Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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Mr Granville carried out a General Inspection in the early 1980s. He noted that there had been staff problems but he did not specify what they were. He said that he had discussed them with the people concerned, and he attributed them to the inexperience of Sr Callida, the Resident Manager.


He concluded that Cappoquin was going through a ‘slightly chequered period in their development’ and saw no reason why ‘the present turbulence cannot be overcome and a stable path be once more achieved’.


In a letter to the Reverend Mother of the Cappoquin Community, he suggested that she bring the three Sisters in charge of the group homes together to try to formulate a unified childcare policy. He suggested that: the three religious Sisters meet weekly as a team to coordinate and cooperate in the child care practice. At the moment there are three distinct autonomous units in operation and it would be my opinion that “weak links” have been provided with an opportunity to grow, and that has not been in the interest of the child care practice.


He also recommended that a deputy be appointed to cover periods when Sr Callida was absent.


An abbreviated version of the same letter was sent to Sr Callida, Resident Manager, with a number of suggestions, including delegation of full responsibility to Sr Isabella during her absences and the holding of regular staff meetings to build up communication.


Other problems were emerging. The numbers of children in care were dropping and one of the houses was under-occupied and over-staffed, which had serious financial implications for the Congregation. In addition, the lack of any social work intervention, especially for the children committed by the Department of Health, who did not come under Mr Granville’s remit, was causing serious concerns in the Department of Education.


At around this time, however, staff in Group Home A, the group home managed by Sr Callida, were becoming increasingly alarmed at how the house was being run.


Evidence was given by three lay staff members who worked in the homes under Sr Callida’s management and two of whom made complaints at the time.


Ms Linehan10 worked in Group Home A from the early to late 1980s. She began work immediately after leaving school as a carer and, after a few years, was appointed as House Parent in Group Home A where Sr Callida was Resident Manager.


She said that, although the children in Group Home A were well provided for materially, and ‘all their basic needs were met’, they were not cared for emotionally. She said they were afraid of Sr Callida, and that she herself had witnessed a child with marks on her leg as a result of a beating from Sr Callida: ‘It was the first time I had seen marks on a child there. And it was a shock and it was a surprise to me’.


Although that was the only time she had seen evidence of Sr Callida’s treatment of the children, ‘There was other times when kids said that she did hit but I was never there and I never heard’.


Ms Linehan said that at the time she did not feel she was in a position to question the way Sr Callida managed the home. She said there was a regime in place that she could not question, although she would have disagreed with aspects of it: ‘A lot of the time I would be afraid to speak out ... I was afraid to lose my job maybe’.


Everyday issues were handled harshly: I just felt it was too strict and just different things, every day things like that. You know, I mean when I look back on it it was again the time where – it was very, very strict being in care for kids, very, very hard.


Although she accepted that it was a different era and childcare practices were different, she believed the regime was unnecessarily hard: Looking back on it. But I think sometimes Callida could have made it a little bit easier for the children to be in care, because being in care was hard enough, being there without your parents, and then having somebody sometimes so strict on you, I think was hard.


She felt unable to express disagreement with Sr Callida, and none of the other care staff were able to do so either. She described Sr Callida as ‘a very strong person and when she said something that was it, you had nowhere else to go’.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
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  21. This is a pseudonym. Sr Lorenza later worked in St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny. See St Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny chapter.
  22. Mother Carina.
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