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Chapter 2 — Upton

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Physical abuse


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.


Related inquiries led to the discovery of cases in 1956, 1957 and 1959. Questionnaires were circulated to members of the Order who had little or no involvement with the Industrial School. These corroborated the written material and referred to other previously unknown allegations.


Fr Gaffney also stated that he had asked the Superior General of the Rosminian Order in Rome, Fr James Flynn, to carry out a search for documents containing references to sexual abuse through all the records of correspondence between the Generalate and the Irish and English Provinces. This search disclosed a considerable number of documents, 68 in all, dating from 1936 to 1968. They dealt with, among other things, seven sexual abusers who worked in Upton. The Rosminians provided this information, together with the questionnaires and related material, to the Committee in May 2004. These documents proved to be very significant and came to be known as the Rome files.


Respondent evidence and the Rosminian survey disclosed that sexual abuse perpetrated by a lay teacher and employees in the Institution had been discovered and was dealt with through the removal or transfer of the offenders.


Little information was available as to the nature of the abuse that was discovered or the circumstances in which it was detected. It is clear, however, that a large number of the perpetrators of the abuse were discovered as a result of the activities of Br Alfonso, who zealously pursued a policy of relentlessly rooting out and punishing sexual activity among the boys.


This Brother was responsible for the exposure of six persons who were committing sexual abuse of boys in Upton. He served in the Institution from 1953 to 1960. In his curriculum vitae, he wrote: I also enlightened the boys who had been molested by the staff members, of the evil that had been perpetrated against them. I left no stone unturned to eradicate this evil.


Complainant witnesses confirmed the prevalence of sexual abuse by some of the Brothers during this period.

  1. Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.
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  5. 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.
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  28. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
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  39. Latin for in a class of its own.
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  41. Latin for with a boy.
  42. Latin for with boys.
  43. Latin for As spoken.
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  45. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  46. Latin for without delay.
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  49. Latin for due caution.
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  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.
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