Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 2 — Upton

Show Contents

Physical abuse


One witness said he was not long in Upton before he was called into the office by Brs Ludano and Donato, and questioned about his brother who had been in Ferryhouse and was now in Daingean. Once they established they were siblings, the Brothers said words to the effect ‘we won’t make the same mistake with you’ and proceeded to strike him across the face and gave him ‘benders’ on the buttocks with the leather. He was black and blue from this beating. He recalled being beaten also by a Fr Gian16 on the farm, but the main punishments were meted out by Brs Ludano and Donato.


The witness spoke about the punishment for immorality with others. He explained how, every couple of months or so in Upton, Brs Ludano and Donato would take a boy into the office and strap him until he offered up the name of a boy who had been scamping with him. This went on as the next boy would name another boy, ‘it was a never ending ... circle’.


A decision was made in 2002 by the Rosminian Order to carry out a survey of all surviving Rosminian Brothers and priests, to assess the extent of their knowledge of physical and sexual abuse at the time. The survey was carried out in respect of both Ferryhouse and Upton. In response to a question about knowledge of physical abuse in Upton, the following responses were elicited:


Br Tomasso17 said that, although he had never witnessed anything himself, he did recall hearing that Br Alfonso administered excessive punishment on a number of occasions.


Fr Stefano18 said that he thought that there were a number of cases of excessive punishment.


One anonymous respondent, when asked whether he felt that corporal punishment was excessive, replied: Yes, the longer I spent there: but then, there were few Fr Flanagans in Ireland: nobody knew any better: it was common in most places at that time.


When asked if the Rector was aware of the fact that excessive punishment was being administered, he stated: If he wasn’t Blind, deaf and dumb, he must have known: but he didn’t know any better. In my years as prefect there was a punishment book, wherein we, prefects had to write in all punishment – three slaps were allowed. This was Fr Fabiano’s idea: it ended with him.


Fr Gustavo19 said that he witnessed Br Alba20 beating boys in the old infirmary for talking in the dormitory. He said that he questioned Br Alba but was told to mind his own business. He said that he heard that Br Alfonso was tough and cruel.


Br Flavio21 said that, while he was a scholastic in Upton, he often saw punishment administered. He implied that this was excessive in nature as, in the next sentence, he stated ‘while in charge of discipline in Omeath, I too punished excessively’; when asked whether the Rector, Frs Alanzo and Eduardo,22 knew about the excessive violence, he replied ‘not sure if the rector knew all the sordid details – probably not’. He identified Brs Donato and Alfonso as excessive punishers.


All Brothers surveyed agreed that there was inappropriate punishment in Upton.


1.It was not in dispute that physical abuse took place, and the only issues were how widespread it was and how brutal. 2.Physical abuse was widespread and systemic. Excessive punishment was an everyday occurrence and was brutal and severe. 3.Like many other institutions, Upton kept control over the boys by maintaining a climate of fear. 4.Corporal punishment was used by religious and lay staff as an instrument of control as well as for the purpose of chastisement. 5.The punishment book of the early 1950s documents brutal corporal punishment. 6.Punishment was not supervised or controlled and the severity of punishment was a matter for the individual who administered it. 7.The abusive nature of the regime as recalled by complainants is corroborated by the entries in the punishment book, and by some of the religious.

Sexual abuse


At the Phase III public hearing held on 9th May 2006, Fr O’Reilly, Provincial of the Rosminians, went further than previous concessions, saying that: I accept totally that there are people out there who have also been – who have been sexually abused in our institutions who have not come forward to this Commission. I know that, and we accept that, there are people who were abused in our institutions, sexually abused who have not come forward to this Commission, or to any – or indeed to other forum.


Fr O’Reilly was asked whether the attitude of the Order in relation to the issue of sexual abuse had been changed by the evidence given at the Phase II hearings. He responded: I think we have grown in appreciation of the impact that being in the industrial schools had on the children. I think we feel different about the whole thing now than we did previously. Two years ago we had come an awful long way, I think we have come further since then. I think it has impacted on us enormously.


Fr O’Reilly acknowledged that the response of the Order, in the wake of revelations of sexual abuse, had been inadequate. He did concede that it was the fear of scandal which prompted them to keep quiet about the situation. However, he justified this response on the basis that those in authority at the time lacked a proper understanding of the situation: I think clearly at the time they did not want the scandal to be known, because they felt it would affect the entire Institution. I think they had a very immature sort of understanding of what the problem was ...


He did not concede that the Order’s primary motive was to protect the abuser and cover up the situation, and instead asserted that those in authority at the time ‘did know it was wrong and that it was hurtful to the boys and that that was the first priority’. However, they did not seek at the time to consider the impact of such abuse on the boys. Although knowing it was wrong, such sexual abuse was not reported to the Gardaí until 1995, despite the Order being aware of sexual abuse in the 1960s and, more particularly, in 1979. Instead, known abusers were moved to other institutions.

  1. Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.
  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. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  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.
  36. This is a pseudonym.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. Latin for in a class of its own.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. Latin for with a boy.
  42. Latin for with boys.
  43. Latin for As spoken.
  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  46. Latin for without delay.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Latin for due caution.
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  55. Records exist for only 19 of the 23 years.
  56. This is a pseudonym.