Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 14 — St. Joseph’s Kilkenny

Show Contents

Alleged sexual abuse by a foster family


In May 1961, she was released by order of the Minister for Education to Mr and Mrs Lacey.14 She was nine years old. She remembered being sent to the Reverend Mother’s office and there was a couple sitting there. They seemed quite old to her and they were introduced to her as her uncle and aunt. She went out with them for day trips initially, and then she spent a couple of weeks over Christmas. The Sisters asked her how she got along and, at that stage, she thought it was fun being brought to the seaside and given treats. She recalled the food they gave her was very rich and, because they gave her toys, she thought she had landed in heaven.


She testified that, when she was released into the care of the Laceys, things changed. She was sexually abused by Mr Lacey. He built a corrugated shed in the garden which he used solely for the purpose of raping her. He told her it was a playhouse. She believed Mrs Lacey knew what was going on as, after being raped, she told her to have a bath. It happened two or three times a week in various places, wherever they were living at the time, until she managed to ‘get away’ from them at the age of 15.


The couple travelled all over the country and spent time in Kildare, Wicklow, England, Wales etc. When she was 11, they were living in Northern Ireland, and she managed to run away at that stage, but was caught and returned to them. After this incident, she was sent by them to England to live in Mr Lacey’s brother’s house, and the couple later followed over. During the 13½ weeks that she spent there, she recalls regularly being given a drink and falling asleep; she would wake up next morning, partially clothed and very sore. She complained to Mrs Lacey, and was punished by being hit with a leather and locked in a cellar, or she was deprived of food. She was forced to work for the couple in all of their various enterprises, including an ice cream parlour and a restaurant.


Annette now knows that the Laceys were not in fact married. They were of different religions and, although one of the conditions for them to be allowed to foster her was that they would protect her religion, they never brought her to mass or church when she was with them.


Annette was not aware until recently where she read the documentation that the Sisters were opposed to her going to the Laceys.


The documents reveal mistakes by the Department of Education. The story is recounted here in some detail as an example of how failure to follow up and supervise children placed in foster care could leave them totally unprotected


In November 1960, Mrs Lacey wrote to the Rev Mother in St Joseph’s, having been referred by an official from the Adoption Board Dublin. She and her husband were anxious to have a little girl, as they had no children of their own. She described herself as having the means to give the child a good home, a mother and father’s real love, and a good education. She said they were both Catholics and in good health. The Laceys said they were married in 1928, 33 years prior to the application in 1961.


Sr Klara15 wrote to a senior official of the Department of Education on 25th November 1960, telling him of the request from the Laceys. She explained that Annette could not be adopted legally, as her mother was alive but untraced. She suggested that perhaps the Laceys could be her Godparents, and sought his opinion on this matter. She hoped he could help find the mother so that her consent for adoption or the Godparenting arrangement could be sought.


Sr Klara wrote again on 3rd December 1960, advising the official of the Department that the Gardaí had had no success in tracing Annette’s mother and wondering whether she should go ahead with allowing the child go to the Laceys. She suggested getting a reference from the parish priest before making a final decision. At this stage, the Laceys had brought the child out for outings and were keen to take her. The official advised her to get the reference from the parish priest before allowing it to go ahead.


On 10th December 1960, Sr Klara wrote to Mr Wade of the Department of Education as follows: Since our conversation (phone) I have received a letter from my friend to whom I wrote for information re. couple who wish to adopt Annette. It seems this “party” is only here for the past few months from England. The husband is a lapsed Catholic, and the wife a Protestant. As we have been warned that “couples” are going through Dublin trying to adopt children, and from the information just received, I don’t think it wise to go any further unless we get a very definite proof of the suitability of the Adopting Parents.


Sr Klara wrote again to Mr Wade on 12th December 1960, expressing her continuing uneasy mind regarding the couple who wished to adopt Annette, and seeking his advice as to whether she should pursue the matter with the parish priest in the UK, as the couple had only resided four months in Ireland. The parish priest in Terenure had vouched that they were attentive to their Church duties in the four months that he knew them and were worthy and reliable people.


Sr Klara came under increasing pressure from the Laceys, who were indignant that Mr Wade, when he interviewed them, had information to suggest that they were not Catholics. Mrs Lacey denied this and said they attended Mass every Sunday. Sr Klara remained very doubtful about them.


On 15th December 1960, in an internal memorandum to the Inspector in the Department of Education, the author advised that he had spoken to the parish priest in Terenure, who recommended that the child should be allowed out to the Laceys for Christmas.


In a letter dated 15th December 1960, Mrs Lacey wrote to the Department: Dear Sir, As requested I herewith make an application for permission to have Annette the child from St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny for the Christmas period. My husband and I have already had her out for one day and we have asked the Mother Superior to let us have her with us, as we are giving a children’s party at our café, and the Mother Superior said as far as she was concerned it would be alright. The child having no parents or relatives we are both willing to help her in every way possible, by giving her a good home, with a Mother’s and Father’s love, bringing her up in the Catholic faith, and educating her in the best possible manner. We are quite aware on account of her age that we cannot adopt her legally, but are more than willing to be her Foster Mother and Father. My husband being Managing Director of a large firm tells you that we have the means to do the very best for the child. Trusting you will grant us this permission. Yours Faithfully Mrs Lacey


A note on the letter said: ‘Phoned Sr Klara and informed her of our inquiries. She is now satisfied to release child for Xmas holidays and we are to [make] ... inquiries regarding Lacey couple with a view to advising mgr on question of release on supervision certificate TOR 16/12/60’.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym.
  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 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. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.