoned to headquarters anyway. I was asked various questions. At the time I denied everything to them because I had more or less convinced myself that these things hadn’t happened ... Yeah, but the fact that the Garda could find no substance either, that was the main reason why I was left[in the school] at that time.


Br Dennis continued teaching in the School for a further five years, after which he was transferred as teaching Principal to another Christian Brothers’ school in the west of Ireland. After about six months there, he received a phone call from an individual who claimed to have been abused by him and demanded money. The Brother met this individual and another man, and gave them some £800. However, the allegation was brought to the attention of the Superior by the individual or someone on his behalf: The Brother Superior at the time, he rang headquarters and I was summoned to headquarters the following day and when I went there they said that ... the fact that it was a second time they said that it called for more serious action. I was asked to take sick leave because, I mean I was very traumatised at the time anyway. So I went back and met the Board of Management, this is some time later now. I went off on sick leave for a period.


Br Dennis said that the Provincialate did not know at that stage that he had paid money, and they asked him if the allegations were true: They did and again I more or less denied them. This time they decided, the fact that it was a completely different case, that there was a danger that there was some grounds for the allegations.


Br Dennis’s ‘more or less’ denial obviously rang alarm bells: A short time after that they advised me to go for professional help, so I went to the St John of God, Granada Institute ... I was going there for a period of time and it took quite a while for me to admit, even to myself, that what I had done was wrong. As part of the therapy there I began to come to terms with it more and eventually was able to make a clean statement to them. I spent quite a long time there, in individual treatment and in group therapy ... At first I found it very difficult, but with time I began to open up more to the group because I saw that they were able to be open, and I kind of felt that I was lagging behind. So eventually, something happened anyway and there was a kind of breakthrough for me that I was able to admit it. From that period on I seemed to come to terms with the whole situation and to realise – well, I probably realised – I did realise before, the gravity of the situation I suppose, but it really only came home to me because as part of the therapy we were getting reports from people who had been sexually abused and it began to come home to me then the enormity of the thing.


He did not admit his abusive activities all at once: In dribs and drabs at the start. I think it was actually the Artane investigation that – I was called to Clontarf, I think that was the deciding factor that really opened me up to the whole – I was able to – I got great support from the group at that time and I decided that I had to put all my faith in the group. Before that I was very hesitant, because I am by nature shy and not having much confidence in myself, but when I saw how much support I was getting from them it made me open up completely to the group and to the therapists.


It was a long process: Well, I still spent a lot of time in Granada to fully come to terms with it. Some of the group there, they would suggest that they felt that they were ready for the world again but I was very slow to suggest that, I kind of waited until I was told by the therapists in Granada that as far as they were concerned I was in a position to leave therapy, but that I should have no contact with, no direct contact with children, as far as was possible.


Br Dennis said that, prior to his actions in Artane, he had not felt drawn to young boys. While he eventually admitted he had acted for sexual gratification, he had begun by deceiving himself that he was comforting the boy. He said that he found it very difficult to pinpoint any one thing that started it for him: Well, I suppose, I was under pressure. Under pressure, having very little free time, I suppose, in Artane ... I was young and I didn’t seem to feel that pressure, but it probably was there in spite of me, I don’t know.


He went on to say that he was sexually naïve and shy, and he tended to select boys who were weaker and needed more help: ‘Maybe I was looking for a shy boy trying to give them confidence. That might be my justification, I couldn’t really say’.


Part of his therapy in the Granada Institute was to accept responsibility for what he had done, which also involved telling his Superiors the whole story: I told them eventually, yes, but it took some time for that to happen as well ... Well, they were invited to – they would have meetings over in Granada with the therapists and the Leadership Team and myself. The first session yielded nothing at all, but after about four months I suppose, I gradually began to open up to the Leadership Team, as well as to the group members.


Br Dennis said that he had lied, when he was first accused, out of fear: ‘I don’t know what kind of fear it was, but it was out of some kind of fear and a sense of shame; that I didn’t want to reveal that I was a failure or something like that’.


He said that, in the Granada Institute, he had also come to an awareness of the impact of the abuse on the boys: Probably the effects that it had on them in later life, where it could have led to marriage break-up and to suicidal tendencies. That their whole life really was all messed up ... It was traumatic for me, but even though I didn’t look on it in that way, at that time I was thinking more of the victims at that particular time. But it was very traumatic for me as well. I found it very hard. There was one – I was advised to have at least one Brother that I could talk to, so I chose a Brother that I could talk to about all my misgivings and upset, and I found that that was a help to me all right, that that helped me greatly.


The Christian Brothers’ statement responding to the complainant who made allegations to the Investigation Committee stated that the allegations were not in keeping with the character of the Brother. The complainant’s allegations were expressly not admitted. The statement did not say that Br Dennis had been sent to the Granada Institute by the Congregational Superiors in the mid-1990s in respect of his activities in Artane.


Br Dennis filed two separate statements of response to the complainant’s allegations. The first was a long statement that dealt in detail with the complainant’s allegations, which were denied in full. It commenced by stating that he did not remember him or the incidents that were alleged to have occurred and ‘that the Complainant is both inaccurate and mistaken in much of his recollection’. It did not make any admission and, in the final paragraph, he said ‘I deny any allegations of abuse made against me contained in [the complainant’s] statement which is not directly or indirectly denied or referred to in this response statement’. He did not refer to the admissions that were made to the Gardaí, or to the fact that he had been sent by the Superiors of the Congregation to the Granada Institute in the mid-1990s in respect of his activity in Artane.


His second statement to the Commission was dated a few weeks after the first statement and was the standard denial of abuse, with a legalistic paragraph which stated that he was required to prove a negative in respect of events alleged to have occurred on unspecified dates over 30 years ago.


The significance of the approach taken by the Congregation and by Br Dennis is twofold: The Congregational response in this instance did not tell the whole story. It was seriously misleading because it did not reflect the Congregation’s actual knowledge of Br Dennis: the Superiors in the Congregation sent him to the Granada Institute in 1996 because of allegations from Artane. It is inconceivable that they did not also know about the previous allegations. In the course of his treatment in Granada, Br Dennis had meetings with the leadership team of the Christian Brothers and his therapists, at which he eventually opened up about his abuse. None of this is reflected in the Congregational response in which they attested to his good character. Br Dennis’s statements of response to the Commission cannot be trusted on face value. They contain assertions that he knew to be untrue and which contradicted the import of his earlier statement to the Gardaí and the Granada Institute.

  1. Report on Artane Industrial School for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by Ciaran Fahy, Consulting Engineer (see Appendix 1).
  2. Rules and Regulations of Industrial Schools 1885.
  3. Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System 1934-1936 chaired by Justice Cussen.
  4. Dr McQuaid and Fr Henry Moore.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym. See also the Tralee chapter.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. Br Beaufort had previously also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  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. See also the Carriglea chapter.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. From the infirmary register it appears that while the boy was not confined in hospital he was due for a check up the day his mother called to see the superior so he may well not have been in the Institution when his mother called.
  24. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  25. It was in fact the Minister for Education who used those words. See paragraph 7.117 .
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
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  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.
  36. The same incident is referred to in the Department’s inspection into the matter as ‘a shaking’.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. This is a pseudonym.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. This is a pseudonym.
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  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. This is a pseudonym.
  46. This is a pseudonym.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Dr Anna McCabe (Medical Inspector), Mr Seamus Mac Uaid (Higher Executive Officer) and Mr MacDáibhid (Assistant Principal Officer and Inspector in Charge of Industrial Schools).
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. This is a pseudonym.
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  68. This is a pseudonym.
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  75. This is a pseudonym.
  76. This is a pseudonym.
  77. This is a pseudonym.
  78. This is a pseudonym.
  79. See General Chapter on the Christian Brothers at para ???.
  80. He went there after many years in Artane.
  81. Dr Charles Lysaght was commissioned by the Department of Education to conduct general and medical inspections of the industrial and reformatory schools in 1966 in the absence of a replacement for Dr McCabe since her retirement the previous year. He inspected Artane on 8th September 1966.
  82. See Department of Education and Science Chapter, One-off Inspections.
  83. The fact that they were tired is noted in many Visitation Reports.
  84. Council for Education, Recruitment and Training.
  85. This is a pseudonym.
  86. This is a pseudonym.
  87. This is a pseudonym.