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Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

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Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


The Congregation responded to allegations of sexual abuse by transferring Brs Benoit and Karel to day schools and after a period of 10 years they were sent to Letterfrack. The explanation offered in the Brothers’ Submission was that it was an administrative accident. The suggestion that the Congregation would make an appointment to a senior position in an industrial school without reference to the Brother’s recent history or to his personal file is incomprehensible. Failure in all these respects by the senior management of the Congregation ignored the safety of the children and the requirement of good management in the institution. A record of sexual abuse would have precluded appointment to a residential school if protecting the boys was the priority.


Br Dacian was a similar case to the two cited above and the consequences of the Congregation’s failure to act to protect children when the first allegation arose were felt for many years by children in different schools. An account of his activities is set out in full in the chapter of this report dealing with St Joseph’s Industrial School, Salthill.


Br Dacian was the subject of a complaint of sexual abuse in the early 1960s in Salthill. He was transferred from Galway to a day school in Dublin and was later sent to serve in Letterfrack in the 1970s.


In a letter to the Superior General, the Provincial in Salthill elaborated on the allegation. A child awoke to find someone with his hand inside his pyjamas. Although it was dark the boy identified the person as Br Dacian by his voice and size. Br Dacian admitted doing this, but offered the defence that he was checking to see if the child, who was a known bed-wetter, had wet his bed. The Provincial continued, ‘It is apparent that this does not explain everything’. A letter sent three days later to the Superior of the School noted that he was sorry for the lapse of Br Dacian and that all the members of the Council thought that a change was necessary for him, as ‘no doubt some of the boys know of this lapse’.


Br Dacian was moved to a school in Dublin less than five months later. He stayed there for nearly 10 years before being moved to Letterfrack.


He spent a year in Letterfrack before moving to another day school in Dublin where he taught for over 10 years. Br Dacian admitted sexually assaulting a boy in this day school and he had to be transferred out of it in the early 1980s. Although it did not emerge until some five years later, another allegation that abuse had occurred at the same time was made by a pupil in an Irish College where Br Dacian was working during that summer.


After his removal from the Dublin day school, he received counselling from a Jesuit priest. This priest gave a somewhat qualified reassurance to the Leadership of the Congregation. He stated that he ‘was confident that there is no risk of a recurrence of such an event in the near future by which I mean over the next few years he has had a severe shock’.


Br Dacian was appointed Principal of a rural school in 1984 less than a year after his removal from the Dublin school but, once again, he had to be removed from his position because of his sexual abuse of a young boy in 1987.


He moved to England and, although he continued as a member of the Congregation, he was, according to a letter written in 1994 by Br Travis,54 the Provincial, to a concerned teacher from the Dublin school, no longer involved in any ministry that brought him into contact with children.


The Christian Brothers’ Opening Statement once more offered the explanation that the Provincial Council from 1960 to 1966 had been totally replaced by a new Council who had no knowledge of the original complaint when the transfer to Letterfrack was made, ‘Hence, Br Dacian was sent to Letterfrack without any knowledge of the previous complaint on the part of the new council’.


The Opening Statement made no reference to the fact that this Brother was transferred on at least two subsequent occasions because of sexual abuse of children in his school.


Brothers with prior records or allegations of sexual abuse against them were transferred to Letterfrack in the early 1970s. The Submission by the Congregation that the Leadership, when deciding to send them to Letterfrack, did not consult the personal files of these Brothers is somewhat speculative and not based on evidence. Assigning these Brothers to Letterfrack was indicative of an attitude that sexual abuse was something that happened from time to time, which was unfortunate and potentially embarrassing for the Congregation and the Institution and which had to be handled in a way that lessened the risk of publicity and even prosecution of the offender.


Much of the complainants’ evidence relating to sexual abuse has been set out above in the sections dealing with documented cases and respondent evidence. In addition to the two Brothers who were convicted of serious sexual crimes, the cases where sexual abuse was documented or which were confirmed by Brothers and former Brothers can also be regarded as indisputable. Where the evidence of complainants referred to sexual abuse by any of these Brothers, it has been incorporated in the earlier sections dealing with those cases. It does not follow that, where a Brother was found to have committed sexual abuse of boys, every allegation against him was true, and the evidence that is set out relating to these Brothers was given by witnesses whom the Committee considered to be credible and reliable in this respect.


The locations in which sexual abuse took place, as described by complainants, were mainly the kitchens (where Br Dax worked), the dormitories, the classrooms, and the farm. Br Dax was in sole charge of the kitchens, and the other Brothers did not tend to have business or other occasion to be there. The dormitories were also isolated. This point was highlighted by the evidence of Br Iven concerning an attack which was made on him by a senior boy who made his way to the junior dormitory where this Brother was in charge. Br Iven said that there was nobody else around who might have heard the commotion. It follows that, if a Brother in charge of a dormitory engaged in sexual activity with a boy, he was unlikely to be discovered. These features were conducive to the occurrence of abuse and indicate that it was unlikely that other Brothers would be aware of abuse occurring.


One witness made allegations against a Br Francois who was in charge of a dormitory in Letterfrack. He described getting a severe beating from this Brother after being ordered out of bed and into the wash hall. He was required to lift his night shirt and ‘get it on the bare ... You would suffer from it and it would be violent ... I got it pretty violent down there ... I think I was bleeding’.

  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.