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Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Sexual Abuse


Br Aribert stated that he did not recall the subject of Br Garon’s showering with the boys being discussed. He told the Committee, however, that he did recall some of the boys not wanting to go to the showers but they never told him why. He felt it was because boys of that age did not like to shower in the middle of winter. He added, ‘it wasn’t for the reason that they were being abused that came across to me’. He never heard any boy complain about the ‘supposed carry on’ with the Brother. If Br Garon was abusing boys, he did not know how a tiny community could not be aware of it. He also told the Committee that he believed someone else was in charge of the showers when Br Garon was still there. He did not know why Br Garon was taken off that job.


Another Brother, Br Chapin, said that he never heard any discussion among the Brothers about Br Garon in the showers with the boys, or anything of that nature.


Br Garon was not mentioned in either the Opening Statement furnished by the Christian Brothers or in the Phase I or Phase III evidence.


In their Final Submission to the Investigation Committee, the Christian Brothers accepted that the evidence relating to Br Garon suggested that he ‘did behave in an inappropriate manner in the boys’ showers’. They stated that the extent to which he engaged in inappropriate conduct was obviously a matter for the Committee and said that it was worth noting that there was a ‘broad spectrum of evidence on this issue’. They believed that some allegations against Br Garon were ‘exaggerated’ but accepted that, even if his ‘activities went no further than requiring the boys to wash him ... this was totally inappropriate’. They also accepted that ‘from today’s perspective, it would seem to be unwise to allow one adult to supervise showers on a continual and consistent basis without any monitoring of that adult. This appears to have been what happened’.


The Submission conceded that the decision to place Br Garon in charge of the showers ‘was an error which was compounded by a lack of appreciation of the risks that might arise in such a situation’.


The Submission also stated that Br Garon’s activities in the showers took place when there was group showering and that ‘he did not have the authority, nor was it the practice, that he would take individual boys for showers’. This is not, however, borne out by the evidence of Br Lisle who made the statement in January 2006. The Congregation repeated its puzzlement at the evidence of Br Lisle that he had informed three Resident Managers of his ‘suspicions/complaints’. The Submissions also stated that the Congregation believed that the Resident Managers in question would not have ignored ‘complaints of this nature’.


Br Garon’s behaviour went on for many years, and was known to three Superiors, but they did nothing about it. The Brother who reported the complaints of boys and who confirmed that Br Garon was taking them into the showers was a very junior member of the Congregation in Tralee, and he felt that his conscience was clear when he complained and left it to the Superior to deal with the problem. Br Lisle, who made these repeated complaints to the Superiors did not pursue the matter further, for example by mentioning it to the Visitors. Neither did he make a written complaint to the Provincial. This reflects on the sense of discipline that was inculcated and which would have operated particularly on a junior Brother in the Institution. It is likely that over such a long period other Brothers in Tralee knew about Br Garon’s behaviour. Nothing is recorded about these complaints in the discovered material. Superiors chose to keep matters to themselves and did not report on to the Provincial or the Visitor. If they did, the Visitors did not to make a note of it or do anything about it. This is an example of the under-recording and under-reporting of sexual abuse. The Brothers would have dealt severely with boys behaving in the showers in the way that Br Garon did. The moral issues or the corrupting effect of the Brother’s behaviour was not dealt with. The fact that Br Garon behaved openly in this way is evidence of his confidence that he would not be challenged. Br Lisle recalled how Br Garon would select a particular boy to bring to the shower. The audacity of Br Garon is striking and is another reason why this case is a very serious one for the Congregation.


Br Marceau was moved to Tralee for the second time after cracking a boy’s jaw in Glin. One witness told the Committee that, during class, Br Marceau would stand him between his knees and put his arms around him and hug him into him. Sometimes he put his face on his shoulder, up against his face. Eventually, he would start putting his hand down the back of his trousers and fondling his bottom. This went on for ‘a period of time’. Br Marceau would call him up to the front of the classroom where this would happen. The other boys could not see what was happening and this happened to him a dozen times, maybe more.


This same complainant also said that, on one occasion, Br Marceau told him to stay behind after class and called him to his desk, after the others had left. He put him between his knees and put his arms around him. He told him to read his book and then he put one of his hands down the back of the complainant’s trousers and the other hand down the front. When he then started to open the buttons on the front, the complainant began to struggle. Br Marceau pulled him tighter but he got loose and ran to the door. Br Marceau caught him as he got to the door and pulled him away from the door. The complainant banged into a desk, hurting himself. He was crying at this stage and shouted at Br Marceau to leave him alone. Br Marceau started to hit the complainant over the head and told him to shut up. The classroom door opened, and Br Millard came in and told Br Marceau to leave the boy alone. He did not ask the complainant about it. After that, he was never called up to the front of the class again. The beatings did, however, continue in the classroom.


The witness was asked whether there were any Brothers to whom he felt he could speak about difficulties such as the way he was being treated by Br Marceau in class. He said no there were not, ‘you never went to a Christian Brother and told him your problem’. More specifically, he could not complain about what Br Marceau was doing because he did not know if the other Brother would believe him. If he did not, he might get ‘a hiding’, and then Br Marceau would be told and he would get a ‘worse hiding’ from him for telling lies.


He had no recollection or sense of this Brother being supervised or watched after the Brother intervened in the classroom on the occasion mentioned above.


One complainant, who was in Tralee in the 1940s, told the Investigation Committee that he knew there was ‘a lot of shenanigans’ going on between the boys in toilets and out in fields. They would be ‘playing with each other’ but he kept clear of that. The Resident Manager would call the boys in and question them on whether they were involved in sexual activities amongst themselves. He also said, however, that there was no talk between the boys and the Brothers about this ‘sex thing’, but the stigma was there and the boys would use it against each other in an argument, saying ‘at least I wasn’t called in for Question Time’.25 No boy wanted to let anybody know that they had been called in for ‘Question Time’.


Another complainant referred to abusive sexual activity among the boys. A witness from the late 1960s told the Committee that older boys would congregate around the toilet in the yard, and that the younger boys would be afraid of going in there for fear of being beaten or molested by them. The younger boys used go in to the toilet in threes and fours in order to be protected from the older boys: We didn’t know what was going to happen in there, whether we were getting a hiding from the older boys or what else they would do to you. It was just that thing in there and, if you did get a hiding you didn’t go speak about it you kept it to yourself ... There was a fear of being sexually abused as well, yes ... It was supposed to happen to the younger lads but I can’t say definitely whether it did or not.


This witness said at night the older boys would try to get into the smaller boys’ beds. They terrorised them. He said this happened to him on a number of occasions with different boys and he would just shout out. He explained: So every time you’d start roaring they would get up, they would give you a slap in the head and they would threaten that if you opened your mouth they would get you the next day.


He also confirmed, however, that the boys kept the peer abuse to themselves. The Brothers would not have known what was going on in the toilets unless they saw it themselves. To his knowledge, this never happened. He acknowledged that it was a continuous problem for the younger boys but it was not spoken about. You kept to yourself because you did not know whom to trust, ‘so you managed to stay on your own’.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter, Vol. IV.
  2. The Visitation Report for February 1960 records the total number in the primary school as being 119 and the Visitation Report for May 1961 gave the total number of boys in Tralee as 130, with 107 boys on the roll in the primary school.
  3. The 1969 Visitation Report refers to 35 boys being still in the School, and the Opening Statement says that by 30th June 1970, the School had closed.
  4. Prior to leaving, the Visitor gave the Resident Manager directions as to certain matters that should be attended to without delay including cleaning the entrance path and flowerbeds, employing a woman to take over the care of the laundry, teaching the boys table manners and providing them with washing facilities before dinner and tea time. These were reiterated in a follow-up letter to the Resident Manager, without the reference to the paths and flowerbeds.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. He said that he thought it was probably another Brother (Br Cheney, the Principal at that time) who made the decision that he was to be kept away from the dormitories but he ‘would totally agree with that’.
  7. ‘Strong hand’ in Irish.
  8. The two Brothers referred to were Br Mahieu and Br Cheney.
  9. The letters to Br Sebastien, Br Millard and Br Beaufort mentioned below.
  10. He had also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. The school annals note that the Brother resigned from the post due to ill-health.
  13. One of the others was Br Rayce. The complainant did not know who the third one was.
  14. Br Aribert accepted that this was a fair summary of Br Lafayette.
  15. Brs Archard and Kalle.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. ‘Senility’ was subsequently changed to ‘septicaemia’.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. He confirmed also that it was not the general rule that you would be punished if you failed in your homework or schoolwork at class.
  20. Professor Tom Dunne, ‘Seven Years in the Brothers’ Dublin Review (Spring 2002).
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This Brother worked in Tralee from the mid-1960s to 1970.
  23. There were three Resident Managers during Br Lisle’s time in Tralee: Brs Sinclair, Millard and Roy.
  24. Br Sinclair was Resident Manager for a period of six years in the 1960s.
  25. Question Time was a radio programme
  26. The annals refer to ‘this tax’ ceasing to be paid when Br Dareau came as Resident Manager.
  27. This is borne out by the Department Inspector’s Reports, which until 1950 categorised the food and diet as ‘satisfactory’. The 1953 Report said that food and diet was ‘much improved’ and, from then on, was always described by this inspector as very good.
  28. A later Visitation Report noted that there was no evidence of the pilfering of food that had taken place before this Brother arrived in Tralee.
  29. The 1940s Visitation Reports only commented on the standard of the boys’ clothing in 1940, 1941 and 1943, and then only in positive terms.
  30. ‘The School has improved out of all recognition’ and ‘excellent manager’.
  31. This complainant was in Tralee from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.
  32. One complainant told the Committee about how the boys had to creosote the floor in hot weather, and without any gloves or goggles. ‘It was a very nasty job because it would get into your eyes and all over your hands and everywhere else’.
  33. There was a profit of £98 mentioned in the 1937 Visitation Report, and a profit of approximately £395 mentioned in the 1953 Visitation Report.
  34. According to the Opening Statement, the main recreational facilities were the hall, schoolyard, football playing pitch and the band room. When the primary school closed, the classrooms were converted into sitting rooms, with TV etc.
  35. The 1949 annals referred to Mr Sugrue, the Department’s Inspector, having made his first visit to the School and having spoken freely to staff and boys.
  36. This Brother to whom the shotgun was taken was the Brother who had the long history of physically abusing boys and spent two separate periods in Tralee.
  37. He also said this of Br Toussnint and of a lay teacher.
  38. St Helen’s was in Booterstown.
  39. 67 in 1945, 70 in 1946, 90 in 1947, 90 in 1949, and 45 in 1952. In 1960, the annals note that families were willing to take boys for three to four weeks, but there was no evidence of this actually happening that year. 68 boys went on home leave in 1968.