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Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

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Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


In its Final Submission to the Committee following the investigation into Letterfrack the Congregation stated: On the basis of its own records and of the evidence of [the complainant], the Congregation accepts that Br Jean was involved in some level of sexual abuse. The documentation that the Congregation has in respect of Br Jean is extremely limited, (and all of it has been given to the Commission) but it is clear that Br Jean was removed once the abuse was detected.


The assertion by the Congregation that the boy should have reported the abuse at the time ignored the difficulties that boys and even Brothers had in reporting sexual abuse and tended to place responsibility on the victim.


Br Adrien served in Letterfrack for one year in the late 1950s. A proposal by the Provincial to revoke the Brother’s transfer away from Letterfrack provoked an extraordinary plea from the Resident Manager: Your letter cancelling Br Adrien’s change came as a great surprise and shock to me. I hope you will forgive my candour in saying that I would prefer to have no one at all for the boys’ kitchen than to have the constant strain of watching and worrying about him. It is impossible to keep one’s eye on him. Every time he gets my back turned he is in the kitchen and goodness knows, there are enough difficulties and worries to contend with, without having to think of him every minute and hour of the day. The position regard the Monastery kitchen is regrettable but unfortunately he has not got proper control in the boys’ department either. In my opinion he is not suitable at all to handle young boys and it is positively dangerous, especially in these times, to have him looking after them. A weakness in discipline in this important department will have a very detrimental effect on the boys’ behaviour and will add to everyone’s difficulties and will seriously affect the tone of the school. Taking the above considerations into account and also your own personal knowledge of Br Adrien, I ask you seriously to reflect on the harmful effect his staying here is bound to have, and I entreat you to permit the transfer to go through as originally arranged.


The Provincial replied that the letter was very distressing, and he thought Br Adrien deserved a Canonical Warning for his disobedience and acceded to the request that his transfer should go ahead. Br Adrien was transferred to St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra, and was subsequently transferred to a number of different schools, including Artane. He was back in Letterfrack in the late 1960s for a short period.


Whilst the nature of the conduct that made this Brother ‘dangerous’ and ‘having a detrimental effect on the behaviour of the boys’ was not set out, the implication was clear. No witnesses complained of being abused by him in Letterfrack but, during his subsequent career in Artane, he was accused of sexual abuse of boys. He was urgently removed from Artane when the Chaplain reported complaints by a boy to the management. He appears to have received no Canonical Warning for his behaviour in Artane. Following a period of work in St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra, he was once again dispatched to Letterfrack. After leaving Letterfrack for the second time in 1968, Br Adrien worked in a number of locations before he returned to Baldoyle in the late 1990s.


In view of the history of this Brother in Letterfrack, he should not have been transferred to a school for deaf children. Following the discovery of serious sexual abuse in Artane, his subsequent transfers to the place where his behaviour was first recorded was indicative of the Congregation’s priorities. If protection of children had been even a remote consideration, these transfers would not have occurred.


Br Didier taught in Letterfrack for 10 months in the late 1950s, and was then transferred to St Patrick’s in Marino. A year and half later, he left Marino under a cloud and was transferred to Colaiste Mhuire. He was given a Canonical Warning in 1960 on account of his “interfering incorrectly” with boys who had been in his class. He was advised that the object of the warning was so that he would not fall into that fault again: After consultation with the Provincial Council I have decided to give you a canonical warning on account of your interfering incorrectly with boys who had been in your class. The object of this warning is that you will not fall into this fault again.


There was no explanation for the short duration of his service in Letterfrack notwithstanding his position as teacher. He taught in five more schools.


Br Dax was convicted of sexually abusing 25 former pupils, some of whom gave evidence to the Investigation Committee.


During the course of Br Dax’s evidence to the Investigation Committee, counsel for Br Dax told the Committee that Br Dax accepted that he was guilty in respect of further charges.


Br Dax worked in Letterfrack for two periods, from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, having previously spent over five years in St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra. He was in charge of the kitchen and the poultry farm and also did relief work for other Brothers from time to time, which sometimes involved supervising the dormitories. For the first two years of his time in the School, he slept in a room adjacent to the dormitory. He accepted that, with one exception, his abusive activity spanned nearly the entirety of his period in the school. This exception was for a period of two years, and was due to the influence of his Confessor, who made clear to him the sinfulness of his conduct. However, he relapsed as soon as this priest was transferred.


Br Dax told the Committee that he started sexually abusing children approximately six months after his arrival in the School. He said it started ‘with immodest touching and eventually leading to buggery’.


The abuse generally took place in the kitchen area, the poultry farm or the boiler room. He accepted during cross-examination that it could also have taken place in the room adjacent to the dormitory or in the incubator room in the monastery.


Although he admitted raping and fondling boys, he preferred to reserve his position on whether he masturbated them, forced them to masturbate him or engaged in oral sex.


He said that he would abuse the same children regularly and that, at any one period in his career in the School, he could have been abusing a number of children at the same time. The abuse would often continue until the particular boy left the School. He accepted that he would often keep boys behind after work for the express purpose of abusing them. As to the frequency of his assaults, he accepted the suggestion that he would have raped some boys once or maybe twice a week for a prolonged period of time.

  1. Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).
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  6. Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.
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  19. This document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.
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  32. See table at paragraph 3.20 .
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  36. This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.
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  58. Electricity Supply Board.
  59. See table at paragraph 8.21 .
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  61. Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.
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  65. Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.