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Chapter 5 — Lota

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Sexual abuse


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.


The case against him was so overwhelming in 1951 it defies belief that the authorities could have seen fit to place him in a residential school for vulnerable young boys. Yet, this is precisely what they did, in the hope that ‘Br Guthrie will be all right in Lota’. On 1st August 1951, when Br Guthrie was in trouble with the police in England, Father Harvey wrote: p.s. I am anxious to know if both are safe in Ireland. When you are sure of this will you please send me a telegram, “Everything all right”.


Br Guthrie was stowed ‘safe’ in Lota, with no regard for the safety and welfare of the boys residing there. That decision can only be seen as one taken to protect the Brothers of Charity from scandal and prosecution.


Br O’Shea in his Opening Statement, made two assertions about sexual abuse prior to 1995: Prior to 1995, there were a few isolated allegations of abuse which were dealt with as deemed appropriate at the time. However, it was not until late 1995 that there was an awareness of more widespread abuse or the damage it had caused.


He also stated that there was no awareness before 1995 of the damage that sexual abuse could cause. This is not borne out by the documented evidence. The serious effects of sex abuse were made abundantly clear to the Congregation in the series of reports written by child psychiatrists in 1984.


The victims of Br Guthrie were sexually abused so frequently that it became part of their daily lives. As they had no power to do otherwise, they obeyed his demands, and it was only years later that they were strong enough to come forward and report what had been done to them. In the course of his Garda statement, one of the complainants said: What was happening between the Brother and myself I thought were the rules of the school. I was told when I went to the school first, that the Brothers were to be obeyed at all times and anything they ask you to do you were to do it. The convicted sexual abusers: Br Dieter Conviction: UK (September 1998)


In September 1998, Br Dieter received his first criminal conviction in the UK on the complaint of George,22 a resident in a residential home and sheltered accommodation for vulnerable adults run by the Brothers of Charity in the UK. Br Dieter had been transferred there in 1970, after the disclosure of sexual abuse in Galway; described below. The abuse took place between 1971 and 1973. He was placed on probation for three years, on condition that he attended a sexual offenders course run by the probation service in the UK. Conviction: Cork Circuit Criminal Court (November 1999)


In November 1999, Br Dieter received one of the most severe sentences ever imposed in this country for crimes of child sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to 18 sample counts of child abuse of young boys in Lota. Br Dieter received two years’ imprisonment in respect of each count (36 years) with a review in 18 months. This review was heard in June 2001 and the remainder of his sentence was suspended. Conviction: Galway Circuit Court (November 2000)

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