Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 5 — Lota

Show Contents



The services of the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity for people with learning disability and their families have grown steadily over the years, and today the Congregation is the largest provider of services for people with learning disability in Ireland.


The motto of the Brothers of Charity is ‘Deus caritas est’, God is Love. Their mission is ‘caring for people whose human dignity is threatened through disability, age, poverty etc’.


When a Brother of Charity is professed, he takes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.


In a document published in 1948 entitled ‘Practices and Customs’, the Congregation set out the aims, objects and works of the Congregation. In the section ‘Education of Youth’, it set out the Constitution, and then detailed what was expected of the Brothers involved in the education of children. It is clear that the danger of Brothers becoming inappropriately involved with their pupils was present in the minds of the authorities: 38. Though we must love our pupils we must not become too attached to them. We must never let our affection degenerate into particular friendship for one or more children; never must we allow ourselves to be led into dangerous intimacies. The moment such preferences becomes apparent to the other children they will at once feel slighted and neglected. It is certainly permissible to give praise where praise is due, but external marks of tenderness are unbecoming in a religious. He ought always to remember the gravity and modesty which befit his state and never allow a child to touch him familiarly or caress him.


In 1957, the 1922 Constitution of the Brothers of Charity was revised, following the agreement of the General Chapter. Chapter 20 deals with the vow of chastity: 215.By their vow of chastity the Brothers forego marriage and every satisfaction contrary to the virtue of chastity. 216.With the help of God’s grace, they shall be most careful in preserving unsullied the beautiful virtue of chastity. 217.To that end, far from admitting in their conduct anything likely to bring suspicion upon themselves in this matter, they shall carefully guard against harbouring in their minds any thoughts contrary to this eminent virtue. 218.They shall observe sobriety in eating and drinking, for intemperance leads to sensuality. 219.Everywhere, but principally in going through the streets, they must prudently guard their eyes, knowing that it is often through these windows, that the enemy carries death into the soul. 220.Let them earnestly study to avoid in their manner all forwardness and levity, observing in their whole conduct the rules of christian modesty, since, according to the holy Fathers, modesty is the guardian of purity. 221.Therefore, all familiarity, all particular friendship between Brothers, novices or postulants, is strictly forbidden. For the same reason, they must never jostle, wrestle, indulge in horse-play or in any action whatsoever likely to take away or lessen the mutual respect due to each other, for the proverb says: If you would be respected, begin by respecting yourself. 222.A great circumspection and discretion should be observed in their conversation, be it at recreation or elsewhere, to avoid anything that might cause disedification. 223.This circumspection, indispensable among the Brothers, is a thousand times more so when they are with strangers or with persons confided to their care, such as old men, sick and insane persons, and principally children. He who should be unfaithful to this regulation and not fear to be the subject of scandal, is unworthy of the religious garb. 224.For this reason, it is strictly forbidden to play with a child in too free or familiar a manner, to be alone with a single child in a lonely place or in a room with closed doors, even with the view of giving him instruction, reprimand, punishment etc. 225.The Brothers, inspired by a wholesome fear, will ever be on their guard against the attractiveness of children, their cajolery and flattery, being fully persuaded that in this matter, the best children are the most dangerous. 226.They shall very carefully avoid giving the impression of having among their pupils what are called pets or spoiled children. 227.The Brothers are strictly forbidden to inflict corporal punishment on any of their subordinates, whether children or others, without the express permission of the Superior 228.As regards the bodily care or medical treatment which they may be obliged to administer to children or other persons under their care, the Brothers shall do nothing before consulting their Superior, who will judge whether such attentions or treatment had not better be entrusted to the physician or surgeon.


In the material discovered to the Investigation Committee are documents entitled ‘Regular Visitation’ in the houses of St Joseph’s Province. The impression is given that an annual visitation was carried out in Lota. However, the paucity of records has made it impossible to establish whether in fact such visitations occurred annually. There are very few documents relating to management of the School and the living conditions within it. What records are available focus on matters of finance, building development and the like. A fuller discussion of these Visitation Reports is given below.


In the early years, there was a mixture of children and adults residing in Lota and, although there was a school, it was not officially recognised by the Department of Education. Some qualified teachers were recruited in the early 1950s in order to obtain recognition from the Department, and this was granted in 1955.


Between 1951 and 1953, there was a rapid expansion in numbers, and new buildings, considered to be innovative at that time, were constructed. They comprised three large, detached, single-storey buildings known as pavilions. They were quite a distance apart and separate from the main building. They each housed approximately 60 boys.


The boys slept in dormitories, and there were two rooms at each end where the Brothers slept. Although there was accommodation for four Brothers in the pavilion known as Sancta Maria, the evidence suggested that there were times when not all of the four rooms were occupied.


The school classrooms were scattered between the main building, reconstructed farmyard buildings and portakabins.


The children were allocated to these buildings by both age and degree of learning disability. One pavilion was used for boys with more severe disability. The other two pavilions were used for children between approximately 10 and 14, and 14 to 18 years of age, with mild learning disability. Br Dieter1 explained the system as it operated in the late 1950s: I should give you the names of the three pavilions. One was Sancta Maria for eleven-year-olds plus who were mildly handicapped, and unfortunately among those there were some normal boys, as well, as discovered as time went on. Then in St Patrick’s, the older age group of those boys, 14 to 16-year-olds, were catered for, and then the younger children who were coming in at that time, as well, they were four-year-olds. The Blessed Martin pavilion, which was designated for the very severely handicapped children, it was decided then to divide that up into two sections, and one section was used for the mildly handicapped boys that were coming in, they were four-year-olds plus.


There were two dormitories at either end of these pavilions, each with 30 beds. The residential part of the building was completely separate from the classrooms.


The boys went to school in the original main building, where the younger children in Lota also resided.


After the Kennedy Report recommended that large institutions should be split up into group homes, these large pavilions became obsolete, but it was not until 1985 that the first of these pavilions was demolished, and 30 boys were moved into three bungalows, housing 10 boys in each. By 1988, all the boys were housed in bungalows in a more family-style setting.


The Investigation Committee received the following photograph and plan of Lota: Source: Brothers of Charity Source: Brothers of Charity

  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.