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Chapter 2 — Upton

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Sexual abuse


Br Tomasso said that, as a student residing in Upton in the 1950s, he had been told that Br Constantin had been removed for interfering with the boys. He had also heard that Br Fausto was engaged in similar activities. Fr Stefano said that he had heard from Br Romano52 that Mr Vance had been interfering with the boys.


One respondent to the survey stated that, in the mid-1950s, a teacher had been fired for abusing boys behind the blackboard. He also stated that this individual had found employment in a local school a week later.


1.it is impossible to quantify the full extent of sexual abuse by religious and lay staff in Upton. The documented cases disclose that it was widespread and it is very likely that more abuse happened than was recorded. 2.Sexual abuse by religious was a chronic problem: a timeline of documented and admitted cases of sexual abuse shows that— a.For more than half the relevant period, there was at least one abuser working there; b.For more than one third of the period, there were at least two abusers present; c.For periods of years in the 1950s, there were at least three abusers present; d.In the course of two separate years, there were at least four abusers present in Upton at the same time. 3.The succession of cases that confronted the authorities must have alerted them to the scale of the problem, and to the need for a thorough ongoing investigation as to how deep the problem went among the Brothers and staff in Upton. Such an investigation did not happen. Instead, each case was dealt with individually, as if no other case had occurred. 4.Br Alfonso brought about the exposure of a large number of sexual abusers, and gave rise to the question whether any of them would have been discovered if he had not been there. 5.The question in this Institution arises, as it does in many others, as to whether the discovery of a large number of abusers represented a period that was a bad time for abuse or a good time for the discovery of abuse. 6.Transferring abusers to other institutions where they would be in contact with children put those children at risk. 7.The Order was aware of the criminal nature of the conduct, but did not report it as a crime. 8.Sexual abuse was dealt with in a manner that put the interests of the Order, the Institution and even the abuser ahead of the protection of the children. 9.The Order did not expel members for sexual abuse. 10.The extent and prevalence of the problem were not addressed. Sexual activity amongst the boys: documented cases

Sexual activity amongst the boys: documented cases


The issue of sexual activity amongst boys in Upton came to the attention of the Department of Education in 1936, when it was notified by the Attorney General’s office about criminal cases that had come before Cork Circuit Court, involving former residents of both Greenmount and Upton Industrial Schools. The facts were that two former pupils of Upton, aged 19 and 16 years respectively, were convicted of crimes including attempted buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault. The boys were sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.


The Attorney General was the prosecuting authority at the time, and he felt it necessary to notify the Department because the defendants in their court depositions dated ‘their original misconduct to a time when they were detained in the Industrial Schools ...’. Prosecuting counsel reported to the Attorney General that: The revelations about Upton and Greenmount, at this sittings have given me furiously to think about Industrial Schools and Religious Orders ...


The Attorney General’s office wrote a carefully phrased letter to the Minister for Education, not making reference to the charges or other sexual activity, but simply referring to ‘misconduct’ and respectfully suggesting that the Department should take some form of intervention: The Attorney General is slow to draw unfavourable general conclusions from these cases, and he transmits the information merely in the hope that the Minister in collaboration with the School Authorities may be able to devise some means of keeping the number of such cases in future at the lowest possible level.


The letter went on to suggest a remedy: The Minister may take the view, which would be shared by the Attorney General, that a closer supervision of the older boys would be calculated to discourage the formation of these unfortunate habits.


It nevertheless acknowledged the problem for school authorities: The Attorney General is fully alive to the great difficulty experienced by the school authorities in eliminating as far as possible these particular tendencies on the part of the older boys.


The Minister for Education directed his Department officials to conduct a special inspection of both Greenmount and Upton, with particular emphasis on the supervision methods employed at both schools. This special inspection took place on 1st and 2nd December 1936 and was conducted by two officials of the Department, namely the Inspector of Industrial Schools and the Deputy Chief Inspector of the Primary Branch. The Minister considered that, as the matter was very grave, the services of a very experienced inspector from the Primary School Branch were required to assist the Industrial Schools Inspector, hence the appointment of the Deputy Chief Inspector of the Primary Branch. The internal Departmental memoranda made it clear that their brief was only to inspect the supervision practices at both schools, because: ... their visit is really one of inspection rather than enquiry but they should if necessary impress on the manager of the two schools the gravity of the recent cases, the need for stricter supervision etc.


The only other guidance provided to the two Inspectors, regarding the inspection of supervision at these two schools, was that they should ascertain ‘the measures taken to prevent or put an end to the occurrences which gave rise to the recent cases before the Cork Courts’.


The Inspectors submitted their report to the Assistant Secretary of the Department on 14th December 1936. In it, they noted that the ‘supervision exercised in both schools is adequate in ordinary circumstances and the recent occurrences will tend to keep the school authorities on the alert’. However, the Inspectors gave it as their opinion that there was always a danger of sexual activity occurring between boys, which could be increased in particular circumstances: there is an ever present danger of these cases arising no matter how well planned the supervision and the danger is aggravated when, as in the case of Greenmount, a member of the staff is known to have been implicated.


The Inspectors particularly stressed the need for supervision of the older boys: The problem, as we understand it, is for obvious reasons a most difficult one to deal with and we consider the only action that can be taken is to impress on the Manager (verbally for preference) of each boys school the possibility of such cases occurring and the necessity for close and constant supervision of the boys, especially the senior boys i.e. boys over 14 years of age, in all their activities.


The Inspectors noted that members of the Community were always present during boys’ recreation and free time. In addition, a Rosminian priest or Brother slept in each of the dormitories, and the Superior made visits to the dormitories. Furthermore, the Resident Manager had prevailed upon the senior boys who were destined for the Novitiate, unbeknownst to each other, to report to him ‘doubtful conduct among the boys’, in an attempt to prevent such activity occurring.


The Department informed the Attorney General’s office on 30th December 1936 of the outcome of the special investigation, and that the Minister for Education was ‘satisfied that everything possible is now being done to stamp out and to prevent a re-currence of the practices referred to in the cases in question’. The letter added that the Minister ‘also approved of a suggestion that the Inspector of Industrial Schools should impress upon managers of Boys’ Schools the danger of such practices existing and the importance of continual and close supervision of the senior boys’.


The importance of the court cases was clear to the Upton authorities and beyond. Writing to Fr Orsino in Rome on 20th October 1936 about his brother, Fr Giuseppe, the Resident Manager, Fr Gerodi,53 described how the Manager was detained on urgent business: Fr Giuseppe was unable to be away from Upton, owing to a matter which had troubled him much for several weeks and during last week he had to be on call on the telephone ... Some ex-Upton boys got into very serious trouble, and there was very great danger that the reputation of the School would suffer.

  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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