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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Sexual abuse


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).


Fr Stefano was aware of all of these facts when contact was made with the Department in December 1994.


Several questions arise from the management of this case. Did the solicitor who advised no action have all the information available on this Brother? This advice prevented the Order from following Mr Grey’s advice to report the matter immediately to the Gardaí. Was Mr Grey or Mr Green in a position to overrule the solicitor, whose main concern was for his client and not the abused children? Furthermore, having regard to what they actually knew about him, one might ask whether the Rosminians should have reported Br Valerio’s activities to the Gardaí when the opportunities arose in 1980, in 1992 and in 1994.


The issue was obviously a matter of grave concern to the Rosminians, as they appointed a media consultant to advise them almost as soon as the sexual abuse was reported. He attended their Council meeting on 7th December 1994, and advised them ‘that the media would “savage” anyone involved in sexual abuse and its concealment’. The minutes record that he strongly recommended ‘that the Provincial and his Council appoint a group who would take responsibility for investigating any allegations and make recommendations in turn to the Provincial and Council’. He then advised them specifically about the allegations made by the former resident of Ferryhouse and discussed the ‘civil and canonical rights of the accused’.


On 29th November 1995, Fr Stefano met with Mr Grey, this time in relation to Br Bruno. At this stage, he also contacted the Garda Superintendent in Clonmel, to inform him of his 1979 discovery of Br Bruno’s activities and of the allegation of sexual abuse being made against Fr Valerio. In his undated statement furnished to the Commission, Fr Stefano put into context how this came about: I was serving as Provincial of the Irish Province of the Rosminians. The Protocol on Child Sexual Abuse was being developed by the Hierarchy and CORI. As we reviewed the Draft Document we decided that we should once again report these matters. Accompanied by Fr Vito44 I first travelled to the Department of Education, Athlone and reported the matter again to the then Principal Officer, Mr Grey and, in the afternoon of the same day, reported the matter to the Garda Superintendent at Clonmel Garda Station.


This is in line with his evidence during the Emergence Hearings, where it was conceded that, by then, there was already a Garda involvement ‘not directly with us, but we knew, like, that Gardaí were asking questions’, and that past pupils had been making complaints to the Gardaí.


Mr Grey’s memorandum dated 4th December 1995 puts a slightly different perspective on Fr Stefano’s motivation for this visit. In this memorandum, Mr Grey first points out that there were two distinct allegations. He deals with the 1994 allegation, goes on to identify Fr Valerio as the person being referred to, and alludes to the complainant’s failure to report the matter to the Gardaí. Mr Grey then recorded the meeting on 29th November 1995, at Fr Stefano’s request, in connection with a second allegation, this time against Br Bruno. At that meeting, Fr Stefano advised Mr Grey that a former pupil had been approached by the Gardaí and questioned about abuse in the School in the 1979 period. The Garda enquiry arose from comments made by the former pupil that had been overheard. Fr Stefano explained to Mr Grey that the person who made the allegation was himself the victim of very serious physical abuse and torture at the hands of his own father, and it was not clear whether the overheard allegation related to abuse in the School or at home.


Mr Grey recorded that Fr Stefano was seriously concerned at these developments. He was anxious that the Department should be made fully aware of what was involved, and he would also be travelling to Clonmel, where he had arranged to meet a Chief Superintendent of the Gardaí in relation to the matter. He wrote that Fr Stefano then went on to tell Mr Grey in detail about the revelations in 1979 concerning Br Bruno, and the steps taken to remove Br Bruno from the Order and from contact with children. He also told him of his contact with Mr Black in the Department and that, in later years, Mr Black had confirmed to him that ‘he had passed the matter on to protect the Order and the school’. Fr Stefano did not know the identity of the person to whom Mr Black was referring.


Mr Grey recorded that, on 30th November 1995, Fr Stefano contacted him again, on this occasion confirming that he had met with the Garda Superintendent in Clonmel on the previous afternoon, and had provided him with all the information at his disposal in relation to the 1979 allegation and the allegations against Fr Valerio. The memorandum goes on to detail the Superintendent’s reservations as to whether any action would be taken in either matter.


It is clear from the TN030 file that the Garda enquiry into Ferryhouse did not result from information provided by the Rosminians or by the Department, but from overheard comments made by a former pupil in a public place. It was not just the ‘Draft Protocol on Child Sexual Abuse’ that triggered Fr Stefano’s decision to tell the Gardaí. The knowledge that a Garda inquiry was underway also led to their decision to contact the Garda authorities and contribute to their inquiry.


It is enlightening that, at the meeting with the Superintendent on 29th November 1995 and in the course of his contact with Mr Grey on 30th December 1995, Fr Stefano did not also refer to the other complaint of abuse that had been made against a third Brother (Br Sergio). The decision to help with ongoing inquiries had not yet become a broader inquiry into sexual abuse. It was as if each case was seen as a separate problem, rather than as a single issue about child protection and crime prevention within St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse.


In a memorandum of 10th December 1996, which was e-mailed to Mr Green, Mr Grey made a note of his meeting with the current Director of St Joseph’s, Fr Vito, on 4th December, when he was informed that the Gardaí had now interviewed over 70 boys who were in Ferryhouse in the late 1970s. Arising from the Garda inquiries, at least five boys had made allegations, all against the same person, a former member of the Order, Br Bruno, who had admitted the offences to the Gardaí in respect of at least four of the cases, and the file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.


Mr Grey recorded that Fr Vito expected that ‘once the matter became public, St Joseph’s could expect a repetition of the Goldenbridge situation. The Order and the management were already planning for such an eventuality’. According to Mr Grey, Fr Vito was enquiring whether the Department would be in a position to assist the School, by covering the cost of legal representation for any member of staff interviewed by the Gardaí, the cost of delegating staff to handle anticipated enquiries and all contact with the media, and the cost of providing counselling services for staff who were likely to be traumatised by the developments. There was no mention of counselling for the victims.


Mr Grey noted that the more critical issue was the need for the School to be able to offer adequate assurance that the children now in the School were not exposed to the danger of abuse; this he saw as a difficulty, because ‘the main purpose of the meeting with Fr Vito was to discuss staff shortages and specifically, concern that staff and children are currently exposed because of inadequate staff cover’.


Mr Grey recorded that this was an issue that needed to be urgently addressed in advance of the abuse cases coming to public attention. He noted that the issue of staff shortages had been recognised for some time, but the Department had not made a case to the Department of Finance because the School authorities had failed to provide data to support the claim. At the meeting, it was agreed that the School would provide the information within weeks, and the Department would make the necessary approach.

  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.