Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 5 — Lota

Show Contents

Sexual abuse


In a statement made to Gardaí, Br Guthrie stated: The abuse was happening from 1952 to 1984 ... I can recall coming back from Lourdes after Easter in 1984, after spending three to four weeks there. Brother Bert18 who was Provincial Superior at the time, requested me to Dublin. He informed me of certain accusations being made against me, namely having sexually abused a child. I was not told whether it was one or more. I was kept in Dublin for nine months and then transferred to Limerick and I was given no more contact with children.


A Senior Child Psychologist on 19th January 1996 made a statement to the Gardaí, in which she recalled commencing work in Lota in early 1984, and having attended combined clinic meetings and having a considerable amount of interaction with professional staff. During that year, she became aware that a Brother was engaging in behaviour of a sexual nature with boys in residence, and this activity was giving cause for concern. A number of boys were interviewed by a Consultant Child Psychiatrist, for the purpose of validating the sexual abuse in which Br Guthrie was involved. A report was prepared and, as a result of the investigations, Br Guthrie was moved. The full account of the events of 1984 is given below.


The author of the statement said that her information about Br Guthrie’s behaviour came from listening to the concerns of other professional staff and from information given to her by the Principal Psychologist in Bawnmore, Limerick, a residential care centre for adults with learning disability, to which many of the boys from Lota graduated. This psychologist said that the male clients that came from the Lota service had been a source of difficulty in Bawnmore because of their unacceptable sexual behaviour.


She had uncovered the sexual abuse within months of starting work, and the information emerged in the normal course of her duties. The sexual activities of Br Guthrie were not so secret that probing and sleuthing were needed to uncover them.


Between March and May, two psychiatrists had seen an adolescent boy, Paraic,19 who had become depressed and anxious about his sexual activity with another boy and about his masturbation. In April, he disclosed to his headmaster the fact that Br Guthrie had been abusing him. His words were reported in the psychiatric report: “I told [the headmaster] that I would let Bro. Guthrie interfere with me” “The last time was in Wexford just the two of us” – “We used to tickle each other in the privates” “I would have my clothes off” “Sometimes white stuff came out of him” “He pushed his privates into my privates – not very often” “He told me not to tell anyone” “I was in tents often with him, sometimes he would tickle my privates and I tickled his.”


In April 1984, Dr Noble,20 a Consultant Psychiatrist, wrote a letter to a number of people, including Br Eric the Superior of Lota in which he referred to an interview with Paraic during which ‘disturbing evidence’ came to his notice. He wrote: Paraic went on to tell me that he was very distressed and upset about incidents that happened on cycling trips. He described how he stayed with Bro. Guthrie on a number of occasions when on these cycling trips both in tents, and also in the same room, and sometimes in the same bed in a house when they would stop on the cycling trips. He told me that he had voluntarily told [the headmaster] about how Bro Guthrie interfered with him during their trips. He told [the headmaster] yesterday and felt much better over talking to him. He said that these incidents had happened on and off over the past three years in trips to [the South of Ireland]. He said the last time was in [the South East]. On that occasion he had travelled alone to [the South East] with Bro. Guthrie. He described in detail how he and Bro. Guthrie had engaged in mutual masturbation on these occasions. He also said that he was warned by Bro. Guthrie not to tell anyone that these homosexual incidents had occurred ... In view of the above history I feel this boy should not go on any further cycling trips or should go on any cycling trips until further notice.


A memorandum was sent from Dr Noble on 8th November 1984 to Br Eric, [the Hospital Administrator] and [the Medical Director] outlining the allegations so far, and how Br Guthrie had not stopped contact. He had telephoned Paraic’s house and once again visited Paraic’s parents to get permission to take Paraic on another trip. No abuse occurred on this trip but it was a strain on Paraic. Paraic did not want his parents informed of the situation. He stated that immediate steps should be taken so that this could not happen again, and a meeting should be set up with all professional persons involved to make sure that Br Guthrie could not have any contact with any pupils, past or present. He also questioned whether Br Guthrie should be in any way involved with disabled residents of any institution, and whether it would be better if he were removed to an administrative capacity elsewhere: Memo. To: — Bro. Eric, Superior, [Hospital Administrator] [Clinical Director] From: Dr. Noble Child & Family Clinic 8th November, 1984 Lota, Glanmire, Cork Telephone [redacted] On the 11th April, 1984 I wrote to the above regarding allegations made by a resident in [named school], Paraic. Paraic is an adolescent boy who is a resident in ... School. Paraic at that time was interviewed by Dr. Price and also by [the headmaster] who referred him on to me. Paraic told me that he had been interfered sexually on a number of occasions on cycling trips by Bro. Guthrie. He described these incidents in detail and they are documented in the report of 11th April, ’84.... Because of this very serious situation at that time the above people had to be notified that such allegations be investigated and if there was any suspicion they were to be discontinued. In l9.9.’84 I sent a second Memo regarding Bro. Guthrie and how despite being told by the Superior that he was not to go on any further cycling trips with the boys from [named school] he did so. This fact was reported to me by [the headmaster], who had been informed that some of the pupils had brought photos of a trip showing that Bro. Guthrie had resumed his cycling trips with [named school], even though he had left the Brothers of Charity Services in Cork at that time and was resident in Bawnmore, Limerick. I again wrote to the Superior, the Administrator and to the Clinical Director regarding my deep concern about what was going on. All the people involved and myself strongly felt at that time the situation could not be allowed to continue. Our views were communicated to Bro. Bert, Provincial Superior and we were told that all contact between Bro. Guthrie and the children and adolescents both past and present who were in the Brothers of Charity would cease immediately. Unfortunately this did not occur. I interviewed Paraic on 19.9.84 . He told me that Bro. Guthrie had phoned him at home and had asked him how the cycling had gone on when he was not present. He asked Paraic to phone him and to let him know a second cycling trip that he would not be participating in went on. Paraic did this and Bro. Guthrie informed Paraic that he was coming to see his parents. Bro.Br Guthrie arrived on 31.10 .’84. He talked to Paraic’s parents and he and Paraic went on a cycling trip. They stayed overnight in the house belonging to a Mr. Byron.21 Both slept in the same room in two separate beds. Paraic said, “It was a strain on me if anything went on”. However, he stated that Bro. Guthrie did not touch him on this occasion as he had in the past. Thus, apparently there was no sexual contact between Bro. Guthrie and the boy on this occasion. Again Paraic told me that he did not want parents to know anything about what had happened previously. He said that if they felt that this had happened that they would be very upset ....Paraic again repeated to me that he did not want his parents to be told about what had happened in the past as he felt that because of their age that they could not take it, and it would upset them and possibly kill them ... I am absolutely appalled that this situation has recurred again,...... Paraic told me that he would be quite happy to go on cycling trips provided Bro. Guthrie was not there. In view of what has happened I feel that immediate steps will have to be taken by the Superior of the Brothers of Charity in Lota and the Provincial Superior that this can never happen again. I also feel that there should be immediately a meeting between the professional people involved to make it absolutely impossible for Bro. Guthrie ever again to have any dealing whatsoever with any of the pupils either past or present from the Brothers of Charity Services in Cork. I feel that the Superior in Bawnmore should be made known of all the facts and that he should know of Bro. Guthrie’s whereabouts at all times. I am also very doubtful if Bro. Guthrie should be in a unit such as Bawnmore, I feel that he should perhaps be in an administrative position far removed from residents in any mentally handicapped service. Dr. Noble. Consultant Psychiatrist.


Dr Noble wrote a further letter to Br Bert, the Superior of Triest House in Dublin, informing him of the situation. He was appalled that Br Guthrie was still in contact, and had even written to Paraic’s mother asking her to get Paraic to phone him at Triest House. Dr Noble wanted to know what action the Congregation were pursuing in relation to the matter: Bro. Bert Provincial Superior Re: Paraic Dear Br Bert ... I visited [named school] on 27.11 .84 and interviewed Paraic. He told me Bro. Guthrie had written to his mother on the previous weekend asking her to have her son, Paraic, phone him at a number in Dublin over the weekend. Paraic was able to tell me the telephone number,... the phone number of Triest House. Paraic said this message did not affect him, but went on to say that “It doesn’t affect me much unless he takes me on a trip”. He went on to say he does not want to go on cycling trips with Br Guthrie or to meet him. He said he would like to go on cycling trips if Br Guthrie was not present. ... However, I am appalled to find now, despite the seriousness of the matter that led to Br Guthrie’s removal from the Brothers of Charity Services in Cork, that he is still continuing to visit and harass this boy. I want to re-iterate my concern for the mental welfare of Paraic and out of deference to his wishes (as stated above), I have not discussed this matter with his parents. Following my discussion with you in [named school] on 27.11 .’84 I wish to state that I am not alone in my concern about the lack of progress in this case. This is a great source of concern to the professional members of the staff and Community mentioned above, and, also to [the Head Master] and his staff who are aware of this problem. As I feel that the mental welfare of this boy is at risk, I would appreciate it if you would write to me as soon as possible, and let me know what course of action you and the Congregation are pursuing so that I and the staff can be assured that Paraic will no longer, ever again, be subjected to stress by contact from Bro. Guthrie. Thank you for your help in this very serious matter, Yours sincerely, Dr. Noble


Br Bert replied on 17th January 1985, in which he noted that he had talked to Br Guthrie and issued him with a stern warning, and that Br Guthrie had given him a written undertaking to end his relationship with Paraic: Dear Doctor Noble, I thank you for your letter which I received by hand recently. Since receiving it I have had two further very serious talks with Brother Guthrie, following which I issued a stern warning to him. I feel that now there will be a complete end to his relationship with the lad concerned. Further, Brother has given a written undertaking to that effect to me. I thank you most sincerely for your concern and solicitude in this whole matter. Kindest regards and every good wish. Yours sincerely Bro. Bert


On 11th June 1985, Dr Noble once again wrote to Br Bert. He noted that, although Br Guthrie had not been in touch with Paraic or his family again, Paraic was living in absolute fear of him contacting him again and was, as a result, seriously depressed. Dr Noble felt that he had no option but to inform his parents of the situation and this was done.


On 25th October 1989, the Principal of [named school], wrote a memorandum about a further telephone contact from Paraic’s mother: [Paraic’s mother] telephoned [school] today (around mid-day) expressing deep concern that her son Paraic, a past pupil [now residing elsewhere], was told by another past-pupil ... that Br Guthrie was visiting her home today and would also be calling [to Paraic’s house] ... [Paraic’s mother] was most upset to hear this from Paraic and stated neither she nor Paraic wished to meet with or talk to Br Guthrie ever again and Paraic was very upset at the prospect of meeting him anywhere. I consulted Dr. Noble at his home by telephone at lunch time and later telephoned [Paraic’s mother] (as arranged) to advise and confirm what I had already told her on the telephone earlier. 1. Paraic should not meet with or talk to Bro. Guthrie if he does not wish to – no matter where he may see him. 2. Bro. Guthrie should not be invited into the family home if he visited if that was [Paraic’s mother’s] wish and should be told politely but firmly that he was not welcome in their household. I also made [Paraic’s mother] aware of Dr Noble’s offer of an immediate appointment should Paraic or his mother wish to meet with him and that Dr. Noble also wished to be informed if Bro. Guthrie made any contact with Paraic or the family against their wishes. [Paraic’s mother] apologised for contacting the school again about Paraic and was thankful for the support offered.


The persistence of Br Guthrie in pursuing this young teenager contradicts his testimony to the Investigation Committee. He was asked if he had ever fallen in love or had become strongly attracted to an individual, and he replied: I would not say so, no. I never even had what people would call a pal. When I was moved from one house to another, for example, I never worried about the people I left behind ... anyone that is acquainted with religious life knows that there were two mortal sins when you joined religion. The first was not to get up at the right time in the morning and the other was to have a particular friend. They were strictly taboo in those days.


His relentless pursuit of this young boy suggested more than a passing sexual interest: he appeared to be planning an enduring relationship. The remarkable control he exercised over these vulnerable children is well illustrated by this case.


Prior to 1995, Br Guthrie presented the Congregation with several incidents of sexual abuse. He was known to be a serial sex abuser. His deeds were not isolated incidents. Br Guthrie sexually abused children under his care over a period of more than 45 years. Thirty-two of those years were spent in Lota, where he taught mild to moderately learning disabled young boys. He was sent to Lota by the authorities in the Congregation, in the full knowledge that he was a paedophile who had faced conviction in England. There is evidence in 1975 that something was amiss, and Br Guthrie himself told the Gardaí that he was ‘caught out a few times’. He subjected so many boys in Lota to sexual assaults that he cannot remember the numbers, despite having an excellent memory in respect of every other aspect of his life. Despite the dearth of information kept on the Brothers by the Congregation, there is clear and unequivocal documented evidence that the risk Br Guthrie posed to young boys was known.


In spite of his known abusive behaviour, Br Guthrie was made Principal of the School from 1955 to 1974, and then in 1974 he was made School Manager and, in 1981, Chairman of the Board of Management. He was given these positions of power and authority, with control over staff and boys, without the possible consequences being considered. As a result, by his own admission, a hundred or so vulnerable boys were abused.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
  2. Health Service Executive.
  3. Southern Health Board.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. King’s Counsel.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.