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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Sexual abuse


He added that he did not report the matter to the Gardaí: I certainly didn’t inform the guards, as Mr Black was dealing with that situation and he said to me, "leave it with me". I left it with him. Maybe on hindsight that was wrong.


It is clear that the Department of Education did not conduct any investigation into the events that took place in Ferryhouse in 1980. Nor did the Department facilitate any such investigation, whether by the Garda Sióchana, by the Department of Health, by the local Health Authority or by any other agency.


The position of the Department of Education in relation to the investigation and reporting of abuse is set out in its document, ‘Statement to Commission To Inquire Into Child Abuse’ dated 19th May 2006 and prepared in advance of the Phase III hearings. It states: In detailing the allegations of abuse in Clonmel and the response of the Department, it is worth noting the Department’s position with regard to dealing with allegations of this nature was that the Department does not investigate allegations of abuse. This is a matter for the employers of the staff (in the case of St Joseph’s this would be the Rosminian Order), the Gardai and the health authorities. The responsibility of the Department would be to ensure that the welfare and safety of children was protected and that the matter had been reported to the appropriate authorities and that appropriate steps were being taken to investigate the matter and protection of children.


The Department’s TN030 file was discovered to the Investigation Committee by the Department of Education. It had not been among the other documents disclosed earlier because it was an ongoing file, and was not in the archive, but among the files of senior Department staff. As Mr Black, former Principal Officer, told the Committee: They had in that Section in the Primary Branch, they had a safe for confidential files ... any offences with a suggestion of a sexual offence in them were kept there. I asked the girls about this thing ... one girl I knew in the section, “Did you ever remember any cases like this?” “Oh no, we wouldn’t see them at all.” They never went down. There was a rule at one time that girls were not to see any things like that, they were very sensitive creatures.


It is the only file of the period covered by the inquiry that deals explicitly with the reporting and management of sexual abuse. The file cover bears the heading, ‘Meeting with Clonmel Authorities Wednesday 4th December 1996’. The earliest memorandum it contains is dated 9th December 1994. The file contains the Department’s record of events involving sexual abuse commencing with the year 1994.


On 8th December 1994, Fr Antonio, the then Director of Ferryhouse, telephoned Mr Grey,42 Principal Officer in the Department of Education, in relation to allegations of sexual abuse made by a person who had attended Ferryhouse from 1971 to 1973. The alleged abuser was a member of staff in the School. Mr Grey’s memorandum was headed, ‘Note for Secretary’s Information “Allegation of Sexual Abuse at St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Clonmel, in 1971/1973. This school is operated by the Rosminian Fathers”’, and it was dated 9th December 1994.


The note recorded the details of the phone call. According to Fr Antonio, these allegations had been made to Fr Stefano, who was then the Provincial. The alleged abuser is not named in the note, but Fr Antonio is recorded as saying that he was a member of the Rosminian Order at the time. He had left Ferryhouse some years previously and was no longer a member of the Order.


Mr Grey recorded being told that Fr Stefano, on learning of the complaint, attempted to arrange a meeting with the person making the allegations but these attempts were rejected, and that the accuser had said he would be pursuing the matter through his solicitor. Mr Grey also recorded that the Order had held a Council meeting on 7th December 1994 to discuss the matter (see below), and that Fr Antonio was unwilling to provide further details over the phone but suggested that the Department’s Child Care Advisor should call to St Joseph’s as soon as possible, where he would be given all the information available.


Mr Grey further noted he had explained to Fr Antonio that the Order should report the matter immediately to the Garda Authorities, and should not wait until a complaint was received by the Gardaí from another source. He requested that Fr Antonio should provide him with a written report on the matter. Fr Antonio agreed to bring Mr Grey’s comments to the immediate attention of the Provincial, and stated that he considered that the course suggested by Mr Grey was the proper one in the circumstances. A handwritten note on the memorandum indicates that it was delivered to Mr Green,43 the Assistant Secretary, at 10.30 am on 9th December 1994. The word ‘sexclon’ is also handwritten on the top of the page.


Mr Grey addressed a further memorandum to Mr Green in December 1995. It was in this memorandum, dated 4th December 1995, that Mr Grey became aware that the allegation was against Fr Valerio. The list of religious personnel indicated that, as of 1994/1995, Fr Valerio was still a member of the Order but seeking laicisation.


In it, Mr Grey referred to his earlier memorandum and recorded that, on 8th December 1994, he was contacted by Fr Antonio, Director of St Joseph’s, who explained that the allegation was made by a person who had called to the Order’s house in Dublin at 2.00 am. The person in question was very drunk and somewhat incoherent at the time, but agreed to leave a telephone number at which he could be contacted, and indicated that he was reporting the matter to his solicitor. Several attempts to contact the person by telephone and by registered letter, sent on 9th December 1994, were unsuccessful. In this letter, the Provincial sought more information on the allegation, and told him he should take it to the proper authorities and ‘that Fr X is available to meet him anytime’.


According to Mr Grey, Fr Antonio explained that he had had lengthy discussions with the Order’s solicitor, and that he had been strongly advised that, in view of the circumstances surrounding the making of the allegation, he should take no further action at that stage. Rather, he should await receipt of a formal complaint. The Provincial had been advised that he did not currently have sufficient grounds to formally confront the alleged offender, and that any such action on his part could expose him to legal challenge from that source.


Mr Grey made a note to the effect that he had been told that the alleged offender was effectively out of the Order for the last two years, a situation which was in the process of being formalised at present, and that the alleged offender was no longer dealing with children.


It is clear from these memoranda that the Garda authorities were not notified by the Rosminian Order in 1994, and that Mr Grey and Mr Green were aware of this fact.


It is not clear whether the Department officials were informed at this stage that Br Valerio had admitted: (1) the truth of a complaint of sexual abuse on a minor as far back as January 1980, to the Provincial; (2) that, in 1992, Br Andino had told him of a further incident circa 1990; and (3) that, when challenged in 1992, Br Valerio had admitted to him (Fr Stefano) that an incident had occurred when he was a scholastic in Clonmel (around 1968).

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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.