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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Sexual abuse


Fr Stefano said that he had never suspected Br Bruno; indeed, he found him a very enthusiastic member of staff. His dedication to the work seemed unquestionable: ‘this was a man who seemed to be the last in bed and the first up every day’. Nevertheless, when the allegation was made, Fr Stefano began to see it all very differently: ... the picture that comes to mind always to me is of a huge jigsaw puzzle that you are reasonably happy with but that there is a piece missing and while I had no suspicions of him, the minute those words were spoken, it was as if somebody had put the final piece in the jigsaw and all these activities that he was involved with started to make sense.


He gave the example of an earlier discussion, at which one of the other Prefects said that a boy had heard someone in the dormitory the night before, and Br Bruno had volunteered to check it out.


The same night that the boys disclosed the abuse, Fr Stefano drove the short distance to Glencomeragh to report to the Provincial. He returned to the School where he met Br Bruno the next day. Br Bruno initially denied the allegations but, when he was told that the boys were willing to confront him, he confessed. Br Bruno left the School and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Dublin. Shortly afterwards, he was dismissed from the Order.


Br Bruno’s career in Ferryhouse began in the mid-1970s and he became a Prefect, which he continued to be until the events of 1979. As Prefect, he was in charge of ‘A’ Group consisting of 36 to 40 boys aged between nine and 11 years.


Br Bruno sexually abused numerous boys during his time in Ferryhouse. He had easy access to and exclusive control over his group, who were located in the junior dormitory, which was separate from the other residents and Brothers. This dormitory was located on the second floor of the east wing. Br Bruno’s own room was located off the boys’ dormitory. These arrangements had been put in place in the late 1960s, to replace the old system of two large dormitories housing junior and senior boys. The boys were now separated into age groups in three smaller dormitories, each accommodating up to 80 boys.


Br Bruno’s preference was for pubescent boys, whom he selected with considerable care. Under the pretence of checking whether they had wet their beds, he approached their beds at night. He would fondle their genitals to see if they became aroused; weekends were more suitable times, because there were fewer people around.


When he had fixed on a boy whom he intended to abuse, he waited until the weekend and then gave the boy an anti bed-wetting pill that he knew would have a soporific effect. He would spend some time with his colleagues in the west wing, where he would socialise and have a drink, before returning to the dormitory where he carried the boy to his private room and sexually abused him before returning the boy to bed.


Br Bruno began his evidence to the Committee with some initial hesitation; he began to imply that he had pleaded guilty to offences he had not committed. He said: I fondled them in their bed ... It began when I was moved to the A unit, when I was checking beds at night time for wetting ... Just by touching it started ... The boys didn’t mind, they didn’t stop me ... I knew it was wrong but I continued ...


At that stage, he denied anal rape: I never penetrated ... I would be sexually excited, yes ... it just ended at that ...


The Chairperson then spoke to him about the need for him to give a full and honest account, without trying to recant or change evidence accepted in court. After a brief adjournment for legal consultation, the hearing resumed, and Br Bruno gave a very different account of events. He now said: [That boy] was one of the boys that I pleaded guilty to in my criminal trial ... I pleaded guilty to buggery. I did take him into my bed and penetrated but not in a full extent but I did bugger, I did penetrate him ... I told the Gardaí that I had abused [the other boy] ... I took him to my bed and I penetrated him ... [The third boy], I pleaded guilty to fondling, abusing him in that way.


He acknowledged that these acts of abuse happened on more than one occasion. He also accepted that these were not the only boys that he sexually abused: There was one or two other boys that I took there but the names are gone from me at the moment.


He was asked to give some estimate as to when the sexual abuse began, and he replied: The fondling and the feeling at bedtime went on a few months after I taking charge of the group. It went on at that time. The serious matters that were dealt with in the criminal trial went on in ... [1978/79] ... up to that moment that the Superior ... it was reported to the Superior and he called me in and I admitted to it ... Four, five boys, I think.


He took charge of the dormitory in the mid-1970s, and until Fr Stefano confronted him in December 1979 there were some four years of abuse. When asked to estimate the number of boys he had abused, he answered that, if he was being asked to estimate the numbers he had groped and interfered with, ‘It could be dozens, yes ... Yes it would be dozens’. When asked to try to put a more precise figure on it he replied, ‘over maybe 20, over a period of years’.


The fondling took place during the week. The acts of penetration tended to occur at weekends. He explained: I fondled them ... I carried them to my room ... left them in my bed and fondled them ... I attempted myself to penetrate them ... It was a weekend basis. Friday, Saturday night ... I was able to go over to the community room ... in the community room we would have a social evening and I would have a drink.


There was a community room upstairs in the west wing, where the members of the Order could relax. It had ‘comfortable chairs, a cocktail cabinet and a big television screen’. Here, he would have a couple of pints of Guinness and perhaps a couple of shorts: ‘I may have been a bit unsteady, but not falling down ... they would know that I had some drink taken’. He would then return to his room where he would also ‘take a little tipple’ from bottles of spirits received as gifts that he kept there. He added: I should never have been left in the unit on my own, solely on my own and isolated from the rest of the community. There was no such thing as shift work, night staff, night staff even for a weekend, all of those things should have been in place in a group like the group that I was in.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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  6. Set out in full in Volume I.
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  11. Br Valerio did not give evidence to the Committee; he lives abroad.
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  19. This is believed to be a reference to the Upton punishment book.
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  37. Latin for surprise and wonder.
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  50. Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Press Publishing Services, 2003), pp 399–405.
  51. Brid Fahey Bates, p 401.
  52. Cussen Report; p 53.
  53. Cussen Report, p 54
  54. Cussen Report, p 55
  55. Cussen Report, p 52.
  56. Cussen Report, p 49.
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  58. Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.