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Chapter 5 — Lota

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Sexual abuse


Br Herman33 received a sentence of three years in Waterford for the sexual abuse of young people in Belmont Park on 28th October 2004.


The following is a report by Mr Admas, Qualified Childcare Worker, dated Monday 13th November 1989: Report of Incident on Friday 10th November 1989 I acted on a report from one of our residents, (name redacted) at 5.15 p.m. (approx) that the “New Priest” was “interfering with” Robert.34 Robert is 20 years of age and operates in the low moderate/severe range of mental handicap. Robert comes from ... Not knowing what [name redacted] meant by the “New Priest” I went to the Activation Unit expecting to have been sent on a “wild goose chase”. But to my complete amazement, at the end of the Activation Unit I witnessed Robert sitting down on a seat with Brother Alaric35 sitting on his lap in a movement of “going up and down”. Robert’s trousers was half down around his buttocks, but this could have been as a result of the clasp being missing from it. My first reaction was one of being completely dumbfounded, and on seeing me Brother Alaric promptly got up and made some comment to the effect that Robert was his best friend in Lota. I then, straight away, told Robert to come up for his tea, leaving Brother Alaric in the Activation Unit. Some time afterwards, 15 minutes (approx) Brother Alaric came into the Unit during tea and started asking questions regarding the level of handicap of the boys etc. He left promptly after receiving a cool reception. P.S. [name redacted] who operates in the high moderate/low mild range of mental handicap, claimed that Brother Alaric was “feeling Robert” something which I did not witness. The initial report from [name redacted], which I acted upon, was witnessed by two other members of staff. Mr Admas


In a letter dated 15th November 1989 from Br Eric (Manager) to the Provincial Superior, Br Eric said the following: Dear [Provincial Superior], It is with deep regret that I feel obliged to send you the enclosed report. I first was made aware of this incident by [the Clinical Director] when he came to my office at noon on Monday last, 13th November. Subsequently that day [the Hospital Administrator] gave me further details re the sequence of events and of how [name redacted] initially reported the matter to him and, at that stage, also handed me a preliminary unsigned report of the incident. The enclosed signed report was handed to me to-day Wednesday 15th November. You will doubtless comprehend that we are faced with a matter of extreme urgency – a matter patently calling for immediate psychiatric attention. I’m sure you will deal with this as a matter of urgency as it is obvious that Bro. Alaric needs urgent attention for his problem in an appropriate setting. With kindest regards and sincere regret to be burdening you with this unfortunate problem. Yours Sincerely Bro. Eric P.S. This incident occurred in a completely public area – anyone could have witnessed it. Fortunately, Mr Admas was the only staff member who went to the Activation Unit at that time, as far as I can ascertain. [He] is one of our more experienced and loyal employees who has been in the service of the Brothers of Charity for [many years] and whose loyalty and commitment is without question ... It is some consolation that he was the sole witness and I am fully confident that his loyalty to the Brothers will prevail in this matter. Bro. Eric.


The following is a report of a discussion between the Provincial and an unknown author (in the absence of Br Eric due to illness) which took place on 3rd January 1990: Topic: Alleged incident involving Bro Alaric. On the occasion of [the Provincial Superior’s] visit to Lota on the 3rd January, 1990, and in the absence of Bro Eric (Superior) due to illness, I asked him if any decision had been taken regarding the reported incident involving Bro Alaric and one of the residents. I said there was concern at all levels that some urgent action be taken to resolve the matter. A summary of the points made by [the Provincial Superior] are as follows: 1. Bro Alaric is a very old man, and, if not already senile is bordering on senility. 2. It is often the case that senility brings on an increased sexual awareness and activity. 3. The alleged incident has been viewed with the greatest concern and Br Provincial has had a lengthy discussion with Bro Alaric expressing this concern. The Provincial now believed that there will be no further incidents of this nature. 4. He has considered the options available to him: should he transfer Bro Alaric to an old people’s home or – given that he believes there will be no recurrence of the alleged incident – leave him in Lota where Bro has requested to stay. 5. He has decided that, for the immediate future anyway, to leave Bro Alaric in Lota. He will keep himself informed of progress and assess the situation on an on-going basis. 6. He anticipated that Bro Eric would be returning to Lota in the next week or so.


The transfer record of Br Alaric would indicate that he remained in Lota where he had been Superior in charge of the Sancta Maria Pavilion for a number of years in the 1960s.


Br Eric was in charge of the Sancta Maria unit in Lota from 1954 to 1963, along with Br Guthrie and Br Dieter. Sancta Maria unit had 60 boys, divided into two dormitories with 30 boys in each. Their ages ranged between 13 and 18 years. The dormitories were divided in terms of age, Br Guthrie was in charge of one and Br Dieter was in charge of the other.


Br Eric admitted to an allegation contained in a Statement of Claim in High Court proceedings from a boy, resident in Lota from the mid 1950s. His counsel asked ‘Did you ever sexually abuse [this boy]’, to which Br Eric replied ‘Yes’. He was then asked to explain to the Committee the circumstances: 1953 was the year, September 1953, and Cork had won the all Ireland hurling final that year and the captain of the team ... about a fortnight after the match ... rang me and he said, "We would like to bring up the cup and have a bit of a party and a celebration for the boys" and I said very good. So, they came up, big number of the local team called Sarsfields, they were the Glanmire area. So they brought the cup up and we had a party and there was whiskey poured in, in plenty, into the cup and we had a good few drinks of the whiskey and the boys then were sent to bed after the party. It was about 10.30 . It was much later than the boys would normally go to bed and I was in my room and I left my door slightly open because the switches for the lights were on the wall outside and the boys were a bit excited, you know, being up late for this party. So I got ready for bed myself and just as I put on my pyjamas this boy ran into my room and he was naked apart from the – he had the top half of his pyjamas on him, so he started jumping up and down in front of me. I wasn’t used to drinking whiskey at the time, as I said it was 1953 and I pressed myself against him and then he went out.


When asked by his counsel, ‘is that the extent of what happened with [the boy]’, Br Eric replied ‘That was the extent of it yes’.

Conclusions on sexual abuse


1.Br Guthrie perpetrated sexual abuse for 32 years with at least 100 victims. Br Dieter, who had a room at the other end of the Sancta Maria dormitory from Br Guthrie, was in Lota for 20 years, with a few short breaks, and then was in Renmore for four years, when he was removed and sent to finish his teaching career in England. Between them, these two sexual abusers operated in schools run by the Brothers of Charity in Ireland for 58 years. Both were promoted to Principal, and one of them to Chairman of the Board. Several of their colleagues were also accused of sexually abusing children. The crucial questions are, ‘how did this disturbing history of sexual abuse come about?’ and ‘what allowed it to continue for so long?’. 2.Lota was an enclosed and inward-looking Institution, and the pavilion system created three enclosed worlds within an enclosed world. The Brothers in charge had complete autonomy and acted without fear of repercussion. 3.The children with learning disabilities were treated as ‘different’, with fewer rights than children outside the Institution. Their near-total dependency on adults to care for them and protect them made them very vulnerable. 4.There was no training provided and no internal structure within the Congregation for reviewing the performance of individual Brothers. Once Brothers were appointed to Lota, they could remain there for decades, even if their performance was unacceptable and unprofessional and their behaviour fell below ethical and moral standards. With no system of inspection and no external supervision, sexual abusers were able to operate with little fear of detection. 5.When sexual abuse was discovered, management failed to take action. They chose to protect the Institution and the reputation of the Congregation, rather than the children. It was the failure of leadership to manage the problem, and remove the abusers, that allowed the sexual abuse to become systemic and pervasive within the Institution.

Emotional abuse and neglect


As a result of their learning disability, the children of Lota were more dependent and vulnerable than children in general. They required additional attention and help from their care-givers. This need for someone to look after them emerged from the evidence heard at the hearings. Graham told the Committee: My first memory of Lota would be I made friends with the women teachers there ... Yes, they were nice to me. They were kind to me, and I felt more at home with them, an awful lot more so because there was only one reason I can say about these teachers, these women teachers, is that like my own mother, my own mother would have been motherly to me up to, maybe, the time she had me, you know. I realised afterwards that I was privileged to have a mother, even though I didn’t know what kind of a mother she was, but I was glad to have her.


After leaving Lota, he could not praise enough the kindness that ‘other people’s mothers’ had shown to him. He said: But apart from that, I have experienced other mothers’ care with me, and I found loving mothers that I met up with, other people’s mothers.


He then added: even though I said that with the women teachers I felt at home with them, but still I couldn’t say anything to them because it would get back to the Brothers about what I said. So even though I appreciated the women teachers, I appreciate them as schoolteachers and that they have never done any harm on me, but it takes big giant 6 foot men to upset you, to do what they like with you because the public out there did not know what was going on in that bloody industrial school.


The happiest day of his life was when, after the deprivations of his childhood, he finally found a family through marriage: It was one of the most nicest and wonderful day I ever had because a family were accepting me into their family and especially my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law to be, and then ... my wife to be. These few days were wonderful days in my adulthood. I saw that there were people there who cared.


The irony about Lota was that the Brothers who provided the care and the good times were also the sexual abusers. Conall told the Committee: Yes, there was happy times too. I cannot deny that. A lot of people say there was not but there is. There was, of course, it was not all doom and gloom, let us be honest about it. There was good times as well ... The bikes ... The football, I was interested a lot in sports, gymnastics and things ... Even the plays, things we did ... I have to say, I thought Br Guthrie was nice to me at the beginning.


The emotional state of learning disabled children in the residential schools was seldom given much consideration by the Brothers of Charity. Putting children through the school system was the priority, not whether they were contented and happy. Children with learning disability had a greater need in this regard and they were frequently not regarded as experiencing the full range of human emotions.

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