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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Sexual abuse


Fr Ricardo25 was present in the School for two periods during the 1970s and 1980s. He gave evidence to the Committee, and he also did not see anything inappropriate about Mr Garnier’s access. He said: He used to play a lot of cards, particularly Friday evening and he would help Br Leone in playing cards, that basically was his job. Sometimes he would lock up the unit or come up with Br Leone and he might come up to the dormitory but generally he would go off then before Br Leone would turn the lights out. And I think Br Leone would have seen Mr Garnier, or [Christian name], as I would have known him, as some kind of a help, to help him to get the boys to bed.


Mr Garnier confirmed to the Gardaí the level of his involvement with the School. He visited regularly about once a week. He would play table tennis with the boys, and would play cards; he worked at the School sports day and helped with the pantomimes and the Strawberry Fair. In addition, he said: I’d take some boys out for drives. About four or five boys at a time. I had my own car. We went to Youghal once and the steam rally in Upton.


The boys would also visit him in his house in Clonmel after visiting the cinema, and he would give them ‘a drink of minerals and maybe some money’.


He mostly remembered the boys in the older group in Br Leone’s care who were about 14 or 16 years old. He was with the seniors more than the juniors but he had contact with all the groups. He bought sweets and gifts for the boys. Mr Garnier denied allegations made by boys that he had fondled and masturbated them, but he did admit having had sexual contact with two boys in Ferryhouse. The first one happened at a time when Br Leone was in charge of the group, and Fr Lucio was the Resident Manager. The incident happened in the ‘C’ Group dormitory. He described how he had kissed the boy and sexually abused him.


The abuse with the other boy followed the same format. He was in ‘C’ Group, which was under the stewardship of Br Leone.


A witness resident in Ferryhouse in 1970s alleged in his evidence to the Committee that Mr Garnier sexually abused him. Mr Garnier was not represented at the hearing. The witness said that Mr Garnier was a friend of Br Leone and that he would visit the School regularly. He spent a lot of time in the junior dormitory and only left when the lights were turned off: He used to come into the school and he would be up in the juniors, upstairs with the juniors. He would be buying sweets, he would buy torches and he would buy different things for you.


He also visited Mr Garnier’s house in Clonmel: We had gone to the cinema and we were on our way back, thumbing likewise. [Mr Garnier] pulls up and says “you can come up to the gaff for a few cigarettes”. Deadly, you know. We went up and he gave us 10 smokes.


The abuse that he alleged happened followed a similar pattern to that admitted by Mr Garnier in his Garda statement, which he confirmed as correct through his solicitor.


Mr Garnier’s involvement with the School continued throughout this complainant’s time there.


Br Sergio was convicted of sexual assault in 2002. The offences were committed at locations in Clonmel and Dublin in the early 1990s. Br Sergio received a sentence of three and a half years’ imprisonment.


The victim of one assault was a former resident of Ferryhouse, who was living in the Rosminian aftercare centre in Dublin at the time the assaults took place. He was aged 18 at the time of the first assault. The accused, Br Sergio, worked in the aftercare centre. The victim complained to the Rosminian authorities, and the Provincial confronted Br Sergio with the allegations. Br Sergio admitted his guilt and was immediately removed from the centre. He was admitted for treatment at Our Lady of Victory in Stroud in the mid-1990s, and he was treated there for a number months, although he remained in follow-up care for a number of years. He applied for and was granted a dispensation from the Order. In the late 1990s, the victim of the sexual assault contacted the Rosminians, to tell them that he was reporting the matter to the Gardaí. The Rosminians informed the Department of this, and told them that they would co-operate fully with any Garda inquiry.


Br Sergio had previously worked in Ferryhouse from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. In his evidence to the Committee, he said that he had been appointed Prefect in the late 1970s, when he was given charge of ‘B’ Group, which was composed of about 37 boys aged between 10 and 12. He took over from Fr Antonio, who had been transferred to ‘A’ Group to replace Br Bruno who had left the School suddenly, as a result of the discovery of his activities as a sexual abuser. He became aware of the reason for Br Bruno’s departure ‘a week or two’ after his departure. Given the age of the boys in his group, and the length of time he was in charge, his group would have contained many of the children who were sexually abused by Br Bruno or who were aware of his activities.


One complainant who was present in Ferryhouse in the late 1980s alleged that Br Sergio sexually abused him. He told the Committee that he was taking a shower after he had been brought back to the School after attempting to abscond. Br Sergio was supervising him and molested him in the shower.


He also described other less serious instances of improper behaviour, when Br Sergio ‘put his hands on me’. He alleged that Br Sergio would rub his knee while driving him down to see his relatives.


Br Sergio denied these allegations, both through his counsel during the cross-examination of the witness and directly during his own evidence, when he described them as ‘totally untrue’.

  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
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  55. Cussen Report, p 52.
  56. Cussen Report, p 49.
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  58. Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.