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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Sexual abuse


Fr Valerio’s first involvement with Ferryhouse was in the mid-1950s when, at age nine, he was committed to the Institution by the courts. He remained there until the eve of his 16th birthday. He alleged in his Garda interview that he was sexually abused during his time there. After leaving, he joined the Order in the mid-1960s. He was posted to Ferryhouse as Assistant Prefect in the late 1960s. He took over charge of ‘B’ Group, which was composed of boys aged between 14 and 15 years, from Fr Antonio. At the time, Br Andino28 was in charge of ‘A’ Group, and Br Leone was in charge of ‘C’ Group. As Prefect, he slept in a room just off the dormitory where the boys slept. He remained in this position until he left the School, four years later, to begin his studies for the priesthood. Other members of staff present during this period described him as a hardworking albeit strict Brother ‘who seemed to me to have a great rapport with the lads in general’. He was ordained in the late 1970s, and spent the next 10 years as a religious teacher. In the early 1990s, he was engaged in parochial work in Dublin and Wales.


Fr Valerio did not give evidence to the Committee, he lives abroad, but he did have a legal representative present. Information about his activities can be ascertained from: the offences to which he pleaded guilty in court; statements of admission made to the Gardaí; admissions made to his Superiors in the Order; and concessions made by his counsel on his instructions at the private hearings. These sources make clear that he sexually abused at least seven children while he worked as a Prefect in Ferryhouse, and a further two children after he left the School. In a statement made to the Gardaí in the late 1990s, Fr Valerio admitted abusing boys in his group in Ferryhouse. However, he stressed that he never used violence. He told the Gardaí: It was possible that the likely place that I assaulted these boys was in my own private room in Ferryhouse. I would have masturbated these boys. These boys would then masturbate me ... After these acts were over I would have little conversation with them.


He described how he once brought two boys to his private room on the pretence that he wanted to give them a prize for swimming. The prize was a pair of swimming togs, which he gave to them and asked them to put on. He also described how he brought one of these boys to his room on another occasion and sexually assaulted him.


The Gardaí interviewed him on a number of occasions, concerning a series of new allegations of sexual abuse that had been made against him. He accepted that he had sexually abused the two individuals in question, but differed in his account of the abuse. He stated that he engaged in mutual masturbation with a boy, at his mother’s house, after the boy had left Ferryhouse but he denied rape. Fr Valerio admitted that he had sexually abused the second person. The Gardaí subsequently interviewed this victim, who alleged that Fr Valerio abused him in Ferryhouse, but Fr Valerio denied that the abuse took place in the School. He told the Gardaí that, when he was studying for the priesthood in Dublin, he was sent to Ferryhouse on an errand and, while he was there, he was asked to take the boy to Dublin. Instead of taking the boy straight to Dublin, he took him to his home and sexually abused him there.


One of the victims whom Fr Valerio admitted abusing in Ferryhouse gave evidence. He was in the School in the early 1970s: My encounter with Valerio was more by chance than anything else, you know. I had an occasion, I believe, to come across a situation where he was quite violent to somebody else and I intervened. From that incident I was put to his room, told to go to his room, which I did. I waited for a little while and he came in, and just a rage, you know, a physical rage on him. He started getting my clothes off and, again, the same thing. It wasn’t like Fr Daniele29 where it was more psychological, you know, more the fear over you, but Valerio was more the doing of the fear; the beating, the grunting, the dragging, the tearing. He was just like, I do not know, the eyes of him, he was like a man who was possessed, you know. He got me ... down and he beat my face off the ground. He done his best to penetrate me, I don’t believe to this day he ever did it.


Another witness who was present in the early 1970s gave evidence that Fr Valerio started to abuse him when he was transferred to ‘B’ Group. He said that the abuse happened regularly, about once a month, and that Fr Valerio would come up to his bed at night and ‘get all pally pally with you’ and bring him up to his room where he was forced to perform oral sex. He said he was not the only one who was brought to Fr Valerio’s room at night. It happened regularly, and he believed all the boys were aware of what was going on. Fr Valerio was represented at this hearing by counsel, but did not cross-examine the witness.


One witness said that one night, while he was crossing the yard, Fr Valerio saw him and called him into the office, where he tried to sexually abuse him. He refused to co-operate and was beaten as a result. He felt that he was singled out for punishment after that.


During the cross-examination of this witness, counsel for Fr Valerio stated that Fr Valerio denied the allegation, and further: That he is certain that if any attempt at indecency occurred – and he has admitted in other circumstances an offence of indecency, but he says in your case that if any attempt at indecency occurred it was never in the context of violence or associated with violence.


Another witness gave evidence that Fr Valerio abused him after he had left the School: Br Valerio, while I was actually in the School he never actually touched me but when I left School I was in my uncle’s house ... and he appeared at the door one day and he asked me to come for a drive or whatever, I presumed I was going back to the School or something for some reason. He took me to his elderly mother’s house ... and he asked me to stay the night or something there. I presumed I was going to have my own bedroom. I went to bed and he followed me in and he actually got into the same bed with me. I can’t remember, I think it was sometime in the early 1970s, I can’t remember the exact dates. It was around Easter or something. He put me to bed and he got in with me and he proceeded to fondle me and touch me and he actually masturbated me and made me do the same thing to him. That was the one occasion. He never touched me before or after that.


Counsel for Fr Valerio did not accept or reject the allegations but, in his statements to the Gardaí, Fr Valerio accepted abusing other boys in this fashion.


This man served as a Prefect in Ferryhouse for four years until he left to study for the priesthood. He exploited his position for the purpose of sexual abuse. In Ferryhouse the system allowed individuals to gain absolute control over large groups of children so that they could do what they liked with little risk of detection.


Mr Tablis was another outsider who worked in Clonmel and who had easy access to the boys in Ferryhouse. He does not seem to have had quite the same access to the dormitories as Mr Garnier had, but there are allegations against him in respect of sexual impropriety. Mr Tablis was a friend of Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager before Fr Stefano. Fr Ricardo described the situation as he recalled it: Mr Tablis , to my understanding, again was involved with [local club] and they used to bring the boys to ... a daily outing, where they would collect them in the cars and bring them to ... Mr Tablis would call alright, but I think he was a friend of Fr Lucio’s, he got to know the boys, but I think it was more got to do with the ... He wouldn’t be playing cards so much, I wouldn’t recall him being up in through the school generally.


Fr Antonio recalled that Mr Tablis ‘was very friendly with Fr Lucio, he might take two or three of the lads off for a spin in the car and all that kind of stuff, but ... didn’t have any specific role’.


Fr Paolo, who was a Prefect, was uneasy about Mr Tablis, just as he was about Mr Garnier. His determination to keep outsiders away from the boys in his group extended as much to Mr Tablis as it did to Mr Garnier.


A witness who was present in the School from the latter half of the 1970s alleged that he was sexually abused by Br Bruno and Mr Ducat. Mr Ducat was a local man who used to visit the School regularly, doing odd jobs. Fr Antonio gave evidence that Mr Ducat would regularly drive the boys to concerts. The witness alleged that, on one occasion, Mr Ducat asked him if he wanted to go for a drive in his car. He said that he would like to and they went for a drive around the football field. They then left the School grounds, and Mr Ducat stopped the car on the Waterford road: He pulled his car in and he tried to get me to commit a sex act for him ... I opened the door and ran back towards the School but to my surprise I was told I won’t be going home again because I had tried to run away. Ducat had gone back and told whoever was in charge that I had tried to abscond. In fact I didn’t try to abscond. There was no point reporting the matter because there was never anything done about the matters when you reported them.

  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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  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.