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Chapter 14 — St. Joseph’s Kilkenny

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Allegations of sexual abuse in the 1970s


Peter Tade used to take Richard,29 who was a boy in care in St Joseph’s, and Gerry on fishing trips and for spins in his car. Peter Tade took photographs of them. The Garda described what happened: the circumstances were that Peter Tade had taken photographs of Richard and Gerry. He used to take them fishing and took them for spins in his car. But Gerry’s mother discovered that Peter Tade’s face, he was in one of the photographs, had been scratched and pins driven through it and she suspected something was wrong. She spoke to him and he told her that Peter Tade did something to him. As far as I recall it was a bank holiday weekend and Peter Tade was off, he was on leave and he was in Dublin, Sr Astrid said she had to get rid of him or ask him to leave. I came to Dublin with her – or I came to Dublin and I met her in Dublin.


The Garda had met Gerry’s parents before he left, and they were not anxious to make a formal complaint. They did not want any publicity whatever about their son. The term ‘sexual abuse’ was not used, but the Garda was in no doubt that an indecent assault had taken place.


When confronted by Sr Astrid and the Garda, Peter Tade admitted that he had abused Gerry. He admitted that he touched the child improperly. Sr Astrid told him he could never return to St Joseph’s or have any contact with the children there.


The Garda did not take a statement from Sr Astrid at the time, on the basis that there was no formal complaint from Gerry’s parents, despite the fact that he had an admission from Peter Tade himself. He also did not question any of the children who had been in the care of Peter Tade for the previous 10 months in St Joseph’s, and he did not think that Sr Astrid had done so either. As far as he was concerned, it was an isolated incident that had been dealt with. Peter Tade left for England, and there were no more complaints about him. He said he wrote a short report for his Superintendent that Peter Tade had been dismissed from St Joseph’s for an incident. He never saw that report again.


He said that it was 1995 before he realised that the incident with Gerry was not an isolated one, and Peter Tade had been abusing boys in St Joseph’s since he had arrived 10 months previously.


He felt he knew the children in St Joseph’s well, and regretted that they did not trust him enough to confide in him. He admitted that there was an awareness of a certain amount of sexual activity between the children.


Neither the Garda nor Sr Astrid saw fit to question Richard, the boy from St Joseph’s who was with Gerry in the defaced photograph, and who had also been taken on the trips with Peter Tade, about whether he had been interfered with by Tade. It is difficult to understand why they did not question the other boys in the home where Tade had worked for 10 months. There was a failure on the part of both the Garda and Sr Astrid to face up to the danger Peter Tade posed to other children.


Peter Tade died whilst serving the four-year sentence imposed on him by the Circuit Criminal Court in 1999. He had pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault against three former residents of St Joseph’s and Gerry, the boy who had made the complaint in 1977.


Peter Tade had given a full statement to the investigating Garda in 1995, in which he had described being sexually abused by a family friend at seven years of age. In the mid-1960s, whilst working in a boys’ club in England, he had first abused a boy of 14 years. He was over 30 at the time. He had abused more children after that and, in 1967, took his first job in childcare. He described a series of incidents of abuse of young boys aged from about 11 to 14. He worked in a number of residential homes, but his activities were never uncovered.


He returned to Ireland to take up the job in Kilkenny in 1976, and his pattern of abuse continued. He listed a number of boys that he had sexually abused in Kilkenny and a number of boys he had physically abused.


After his encounter with Sr Astrid, he returned to England and continued his abusive behaviour until, one day, a boy he had been abusing for over two years finally told the housemaster of the school he was working in. He denied the abuse and was acquitted by Middlesborough Crown Court in 1988.


By 1995, he had moved back to Ireland and when confronted by the investigating Garda he admitted abusing boys in Kilkenny.


When Peter Tade was sentenced, the Sister of Charity issued a statement as follows: the first complaint we received about Peter Tade concerning sexual abuse was made on a weekend in June, 1977, when Peter Tade was away in Dublin. One of the children made a specific complaint of abuse against him to the sister in charge, she immediately called in a local Garda who was involved with St. Joseph’s in a voluntary capacity and they both travelled to Dublin to confront Peter Tade. This confrontation resulted in his immediate dismissal. Peter Tade never returned to St. Joseph’s.


Two volunteer workers who were in St Joseph’s during Thomas Pleece’s and Peter Tade’s time there said they had no idea that these men were abusing children.


A third man, however, had been told about sexual abuse in the School. Patrick McGovern30 helped out in St Joseph’s on a voluntary basis with the entertainment in the School. He had a fair amount of contact with the School, and would call in and play music for the children. In or around 1974, a friend of his asked him to meet his daughter who was working in the School. She said to him that one of the boys was being molested in bed in the School. He understood that it was sexual molestation. He called to the convent and told Sr Wilma about this: I did, I called to the convent. It was dark, miserable weather, I can remember it well, being on the front step of the convent, there was a light over the door, it was really Dickensian, I knocked on the door and Sr Wilma came out. I knew her more than I knew the other nuns so I was glad it was her that answered the door.

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